Posts Tagged ‘jhana’

Khandhas and Senses

Posted: 05/12/2015 by zandtao in Insight, Meditation
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I have been guilty of flights of fancy for most of my life. The power of my experiences has placed an emphasis on those experiences, this is good, but has encouraged me to rate those experiences as religious (OK) but in a non-human realm. This has been a mistake. I have not touched God.

Having said that, my enemy, intellect, has gained control of the truth, and is trying to negate those experiences. This is far worse because that negation places emphasis on intellect and moves people away from experience. Those experiences are so important because they are the most defining aspect of human experience and if their value is to be reduced by intellect then the robots take over. At present I am in a discussion in which the word analysis comes up repeatedly, what is analysis? I suspect it means any kind of thinking anyone wants it to mean rather than a methodical approach based in reason.

In science early analytical methods have been rejected. When the atom is examined it cannot be broken into constituent parts, and we end up with the almost irrational complexity involving probabilities. Early on in this realisation books by Gary Zukav and Fritjof Capra pointed out many holes in their arguments, I presume science thinks the newer complexities have filled in these holes. I doubt it but cannot prove this. A scientific method that has proven fallible in science is being applied to religion.

On experience all people do not have the same experience, and I contend nor are they intended to. Life is the sum of all consciousnesses, and not all people experience consciousness the same way. In life’s journey we share experiences, we listen to others’ experiences and then form a collective consciousness based on this summative process. All experiences do not fit into our filter, we have to accept another’s experience as being valid. Reason is particularly guilty of filtering out all that is not reason. At the same time, when reason is applied outside its remit, its function, it negates experience there – basically if reason cannot experience it is not valid. Amusing I have just done definitions and reason and insight are mutually exclusive.

Different peoples’ experiences can be a warning to others, and the major warning I throw out is against the ego of reason or intellect. “Intellect – the faculty of reasoning and understanding objectively, especially with regard to abstract or academic matters.” It is this ego that made me hit bottom, and come out the other side. How? I was an arrogant maths student with limited awareness. My life was a focus on maths and drink – very limited. This worked at university – just, but when I started work all that was academic was questioned; I was not important – worse I was actually a failure at work. I had invested in the self that was academia and that was proving to be insubstantial. Drink became more and more important, and I hit bottom. After hitting bottom everything was not rosy but I had started on my Path. Erroneously I had seen this Path as being something “unmanifest” but it was not – it was consciousness. My ego was not blocking consciousness, that is Path which is now path. The paths of all people are part of their consciousness. Throughout life self gets in the way of that consciousness blocking it one way or another but not attaching to self is just consciousness coming through.

This is khandhas:-

• Rupa – body
• Vedana – feelings
• Sanna – perception
• Sankhara – thought
• Vinnana – consciousness

Previously I had not addressed the importance of vinnana. Because of the power of the experiences I had always sought the personal or self in them. These experiences are rightly powerful but not to be attached to.

What is a jhana? I have avoided this word because I had an ambivalence to jhanas and a perceived jhana competition:-

“jhána: ‘absorption’ (meditation) refers chiefly to the four meditative absorptions of the fine-material sphere (rúpa-jjhána or rúpávacara-jjhána; s. avacara). They are achieved through the attainment of full (or attainment -, or ecstatic) concentration (appaná, s. samádhi), during which there is a complete, though temporary, suspension of fivefold sense-activity and of the 5 hindrances (s. nívarana). The state of consciousness, however, is one of full alertness and lucidity. This high degree of concentration is generally developed by the practice of one of the 40 subjects of tranquillity meditation (samatha-kammatthána; s. bhávaná). Often also the 4 immaterial spheres (arúpáyatana) are called absorptions of the immaterial sphere (arúpa-jjhána orarúpávacara-jjhána). The stereotype text, often met with in the Suttas, runs as follows:

(1) “Detached from sensual objects, o monks, detached from unwholesome consciousness, attached with thought-conception (vitakka) and discursive thinking (vicára), born of detachment (vivekaja) and filled with rapture (píti) and joy (sukha) he enters the first absorption.

(2) “After the subsiding of thought-conception and discursive thinking, and by gaining inner tranquillity and oneness of mind, he enters into a state free from thought-conception and discursive thinking, the second absorption, which is born of concentration (samádhi), and filled with rapture (píti) and joy (sukha).

