An Astronaut & Jhana

Imagine an astronaut up in space, orbiting around the earth. He has never been up there before and this is his first time experiencing the wonders of our solar system directly. He goes to the window of his cabin and gazes out at our amazing planet. What is his experience in that moment? Is it filled with discursive thought? Of course not, the thoughts, “Wow everything any human is experiencing right now is on that little blue ball,” and “My problems don’t even really matter,” and “We all really are insignificant in the face of the entire cosmos,” all are wrapped up and built into the experience itself, the feeling itself. All of those “insights” occur right in that moment, right in that feeling of awe. So I’m sure you see where I’m going with this. Is discursive thought really necessary for insight into the true nature of things to occur? Is it necessary for that mind changing experience of awe? Even if the momentous nature of those insights doesn’t fully hit the astronaut until he has “come down” from that state of pure awe, the insights themselves takes place within it. Maybe my analogy is flawed. It’s just something I thought of recently.


This is no difference to that you go to a new country for a holiday for the first time.
At that state you are experiencing the present moment. (not the past not the future)

Insight, according to EBTs occurs in the following manner, IMO:

“The individual who has attained internal tranquillity of awareness, but not insight into phenomena through heightened discernment, should approach an individual who has attained insight into phenomena through heightened discernment and ask him: ‘How should fabrications be regarded? How should they be investigated? How should they be seen with insight?’ The other will answer in line with what he has seen & experienced: ‘Fabrications should be regarded in this way. Fabrications should be investigated in this way. Fabrications should be seen in this way with insight.’ Then eventually he [the first] will become one who has attained both internal tranquillity of awareness & insight into phenomena through heightened discernment. AN4.94

How should fabrications be known?:
(kathaṃ nu kho, āvuso, saṅkhārā daṭṭhabbā?)

"And what is form? The four great existents [the earth property, the liquid property, the fire property, & the wind property] and the form derived from them: this is called form… SN22.57

How should fabrications be investigated?: (Kathaṃ saṅkhārā sammasitabbā?)

From the origination of nutriment comes the origination of form. From the cessation of nutriment comes the cessation of form. And just this noble eightfold path is the path of practice leading to the cessation of form, i.e., right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration. The fact that pleasure & happiness arises in dependence on form: that is the allure of form. The fact that form is inconstant, stressful, subject to change: that is the drawback of form. The subduing of desire & passion for form, the abandoning of desire & passion for form: that is the escape from form… SN22.57

"Whatever form is past, future, or present; internal or external; blatant or subtle; common or sublime; far or near: that is called the aggregate of form. SN22.48

How should fabrications be seen in this way with insight?: (Kathaṃ saṅkhārā vipassitabbā’ti)

The basic technique of mindfulness is to be mindful of the 5 aggregates arising and passing away. This to emphasise that the 5 aggregates are not just concepts but units of experience which can be experienced separately (but conjoined, causally) when focusing on the process of perception. This requires good samadhi to break down the (for example) the eye and visual object giving rise to eye-consciousness (and so on).

(3) “And what is the development of concentration that leads to
mindfulness and clear comprehension? Here, a bhikkhu knows feelings as
they arise, as they remain present, as they disappear; he knows
perceptions as they arise, as they remain present, as they disappear; he
knows thoughts as they arise, as they remain present, as they
disappear. This is the development of concentration that leads to mindfulness and clear comprehension. AN4.41 Samadhi sutta

The insight generated this way is impermanence- which is in turn taken as the further object of mindfulness (I would consider that vipassana properly starts here).

At Savatthi. “For a monk practicing the Dhamma in accordance with the Dhamma, what accords with the Dhamma is this: that he keep focused on impermanence with regard to form, that he keep focused on impermanence with regard to feeling, that he keep focused on impermanence with regard to perception, that he keep focused on impermanence with regard to fabrications, that he keep focused on impermanence with regard to consciousness. As he keeps focusing on impermanence with regard to form… feeling… perception… fabrications… consciousness, he comprehends form… feeling… perception… fabrications… consciousness. As he comprehends form… feeling… perception… fabrications… consciousness, he is totally released from form… feeling… perception… fabrications… consciousness. He is totally released from sorrows, lamentations, pains, distresses, & despairs. He is totally released, I tell you, from suffering & stress.” SN22.40

With metta

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Another sutta that is one of my favorites is MN27, especially the part where it says:

“When his concentrated mind is thus purified, bright, unblemished, rid of imperfection, malleable, wieldy, steady, and attained to imperturbability, he directs it to knowledge of the destruction of the taints. He understands as it actually is: ‘This is suffering’;…‘This is the origin of suffering’;…‘This is the cessation of suffering’;…‘This is the way leading to the cessation of suffering’;…‘These are the taints’;…‘This is the origin of the taints’;…‘This is the cessation of the taints’;…‘This is the way leading to the cessation of the taints.’

And then also MN106. Which talks more about attaining that “imperturbability,” and also being “committed to discernment.” I think the question most people have is how do you “direct it to knowledge.” But I think you explained that quite well. I think it’s about observing the aggregates as being empty of self while in that malleable state of mind. A state of mind that allows radical and “permanent” changes to occur over relatively short periods of time. The process is obviously gradual in getting to that place, but once you’re there, you can make big dents in hacking up and uprooting the defilements.

