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In the paper "Multiple Buddhist Modernisms: Jhāna in Convert Theravāda", Natalie Quli compares what the following teachers have taught about jhana: Ayya Khema, Bhante Henepola Gunaratana, Pa-Auk Sayadaw, Ajahn Brahmavamso, Bhante Vimalaramsi, Thanissaro Bhikkhu, Leigh Brasington and Shaila Catherine.

There seems to be roughly two camps of teachers. The first that depend on Visuddhimagga, Abhidhamma, commentaries and suttas for the teaching on jhanas. The second depends either primarily or solely on the suttas, and not the other sources.

Another way to divide them is those who consider ekaggatā or very deep one-pointed concentration important, or those who don't.

Questions:

  1. What's the actual difference between sutta jhana and visuddhimagga jhana?
  2. Is ekaggatā or very deep one-pointed concentration required for jhana?
  3. Would a jhana attainer be able to use his jhana state to reflect on the four foundations of mindfulness as found in the Satipatthana Sutta? Or is jhana simply used to overcome the five hindrances, which aids the four foundations of mindfulness meditation?

The paper discussed Ajahn Brahm's view:

Brahmavaṃso argues for a very deep level of concentration—ekaggatā—that other teachers often criticize. He states that in jhāna the body disappears, so that one can no longer see or hear. He also states bluntly that jhāna is not possible during walking meditation, perhaps a statement made in reference to Vimalaramsi’s light, sutta-based jhānas, discussed below. Finally, he argues that “some teachers today present a level of meditation and call it jhāna when it is clearly less than the real thing.” Among the sources Brahmavaṃso reveres and cites throughout his work are the Vinaya, the Visuddhimagga, and even the jātakas — which are very rarely mentioned by Western Insight Meditation teachers.

The paper discussed Bhante Vimalaramsi's view:

Part of this effort to return to the origin of Buddhism has led Vimalaramsi to revere the suttas and Vinaya but reject the later commentaries and the Abhidhamma. He is particularly critical of the Visuddhimagga. For example, he notes:

So you have the Visuddhimagga teaching one kind of meditation, that doesn’t lead to nibbāna, and you have the sutta, that teaches an-other kind of meditation, and it leads directly to nibbāna. And now, because we’re so far away from the time of the Buddha, there’s a lot of monks that take the Visuddhimagga as the same as the teaching of the Buddha, and then there’s other monks that don’t take that as the teaching of the Buddha, they take the suttas as the true teaching.

Though Vimalaramsi initially studied in the vipassanā centers in Burma, he became convinced that this style of meditation was not authentic because it was based on commentaries rather than the suttas. In fact, this sutta-based interpretation of meditation has led him to teaching what he calls “tranquil-wisdom meditation,” a joint samatha/vipassanā meditation. He teaches mainly from the Anapanasati-sutta and the Satipaṭṭhāna-sutta, and maintains that jhāna should not be considered ecstatic or one-pointed (ekaggatā). Rather, it is a light, relaxed state in which various Buddhist insights are examined. He maintains that (1) those who follow the commentaries’ descriptions of jhāna are practicing a non-Buddhist meditation that does not lead to nirvana and (2) those who follow the commentaries in practicing a separate vipassanā practice are mistaken in following a non-canonical authority.

The paper discussed Thanissaro Bhikkhu's view:

Thanissaro Bhikkhu teaches jhāna exclusively from the suttas and not from the commentaries. After noting that the jhānas as taught in the Visuddhimagga include elements not mentioned in the suttas, Thanissaro Bhikkhu notes, “Some Theravadins insist that questioning the commentaries is a sign of disrespect for the tradition, but it seems to be a sign of greater disrespect for the Buddha—or the compilers of the Canon—to assume that he or they would have left out something absolutely essential to the practice.” He concludes that jhāna in the commentaries is “something quite different” than jhāna in the canon.

Unlike others who advocate the “deeper” states described in the Visuddhimagga, Thanissaro Bhikkhu argues that extremely deep states of meditation are “wrong concentration.” One must be fully aware of the body; powerful ekaggatā, as discussed in the Visuddhimagga, can lead to one losing a sense of sounds, thoughts, or perceptions, which is not ideal for insight in his opinion. People who advocate such deep meditation are, according to Thanissaro Bhikkhu, blocking out certain areas of awareness and are “psychologically adept at dissociation and denial.”

