Ajahn Chah's Warning to the Meditator

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.
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Kumara
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Ajahn Chah's Warning to the Meditator

Post by Kumara » Sat Aug 23, 2014 2:24 am

What do you all make of this?

That which can be most harmful to the meditator is absorption samādhi (jhāna), the samādhi with deep, sustained calm. This samādhi brings great peace. Where there is peace, there is happiness. When there is happiness, attachment and clinging to that happiness arise. The meditator doesn’t want to contemplate anything else, he just wants to indulge in that pleasant feeling. When we have been practising for a long time we may become adept at entering this samādhi very quickly. As soon as we start to note our meditation object, the mind enters calm, and we don’t want to come out to investigate anything. We just get stuck on that happiness. This is a danger to one who is practising meditation.
~ Ajahn Chah, from A Taste of Freedom
Source: http://dhammatalks.net/Books/Ajahn_Chah ... amadhi.htm
Last edited by Kumara on Sat Aug 30, 2014 9:51 am, edited 2 times in total.
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culaavuso
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Re: Meditation danger?

Post by culaavuso » Sat Aug 23, 2014 2:35 am

MN 66: Laṭukikopama Sutta wrote: Now, there is the case where a monk — quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful mental qualities — enters & remains in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation.
...
With the abandoning of pleasure & pain — as with the earlier disappearance of elation & distress — he enters & remains in the fourth jhana: purity of equanimity & mindfulness, neither pleasure nor pain. This is called renunciation-pleasure, seclusion-pleasure, calm-pleasure, self-awakening-pleasure. And of this pleasure I say that it is to be cultivated, to be developed, to be pursued, that it is not to be feared.
MN 29: Mahāsāropama Sutta wrote: Being heedful, he achieves consummation in concentration. He is gratified with that consummation in concentration, his resolve fulfilled. Because of that consummation in concentration he exalts himself and disparages others: 'I am concentrated, my mind at singleness, but these other monks are unconcentrated, their minds scattered.' He is intoxicated with that consummation in concentration, heedless about it, and falls into heedlessness. Being heedless, he dwells in suffering & stress. This, monks, is called a monk who grasps the inner bark of the holy life, and with that he falls short.
AN 4.123: Puggala Sutta wrote: Again, there is the case where an individual, with the abandoning of pleasure & stress — as with the earlier disappearance of elation & distress — enters & remains in the fourth jhana: purity of equanimity & mindfulness, neither-pleasure-nor-pain. He savors that, longs for that, finds satisfaction through that. Staying there — fixed on that, dwelling there often, not falling away from that — then when he dies he reappears in conjunction with the Vehapphala devas. The Vehapphala devas, monks, have a life-span of 500 eons. A run-of-the-mill person having stayed there, having used up all the life-span of those devas, goes to hell, to the animal womb, to the state of the hungry shades.
[url=http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/jhananumbers.html]Jhana Not by the Numbers[/url] by Ven. Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu wrote: The second state was one I happened to hit one night when my concentration was extremely one-pointed, and so refined that it refused settle on or label even the most fleeting mental objects. I dropped into a state in which I lost all sense of the body, of any internal/external sounds, or of any thoughts or perceptions at all — although there was just enough tiny awareness to let me know, when I emerged, that I hadn't been asleep. I found that I could stay there for many hours, and yet time would pass very quickly. Two hours would seem like two minutes. I could also "program" myself to come out at a particular time.

After hitting this state several nights in a row, I told Ajaan Fuang about it, and his first question was, "Do you like it?" My answer was "No," because I felt a little groggy the first time I came out. "Good," he said. "As long as you don't like it, you're safe. Some people really like it and think it's nibbana or cessation. Actually, it's the state of non-perception (asaññi-bhava). It's not even right concentration, because there's no way you can investigate anything in there to gain any sort of discernment. But it does have other uses." He then told me of the time he had undergone kidney surgery and, not trusting the anesthesiologist, had put himself in that state for the duration of the operation.

atipattoh
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Re: Meditation danger?

Post by atipattoh » Sat Aug 23, 2014 5:08 am

The condition that is described is not absorption, it is a state of complete lost.
I'm curious, is the word absorption a later addition since this poison has been running around in Thai lineage for quite some times.
I see it as a warning of a state of complete lost.
Nothing more and nothing to do with Jhana.

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James the Giant
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Re: Meditation danger?

Post by James the Giant » Sat Aug 23, 2014 5:37 am

From MN66:
And of this pleasure I say that it is to be cultivated, to be developed, to be pursued, that it is not to be feared.
Then,
saturated with joy,
you will put an end to suffering and stress.
SN 9.11

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Kumara
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Re: Meditation danger?

