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JHANA – Reading for Ajahn Geoff’s 2018 Retreat

JHANA

§ 1. Sister Dhammadinnā: “Singleness [ek’aggatā] of mind is concentration; the

four establishings of mindfulness are its themes; the four right exertions are its

requisites; and any cultivation, development, & pursuit of these dhammas is its

development.” — MN 44

§ 2. “And what is right mindfulness? There is the case where a monk remains

focused on the body in & of itself—ardent, alert, & mindful—subduing greed &

distress with reference to the world. He remains focused on feelings in & of

themselves… the mind in & of itself… mental qualities in & of themselves—ardent,

alert, & mindful—subduing greed & distress with reference to the world. This is

called right mindfulness.” — DN 22

§ 3. “And how is mindfulness of in-&-out breathing developed & pursued so as

to bring the four establishings of mindfulness to their culmination?

“[1] On whatever occasion a monk breathing in long discerns, ‘I am breathing in

long’; or breathing out long, discerns, ‘I am breathing out long’; or breathing in short,

discerns, ‘I am breathing in short’; or breathing out short, discerns, ‘I am breathing

out short’; trains himself, ‘I will breathe in…&… out sensitive to the entire body’;

trains himself, ‘I will breathe in…&…out calming bodily fabrication’: On that

occasion the monk remains focused on the body in & of itself—ardent, alert, &

mindful—subduing greed & distress with reference to the world. I tell you, monks,

that this—the in-&-out breath—is classed as a body among bodies, which is why the

monk on that occasion remains focused on the body in & of itself—ardent, alert, &

mindful—subduing greed & distress with reference to the world.

“[2] On whatever occasion a monk trains himself, ‘I will breathe in…&…out

sensitive to rapture’; trains himself, ‘I will breathe in…&…out sensitive to pleasure’;

trains himself, ‘I will breathe in…&…out sensitive to mental fabrication’; trains

himself, ‘I will breathe in…&…out calming mental fabrication’: On that occasion the

monk remains focused on feelings in & of themselves—ardent, alert, & mindful—

subduing greed & distress with reference to the world. I tell you, monks, that this—

careful attention to in-&-out breaths—is classed as a feeling among feelings,6 which

is why the monk on that occasion remains focused on feelings in & of themselves—

ardent, alert, & mindful—subduing greed & distress with reference to the world.

“[3] On whatever occasion a monk trains himself, ‘I will breathe in…&…out

sensitive to the mind’; trains himself, ‘I will breathe in…&…out gladdening the

mind’; trains himself, ‘I will breathe in…&…out steadying the mind’; trains himself,

‘I will breathe in…&…out releasing the mind’: On that occasion the monk remains

focused on the mind in & of itself—ardent, alert, & mindful—subduing greed &

distress with reference to the world. I don’t say that there is mindfulness of in-&-out

breathing in one of lapsed mindfulness and no alertness, which is why the monk on

that occasion remains focused on the mind in & of itself—ardent, alert, & mindful—

subduing greed & distress with reference to the world.

“[4] On whatever occasion a monk trains himself, ‘I will breathe in…&…out

focusing on inconstancy’; trains himself, ‘I will breathe in…&…out focusing on

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dispassion’; trains himself, ‘I will breathe in…&…out focusing on cessation’; trains

himself, ‘I will breathe in…&…out focusing on relinquishing’: On that occasion the

monk remains focused on mental qualities in & of themselves—ardent, alert, &

mindful—subduing greed & distress with reference to the world. He who sees with

discernment the abandoning of greed & distress is one who watches carefully with

equanimity, which is why the monk on that occasion remains focused on mental

qualities in & of themselves—ardent, alert, & mindful—subduing greed & distress

with reference to the world.

