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Buddhadharma : Winter 2009
63 winter 2 00 9 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly world goes away. Physical pain goes away. You do not totally lose all sensation, but the physical senses are off in the back- ground. Wandering conscious thoughts stop. What remains are subtle thoughts of goodwill toward all beings. Your mind is filled with rapture, bliss, and one-pointedness. “Rapture,” or “joy,” is like the leaping elation you feel when you finally get what you have been after. Joy may be physical, like hair rising all over your body, or it may be momentary flashes or waves that shower you again and again. “Bliss,” or “happiness,” is like the rich, sustained satisfaction you feel when you have it. Happiness is more restrained than joy; it is a gentle state of continuing ecstasy. The Buddha offered a metaphor about a man who had been wandering in the desert and was on the verge of collapse from dehydration. Bliss is like drinking all he wants and soaking in a bath of cool water. Happiness is like relaxing in the shade of a tree afterward. The first taste of jhana is usually just a flash, but then you learn to sustain it for longer and longer periods. Eventually you can experience it whenever you meditate. It lasts as long as you have decided that it should last. In the first jhana, “joy,” or “rapture,” predominates. When you moved into the first jhana, you already put the hindrances on hold and let go of normal, conscious thought. Now it is time to let go of other things. The Second Jhana In the second jhana you drop even the subtle thought of the breath. The subtle thoughts of goodwill also drop away. Your mind is now totally free of any verbal or conceptual thoughts, even that of the breath. All that remains is a subtle reflection of thought and sensation that is more like a memory or an after-image. Joy predominates. There is happiness, mindful- ness, and concentration. The Third Jhana It is hard to imagine that you could ever get bored with joy, but something like that takes place. Rapture is akin to excitement. It is coarse compared with the more subtle happiness and one- pointedness. Your mind turns toward bliss and one-pointedness in a way that is more delicate, refined, and stable. KuanSeng Equanimity is growing. You gain a feeling of equanimity toward even the highest joy, which is really just more mate- rial substance. It is subtle, but it is still tying you to the hectic world of thought and the senses. You let it go and the joy fades away by itself. In the third jhana, the more subtle “bliss,” or “happiness,” intensifies. It fills you and floods every cell of your body. Con- fidence rises. Mindfulness and concentration strengthen. The external world may be gone but body feeling is still present and it is wonderful. The body is very still. The breath is very gentle. The Fourth Jhana In the fourth jhana you go deeper still. You turn away from all mental states that would counter total stillness, even happi- ness. The turning away happens by itself; no effort is required. Equanimity and one-pointedness get even stronger. Feelings of pain went away at the first jhana. In the fourth jhana, feelings of bodily pleasure go away, too. There is not a single thought. You feel sensation that is neither pleasant nor unpleasant. You rest in one-pointedness and equanimity. As your mind becomes progressively more still, your body and breath do the same. In the fourth jhana it feels like you have stopped breathing altogether. You cannot be roused. You emerge from the fourth jhana only at a predetermined time of your own choosing. The fourth jhana is also the state in which mindfulness and concentration unite into an intense awareness that can penetrate deeply into the nature of existence. This is the ideal state in which to directly perceive the three primary qualities of all ordinary existence: anicca, dukkha, and anatta—imper- manence, suffering, and no-self. You passed through jhanas one, two, and three, simply allowing them to develop and pass. At the fourth jhana, you pause and use the state to see deeply into impermanence, suffering, and no-self. The Immaterial Jhanas The immaterial jhanas are four states that have very little relationship to our ordinary cognitive/sensory world. Normal words simply do not apply. These are called the formless jhanas.