I know you must abandoned applied & sustain thought. Getting rid of applied is easy it's gone once the first Jhana is established. But how to you get rid of sustain thought? I have ready many books & articles but i don't understand them to well. They say once you reach the 1st Jhana review them and see how gross the first really is. But wouldn't that break concentration & push me back to square one?
From The Questions of King Milinda (translation mine):
‘Venerable Nagasena, what is the characteristic mark of
‘The characteristic mark of
vicārais pondering/mulling over (
anumajjana), Your Majesty.’
‘Give me an example.’
‘For example, Your Majesty, if you strike on a copper vessel, it then rings for a while, it responds with a sound. Here, Your Majesty, the strike is a simile for
vitakkaand the reverberation is a simile for
So the "sustain" will cease all by itself when you stop "striking", there is no need to do anything separate.
As for your question about "review and see how gross the first jhana really is", this idea of "review and see as gross" comes from an entirely different context that was designed to explain Jhanas as steps of gradual removal of (initially coarse and then progressively finer instances of) Craving/Kleshas/Asavas towards cessation of dukkha and achieving perfect suchness. The first two Jhanas in this sequence can be further illustrated with a following allegory:
Let's say there once was a boy, who heard about this Luna Park coming to town that was rumored to have the best rides and the tastiest ice-cream. Everyone in town was talking about it, buying the tickets, and getting ready to enjoy. Just like the other people, the boy really wanted to go to that Luna Park and try the rides for himself. However, it happened so that he could not obtain the ticket and ended up staying alone in an almost empty town.
At first he was upset at his apparently bad luck, but then he said to himself: look, I can imagine how it is like at that Luna Park. It must be extremely crowded, with people pushing each other, hot and sweaty. The lines to the rides are probably very long. There is a lot of noise and screaming children are everywhere. The rides are nothing special, just going up and down, and the ice-cream is not different from what I can buy here any day. I, on the other hand, get to enjoy this entire town all to myself. I can walk in the park. I can gaze at the statues. I can sit on the benches. I can even walk into a city hall and sit on the mayor's chair - because everyone's gone to the Luna Park. How much better it is to not be at the Luna Park! How happy am I to have this quiet and peace all to myself. Can any Luna Park in the world be better than this quiet and peace? No, that would be logically impossible. It's a mathematical impossibility that something could be better than this quiet and peace. A Luna Park can be exciting at best, with lots of ups and downs - but it can't ever feel as sublime as this quiet and peace. And since I understand this fact, I'm not just lucky, I'm also wise. I understand what other people do not understand, and I can enjoy at a whole other level than they can.
-- As he thought so to himself, the boy immediately felt relieved, and the more he replayed these thoughts while going around the empty town, the more joyful he felt. Whenever he felt the joy was subsiding, he would look around and think up another reason for being glad. "Look!" he would say - "people at Luna Park are waiting in line to go to a toilet, while I have all toilets in town available to myself". He would then keep walking around, smiling to himself at that thought.
Until at some point the very effort of convincing himself started to feel redundant. "Why am I even repeating these thoughts to myself?" -- thought the boy. "This empty town is clearly much more enjoyable than the Luna Park, it's just a fact. Why don't I stop convincing myself and enjoy this beautiful town in peace?" -- and he did just like he said, stopped convincing himself and enjoyed the town in quiet and peace.
In this allegory, the boy is a meditator. The Luna Park is an idea of success. Enjoying the empty town is the first jhana. Thinking up another reason for being glad is
vitakka. Pondering and smiling to oneself about that reason is
vicara. Letting go of the effort of convincing oneself and just enjoying the town in quiet and peace - is the second jhana.
As you can see, in the First Jhana vitakka-vicara plays the role of a "peg" used to "push out" the unskillful mindstates:
Just as a skilled carpenter or his apprentice would use a small peg to knock out, drive out, and pull out a large one; in the same way [...] when he is attending to this other theme, apart from that one, connected with what is skillful, then those evil, unskillful thoughts [about "the Luna Park" and "one's bad luck" -AV] — imbued with desire, aversion, or delusion — are abandoned and subside. With their abandoning, he steadies his mind right within, settles it, unifies it, and concentrates it.
(from MN 20, Vitakka-santhana sutta)
The resulting withdrawal from the unskillful mindstates gives birth to "rapture and pleasure", and this process is repeated until "the entire body" is "pervaded" with it:
Just as if a skilled bathman or bathman's apprentice would pour bath powder into a brass basin and knead it together, sprinkling it again and again with water, so that his ball of bath powder — saturated, moisture-laden, permeated within and without — would nevertheless not drip; even so, the monk permeates, suffuses and fills this very body with the rapture and pleasure born of withdrawal [from the thoughts about "the Luna Park" and "one's bad luck" -AV]. There is nothing of his entire body unpervaded by rapture and pleasure born from withdrawal...