“This is how mindfulness of in-&-out breathing is developed & pursued so as to

bring the four establishings of mindfulness to their culmination.” — MN 118

§ 4. {After explaining the first tetrad of breath meditation as an example of

mindfulness immersed in the body:] “Quite secluded from sensuality, secluded from

unskillful dhammas, he [a monk] enters & remains in the first jhāna: rapture &

pleasure born of seclusion, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. He

permeates & pervades, suffuses & fills this very body with the rapture & pleasure

born of seclusion. Just as if a dexterous bathman or bathman’s apprentice would pour

bath powder into a brass basin and knead it together, sprinkling it again & again

with water, so that his ball of bath powder—saturated, moisture-laden, permeated

within & without—would nevertheless not drip; even so, the monk permeates… this

very body with the rapture & pleasure born of seclusion. There is nothing of his

entire body unpervaded by rapture & pleasure born of seclusion. And as he remains

thus heedful, ardent, & resolute, any memories & resolves related to the household

life are abandoned, and with their abandoning his mind gathers & settles inwardly,

grows unified & concentrated. This is how a monk develops mindfulness immersed

in the body.

“Then, with the stilling of directed thoughts & evaluations, he enters & remains

in the second jhāna: rapture & pleasure born of concentration, unification of

awareness free from directed thought & evaluation—internal assurance. He

permeates & pervades, suffuses & fills this very body with the rapture & pleasure

born of concentration. Just like a lake with spring-water welling up from within,

having no inflow from the east, west, north, or south, and with the skies supplying

abundant showers time & again, so that the cool fount of water welling up from

within the lake would permeate & pervade, suffuse & fill it with cool waters, there

being no part of the lake unpervaded by the cool waters; even so, the monk

permeates… this very body with the rapture & pleasure born of concentration.

There is nothing of his entire body unpervaded by rapture & pleasure born of

concentration. And as he remains thus heedful, ardent, & resolute, any memories &

resolves related to the household life are abandoned, and with their abandoning his

mind gathers & settles inwardly, grows unified & concentrated. This is how a monk

develops mindfulness immersed in the body.

“Then, with the fading of rapture, he remains equanimous, mindful, & alert, and

senses pleasure with the body. He enters & remains in the third jhāna, of which the

noble ones declare, ‘Equanimous & mindful, he has a pleasant abiding.’ He

permeates & pervades, suffuses & fills this very body with the pleasure divested of

rapture. Just as in a lotus pond, some of the lotuses, born & growing in the water,

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stay immersed in the water and flourish without standing up out of the water, so

that they are permeated & pervaded, suffused & filled with cool water from their

roots to their tips, and nothing of those lotuses would be unpervaded with cool

water; even so, the monk permeates… this very body with the pleasure divested of

rapture. There is nothing of his entire body unpervaded with pleasure divested of

rapture. And as he remains thus heedful, ardent, & resolute, any memories &

resolves related to the household life are abandoned, and with their abandoning his

mind gathers & settles inwardly, grows unified & concentrated. This is how a monk

develops mindfulness immersed in the body.

“Then, with the abandoning of pleasure & pain—as with the earlier

disappearance of joys & distresses—he enters & remains in the fourth jhāna: purity

of equanimity & mindfulness, neither-pleasure-nor-pain. He sits, permeating the

body with a pure, bright awareness. Just as if a man were sitting covered from head

to foot with a white cloth so that there would be no part of his body to which the

white cloth did not extend; even so, the monk sits, permeating the body with a pure,

bright awareness. There is nothing of his entire body unpervaded by pure, bright

awareness. And as he remains thus heedful, ardent, & resolute, any memories &

resolves related to the household life are abandoned, and with their abandoning his

mind gathers & settles inwardly, grows unified & concentrated. This is how a monk

develops mindfulness immersed in the body.” — MN 119

§ 5. What is singleness? “Monks, endowed with five dhammas, even though

listening to the True Dhamma, one is incapable of alighting on the orderliness, on

the rightness of skillful dhammas. Which five?

”One holds the talk in contempt.

“One holds the speaker in contempt.

“One holds oneself in contempt.

“One listens to the Dhamma with a scattered mind, a mind not gathered into one

[anek’agga-citto].

“One attends inappropriately.”

“Endowed with these five dhammas, even though listening to the True Dhamma,

one is incapable of alighting on the orderliness, on the rightness of skillful dhammas.

“Endowed with (the) five (opposite) dhammas when listening to the True

Dhamma, one is capable of alighting on the orderliness, on the rightness of skillful

dhammas. Which five?

“One doesn’t hold the talk in contempt.

“One doesn’t hold the speaker in contempt.

“One doesn’t hold oneself in contempt.

“One listens to the Dhamma with an unscattered mind, a mind gathered into one

[ek’agga-citto].

“One attends appropriately.”

“Endowed with these five dhammas when listening to the True Dhamma, one is

capable of alighting on the orderliness, on the rightness of skillful dhammas.” — AN

5:151

§ 6. What is sensuality? “There are these five strings of sensuality. Which five?

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Forms cognizable via the eye—agreeable, pleasing, charming, endearing, enticing, linked

to sensual desire; sounds cognizable via the ear… aromas cognizable via the nose…

flavors cognizable via the tongue… tactile sensations cognizable via the body—

agreeable, pleasing, charming, endearing, enticing, linked to sensual desire. But these

are not sensuality. They are called strings of sensuality in the discipline of the noble

ones.

“The passion for his resolves is a man’s sensuality,

not the beautiful sensual pleasures

found in the world.

The passion for his resolves is a man’s sensuality.

The beauties remain as they are in the world,

while the wise, in this regard,

subdue their desire.” — AN 6:63

§ 7. “And what, monks, are unskillful dhammas? Wrong view, wrong resolve,

wrong speech, wrong action, wrong livelihood, wrong effort, wrong mindfulness,

wrong concentration.” — SN 45:22

§ 8. “With the complete transcending of perceptions of (physical) form, with the

disappearance of perceptions of resistance, and not attending to perceptions of

multiplicity, (perceiving,) ‘Infinite space,’ he enters and remains in the dimension of

the infinitude of space.

“With the complete transcending of the dimension of the infinitude of space,

(perceiving,) ‘Infinite consciousness,’ he enters and remains in the dimension of the

infinitude of consciousness.

“With the complete transcending of the dimension of the infinitude of

consciousness, (perceiving,) ‘There is nothing,’ he enters and remains in the

dimension of nothingness.

“With the complete transcending of the dimension of nothingness, he enters and

remains in the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception.

“With the complete transcending of the dimension of neither perception nor nonperception,

he enters and remains in the cessation of perception and feeling.” — AN

9:32

§ 9. “There are these four developments of concentration. Which four? There is

the development of concentration that, when developed & pursued, leads to a

pleasant abiding in the here-&-now. There is the development of concentration

that… leads to the attainment of knowledge & vision. There is the development of

concentration that… leads to mindfulness & alertness. There is the development of

concentration that, when developed & pursued, leads to the ending of effluents.

“And what is the development of concentration that, when developed & pursued,

leads to a pleasant abiding in the here-&-now? There is the case where a monk

[enters and remains in the four jhānas]. This is the development of concentration

that… leads to a pleasant abiding in the here-&-now.

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“And what is the development of concentration that… leads to the attainment of

knowledge & vision? There is the case where a monk attends to the perception of

light and is resolved on the perception of daytime [at any hour of the day]. Day is the

same as night, night is the same as day. By means of an awareness open &

unhampered, he develops a brightened mind. This is the development of

concentration that… leads to the attainment of knowledge & vision.

“And what is the development of concentration that… leads to mindfulness &

alertness? There is the case where feelings are known to the monk as they arise,

known as they persist, known as they subside. Perceptions are known to him as they

arise, known as they persist, known as they subside. Thoughts are known to him as

they arise, known as they persist, known as they subside. This is the development of

concentration that… leads to mindfulness & alertness.

“And what is the development of concentration that… leads to the ending of

effluents? There is the case where a monk remains focused on arising & falling

away with reference to the five clinging-aggregates: ‘Such is form, such its

origination, such its disappearance. Such is feeling… Such is perception… Such are

fabrications… Such is consciousness, such its origination, such its disappearance.’

This is the development of concentration that… leads to the ending of effluents.

“These are the four developments of concentration.” — AN 4:41

§ 10. “Suppose that an archer or archer’s apprentice were to practice on a straw

man or mound of clay, so that after a while he would become able to shoot long

distances, to fire accurate shots in rapid succession, and to pierce great masses. In

the same way, there is the case where a monk… enters & remains in the first jhāna:

rapture & pleasure born of seclusion, accompanied by directed thought &

evaluation. He regards whatever phenomena there that are connected with form,

feeling, perception, fabrications, & consciousness, as inconstant, stressful, a disease,

a cancer, an arrow, painful, an affliction, alien, a disintegration, an emptiness, notself.

He turns his mind away from those phenomena, and having done so, inclines

his mind to the property of deathlessness: ‘This is peace, this is exquisite—the

pacification of all fabrications; the relinquishing of all acquisitions; the ending of

craving; dispassion; cessation; unbinding.’

“Staying right there, he reaches the ending of effluents. Or, if not, then—through

this very Dhamma-passion, this Dhamma-delight, and from the total wasting away

of the five lower fetters [self-identity views, uncertainty, grasping at habits &

practices, sensual passion, and irritation]—he is due to arise spontaneously [in the

Pure Abodes], there to be totally unbound, never again to return from that world.…

[Similarly with the second, third, and fourth jhāna.] …

“Suppose that an archer or archer’s apprentice were to practice on a straw man or

mound of clay, so that after a while he would become able to shoot long distances, to

fire accurate shots in rapid succession, and to pierce great masses. In the same way,

there is the case where a monk… enters & remains in the dimension of the

infinitude of space. He regards whatever phenomena there that are connected with

feeling, perception, fabrications, & consciousness, as inconstant, stressful, a disease,

a cancer, an arrow, painful, an affliction, alien, a disintegration, an emptiness, notself.

He turns his mind away from those phenomena, and having done so, inclines

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his mind to the property of deathlessness: ‘This is peace, this is exquisite—the

pacification of all fabrications; the relinquishing of all acquisitions; the ending of

craving; dispassion; cessation; unbinding.’

“Staying right there, he reaches the ending of effluents. Or, if not, then—through

this very Dhamma-passion, this very Dhamma-delight, and from the total wasting

away of the five lower fetters—he is due to arise spontaneously [in the Pure

Abodes], there to be totally unbound, never again to return from that world.…

[Similarly with the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness and the dimension

of nothingness.]

“Thus, as far as the perception-attainments go, that is as far as gnosispenetration

goes. As for these two dimensions—the attainment of the dimension of

neither perception nor non-perception & the attainment of the cessation of

perception & feeling—I tell you that they are to be rightly explained by those monks

who are meditators, skilled at attainment, skilled at attainment-emergence, who

have attained & emerged in dependence on them.” — AN 9:36

§ 11. “And I have also taught the step-by-step cessation of fabrications. When

one has attained the first jhāna, speech has ceased. When one has attained the

second jhāna, directed thoughts & evaluations [verbal fabrications] have ceased.

When one has attained the third jhāna, rapture has ceased. When one has attained

the fourth jhāna, in-and-out breathing [bodily fabrication] has ceased. When one

has attained the dimension of the infinitude of space, the perception of forms has

ceased. When one has attained the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness,

the perception of the dimension of the infinitude of space has ceased. When one has

attained the dimension of nothingness, the perception of the dimension of the

infinitude of consciousness has ceased. When one has attained the dimension of

neither-perception nor non-perception, the perception of the dimension of

nothingness has ceased. When one has attained the cessation of perception &

feeling, perception & feeling [mental fabrications] have ceased. When a monk’s

effluents have ended, passion has ceased, aversion has ceased, delusion has ceased.”

SN 36:11

AJAAN LE E

Now we will summarize the methods of breath meditation under the headings of

jhāna.

Jhāna means to be absorbed in or focused on a single object or preoccupation, as

when we deal with the breath.

