BRJ👻🥶 1 - Ajahn Brahm’s BRJ “Jhāna” is not the Buddha’s definition of Jhāna BRJ👻🥶 2 - Ajahn Brahm’s ‘Basic Method of Meditation’ reviewed and revised BRJ👻🥶 3 - The BRJ “Jhāna”s - By Ajahn Brahmavamso
He has a popular book detailing the method of BRJ👻🥶 called “Mindfulness, bliss, and beyond”, which is an expanded version of his free booklet, “The Basic Method of meditation.”
In the rest of this article, I annotate the major points in his booklet that deviates and contradicts EBT sutta.
For clarity, everywhere he calls his redefinition of “jhāna”, I relabel as BRJ👻🥶.
Ajahn Brahm's teaching on BRJ “Jhāna” contradicts his famous teacher, Ajahn Chah.
Ajahn Chah's understanding is compliant with the EBT (early buddhist teachings). Ajahn Chah Jhāna defn.
2 - Ajahn Brahm’s ‘Basic Method of Meditation’ reviewed and revised
The Basic Method of Meditation (book)
Sustained attention on the present moment
Silent awareness of the present moment
Silent present moment awareness of the breath
Full sustained attention on the breath
Full sustained attention on the beautiful breath
Experiencing the beautiful Nimitta
First BRJ “Jhāna”
2.1 - The Basic Method of Meditation PART 1
Sustained attention on the present moment
“The goal of this meditation is the beautiful silence, stillness and clarity of mind.”
Meditation is the way to achieve letting go.
In meditation one lets go of the complex world outside in order to reach the serene world inside.
In all types of mysticism and in many traditions, this is known as the path to the pure and powerful mind.
The experience of this pure mind, released from the world, is very wonderful and blissful.
Often with meditation there will be some hard work at the beginning, but be willing to bear that hard work knowing that it will lead you to experience some very beautiful and meaningful states.
They will be well worth the effort!
It is a law of nature that without effort one does not make progress.
Whether one is a layperson or a monk, without effort one gets nowhere, in meditation or in anything.
Effort alone, though, is not sufficient.
The effort needs to be skilful.
This means directing your energy just at the right places and sustaining it there until its task is completed.
Skilful effort neither hinders nor disturbs you, instead it produces the beautiful peace of deep meditation.
In order to know where your effort should be directed, you must have a clear understanding of the goal of meditation.
The goal of this meditation is the beautiful silence, stillness and clarity of mind.
If you can understand that goal then the place to apply your effort, the means to achieve the goal becomes very clear.
The effort is directed to letting go, to developing a mind that inclines to abandoning.
One of the many simple but profound statements of the Lord Buddha is that “a meditator whose mind inclines to abandoning, easily achieves Samadhi”.
Such a meditator gains these states of inner bliss almost automatically.
What the Lord Buddha is saying is that the major cause for attaining deep meditation, for reaching these powerful states is the willingness to abandon, to let go and to renounce.
During meditation, we should not develop a mind which accumulates and holds on to things, but instead we develop a mind which is willing to let go of things, to let go of burdens.
Outside of meditation we have to carry the burden of our many duties, like so many heavy suitcases, but within the period of meditation so much baggage is unnecessary.
So, in meditation see how much baggage you can unload.
Think of these things as burdens, heavy weights pressing upon you.
Then you have the right attitude for letting go of these things, abandoning them freely without looking back.
This effort, this attitude, this movement of mind that inclines to giving up, is what will lead you into deep meditation.
Even during the beginning stages of this meditation, see if you can generate the energy of renunciation, the willingness to give things away, and little by little the letting go will occur.
As you give things away in your mind you will feel much lighter, unburdened and free.
In the way of meditation, this abandoning of things occurs in stages, step by step.
You may go through the initial stages quickly if you wish, but be very careful if you so do.
Sometimes, when you pass through the initial steps too quickly, you find the preparatory work has not been completed.
It is like trying to build a town house on a very weak and rushed foundation.
The structure goes up very quickly, but it comes down very quickly as well!
So you are wise to spend a lot of time on the foundations, and on the `first storeys’ as well, making the groundwork well done, strong and firm.
Then when you proceed to the higher storey, the bliss states of meditation, they too are stable and firm.
In the way that I teach meditation, I like to begin at the very simple stage of giving up the baggage of past and future.
Sometimes you may think that this is such an easy thing to do, that it is too basic.
However, if you give it your full effort, not running ahead to the higher stages of meditation until you have properly reached the first goal of sustained attention on the present moment, then you will find later on that you have established a very strong foundation on which to build the higher stages.
Abandoning the past means not even thinking about your work, your family, your commitments, your responsibilities, your history, the good or bad times you had as a child…, you abandon all past experiences by showing no interest in them at all.
You become someone who has no history during the time that you meditate.
You do not even think about where you are from, where you were born, who your parents were or what your upbringing was like.
All of that history is renounced in meditation.
In this way, everyone here on the retreat becomes equal, just a meditator.
It becomes unimportant how many years you have been meditating, whether you are an old hand or a beginner.
If you abandon all that history then we are all equal and free.
We are freeing ourselves of some of these concerns, perceptions and thoughts that limit us and which stop us from developing the peace born of letting go.
So every ‘part’ of your history you finally let go of, even the history of what has happened to you so far in this retreat, even the memory of what happened to you just a moment ago!
In this way, you carry no burden from the past into the present.
Whatever has just happened, you are no longer interested in it and you let it go.
You do not allow the past to reverberate in your mind.
I describe this as developing your mind like a padded cell!
When any experience, perception or thought hits the wall of the ‘padded cell’, it does not bounce back again.
It just sinks into the padding and stops right there.
Thus we do not allow the past to echo in our consciousness, certainly not the past of yesterday and all that time before, because we are developing the mind inclined to letting go, giving away and unburdening.
Some people have the view that if they take up the past for contemplation they can somehow learn from it and solve the problems of the past.
However, you should understand that when you gaze at the past, you invariably look through distorted lenses.
Whatever you think it was like, in truth it was not quite like that!
This is why people have arguments about what actually happened, even a few moments ago.
It is well known to police who investigate traffic accidents that even though the accident may have happened only half an hour ago, two different eyewitnesses, both completely honest, will give different accounts.
Our memory is untrustworthy.
If you consider just how unreliable memory is, then you do not put value on thinking about the past.
Then you can let it go.
You can bury it, just as you bury a person who has died.
You place them in a coffin then bury it, or cremate it, and it is done with, finished.
Do not linger on the past.
Do not continue to carry the coffins of dead moments on your head!
If you do, then you are weighing yourself down with heavy burdens which do not really belong to you.
Let all of the past go and you have the ability to be free in the present moment.
As for the future, the anticipations, fears, plans, and expectations let all of that go too.
The Lord Buddha once said about the future, “Whatever you think it will be, it will always be something different”!
This future is known to the wise as uncertain, unknown and so unpredictable.
It is often complete stupidity to anticipate the future, and always a great waste of your time to think of the future in meditation.
When you work with your mind, you find that the mind is so strange.
It can do some wonderful and unexpected things.
It is very common for meditators who are having a difficult time, who are not getting very peaceful, to sit there thinking, “Here we go again, another hour of frustration”.
Even though they begin thinking like that, anticipating failure, something strange happens and they get into a very peaceful meditation.
Recently I heard of one man on his first ten-day retreat.
After the first day his body was hurting so much he asked to go home.
The teacher said, “Stay one more day and the pain will disappear, I promise”.
So he stayed another day, the pain got worse so he wanted to go home again.
The teacher repeated, “Just one more day, the pain will go”.
He stayed for a third day and the pain was even worse.
For each of nine days, in the evening he would go to the teacher and, in great pain, ask to go home and the teacher would say, “Just one more day and the pain will disappear”.
It was completely beyond his expectations, that on the final day when he started the first sit of the morning, the pain did disappear!
It did not come back.
He could sit for long periods with no pain at all!
He was amazed at how wonderful is this mind and how it can produce such unexpected results.
So, you don’t know about the future.
It can be so strange, even weird, completely beyond whatever you expect.
Experiences like this give you the wisdom and courage to abandon all thoughts about the future and all expectation as well.
When you’re meditating and thinking, “How many more minutes are there to go?
How much longer have I to endure all of this?”
, then that is just wandering off into the future again.
The pain could just disappear in a moment.
The next moment might be the free one.
You just cannot anticipate what is going to happen.
When on retreat, after you have been meditating for many sessions, you may sometimes think that none of those meditations have been any good.
In the next meditation session you sit down and everything becomes so peaceful and easy.
You think “Wow!
Now I can meditate!”
, but the next meditation is again awful.
What’s going on here?
The first meditation teacher I had told me something that then sounded quite strange.
He said that there is no such thing as a bad meditation!
He was right.
All those meditations which you call bad, frustrating and not meeting your expectations, all those meditations are where you do the hard work for your `pay cheque’…
It is like a person who goes to work all day Monday and gets no money at the end of the day.
“What am I doing this for?”
, he thinks.
He works all day Tuesday and still gets nothing.
Another bad day.
All day Wednesday, all day Thursday, and still nothing to show for all the hard work.
That’s four bad days in a row.
Then along comes Friday, he does exactly the same work as before and at the end of the day the boss gives him a pay cheque.
“Wow! Why can’t every day be a pay day?
Why can’t every meditation be `pay day’?
Now, do you understand the simile?
It is in the difficult meditations that you build up your credit, where you build up the causes for success.
While working for peace in the hard meditations, you build up your strength, the momentum for peace.
Then when there’s enough credit of good qualities, the mind goes into a good meditation and it feels like `pay-day’.
It is in the bad meditations that you do most of the work.
At a recent retreat that I gave in Sydney, during interview time, a lady told me that she had been angry with me all day, but for two different reasons.
In her early meditations she was having a difficult time and was angry with me for not ringing the bell to end the meditation early enough.
In the later meditations she got into a beautiful peaceful state and was angry with me for ringing the bell too soon.
The sessions were all the same length, exactly one hour.
You just can’t win as a teacher, ringing the bell!
This is what happens when you go anticipating the future, thinking, “How many more minutes until the bell goes?”
That is where you torture yourself, where you pick up a heavy burden that is none of your business.
So be very careful not to pick up the heavy suitcase of “How many more minutes are there to go?”
or “What should I do next?”
If that is what you are thinking, then you are not paying attention to what is happening now.
You are not doing the meditation.
You have lost the plot and are asking for trouble.
In this stage of the meditation keep your attention right in the present moment, to the point where you don’t even know what day it is or what time it is — morning?
afternoon? — don’t know!
All you know is what moment it is — right now!
In this way you arrive at this beautiful monastic time scale where you are just meditating in the moment, not aware of how many minutes have gone or how many remain, not even remembering what day it is.
Once, as a young monk in Thailand, I had actually forgotten what year it was!
It is marvellous living in that realm that is timeless, a realm so much more free than the time driven world we usually have to live in.
In the timeless realm, you experience this moment, just as all wise beings have been experiencing this same moment for thousands of years.
It has always been just like this, no different.
You have come into the reality of now.
The reality of now is magnificent and awesome.
When you have abandoned all past and all future, it is as if you have come alive.
You are here, you are mindful.
This is the first stage of the meditation, just this mindfulness sustained only in the present.
Reaching here, you have done a great deal.
You have let go of the first burden, which stops deep meditation.
So put forth a lot of effort to reach this first stage until it is strong, firm and well established.
Next we will refine the present moment awareness into the second stage of meditation — silent awareness of the present moment.
2.2 - The Basic Method of Meditation PART 2
Silent awareness of the present moment
Silent present moment awareness of the breath
Full sustained attention on the breath
“Silence is so much more productive of wisdom and clarity than thinking.”
In Part 1, I outlined the goal of this meditation, which is the beautiful silence, stillness and clarity of mind, pregnant with the most profound of insights.
Then I pointed out the underlying theme which runs like an unbroken thread throughout all meditation, that is the letting go of material and mental burdens.
Lastly, in part one, I described at length the practice which leads to what I call the first stage of this meditation, and that first stage is attained when the meditator comfortably abides in the present moment for long, unbroken periods of time.
I made the point that “The reality of now is magnificent and awesome.
Reaching here you have done a great deal.
You have let go of the first burden which stops deep meditation.”
But having achieved so much, one should go further into the even more beautiful and truthful silence of the mind.
It is helpful, here, to clarify the difference between silent awareness of the present moment and thinking about it.
The simile of watching a tennis match on T.
V. is informative.
When watching such a match, you may notice that, in fact, there are two matches occurring simultaneously — there is the match that you see on the screen, and there is the match that you hear described by the commentator.
Indeed, if an Australian is playing a New Zealander, then the commentary from the Australian or New Zealand presenter is likely to be much different from what actually occurred!
Commentary is often biased.
In this simile, watching the screen with no commentary stands for silent awareness in meditation, paying attention to the commentary stands for thinking about it.
You should realize that you are much closer to Truth when you observe without commentary, when you experience just the silent awareness of the present moment.
Sometimes it is through the inner commentary that we think we know the world.
Actually, that inner speech does not know the world at all!
It is the inner speech that weaves the delusions that cause suffering.
It is the inner speech that causes us to be angry with those we make our enemies, and to have dangerous attachments to those we make our loved ones.
Inner speech causes all of life’s problems.
It constructs fear and guilt.
It creates anxiety and depression.
It builds these illusions as surely as the skilful commentator on T.
V. can manipulate an audience to create anger or tears.
So if you seek for Truth, you should value silent awareness, considering it more important, when meditating, than any thought whatsoever.
Inner speech is inner speech.
If one is deluded, the inner speech is deluded.
If one is lucid, if one chooses to engage in innner speech the inner speech will be lucid.
It is the high value that one gives to one’s thoughts that is the major obstacle to silent awareness.
Carefully removing the importance one gives to one’s thinking and realizing the value and truthfulness of silent awareness, is the insight that makes this second stage — silent awareness of the present moment — possible.
One of the beautiful ways of overcoming the inner commentary is to develop such refined present moment awareness, that you are watching every moment so closely that you simply do not have the time to comment about what has just happened.
A thought is often an opinion on what has just happened, e.
g. “That was good”, “That was gross”, “What was that?”
All of these comments are about an experience that has just passed by.
When you are noting, making a comment about an experience that has just passed, then you are not paying attention to the experience that has just arrived.
You are dealing with old visitors and neglecting the new visitors coming now!
You may imagine your mind to be a host at a party, meeting the guests as they come in the door.
If one guest comes in and you meet them and start talking to them about this that or the other, then you are not doing your duty of paying attention to the next guest that comes in the door.
Since a guest comes in the door every moment, all you can do is to greet one and then immediately go on to greet the next one.
You cannot afford to engage in even the shortest conversation with any guest, since this would mean you would miss the one coming in next.
In meditation, all experiences come through the door of our senses into the mind one by one in succession.
If you greet one experience with mindfulness and then get into conversation with your guest, then you will miss the next experience following right behind.
When you are perfectly in the moment with every experience, with every guest that comes in your mind, then you just do not have the space for inner speech.
You cannot chatter to yourself because you are completely taken up with mindfully greeting everything just as it arrives in your mind.
This is refined present moment awareness to the level that it becomes silent awareness of the present in every moment.
You discover, on developing that degree of inner silence, that this is like giving up another great burden.
It is as if you have been carrying a big heavy rucksack on your back for forty or fifty years continuously, and during that time you have wearily trudged through many, many miles.
Now you have had the courage and found the wisdom to take that rucksack off and put it on the ground for a while.
One feels so immensely relieved, so light, and so free, because one is now not burdened with that heavy rucksack of inner chatter.
Another useful method of developing silent awareness is to recognize the space between thoughts, between periods of inner chatter.
Please attend closely with sharp mindfulness when one thought ends and before another thought begins — There!
That is silent awareness!
It may be only momentary at first, but as you recognize that fleeting silence you become accustomed to it, and as you become accustomed to it then the silence lasts longer.
You begin to enjoy the silence, once you have found it at last, and that is why it grows.
But remember silence is shy.
If silence hears you talking about her, she vanishes immediately!
It would be marvellous for each one of us if we could abandon the inner speech and abide in silent awareness of the present moment long enough to realize how delightful it is.
Silence is so much more productive of wisdom and clarity than thinking.
When you realize how much more enjoyable and valuable it is to be silent within, then silence becomes more attractive and important to you.
The Inner Silence becomes what the mind inclines towards.
The mind seeks out silence constantly, to the point where it only thinks if it really has to, only if there is some point to it.
Since, at this stage, you have realized that most of our thinking is really pointless anyway, that it gets you nowhere, only giving you many headaches, you gladly and easily spend much time in inner quiet.
The second stage of this meditation, then, is `silent awareness of the present moment’.
You may spend the majority of your time just developing these two stages because if you can get this far then you have gone a long way indeed in your meditation.
In that silent awareness of `Just Now’ you will experience much peace, joy and consequent wisdom.
If you want to go further, then instead of being silently aware of whatever comes into the mind, you choose silent present moment awareness of just ONE THING.
That ONE THING can be the experience of breathing, the idea of loving kindness (Metta), a coloured circle visualised in the mind (Kasina) or several other, less common, focal points for awareness.
Here we will describe the silent present moment awareness of the breath, the third stage of the meditation.
