Author Topic: Question on experiencing the 1st jhana  (Read 6589 times)

overmyhead

  • Guest
Question on experiencing the 1st jhana
« on: November 25, 2009, 11:21:40 pm »
Let's get this subforum started!

The other day I was lying down, trying to be mindful while contemplating, but slipping in and out of sleep.  As I came to and reasserted mindfullness, attempting to resume contemplation, I noticed that, for whatever reason, the thoughts were garbled behond meaning and clinging to them was completely futile.  So I said "To hell with this" and flung my arms up, abandoning all thought.  I didn't really say or do that, but it felt something like that.  Instantly it felt as if a brake had been released, and the whole mindful experience was just roaring, a uniform and nondescript torrent.  Also my face tingled fiercely, like when my leg was asleep but is just getting blood again.  This last part, this tingling, scared me.  It overshadowed the general feeling of euphoria.  It wasn't unpleasant, however it's intensity was frightening.  It made me worry that I was not breathing, or that it was damaging in some way.  I intentionally terminated the experience after a few minutes.

My question is:  how should I interpret this face tingling?  It doesn't seem to fit with what I read about the jhanas.  Does anyone have experience with odd physical sensations during the 1st jhana?


Offline humanitas

  • buddha's om-girl
  • Member
  • Posts: 2326
    • View Profile
Re: Question on experiencing the 1st jhana
« Reply #1 on: November 26, 2009, 03:46:51 pm »
Many different things occur during meditation.  I'm not a seasoned meditator, but I've also had questions about sensations, odd experiences, occurrences.  From everything that I've garnered so far all sorts of experiences can occur while on the cushion, but I've also been told that: a)this is quite normal, b)it's not a big deal and nothing terribly useful to focus on.  The way it was explained to me was that when your mind starts thinking in different ways there are different parts of your mind that are "activated" and used in the thought process, and energy moves around as if in circuits in the body.  When a circuit is blocked, for example with acupressure points, and the pressure that is blocking the circuit (pressure point, brain synaptic routes, etc) is released, pent-up energy can suddenly flow.  It's like opening tiny dams in your body where energy's stored up in a certain pattern and now the pattern is changing due to those points getting released. Many people experience these little changes as odd physical sensations like heat, cold, tingling, goosebumbs, chills, etc.  Sometimes the changes are big and there are big physical effects/thoughts, realizations etc, these as well should be observed and let go lightly.

Caveat:  If you have any medical conditions like mental illness or conditions that can be contributing to these sensations, you should seek the advice of a medical doctor.  If you are physically healthy, how you could interpret it is: It's just a sensation that happened and don't hold onto the experience of it any more than you hold onto the sensation of nausea when you get food poisoning.  
I hope a more seasoned meditator replies here.  My take is that it's simply just an experience and nothing to focus on, notice it and come back to your breath.  :namaste:
« Last Edit: November 26, 2009, 03:50:41 pm by Ogyen Chodzom »
This post was made with 100% recycled karma

Offline Optimus Prime

  • Member
  • Posts: 892
    • View Profile
Re: Question on experiencing the 1st jhana
« Reply #2 on: November 28, 2009, 11:52:29 pm »
Good answer, Ogyen.

Overmyhead, it just sounds like you mentally let go and some energies in your body started to get unblocked.  We tend to store tension in our bodies and when we mentally let go, sometimes, these bodily tensions can also start getting released.  Because of this, the energy flows more freely.  And because the energy channels are opening up, that's why the blood was flowing freely again in your leg.  It's actually quite common and is not even close to Jhana yet ;).

Sometimes, it's a way of the body healing itself.  For example, there was a lady who told me the story of how she had hurt her hand and back in a car accident years ago.  Then she did a meditation retreat.  After a few days, this massive pain came back to the area where she had hurt her hand and the area of her back which was hurt felt electric and felt like there were snakes crawling around.  The pain in her hand became quite severe but after about half an hour or so, it all went away.

As a general rule, here are some suggestions on how to view these things:
-  If the problem stays in meditation and when you come out of meditation, it's no longer there, you can probably just let it go.
-  If your problem persists even after you've come out of meditation (e.g., headache or fast beating heart), it would be a good idea to see a doctor and a good meditation teacher

Now as for Jhana, you need to approach what's called "upacara samadhi" before you can enter into Jhana.  Upacara samadhi is often translated as access concentration or neighbourhood concentration (i.e., you're accessing Jhana or in the neighbourhood of Jhana) but a better translation is "Threshold stillness". 