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Correct. I also like this bit:

The Blessed One said: "Develop concentration, monks. A concentrated monk discerns in line with what has come into being. And what does he discern in line with what has come into being? The origination & disappearance of form. The origination & disappearance of feeling… perception… fabrications. The origination & disappearance of consciousness. SN22.5

The origination and disappearance mentioned here isn’t the general arising and passing away. It is how phenomena arise via the DO and cease, as per the DO. These two form the 2nd and 3rd Noble Truths, of the Four Noble Truths. These four are a summary of the insight practice.

@alaber had asked me what an EBT Vipassana would look like. I will write a bit more in detail about this soon.

With metta

EBT Vipassana might look something like this (working on the assumption that Samatha practice on its own won’t naturally proceed to Vipassana as it is distinct in its outcome). AN8.2 Panna sutta gives aids and requisites for insight to arise.

EBT context is clear comprehension of the Five (clinging) aggregates, which is one of the most often repeated teachings. Comprehending the Five aggregates in it’s entirety is what is required for Insight practice to be completed. This is also the end of the Path of practice:

The Blessed One said, "And which are the phenomena to be comprehended? Form is a phenomenon to be comprehended. Feeling … Perception … Fabrications … Consciousness is a phenomenon to be comprehended. These are called phenomena to be comprehended.
“And which is comprehension? Any ending of passion, ending of aversion, ending of delusion. [1] This is called comprehension.” SN22.23

The best place to find the Five aggregates is in the process of perception, where all five arise as the process of perception progresses:

Dependent on the eye & forms there arises consciousness at the eye. The meeting of the three is contact. With contact as a requisite condition there is feeling. With feeling as a requisite condition there is craving. MN148
(contact gives rise to sanna labelling, as well as sankhara, mental fabrications)

The following initial description of insight meditation practice is based on a meditation technique taught by Ven Amathagavesi. I have expanded it a further 90% by exploring my experience to find and identify EBT phenomena within it.

If a practitioner sat down, and brought himself to the present moment, and focused on sounds, sights, sensations, smells etc allowing him to experience each one as it arose, without intentionally directing attention to any one of them (some initial samadhi is a requirement, at least to a degree the Five hindrances wouldn’t be an problem, or ideally a jhanic level), not fixing on any one stimulus, but training the mind to move from one to the next (especially if it is used to one-pointed attention), staying with one stimulus for around a second, but intently focusing deeply on that single sound or sensation for that second, so that it is felt well (this slows down the frequency of changing of the sense bases). Do not let it dwell on one and start thinking thoughts about it (only the ‘seen in the seen, heard in the heard’ Ud1.10). If the attention ‘likes’ to stay with just one stimulus (eg: a sensation) then it must be intentionally withdrawn and another stimulus allowed to take its place.

"Monks, forms are inconstant, changeable, alterable. Sounds… Aromas… Flavors… Tactile sensations… Ideas are inconstant, changeable, alterable. SN25.2

What we are experiencing here is contact (phassa). Contact is a result of the arising of rupa (sound, sight, sensation, smell, taste) and nama (thoughts), from which consciousness arises.

Hope this makes sense. Please feel free to ask any questions. In my next post I will write how to elicit the arising of consciousness (vinnana) itself.

with metta

The key word here is knowledge. The taints are destroyed outside the cushion then the knowledge they have been destroyed happens when crossing the line to arahatship.

When he is able to observe this well, she is asked to observe what happens in between the arising of (for example) a sound and the ceasing of a sensation ie it must be caught on the fly. We focus on how the mind switches from one sense door to another. Here’s the experiential bit- the practitioners senses a movement of the mind, after the first stimulus has ceased and before the next stimulus starts. The movement is in the direction of the sense door, from which the next stimulus is due to arise from.

So my understanding and the flow of phenomenon is as follows:

-Contact – consciousness – contact --consciousness- .

: Contact is phassa, Consciousness is vinnana.

the flow is:
[sound] contact – [vision] consciousness – [vision] contact – [body sensation] consciousness – [body sensation] contact–.

When the meditator is asked to examine further- another element of this phenomenon becomes apparent:

stimulus- mind moves-stimulus is experienced well
[sound] stimulus – mind moves [to the sound door] --[sound] is heard much more clearly

I understand this to be:
sound and the ear door , gives rise to ear-consciousness - and the ‘coming together of the three’ is sound contact.

Hope this makes sense!

with metta

I don’t think so, at least that’s not what the texts say. I mean, of course you can in the normal way of just changing your behavior, but the deepest and most profound changes I’m pretty sure happen on the cushion.

When objects are seen to be permanent, satisfactory, and self, the possibility of clinging and craving for them exist, if only at a subtle level. Hence the importance of insight practice- to remove the deepest traces of ignorance from the internal programming, to make certain all the possible routes in which craving can establish a foothold are eradicated.

Where there is ignorance, craving can take hold. Where there is those two aversion can take hold. Where there is those three more complicated defilements like jealousy, conceit, stubbornness, revenge etc takes hold and we are back to the beginning.

with metta

If the meditator stays with one stimulus (after contact phassa has arisen), then pleasant, unpleasant or neutral feeling arises (vedana) or recognition of the object sanna arises. The thinking, intending or contemplating done after this would be sankhara.

As the functioning of the sense doors are impermanent, what arises afterwards are also impermanent. Without the initial sense doorsThis shows the causally arisen state of phenomena.

When this is, that is.
From the arising of this comes the arising of that.
When this isn’t, that isn’t.
From the cessation of this comes the cessation of that. AN10.92

With metta