(3) “After the fading away of rapture he dwells in equanimity, mindful, clearly conscious; and he experiences in his person that feeling of which the Noble Ones say, ‘Happy lives the man of equanimity and attentive mind’; thus he enters the 3rd absorption.

(4) “After having given up pleasure and pain, and through the disappearance of previous joy and grief, he enters into a state beyond pleasure and pain, into the 4th absorption, which is purified by equanimity (upekkhá) and mindfulness.

(5) “Through the total overcoming of the perceptions of matter, however, and through the vanishing of sense-reactions and the non-attention to the perceptions of variety, with the idea, ‘Boundless is space’, he reaches the sphere of boundless space (ákásánañcáyatana) and abides therein.
[“By ‘perceptions of matter’ (rúpa-saññá) are meant the absorptions of the fine-material sphere, as well as those objects themselves . . . ” (Vis.M. X, 1).

“By ‘perceptions of sense-reactions’ (patigha-saññá) are meant those perceptions that have arisen due to the impact of sense-organs (eye, etc.) and the sense-objects (visible objects, etc.). They are a name for the perception of visible objects, as it is said (Jhána-Vibh . ): ‘What are here the perceptions of sense-reactions? They are the perceptions of visible objects, sounds, etc.’ – Surely, they do no longer exist even for one who has entered the 1st absorption, etc., for at such a time the five-sense consciousness is no longer functioning. Nevertheless, this is to be understood as having been said in praise of this immaterial absorption, in order to incite the striving for it” (Vis.M. X, 16).

“Perceptions of variety (ñánatta-saññá) are the perceptions that arise in various fields, or the various perceptions” (ib.). Hereby, according to Vis.M. X, 20, are meant the multiform perceptions outside the absorptions.]

(6) “Through the total overcoming of the sphere of boundless space, and with the idea ‘Boundless is consciousness’, he reaches the sphere of boundless consciousness (viññánañcáyatana) and abides therein.

(7) “Through the total overcoming of the sphere of boundless consciousness, and with the idea ‘Nothing is there’, he reaches the sphere of nothingness (ákiñcaññáyatana) and abides therein.

(8) “Through the total overcoming of the sphere of nothingness he reaches the sphere of neither-perception-nor-non-perception (nevasaññá-n’asaññáyatana) and abides therein.”

“Thus the 1st absorption is free from 5 things (i.e. the hindrances, nívarana, q.v.), and 5 things are present (i.e. the factors of absorption; jhánanga). Whenever the monk enters the 1st absorption, there have vanished sensuous desire, ill-will, sloth and torpor, restlessness and scruples, doubts; and there are present: thought-conception (vitakka), discursive thinking (vicára) rapture (píti), joy(sukha), and concentration (samádhi). In the 2nd absorption there are present: rapture, joy and concentration; in the 3rd: joy and concentration; in the 4th: equanimity (upekkhá) and concentration” (Vis.M. IV).

The 4 absorptions of the immaterial sphere (s. above 5-8) still belong, properly speaking, to the 4th absorption as they possess the same two constituents. The 4th fine-material absorption is also the base or starting point (pádaka-jhána, q.v.) for the attaining of the higher spiritual powers (abhiññá, q.v.).

In the Abhidhamma, generally a fivefold instead of a fourfold division of the fine-material absorptions is used: the 2nd absorption has still the constituent ‘discursive thinking’ (but without thought-conception), while the 3rd, 4th and 5th correspond to the 2nd, 3rd and 4th, respectively, of the fourfold division (s. Tab. I, 9- 13) . This fivefold division is based on sutta texts like A . VIII, 63 .
For the 8 absorptions as objects for the development of insight (vipassaná), see samatha-vipassaná. – Full details in Vis.M. IV-X.

Jhána in its widest sense (e.g. as one of the 24 conditions; s. paccaya 17), denotes any, even momentary or weak absorption of mind, when directed on a single object.”

How does one understand all this? Is there any wonder why there is so much confusion? Somewhere within all of this exists the experiences of the muse, ecstatic erratic meditation, and so on – somewhere the tingling in the air of presence. The only word that truly helps (at the moment) is absorption.

What is clear? Jhana or absorption is a faculty of mind or consciousness, my experiences are khandha and do not require self.

Books:- Treatise, Wai Zandtao Scifi, Matriellez Education.

Blogs:- Ginsukapaapdee, Matriellez.

