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Understanding the Jhana States

Sure thing, Vern! To fill a page about the concept of the Jhana states, you can delve deeper into various aspects to provide a comprehensive understanding. Here’s how you could expand on the description:

Introduction to the Concept of Jhana States

Jhana refers to the states that occur after the mind has been rock solid in concentration on your object of meditation. One-pointedness of concentration, Buddhists say. After you change your focus to a mind object like a Nimitta, you can enter Jhana shortly after. Each Jhana has some easily identified factors you can note as you enter and leave each one. We’ll cover those factors here.

Keep in mind this is the Buddhist interpretation of the factors in Jhana and that sometimes you may not be practiced enough to notice that all of these factors are present.

The interesting thing is, I’ve never experienced anything that was close to Jhana but not Jhana, so if you recognize the major feature of the Jhana you’re in, then you’re definitely in it. It may take repeated entering into the Jhanas in order to notice their subtleties and nuanced flavor.

Are the Jhanas Important?

Buddha said nobody reaches liberation from suffering except through Jhana. Even if you come to insight by a different path, before liberation you must experience Jhana in a way that destroys the fetters/hindrances.

Characteristics of Jhana States

Refined Mental States – Each Jhana state as you progress through them from the first to the eighth gradually changes. All of the Jhana states except the first is peaceful, and without involved thought.

Specific Factors of Each of the Initial 4 Jhanas

Buddhists have gone to great lengths to describe all the factors present to our awareness in each of the Jhanas. It’s really astounding that each experience of each numbered Jhana (1-8) is repeated between different people, some of which have no idea what is even happening.

I was one of these people. When the monks questioned me about my experiences in detail I could recall all of the factors present in each Jhana. They appear to be universal – everyone has the same experience, though perception may be quite different.

: Detail the specific factors or qualities that characterize each Jhana state. For instance:

  • First Jhana – The first Jhana has 5 factors. These are: the presence of applied thought (vitakka), sustained thought (vicāra), rapture/bliss/ecstasy (pīti), pleasure (sukha), and one-pointedness (ekaggatā). The first Jhana’s major factor is overwhelming bliss that keeps spilling over and growing even when you think you cannot experience more, it grows!
  • Second Jhana – Factors decrease. There are 3 factors. The absence of applied and sustained thought, with a focus on rapture, pleasure, and one-pointedness of mind.
  • Third Jhana – 5 Factors here as well. There’s a predominance of equanimity (upekkhā) and mindfulness, with fading rapture and sustained pleasure.
  • Fourth Jhana – This is a very balanced or stable state, neither happy nor sad or uncomfortable. It’s a perfectly balanced or equanimous state. The 2 factors are equanimity and mindfulness.

Factors Present in the Arupa Jhanas (5-8)

Each of these Jhanas have the same 2 factors present, but each experience is vastly different. The 2 factors are Equanimity/Neutral feeling. and One-pointedness of mind.

Experiencing Jhana States

  • Awareness of Factors – Buddhists teach that it’s essential to be aware of the factors of each Jhana and see them clearly. To them, each Jhana should be experienced over and over so you become an expert on each one and on moving through the Jhanas.
  • Sensory Withdrawal – With the exception of the 1st Jhana there is no experience of the senses at all. Not touch, smell, sight, taste, sound, or time. This absence of distractions makes the experience unique and unable to be experienced in regular consciousness.

Progression Through the Jhana States

  • Sequential Development: Meditators in Jhana move sequentially through the first to the eighth, though it may take weeks to years to complete all 8 even one time. Buddhists have tricks for moving through the Jhanas but in my experience, no trick is needed. I simply let go of whatever I was experiencing in each Jhana and the next Jhana came in the proper sequence. Buddhists will insist you master whatever Jhana you are in before moving to the next one.
  • Stabilization and Deepening – Through observing the feature of each Jhana, the state of mind that occurs, one can become an expert on that Jhana. In time you will be able to maintain the state with ease and clarity, mastering it.

Psychological and Experiential Aspects

  • Mental Purity and Clarity: Spending time in the Jhanas leads to an extended post-Jhanic vibe consisting of a sense of peace and balance that can last for hours or days. The hindrances are held at bay, and some people believe they are enlightened in this state. The state will fade and the hindrances will come back soon enough.
  • Detachment and Insight – As you come out of the Jhanas, it is an ideal opportunity for insight practice. Your coach or teacher can help you with what to focus on here.

Practical Insights for Jhana Practitioners

These are some of my personal tips for attaining Jhana.

  1. Spend time to relax the mind and body before beginning the serious work of micro-focusing on the feeling of the breath in the nostrils.
  2. Spend only 5 to 20 minutes doing the work of this intense focus. It is boring and can make you feel like you’re accomplishing nothing. In fact, you are getting further ahead every time you do it!
  3. Micro focus, not a macro focus on the entire breath cycle. Choose that tiny spot where you feel the breath, and lock on to that. Don’t let it go (your focus) – even when you feel no breath or tingling there at all.
  4. When you reach Samadhi (perfect concentration), continue it for at least 50 breaths or so. Then stop focusing there and see what the mind creates for you to observe. It may be an image in your mind. It may be a tingling in your hands, feet, or elsewhere. Whatever it creates, focus on that with the same intensity as you focused on the breath previously.
  5. As you do this, smile a little bit and feel the happiness inside you. If it arises, focus there. The main feature of Jhana 1 is a bliss/happiness, rapturous feeling that grows and grows. Don’t be afraid of it. Go in entirely. Feel the bliss and love and good feelings to the utmost.

Takeaways and Words of Encouragement

Some monks meditate for 40 years and don’t know the experience if Jhana. If the path isn’t correct, you aren’t getting there. There is more than 1 path, but you have to be on a good one to reach Jhana.

You also need a good teacher who can help you reach it. There are lots of obstacles to reaching Jhana, and it’s easy to get stuck. I was stuck multiple times but I had no teacher. Luckily for me, it worked out naturally. Somehow the process just unfolded nicely for me over and over in different ways. Don’t count on that!

Keep up your daily practice for 20-30 minutes. Don’t do more, there’s no point unless you REALLY feel like it for an hour or even 2 hours. The risk is overdoing it which kills your motivation and you’ll stop altogether. Try to stay interested in it by marveling at the different things that go on in your head during focusing on the breath, perfect concentration on the breath, the nimittas, and finally Jhana.

Let me know if I can help!!

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