Post by Kumara » Sat Aug 23, 2014 6:14 am

atipattoh wrote:The condition that is described is not absorption, it is a state of complete lost.
I'm curious, is the word absorption a later addition since this poison has been running around in Thai lineage for quite some times.
I see it as a warning of a state of complete lost.
Nothing more and nothing to do with Jhana.
Thanks for trying the answer the question. Other responses seems to take other quotes themselves as answers.

However, don't you think what you say is ignoring what is quoted? The description seems to show that the meditator is rather sure about being in that state, wanting to enjoy the experience. Quite different from being at a lost.

Like to request potential posters to actually answer the question, preferably with personal experience.
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atipattoh
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Re: Meditation danger?

Post by atipattoh » Sat Aug 23, 2014 7:16 am

The meditator that deluded in happiness lost his meditation object. The one that lost his meditation object can not cultivate singleness state. Without singleness, there can be no nimitta for absorption.
One that dwell in happiness and deluded that he is in absorption in happiness, i can only lable the state as complete lost.
Furthermore, one does not need to closed his eye to induce piti and sukha that is compatible to closing his eyes.

If really Acharn Chah has said these, he would be surprised of what it has turn into.
"Samatha is no good, when you are in that kind of samathi, there is nothing left for you to discern."
I heard once, 4 years ago from a Thai Bhikkhu that teaches meditation(vipassana)

If the word of absorption and jhanna is taken out, it will be a different picture. To put absorption and jhanna right up front is misleading the reader.
One that is in jhanna does not lost his meditation object, else he would be snapped out of the absorption. That's why the state described in the book can not be jhanna absorption.

Edited: 25 Oct 2016
Acharn Chah's description is more likely referring to dwelling in light of wisdom, which is actually just proximity to upacara samadhi.
But then, if the translation is accurate, I can not help but to ponder, does 'Acharn Chah' knows Jhana?

:anjali:
Last edited by atipattoh on Tue Oct 25, 2016 1:59 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Kumara
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Re: Meditation danger?

Post by Kumara » Sat Aug 23, 2014 9:36 am

atipattoh wrote:If really Acharn Chah has said these, he would be surprised of what it has turn into.
Why not take a look at the book for yourself? You'll get the context of the quote. Here's some sources of the complete book: Btw, you have an unusual way of spelling 'jhana'.
Last edited by Kumara on Sat Aug 23, 2014 9:37 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Meditation danger?

Post by mikenz66 » Sat Aug 23, 2014 9:37 am

atipattoh wrote: If the word of absorption and jhanna is taken out, it will be a different picture. To put absorption and jhanna right up front is misleading the reader.
It's always possible that it's something that the translator read into it.

But of course, in the end even jhana is something to be abandoned, and one could argue that Ajahn Chah is merely retelling the Longer Simile of the Heartwood Sutta(MN 29).
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
...
Being heedful, he achieves consummation in concentration. He is gratified with that consummation in concentration, his resolve fulfilled. Because of that consummation in concentration he exalts himself and disparages others: 'I am concentrated, my mind at singleness, but these other monks are unconcentrated, their minds scattered.' He is intoxicated with that consummation in concentration, heedless about it, and falls into heedlessness. Being heedless, he dwells in suffering & stress. This, monks, is called a monk who grasps the inner bark of the holy life, and with that he falls short.
:anjali:
Mike

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Kumara
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Re: Meditation danger?

Post by Kumara » Sat Aug 23, 2014 9:40 am

mikenz66 wrote:But of course, in the end even jhana is something to be abandoned, and one could argue that Ajahn Chah is merely retelling the Longer Simile of the Heartwood Sutta(MN 29).
I suggest you read the context first.
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Ben
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Re: Meditation danger?

Post by Ben » Sat Aug 23, 2014 9:57 am

It's something that is discussed within my own tradition.
Jhanic states can be very seductive for exactly the reasons the Ajahn has stated. Hence, in my own tradition and in some others in Burma, the method of progress in meditation instruction is to practice samadhi until khanika samadhi is experienced, then focus on vipassana practice and developing the jhanas when one has experienced advanced nanas or sotapatti.
Kind regards,
Ben
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
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Crazy cloud
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Re: Meditation danger?

Post by Crazy cloud » Sat Aug 23, 2014 9:58 am

Kumara wrote:What do you all make of this?
That it is easy to get stuck in the goodygoody parts of the practice. Here's a poem i read a few years back, and fortunatly it got stuck in my mind
The Grand Finali

Desires are of various levels,
Being the crude, middle, subtle.
All are the snars to trap wordlings
In all of their undertakings.

