using the arrow buttons.
by clicking on the page.
the page around when zoomed in by dragging it.
the zoom using the slider when zoomed-in.
by clicking on the zoomed-in page.
by entering text in the search field, and select "This Issue" or "All Issues"
by clicking on thumbnails to select pages, and then press the print button.
displays sections with thumbnails and descriptions.
displays a slider of thumbnails. Click on a page to jump.
allows you to browse the full archive.
about your subscription?
Buddhadharma : Fall 2013
50 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY FALL 2 0 1 3 The progression through the jhanas is from the coarse to the subtle but also from the com- plex to the simple. Factors are abandoned, not added. With the removal of the coarse, the subtle is no longer masked but rather manifests natu- rally. This progression is precisely mirrored in the cosmological vision. In this way, the outer world becomes a powerful metaphor that helps us understand the inner world. In the cosmology of Mount Meru, all the complexity and drama occurs in the kamava- cara, the realm of sense desire. This realm is vast and vastly differentiated, from the torments of niraya (hell) and the miseries of the petas (hun- gry ghosts), to the colorful world of animals and humans, through the six levels of sensual heaven. The world of the senses encompasses all of it: pain, pleasure, compassion, and conflict. It is so vivid and overwhelming within that realm that it is hard to imagine any other mode of being. If, however, we were situated in the lowest level of the brahma worlds, all this would seem very far away. From the perspective of the brah- mas, a panorama of one thousand world sys- tems lies at a vast distance below. How much more subtle, more simple and purified, is their existence now! They cannot even imagine want- ing to enter into the turmoil and suffering below them. It is the same for the jhanic mind in regard to the experience of the senses. As one ascends through the brahma levels, the view becomes ever more expansive, encompassing one trillion world systems. Buddhist cosmology, viewed as a metaphor, can help us understand the development of deep meditation. For example, there is, in my opin- ion, a problem with the translation of samadhi as “concentration.” Meditators think they need to narrow the mind onto the object, and this is exactly the wrong way to go. The mind with strong samadhi is an expansive one; the mind of a brahma encompasses a trillion worlds! Samadhi is explained in the old texts as “non- wavering,” which has a different feel altogether. The world of the brahma gods is calm and peace- ful but it is certainly not constricted. Instead of “placing awareness on the object,” we could think in terms of opening the mind to the object, nonwavering in a great vastness. There are other ways that the study of the brahma realms can help us understand the nuances of the teachings about jhana. For exam- ple, it might help clarify the distinction between piti (rapture) and sukha (bliss) to contemplate part of a list in the Anguttara that describes “the best of” in various categories. The best sound in the universe is the cry of the Abhasara brah- mas, the highest of the second tier, the level of jhana where piti predominates. These gods con- tinually cry out, Aho Sukho! “Oh, the happi- ness!” However, the best joy in the universe is experienced by the Subhakinna brahmas of the third tier, corresponding to the jhana marked by sukha. These gods “rejoice in silence.” The cosmology of the Mount Meru world system can also help us understand what might be called the psychological teachings. Consider the nature of perception, sanna. It is hard to shake the naive realist assumption that when we look at a forest, we are seeing trees. But we are not. All we are “seeing” with the physical eye is color and shape. It is perception, a mental fac- tor, that imagines the trees. We essentially dream the world into being. The difference between daytime and nighttime dreaming is that when we are awake, our dreams are constrained by data received through the senses, which percep- tion uses as its raw material. In the nonhuman realms, this constraint is lessened. The devas of the fifth sensual heaven, the “Gods who Delight in Creation,” simply imagine whatever they like and it manifests. Another example of how this works is found in the Bhuridatta Jataka, which tells the story about the naga king Bhuridatta. The nagas are powerful and magical serpent beings who live in wonderful palaces below the sea. On a few occasions they have invited righteous humans to visit them and there enjoy all the “five strands of sense pleasure.” In this particular story, there is a thieving rascal who manages to fool the naga king into thinking him a saintly person. He goes to the naga world and is installed in a palace but after a year is unable to enjoy it. As a result