Fourth Jhana vs. Silent Illumination

A place to ask a Zen teacher. Experimental forum.

Moderator: Spiritual Do-gooder

User avatar
guo gu
Posts: 75
Joined: Sat Nov 25, 2017 5:18 am
Location: tallahassee, florida
Contact:

Re: Fourth Jhana vs. Silent Illumination

Post by guo gu » Tue Feb 06, 2018 6:29 am

fuki wrote:
Mon Feb 05, 2018 6:45 pm
guo gu wrote:
Mon Feb 05, 2018 5:29 pm
wayfarer,
there are many samadhi states... shallower ones feel like rapture, which is really the beginning of the ending the state, some are not rapturous. shallower ones there's awareness of experiencing it. the deeper one goes the fewer faculties of perception function.
be well,
guo gu
For me it's like a deep sleep, all pitch blackness with no world to conceive of nor notion of there not being a world.
It's where there's no history of a world, of a fuki, nor knowledge of there ever being one.
I'm not sure what kind of Samadhi that is, I did hear there was still a self though (as GG told me)

But I am interested in what you say on this Guo Gu, I have not experienced this but could you shed your light on it?
fuki,

my experience with samadhi is limited. but from experience, i know that samadhi is not sleepy or darkness or loss of consciousness, there should be clarity. if one experiences pitch blackness, at best it's loosing consciousness or resting; worse, it's what chan calls "dwelling in the ghost cave on the dark side of the mountain" (where sun don't ever shine)--for years i was stuck in this state. very dangerous because it's addictive and kills one's wisdom life.

the clarity in different states of samadhi are usually accompanied by particular psychosomatic de-conditioning states (sense organs inoperable/loosing functioning etc-- hence, seeing colors, experiencing spaciousness, infinite light, expansive consciousness, purity, etc). there is, however, a samadhi state that is "without content" a kinda, perfect equipoise where temporarily afflictions are absent. the buddha supposedly entered nirvana from this samadhi/jhana.

btw, generally speaking, these samadhi states usually for novices last for a day or so, fading in and out in the beginning going in and coming out of it in the end, while the middle abiding part maybe several hours. sometimes deeper ones lasting for days (all of these are while sitting). when i was a boy my first teacher, master guangqin, was able to enter in these states for weeks on end. anything less than a day in these samadhi states would most likely be loosing consciousness or the mind resting.

experientially, there would be no sense of time in samadhi, so there's no sense of going in or coming out (i'm only using these terms out of convenience). if one senses going "in" or coming "out" then that's not samadhi--maybe pre-samadhi rapture states--because experientially not even a mind exists; the clarity (and it's accompanying states) completely takes over--there's no separation like wayfarer says there isn't "experience" and the experiencer.

all that said, these sort of samadhi are not necessary to realize (glimpses of) awakening in chan/seon/zen. in fact, my teacher master sheng yen used to warn us not to cultivate them before seeing self-nature, less one becomes easily attached to them. there is self in all of these states. however, those with samadhi powers generally realize awakening with lasting tranformative effect (like vexations don't ever arise or very few vexations would arise for the rest of one's life if one continues to practice)--these are rare. most often, after seeing self-nature, one nourishes it by going into solitary retreat--in other words, cultivating samadhi. having seen self-nature, one wouldn't attach to those states writ large. my experiences with samadhi mostly dates back to the mid-90s, in this context, under my teacher's close watch and were limited.

ppl are fascinated with samadhi or jhana states. so having read books and descriptions on it, it's easy to imagine one is experiencing them or seek after them. in reality they are very rare and achievable only under good guidance of a qualified teacher who can identify what's what, lest it would be like the blind leading the blind. to be safe, it's best to just practice without seeking anything--just practice, and not be captivated by anything.

be well,
guo gu

User avatar
fuki
Posts: 1646
Joined: Fri Dec 01, 2017 12:02 am
Location: Zandvoort, The Netherlands

Re: Fourth Jhana vs. Silent Illumination

Post by fuki » Tue Feb 06, 2018 11:37 am

Thank you Guo Gu for reminding me again, it's all clear. :)

I sometimes get curious :117:
meldpunt seksueel misbruik in boeddhistische gemeenschappen.
https://meldpuntbg.nl/