Choosing to fix one’s attention on one thing is letting go of diversity and moving to its opposite, unity.
As the mind begins to unify, sustaining attention on just one thing, the experience of peace, bliss and power increases significantly.
You discover here that the diversity of consciousness, attending to six different senses — like having six telephones on one’s desk ringing at the same time — is such a burden.
Letting go of this diversity — only permitting one telephone, a private line at that, on one’s desk — is such a relief it generates bliss.
The understanding that diversity is a burden is crucial to being able to settle on the breath.
If you have developed silent awareness of the present moment carefully for long periods of time, then you will find it quite easy to turn that awareness on to the breath and follow that breath from moment to moment without interruption.
This is because the two major obstacles to breath meditation have already been subdued.
The first of these two obstacles is the mind’s tendency to go off into the past or future, and the second obstacle is the inner speech.
This is why I teach the two preliminary stages of present moment awareness and silent awareness of the present moment as a solid preparation for deeper meditation on the breath.
It often happens that meditators start breath meditation when their mind is still jumping around between past and future, and when awareness is being drowned by the inner commentary.
With no preparation they find breath meditation so difficult, even impossible, and give up in frustration.
They give up because they did not start at the right place.
They did not perform the preparatory work before taking up the breath as a focus of their attention.
However, if your mind has been well prepared by completing these first two stages then you will find when you turn to the breath, you can sustain your attention on it with ease.
If you find it difficult to keep attention on your breath then this is a sign that you rushed the first two stages.
Go back to the preliminary exercises!
Careful patience is the fastest way.
When you focus on the breath, you focus on the experience of the breath happening now.
You experience `that which tells you what the breath is doing’, whether it is going in or out or in between.
Some teachers say to watch the breath at the tip of the nose, some say to watch it at the abdomen and some say to move it here and then move it there.
I have found through experience that it does not matter where you watch the breath.
In fact it is best not to locate the breath anywhere!
If you locate the breath at the tip of your nose then it becomes nose awareness, not breath awareness, and if you locate it at your abdomen then it becomes abdomen awareness.
Just ask yourself the question right now, “Am I breathing in or am I breathing out?”
How do you know?
There! That experience which tells you what the breath is doing, that is what you focus on in breath meditation.
Let go of concern about where this experience is located;
just focus on the experience itself.
A common problem at this stage is the tendency to control the breathing, and this makes the breathing uncomfortable.
To overcome this problem, imagine that you are just a passenger in a car looking through the window at your breath.
You are not the driver, nor a `back seat driver’, so stop giving orders, let go and enjoy the ride.
Let the breath do the breathing while you simply watch without interfering.
When you know the breath going in and the breath going out, for say one hundred breaths in a row, not missing one, then you have achieved what I call the third stage of this meditation, `sustained attention on the breath’.
This again is more peaceful and joyful than the previous stage.
To go deeper, you now aim for full sustained attention on the breath.
This fourth stage, or `full sustained attention on the breath’, occurs when one’s attention expands to take in every single moment of the breath.
You know the in-breath at the very first moment, when the first sensation of in-breathing arises.
Then you observe those sensations develop gradually through the whole course of one in-breath, not missing even a moment of the in-breath.
When that in-breath finishes, you know that moment, you see in your mind that last movement of the in-breath.
You then see the next moment as a pause between breaths, and then many more pauses until the out-breath begins.
You see the first moment of the out-breath and each subsequent sensation as the out-breath evolves, until the out-breath disappears when its function is complete.
All this is done in silence and just in the present moment.
You experience every part of each in-breath and out-breath, continuously for many hundred breaths in a row.
This is why this stage is called `FULL sustained attention on the breath’.
You cannot reach this stage through force, through holding or gripping.
You can only attain this degree of stillness by letting go of everything in the entire universe, except for this momentary experience of breath happening silently now.
`You’ don’t reach this stage;
the mind reaches this stage.
The mind does the work itself.
The mind recognizes this stage to be a very peaceful and pleasant abiding, just being alone with the breath.
This is where the `doer’, the major part of one’s ego, starts to disappear.
You will find that progress happens effortlessly at this stage of the meditation.
You just have to get out of the way, let go, and watch it all happen.
The mind will automatically incline, if you only let it, towards this very simple, peaceful and delicious unity of being alone with one thing, just being with the breath in each and every moment.
This is the unity of mind, the unity in the moment, the unity in stillness.
The fourth stage is what I call the `springboard’ of meditation, because from here one can dive into the blissful states.
When you simply maintain this unity of consciousness, by not interfering, the breath will begin to disappear.
The breath appears to fade away as the mind focuses instead on what is at the centre of the experience of breath, which is the awesome peace, freedom and bliss.
At this stage I use the term `the beautiful breath’.
Here the mind recognizes that this peaceful breath is extraordinarily beautiful.
You are aware of this beautiful breath continuously, moment after moment, with no break in the chain of experience.
You are aware only of the beautiful breath, without effort, and for a very long time.
Now you let the breath disappear and all that is left is `the beautiful’.
Disembodied beauty becomes the sole object of the mind.
The mind is now the mind as its own object.
You are now not aware at all of breath, body, thought sound or the world outside.
All that you are aware of is beauty, peace, bliss, light or whatever your perception will later call it.
You are experiencing only beauty, with nothing being beautiful, continuously, effortlessly.
You have long ago let go of chatter, let go of descriptions and assessments.
Here, the mind is so still that you can not say anything.
You are just experiencing the first flowering of bliss in the mind.
That bliss will develop, grow, become very firm and strong.
Thus you enter into those states of meditation called BRJ “Jhāna”.
But that is for Part 3!
2.3 - The Basic Method of Meditation PART 3
Full sustained attention on the beautiful breath
Experiencing the beautiful Nimitta
First BRJ “Jhāna”
“Do absolutely nothing and see how smooth and beautiful and timeless the breath can appear.”
Parts 1 and 2 describe the first four stages (as they are called here) of meditation.
Sustained attention on the present moment;
Silent awareness of the present moment;
Silent present moment awareness of the breath;
Full sustained attention on the breath.
Each of these stages needs to be well developed before going in to the next stage.
When one rushes through these `stages of letting go’ then the higher stages will be unreachable.
It is like constructing a tall building with inadequate foundations.
The first storey is built quickly and so is the second and third storey.
When the fourth storey is added, though, the structure begins to wobble a bit.
Then when they try to add a fifth storey it all comes tumbling down.
So please take a lot of time on these four initial stages, making them all firm and stable, before proceeding on to the fifth stage.
You should be able to maintain the fourth stage, `full sustained attention on the breath’, aware of every moment of the breath without a single break, for two or three hundred breaths in succession with ease.
I am not saying to count the breaths during this stage, but I am giving an indication of the sort of time interval that one should remain with stage four before proceeding further.
In meditation, patience is the fastest way!
The fifth stage is called full sustained attention on the beautiful breath.
Often, this stage flows on naturally, seamlessly, from the previous stage.
As one’s full attention rests easily and continuously on the experience of breath, with nothing interrupting the even flow of awareness, the breath calms down.
It changes from a coarse, ordinary breath, to a very smooth and peaceful `beautiful breath’.
The mind recognizes this beautiful breath and delights in it.
The mind experiences a deepening of contentment.
It is happy just to be there watching this beautiful breath.
The mind does not need to be forced.
It stays with the beautiful breath by itself.
`You’ don’t do anything.
If you try and do something at this stage, you disturb the whole process, the beauty is lost and, like landing on a snake’s head in the game of snakes and ladders, you go back many squares.
The `doer’ has to disappear from this stage of the meditation on, with just the `knower’ passively observing.
A helpful trick to achieve this stage is to break the inner silence just once and gently think to yourself “calm”.
At this stage of the meditation, the mind is usually so sensitive that just a little nudge like this causes the mind to follow the instruction obediently.
The breath calms down and the beautiful breath emerges.
When you are passively observing just the beautiful breath in the moment, the perceptions of `in’ (breath) or `out’ (breath), or beginning or middle or end of a breath, should all be allowed to disappear.
All that is known is this experience of the beautiful breath happening now.
The mind is not concerned with what part of the breath cycle this is in, nor on what part of the body this is occurring.
Here we are simplifying the object of meditation, the experience of breath in the moment, stripping away all unnecessary details, moving beyond the duality of `in’ and `out’, and just being aware of a beautiful breath which appears smooth and continuous, hardly changing at all.
Do absolutely nothing and see how smooth and beautiful and timeless the breath can appear.
See how calm you can allow it to be.
Take time to savour the sweetness of the beautiful breath, ever calmer, ever sweeter.
Now the breath will disappear, not when `you’ want it to, but when there is enough calm, leaving only `the beautiful’.
A simile from English literature might help.
In Lewis Carroll’s `Alice in Wonderland’, Alice and the Red Queen saw a vision of a smiling Cheshire cat appear in the sky.
As they watched, first the cat’s tail disappeared, then its paws followed by the rest of its legs.
Soon the Cheshire cat’s torso completely vanished leaving only the cat’s head, still with a smile.
Then the head started to fade into nothing, from the ears and whiskers inwards, and soon the smiling cat’s head had completely disappeared – except for the smile which still remained in the sky!
This was a smile without any lips to do the smiling, but a visible smile nevertheless.
This is an accurate analogy for the process of letting go happening at this point in meditation.
The cat with a smile on her face stands for the beautiful breath.
The cat disappearing represents the breath disappearing and the disembodied smile still visible in the sky stands for the pure mental object `beauty’ clearly visible in the mind.
If you lose awareness of the breath, then you're not doing breath meditation 16🌬️😤 anymore.
If your mind has become divorced from the 5 sense faculties, you're unable to hear sounds, feel bodily pain, you're in arupa (formless) samadhi, and you can't do 4 jhānas from there.
What you can do is Vism.
appana samadhi, what I've relabeled here as the four BRJ “Jhāna”s (as opposed to the Buddha's 4 jhānas).
This pure mental object is called a nimitta.
`Nimitta’ means `a sign’, here a mental sign.
This is a real object in the landscape of the mind (citta) and when it appears for the first time it is extremely strange.
One simply has not experienced anything like it before.
Nevertheless, the mental activity called `perception’ searches through its memory bank of life experiences for something even a little bit similar in order to supply a description to the mind.
For most meditators, this `disembodied beauty’, this mental joy, is perceived as a beautiful light.
It is not a light.
The eyes are closed and the sight consciousness has long been turned off.
It is the mind consciousness freed for the first time from the world of the five senses.
It is like the full moon, here standing for the radiant mind, coming out from behind the clouds, here standing for the world of the five senses.
It is the mind manifesting, it is not a light, but for most it appears like a light, it is perceived as a light, because this imperfect description is the best that perception can offer.
Many things wrong with above paragraph.
In breath meditation, you can be simultaneously aware of bodily tactile sensations of breath throughout the body, and aware of strange sounds not heard by humans, and have view of a visual light nimitta.
You can even walk around with your eyes open and see the breath nimitta.
At a different stage closer to appana samadhi, when you get into an arupa samadhi and your body awareness is gone, then at that point you could see nimittas that are visions.
But it's debatable whether they are mind only visions.
Someone with strong samadhi and the divine eye has 'remote viewing' capability, to see an accurate vision of any place that he wants.
For other meditators, perception chooses to describe this first appearance of mind in terms of physical sensation, such as intense tranquility or ecstasy.
Again, the body consciousness (that which experiences pleasure and pain, heat and cold and so on) has long since closed down and this is not a physical feeling.
It is just `perceived’ as similar to pleasure.
Some see a white light, some a gold star, some a blue pearl… the important fact to know is that they are all describing the same phenomena.
They all experience the same pure mental object and these different details are added by their different perceptions.
You can be in an arupa samadhi, feel bliss that feels bodily but you can't locate your body, and simultaneously have mind only visual nimittas.
It's possible Ajahn Brahm could only experience things the way he described, but he should not be presumptuous and assuming every other meditator has those limitations.
Dogs, and some people have black and white dreams, but that doesn't mean most people can't dream in color.
You can recognize a nimitta by the following 6 features:
It appears only after the fifth stage of the meditation, after the meditator has been with the beautiful breath for a long time;
It appears when the breath disappears;
It only comes when the external five senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch are completely absent;
It manifests only in the silent mind, when descriptive thoughts (inner speech) are totally absent;
It is strange but powerfully attractive;
It is a beautifully simple object.
I mention these features so that you may distinguish real nimittas from imaginary ones.
The sixth stage, then, is called experiencing the beautiful nimitta.
It is achieved when one lets go of the body, thought, and the five senses (including the awareness of the breath) so completely that only the beautiful nimitta remains.
Sometimes when the nimitta first arises it may appear `dull’.
In this case, one should immediately go back to the previous stage of the meditation, continuous silent awareness of the beautiful breath.
One has moved to the nimitta too soon.
Sometimes the nimitta is bright but unstable, flashing on and off like a lighthouse beacon and then disappearing.
This too shows that you have left the beautiful breath too early.
One must be able to sustain one’s attention on the beautiful breath with ease for a long, long time before the mind is capable of maintaining clear attention on the far more subtle nimitta.
So train the mind on the beautiful breath, train it patiently and diligently, then when it is time to go on to the nimitta, it is bright, stable and easy to sustain.
The main reason why the nimitta can appear dull is that the depth of contentment is too shallow.
You are still `wanting’ something.
Usually, you are wanting the bright nimitta or you are wanting BRJ “Jhāna”.
Remember, and this is important, BRJ “Jhāna”s are states of letting go, incredibly deep states of contentment.
So give away the hungry mind, develop contentment on the beautiful breath and the nimitta and BRJ “Jhāna” will happen by themselves.
Put another way, the reason why the nimitta is unstable is because the `doer’ just will not stop interfering.
The `doer’ is the controller, the back seat driver, always getting involved where it does not belong and messing everything up.
This meditation is a natural process of coming to rest and it requires `you’ to get out of the way completely.
Deep meditation only occurs when you really let go, and this means REALLY LET GO to the point that the process becomes inaccessible to the `doer’.
A skilful means to achieve such profound letting go is to deliberately offer the gift of confidence to the nimitta.
Interrupt the silence just for a moment, so so gently, and whisper as it were inside your mind that you give complete trust to the nimitta, so that the `doer’ can relinquish all control and just disappear.
The mind, represented here by the nimitta before you, will then take over the process as you watch it all happen.
You do not need to do anything here because the intense beauty of the nimitta is more than capable of holding the attention without your assistance.
Be careful, here, not to go assessing.
Questions such as `What is this?’
, `Is this BRJ “Jhāna”?’
, `What should I do next?’
, and so on are all the work of `the doer’ trying to get involved again.
This is disturbing the process.
You may assess everything once the journey is over.
A good scientist only assesses the experiment at the end, when all the data are in.
So now, do not assess or try to work it all out.
There is no need to pay attention to the edge of the nimitta `Is it round or oval?’
, `Is the edge clear or fuzzy?’
This is all unnecessary and just leads to more diversity, more duality of `inside’ and `outside’, and more disturbance.
According to Vism.
, only about 1 in a million people can do appana samadhi, the four "BRJ “Jhāna”s".
A genuine first jhāna, on the other hand, the Buddha expects newly ordained monastics and even laypeople who keep 5 precepts well to do it relatively soon.
Let the mind incline where it wants, which is usually to the centre of the nimitta.
The centre is where the most beautiful part lies, where the light is most brilliant and pure.
Let go and just enjoy the ride as the attention gets drawn into the centre and falls right inside, or as the light expands all around enveloping you totally.
This is, in fact, one and the same experience perceived from different perspectives.
Let the mind merge in the bliss.
Let the seventh stage of this path of meditation, First BRJ “Jhāna”, occur.
Rather than chase the 4 BRJ “Jhāna”s and 7 silent stages of Ajahn Brahm breath meditation, you'd be much better off learning what the 4 jhānas 4j🌕, 7 stages of awakening 7sb☀️, and the 8th factor of noble eightfold path, right samādhi says about meditation 8🌄.
There are two common obstacles at the door into BRJ “Jhāna”:
exhilaration and fear.
Exhilaration is becoming excited.
If, at this point, the mind thinks, “Wow, this is it!”
then the BRJ “Jhāna” is most unlikely to happen.
This `Wow’ response needs to be subdued in favour of absolute passivity.
You can leave all the `Wows’ until after emerging from the BRJ “Jhāna”, where they properly belong.
The more likely obstacle, though, is fear.
Fear arises at the recognition of the sheer power and bliss of the BRJ “Jhāna”, or else at the recognition that to go fully inside the BRJ “Jhāna”, something must be left behind – You!
The `doer’ is silent before entering BRJ “Jhāna” but it is still there.
Inside BRJ “Jhāna”, the `doer’ is completely gone.
The `knower’ is still functioning, you are fully aware, but all the controls are now beyond reach.
You cannot even form a single thought, let alone make a decision.
The will is frozen, and this can appear scary to the beginner.
Never before in your whole life have you ever experienced being so stripped of all control yet so fully awake.
The fear is the fear of surrendering something so essentially personal as the will to do.
This fear can be overcome through confidence in the Buddha’s Teachings together with the enticing bliss just ahead that one can see as the reward.
The Lord Buddha often said that this bliss of BRJ “Jhāna” “should not be feared but should be followed, developed and practised often”(Latukikopama Sutta, Majjhima Nikaya).
