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I have read some books and web resources that deal with reaching access concentration and from there the first Jhana. They all used mindfulness of breathing and mentioned but never described 'other methods'.
Methods I have found mentioned were body scanning and metta/loving-kindness meditation.

Now for the question: What other methods are there? And even more important: How to practice them?

  • Have you come across this book by Bhante G? – user17041 Sep 30 at 14:01
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The Theravada tradition recognizes forty meditation types for obtaining at least access concentration, found scattered throughout the Tipitaka and organized in the commentaries, as follows:

1-10: The Kasinas

These all lead to the four jhānas; they are practiced by creating a disk and focusing on it, while repeating, e.g., "earth, earth..."

1. Earth
2. Water
3. Fire
4. Air
5. Blue
6. Yellow
7. Red
8. White
9. Light
10. Space

11-20: Foulness

These lead to the first jhāna; they are practiced by contemplating a corpse in various states of decay

11. Bloated
12. Livid
13. Festering
14. Cut Up
15. The Gnawed
16. Scattered
17. Hacked and Scattered
18. Bleeding
19. Worm-infested
20. a Skeleton

21-30: Recollections

Body and Breathing bring jhāna (body only brings the first jhāna, breath brings all four); the other eight bring only access concentration; they are cultivated by reflecting on the object, e.g. "Buddha, Buddha"


21. Buddha
22. Dhamma
23. Sangha
24. Morality
25. Generosity
26. Angels
27. Death
28. Body
29. Breathing
30. Peace

31-34: The Divine Abidings

The first three bring about the first three jhānas; the fourth brings about the fourth jhāna; they are cultivated by taking beings as an object, e.g. "May all beings be happy"

31. Love
32. Compassion
33. Joy
34. Equanimity

35-38: The Immaterial States

These bring about the fourth jhāna; they are cultivated by using the fourth jhāna as a base, then expanding and refining the object

35. Limitless Space
36. Limitless Consciousness
37. Nothingness
38. Neither Perception Nor Non-perception

39. Perception of Repulsiveness in Nutriment

This brings about only access concentration; it is practiced by reflecting on food as one collects and eats it.

40. Defining of The Elements

This brings about only access concentration; it is practiced by breaking the body up into the four elements.

All forty meditation subjects are described and taught in detail in the Visuddhimagga; highly recommended for those interested.

  • It is curious to me that meditation on foulness would be particularly helpful for jhana or even favorable for it. – Thiago Jul 10 '14 at 21:23
  • 4
    @ThiagoSilva one thing not mentioned in this list is by whom each subject should be cultivated - foulness only works for one of lustful temperament, because it brings about calming of the fever of lust. – yuttadhammo Jul 10 '14 at 22:55
  • So does 4 include the most common breathing based meditation (observing the breath at the nostrils)? And then what about Mahasi-style abdominal noting? Which of the 40 is it? – tkp Jul 10 '14 at 23:37
  • @Tommy #4 is the air kasina; it is commonly practiced by cutting a hole in a piece of cloth and looking at a wind-blown object through the hole, IIRC. Samatha-based Breath meditation is number 29. Mahasi meditation, while based on number 40 (the only one that can be used for insight) is actually not a part of this list, which describes meditation for attaining samatha jhāna. – yuttadhammo Jul 11 '14 at 0:03
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    @yuttadhammo thero. What about the 10 perceptions mentioned in the Girimananda Sutta? They were practiced as meditations, but not all 10 perceptions are mentioned in the above list compiled by Buddhaghosa. – Kaveenga Wijayasekara Apr 21 '15 at 4:03
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It depends on how you understand the first and second jhanas. If, like me, you take them as glorified descriptions of being able to get yourself in a joyful mood deliberately, then there are bunch of methods.