-  Threshold is a better word because with Upacara samadhi, you're right on the verge of entering into Jhana - all you need to do is to take the next step - upacara samadhi is that close.
-  Stillness is a better word than concentration because we're not creating a concentrated state - we're letting go, allowing the mind to be stiller and stiller.

With upacara samadhi, you'll experience a bright nimitta (often experienced as a light), even though your eyes are closed.  And for beginners, it's more common to experience them on retreats rather than just playing around with meditation at home because the mind has to be very, very still.  You can get what Ajahn Brahm calls yo-yo Jhana's where the person pops in and out of Jhanas unintentionally but from what I've discussed with Bhante Sujato, once you're in a Jhana, it's more common for them to last for a while.  And he told me that when you come out of a Jhana, you'll feel waaaay different for the first few days.  You'll feel like you don't want to do anything else for the rest of your life but meditate - it's that powerful.

Ajahn Brahm also said that he's also had people who fluke a Jhana, but then they've never been able to do it again - even after years of meditating.

Before upacara samadhi, there's also what's called Khanika samadhi (often translated as momentary concentration).  Now if you talk to Ajahn Brahm, he says that there's no such thing as Khanika samadhi because it was a term created by people who came after the Buddha and used in the commentaries - but not by the Buddha himself.  His reasoning is that how can you be only momentarily concentrated and then in the next moment not?  But in general, it means that your meditation is going fairly good - more stillness than false thoughts.  It's good to know these terms if you're reading Buddhist meditation works.

overmyhead

  • Guest
Re: Question on experiencing the 1st jhana
« Reply #3 on: November 29, 2009, 01:16:04 am »
My understanding is that there are varying levels of intesnity of the 1st jhana, and that the functionally important part is "rapture borne from release".  I observed rapture borne from release, and so I assumed it was 1st jhana.  It was very intense.  The face tingling was an incidental part of the experience, but it caused anxiety.  It is possible that if I am able to release from access concentration, it will be a "cleaner" experience.  I admit it was flukey.  The release was aided by the stillness accompanied by light sleep, not concentration.

Offline Optimus Prime

  • Member
  • Posts: 892
    • View Profile
Re: Question on experiencing the 1st jhana
« Reply #4 on: November 29, 2009, 04:51:51 am »
Did you experience the nimitta?  No nimitta means no Jhana.

overmyhead

  • Guest
Re: Question on experiencing the 1st jhana
« Reply #5 on: November 29, 2009, 10:59:47 am »
I already commented that this did not come through access concentration.  You can define jhana as "rapture borne from release following, specifically, access concentration," but this seems like an exclusional definition.  In any case the "rapture borne from release" part is the same, regardless of what label you give it.

Offline Optimus Prime

  • Member
  • Posts: 892
    • View Profile
Re: Question on experiencing the 1st jhana
« Reply #6 on: November 29, 2009, 01:16:09 pm »
Perhaps this may help.  It is detailed instructions all the way up to the first Jhana from one of the first meditation teachers in the west to actually teach about it:
http://www.jhanagrove.org.au/meditation.html

overmyhead

  • Guest
Re: Question on experiencing the 1st jhana
« Reply #7 on: November 29, 2009, 04:19:46 pm »
Thank you, nice source.  I will definitely get around to reading this.

overmyhead

  • Guest
Re: Question on experiencing the 1st jhana
« Reply #8 on: November 29, 2009, 04:42:11 pm »
From some article, "In his childhood, while attending an annual plowing festival, the future Buddha spontaneously entered the first jhana."   :P

I'm just teasing.  Someday when I have properly attained jhana then I will dig up this thread and let you know whether what I described in this thread was similar to jhana or not.  In the meantime I'm just going to let it go and not let it color my expectations.
« Last Edit: November 29, 2009, 06:04:02 pm by overmyhead »

Offline Optimus Prime

  • Member
  • Posts: 892
    • View Profile
Re: Question on experiencing the 1st jhana
« Reply #9 on: November 30, 2009, 05:56:15 am »
Overmyhead said:  In the meantime I'm just going to let it go and not let it color my expectations.

Very good!  In general, whatever comes up, let it go and focus back on your meditation object.

