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Is the experience of jhana considered dukkha because of its impermanence? If yes, is it still considered dukkha after attaining Nibbana?

Is the experience of jhana conditioned? Is it still considered conditioned after attaining Nibbana?

Thanks in advance for your time and patience.

Kind regards!

  • What you mean by ‘because of its impermanence’ – follower Jul 6 at 14:08
  • Hi! I mean the sensations (or lack thereof) felt in Jhana are not permanent, and at least for normal people, I'd hardly say that one can stay in jhana all day long. Lind regards! – Brian Díaz Flores Jul 6 at 14:53
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – ChrisW Jul 10 at 8:07
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Because the mind is an informational (~representational) phenomenon, subjective experience arises as a with-feedback-process of converting signs into their interpretations. Dukkha is an experience of unresolvable contradiction somewhere in the stream of interpretation. This condition requires a basis (some sort of internalized framework, model, a set of conceptual boundaries etc) and an input - usually a factual observation about the current state of affairs (which, again, is an interpretation). The perfect Nirvana by definition entails no Dukkha, therefore must involve no conflict of information. Therefore, Nirvana cannot occur in the presence of ANY subconsciously internalized dualistic conceptual boundaries taken as absolute reference points. In simple words, Nirvana requires perfectly "objective" (=detached) mind that does not take sides.

Jhana is practice of incrementally approaching Nirvana by removing mental conflict and the causes of conflict, starting from the coarser and gradually onto the subtler instances of Dukkha. Since the practice itself is framed as a conceptual model, with target state by definition being "better" (more desirable) than the initial state, the practice itself creates a form of conflict (between the current state and the state being sought) that is experienced as Dukkha. This is why the practice of Jhana itself necessarily needs be recursive or self-reflecting in order to be truly effective. In other words, on its moderately-advanced stages the practice of Jhana becomes an exercise of identifying and removing Dukkha inherent to the practice of Jhana itself, or to be more precise, inherent to our current frame of reference: our assumptions about and our attitudes to Jhana, to Noble Path, to Buddhism, and to life in general.

In light of the above, it should be easy to understand that, since Jhana involves setting the goal and working towards the goal (a state of perfect suchness that comes from the absence of all conflict), it necessarily involves implicit conflict which by its very nature is Dukkha. However, this Dukkha should not be abandoned altogether by abandoning the entire practice and indeed the entire Path. The Buddha warned against this very clearly, and insisted on gradual/incremental approximation. So a practitioner cultivating correct incremental Jhana will not switch from Dukkha to no-Dukkha in one step, but rather will experience a step by step reduction and removal of coarse Dukkha, with more and more subtle Dukkha becoming noticeable as the practice develops.

The final result (Unbinding) by definition involves no Dukkha. As said above, having no Dukkha requires having no basis for Dukkha. The basis for Dukkha is internalized, self-identified, stubborn, attached, tainted comparison. The basis for such comparison is conceptual directionality of the kind: "the current state is not good enough, there is a better state". The basis for conceptual directionality is attachment, and, ultimately, the limited mind of duality.

From this it should be clear that Jhana as practice based on duality of "current state vs. better state" cannot possibly be conflictless. Only the culmination of Jhana, which is attainment of the non-dual mind, is free of conflict and suffering.

There is no reason why post-attainment, arahant cannot engage in the practice of meditation, both to groom the local mind, as well as to set an example for others. To an extent that this post-attainment Jhana is defined dualistically (that is, in terms of "seeking/maintaining a better state"), it may still be a source of Dukkha. In an ideal case when the post-attainment Jhana is not defined dualistically -- meaning, the goal of Jhana is not defined as anything other than this -- it will be pure tathata with no Dukkha whatsoever.

  • Hi Andrei! Thanks again for this wonderful explanation. In the last part, did you meant "dukkha" instead of "Jhana"?: "To an extent that this post-attainment Jhana is defined dualistically, it may still be a source of Jhana." Kind regards! – Brian Díaz Flores Jul 9 at 20:36
  • Yup, fixed that - thanks! – Andrei Volkov Jul 9 at 21:03
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The word "dukkha" has three meanings in context:

  1. Unpleasant/painful feelings (dukkha vedana), which Arahants have.

  2. Unsatisfactoriness of impermanent conditioned things, which Arahants must experience for dispassionate enlightenment.

  3. Suffering of attachment (1st noble truth), which Arahants do not have or experience.

Jhana is certainly something "conditioned" & something "unsatisfactory" but jhana is only "suffering" if attached to.

