Some background: I was born into a Buddhist family. I've always been intellectually interested in spiritual things like meditation and yoga, but I never really took it seriously until my early 20s, where I started a daily meditation practice.

One day I decided to go for a Vipassana retreat where I accidentally/unintentionally attained first jhana. The experience was very transformative & made me want to learn more and go through all the jhanas. I am aware of the warnings about being attached to jhana.

Since then I haven't been able to get jhana in my daily life, understandably; too short sits, too many distractions

There's a part of me that really wants to become a monk or at least go for a longer retreat so I can reach the next jhana. The reason is that I really just want to figure out & experience for myself what is the next step. It's like reading a book for the first chapter, and then having the book taken away from you. You naturally want to find out what happens in chapter 2, 3, 4 and so on. My parents unsurprisingly don't want me to do this

There's also a part of me that thinks: it's your karma to be a householder, forget the jhana, just be a good person & practice the precepts best you can. Abandon the thought of monkhood & solitary practice.

Any advice? I'm asking on SE because I feel like some of you guys would have had similar experiences

  • It's understandable to seek higher jhanas but be careful. Sometimes you attain them when you are least expecting them.
    – pmagunia
    Jan 9, 2022 at 1:28

4 Answers 4


Great question. Long ago, the Buddha taught Venerable Mahācunda this about jhana:

MN8:4.1: It’s possible that a certain mendicant, quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unskillful qualities, might enter and remain in the first absorption, which has the rapture and bliss born of seclusion, while placing the mind and keeping it connected.
MN8:4.2: They might think
MN8:4.3: they’re practicing self-effacement.
MN8:4.4: But in the training of the Noble One these are not called ‘self-effacement’;
MN8:4.5: they’re called ‘blissful meditations in the present life’.

Living a decent life is difficult and worthy. In fact, it is a prerequisite for right immersion. That is the heart of the teaching in MN8. Become a decent person in every moment and immersion will seep into your life.

Living a decent life requires a certain distance from sensual pleasures and a certain distance from unskillful qualities. With a decent life firmly established, right immersion can flow into our lives.

The Buddha defines decency in MN8. He defines it quite clearly. For example:

MN8:12.10: ‘Others will be covetous, but here we will not be covetous.’

So if one covets another's possessions or experiences, then that should be considered...indecent.

Or if one thinks too much of one's skill in whatever, then our guide to decency is:

MN8:12.34: ‘Others will be arrogant, but here we will not be arrogant.’

MN8 is quite useful and is full of additional guidance. May all your immersions be right and peaceful!


If you're really that interested about jhanas, I recommend reading the visudimagga. It gives so many details and instructions on how to attain jhana using many meditation methods. https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/nanamoli/PathofPurification2011.pdf I also recommend reading this book. http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/know-see.pdf

it's your karma to be a householder, forget the jhana, just be a good person & practice the precepts best you can. Abandon the thought of monkhood & solitary practice.

There were many princes who renunciated the world and became a monk during the Buddha's time. They didn't give up just because it's their karma to be a prince. If you are really serious about attaining jhana and nibanna, you should renunciate the world and become a monk. It's not easy to practice for jhana as householder.

A householder hears that teaching, or a householder’s child, or someone reborn in some clan.They gain faith in the Realized One, and reflect: ‘Living in a house is cramped and dirty, but the life of one gone forth is wide open. It’s not easy for someone living at home to lead the spiritual life utterly full and pure, like a polished shell. Why don’t I shave off my hair and beard, dress in ocher robes, and go forth from the lay life to homelessness?’ After some time they give up a large or small fortune, and a large or small family circle. They shave off hair and beard, dress in ocher robes, and go forth from the lay life to homelessness. (DN 2) https://suttacentral.net/dn2/en/sujato?layout=sidebyside&reference=none&notes=asterisk&highlight=undefined&script=latin

They also ordained as monks because they want to end suffering.

“Here, bhikkhus, some clansman goes forth out of faith from the home life into homelessness, considering: ‘I am a victim of birth, ageing, and death, of sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair; I am a victim of suffering, a prey to suffering. Surely an ending of this whole mass of suffering can be known.’ (MN 29)

During the Buddha's time, parents often tell their child to just be a lay person and make merit.

“Dear Raṭṭhapāla, this is your maternal fortune. There’s another paternal fortune, and an ancestral one. You can both enjoy your wealth and make merit. Come, return to a lesser life, enjoy wealth, and make merit!” (MN 82)

I recommend reading MN 82. Reasons for ordaining are mentioned there.

Making merit is always good. The Buddha always praised making merit. However you can't be free from samsara by just making merit alone. You have to realize the four noble truth with direct knowledge and become an arahant to be free from samsara and attain nibanna. Bhikkhs make the most merit because of patimokkha(227 vinaya rules) observance, restraint of sense faculties, of purification of livelihood, and that concerning requisites. Futhermore, they can give the gift of dhamma which is considered the best gift.

At the end of the day, it is your choice to ordain. You should think about it carefully. I recommend reading suttas that praises renunciation and talks about the dangers of sensual pleasures. I also recommend going on more retreats to be really sure if monkhood is what you want.


You don't have to become a monk in order to have a deep meditation practice. Is it easier if you ordain? Of course. But countless people have woken up while living a householder's life. If you really want to read the next chapter, do it. Nothing is stopping you other than your own ambivalence and mistaken notion that these states are unavailable to you in lay life.

If I were to offer some concrete advice:

  • Sit everyday for at least an hour. Preferably longer and, if you can swing it, do it at least twice a day. I personally sit about an hour and half in the morning and an hour in the evening. I've found this to be the sweet spot - not too much where it greatly impacts my lay responsibilities but not so little where progress is cut off.
  • Join a meditation group or local sangha. Sitting with others is one of the easiest and available ways to enhance your practice that I know of. It makes you accountable and there's just something about being around others that makes your own sits deeper.
  • Go on weeklong retreats as often as you can. In my Zen sangha, we generally do four a year...one per season. These are your money maker and remain the single best way to deepen your training. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that these are your training. What happens outside of a retreat is really just practice for the show. And hey, do four a year and you are a 1/12 monk!

Dukkha (seeing, knowing it, as well knowing a path) is cause of Saddha (surrender world toward liberation), Saddha causes joy, joy cause satisfaction, satisfaction cause stillness, stillness causes heal, heal causes concentration... vimutti, knowledge of release.

So here you are, good householder, now it's all about seeing Dukkha or not, to leave or stay.

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