So before fear arises, offer your full confidence to that bliss and maintain faith in the Lord Buddha’s Teachings and the example of the Noble Disciples.
Trust Ajahn Brahm's interpretation of Dhamma and let the BRJ “Jhāna” warmly embrace you for an effortless, body-less and ego-less, blissful experience that will be the most profound of your life.
Have the courage to fully relinquish control for a while and experience all this for yourself.
If it is a BRJ “Jhāna” it will last a long time.
It does not deserve to be called BRJ “Jhāna” if it lasts only a few minutes.
Usually, the higher BRJ “Jhāna”s persist for many hours.
Once inside, there is no choice.
You will emerge from the BRJ “Jhāna” only when the mind is ready to come out, when the `fuel’ of relinquishment that was built up before is all used up.
These are such still and satisfying states of consciousness that their very nature is to persist for a very long time.
Another feature of BRJ “Jhāna” is that it occurs only after the nimitta is discerned as described above.
Furthermore, you should know that while in any BRJ “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.
There is just a clear singleness of perception, an experience of non-dualistic bliss which continues unchanging for a very long time.
This is not a trance, but a state of heightened awareness.
This is said so that you may know for yourself whether what you take to be a BRJ “Jhāna” is real or imaginary.
There is much more to meditation, but here only the basic method has been described using seven stages culminating with the First BRJ “Jhāna”.
Much more could be said about the `Five Hindrances’ and how they are overcome, about the meaning of mindfulness and how it is used, about the Four Satipatthana and the Four Roads to Success (Iddhipada) and the Five Controlling Faculties (Indriya) and, of course, about the higher BRJ “Jhāna”s.
All these concern this practice of meditation but must be left for another occasion.
For those who are misled to conceive of all this as `just Samatha practice’ without regard to Insight (Vipassana), please know that this is neither Vipassan* nor Samatha.
It is called `Bhavana’, the method taught by the Lord Buddha and repeated in the Forest Tradition of NE Thailand of which my teacher, Ven.
Ajahn Chah, was a part.
Ajahn Chah often said that Samatha and Vipassana cannot be separated, nor can the pair be developed apart from Right View, Right Thought, Right Moral Conduct and so forth.
Indeed, to make progress on the above seven stages, the meditator needs an understanding and acceptance of the Lord Buddha’s Teachings and one’s precepts must be pure.
Insight will be needed to achieve each of these stages, that is insight into the meaning of `letting go’.
The further one develops these stages, the more profound will be the insight, and if you reach as far as BRJ “Jhāna” then it will change your whole understanding.
As it were, Insight dances around jhāna and jhāna dances around Insight.
This is the Path to Nibbana, the Lord Buddha said, “for one who indulges in jhāna, four results are to be expected:
Stream-Winner, Once-Returner, Non-Returner or Arahant”(P*s*dika Sutta, Digha Nikaya).
But for one who indugles in BRJ “Jhāna”, then you take your chances and be careful who you trust.
Ajahn Brahm's teaching on BRJ “Jhāna” contradicts his famous teacher, Ajahn Chah.
Ajahn Chah's understanding is compliant with the EBT (early buddhist teachings). Ajahn Chah Jhāna defn.
About Ajahn Brahm
Ajahn Brahm is the popular Buddhist teacher to a growing international audience of people keen to learn meditation and develop a deeper spiritual understanding.
He is also the founding father of an emergent Australian forest tradition of Buddhist monasticism focused on being true to the original roots of the Buddha's Teaching of Dhamma and Vinaya.
But when the root teachings don't conform to his erroneous interpretations, rather than reevaluate his own understanding and conform it to the Buddha's, he instead confidently redefines important key terms in meditation and makes the Buddha conform to his view.
Internationally well known and popular, he then promulgates his redefinition of jhāna to thousands of impressionable followers.
3 - The BRJ “Jhāna”s - By Ajahn Brahmavamso
Buddhist Fellowship Singapore
The BRJ “Jhāna”s
THE BRJ “Jhāna”S:
The Buddha’s Discovery .
Can One be Attached to BRJ “Jhāna”?
For Those a Long Way from BRJ “Jhāna”.
For Those a Little Closer to BRJ “Jhāna” .
The Beautiful Breath
The Beginning of the Journey into BRJ “Jhāna” .
Do Not Be Afraid of Delight.
The Beautiful Breath and No Effort.
Pitisukha – Joy and Happiness.
Beautiful Breath, Beautiful Metta, Beautiful Skull.
What if Pitisukha Hasn’t Appeared .
The Way Into Stillness .
When the Breath Disappears .
The Calming of the Senses.
THE BRJ “Jhāna”S:
“The Home Stretch” into BRJ “Jhāna” .
When Nimitta Come Up Early .
When the Nimitta Doesn’t Appear .
Suitable Nimitta and Useless Nimitta.
Shinning Up the Nimitta.
Stablizing the Nimitta.
Disturbing the Stable Nimitta .
Entering BRJ “Jhāna” .
THE BRJ “Jhāna”S:
The Landmarks of All BRJ “Jhāna” .
Summary of The Landmarks of All BRJ “Jhāna” .
The First BRJ “Jhāna” .
Summary of The First BRJ “Jhāna” .
The Second BRJ “Jhāna” .
Summary of The Second BRJ “Jhāna” .
The Third BRJ “Jhāna” .
Summary of The Third BRJ “Jhāna” .
The Fourth BRJ “Jhāna” .
Summary of The Fourth BRJ “Jhāna”.
The Buddha’s Similes for the Fourth BRJ “Jhāna” .
Moving from BRJ “Jhāna” to BRJ “Jhāna”.
Each BRJ “Jhāna” is Within the Other .
The Power of Aditthana .
The Immaterial Attainments.
The Mind-Base of Unlimited Space .
The Mind-Base of Unlimited Consciousness.
The Mind-Base of Nothingness .
The Mind-Base of Neither Perception Nor Non-Perception .
Nibbana, The End of Perception .
The Sequence of Gradual Cessation.
Final Words .
Back piece .
The BRJ “Jhāna”s
As Buddhist meditation becomes ever more popular in our modern world, it is vital that clear and accurate guidance is available.
For many years, there has been an unfortunate lack of thorough instruction in simple English on the deeper states of meditation called BRJ “Jhāna”.
Even though the BRJ “Jhāna”s are, perhaps, the theme most repeated by the Buddha in the Suttas, and in spite of the fact that the old teachers of the Thai forest tradition encouraged, preached and taught BRJ “Jhāna”s, a description of their development is hard to come by.
The booklet, then, serves to remedy this lack of practical information regarding BRJ “Jhāna”.
It continues where I left off in my earlier booklet, the Basic Method of Meditation.
It aims to describe the path into BRJ “Jhāna”, the characteristics of BRJ “Jhāna”, and the relevance of BRJ “Jhāna” to insight and Enlightenment.
Without any appreciation of BRJ “Jhāna”, one’s understanding of Buddhism is incomplete.
Bodhinyana Monastery, May 2546 AB
The BRJ “Jhāna”s
3.1 - PART ONE: Beautiful breath
In the original Buddhist scriptures, there is only one word for any level of meditation.
BRJ “Jhāna” designates meditation proper, where the meditator’s mind is stilled from all thought, secluded from all five-sense activity and is radiant with other-worldly bliss.
Put bluntly, it is isn’t BRJ “Jhāna” then it isn’t true Buddhist meditation!
Perhaps this is why the culminating factor of the Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path, the one that deals with right meditation, is nothing less than the BRJ “Jhāna”s.
3.1.1 - The Buddha’s Rediscovery
In the ancient Buddhist texts, the Buddha is said to have discovered BRJ “Jhāna” (SN 2,7). This claim is repeated with full explanation by Venerable Ananda in another Sutta (AN 9,42). The fact that the Buddha rediscovered BRJ “Jhāna” should not be overlooked, for the rediscovery was a central act in the dram of the Enlightenment.
When it is said that the Buddha discovered BRJ “Jhāna”, it is not to be understood that no one had ever experienced BRJ “Jhāna” before.
For instance, in the era of the previous Buddha Kassapa, countless men and women achieved BRJ “Jhāna” and subsequently realized Enlightenment.
But in the India of twenty six centuries ago, all knowledge of BRJ “Jhāna” had disappeared.
This was one reason that there is no mention at all of BRJ “Jhāna” in any religious text before the time of the Buddha.
Some might raise and objection that the teachers Alara Kalama and Udaka Ramaputta preached on BRJ “Jhāna”, because the texts state that they taught the Bodhisatta (the Buddha-to-be) the attainment of the state of nothingness and the attainment of the state of neither perception nor non-perception.
However, those two attainments could not have been connected to BRJ “Jhāna”, because the Bodhisatta recalled, just prior to sitting under the Bodhi Tree, that the only time in his life that he had experienced any BRJ “Jhāna” was as a young boy, while sitting under a Rose Apple Tree as his father conducted the first-ploughing ceremony (MN 36).
That spontaneous early experience of BRJ “Jhāna” had been untaught, unplanned and since forgotten.
If that was the only BRJ “Jhāna” experienced by the Bodhisatta prior to his experience under the Bodhi Tree, then the two teachers Alara Kalama and Udaka Ramaputta could not have taught BRJ “Jhāna” at all.
Indeed, in the Mahasaccaka Sutta (MN 36), the Bodhisatta is shown as rejecting the experiences under those two teachers as not leading to Enlightenment, and then exhausting just about every form of ascetic practice before concluding that that too did not lead to Enlightenment.
Remembering the early experience of BRJ “Jhāna” as a boy, the Bodhisatta thought, “Perhaps this BRJ “Jhāna” is the way to Enlightenment (Bodhi).”
Thus the Bodhisatta realized the BRJ “Jhāna”s under the Bodhi Tree and proceeded from there to Full Enlightenment and the attainment of Buddhahood.
One of the reasons why BRJ “Jhāna” was not practiced before the Buddha’s Enlightenment was because people then either indulged in seeking pleasure and comfort of the body or else following a religion of tormenting the body.
Both were caught up with the body and its five senses and knew no release from the five senses.
Neither produced the sustained tranquility of the body necessary as the foundation for BRJ “Jhāna”.
When the Bodhisatta began the easy practices leading to such tranquility of body, his first five disciples abandoned him in disgust.
Such as practice was not regarded as valid.
Therefore it was not practiced, and so BRJ “Jhāna” never occurred.
After the Buddha’s Enlightenment, the very first teaching that he gave, even before the famous Four Noble Truths, was the exposition on the Middle Way, a way which had not existed before (except long ago in the eras of previous Buddhas), a way which leads automatically to BRJ “Jhāna” and then to Enlightenment.
It was as if, the Buddha said, that He had discovered a long but lost path leading to an ancient city (SN 12,65). The ancient city was Nibbana (Enlightenment) and the long lost path was the Eightfold Path culminating in BRJ “Jhāna”.
Since the Buddha rediscovered this path, it can be said that the Buddha rediscovered BRJ “Jhāna”.
3.1.2 - Can One be Attached to BRJ “Jhāna”?
When the Bodhisatta had the insight that BRJ “Jhāna” was the way to Enlightenment, he then thought, “Why am I afraid of that pleasure which has nothing to do with the five senses nor with unwholesome things?
I will not be afraid of that pleasure (of BRJ “Jhāna”)!”
(MN 36). Even today, some meditators mistakenly believe that something as intensely pleasurable as BRJ “Jhāna” cannot be conducive to the end of all suffering.
They remain afraid of BRJ “Jhāna”.
However, in the Suttas the Buddha repeatedly stated that the pleasure of the BRJ “Jhāna” “is to be followed, is to be developed and is to be made much of.
It is not to be feared” (MN 66).
In spite of this clear advice from the Buddha Himself, some students of meditation are misled by those who discover BRJ “Jhāna” on the grounds that one can become attached to BRJ “Jhāna” and so never become enlightened.
It should be pointed out that the Buddha’s word for attachment, upadana, only refers to attachment to the comfort and pleasure of the five-senses or world or to attachment to various forms of wrong view (such as a view of self).
It never means attachment to wholesome things, like BRJ “Jhāna”1.
Simply put, BRJ “Jhāna” states are stages of letting go.
One cannot be attached to letting go.
Just s one cannot be imprisoned by freedom.
One can indulge in BRJ “Jhāna”, in the bliss of letting go, and this is what some people misled into fearing.
But in the Pasadika Sutta (DN 29,25), the Buddha said that one who indulges in the pleasures of BRJ “Jhāna” may expect only one of four consequences:
Stream-Winning, Once-returner, Non-returner, or Full Enlightenment!
In other words, indulging in BRJ “Jhāna” leads only to the four stages of Enlightenment.
This in the words of the Buddha “One should not fear BRJ “Jhāna”” (MN 66).
3.1.3 - For Those a Long Way from BRJ “Jhāna”
For some meditators, the BRJ “Jhāna”s may seem to be such a long distance away that they are seen as irrelevant.
This is not so.
Discussing such sublime states can create inspiration, as well as map out the territory ahead so that one can know the right direction.
More crucial y, it gives one the information about what to do when one gets close to any of these profound states of freedom.
Finally, it gives a deeper understanding of the Dhamma, especially into the Third Noble Truth that is the cessation of all suffering—Nibbana.
This is because, the rapture and bliss of BRJ “Jhāna” is directly related to the amount of Samsara which is, albeit temporary, let go of.
Thus, discussing the BRJ “Jhāna”s is well worthwhile, even if they may seem so far away form you.
3.1.4 - For Thos a Little Closer to BRJ “Jhāna”
Some readers may have already gotten close enough to be able to understand this discussion from their own experience, and it may help them make the last leap into the BRJ “Jhāna”s.
Furthermore, when a meditator has actually experienced a profound state of meditation, they want to find out exactly what it was, to recognize the state in terms of the Buddha’s accurate descriptions.
So it is important to be able to correctly identify the levels of depth in meditation.
It is also important to generate some inspiration in one’s achievement.
Such a positive emotion will only encourage further letting go.
It is my aspiration to show you how wonderful and profound these states of BRJ “Jhāna” are, and to illustrate how crucial their experience is to the event of Enlightenment.
Eventually, the seeds that are planted in you through reading a discussion on BRJ “Jhāna” like this will one day bear fruit.
When one realizes how the mental factor of intention actually occurs, one understands how important it is to get information and inspiration like this on the BRJ “Jhāna”s form outside of oneself.
The at the right time, the mind will know automatically what it must do.
For example, when nimittas arise the mind will spontaneously know how to respond.
Sometimes you might reflect on this later, “Where did that intention come from?”
The answer is that that movement of the mind
came from reading discussions such as this.
Sometimes it comes from things learned in a past life!
These are the things that generate the subtle guidance of the mind in the still states of meditation.
They do not come from you.
If you get involved and try to do something, the meditation is disturbed and the peace falls apart.
Sp please do not think that just because you are not at this stage yet, that this discussion is of no use to you.
In fact, it will be very useful to you.
But you will only realize its usefulness after you have achieved one of the BRJ “Jhāna”s and reflected back to see that such instruction as given here, which you thought were forgotten, manifest at the tight time to lead the mind into BRJ “Jhāna”.
3.1.5 - The Beautiful Breath:
The Beginning of the Journey into BRJ “Jhāna”s
So far I have discovered the BRJ “Jhāna”s from a historical and theoretical point of view.
Now it is time to explain the BRJ “Jhāna”s in terms of their practice.
It is best to begin the description of the journey into BRJ “Jhāna” from the starting point of the “beautiful breath.”
Before this stage is accomplished, the mind has insufficient contentment, awareness and stability to launch itself into the higher states of consciousness.
But when one is able to maintain an effortless awareness on the breath without break for a long period of time, when the mind has settled into such a rich awareness that the breath appears delightful.
Then one is ready to set off on the journey into BRJ “Jhāna”.
3.1.6 - Do Not Be Afraid of Delight
I want to stress that one should be cautious not to be afraid of delight in meditation.
Too many meditators dismiss happiness thinking it unimportant or, even worse, thinking that they don’t deserve such delight.
Happiness in meditation is important!
Moreover, you deserve this bliss out!
Blissing our on the breath is an essential part of the path.
So when delight does arise alongside the breath, one should cherish it like a valuable treasure, and guard it accordingly.
3.1.7 - The Beautiful Breath and No Effort
The delight that arises at the stage of the beautiful breath is the “glue”
that holds the mind’s attention on the breath.
It results in the mindfulness staying with the breath without effort.
One stays with full attention on the breath because the mind wants to stay with the breath.
The mind, at this stage, enjoys watching the breath so much that it doesn’t want to go anywhere else.
It just remains with the breath, automatically.
It is so content being with the delightful, beautiful breath that all wandering ceases.
One remains fully aware of the breath without any need to control the mind.
Mindfulness of the breath, here, becomes effortless.
Without the experience of delight, there will be some discontent.
And discontent is the source of the wandering mind.
Before one reaches the stage of the beautiful breath, discontent pushes mindfulness away from the breath.
There, the only way to keep mindfulness upon the breath is through and effort of will, through control.
But when the stage of the beautiful breath is achieved, when delight generates long lasting contentment, then the mind will not wander.
Then control can be relaxed, effort relieved, and the mind remains motionless, naturally.
Just as petrol/gas is the fuel moving the car, so discontent is the fuel that moves the mind.
When a car runs out of gas, it gently comes to a stop.
