The Great Jhana Debate

The cultivation of calm or tranquility and the development of concentration
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samseva
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Re: Monks Average Meditation Routine

Post by samseva » Fri Oct 20, 2017 5:26 am

Mkoll wrote:
Fri Oct 20, 2017 5:15 am
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.
We'll have to agree to disagree on that point. Still, before he reached Enlightenment, the Buddha met different teachers of which some only taught him as far as jhānas. That was before he discovered the Four Noble Truths. Jhāna in the context of the teachings is Buddhist, but it is still a mecanism of the mind, not a religious teaching (other ascetics and yogis did reach jhāna before the Buddha reached Enlightenment and taught).
Mkoll wrote:
Fri Oct 20, 2017 5:15 am
"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.
Well, my answer was directed to you, Zom and santa100. Those were referring to parts of earlier posts by Zom or santa100. ;)

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Re: Monks Average Meditation Routine

Post by Mkoll » Fri Oct 20, 2017 8:00 am

samseva wrote:
Fri Oct 20, 2017 5:26 am
Mkoll wrote:
Fri Oct 20, 2017 5:15 am
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.
We'll have to agree to disagree on that point. Still, before he reached Enlightenment, the Buddha met different teachers of which some only taught him as far as jhānas. That was before he discovered the Four Noble Truths. Jhāna in the context of the teachings is Buddhist, but it is still a mecanism of the mind, not a religious teaching (other ascetics and yogis did reach jhāna before the Buddha reached Enlightenment and taught).
As a Buddhist in a Buddhist context (this forum), I place jhana in the context of the teachings where they're defined as sammasamadhi. So when I use the word jhana, that's what I mean. I don't deny that others outside a Buddhasasana have attained states of concentration/peace/calm/samadhi, but I don't call them jhana or sammasamadhi.
samseva wrote:
Mkoll wrote:
Fri Oct 20, 2017 5:15 am
"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.
Well, my answer was directed to you, Zom and santa100. Those were referring to parts of earlier posts by Zom or santa100. ;)
Then you should have made that clear, e.g. by quoting or using "@name" for each individual point and person you're responding to with your statements instead of writing a big paragraph full of responses to different people and expecting them to understand who you're talking to with each one.
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 Zom » Fri Oct 20, 2017 11:01 am

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.
First jhāna is not even close to arahantship
All right then. MN 64 - here you go. Or, AN 3.94. Or, AN 11.16.
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.
Yes, but they were the most potent disciples, even better than Sariputta and Moggallana. In Vinaya Buddha says that these two were the first whom he was going to teach but, unforunately, they died just before his enlightenment. If they listened to the Buddha, they would reach arahantship immediately, like in the case with (non-buddhist ascetic) Bahiya or (some 1000 other non-buddhist ascetics) Kassapa brothers and their disciples.
I think what underlies a lot of these claims is not sammasamadhi but rather a desire to "have" an attainment
Exactly 8-)

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Re: Monks Average Meditation Routine

Post by seeker242 » Fri Oct 20, 2017 11:33 am

DCM wrote:
Sat Sep 16, 2017 8:17 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?
It's 100% realistic. Thousands upon thousands of laypeople do it everyday. :meditate:

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Re: Monks Average Meditation Routine

Post by santa100 » Fri Oct 20, 2017 12:34 pm

samseva wrote: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
Then you're basically saying that being a jhana professional is a much easier pursuit than all other mundane disciplines like judo professionals or engineering professionals who DO put 8 hours or more day in, day out to earn their status? And again, how the h... can you prove anyone's claim about attaining their 1st jhana while there's absolutely no "dojo mat" for them to prove? To put it bluntly, I have much more respect for those judokas than armchair buddhists who claim 1st jhana attainment. At least the judokas prove their status with their sweat and blood; the armchair Buddhists? with their saliva!

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Re: Monks Average Meditation Routine

Post by DNS » Fri Oct 20, 2017 3:34 pm

Zom wrote:
Fri Oct 20, 2017 11:01 am
All right then. MN 64 - here you go. Or, AN 3.94. Or, AN 11.16.
The relevant passage from that list is in AN 11.16:
11.16 wrote: “There is the case, householder, where a monk, withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful qualities, enters & remains in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation . . . . (as below and again for the rest of the jhanas and formless realms)

“Then again, a monk—with the complete transcending of perceptions of [physical] form, with the disappearance of perceptions of resistance, and not heeding perceptions of diversity, [perceiving,] ‘Infinite space’—enters & remains in the dimension of the infinitude of space. He reflects on this and discerns, ‘This attainment of the infinitude of space is fabricated & intended. Now whatever is fabricated & intended is inconstant & subject to cessation.’ Staying right there, he reaches the ending of the mental fermentations. Or, if not, then—through this very Dhamma-passion, this Dhamma-delight, and from the total wasting away of the first five Fetters—he is due to be reborn [in the Pure Abodes], there to be totally unbound, never again to return from that world.

