In addition, there is a more profound and exclusive meditative accomplishment known as nirodha-samapatti or the "extinction of feeling and perception." [It is exclusive in that only non-returners and arhats can attain it.] It is not actual extinction of suffering.
1. "In one who has entered the first meditative absorption, sensual perceptions (kama-sañña) are extinguished. [That is, the meditator is blissfully but temporarily liberated from their oppression.]
2. Having entered the second absorption, thought-conception (vitakka) and discursive-thinking (vicára) are extinguished.
4. Having entered the fourth absorption, in-and-out breathing (assása-passása) are both temporarily extinguished.
- "In-and-out breathing" are corporeal or physical functions or "formations" (kaya-sankhara), whereas thought-conception and discursive-thinking are called verbal functions or formations (vaci-sankhara). They are one of the six aspects of the motion-element. (Vayo-dhatu, translated as "wind-element," refers to the qualities of movement, support, strength, etc.)
|On the edge of knowing (Glowing Star/flickr.com)|
[Numbered accordingly, entering upon this base is called the fifth absorption as are the three remaining immaterial absorptions.]
7. Having entered the plane of nothingness, the perception of the plane of boundless consciousness is extinguished.
8. Having entered the plane of neither-perception-nor-non-perception, the perception of the plane of nothingness is extinguished.
9. Having entered the extinction of perception and feeling, perception and feeling are temporarily extinguished."
Wisdom Quarterly (COMMENTARY)
|Breathing in, breathing out, nivarana, nimitta, jhana, piti, upekkha, rupa, arupa, nirodha|
|31 Planes of Buddhist Cosmology (Inward Path)|
Ordinary states (semi-conscious, beset by lust, annoyance, and delusion) limit us to the Sensual Sphere.
This is the lowest of a threefold division of our "world-system," which we can think of as our galaxy.
The worlds of sensuality (kama-loka) are bound in a sphere that includes sensuous "heavens," or superhuman worlds in space, as well as all the miserable worlds inferior to the human plane. And there are lots of them. For instance, although naraka (the Great Waste or purgatory-hell) is spoken of as one plane, it is classified as having at least 16 increasingly miserable levels -- the worst one of which is not even counted.
This desolate and abysmal hell is called "interstitial" because it is a kind of exile outside the multiverse into the spaces between bubble-like world-systems. (If there is only one universe, then we may think of world-systems as the countless galaxies in it). Like hyperspace, there is no light in those places, and beings reborn there feel utterly alone.
|Hyperspace is no more static than this tesseract|
The animal world, another plane, is so incredibly diverse as to easily constitute a million planes: Think of the life of an ant compared to that of a cow, or the existence of an apartment dog compared to that of a frigid penguin, or a lake amoeba compared to that of a kinkajou... or the countless species we have yet to discover and describe here and on other planets.
The 31 Planes of Existence are general types of worlds within a world-system. They can be reached from here. That may be because there are waves that make limitations in the speed of light irrelevant or may be due to the fact that whatever can be known exists interdependent with consciousness, that is, the knower.
And a knower can gain awareness and therefore verify the reality of these other worlds by success in meditation. What is "success"? First of all one lets go and thereby attains a natural state of relaxation and sharp awareness not distracted by personalizing or identification with impersonal phenomena.
|Artist's rendition of cycling through 6 sensual planes|
It is not possible to say "where" anymore than it would be possible to say where a flame goes when it is extinguished -- right, left, north, south? These terms do not apply.
What does apply is the unsatisfactory explanation that whatever there was before, in this case the fire, was utterly dependent on constituents -- fuel, oxygen, heat, and so on -- and when one or more of the constituents was exhausted, the phenomenon ceased.
How? How can we escape the illusion, escape to reality? Success in self-development or cultivation (bhavana), also known misleadingly as "meditation," provides a way.
For scaling these heights in meditation, namely moving through the eight absorptions, opens up the possibility of developing liberating-consciousness or insight. Such wisdom undoes the painful illusion, our existence beset by suffering, impermanence, and emptiness (egolessness).
And even prior to actual liberation, attainment of any of the temporary absorptions is weighty good karma coming to fruition in the future as rebirth in excellent Fine-Material Sphere (rupa loka) planes. So inner-space quite literally becomes outer-space.
And even aspects of Sense Sphere "heavens," where beings enjoy much greater and long-lasting pleasures than can be found on the human plane, are described as coming into being on the power of one's former deeds.
But out of fear and aversion (to the unfamiliar), out of ignorance, out of craving, we want to stay. We want to play! We don't want to lose the familiar.
Know with certainty that it is a game. But also know that most of the "game" is spent playing in ignorance with NO idea that it is a game, or that it is unreal, or that there is an escape. When the game sours, all most of us are left with is "escapism," which is the antithesis of actual escape.
Growing up in a horrific situation where one is being molested, oppressed, or bored to near death, one often resorts to escapism in the form of violence, acting out" (as in the game of Charades when one is unable to speak so one enacts as the only means of communicating what is going on), drug abuse, alcoholic obtunding, sexual compulsion or addiction, self-mutilation, or suicide. So know that it won't be funny then.
But it will nevertheless be unreal. Isn't wisdom preferable? Intensive sitting meditation may seem boring or hard, but it is a portal to remarkable worlds of supersensual bliss, equanimity, peace, and knowledge-and-vision worthy of the noble ones.
Why is the Buddha always happy, always smiling, always balanced?
The World is Always Ending
Ven. Nanajivako (Buddhist Publication Society, Wheel No. 186)
As such, it may still have impressed us on the level of nursery rhymes and even of some grammar-school classics in the history of literature. (If I had to choose a deeper [poetic equivalent], I would not hesitate to select the lines from T.S. Eliot's Quartets: More