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Re: [dsg] Jhanas

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  • kenhowardau
    Dear Christine, ... jhanas, not only as a refuge for here and now, but also as an essential part of the path? Are they essential? What about panna, what about
    Message 1 of 8 , May 1, 2003
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      Dear Christine,

      ----------
      > Did the Buddha strongly recommend mastery of the
      jhanas, not only as a refuge for here and now, but also
      as an essential part of the path? Are they essential?
      What about panna, what about <snip>
      -------------


      Some rather broad questions there, Christine? :-)
      I see them as an invitation for speculative theorising.
      :-) So here goes:

      As you know, there are suttas in which the Buddha
      protects the priests of other religions. In the one I'm
      thinking of, he agreed to accept alms from a certain rich
      man, on condition that that man continue to support the
      priests of his former religion (who had become dependent
      upon him).

      Doesn't jhana fall into much the same scenario? Moments
      before the Buddha proclaimed his teaching, masters of
      jhana were the pinnacle of religious and intellectual
      hierarchy. They could teach a way that led to countless
      aeons of bliss. ('immediately followed by rebirth in the
      worlds of woe, but let's not be too critical.)

      Then, suddenly, there was a totally different Path that
      led, not to TEMPORARY release, but to FINAL release from
      dukkha. So who needs jhana masters?

      The Buddha spoke highly of them, he preached his first
      discourses to them and he encouraged them to continue
      their practices. He explained the ways in which an
      arahant with jhana attainment, was superior to an arahant
      without.

      But he also explained that, at Parinibbana, all arahants
      were equal. This included the omniscient Tathagatha,
      right down(!) to 'attainers by bare insight.'

      So how can there be any question as to which way we
      should go? I think it's a matter of samvega (sense of
      urgency). Do we have the time to learn jhana? We could die
      tomorrow, who knows when we will have another opportunity
      to hear the Dhamma?

      Had we the accumulations for jhana, our opportunity would
      be less tenuous. (I can't quote any sources for this, by
      the way.) In our preliminary practice, we would have
      developed, for example, the ability to remember past
      lives. So we would have the luxury of time. In such a
      case, it would be quite appropriate that we emulate the
      Buddha more closely and that we develop psychic powers.
      In so doing, we could both pay more respect and be better
      able to pass on the teaching.

      I think it's safe to say that you and I are not such
      highly developed beings -- but are any of us?

      If, twenty-six centuries ago, a person had the
      accumulations for jhana, wouldn't he/she have followed
      the Eight-fold Path to Parinibana by now? (The obvious
      exception would be a Bodhisattha, of course.)

      Since that time, would anyone have *acquired*
      accumulations for jhana? -- in preference to developing
      vipassana? I don't see why. So I wonder, today, in this
      human realm, is the real jhana taught or practised by
      anyone?(!)


      Kind regards,
      Ken H
    • macdocaz1@aol.com
      To Ken H: In a message dated 5/1/03 12:05:06 AM, kenhowardau@yahoo.com.au writes:
      Message 2 of 8 , May 1, 2003
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        To Ken H:

        In a message dated 5/1/03 12:05:06 AM, kenhowardau@... writes:

        << Doesn't jhana fall into much the same scenario? Moments

        before the Buddha proclaimed his teaching, masters of

        jhana were the pinnacle of religious and intellectual

        hierarchy. They could teach a way that led to countless

        aeons of bliss. ('immediately followed by rebirth in the

        worlds of woe, but let's not be too critical.)


        Then, suddenly, there was a totally different Path that

        led, not to TEMPORARY release, but to FINAL release from

        dukkha. So who needs jhana masters? >>

        %%%%%%%%%%
        Jeff:
        I find your assumption, while intriguing, not supported by my practice,
        attainment nor the canon:

        Potthapada Sutta, DN. 9-17

        9-10. (One scrutinizes) the sense doors...Having reached the first jhana,
        (one) remains in it. Whatever sensations (that were there) disappear. At
        that time there is present a true but subtle perception of delight and
        happiness, born of detachment, and (one) becomes one(,) who is conscious of
        this delight and happiness. In this way some perceptions arise through
        training, and some pass way. This is that training...

        11. ...With the subsiding of thinking, by gaining inner tranquillity and
        unity of mind (consciousness), (one) reaches and remains in the second jhana,
        which is free from thinking, born of concentration, filled with delight and
        happiness. At (this) time there arises a true but subtle perception of
        delight and happiness born of concentration, and (one) becomes one(,) who is
        conscious of this delight and happiness. In this way some perceptions arise
        through training, and some pass way.

        12. ...Dwelling in equanimity, mindful and clearly aware, (one) experiences
        in (one's) body that pleasant feeling of which the Noble Ones say: "Happy
        dwells the (one) of equanimity and mindfulness," (thus one) reaches and
        remains in the third jhana...There arises at this time a true but subtle
        sense of equanimity and happiness. In this way some perceptions arise
        through training, and some pass way.