One doesn’t need to use the brakes.
It comes to a state of stillness, naturally.
In the same way, when the mind runs out of discontent, through the arising of the beautiful breath, it gently comes to a stop.
One doesn’t need to use the brakes of the will power.
The mind comes to a state of stillness, naturally.
3.1.8 - Pitisukha—Joy and Happiness
In Pali, the compound word pitisukha means the combination of joy and happiness.
One can use those words for all sorts of experiences, even for worldly experiences.
But in meditation, pitisukha refers only to that joy and happiness that is generated through letting go.
Just as various types of fire may be distinguished by their fuel—such as a wood fire, oil fire or brushfire—so the various types of happiness can be distinguished by their cause.
The joy and happiness that arises with the beautiful breath is fueled by the letting go of burdens such as past and future, internal commentary and diversity of consciousness.
Because it is a delight born of letting go, it cannot produce attachment.
One cannot be attached and letting go at the same time.
The delight that arises with the beautiful breath is, in fact, a clear sign that some detachment has taken place.
3.1.9 - Three Major Types of Pitisukha
One might propose three major types of pitisukha, (joy and happiness):
that generated by sensual excitement, that cased by personal achievement, and that born of letting go.
Not only are these types of happiness differentiated by their cause, but they are also very different in their natures.
The happiness generated by sensual excitement is hot and stimulating but also agitating and consequently tiring.
It lessens in intensity on repetition.
The happiness caused by personal achievement is warm and fulfilling but also fades quickly, leaving a sense of a vacant hole in need of filling.
But the happiness born of letting go is cool and very long lasting.
It is associated with the sense of real freedom.
Moreover, the happiness generated by sensual excitement produces ever-stronger desire, like an addict needing an ever stronger dose, making the happiness unstable and tyrannical.
The happiness caused by personal
achievement produces more investment in being the control freak, encouraging the illusion of personal power.
The controller then kills any happiness.
The happiness born of letting go inspires more letting go and less interference .
Because it encourages one to leave things alone, it is the most stable and effortlessly long lasting.
It is the most independent of causes.
It is closest to the unconditioned, the uncaused.
It is important for success in meditation to recognize these different types of happiness.
If the happiness that arises with awareness of the breath is of the sensual excitement type, for example like waves of physical pleasure coursing through your body, then it will soon disappear when effort is relaxed, leaving one heavy and tired.
It is of little use here.
Itf the happiness is associated with the sense of achievement, for instance thinking “Wow!
At last I’m getting somewhere in my meditation,” then it will often be followed by the achievement disintegrating, destroyed by the controller suddenly being aroused, ruined by the interfering ego.
But if the happiness that arises with the beautiful breath is that born of letting go, then one feels that one doesn’t need to say anything, or do anything.
It becomes the happiness whose brother is freedom and whose sister is peace.
It will grow all by itself in magnificent intensity, blossoming like a flower in the garden of BRJ “Jhāna”.
There are many other objects of meditation as well as the breath.
One can take loving kindness (Metta), parts of the body (Kayagatasati), simple visualizations (Kasina) and other things as the focus of one’s mindfulness.
However, in all meditation that develops into BRJ “Jhāna”, there must come a stage where the pitisukha born of letting go arises.
For example, loving kindness meditation opens into being such a wonderful, gorgeous, unconditional love for the whole cosmos, filling the meditator with delicious joy.
Pitisukha born of letting go has arisen and one is att the stage of “beautiful Metta.”
some meditators focus on parts of the human of the human body, often on a skull.
As the meditation deepens, as mindfulness rests on the inner image of a skull, an amazing process unfolds.
The image of the skull in one’s mind starts to whiten, then deepen in colour, until it appears to glow with intense luminosity as the “beautiful skull!”
Again, pitisukha born of letting go has appeared filling the whole experience with joy and happiness.
Even some monks who practice Asubha (loathsomeness) meditation, on a decaying corpse say, can experience the initially repugnant cadaver suddenly changing into one of the most beautiful images of all.
Letting go has aroused so much happiness that it overwhelms the natural disgust and floods the image with pitisukha.
One has realized the stage of the “beautiful corpse!”
IN breath meditation (Anapanasati), the Lord Buddha taught the arousing of pitisukha along with the experience of one’s breath as the 5h and 6th steps of the 16 step Anapanasati method (see MN 118). It is such
a crucial stage in meditation that I have dealt with it in The Basic Method of Meditation 2.
What if Pitisukha Hasn’t Appeared?
When pitisukha doesn’t arise, it must be because there is not enough contentment, this is, one is still trying too much.
One should reflect on the first two of the five hindrances.
The first hindrance, sensory desire, draws the attention towards the object of desire and thus away from the breath.
The second hindrance, ill will, finds fault with the experience of breath, and the dissatisfaction repels the attention away from the breath.
Contentment is the “middle way” between desire and ill will.
It keeps one’s mindfulness with the breath long enough for the pitisukha to arise.
Sometimes meditators wonder about the role of effort in meditation.
At the stage of meditation just before the beautiful breath, one’s effort should directed only into the knowing, and kept away from the doing mind.
When effort is channeled into doing the meditation, that is, controlling everything, then the energized “doer” moves into restlessness, another of the hindrances.
But when the effort is removed from the
“doer” and is given fully to the knowing, then not only does restlessness disappear, but so does sloth and torpor.
Sloth and torpor is another of the Five Hindrances.
It arises because the knowing is without energy.
Often this is because all one’s energy has gone into doing, into the active function of the mind, into controlling.
So much so that the knowing, the passive function of mind, is starved into the feebleness of sloth and torpor.
But when all one’s effort is invested in the knowing, into mindfulness, then sloth and torpor become replaced by bright and energized knowing.
Putting all one’s effort into the knowing is another way of generating pitisukha along with the breath.
For the energy of the mind is equivalent to happiness.
So if pitisukha hasn’t appeared yet, it might be that one is not directing effort away from the doer and into the knowing.
3.1.11 - The Way Into Silence
Stillness means lack of movement.
What causes the mind to move?
“Will” causes the mind to move!
This is why if one wants to experience stillness, then one must remove all will, all doing, all control.
One can firmly hold a leaf on a plant but, however hard you try, you will never be bale to hold to still.
There will always be some vibration caused by slight tremors in one’s muscles.
However, if one protected the leaf from any wind, then the leaf becomes still, eventually, all by itself.
Aby removing the causes of the movement, the wind, then the leaf comes to a natural state of stillness.
In exactly the same way, one cannot achieve stillness by holding the mind in the grip of one’s will.
But if one removes the cause of movement
in the mind, the will, then the mind soon comes to a natural state of stillness.
Thus one cannot will the mind to be still!
The way into stillness is though the pitisukha born of letting go.
Once the delight that comes with the beautiful breath appears, then will becomes redundant.
It becomes unnecessary since mindfulness stays with the breath all by itself, effortlessly.
Mindfulness enjoys being with the beautiful breath, and so does not need to be forced.
It is through the arising pitisukha at the stage of the beautiful breath that will becomes calmed, effort is relieved, and stillness begins to manifest.
When stillness appears it enriches the pitisukha.
The deepening of pitisukha, in turn, creates even less opportunity for effort, and so stillness grows stronger.
A self-reinforcing, feedback process ensues.
Stillness deepens pitisukha.
Pitisukha increases the stillness.
This process continues, when not interrupted, all the way into BRJ “Jhāna” where stillness is profound and pitisukha ecstatic.
3.1.12 - When the Breath Disappears
If the breath disappears before the stage of the beautiful breath, then this is a case of sloth and torpor, of weak attention.
One should go back to basics, strengthen present moment awareness and silence, and put more energy into awareness.
But when one is on the stage of the beautiful breath, when it feels so delightful and effortless to be mindful of the breath for long periods of time, then as the mind grows in stillness, the perception of the breath grows more subtle.
Soon one is not aware of an in-breath, or of a beginning or middle or end of a breath.
One is simply aware of a seemingly unchanging perception of breath, a single experience that hardly alters from moment to moment.
What is happening is that some of the external features of breath, such as in and out, beginning and end, have been transcended, All one sees is the heart of the breath experience, beyond these labels.
Because of the extreme simplicity of the meditation object, the breath, stillness and pitisukha can grow even stronger.
Let them grow stronger.
Don’t fall onto the trap of doubt, wondering whether this very subtle bare breath experience is what one should be watching.
Don’t worry that perceptions of in and out, beginning and end, have disappeared.
This is how it should be.
Don’t disturb the process.
As the stillness and pitisukha grow ever stronger, the breath disappears.
When in the stage of the beautiful breath, the breath disappears, only the beauty remains.
One is aware not of nothing, but of beauty, the pitisukha without any perception of breath.
This is another important stage in one’s meditation.
It is a step closer to BRJ “Jhāna”.
3.1.13 - The Calming of the Senses
Buddhism has always described experience in terms of six, not five, senses.
They are sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch and also the mind.
In breath meditation, one calms the first four senses into disappearance by focusing only on the breath.
The breath is then experienced through the senses of touch and mind.
As the meditation progresses, the sense of touch is gradually calmed and the sense of mind becomes more dominant.
In the stages of the beautiful breath, the breath is experienced only partly by the sense of touch and mostly by the mind sense.
The sense of touch gives one the perception of breath.
The mind sense gives one the perception of beauty.
“breath” disappears, it means that one has succeeded in calming the sense of touch into disappearance.
The external five senses have at last been transcended.
Only the mind sense remains.
And the mind sense experiences the breath as beauty.
In fact, one is still breathing at this stage, albeit ever so softly, It is just that one is now experiencing the breath through the mind sense, and not through the sense of touch.
Because the familiar experience of breath is not linger present, one might conclude that one’s breath has stopped!
But it hasn’t.
One will not die at this stage of meditation!
One is just experiencing the breath in a new and wonderful way.
One is experiencing the breath only through the mind sense, and perceiving it as bliss.
It is like viewing a rare, sparkling diamond.
At first one is aware of the shape, size and its many facets.
But, maybe, after a while one doesn’t perceive the size and shape any more.
Even the concept of facets disappears.
All one notices, all that one is left with, is the “sparkle,” the beauty.
The diamond is still there only one perceives it in a new and wonderful way.
Or it is like the simile that I like to use of the Cheshire cat in Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carol3 . First, the smiling face of a Cheshire Cat appears in the blue sky.
As Alice and the Red Queen observe the image, the Cat’s head gradually disappears.
Soon, only a mouth is left with an endearing smile.
Then the mouth disappears, but the mile still remains!
3.1.14 - The body has gone, but the beauty remains.
This is how it appears when the five external senses completely disappear and only the mind sense remains.
When one is not used to pure mental objects, with no link to anything in the physical world, then one may easily become confused.
Faith or confidence (Saddha) is helpful here.
If wisdom born of experience is yet too weak, then use confidence to know that when, in the stage of the beautiful breath, then breath disappears leaving only a feeling of beauty or delight, then that is a pure mental object that one is experiencing.
Stay there with confidence.
Be careful not to allow the hindrance of doubt to disturb the delightful
One may figure out what the experience means at the end of the meditation period, not now.
As mentioned many times already, one should wait to the final few minutes of the meditation period to review any meaningful experiences.
3.1.15 - Summary
This chapter has been an introduction to the BRJ “Jhāna”s.
I have given a brief history of the BRJ “Jhāna”s and have explored some of the issues often raised about this exalted topic.
I have returned yet one more time to the
“beautiful breath,” for it is the beginning of the journey into BRJ “Jhāna”s.
I have prefaced the beautiful breath with the important exhortation not to be afraid of delight in meditation, for delight is the “glue” that holds the mind’s attention on the breath.
The next part takes us further down the road to the deep absorptions.
Let us turn now to a discussion of the nimitta, the “home stretch” into BRJ “Jhāna”s.
1 See upadana in Buddhist Dictionary:
Manual of Buddhist Terms and Doctrines, Venerable Nyantiloka (Fourth Revised Edition), Kandy, Buddhist Publication Society, 1980.
2 The Basic Method of Meditation by Ajahn Brahmavamso, available from the Buddhist Society of Western Australia.
3 The annotate Alice:
Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, Harmondsworth, U.
K. Penquin, 1965.
3.2 - PART TWO - THE NIMITTA: THE “HOME STRETCH” INTO BRJ “Jhāna”s
When the breath disappears and delight fills the mind, the nimitta usually appears.
Nimitta, in the context used here, refers to the beautiful “lights” that appear in the mind.
I would point out, though, that the nimittas are not visual objects, in that they are not see through the sense of sight.
At this stage of the meditation, the sense of sight is not operating.
The nimittas are pure mental objects, known by the mind sense.
However, they are commonly perceived as lights.
What is happening here is that perception struggles to interpret such a pure mental phenomena.
Perception is that function of mind that interprets experience in terms one can understand.
Perception relies crucially on comparison, interpreting experience as in the same category as some similar previous experience.
However, pure mental phenomena are rare so rarely visited that perception has great difficulty finding anything at all comparable to these new experiences.
This is why nimittas appear strange, like nothing one has ever experienced before.
However, the phenomena in the catalogue of one’s past experiences which usually come closest to these nimitta are simple visual lights, such as a car headlight or a flashlight in the dark or the full moon in the night sky.
So perception adopts this closest, but imperfect, comparison and interprets the nimitta as lights.
Thus, one usually experiences nimitta as a light, a light seen in the mind.
It was a fascinating discovery to realize that everyone who experiences these nimittas, experience exactly the same thing!
It is only that meditators interpret one and the same experience in different ways.
Some see in their mind the nimitta as a pure white light, others see it as a golden, some as a deep blue.
Some see it as a circle, some as oblong in shape, some as sharp edged, some as fuzzy edged.
There is indeed no end to the features of nimitta, which meditators describe.
The important thing to know is that color, shape and so on are irrelevant.
Because it is one’s perception that colors the nimitta and gives it shape, just so one can make sense of it.
3.2.1 - When Nimitta Come Up Early
Sometimes, a “light” can appear in the mind at a very early stage of meditation.
However, for all except accomplished meditators, one will find that such “brazen intruders” are highly unstable.
If one focuses one’s attention on them, one will not get anywhere.
It is not the right
time for nimitta.
It is better to regard them as distractions and go back to the main task of the early stage.
Ignore the Nimitta at First.
It is more uncertain what to do when a nimitta appears at the stage of the beautiful breath, when the breath has yet to be calmed to disappearance.
Again, the nimitta appears intrusive, It interferes with the main task of sustaining one’s awareness on the beautiful breath.
If one deliberately turns away from the breath and on to the nimitta, it usually doesn’t remain long.
The mind is not refined enough yet to hold a subtle nimitta.
One needs to practice on the breath more.
So the best thing to do is to ignore the nimitta and let all one’s attention train on the beautiful breath.
Often having followed this advice, the nimitta comes back, stronger and brighter.
Ignore it again.
When It returns a third time, even more powerfully and radiant, go back to the breath.
Practicing this way, eventually a hugely powerful and brilliant nimitta will break into your awareness.
You can go with that one.
Actually, it is almost impossible to ignore.
That one usually takes you into BRJ “Jhāna”.
The above can be compared to a visitor knocking on your door.
It could be an unimportant salesman so you ignore them and go on with your business.
Often that’s the end of the matter.
Sometimes, though, they knock again, louder and longer.
You ignore them a second time and continue with your task.
They bang ever louder, ever more vigorously.
This proves that it must be your best friend, so then you open the door, let them in, and have a great time together.
Incorporating the Nimitta into the Middle of the Breath.
Another method of dealing with an early nimitta that arises at the stage of the beautiful breath is to incorporate the nimitta into the middle of the breath.
One trains to visualize the situation as similar to a jewel being held in the center of lotus petals.
The shimmering jewel is the nimitta, the lotus petals the beautiful breath.
If the mind isn’t quite ready to stay with the nimitta, it still has the breath to anchor it.
Sometimes, the mind is so unready that the breath appears to close in on the nimitta, and the nimitta disappears leaving only the beautiful breath.
But this step backward does not disturb the meditation.
At other times, the mid is well prepared for the nimitta, and the nimitta strengthens and expands pushing out the breath, which disappears beyond the edges of one’s awareness, leaving only the nimitta.
This method is skillful because it doesn’t involve moving the mind from one thing to another.
Such movement is coarse and disturbs the meditation significantly.
Instead, one just passively observes the transition from the beautiful breath t the nimitta, and maybe back again, allowing the process to develop or recede according to nature, not according to one’s desire.
For Accomplished Meditators Only.
Although the following advice is for accomplished meditators only, by which I mean those with plentiful experience of BRJ “Jhāna” already, it is included here for the sake of completeness.
When one is skillful in the way into BRJ “Jhāna” and one has experienced a BRJ “Jhāna” recently, the mind is so still and powerful even before one begins to meditate that one may skip many stages.
So much so that one may arouse the nimitta almost immediately after starting.
The mind being so used to nimitta, and so favorably disposed to towards them, literally leaps into the nimitta and the nimitta stays.
Soon BRJ “Jhāna” is reached.
For such accomplished meditators, the earlier the nimitta arises, the better.
3.2.2 - When the Nimitta Doesn’t Appear
For some, when the breath disappears, the nimitta doesn’t happen.
No lights appear in their mind.
Instead, they are only left with a deep feeling of peace, of emptiness, of nothing.
