Argument undermining non-EBT interpretations of breath meditation and jhanas?


I came across this fascinating (in my opinion) article by Ven. Bodhesako. Among his interpretations of tanha, he makes a distinction between the quality and quantity (or intensity) of subjective experience. He relates the former to craving for bhava and vibhava, and the latter to craving for kama. Finally, he provides a simile (preceded by a full and clear disclaimer) of a radio and how a person might be using it according to their 3 types of craving.

I know that Ven. Bodhsako’s views have been discussed in previous posts. However, I am not sure that this particular connection, expounded below, has been made. Much has been discussed about meditation methods/techniques in this forum, and no (digital) ink has been spared for the jhanas. I have already come down on one side of the debate, so the following might be a result of personal bias. With that said, here is my question/hypothesis in brief (paraphrasing the article):

Following the simile or analogy of the radio, the aim of meditation is to “listen” to a particular channel with the “volume” as low as possible, without wanting to “flip” through the channels or making the sound “louder”. The ultimate goal would be then to turn the volume all the way down to zero, i.e. Nibbana. The process would result in the uprooting of all three forms of craving: for bhava, vibhava (by not wanting to flip through the channels), and kama (by not wanting it to be “loud” or intense, and instead by “detensifying’ it).

Again, I am paraphrasing the article and perhaps unintentionally introducing inaccuracies. Nevertheless, if you accept the above, doesn’t the implication contradict some of the concentration meditation methods we often hear about? Namely, those who are based on strong focus (“intensify”) on sensations (breath, bodily, emotional) and visualizations, all the way to absorption (i.e., max “volume”)? By the same token, wouldn’t it clarify (if not justify) the types of meditation widely found in the EBT, based on “detensifying” experience – i.e., gradual training, sense restraint, renunciation, and samma-samadhi based strictly on those?

Thanks for reading this post. May you all be well.

IMO, the ultimate goal is to realize that

  • actively listening to the Radio is Suffering
  • its not your radio, what’s playing on it is nothing to do with you and thinking that you can willfully have the programme or volume otherwise than how it actually is - this is the source of your suffering
  • letting go of the attachment to the radio, its volume and whatever is playing - just letting it be - this is the cessation of suffering
  • Both Mindfully Investigating and/ or Mindfully Watching your changing experience will get you there.

Different folks, different strokes. Same journey. :smiley: