Jhana: yes, no, neither, could be? Hmm?

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Re: Jhana: yes, no, neither, could be? Hmm?

Post by puthujjana » Mon Oct 19, 2009 9:42 am

retrofuturist wrote:How perfect is perfect though?
I think perfect sila is equal to the abandoning of the five hindrances, i.e. at least access concentration.
So, in my opinion, sila is perfected just before you reach jhana (= perfect samadhi). That means, that sila and samadhi go hand-in-hand until both are perfected.

But that's just my opinion...

with metta
:anjali:
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Re: Jhana: yes, no, neither, could be? Hmm?

Post by Ben » Mon Oct 19, 2009 10:05 am

Hi Putthujjana
puthujjana wrote:
retrofuturist wrote:How perfect is perfect though?
I think perfect sila is equal to the abandoning of the five hindrances, i.e. at least access concentration.
So, in my opinion, sila is perfected just before you reach jhana (= perfect samadhi). That means, that sila and samadhi go hand-in-hand until both are perfected.

But that's just my opinion...

with metta
:anjali:
I'm not sure that I would agree with this as the hindrances are mental phenomena that hinder meditation. Doubt may enter and dominate a mind but it does not impinge on one's ability to maintain sila. Similarly, lust, anger, restlessness can all enter and dominate a mind to the point of making samatha impossible without one actually engaging in activity or encouraging others or approving of others doing certain kammically retrograde behaviours.
Kind regards

Ben
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

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Re: Jhana: yes, no, neither, could be? Hmm?

Post by retrofuturist » Mon Oct 19, 2009 10:16 am

Greetings Ben,

I must admit, like puthujjana, I was also thinking of a certain mental aspect behind the "perfect sila" too.

By way of extreme example simply to make a point... a paraplegic might abide by the five precepts, but it's not exactly perfect sila if they're desperately wishing that they were out for a night of beer and hookers.

Metta,
Retro. :)
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Re: Jhana: yes, no, neither, could be? Hmm?

Post by Ben » Mon Oct 19, 2009 10:35 am

Hi Retro
Yes, indeed. fact, the Vissudhimagga mentions something similar about someone who is engaging in lustful thoughts while holding the gaze of a woman. Or, even maintaining sila with a view that by doing so one is going to acquire some other-worldly existence as a deity. Having said that, I contend that it is a different kettle of fish than a hindrance which appears to be the cetasikas which block the development of samadhi while one is in meditation.
Cheers

Ben
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

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Re: Jhana: yes, no, neither, could be? Hmm?

Post by puthujjana » Mon Oct 19, 2009 11:18 am

Ben wrote:I'm not sure that I would agree with this as the hindrances are mental phenomena that hinder meditation. Doubt may enter and dominate a mind but it does not impinge on one's ability to maintain sila. Similarly, lust, anger, restlessness can all enter and dominate a mind to the point of making samatha impossible without one actually engaging in activity or encouraging others or approving of others doing certain kammically retrograde behaviours.
Hej Ben,

thank you very much for your answer.

(I don't know if I'm able to write down my thoughts in English, but I'll give it a try...)


I understand your point, that a mind dominated by the hindrances doesn't necessary affect one's bodily and verbal actions.
But, as I understand it, sila is threefold (mental, verbal, bodily) with the mind as forerunner:
Nyanatiloka wrote:sīla
'morality', 'virtue', is a mode of mind and volition (cetana) manifested in speech or bodily action (s. karma).

http://www.palikanon.com/english/wtb/s_t/siila.htm" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
So, a mind dominated by sensual desire, ill will, sloth + torpor, restlessness and doubt will give rise to unwholesome bodily and verbally actions, unless one has a good level of mindfulness and is well trained in right effort.
On the other hand, a mind dominated by their opposites will very likely give rise to wholesome actions.

Besides, if we look at it the other way round: Is unwholsome behaviour possible when the five hindrances are overcome?

Does a mind afflicted by the hindrances only hinder meditation or does it also hinder pure sila?

Again, that's just my opinion :smile:
And I'm not sure if I'm correct with that.

with metta
:anjali:
"Once you understand anatta, then the burden of life is gone. You’ll be at peace with the world. When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness and we can truly be happy."
- Ajahn Chah

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Re: Jhana: yes, no, neither, could be? Hmm?

Post by catmoon » Mon Oct 19, 2009 6:53 pm

I am worried the people here are putting jhana up on some inaccessible pedestal.

I assert that it is accessible, at least the first few jhanas, and accessible to the average practioner as well.

If it was as difficult as some make out, why would Buddha teach it?

Now it may be that the higher jhanas require progressively better sila, but anyone who has ever had the shivery piloerection thing happen while meditating is closing in on the first jhana.

One thing that IS required to attain jhana, and I think no one will argue with this, is the audacity to try.

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Re: Jhana: yes, no, neither, could be? Hmm?

Post by Sudarsha » Mon Oct 19, 2009 8:08 pm

I have noted what I consider a profound and positive change in my meditation since joining this discussion forum. I do not have any idea how to articulate this beyond saying that, however. One of the advantages of having a teacher/sangha is discussion, something that has been in omission from my daily life until now. I think that, here, I have, for the first time, described my own practise more than at any time in recent memory.