(from AN 5.28)
...once the defilements of mind have been washed away with joy to a sufficient degree,
vitakka-vicara itself is seen as unskillful/redundant and is eliminated in turn:
Just as the thought would occur to a man walking quickly, 'Why am I walking so quickly? Why don't I slow down?' So he slows down.
(from MN 20, Vitakka-santhana sutta)
the resulting state is called the Second Jhana:
...with the stilling of
vicara, he enters and remains in the second jhana: rapture and pleasure born of composure, unification of awareness free from
vicara— internal assurance.
(from AN 5.28)
and then the other jhanas:
Then the thought occurs to him, 'Why am I walking? Why don't I stop?' So he stops. Then the thought occurs to him, 'Why am I standing? Why don't I sit down?' So he sits down. Then the thought occurs to him, 'Why am I sitting? Why don't I lie down?' So he lies down. In this way, giving up the grosser posture, he takes up the more refined one.
(from MN 20, Vitakka-santhana sutta)
You have reached second jhana once you no longer have to put any effort in not only applying the thought/mantra but also maintaining the thought/mantra. It happens by itself, automatically. Practice becomes effortless.
For instance metta practice example:
In the beginning, to start of I have to bring the mind continuously back to the phrase I picked for the practice ('May I be happy, safe, healthy and at peace.'). After a while the mind no longer runs off to other objects but stays with that mantra (1st jhana).
I still have to put some effort in maintaining that mantra; it doesn't yet keep itself up, so to speak. And then, due to continuation, that effort is no longer necessary. The mind keeps up that mantra by itself, without any input from me. (2nd jhana).
The mind is happy, really enjoys the practice, is settled down and calm. After a while that joy drops away, just by continuing (3rd jhana and 4th). And so on.
Basically, continue the mantra till it goes on automatically, but stay with the practice/mantra. Keep observing.
You might also check your understanding of what the jhana are. I often notice that people think that a jhana must be really something. Their minds make more out of it than it really is. It's just a state of mind. That's all.
If using the breath as your source for piti, once the piti fills the whole body to saturation, and it cannot nor should not go any further, you no longer have to put any vitakka-vicara into spreading piti accross the body, it is saturated. You can then either consciously completely fill your awareness at this point or it will also likely happen automatically as an artifact of the mind seeking pleasure. It this point (in the technique I use) the perceptions of foreground (breath) and background (body) will merge into one in this sea of piti and your awareness will have not only expanded to fill the body but will have also anchored itself there in joy and contentment. That is the pace of the Second jhana.
Thanissaro gave a simile, and it may be hard to understand at first. But the mind is like a lens. In the first Jhana, your awareness is centered on the focal point i.e. the awareness is centered on the breath along with the body and "kneading" in piti-sukha into every last crevice of the body.
"There is the case where a monk — quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful qualities — enters and remains in the first jhana: rapture and pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought and evaluation. He permeates and pervades, suffuses and fills this very body with the rapture and pleasure born from withdrawal. There is nothing of his entire body unpervaded by rapture and pleasure born from withdrawal.
"Just as if a skilled bathman or bathman's apprentice would pour bath powder into a brass basin and knead it together, sprinkling it again and again with water, so that his ball of bath powder — saturated, moisture-laden, permeated within and without — would nevertheless not drip; even so, the monk permeates, suffuses and fills this very body with the rapture and pleasure born of withdrawal. There is nothing of his entire body unpervaded by rapture and pleasure born from withdrawal..."
When the body is saturated with this piti-sukha, vitakka-vicara no longer do any good to give any more pleasure to the body. No matter where the lens is focused, it finds pleasure. In the second Jhana, the awareness of body is filled and the awareness itself is unified, and you may notice the complete subsiding of vitakka and vicara. This is because instead of the body, you are now filling your awareness with the mind, and whatever pleasure and happiness there is is in fact born of samadhi, or the mind having gone to one. Now instead of the awareness being the focal point of the lens, the awareness is of the lens itself. There is not motion between the various parts of the body. When the awareness is filled in the way, it is profoundly still and truly three factored: piti, sukha, and ekaggata.
"Furthermore, with the stilling of directed thoughts & evaluations, he enters and remains in the second jhana: rapture and pleasure born of composure, unification of awareness free from directed thought and evaluation — internal assurance. He permeates and pervades, suffuses and fills this very body with the rapture and pleasure born of composure. There is nothing of his entire body unpervaded by rapture and pleasure born of composure.
"Just like a lake with spring-water welling up from within, having no inflow from east, west, north, or south, and with the skies periodically supplying abundant showers, so that the cool fount of water welling up from within the lake would permeate and pervade, suffuse and fill it with cool waters, there being no part of the lake unpervaded by the cool waters; even so, the monk permeates and pervades, suffuses and fills this very body with the rapture and pleasure born of composure. There is nothing of his entire body unpervaded by rapture and pleasure born of composure...
I think of great importance is to realise that this too should be effortless. If the first jhana is well-develeoped and thorough, the the mind will want the stillness and pleasure and unification of the second. It works because of how the mind gravitates toward pleasure.
The key here is not to keep the road map of Jhanas in your mind so much that worry about it. Just use the map for direction. As long as the concentration is endowed with the Seven factors of enlightenment and leads to dispassion, cessation, and release, you are on the right track. Many times when you sit, your meditation will absolutely not go like how you were imagining it to. Your mind will do things you didn't want it to or think it would. Realize that it IS trainable, much like an animal. You feed it treats when it does the things you want it to. You don't want it to fear you, so you don't goad or whip it as punishment. You want it to love you, so you feed it good and nourishing food. I hope I made sense and I'm npt rambling on too much!
There are many methods for achieving jhana. Buddhist and non buddhist methods. The clear distinction of buddhist method from non buddhist is achieving jhana by understanding dependent origination rather than concentrating object without and analysis.
Buddhist methods of achieving jhana leads to attain Nibbana by understanding dhamma. It incudes meditating impermanance nature - suffering or no self nature of five aggregates. All Buddhist meditations are thinking and understanding dhamma. According to the level if understanding one attain jhana concentration. Among dozens of methods I have been using over the years and will tell how to meditate suffering and achieve jhana level concentration,
Think about the suffering. Suppose you have born in all worlds such as Hell, Peta loka, Animal world. Hell exists and hell beings are suffering. Burn their bodies, uproot muscles, cut hands legs and gore with spikes. In 'Preta Loka', some Preta's are burning and they are suffering in hunger for millions of years. In animal world animals are always in fear of their lives. Animals like bulls are being killed by people violently. As a human we were in mother's womb nearly 9 months. It was very painful to stay in a same posture for such a long time. When we were young we learned with lot of difficulties sometimes in hungry and other times uncovers to rain. When doing jobs we meet lot of similar difficulties with people to fix problems. We have suffering from lot of diseases. With getting older we will have to suffer more than that with the weakness of our faculties. Think about the suffering. In heaven, gods have similar works like us since they are living on a society. After getting tired, they have a drink by smelling stink 'SAL' flowers. Brahma also has mental distress when they loose their concentration level. Everybody is dying. Every world is suffering. (If you understand this you will have great level of concentration with pleasure, Because suffering is the first noble truth.)
Got the above content from my blog - Meditating four noble truths
Characteristics of first jhana concentrations as follows
- First jhana - vitakka vichara (recursive thinking of meditation object), rapture, pleasere, concentration.
- Second Jhana - rapture, pleasere, concentration.
- Third Jhana - pleasere, concentration.
- Fourth Jhana - equanimity and concentration.
When thinking like above (vipassana meditating) for sometime one will will be able to eliminate five hindrances (five bad mental states such as sensual desire, ill will, sloth and troper, restlessness - worry and doubt) and achieve vitakka vichara (recursive thinking of meditation object), rapture, pleasere, concentration. They are characteristics and signs of jhana concentration.
If one practice this first jhana for sometime, he will feel vitakka vichara as a gross nature of first jhana and will be able to eliminate vitakka vichara and concentrate upon pleasure. If one want't to give up something, first be able to understand the
Then he will be able to attaing second jhana by eliminating vitakka vichara. Then he practice second jhana for sometime he will feel rapture as a gross nature and be able to attain third jhana. rapture is an intense pleasure to a beginner. But, one practice and stay second jhana for more than hour, he will feell like body is drying. Understanding the suffering nature of Second jhana concentration One will be able to attain third jhana.
Then he practice third jhana for sometime he will feel pleasure as impermanant and be able to attain fourth jhana.
This is the buddihist way of achieving jhana with understanding dhamma. There are so many meditations to achieve above results. All suttas in pali canon have a meditation. One can easily achieve jhana concentration by meditating four great elements, death meditation, contemplation of the impurities of the body, metta meditation according to Metta Sutta; the contemplation on the twelve links of pratītyasamutpāda and those are the most popular meditations buddhist have been using from ancient times.