Leigh Brasington, student of Ayya Khema, described sutta jhana vs. visuddhimagga jhana:

Leigh Brasington is an American student of Ayya Khema who now teaches regularly on the jhānas across the United States, mainly to students at Insight Meditation centers. Like his teacher, Brasington suggests that the jhānas are not difficult to learn or practice. He notes that “The jhānas as discussed in the suttas are accessible to many people” but maintains that the jhānas presented in the Visuddhimagga are actually qualitatively different from those described in the suttas; he speculates that the Visuddhimagga jhānas were developed during a later period and are more difficult to achieve. In fact, Brasington has suggested that we distinguish between “sutta jhānas” and “Visuddhimagga jhānas,” which he considers quite different from one another. Brasington favors the lighter sutta jhānas.

A further comment by the paper's author:

Likewise, Thai-trained Thanissaro Bhikkhu completely rejects the authority of the commentaries in terms of jhāna practice. Both of these teachers agree that the jhānas are a light state of meditation because ekaggatā, deep one-pointedness, is mentioned only in the commentaries. Thanissaro argues that the deep state of meditation advocated by some Buddhist teachers is “wrong concentration,” while Vimalaramsi suggests that the jhāna practices endorsed by Visuddhimagga followers is “hypnosis,” not jhāna.

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Another way to divide them is those who consider ekaggatā or very deep one-pointed concentration important or those who don't.

"Ekaggatā" does not mean "very deep concentration". "Ekaggatā" is stability. Even though the 1st jhana includes ekaggata, the 1st jhana is an expansive luminous exalted heaven.

What's the actual difference between sutta jhana and visuddhimagga jhana?

The sutta jhana is taught by the Buddha, who taught jhana is reached by making "letting go" ("vossagga") the meditation object (SN 48.10; MN 118). "Visuddhimagga jhana" is Hindu yoga taught by the Brahmin Buddhaghosa; who taught "seclusion by suppression" (page 134). "Letting go" ("vossagga") is not "suppression". This is probably the primary difference between Buddha-jhana and Vissudhimagga-jhana. Buddha-jhana is consistent with the Noble Truths, namely, abandoning craving. Vissudhimagga-jhana is Hindu yogic craving.

Is ekaggatā or very deep one-pointed concentration required for jhana?

"Ekaggatā" does not mean "very deep one-pointed". Of course "ekaggatā" is required for jhana; as written in the suttas & taught by the Buddha. How can each jhana not include ekaggata when all of the sutta say the 1st jhana includes ekaggata?

Would a jhana attainer be able to use his jhana state to reflect on the four foundations of mindfulness as found in the Satipatthana Sutta?

Jhana includes vedanupassana & cittanupassana, i.e., observing feelings & the mind with the mindfulness of non-clinging. Satipatthana is for developing jhana. Jhana is not for developing satipatthana. The suttas say jhana is used for vipassana.

Or is jhana simply used to overcome the five hindrances, which aids the four foundations of mindfulness meditation?

Overcoming hindrances is a requirement for jhana. Jhana is not a requirement for overcoming hindrances.

Ayya Khema, Bhante Henepola Gunaratana, Pa-Auk Sayadaw, Bhante Vimalaramsi, Thanissaro Bhikkhu, Leigh Brasington and Shaila Catherine = imaginary jhana for children building ego sand castles. Ajahn Brahmavamso = real jhana for adults.

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There is definitely a lot of confusion about Jhanas. In general, Buddhism has always been infamous for its lack of trust to teachers, texts, and interpretations - hence traditional obsession with "that one guy in the mountains who actually got it". The last two centuries' increased interest to Pali Canon apparently comes from the same doubts that give rise to an obsessive quest to seek ever more "authoritative sources" - i.e. the suttas, secret "root texts" in Tibetan Buddhism etc.

