By Waltham St. Lawrence
(12) Analysis Of Jhāna (Jhānavibhaṅga).
When, as the Buddha so strongly advocates, a student takes up the practice of those Four Foundations of Mindfulness which are directed toward his ultimate release from suffering, by the breaking of the continuity of Causal Relations, he is, from the very nature of the root structure of his being, beset by a great many undesirable qualities which interfere with whatever attempt he makes to concentrate firmly and undeviatingly on his task. Throughout the whole Tipiṭaka many groups of these damaging qualities are spoken of in terms of the adverse functions they perform in preventing a being from understanding the nature of things as they really are, The groups mentioned include such obstacles as, the Defilements (āsavā), the Fetters (saṃyojanā), the Ties (ganthā), the Floods (oghā), the Bonds (yogā), the Corruptions (kilesā), the Attachments (upādānā), the Latent Tendencies (anusayā) and the Hindrances (nīvaraṇā). In the actual matter of obstacles to the arising of the Enlightenment Factors, and thereby of their equivalent Path Constituents, or for that matter to any serious form of concentration, a most troublesome and thwarting example of states needing to be inhibited—and of course eventually eradicated—is that of the Hindrances (nīvaraṇā). This group consists of five factors (sometimes six when the implicit ignorance is separately included) each of which can be recognized as a barrier which will stand in the way, which will severely hinder any attempt at progress. The Five Hindrances, which are described fully in Dhammasaṅgaṇī, are; Wish for sense pleasure (kāmacchanda), Illwill (byāpāda), Sloth and Torpor (thinamiddha), Distraction and Remorse (uddhaccakukkucca) and Doubt (vicikicchā). In the ordinary way these Five Hindrances, being most strongly associated with the mental aggregates, are exceedingly difficult to put on one side or to inhibit. As a special kind of exercise, therefore, a very strict and difficult form of exercise from the nature of its purpose [liii] for the strengthening of the processes of consciousness against their easy association with these Hindrances, the Buddha recommended to the serious student the cultivation of a deliberate and distinct practice directed specifically to the attaining of particular states of consciousness, the factorial structure of which completely inhibits these Five Hindrances. These particular states of consciousness are known as Jhāna.
The practice of the attainment of Jhāna is not of exclusively Buddhist origin, as is clearly indicated by the fact that the Buddha, before the time of his Enlightenment while he was yet a Bodhisatta, visited and studied with four great teachers of jhānic practice, each of whom believed that his particular degree of attainment was the final solution to the problem of the ultimate release from suffering. The Buddha saw clearly that their claims were not at all justified, so thereafter he sought out and accomplished by means of his own supreme ability and wisdom that particular and true Path leading to Release which is the unique and cardinal characteristic of his Teaching. This accomplishment placed the system of Jhāna in its proper perspective and demonstrated on the one hand that it could be followed as an end in itself, whereby it endowed the practiser with the special qualities, attributes and resultant conditions which such a development can give; on the other hand, and this is the important point, the Buddha showed that in addition to these special benefits it could be used as an extremely effective and powerful tool with which the student of its practice could learn most adequately how to control his mind and thereby put on one side those other qualities inimical to his proper goal.
The fundamentals of jhānic training are detailed in a great many places throughout the Buddhist Scriptures at very great lengths in the appropriate Commentaries and in Buddhaghosa's Visuddhimagga. At this point, however, it cannot be emphasized too strongly that in the cultivation of Jhāna, as with all other aspects of mental development (bhāvanā), it is of the utmost importance that practice should be undertaken only with the direct and proper guidance of a truly skilled and knowledgeable teacher.
In this the twelfth vibhaṅga the whole process is stated in one lengthy paragraph explaining the requisites and basic mode of practice. This is followed by a most valuable word analysis to [liv] show the meaning of what should be understood to take place at each stage. This is In Analysis According to the Discourses. In Analysis According to Abhidhamma, each of the possible levels of Jhāna, actual and resultant, both mundane and supramundane, are dealt with factorially and in some detail. The section of Interrogation relates these jhānic states to the Triplets and CoupIets of Dhammasaṅgaṇī, thereby stating the ultimate values ascribable to their existence, However, to return to the cultivaion of Jhāna as a tool for the inhibiting of the Five Hindrances: in the texts and commentaries there are listed forty different objects, the purpose of which is that they should be made use of individually by the student as objects upon which his attention is to be focussed to the exclusion of everything else. As to the choice of object which a particular student should use for this purpose, this depends entirely on his own particular temperament and characteristics. Here it is that the skill of a wise and knowledgeable teacher is of paramount importance, for on his decision as to which is the correct object will largely depend the success the student will have in stimulating with interest and with smooth and steady certainty those factors so desirable for the inhibiting of the Hindrances.
As mentioned earlier, there are five of these Hindrances to put on one side. It is also to be observed that in the attaining of the lowest category of Jhāna, i.e., first Jhāna (or five constituent Jhāna), there are five mental factors (cetasikā) which become particularly strong. The five are: Initial Application (vitakka), Sustained Application (vicāra), Zest (pīti), Pleasure (sukha) and One-pointedness of Consciousness (cittassekaggatā). If one should now equate these constituents of Jhāna with the Five Hindrances it will be readily appreciated that each individual constituent has a particular part to play in inhibiting an individual Hindrance. Thus, where there is stimulated sufficient energy and determination to mentally "pick up" the chosen object of concentration, at that time Initial Application is being exerted. Where this is present the Hindrance of Sloth and Torpor is fading. Where this Initial Application is coupled with Sustained Application by which the object is "considered", the Hindrance of Doubt is falling away, for here Doubt (vicikiccha) only means "absence of thinking about" (vigatā cikicchā. VSM 471), Where there is success in this thinking, Zest for the object and activity concerning it [lv] arises naturally. Where there is Zest how can the Hindrance of Illwill be present? Where there is Zest there also will there be Pleasure. If Pleasure is present the Hindrance of Distraction and Remorse cannot be. Finally, where concentration of consciousness becomes so one-pointed that there is no room for any other object than the chosen one, the Hindrance that is Wish for Sense Pleasure is put on one side.
As in each of the Jhānas of the fivefold system the five factors seen to arise strongly in the first Jhāna become successively dominant, and pass away with the arising of the subsequent Jhāna, so also the Hindrances, in the order given, become completely inhibited by this factorial dominance not to return until the student by the falling away of mindfulness allows them once more to hinder the efficiency of his conscious states.
In this way the development of jhānic states contributes towards providing tools which eventually are to be used for the final task of breaking the system of Causal Relations. It should therefore be emphasized once again that the practice of Jhāna is not one which in itself will lead to final release from Suffering. It is, however, of the greatest importance in inhibiting those Hindrances which are inimical to the realization of the three characteristics of Suffering (dukkha), Impermanence (anicca) and Absence of Soul (anatta).