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Buddhadharma : Winter 2009
67 winter 2 00 9 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly strange, indefinable discontinuity that often evokes a startled, “What was that? What just happened?” Do not question such experiences. Any verbalized pondering will just lead you away from the goal. Just stay with your concentration practice. If some strange experience arises that you think might be jhana, pay no attention. When real jhana arises, you will know what it is. If all goes well, in the next moment after experiencing the spark, you gain genuine jhanic concentration and hold it. There are thoughts of generosity, friendliness, compassion that you have already cultivated by overcoming greed, hatred, and cru- elty—though they are not really “thoughts.” You experience just the shadow of the generosity, friendliness, and compassion that are holding greed, hatred, and aversion at bay. The joy, happiness, and concentration in jhana have now restrained drowsiness, restlessness, and doubt. Even though your concentration in the first jhana is not very deep, you enjoy the freedom from all the hustles and bus- tles of worldly life. You attain the first jhana with the beautiful pleasant feeling that arises from having restrained hindrances and practicing metta. Your joy and happiness arise from being separated from all your physical worldly activities and from the hindrances that arise from those things. Now you can take a deep breath and relax. You can sit down quietly and enjoy the solitude and peace. For further reading on the jhana states, see the newly published Focused and Fearless: A Meditator’s Guide to States of Deep Joy, Calm, and Clarity by Shaila Catherine (Wisdom publications), and Practicing the Jhanas by Stephen Snyder and tina rasmussen (Shambhala publications). Open-Ended Vessel