Despite all that, Dharma is and remains a rather straightforward and logical system, with its practice and teachings naturally following from a very small number of rather simple key principles. To any one who clearly understands these principles, interpretation of teaching and practice is no longer a mystery - the meaning of texts and the point of practice becomes clear as daylight.

Luckily for all of us the essence of Buddhism has not been lost, there are in fact many schools and teachers who get the gist and pass it on to next generation. At the same time, over the centuries of transmission, the Dharma as taught by Buddha has been unnecessarily burdened by a heavy load of superstitions and misunderstandings that get mindlessly passed from generation to generation. These "monkey practices" and "parrot teachings" do not help a new student, but only make their quest harder and their path longer and twisted.

When it comes to Jhanas, it is very clear to me that both their original context (how they fit with the Teaching at large), and their essence (how exactly they look in practice) has been largely lost in all traditions. Yes, most schools retained some of the right elements and teach them as their meditation - but the idea of progression, what this progression means and how it is achieved has largely been lost.

I agree with that article, that most modern interpretations can be divided into two groups: the ones that see Jhanas as trance-like states, and the ones that try to challenge that notion. I won't say that the trance-like Jhana camp is limited to Theravada only; there are plenty of Tibetan Buddhism teachers who teach a similar theory of meditation (not sure whether they actually practice it).

As for my own opinion, I am definitely in the "sutta-jhana" camp, and probably even more so than the others. In my mind, the connection of Jhanas to Four Noble Truths is crystal-clear, and the way Jhanas lead to Liberation is as obvious to me as 2+2.

Jhanas are milestones (not actual fixed states!) on the progressive path of removing the coarse-medium-fine instances of non-suchness towards the gradually more refined suchness, culminating in non-conditional suchness of the Unbinding. The practice of Jhanas is based on the key principle that the conflict between "is" and "should" (=non-suchness) is dukkha, and agreement between "is" and "should" (=suchness) is peace. This principle is then utilized to remove coarse sources of conflict, and to find, generate, and contrive coarse sources of the agreement - and the practice is repeated recursively with progressively more refined conflict and suchness.

Jhanas are clearly not states that one "enters" as a byproduct of concentration. Nothing could be furthest from truth. Jhanas are milestones of one's mastery of emotional intelligence, one's ability to let go of unwholesome mindstates, and to generate and/or maintain wholesome mindstates.

First Jhana is when the student learns to let go of pretty much all regular sources of non-suchness (such as craving for entertainment, worldly success, lust for sensory pleasure, craving of informational stimulation, concerns about real-life problems, aversion to people and society and so on and so forth) and draws coarse suchness from congratulating oneself on one's luck of encountering True Dharma, one's flawless ethics, one's lack of involvement with the worldly drama, one's clear understanding of Dharmic principles, and one's progress on the Path. Feeling thus happy is the basic skill that one has to master, without which nothing else can follow. This skill is cultivated until one can recall good thoughts and make oneself feel happy at will, whenever one wishes.

Second Jhana is when the student has mastered and enjoyed First Jhana for long enough time that he or she has had enough of it. He then stops generating coarse suchness (happiness) through self-suggestion, and learns to draw a subtler kind of happiness from the sense of confidence, rightness, lack of inner conflict, and a sense of inner integration. This is more of a psychosomatic practice than a mental one. This state is cultivated until one gets stable in it and can stay in it pretty much all the time.

Third Jhana is when the student has had enough of the second Jhana to the point when being emotionally uplifted starts getting a slightly bit weary. This is when the student allows oneself to relax their sense of control over one's thoughts and emotions, and enter a state which can be explained as being emotionally sober. This state is then cultivated until one gets completely comfortable in it - without falling back to emotionally negative states, but without having to put any effort in staying emotionally uplifted either. Emotionally sober is a very good name for this Jhana.

Finally, Fourth Jhana signifies a phase when one's detachment, dispassion, non-identification, wisdom, seeing the emptiness (all these are different names that point to the same quality of mind) reaches the level when one can basically drop all control over one's thoughts and emotions, because one's suchness is no longer conditional on circumstances. Indeed, the very worry about "suchness" vs "conflict" is now seen as a source of non-suchness and is outgrown.

