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Could you describe to me what all the Jhanas mean in everyday language because I couldnt understand it by reading the sutras. I couldn't understand what they meant by reading the sutras describing them like neither perception nor non perception and nothingness and I didnt understand the others either so could you tell me the meaning of all the Jhanas so I can understand what they actually mean.

Also in Buddhism conciousnesss arises dependently so how is it possible for there to infinite conciousness when conciousness arises dependently.

Thanks

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I recommend this book: Ajahn Brahm: The Jhanas; where a description of each form jhana & each formless sphere should be summarised, somewhere. Ajahn Brahm's description of vitakka & vicara as the "Jhana Wobble" is very helpful for discerning the difference between true jhana and the fake jhana often declared on Buddhist chatsites by shameless egotists.

In the sphere of infinite consciousness, the mind perceives infinite consciousness as the salient/ primary experience of the meditation. Also, the physical body continues to exist, even though the physical body is not experienced. Therefore, in the sphere of infinite consciousness, the other aggregates, such as perception, feeling & physicality (plus the subtle intention to remain in that meditation experience), continue to exist & dependently support consciousness.

Related to this, MN 43 describes the 9th stage called "cessation of perception & feeling". Here, consciousness ceases to operate because there is no perception, no feeling or any other sense object to support the maintenance of consciousness. However, note, the life force of the physical body continues to remain alive.

In the suttas, each jhana & sphere is described with the salient/primary experiences of that jhana & sphere; even though other phenomena may be experienced or may be functioning. MN 111 is a sutta offering a more detailed description of each jhana & sphere.



Reply to comments:

Each consecutive jhana & sphere represents a refining of the mind and the objects in the mind.

The feelings of rapture, happiness & equanimity of the four jhanas are based on bodily feelings arising in the physical body that has been profoundly relaxed & purified (even though the body itself, including the subtle breathing, is not experienced in jhana). This is probably why the four jhanas are called "rupa (form, material) jhana".

In the arupa spheres, only mental feelings & mental phenomena are experienced. However, as said, each arupa jhana is a refinement of the salient object perceived/experienced. Thus, in the sphere of infinite consciousness, the mind perceives or classifies that experience as 'infinite consciousness'. But as the mind continues to refine, that PERCEPTION "INFINITE CONSCIOUSNESS" ceases. Since there is no salient object left to PERCEIVE, the mind perceives "there is nothing". Then when this PERCEPTION "there is nothing" also ceases, the perceptual framework of the mind starts to breakdown before entirely ceasing. This breaking down of perception, where something akin to perception is occurring & non-occurring is the sphere of neither-perception nor non-perception.

What is important to understand here is perception & its dependent objects are refining, becoming more & more subtle, until there are no more objects to perceive. When there are no objects to perceive, perception & consciousness must cease (even though the physical body remains alive, as described in MN 43).



From Ajahn Brahm:

THE MIND-BASE OF UN-LIMITED CONSCIOUSNESS

Within the perception of unlimited space lies the perception of no-space, of space losing its meaning. When the mind attends to this feature within the First Immaterial Attainment, space disappears and is replaced by perception of absolute one-pointedness of consciousness. As indicated above by the common experience of one-pointedness of time, in the state that perceives one-pointedness of consciousness, consciousness simultaneously feels infinite and empty, immeasurable and undefined. One has entered the second Immaterial Attainment of the mind-base of unlimited consciousness. This is the perception that fills the mind completely and persists without wavering for even longer periods of time.

  THE MIND-BASE OF NOTHINGNESS

Within the perception of unlimited consciousness lies the perception of no-consciousness, of consciousness now losing it meaning as well. When the mind focuses on this feature within the Second Immaterial Attainment, all perception of consciousness disappears. Perceptions of material form and space have already disappeared, and so all that one is left with is the one-pointedness of nothingness. One has entered the Third Immaterial Attainment of the mind-base of nothingness. This is the concept that fills the mind totally, persisting unchanging for yet longer periods of time.

