Pannobhasa on Jhana

The cultivation of calm or tranquility and the development of concentration
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Sam Vara
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Pannobhasa on Jhana

Post by Sam Vara » Sat Jul 18, 2015 9:07 pm

Pannobhasa Bhikkhu (David Reynolds) gives some thought to the question of what Jhana actually is. A short exerpt:
My experience as a long-term meditator, as well as a person who arguably thinks too much, leads me to feel that mindfulness is really the key to Dharma practice—not so much the eradication of unskillful mental states as the neutralization of them through the detachment and non-identification of mindful awareness. The thing is, though, that we cannot detach from what we are oblivious to. Deeper jhānas, which are "purifications of mindfulness," allow the meditator to be mindful of subtle states that the ordinary person walking around and making noise does not even suspect the existence of.
The more awake and attentive one is, the more subtle the phenomena one is able to observe, thereby "transmuting" it into awareness. The four jhānas are, according to this interpretation, the progression of meditation from the most obvious, crudest phenomena, which is all most people tend to be aware of, to the most refined, until the whole field of consciousness is no longer subconscious, or semiconscious, but conscious.
Even in fourth jhāna a meditator would be conscious; in fact he or she would be more conscious than an ordinary person in an ordinary waking state. One would not be oblivious to anything; it would simply become irrelevant, and remain undiscriminated. In this sense advanced jhāna may be said to be a kind of temporary, artificial enlightenment; in the texts jhāna is called “temporary liberation” (samaya vimokkha).
He also looks at the possibility that most of what is taken to be jhana is in fact hypnosis, and the way in which notions of "superhuman states" crept into the textual sources.
http://thebahiyablog.blogspot.co.uk/201 ... or-on.html

As ever, worth reading, even if you end up disagreeing with him.

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Alex123
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Re: Pannobhasa on Jhana

Post by Alex123 » Sun Jul 19, 2015 6:01 pm

From that article, I am thinking about this story in particular:
"Another example was told to me by a young Western meditator at Pah Auk many years ago. He had been assigned the practice of seeing, with the “samādhi eye,” the internal organs of himself and others. (This is not supposed to be just an exercise of the imagination, but an actual seeing, through finely honed concentration, of those organs.) He told me that once he was in the meditation hall “seeing” the bones of the person sitting in front of him. He was doing this with his eyes closed, since the physical eye is not what is supposed to do the seeing. So after looking at the other person’s bones to his own satisfaction, he finally opened his eyes to discover that, without his knowledge, the other person whose bones he had been observing had gotten up and walked away—so he was “seeing” bones that weren’t there. When he reported this to his meditation instructor, he was informed that it didn’t matter."
What if every other super human (uttarimanussa) insight is like the above? It doesn't help if one does vipassanā rather than samatha. On one longer retreat that I had, I was told to note intention, even if I didn't see it. Considering that there is a certain degree of (momentary) concentration even in vipassanā practice, and that meditation can act as self hypnosis with what you are supposed to see being provided during private interviews with teachers and through evening dhamma talks... Well, you get the idea.


Again, I realize that visions during meditation and maybe even really fancy insights may be simply imagination, seeing what one was taught, dreams, hallucinations. :cry: This is especially obvious about 4th Jhāna where the breathing has supposedly ceased and from which one gets super knowledges (including of rebirth and kamma). No or little breathing equals less oxygen to the brain. This can cause hallucinations. Also, all perceptions of various super powers (that are also gotten from 4th Jhāna)can be simply due to hallucinating caused by oxygen deprivation.

I myself went through a (much minor) phase where I would get various visions during tranquil sit, and my breathing didn't even have to cease.


Again, Pali Canon doesn't have information about objective physical world above and beyond what people knew at that time... :cry: In fact the suttas were wrong on many things (flat earth, giant demon who could swallow the moon, absence of the brain as bodypart in 31 bodyparts contemplation until centuries later, etc). So much for various mystical powers... With all of that belief in rebirth (including as a living flying piece of meat or skeleton which crows peck at) just adds another nail to the coffin.
Last edited by Alex123 on Sun Jul 19, 2015 6:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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daverupa
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Re: Pannobhasa on Jhana

Post by daverupa » Sun Jul 19, 2015 6:08 pm

This could be part of the reason why abhinna are generally not encouraged, while "self-hypnotism running & circling around right view" might be just the ticket...
  • "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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ryanM
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Re: Pannobhasa on Jhana

Post by ryanM » Sun Jul 19, 2015 6:09 pm

mmmm i doubt very much it's just 'oxygen deprivation'.
sabbe dhammā nālaṃ abhinivesāya

"nothing whatsoever should be clung to"

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Alex123
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Re: Pannobhasa on Jhana

Post by Alex123 » Sun Jul 19, 2015 6:11 pm

ryanM wrote:mmmm i doubt very much it's just 'oxygen deprivation'.
Include in that strict ascetic practices, sleep deprivation, lots of seclusion (some prefer dark caves) and deep sense restraint, eating very little, etc...

Shut down 5 senses, yet keep clear awareness. That is like being place in deprivation tank.

Some cause of altered states of consciousness.

Lets see:
Traumatic experience... Check... Buddha had it
Oxygen deficiency...Sleep deprivation... Fasting... Buddha done that.
I don't exclude possibility of infections. After all, Buddha lived in the forest where one might get infected. Similar with many monks today.
"Life is a struggle. Life will throw curveballs at you, it will humble you, it will attempt to break you down. And just when you think things are starting to look up, life will smack you back down with ruthless indifference..."

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ryanM
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Re: Pannobhasa on Jhana

Post by ryanM » Sun Jul 19, 2015 6:30 pm

I think most of the forest ajahns (Lee, Fuang, etc.) have recommended putting aside those visions because they could very well be hallucinations.

"Vision arose, insight arose, discernment arose, knowledge arose, illumination arose within me with regard to things never heard before: 'This is the noble truth of stress.' Vision arose, insight arose, discernment arose, knowledge arose, illumination arose within me with regard to things never heard before: 'This noble truth of stress is to be comprehended.' Vision arose, insight arose, discernment arose, knowledge arose, illumination arose within me with regard to things never heard before:' This noble truth of stress has been comprehended.'


[...]

"And, monks, as long as this — my three-round, twelve-permutation knowledge & vision concerning these four noble truths as they have come to be — was not pure, I did not claim to have directly awakened to the right self-awakening unexcelled in the cosmos with its deities, Maras, & Brahmas, with its contemplatives & brahmans, its royalty & commonfolk. But as soon as this — my three-round, twelve-permutation knowledge & vision concerning these four noble truths as they have come to be — was truly pure, then I did claim to have directly awakened to the right self-awakening unexcelled in the cosmos with its deities, Maras & Brahmas, with its contemplatives & brahmans, its royalty & commonfolk. Knowledge & vision arose in me: 'Unprovoked is my release. This is the last birth. There is now no further becoming.'"
there are just so many things that remain to be unseen by me that I can't put aside these comments. the Buddha, of all people, should garner our intellectual charity.
sabbe dhammā nālaṃ abhinivesāya

"nothing whatsoever should be clung to"

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