This can be a very beneficial state and should not be belittled, but it is not BRJ “Jhāna”.
Moreover, it lacks the power to proceed any further.
I is a cul-de-sac, and a refined one at that, but it is incapable of being developed further.
There are a number of methods to bypass this state, generate the causes for nimitta, and go deeper into the BRJ “Jhāna”s.
Cultivate Sufficient Joy and Happiness (Pitisukha).
The state above arises because one did not cultivate sufficient pitisukha along with the breath.
There was not enough delight when the breath disappeared, so mindfulness had no clear mental object of beauty to latch on to.
Understanding this, one needs to put more value on developing delight when one is watching the breath, and cultivating that delight into a strong sense of beauty.
For example, one may regard the breath as the messenger bringing you oxygen as a life support gift from the flowers and trees.
The breath unites you vitally with all of the plant world, supporting one another with the pulse of the air.
Whatever skillful means one employs, by paying careful attention to the beauty alongside the breath, the beauty will blossom.
What one pays attention to usually grows.
In the previous chapter, one was cautioned not to be afraid of delight in meditation.
I regard this exhortation as so important that I am going to repeat it again almost word for word.
Do not be afraid of delight in meditation.
Too many meditators dismiss happiness thinking it unimportant or, even worse, thinking that they don’t deserve such delight.
Happiness in meditation is important!
Moreover, you deserve t bliss out!
Blissing out on the meditation object is an essential part of the path.
So when delight does arise alongside the breath, one should cherish it like a valuable treasure,, and guard it accordingly.
Putting Energy into Knowing.
Another reason for the nimitta not arising is that one hasn’t put enough energy into the knowing.
As explained in the previous chapter, in the section entitles “What if pitisukha hasn’t appeared,” delight is generated by putting lots of energy into the knowing.
Usually, most of our mental energy gets lost in the doing, that is, in planning and remembering, controlling and thinking.
If one would only take away one’s energy completely from the doing, and give it all totally to the knowing, to attentiveness, then one would experience one’s mind becoming brightened and energized with delight.
When there is lots of delight, strong pitisukha, then when the breath disappears, the nimitta appears.
So, maybe the reason why a nimitta doesn’t appear is that one wasted too much energy on controlling, and didn’t devote enough energy into knowing.
Watching Out for Discontent.
However, if the breath has disappeared but no nimitta arises, then one must be careful not to fall into discontent.
Discontent will wither any pitisukha already there and will urge the mind into restlessness.
This discontent will make the arising of a nimitta even more unlikely.
So one must be patient and seek the remedy in becoming aware of contentment and letting it consolidate.
Just through paying attention to contentment, it usually deepens.
As contentment grows stronger, delight will arise.
As delight grows in power, the nimitta appears.
Focus More Sharply in the Present Moment.
Another useful method to arouse the nimitta when the breath disappears is to focus more sharply on the present moment!
Present moment awareness is the very first stage of this method of meditation.
But, in practice, as the meditation progresses and one pays attention to other things, the present moment awareness can become a little sloppy.
It may be that one’s mindfulness has become “smeared” around the present moment, instead of being precisely focused.
By noticing this as a problem, it is very easy to adjust the focusing of mindfulness to be knife-edged in the center of now.
Like adjusting the camera, the slightly blurred image becomes very sharp.
When the attention is sharply focused in the present moment, it experiences more power.
Pitisukha comes with the sharpening of focus, and the nimitta soon follows as well.
3.2.3 - Suitable Nimitta and Useless Nimitta
It is very helpful to cultivate nimitta of the sort perceived as a light.
These “light nimittas” are the best vehicle for transporting the meditator into the BRJ “Jhāna”s.
However, it is just possible, but rarely done, to enter a BRJ “Jhāna” by using “feeling nimittas” instead.
By this I mean that one sees no lights in the mind, instead one experiences a feeling of bliss in the mind.
It is important to note that he sense of touch has been transcended and such a “feeling” if bliss is experienced completely by the mind sense.
It is a pure mental object again, but perceived as relating closely to a physical feeling of bliss.
This is a bona-fide nimitta.
But it is much more difficult to work with such as a nimitta to gain access to
BRJ “Jhāna”, though it is not impossible.
For these reasons, it is recommended to cultivate the light nimitta if one aspires for the BRJ “Jhāna”.
There are some visual nimittas that are of no use on the path into BRJ “Jhāna”.
It is helpful to know these “useless” nimitta so that one will waste no time with them.
Visions. Sometimes whole scenes can appear clearly in the mind.
There might be landscapes, buildings and people.
They may appear familiar or strange.
It might be fascinating to watch such visions, but they are of little use.
Moreover, they are meaningless and one should certainly not take them as some revelation of truth!
Experience shows that visions arising at this stage are notoriously deceptive and completely untrustworthy.
If one likes to waste time, one can linger on them a while.
But the recommended thing to do is to remove all interest and go back to the beautiful breath.
Such complex nimitta are merely a reflection of an over-complicated mind.
The mind should have been calmed into simplicity much more effectively before letting go of the breath.
When one sustains the attention on the beautiful breath, uninterrupted for long periods of time, then one is training in simplicity.
Then when the breath disappears, a simple unified nimitta arises, one that is suitable for progress.
The Firework Nimitta.
A less elaborate nimitta, which is still over-complicated, can be called the “firework nimitta.”
As the name suggests, this consists of many bursts of light coming and going, never lasting long and exhibiting much movement.
There may be several bursts of light at the same time, even of different colors.
Again, this firework nimitta is a sign that the mind is still too complicated and very unstable.
If one wants, one can enjoy the sideshow for a short time, but one should not waste too much time there.
One should ignore all the razzel-dazzel of the firework nimitta, return to the breath, and develop more one-pointedness and calm.
The Shy Nimitta.
The next type of nimitta can be called the “shy nimitta,” a single pure light that flashes up quickly and then disappears.
After a few moments, it flashes up again.
Each time, it lasts only a second or two.
Such a nimitta is much more encouraging.
Its simplicity shows that the mind is one-pointed.
Its power is a sign that pitisukha is strong.
But its inability to remain after breaking through into consciousness shows that the level of calm is not quite enough.
In such a situation, one need not return to the beautiful breath yet.
Instead, one patiently waits, developing more calm, allowing the mind to become more receptive to the very shy nimitta.
As will be explained at greater length later, this nimitta disappears because the mind overreacts to its arrival, usually with excitement or fear.
By establishing more solid calm and having the confidence to not react at all, the shy nimitta returns and stays longer each time.
Soon, such a nimitta loses its shyness and, feeling accepted within the mind’s calmness, remains a long time.
should attempt this approach first.
But if the nimitta continues being
“shy,” with no indication that it is remaining longer, then one should return to the beautiful breath and ignore the shy nimitta.
When one has built more tranquility of mind with the beautiful breath, then one can return to the shy nimitta to see of it will establish itself this time.
The Point Nimitta.
Another type of nimitta is the “point nimitta,” a simple and powerful light, but ever so small, which persists many seconds.
This nimitta can be very useful.
It shows that one-pointedness is excellent, calm is sufficient, but pitisukha is still a bit lacking.
However, all one needs to do is gently look deeper into the point nimitta, letting mindfulness zero in, then it appears as it one’s awareness comes closer to this nimitta and its size starts to increase.
As it expands a little, one should keep one’s focus on the center, not on the edges, nor beyond the edges.
By maintaining the mind’s focus sharply on the center of the point nimitta, it increases power, it grows in pitisukha.
Soon the nimitta unfolds into the best nimitta of all.
The Best Nimitta.
The best nimitta of all, that which is the most suitable for BRJ “Jhāna”s, begins as being similar to the full moon at midnight in a sky free of clouds.
It rises unhurried when the beautiful breath softly disappears.
It takes three of four of four seconds to establish its presence and settle down, remaining still and very beautiful before the mind’s eye.
As it remains without remains without effort it grows brighter, more luminous.
Soon it appears brighter than the sun at midday, radiating bliss.
It becomes, by far, the most beautiful thing one has ever seen.
Its beauty and power will often feel more than one can bear.
One wonders whether one can take so much bliss of such extreme power.
But one can.
There’s no limit to the bliss one can feel.
The nimitta explodes, drowning one in even more bliss, or one dives into the center of the radiating ecstasy.
If one remains there, it is BRJ “Jhāna”.
3.2.4 - Shining up the Nimitta
It is a far-reaching insight to realize that this nimitta is actually an image of one’s mind.
Just like one sees an image of one’s face when one looks in a mirror, one sees an image of one’s mind in the profound stillness of this meditation stage.
The nimitta is a reflective image of one’s mind.
The Importance of Virtue.
So when the nimitta appears dull, or even dirty, it means that one’s mind is dull, even dirty!
Usually, this is because one has been lacking in virtue recently, possibly angry, or maybe self centered.
At this stage of meditation, one is looking directly at one’s mind and there is no opportunity for deceit.
One always sees the mind as it truly is.
So, if one’s nimitta appears dull and strained, then one should clean up one’s act in daily life.
One should undertake moral precepts, speak only kindly, and be selfless in service.
This stage of meditation when nimittas appear makes it abundantly clear that virtue is an essential ingredient for success in meditation.
Having taught many meditation retreats over the years, I have noticed that the meditators who have the easiest progress and most sensational results, are those who are joyously generous, whose nature would never allow them to harm another being, who are soft spoken, gentle and very happy.
Their beautiful lifestyle gives them a beautiful mind.
And their beautiful mind supports their virtuous lifestyle.
Then when they reach this stage of the meditation and their mind is revealed in the image of the nimitta, it is so brilliant and pure that it leads them easily to BRJ “Jhāna”.
It demonstrates that one cannot lead a heedless life and self-indulgent lifestyle and have easy success in one’s meditation.
On the other hand, purifying one’s conduct and developing compassion, at the same time prepares the mid for meditation.
The best remedy, then, for shinning up a dull or dirty nimitta, is to purify one’s conduct outside the meditation.
Focusing On the Beautiful Center.
The above being said, if one’s conduct in daily life isn’t too outrageous, one can shine up the dirty nimitta in the meditation itself.
This is achieved by focusing the attention on the center of the nimitta.
Most areas of the nimitta may appear dull, but the very center of the nimitta is always the brightest and purest part.
It is the soft center of an otherwise stiff and unworkable nimitta.
As one focuses on the center, it expands like a balloon to produce a second nimitta, purer and brighter.
One looks into the very center of this second nimitta, the spot where it is the brightest of all and that balloons up into a third nimitta even purer, even brighter.
Gazing into the center effectively shines up the nimitta.
One continues in this way until the nimitta is beautifully brilliant.
When, in life, one has developed a strong faultfinding mind, obsessively picking out what’s wrong in this and that, then one will find it almost impossible to pick out the beautiful center of a dull nimitta and focus attention thereon.
One has become so conditioned to pick out the blemishes in things that it goes against the grain to ignore all the dull and dirty areas of a nimitta to focus exclusively on the beautiful center.
This demonstrates once again how unskillful attitudes in life can stop success in deep meditation.
When one develops a more forgiving attitude to life, becoming more embracing of the duality of good and bad—not being a negative obsessive nor a positive excessive but balanced
“acceptive”—then not only can one see the beauty in mistakes, but one can also see the beautiful center in a dull and dirty nimitta.
It is essential to have a bright and luminous nimitta to take one through to BRJ “Jhāna”.
A dull and dirty one is like an old, beat up car that will break down on the journey.
The dull nimitta, when not made to shine, usually vanishes after some time.
So, if one is unable to shine up the nimitta, then go back to the beautiful breath and build up more energy on that part called the “beautiful!”
Generate greater pitisukha, huge happiness and joy, along with the breath.
Then next time the breath
disappears and a nimitta arises, it will not be a dull one but something more beautiful and luminous.
In effect, one has shined up the nimitta in the stage of the beautiful breath.
3.2.5 - Stabilizing the Nimitta
When the nimitta is very bright, it is also very beautiful.
It usually appears unearthly in the depth of its beauty and more wonderful than anything one has ever experienced before.
Whatever the color of the nimitta, that color is a thousand times richer than anything that can be seen with one’s eyes.
Such awesome beauty will captivate one’s attention, making the nimitta remain.
The more beautiful the nimitta, the more likely is the nimitta to become stable and not jump about.
Thus one of the best methods to stabilize the nimitta, so that it persists a long time, is to shine the nimitta into brilliance, as just explained above.
However, some brilliant nimittas still don’t last long.
They burst into the mental field of awareness with strong ptisukha, but they persist not much longer than a glorious shooting star in a clear night sky.
These nimittas have power but lack sufficient stability.
In order to stabilize such nimitta, it is important to know that the two enemies that disperse the nimitta are fear and excitement.
Fear. Of the two enemies, fear is more common.
These nimittas appear so immense in their sheer power and beauty, that one often becomes very afraid.
Fear is a natural response to the recognition of something much more powerful than oneself.
Moreover, the experience is so unfamiliar that one’s personal security looks seriously threatened.
It seems as of one might lose all control overwhelmed by supra-mundane bliss, and, in consequence, much of what one took to be one’s self would vanish leaving a real sense of freedom.
It is the fear of losing one’s ego that is the root cause of alarm when a powerful nimitta appears.
Those who have understood something of the Buddha’s teaching of Anatta, that there is no self, will have an easier time of transcending this fear and accepting the nimitta.
They realize that they have nothing to protect and so can let go of control, trust in the emptiness, and selflessly enjoy the beauty and power.
Thus the nimitta settles, Even an intellectual understanding that there is no one in here will help overcome the terror of letting go of the innermost controller.
However, those who have no appreciation at all of the truth of no self, may overcome this fear by substituting it with the more powerful perception of bliss, as in the simile of the child and the swimming pool.
When a child, who has just learned to feel confident upright on dry land, sees for the first time a swimming pool of water, they are likely to be scared.
The unfamiliar environment threatens their security, and they are deeply concerned how their little bodies can manage on such an unsolid material.
They are afraid of losing control.
So they put one toe
into the water and quickly pull it out.
That felt all right.
So they place three toes into the water, just a little bit longer.
That was okay too.
Next they dip a whole foot in.
Then a whole leg.
As the confidence increases and the swimming pool begins to promise much fun, the anticipation of joy becomes stronger than the fear.
The child jumps into the water and immerse itself fully.
Then they have such a great time that even their parents can hardly get them to leave!
Similarly, when fear arises with the powerful nimitta, it is all one can do to just stay there for an instant.
This is like the child dipping one toe in the water, and drawing it out in an instant.
One then reflects how that felt.
To say it felt wonderful is an understatement!
So, next time, one is encouraged by they previous experience to stay longer.
This is like putting three toes in the water, then a whole foot.
Later, one will find oneself staying even longer with the strong nimitta, like putting the whole leg in the water, and it feels even better.
By this gradual method, confidence soon becomes strong and the expectation of joy so dominant, that when the awesome nimitta arises one jumps right in and immerses oneself fully.
Moreover, one has such a great time that it is only with great difficulty that anyone can make you come out.
Another skillful means for overcoming fear at this stage, especially when fear is not strong, is to perform a little mental ceremony of handing over trust.
It is as if one has been the driver of one’s meditation up until now, and now is the moment to hand over the control completely to the nimitta.
One may imagine handing over a bunch of keys to the powerful nimitta, like getting a trusted friend to take over driving one’s car.
With the imaginary gesture of passing the keys, one passes over control.
One then lets go of all driving and controlling, and puts full trust in the nimitta.
Such a transfer of faith from oneself to the nimitta usually leads to stability of the nimitta and its subsequent deepening.
Indeed, one is placing faith in the knowing and taking it away from the doing.
This is the theme underlying the whole of the meditation path.
One trains from the very beginning in passive awareness, that is, the ability to be clearly aware without interfering at all with the object of awareness.
Energy, with faith, goes into the mindfulness and away from activity.
When one learns to watch with ease an ordinary object like the breath without meddling, then one’s passive awareness will next be challenged with a more seductive object like the beautiful breath.
If one passes this test, then the most challenging object of all, the nimitta, will be presented to you as the ultimate test of passive awareness.
For if one gets involved with the nimitta with even the slightest of controlling, then one fails the final examination and gets sent back to the beautiful breath for remedial training.
The more one meditates, the more one learns to be powerfully mindful while letting go of all doing.
When this skill is fully perfected, it is easy to pass the final test and stabilize the nimitta with flawless passive awareness.
The simile of the mirror is applicable here.
When one looks in a mirror at the reflection of one’s face and the image moves back and forth, then it is futile to try to stabilize the image by holding the mirror still!
In fact, if you try this, the reflection moves even more.
The image in the mirror is moving because that which is watching is moving.
The mirror doesn’t move and so does not need to be held still.
The fault is with the knower.
The nimitta is in reality a reflection of the mind, an image of that which is knowing.
When this reflection, this nimitta, moves back and forth, then it is futile trying to stabilize the nimitta by holding the nimitta still!
In fact, if you try this, the nimitta moves even more.
The nimitta is moving because that which is watching the nimitta is moving.
When this is understood, one gives up on doing any holding and, instead, focuses on that which knows, letting that some to stillness.
Because when that which knows doesn’t move, then neither does the nimitta.
Like the reflection of one’s face in the mirror, when the knower is still, then so is its reflection.