IZIhttp://www.zeninstitute.org/en/iziae/main.html

User avatar
jundocohen
Posts: 604
Joined: Fri Nov 10, 2017 2:30 pm

Re: Fourth Jhana vs. Silent Illumination

Post by jundocohen » Tue Feb 06, 2018 12:16 pm

This debate on whether the Jhanas are the highly concentrated form often associated with the Visuddhimagga, or a "lighter" form of experience (free of the "other worldly" 5th and higher Jhanas) is actually a hot topic on the Theravadan side of the world. For example, this article by Leigh Brasington:

http://leighb.com/jhanantp.htm
In the Theravada tradition there are, at least, two schools regarding the Jhanas: the Visuddhimagga school and the Sutta school.
The Visuddhimagga (800 years after the Buddha) school presents a type of Jhanas (with five items for Jhana 1) that are very difficult to attain. If we expend the Visuddhimagga statements about the chance to get into Jhana 1 we have a probability of something like one in a million. So lay people and many monastics have a bit of a challenge to get there.

The Sutta school (list of some teachers: Thailand: Ajaan Lee, Sri Lanka: Ven. Nannarama Thera, U.S. Thanissaro Bhikkhu, Leigh Brasington, Germany/Australia: Ayya Khema, U.K. Rob Burbea) presents a more “doable” type of Jhanas ....
Some of the descriptions of the "Fourth Jhana" (the highest of the Buddha's attainments in some interpretations) certainly do resonate of Shikantaza.

Gassho, J
Teacher at Treeleaf Zendo, a Soto Zen Sangha, an online practice place for folks who cannot commute to a Zen Center due to health, living in remote areas, work or family needs. The focus is Shikantaza 'Just Sitting' Zazen http://www.treeleaf.org

User avatar
Great Sage EofH
Posts: 351
Joined: Fri Nov 10, 2017 12:55 pm

Re: Fourth Jhana vs. Silent Illumination

Post by Great Sage EofH » Wed Feb 07, 2018 1:35 am

jundocohen wrote:
Tue Feb 06, 2018 12:16 pm
This debate on whether the Jhanas are the highly concentrated form often associated with the Visuddhimagga, or a "lighter" form of experience (free of the "other worldly" 5th and higher Jhanas) is actually a hot topic on the Theravadan side of the world. For example, this article by Leigh Brasington:

http://leighb.com/jhanantp.htm
In the Theravada tradition there are, at least, two schools regarding the Jhanas: the Visuddhimagga school and the Sutta school.
The Visuddhimagga (800 years after the Buddha) school presents a type of Jhanas (with five items for Jhana 1) that are very difficult to attain. If we expend the Visuddhimagga statements about the chance to get into Jhana 1 we have a probability of something like one in a million. So lay people and many monastics have a bit of a challenge to get there.

The Sutta school (list of some teachers: Thailand: Ajaan Lee, Sri Lanka: Ven. Nannarama Thera, U.S. Thanissaro Bhikkhu, Leigh Brasington, Germany/Australia: Ayya Khema, U.K. Rob Burbea) presents a more “doable” type of Jhanas ....
Some of the descriptions of the "Fourth Jhana" (the highest of the Buddha's attainments in some interpretations) certainly do resonate of Shikantaza.

Gassho, J
I think it would be a bad place for me if i ended up in absolute Eternity or Infinity right now. Taking a rain check, thanks.
"We are magical animals that roam" ~~ Roam

User avatar
jundocohen
Posts: 604
Joined: Fri Nov 10, 2017 2:30 pm

Re: Fourth Jhana vs. Silent Illumination

Post by jundocohen » Mon Feb 26, 2018 4:14 pm

Hi,

I just finished a very interesting paper by Grzegorz Polak, a Buddhologist with an interest in the "Comparative study of Early Buddhism and Chan meditative doctrine" ...

http://www.umcs.pl/en/addres-book-employee,2226,en.html

... which posits that Silent Illumination Zazen may share much in common with the "Fourth Jhana." To understand this argument, a couple of points are required as background:

http://phavi.umcs.pl/at/attachments/201 ... jhanas.pdf

First, in the earliest Suttas, the supreme state of meditation, and the state which the Buddha is said to have attained for enlightenment, is the Fourth Jhana, not so-called "higher Jhana" (such as the "Eight Jhana" of "Neither perception nor non-perception") which many historians believe are later Yogic/Hindu forms of meditation which crept back into Buddhist meditation approaches despite being specifically rejected in the early Suttas (p. 110):
[ I]n the early stages of the process, there was still awareness that the liberating insight must be connected with the fourth jhāna. The presence of the knowledge of encompassing the minds of others (cetopariyañāṇa) and of the knowledge of recollecting past lives (pubbenivāsānussatiñāṇa) (both of which are inauthentic in this context, as shown by Schmithausen (1981: 222)) after the attainment of the fourth jhāna is probably also a result of attempts to provide some accounts of declarative, explicit forms of knowledge which could be vitally connected to liberation. A similar explanation has already been proposed by Bronkhorst (1986: 115).

