I've been studying Visuddhimarga and facing this doubt. In 3.1 (Kammaþþhána-gahaóa-niddesa), regarding how many types of concentration there are, I can get the concepts of distration/non-distraction, bissful/non-blissful, with equanimity/not, etc. However, I don't get what is meant exactly by the terms access and absorption:
(1) First of all it is of one kind with the characteristic of non-distraction. (2) Then it is of two kinds as access and absorption; (3) likewise as mundane and supramundane (4) as with happiness and without happiness,
The author gives the following explanation at the bottom of the page, but I'm finding it difficult to understand. I can hazard a guess that absorption here means our thoughts gradually absorb (attain the state of) the object of our concentration, but what is meant by access?:
- “Applied thought that occurs as though absorbing (appento) associated states in the object is absorption (appaná). Accordingly it is described as ‘absorption, absorbing (appaná vyappaná)’ (M III 73). Now since that is the most important, the usage of the Commentaries is to call all exalted and unsurpassed jhána states ‘absorption’ [as well as the applied thought itself], and likewise to apply the term of common usage ‘access’ to the limited [i.e. sense-sphere] jhána that heralds the arising of the former, just as the term ‘village access,’ etc. is applied to the neighbourhood of a village” (Vism-mhþ 91).