  • first, as Buddha himself suggested, by thinking through good discursive sequences. Specifically, if your practice of "guarding the gates" is going well, and your life is all setup in accordance with the eightfold path, and you understand the Three Marks of Existence and the Four Noble's Truths, then you are in good position to reflect at how your mind is now perfectly shielded from negative states. This theme makes for a great topic of vitakka/vicara and is what Buddha himself used.
  • second, as other teachers taught me, by remembering a place you felt good/strong at and coming back to it in your thoughts.
  • third, as I did several times, through meditating on love to all humanity (past, present and future!) or on love to God (it does not matter whether God exists, taking it as object of meditation still works).
  • fourth, as my present teacher teaches me, through dancing to music, while improvising and feeling the rhythm.
  • fifth, through special yoga poses, like Eagle Posture and Lion Posture.
  • sixth, supposedly through sexual tantric practices.
  • seven, once you learn to feel your chakras and deliberately activate them at will, through direct intent.

These are the methods that come to mind. Now, keep in mind that First and Second jhanas, while useful, are traps on the way to Ultimate Realization. So don't get too hung up on always being in a joyful mood.

1

The vipassana practice uses a form of one pointed concentration to enter the jhanas. This the dominant tradition. A very different mechanism is described by Bhante Vimalaramsi, who uses the metta practice in combination with a relax step for dealing with hinderances. Bhante maintains that the combination of metta with the relax step leads to quicker access to deeper states. I have not practiced vipassana but have gotten to the 8th jhana with metta and the relax step. There are videos on youtube where he discusses the specifics, look for "one by one as they occurred" with Bhante Vimalaramsi

1

OP: What other methods are there?

In the context of Buddhist meditation, there are 40 subjects of meditation (Kammaṭṭhāna). These are divided into

Samatha techniques generally use a conceptual object (Nimitta pannatti) as the subject of meditation like discs in the case of Kasina, other beings like in the case of Metta. Samatha has been adopted from contemporary techniques. What is unique to Buddhism is Vipassanā. This can be used to develop wisdom (Paññā) and concentration or mastery over the mind (Samadhi). The object of Vipassanā are real objects (Paramattha Dhammas) corresponding to the classification as nama (mentality) and rupa (materiality) or the classification as citta (a moment of consciousness or a moment of experience), cetasika (mental factors accompanying consciousness), rupa (material phenomena) and nibbana (the unconditioned reality) or the classification as 5 khandha namely rupakkhandha (all rupas), vedanākkhandha (feelings), saññākkhandha (remembrance or perception), saṅkhārakkandha (all cetasikas, except feeling and remembrance) and viññāṇakkhandha (all cittas).

In Buddhism, the practice has 3 folds, which also correspond to a type of meditation:

These methods are also listed in this answer.

OP: How to practice them?

Using any of the above subjects one can develop the Jhana's as follows:

  1. To enter the 1st Jhana practice initial application and sustained application (Vitarka-vicara) on a chosen object. [Paṭhama Jhāna Pañha Sutta]
  2. To enter the 2nd Jhana when one is established in the 1st Jhana drop initial application and sustained application (Vitarka-vicara) but remain focused on the chosen object. [Dutiya Jhāna Pañha Sutta]
  3. To enter into the 3rd Jhana drop zest (Pīti) by being steadying the mind on the chosen object. [Tatiya Jhāna Pañha Sutta]
  4. To enter into the 4th Jhana by dropping happiness (Sukha) with only equanimity (Ekaggata) remaining, still remaining focused on the chosen object. [Catuttha Jhāna Pañha Sutta]
  5. To enter into the 5th Jhana one transcends the perceptions of form, with the disappearance the perceptions of sense-reaction, with non-attention to perceptions of diversity, aware that “Space is infinite,”. [Ākāsânañc’āyatana Pañha Sutta]
  6. To enter into the 6th Jhana one transcends the sphere of infinite space, aware that “Consciousness is infinite,”. [Viññāṇañc’āyatana Pañha Sutta]
  7. To enter into the 7th Jhana one transcends the sphere of infinite consciousness, aware that ‘There is nothing,’. [Ākiñcaññ’āyatana Pañha Sutta]
  8. To enter into the 8th Jhana one transcends the sphere of nothingness, one enters and dwells in the sphere of neither-perception-nor-non-perception. [N’eva,saññā,nâsaññ’āyatana Pañha Sutta]
  9. To enter into the cessation one does not attend to any signs of residual perception in the 8th Jhana. [Animitta Ceto,samādhi Pañha Sutta]
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The book, The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, is not a book on Buddhism, but it lists feeling the energy field of the inner body, witnessing and accepting one's incoming and outgoing thoughts without getting attached to them, conscious breathing and focus on space (vast emptiness) or silence as different portals or methods to entering the Now. When one has entered the Now, the mind stops endless thoughts about the past or the future, and one enters a blissful state. The "pain body" also gradually gets dissolved as one enters the Now more often. The book also spends a lot of time discussing the workings of the mind, "pain body", ego and similar topics.

