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srivijaya
11 Jul 11, 10:04
As a post I made in another thread was well off topic and subsequently removed, I thought I'd open a thread for the purpose of exploring the points which I brought up.

I'll take Element's quote from elsewhere as a starting point. It seems to sum up the context of what I was trying to say:


Thus, when the Buddha taught the EightFold Path, he did not mention samatha or vipassana as dhammas that are practised

Well said. Very much what I was trying to convey in my comment about Henepola Gunaratana's 'take' on Jhana. My point is, there is no 'proper' Jhana without awareness. Awareness and tranquillity are like a car and its driver - if they are split up it doesn't work as well as it should.

Briefly, during the time I have researched Jhana I have, from time to time, encountered an assumption amongst some lay people and Vipassana teachers that Jhana is just 'chilling out' - a kind of nice vacuous Buddhist Dope. Fine for relaxation but of very limited use as it lacks necessary insight.

This is then contrasted with the "proper approach" which is dry-insight (perhaps with access concentration to grease the gears a bit).

I reject the premise. If Jhana were just a zombie state, then okay - but it isn't. The suttas are clear on this, as the process of Jhana is outlined in terms of awareness of that process. Also, Buddha would hardly have recommended it as often as he did - even to the extent of putting it right up front in the Maha-satipatthana Sutta - a key sutta for Vipassana adherents!

To answer Stuka's question of my rationale, I'll look at my reading of the passage (and it's assumptions) in a bit more detail.


Misconception #1
Meditation is just a relaxation technique

The bugaboo here is the word 'just'. Relaxation is a key component of meditation, but Vipassana-style meditation aims at a much loftier goal. Nevertheless, the statement is essentially true for many other systems of meditation.
Under "many other systems" by default, comes Jhana, to which the adage "Meditation is just a relaxation technique" presumably applies?


All meditation procedures stress concentration of the mind, bringing the mind to rest on one item or one area of thought. Do it strongly and thoroughly enough, and you achieve a deep and blissful relaxation which is called Jhana.
Not necessarily. Buddha practiced 'concentration' techniques with previous teachers before uncovering Jhana for himself. The other systems resulted in deep, trance-like states, but they were not Jhana.


It is a state of such supreme tranquility that it amounts to rapture. It is a form of pleasure which lies above and beyond anything that can be experienced in the normal state of consciousness. Most systems stop right there. That is the goal, and when you attain that, you simply repeat the experience for the rest of your life.
Wrong again. The degree of "rapture" varies from Jhana to Jhana and this rapture is not the goal, it is a by-product. Buddha himself said that if a monk gets hooked on rapture and stops progressing, he cannot attain nibbana.


Not so with Vipassana meditation. Vipassana seeks another goal--awareness.
Sound of straw man being demolished here. Awareness is a key component of Jhana, without it, it can't be Jhana, so the contrast is false.


Concentration and relaxation are considered necessary concomitants to awareness. They are required precursors, handy tools, and beneficial byproducts. But they are not the goal.
Again, nobody said they were! There is only one goal and Buddha was clear on that.


The goal is insight. Vipassana meditation is a profound religious practice aimed at nothing less that the purification and transformation of your everyday life.
I wouldn't describe it as a religious practice, but that's his prerogative. I don't want to diss Vipassana systems as they do seem to deliver good things for many people and from what I've read, there is much to recommend them. I fail to see though, why some proponents feel the need to justify the system by talking down Buddha's teachings on Jhana.

http://www.vipassana.com/meditation/mindfulness_in_plain_english_4.php

:hands:

srivijaya
11 Jul 11, 10:38
Here's another example of the kind of thing I'm talking about:

Achaan Dhammadaro on Jhana:
When access and absorption concentration are developed, bliss and tranquillity arise, the meditator is fully absorbed in the object, and no hindrances can disturb him. This provisional eradication of defilements a state free from desire, aversion and confusion lasts only so long as the meditator keeps the mind on the meditation object. As soon as the mind leaves its absorption in the object, bliss disappears and the mind is again beset by the flow of defilements. There is additionally a danger of this fixed concentration. Since it does not generate wisdom it can lead to clinging to bliss or even misuse of the powers of concentration, thereby actually increasing defilements.
http://www.angelfire.com/indie/anna_jones1/vip-jhana.html

Again - Jhana isn't some kind of zombie "fixed concentration". It's a dynamic process suffused with awareness.

I can't dig up what I've read over the years but the gist is always the same. After referring to commentaries in the Visuddhimagga and describing Jhana in such terms, they generally conclude that it's not a useful thing to do and that you don't need it.

Esho
11 Jul 11, 13:43
Hello Kris,

As you know we do not practice Jhana but Zazen and Zazen is the cornerstone of any Soto school. Certainly it was not taught by the historical Buddha but by Dogen Zengi who is considered a Buddha because of his assumed enlightenment. So I can't judge Jhana. However, looking at the Pali teachings, the few of them I had been into, I have the sensation, that even when Buddha recommends Jhana attainments there is a kind of not supporting on it as a main issue. For example, we have this sutta where I think, the Buddha is commenting about Jhanna absorptions (but maybe I am wrong):

He comments here about the final absorption:


11. "It may be that, by entirely transcending the sphere of nothingness, some monk enters and abides in the sphere of neither-perception-nor-non-perception; and he then might think: 'I am abiding in effacement.' But in the Noble One's discipline it is not these [attainments] that are called 'effacement'; in the Noble one's discipline they are called 'peaceful abidings.'