This is my interpretation of Jhanas based on what I learned from my teachers, books, and personal practices. As everything in Buddhism after Buddha's parinirvana, it remains subject to doubt and scepticism. What makes me confident that my interpretation is right, is the fact that it fits both with the sutta descriptions of jhanas, as well as with Noble Truths and with numerous other teachings in different traditions of Buddhism, from Theravada to Zen to Dzogchen. Most importantly, this teaching actually "works" for me in the most direct and personal way.

This doctrine of "suchness" is the kind of Buddhism I practice myself and am trying to share with others as much as I can. If someone wants to verify it for themselves, it is only too easy. All you need to do is separate all your thoughts and activities into two classes: ones that are sources of suchness vs. ones that are sources of conflict between "is" and "should". Then, cultivate the first and let go of the second. Start with the coarsest and gradually go to subtler, and see for yourself how it works.

  • So, jhana according to you is not a state of mind while absorbed in sitting meditation, but rather milestones of mental and emotional mastery that applies even when one is walking and talking and eating, right? Your description of the jhanas is possibly similar to what Bhante Gunaratana is said to teach in the paper: "In addition, he (Bhante Gunaratana) argues that each one of the four levels of awakening (stream-enterer, once-returner, non-returner, and arhat) “always arise as states of jhanic consciousness.” In other words, jhāna is absolutely necessary for nirvana." – ruben2020 Mar 10 at 16:00
  • Yes, correct, I think you understood me. – Andrei Volkov Mar 10 at 16:35
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    Also, from Ven. Dhammavuddho's talk in this question, he states that once one has mastered the first jhana, the five hindrances are (mostly) overcome, not just during meditation but at all times. At least I remember him saying this in the video. – ruben2020 Mar 10 at 16:59
  • However, this may conflict with the description of the Buddha entering different jhana states in sitting meditation in the Yasoja Sutta and just before he passed away in Mahaparinibbana Sutta. – ruben2020 Mar 11 at 1:08
  • Why? Yasoja Sutta has nothing to do with Jhanas. It says, Buddha sat in imperturbable meditation, that's all. As for Mahaparinibbana Sutta - first, it is a rather mythical account from the perspective of students, not Buddha's words - second, yes Buddha went through Jhanas, so first he generated suchness/happiness with the help of self-suggestions, then without self-suggestion etc. - this sounds perfectly normal to me. I don't see any conflict here. – Andrei Volkov Mar 11 at 1:18
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From the first translation - AN 4.123 PTS: A ii 126 Jhana Sutta: Mental Absorption (1) translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu © 2006 - we can read the differences between Jhana 1,2,3, & 4 which are critical to this arguement.

NOTES: In chemistry pH is measured with each whole number being more acid or more alkaline by a multiple of 10. The differences between these first 4 (rupa) jhanas is greater than the difference in pH. I will attach these translations here - but please note the DIFFERENCES between J 1-4!

"There is the case where an individual, withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful qualities, enters & remains in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. He savors that, longs for that, finds satisfaction through that. Staying there — fixed on that, dwelling there often, not falling away from that — then when he dies he reappears in conjunction with the devas of Brahma's retinue. The devas of Brahma's retinue, monks, have a life-span of an eon. A run-of-the-mill person having stayed there, having used up all the life-span of those devas, goes to hell, to the animal womb, to the state of the hungry shades. But a disciple of the Blessed One, having stayed there, having used up all the life-span of those devas, is unbound right in that state of being. This, monks, is the difference, this the distinction, this the distinguishing factor, between an educated disciple of the noble ones and an uneducated run-of-the-mill person, when there is a destination, a reappearing.

"Again, there is the case where an individual, with the stilling of directed thoughts & evaluations, enters & remains in the second jhana: rapture & pleasure born of composure, unification of awareness free from directed thought & evaluation — internal assurance. He savors that, longs for that, finds satisfaction through that. Staying there — fixed on that, dwelling there often, not falling away from that — then when he dies he reappears in conjunction with the Abhassara[1] devas.[2] The Abhassara devas, monks, have a life-span of two eons. A run-of-the-mill person having stayed there, having used up all the life-span of those devas, goes to hell, to the animal womb, to the state of the hungry shades. But a disciple of the Blessed One, having stayed there, having used up all the life-span of those devas, is unbound right in that state of being. This, monks, is the difference, this the distinction, this the distinguishing factor, between an educated disciple of the noble ones and an uneducated run-of-the-mill person, when there is a destination, a reappearing.

