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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Mkoll
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Re: Meditation danger?

Post by Mkoll » Sat Aug 23, 2014 11:33 am

culaavuso wrote:
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.
AN 4.123: Puggala Sutta wrote:But a disciple of the Blessed One, having stayed there, having used up all the life-span of those devas, is unbound right in that state of being. This, monks, is the difference, this the distinction, this the distinguishing factor, between an educated disciple of the noble ones and an uneducated run-of-the-mill person, when there is a destination, a reappearing.
That's the rest of that section.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

atipattoh
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Re: Meditation danger?

Post by atipattoh » Sat Aug 23, 2014 11:47 am

:namaste:
Kumara wrote:Btw, you have an unusual way of spelling 'jhana'.
:tongue: i'm curious too... sort of automode to use 2n. I wonder why? Something about the pronunciation that causing me to use 2n. I tend to pronounce as though there is higher pitch with a pause at the middle; despite the fact that i hardly pronounce jhana verbally.
Kumara wrote:
atipattoh wrote:If really Acharn Chah has said these, he would be surprised of what it has turn into.
Thanks for the link! i read that part directly from the book before posting. Pg 18
The headline 'On Dangers of Samadhi' seems strange; a bit 'heavy' perhaps!
mikenz66 wrote:It's always possible that it's something that the translator read into it.
Yes, most likely. :smile:
:anjali:

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daverupa
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Re: Meditation danger?

Post by daverupa » Sat Aug 23, 2014 11:53 am

Kumara wrote:What do you all make of this?
Not much. It may be grasping the inner bark, but my goodness, what a thing to which to have access to grasp!

Jhana does not precede formless attainments, necessarily, and in fact the formless attainments can be targeted individually with effort. So I think these latter can be pleasant, and are the thing being discussed as possibly dangerous. Jhana, with form, is yet wholly segregated from unwholesome states, and is itself to be used as a foundation for release, there being no other sammasamadhi.
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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Re: Meditation danger?

Post by Dinsdale » Sat Aug 23, 2014 12:23 pm

daverupa wrote:Jhana does not precede formless attainments, necessarily, and in fact the formless attainments can be targeted individually with effort. So I think these latter can be pleasant, and are the thing being discussed as possibly dangerous.
No, I think it's the danger of attachment to rupa jhana which is being discussed. There may be an undercurrent of jhana being more trouble than it's worth, a distraction from insight, something not to waste time on - that's the impression I got from some people when I was involved with the Thai Forest tradition in the UK.
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seeker242
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Re: Meditation danger?

Post by seeker242 » Sat Aug 23, 2014 12:42 pm

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 think it describe a concentration that lacks a "right mindfulness" component. With the right mindfulness, you will remember to not attach to the pleasure and if you do start attaching to it, you will recognize that you are attaching to it and remember to not do that.

:namaste:

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daverupa
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Re: Meditation danger?

Post by daverupa » Sat Aug 23, 2014 3:30 pm

Spiny Norman wrote:There may be an undercurrent of jhana being more trouble than it's worth, a distraction from insight, something not to waste time on - that's the impression I got from some people when I was involved with the Thai Forest tradition in the UK.
...and with a simple word replacement:
There may be an undercurrent of sammasamadhi being more trouble than it's worth, a distraction from insight, something not to waste time on - that's the impression I got from some people when I was involved with the Thai Forest tradition in the UK.
Let's hope not.

In any event, it's not an impression I can possibly get from the Suttas, so this is why I was trying to wrap the claims about danger around formless states. Otherwise the criticism may indeed be valid - but the state being criticized would not be jhana, thereby.

Secluded from unwholesome states means just that. The pleasure of jhana is otherworldly, supportive, conducive, facilitative - not dangerous. If it was dangerous, it'd be miccha-samadhi.

Part of the problem may be the continuing heuristic that people use to think about dedicated bhavana, that is, in terms of samatha and vipassana as methods. This continues to be a debilitating misunderstanding, if so, it seems to me.
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

wolf1
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Re: Meditation danger?

Post by wolf1 » Sat Aug 23, 2014 5:09 pm

i think if someone practice vipassana (insight) and thinking daily about impermanence, non self and suffering, and the Noble 4 Truths and practice samatha meditation then someone will not clinging to the hapiness of meditation. :thinking: it is my own experience. who else think the same?

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Re: Meditation danger?

Post by Dinsdale » Sat Aug 23, 2014 5:13 pm

daverupa wrote:Part of the problem may be the continuing heuristic that people use to think about dedicated bhavana, that is, in terms of samatha and vipassana as methods. This continues to be a debilitating misunderstanding, if so, it seems to me.
I think there are people who see jhana as unnecessary.
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Re: Meditation danger?

Post by martinfrank » Sat Aug 23, 2014 5:44 pm

wolf1 wrote:i think if someone practice vipassana (insight) and thinking daily about impermanence, non self and suffering, and the Noble 4 Truths and practice samatha meditation then someone will not clinging to the hapiness of meditation. :thinking: it is my own experience. who else think the same?
You are right. Lord Buddha said:
"I thought: 'I recall once, when my father the Sakyan was working, and I was sitting in the cool shade of a rose-apple tree, then — quite secluded from sensuality, secluded from unskillful mental qualities — I entered & remained in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from seclusion, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. Could that be the path to Awakening?' Then following on that memory came the realization: 'That is the path to Awakening.' I thought: 'So why am I afraid of that pleasure that has nothing to do with sensuality, nothing to do with unskillful mental qualities?'
MN36 http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
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daverupa
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Re: Meditation danger?

Post by daverupa » Sat Aug 23, 2014 6:50 pm

Spiny Norman wrote:I think there are people who see jhana as unnecessary.
Bewildering.
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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Mkoll
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Re: Meditation danger?

Post by Mkoll » Sat Aug 23, 2014 9:01 pm

daverupa wrote:
Spiny Norman wrote:I think there are people who see jhana as unnecessary.
Bewildering.
One of Ven. Sujato's arguments is that vipassana has "worsted" concentration in the Theravada Satipatthana Sutta in his A History of Mindfulness. I'd say this is a general trend in the development of Theravada in general.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

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Re: Meditation danger?

Post by mikenz66 » Sat Aug 23, 2014 9:33 pm

It might be useful to think about context when discussing these things. What is suitable in lay life, with or without occasional retreats, can be very different from monastic. It's also worth reading the whole page linked in the OP. The headline quote is:
Wrong samadhi is where the mind enters calm and there's no awareness at all. ...the mind enters calm, and we don't want to come out to investigate anything. We just get stuck on that happiness ... With right samadhi, no matter what level of calm is reached, there is awareness. There is full mindfulness and clear comprehension.
:anjali:
Mike

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Re: Meditation danger?

Post by meindzai » Sat Aug 23, 2014 11:26 pm

This is why I like Thanissaro's approach. It is oriented towards the jhanas, by exercising one's discernment about what kind of breathing is leading one to or away from the various jhanic factors. The breathing should feel "good, comfortable, pleasurable." The breath should be a compelling enough object of meditation that one will develop single pointedness because one wants to stay there. I've found that this works better than what I did for years which was "Just keep focusing on the breath and maybe one day you'll get concentrated."

In general with the jhanas, whether you are going "by the numbers" or not, he says that getting into any particular state of concentration is like going into a very bright room where your eyes haven't adjusted. When you're in there, it's difficult to see what's going on. So you just *stay* there for awhile. So if you are in the first jhana, and it's very pleasurable and nice, that is normal. Just stay there awhile until it becomes easy to get in and out of.

Then you "back away" slightly and start to find where there is still a bit of stress(dukkha) within that jhana. This is easy to do with rapture(piti) for example, which feels like a very intense kind of pleasure, but after awhile almost becomes annoying. When you see that unpleasantness, it's much easier to drop that factor, which puts you into the next jhana.

Of course it's not always nice and neat like that. Factors come and go, intermingle with each other, and all that kind of stuff.

I think another *very* important aspect of this is that when you are done meditating you don't just go 'Welp! all done!" and leap out of your seat and go to the casino. You want to maintain that sense of peace and calm, and even bring back those feelings of pleasure from the breath whenever you can. Basically this means you can be very happy just breathing, which means you are less likely to be seeking pleasure elsewhere. It's also helpful in other contexts where you need concentration. I

I don't think getting attached to jhana is a big problem for most people, especially lay practitioners. I've heard people talking about getting addicted to meditation. It's probably not good if you are neglecting other duties, but it's a heck of a lot better than heroin, pot, alcohol, video games, or whatever. If I could replace everybody's drug addiction with a jhana addiction I'd do it in a second.

-Dave K

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Kumara
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Re: Meditation danger?

Post by Kumara » Sun Aug 24, 2014 6:06 am

daverupa wrote:Jhana does not precede formless attainments, necessarily, and in fact the formless attainments can be targeted individually with effort. So I think these latter can be pleasant, and are the thing being discussed as possibly dangerous. Jhana, with form, is yet wholly segregated from unwholesome states, and is itself to be used as a foundation for release, there being no other sammasamadhi.
So you think what the quote has as "absorption samādhi (jhāna)" is not really jhana as in sammasamadhi, but actually formless attainments. Do I get you right?
Last edited by Kumara on Sun Aug 24, 2014 6:29 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Meditation danger?

Post by Kumara » Sun Aug 24, 2014 6:28 am

mikenz66 wrote:It might be useful to think about context when discussing these things. What is suitable in lay life, with or without occasional retreats, can be very different from monastic. It's also worth reading the whole page linked in the OP. The headline quote is:
Wrong samadhi is where the mind enters calm and there's no awareness at all. ...the mind enters calm, and we don't want to come out to investigate anything. We just get stuck on that happiness ... With right samadhi, no matter what level of calm is reached, there is awareness. There is full mindfulness and clear comprehension.
:anjali:
Mike
Aha! So it seems that by "absorption samādhi (jhāna)" Ajahn Chah was referring to a state that is not the calm of sammasamadhi.
Last edited by Kumara on Sun Aug 24, 2014 10:56 am, edited 1 time in total.
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