1. The first jhāna has five factors. (a) Directed thought (vitakka): Think of the

breath until you can keep it in mind without getting distracted. (b) Singleness of

preoccupation (ekaggatārammaṇa): Keep the mind with the breath. Don’t let it stray

after other concepts or preoccupations. Watch over your thoughts so that they deal

only with the breath to the point where the breath becomes comfortable. (The mind

becomes one, at rest with the breath.) (c) Evaluation (vicāra): Gain a sense of how to

let this comfortable breath sensation spread and connect with the other breath

sensations in the body. Let these breath sensations spread until they’re

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interconnected all over the body. Once the body has been soothed by the breath,

feelings of pain will grow calm. The body will be filled with good breath energy. (The

mind is focused exclusively on issues connected with the breath.)

These three qualities must be brought together to bear on the same stream of

breathing for the first jhāna to arise. This stream of breathing can then take you all

the way to the fourth jhāna.

Directed thought, singleness of preoccupation, and evaluation act as the causes.

When the causes are fully ripe, results will appear—(d) rapture (pīti), a compelling

sense of fullness and refreshment for body and mind, going straight to the heart,

independent of all else; (e) pleasure (sukha), physical ease arising from the body’s

being still and unperturbed (kāya-passaddhi); mental contentment arising from the

mind’s being at ease on its own, undistracted, unperturbed, serene, and exultant

(citta-passaddhi).

Rapture and pleasure are the results. The factors of the first jhāna thus come

down simply to two sorts: causes and results.

As rapture and pleasure grow stronger, the breath becomes more subtle. The

longer you stay focused and absorbed, the more powerful the results become. This

enables you to set directed thought and evaluation (the preliminary ground-clearing)

aside, and—relying completely on a single factor, singleness of preoccupation—you

enter the second jhāna (magga-citta, phala-citta).

2. The second jhāna has three factors: rapture, pleasure, and singleness of

preoccupation (magga-citta). This refers to the state of mind that has tasted the

results coming from the first jhāna. Once you have entered the second jhāna,

rapture and pleasure become stronger because they rely on a single cause, singleness

of preoccupation, which looks after the work from here on in: focusing on the breath

so that it becomes more and more refined, keeping steady and still with a sense of

refreshment and ease for both body and mind. The mind is even more stable and

intent than before. As you continue focusing, rapture and pleasure grow stronger

and begin to expand and contract. Continue focusing on the breath, moving the

mind deeper to a more subtle level to escape the motions of rapture and pleasure,

and you enter the third jhāna.

3. The third jhāna has two factors: pleasure and singleness of preoccupation. The

body is quiet, motionless, and solitary. No feelings of pain arise to disturb it. The

mind is solitary and still. The breath is refined, free-flowing, and broad. A radiance—

white like cotton wool—pervades the entire body, stilling all feelings of physical and

mental discomfort. Keep focused on looking after nothing but the broad, refined

breath. The mind is free: No thoughts of past or future disturb it. The mind stands

out on its own. The four properties—earth, water, fire, and wind—are in harmony

throughout the body. You could almost say that they’re pure throughout the entire

body, because the breath has the strength to control and take good care of the other

properties, keeping them harmonious and coordinated. Mindfulness is coupled with

singleness of preoccupation, which acts as the cause. The breath fills the body.

Mindfulness fills the body.

Focus on in. The mind is bright and powerful, the body is light. Feelings of

pleasure are still. Your sense of the body feels steady and even, with no slips or gaps

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in your awareness, so you can let go of your sense of pleasure. The manifestations of

pleasure grow still because the four properties are balanced and free from motion.

Singleness of preoccupation, the cause, has the strength to focus more heavily down,

taking you to the fourth jhāna.

