Discussing jhana


The less intense versions leads to the more intense versions (in the ‘sound as a thorn to jhana issue’ the Buddha advices to firm up and concentrate the jhana more) with practice. So the less intense varieties may be for the teacher to know and the practitioner to develop more.

This means 1) a teacher is required
2) self ‘diagnosis’ of jhana isn’t gold-standard (but will invariably happen, and needs confirmation by a jhana teacher)


The hypothetical ‘good teachers’ will:

  1. have an EBT based description of a jhana.
  2. have a good grasp of the practice experience of jhana having attained these themselves.
  3. have a wide knowledge of jhana ‘phenomena’ from ‘training’ to be a jhana teacher.


Any attainment has to be revealed with sampajanna and I believe it can be known only by the Bhikkhu one who practices or an arhant with infinite consciousness, discussing this with anyone is like explaining what a iPhone is to a caveman.

Sampajañña is a Pali term used in the suttas; the equivalent Sanskrit term samprajaña is found in Sanskrit texts employed (in translation) by a variety of meditation teachers such as Zenmaster Thich Nhat Hanh and in the Tibetan tradition.Any attainments have to be revealed with


But didn’t I hear somewhere (hopefully EBT) that the Buddha effortlessly entered Jhana as a young child?


It does not say it was without effort. I only states that he was sitting in the cool shade of a tree and secluded from sensual pleasures and secluded from unskillful qualities.

What takes effort in the case of us non-enlightened adult human beings is to seclude ourselves from all those things!

And the fact that one of the factors the eightfold path he rediscovered is all about becoming a mendicant and giving up family was acknowledgement to the sort of effort involved in just bringing about that seclusion for right stillness or immersion to take place.

Then it occurred to me: ‘I recall sitting in the cool shade of the rose-apple tree while my father the Sakyan was off working.
Quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unskillful qualities, I entered and remained in the first absorption, which has the rapture and bliss born of seclusion, while placing the mind and keeping it connected.
Could that be the path to awakening?’
Stemming from that memory came the realization:
That is the path to awakening!’ Then it occurred to me: ‘Why am I afraid of that pleasure, for it has nothing to do with sensual pleasures or unskillful qualities?’
Then it occurred to me: ‘I’m not afraid of that pleasure, for it has nothing to do with sensual pleasures or unskillful qualities.’
Source: Bodhirājakumāra Sutta - MN85


Ah right. I haven’t seen this before, but it does make some sense. Is becoming a mendicant and giving up family part of right effort then, or another of the eight?

Sorry for asking rookie questions.


It’s part of right intention, i.e. nekkhamma:

giving up the world & leading a holy life, renunciation of, or emancipation from worldliness, freedom from lust, craving & desires, dispassionateness, self – abnegation - PTS dictionary


I think there are individuals who find attaining jhana easy, and it is attained quickly and with high quality but this isn’t the usual pattern, as otherwise it’s quite a struggle. We mustn’t hold that high level of practice as the norm. The likes of Ven Moggallana were falling asleep etc and his jhana were disturbed with various kinds of things, so it would be the same or worse.


I’m surprised to read such. I always thought, monks do their thing because they want to. And the not-yet-monks aspire due to the arguments of the Buddha and not due a wish to be fixed in a vinaya.
And that the vinaya is more-or-less a framework to make it possible at all, that a sangha is live-able.


Just to stir the pot, and promote a lateral view.

Jhana arises and ceases. It arises when conditions are right. It is not permanent or unchanging.

It is a conditioned state. Therefore treating it like it is a chemical formula, or an equation in physics doesn’t really make sense to me. One needs to treat it like other conditioned states… even if it might be ‘less’ conditioned, and even if it leads to greater insights etc. We also possess beneficial conditioned states as well as negative ones…

My 2 cents worth is to relax about it. To concentrate on putting the right conditions in place (as has been mentioned several times) and to always keep questioning and investigating. I believe that many of the ‘formulas’ presented by different Meditation Masters can all be simultaneously correct, they just describe it from different perspectives. The desire for ever greater specificity regarding the phenomena, seems to me to be going in the wrong direction.

Ultimately the only true test can be, if the states result in greater understanding and less suffering as one progresses along the path, and this, we are in the position of observing for ourselves :slight_smile:
Anyway this is the way that I’ve chosen to deal with the issue of ‘not knowing’ and living by the Noble 8 fold path.

And it has led to less suffering :smiley: :wink:


I agree @Viveka that perhaps that is a good approach for someone training and developing on the path, until they do become certain. I am trying to see if any consensus can be reached on this. (I’m not going to consider the idea that jhanas aren’t necessary at least to reach full enlightenment).

