would learning jhana solely from sutta be possible?

The cultivation of calm or tranquility and the development of concentration
alan...
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Re: would learning jhana solely from sutta be possible?

Post by alan... » Thu Jan 17, 2013 6:22 pm

mynameisadahn wrote:To answer the OP's question directly. Yes.

You can learn directly from the suttas. My example would be Ayya Khema. If you are interested in more explicit discussion about the jhanas then I would suggest googling her name (she was a buddhist nun, originally from germany, who passed away several years ago). As I understand, she learned jhanas from the suttas herself, before she was later told she did it correctly (or something like that). Many of her talks can be found online in audio file form. She appears to have done what you are interested in doing, so she would seem like a good source.

Personally, I really like her dhamma talks and find them very helpful. Learning about the jhanas directly may not be really emphasized by many of the posters in this forum, though, so perhaps Ayya Khema's approach is a bit different and more focused on teaching the jhanas in advance, and trying in some way to get into them, before the experiences actually happen.

To the OP, also, I would suggest that this forum -- while a great forum -- isn't going to be focused on explicitly discussing different jhanas and teachings of how to get into them. (IME). I have seen you post at least one other question about the jhanas. If you are taking a somewhat different approach and wanting to learn more explicitly about the absorptions, you may want to branch out some in your research.

This isn't disparaging anyone here. I am just answering the OP, who asked a very reasonable question, even if some people here think other approaches are better.
i love ayya khema so much. she is one of my favorite buddhist authors. i'll look into that thanks.

why do you feel this forum is not the place? all i notice is a lot of vipassana people who don't think it's necessary but other than that i've gotten some good info. what approach should i go with?

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Jerrod Lopes
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Re: would learning jhana solely from sutta be possible?

Post by Jerrod Lopes » Fri Jan 18, 2013 3:45 am

To be clear, at least for me, I never said jhanas weren't important. I think they are vital for one who really wants to realize nibbana one day. I also think this level of absorption is extremely helpful in gaining the insight needed to understand anatta, rebirth, kamma and other things. What I WAS saying was that a desire for jhana will impede you from getting jhana. Expectations will distract and distort your meditations until it is near impossible to get to these states. This is why people will tell you about jhana or jhana like experiences when they were children. It is because there isn't this desire and misconceptions about what jhanas are and will do for you. I known dozens, if not more people over the years discuss a desire to get jhanas. They feel like its some sort of Buddhist merit badge to be worn proudly, to boast "I have known the jhanas!" And invariably these people go away unfulfilled and still wanting.

I went to flight school when I was younger. The first time up in the air I was asking the instructor about barrel rolls and loops, stalls, all kinds of advanced aerobatics. He pretty much said to me that if I didn't know how to get the plane from its parking spot on the apron, to the runway and into the sky, how on Earth could I ever hope to do all of those things? And in a haste to do them, I would probably crash and die trying to take off. Maybe not the best analogy, but I hope that helps explain. I've also never classed myself as vippasana this or samadhi that. If you box yourself into one thing or the other you've conditioned yourself to be unable to do the other one(s). Best of luck and be well. Wishing shiny happy nimittas for you, always.

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Doshin
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Re: would learning jhana solely from sutta be possible?

Post by Doshin » Fri Jan 18, 2013 9:03 am

SarathW wrote:...
Please read attached for more info.
You link to a book containing 252 pages, what in particular are you thinking about, in this context ?
SarathW wrote: ...
http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/printguna.pdf" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
If reading on a e-reader, I would recommend (same book different formatting):
http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/scrnguna.pdf" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

_/\_
Knowing about dhamma, does not imply knowing dhamma

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Anagarika
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Re: would learning jhana solely from sutta be possible?

Post by Anagarika » Fri Jan 18, 2013 2:25 pm

Jerrod some really good stuff you're contributing here. Thanks for sharing this, as it can really make a difference when intelligent people kindly and thoughtfully share important insights.

I'm not one to get all Zenny about these issues, but it's reminiscent of Shunryu Suzuki's admonition about "beginner's mind" and possibilities. I have known Thai Bhikkhus to express frustration that they are not stream enterers....I've had the sense that the striving toward stream entry is the impediment that they are building, walling themselves off from authentic jhana states.

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Re: would learning jhana solely from sutta be possible?

Post by mynameisadahn » Fri Jan 18, 2013 4:24 pm

alan... wrote: why do you feel this forum is not the place? all i notice is a lot of vipassana people who don't think it's necessary but other than that i've gotten some good info. what approach should i go with?
I think this is a great forum, but as I said, I have seen you ask at least two questions about jhanas and most of the responses are saying, basically 'don't worry about them, don't think about them'.

I am not an expert, so I am not defending one approach over the other regarding the jhanas. There are a lot of knowledgable people here, it seems, saying don't worry about the jhanas. However, if you feel that you want to learn about these directly, and explore actually approaching jhanas more directly, then many of the posters in this forum are going to continue to tell you 'don't worry about jhanas, don't strive for them.'

Ultimately, it is up to the individual to pick their teachers, and you are responsible for that. Myself, I like Ayya Khema's approach and those of others like her, who explicitly discuss jhanas and encourage appropriate striving for jhanas.

There was a suggestion earlier that even attempting to strive for jhanas would make it impossible. If 'striving' in any sense for a jhana made it impossible, then what are retreatants at Pa Auk Sayadaw's center doing? Not obtaining jhanas?

There are different viewpoints on whether to explicitly try to obtain jhanas in one's practice. And I think that should be respected more.

The OP, Alan, is taking a very reasonable view and many teachers would answer his questions. But here, there is a great deal of discouraging rather than answering the question "can you learn jhanas from the suttas" which is a very interesting question. I would have really appreciated seeing a discussion of that question.

I hope that if other posters disagree with my views that they see I am encouraging respecting different views on this issue, and also encouraging engaging the OP's actual, stated question.

Personally, I prefer a 'concentration first, then vipassana' method. However, I arrived at my preferred meditation methods (like metta, instead of using the breath as an object) partly due to my own idiosyncracies. I have an abundance of ill-will that needs correcting.

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tiltbillings
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Re: would learning jhana solely from sutta be possible?

Post by tiltbillings » Fri Jan 18, 2013 5:11 pm

mynameisadahn wrote: Myself, I like Ayya Khema's approach and those of others like her, who explicitly discuss jhanas and encourage appropriate striving for jhanas. . .
There is a world of difference between working directly with an experienced teacher and getting advice on an internet forum.
There was a suggestion earlier that even attempting to strive for jhanas would make it impossible. If 'striving' in any sense for a jhana made it impossible, then what are retreatants at Pa Auk Sayadaw's center doing? Not obtaining jhanas?
Again, it depends upon the context. Working at a retreat with an experienced teacher is one thing, working at home with books and forum advice is another. It is not a matter of "Don't try this at home." It is, however, a matter of realistic expectations of trying this at home, both in terms of what to expect and the pitfalls, of which there are a fair few. Ideally, one would have a teacher with whom one could consult as needed, or barring that because such a teacher is not available in one's location, then attending a retreat or two with a qualified teacher, which would help give a good basis for continuing at home, would be a very good way to go. If that is not possible, then work from the books that carefully outline the practice written by experiernced teachers. But keep in mind the best advice is do the practice, be consistent with it and don't worry so much about the results. In doing the practice itself, there is a great deal that can be learned, and one needs to always keep in mind that the bottom line is that it is not about getting.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

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mynameisadahn
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Re: would learning jhana solely from sutta be possible?

Post by mynameisadahn » Fri Jan 18, 2013 5:56 pm

tiltbillings wrote: Working at a retreat with an experienced teacher is one thing, working at home with books and forum advice is another. It is not a matter of "Don't try this at home." It is, however, a matter of realistic expectations of trying this at home, both in terms of what to expect and the pitfalls, of which there are a fair few.
I would agree with your comments, I believe. There is a great deal of personal responsibility placed on an individual who tries to follow meditation instructions from an online dharma talk, forum, or written source. I certainly wanted to emphasize this personal responsibility in my own posts on this thread.

Unfortunately, it can be hard finding some typs of meditation instruction, in person, without significant travel. Or, even if one has a good in-person teacher, you may not have the ability to do longer retreats (this is my situation). So it really comes down to the indiviudal, making an intelligent and wise choice given their resources, time, etc. about the most effective ways to have a practice that alleviates suffering. And, like you said, what is possible in this situation - on retreat, off retreat, etc.

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Jerrod Lopes
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Re: would learning jhana solely from sutta be possible?

Post by Jerrod Lopes » Fri Jan 18, 2013 10:06 pm

I answered the OP directly. I'll state it again.

Not likely, improbable, ill-advised, but not impossible.

The Buddha wasn't a Buddhist. What did he do? He tried different things until it worked.

What I am seeing here seems to be a cyclical debate between those who say you do need all the toys, names, and terminology and those who say you don't need these things. In the end, each person has to explore and see for themselves.
It might be good first, and a teacher would perhaps ask this in person in response to the OP; how long have you been meditating? Do you meditate often, or only occasionally? What do you know about the 4 Noble Truths? How did you come to be interested in the middle way?

