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Rob Burbea’s Idea of the Jhanas

Somehow I stumbled into a Reddit thread (who can’t when Google gives them the top 1 result for nearly every search!?) about the Jhanas and this Rob Burbea talking about it. I saw what appeared like a little follower group of him in some of the comments. They really liked what he was saying.

I’m rarely interested what others are saying about Jhanas, but lately I’ve been trying to pay a little attention because some of my meditation clients are asking me questions about this person or that, and I usually have no clue about anyone else’s ideas except the ones I know like Gunaratana, Aj. Brahm, Aj. Vimalaramsi, and one or two more.

I have a list of people that I disregard, and I figured Rob Burbea was going to be in this list.

As it turns out, I can’t completely write him off. I listened to his “The Fifth Jhana” audio from 01/03/2020 at the Dharmaseed.org website here – https://dharmaseed.org/retreats/4496/?page=3. I listed to 53 minutes of it.

I then listened to most of his talk on the 8th Jhana. This is the one where I see teachers say things that make no sense for this Jhana – the most often. Why? Because nearly everyone is making it up based on something they read.

Just before that, I listened to a partial audio talk on YouTube here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k6Y8BsfTiQY and made it about 23 minutes in before I wanted to see exactly what he is saying about the Arupa Jhanas. I figured if he could accurately describe the 5th Jhana or higher – that would give me a good idea whether we’re on the same page or not.

What I Agreed with Rob Burbea on Regarding the Jhanas

There was a lot I agreed with Mr. Burbea on as he spoke in depth about the 5th Jhana – The Realm of Infinite Space. It wasn’t too long and I started to hear some things that don’t jive with what I experienced or what I’ve ever heard from other teachers I respect.

  1. The one big thing I can say that I agree with that I didn’t think he would say is that in the 8th Jhana there is something so subtle and refined to observe in the perception vs. non-perception of what is going on in this state. And time is there. These are true.

I Disagreed with these Rob Burbea’s Statements About the Jhanas

Not exact quotes, but paraphrased very closely.

  1. We can walk around the park in Jhana 4. Literally, he means you can walk around with your eyes open looking at the clouds.
  2. We can go right into any Jhana without going through the prior ones. If we want to go into Jhana 6, just remember it. Remember the feeling and you’ll go back into it. Your cells remember it.
  3. There’s a happiness in the fifth Jhana. Technically, there shouldn’t be, but it’s there.
  4. He’s talking about the Arupa Jhanas (5, 6, 7, 8) and he talks as if he’s the one to come up with a different term that fits better – immaterial Jhanas. I’ve been hearing that term for almost 30 yrs. The way he said it, it was as if he coined this word. Struck me as odd.
  5. The nice thing about the 5th Jhana is that we can practice it with our eyes open. Can do sitting, standing, looking up at the sky.
  6. “We’re trying to dissolve the body and mind in this boundless space.” Completely disagree, we’re not ‘trying’ to do anything in the 5th Jhana.
  7. There’s really a sense of WOW in the 5th Jhana.” In this Jhana, any sort of feeling is dumbed down to a very shallow, base level. There’s never a sense of WOW. There’s never an overt feeling of it.
  8. There’s a sense of wonder, awe, at the infinite space in this Jhana.” I just disagree with the way he’s saying there is real feeling about the states of mind in the state of mind. There isn’t. There is a dull awareness of just how incredible the experience is, but it’s not awe. It’s not wonder. One is only vaguely aware of any sort of feeling at all. On the other hand, when one comes out of the Jhana and is awake and reflecting, you can definitely call it bizarre and outrageous. He never differentiates between being in the state and outside it, so it seems as if he’s saying these feelings are happening inside the deep Jhana.
  9. There’s a kind of liberation in the mind not landing on any object to experience in the 8th Jhana. You can feel the relative liberation in that. Again, he’s saying there are feelings that are happening in the 8th Jhana. No, never. There are no subtle feelings at all in the 8th Jhana. Nothing like that at all.

What’s interesting about Mr. Burbea is that he can talk endlessly about each Jhana. For over an hour on each? In a way, it’s far too much. In a way, I found little to disagree with overall.

I do think that if I questioned him about his idea that we can walk around in 4th Jhana, our differences would come to light quickly.

Anyway, it was interesting to hear his audio talks. You might enjoy them.

I have not heard anything from him about his meditation process. I hope he’s not one of those ‘teachers’ that suggest that talking someone through the Jhanas verbally can happen. There are too many of those out there and I don’t get it at all. It destroys all the descriptions of Jhana that I’ve heard learned teachers talk about. That also goes completely against all the experiences I had.

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