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RE: The Value of Unstructured Exploration?

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The Value of Unstructured Exploration? Bagpuss The Gnome 6/22/12 2:04 AM
RE: The Value of Unstructured Exploration? John White 6/22/12 6:54 AM
RE: The Value of Unstructured Exploration? Adam . . 6/22/12 9:16 AM
RE: The Value of Unstructured Exploration? Bagpuss The Gnome 6/22/12 9:51 AM
RE: The Value of Unstructured Exploration? katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks 6/22/12 11:20 AM
RE: The Value of Unstructured Exploration? Bagpuss The Gnome 6/22/12 12:31 PM
RE: The Value of Unstructured Exploration? katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks 6/22/12 3:05 PM
RE: The Value of Unstructured Exploration? Bagpuss The Gnome 6/22/12 3:22 PM
RE: The Value of Unstructured Exploration? katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks 6/22/12 9:33 PM
RE: The Value of Unstructured Exploration? katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks 6/22/12 10:13 PM
RE: The Value of Unstructured Exploration? Bagpuss The Gnome 6/25/12 2:04 AM
RE: The Value of Unstructured Exploration? katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks 6/25/12 12:45 PM
RE: The Value of Unstructured Exploration? fivebells . 6/25/12 1:57 PM
RE: The Value of Unstructured Exploration? katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks 6/25/12 4:18 PM
RE: The Value of Unstructured Exploration? katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks 6/25/12 5:13 PM
RE: The Value of Unstructured Exploration? fivebells . 6/25/12 7:04 PM
RE: The Value of Unstructured Exploration? katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks 6/25/12 9:39 PM
RE: The Value of Unstructured Exploration? katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks 7/4/12 5:32 PM
RE: The Value of Unstructured Exploration? Oliver Myth 7/5/12 3:01 AM
RE: The Value of Unstructured Exploration? katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks 7/5/12 10:03 AM
RE: The Value of Unstructured Exploration? katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks 7/5/12 10:03 AM
RE: The Value of Unstructured Exploration? katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks 7/5/12 3:05 PM
RE: The Value of Unstructured Exploration? Oliver Myth 7/6/12 7:10 AM
RE: The Value of Unstructured Exploration? katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks 7/6/12 10:45 AM
RE: The Value of Unstructured Exploration? katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks 7/7/12 10:42 PM
RE: The Value of Unstructured Exploration? katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks 7/8/12 4:14 PM
RE: The Value of Unstructured Exploration? fivebells . 6/22/12 1:22 PM
RE: The Value of Unstructured Exploration? katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks 6/22/12 2:22 PM
In my current anapanasati practice I often find myself having to make a decision in the 3rd/4th jhana territory: Just keep exploring, or start investigating according to satipatthana (for eg. contemplating vedana).

There seems to be no end of avenues to explore. It feels like there's this great swirling flux of different strands of experience. Any one of them could be focused on and followed to see where they lead. For example, there seems to be a "wall" of "nothingness" that seems to grow and grow and grow (always with the promise of breaking/bursting) at the height of my exploration in 3-4th territory which I suspect to be entrance to 4th proper, or maybe the immaterial jhanas - is it worth simply exploring or is more structured practice of greater value?


What is your experience of exporting vs more structured practice?

RE: The Value of Unstructured Exploration?
Answer
6/22/12 6:54 AM as a reply to Bagpuss The Gnome.
that's a great question btg. what helped me in that territory was finding what seemed to be an optimal balance between staying in jhana and investigating. there seems to be a natural point where the two sort of converge. so without compromising the qualities of the jhana, it's possible to calmly and gently investigate, discern, keep teasing apart the 'knot of perception', whether you're working at the physical level, and an example of this is to simple discern that there is a left and right side of the body, or discern the difference between the surface of the body and the interior. or to feel as much of the body at once as possible. at a mental level, an example would be noting/knowing the pleasant qualities of the jhana, for example just knowing that you are liking the experience, or knowing if there is rapture, or equanimity, or any of the factors of enlightenment.

RE: The Value of Unstructured Exploration?
Answer
6/22/12 9:16 AM as a reply to Bagpuss The Gnome.
Bagpuss The Gnome:
In my current anapanasati practice I often find myself having to make a decision in the 3rd/4th jhana territory: Just keep exploring, or start investigating according to satipatthana (for eg. contemplating vedana).

There seems to be no end of avenues to explore. It feels like there's this great swirling flux of different strands of experience. Any one of them could be focused on and followed to see where they lead. For example, there seems to be a "wall" of "nothingness" that seems to grow and grow and grow (always with the promise of breaking/bursting) at the height of my exploration in 3-4th territory which I suspect to be entrance to 4th proper, or maybe the immaterial jhanas - is it worth simply exploring or is more structured practice of greater value?


What is your experience of exporting vs more structured practice?


Btg, just a random suggestion, when you get into that territory try to investigate the sense of facing forward, there is a sense that the face is in front and the back is behind, also that the head is above and legs are below, that's just something I messed around with in the territory you are in that was effective. What are they below/above of?

RE: The Value of Unstructured Exploration?
Answer
6/22/12 9:51 AM as a reply to Adam . ..
John:
that's a great question btg. what helped me in that territory was finding what seemed to be an optimal balance between staying in jhana and investigating. there seems to be a natural point where the two sort of converge. so without compromising the qualities of the jhana, it's possible to calmly and gently investigate, discern, keep teasing apart the 'knot of perception', whether you're working at the physical level, and an example of this is to simple discern that there is a left and right side of the body, or discern the difference between the surface of the body and the interior. or to feel as much of the body at once as possible. at a mental level, an example would be noting/knowing the pleasant qualities of the jhana, for example just knowing that you are liking the experience, or knowing if there is rapture, or equanimity, or any of the factors of enlightenment.


Hi John,

I see what you mean. I had been experimenting a bit with this already. I can body-scan for a while in jhana but it's quite a hard balancing act. I have to stop from time to time to keep the jhana going and often I find that I just lost the jhana without even really noticing! All of a sudden the mind is wandering and I realise I'm doing dry-vipassana again though often the concentration is still quite good.

It seems slowly is the key.

I've also been experimenting with the instructions in the kayagata sati sutta


"Furthermore, quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful mental qualities, he enters & remains in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. He permeates & pervades, suffuses & fills this very body with the rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal. Just as if a skilled bathman or bathman's apprentice would pour bath powder into a brass basin and knead it together, sprinkling it again & again with water, so that his ball of bath powder — saturated, moisture-laden, permeated within & without — would nevertheless not drip; even so, the monk permeates... this very body with the rapture & pleasure born of withdrawal. There is nothing of his entire body unpervaded by rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal. And as he remains thus heedful, ardent, & resolute, any memories & resolves related to the household life are abandoned, and with their abandoning his mind gathers & settles inwardly, grows unified & centered. This is how a monk develops mindfulness immersed in the body.

"And furthermore, with the stilling of directed thoughts & evaluations, he enters & remains in the second jhana: rapture & pleasure born of composure, unification of awareness free from directed thought & evaluation — internal assurance. He permeates & pervades, suffuses & fills this very body with the rapture & pleasure born of composure. Just like a lake with spring-water welling up from within, having no inflow from the east, west, north, or south, and with the skies supplying abundant showers time & again, so that the cool fount of water welling up from within the lake would permeate & pervade, suffuse & fill it with cool waters, there being no part of the lake unpervaded by the cool waters; even so, the monk permeates... this very body with the rapture & pleasure born of composure. There is nothing of his entire body unpervaded by rapture & pleasure born of composure. And as he remains thus heedful, ardent, & resolute, any memories & resolves related to the household life are abandoned, and with their abandoning his mind gathers & settles inwardly, grows unified & centered. This is how a monk develops mindfulness immersed in the body.

"And furthermore, with the fading of rapture, he remains equanimous, mindful, & alert, and senses pleasure with the body. He enters & remains in the third jhana, of which the Noble Ones declare, 'Equanimous & mindful, he has a pleasant abiding.' He permeates & pervades, suffuses & fills this very body with the pleasure divested of rapture. Just as in a lotus pond, some of the lotuses, born & growing in the water, stay immersed in the water and flourish without standing up out of the water, so that they are permeated & pervaded, suffused & filled with cool water from their roots to their tips, and nothing of those lotuses would be unpervaded with cool water; even so, the monk permeates... this very body with the pleasure divested of rapture. There is nothing of his entire body unpervaded with pleasure divested of rapture. And as he remains thus heedful, ardent, & resolute, any memories & resolves related to the household life are abandoned, and with their abandoning his mind gathers & settles inwardly, grows unified & centered. This is how a monk develops mindfulness immersed in the body.