4. The fourth jhāna has two factors: equanimity (upekkhā) and singleness of

preoccupation, or mindfulness. Equanimity and singleness of preoccupation in the

fourth jhāna are powerfully focused—solid, stable, and sure. The breath property is

absolutely quiet, free from ripples, crosscurrents, and gaps. The mind, neutral and

still, is free of all preoccupations with past and future. The breath, which forms the

present, is still, like the ocean or air when they are free from currents or waves. You

can know distant sights and sounds because the breath is even and unwavering,

acting like a movie screen that gives a clear reflection of whatever is projected onto

it. Knowledge arises in the mind: You know but stay neutral and still. The mind is

neutral and still; the breath, neutral and still; past, present, and future are all neutral

and still. This is true singleness of preoccupation, focused on the unperturbed

stillness of the breath. All parts of the breath in the body connect so that you can

breathe through every pore. You don’t have to breathe through the nostrils, because

the in-and-out breath and the other aspects of the breath in the body form a single,

unified whole. All aspects of the breath energy are even and full. The four properties

all have the same characteristics. The mind is completely still.…

The mind sheds light in all directions. The breath is radiant, the mind fully

radiant, due to the focusing of mindfulness.

The focus is strong; the light, aglow… The mind has power and authority. All

four of the frames of reference are gathered into one. There is no sense that, ‘That’s

the body… That’s a feeling… That’s the mind… That’s a mental quality.’ There’s no

sense that they’re four. This is thus called the great establishing of mindfulness,

because none of the four are in any way separate.…

Mindfulness and alertness converge into one: This is what is meant by the

unified path (ekāyana-magga)—the concord among the properties and frames of

reference, four in one, giving rise to great energy and wakefulness, the purifying

inner fire (tapas) that can thoroughly dispel all obscuring darkness.

As you focus more strongly on the radiance of the mind, power comes from

letting go of all preoccupations. The mind stands alone, like a person who has

climbed to the top of a mountain and so has the right to see in all directions. The

mind’s dwelling—the breath, which supports the mind’s prominence and freedom—is

in a heightened state, so the mind is able to see clearly the locations of all Dhamma

fabrications (saṅkhāra)—i.e., elements, khandhas, and sense media (āyatana). Just as

a person who has taken a camera up in an airplane can take pictures of practically

everything below, so a person who has reached this stage (lokavidū) can see the

world and the Dhamma as they truly are.

In addition, awareness of another sort, in the area of the mind—called liberating

insight, or the skill of release—also appears. The elements or properties of the body

acquire potency (kāya-siddhi); the mind, resilient power. When you want knowledge

of the world or the Dhamma, focus the mind heavily and forcefully on the breath. As

the concentrated power of the mind strikes the pure element, intuitive knowledge

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will spring up in that element, just as the needle of a record player, as it strikes a

record, will give rise to sounds. Once your mindfulness is focused on a pure object,

then if you want images, images will appear; if sounds, sounds will arise, whether

near or far, matters of the world or the Dhamma, concerning yourself or others, past,

present, or future—whatever you want to know. As you focus down, think of what

you want to know, and it will appear. This is ñāṇa—intuitive sensitivity capable of

knowing past, present, and future—an important level of awareness that you can

know only for yourself. The elements are like radio waves going through the air. If

your mind and mindfulness are strong, and your skills highly developed, you can use

those elements to put yourself in touch with the entire world so that knowledge can

arise within you.

When you have mastered the fourth jhāna, it can act as the basis for eight skills:

1. Vipassanā-ñāṇa: clear intuitive insight into mental and physical phenomena as

they arise, remain, and disband. This is a special sort of insight, coming solely from

training the mind. It can occur in two ways: (a) knowing without ever having

thought of the matter; and (b) knowing from having thought of the matter—but not

after a great deal of thought, as in the case of ordinary knowledge. Think for an

instant and it immediately becomes clear—just as a piece of cotton wool soaked in

gasoline, when you hold a match to it, bursts immediately into flame. The intuition

and insight here are that fast, and so differ from ordinary discernment.

2. Manomayiddhi: psychic powers—the ability to use thoughts to influence events.

3. Iddhividhī: the ability to display supra-normal powers, e.g., creating images in

certain instances that certain groups of people will be able to see.

4. Dibbasota: the ability to hear distant sounds.

5. Cetopariya-ñāṇa: the ability to know the level—good or evil, high or low—of

other people’s minds.

6. Pubbenivāsānussati-ñāṇa: the ability to remember previous lifetimes. (If you

attain this skill, you’ll no longer have to wonder as to whether death is followed by

annihilation or rebirth.)

