Saturday, November 25, 2017

Meditation: Five Factors of Absorption

The Absorptions or Zen States
There are eight meditative states of "absorption" (Pali jhana, Japanese zen, Sanskrit dhyana, Chinese ch'an, Vietnamese seon), four material and four immaterial (and in the Abhidharma a ninth beyond feeling and perception).

Five "absorption factors" (jhana-anga) or temporary liberations are crucial to developing the states of meditation that result in profitable types of consciousness corresponding to higher form (rupa, "fine-material") and formless (arupa) worlds, beyond our sensual sphere. They are:
  1. initial-application of attention (vitakka)
  2. sustained-application (vicchara)
  3. joy, rapture, bliss, keen interest, enthusiasm (piti)
  4. happiness, ease (sukha)
  5. single-pointedness of mind (ekaggata)
These five factors are evident in most types of consciousness, even the sensual sphere consciousness of the human plane.

The Five Hindrances
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:
  1. craving/clinging
  2. aversion (anger)/fear
  3. drowsiness/lethargy
  4. restlessness/worry
  5. skeptical 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.

    The Crossroads
    I can do it this way or that.
    In a sense we are at a crossroads. All of these factors, hindering us or leading us to immediate absorption, are present in our minds/hearts. The question is, "Do we allow the mental hindrances to dominate, or do we develop the absorption factors?"

    The Five Factors of Absorption, or intensification, can liberate the heart/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 consciousness is cultivated, raised, and tuned -- 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.

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