"And furthermore, with the abandoning of pleasure & pain — as with the earlier disappearance of elation & distress — he enters & remains in the fourth jhana: purity of equanimity & mindfulness, neither-pleasure-nor-pain. He sits, permeating the body with a pure, bright awareness. Just as if a man were sitting covered from head to foot with a white cloth so that there would be no part of his body to which the white cloth did not extend; even so, the monk sits, permeating the body with a pure, bright awareness. There is nothing of his entire body unpervaded by pure, bright awareness. And as he remains thus heedful, ardent, & resolute, any memories & resolves related to the household life are abandoned, and with their abandoning his mind gathers & settles inwardly, grows unified & centered. This is how a monk develops mindfulness immersed in the body.


Sometimes these techniques work amazingly well. At other times not. All of this often depends on where I am in the vipassana-nanas.

In the Anapanasati sutta it instructs to experience vedana and mental states though the jhanas. This works quite well for getting up into that territory.

The most interesting technique I've tried so far is to do very slow body-scans in EACH jhana and try to discern the different effects on the body of each jhana as well as noticing vedana and mind states. It doesn't often work out as I regularly start off somewhere in the DN where a careful investigation of unpleasant vedana can sometimes be the way forward. When I start off before the DN it can go off like a rocket once the A&P kicks in though emoticon

All of this sounds very "structured" but it's very much an intuitive process dependant on conditions. When I first mentioned unstructured exploration what I really meant was focusing on these "strands of experience" --like if I focus on the piti in 1st jhana it will increase (sometimes to almost unbearable levels). There are other "strands" I could explore...

Adam:

Btg, just a random suggestion, when you get into that territory try to investigate the sense of facing forward, there is a sense that the face is in front and the back is behind, also that the head is above and legs are below, that's just something I messed around with in the territory you are in that was effective. What are they below/above of?


Adam this sounds like something I could do with body-scanning. I'll give it a try, thanks!

RE: The Value of Unstructured Exploration?
Answer
6/22/12 11:20 AM as a reply to Bagpuss The Gnome.
Hi BtG,

Just keep exploring, or start investigating according to satipatthana (for eg. contemplating vedana). (...)
It feels like there's this great swirling flux of different strands of experience. Any one of them could be focused on and followed to see where they lead. For example, there seems to be a "wall" of "nothingness" that seems to grow and grow and grow (always with the promise of breaking/bursting) at the height of my exploration in 3-4th territory which I suspect to be entrance to 4th proper, or maybe the immaterial jhanas - is it worth simply exploring or is more structured practice of greater value?

What is your experience of exporting vs more structured practice?

So, first there is the warning that jhana chats can get divisive because people have different opinions, which may be based entirely on the words of the sutta (pali or translations), about what is jhana. I do not intend to define 4th jhana for anyone but myself here. And, I am starting to search in order to learn what might be "jhana-like" and not jhana in the canon.

For myself, I do not think 4th jhana arises if there is any directing the concentration with a volition that is other than the volition to just be there focusing on the object without expectation or anticipation and with willingness and total contentedness (which develops as a result of good training in jhanas 1-3 as they give the mind eventually an effortless joyous foundation for sitting). Frankly, for me, on several occasions, I overlook that I am anticipating something and it is only through a weary, almost deflated spirit that I return to jhana meditation, as if saying, "I guess I'll just do the practice." Somehow an expectation arose in me personally and when that expectation or subtle anticipation fails to pan out, I return to the practice with a fresh slate, no anticipation, no expectation. It's been 12 months anad I am just really starting to trust that there must only be sitting and focusing on the object (with a brain that has been training in sukkha and piti all along).

I find jhanas 1-3 to be more grossly volitional because one has started with willfully identifying, willfully applying and willfully training in sustaining sensations (sukkha and piti). So, jhanas 1-3, I find, are cultivating the mind of the practitioner to have pleasure in sitting and focusing the mind. They are progressive trainings to cultivate mental comfort and joy in the practice. This is an important foundation if one is going to sit and practice, and it is important to experience sustained pleasure in concentration in general (so one can naturally cause sati in daily life and naturally become a friendly examiner of what one is doing off the cushion). So, rupa jhanas 1-3 are, in my opinion, really fundamental for training the mind to become willing and truly receptive to the practice: the brain is baited with comfort and joy to sit and focus versus its habit of buckshot thoughts and negative- and/or addictive-oriented perseverating. Thus, meditation becomes something one wants to do. Thus, concentration becomes something one wants to do in daily life (e.g., one can then train the mind to be 'sukkha' in studies, in exercise, all manner of non-cushion wholesome activities).

But 4th jhana requires all letting go. It is equanimous. It can have no "wanting." The volition in 4th is just sincere willingness to stay with the concentration object closely, closely, with no anticipation, no expectation, and let bodily/mental sensations arise and pass. The passage into 4th jhana arises on the trust that the practice of just focusing the mind is great, even if nothing happens. If one starts to feel boredom or anything antithetical to joy and comfort in the practice, one can go back to jhana 1 and re-apply and re-sustain joy (creating comfort in the practice). Or one can trust that boredom is "good" (iuseful, perfect), too. Or one can stop training for the session when too much effort is having to be made; one leaves on a "good note" in jhanas 1-3. It is like athletic training: it's no good to exercise too long and get a strain. A strain can set a person back. (This, I think, is one reason coffee is discouraged to sustain long meditation spells: it is a synthetic stimulant, poorly standing in for an organically developed, stable, understood skill.)

So jhanas 1-3 start to train the brain as well. It is learning "just concentration", that's all "I" do and that's great: just adhere the will contentedly to the breath. It is learning not to keep moving itself towards a goal or a new state/sensation or a "high". It is very natural, I think for the mind to go back to jhanas here to pick up some of the thrilling sensations, but really, I find that the arising of fourth jhana is a result of willingness to be with the breath (which will become being with the breath ever more closely over the course of weeks of practice). The concentration begins to show its object and the space "around", the concentration itself, it in new ways. These "new" refinements of concentration also take time to train in equanimous abiding, because these new "views" on the object and the concentration itself re-awaken the volition of "I want to direct this/ hey, want (more) of this", even just a personal "what's this?" causes a volition-for-more-of-this (and a dsesire to get more by trying to place the event/sensation in the vitaka-vicara jhana and produce 4th from it by a misguided thought that magnifying the sensation through the jhans will cause the 4th jhana or the effects perceived just before 4th jhana. 4th jhana seems to happen without the person, out of the blue, so eventually a person sees that they cannot capture an effect, bake in the the three lower rupa jhana, and presto, 4th jhana caka results. No.). I think that's natural and fine to try to capture these effects, but it will not work. To fight the actual process (that the volition cannot make the 4th jhana happen; the volition can just set up conditions from which 4th arises) is to be sad one did say, 15 push-ups verus 20: silly. It's totally normal - in my case - to go for a long while without 4 jhana: it's normal to try to harvest the effects and sensations and try to grow them. I am trying to use a physical analogy of patience and training and just being equanimous in the ability and opportunity to train. One is learning to do this safely and in comfort, and patience and positive approach is key. The reality is, one has to become settled in just the breathing concentration. This comfortable receptivity of the task of breathing, just breathing, sets up conditions for 4th jhana.

Your training in jhanas 1-3 is also why I think you have, I think, elsewhere reported pleasant sensations spontaneously arising. I have not pulled up the post, but think I remember you describing pleasant sensations almost like displaced orgasms (those not developing in the genitals). The brain is getting to the training wherein sukkha/piti arises naturally. This is the same as when a long-training body builder opens the refrigerator or just lifts a pencil a giant bicep just arises: it is a natural product of the body-builder's training. So, too, sukkha and piti naturally arise with enough training in anapanasati and/or satipatthana.

So, I find that the only volition that can be present for fourth jhana to arise is willing, at-ease (comfortable) volition to remain focused on the object: my will must just be committed contentedly to the object... with no anticipation and no expectation; this allows 4th to arise naturally, on its own. It is the completeness of the equanimity that causes 4th jhana to seem like it arises on its own, out of the blue. Personhood has become well-focused to its one job: just be there comfortably attending the object closely.

The moment that one starts to prime/pump or garner any effects/sensations in fourth jhana, one gets booted out! Then, a natural tendancy is to actually go back to first jhana and to take up the effect/sensation remembered in fourth jhana (or preceding it) in vitaka and viccara. This garnering/pumpoing is a natural response to the self-hood that can sort of see what is happening while it is concentratiing on the object. So my volition moves to the effect/sensation; this is a habit to try to capture the effect and "make it happen". All one needs to do is go back to the breath and place volition on receptivity and willingness to be at the breath closely. It is important to have trained in a friendly manner in order to not strain the mind.

Aside: I think something like single-pointed concentration can arise in anger/straining, in study, in anything, but that concentration is not at all an "immediately visible nibbana" (accesstoinsight A.iv,453-54, english Ubhatpbhaga Sutta, that causes a release or an insight. That use of fine concentration causes targeted, volitional action. I've never taken adderall or concerta but read about symptoms and think that jhana - meditative training through the four jhanas as taught by suttas like satipatthana and anapanasati-- has availed my brain to this kind of non-insight concentration (and there is the bonus of sukkha).

