There are Tibetan texts where they talk of the jhānas. But I have only seen one text where any Tibetan has recommended anyone to do jhāna practice. And even in that case I saw no evidence that the advice was followed. Furthermore, I have asked a number of khenpos and lamas and no-one has any report of anyone doing jhāna.
Some seem shy - one khenpo I asked, very specifically if there were native Tibetan Buddhists he knew who practiced jhāna - he told me yes, of course, many do. I asked him has he direct knowledge of this. He was cagey. I asked him even he does not need to tell me any names - just tell me, has he ever met anyone who has told him they do jhāna practice, or taught that people should do it?
Well, he did not answer in the affirmative.
Perhaps there was shame there. Or perhaps he felt like he would be getting into a trap if he said no.
Then another lama, high lama, I asked him. He said yes, the Tibetan masters do do jhāna, of course. Then I heard him say some things that were not true, on other topics. And even heard him encouraging people to release non-native species…
He is a good lama I think, but very much emotion based. I find discrepency between his statements and the truth.
His brother is also a high lama, and very straightforward, and very scholarly, as well as acomplished. he told me straightforwardly, no, no Tibetans do any jhāna practice. He explained me about it, and also encouraged me about it, saying they are good to practice, the bodhisattvas and arahants practiced them.
Basically the view was that the samādhi that Tibetans have surpasses the jhānas. (But that is not to say that they are the same as the jhānas). And he thinks that jhāna is beneficial but not necessary for enlightenment. And he also said that he thinks there are so few great masters like Dilgo Phyentse Rinpoche and Dudjom Rinpoche and Khamtrul Rinpoche now, because of the lack of samathā.
And extract from my notes:
Regarding the question: “
is it that innovations after the Buddha, such as Dzogchen, found an alternative path to enlightenment which do not require dhyana?”
Rinpoche’s view: don’t think of Dzogchen etc as something new or different. The dhyanas are included in and surpassed by (the states?) in (vajrayana?).
So I asked, but the dhyanas seem to have certain characteristics such as no hearing. He answered that you should not define a medicine by its side effects - otherwise all dead people would be (in state of) dhyana. So he was saying/explaining that the (positive aspect) of dhyana is included (in Dzogchen or etc.) but not the (negative) i.e. the side effect such as no hearing.
And I spoke to Matthieu Ricard about it. From my notes:
why would want to do dhyana? Form realm! Not out of samsara. Mentioned I think form gods maybe. I asked about any samadhi in which no hearing. Seems he felt it was opposite to what want, and mentioned about (shravakayana?) wanting to STOP phenomena. And vajrayana not wanting that. Always Shamata and vipassana together. And he mentioned something, perhaps about primordial purity or something?
Also gave a story about Gampopa, someone asked him what is the difference between impure relative (truth? Or existence?) and pure relative… . He then went to a pillar and hit it with his hand, and said that is impure…, and then hit it and his hand went through and said that is pure …
So I think that shows the Tibetan view pretty clearly. Really I have only encountered these three - a kind of fake PR wall where they insist they do do it, with no evidence and no individuals they can mention with any honest story (so far as I have experienced at least); or honestly saying they don’t do it, none of them, and it’s ok to do; or that it is stupid to do and no-one should even want to do it! (I have read that in texts also, in a Gelugpa texts saying they were bad to do, famous 19th centyru Geshe).
There’s an American guy, Allan Wallace, he is a Tibetan Buddhist, traditionally qualified, and did samathā training the traditional Gelug way I believe, and then later Dzogchen with a Nyingmapa I believe. He teaches both, and eally emphasises samatha - for a few years he was offering … was is 3 month or 6 moth retreats, in a place in Thailand. Anyway he says the Tibetan view is to only take concentration up to what Theravādins call access concentration. For example the typical samathā painting, with the path, the mouse on the elephant - those… 9 I think stages, the peak of that is access concentration - before jhāna.
Oh and Alan Wallace portrays himself as non-sectarian, and says Sufis and Daoists and so on can experience rigpa too. But definitely not arahants! They can’t. So, this is the kind of view that we find.
So in a way they are very similar to the widespread vipassanā movement, rejecting jhāna and only aiming for access concentration, the rest of the attention then being diverted to vipassanā. And that is why I wonder if this originated back in India…
Also Zen, ironically enough, seemed to have given up deep concentration practice many centuries ago - a Patriarch redefined the term chan, to mean something like the state you can have while you are doing activities. Perhaps equivelent to the Tibetan idea of being in the nature of mind, rigpa etc? I do not know if the concentration they were up until that poiont called chan was actually jhāna, or just access concentration, but it owuld be interesing to know. But still, even if it was jhāna, that could mean that there were some coming from India, or more interestingly in India, who were doing jhāna, but perhaps they were in the minority? Perhaps most had been taken over by the infleunce of the non-meditating scholars to downgrade the status of jhāna and jhāna monks, and somehow make doctrines that made that look ok? (Because they wanted to both retain their laziness in not wanting to train their minds, as well as their status as scholar monks).