“This too, householder, is a single quality declared by the Blessed One—the one who knows, the one who sees, worthy & rightly self-awakened—where the unreleased mind of a monk who dwells there heedful, ardent, & resolute becomes released, or his unended fermentations go to their total ending, or he attains the unexcelled security from the yoke that he had not attained before.

(Similarly with the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness and the dimension of nothingness.)
It follows that formula for all the jhanas and formless realms, not just the first jhana. There is the potential, the opportunity to waste away the five fetters in any of those jhanas and attain the Pure Abodes; it does not say it is a requirement that it must be so that only the first jhana for the Pure Abodes, it could be the 2nd, 3rd, 4th or even the formless realms attainments where that happens.

Citta was a householder and along with over 500 other lay people attained the state of non-return.
MN 73 wrote:`Vaccha, not one, not one hundred, not two hundred, not three hundred, not four hundred, not five hundred. There are many more lay disciples of mine, who have destroyed the five lower bonds to the sensual world, and born spontaneously would not proceed,'

`Good, Gotama, wait! Other thanbhikkhus, bhikkhunis and lay disciples of Gotama, who wear white clothes and lead the holy life. Is there a single a lay disciple, who wears white clothes, leads the holy life, while partaking sensual pleasures, and doing the work in the dispensation has dispelled doubts. Has become confident of what should and should not be done, and does not need a teacher any more in the dispensation of the Teacher.

Vaccha, not one, not one hundred, not two hundred, not three hundred, not four hundred, not five hundred. There are many more lay disciples of mine, wearing white clothes leadingthe holy life, while partaking sensual pleasures and doing the work in the dispensation have dispelled doubts Have become confident of what should and should not be done and do not need a teacher any more'

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Re: Monks Average Meditation Routine

Post by Zom » Fri Oct 20, 2017 4:16 pm

It follows that formula for all the jhanas and formless realms, not just the first jhana. There is the potential, the opportunity to waste away the five fetters in any of those jhanas and attain the Pure Abodes; it does not say it is a requirement that it must be so that only the first jhana for the Pure Abodes, it could be the 2nd, 3rd, 4th or even the formless realms attainments where that happens.
But, 1st jhana as well, yes?
Citta was a householder and along with over 500 other lay people attained the state of non-return.
It seems you've missed the passage in MN64:

“There is a path, Ānanda, a way to the abandoning of the five lower fetters (non-returning); that anyone, without relying on that path, on that way, shall know or see or abandon the five lower fetters (non-returning) —this is not possible...

And what, Ānanda, is the path, the way to the abandoning of the five lower fetters (non-returning)? Here, with seclusion from the acquisitions, with the abandoning of unwholesome states, with the complete tranquillization of bodily inertia, quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states, a bhikkhu enters upon and abides in the first jhāna, which is accompanied by applied and sustained thought, with rapture and pleasure born of seclusion"


Also you've ignored "Autumn sutta", which clearly speaks about 1st jhana and non-returning. If you didn't find it, I can find and then cite here.

As for the Citta - he was named by the Buddha himself as the best and ideal householder (2nd one was Hatthaka - also a non-returner). They both had jhanas, of course.
Last edited by Zom on Fri Oct 20, 2017 4:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Monks Average Meditation Routine

Post by DNS » Fri Oct 20, 2017 4:20 pm

Zom wrote:
Fri Oct 20, 2017 4:16 pm
But, 1st jhana as well, yes?
It seems you've missed the passage in MN64:
Correct, it could happen (the state of non-return) in first jhana. But it could also happen in 2nd jhana, 3rd jhana, 4th jhana, and all the formless realms. First jhana is not a guarantee of non-return from the way all those and other passages read.

