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Buddhadharma : Fall 2015
78 buDDhaDharma: the practitioner’s quarterly fall 2 0 1 5 on in the background. That’s okay— it’s the vitakka and vicara, the thinking and examining, which are still lurking in the background of the first jhana. Don’t get distracted by the background thinking; stay focused on the experi- ence of piti-sukha. Maintaining this piti-sukha experience and the focus on it constitutes the first jhana. For each of the first four jhanas, we have a simile. For this first one we find: Suppose a skilled bath attendant or his apprentice were to pour soap flakes into a metal basin, sprinkle them with water and knead them into a ball, so that the ball of soap flakes would be pervaded by moisture, encompassed by moisture, suffused by moisture inside and out and yet would not trickle. In the same way, one drenches, steeps, saturates, and suffuses one’s body with the rapture and happiness born of seclusion, so that there is no part of one’s body that is not suffused by rapture and happiness. (Digha Nikaya 2.78) This picture matches quite well the fre- netic energy of the first jhana. The first jhana is not a calm, peaceful state. Its energy is pretty intense, and this simile gives a fairly good idea of the lack of calm and of the frenetic energy that is present. There’s an effervescent qual- ity to the first jhana that can also be gleaned from the simile. The particulars of the simile are that the soap flakes are like your body, and the water is like the piti and sukha, which go throughout the body so that they are fully every- where; this occurs as you become more skilled. Your first goal should be to get the piti and sukha going, and then sus- tain them. The length of time you’ll want to stay in the first jhana is inversely pro- portional to the intensity of the piti. In other words, if the piti is very strong, you probably won’t want to stay there very long. Half a minute or so might be sufficient, maybe even less than that if the piti is seriously intense. If the piti is not so strong, you might want to stay there five to ten minutes. The timing depends on the strength of the piti. Piti comes in a number of “grades.” It can show up as momentary piti, which is like a shiver and then it’s gone. It can be minor piti, which is a little tingly feeling that’s sustaining but not very strong and is more or less in the background. Minor piti can also show up as gentle, involuntary rocking as you meditate. You might experience show- ering piti, which is when you get a burst of piti and then it’s gone, another burst and then that’s gone—the piti is aris- ing but not sustaining. It can be uplift- ing piti that makes your hair stand on end. It can give you a sense that you are levitating when it’s really strong. I have had several students report open- ing their eyes to see whether they were indeed levitating. I’m afraid no one has ever reported getting off the ground. However, uplifting piti can make you sit up very straight. The fifth kind of “This is not charity; it is an investment in humanity.” Elen B, donor YOU CAN SPONSOR A NUN FOR LESS THAN $1ADAY WWW.TNP.ORG ➤ continued from page 34