"Again, there is the case where an individual, with the fading of rapture, he remains equanimous, mindful, & alert, and senses pleasure with the body. He enters & remains in the third jhana, of which the Noble Ones declare, 'Equanimous & mindful, he has a pleasant abiding.' He savors that, longs for that, finds satisfaction through that. Staying there — fixed on that, dwelling there often, not falling away from that — then when he dies he reappears in conjunction with the Subhakinha[3] devas. The Subhakinha devas, monks, have a life-span of four eons. A run-of-the-mill person having stayed there, having used up all the life-span of those devas, goes to hell, to the animal womb, to the state of the hungry shades. But a disciple of the Blessed One, having stayed there, having used up all the life-span of those devas, is unbound right in that state of being. This, monks, is the difference, this the distinction, this the distinguishing factor, between an educated disciple of the noble ones and an uneducated run-of-the-mill person, when there is a destination, a reappearing.

"Again, there is the case where an individual, with the abandoning of pleasure & stress — as with the earlier disappearance of elation & distress — enters & remains in the fourth jhana: purity of equanimity & mindfulness, neither-pleasure-nor-pain. He savors that, longs for that, finds satisfaction through that. Staying there — fixed on that, dwelling there often, not falling away from that — then when he dies he reappears in conjunction with the Vehapphala[4] devas. The Vehapphala devas, monks, have a life-span of 500 eons. A run-of-the-mill person having stayed there, having used up all the life-span of those devas, goes to hell, to the animal womb, to the state of the hungry shades. But a disciple of the Blessed One, having stayed there, having used up all the life-span of those devas, is unbound right in that state of being. This, monks, is the difference, this the distinction, this the distinguishing factor, between an educated disciple of the noble ones and an uneducated run-of-the-mill person, when there is a destination, a reappearing.

NOTES: AGAIN! first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation

second jhana: rapture & pleasure born of composure, unification of awareness free from directed thought & evaluation — internal assurance

Again, there is the case where an individual, with the fading of rapture, he remains equanimous, mindful, & alert, and senses pleasure with the body. He enters & remains in the third jhana

Again, there is the case where an individual, with the abandoning of pleasure & stress — as with the earlier disappearance of elation & distress — enters & remains in the fourth jhana: purity of equanimity & mindfulness, neither-pleasure-nor-pain

From J1 to J4 we go from 'bliss and ecstasy' all the way to 'equanimity & mindfulness, neither-pleasure-nor-pain'

QUESTION #1 - What's the actual difference between sutta jhana and visuddhimagga jhana?

As you can see below, there is NOT a substantial difference between this Jhana Sutta AN 4.123 from the commentaries or the Visuddhimagga, in regards to the identification of the definitions of jhana according to the five factors they possess - vitakka, vicara, sukha, piti, ekkagata - see definitions at : http://www.buddhanet.net/mettab3.htm)

Here is the language used in the Visuddhimagga: https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/nanamoli/PathofPurification2011.pdf - pages 133-161:

[FIRST JHANA] “Quite secluded from sense desires, secluded from unprofitable things he enters upon and dwells in the first jhána, which is accompanied by applied and sustained thought with happiness and bliss born of seclusion” (Vibh 245), and so he has attained the first jhána"

[THE SECOND JHÁNA] And at this point, “With the stilling of applied and sustained thought he enters upon and dwells in the second jhána, which has internal confidence and singleness of mind without applied thought, without sustained thought, with happiness and bliss born of concentration” (Vibh 245), and so he has attained the second jhána

[THE THIRD JHÁNA] And at this point, “With the fading away of happiness as well he dwells in equanimity, and mindful and fully aware, he feels bliss with his body; he enters upon and dwells in the third jhána, on account of which the Noble Ones announce: ‘He dwells in bliss who has equanimity and is mindful’ (Vibh 245), and so he has attained the third jhána"