  THE MIND-BASE OF NEITHER PERCEPTION NOR NON-PERCEPTION

Within the perception of nothingness lies the perception of not even nothing! If the mind is subtle enough to see this feature" then the perception of nothingness disappears and is replaced by the perception of neither perception nor no perception. All that one can say about this Fourth Immaterial Attainment is that it is, in fact, a perception (AN 9's, 42). In the simile of the thousand petalled lotus, this state is represented by the 1,000th layer of petals, still dosed, with all the 999 other layers of petals fully open. The l000th petal is almost a non-petal, being the most subtle and sublime of all. For it clasps within its gossamer fabric the famous "Jewel in the heart of the lotus," Nibbana.

Note: Ajahn Brahm's idea about Nibbana often appear questionable.

  • Thank you Dhammadhatu that was exactly the answer I wanted from my infinite conciousness question and I would be happy if I could get an answer about nothingness,netiher perception nor non perception and infinite space – Buddhism1 Jul 24 at 4:38
  • Also I will start reading the book you mentioned in the meantime – Buddhism1 Jul 24 at 4:39
  • Hi DD! Do you know what is "cognized" in the state of infinite consciousness? This consciousness is consciousness of what, exactly? Kind regards! – Brian Díaz Flores Jul 24 at 4:53
  • How do I know? It is written in the suttas. What is "cognised" is "infinite consciousness". It is consciousness of consciousness. Regards – Dhammadhatu Jul 24 at 4:58
  • Thanks! I didn't ask how you know that, by the way. I'm just curious about the seemingly contradictory idea of being conscious about consciousness. Wouldn't that imply that one can also be conscious of being conscious of consciousness, and like that ad-infinitum? Kind regards! – Brian Díaz Flores Jul 24 at 5:13
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Jhana:

  • Rupa

    1. You initially bring your mind to an object and sustainably kept your mind on it by checking and steading your mind on it.
    2. After a while, your mind stays on the object without having to mentally trying to keep the mind focused on the object.
    3. When in 2 you feel gushingly pleasant currents in one's body. One with intention tries to stop it. When it subsides you are in the 3rd Jhana.
    4. There will be subtle perturbations in one's body. With intention when one stops this one is in the 4th Jhana.

Also, the following extract describes the Jhana:

Rupa Jhanas

  1. "There is the case where a monk -- quite secluded from sense desires, secluded from unwholesome states of mind -- enters and remains in the first Jhana which is with initial and sustained thinking and is filled with rapture and happiness born of seclusion. He drenches, steeps, saturates, and suffuses his body with this rapture and happiness so that there is no part of his entire body not suffused with rapture and happiness.

"Just as if a skilled bath attendent or his apprentice would pour soap powder into a metal basin and knead it together, sprinkling it again and again with water, so that the ball of soap powder would be filled with mostiure, encompassed by mostiure, pervaded by mosture inside and out, yet would not drip; even so, the monk drenches, steeps, saturates, and suffuses his body with the rapture and happiness born of seclusion so that there is no part of his entire body not suffused with rapture and happiness.

  1. "Further, with the stilling of initial and sustained thinking, by gaining inner tranquillity and unification of mind, he enters and remains in the second Jhana which is free from initial and sustained thinking and is filled with rapture and happiness born of concentration. He drenches, steeps, saturates, and suffuses his body with this rapture and happiness so that there is no part of his entire body not suffused with rapture and happiness.

"Just like a lake with spring-water welling up from below, having no inflow from east, west, north, or south, and with the skies [not?] periodically supplying it with rain, so that the cool spring-water welling up from below would permeate and pervade, suffuse and fill that lake with cool water, there being no part of the lake not suffused with cool water; even so, the monk drenches, steeps, saturates, and suffuses his body with the rapture and happiness born of concentration so that there is no part of his entire body not suffused with rapture and happiness.