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Re: Monks Average Meditation Routine

Post by Zom » Fri Oct 20, 2017 4:22 pm

First jhana is not a guarantee of non-return from the way all those and other passages read.
It is a guarantee if you have 1st path factor accomplished - that is - Right Views. (see "Autumn sutta"). Also, it works backwards as well - you can reach jhanas without Right Views factor, but as soon as you get it (by hearding from someone), you'll realize immediately either non-returning or arahantship (best well-known case is Bahiya). Ajahn Brahm explains in details how does this happen: https://www.dhammatalks.net/Books6/Ajah ... ACHING.htm

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Re: Monks Average Meditation Routine

Post by DNS » Fri Oct 20, 2017 5:03 pm

Zom wrote:
Fri Oct 20, 2017 4:22 pm
Ajahn Brahm explains in details how does this happen: https://www.dhammatalks.net/Books6/Ajah ... ACHING.htm
From Ajahn Brahm's talk:
Ajhan Brahm wrote:and then [Buddha] teaches the necessity of attaining at least one of the Jhānas in order to destroy the five lower fetters (and thereby attain the level just below full Enlightenment called Non Returning). The Buddha said in front of Venerable Mālunkyaputta that it is impossible to achieve Non Returning (let alone Full Enlightenment) without a Jhāna just as much as it is impossible to reach the heartwood of a tree without first going through its bark and sapwood. Think about it.
Yes, I certainly agree with that, that an anagami would have to attain at least the first jhana, but again this does not mean that everyone who attains first jhana is an anagami.

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Re: Monks Average Meditation Routine

Post by Zom » Fri Oct 20, 2017 6:09 pm

Yes, I certainly agree with that, that an anagami would have to attain at least the first jhana, but again this does not mean that everyone who attains first jhana is an anagami.
I've said already about Right Views factor.. -)

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Re: Monks Average Meditation Routine

Post by mikenz66 » Fri Oct 20, 2017 8:57 pm

samseva wrote:
Fri Oct 20, 2017 4:42 am
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.
This supposed sutta vs Visuddhimagga distinction seems to me to be misleading. Some "sutta teachers" do teach that jhana can be rather light and easy to attain. A number of other teachers who have great enthusiasm for EBTs (Early Buddhist Texts), such as Vens Analayo, Sujato, Brahm, interpret the suttas as specifying the jhanas as very deep levels of absorption (i.e., they agree with Zom). They don't consider jhana to be unobtainable, but they do consider it to be challenging to attain, and extremely unlikely outside of intensive retreats.

To me, the descriptions of the lighter versions of jhana appear similar to the level of concentration attained in "insight oriented" practice (Mahasi, etc). That's not a bad thing, those practices are aiming at what the Commentaries describe as "access concentration", where the hindrances have fallen away. That level of concentration is also not trivial to attain, or maintain, outside of retreats.

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Re: Monks Average Meditation Routine

Post by samseva » Sat Oct 21, 2017 12:46 am

Mkoll wrote:
Fri Oct 20, 2017 8:00 am
As a Buddhist in a Buddhist context (this forum), I place jhana in the context of the teachings where they're defined as sammasamadhi. So when I use the word jhana, that's what I mean. I don't deny that others outside a Buddhasasana have attained states of concentration/peace/calm/samadhi, but I don't call them jhana or sammasamadhi.
Yes, jhāna in the Eightfold Path is a "Buddhist jhāna", but whether jhāna is reached by a Buddhist meditator, or a Hindu ascetic, it is still the same exact mecanism. The only thing that differentiates jhāna in a Buddhist context and jhāna in a non-Buddhist context is that jhāna in Buddhism is used as a tool to develop insight. Same exact mecanism of the mind; different purpose.
Mkoll wrote:
Fri Oct 20, 2017 8:00 am
Then you should have made that clear, e.g. by quoting or using "@name" for each individual point and person you're responding to with your statements instead of writing a big paragraph full of responses to different people and expecting them to understand who you're talking to with each one.
I did. I started the exact paragraph by stating all three names. I wasn't going to pinpoint every single person for each point... if a particular point didn't apply to you, then it didn't apply.

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Re: The Great Jhana Debate

Post by samseva » Sat Oct 21, 2017 12:56 am

santa100 wrote:
Fri Oct 20, 2017 12:34 pm
Then you're basically saying that being a jhana professional is a much easier pursuit than all other mundane disciplines like judo professionals or engineering professionals who DO put 8 hours or more day in, day out to earn their status? And again, how the h... can you prove anyone's claim about attaining their 1st jhana while there's absolutely no "dojo mat" for them to prove? To put it bluntly, I have much more respect for those judokas than armchair buddhists who claim 1st jhana attainment. At least the judokas prove their status with their sweat and blood; the armchair Buddhists? with their saliva!
I'm not saying anything; you're metaphor doesn't make sense. And you're critisizing me of disparaging martial arts masters—when I didn't even mention anything about martial arts. Seriously?

Santa100, do as you wish. Keep thinking that meditating is like practicing judo and that reaching even the first jhāna requires 8 hours of meditation every day, for multiple years.