Excitement. I mentioned above that the other enemy of the nimitta’s stability is excitement or exhilaration, what I sometimes call the “Wow!”
It is understandable that when there is success in the meditation and amazing thing happen, then the meditator can get very excited.
This is especially so when a wonderful nimitta first appears, more radiant than the sun and more beautiful than the most exquisite flower!
It is common, then, for the mind to say, “Wow!”
Unfortunately, immediately after the “Wow” the nimitta disappears and may be reluctant to return for a very long time, even months.
In order to avoid such a calamity, one should bear in mind Ajahn Chah’s famous simile of the still forest pond.
In the late afternoon, forest monks, wandering in the jungle for solitude, would seek out a river or pool.
They needed the water for drinking, bathe, and maybe wash a few robes.
After drinking and washing, they would setup their forest monk’s umbrella draped with mosquito netting away from the pool to spend the evening in meditation.
Ajahn Chah said that sometimes he would sit in his mosquito net with his eyes open to watch the jungle animals come to the water at twilight, also to drink and bathe.
But the animals would only come out to drink when he was very still.
If he moved, they would sense his presence, run back into the jungle and not return for many days.
Ajahn Chah knew how to sit very still, so that the jungle animals didn’t know that he was there.
He would enjoy watching them drinking and playing, sometimes squabbling, and he would delight in the antics of these wild children of nature.
On some occasions, Ajahn Chah would sit extremely still.
Then, after the usual jungle animals had finished by the lake, some strange and wonderful animals would cautiously emerge from the undergrowth’s darkness.
These beings, if they were animals at all, were so beautiful and rare that no one hade ever told him about their existence.
Or if they
had, then he hadn’t understood.
He didn’t know their names, As they came out form the jungle, their ears would scan the whole area and their noses would timidly sniff for any danger.
If Ajahn Chah stirred, even slightly, or softly said, “Wow,” these beings would pick up his presence instantaneously and flee back into the jungle, not re-emerging for months.
They were the shyest of all beings who live in the jungle, and also the most rare and wondrously beautiful.
They are hard to describe.
In this accurate simile, the forest pool represents the mind, and the forest monk sitting near its edge stand for the mindfulness.
When mindfulness is still, then, “animals” like the beautiful breath and pitisukha come out from the “jungle” to “play” by the mind’s edge.
Mindfulness must remain still and not interfere otherwise the beautiful breath and pitisukha will nervously withdraw back into the jungle, not easily coming out again.
But if the knower, mindfulness, remains extremely still, after the beautiful breath and pitisukha have finished their business in the mind, then the beautiful, shy nimitta will cautiously emerge to play in the mind.
If the nimitta senses that mindfulness isn’t so still, if it hears the knower thinking “Wow,” then the bashful nimitta will immediately run back into the jungle, and it will not re-emerge for a very long time.
Mindfulness blew the opportunity by moving.
So when the powerful and beautiful nimittas appear, one must remember this simile and watch with the stillness of an Ajahn Chah, sitting absolutely motionless by the remote forest lake.
One must restrain all excitement.
Then one will watch this strange and wonderful nimitta make merry in the mind for a very long time, until it is ready to take one into BRJ “Jhāna”.
3.2.6 - Disturbing the Stable Nimitta
When the nimitta is stable and radiant, then one is at the entrance to BRJ “Jhāna”.
One must train to wait patiently here, maintaining the stillness through the lack of any doing, until the causes or conditions are ready for the transition into BRJ “Jhāna”.
However, at this stage some meditators make the mistake of disturbing the process by “peeking” at the edge of the nimitta.
Once the nimitta is stable and bright, one might become interested in its shape, or size.
Is it circular or oblong?
Are the edges precise or ill defined?
Is it small or is it big?
When one looks at the edge, mindfulness loses its one-pointedness.
The edge is the place of duality, of inside and outside.
And duality is the opposite of one-pointedness.
If one looks at the edge, the nimitta will become unstable, and may even disappear.
One should keep mindfulness on the very center of the nimitta, away from the edge, until any perception of edge vanishes into the non-duality of one-pointedness.
Similarly, if one attempts to expand or contract the nimitta, then one will also be sacrificing the essential one-pointedness.
Expansion and contraction involve the perception of size, and that involves awareness of the edge of the nimitta and the space
that lies beyond.
Again one is falling back into the trap of duality and losing one-pointedness, through this unprofitable expanding and contracting.
So when the nimitta is stable and bright, just be patient.
One is building up the BRJ “Jhāna” factors of pitisukha and one-pointedness.
When they are built to sufficient power, they will unfold into BRJ “Jhāna” by themselves.
A Note on the Luminous (or Radiant) Mind
There is an oft-quoted passage from the Suttas that is relevant here, but which is often misunderstood.
The passage is from the Anguttara Nikaya1.
This mind O monks, is luminous, but it is defiled by adventitious defilements.
The uninstructed worldling does not understand this as it really is;
therefore for him there is no mental development.
This mind, O monks, is luminous, and it is freed from adventitious defilements.
The instructed noble disciple understands this as it really is;
therefore for him there is mental development (AN 1,1-2).
At the stage of the beautiful and stable nimitta, it is the nimitta that is radiant and incredibly luminous.
And the nimitta, as already explained, is an image of the mind.
When one experiences such a nimitta, one recognizes it as the luminous the luminous (or radiant) mind of the Anguttara passage above.
This nimitta is radiant because the mind has been freed of the Five Hindrances—is the doorway into BRJ “Jhāna”, and then one truly understands what is meant by “mental development.”
3.2.7 - Entering BRJ “Jhāna”
When the nimitta is radiant and stable, then its energy builds up moment by moment.
It is like adding peace upon peace upon peace, until the peace becomes huge!
As the peace becomes huge, the pitisukha becomes huge and the nimitta grows luminosity.
If one can maintain the one-pointedness here by keeping one’s focus on the very center of the nimitta, the power will reach a critical level.
One will feel as if the knower is being drawn into the nimitta, that one is falling into the most glorious bliss.
Alternatively, one may feel that the nimitta approaches until it envelops the knower, swallowing one up in cosmic ecstasy.
One is entering BRJ “Jhāna”.
Yo-yo BRJ “Jhāna”s and Snakes and Ladders.
It sometimes happens that when an inexperienced meditator falls into the nimitta, they immediately bounce back to where they began.
I call this “Yo-yo BRJ “Jhāna”s,” after the children’s toy that goes up and down on the end of a string.
It isn’t real
BRJ “Jhāna”, because it doesn’t last long enough, but it is so close that I give it this label.
It is that enemy “excitement,” which I explained above, that caused the mindfulness to bounce right back from BRJ “Jhāna”.
Such as reaction is quite understandable since the bliss that one experiences when falling into the nimitta is so much more joy than one can ever imagine.
If one thought that the best sexual orgasm was something nice, then one now discovers that it is nothing, trivial, compared tot eh bliss of these BRJ “Jhāna”s.
These BRJ “Jhāna”s are powerful, they blow one away, they are real bliss.
Even after a Yo-yo BRJ “Jhāna”, one often bursts into tears with happiness, crying at the most wonderful experience, by far, of one’s whole life.
So it is understandable that novice meditators experience the Yo-yo BRJ “Jhāna”s first.
After all, it takes a lot of training to be able to handle such immensely strong bliss.
And it takes a lot of wisdom to let go of excitement when one of the great prizes of spiritual life is theirs for the taking.
For those who are old enough to remember the game snakes and ladders, the simple children’s board game played with dice, they will remember the most dangerous square to land on was the square just before the goal.
The ninety-ninth square held the head of the longest of snakes.
If you landed on the hundredth square you won.
But if you landed on the ninety-ninth square, you fell down the snake ending right back at the beginning!
A Yo-yo BRJ “Jhāna” is like landing on the ninety-ninth square of the game “snakes and ladders.”
One is so very close to “winning the game” and entering BRJ “Jhāna”, but one fell just a little short, landing on the snake-head of excitement, and slid, or rather bounced, right back to the start.
Even so, Yo-yo BRJ “Jhāna”s are so close to the real thing that they are not to be sneered at.
One experiences incredible bliss, and transports of joy.
It makes one as high as a weather balloon, for many hours up high in the sky without a care in the world, and with so much energy that one can hardly sleep.
The experience will be the biggest in one’s life.
It will change you.
Through a little more training and wise reflection on one’s experience, one will be able to fall into the nimitta, or be enveloped by it, without bouncing out.
The one has entered the amazing would of BRJ “Jhāna”.
1 I am using the translation here from the Numerical Discourses of the Buddha:
An Anthology of Suttas from the Anguttara Nikaya, translated by Nynaponika Thera & Bhikkhu Bodhi, Oxford:
Altamira Press, 1999, p 36.
3.3 - PART THREE: The Landmarks of All BRJ “Jhāna”s
No thought, no decision-making, no perception of time.
From the moment of entering a BRJ “Jhāna”, one will have no control.
One will be unable to give orders as one normally does.
The very idea of “what should I do next” cannot even come up.
When the “will” that is controlling vanishes away, then the “I will” that fashions one’s concept of future also disappears.
The concept of time ceases in BRJ “Jhāna”.
Within a BRJ “Jhāna”, one cannot decide what to do next.
One cannot even decide when to come out.
It is this absolute absence of will and its offspring, time, that give the BRJ “Jhāna”s the feature of timeless stability and that lead to BRJ “Jhāna” states persisting, sometimes for many blissful hours.
Because of the perfect one-pointedness, because attention is so fixed, one loses the faculty of perspective with in BRJ “Jhāna”.
Comprehension relies on the technique of comparison, relating this to that, here to there, now with then.
In BRJ “Jhāna”, all that is perceived is non-dual bliss, unmoving, compelling, not giving any space for the arising of perspective.
It is like that puzzle where one is shown a still photograph of a well-known object but from an unusual angle, and one has to guess what it is.
It is very difficult to comprehend such an object when one is unable to turn to over, or move one’s head to look at it this way and that.
When perspective is removed, so is comprehension.
Thus in BRJ “Jhāna”, not only is there no sense of time, but also there is no comprehension of what is going on!
At the time, one will not even know what BRJ “Jhāna” one is in.
All one knows is great bliss, unmoving, unchanging, for unknown lengths of time.
Awareness of Bliss that Doesn’t Move.
Even though there is no comprehension within any BRJ “Jhāna”, due to the lack of perspective, one is certainly not on a trance.
One’s mindfulness is hugely increased to a level of sharpness that is truly incredible.
One is immensely aware.
Only mindfulness doesn’t move.
It is frozen.
And the stillness of the super, superpower mindfulness, the perfect one-pointedness of awareness, makes the BRJ “Jhāna” experience completely different to anything one has known before.
This is not unconsciousness.
It is non-dual consciousness.
All it can know is one thing, and that is timeless bliss that doesn’t move.
Afterwards, when one has emerged from BRJ “Jhāna”, such consummate one-pointedness of consciousness falls apart.
With the weakening of one-pointedness, perspective re-emerges and the mind has the agility to move again.
The mind has regained the space needed to compare and comprehend.
Ordinary consciousness has returned.
Having just emerged from a BRJ “Jhāna”, it is usual practice to look back at what has happened and review the BRJ “Jhāna” experience.
The BRJ “Jhāna”s are such powerful events that they leave an indelible record in one’s memory store.
In fact, one will never forget them as lone as one lives.
Thus, they are easy to recall, with perfect retention of detail, after emerging.
It is through such reviewing right after the event, that one comprehends the details of what happened in the BRJ “Jhāna”, and one knows which of the BRJ “Jhāna”s it was.
Moreover, the data obtained from reviewing a BRJ “Jhāna” forms the basis of insight that is Enlightenment itself.
The Five Senses are Fully Shut Off.
Another strange quality that distinguishes BRJ “Jhāna” from all other experiences is that within BRJ “Jhāna” all the five senses are totally shut down.
One cannot see, one cannot hear, one cannot smell, taste nor feel touch.
One cannot hear the sound of the birds, nor a person coughing.
Even if there were a thunderclap nearby, it wouldn’t be heard in a BRJ “Jhāna”.
If someone tapped one on the shoulder, or picked one up and let one down, in BRJ “Jhāna” one cannot know this.
The mod in BRJ “Jhāna” is so completely cut off from these five senses that they cannot break in.
A lay disciple once told me how he had “fluked” a deep BRJ “Jhāna” while meditating at home.
His wife thought he hade died and sent for an ambulance.
He was rushed to hospital in a wail of loud sirens.
In the emergency room, there was no heartbeat registered on the E.
C.G., nor brain activity to be seen by the E.
E.G. So the doctor on put defibrillators on his chest to re-activate his heart.
Even though he was being bounced up and down on the hospital bed through the force of the electric shocks, he didn’t feel a thing!
When he emerged fro the BRJ “Jhāna” in the emergency room, perfectly all right, he had no knowledge of how he had got there, nor of ambulances and sirens, nor of body-jerking defibrillators.
All that long time that he was in BRJ “Jhāna”, he was fully aware, but only of bliss.
This is an example of what is meant by the five senses shutting down within the experience of BRJ “Jhāna”.
3.3.1 - Summary of the Landmarks of All BRJ “Jhāna”s
It is helpful to know, then, that within a BRJ “Jhāna”:
1. There is no possibility of thought;
2. No decision making process is available
3. There is no perception of time;
4. Consciousness is non-dual, making comprehension inaccessible;
One is very, very aware, but only of bliss that doesn’t move;
6. The five senses are fully shot off, and only the sixth sense, mind, is in operation.
These are the features of BRJ “Jhāna”.
So during a deep meditation, if one wonders whether it is BRJ “Jhāna” or not, one can be certain it is not!
No such thinking can exist within the stillness of BRJ “Jhāna”.
These features will only be recognized on emergence from a BRJ “Jhāna”, using reviewing mindfulness once the mind can move again.
3.3.2 - THE FIRST BRJ “Jhāna”
The “Wobble” (Vitakka and Vicára).
All BRJ “Jhāna”s are states of unmoving bliss, almost.
However, in the first BRJ “Jhāna”, there is some movement discernible.
I call this movement the “wobble” of first BRJ “Jhāna”.
One is aware of great bliss, so powerful it has subdued completely the part of the ego that wills and does.
In BRJ “Jhāna”, one is on automatic pilot, as it were, with no sense if being in control.
However, the bliss is so delicious that it can generate a small residue of attachment.
The mind, not the doer, instinctively grasps at the bliss.
Because the bliss of first BRJ “Jhāna” is fuelled by letting go, such involuntary grasping weakens the bliss.
Seeing the bliss weaken, the mind automatically lets go of its grasping and the bliss increases in power again.
The mind then grasps again, then lets go again.
Such subtle involuntary movement gives rise to the wobble of first BRJ “Jhāna”.
This process can be perceived in another way.
As the bliss weakens because of the involuntary grasping, it seems as if the mindfulness moves a small distance away from the bliss.
Then the mindfulness gets pulled back into the bliss as the mind automatically lets go.
This back and forth movement close to the bliss, is a second way of describing the same first BRJ “Jhāna” wobble.
This wobble is, in fact, the pair of first BRJ “Jhāna” factors called vitakka and vicára.
Vicára is the involuntary grasping of bliss vitakka is the automatic movement back into bliss.
Some commentators explain the pair, vitakka and vicára as “initial thought” and “sustained thought.”
While in other contexts this pair can refer to thought, in BRJ “Jhāna” they certainly mean something else.
It is impossible that such a gross activity as thinking can exist in such a refined state as BRJ “Jhāna”.
In fact, thinking ceases a long time prior to BRJ “Jhāna”.
In BRJ “Jhāna”, vitakka and vicára are both sub-verbal and so don’t qualify as thought.
Vitakka is the sub-verbal movement of the mid back into bliss.
Vicára is the sub-verbal movement of mind that holds onto the bliss.
Outside of BRJ “Jhāna”, such movements of mind will often generate thought, and sometimes even speech.
But in BRJ “Jhāna”, vitakka and vicára are too subtle to create any thought.
All they are capable of doing is moving mindfulness back onto bliss, and holding mindfulness there.
This movement is the wobble of the first BRJ “Jhāna”, represented as the pair of first BRJ “Jhāna” factors vitakka and vicára.
The third factor of BRJ “Jhāna” is one-pointedness, Ekaggatha.
One-pointedness describes the mindfulness that is so sharply focused on a minute area of existence.
It is one-pointed in space because it only sees the point source of bliss, together with a small area surrounding the bliss caused by the first BRJ “Jhāna” wobble.
It is one-pointed in time because it only perceives the present moment, so exclusively and precisely that all notion of time completely disappears.
And it is one-pointed in phenomena because it only knows the mental object of pitisukha, and is totally oblivious to the world of the five senses and one’s physical body.
Such one-pointedness is space produces the peculiar existence, only found in the BRJ “Jhāna”, of non-dual consciousness, as explained in detail in the previous section.
Non-dual consciousness describes the jhanic state where one is fully aware but only of one thing, and from one angle, for timeless periods.
Consciousness is so focused on the one thing that the faculty of comprehension is suspended a while.
Only after the one-pointedness has dissipated, and one has emerged from the BRJ “Jhāna”, will one be able to recognize these features of first BRJ “Jhāna” and comprehend them all.
The one-consciousness in time produces the extraordinary stability of the first BRJ “Jhāna”, allowing it to last effortlessly for such a long period of time.
