Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Four Higher Meditative Absorptions

Ven. Nyanatiloka (Anton Gueth), A Buddhist Dictionary: Manual of Buddhist Terms and Doctrines (; CC Liu, Dhr. Seven, Amber Larson (eds.), Wisdom Quarterly
Higher and higher jhanas are like plateaus (Nan Tien Temple by Jay Bar/
Buddhist Dictionary
The first four meditative absorptions correspond to the fine-material sphere (rupa loka), whereas we humans and lesser devas dwell in the lowest of the three spheres in a realm called the sensual sphere (kama loka). The four higher meditative absorptions, the topic of this explanation, correspond to the immaterial sphere (arupa loka).

(5) "Through the total overcoming of the perceptions of matter, however, and through the vanishing of sense-reactions and the non-attention to the perceptions of variety, with the idea, 'Boundless is space,' one reaches the sphere of boundless space (ākāsānañcāyatana) and abides therein.
["By 'perceptions of matter' (rūpa-saññā) are meant the absorptions of the fine-material sphere, as well as those objects themselves..." (Path of Purification, Vis.M. X.1).
"By 'perceptions of sense-reactions' (patigha-saññā) are meant those perceptions that have arisen due to the impact of sense-organs (eye, ear, etc.) and the objects of sense (forms, sounds, etc.) They are a name for the perception of visible objects, as it is said (Jhāna-Vibh.):
'What are here the perceptions of sense-reactions? They are the perceptions of visible objects, sounds, and so on.' Surely, they no longer exist even for one who has entered the first absorption, and so on. For at such a time the five-sense consciousness is no longer functioning. Nevertheless, this is to be understood as having been said in praise of this immaterial absorption, in order to incite the striving for it" (Path of Purification, Vis.M. X.16).
"Perceptions of variety (ñānatta-saññā) are the perceptions that arise in various fields, or the various perceptions" (ibid). Hereby, according to the Path of Purification (Vis.M. X.20), are meant the multiform perceptions outside of the absorptions.]
The jhanas in plain English
(6) "Through the total overcoming of the sphere of boundless space, and with the idea 'Boundless is consciousness,' one reaches the sphere of boundless consciousness (viññānañcāyatana) and abides therein.
(7) "Through the total overcoming of the sphere of boundless consciousness, and with the idea 'Nothing is there,' one reaches the sphere of nothingness (ākiñcaññāyatana) and abides therein.
(8) "Through the total overcoming of the sphere of nothingness, one reaches the sphere of neither-perception-nor-non-perception (nevasaññā-n'asaññāyatana) and abides therein."
"Thus the first absorption is free from five things (the Five Hindrances or nīvarana), and five things are present (the Five Factors of Absorption or jhānanga).

"Whenever the meditator enters the first absorption, there have vanished sensual craving, ill-will, sloth and torpor (physical and mental tiredness), restlessness and scruples (flurry and worry), doubts (skepticism). And there are present: initial application (vitakka), sustained application (vicāra), rapture (pīti), happiness (sukha), and concentration (samādhi).
Meditation mala and mudra (
In the second absorption there are present: rapture, happiness, and concentration; in the third, happiness and concentration; in the fourth: equanimity (upekkhā) and concentration" [with onepointedness of mind] (Path of Purification, Vis.M. IV).
The four higher absorptions corresponding to the immaterial sphere (5-8 above) still belong, properly speaking, to the fourth absorption as they possess the same two constituents.

The fourth fine-material absorption is also the base or starting point (pādaka-jhāna) for the attaining of the higher spiritual or magical powers (abhiññā).
In the "Higher Teachings," the Abhidharma, generally a fivefold instead of a fourfold division of the fine-material absorptions is used: the second absorption has still the constituent "sustained application" (that has left behind initial application), while the third, fourth, and fifth correspond to the second, third, and fourth, respectively, of the fourfold division (see Tab.I. 9- 13). This fivefold division is based on sutra texts like A. VIII, 63.
For the eight absorptions as objects for the development of insight (vipassanā), see samatha-vipassanā. Full details are found in the Path of Purification (Vis.M. IV-X).
Jhāna in its widest sense (e.g., as one of the 24 conditions or paccaya 17), denotes any, even momentary or weak absorption of mind, when directed on a single object. Source

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