Friday, November 16, 2012

Working with Jhana factors

It's probably a good idea to read my other post, Standard view of the Jhana states, before reading this one - just to get an idea of what the Jhana world is are and where we are going.

I work with the five Jhana factors in many different ways. Here are translations I like:

1. Directed thought, aiming attention at something.
2. Sustaining attention, maintaining the awareness of something.
3. Joy, rapture, delight.
4. Happiness, contentment, calmness.
5. Gathered, unified mind.

Jhanas are very deep, absorbed meditative states and we are unlikely to hop into them in our everyday lives - the amount of mental agitation from being in-the-world sort of precludes it. However, this does not stop us having a go and wallowing in Jhana territory - peace, joy, contentment, happiness, spaciousness, a calm, abiding mind. We experience these things in everyday life, just not as fully as a skilled meditation practitioner.

So then, if you meditate then there's a kind of assumption that we are going to get into a peaceful state of some shape or form - we don't generally view meditation as something we do to upset ourselves (although this happens). This peaceful state (once we get there) is a meditation sweet spot and, if we want to describe the qualities of that sweet spot, then we need look no further than the Jhanic factors - we are gathered, our mind unified, sprinkled with joy and contentment, not wandering anywhere. That's basically it. We meditate, we come out of meditation, we review the meditation - did the mind wander, what caused the mind to wander, did delight arise, was the mind unified, content, happy? We learn to recognise them - knowing when they are present, what qualities they possess, what causes them to arise, what causes them to disappear, knowing when they are not present, knowing where to find them. They are a signpost to something deeper within ourselves.

There are other ways to work with them: we can use them as a causal sequence (1 leads to 2, 2 to 3, 3 to 4, 4 to 5), we can focus on being content with the world and amplify it to full volume, we can drop right into a full bodymind, use them as antidotes to difficult mind states, use them to train the mind and so on. Perhaps more on these for another time.

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