Once 4th arises (as noted above) 4th also shows insight. I do not look for it. There is no volitional movement to look. The insight and the experience are one-in-the-same. And "I" can make a story about it after the jhana, but the jhana and the insight are not separate: it is a area without separation nor with unity. I think words fail a bit here and can mislead if a person thinks they can make the effect happen. It is, to me, my job to set up the conditions, not to directly cause the occurrence of 4th jhana.

Anyway the 4th jhana arises where equanimity is complete (volitional attention is comfortably and steadfastly committed to just attending the object - this gives personhood a place to perch and keep itself occupied). There is no looking; the insight comes up naturally with no gap in relation to the object itself. An analogy would be that the "2+2=" is arising simultaneously to the "4": no question asked, no answer given, but an insight occurs. (Beware: analogies have limits). The object is now understood in a manner that lacks the obscurations that I (the personal I which is suspended during jhana due to placing all will in concentration on the object) formally would normally place on it.

My two cents.

[edit x5]
[edit: x6] in this color
[edit 7: strike out "formally", meant "normally"

RE: The Value of Unstructured Exploration?
Answer
6/22/12 12:31 PM as a reply to katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks.
Katy that's a hugely helpful description of how you reach 4th. Thanks!

I can't wait to get to my evening sit now emoticon

Often I exit 3rd but do not feel that I have entered 4th. Im not sure if that makes sense or not but it's what it feels like.

RE: The Value of Unstructured Exploration?
Answer
6/22/12 1:22 PM as a reply to katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks.
Would it be reasonable to say that 4th is a byproduct of effective practice, rather than a desirable outcome in itself? I know you're partly saying that's the attitude you need to bring it about anyway, but since it's unreproducable and not pleasurable, it doesn't really seem like something worth chasing after anyway. (Don't think I've noticed 4th in my own practice.)

RE: The Value of Unstructured Exploration?
Answer
6/22/12 2:22 PM as a reply to fivebells ..
It is beyond pleasurable. If I could wish impatiently, in my own unknowing of all things, that nibbana be one thing, I would wish that it be this fourth jhana-alternating-with-things-just-as-they-are. Taking in sunset and sunrise, taking in moonlight, taking in clean water, these things are so marvelous, watching an animal drink water... etc: I do not want these things taken in by fourth jhana - not that I know of yet, anyway. (Please keep in mind that I do not have adeptness with this, I am very much training to develop conditions that reduce the obscurations caused by my habits of personality-view (I think this point is the same in theistic and agnostic and ethical secular traditions: one is just trying to re-train and sustain motivation in the training and, at some point, the results of training become motivation in themselves)). But, when there is something that is stress - say, seeing someone in stress, even just seeing the stress of pretense or seeing the stress of superiority or seeing the stress of impatience/not listening to another, then 4th jhana seems to be very very useful, very stilling, very apt, extremely comfortable. [edit: again, my lack of adeptness/sustenance of personal habits/hindrance-making in setting up conditions keeps me from knowing a greater range of how/where fourth jhana goes, in a manner of speaking]

Would it be reasonable to say that 4th is a byproduct of effective practice, rather than a desirable outcome in itself?
in my opinion: yes. This gives great importance to what is being practiced and great importance to what we are practicing here. Monastics often cite particular suttas when they speak because they wish to be clear that they are passing on correct practice (e.g., Right Concentration), so please do not take my words for anything. Check your experience of suffering and check the suttas.

RE: The Value of Unstructured Exploration?
Answer
6/22/12 3:05 PM as a reply to Bagpuss The Gnome.
that's a hugely helpful description of how you reach 4th

I hope it helps you. to be clear, I do not reach anything but the breath. How well (gently, friendly, patiently, consistently practice, conduct my life heedfully, ethically, etc) I train in daily sati, as we all know, directly relates to the readiness of the mind during sitting practice (or the jumpiness or the upsetted-ness or the restlessness or the giddiness or the wanting-ness, etc). How well I can occupy my attention with the breath (again as a result of such steady, friendly, earnest practice) is what seems to make conditions for the arising of fourth jhana.

It took 4-6 weeks for this jhana to occur*** and it was out of the blue for me.

Also, as a result of naturally cognizing and trying and the arising of habitual tendancies, I can only really say that 4th jhana has clearly occurred a handful of times in just under a year. This is natural (for me): I cannot force this. That would counter effectiveness efficiency and effectiveness.

Only this week am I realizing how great the practice is, how gently treating one's self like a patient helps, how the whole experience of the self (e.g., the hardship in the knowledges of fear, misery, disgust) help and become humus in transformation, become useful to understanding others. And I am keenly aware of how likely it is for me to create a hindrance through my overwhelming habit of heedlessness and other habits. It is a gentle patient practice process, but I am now much more aware of what each moment that is indulgent in hindrances is: reckless. It is like leaving a puppy at home with full run of the house and no wholesome activities. It's really important to train that puppy or that adult dog (the mind) for skillful, wholesome use or it is much more likely to make terrible mistakes. It is like those kids on the bus recently video'd taunting the bus monitor: I'd wager 10:1 that those kids also have lovely traits in them, that they have done lovely acts in their lives, but that left without vigilant and skillful, wholesome, benevolent means -- especially in a world modeling for them so many hindrances -- that, yes, they will and that I will and that an inadequately and unkindly trained puppy will do something really stupid and/or harmful. This is the human mind: I have no doubt whatsoever that as it can make an a-bomb and torture it can make tremendous peace and benevolence.

spelling, punctuation edit
edit:*** 4-6 weeks after starting a "I give up: this katy has limited skill; I'll try the practice sincerely and with felicity and benignity." My practice was, as I understood it from dialogue with Tarin here on the DhO, actualism, which in hindsight and more book-learning, seems to have been excellent satipatthana training for the body foundation of mindfulness (one of four foundations for sati).

RE: The Value of Unstructured Exploration?
Answer
6/22/12 3:22 PM as a reply to katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks.
It took 4-6 weeks for this jhana to occur and it was out of the blue for me.


I can understand that. The last time I reached this state not by accident I was focusing on the breath, not the pleasure.

I just tried this out. It was really interesting. I went back and forth between 3rd and (nearly) 4th so many times in this sit! The one time I seemed to be really transitioning to it the mind got a little over excited and the moment was gone.

It's a kind of wavy-billowy-floaty feeling as the breath takes over the body. Just before this happened i strongly noticed how the body was breathing all by itself, a very strong sense of anatta. I remember this clearly now from the last time when I actually did enter it.

It seems repeatable, but I'll have to work on it some more emoticon


ADDED: It's like in 1-2-3 you focus and build, focus and build then in 3rd you begin to let it all go (as you said earlier). Let it go, let it go.. like the entire technique changes once your in 3rd...

RE: The Value of Unstructured Exploration?
Answer
6/22/12 9:33 PM as a reply to Bagpuss The Gnome.
It seems repeatable, but I'll have to work on it some more emoticon

After our correspondence today I went to Bhante Henepola Gunaratana's "The Jhanas in Theravada Buddhist Meditation".

In it, Bhante Gunaratana cites Dhammasangani Atthakatha 219 to describe the occurrence of the mind maturing from second to third jhana: "Just as a suckling calf, removed from its mother and left unguarded, again approaches the mother, so the happiness of jhana tends to veer towards rapture, its natural partner, if unguarded by mindfulness and discernment (Dhs. A.219). To prevent this and the consequent loss of the third jhana is the task of mindfulness and discernment.." I really like this analogy for describing also the letting go into fourth jhana, which for me, is done by just fully, contentedly occupying the mind in a job, like following the breath or being at the body (what we've sometimes called Bahiya-syle in DhO land)

And here I admire and appreciate his concise description of third to fourth jhana:

The attainment of the fourth jhana commences with the aforesaid procedure. In this case the meditator sees that the third jhana is threatened by the proximity of rapture, which is ever ready to swell up again due to its natural affinity with happiness; he also sees that it is inherently defective due to the presence of happiness, a gross factor which provides fuel for clinging. He then contemplates the state where equanimous feeling and one-pointedness subsist together — the fourth jhana — as far more peaceful and secure than anything he has so far experienced, and therefore as far more desirable. Taking as his object the same counterpart sign he took for the earlier jhana, he strengthens his efforts in concentration for the purpose of abandoning the gross factor of happiness and entering the higher jhana.
(...)
The first part of this formula specifies the conditions for the attainment of this jhana — also called the neither-painful-nor-pleasant liberation of mind (M.i, 296) — to be the abandoning of four kinds of feeling incompatible with it, the first two signifying bodily feelings, the latter two the corresponding mental feelings. The formula also introduces several new terms and phrases which have not been encountered previously. First, it mentions a new feeling, neither-pain-nor-pleasure (adukkhamasukha), which remains after the other four feelings have subsided. This kind of feeling also called equanimous or neutral feeling, replaces happiness as the concomitant feeling of the jhana and also figures as one of the jhana factors. Thus this attainment has two jhana factors: neutral feeling and one-pointedness of mind. Previously the ascent from one jhana to the next was marked by the progressive elimination of the coarser jhana factors, but none were added to replace those which were excluded. But now, in the move from the third to the fourth jhana, a substitution occurs, neutral feeling moving in to take the place of happiness.