Fanciful Compassion

Posted: 24/11/2015 by zandtao in Insight
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I slipped up, I tried to do too much. I have been attempting to understand another’s Path, I cannot. It is ludicrous to try to understand what I mean by Insight through intellect as has been evidenced in my previous discussions that have turned nasty. Yet I still try, but at least this time it did not turn nasty and led to an error on my part only.

There is another intellectual illusion that has come up – analytical meditation (I am not writing for a group here). One important aspect of meditation is to remove the chattering mind, what is the main component of the chattering mind – intellect. Is there an analysis that occurs in meditation – possibly? I know my meditation, there are times when there is chattering mind full of intellect, and there are times when thoughts come in as Insight; is there analysis during meditation – possibly? I need a clear mind of meditation to resolve this. My desire for tolerance allowed me to accept an intellectual approach that I find so completely difficult to accept, what I would describe as intellect masquerading as analytical meditation. I can’t see it any other way. I am doing my tolerant bending again, I am trying to see this intellectual masquerade as a Path – tolerance. To be tolerant I must allow the possibility of this being a Path, but I must not allow this type of masquerade to cloud my own judgement. I must not react to the intellectualism, I see my getting fanciful as being part of this.

I wrote this email:-

“Compassion is more than an emotion, it is more than just something we feel. Ultimately there is the Unconditioned, then there are the 4 brahma-viharas – divine abodes. From my Buddhist dictionary “ “‘There, o monks, the monk with a mind full of loving-kindness pervading first one direction, then a second one, then a third one, then the fourth one, just so above, below and all around; and everywhere identifying himself with all, he is pervading the whole world with mind full of loving-kindness, with mind wide, developed, unbounded, free from hate and ill-will.” Hereafter follows the same theme with compassion, altruistic joy, and equanimity.”

This reminded me of the hermetic tradition “as above so below”. When an abode is divine is it as not as close to the Voidness as possible? I suggest there is a noumenal compassion that is part of the Voidness, having no phenomenon, no atta. In the same way there is a Wisdom that is noumenal having no atta. If Insight can touch Wisdom, can compassion meditation touch Voidness-Compassion? Theosophy says “there is no religion higher than truth”. Is there a Voidness-Truth that has no atta? Intellectually this makes no sense. In meditation I came to this, I trust my meditation.

“Beyond all desires? Kusala, or wholesome/skillful ones as well? Then where’s compassion or metta?” When in a divine abode there is Natural Wisdom, Naturally skilful.

Divine abode is religious “jargon”. Even if this “noumenal” description is created, surely a “divine abode” has got to be pretty close to the Source, more than emotion, and wise because of proximity to the Source – hence skilful.

Proof, being a Buddhadasa addict I have to prove. There are 2 sources of proof, scientific or objective proof – very limited, and subjective proof; my primary source of subjective proof is Insight meditation. The above has that subjective seal of approval – from me. It does not have intellectual approval.”

You can see a reaction to an intellectual straitjacket in this.

OK what is this noumenal “Voidness-Compassion”? Ludicrous. It was a nice intellectual construct to put Compassion, Truth, Wisdom in Voidness, good intellectual ego on my part. I was deluded by the Dzogchen quote, taken from the last blog “Dzogchen also speaks of the “self-arising deep awareness” (rang-byung ye-shes) that is primordial (gnyug-ma) and arises simultaneously (lhan-skyes, innate) in each moment of cognition. This deep awareness is part of the nature of pure awareness (rig-pa), the subtlest level of mental activity, devoid of all fleeting stains, such as those of unawareness (ignorance). When we access this deepest level, the deep awareness of the two truths is revealed. In Western terms, we would classify this deep awareness as intuitive.”” This is so seductive – “part of the nature of pure awareness (rig-pa)”.

I made another error, I allowed Tibetan to seduce me, Sogyal did all that as well. “Talk of Gods, talk of touching rig-pa, and what else, meditating you are a God”, it is the Course in Miracles delusion. Am I a God, can I be a God in meditation? Fanciful.

I read this “The Four Sublime States by Venerable Nyanaponika Thera”. Isn’t sublime state enough? Why do I need to touch rig-pa – Voidness-Compassion?

How can the destructive intellect to describe such a sublime state as emotion? That is because intellect wants to assume that intellect is all that there is in mind. Why can’t a sublime state be wise? Again a good intellectual question because the intellect is destructive. A mind can have a sublime state, such a state is meant to be. Such a sublime state is wise, it is beyond intellect, intellect cannot reach it, it can analyse the results of such a state but it cannot reach it. Nature.