The crude one i based on matter;
Body, money as its anchor.
All things pleasant to five sense-doors
Are what they want more and more.

The middle kind is satisfied
With happiness that is acquired
Trough mind being peaceful, tranquilled.
It thinks the highest goal's fullfilled.

It shuns making strenuous effort;
Abhors attempt to move forward,
Wallows in self-complacency,
Thinking it's final victory.

What'ver pleases the eyes, ears, nose,
Tounge, touch they regard as foremost.
Other than these they do not care;
Of all else never are they aware.

The subtle is far developed;
Such mind does not prefer to stop,
It can't be naively content,
But looks forward to attainment

Of that Dhamma beyond mundane,-
That which never will wax or wane,
Being the crown of all that's good
Trancending all the magnitudes

Of astronomical brightness,
Being secure, stable, changeless,
Where mundane consepts are absent.
That's what's known as Enlightenment.

Let Buddhists sublimate their desires,
Whit their minds gradually purified
Until they reach the atmosphere
Where gods and men respect, revere

This is the highets benefit
Off'ring the viewpoint ultimate.
It seems so far, yet is so nigh
If we should have the will to try.

Where there's a will, there's a way
But we must first of all display
our faith, courage, resolution
To breasth the air of that Dimension.

In doing good there is the end,
Aspirants attain this point when
They reach the full-final victory
There comes to them the Grand Finali.

Supremely pure and calm are they,
Where Peace unruffled holds sway,
Absolute is their Perfection:
"Tis where aspirants are Enlightened.
be well and happy :)
If you didn't care
What happened to me
And I didn't care for you

We would zig-zag our way
Through the boredom and pain
Occasionally glancing up through the rain

Wondering which of the
Buggers to blame
And watching for pigs on the wing
- Roger Waters

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Cittasanto
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Re: Meditation danger?

Post by Cittasanto » Sat Aug 23, 2014 10:02 am

Hi Kumara
I understand this as warning meditators not to practice only for the described samādhi in your quoted passage, but to use it to develop insight also.

Kind Regards
Cittasanto
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But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion …
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Re: Meditation danger?

Post by Dinsdale » Sat Aug 23, 2014 10:38 am

Kumara wrote:What do you all make of this?

That which can be most harmful to the meditator is absorption samādhi (jhāna), the samādhi with deep, sustained calm. This samādhi brings great peace. Where there is peace, there is happiness. When there is happiness, attachment and clinging to that happiness arise. The meditator doesn’t want to contemplate anything else, he just wants to indulge in that pleasant feeling. When we have been practising for a long time we may become adept at entering this samādhi very quickly. As soon as we start to note our meditation object, the mind enters calm, and we don’t want to come out to investigate anything. We just get stuck on that happiness. This is a danger to one who is practising meditation.
~ Ajahn Chah, from A Taste of Freedom
Source: http://dhammatalks.net/Books/Ajahn_Chah ... amadhi.htm
I'm not sure if it's in this book ( I'll check ) but somebody asks Ajahn Chah how much concentration is needed ( as a basis for developing insight ), and he says "enough to read a book" - that doesn't sound like much samadhi at all really!
As I understand Ajahn Chah, his view is that strong samadhi and jhana are unnecessary and potentially a distraction, and that's the context for comments like the one above.
Buddha save me from new-agers!

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Ben
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Re: Meditation danger?

Post by Ben » Sat Aug 23, 2014 10:52 am

The issue is that jhanas are seductive because of the sublime pleasure in the experience.
The danger comes from developing an attachment to that particular experience. Ajahn Chah is right in that one only needs rudimentary concentration to develop insight. Getting well established in vipassana meditation and having the experience of witnessing all mental and physical phenomena as essence less and transitory is the training that is probably going to be most beneficial to those seeking to develop samadhi into the fullblown absorption jhanas.
Kind regards,
Ben
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR

e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com..

Dinsdale
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Re: Meditation danger?

Post by Dinsdale » Sat Aug 23, 2014 10:57 am

Ben wrote:Getting well established in vipassana meditation and having the experience of witnessing all mental and physical phenomena as essence less and transitory is the training that is probably going to be most beneficial to those seeking to develop samadhi into the fullblown absorption jhanas.
I'm not sure I understand. Wouldn't samatha be a more effective route for those seeking jhana? And in the suttas the usual pattern seems to be jhana as a basis for insight, rather than the other way round.

I do get the point about the risks of developing an attachment to jhana, but I don't see how that supports the view that jhana is unnecessary, which seems like a rather different question.

I guess it raises the question "what is the point of jhana?" If not much samadhi is required for insight, then why bother with jhana at all? :thinking:
Last edited by Dinsdale on Sat Aug 23, 2014 12:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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