I feel that when The Power of Now discusses "entering the Now", it is really talking about reaching the first Jhana (at least). And dissolving the "pain body" could be part of Vipassana.

While Eckhart Tolle is not a Buddhist teacher, he certainly has experienced Jhana IMHO and has then taken the time to write it out in his own articulate way with his own terminologies, and tries to get the people at large to enter the Now as well. At least, this is the intention of his first book, The Power of Now. How did he reach the Now in the first place? Through a great crisis or turbulence of mind that made him suicidal and then he asked himself a question, that catapulted him to this state. Since then, he has found other ways to enter this state and remain in it.

Of course, Buddhism with its four Rupa Jhanas and four Arupa Jhanas has definitely exceeded the teachings of Mr. Tolle. However, for the vast majority of people, reaching the first Jhana itself may be difficult enough. Hence, they could make use of Mr. Tolle's book in addition to Buddhist meditation and mindfulness techniques.

This webpage also seems to be good: http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma7/enterjhana.html

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Answer to the following question Jhana Explaination. I have answered it here as this is marked as a duplicate of the above question:

Question:

Can someone please SIMPLY explain the EIGHT Jhanas, specifically:

1) What are Jhanas meant to do & why would one want to achieve them?

2) How does one specifically achieve them (instructions please)?

3) What happens in each individual Jhana, from the first to the eighth?

4) How can I explain the Jhanas to a newcomer of the Dhamma?


Answer:

OP: 1) What are Jhanas meant to do & why would one want to achieve them?

Jhana factors contract each of the 5 Hindrances:

  • Coarse examination (vitakka) counteracts sloth-torpor (lethargy and drowsiness)
  • Precise investigation (vicāra) counteracts doubt (uncertainty)
  • Well-being (pīti) counteracts ill-will (malice)
  • Bliss (sukha) counteracts restlessness-worry (excitation and anxiety)
  • Single-pointed attention (ekaggatā) counteracts sensory desire

Five hindrances

Jhana suppresses mental fermentation (Āsava)

With the ending of mental fermentations — he remains in the fermentation-free awareness-release & discernment-release, having directly known & realized them for himself right in the here-&-now.

Also, Jhana gives mastery over the mind so that one does not think about thoughts one does not want, essentially what are unskilful.

He thinks any thought he wants to think, and doesn't think any thought he doesn't want to think. He wills any resolve he wants to will, and doesn't will any resolve he doesn't want to will. He has attained mastery of the mind with regard to the pathways of thought.

Jhana is also meant as a pleasant abiding.

He attains — whenever he wants, without strain, without difficulty — the four jhanas that are heightened mental states, pleasant abidings in the here-&-now.

One would want to achieve them to suppress Hindrances, Mental Fermentation, achieve mastery over the mind and create a pleasant state of mind and body free from pain. Another side benefit might be special power like iddhi and abhiññā. But this rarely manifests.

OP: 2) How does one specifically achieve them (instructions please)?

See this answer.

OP: 3) What happens in each individual Jhana, from the first to the eighth?

What happen beyond the 1st few Jhana is fuzzy as fewer people has reached them and there are less descriptions of them.

1st Jhana

5 Hindrances are suppressed.

  1. Coarse examination (vitakka) counteracts sloth-torpor (lethargy and drowsiness)
  2. Precise investigation (vicāra) counteracts doubt (uncertainty)
  3. Well-being (pīti) counteracts ill-will (malice)
  4. Bliss (sukha) counteracts restlessness-worry (excitation and anxiety)
  5. Single-pointed attention (ekaggatā) counteracts sensory desire

Well-being (pīti) and Bliss (sukha) creates a pleasant abiding

2nd Jhana

Dropping initial application and sustained application (Vitarka-vicara) reduces the effort to stay in the Jhana. Well-being (pīti) and Bliss (sukha) becomes prominent.

