I recently posted on the thread titled Polak’s reexamining Jhanas, and my post was somewhat off topic. I would like to redirect my question here. Although Deele (I think) already gave me a nice answer on that thread, it would be nice to see what the consensus (if there is one) on a samatha based practice here.
Firstly, a bit of background of my practice thus far - feel free to skip this section. I have done three vipassana retreats in the past (all within 6 months of eachother, 1 goenka, 2 mahasi all in the UK). I practiced mahasi for a while, then switched to forgiveness meditation as espoused by Bhante Vimilaramsi over at dhamma sukha. I don’t know how I feel about their practice and although my mind became kinder (to myself), I found myself unable to use that meditation object in a stable enough way (the object of the forgiveness feeling was hardly ever present). I did that for a year, switching between that and metta.
I’m now much more interested in the suttas and more specifically suttacentral, as a result of wanting to figure out the underlying rationale behind different meditation techniques and getting more and more interested in the buddhist system itself. I currently take the 5 precepts daily, take refuge when meditating (twice a day, first of 45 minutes, second on average 15), and share merit after meditating.
My meditation is currently - get distracted, accept that, soften, smile a little, return to settling onto the breath. Each time I return I treat it as an opportunity (ideally) to be kind to those habitual tendencies and softly let go of them, and replace them with a wholesome return to the breath, which I will currently move my attention to wherever I find most pleasent in that moment and not trying hard to feel specific sensations, rather having a light touch with it, in between knowing it is there and feeling it (I, as I’m sure many do to, have the habit of trying a bit too hard or wanting meditation to be a certain way).
Aside from my background now, what books would you all recommend to start with. I’m about to read a swift pair of messengers by Ajahn Sujato, anything else?
Also, what is your opinion on jhana, is it attained by letting go, by absorption of mind (one pointed attention - which feels a little yogic/try hard to me), or do these methods not matter (the former seems more intuitive to me since the buddhist path seems to be about renunciation and letting go and being more flowy rather than pushing things away).
How would you recommend integrating a gradual training into one’s life - any books or articles on this, or forum threads?
I look forward to responses, for now, and even after I get responses, I hope to test things out and see for myself what works and what doesn’t whilst maintaining a keen critical eye on whether the suttas justify what I am doing or not.
May you all share any of the merit that I acquire!