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Re: The Great Jhana Debate

Post by santa100 » Sat Oct 21, 2017 1:00 am

samseva wrote:
Sat Oct 21, 2017 12:56 am
santa100 wrote:
Fri Oct 20, 2017 12:34 pm
Then you're basically saying that being a jhana professional is a much easier pursuit than all other mundane disciplines like judo professionals or engineering professionals who DO put 8 hours or more day in, day out to earn their status? And again, how the h... can you prove anyone's claim about attaining their 1st jhana while there's absolutely no "dojo mat" for them to prove? To put it bluntly, I have much more respect for those judokas than armchair buddhists who claim 1st jhana attainment. At least the judokas prove their status with their sweat and blood; the armchair Buddhists? with their saliva!
I'm not saying anything; you're metaphor doesn't make sense. And you're critisizing me of disparaging martial arts masters—when I didn't even mention anything about martial arts. Seriously?

Santa100, do as you wish. Keep thinking that meditating is like practicing judo and that reaching even the first jhāna requires 8 hours of meditation every day, for multiple years.
Where exactly did you see in my post where I "criticizing you of disparaging martial arts masters"? If you can't provide it, then obviously this is your own papanca at work. My martial arts analogy has 100% relevance to the topic under discussion. The fact that you dodge my 2 questions has proven that.

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Re: Monks Average Meditation Routine

Post by samseva » Sat Oct 21, 2017 1:17 am

mikenz66 wrote:
Fri Oct 20, 2017 8:57 pm
[...]
I don't think jhānas more in line with access concentration are considered jhāna. Visuddhimagga is less credible only due to being post-Canonical, but it is so strict that if one can reach Visuddhimagga jhānas, one has reached Sutta jhānas (so debating it is pointless).

I think it is dangerous of putting jhāna on a pedestal and to have beliefs similar to "jhāna can only be reached after meditating 8 hours per day for mulitple years" or "jhāna is unlikely outside of intensive retreats."

There's also an important distinction which seems to have been missed in the last 10 or so posts, being that simply reaching jhāna and mastery of a jhāna are two entirely different things.

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Re: Monks Average Meditation Routine

Post by mikenz66 » Sat Oct 21, 2017 2:09 am

HI Samseva,
samseva wrote:
Sat Oct 21, 2017 1:17 am
I don't think jhānas more in line with access concentration are considered jhāna.
No, of course, they should not be. I was merely wondering aloud whether that might, perhaps, have happened in some cases.
samseva wrote:
Sat Oct 21, 2017 1:17 am
Visuddhimagga is less credible only due to being post-Canonical, but it is so strict that if one can reach Visuddhimagga jhānas, one has reached Sutta jhānas (so debating it is pointless).
You seem to have missed my observation that a number of EBT enthusiasts (Analayo, Sujato, Brahm, etc) have a definition of jhana, derived from the suttas, that is similar in depth to the VM definition (not being able to hear when in jhana, and so on).

Hence my observation that Sutta/VM is not a useful division. It seems to have been coined by Leigh Brasington, who writes:
http://www.leighb.com/jhanantp.htm
The first broad categorization would be into "Sutta Style Jhanas" and "Visuddhimagga Style Jhanas". These two phrases are not ideal, but I use them until someone comes up with a better pair. "Visuddhimagga Style Jhanas" use a nimitta for access and involve very deep concentration. "Sutta Style Jhanas" do not require a nimitta and involve more accessible states of concentration.
And further down:
Ajahn Brahmavamso is a Theravadan Buddhist monk who lives in Western Australia. He studied extensively with Ajahn Chah in Thailand as well as in other places before settling in Australia.
His definition of exactly what constituted a Jhana seems close to the depths indicated in the Visuddhimagga, but he says he teaches from the suttas and from his experience.
His essays The Basic Method of Meditation and Travelogue to the four Jhanas outline his Jhana teaching. The primary access method he teaches is Anapanasati, which he refers to as "experiencing the 'beautiful breath'." His main emphasis is about the attitude of not getting the 'doer' or 'craving' or 'will' involved. He emphasizes finding happiness and joy in stillness. His main teachings are now to 'make peace, be kind & be gentle' which are the right intentions of the Noble Eightfold Path. So no matter what method or object of meditation one uses, one has to make sure to have the 'right intentions' of it. His dharma talks here explain this in more detail.
As I said, you can add Venerables Sujato, Analayo, and other teachers to those who use the Suttas to argue that jhana is a deep absorption. Along with Zom, Sylvester, and others on this this Forum.