[THE FOURTH JHÁNA] And at this point, “With the abandoning of pleasure and pain and with the previous disappearance of joy and grief he enters upon and dwells in the fourth jhána, which has neither-pain-nor-pleasure and has purity of mindfulness due to equanimity” (Vibh 245), and so he has attained the fourth jhána"

NOTE: As you can see, the primary frame work of the Jhanas is for the most part identical in both Sutta and The Path of Purification, the Visuddhimagga

From J1 to J4 we go from 'bliss and ecstasy' all the way to 'equanimity & mindfulness, neither-pleasure-nor-pain'

It confirms a consistency of Deep-End vs. Shallow End of the Pool. The beginning of the deep end is J4 and beyond, because the discrimination mind of pleasure/pain, like/dislike, ceases to operate in a judgmental fashion, it is even beyond the fashionable "bliss-consciousness' of the spiritual marketplace.

QUESTION # 2 - Is ekaggatā or very deep one-pointed concentration required for jhana? BOTH THE Sutta and the Visuddhimagga state that Ekaggata (Equinimity) is necessary for J3 and J4 the distinction being bliss is not yet fully transcended in J3. "very deep one-pointed" is not very adequate language to express J4, but the answer is still Yes.

QUESTION #3 - Would a jhana attainer be able to use his jhana state to reflect on the four foundations of mindfulness as found in the Satipatthana Sutta? Or is jhana simply used to overcome the five hindrances, which aids the four foundations of mindfulness meditation?

Entering into J1-2 is recommended for this, yes. *citation needed

Thought and Feeling, Perception and Consciousness are already fully stilled & utilized by the J3-J4 - it's the culmination of the 4 Bases. Direct experience surpasses "reflection"

Conclusion: Concerning the Jhanas and jhana factors, the ancient texts display remarkable consistency. The disputations that arise are not well-founded textually.

  • I have only browsed the Visuddhimagga but my strong impression it is like an encyclopedia of existing & different Buddhist views of that era. In other words, it is not an consistent body of work. It often quotes the suttas but the explanations may be contrary to the suttas. Thus just because the Visuddhimagga quotes sutta on jhana does not mean its other teaching about jhana are sutta based. – Dhammadhatu Mar 17 at 20:35
  • I'm merely suggesting that the 'jhanas" in the Suttas and the "jhanas" in the Visuddhimagga aren't different jhanas, as many claim. Where the Visuddhimagga comes from I have no idea. It could be like you suggest. The whole discussion field is full of so many straw men that I become suspicious immediately. – brother eric Mar 30 at 22:47
  • Personally, i am emphasising the method. Sutta is letting go. VM is yogic. As for the end result, i doubt they can be the same, even though both sutta & VM use the same terminology for each jhana. – Dhammadhatu Mar 31 at 1:04
  • I get different results from "noting" than I do with counting breath. Noting makes me feel hyper, whereas breath cultivates calm. Noting practice is derived from the VM, or so it is said. – brother eric Apr 1 at 20:36
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In short and as i see it;

For a Theravadin there should be little confusion about what constitutes a jhana if one goes by the Theravadin Abhidhamma.

If one attempts to reconcile other interpretations with the Theravadin interpretation it may or may not work, same goes for the commentarial works and contemporary "modern Buddhism" interpretations and personal theories.

For example afaik some of the people on the OP list reject Abhidhamma, others reject commentary and a third follows commentary strictly. This is obviously going to be very problematic.

I think it is important to study the Abhidhamma books to understand the Theravadin Interpretation before opting out in favor of a different expression or interpretation which is more agreeable psychologically or intellectually more easy.

As for what constitutes the Jhana in early Theravadin interpretation of what is jhana, as i understand it in brief;

A variety of states are with jhana factors ranging from wholesome thoughts accompanied by joy to meditative absorbtions. A detailed breakdown of the categories and classifications would be too long of a post but there are several Sutta which suggest that what constitutes a jhana is a relatively wide range of experiences.