Here's looking at the Jhanas from a slightly different point of view to Ajahn Brahm's.  This is from the perspective of a Chan Patriarch - some good pointers and reminders in here:
http://cttbusa.org/dharmatalks/chan2.asp

overmyhead

  • Guest
Re: Question on experiencing the 1st jhana
« Reply #10 on: November 30, 2009, 02:07:01 pm »
Thanks again.  I'm going to start working on the jhanic factors.  Cultivating sustained attention and piti will be challenging, I think.
« Last Edit: November 30, 2009, 02:33:44 pm by overmyhead »

Offline Optimus Prime

  • Member
  • Posts: 892
    • View Profile
Re: Question on experiencing the 1st jhana
« Reply #11 on: December 01, 2009, 03:14:23 am »
Traditionally, when the Buddha talked about samadhi, he was talking about the Jhanas.  However, a later development was that the word "samadhi" was used to describe states that came close to the Jhanas:

1.  Khanika samadhi - Momentary concentration - a better translation would be Temporary Stillness.  This is when you feel that your meditation is going well - so there is more meditation going on than false thoughts.  A sense of radiance rises up and this is like seeing the moon through clouds.

Let's say you are doing breath meditation and this cloudy radiance comes up in your mind.  There's still the sense of separateness because your mind is noticing 2 things - the breath and this cloudy radiance.  The breath and the sense of radiance are still 2 separate things.

At this point, you can either choose to concentrate on the fuzzy radiance or on the breath.  Which is better?  It's tempting to jump in to focusing on the cloudy radiance.  But it's actually better to concentrate back on the breath.

2.  Upacara samadhi - Threshold/neighbourhood/access concentration, i.e., you're on the threshold of entering the 1st Jhana.  It's like you're at the doorstep just about to step in.  Here the 5 hindrances are overcome but only temporarily - so they can still easily come back - for example, restlessness.  This is like seeing the moon on a clear sky in all its glory.

At this point, the sense of radiance/the nimitta arises THROUGH the breath - they are not two separate things.

3.  Appana samadhi - these are the 4 Jhanas.

The 1st Jhana has 5 qualities to it:
1.  Vitakka - the placing of the mind on to the meditation object
2.  Vicara - keeping the mind on the meditation object - making it stick
3.  Piti - joy and rapture - this brings a sense of excitement to your meditation.
4.  Sukha - sweetness.  If you imagine champagne - the bubbles is like piti.  The sweetness of the champagne is like sukha.
5.  Ekaggata - one pointedness

In the 2nd Jhana, Vitakka and Vicara are gone.

In the 3rd Jhana, Piti is also gone.

In the 4th Jhana, all that is left is the Ekagatta - one pointedness.  One-pointedness in space and also one-pointedness in time.

Here's the sutra that talks about Right Concentration:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an05/an05.028.than.html
« Last Edit: December 01, 2009, 03:47:37 am by Optimus Prime »

Offline Optimus Prime

  • Member
  • Posts: 892
    • View Profile
Re: Question on experiencing the 1st jhana
« Reply #12 on: December 24, 2009, 06:33:25 am »
When the nimitta (the radiance of the mind - usually perceived as a bright light when using breath meditation) comes up, what do you do?

Here's some study notes from a talk given by Ajahn Brahm on one of his retreats:

According to Ajahn Brahm, there are 2 things you have to encourage:
1.  Stabilize it - so it's not moving around, it's not coming and going, it's absolutely still - it stays with you and it doesn't move
2.  Brighten it up - so it gets more and more brilliant and bright, giving it more power

How to stabilize the nimitta
Pay attention to the one who's watching - this is the cause of the instability because if the one who's watching is not moving, very still, the nimitta is still.  This is because the nimitta is nothing more than a reflection of the one who's watching.  Simile of the mirror:  It's a bit like looking into a mirror - if you want your image to be still and you try and hold the mirror still, it's no good.  But if you just stay still in front of the mirror, your image is naturally still of itself.

You have to do absolutely nothing - no movement at all.

How to brighten up the nimitta
1.  Be virtuous
For some people, when they first see a nimitta, it won't be bright - it will be grey and blotchy.  This is a sign that your mind is grey and blotchy (like an old cloth which hasn't been washed for weeks) - so this means that you haven't been keeping your precepts very well - so your mind is not brilliant - it looks as if it's smeared with dirt and grime.  So the best way to brighten up that nimitta is to be a really kind, good, generous, pure hearted, selfless person and you never say a wrong thing or criticize other people - you'll find that your nimitta is naturally bright.