The concept of time relies on measuring intervals:
from past to present or from present to future of from past to future.
When all that is perceived within the first BRJ “Jhāna” is the precise moment of now, then there is no room for measuring time.
All intervals have closed.
It is replaced with the perception of timelessness, unmoving.
One-pointedness of phenomena produces the exceptional occurrence of bliss upon bliss, unchanging throughout the duration of the BRJ “Jhāna”.
This makes the first BRJ “Jhāna” such a restful abode.
One-pointedness of phenomena accounts for the great stillness in BRJ “Jhāna”.
Thus, the one-pointedness of the first BRJ “Jhāna” is experienced as noon-duality of consciousness, timelessness and effortless stillness.
In academic terms, ekaggatha is a Pali compound meaning “one-peak-ness.”
The middle term agga (Sanskrit Agra) refers to the peak of a mountain, the summit of an experience, or even the capital of a country (as in Agra, the old Mogul capital of India).
Thus ekaggatha does not mean just “one-any old point-ness,” but it refers to a singleness of focus on something soaring and sublime.
The single exalted summit that is the focus of ekaggatha in the first BRJ “Jhāna” is the supreme bliss of pitisukha.
Indeed the last two factors of the first BRJ “Jhāna” are piti and sukha.
Here, I will deal with them together since they are such a close-knit pair.
In fact, they only separate out in the third BRJ “Jhāna”, where piti ceases leaving sukha widowed.
Therefore, only after the third BRJ “Jhāna” can one know from experience what sukha is and what piti was.
Here, it sufficient to explain the pair as one thing.
The last two factors of first BRJ “Jhāna”, called pitisukha, refer to the bliss that is the focus of attention, and which forms the central experience that is the first BRJ “Jhāna”.
Bliss is the dominant feature of the first BRJ “Jhāna”, so much
so that it is the first thing that one recognizes when reviewing after the BRJ “Jhāna”.
Indeed, mystic traditions other than Buddhism have been so overwhelmed by the sheer immensity, egoless-ness, stillness, ecstasy, ultimateness and pure out-of-this-worldliness, of the first BRJ “Jhāna”, that throughout history they have comprehended the experience, on reviewing, as “Union with God.”
However, the Buddha explained that this is but one form of supramundane bliss and there are other forms that are superior!
In the Buddhist experience of the BRJ “Jhāna”s, one gets to know many levels of supramundane bliss.
The first BRJ “Jhāna” is the first level.
Even though after first BRJ “Jhāna”, one cannot conceive of an experience more blissful, there is much more!
These different levels of bliss each have a different “taste,” a different quality that sets them apart.
These different qualities of bliss can be explained by the diverse cases of bliss.
Just as heat generated by sunlight has a different quality to heat cased by a wood fire, which ahs a different “taste” to heat generated by a furnace, so bliss fuelled by different causes exhibits distinguishing features.
The distinguishing feature of the bliss of first BRJ “Jhāna” is that it is fueled by the complete absence of all five-sense activities.
When the five senses shit down, including all echoes of the five senses manifesting as thought, then one has left the world of the body and material things (kamaloka) and entered the world of pure mind (rupaloka).
It is as if a huge burden has dropped away.
Or, as Ajahn Chah used to describe it, it is like one had been enduring a tight rope around one’s neck for as long as one can remember.
So long, in fact, that one had become used to it and no longer recognized the pain.
Then somehow the tension was suddenly released and the rope removed.
The bliss one would feel would be the result of a huge burden disappearing!
In much the same way, the bliss of the first BRJ “Jhāna” is caused by the complete fading away of the “tight rope,” meaning all that one took to be the world.
Such insight into the cause of the bliss of the first BRJ “Jhāna” is fundamental to understanding the Buddha’s Four Nobel Truths about suffering.
3.3.3 - Summary of the First BRJ “Jhāna”
In summary then, the first BRJ “Jhāna” is distinguished by the five factors, here compressed into three:
1+2. Vitakka – Vicára:
experienced as the “wobble,” being the fine, subtle movement in and out of the bliss;
experienced as non-duality, timelessness and stillness;
4 +5 Pitisukha experienced as a bliss surpassing anything in the material world, and fueled by the complete transcendence of that world to enter the world of pure mind.
3.3.4 - THE SECOND BRJ “Jhāna”
Subsiding of the “Wobble.”
It was explained in the description of the first BRJ “Jhāna” that vitakka and vicára is the involuntary grasping of bliss, causing the mindfulness to move away.
Vitakka is the automatic movement of the mind back onto bliss.
As the first BRJ “Jhāna” deepens, the wobble gets less and the bliss consolidates.
One comes to a state where vicára is till holding on to the bliss with the most subtle of grasping, but this is not enough to cause any instability in the bliss.
The bliss doesn’t decrease as a result of vicára, nor does mindfulness seem to move away from the source.
The bliss is so strong that vicára cannot disturb it.
Although vicára is still active, there is no longer any vitakka, no movement of mind back onto the source of bliss.
The wobble has gone.
This is a BRJ “Jhāna” state described in the suttas as without vitakka but with a small measure of vicára (e.
DN 184.108.40.206, AN 8’s.63). It is so much closer to the second BRJ “Jhāna” than the first, that it is usually included within the second BRJ “Jhāna”.
As the bliss strengthens into immutable stability, there is no purpose for vicára to hold on any more.
At this point, the mind becomes fully confident enough to let go absolutely.
With this final letting go, born of inner confidence in the stability of the bliss, vicára disappears and one enters the second BRJ “Jhāna” proper.
The first feature then of the second BRJ “Jhāna” described in the sutras is a-vitakka and a-vicára, meaning without vitakka and vicára.
In experience, this means that there is no more wobble in the mind.
The second feature is ajhattam sampasadanam, meaning “internal confidence.”
In experience, this describes the full confidence on the stability of the bliss, which is the cause for vicára to cease.
Perfect One-Pointedness of Mind (cetaso ekadibbavam).
The third feature of the second BRJ “Jhāna” is ekadibbavam, meaning perfect one-pointedness of mind.
This absolutely perfect one-pointedness of mind is the salient feature in the experience of second BRJ “Jhāna”.
When there is no longer any wobble, then the mind is like an unwavering rock, more immovable than a mountain, and harder than a diamond.
Such perfection in unyielding stillness is incredible.
The mind stays in the bliss without the slightest vibration.
This is later recognized as the perfection of the quality called samadhi.
Samadhi is the faculty if sustained attention, and in the second BRJ “Jhāna”, this attention is sustained on the object without any movement at all.
There is not even the finest oscillation.
One is fixed, frozen solid, stuck with “super-glue,” unable even to tremble.
All stirrings of mind are gone.
There is no greater stillness of mind than this.
It is called perfect samadhi, and it remains as a feature not only of this second BRJ “Jhāna”, but in the higher BRJ “Jhāna”s as well.
The bliss born of samadhi (samadhijam pitisukham).
It is this perfection of samadhi that gives the bliss of the second BRJ “Jhāna” it unique
The burden that was present in the first BRJ “Jhāna” that has been abandoned in the second BRJ “Jhāna” is the affliction of movement.
Everything stands perfectly still in the second BRJ “Jhāna”, even the knower.
Such absolute stillness transcends the mental pain born of the mind moving, and it reveals the greater bliss fuelled by pure samadhi.
In the suttas, the bliss of the second BRJ “Jhāna” is called the pitisukha born of samadhi (e.
DN 9.11). Such bliss is even more pleasurable, hugely so, than the bliss resulting from transcending the world of the five senses!
One could not anticipate such bliss.
It is of a totally separate order.
After experiencing the second BRJ “Jhāna”, having realized two rare “species” of supramundane bliss that are extreme, one begins to wonder what other levels of bliss may lie ahead.
One ponders where the end of bliss lies!
The end of all doing.
Another salient feature of the second BRJ “Jhāna” is that within the BRJ “Jhāna” all “doing” has totally ceased, even the involuntary
“doing” that caused the wobble to appear has completely vanished.
“doer” as died.
Only when one has experience of the second BRJ “Jhāna” can one fully appreciate what is meant by the term “water,” when water “dies”
during the frog’s first experience on dry land.
Within the second BRJ “Jhāna”, the “doer” has gone.
It is no more.
Absolute stillness remains.
Moreover, it seems as if something that was so obvious to you as an essential part of one’s eternal identity, the doer, has now been deleted from existence.
How often does what seem obvious now, later turns out to be a mirage, a delusion!
After the second BRJ “Jhāna” it is possible to uncover the delusion that the self is the doer.
One penetrates the illusion of free will, from the data of raw experience.
The philosopher who concludes that “to be is to do,” could not have known the state of second BRJ “Jhāna”.
In the second BRJ “Jhāna”, “being” is (through knowing), but
“doing” is not.
These BRJ “Jhāna”s are weird, They defy normal experience.
But they are real, more real than the world.
Moreover, the second BRJ “Jhāna” and the above unlock the meaning of non-self, anatta.
Summary of the Second BRJ “Jhāna”
Thus the second BRJ “Jhāna” is distinguished by another collection of features:
1+2.a-vitakka-a-vicára , ajhattam sampasadanam” experience as the subsiding of the “wobble” from the first BRJ “Jhāna” due to internal confidence in the stability of the bliss;
3. Cetaso Ekodibbanam:
perfect one-pointedness of mind due to full confidence in the bliss.
This is usually experienced as rock-like stillness, the temporary “death” of the “doer,” or the perfection of samadhi;
4. Ssamadhijam pitisukham:
being the focus of this BRJ “Jhāna”, the supramundane bliss generated by the end of all movement of the mind, and
5. The end of all doing:
seen as the first that the “doer” has completely gone.
3.3.5 - THE THIRD BRJ “Jhāna”
As the stillness of the knowing, samadhi, becomes longer established, then the stillness of the known grows ever more profound.
It is to be remembered that in BRJ “Jhāna”, what is known is the image of the mind.
Citta, and the mind is the knowing.
In other words, the knowing knows an image of itself in the BRJ “Jhāna”.
First the knowing becomes still, then its image, the known, gradually becomes still.
In the first two BRJ “Jhāna”s, this image of the mind is recognized as a bliss that up until now has been called pitisukha.
In the third BRJ “Jhāna”, the image of the mind has gone to the next level of stillness, to a very different kind of bliss, the like of which one hasn’t seen before.
Piti has Vanished!
Prior to the third BRJ “Jhāna”, all bliss has something in common, as well as differing in its “flavors“ due to the distinguishing causes.
That something in common was the combination of piti plus sukha.
Because they were always together, seemingly as inseparable as Siamese twins, it was not only pointless but even impossible to tell them apart.
It was this combination that, up to now, gave all bliss a common quality.
Now in the third BRJ “Jhāna”, piti has vanished leaving only sukha, producing a very different species of bliss altogether.
It is only after the experience of the third BRJ “Jhāna” that one can know what sukha is, and by inference what piti was.
Piti appears as the more burdensome part of bliss, although the word “burdensome” in the context of the second BRJ “Jhāna” only just seems appropriate.
Sukha is the more refined part.
In the third BRJ “Jhāna”, the bliss that was known in the second BRJ “Jhāna” separates out leaving only the sukha.
Great Mindfulness, Clear Knowing and Equanimity.
As with many BRJ “Jhāna”s, the experiences are next to impossible to describe.
However, the higher the BRJ “Jhāna”, the more profound the experience and he more difficult it becomes to put into words.
These states as their language are remote from the world.
At a stretch, one may say that the bliss of the third BRJ “Jhāna”, the sukha, has a greater sense of ease, quieter and more serene.
In the suttas, it is accompanied by the features of mindfulness (sati), clear knowing (sampojanna) and equanimity (upekkha), although these qualities are said in the Anupada Sutta (MN 111) to be present in all BRJ “Jhāna”s.
Perhaps these features are emphasized in the sutta as qualities of the thirds BRJ “Jhāna” in order to point out that in these very deep BRJ “Jhāna”s, one is exceptionally mindful, very clear in the knwing, and so still that
one looks on without moving, which is the root meaning of equanimity (upekkha).
The Same Rock-like Stillness and Absence of a Doer.
The third BRJ “Jhāna” retains the perfect samadhi, the rock-like stillness, the absence of a doer, and the inaccessibility from the world of the five senses.
However, it is distinguished from the second BRJ “Jhāna” by nature of the bliss, which has soared up to another level and appeared as another species of bliss altogether.
So much so that the suttas describe the third BRJ “Jhāna” as what the Enlightened Ones describe by “as one who abides in bliss (in the third BRJ “Jhāna”) mindful, just looking on” (e.
g. DN 9.12).
3.3.6 - Summary of the Third BRJ “Jhāna”
Thus the third BRJ “Jhāna” has the following features:
1. The bliss has separated, losing the coarse part that was piti;
2. The bliss that remains, sukha, exhibits the qualities of great mindfulness, clear knowing and the sense of just looking on;
3. The same absolute rock-like stillness and absence of a doer, as in the second BRJ “Jhāna”.
3.3.7 - THE FOURTH BRJ “Jhāna”
Sukha has vanished!
As the stillness of the knower calms that which is known, the bliss that was the central feature of the first three BRJ “Jhāna”s changes again when one enters the fourth BRJ “Jhāna”.
Only this time it changes more radically.
Sukha completely disappears.
What one is left with is an absolute still knower seeing absolute stillness.
The perfection of Peace.
From the perspective of the fourth BRJ “Jhāna”, the bliss of the previous BRJ “Jhāna”s is seen as a residual movement of the mental object, and an affliction obscuring something much greater.
When the bliss subsides, all that is left is the profound peace that is the hallmark of the fourth BRJ “Jhāna”.
Nothing moves in here, nothing glows.
Nothing feels happiness or its opposite, discomfort.
One feels perfect balance in the very center of the mind.
Like being in the center of the cyclone, nothing stirs in the center of the mind’s eye.
There is a sense of perfection in here, a perfection of stillness and a perfection of awareness.
The Buddha described it as the purification of mindfulness, just looking on (upekkha sati parisuddhim) (e.
g. DN 9.13).
The peace of the fourth BRJ “Jhāna” is like no other peace to be found in the world.
It can only be known having passed through the experience of the previous three BRJ “Jhāna”s.
That passage is he only way of later confirming that he unmoving peace that one felt, was indeed that of fourth BRJ “Jhāna”.
Furthermore, the state of fourth BRJ “Jhāna” is so very still, that one remains on its plateau for many hours.
It seems impossible that one could experience the fourth BRJ “Jhāna” for any less time.
Though piti and sukha have both ceased in the fourth BRJ “Jhāna”, and all that is left is the perfection of peace, such an experience is later recognized, on reviewing, as supremely delightful.
Although all bliss has vanished, the perfect peace of the fourth BRJ “Jhāna” is seen as the best bliss so far.
It is the bliss of no more bliss!
And this is not playing with words, trying to sound clever and mystical.
This is how it is.
3.3.8 - Summary of the Fourth BRJ “Jhāna”
This the fourth BRJ “Jhāna” has the following features:
1. The disappearance of sukha
2. An extremely long lasting, and unchanging, perception of the perfection of peace, reached through the lower three BRJ “Jhāna”s;
3. The same absolute rock-like stillness, and absence of a doer, as in the second and third BRJ “Jhāna”s;
4. The complete inaccessibility from the world of the five senses and one’s body.
3.3.9 - THE BUDDHA’S SIMILE FOR THE FOUR BRJ “Jhāna”S
The Buddha would often describe the experience within the four BRJ “Jhāna”s using an evocative simile for each (MN 39.15-18, MN 77.25-28, etc.
Before explaining these similes, it is helpful to pause to clarify the meaning of a key word used in all the similes, kaya.
Kaya has the same range of meanings as the English word “body.”
Just as “body” can mean things other than the body of a person, such as a “body of evidence” for example, so too the Pali word kaya can mean things other than a physical body, such as a body of mental factors, nama kaya.
In the BRJ “Jhāna”s, the five senses aren’t operating, meaning that there is no experience of a physical body.
The body has been transcended.
Therefore, when the Buddha states in these four similes “…so that there is no part of his whole kaya un-pervaded (by bliss etc.
),” this can be taken to mean “…so that there is no part of his whole mental body of experience un-pervaded (by bliss etc.
)” (MN 39.16). This point is too often misunderstood.
The Buddha’s simile for the first BRJ “Jhāna” was a ball of clay (used as soap) with just the right amount of moisture, neither too dry nor leaking out.
The ball of clay stands for the unified mind, wherein mindfulness has been restricted to the very small areas created by the “wobble.”
The moisture stands for the bliss caused by total seclusion from the world of the fives senses.
The moisture pervading the clay ball completely indicates the bliss thoroughly pervading the space and duration of the mental experience.
This is later recognized as bliss followed by bliss, and then more bliss, without interruption.
The moisture not leaking out describes the bliss always being contained in the space generated by the wobble, never leaking out of this area of mind space into the world of the five senses, as long as the BRJ “Jhāna” persists.
The second BRJ “Jhāna” is likened to a lake with no external entry for water, but with a spring within the lake itself replenishing the lake with cool
The lake represents the mind.
The complete absence of any way that water from outside can enter the lake describes the inaccessibility of the mind in the second BRJ “Jhāna” from any influence outside.
Not even the doer can enter such a mind.
Such hermetic inaccessibility from all external influences is the cause of the rock-like stillness of the second BRJ “Jhāna”.
