Thursday, July 31, 2008

Ajahn Brahm: Ways and Means into Jhana

Ajahn Brahm Dharma talk
WQ-edited transcription

Tam sukham annatra kamehi annatra akusalehi dhammehi na bhayitabbam (M.I 247, M.II 454). This is a brief saying by the Buddha. It states that happiness which is other, or apart from, sensuality [pleasure that is secluded from unwholesome states (dharmas)] is not to be feared.

And, indeed, I want to use this opportunity this evening to, instead of giving a general talk, to give a specific talk on the process of meditation leading up to meditative-absorptions (jhanas).

I want to give this talk now because it is the right time in the retreat. After just over a fortnight, much of the external activity has disappeared, and mind and body should be settling down. The mind should be inclining towards these quiet and peaceful states.

Now I want to give a talk on how one deals with the mind to lead it into these deep states of peace and bliss, these very useful states.

Many of you who've heard my talks on this subject before will hear much which is repeated. But then again because these talks are not planned, there will be other pieces of information which you have not heard before which will help. And anything that helps settle the mind to let go of the Five Hindrances, to let go of the world of the senses, and gain these uttari-manussa-dhamma, these "superior human states" worthy of the noble ones (aryas), will be useful.

I was talking in my last discourse about the need for sense-restraint. And it goes without saying in this discourse that sense-restraint gives one the groundwork, the foundation, for taking this mind into a fuller restraint of the senses. A fuller letting go of many, many things where the mind used to dwell. It is going to another place in the mind, a place of great peace and bliss, a very profound place which gives you great insights into the nature of the mind.

What the mind is capable of and how it feels to be in these states, why these states are such, and how they come about -- these are the questions. It gives one great insight into a world, a world which you cannot know unless you have been there, because these worlds, these samadhi states are so strange compared to the external world that they are very difficult to describe. Those who have not been there find it very difficult to believe that such states can even exist.

One has to start from the very beginning. Having practiced some sense-restraint, there comes a time when one sits down on one's cushion, still, and starts training the mind. That initial training of the mind should begin with what the Buddha called the iddhi-padas. The iddhi-padas are the Four Roads or Bases of Success, or the Four Bases of Power.

These are what empowers you to actually succeed in this process of meditation. As you all know these iddhi-padas are the arousing of a desire for a goal and the maintaining of the desire for that goal: the chanda-samadhi [desire or resolve to reach concentration]. This is a prerequisite of gaining any success in this meditation.

If you fail to set yourself a goal, you will not arouse that desire, that movement of mind to achieve the goal. And there will be no results. You do not get to one-pointedness of mind by allowing the mind to wander. It will never get close. It needs to be directed, to be pointed. And that direction, that singlepointedness of mind, has to be done through a very clear resolution.

The most important thing about this iddhi-pada is that this resolution has to be maintained throughout the course of the meditation. If you make that resolution and you maintain it then you have got a hope for success. If you make that resolution and after one or two minutes you forget what you are supposed to be doing, what you are aiming for, then it is very easy to turn a corner and go backwards or sideways and waste a lot of time.

These are very profound states, and they need that degree of effort. Not immense effort, but constant effort. So take your goal, and keep it in mind. Read more


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