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Jhāna

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The original meaning of the word jhāna, Sanskrit Dhyāna, was ‘to ponder’ or ‘to ruminate’ although by The Buddha’s time it had come to mean any deep Meditative attainment. The Buddha used the word jhāna for the stages the Mind passes through as it progresses from cluttered normality to pristine clarity. Although he identified four such stages, they should not be Thought of as being distinct and separate. Rather, one stage flows towards and is transformed into another as the various Mental concomitants develop or fade.

 hāna: 'absorption' (meditation) refers chiefly to the four meditative absorptions of the fine-material sphere (rūpa-jjhāna or rūpāvacara-jjhāna; s. avacara). They are achieved through the attainment of full (or attainment -, or ecstatic) concentration (appanā, s. samādhi), during which there is a complete, though temporary, suspension of fivefold sense-activity and of the 5 hindrances (s. nīvaraṇa). 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 tranquility meditation (samatha-kammaṭṭhāna; s. bhāvanā). Often also the 4 immaterial spheres (arūpāyatana) are called absorptions of the immaterial sphere (arūpa-jjhāna or arūpāvacara-jjhāna). 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 (vicāra), born of detachment (viveka ja) and filled with rapture (pīti) 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 (samādhi), and filled with rapture (pīti) 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 (upekkhā) 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 (ākāsānañcāyatana) and abides therein.

["By 'perceptions of matter' (rūpa-saññā) are meant the absorptions of the fine-material sphere, as well as those objects themselves . . . " (Vis.M. X, 1).

"By 'perceptions of sense-reactions' (paṭigha-saññā) 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 (Jhāna 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 (ñāṇatta-saññā) 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 (viññāṇañcāyatana) 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 (ākiñcaññāyatana) and abides therein.

(8) "Through the total overcoming of the sphere of nothingness he reaches the sphere of neither-perception-nor-non-perception (nevasaññā-n’asaññāyatana) and abides therein."

"Thus the 1st absorption is free from 5 things (i.e. the hindrances, nīvaraṇa, q.v.), and 5 things are present (i.e. the factors of absorption; jhānaṅga). 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 (vicāra) rapture (pīti), joy (sukha), and concentration (samādhi). In the 2nd absorption there are present: rapture, joy and concentration; in the 3rd: joy and concentration; in the 4th: equanimity (upekkhā) 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 (pādaka-jhāna, q.v.) for the attaining of the higher spiritual powers (abhiññā, 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 (vipassanā), see samatha-vipassanā. - Full details in Vis.M. IV-X. (Buddhist Dictionary, Manual of Buddhist Terms and Doctrines, by NYANATILOKA MAHATHERA]

Jhāna 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.

The first step in attaining the jhānas is prolonged and disciplined Meditation to the stage where the five hindrances are weakened or temporarily suspended. This gives rise to a state where there is ‘a distance from sense desires and unskilled states of Mind’(vivicc’eva kāmehi vivicca akusalehi dhammehi), where thoughts continue (savitakkaṃ savicāraṃ) although they are much reduced and mainly neutral in content, and where there is a subtle but noticeable Joy and Happiness (Pīti Sukha). The meditator then ‘suffuses, utterly suffuses, fills and permeates’ (abhisandeti, parisandeti, paripūreti, parippharati) his or her Body with that Joy and Happiness. The Buddha called this the first jhāna.

If this state continues to be cultivated, thoughts eventually stop completely (avitakkaṃ avicaraṃ), the Mind becomes effortlessly focused (cetaso ekodhibhāvaṃ), and one experiences a deep inner tranquillity (ajjhattaṃ sampasāDana) while continuing to suffuse the Body with Joy and Happiness. This is called the second jhāna. In time, Joy fades away (pītiyā ca virāgā), Equanimity (upekkhā), crystal-clear Mindfulness and awareness (satisampajāñña) become pronounced and one experiences the Happiness (Sukha) that is usually only the privilege of Enlightened ones. This is called the third jhāna. In the fourth and highest jhāna one becomes completely detached from all physical and psychological pleasure and pain (sukhassa ca pahānā dukkhassa ca pahānā pubb’eva somanassa domanassānaṃ atthaṅgamā) and the Mind is emptied of everything except utterly pure Equanimity and Mindfulness (UpekkhāSati pārisuddhiṃ, D.I,73-75).

It will be noticed that the three main components of the jhānas are positive Feeling, Mindfulness and Equanimity. The Joy and Happiness, which continues even after the meditator emerges from the jhānic state, helps to untie the emotional knots and psychological wounds of the past thus simplifying the Mind and imparting a deep Contentment. The Mindfulness allows for a clear penetrating vision of things while the Equanimity keeps it from getting entangled in anything. The meditator becomes a still watching centre which is gradually filled with Wisdom.

 Jhāna1 (nt.) [from jhāyati,1 BSk. dhyāna. The (popular etym -- ) expln of jhāna is given by Bdhgh at Vism 150 as follows: "ārammaṇ' ûpanijjhānato paccanīka -- jhāpanato vā jhānaŋ," i.e. called jh. from meditation on objects & from burning up anything adverse] literally meditation. But it never means vaguely meditation. It is the technical term for a special religious experience, reached in a certain order of mental states. It was originally divided into four such states. These may be summarized: 1. The mystic, with his mind free from sensuous and worldly ideas, concentrates his thoughts on some special subject (for instance, the impermanence of all things).