Note: The Western translators (Bodhi, Thanissaro, Sujato, Anandajoti, etc) all translate "dukkha" incorrectly in relation to impermanence. Refer to the Mendis translation of SN 22.59, the Buddharakkhita translation of the Maggavagga or Buddhadasa's Anapanasati for the proper translation in this 2nd context.

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Householder Brian Díaz Flores, interested,

- Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammā-sambuddhassa -

Yes, Jhana is something fabricated. Jhana, for itself can even lead to long time suffering, long time being cut off from attaining patgs and fruits, liberation, especially Jhana based on householder-equanimity, headed toward asanna-existance. Therefore Jhana practiced for liberation has to be practiced with yoniso manasikara, attention of what gives birth, reflecting/observing the four Noble truth, and this makes the Noble practice of Jhana different to the wrong concentration, wrong use of Jhana, of other sects. What ever in the sphere of the world is suffering, direct or indirect (as for Jhana).

As for the question whether Jhana is considered as dukkha before or after awakening. Before and after dwelling in Jhana is lifelihood, good lifelihood, for the mind, since it would not harm others, is no fault, not related direct to sense pleasure.

Before awakening, is used for the right purpose, to maintain an existance simply to cross the world, it can not be considered as headed toward suffering, yet letting go to archive it may cause suffering for lesser.

After awakening Jhana, heedful practiced, meaning with reflection, if as well promoted as "the right, pleasant dwelling", also for Arahats. This pleasure, subtile, no more related to world attained, nourished by what is given exclusively, does no more cause any dukkha for others, and since an Arahat does no more take on it as his, no more take pleasure for real and a refuge, it also causes no more suffering for him, neither present nor later.

Worthy to note is that the end oft the world can not be reached without traveling in this sphere, without having reached Jhana, right concentration, once.

*A possible extended and revised answer as well as given space for giving deeper into it and discussion can be found here: [Q&A] Is Jhana considered dukkha and/or conditioned?

(Note that this gift of Dhamma is not dedicated for trade, exchange, stacks or entertainment but as a means to make merits toward release from this wheel)

  • Thank you for your kindness and knowledge. I really appreciate this and all of your answers in general. I have a question: is the bliss felt in jhana considered as pleasent vedana? In which sense is different from other wordly pleasent feelings? Kind regards, dear samana. – Brian Díaz Flores Jul 8 at 3:43
  • " is the bliss felt in jhana considered as pleasent vedana?" Yes, householder @BrianDíazFlores . Best explained in Bahuvedaniya Sutta: Many Things to be Experienced, feelings toward the most refined to experience. 'It's not the case, friends, that the Blessed One describes only pleasant feeling as included under pleasure. Wherever pleasure is found, in whatever terms, the Blessed One describes it as pleasure.' – Samana Johann Jul 8 at 4:53
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Well there is the jhana as "in the Noble One's discipline called 'abidings in ease here and now.'" which is the abiding in the present moment, and it is a meritorious activity which generates good karma, [whereas some puthujjanas call ''the present moment'' what would be alterness here https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn47/sn47.035.than.html ] and there is the jhanas as right samadhi, which is ''jhana when there is sati", ie ''practicing for effacement'', ie the end of karma, ie

He regards whatever phenomena there that are connected with form, feeling, perception, fabrications, & consciousness, as inconstant, stressful, a disease, a cancer, an arrow, painful, an affliction, alien, a disintegration, an emptiness, not-self. At the break-up of the body, after death, he reappears in conjunction with the Devas of the Pure Abodes. This rebirth is not in common with run-of-the-mill people. https://www.dhammatalks.org/suttas/AN/AN4_126.html

Sati is forcing to view whatever phenomena properly, contrary to any world view invented by puthujjanas, ie any stuff linked to ''form, feeling, perception, fabrications, & consciousness'' directly as annicca, dukkha, anatta with lots of nekkhamma, contentment, non-ill will and so on . This is why any practice with Sati in it is the direct and fastest way to reach nibanna [Puthujjanas who invented Dzogchen will never understand that].

