The Great Jhana Debate

The cultivation of calm or tranquility and the development of concentration
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Re: The Great Jhana Debate

Post by SarathW » Sat Apr 02, 2016 9:54 am

Thanks :thumbsup:
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Re: The Great Jhana Debate

Post by Zom » Sun Apr 03, 2016 11:49 am

Agree with him on the 1st topic (vitakka), but don't agree on the 2nd (sound in jhana). He takes the passages but shows only one side of them, while there is another side, if we are to take some more passages refering to this topic. For example, he says that sound is a thorn to 1st jhana (according to a sutta) and vitakka-vicara are thorns to 2nd one. Then he explains: in the 2nd jhana there are no vitakka-vicaras, so this means in the 1st jhana there are no sounds (they can't happen in it). Sounds solid, but actually there is at least one another passage that shows that both vitakka-vicara can actully happen to a meditator of the 2nd jhana and when they happen he sees them as an affliction. In the same way sound actually can be heard in the 1st jhana, while the meditator will see (hear) it as an affliction. Same with the second vinaya passage about Moggallana, where the subject is not the 1st jhana & sounds, but, obviously, arupa-lokas & jhana, and according to MN 43 it is there where the mind is totally separated from the 5 senses, including hearing. But again Ven. Analayo doesn't mention that.

As for the 2nd lecture about "kaya" - again fully agree with him that this term is (in several cases) ideomatic and should not be understood directly as "body" -esp. in the 3rd jhana formula. But again don't agree that in jhana "everything becomes one", because "oneness" again is the unique feature of arupa-attainments, not jhanas.

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Re: The Great Jhana Debate

Post by Kabouterke » Sat Aug 20, 2016 12:03 am

Textual analysis of the suttas is certainly of prime importance in trying to discern if the jhanas taught during the Buddha's teaching career were the "vipassana / sutta" or "Visuddhimagga-style" jhanas (or possibly a continuum of the two types). But coming from a background in research, I'm surprised that no one has thought to test empirically what the differences are between the two types. Currently, there are already a number of studies that Leigh Brasington (and others) has participated in that offer us insight into what's going on in the brain during (sutta-style) jhanas. See: http://www.hindawi.com/journals/np/2013/653572/ for one example.

You could test to see if there is an actual difference between the two types of jhana by testing if they create significantly different brain activity, and if so, what those differences are. The benefit of the doing the sutta-style jhanas in this type of research is that you are able to maintain awareness of the body and can offer important information that the researchers need in order to keep track of which jhana you are entering and when. With the Visuddhimagga-style jhanas, this would be more difficult. It would also probably be harder to find Visuddhimagga-style jhana practitioners who could consistently enter and emerge from the jhanas, in addition to being in a noisy setting with the fMRI pounding away in the background. But with all research, where there is a will (and a large enough grant), there is a way.

Personally, I'm of the opinion that the two styles are actually just one phenomenon on continuum of intensity (think Bhante Vimalaramsi v. Bhante Gunaratana v. Ajahn Brahm v. Pa Auk Sayadaw) and that most people will find themselves at various positions on that continuum, even when using the same technique. But for those who really must know, empirical research might be able to offer answers that deciphering 2,500+ year old words can't.

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Re: The Great Jhana Debate

Post by Kumara » Wed Aug 24, 2016 8:47 am

mikenz66 wrote:
polarbear101 wrote:I just want to point people to two lectures by Venerable Anālayo where he gives a very thorough investigation of the various controversies around jhana and he approaches from a very agreeable and open-minded perspective. ...
Thanks. Nice talks. I really appreciate commentators with an open-minded non-argumentative approach.
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PeterHarvey
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Re: The Great Jhana Debate