Subsequent to this, as the focus on contemplative insight intensified, the four jhāna-s were reinterpreted, and no longer seen as a unique, exclusively Buddhist practice, but as a concentrative, quasi-yogic meditative method not very different from that of non-Buddhists.
The description of the Fourth Jhana in the early Suttas is not, as later understood, an intense focus upon a single object, but a more general mindfulness and equanimity. Further, the author posits that a kind of knowledge and insight arises in such state that may not all be at a conscious level (p 99-101):
Liberating insight is supposed to be a special kind of understanding bringing transformative knowledge. But what is the real cognitive mechanism of insight? Where does it take place? In the stereotypical concept of Buddhist insight we find some implicit preconceptions which seem to be rooted in our ordinary, common sense way of thinking. ... We can however see for ourselves the limitations of this model when it comes to explaining how we arrive at some new ideas and yes, insights. These are the well-known “eureka effects”, “a-ha moments” – when we suddenly
become aware of a new insight, without prior awareness of the process leading to its emergence. This has led people in the past centuries to often attribute them to some kind of divine inspiration. The explanation of this phenomenon and many more of our mental operations became possible with new developments in cognitive science fueled by research in neuroscience and in particular the concepts of: unconscious information processing, implicit learning and tacit knowledge. ...
In such regard, Dr, Polak states the following:
We have arrived at a view of early Buddhist jhāna as a meditative practice endowed with insight, maintaining the sensitivity of the mind and the senses, and yet at the same time leading to altered states of consciousness free from verbal, discursive thought. But is such a form of meditation possible at all? Have we not come through our textual analysis to something nonsensical, an oxymoron? It seems to be commonly accepted that there are two main types of meditation: samatha, which leads to altered states of consciousness and to stopping thought by concentrating on a single object, and vipassanā, which leads to experiencing the world as it really is, but fails to bring a radically different state of consciousness.

We may show that such a state is indeed possible, by pointing out that somewhat similar forms of meditation can be tracked down in some later
Buddhist traditions and also in the teachings of some modern Theravādin masters. One such meditative method is the practice of silent illumination
described in the teachings of the Chan master Hongzhi. Modern Chan Master Sheng Yen recapitulates Hongzhi’s practice of silent illumination (mozhao) in his book entitled Hoofprint of the Ox:

Hongzhi instructs his students to let go and settle quietly into
themselves, leaving behind all entangling conditions and supports
until they reach a point of perfect and unrestrained quiescence.
At the same time this does not imply that mind becomes dark or
incognizant. Quite the contrary, it is the distortions of deluded
and conditioned thinking that are silenced, not mental clarity or
awareness. With this silence, the mind’s innate wisdom shines
unobstructed, perfectly clear and luminous, without a single speck
of dust to impede it. “In this [state of] silent sitting”, Hongzhi says:
“the mind clearly perceives the details of sensory objects; yet, as
though transparent, no constructed image is produced” (Sheng-yen,
2001:142).
To begin with, silence and illumination are inseparable and must
be present simultaneously: in the very act of illumining, one
relinquishes grasping after thoughts and sensations, and directly
takes things in, thereby bringing the mind to perfect silence. […]
It is a mistake to think that first one must develop inner calm, and,
only then, apply open awareness (Sheng-yen, 2001:147).

...