I meant that the vinaya blocks monks from revealing their attainments to lay people intentionally or when they don’t have any such attainments, to mislead them to gain material benefits from it. I wonder if at the time ordaining was so easy so that anyone who was serious about the path simply could ordain and become monks. This meant any serious discussion about jhana happened inside the monk’s community and there was no need for ‘technical details’ to be discussed elsewhere. Also the presence of the Buddha meant they could just go to the source of the dhamma.


Contrast this to the present: A lay person can read hundreds of books about the dhamma. Many of them contain meditation instructions that, if followed diligently, may cause some pretty remarkable experiences to arise–even if these experiences aren’t jhana at all. (Or maybe they are, of course.)

It is only natural to want to understand these experiences, and yet the supply of available teachers is all too small. In my case I’m going to have to wait many more months to have even a single face-to-face with any bhikkhus. I don’t see how it will ever be possible for me logistically to have an ongoing, real-world training relationship with one of them, not until I retire at least.

The demand comes from the books, and it’s outstripped the supply of teachers, who can’t be duplicated so easily. In this situation, what’s to be done?


My take on it is: To reduce the expectations towards the teacher even more, take what I have realized so far, and put it into practice in order to find out what I haven’t realized yet.

It’s not very practical, but imagine that with your level of understanding today, all books and teachers would vanish - what would you do then?


I would make a lot of dumb and hurtful mistakes as I tried vainly to remember/reconstruct the dhamma. If I were wise, I would probably tell no one that I was doing it, because I doubt I could possibly succeed, and whatever I came up with might actually be harmful.


That’s probably true for most of us, and yet, as much as I benefit from discussions, I guess that we have picked up good dhamma on the way and that we can progress by looking into our mind, practicing detachment and dis-identification, even without the technical understanding of terms or the presumed indispensable guidance of a teacher. I like the following two quotes, particularly the whole SN 22.87 is a good one in this context:

dwell with yourselves as your own island, with yourselves as your own refuge, with no other refuge; dwell with the Dhamma as your island, with the Dhamma as your refuge, with no other refuge. (SN 47.9, DN 16)

Why do you want to see this foul body? One who sees the Dhamma sees me; one who sees me sees the Dhamma. (SN 22.87)


Wouldn’t one have to be at least a stream-enterer to do that? Or is stream entry only a sufficient, not a necessary condition for it? It sounds very much like you’re suggesting that “we” have the Sotāpanna’s intuitive grasp of the dhamma, which I don’t dare claim for myself.


Definitely not. We know the four truths, know that identification/attachment is the main obstacle for our development, and practice dis-identification from body and mind.

It might not be the best imaginable set-up for spiritual development, but I maintain that it’s quite enough for a good development of the mind and our live.

  1. all experts agree there is such a thing called jhana.
  2. all experts agree it arises after much practice and much progress.
    [there maybe exceptional individuals ]

Supporting EBTs: a) ‘secluded from sensuality’
b) ‘withdrawn from unskillful qualities’.

  1. A specific entry event, to a higher state of consciousness, is experienced.
  2. A state of continuity in that higher state of consciousness is felt.

Supporting EBTs: ‘enters and remains in the first jhana.’


All are beginners in some areas of the practice (and some are beginners in all?) :wink:

  1. all experts agree there is such a thing called jhana.

  2. all experts agree it arises after a lot of practice or effort. That is we cannot call lower states of samadhi free from the hindrances, jhana. [‘secluded from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful qualities’].

  3. A specific entry event, to a higher state of consciousness, is experienced.

  4. A state of continuity in that higher state of consciousness is felt [ ‘enters and remains in the … jhana’]. [the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation.]

5. A sudden change [entry event] into a different ‘atmosphere’ or ‘state of consciousness’. [the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation].
Eg: Ajhan Brahmavanso’s ‘The Jhanas’.

One’s mindfulness is hugely increased to a level of sharpness that is truly incredible. One is immensely aware. Only mindfulness doesn’t move. It is frozen. And the stillness of the super, superpower mindfulness, the perfect one-pointedness of awareness, makes the jhana experience completely different to anything one has known before. This is not unconsciousness. It is non-dual consciousness. All it can know is one thing, and that is timeless bliss that doesn’t move. Afterwards, when one has emerged from jhana, such consummate one-pointedness of consciousness falls apart. With the weakening of one-pointedness, perspective re-emerges and the mind has the agility to move again. The mind has regained the space needed to compare and comprehend. Ordinary consciousness has returned.

note- there is disagreement about the exact description.