Post by PeterHarvey » Thu Sep 15, 2016 2:51 pm

I’ve just downloaded read through the ~300 pages of The Great Jhāna Debate postings. This needed some sustained mindfulness and calm:-), and included many interesting ideas and references.
It struck me that some emphasise texts and some emphasise practice, and a good Sutta to bear in mind when the discussion gets on the heated side is: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... 6.than.htm- on the need for those devoted to Dhamma/teachings and those emphasising jhāna to appreciate each others’ qualities.
Regarding the differences of perspective over samatha and vipassanā practice, two useful passages are as follows.
A II 93-4: 1) one who has internal samatha of mind but not yet higher paññā of insight/vipassanā into phenomena needs to enquire about the nature of conditioned phenomena. 2) one who has higher paññā of insight/vipassanā into phenomena but not yet internal samatha of mind should ask how the mind is to be steadied, composed, unified and concentrated (cittaṃ saṇṭhapetabbaṃ … sannisāditabbaṃ … ekodikattabbaṃ … samādahātabbaṃ ) The underlined bits use words very much associated with jhāna.
A.II.156–8 emphasizes the different ways in which the Noble Path can be reached. One can go on to become an Arahat once the Path arises from one of:
i) vipassanā preceded by samatha;
ii) samatha preceded by vipassanā;
iii) samatha and vipassanā yoked together;
iv) the mind being ‘gripped by Dhamma excitement’ but then settling down and attaining concentration.
As samatha and vipassanā naturally became terms for the methods which respectively cultivated these qualities, the above four approaches came to be seen as different sequences in which such methods might be practised (Cousins, 1984: https://www.academia.edu/1417366/Samath ... -y%C4%81na). As understood in Theravāda Buddhism:
i) is the ‘vehicle’ (-yāna) of samatha, which develops deep calm, then adds insight;
ii) is the vehicle of vipassanā, which on the basis of preliminary calm, develops insight then deeper calm (full ‘samatha’); and
iii) is the ‘yoked’ method, which has alternating phases of progressively deeper levels of calm and insight.
iv) seems to have referred to insight leading to the arising of various pleasant experiences to which there is excited attachment – later called the ‘defilements of insight’(Vism. 633–8) –, then a return to composure and concentration (Patis.II.100–01). In time it came to be seen as the way of the ‘dry/bare (sukkha) insight worker (vipassaka)’ (Vism. 666, 702): insight without the explicit need for the cultivation of samatha.
Apologies if many of you are already familiar with these passages.

Peter

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Re: The Great Jhana Debate

Post by atipattoh » Mon Dec 05, 2016 1:43 pm

Kabouterke wrote:.......... It would also probably be harder to find Visuddhimagga-style jhana practitioners who could consistently enter and emerge from the jhanas, in addition to being in a noisy setting with the fMRI pounding away in the background. ....
There is this Mahapurisa org, that if i am not mistaken, the site is managed by a person that had practice at Pa Auk monastery many yrs ago. You could try to invite him to participate. If i am not wrong, he is not a bhikkhu now (but i am unable to confirm that), good luck!

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Re: The Great Jhana Debate

Post by cjmacie » Mon Dec 05, 2016 7:08 pm

atipattoh wrote:
Kabouterke wrote:.......... It would also probably be harder to find Visuddhimagga-style jhana practitioners who could consistently enter and emerge from the jhanas, in addition to being in a noisy setting with the fMRI pounding away in the background. ....
There is this Mahapurisa org, that if i am not mistaken, the site is managed by a person that had practice at Pa Auk monastery many yrs ago. You could try to invite him to participate. If i am not wrong, he is not a bhikkhu now (but i am unable to confirm that), good luck!
Do you know what's in that site -- beyond the slick graphics and high-sounding words -- when one gives a username and password to enter "Pali Tipitaka Academy"?

Doesn't smell good to me.

atipattoh
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Re: The Great Jhana Debate

Post by atipattoh » Tue Dec 06, 2016 11:01 am

cjmacie wrote:
atipattoh wrote:
Kabouterke wrote:.......... It would also probably be harder to find Visuddhimagga-style jhana practitioners who could consistently enter and emerge from the jhanas, in addition to being in a noisy setting with the fMRI pounding away in the background. ....
There is this Mahapurisa org, that if i am not mistaken, the site is managed by a person that had practice at Pa Auk monastery many yrs ago. You could try to invite him to participate. If i am not wrong, he is not a bhikkhu now (but i am unable to confirm that), good luck!
Do you know what's in that site -- beyond the slick graphics and high-sounding words -- when one gives a username and password to enter "Pali Tipitaka Academy"?