Examples of this would be Sutta which deal with Pleasant Abidings wherein Jhana are explained to be Pleasant Abidings brought about by a specific development of concentration. There are the jhana factors but also specific examples of Pleasant Abidings as those easily attained by Stream-Enterer;

"And which four pleasant mental abidings in the here & now does he obtain at will, without difficulty, without hardship?

"There is the case where the disciple of the noble ones is endowed with verified confidence in the Awakened One: 'Indeed, the Blessed One is worthy & rightly self-awakened, consummate in knowledge & conduct, well-gone, an expert with regard to the world, unexcelled as a trainer for those people fit to be tamed, the Teacher of divine & human beings, awakened, blessed.' This is the first pleasant mental abiding in the here & now that he has attained, for the purification of the mind that is impure, for the cleansing of the mind that is unclean.

"Furthermore, he is endowed with verified confidence in the Dhamma: 'The Dhamma is well-expounded by the Blessed One, to be seen here & now, timeless, inviting verification, pertinent, to be realized by the wise for themselves.' This is the second pleasant mental abiding in the here & now that he has attained, for the purification of the mind that is impure, for the cleansing of the mind that is unclean.

"Furthermore, he is endowed with verified confidence in the Sangha: 'The Sangha of the Blessed One's disciples who have practiced well... who have practiced straight-forwardly... who have practiced methodically... who have practiced masterfully — in other words, the four pairs, the eight individuals [1] — they are the Sangha of the Blessed One's disciples: worthy of gifts, worthy of hospitality, worthy of offerings, worthy of respect, the incomparable field of merit for the world.' This is the third pleasant mental abiding in the here & now that he has attained, for the purification of the mind that is impure, for the cleansing of the mind that is unclean.

"Furthermore, he is endowed with virtues that are appealing to the noble ones: untorn, unbroken, unspotted, unsplattered, liberating, praised by the wise, untarnished, leading to concentration. This is the fourth pleasant mental abiding in the here & now that he has attained, for the purification of the mind that is impure, for the cleansing of the mind that is unclean.

The pleasant abidings are explained as jhana in several Sutta, in example;

Then Ven. Ananda addressed Mahanama the Sakyan[3]: "There is the case, Mahanama, where a disciple of the noble ones is consummate in virtue, guards the doors to his sense faculties, knows moderation in eating, is devoted to wakefulness, is endowed with seven qualities, and obtains at will — without trouble or difficulty — the four jhanas that constitute heightened awareness and a pleasant abiding in the here-&-now MN53

Furthermore Sutta express that the Pleasant Abidings are not Abiding in Effacement but Right Concentration which is explained in terms of Jhana and more precisely the jhana-Factors are explained as abiding in Effacement.

From this it can be inferred that Pleasant Abidings would always be classified as Jhana and some of states that are classified as Jhana are referred to as Pleasant Abidings but are not referred to as Abiding in Effacement.

Furthermore it can be inferred that there are states which would be classified as jhana and referred to as Abiding in Effacement and Right Concentration in addition to the former.

"It may be, Cunda, that some monk, detached from sense-objects, detached from unsalutary ideas, enters into the first absorption that is born of detachment, accompanied by thought-conception and discursive thinking, and filled with rapture and joy, 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 'abidings in ease here and now. ... "But herein, Cunda, effacement should be practiced by you: Others will have wrong concentration; we shall have right concentration here — thus effacement can be done.

Further analysis of the relationship between Right Concentration and Pleasant Abidings, as i see it, requires analysis of Right Concentration as a Path Factor and this gets into the differentiation between Concentration as a Faculty and Concentration as a Path Factor as well as the differentiation between the two and Noble Right Concentration.

It goes deep so i will leave it at that.

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There are 3 types of Abhi-Sankara (extreme Sankara)

  • Punna-abhi-sankara. (Heavenly gathi/Kamma and Sugathi realms)
  • Apunna-abhi-sankara (Hellish gathi/The 4 hell realms)
  • Aneyiya-abhi-sankara (Neutral gathi/The Brahma realms)

These 3 types of mental constructs guarantee your forward birth. The "Gathi" is the kind of mental attributes you develop. The Gathi of Abhisankara determines the destination.

