Access method to Jhana (ecstasy)
- The simple advice I give me students who are seeking jhana is to cultivate
calm abiding and to develop a long sit, because this is the method that worked
for me. It seems the combination of stillness with endurance seems to produce
the necessary conditions for jhana to emerge. I typically assign standard
breath observation as the access method to calm abiding. The endurance required
seems to need to be greater than one hour. Typical to jhana yogis is they sit
for at least 1 1/2 hours each time. And, most jhana yogis sit at least once
if not 2 or 3 times a day.
One more important instruction is to practice "sensitive to a pleasure that
is not of the sense." What is meant by this is being observant of the
sensations but not clinging to any of them. When a yogi's calmness is established
then that person should become aware of sensations that are not of the typical
variety. They are often subtle. These sensations are called (jhana-nimitta),
and they are the signs of the approach of jhana. If calm abiding has arisen
and jhana-nimitta (weird sensations) have arrived, then we can say the yogi is
now in the first jhana.
When the jhana-nimitta arise then the yogi must suspend the concentration
technique and shift the awareness to the jhana-nimitta (weird sensations). If
one can observe these "weird sensations" long enough while maintaining calm
abiding one will slip into the second jhana.
Once one is established in observing jhana-nimitta and is able to sustain it
for a reasonable period (1 hour) then the yogi will no doubt drift into a
deeper phase that is accompanied by "stronger" jhana nimitta, this is the third
If the yogi can sustain the calm abiding for more than an hour, then one is
likely to drift into an even deeper more lucid stage of jhana-nimitta. How one
is aware of this deeper stage of jhana-nimitta is there will be no pain in
the legs or back from sitting. The mind will be very still and the
jhana-nimitta will be almost to the level of effacing the material reality. If the yogi f
eels he or she could sit there indefinitely, as if for hours or days even,
then one knows the fourth jhana has arisen.
If the yogi can sustain this observation of jhana-nimitta through this phase,
then a jolt of energy will rise up the spine (kundalini), which I believe the
Buddha called "raising energy" (viriya), then the wave front of that shock
wave will propel the yogi into any one of the nonmaterial absorptions
At each stage the yogi must be prepared to relinquish successive levels of
grasping and aversion. By the time the yogi is propelled into the arupa-jhanas,
then the yogi must be prepared to shed a great deal of self identification,
thus be well established in anatta. The level of arupa-jhana will be relative
to the degree of ego clinging still remaining.
I am confident that if one observes these basic requirements one should give
rise to the necessary conditions for jhana to emerge within a few weeks,
especially if the person has a number of years of daily meditation practice and
retreats behind him or her.