Doesn't smell good to me.
Hi,
sorry, i wasn't aware that there is a need for password. I read a few pages on some of the articles without entering password.
I was hoping Kabouterke would write to the site owner and invite him to participate in the brain wave experiment.
If he is not a bhikkhu, there should be no vinaya rules prohibiting him from being involved, so can be a good possible candidate.
Just a proposal!

:anjali:

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Jojola
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Re: The Great Jhana Debate

Post by Jojola » Thu Dec 29, 2016 2:42 pm

I don't see how it's possible for a significant insight to arise in a mind that is enmeshing itself into the hindrances.
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Re: Monks Average Meditation Routine

Post by Zom » Sun Sep 17, 2017 7:46 pm

How realistic is it for a lay person with a family, 9-5 job, kids and other commitment to really attain any level of Samahdi? Maybe I'm not ready to meditate.
If by "levels" you mean jhanas - then, unrealistic. Even for 99% of monastics. Jhana is "the fruit of ascetic life" (as said in DN2), the final step of the Noble Path, the threshold of nibbana. However, there's much more in samadhi training than jhanas. According to DN10 samadhi is a huge field of mental development prior to jhanic one. It starts with "controlling the faculties" which itself is an enormous and very hard undertaking, especially for lay person. However, right here (in this large field of Samadhi) you can reach certain visible results - like the heightened mindfulness/awareness (which itself is very helpful in Virtue Training part), ability to control thoughts, suppress inner speech/dialogue, attain mental calmness at will (or - remove anxiety), anger control, etc, etc. All this is attainable even by a lay person, and is the goal of practice for so called "secular buddhists", who don't believe in rebirth, kamma, hells/heavens, but do different meditative mental exercises just/only for these visible here-and-now "psychological" results.

Buddha said, however, that before one starts doing this, one should first accomplish (to a high degree) Morality Stage - Virtue Training, otherwise you'll get little from Samadhi training, because the latter is entirely based on the former. And again this is a very large and complicated field of practice. This is where most of lay buddhists put their efforts.
just seems paradoxical that because this life is so short and I could die any moment, that it is stressful when I get tired from studying or meditating too much to the point where I just stop for a while, guess I need to be kinder to myself and find a middle ground. I'm confident i will with experience.
This is normal for a beginner in Buddhism. However, many burn out because of heightened expectations and too much striving - and then even quit Buddhism altogether. Be careful here, don't press too hard.

I'll cite a nice passage by Ajahn Chah on this matter.

If we realize enlightenment in this lifetime, that's fine. If we have to wait until our next life, no matter. We have faith and unfaltering conviction in the Dhamma. Whether we progress quickly or slowly is up to our innate capabilities, spiritual aptitude, and the merit we've accumulated so far. Practising like this puts the heart at ease. It's like we're riding in a horse cart. We don't put the cart before the horse. Or it's like trying to plow a rice paddy while walking in front of our water buffalo rather than behind. What I'm saying here is that the mind is getting ahead of itself. It's impatient to get quick results. That's not the way to do it. Don't walk in front of your water buffalo. You have to walk behind the water buffalo.

It's just like that chilli plant we are nurturing. Give it water and fertilizer, and it will do the job of absorbing the nutrients. When ants or termites come to infest it, we chase them away. Doing just this much is enough for the chilli to grow beautifully on its own, and once it is growing beautifully, don't try to force it to flower when we think it should flower. It's none of our business. It will just create useless suffering. Allow it to bloom on its own. And once the flowers do bloom don't demand that it immediately produce chilli peppers. Don't rely on coercion. That really causes suffering! Once we figure this out, we understand what our responsibilities are and are not. Each has their specific duty to fulfill. The mind knows its role in the work to be done. If the mind doesn't understand its role, it will try to force the chilli plant to produce peppers on the very day we plant it. The mind will insist that it grow, flower, and produce peppers all in one day.

