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I have read about the states of Jhana through Focused Attention Meditation by focusing on breath in Ajahn Brahm's book Mindfulness, Bliss and Beyond. But I find it extremely difficult to focus my attention on my breath.

Instead, I practice Open Monitoring Meditation (OMM) which I understand as mindfulness of the present moment, being aware of all the sense faculties and not reacting to them or getting carried away by thoughts. What I find most useful is to be aware of the activity in my skull or my brain. If I focus on this activity it seems to diminish. I have gotten this method by myself.

My question is, will the OMM lead to the states of Jhana? and What will be the first stage towards it?

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  • Sounds more like Vipassana.
    – Lowbrow
    Nov 27 at 16:02

3 Answers 3

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I think the answer to your question is perhaps. As you mentioned the OMM method is fundamentally watching/observing subjective phenomena without reacting or getting involved with, i.e., being aware of the present moment. Therefore, thoughts and certain emotions can be considered distraction from concentrated effort. but also the OMM method alludes to the idea of knowing vs. doing. the act of ‘doing’ implies getting involved with (chasing after), while the act of ‘knowing’ indicates observing passively.
I was able to dig up a useful guide posted on BSE a while back that talks about how to obtain jhana. The guide states quite clearly that ‘being aware of the present moment’ is very important for getting jhana. It also makes the point that one cannot will themselves into the jhana state, but instead must ‘let go’. This also implies that there is a knowing-doing axis.
One thing the article mentions is the importance of mindfulness of breath. basically, one cannot get jhana without that kind of skill. You mention that you have difficulty with mindfulness of breath; as do I. It might be common amongst people who are very cerebral. Sometimes I get very tense focusing on the breath, especially the outflow. This interrupts the tranquility of the mind and body along with one’s concentration. You will have to do breathing exercises and also be more mindful of breath outside of meditation. Think of it as a skill that needs to be developed.

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No, and for a couple of reasons. Specifically, jhana requires one pointedness (ekagatta). Open monitoring as you describe is diffuse and has no real persistent object for the mind to settle on. There is a state - the Pali name escapes me now - which is categorized by mindfulness of the mental stream. This practice doesn't lead to conventional jhana, but upon the achievement of stream entry dependent on insight manifests as supramundane 1st jhana as a path and fruition factor. Basically, the mind gravitates toward jhana upon the realization of the supramundane path even if the practices leading to it didn't include mundane jhana. Think of it as a kind of default consciousness that arises when wisdom (prajna) matures.

This is all described in the Abhidhamma Dhammasagani if you're interested in being bored with minutia. Or not. Some of it is helpful, but it's slow going at best.

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    The prevailing narrative about jhana is that one must be sat quietly on a cushion and perhaps for some people that is workable. But for other people the open monitoring - as in the case of some Satipatthanas - if done wisely, can relinquish the mind of the type of sensory experience that hinders jhana. Therefore, while doing some Satipatthanas, jhana can readily and spontaneously arise in everyday life while doing everyday things.
    – Max
    Nov 24 at 12:15
  • That's just not accurate. Jhana needs five factors - applied and sustained thought, joy, happiness, and one pointedness. It's plausible for someone to attain neighboring, temporary, or showering jhana as those are not full absorption and do not require one pointedness. But for full absorption to establish all five factors must be mature and present.
    – user21874
    Nov 24 at 13:27
  • What you're describing is the suppression of the five hindrances. While this is necessary for jhana, it's not sufficient. The jhana factors must also b3 developed.
    – user21874
    Nov 24 at 13:34
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    A real Zen Priest? I'm honoured to meet you! Please allow me to close this dialogue peacefully with one of my Zen quotes: The Heron Called Dogen: The heron stands tall, firm and erect, proud to claim the visual vastness of the farmer’s land, its abundant fruits, and its majesty of gently rustling crops breaking the silent theme of the countryside. Not looking back once, it flies away unattached, leaving not a single plough in the sky.
    – Max
    Nov 24 at 16:58
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    Reminds me of Hyakujo's wild duck! 😊
    – user21874
    Nov 24 at 17:29
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"My question is, will the OMM lead to the states of Jhana?"

Yes, of course, absolutely you can use your technique to move into the first jhana.Use OMM to calm your body and mind down somewhat: to release you from whatever activities or trains of thought you were pursuing. 

Then, as the Buddha frequently said, "Go, Do Jhana."

"and What will be the first stage towards it?"

The first stage towards it will be doing the "directed thought and evaluation" of the first jhana. Thinking instead of trying to not think. First you try and calm and center yourself with OMM, then you do the first jhana.

Ajaan Geoff's latest contribution to mankind is "Undaunted." You might find it useful in your journey. Good luck!

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