When Ajahn Brahm first explained this, someone came up to him and said, "Ahh!!! I got that dirty nimitta!" and Ajahn Brahm asked him, "What have you been up to?" and the guy was very embarrassed when he admitted what he did.

This is when Ajahn Brahm first realized the importance of virtue in meditation.  When you're a very virtuous person, your mind is very bright and beautiful.  And when you get to that stage in meditation when the nimitta appears, when you're seeing a reflection of your mind - seeing what you've been doing.  If you've been a very kind and beautiful person, then the nimitta is incredibly bright and beautiful.  If you've been angry at someone recently, then that nimitta won't be bright.  If you've cheated on someone or broken any precepts - it won't be brilliant.  So by this stage of meditation, you can actually see for yourself the benefit of being virtuous.

So from being around certain people for a long time, Ajahn Brahm knows which people are really virtuous and always willing to help, staying behind afterwards to clean up and arrange things, cooking on retreats etc... and so, he knows that when they get nimittas, they are usually the ones who get the beautiful nimittas straight away because they have beautiful minds - and they get into Jhanas very easily.

2.  Focus on the nice part, the brightest, the most beautiful parts of the nimitta
This is the shortcut to brightening up the nimitta for those of us who are not that virtuous - we may be good enough but sometimes, we still get angry, irritated and upset sometimes.  You can only do this when you don't haven't followed the fault finding mind because the fault finding mind by nature will go to what's wrong - it will go to the blotchy parts - because that's what fault finding minds do - it always sees whats wrong.  So you focus on the most beautiful parts of that, it expands and the dirty parts fall off the screen and you focus on the most beautiful part of that, then keep focusing of the most beautiful part of that and then the most beautiful part of that.  This becomes a very effective way of shining up the nimitta and making it beautiful.

To do this, you've got to develop the grateful mind, the positive mind, always looking for what's right, not what's wrong.  So you see all the people who are doing the right things in life - you don't see all the people who are doing the wrong things.  So you see all the food which is to your taste - not the food you don't like.  This type of mind will be able to see the nicest part, stay with the nicest part and that grows and becomes more beautiful.



When the nimitta is very beautiful and very stable then naturally you merge into it - you don't "do" that - it happens when it's ready - you can't make it happen.  Remember you've got to be so still, the nimitta has got to be so stable and get so strong and beautiful that it just draws you in - and that becomes the Jhanas.

For the next stage, the main thing to do is "nothing" - the deeper you go, the less you're allowed to do.  When you go into very deep states, you can't do anything and remain absolutely still.  The doer has to be renounced.

When you get to those states of deep meditation, you're having such a wonderful, blissful time, you think, "Why do I want to keep this doer business?  The doer is a pain in the butt - always making me do things.  I don't want to do things, I want to be still!  It's much more fun!  And the doer keeps on interrupting."  But after a while when you get into Jhanas, you realize that yes you can let go of the doer and the quicker you do that the better.

overmyhead

  • Guest
Re: Question on experiencing the 1st jhana
« Reply #13 on: December 24, 2009, 08:25:29 pm »
I have been working on developing access concentration, and the nimitta.  I've been having kind of a funny problem.  I find that I'm "merging into" it way too early, before it is stable.  The following state is brief and unstable, very intense but agitated.  This is usually usually a session ender.  Do you have any advice for keeping my distance from the nimitta?

Offline Optimus Prime

  • Member
  • Posts: 892
    • View Profile
Re: Question on experiencing the 1st jhana
« Reply #14 on: December 24, 2009, 11:40:39 pm »
Here's some detailed retreat instructions by Ajahn Brahm from his retreat Nov 09.  There are different talks for each day of the retreat, so check out each day's talks one by one on the website - it's like being right there at the retreat itself and having Ajahn Brahm giving you a talk each day of a retreat to inspire you and guide you along into Jhana:

http://www.bswa.org/modules/mydownloads/viewcat.php?cid=74

:anjali:
« Last Edit: December 24, 2009, 11:49:33 pm by Optimus Prime »

 


SimplePortal 2.3.3 © 2008-2010, SimplePortal