In addition we also find a new phrase composed of familiar terms, "purity of mindfulness due to equanimity" (upekkhasatiparisuddhi). The Vibhanga explains: "This mindfulness is cleared, purified, clarified by equanimity" (Vbh. 261), and Buddhaghosa adds: "for the mindfulness in this jhana is quite purified, and its purification is effected by equanimity, not by anything else" (Vism.167; PP.174). The equanimity which purifies the mindfulness is not neutral feeling, as might be supposed, but specific neutrality, the sublime impartiality free from attachment and aversion, which also pertains to this jhana.
Though both specific neutrality and mindfulness were present in the lower three jhanas, none among these is said to have "purity of mindfulness due to equanimity." The reason is that in the lower jhanas the equanimity present was not purified itself, being overshadowed by opposing states and lacking association with equanimous feeling. It is like a crescent moon which exists by day but cannot be seen because of the sunlight and the bright sky. But in the fourth jhana, where equanimity gains the support of equanimous feeling, it shines forth like the crescent moon at night and purifies mindfulness and the other associated states (Vism. 169; PP.175).


I added the bold. I hope this may also help fuel y/our practice.

Also, as minding the breath gets very refined and settled, content to just be at the breath, then fourth jhana may arise via a specific "mode" of fourth jhana, aka the immaterial realms. Again, to me, this is an unmistakable and remarkable occurrence (and this alone may cause the end of the jhana) and a huge wonder, a tremendous motivation, a tremendous aid. Already our dialogue here has helped my own practice. Thank you so much.

RE: The Value of Unstructured Exploration?
Answer
6/22/12 10:13 PM as a reply to Bagpuss The Gnome.
It's a kind of wavy-billowy-floaty feeling as the breath takes over the body.
Ok, cool.
In my opinion, which is clearly not one formed by reliable, adeptness of fourth jhana at this time, when this kind of sensation can no longer attract the attention (which is not to say you are ignoring it, it just means that your attention turns to it yet gives no excitement to this, no matter how slight, no elevated attention (again, this is pure equanimity here and that is not something we typically have for most of our lives, so it takes a while to clear the way for it to arrive and then keep clearing the way for its return), then the mind will pass into fourth jhana. Also said this way: fourth jhana will arrive and suck "you" into it, even some mode of it.

There is no sense anticipating it, and there is no sense in denying anticipating it. Here is where noting can be excellent: just noting after/around practice, "Hoping, hoping. frustrated frustrated. Confused, confused. Exhausted. Exhausted. Giving up, giving up, dark nighting again, dark nighting again, intellectualizing, intellectualizing" etc. This noting can really help the personality mind let go more, so that when cushion-time comes, personality mind has already been subject to some gentle chipping away.

edited: spelling, punctuation
Edit: and, yeah, I find that resting in just normal life - maybe just goofing off with a friend, totally letting go of the practice, releases tension and expectation, too. Makes it easier to re-start the practice and actually more re-freshed and re-newed, more open, less tense.

RE: The Value of Unstructured Exploration?
Answer
6/25/12 2:04 AM as a reply to katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks.
Me:
It seems repeatable


pffff.... i worked on this all weekend and got nowhere emoticon

Still, 3rd is a great place to explore from. That was the original point of this post: whether to "just explore" or do something more structured. For right now I am working on body-scanning while staying in the jhana to the best of my ability but also adding contemplation of the affective tone of the sensations. One upside of so many things going on is that it's hard for the mind to find enough spare bandwidth to get distracted!

RE: The Value of Unstructured Exploration?
Answer
6/25/12 12:45 PM as a reply to Bagpuss The Gnome.
Hey there Bagpuss,

pffff.... i worked on this all weekend and got nowhere


Oh, yeah: I understand. This "getting nowhere" is really a useful experience: getting nowhere helps the mind to learn to give up on any subtle or gross I-obsessing about a goal. [Edit: here, "getting nowhere" really means the mind is not feeling its previous gratifications, those of jhanas 1-3 and it is irritated by the loss of these gratifications.]


Still, 3rd is a great place to explore from. That was the original point of this post: whether to "just explore" or do something more structured. For right now I am working on body-scanning while staying in the jhana to the best of my ability but also adding contemplation of the affective tone of the sensations.


Okay, I think I understand your action here: exploring the affective tones of the jhana. I would call this "coming to understand the gratification" one is getting from the jhanas 1-3. Sukkha and piti, being generated, are also subject to cessation, so it becomes unavoidable to see their impermanence, that they are a temporary island. They were cultivated to give one an antidote to all that drove the person to the practice of meditation in the first place: fear, misery, disgust, stress, the stress of seeking gratification, the stress of be denied gratification, so many sufferings, the feeling no exit from these.

It is very natural to do what you're doing: contemplating the affective tones is a little like that calf suckling deciding, "How good is this milk? I've heard that something called 'grazing' is very good, but I don't know yet. Let me stay here for a bit longer." The calf naturally grows out of its nursing place, brave enough to find out "What is grazing?"

Willingness for fourth jhana starts with the willingness to not keep priming the sukkha and piti nor any gratification. Even cultivating "adding contemplation" is really just an I-gratification, "I'm still in control" - because "I" just isn't quite ready to focus on its one object and let go of all the preceding gratifciation. Nevertheless this letting go by both exhaustion of "getting nowhere" and by volition of "I've got to try" is part of the path.

This is both a place wherein the mind stays focused on its task (sitting through the sensations "boredom", and "getting nowhere" and "sleepy") and, with some willingness for complete equanimity, becomes aware of new detail. When the mind relaxes - becomes used to that detail - then the immaterial jhanas are likely to happen.

For fourth jhana, one has just naturally grown weary of the limits of jhanas 1-3 and settles into just minding the breath. Truly, nothing special. Willingness to be in the simple, even not-thrilling practice grows. One is gaining independence from the addictions of gratifying sensation. Starting to see sensation as sensations.

RE: The Value of Unstructured Exploration?
Answer
6/25/12 1:57 PM as a reply to katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks.
katy steger:
This is both a place wherein the mind stays focused on its task (sitting through the sensations "boredom", and "getting nowhere" and "sleepy") and, with some willingness for complete equanimity, becomes aware of new detail. When the mind relaxes - becomes used to that detail - then the immaterial jhanas are likely to happen.


Can you describe these new details at all? I have experienced an immaterial jhana by accident a couple of times, and have no frickin' clue how the total disconnection of awareness from the senses happens.

RE: The Value of Unstructured Exploration?
Answer
6/25/12 4:18 PM as a reply to fivebells ..
Hi fivebells,

Can you describe these new details at all? I have experienced an immaterial jhana by accident a couple of times, and have no frickin' clue how the total disconnection of awareness from the senses happens.


Yeah: got it.

Okay: If a person is experiencing immaterial jhana (those said to be modes of fourth jhana) then the details - in my limited and non-adept experience - are what one perceives just before the fourth jhana occurs: very fine particulate attributes appearing in the faculty of observation simultaneous to observing the wholeness of the object. Let's say you are using a candle or some light as object: the mind will at some point start to perceive the static-attributes of space/air as well as the wholeness of the candle. The same probably can be said of hearing: hearing static as well as hearing defined sound. Experiencing both simultaneously - the wholeness of the object and the particulate nature of one's own sense-faculty (or perceiving the particulate nature of the medium) - does something to the brain, I think, or at least to this brain. To sit for this stabilization to occur takes some real foundation in prior sitting and cultivating a stable, equanimous mind set. Without such foundation, it's pretty likely that one will just think, "So, what? Static at the ears. Static at the eyes..." and not have the basic sitting practice that would allow for seeing how this goes after a while.

Have I mentioned enough that I had totally given up on my own personality's strategies when I jumped into sensate-practice wholeheartedly and stayed at such training for something like four or six weeks before the surprise of single-point equanimous jhana arrived on its own? So, this way may also just work for me, because it was arrived at by way of dedicated, give-it-all effort. In that regard, I already had developed single-minded intention and will. Do you follow? I had no other "great plan" or interest. I was exhausted and really really sick of fear, misery and disgust and everything I had thought of personally to "solve those". To me that is muncitu-kamyata-ñana at its fullest expression. Exhausted, willing to just do as instructed by the teaching I learned that I could trust. That's a pretty vulnerable moment: one wants to be have a great, tested teaching and, where possible, among safe, ethical people. (DhO is pretty great about that. One can find non-exploitation and deferral to sutta here consistently.)