Sallekha Sutta (MN 8). (http://http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.008.nypo.html)



Where for each attainment, the Buddha is just recognizeing them only as "peaceful abidings".

As I have told, I do not do Jhanas. I can't tell about them but it is clear to me that Jhanas are understood as that: "peaceful abidings".

I do not want to make a defence of Zazen but I thing it is more about insight and tranquility as exposed in this sutta:


Ven. Ananda said: "Friends, whoever — monk or nun — declares the attainment of arahantship in my presence, they all do it by means of one or another of four paths. Which four?

"There is the case where a monk has developed insight preceded by tranquillity. As he develops insight preceded by tranquillity, the path is born. He follows that path, develops it, pursues it. As he follows the path, developing it & pursuing it — his fetters are abandoned, his obsessions destroyed.

Yuganaddha Sutta: In Tandem. (http://http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an04/an04.170.than.html)



Where the Buddha recognizes as a path to arahantship through tranquility and insight. I don't know if Jhanna is about both of this attainments.

Hope this can bring some light into this thread.

;D

srivijaya
11 Jul 11, 17:48
Hi Kaarrine,
Thanks for the reply.
They are merely "peaceful abidings" for those who maintain views on self and overrate their status.

(notes) Comy.: "The overrater's meditative absorption is neither 'effacement' nor is it the 'path of practice for effacement' (sallekha-patipada). And why not? Because that jhana is not used by him as a basis for insight
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.008.nypo.html


"Cunda, as to those several views that arise in the world concerning self-doctrines and world-doctrines, if [the object] in which these views arise, in which they underlie and become active, is seen with right wisdom as it actually is, thus: 'This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self' — then the abandoning of these views, their discarding, takes place in him [who thus sees].
None of the above occur in the examples Buddha is providing. Here we see Buddha contrasting his teachings on Jhana with the other religions who hold self-views of one kind or another.


11. "It may be that, by entirely transcending the sphere of nothingness, some monk enters and abides in the sphere of neither-perception-nor-non-perception; and he then might think: 'I am abiding in effacement.' But in the Noble One's discipline it is not these [attainments] that are called 'effacement'; in the Noble one's discipline they are called 'peaceful abidings.'
Perhaps the monk in this example has just discovered Tat Tvam Asi!:up2:



Where the Buddha recognizes as a path to arahantship through tranquility and insight. I don't know if Jhanna is about both of this attainments.
Yes, very much so. That's my point.;)

Namaste
kris

Esho
11 Jul 11, 23:08
They are merely "peaceful abidings" for those who maintain views on self and overrate their status.

That's it. Now this issue of the Jhanas is much more clear.

I went further with commentary 12:


Comy.: "The overrater's meditative absorption is neither 'effacement' nor is it the 'path of practice for effacement' (sallekha-patipada). And why not? Because that jhana is not used by him as a basis for insight; that is, after rising from jhana he does not scrutinize the (physical and mental) formations" (see Visuddhimagga transl. by √Ďanamoli, Ch. XVIII, 3). His jhana produces only one-pointedness of mind, and is, as our text says, an "abiding in ease here and now."

This is an important aspect of Zazen. To scrutinize the physical and mental formations. This is continually done through Shi and Kan attempts during sitting meditation and the bringing of them into daily life.

Returning to Jhanas issue...

I remember somewhere before in a thread, that Element told that the Buddha did not give a great importance to Jhanas but I am not sure about this statement (take it with caution, please; I can be wrong) so it would be great if Element can give us some light into the issue.

Finally I think that what is relevant to any kind of meditative system is to develop tranquility and insight so to:


"Cunda, as to those several views that arise in the world concerning self-doctrines and world-doctrines, if [the object] in which these views arise, in which they underlie and become active, is seen with right wisdom as it actually is, thus: 'This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self' — then the abandoning of these views, their discarding, takes place in him [who thus sees].

A commentary for this section which I think is critical:


4. (The object) in which (yattha). Comy.: yattha (where) = yasmim arammane. The object, or basis, the five aggregates, because all false views on self and world can refer only to the five aggregates or to one of them.

;D

srivijaya
12 Jul 11, 11:39
This is an important aspect of Zazen. To scrutinize the physical and mental formations. This is continually done through Shi and Kan attempts during sitting meditation and the bringing of them into daily life.
Hi Kaarine,
It sounds familiar. The two are essential. Without awareness within the process, how can there be anything to be aware of?

Awareness is fully comprehending what is happening within the meditation. Deeper tranquillity is gained by locating that which is to be abandoned and releasing that which one discovers. Insight is gained as a result of this. Hardly a possibility if the meditator is unaware.

Namaste
Kris