What the Veda/Upanishand teachings do is cultivate Aneyiya-abhi-sankara and take you to a Brahama realm. I have said "neutral" Gothi but probably not the best translation. Anyone who does non-Aria Jhana is doing Aneyiya-abhi-sankara. This is the highest achievement as per the Veda teachings. They receive a Jyana because it does Samatha half of the equation. Although this is an Anariya Jayana since Vippassana is not achieved.

The ones who excel at this can see existence in Brahma realms. The Brahama existence is very long involving multiple eons. They thought this was the highest achievement since the existence there is so long. Although as soon as the time is up you may well end up in a 4 lower realms. The Buddha tried this before enlightenment and even achieved the highest (8th) Jhana.

In order to end up in the Brahma realms they focus on the 4 basic elements i.e. air, water, heat etc and cuts off all sensory inputs. This is known as Kasina meditation. An example using air Kasina is shown here. -> https://youtu.be/55QB1tMTq5E

The correct Buddha Bhavana involves Vipassanā and its this one -> https://buddhism.stackexchange.com/a/31543/15007

The way Buddha teachings work is one who has attained the path and one who has developed a mental faculty to decipher and teach the Dhamma (Siwu pilisimbiya Gnana) does so directly out of Magadhi. The Ariya can interpret the Dhamma in 36 different ways. He/she then writes commentaries (Atuwa) in other languages.

In Sri Lanka king Dutu Gamunu re-united the country after an invasion. He then collected all the commentaries (Hela Atuwa) written by Ariyas and stored them at Lovamahapaya in his capital Anuradhapura.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lovamahapaya

Buddhagoha was a Brahmin who excelled in Veda. He joins the fraternity but conspires to undermine the Buddha Dhamma. He was a Trojan horse. He conspires with other individuals and burns down the entire building with all the Hela-Atuwa. An ancient text Buddhaghosuppathi (බුද්ධඝෝසුප්පත්ති) explains the events. The text explains the volume of books burnt was equivalent to size of 7 elephants.

He burns down the original Hela-Atuwa but leaves 20 odd of his own commentaries that include Visuddhimagga written in Maghadhi. That is why the Visuddhimagga takes a Veda flavour with the Kasina Air or (Breathing meditation).

Kasina meditation ended up in Theravada because of Buddhaghosa and his Visuddhimagga. He also introduces his own Metta meditation when the Buddha's own is in the Karaniya Metta Sutta.

Furthermore, in the Visuddhimagga itself Buddhaghosa says he is baffled by Patticasamuppada and do not know how to explain it at all.

The one who sees Patticasamuppada - sees the Buddha's path. He admits he did not.

There are and will be ones who continue to dwell in the breathing meditation. They might as well follow Veda teachings -> https://youtu.be/55QB1tMTq5E since that is where breathing meditation is used.

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Since all of the path is a matter of right view and with it firm virtue, i.e. gaining the path first, this wink again might release from all 3 questions, probably seeking to find a alternative way:

...“For a person experiencing pleasure, there is no need for an act of will, 'May my mind grow concentrated.' It is in the nature of things that the mind of a person experiencing pleasure grows concentrated.

“For a person whose mind is concentrated, there is no need for an act of will, 'May I know & see things as they actually are.' It is in the nature of things that a person whose mind is concentrated knows & sees things as they actually are. ...

Cetana Sutta

[Note: like always not given for stacks, exchange, stands, trade in the world but for beyond and unbound]

...“For a person endowed with virtue, consummate in virtue, there is no need for an act of will, 'May freedom from remorse arise in me.' It is in the nature of things that freedom from remorse arises in a person endowed with virtue, consummate in virtue.

  • 2
    RE: "not given for stacks, exchanges" etc. FYI: in 1996-2001 there was a paid commercial Q&A site called "Experts Exchange" (started by some other people). Then in 2008 Joel Spolsky and Jeff Atwood launched a free site called "Stack Overflow", where people could exchange their knowledge and experience for free. In 2014 they launched Stack Exchange, a free open platform: "Instead of opening sites in exchange for money, we’re about to launch a new, democratic system where anyone can propose a Q&A site, and, if it gets a critical mass of interested people, we'll create it." – Andrei Volkov Mar 10 at 14:18

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