WARNING: to jump into this effort without gradual training, I think also runs some real risks. I think one really needs to know that they are in an reliably equanimous, contented mind long before going to this intently. Naturally, this kind of instruction (even from a flimsy non-adept like me) is exactly the kind of training that a stressed person may read and just think, "Awesome: maybe this is a shortcut to the 'factorial Nibbana'." Truly, I think such a person will get themselves into some other mind territory, maybe have a psychotic break, maybe have an awesome trip, maybe just fall asleep or maybe wildly hallucinate without being prepared for any of this through organically grown, really solid equanimity. I truly cannot see how the wonder of equanimous single-point concentration (fourth jhana) can arise in a mind that is not also endowed with very stable equanimity; My two cents.

Okay, back to other obstacles I've found in myself: sometimes, jhana is not happening not because of what one is not doing, but because of what one is doing off the cushion, like have too much conceptual interest in jhana. If I generate too much cognitive interest in these jhana occurrences (as I have for the past month), then after a while this prevents any jhana from arising. If I stop being heedful in daily life, then jhana become very very far away, meditation then has to go through lots of settling in again.

At first, though, I think it is actually good to air out any personal attachments and perceptions and cognitions and interests and excitement around the jhanas in order that one can quickly see the inutility (and eventual stress) of regarding jhana in these ways. Really, one just has to get back to simply doing, simply being with the object, willingly, contentedly, knowing solidly that the arrival of one's intellectual/emotive/creative/conceptual volition has not yet offered anything so skillful as the jhana for training the mind; so, one just lets the arrival of such volitions go back to causing the volition to be contented with minding the object, and being heedful to detail in daily life.

Again, the jhanas are called "immediately visible Nibbana, factorial Nibbana, Nibbana here and now" (Pali Text: A.iv,453-54), and intellectualizing or emoting about jhana becomes a waste of time - some form of self-gratification, after one realizes that these acts are antithetical to jhana happening.

RE: The Value of Unstructured Exploration?
Answer
6/25/12 5:13 PM as a reply to fivebells ..
Me:
(DhO is pretty great about that. One can find non-exploitation and deferral to sutta here consistently.)

Knowing this, please also know that I would not know where to find in any canon anywhere (pali, tibetan or chinese) my description of the simultaneously experiencing of particulate details and wholeness of object that "sucks" into single-point concentration. I keep re-iterating that I am a non-adept because perhaps I will see my current route as a dead-end in six months. [Edit: meaning, please don't take my word for this. Follow your training and your teaching, your teacher if you have one]

I will say that I am quite comfortable stating that I am experiencing single-point equanimous concentration, though not reliably (and this is because "I" create self-interested diversions still, despite having tasting what I truly think is at least a short window on nibbana). I absolutely would not put this out there if I did not think that I was experiencing what the suttas describe as single-point concentration (even 'factorial Nibbana'). Further I had the chance to describe this experience more fully to a well-known, fMRI'd monastic teacher, and I'll just say that this teacher nodded and replied something like "I understand exactly." They - someone I consider adept just by their scientific record - noted that I should find a qualified teacher (there are canonical requirements to be deemed a qualified teacher). I am not sharing their name to be coy: if I go awry in my practice, then I have no interest in good people/teachers being associated with my any failure, especially without their choosing to be so associated.

EDIT2: Further, in regards to the monastic's comment to me, this should not be taken as any validation of my practice: I easily could have misunderstood even such a simple reply. Even if it did validate the practice as correctly going along (in one person's view, which person deferred to their own teacher for more training), that validation would responsibly be released into thin air after hearing it as merely a useful "carry on and perhaps get to this teacher"; anything more would be, for me, a gratifying cognition that prevents jhana training and the benefits of jhana training and, for you, it could distance you from studying and knowing that which is exactly caused in your own mind for both stress and release from stress. I do share this monastic's reply here, because I must say I disregarded jhana training for quite some time - getting on pretty well in "dry" insight. I would now, however, say, that if I could give this experience to a great enemy and never experience it for myself again, I would. It is pacifying and I guess the word "bliss" is what comes through in the suttas. So, to me this practice left by Gotama is worthwhile. And its variations in the traditions make sense to me.

RE: The Value of Unstructured Exploration?
Answer
6/25/12 7:04 PM as a reply to katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks.
katy steger:
immaterial jhana (those said to be modes of fourth jhana)


Hmm, I think what I experienced by accident is known as cessation of feelings and perceptions, but I could be wrong, that phrase just seems to describe it very well. I didn't know the immaterial jhanas are associated with 4th.

(Just noticed that that wikipedia page claims that someone who attains this state is an anagami/arahant. So maybe it was the "dimension of nothingness," I really wouldn't know.)

katy steger:
WARNING: to jump into this effort without gradual training, I think also runs some real risks.


No danger there in my case. At this stage, I am only actively using jhana to uproot some fairly prosaic karma.

katy steger:
...if I go awry in my practice, then I have no interest in good people/teachers being associated with my any failure, especially without their choosing to be so associated.


Good enough if you just want to avoid association-by-google, but you have provided enough information that I think I know who you are talking about. I envy you your illustrious company. emoticon

RE: The Value of Unstructured Exploration?
Answer
6/25/12 9:39 PM as a reply to fivebells ..
I didn't know the immaterial jhanas are associated with 4th.
I didn't think about this either. It was in reading the link to Bhante Gunaratana's accesstoinsight writings on Friday that I read the following italicized words and understood why I understood some other events: "Once the fourth jhana is reached the jhana factors remain constant, and in higher ascent to the immaterial attainments there is no further elimination of jhana factors. For this reason the formless jhanas, when classified from the perspective of their factorial constitution as is done in the Abhidhamma, are considered modes of the fourth jhana. They are all two-factored jhanas, constituted by one-pointedness and equanimous feeling."

No danger there in my case. At this stage, I am only actively using jhana to uproot some fairly prosaic karma.
You bet. Sorry, I just put that in there for other readers, and it's a real caution in my opinion.

I envy you your illustrious company. emoticon
Well, I do feel lucky and appreciative of friends who caused the encounter. To be clear this monastic did not see why perceiving particulate arisings/passings should automatically cause single-point concentration (though they did seem to clearly understand my description of the outcome and its meaning as "single-point equanimous jhana). And another monastic on another day, different tradition, did not understand how the experience of fourth jhana - even suitably and personally described - is happening for me while listening and slightly responding in conversation. So, briefly meeting with life-long practitioners and discussing experience does not necessarily clarify the practice; it's just too short a window to really get any understanding. In fact, we probably know better each other's practices here on the DhO and our habits and our any changes of habit.

Regardless of illustrious encounters, what comes through clearly when one starts to have these kinds of experiences is that the functional beneficial practice should be starting to guide the practitioner in several ways. One definitely should be clued in by it about how one causes one's own hindrances (versus stress/dukkha from externally applied sources or disease processes); one definitely should be seeing how to get into their practice repeatedly ("my" work now with creating conditions that lead to fourth jhana) ; one definitely should be looking to the translations/original language texts and reading them closely to understand "Is my experience clearly that which is described?"; one's discernment should be improving; one's daily life should naturally become more heedful, naturally take more and more advantage of good health, good company, good training opportunity, etc. If I had only experienced equanimous single-point concentration once, I would only have the insight, "Hey, brain can do funky things!" Seeing it a few times now I realize among other things I have to re-locate that original sincerity and intent and patiently, steadily apply the right effort. And get sleep and get work done and be with friends and family, etc.

RE: The Value of Unstructured Exploration?
Answer
7/4/12 5:32 PM as a reply to katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks.
me:
("my" work now with creating conditions that lead to fourth jhana)
Until about a week ago I was looking for ways to create fourth jhana deliberately and but not directly, just focusing on the conditions that give rise to it...this excerpted sentence says it best though: there are only conditions that lead to fourth jhana and that is the condition of sati.

If someone is practicing actualism, then as I understood actualism practice here on the DhO, often via Tarin's replies encouraging sensate wonder and non-self, then this practice may be very useful body-based sati. It was essential to my own work.

To hunt for fourth jhana is a waste of time; to found sati everywhere is great. Sati gives rise to many understandings and factorial states and, on its own, it is a complete "package"

RE: The Value of Unstructured Exploration?
Answer
7/5/12 3:01 AM as a reply to katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks.
Katy, I struck 4th Jhana for the first time thru proper Jhana practice a week ago and it matches your description in your first post perfectly.

Thanks for the sharing your insight. Mind if I copy that post and show it to some friends?

Oliver

RE: The Value of Unstructured Exploration?
Answer
7/5/12 10:03 AM as a reply to Oliver Myth.
Hi Oliver -

I am really glad you have experience of factorial nibbana - this becomes quite the guide: a person who experiences fourth jhana learns directly --- vitally discovers and confirms for themselves --- the freedom and wonders of personally letting go.
*

Then this strange phrase "non-self" is seen as not fearsome; it is in fact worthy of one's utmost satipatthana effort. I will add that I think a completely faithful person in a theistic faith probably experiences the same: they do not even concern themselves with awaiting a validation from their master, they admire and attend to without any control or judgement of all that their master created. They know respect of all, non-judgement of all, they know ultimate trust in their maker. Instead of seeking a personal gratification, the being they become incredibly mindful of what is, as it/all must be holy. It is no surprise to me that some of the great minds of since observational natural science were also theistic monastics, just reverentially observing closely that which their senses perceive, and respecting other life.