Personally, I don't see discouraging the practice of jhanas as a bad thing when we don't know whether the person asking about them has been meditating twice daily for hours on end for years and years, or just picked up a dhamma pamphlet someone dropped in a shopping mall yesterday. I gave the flight school analogy above. What is most important here is giving the person who asked the question the best answer for the given situation. There are no hard and fast rules for giving answers to anything in life. Just a sone person cares to meditate this way and name each part of that process a different label, another just sits and breathes and couldn't care less about what it's called. Everythign is different, everyone is different. What is the same is that trying to ATTAIN jhanas for the wrong reasons without a proper foundation ends in disappointment and frustration.

But yes... you could maybe learn jhanas from the suttas. Yet I still wonder...how are you to empty your mind and let it be still if you're remembering what a book told you someone else did?

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Re: would learning jhana solely from sutta be possible?

Post by Kenshou » Sat Jan 19, 2013 1:00 am

Well, you could also say "how are you to empty your mind and let it be still if you're remembering what a teacher told you you ought to be doing?" That's also a potential source of non-productive distracting thoughts. A certain finesse is required, regardless of the origin of one's meditation instruction.

It is sort of an ironic predicament, how meditation instruction or method itself can become an object of worry or doubt, which then makes it even harder. As a person who is naturally driven to lay ideas out in words in just the right way, it's an irony I've been pretty cozy with.

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Re: would learning jhana solely from sutta be possible?

Post by Cittasanto » Sat Jan 19, 2013 1:06 am

Kenshou wrote: A certain finesse is required, regardless of the origin of one's meditation instruction.
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Kamran
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Re: would learning jhana solely from sutta be possible?

Post by Kamran » Sat Jan 19, 2013 1:56 am

Extreme stress, or mental suffering can help you attain jhana faster since you see promising results right away during meditation and become very motivated and strive in your practice.
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Ben
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Re: would learning jhana solely from sutta be possible?

Post by Ben » Sat Jan 19, 2013 2:05 am

Kamran wrote:Extreme stress, or mental suffering can help you attain jhana faster since you see promising results right away during meditation and become very motivated and strive in your practice.
Hmmm...
I disagree.
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Re: would learning jhana solely from sutta be possible?

Post by nibbuti » Sat Jan 19, 2013 2:16 am

Kamran wrote:Extreme stress, or mental suffering can help you attain jhana faster since you see promising results right away during meditation and become very motivated and strive in your practice.
Indeed (unless it is pathological of course), extreme stress, or mental suffering can help one attain jhana. One may think jhana is some special treat or requires a secret trick, but it is really only a side effect of seeing the noble truth of suffering and letting go.

The Buddha taught that direct/personal seeing of dukkha (stress) leads to saddha (trust) in the Dhamma, which again leads to joy (piti), energy (viriya), tranquility (passadi), concentration (samadhi or jhana) and relinquishment.

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Last edited by nibbuti on Sat Jan 19, 2013 2:22 am, edited 1 time in total.

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tiltbillings
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Re: would learning jhana solely from sutta be possible?

Post by tiltbillings » Sat Jan 19, 2013 2:21 am

Kamran wrote:Extreme stress, or mental suffering can help you attain jhana faster since you see promising results right away during meditation and become very motivated and strive in your practice.
Well, how extreme before it becomes too extreme?
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

alan...
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Re: would learning jhana solely from sutta be possible?

Post by alan... » Sat Jan 19, 2013 8:37 am

Kamran wrote:Extreme stress, or mental suffering can help you attain jhana faster since you see promising results right away during meditation and become very motivated and strive in your practice.

it depends on how you are meaning stress. if you are saying someone with lots of mental stress will reach jhana faster even if the stress is a problem on the cushion, i'm not so sure.

however if you mean that someone may have lots of stress and then drop it while meditating and reach jhana faster because of their motivation to lessen the stress they feel off the cushion then i agree fully. this is how i learned it quickly. i have a really stressful job and meditation is one of the few things that truly cures my stress and it's the place i can let go of everything. i learned to quiet my mind first from books and from a zen temple so this has always been my method of dropping off the stress. the motivation of being so stressed out pushed me to practice more and more until i got good at jhana because just the zen meditation wasn't cutting it for me, it allowed me to drop the stress but just lead to a neutral state that faded the moment i got up whereas jhana brings me into amazing heights of bliss and concentration that give my mindfulness great momentum after i get up and go on about my day. nothing against zen, i probably wasn't doing it right.

now i would say i'm about 40% as stressed as i was before. i practice jhana and then satipatthana all day, it works out pretty good. i'm still stressed while at work but not on my days off, before i was stressed most of every day unless distracted by tv or books or some other distraction. now i can be at peace whatever i'm doing except for being at work itself.

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