  1. "Further, with the fading away of rapture, remaining imperturbable, mindful, and clearly aware, he enters the third jhana and experiences within himself the joy of which the Noble Ones declare, "Happy is he who dwells with equanimity and mindfulness." He drenches, steeps, saturates, and suffuses his body with this happiness free from rapture so that there is no part of his entire body not suffused with happiness.

"Just as in a blue-, white-, or red-lotus pond, there may be some of the lotuses which, born and growing in the water, stay immersed in the water and flourish without standing up out of the water, so that they are permeated and pervaded, suffused and filled with cool water from their roots to their tips so that no part of those lotuses is not suffused with cool water; even so, the monk drenches, steeps, saturates, and suffuses his body with this happiness free from rapture so that there is no part of his entire body not suffused with happiness.

  1. "Further, with the abandoning of pleasure and pain -- as with the earlier disappearance of joy and sorrow -- he enters and remains in the fourth Jhana which is beyond pleasure and pain; and purified by equanimity and mindfulness. He sits, suffusing his body with a pure, bright awareness, so that there is nothing of his entire body not suffused by pure, bright awareness.

"Just as if a man were sitting wrapped from head to foot with a white cloth so that there would be no part of his body to which the white cloth did not extend; even so, the monk sits, suffusing his body with a pure, bright awareness so that there is no part of his entire body not suffused by pure, bright awareness."

Anguttara Nikaya 5.28

Arupa Jhanas

  1. "With the complete transcending of bodily sensations, with the disappearance of all sense of resistance, and not heeding perceptions of diversity, thinking, 'space is infinite,' one enters and remains in the Sphere of Infinite Space.

  2. "With the complete transcending of the Sphere of Infinite Space, thinking, 'consciousness is infinite,' one enters and remains in the Sphere of Infinite Consciousness.

  3. "With the complete transcending of the Sphere of Infinite Consciousness, thinking, 'There is no-thing,' one enters and remains in the Sphere of No-thingness.

  4. "With the complete transcending of the Sphere of No-thingness, one enters and remains in the Sphere of Neither Perception nor Non-perception."

Digha Nikaya 15

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Not technically Jhana, but Upacāra-samādhi (aka access, threshold, neighborhood, or proximate concentration) is considered near or pre- Jhana. The attention stays noticeably more focused on the object without having to force it. Stray thoughts may still occur but are much less intrusive. It becomes pleasurable rather than feeling like "work" to meditate. Some people begin to feel energetic bodily sensations like tingling, flushing etc, and there may be a change in visual field such as some glowing or light appearing.

  • Jhana 1 still purposefully placing and keeping the mind on the object, dominated by sustained pervasive happy feeling, with contentment in the background
  • Jhana 2 mind/attention stays with object of its own accord without being distracted, happiness and contentment are more balanced with a pervading sense of tranquility
  • Jhana 3 energetic happiness fades leaving just mainly a sense of contentment- but not in a dull sleepy way- one is still mindful and quite clearly aware
  • Jhana 4 Primarily abiding in Pure awareness in which joy and sorrow do not arise, any pain or pleasurable sensation that occur are not felt as affecting oneself. One is still quite mindful

The following often expeditiously referred to as Jhana 4-8 but not technically accurate.

  • Sphere of Infinite Space- bodily sensations are transcended- there is only a sense of the consciousness/awareness being located within or moving through infinite space
  • Sphere of Infinite Consciousness- sensing consciousness pervade the infinite space one previously sensed
  • Sphere of No-Thingness- ?
  • Sphere of neither perception nor non-perception- ?
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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 and achieve mastery over the mind. 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.

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Note, formless attainments (where awareness of the body totally disappears) are not attributes of the four jhanas.

In ordinary terms, relatable to ordinary experience:

You relax deeply and thoroughly the mind and body. The body is close to a sleep state, as if you wanted to move any body part, it has a delayed response. The mind is relaxed, but is alert, not sleepy. That's the hard part for people to learn. They usually only know 2 extremes, dull/sleepy or overhyped, jumping around like a wild monkey from random thought to the next.

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