Sati is inherently benign and naturally grows gentleness, benevolence, equanimity.


Mind if I copy that post and show it to some friends?
You know each friend best, so I think it may be useful for you to use your personal experience and tailor it to each friend's ongoing, changing experience. Please also consider that you and I have built some rapport over these months together and that my many words may very reasonabl y fail on new ears, skeptical, like Ike said: "An intellectual is a man who takes more words than necessary to tell more than he knows."

Nevertheless, if you think the words from 6/22 work, then by all means, copy the words.

[edits: strike-out and color]
[edit: I am indebted to many sources, here and elsewhere. I must say, no matter what I have read and applied, it has also helped me to meet a few practitioners/teachers in person as there is a body-authenticity. Thus, your practice Oliver, is probably the most useful thing, if you are in direct contact with these friends]

* Though, Oliver, if we look at the duration of our practices - the gradual training, I strongly caution that letting go is a bit like carefully working down a rope. If one just blindly "lets go" with only trust and a desperate mind of "I want to be released in bliss" one can end up on the ground, broken and suffering, terribly disillusioned. One learns to climb down the rope hand over hand until one knows it's okay to jump the last bit.

So, gradual, methodical, skillful practice is very important.

RE: The Value of Unstructured Exploration?
Answer
7/5/12 10:03 AM as a reply to Oliver Myth.
I am really glad you have experience of factorial nibbana - this becomes quite the guide: a person who experiences fourth jhana learns directly --- vitally discovers and confirms for themselves --- the freedom and wonders of personally letting go.
Though, Oliver, if we look at the duration of our practices - the gradual training, I strongly caution that letting go is a bit like carefully working down a rope. If one just blindly "lets go" with only trust and a desperate mind of "I want to be released in bliss" one can end up on the ground, broken and suffering, terribly disillusioned. One learns to climb down the rope hand over hand until one knows it's okay to jump the last bit.

Gradual, methodical, wholesome training is important.


[edits: in color]

RE: The Value of Unstructured Exploration?
Answer
7/5/12 3:05 PM as a reply to Oliver Myth.
I posted the following in Oliver's practice log but will add it here in the event it helps anyone else:


I went through two weeks recently of "wanting to cause conditions for the arising of4th jhanathinking life could be rendered permanently so" Any maybe it can, but the wanting is a wrong-direction distortion. So, this wanting fourth jhana prevents it, because it is just "wanting" again, part of the addictive cycle of gratification a self creates on non-real bases. Complete equanimity is found in receptive, non-reactive awareness. That is sati. (Actualism has some similarities by looking at mind and body arisings and helps one see how one is habitually creating oneself.)

Gotama identified the addictive component causing stress/dissatisfaction. Here is the video that Jean-François posted a few weeks back, "TEDxGlasgow - Gary Wilson - The Great Porn Experiment" . Once one sits in the presence of one's own cravings and does not gratify a craving for 24 to 48 hours, one starts to know exactly what is a physical need arising (water, the habitat of our evolution: sun, air, open sky, etc) and what is mental craving arising: more novelty, more excess, more jealousy, more hatred - a din that pressures the head. Once one recognizes that pull and pressure of mental craving, then one knows that unpleasant pull of mind (addiction-and-compulsion) where ever it arises. Is gratification occurring in winning an argument? When getting the last piece of pie? When getting the seat? When being the meekest/most powerful, etc Each person know their own gratification sources.

Anyway, after I let go of "wanting" fourth jhana (only last week) I came across the Salayatana sutta: it also indicates to drop this exact kind of wanting: "By depending & relying on non-fashioning, [4] abandon & transcend the equanimity coming from singleness, dependent on singleness. Such is its abandoning, such its transcending."

And tranlator Thanissaro notes "This discourse counters another misperception as well: that equanimity is the goal of the practice. In actuality, renunciation equanimity serves a function as part of the path of practice — as a tool for letting go of renunciation joy — and then it, too, is transcended by the state called "non-fashioning" (atammayata), in which there is no act of intention, not even the intention underlying equanimity, at all."

So, one (re-) commits to letting go of any interest in fourth, training always in sati.

It is like the marathon runner: the body that arrives at the ribbon finish line that is sweating, exhausted, muscular, fit did not arise because it is at the finish line (factorial nibbana of fourth jhana), that body and mind, that calm, that state occurred at a ribboned line as a result of training, not moving about thinking, "If I could be at the ribbon line, my life would be happier." That was my mistake and I hope if anyone relates to this, they too resume sati.

And it is not useful -- it is counterproductive, hindering -- to assume that what one has come to recognize as fourth jhana would always result from satipatthana, imposing a limit, an expectation. Again, just sati, satipatthana if one wants a useful structure.

RE: The Value of Unstructured Exploration?
Answer
7/6/12 7:10 AM as a reply to katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks.
Thanks for all that Katy. I think you are right about me needing to reword your post before giving it to friends. I think I got excited like a little kid who wants to show his new discovery to his parents.

I have no issue desiring 4th jhana. I remember way-back-when when Kenneth Folk talked about riding the Jhana arc without manipulating it. That is what I'm doing. I go up as high as my mind wants to, then come back to 1st jhana, then go back up again. By the third/fourth time I might be stable enough to hit 4th.

When I talk about thinking that my life would be better with jhanas frequently, I meant to say that it would be the right action to take according to every logical reason I can think of. I lack a bit of initiative sometimes, but once I'm in jhana there is no issue with desiring. Curiosity takes over. My mind seems sucked into getting involved with the positive qualities of the jhana and that suction power works all on its own. Its quite a happy experience. My issue is sometimes just getting into the first jhana!

And I am also amazed how I can write 4 lines in a post and get 3 expansive and elegant posts back, lol. Thats pretty good dividends.


Wishing the best,
Oliver

RE: The Value of Unstructured Exploration?
Answer
7/6/12 10:45 AM as a reply to Oliver Myth.
HI there Oliver -

I think you are right about me needing to reword your post before giving it to friends.
Your direct experience of that jhana and your direct friendship and your own practice --- those provide the body-authenticity detectable by your friends and the custom tailoring that you probably convey best. Then each friend, as they go along their practice, becomes independent through their own practice and experience.

I have no issue desiring 4th jhana. (...) but once I'm in jhana there is no issue with desiring. Curiosity takes over.
I apologize to you for not writing clearly here: it's just a general caution about where simple curiosity even can go. But this doesn't make me avoid curiosity (that would be unskillful), now I just more cautious that my curiosity can turn into a a slight-to-growing longing. This "wanting" (tanha) "fourth to be my experience of life" was my two-week experience and arose from my initial curiosity, "Why do I not live in this jhana always? What holds that mental capacity back?", this questioning just slipped over the edge into "wanting". It's ok, too, because a person is experimenting directly, personally, in all of this practice. My practice is probably 95% mistakes sometimes! So, I hope to put my own mistakes are helpful to anyone else.

My issue is sometimes just getting into the first jhana!
After seeing a presentation by a monastic who presented sensual bas-relief images of enjoined couples on stupas with bas-relief Buddhas carved above or below those couples (separated by bas-relief 'walls'), it is hard for me to ignore the role of salabhanjikas and yakshi, of fertility prominent in ancient cultures, and how one begins to choose to train in pīti (joy and/or rapture) and how one begins to choose to seclude oneself from kāma (sensual gratification, sexual longing).

How literally close sensuality is to pīti is clear in the suttas, how pīti is described after seclusion from sensuality "...The pain & distress dependent on sensuality do not exist at that time...." and "...rapture & pleasure born of seclusion..." , etc, that, to me, first jhana is capturing the sensation that one may detect in sexual arousal (pīti, alert happiness) and which one might normally have the habit of converting that pleasant sensation right away into longing for its escalation in sexual fullfilment. Instead of fulfilling it through exhausting the genitals, 1st jhana trains one to take up the sensation in mind, learning to sit in the pure sensation, secluded from sensuality, and, when separated from craving-fulfillment, can be seen to be a tremendous, energetic happiness, "pīti"); maybe it is like 'capturing' the brilliant shine on a fish's scales and never touching, even forgetting the fish. Maybe you experience this with your kechari practices.

Even the five-fold classification of pīti 'signs' is, to me, so clearly paralleling (but secluded from) sensual arousal-and-gratification: the practitioner is in first jhana learning they can experience this pure sensation and that in its refinement there is rapture without any contact whatsoever to sensuality, let alone sexual gratification. The volition in first jhana is to sustain that sensation, independent (secluded from) the sensual trigger.