I am much appreciative to all of you and especially to thereductor for this discussion topic.
Sudarsha
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Re: Jhana: yes, no, neither, could be? Hmm?

Post by IanAnd » Mon Oct 19, 2009 10:57 pm

catmoon wrote:I am worried the people here are putting jhana up on some inaccessible pedestal.

I assert that it is accessible, at least the first few jhanas, and accessible to the average practitioner as well.

If it was as difficult as some make out, why would Buddha teach it?
Yes, indeed. I agree, fully. The problem comes when people who are aspiring to attain it get conflicting information about it. They don't know who to trust. But, if one can use his intuition in order to get an idea of what absorption is about, as when one becomes absorbed in reading a book or watching some event in nature where the mind unifies quite naturally on the object of observation, then using those kinds of experiential examples, one can come to be familiar with what absorption is all about. What is important to understand is that absorption is not something mysterious or even foreign to most people's experience. We're just not always used to thinking about it in this way. Once you have an example from your own experience to work with, it becomes easier to recognize.

In terms of a meditative absorption, the mind can become very still and quiet. Discursive thought slows to a standstill. What most people don't realize is that thought can still take place within absorption, otherwise how could someone who becomes absorbed in reading a book continue to read while at the same time being absorbed while reading?
catmoon wrote: Now it may be that the higher jhanas require progressively better sila, . . .
Not necessarily. Sila is only important in that it doesn't create a proliferation of unwholesome monkey mind discursive thinking that can distract from obtaining absorption. Although when I think about it, if one is skilful with whatever comes up, one can use that discursive thinking as a subject of observation in what the Mahasi method terms a "vipassana jhana."

But, for someone who is just learning about absorption — what it is, how to identify it and what not — then it is probably best not to be distracted by periphery phenomena so that one can experience it as fully as possible in order to become familiar with what they are endeavoring to achieve.
catmoon wrote: One thing that IS required to attain jhana, and I think no one will argue with this, is the audacity to try.
Well, yes, I know what you're talking about. But in actuality no audacity is required at all. With the right technique, absorption can be brought on automatically. You don't even have to be trying to get there. The question then becomes: will you recognize it when it occurs? Or will it just go over your head.
"The gift of truth exceeds all other gifts" — Dhammapada, v. 354 Craving XXIV

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Re: Jhana: yes, no, neither, could be? Hmm?

Post by Ben » Tue Oct 20, 2009 12:50 am

Sudarsha wrote:I have noted what I consider a profound and positive change in my meditation since joining this discussion forum. I do not have any idea how to articulate this beyond saying that, however. One of the advantages of having a teacher/sangha is discussion, something that has been in omission from my daily life until now. I think that, here, I have, for the first time, described my own practise more than at any time in recent memory.

I am much appreciative to all of you and especially to thereductor for this discussion topic.
Equally, I am very appreciative of your presence as well. I am sure your presence here is a great benefit to all those who are seeking inspiration and clarification on the path.
metta

Ben
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

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Re: Jhana: yes, no, neither, could be? Hmm?

Post by AdvaitaJ » Tue Oct 20, 2009 1:16 am

Sudarsha wrote:I have noted what I consider a profound and positive change in my meditation since joining this discussion forum. I do not have any idea how to articulate this beyond saying that, however. One of the advantages of having a teacher/sangha is discussion, something that has been in omission from my daily life until now. I think that, here, I have, for the first time, described my own practise more than at any time in recent memory.

I am much appreciative to all of you and especially to thereductor for this discussion topic.
Sadhu!

AdvaitaJ
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Re: Jhana: yes, no, neither, could be? Hmm?

Post by AdvaitaJ » Tue Oct 20, 2009 1:24 am

catmoon wrote:I am worried the people here are putting jhana up on some inaccessible pedestal.

I assert that it is accessible, at least the first few jhanas, and accessible to the average practioner as well.
Catmoon,

I agree. I suspect the rupa jhanas are probably attainable by a diligent practitioner, but I'm not certain what "average practitioner" means in this context.

Regards: AdvaitaJ
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Re: Jhana: yes, no, neither, could be? Hmm?

Post by catmoon » Tue Oct 20, 2009 10:13 am

AdvaitaJ wrote:
catmoon wrote:I am worried the people here are putting jhana up on some inaccessible pedestal.

I assert that it is accessible, at least the first few jhanas, and accessible to the average practioner as well.
Catmoon,

I agree. I suspect the rupa jhanas are probably attainable by a diligent practitioner, but I'm not certain what "average practitioner" means in this context.

Regards: AdvaitaJ
Can we just leave it vague? I see disadvantages to getting specific here.

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Re: Jhana: yes, no, neither, could be? Hmm?

Post by Rui Sousa » Tue Oct 20, 2009 11:43 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Ben,

I must admit, like puthujjana, I was also thinking of a certain mental aspect behind the "perfect sila" too.

By way of extreme example simply to make a point... a paraplegic might abide by the five precepts, but it's not exactly perfect sila if they're desperately wishing that they were out for a night of beer and hookers.

