Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Five Jhana Factors: Crossroads

Five "factors of absorption" (jhana-anga) or liberation are crucial to developing the states of meditation that result in profitable types of consciousness belonging to higher form and formless worlds, like this human plane. They are:
  • initial-application (vitakka)
  • sustained-application (vicchara)
  • keen interest, enthusiasm, or rapture (piti)
  • happiness or bliss (sukha)
  • single-pointedness (ekaggata)

These five factors are evident in most types of consciousness, including sense-sphere consciousness, even that of some humans.

The Five Hindrances (nivarana) are typical of very low, unprofitable states of consciousness and development -- such as the consciousness of animals (and other less favorably born beings), which is saturated with these factors:

  • craving
  • ill-will
  • drowsiness
  • restlessness-worry
  • doubt

The presence of these hindrances means that mind is conditioned and manipulated by the variegated stimuli around it.

In opposition to these Five Hindrances are the Five Factors of Absorption. The absorption factors counter and eventually eliminate the hindrances. We can reduce the controlling power of the hindrances to the extent we cultivate the absorption factors.

In a sense we are standing at a crossroads. All these factors, hindering us or leading us to immediate liberation, are present in our minds. The question is, "Do we allow the mental hindrances to dominate, or do we develop the absorption factors?"

The Five Factors of Absorption, or of intensification, can liberate the mind. The contest is important. As long as the hindrances predominate, we are likely to see the results in this life and the next. There's immediate woe and rebirth in unfavorable states.

However, if mind is raised, tuned, and cultivated -- developing the absorption factors -- it effortlessly reaches higher levels of consciousness both here-and-now and in the future, wherever we may go.

The lesson is to regard to the Five Hindrances as an inner or outer undisciplined animal versus a well-trained companion dissuaded from bringing us harm. Regarded in this way, the Five Factors of Absorption are immediately seen as friends, aides, and wondrous powers.

  • Reference: Peter Della Santina The Abhidharma

IMAGES: 1), 2), 3), 4)

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