This occurs in several non-buddhist practices (like taoist and vedic sexual "continence" (avoidance of ejaculation)), and, to me, one reason pīti starts the jhana training is that a person who is just starting on their jhana training journey is naturally going to compare their training states to the most wonderful gratification they may know up to that point: erection and orgasm. So, pīti, to me, is harvesting the sensation and showing the practitioner some thing like, "Hey, that gential orgasm is really small stuff in comparison to what the mind can do with that sensation when it is distilled by the composed mind...and it won't cause STDs, relationship fights, compulsion and violation, deadly mating rivalries, etc". This is also why I think some mahayana traditions actively have the practitioner imagine a consort during some concentration practices.

A brain well-trained in first jhana does has a refuge for mental sloth that may arise in later jhanas: well-formed first jhana (again, it is free from sensuality and is this tremendous joy) causes alertness. (Though eventually a person develops alertness in the other jhanas without going back to first).

So, the sensuality of stupas associated with early buddhism also indicates (and here I borrow from the monastic lecturer) that sensuality/sexual gratification was not shunned in itself nor absolutely (though monastics aspire to a fully adept practice and renounce sexualism, depending on the tradition). The suttas are clear that sensation is sensation, but that craving-gratification-willfully-grown-from-sensation leads to corrupt behaviour.


So, back to craving. I liked this essay, especially the detailed suite of actions following craving. Maybe four months ago I started asking in regards to my posts, "Why so many edits? This reflects my practice." So, after a several weeks of food modification, I began to color-font some edits to bring this habit more to my attention. Seeing craving, I can now see myself better in careless posting, acting in gratification of impatience (a form of agitation/excitement (chandaraga, below)). There are actual troubles that arise from even that gratification.

*sigh* There's so much "telegraphing" by what we do and see done, detectable by the senses, but it's hard to be alert to what is actual when blinded by craving.
The fruits of craving

Ananda Pereira

Gentleness, serenity compassion, through liberation from selfish craving-these are the fundamental teachings of the Buddha.
"Thus it is, Ananda, that because of sensation (vedana) comes craving (tanha); because of craving, pursuit (parlyesana); because of pursuit, gain (labha); because of gain, decision (vinicchaya); because of decision, excitement (chandaraga); because of excitement, clinging (ajihosana); because of clinging, enclosing (pariggaha); because of enclosing, avarice (macchariya); because of avarice, guarding (arakkha); and because of guarding there come to be the seizing of stick and weapon, disunion, strife and quarrelling slander, lying and many other unskillful things", (Maha Nidana Sutta, Digha Nikaya).
A man sees a block of land (vedana), and desires to own it (tanha). He finds out who the owner is and negotiates for a transfer (pariyesana). He buys the Land (labha) and decides exactly what he is going to plant (vinicchaya). Having so decided, he thinks about the money he will make, and the things he will be able to do with the money, and his thoughts excite him (chandaraga).


Thus excited, he clings to these pleasant dreams and to the land that will make them come true (ajihosana). He encloses the land with a wall or fence (pariggaha) and having so enclosed it he becomes selfish, feeling intensely and personally the intrusion of outsiders (macchariya). He employs security guards, buys a gun, and prepares to protect his property from the rest of the World (arakkha). And this, as we know, leads to strife of various kinds, from civil litigation to murder.
It is the same with other possessions. We cannot help perceiving things, but when we desire them the other consequences follow inevitably. There is no point in telling the owner of an estate that he should not protect it with fences or employ watchers to guard it. Having committed himself by acquiring it, he must do these things in order to ensure his profits. It is 'common sense," and the lawrecognizes his rights. This is the man-made Law. Its roots lie deeply bedded in craving. Men accept it as "common sense" because craving is common to all men, and they have no sense.


To the Buddhas and the Arahats, who did have sense, all this is stark lunacy. They say the truth clearly, all the time. Some of us may glimpse it now and then, hazily. The trust is that it is impossible to hold things, and that the effort to do so is both foolish and dangerous. The only thing that a man can be said to own is his character, even this is not an unchanging entity, but at least he has the power to conduct its changing, so that it changes for the better. Here there is no need of fences, watchers and guns: for there is no external force, however powerful, that can affect a man's character against his will. When a man is set on evil, as Devadatta was not even a Buddha can swerve him from his purpose. So also is the character of a man who is set on good. Opposition only strengthens such character.

But, there is always sensation (vedana): and so long as we are not Arahats, there is always craving (tanha). Craving and its inevitable results are man's real enemies, not otherrnen. If there was no craving there would be no pursuit' no gain, no decision, no excitement of desire, no clinging, no enclosing, no selfishness, no guarding, no seizing of weapons, no strife and no bloodshed. Craving is like the root of a long creeper whose fruits are deadly poison.
The Buddha and the Arahats saw this truth dearly, all the time. That is why they urged the utter destruction of craving, as the only means of deliverance. It can be destroyed utterly, never to spring up again. Buddhas and the Arahats were living examples of this supreme achievement, even though to us the task may seem impossible. Enmeshed as we are in craving, its deadly tendrils woven into the very texture of our being, the destruction of craving may seem like the destruction of all that is worthwhile. For, in our insanity, we have created false ideals out of it.

A man is said to tie worthless unless he has ambition. The pursuit of beauty is encouraged as wholesome and right. Poets have even confused beauty with truth. Parents tell their children that they must work hard and "get on inthe world", What is behind it all?

The Buddha's teaching may seem cold and alien, suicidal even, especially when we are in the act of pursuing, holding, enclosing or guarding something that we desire very greatly. It is the coldness of truth. If it seems alien, it is because we are sstill lunatics, and the teaching is same. If it seems suicidal, it is because craving forms the greater part of our being. In our rare and hazy glimpses of the truth we must admit that the teaching is true.

Such a glimpse may come on a Vesak day, because of its associations. On this day, so significant to all followers of the Buddha, there is, for a while, a turning away from false, craving-born ideals, and an attempt to see the true ideal. May that vision be clear, and may the memory of it linger. It is the only thing that counts. Until such time as craving is destroyed, this glimpse of truth may serve as 'guide'. It may help us least to control that which must ultimately be destroyed. Seeing "desirable" things, we may at least curb the tendency to pursue them, knowing where that pursuit will lead.


Anyway, again, I find if where I have chosen for myself, with sincerity and gentleness, to watch a craving for an extended period like 24-hours (such as in following Gotama's recommendation to eat once a day and/or before noon), that the feeling "craving" is well isolated (just as pīti is isolated and well-known in first jhana): tanha -- the stress in the head, the obscuration of actuality, the alienation from what it as it is. Craving is detected as anything from it's simple unpleasant pull (such as aversively craving to get out of a simple conversation) or the "locking on" and massive din of addiction.

I definitely see why buddhist meditation is called "science of mind" and why Gotama addressed a number of religious questions of his time as "unanswerables".

And I am also amazed how I can write 4 lines in a post and get 3 expansive and elegant posts back, lol. Thats pretty good dividends.
That is kindly put... emoticon

RE: The Value of Unstructured Exploration?
Answer
7/7/12 10:42 PM as a reply to katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks.
I think jhana training arose from the dharana practices of the time. With very limited personal resources and knowledge of the āgamas, I can say that I do not know of a Chinese [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Āgama_(Buddhism)]āgama correlation to the Maha-Saccaka Sutta - which sutta speaks to Gotama's first experience of first jhana as a child under a rose-apple tree (this certainly reminds me of the way persons are instructed to generate pce in actualism). This may mean the Chinese āgama for this sutta is lost or that that sutta was not part of the older records. Anyone know the history of the Maha-Saccaka Sutta and chinese āgama?

Because I wonder if jhana training is, in part, a result of Gotama's own a) finding there to be no lasting path in his dharana training under Alara Kalama, and b) his knowledge that people immersed in a dharana/dhyana (jhana) culture could simply not be unbound from their attraction to/longing for certain mental states without studying and exhausting them first, seeing for themselves that these states are like an entire other universe(s), then able to discover that even their astounding novelties are not causing the lasting end of dukkha.

So, I'm looking at the Latukikopama Sutta: The Quail Simile (MN 66, page 551-559, Bhikkhu Bodhi, The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha, Wisdom Publications) (italics added):

With the abandoning of pleasure & pain — as with the earlier disappearance of elation & distress — he enters & remains in the fourth jhana: purity of equanimity & mindfulness, neither pleasure nor pain. This is called renunciation-pleasure, seclusion-pleasure, calm-pleasure, self-awakening-pleasure. And of this pleasure I say that it is to be cultivated, to be developed, to be pursued, that it is not to be feared.

And where the perturbations of each jhana (1-3) are indentified until fourth jhana (my italics again):
"There is the case where a monk, with the abandoning of pleasure & pain — as with the earlier disappearance of elation & distress — enters & remains in the fourth jhana: purity of equanimity & mindfulness, neither pleasure nor pain. Now that, I tell you, comes under the imperturbable.[2]

But that even this unperturbable state is to be abandoned and transcended (as with jhana 1-3):
"There is the case where a monk...enters & remains in the fourth jhana... That is its transcending. But that, too, I tell you, isn't enough. Abandon it, I tell you. Transcend it, I tell you. And what is its transcending?

