Monday, February 20, 2012

Zen (jhana) in a Thai Forest

Ajahn Lee Dhammadharo (translated by Ven. Thanissaro, edited by Wisdom Quarterly)
Meditating Buddha at Sukhothai, Thailand (Manuel Romaris/Flickr)

Keeping the Breath in Mind
...Now we will summarize the methods of breath meditation under the headings of the first four jhanas ("meditative absorptions").

(zen) means to be so focused on a single object that one becomes absorbed or preoccupied. This happens when a meditator collects the mind on the breath or other suitable objects of meditation. The first jhana has five factors.

1. DIRECTED ATTENTION (vitakka): Attend to the breath until it stays in mind without distraction.

2. SINGLEMINDEDNESS (ekaggata): Applying the mind to the breath without letting it stray over to other concepts or objects. Watch the thoughts so that they deal only with the breath to the point where the breath becomes comfortable and very subtle, almost imperceptible. (Eventually the mind becomes one, at rest with the breath.)

3. EVALUATION [sustained attention] (vicara): Gain a sense of how to let this comfortable breath sensation spread and connect with the other breath sensations in the body. Let these breath sensations spread until they are interconnected all over the body. Once the body has been soothed by the breath, feelings of pain will calm. The body will fill with good breath energy. (The mind is focused exclusively connected with the breath.)

These three qualities must be brought together to bear on the same stream of breathing for the first jhana to arise. This stream of breathing can then take one all the way to the fourth jhana. Directed thought, singlemindedness, and evaluation act as the causes. When the causes are fully ripe, results will appear:

4. RAPTURE (piti): a compelling sense of fullness and refreshment for body and mind, going straight to the heart, independent of all else.

5. PLEASURE (sukha): physical ease arising from the body being still and unperturbed (passaddhi) and mental contentment arising from the mind being at ease, undistracted, unperturbed, serene, and exultant.

Rapture and pleasure are the results part of the Five Factors of Absorption in the first jhana that join the three preceding causes.

As rapture and pleasure grow stronger, the breath becomes more subtle. The longer one stays focused and absorbed, the more powerful the results become. This enables one to set applied and sustained attention aside. Directed attention and evaluation are preliminaries clearing the ground. Relying completely on a single factor, singlemindedness, one enters the second jhana.

Second Jhana
The second jhana has three factors: rapture, pleasure, and singlemindedness. This is the state of mind that has tasted the results of the first jhana. Once one has entered the second level, rapture and pleasure become stronger because they rely on a single cause, singlemindedness, which looks after the work from here on in: focusing on the breath so that it becomes more and more refined, keeping steady and still with a sense of refreshment and ease for both body and mind. The mind is becomes more stable and intent than before.

As one continues to focus it, rapture and pleasure grow stronger and begin to expand and contract. Continue focusing on the breath, moving the mind deeper to a more subtle level to escape the subtly distracting motions of rapture and pleasure, and enter the third jhana. More

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