Thinking a lot about jhana these days. It’s a big topic in the new meditation book I’m writing, so I’m thinking about it more than I ever have.
Jhanas are states of mind that begin when the body and mind are relaxed and the mind is highly focused on some object of meditation. Though Buddhism and other traditions teach that it is imperative to follow very specific rules to get into jhana and move between the jhanas, I’ve found this completely unnecessary. Instead, I used the very method the Buddha used to make the mind ready for jhanas to ‘visit’. The subject will be covered in-depth in the new book. I do hope, if you have an interest in the subject, you’ll have a look when it’s released. True to form, the book will be about $2.99, the same as the first book, “Meditation for Beginners – 22 Day Course.”
I see jhana as the fast-track to big changes. Once getting jhana pretty regularly, the revolution of the mind begins. As far as I can see, the changes, once made, are permanent.
I’ve struggled in the past to describe jhana with words. Every person that has experienced them comes to the same conclusion – it is not easily done. A comprehensive description is never possible, and reading the description does not give the reader the exact experience, nor could it approach it. Words are infinitely incapable of describing these states. It’s sort of like saying, describe the color orange – without using anything else that is orange to tell the person what it is like.
So, having exhausted myself trying to come up with words for the jhanas that could transmit the experience, today I had a thought…
What if I could draw jhana?
There is this driving force inside me that wants to share the experience with others, and yet, I haven’t found a way to do that yet. I’ve made some attempts at description using words here at this site, and at others. I have to say that I’ve never come up with a great description of any of the jhanas using words. They defy description. Then today I wondered if drawing an image of jhana could help people grasp it somehow.
Can jhana be described through a drawing? A photo? A scribble?
I’ve been trying to come up with something for a couple of hours, and so far it’s elusive. If you look at the header image for this website, I made the “8” in Jhana8 to appear as if it is leaning, or falling. This was my attempt at showing that jhana is similar to infinity, in that it is unknowable and completely indescribable.
Having exhausted myself thinking about a visual representation with an image or design I wondered, can it be described with music? Song? Dance? Sculpture? Numbers?
As far as I can see, a representation of jhana cannot be created using any of these.
How can jhana be a real experience and yet totally defy description of any sort? It is completely indescribable. I can only give hints at what it is… never anything resembling the big picture. I can explain tiny pieces of it, and not all that well, but at least it’s something.
It seems that most of the meditative experience is hard to describe with words. This is probably one factor that puts people off it. The milestones are ambiguous. The teachings – from Buddhists all over – often conflict. There is even disagreement over what jhana is and isn’t, the Buddhists are greatly concerned with the factors of jhana and whether they are all present or not, and which ones should be present. Then, there are experiences that occur within the individual that are phenomenological, they don’t occur with other people, they are unique to that person. I’ve had some of these strange experiences that nobody I know has ever had.
So, the goals of meditation are nebulous… the path, ambiguous. How is anyone to reach the higher states of jhana, and enlightenment if nothing is clear?
So, this is some of the problem of writing this next book. I am nearly finished, it will be another two weeks or so, but I think through the many edits I’ve done, this book will be my best effort for helping people to experience the jhanas and the changes that have happened to me with a simple meditation practice of focusing on the breath.
I think this book will be the easiest book to read on the subject, comprehensive, and yet easily understood by all. That is my goal anyway!