The internal spring supplying the fount of cool water represents ajjhattam sampasadanam, the internal confidence in the bliss of the second BRJ “Jhāna”.
This internal confidence causes complete letting go, cooling the mind to stillness and freeing it from all movement.
The coolness stands for the bliss itself, born of samadhi or stillness, and which pervades the whole mental experience, unchanging, throughout the duration of the BRJ “Jhāna”s.
The third BRJ “Jhāna” is described by the metaphor of a lotus flower that thrives immersed in the cool water of a lake.
The lotus represents the mind in third BRJ “Jhāna”.
Water can cool the petals and leaves of a lotus but can never penetrate the lotus, since all water rolls off a lotus.
The coolness stands for sukha, the wetness stands for piti.
So like the lotus immersed in water, the mind in the third BRJ “Jhāna” is cooled by sukha but is not penetrated by piti.
The mind in the third BRJ “Jhāna” experiences only sukha.
In the third BRJ “Jhāna”, the mind continues to experience a rock-like stillness, never moving outside, just as the lotus in the simile always remains immersed within the water.
Just as the bliss the third BRJ “Jhāna” sustains the mind therein, so he cool water, which represents bliss, causes the lotus to thrive.
Once again, the unique bliss of the third BRJ “Jhāna” pervades the whole mental experience form beginning to end, just as the cool waters in the simile pervade the lotus with coolness form its roots to its tips.
The fourth BRJ “Jhāna” is likened to a man draped from head to toe in a clean white cloth.
The man represents the mind.
The clean white cloth represents the perfect purity of both equanimity and mindfulness that is the hallmark of the fourth BRJ “Jhāna”.
The mind in the fourth BRJ “Jhāna” is stainless, spotless as clean cloth, perfectly still and just looking on, purely and simply.
Of course, this absolute purity of peacefulness pervades the whole body of the mental experience, from the start to the end just as the white cloth completely covers the man’s body, form head to toe.
This is the meaning to the four similes for BRJ “Jhāna”, as I understand them.
3.3.10 - MOVING FROM BRJ “Jhāna” TO BRJ “Jhāna”
As I’ve indicated before, when one is in any BRJ “Jhāna”, one cannot make a move.
One cannot formulate any decision to proceed from this BRJ “Jhāna” to that.
One cannot even make a decision to come out.
All such control has been abandoned within BRJ “Jhāna”.
Furthermore, the ultra-stillness of mindfulness in BRJ “Jhāna” freezes the activity of mind called comprehension to the extent that, while in BRJ “Jhāna”, one can hardly make sense of one’s
The landmarks of BRJ “Jhāna” are only recognized later, after emerging and reviewing.
This, within any BRJ “Jhāna”, not only one cannot move, but also one cannot know where one is nor where to move to!
So how does movement from BRJ “Jhāna” to BRJ “Jhāna” occur?
A Four-Roomed House.
Imagine a four-roomed house with only one entrance door.
Going through that door, one-enters the first room.
One must go through the first room to enter the second room, go through the second room to enter the third room, and one must go through the third room to enter the fourth room.
The to go out from the fourth room one must leave via the third room, to go out from the third room one must leave via the second room, to out from the second room one must leave via the first room, and to go out from the first room one must leave by the same door through which one came in.
Now suppose that the floor surface in all the four rooms was so slippery that it is impossible to add to the momentum within the house.
Thus, if one entered the house with only a little momentum, one will slide to a halt within the first room.
With a great amount of entry momentum, one may come to a stop in the second, or even the third room.
Then with yet more entry momentum, one may reach the fourth room.
Such a simile well describes how moving from BRJ “Jhāna” to BRJ “Jhāna” actually occurs.
Within a BRJ “Jhāna” there is no control, like the very slippery floor inside the house that make adding to the momentum impossible.
If one enters the doorway into BRJ “Jhāna”s with a little momentum, one stops in the first BRJ “Jhāna”.
With greater momentum, one reaches the second or third BRJ “Jhāna”.
And, with yet more entry momentum, one may reach the fourth BRJ “Jhāna”.
The entry momentum can only be generated outside of BRJ “Jhāna”, when control is possible.
The type of “momentum” referred to her is the momentum of letting go.
Letting Go is Cultivated Before Entering BRJ “Jhāna”.
Letting go is cultivated before entering BRJ “Jhāna”, to the point where it becomes an involuntary inclination of the mind, a strong natural tendency.
If one enters the doorway into the BRJ “Jhāna”s with little more than adequate “letting go momentum,” one will stop in the first BRJ “Jhāna”.
With a stronger automatic tendency to let go, one reaches the second BRJ “Jhāna” or third BRJ “Jhāna”.
With a very strong inclination to letting go, one attains to the fourth BRJ “Jhāna”.
However, one cannot increase the strength of letting go momentum while inside the BRJ “Jhāna”s.
Whatever one enters with is all that one has.
Reviewing the Experience of Bliss.
One can cultivate this momentum of letting go outside of BRJ “Jhāna” by reviewing the experiences of bliss and by recognizing the obstacles called attachments.
When the mind recognizes how superior is the happiness in states of letting go, the inclination to more letting go grows ever stronger.
Sometimes I have taught my stubborn mind by thinking, “See mind!
See! See how much more bliss is in the states of letting go!
Don’t forget mind!
The mind then leans ever more strongly to letting go.
Or the mind can recognize the obstacles to deeper bliss, being the various levels of attachment that block letting go, and these hinder more bliss.
When the mind learns, through reviewing, to recognize the enemies to its own happiness—the attachments—then its inclination to letting go becomes empowered by wisdom.
This is how one can cultivate the momentum of letting go outside of BRJ “Jhāna”, so that one may enter the BRJ “Jhāna” with great letting go and reach the deeper BRJ “Jhāna”s.
3.3.11 - Each BRJ “Jhāna” is Within the Other
Another way to look at how one moves from BRJ “Jhāna” to BRJ “Jhāna” is with the simile of the thousand-petalled lotus.
The petals on a thousand-petalled lotus open up in order, in strict succession, only after being warmed by the sun.
The first BRJ “Jhāna” can be compared to the rare and delicate 993rd row of petals.
Just as the 993rd row of petals, now being warmed by the sun, holds and conceals within the even more fragrant 994th row of petals, so to the rare and delicate first BRJ “Jhāna”, now being warmed by letting go, holds and conceals within it the even more blissful second BRJ “Jhāna”.
When this 993rd row of petals eventually opens up, then the 994th row of petals appears in its center.
In the same way, when first BRJ “Jhāna” eventually opens up, then the second BRJ “Jhāna” appears in its center.
Thus the second BRJ “Jhāna” is actually within the First BRJ “Jhāna”, the third BRJ “Jhāna” within the second BRJ “Jhāna”, and the fourth BRJ “Jhāna” within the third BRJ “Jhāna”.
To put it another way, in the simile of the four-roomed house, the rooms are concentric.
Thus one does not come out from the first BRJ “Jhāna” to go next to the second BRJ “Jhāna”.
Instead, one goes deeper into the first BRJ “Jhāna” to into the second BRJ “Jhāna”, deeper into the second BRJ “Jhāna” to get to the third BRJ “Jhāna”, and deeper in to the third BRJ “Jhāna” to enter the fourth BRJ “Jhāna”.
The next level of BRJ “Jhāna” always lies within the present BRJ “Jhāna”.
3.3.12 - The Power of Aditthana
When one has had much experience of BRJ “Jhāna”, one can move from BRJ “Jhāna” to BRJ “Jhāna” using the power of Aditthana.
In this context, the Pali word Aditthana represents the Buddhist way of programming the mind.
At the beginning of one’s meditation, one can program the mind to enter a specified BRJ “Jhāna” for a pre-determined length of time.
Of course, this only works for one who is very familiar with the destination and is well acquainted with the rout there.
This is the method that every accomplished meditators use.
It is like setting the automatic pilot shortly after take0off. However, even for such accomplished meditators, the specified BRJ “Jhāna” is reached by traversing the same path.
For example, if one programs the mind to enter the third BRJ “Jhāna”, then it must pass through the first BRJ “Jhāna” and then pass through the second BRJ “Jhāna” to enter the third BRJ “Jhāna”, although it may pass through these lower BRJ “Jhāna”s quickly.
3.3.13 - THE IMMATERIAL ATTAINMENTS
In the simile of the thousand petalled lotus cited above, the 993rd row of petals represents the first BRJ “Jhāna”, the 994th row the second BRJ “Jhāna”, the 995th and 996th rows of petals should represent the third and fourth BRJ “Jhāna”s.
However, you may be wondering what do the 997th, 998th, 999th and 1,000th rows of petals represent?
Beyond the four BRJ “Jhāna”s lies the four immaterial attainments.
It is noteworthy that the Buddha never called these attainments BRJ “Jhāna” in the suttas.
Only the commentaries, compiled a thousand years later, call them BRJ “Jhāna”.
The Four Immaterial Attainments are:
1. The mind-base of unlimited space;
2. The mind-base of unlimited consciousness;
3. The mind-base of nothingness;
4. The mind-base of neither-perception-nor-non-perception.
Just as the fourth BRJ “Jhāna” lies within the third BRJ “Jhāna”, so the first immaterial attainment lies within the fourth BRJ “Jhāna”, the second immaterial attainment lies within the first immaterial attainment and so on like the rows of petals of the lotus.
Thus, of necessity, all four immaterial attainments possess the following features carried over from the BRJ “Jhāna”s.
1. The mind remains inaccessible to the world of the five senses and all knowledge of the body;
2. The mind persists in rock-like stillness, incapable of forming any thought or making any plans, for long periods of time;
3. 3. Comprehension is so frozen that one can hardly make sense, at the time of one’s experience.
Comprehension is achieved after emerging;
4. The pure equanimity and mindfulness of the fourth BRJ “Jhāna” remains as a foundation for each immaterial attainment.
Just as the first three BRJ “Jhāna”s take different forms of bliss as their object, and the fourth BRJ “Jhāna” takes a sublime state of pure peace as its object, so the immaterial attainments each take a pure mental object.
The perceptions of these objects I call “mind-bases,” since they are the mental platforms on which the immaterial attainments rest.
These unmoving mind-bases get ever more refined, and empty, the higher the immaterial attainment.
Back in the fourth BRJ “Jhāna”, mindfulness is powerful, yet still, just looking on at the perfection of peace—way beyond the world of the five-senses and precisely one-pointed.
In states of precise one-pointedness, ordinary concepts derive from the world are squeezed out, and other unworldly perceptions replace them.
For example, when a meditator in the early stages becomes perfectly focused in the present moment, one-pointed in time, ordinary concepts of time are squeezed out, and other unworldly perceptions of time replace them.
When one is fully centered within the present moment, on the one had it feels timeless and on the other hand it feels as if one has all the time in the world.
Within the point of absolute now, time is without edges, undefined and immeasurable.
It is infinite and nothing at the same time.
It is unlimited (anatta), The experience of one-pointedness in time, seen early in the meditation, can be the key to understanding the simultaneous sense of infinity and emptiness in the more profound states of one-pointedness called the immaterial attainments.
From the fourth BRJ “Jhāna”, the mind can look into the perfect peace to perceive absolute one-pointedness in space.
This is one of the features of the fourth BRJ “Jhāna” always available for inspection, as it were, and it is the doorway into the immaterial attainments.
In this absolute one-pointedness, space it perceived as both infinite and empty, a sort of no-space.
Because it is perceived as empty of that which usually limits space, material form (rupa), this attainment and those following are called immaterial (arupa) attainments.
3.3.14 - The Mind-Base of Unlimited Space
The first immaterial attainment, then, is the mind-base of unlimited space, perceived as both infinite and empty, immeasurable and undefined.
This is the perception that fills the mind thoroughly and persists without blinking for the long duration of the attainment.
Mindfulness, powerful, still and purified, looks on at this perception with utter contentment.
3.3.15 - The Mind-Base of Unlimited Consciousness
Within the perception of unlimited space lies the perception of no-space, of space losing its meaning.
When the mind attends to this feature within the first immaterial attainment, space disappears and is replaced by perception of absolute one-pointedness of consciousness.
As indicated above by the common experience of one-pointedness of time, in the state that perceives one-pointedness of consciousness, consciousness simultaneously feels infinite and empty, immeasurable and undefined.
One has entered the second immaterial attainment of the mind-base of unlimited consciousness.
This is the perception that fills the mind completely and persists without wavering for even longer periods of time.
3.3.16 - The Mind-Base of Nothingness
Within the perception of unlimited consciousness lies the perception of no-consciousness, of consciousness now losing it meaning as well.
When the mind focuses on this feature within the second immaterial attainment, all perception of consciousness disappears.
Perceptions of material form and space have already disappeared, and so all that one is left with is the one-pointedness of nothingness.
One has entered the
third immaterial attainment of the mind-base of nothingness.
This is the concept that fills the mind totally, persisting unchanged for yet longer periods of time.
The Mind-Base of Neither-Perception-Nor-Non-Perception.
Within the perception of nothingness lies the perception of not even nothing!
If the mind is subtle enough to see this feature, then the perception of nothingness disappears and is replaced by the perception of neither perception nor no perception.
All that one can say about this fourth immaterial attainment is that it is, in fact, a perception (AN
9s,42). In the simile of the thousand petalled lotus, this state is represented by the 1,000th layer of petals, still closed, with all the 999
other layers of petals fully open.
The 1000th petal is almost a non-petal, being the most subtle and sublime of all.
For it clasps within its gossamer fabric the famous “Jewel in the heart of the lotus,” Nibbana.
3.3.17 - NIBBANA, THE END OF ALL PERCEPTION
For within the perception of neither perception of neither perception nor non-perception lies the end of all perception, the cessation of all that is felt or perceived, Nibbana.
If the mind attends to this, the mind stops.
When the mind starts again one gains the attainment of Arahant or anagami, these are the only possibilities.
The Sequence of Gradual Cessation
Another way of viewing the BRJ “Jhāna”s and the four immaterial attainments is by placing them in the sequence of gradual cessation.
The process that leads into the first BRJ “Jhāna” is the cessation of the world of the five senses together with the body and all doing.
The path from the first BRJ “Jhāna” to the fourth BRJ “Jhāna” is the cessation of that part of the mind that recognizes pleasure and displeasure.
The road from the fourth BRJ “Jhāna” to the fourth immaterial attainment is the cessation, almost, of the remaining activity of the mind called “knowing.”
And the last step is the cessation of the last vestige of knowing.
Through BRJ “Jhāna”s and immaterial attainments, first one lets go of the body and the world, of the five senses.
Then one lets go of the doer.
Then one lets go of pleasure and displeasure.
The one lets go of space and consciousness.
Then one lets go all knowing.
When one lets go of an object, the object disappears, ceases.
It is remains one hasn’t let go.
Through letting go of all knowing, knowing ceases.
This is the cessation of everything, including the mind.
This is the place where consciousness no longer manifests, where earth, water, fire and air find no footing, where name-and-form are wholly destroyed, (DN 11,85). Emptiness.
The “jewel” in the heart of the lotus.
3.3.18 - FINAL WORDS
In this part on the BRJ “Jhāna”s, I have led you on a journey from theory through to practice up to the high mountain ranges where lie the great summits that are the BRJ “Jhāna”s, and up higher to the rarefied peaks that are the immaterial attainments.
Though the tour may seem way beyond you today, tomorrow you may find yourself well on the rout.
So it is helpful even today to have this road map before you.
Moreover, these BRJ “Jhāna”s are like immensely rich gold mines, but carrying the most precious of insights rather than one of the most precious metals.
They supply the raw materials, the unexpected data, which build those special insights that open one’s eyes to Nibbana.
The BRJ “Jhāna”s are jewels that adorn the face of Buddhism.
Moreover, not only are they essential to the experience of Enlightenment, they are possible today!
I conclude this part with the words of the Lord Buddha:
Natthi BRJ “Jhāna”m Apannassa
There is no BRJ “Jhāna” without wisdom
Panna Natthi Ajhayato
There is no wisdom without BRJ “Jhāna”
Yamhi BRJ “Jhāna”n Ca Panna ca
But for one with both BRJ “Jhāna” and wisdom
Sa Ve Nibbana Santike
They are in the presence of Nibbana
1 Although sound can disturb the first BRJ “Jhāna”, the fact is that when one perceives the sound, one is no longer in BRJ “Jhāna”.
Ajahn Brahmavamso was born in London in 1951. He regarded himself a Buddhist at the age of 17 through his reading of Buddhist books while still at school.
His interest in Buddhism and meditation flourished while studying theoretical physics at Cambridge University.
After completing his degree and teaching for a year, he traveled to Thailand to become a monk.
He was ordained in Bangkok at the age of 23 by the Abbot at Wat Saket.
He subsequently spent 9 years studying and training in the forest meditation tradition of the Venerable Ajahn Chah.
In 1983, he was asked to assist in the establishing of a forest monastery near Perth, Western Australia.
Ajahn Brahm now is the Abbot of Bodhinyana Monastery and the Spiritual Director of the Buddhist Society of Western Australia.
He is also the Spiritual patron of the Buddhist Fellowship in Singapore.
3.3.19 - DEDICATION
Dedicated to the well being and peace of all beings This FREE book distribution with permission granted by Ajahn Brahmavamso
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