In trying to understand the intellect in a Path I allowed my own intellect to create a ludicrous proposition “Voidness-Compassion”, intellect is such a trickster.

In meditation compassion has been special, just because it is special cannot make it “Voidness-Compassion”. So careless and fanciful on my part.

Books:- Treatise, Wai Zandtao Scifi, Matriellez Education.

Blogs:- Ginsukapaapdee, Matriellez.

Meditation 1

Posted: 18/11/2015 by zandtao in Insight, Meditation

No meditation session is typical but I am going to use today’s meditation as a guideline. Perhaps a pattern will emerge that can be used for comparison especially with regards to analytical meditation and relationship to Path. I must say that at the moment meditation is improving but is far from good. I set the time for every session but rarely make it. I want to sit more often but when daily stuff takes over I very rarely settle back down to meditate.

This morning I sat, I was late cos it’s Sunday and I managed a small lie-in before the traffic roar forced me out of my bedroom. I was actually in bed comfortably for nearly 10 hours, a record in this new house.

I am quite excited about this meditation blog. I have always described my meditation as Insight meditation or even Vipassana, but in truth I don’t meditate anything like what I read – until I read analytical meditation and saw similarities.

When I sat down my mind was doing its usual flitting roller coaster, this time it was thinking about meditation and understanding. Slowly it ran itself down and I began to quieten the mind. Then I began to think about cooling, calming and clearing, not just in my head but in all my body. My mind did it usual trips thinking about other stuff but I brought it back to cooling clearing and calming. This went on and I thought about emptiness, the Tao as empty being full, about Buddhadasa’s preference for Voidness as meaning void of atta, Unity and Compassion as Emptiness so is empty truly empty? How can it be? And then how can we know? And left it. I began breathing in sunnata. My mind reminded me of the discussion with the monk where he seemed interested in my technique of breathing in sunnata, and then breathing out compassion. How much do Theravadans focus on giving out? I know I should do more? The Berzin article – HHDL talking of the energy going out as analytical and coming in as stabilising, going out as compassion, coming in as sunnata. Then just compassion and sunnata in and out. ENDED just after 45 minutes.

Notes on this for later comparison

1) The intellectualising on meditation and understanding was not intentional, I never use meditation to analyse although thoughts come up and sometimes Insights come up – meditation knows these as different.
2) Quietening the mind either as clearing cooling or calming always seems to be part of meditation – certainly at the moment.
3) Sitting with the back straight always helps the release of stuff that comes with clearing
4) It is a long time since I have done the sunnata/ karuna thing.

The clouds over Koh Chang look guide, I bet the picture won’t show it:-

Here is a Berzin article called “Discerning and Stablizing Meditations”:-

And the contents or steps:-

• Calming Down
• Listening
• Pondering
• Debate
• Analytic Meditation
• Stabilizing Meditation
• Intellectual, Intuitive, Visceral, and Emotionally-Felt Understandings
• Nonconceptual Understanding

Books:- Treatise, Wai Zandtao Scifi, Matriellez Education.

Blogs:- Ginsukapaapdee, Matriellez.

Buddhism – at least 2 Paths?

Posted: 13/11/2015 by zandtao in Insight
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point1WARNING 27/2/16

At the time of discussion of “The Two Paths” I was attempting to accommodate an intellectual Path; even whilst doing so I was uncomfortable with it. I tried to focus on the “shift” as described by HHDL but the intellect I was discussing with did not engage with the word – presumably because it was a non-intellectual process. Now that I have accepted mu it is clear that what I am aiming for is beyond intellect, and this whole rationalising of “Two Paths” was just an engagement with intellect. I am keeping this series of discussions on Two Paths on my blog as a warning as to how much the intellect can drag you in the wrong direction.


Maybe 7 years ago I attended a talk in Bangkok given by Phakchok Rinpoche. He was a very powerful and funny man, and wound all the Theravadans up something rotten. The monks were squirming in the seats and monks and nuns were muttering away. To be honest I was just impressed with the man. I am going to refer to this with the Ludlum phrase “The Hinayana Incident”.

Accompanying his talk he gave out a paper describing 3 Buddhist Paths:-


And there was some blurb that went vaguely like this. “In Buddhism you begin with some initial study that could be called the Lesser Vehicle or Hinayana. Then people begin to increase their study to the Greater Vehicle or Mahayana, and then finally they arrive at the highest form of learning Vajrayana.” Now to be perfectly honest it was extremely rude of this monk to go to a home of Thai Buddhism and present Theravada in this demeaning way.

