The 9th International Conference Buddhism & Australia
Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia Illustrations
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Thus, the mind will eventually shift on its own to the state with the perplexing but thoroughly appropriate title of “neither perception nor yet non-perception,” hereafter “the eighth jhana” for the sake of brevity.
The eighth jhana may very easily be confused as being emptiness, especially if it is attained through insight practices (remember that insight practices can simultaneously cultivate concentration and wisdom).
I am tempted to say that one is simultaneously focused so narrowly that one notices nothing and yet so broadly that one doesn’t notice even that, but such a description doesn’t quite do this state justice. One way or the other, there is complete inattention to diversity.
The eighth jhana is the highest of the ordinary states of concentration that can be attained, ignoring the attainment of the cessation of perception and feeling and a few other attainments mentioned there. (See the Appendix.)
It is not possible to investigate this state, as it is too incomprehensible.
You are either in it or you are not.
Thus, the mind may move fairly quickly from boundless consciousness, through nothingness, and drop into the eighth jhana for a while, though the vaguest hint of attention to anything specific demolishes this state instantly.
It is also possible to sort of drift up and down through the various formless realms, and shifting back down to lower jhanas after being up in higher jhanas such as this one can lend a great deal of intensity to them.
There are some higher jhanas that can be attained by beings with moderate to high levels of realization, and I will discuss these in the Appendix, but for the moment and for most people, the listing of the eight jhanas is a good working model.
Just to drive this point home, an important feature of concentration practices is that they are not liberating in and of themselves.
Even the highest of these states ends.
The afterglow from them does not last that long, and regular reality might even seem like a bit of an assault when it is gone.
rationalizing that he is doing dzogchen practice (a type of insight practice) when he is just sitting between the fourth and sixth jhanas, rationalizing that the last two formless realms are emptiness, and rationalizing that he is enlightened.
It is a true dharma tragedy.
see also:Formless Realm