        13. ...With the abandoning of pleasure and pain, and with the disappearance
        of previous joy and grief, one reaches and remains in the fourth jhana, a
        state beyond pleasure and pain, purified by equanimity and mindfulness...and
        there arises a true and subtle sense of neither happiness nor unhappiness,
        and (one) becomes one(,) who is conscious of this subtle sense of neither
        happiness nor unhappiness. In this way some perceptions arise through
        training, and some pass way.

        14. ...By passing entirely beyond bodily sensations, by the disappearance of
        all sense of resistance and by non-attraction to the (diverse perceptions),
        seeing that space is infinite, (one) reaches and remains in the sphere of
        Infinite Space. In this way some perceptions arise through training, and
        some pass away.

        15. ...By passing entirely beyond the Sphere of Infinite Space, seeing that
        consciousness is infinite (one) reaches and remains in the Sphere of Infinite
        Consciousness. In this way some perceptions arise through training, and some
        pass away.

        16. ...By passing entirely beyond the Sphere of Infinite Consciousness,
        seeing that there is no thing, one reaches and remains in the Sphere of
        No-Thingness. (One) becomes one who is conscious of this true but subtle
        perception of the Sphere of No-Thingness. In this way some perceptions arise
        through training, and some pass away.

        17. ...From the moment that one has gained this (self-awareness, one)
        proceeds from stage to stage till (one) reaches the limit of perception. (At
        this moment) it occurs: "Mental activity is worse for me, lack of mental
        activity is better...So, (one chooses to) neither think nor imagine.
        Then...(one) attains cessation.
        %%%%%%%%%%

        Ken H:
        So how can there be any question as to which way we

        should go? I think it's a matter of samvega (sense of

        urgency). Do we have the time to learn jhana? We could die

        tomorrow, who knows when we will have another opportunity

        to hear the Dhamma?

        %%%%%%%%%%
        Jeff:
        I believe the above quote from the Potthapada Sutta should be sufficient
        evidence to refute your assumption that one could even avoid developing jhana
        and hope to achieve enlightenment. I believe this Sutta makes it quite clear
        that jhana is simply "par for the course." If my good friend, there is a
        sense or urgency, would you not abandon all other activities and cultivate
        jhana now instead of waiting?
        %%%%%%%%%%

        Ken H:
        Had we the accumulations for jhana, our opportunity would

        be less tenuous. (I can't quote any sources for this, by

        the way.) In our preliminary practice, we would have

        developed, for example, the ability to remember past

        lives. So we would have the luxury of time. In such a

        case, it would be quite appropriate that we emulate the

        Buddha more closely and that we develop psychic powers.

        In so doing, we could both pay more respect and be better

        able to pass on the teaching.

        %%%%%%%%%%
        Jeff:
        With the exception of advocating the development of "psychic powers," which I
        think are whole unnecessary, I would disagree with you here. The Buddha's
        discourse on Dependent Origination, made it quite clear that resolving one's
        "past lifetime linking" was an essential aspect of the path of purification.
        Also, there is not much time involved in remembering a life time anyway. One
        can recall the whole of a life time in an instant, so where is the time
        "lost." And, besides what is the big hurry? Do you have to attain
        enlightenment before the light turns green? I don't believe there is a "rush
        hour" on the path to freedom.
        %%%%%%%%%%

        Ken H:
        I think it's safe to say that you and I are not such

        highly developed beings -- but are any of us?



        If, twenty-six centuries ago, a person had the

        accumulations for jhana, wouldn't he/she have followed

        the Eight-fold Path to Parinibana by now? (The obvious

        exception would be a Bodhisattha, of course.)


        Since that time, would anyone have *acquired*

        accumulations for jhana? -- in preference to developing

        vipassana? I don't see why. So I wonder, today, in this

        human realm, is the real jhana taught or practised by

        anyone?(!)

        %%%%%%%%%%
        Jeff:
        Quite the contrary my good friend. If you log onto the Jhana Support Group
        you will find there are plenty of people who experience jhana. In fact in my
        town we have a sangha dedicated to jhana, and I have several students, all of
        whom experience jhana.

        I am a mere layman, with little formal instruction, but I experience jhana
        all of the time. In my experience anyone can experience jhana, even me. It
        just requires some training, practice and a little discipline. No more than
        your vipassana practice.

        blessings to you,

        layman Jeff
      • kenhowardau
        Hello Jeff, It s a pleasure to talk with you. Considering your confident enthusiasm for meditation and your undoubted accomplishment in that area, I imagine
        Message 3 of 8 , May 3, 2003
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          Hello Jeff,

          It's a pleasure to talk with you. Considering your
          confident enthusiasm for meditation and your undoubted
          accomplishment in that area, I imagine it must be quite
          puzzling to see so many Dhamma students following a
          meditation-free path. You have been very patient with
          us.

          There *is* a meditation-free way of attaining the Eight-
          fold Path -- the way of Bare Insight Training. In fact,
          there are two such ways; if you count the way in which
          firstly, insight is developed to the stage of Path-
          consciousness, and only then, secondly, jhana is developed.