3rd Jhana

As Well-being (pīti) is dropped strong vibration and swaying of the body stops. Bliss (sukha) becomes prominent which is a much more subtle vibration.

4rd Jhana

Hardly any vibrations as Bliss (sukha) has been dropped. Pleasure and pain does not arise. What remains is the focused on the object.

From the 5th Jhana onwards

5th Jhana

One transcends the perceptions of form and bodily sensations, with the disappearance the perceptions of sense-reaction, with non-attention to perceptions of diversity, aware that “Space is infinite,”

6th Jhana

One transcends the sphere of infinite space, aware that “Consciousness is infinite,”

7th Jhana

One enters and dwells in the sphere of neither-perception-nor-non-perception

8th Jhana

One transcends the sphere of nothingness, one enters and dwells in the sphere of neither-perception-nor-non-perception

OP: 4) How can I explain the Jhanas to a newcomer of the Dhamma?

This is found in this answer.

-1

1) What are Jhanas meant to do & why would one want to achieve them?

Jhanas are mental states of purity, clarity & extreme sensitivity. Jhanas, being mental states of purity, also have an 'other-worldly' bliss, which the Buddha called far superior to sensual pleasure and even superior to "divine sensual pleasures" (MN 75).

Jhana brings freedom from enslavement to having to purse or need sensual pleasures. If the mind has jhana, it no longer needs a wife for sex, children for a sense of purpose, money to buy TVs, cars, movies, music and other sensual pleasures.

Jhana, being so pure & sensitive, also provides a foundation for insight (vipassana) because, in the contrast of the purity of jhana can be seen the disturbing (suffering) nature of the smallest defiled arising.

Similarly to using a microscope, using jhana, only a tiny amount of impure defilement is required to discern its suffering nature and thus develop dispassion towards defilement (greed, lust, hatred, anger, delusion, etc).

2) How does one specifically achieve them (instructions please)?

To reach jhana, the mind must be as pure as possible. Complete celibacy is ideal. Then the mind must establish itself free from unwholesome thoughts, free from judgments, which includes being free from desire for jhana. The suttas (SN 48.10; MN 118) say jhana is reached by making "letting go" ("vossagga") the object of meditation.

3) What happens in each individual Jhana, from the first to the eighth?

In jhana, the mind abides in unmoving bliss and then equanimity for many hours. The sign of jhana is "cittaṃ ekaggaṃ" ("one-pointedness of mind"). The suttas say:

With excessive thinking and pondering I might tire my body, and when the body is tired, the mind becomes strained, and when the mind is strained, it is far from concentration.’ So I steadied my mind internally, quieted it, brought it to singleness (cittaṃ ekaggaṃ), and concentrated it. Why is that? So that my mind should not be strained.

MN 19

Jhana manifests (by itself) when the breathing & associated physical body are completely calmed of stress. What occurs, simultaneously, is: (i) the mind can no longer feel the breathing & physical body; (ii) the mind creates a mental image to use as a meditation object; (iii) the mind locks unmoving onto that mental image; (iv) rapture arises (due to the calming & stopping of knowing of the physical body); (v) as the mind remains unmoving, the rapture of the 1st & 2nd jhana calms; resulting in the 3rd jhana of only happiness; (vi) as the mind remains unmoving, the happiness of the 3rd jhana calms, resulting the pure feeling of equanimity of the 4th jhana.

4) How can I explain the Jhanas to a newcomer of the Dhamma?

To a newcomer of the Dhamma, jhana should be explained as follows:

  1. Jhana does not occur due to suppression or forceful effort.

  2. Jhana is the manifestation of letting go or non-attachment.

  3. Jhana is a "sign" the practitioner has perfected letting go of craving and other unwholesome states and is progressing on the Path.

  4. Jhanas are other-worldly or "heavenly" states of supernormal happiness; abided in for many hours; even days.

  5. Jhanas are serene. They cannot and should not be compared to sexual orgasm.

  6. The attainment of jhana is rare.

  7. Jhana should not be craved or even regarded as a "goal" because, to reach jhana, the mind must be free from craving and absolutely in the present moment.

  8. Jhana is not 'dhamma-porn'; to be lusted over and obsessively posted about on the internet.

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