Monday, April 16, 2012

Meditation now, Absorption soon (video)

Dharmachari Seven, Ashley Wells, Wisdom Quarterly; (video and links)
Sublime States: The 8 Jhanas (samadhi) by the German-Jewish Buddhist nun Ayya Khema

Follower and fellow meditator Vern Lovic wrote us recently to share exciting news: Meditative absorptions (jhanas) are accessible!

He states, "I'd like to hear from others experiencing jhana [because] for me, they came within a year. I started to share some of my experiences. I hope, if you are experiencing something like [blissful absorption] during meditation, you write and share it..."

Wisdom Quarterly is dedicated to reviving the original teachings of the historical Buddha which is as much about kindness-compassion, serenity, and concentration (metta-karuna, shamatha, and samadhi) as scholarship, insight, and wisdom (atthakatha, vipassana, and panya).

Those original teachings are buried in the books and can be pulled out by careful, critical reading of the sutras aided, but not bound to, the commentaries.


Unlike many modern Asian teachers and their misled American Buddhist students, the commentaries are a precious resource. They are vital to the practice of meditation. Why? So much information is left out of chanted, oral tradition discourses, which in fact serve more as outlines and aids to memory not detailed sets of instructions.

One of the most detailed discourses dealing with instructions is the discourse on the establishing of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness. But try to practice those instructions without a skilled teacher relying on the commentaries and a personal practice, and it quickly becomes apparent that the sutra is not enough.

In ancient times no one worried that it was insufficient because no one set out to meditate exclusively dependent on sutras. This is a living oral tradition still -- with regard to implementing the actual practices outlined in the discourses. Masters still meet with students and guide them in very detailed ways not found in books, ancient or modern.


Unfortunately, there is a "fundamentalist" anti-commentary attitude prevailing as if only the repetitive, stereotyped texts were the words and teachings of the Buddha. The Buddha taught meditation details directly. The information was preserved in commentarial literature and passed down as a living practice. Somehow in spite of everything it survives. Make a sincere wish to find it then go search for it and, karma willing, resources will reveal themselves.

Of course, we are familiar with many students of the most Venerable Pa Auk Sayadaw, a scholar-monk able to teach insight meditation to the ultimate degree. He does not shy away from teaching mastery of the absorptions as an aid to the final goal.

For it is based on a firm foundation of serene absorbed concentration and applied mindful investigation of the 12 links of Dependent Origination that enlightenment arises.


Ayya Khema was a Westerner who was intimate with right concentration (samma-samadhi, a crucial Noble Eightfold Path factor). One third of The Path of Purification, a meditation manual by Buddhaghosa central to the ancient Theravada Buddhist school, deals with jhana. Yet, Theravada monastics fear and dissuade people from taking up the jhanas in favor of a frustrating exclusive practice of mindfulness and dry insight (vipassana).
Lay practitioners are able to reach and master these natural states of "higher mind." We are certain of it. We have met many of them. Moreover, we have met teachers as well as lay Buddhists who have reached the various stages of enlightenment. Even monks find this unbelievable in the world today when even most monastics are incapable of meditative absorption.


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