Metta,
Retro. :)
I agree with this. The first verses of the Dhammapada came to mind when reading your post:
1. Mind precedes all mental states. Mind is their chief; they are all mind-wrought. If with an impure mind a person speaks or acts suffering follows him like the wheel that follows the foot of the ox.

2. Mind precedes all mental states. Mind is their chief; they are all mind-wrought. If with a pure mind a person speaks or acts happiness follows him like his never-departing shadow.
So, to me, Sila is first of all the intention to act in a restrained way, not harmfull. As I see it this mental posture fits in the definition of Right Resolve http://www.accesstoinsight.org/ptf/dham ... index.html. And it leads to Right Action and keeping the percepts, that set the conditions for developing Right Concentration, which will help developing Right Attention as a way of achieving Wisdom.

The other way of looking at it is also excelent, by acting in restraint and keepoing the percepts you will avoid acting in ways that will harm you and may prevent you form developing concentration and mindfulness, actions that produce results in the short term like drinking alcohol or liying will not affect you, that will also aid our pursuing of wisdom.

I believe we can take any part of path and link it with the others, and there are many Suttas where this is done, so the entry point depends on each person's kamma.
With Metta

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Re: Jhana: yes, no, neither, could be? Hmm?

Post by Sudarsha » Tue Oct 20, 2009 6:33 pm

If I may, for the moment, return to thereductor's initial inquiry, I wonder if some of the problematic area is down to the Visuddhimagga itself. The doubt expressed by yes, no, neither, could be, maybe and so forth might be arising from too much dependence upon the cataloging done by Buddhaghosa himself. OK, I'm being confusing here and I'm not at all sufficiently scholarly to know if I am able to lay out my mentation with clarity. So, here goes: I don't see Buddhaghosa making an effort to clarify the Doctrine so much as just straightforwardly documenting what was going on in whatever community or communities he visited. To me, he seems more like an anthropologist listing his encounters and nothing more.

Out of this tends, then, to arise the thought that this must be the way it is or this is how it must be when in point of fact, some of the ideas in the Visuddhimagga are not exactly coherent with the Buddha's teaching as expressed in the Pali Canon. Unfortunately, I'm not sure I can give an example, but I seem to remember Ajahn Sona discussion a point of discrepancy in this regard. Buddhaghosa was document what was, as it was, nearly a millennium after the Buddha spoke the words that became the Doctrine and Discipline.

I'm making a muddle of this. :cookoo: Take, for example the idea that as one progresses towards jhana one experiences "joy" ... but when I read the descriptions of the Buddha and the Visuddhimagga, what I seem to be hearing is that as one progresses, one notices a contrast between what was and what is now and this contrast is characterizes as "joy"; but to me, it is "relief". BUT if I try to limit my thinking to the words of the Visuddhimagga, then I end up looking for someone else's experience and miss my own. My sense of "relief" is probably in no way of any significance when compared to (if that were possible) someone else's!

I don't know if that makes any sense whatsoever. For some reason, I think it does.

For me, at least as I think I understand the words of the Buddha, one sits and sets up mindfulness. This means "sets up a particular goal", one sets up an objective, makes a resolution and keeps that "in front". That is, in front of everything else, foremost. Then, aware of what is going on with body, attitude, emotions and discursive thought, one simply remains mindful of remaining mindful.

Mindfully, one just lets go - recognizing that it is all impermanent, unsatisfactory and devoid of essence. For me, and this is where I suspect I failed to be clear before, keeping the goal of mindfulness right in front (where, for example, I'd hold my hand if I were examining the palm of my hand), I sit. Here, some things I learnt from the practises of Mahamudra and Dzogchen trekcho have been helpful. Remaining mindful of mindfulness, one effortlessly cuts through everything that arises and eventually it all falls away and there is just mindfulness. With continued dedication or practise or just plain infrontness, even this falls away.

What I am trying to understand, and I hope you will forgive my clumsy efforts, is this: is the "fixation" about the pros and cons of is it or isn't it concerning jhana what is itself actually in the way of awakening?

OK, newbie here.

I don't know how to set up a new thread or rename this one, but I think thereductor's initial question deserves much more attention. Can we work out clarity of understanding about "jhana" in different terms only relying upon the words of the oldest parts of the Pali Canon? Can we talk about jhana as if it were as "real" and ordinary as any other part of our practise, liberating it as a concept from conceptual limitations or the Visuddhimagga's limitations??????

Oh, dear. I seem to have muddled down to an exact science. :rolleye:

I think there is something here, obviously I have failed to clarify my less than useful thoughts. :shrug: sigh, sniff, help
Sudarsha
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Re: Jhana: yes, no, neither, could be? Hmm?

Post by Ben » Tue Oct 20, 2009 9:17 pm

Hi Sudarsha

Please see the new thread here: http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=19&t=2495" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
I've placed it in the Classical section so that the focus can be on textual evidence rather than personal experience. I've also widened the scope of interest to include the Abhidhamma so that a more complete comparison can be made of all of the descriptions of Jhana from the canon and ancient commentarial literature.
Please feel free to participate in the new thread.
metta

Ben
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR

e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com..

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