This is nothing but the second Noble Truth: craving causes suffering to arise. If we are aware of this Truth and ponder it, we'll understand that trying to force results in our Dhamma practice is pure delusion. It's wrong. Understanding how it works, we let go and allow things to mature according to our innate capabilities, spiritual aptitude and the merit we've accumulated. We keep doing our part. Don't worry that it might take a long time. Even if it takes a hundred or a thousand lifetimes to get enlightened, so what? However many lifetimes it takes we just keep practicing with a heart at ease, comfortable with our pace.

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Re: Monks Average Meditation Routine

Post by treyg21 » Thu Oct 19, 2017 1:23 pm

Zom wrote:
Sun Sep 17, 2017 7:46 pm
How realistic is it for a lay person with a family, 9-5 job, kids and other commitment to really attain any level of Samahdi? Maybe I'm not ready to meditate.
If by "levels" you mean jhanas - then, unrealistic. Even for 99% of monastics.
why do you think that? I've heard of many lay people getting into jhana. And many well regarded monks teach them how to do it, and verify they're doing it.
The furniture may be exquisite,
And the bars of solid gold,
But once the bird realizes that the cage is a cage,
It finds within that cage
No joy

- Ajahn Jayasaro

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Re: Monks Average Meditation Routine

Post by Zom » Thu Oct 19, 2017 1:30 pm

why do you think that? I've heard of many lay people getting into jhana. And many well regarded monks teach them how to do it, and verify they're doing it.
Yes, many talks about jhanas, vipassanas, etc. This is a "modern trend" nowadays in Buddhism. But talking about a thing, or even "verifying" it - is not an actual attainment. If you are truly in jhanas, you should be able to show how you sit in bliss for many-many hours or even days without food and water, without standing up and changing posture. I haven't seen and heard about such a thing except one non-buddhist person widely known as "buddha-boy" (who, however, has lost all his meditative abilities, as it seems). 8-)

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Re: Monks Average Meditation Routine

Post by treyg21 » Thu Oct 19, 2017 3:25 pm

Zom wrote:
Thu Oct 19, 2017 1:30 pm
why do you think that? I've heard of many lay people getting into jhana. And many well regarded monks teach them how to do it, and verify they're doing it.
Yes, many talks about jhanas, vipassanas, etc. This is a "modern trend" nowadays in Buddhism. But talking about a thing, or even "verifying" it - is not an actual attainment. If you are truly in jhanas, you should be able to show how you sit in bliss for many-many hours or even days without food and water, without standing up and changing posture.
From my understanding, that would entail complete mastery of jhana. Which I agree is unlikely. But I don't think that implies that isn't impossible for many people to access at least first jhana quite regularly.

Do you have an sutta references to back up what youre claiming?
The furniture may be exquisite,
And the bars of solid gold,
But once the bird realizes that the cage is a cage,
It finds within that cage
No joy

- Ajahn Jayasaro

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Re: Monks Average Meditation Routine

Post by Zom » Thu Oct 19, 2017 7:03 pm

From my understanding, that would entail complete mastery of jhana. Which I agree is unlikely. But I don't think that implies that isn't impossible for many people to access at least first jhana quite regularly.
Yes, this is a common answer - however, even "masters" can't show smth like that - those, who are supposed to have all jhanas for a long long time. This is why this argument about "at least 1 jhana regularly" is poor as well. I'd rather say - they (who claim about such attainments) attain some states of peaceful mind which they wrongly identify as the 1st jhana.
Do you have an sutta references to back up what youre claiming?
The idea that jhana (even 1st one) is not something that can be easily attained is there in the suttas, of course. 1st jhana is actually (or almost) the state of non-returning for a buddhist. This is the end of the path, very close to arahantship.

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Re: Monks Average Meditation Routine

Post by DNS » Thu Oct 19, 2017 7:54 pm

Zom wrote:
Thu Oct 19, 2017 7:03 pm
Do you have an sutta references to back up what youre claiming?
The idea that jhana (even 1st one) is not something that can be easily attained is there in the suttas, of course. 1st jhana is actually (or almost) the state of non-returning for a buddhist. This is the end of the path, very close to arahantship.
But you still haven't provided any sutta support for that. I've heard that good proficiency in 4th jhana is required for non-returning, not 1st jhana.