So, all the jhana are encouraged (for whatever reason, be they Gotama's own jhana or be they jhana well-known at the time (e.g., that Gotama would have learned from Alara Kalama/Uddaka Ramaputta), categorized into a simple 4-level organization with the arupa developments in fourth.

Cessation is the final jhana-transcendence.Buddha responds to Udayin's questions asking what jhana surmounts the preceding jhana in order that one may surmount that and move on (to the next mental-object attraction for which one has developed a longing perhaps without even realizing they are in a cycle dependent on novel mental objects)...ending finally with (page 559, my bod emphasis) "And what surmounts [the base-of-neither-perception-nor-non-perception]? (...) by completely surmounting the base of neither-perception-nor-non-perception, a bhikkhu enters upon and abides in the cessation of perception and feeling (here Bhante has a footnote, 681, page 1271). That surmounts it. Thus I speak of abandoning even the base of neither-perception-nor-non-perception. Do you see, Udayin, any fetter, small or great, of whose abandoning I do not speak?"

So, total cessation (no feelings nor perception) surmounts the utmost jhana product.

So, Gotama gives away the "meditation shop" freely; he removes meditation from all mystique and profiteering...provides the whole jhana training up to the cessation of feelings and perception (something akin to unconsciousness), so that one can train and never become dependent on a guru nor a mental state ("mental-object") nor any higher promise, and he is candid about the unanswerables of what happens after death (for one who has no kama, again, an issue that would need cultural resolution in that time) (Vacchagotta a sutta also found in the Bieyi za ahan jing, although any translator notes are totally unknown to me; Bhikkhu Analayo's work on this is having some publisher issues with this distribution. The link I included here is just to provide a link to person's interested in the sanskrit texts that went to China. Their comparison with Pali and Tibetan texts helps to see where aspects of the traditions' canons begin to diverge)

In removing meditation from mystique and costly guru dependence and the longing of special states Gotama accelerates practioners through what they culturally may think they need to do to be "awake" (or, more likely to my mind, what we humanly actually perceive ourselves go through in A/P-like experiences such as OOBE and which experiences haunt a bit with longing questions, thus creating another source of craving and mental perseveration which legitimately require a deep study in order to be released of the longing associated with such events) and this allows practitioners to more quickly get to sati - and nibbana (here and now unbinding). This transparency around meditation allowed every simple human being to be free on the basis of their own direct investigation of themselves, the foundation of own body, the foundation of own feelings, the foundation of own mind, and the foundation of own aggregates (known to others at the time), just a human applying intelligence and effort to "What am I?".

At the end of the day, he hides nothing and the end result does not station one's experience in the cessation, it does not station one within a jhana: he repeats that one becomes unbound, coming to know things as there are, nibbana being unbound from mental fabrication and craving, consciousness becoming willingly, completely "'unstationed' (appattithita)" "due to the complete absence of craving" (footnote 53, page 261, Bhikkhu Anālayo, citing Samyutta Nikaya II 103)(see also B. Peter Harvey's book The Selfless Mind)

So, I get the impression that as I had to exhaust my interest in the spellbinding and paralyzing gratifications within the knowledges of suffering (years), and before that I had to exhaust my interest in re-experiencing that first amazing A/P event, then after knowledges of suffering there was the need to know directly the unsatisfactoriness of equanimity, and there is now the point of studying jhana and trying to avoid grasping it, in order to train in it and know its impermanence.

In some ways (maybe all ways) the sati in actualism is far better than jhana because it is always there, always leading one to just know actuality and to know it receptively. Perhaps only the gross or subtle mental lingering "want more of something special/other wordly/novel" causes the pursuit of jhana and therefore the need to train in it and personally discover that it, too, has fabricated nature. That even this novelty of mental-objects also is not finally satisfying.


So, jhana --- just as disgust served to exhaust the dark night mental perseverations and propelling one towards equanimity through the desire for deliverance --- jhana propels one to see directly for themselves that all mental states culminate in just cessation. My brief experience with this a cessation (and people can certainly dispute that I had a cessation experience after which the khandhas seemed to arise progressively) was sort of a bland, "guh?", and I definitely noticed a quickly responding attraction, like a fish to a shiny lure, to the consciousness khandha when it re-arose, adding brightness. This consciousness attraction gave me a cautious feeling at the time -- I could feel the mental attraction for it, but I had not yet learned to know the needy pull of craving every time it arises. That needy attraction to the consciousness khandha is well-described as a magic show of the mind in the Kalakarama Sutta -- that even without a guru, one can spend a long time in the longing for mental novelties.

Not that these mental states are bad either: when Aggi-Vacchagotta attains to arahatship his siddhis develop and Gotama seems to commend his condition: " (...) The bhikkhu Vacchagotta has attained the threefold true knowledge and has great supernormal power and might (...)" Thus, the exhortation to orient oneself wholesomely and to live wholesomely, to cultivate wholesomeness. Also, Gotama seems to have chosen for himself chose to go through the jhanas immediately before death (perhaps to confirm in the final moment there was no wanting for any of the states, that they were indeed unbound or to have a last look?):
Then the Blessed One, emerging from the cessation of perception & feeling, entered the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception. Emerging from that, he entered the dimension of nothingness... the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness... the dimension of the infinitude of space... the fourth jhana... the third... the second... the first jhana. Emerging from the first jhana he entered the second... the third... the fourth jhana. Emerging from the fourth jhana, he immediately was totally Unbound.



Therefore, neither wanting jhana nor not wanting jhana is desirable. A person is making every training effort to become simply aware of craving and then unbind from craving and cease creating craving through delusional fabrication. In MN 125, Dantabhumi Sutta (page 995, Bhikku Bodhi's translation of the Middle Length discourses, Wisdom Publications, 1995), Aggivessana is --- after progressive training --- exhorted to see "mind-objects as mind objects"[1] One choses this exploration willingly out of disgust for what arises from craven behaviour and the positive effect one experiences by training in receptivity, piti, sukkha, increasingly removing oneself from causing harm through compulsive action


The practices nurse the mind and personhood along in a sensible training from gross to subtle pleasures, training one away from unwholesome cravings by skillful, pleasant means) until one is released, independent, "Nibbana and the Path coalesce just as the Ganga and Yamuna rivers coalesce***" (footnote 11, page 273, Bhikkhu Anālayo citing Dīgha Nikāya II, 223 in his book Satipatthana: The Direct Path to Realization) where nibbana is literally "unbinding" (from all craving and fabrication), and "here and now" is said to be also Buddha's definition (Bhikkhu Anālayo cites Anguttara Nikaya V 64 as providing Buddha's definition of nibbana "here and now", however, Bhikkhu Bodhi's full english translation doesn't arrive until later this summer, so I cannot excerpt this). Consciousness becomes "unstationed" (appattithita) anywhere due to the complete absence of craving (footnote 53, page 261, Bhikkhu Anālayo, citing Samyutta Nikaya II 103)(see also B. Peter Harvey's book The Selfless Mind)

One could have a "WTF??" moment and wonder, "all this training to realize it's just to show at every level of novelty-craving, there is no satisfaction and things are just as they are?" But, this cannot be concluded (in my experience, anyway). One is wholly and wholesomely transformed by going through the training. A person can get calf implants, but that does not make them a marathon finisher nor give them that freedom of mind, born of personal, wholesome effort and candid, clear study.

___________
***These rivers (rivers in general) are very familiar, useful metaphors in Vedic tradition and such analogies pervade the yogas --- illustrating with the catastrophic nature of floods and droughts, how one's thoughts and actions, one's vital nadis (srotas), need also to be studied and skillfully (res)trained.

[1] Bhikkhu Bodhi explains his translation "mind-objects" on the basis the Burmese-script Buddhasasana Samiti edition of the Majjhima Nikaya and on the Buddhist Publication Society of Kandy, Sri Lanka; he also cites the Chinese translation of the Sanskrit counterpart to the MN (the Madhyama-āgama) mentions all four jhanas here.

[lots of wee edits: again bound by impatience]

RE: The Value of Unstructured Exploration?
Answer
7/8/12 4:14 PM as a reply to katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks.
So, the short of it, for me, and to use a meal analogy (emoticon), is coming to a settledness where there's contentedness with sati and jhana on the plate (the plate and meal being how/with what one loads one's life: experiencing openly or existing in a craven channel) : these are just the naturally wholesome foods, turning away junk items in order to allow more space on the plate for sati and sitting.

Leaving jhana, then sati. Both seem to contain apt (adjustable volume) brahma viharas.

Sati causes good digestion when not in sitting practice, preventing dyspeptic uses and symptoms of the mind and providing a healthy base for jhana. And concentration gives rise to more sati.

I do trust that the practices merge (above Ganges and Yumuna analogy) but this is not my experience as yet. emoticon

The food modifications recommended by Gotama have been very helpful.