          I gather that you flatly reject these two paths. So I
          will not try to convince you -- there's no point in an,
          'is, isn't, is, isn't,' style of conversation :-)

          You know far better than I do, that there are many,
          varied forms of mental training, several of which are
          claimed to be Buddhist. Rather than look to various,
          conflicting sources, I want to know only what the Buddha
          Gotama taught and I'm confining my search strictly to the
          ancient, Theravadin texts. Here at dsg, I have found
          people who know those texts intimately -- I have found my
          Shangrila :-)

          You wrote:
          -----------
          > And, besides what is the big hurry? Do you have to
          attain enlightenment before the light turns green? I
          don't believe there is a "rush hour" on the path to
          freedom. >
          ------------

          The way in which I am being taught a sense of urgency is,
          literally, like no other. In this way, one understands
          that there is no control over the arising or non-arising
          of mental states. They will arise when, and only when,
          the conditions for their arising are present. This is
          because all dhammas are anatta, without self.

          Understanding this, I am less likely to try to force any
          particular mental state (eg., a sense of urgency or
          mindfulness of a sense of urgency), to arise. Instead,
          I find myself looking up Samvega-vatthu in Nyanatiloka's
          dictionary. There's a lot more to it than I had
          remembered. Hopefully, a little more understanding has
          been acquired. (ie., a little more condition for the
          arising of samvega and other kusala states.)

          Far from trying to attain enlightenment before the light
          turns green, I am happy to know that the future does not
          exist -- that there are only the mental and physical
          phenomena (nama and rupa), of the present moment. Is
          there direct understanding (panna), of nama and rupa NOW?
          If not, why not; what dhammas ARE present? These are the
          things that interest me, not meditation.

          Kind regards,
          Ken H
        • macdocaz1@aol.com
          To Ken H: In a message dated 5/3/03 12:33:53 AM, kenhowardau@yahoo.com.au writes:
          Message 4 of 8 , May 3, 2003
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            To Ken H:

            In a message dated 5/3/03 12:33:53 AM, kenhowardau@... writes:

            << Hello Jeff,

            It's a pleasure to talk with you. Considering your
            confident enthusiasm for meditation and your undoubted
            accomplishment in that area, I imagine it must be quite
            puzzling to see so many Dhamma students following a
            meditation-free path. You have been very patient with
            us.

            There *is* a meditation-free way of attaining the Eight-
            fold Path -- the way of Bare Insight Training. In fact,
            there are two such ways; if you count the way in which
            firstly, insight is developed to the stage of Path-
            consciousness, and only then, secondly, jhana is developed.

            I gather that you flatly reject these two paths. So I
            will not try to convince you -- there's no point in an,
            'is, isn't, is, isn't,' style of conversation :-)

            You know far better than I do, that there are many,
            varied forms of mental training, several of which are
            claimed to be Buddhist. Rather than look to various,
            conflicting sources, I want to know only what the Buddha
            Gotama taught and I'm confining my search strictly to the
            ancient, Theravadin texts. Here at dsg, I have found
            people who know those texts intimately -- I have found my
            Shangrila :-) >>

            %%%%%%%%%%%%%%
            Jeff:
            I have walked a number of paths, sometimes there are conflicts. I usually
            look toward my personal experience to see whether that path has given me
            "value." I agree with you there is no sense in any claim that is based on
            "mine is bigger (or better) than yours." I believe one only need reflect on
            one's own personal success. If one has found even relative freedom from
            suffering from one's path, then keep "working it."
            %%%%%%%%%%%%%%

            Ken H:
            The way in which I am being taught a sense of urgency is,
            literally, like no other. In this way, one understands
            that there is no control over the arising or non-arising
            of mental states. They will arise when, and only when,
            the conditions for their arising are present. This is
            because all dhammas are anatta, without self.

            %%%%%%%%%%%%%%
            Jeff:
            Well, I agree with you. The idea of urgency and the rareness of the
            opportunity to practice, the historic Buddha borrowed from the Vedas.
            Urgency is a wise thing to cultivate, but I believe the typical implication
            of that urgency is to inspire the practitioners to renounce their material
            possessions and take up an intense monastic practice. But, I am not
            proposing you leave your family, I am just proposing you might find your
            study of Buddhism better informed if you practiced as well. Buddhism is
            essentially a contemplative tradition, how can you expect to understand any
            contemplative tradition without conducting its contemplative practice?
            %%%%%%%%%%%%%%

            Ken H:
            Far from trying to attain enlightenment before the light
            turns green, I am happy to know that the future does not
            exist -- that there are only the mental and physical
            phenomena (nama and rupa), of the present moment. Is
            there direct understanding (panna), of nama and rupa NOW?
            If not, why not; what dhammas ARE present? These are the
            things that interest me, not meditation.

            %%%%%%%%%%%%%%
            Jeff:
            I don't see how you can hope to penetrate the aggregates of the
            psychophysiological conditions that are the underpinnings of your own
            personal nama rupa without the practice of meditation. But, if you are happy
            with celebrating the Buddha's birthday, I am sure your scholarship places you
            in an excellent position to do so.

            Best to you,

            layman Jeff
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