I am not claiming here that the meditative states of silent illumination ... are identical to early Buddhist jhāna. I am only claiming that the very existence of such forms of meditation at least shows the actual possibility of a state which can be simultaneously endowed with both insight and calm, be devoid of verbal thoughts, and yet retain the sensitivity of the body, without being attained by concentrative methods. This fits pretty
well with all the textual evidence we have about the four jhāna-s. The fact that early Buddhist jhāna was seemingly such a paradoxical state must have greatly contributed to its later fundamental misinterpretation.
Gassho, J
Teacher at Treeleaf Zendo, a Soto Zen Sangha, an online practice place for folks who cannot commute to a Zen Center due to health, living in remote areas, work or family needs. The focus is Shikantaza 'Just Sitting' Zazen http://www.treeleaf.org

Caodemarte
Posts: 415
Joined: Mon Dec 11, 2017 7:02 pm

Re: Fourth Jhana vs. Silent Illumination

Post by Caodemarte » Mon Feb 26, 2018 4:46 pm

jundocohen wrote:
Mon Feb 26, 2018 4:14 pm
Hi,

I just finished a very interesting paper by Grzegorz Polak, a Buddhologist with an interest in the "Comparative study of Early Buddhism and Chan meditative doctrine" ...
Very nice addition. Thank you Jundo.

User avatar
Crystal
Posts: 155
Joined: Tue Jan 09, 2018 2:40 pm

Re: Fourth Jhana vs. Silent Illumination

Post by Crystal » Mon Feb 26, 2018 4:52 pm

.

The Theravada monk Ajahn Brahm discusses the Jhanas extensively in part 2 of his book "Mindfulness, Bliss and Beyond - a Meditator's Handbook." Unfortunately I think only the first part of the book is available in PDF on the internet.


_/|\_

User avatar
Great Sage EofH
Posts: 351
Joined: Fri Nov 10, 2017 12:55 pm

Re: Fourth Jhana vs. Silent Illumination

Post by Great Sage EofH » Mon Feb 26, 2018 10:35 pm

Thanks! Yes I have heard this, he’s quite involved in this topic.i kind of tend to favor his teachers approach (Ajahn Chah) but they both agree on 99% of it. The original post was obviously click bait, silent illumination is probably a more useful path as jhanas at best only lead to arhanthood
"We are magical animals that roam" ~~ Roam

User avatar
jundocohen
Posts: 604
Joined: Fri Nov 10, 2017 2:30 pm

Re: Fourth Jhana vs. Silent Illumination

Post by jundocohen » Tue Feb 27, 2018 3:52 am

Crystal wrote:
Mon Feb 26, 2018 4:52 pm
.

The Theravada monk Ajahn Brahm discusses the Jhanas extensively in part 2 of his book "Mindfulness, Bliss and Beyond - a Meditator's Handbook." Unfortunately I think only the first part of the book is available in PDF on the internet.


_/|\_
Dr. Polak and some other scholars make the point that Ajahn Brahm may be practicing an interpretation of Jhana actually closer to Yoga/Hindu practices than the original intent:
Taking all the above considerations into account it seems right to assume that the
criticized method of meditation preached by the Brahmin Pārāsariya was standing
in a direct opposition to the four jhānas. This means that the four jhānas cannot be
interpreted as the states in which the senses would come to a halt. This is of course
at odds with the popular view on the jhānas as the states of deep absorption, where
one is so strongly focused on his meditation object, that he is not aware of anything
else. The popular view on the nature of the jhāna is rightly summed up by Ajahn
Brahm, a modern meditation master:

Furthermore, you should know that while in any Jhāna it is impossible to experience
the body (e.g. physical pain), hear a sound from outside or produce any thought, not
even “good” thoughts (Brahm 2006: 24–25).

The view that jhāna is connected with the stopping of the senses is one of these
‘obvious’ truths about Buddhist meditation, that are taken for granted.

https://www.academia.edu/34093551/Reexa ... oteriology


Gassho, J
Teacher at Treeleaf Zendo, a Soto Zen Sangha, an online practice place for folks who cannot commute to a Zen Center due to health, living in remote areas, work or family needs. The focus is Shikantaza 'Just Sitting' Zazen http://www.treeleaf.org

User avatar
Crystal
Posts: 155
Joined: Tue Jan 09, 2018 2:40 pm

Re: Fourth Jhana vs. Silent Illumination

Post by Crystal » Tue Feb 27, 2018 4:55 pm

jundocohen wrote:Dr. Polak and some other scholars make the point that Ajahn Brahm may be practicing an interpretation of Jhana actually closer to Yoga/Hindu practices than the original intent:
That's interesting, thanks Jundo.

I''ve never been a follower of Ajahn Brahm myself, but I've always enjoyed the simplicity and directness of the teachings of Ajahn Chah.


_/|\_

Post Reply