Personally, I have not pursued meditation designed to enter jhana, and I don't think I have experienced jhana. As I said, I mostly do Mahasi-style practice. However, I have spent enough time on retreats to know that all kinds of interesting experiences can arise with this (and presumably any other) approach. I'm inclined to be very careful about assigning too much importance to any of my experiences, since experiences is not the point - inclining the mind towards awakening is.

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Re: The Great Jhana Debate

Post by samseva » Sat Oct 21, 2017 3:17 am

mikenz66 wrote:
Sat Oct 21, 2017 2:09 am
[...]
It is difficult to differentiate between the exact "definitions" of jhāna of various practitioners—and to a certain degree, also pointless. What I do know, and consider, is that actual Visuddhimagga jhānas are the jhānas described in the Visuddhimagga, which Buddhaghosa describes as being very difficult to attain (1 in one million practitioners). A good example of practitioners of this style of jhāna are monks at Pa Auk Monastery, where the Visudddhimagga is deliberately taken as their main meditation guide (even more so than the Suttas). These jhānas are not Canonical, but like I previously said, if one can reach Visuddhimagga jhānas, one can reach Sutta jhānas.

Sutta jhāna is what is described in the Suttas (obviously). This is still deep concentration where sounds and other external perceptions aren't present—but it isn't 1 in one million meditators who can reach jhāna, like described by Buddhaghosa regarding Visudhimagga jhānas. From this, I consider Sutta jhānas being like how you have been describing jhānas with Ven. Anālayo, Ajahn Brahm and Sujato, Zom, Sylvester and so on. I have no idea why Leigh Brasington classed the Sutta-style jhāna of Ajahn Brahm in Visuddhimagga-style jhānas—which is in itself contradictory.

However, in the current discussion, I think there are 2 issues:
  1. Not differentiating between reaching jhāna (if only once) and mastery of jhāna.
  2. Putting (Sutta-type) jhāna on a pedestal and having beliefs such as that "jhāna is only possible if you meditate for 8 per day for multiple years" or that "jhāna is unlikely outside an intensive retreat."

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Re: Monks Average Meditation Routine

Post by Mkoll » Sat Oct 21, 2017 3:25 am

samseva wrote:
Sat Oct 21, 2017 12:46 am
Mkoll wrote:
Fri Oct 20, 2017 8:00 am
As a Buddhist in a Buddhist context (this forum), I place jhana in the context of the teachings where they're defined as sammasamadhi. So when I use the word jhana, that's what I mean. I don't deny that others outside a Buddhasasana have attained states of concentration/peace/calm/samadhi, but I don't call them jhana or sammasamadhi.
Yes, jhāna in the Eightfold Path is a "Buddhist jhāna", but whether jhāna is reached by a Buddhist meditator, or a Hindu ascetic, it is still the same exact mecanism. The only thing that differentiates jhāna in a Buddhist context and jhāna in a non-Buddhist context is that jhāna in Buddhism is used as a tool to develop insight. Same exact mecanism of the mind; different purpose.
If you want to redefine jhana to fit your predilections, who am I to stop you? After all, many others do the same thing.

:shrug:
samseva wrote:
Sat Oct 21, 2017 12:46 am
Mkoll wrote:
Fri Oct 20, 2017 8:00 am
Then you should have made that clear, e.g. by quoting or using "@name" for each individual point and person you're responding to with your statements instead of writing a big paragraph full of responses to different people and expecting them to understand who you're talking to with each one.
I did. I started the exact paragraph by stating all three names. I wasn't going to pinpoint every single person for each point... if a particular point didn't apply to you, then it didn't apply.
If you want to continue engaging in unclear communication, who am I to stop you? After all, many others do the same thing.

:shrug:
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 » Sat Oct 21, 2017 3:29 am

Mkoll wrote:
Sat Oct 21, 2017 3:25 am
samseva wrote:
Sat Oct 21, 2017 12:46 am
Yes, jhāna in the Eightfold Path is a "Buddhist jhāna", but whether jhāna is reached by a Buddhist meditator, or a Hindu ascetic, it is still the same exact mecanism. The only thing that differentiates jhāna in a Buddhist context and jhāna in a non-Buddhist context is that jhāna in Buddhism is used as a tool to develop insight. Same exact mecanism of the mind; different purpose.
If you want to redefine jhana to fit your predilections, who am I to stop you? After all, many others do the same thing.
If jhāna is not a mecanism of the mind, then what is it? Or would you instead say that there is a special type of jhāna in our minds that is "Buddhist"?

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