Alara Kalama and Udaka Ramaputta were highly proficient in jhanas (I know there is some debate about that but the suttas record proficiency in formless realms beyond the 4 form jhanas) but were not even stream-entrants. They taught the future Buddha up to realms of nothingness and the realm of neither perception nor non-perception.

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Re: Monks Average Meditation Routine

Post by samseva » Fri Oct 20, 2017 1:02 am

Zom wrote:
Thu Oct 19, 2017 1:30 pm
If you are truly in jhanas, you should be able to show how you sit in bliss for many-many hours or even days without food and water, without standing up and changing posture. I haven't seen and heard about such a thing except one non-buddhist person widely known as "buddha-boy" (who, however, has lost all his meditative abilities, as it seems). 8-)
That's a completely disproportionate view of what jhānas are. You're depicting just reaching the first jhāna as the feat of an experienced meditator who has probably mastered all the jhānas.
Zom wrote:
Thu Oct 19, 2017 7:03 pm
1st jhana is actually (or almost) the state of non-returning for a buddhist. This is the end of the path, very close to arahantship.
First jhāna is not even close to arahantship; not even mastering the fourth jhāna would mean approaching arahantship. Being able to reach jhāna in no way means that you will develop wisdom, which is what is required to develop the path.

Seriously, reaching first jhāna isn't that difficult—mastery, routinly reaching it, and remaining in it are different things though (similar to other things). Considering it as a God-like feat is or will probably be detrimental to your meditation.

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Re: Monks Average Meditation Routine

Post by santa100 » Fri Oct 20, 2017 2:01 am

treyg21 wrote:Which I agree is unlikely. But I don't think that implies that isn't impossible for many people to access at least first jhana quite regularly.
While it's not impossible to attain 1st jhana, it's certainly not trivial at all to get there. As mentioned in a previous post, even for mundane disciplines, one has to put in at least 8 hours a day to really be considered a professional in his field. Spending a couple hours a day here and there certainly won't cut it. Another problem is about verifying those self-proclaimed attainments. Any meditator can claim anything s/he wants. This is in stark contrast to even a mundane discipline like martial arts, like judo. It's a 100% honest system where it's impossible for one to bullsh... once s/he's stepped onto the mat. For such mundane field, one'd have to spend thousands of hours day in, day out, sweating and even bleeding to master it. Mastering jhana, even the 1st one, is no less demanding than judo. If any, it'd be a lot more difficult. It only seems easy because unlike the judoka, there's simply no dojo mat there for the meditator to prove anything.

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Re: Monks Average Meditation Routine

Post by Mkoll » Fri Oct 20, 2017 3:03 am

I lean more toward Zom's and santa100's opinion on this.

A fair amount of people claim to have this or that jhana. Yet there are often big differences in how they describe it and how to get there with the most notable being between so-called Visuddhimagga style jhana (generally more deep) and sutta style jhana (generally more aware). And there are differences within those camps too. So clearly a lot of people are missing the mark.

I think what underlies a lot of these claims is not sammasamadhi but rather a desire to "have" an attainment and further, the desire to proclaim it to other people. There can be a lot of ego and desire for attention involved in this process. It's the same process that gets people to claim this or that stage of enlightenment. I'm not saying that everyone who makes a claim of Noble attainment is deluding themselves, just that the majority likely are. 8-)
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

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Re: Monks Average Meditation Routine

Post by samseva » Fri Oct 20, 2017 4:42 am

santa100 wrote:
Fri Oct 20, 2017 2:01 am
[...]
Mkoll wrote:
Fri Oct 20, 2017 3:03 am
I lean more toward Zom's and santa100's opinion on this.

A fair amount of people claim to have this or that jhana. Yet there are often big differences in how they describe it and how to get there with the most notable being between so-called Visuddhimagga style jhana (generally more deep) and sutta style jhana (generally more aware). And there are differences within those camps too. So clearly a lot of people are missing the mark.