This sutta is for the famous metta, karuna, mudita, Upekkha and you have the exact same thing for the 4 jhanas and before that Sati applied to vitakka, sanna and vedanna is called satisampajanna or satipatthana, so it goes like this,

he dwells observing vedanā in vedanā, ātāpī sampajāno, satimā, having given up abhijjhā·domanassa towards the world;

Sati can be applied to the 4 Brahmaviharas like in the sutta above, just like it can be applied to the jhanas. The only difference between those 3 things is that satisapamjanna leads to the right samadhi, because it cleanses vitakka, then sanna and vedanna (when the citta is in samadhi, sanna and vedanna are good, meritorious, pleasant), and right samadhi or sati applied to the 4 Brahmaviharas lead to at least non-returner.

So today puthujjanas already confuse alterness with the abiding in the here and now, whereas, as usual with the dhamma, there is not much merit associated to the senses, then they struggle to ''do good karma'' by reaching the jhanas, ie the present moment, and since puthujjanas hate, by lack of faith, sati, because sati is the opposite of whatever puthujjanas believe, they fail to stop being puthujjanas.

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There 121 mind states as per long classification and 89 as per short classification.

Lokuttara Cittas does not fall into Dukkha but all have a Jhanic state associated. But they only occur at the point of realising.

So any Jhana before realisation is Dukkha, but not at the moment of realising.

  • What about after attaining, which was part of the answer, Upasaka Sirinath? The Jhana of a Sekha, the Jhana of Asekha? – Samana Johann Jul 8 at 6:10
  • It seems to be even worse after editing, now actually meaning that existence in rupa/arupa-realms is free of dukkha: i.e. within Samsara. Maybe another reformulation needs to be found or the statement. "Lokuttara Citta" is not dukkha is actually not right, not right to that extent that Sukha is also dukkha because not lasting and even called an arrow. Right, wrong, Upasaka? Jhana is not the aim of this ariya-magga. – Samana Johann Jul 8 at 8:43
  • Samana Johann. Please stop aggressively criticizing every user post on this site. We all have opinions about Buddha-Dharma but it does not mean each user should go to other users' answers and criticize them. What if Suminda goes to your and my answers? What if I go to your and Suminda answers? This is a Q&A site, which means, someone asks question - you answer. Your opinion is limited to your territory, which is your answer. Please don't go to other people's land with your comments. – Andrei Volkov Jul 9 at 20:04
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This is too intelectual. Try experiencing first jhana. Consistent and gradual practice of metta will lead you to that exerience.

"There was the case where Sariputta — quite secluded from sensuality, secluded from unskillful qualities — entered & remained in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born of seclusion, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. Whatever qualities there are in the first jhana — directed thought, evaluation, rapture, pleasure, singleness of mind, contact, feeling, perception, intention, consciousness,[2] desire, decision, persistence, mindfulness, equanimity, & attention — he ferreted them out one after another. Known to him they arose, known to him they remained, known to him they subsided. He discerned, 'So this is how these qualities, not having been, come into play. Having been, they vanish.' He remained unattracted & unrepelled with regard to those qualities, independent, detached, released, dissociated, with an awareness rid of barriers. He discerned that 'There is a further escape,' and pursuing it there really was for him. -- Anupada Sutta: One After Another

There is so much less dukkha and conditioning in first jhana. It can be the cause of repeted births if you cling to that state of concentration. That's my understanding.

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Consider Jhana to be a training period for Nibbana. In the state of Jhana, you practice to fight back temporary changing worldly desires that had earlier preoccupied your mind and senses completely and were dragging you here and there like a slave. When you practice Jhana and advance in it, you will begin to empty your mind and become more mindful of your mind and body. Once, this mindfulness becomes permanent, you identify real self, that is Nibbana. You cant escape this reality because you were never this reality i.e. body and mind, its all temporary, thats why Buddha even after enlightenment preached for so many years instead of disappearing from world.

  • Nibbana is not a REAL self in Buddhism. Sabbe dhamma anatta means all phenomena is not self. – ruben2020 Jul 9 at 14:32
  • @ruben2020 Nibbana is not real self, there is no self, its extinguished fire of individual self. Fire is light, the individuality, the soul and desires latched to it causes reincarnation. When you are talking with me, there is an energy, a fire burning within body. Science call its metabolism, but in spiritual words, its Karma/desires attached from soul to mind to body. Hence, when there is no Karma, no desires, no body, no mind, no fire, no soul will exist. – Manu Kumar Jul 9 at 16:11

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