I was personally not that invested in “being Theravada” so it didn’t wind me up, and after all it was someone from outside coming and talking about something he had never done – being Theravada. I think I am a bit angry about it now. I think all aspects of Buddhism talk about Unity, and yet the teachings are presented in such a divisive way. I have just got involved in a discussion online in which a similar division is occurring, and it reminded me of this. In fact all discussions online remind me of divisions, and whenever I think of division I think of uncontrolled intellect that delights in separation and cannot accept Unity. It reminds me so much of all the Trots who all claim they are Marxist, and believe in the power of the mass movement. Yet they all want the mass movement to follow their version of Marxism, and completely divide the Left by the way they say the mass movement should follow their particular individual bookwriter as opposed to a different bookwriter who has a Marxist group. In politics there is one leader the mass movement, and if organisers cannot get the mass movement to recognise the importance of seeing themselves as one Unity and the ensuing working together that could maybe dethrone the 1% then that means more wars for profits etc.

The parallel with Unity in Buddhism is so clear to me. You begin with Unity, because we are ONE and separation is caused by mind. From this Unity we can recognise that all Paths lead to Unity. This is a Truth for all Paths in Buddhism as well as for other Paths. So when there is a discussion in Buddhism shouldn’t it revolve around finding what is the commonality or the Unity rather than perpetuating mind-created differences.

This firstly made me think about my own Path – hitting bottom, coming out on the Path – awakening?, throughout my spiritual life somehow being close to the Path or not, being creativity helping closeness, erratic meditation experiences, veering to Buddhism, regular meditation, focussing on Theravada in retirement, wider reading, focussing on Buddhadasa. Basically the underlying Unity is what forced me onto the Path in the first place, and the rest of my life has been about holding to the Path or not, and how do I do this? For me in Theravada this meant Insight meditation, through Insight connecting to the Path.

When I read Eckhart Tolle, or others on the their creativity, I regularly see this hitting bottom and unconsciously I made an assumption that I now see as incorrect that peoples’ Paths will have this sort of awakening. Because of this awakening component my view of Phakchok Rinpoche’s hierarchy of study was an intellectual aberration.

With the current online discussion I was sent this quote from HHDL:-
“If you are serious about Dharma practice, it is important to cultivate a good understanding of the teachings. First of all, it is important to read the texts. The more texts you read – the more you expand the scope of your learning and reading – the greater the resource you will find for your own understanding and practice. When, as a result of deep study and contemplation on what you have learned as related to your personal understanding, you reach a point on each topic when you have developed a deep conviction that this is how it is, that‘s an indication you have attained what is called understanding, derived through contemplation or reflection. Before that, all your understanding will have been intellectual understanding, but at that point it shifts. Then you have to cultivate familiarity, make it into part of your daily habit. The more you cultivate familiarity, the more it will become experiential.”
Dalai Lama, The Middle Way: Faith Grounded in Reason

Now intellectual understanding is not something I am overly keen on as it has been my experience that the intellect is divisive. In fact I have seen that for those coming to the Path a focus on the intellect can lead to internal conflict that can produce awakening.

However there has always been a flaw in my approach that I have only partly internalised, why is Buddhadasa my teacher and yet he never had an awakening? I have never really answered that question until now – when perhaps I am getting answers.

Does there have to be an awakening? In the above quote HHDL describes a model of 6 stages:-

1) Deep study 2) Contemplation or reflection 3) Deep conviction that this how it is – these 3 are intellectual

4) Shifting 5) Cultivating familiarity 6) Experiential understanding

What is the shifting? Is it at all connected to awakening? Maybe shifting is just a smaller degree of awakening?

It seems to me there are two distinct types of Path:-

The Path of Awakening
Deep Study that leads to Understanding

If one has had an awakening, especially in the West where such awakenings are often associated with miseducation, it is hard to understand how deep study can be a Path.

If one is studious it is hard to see how someone who claims awakening after hitting bottom either through drugs or otherwise can be experiencing something other than feeling good in a recovery programme after the hangovers have gone.

What primarily needs to be understood is that no matter how exclusive these Paths appear to be they lead to Unity, and Unity is what all Buddhist seek, what all Seekers seek.

Books:- Treatise, Wai Zandtao Scifi, Matriellez Education.

Blogs:- Ginsukapaapdee, Matriellez.