I think what underlies a lot of these claims is not sammasamadhi but rather a desire to "have" an attainment and further, the desire to proclaim it to other people. There can be a lot of ego and desire for attention involved in this process. It's the same process that gets people to claim this or that stage of enlightenment. I'm not saying that everyone who makes a claim of Noble attainment is deluding themselves, just that the majority likely are. 8-)
I agree regarding the definitions of jhāna according to the Suttas and according to the Visuddhimagga, the latter being much more strict. Still, the Suttas have much more credibility and while both definitions should be taken into account, the Sutta jhānas should be seen as the most correct (being from the Suttas and taught by the Buddha). And I am also of the opinion that mastery of even the first jhāna is not an easy task at all.

Still, there are so many accounts of people having reached the first jhāna (reached, not mastered), that defining it as "having to meditate for multiple days without eating or drinking water" or "having to meditate for 8 hours every single day" is absurd. And not only Buddhists reach jhāna, since jhāna is not Buddhist (jhāna is just a mental process).

Anyway, I think you, Zom and santa100 have already made up your minds. I guess you can keep believing that the first jhāna is nearly impossible to attain and that you would have to practice 8 hours per day for months or even years—and also that everyone you cross paths with claiming to have just reached the first jhāna (not mastered) are completely deluding themselves (I guess maybe they could be, but there is also the many people who reach jhāna who are not making claims). However, with the belief that jhāna is so difficult to reach, how motivating is it to meditate? Maybe you'll eventually reach the first jhāna (maybe just reach, not master), but with the belief that such achievements are nearly impossible, you would probably be deluding yourself?

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Re: Monks Average Meditation Routine

Post by Mkoll » Fri Oct 20, 2017 5:15 am

samseva wrote:
Fri Oct 20, 2017 4:42 am
santa100 wrote:
Fri Oct 20, 2017 2:01 am
[...]
Mkoll wrote:
Fri Oct 20, 2017 3:03 am
I lean more toward Zom's and santa100's opinion on this.

A fair amount of people claim to have this or that jhana. Yet there are often big differences in how they describe it and how to get there with the most notable being between so-called Visuddhimagga style jhana (generally more deep) and sutta style jhana (generally more aware). And there are differences within those camps too. So clearly a lot of people are missing the mark.

I think what underlies a lot of these claims is not sammasamadhi but rather a desire to "have" an attainment and further, the desire to proclaim it to other people. There can be a lot of ego and desire for attention involved in this process. It's the same process that gets people to claim this or that stage of enlightenment. I'm not saying that everyone who makes a claim of Noble attainment is deluding themselves, just that the majority likely are. 8-)
I agree regarding the definitions of jhāna according to the Suttas and according to the Visuddhimagga, the latter being much more strict. Still, the Suttas have much more credibility and while both definitions should be taken into account, the Sutta jhānas should be seen as the most correct (being from the Suttas and taught by the Buddha). And I am also of the opinion that mastery of even the first jhāna is not an easy task at all.

Still, there are so many accounts of people having reached the first jhāna (reached, not mastered), that defining it as "having to meditate for multiple days without eating or drinking water" or "having to meditate for 8 hours every single day" is absurd. And not only Buddhists reach jhāna, since jhāna is not Buddhist (jhāna is just a mental process).
I read the texts as saying that right concentration (sammasamadhi), i.e. the 4 jhanas, is distinctly Buddhist because it is dependent upon the other limbs of the path—see MN 117. The means by which the mind does or experiences anything can be seen as a mental process, so saying jhana is a mental process is essentially a meaningless statement.
Anyway, I think you, Zom and santa100 have already made up your minds. I guess you can keep believing that the first jhāna is nearly impossible to attain and that you would have to practice 8 hours per day for months or even years—and also that everyone you cross paths with claiming to have just reached the first jhāna (not mastered) are completely deluding themselves (I guess maybe they could be, but there is also the many people who reach jhāna who are not making claims). However, with the belief that jhāna is so difficult to reach, how motivating is it to meditate? Maybe you'll eventually reach the first jhāna (maybe just reach, not master), but with the belief that such achievements are nearly impossible, you would probably be deluding yourself?
"Leaning toward" != "already made up my mind" by any stretch of the imagination. I never said it was nearly impossible. And I explicitly said not everyone who makes a claim is deluded.

I'm not sure if you're deliberately misrepresenting my position to troll me or you just need to read what I wrote more carefully while being mindful not to conflate my position with that of others. Or something else. :shrug:
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

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