This he thinks out by attention to the facts, and by reasoning. 2. Then uplifted above attention & reasoning, he experiences joy & ease both of body and mind. 3. Then the bliss passes away, & he becomes suffused with a sense of ease, and 4. he becomes aware of pure lucidity of mind & equanimity of heart. The whole really forms one series of mental states, & the stages might have been fixed at other points in the series. So the Dhamma -- saŋgani makes a second list of five stages, by calling, in the second jhāna, the fading away of observation one stage, & the giving up of sustained thinking another stage (Dhs 167 -- 175). And the Vibhaŋga calls the first jhāna the pañcaŋgika -- jhāna because it, by itself, can be divided into five parts (Vbh 267). The state of mind left after the experience of the four jhānas is described as follows at D i.76: "with his heart thus serene, made pure, translucent, cultured, void of evil, supple, ready to act, firm and imperturbable."

It will be seen that there is no suggestion of trance, but rather of an enhanced vitality. In the descriptions of the crises in the religious experiences of Christian saints and mystics, expressions similar to those used in the jhānas are frequent (see F. Heiler Die Buddhistische Versenkung, 1918). Laymen could pass through the four jhānas (S iv.301). The jhānas are only a means, not the end. To imagine that experiencing them was equivalent to Arahantship (and was therefore the end aimed at) is condemned (D i.37 ff.) as a deadly heresy. In late Pali we find the phrase arūpajjhānā. This is merely a new name for the last four of the eight Vimokkhā, which culminate in trance. It was because they made this the aim of their teaching that Gotama rejected the doctrines of his two teachers.

Āḷāra -- Kāḷāma & Uddaka -- Rāmaputta (M i.164 f.). -- The jhānas are discussed in extenso & in various combinations as regards theory & practice at: D i.34 sq.; 73 sq.; S ii. 210 sq.; iv.217 sq., 263 sq.; v.213 sq.; M i.276 sq., 350 sq., 454 sq.; A i.53, 163; ii.126; iii.394 sq.; iv.409 sq.; v.157 sq.; Vin iii.4; Nd2 on Sn 1119 & s.v.; Ps i.97 sq.; ii.169 sq.; Vbh 257 sq.; 263 sq.; 279 sq.; Vism 88, 415. -- They are frequently mentioned either as a set, or singly, when often the set is implied (as in the case of the 4th jh.). Mentioned as jh. 1 -- 4 e. g. at Vin i.104; ii.161 (foll. by sotāpanna, etc.); D ii.156, 186; iii.78, 131, 222; S ii.278 (nikāmalābhin); A ii.36 (id.); iii.354; S iv.299; v.307 sq.; M i.21, 41, 159, 203, 247, 398, 521; ii.15, 37; Sn 69, 156, 985; Dh 372; J i.139; VvA 38; PvA 163. -- Separately: the 1st: A iv.422; v.135; M i.246, 294; Miln 289; 1st -- 3rd: A iii.323; M i.181; 1st & 2nd: M ii.28; 4th: A ii.41; iii.325; v.31; D iii.270; VvA 4. -- See also Mrs. Rh. D. Buddh. Psych. (Quest Series) p. 107 sq.; Dhs. trsl. p. 52 sq.; Index to Saŋyutta N. for more refs.; also Kasiṇa.

   -- anuyutta applying oneself to meditation Sn 972; -- anga a constituent of meditation (with ref. to the 4 jhānas) Vism 190. -- kīḷā sporting in the exercise of meditation J iii.45. -- pasuta id. (+dhīra) Sn 709; Dh 181 (cp. DhA iii.226); -- rata fond of meditation S i.53, 122; iv.117; It 40; Sn 212, 503, 1009; Vv 5015; VvA 38; -- vimokkha emancipation reached through jhāna A iii.417; v.34; -- sahagata accompanied by jh. (of paññābala) A i.42.

From Palikanon.com

'absorption' (Meditation) refers chiefly to the four Meditative absorptions of the fine-material sphere (Rūpa-jjhāna or rūpāvacara-jjhāna; s. Avacara).

They are achieved through the attainment of full (or attainment -, or ecstatic) Concentration (appanā, s. Samādhi), during which there is a complete, though temporary, suspension of fivefold sense-activity and of the 5 hindrances (s. Nīvarana).

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 tranquility Meditation (Samatha-kammatthāna; s. bhāvanā).

Often also the 4 immaterial spheres (arūpāyatana) are called absorptions of the immaterial sphere (arūpa-jjhāna or arūpāvacara-jjhāna). 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 (Vicāra), born of detachment (vivekaja) and filled with rapture (Pīti) and Joy (Sukha) he enters the first absorption.

(2) "After the subsiding of Thought-conception and discursive Thinking, and by gaining inner tranquility and oneness of Mind, he enters into a state free from Thought-conception and discursive Thinking, the second absorption, which is born of Concentration (Samādhi), and filled with rapture (Pīti) 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 (upekkhā) 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 (ākāsānañcāyatana) and abides therein.

["By 'perceptions of matter' (rūpa-saññā) 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-saññā) 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 (Jhāna-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 (ñānatta-saññā) 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 (Viññāna ñcāyatana) 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 (ākiñcaññāyatana) and abides therein.

(8) "Through the total overcoming of the sphere of nothingness he reaches the sphere of neither-Perception-nor-non-Perception (nevasaññā-n'asaññāyatana) and abides therein."

"Thus the 1st absorption is free from 5 things (i.e. the hindrances, Nīvarana), and 5 things are present (i.e. the factors of absorption; jhānanga). 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 (Vicāra) rapture (Pīti), Joy (Sukha), and Concentration (Samādhi). In the 2nd absorption there are present: rapture, Joy and Concentration; in the 3rd: Joy and Concentration; in the 4th: Equanimity (upekkhā) 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 (pādaka-jhāna, q.v.) for the attaining of the higher spiritual powers (abhiññā).

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 (vipassanā), see Samatha-vipassanā. - Full details in Vis.M. IV-X.

Jhāna 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.

The Path of Serenity and Insight, H. Gunaratna,1985.

Source

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