7. Dibbacakkhu: the ability to see gross and subtle images, both near and far.

8.  savakkhaya-ñāṇa: the ability to reduce and eliminate the fermentations of

defilement in the heart.

These eight skills come exclusively from centering the mind, which is why I have

written this condensed guide to concentration and jhāna, based on the technique of

keeping the breath in mind. If you aspire to the good that can come from these

things, you should turn your attention to training your own heart and mind.

— Keeping the Breath in Mind

If you want to enter arūpa jhāna, though, here is how it’s done: Disregard the

sense of the form of the body, paying no more attention to it, so that you are left

with just a comfortable sense of space or emptiness, free from any sensation of

constriction or interference. Focus on that sense of space. To be focused in this way

is the first level of arūpa jhāna, called ākāsānañcāyatana jhāna, absorption in the

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sense of unbounded space. Your senses—sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch, and

ideation—feel spacious and clear, with no physical image acting as the focal point of

your concentration. If your powers of discernment are weak, you may mistake this

for nibbāna, but actually it’s only a level of arūpa jhāna.

Once you know and see this, go on to the next level. Let go of the sense of space

and emptiness, and pay attention to whatever preoccupation is left—but attention on

this level is neither good and discerning, nor bad and unskillful. It’s simply focused

on awareness free from activities. This level is called viññāṇañcāyatana jhāna,

absorption in the sense of unbounded consciousness. If you aren’t discerning, you

may mistake this for nibbāna, but it’s actually only a level of arūpa jhāna.

Once you know this, make your focus more refined until you come to the sense

that there is nothing at all to the mind: It’s simply empty and blank, with nothing

occurring in it at all. Fix your attention on this preoccupation with “Nothing is

happening,” until you are skilled at it. This is the third level of arūpa jhāna, which has

a very subtle sense of pleasure. Still, it’s not yet nibbāna. Instead, it’s called

ākiñcaññāyatana jhāna, absorption in the sense of nothingness.

Now focus on the subtle notion that says there’s nothing at all, until it changes.

If you don’t withdraw, but keep focused right there, only awareness will be left—but

as for awareness on this level, you can’t really say that it knows and you can’t say

that it doesn’t. You can’t say that it’s labeling anything and you can’t say that it’s not.

You can’t yet decide one way or another about your preoccupation. The mind’s

powers of focused investigation at this point are weakened, because an extremely

refined sense of pleasure has arisen. You haven’t searched for its causes and, when

you’re in this state, you can’t. So you fall into the fourth level of arūpa jhāna: nevasaññā-

nāsaññāyatana jhāna, absorption in the sense of neither perception nor nonperception,

a state in which you can’t say that there’s any act of labeling left, and

you can’t say that there’s not.

So when the mind changes from one of these stages of awareness or points of

view to another, keep close track of it. Be circumspect and fully aware of what it’s

doing and where it’s focused, without letting yourself get caught up with the refined

sense of pleasure that appears. If you can do this, you’ll be able to let go of all

saṅkhāra dhamma—all things fabricated and conditioned.

The four levels of arūpa jhāna are nothing other than the mind dwelling on the

four types of mental phenomena (nāma). In other words, the mind starts out by

getting caught up with a sense of pleasure and well-being that isn’t focused on any

object or image, but is simply an empty, spacious feeling (vedanā). This is the first

level of arūpa jhāna. On the second level, the mind is caught up with the act of

consciousness (viññāṇa). It’s focused on an empty sense of awareness as its object—

simply the act of consciousness happening over and over continuously, without end.

This is called absorption in the sense of unbounded consciousness, i.e., being stuck

on the act of consciousness. On the third level of arūpa jhāna, the mind is caught up

with the act of mental fabrication (saṅkhāra), which merely arises and passes away.

Nothing, nothing at all appears as an image, and the mind simply notices this over

and over again. This is called absorption in the sense of nothingness, i.e., being stuck

on mental fabrication. On the fourth level of arūpa jhāna, the mind is caught up with

the act of labeling (saññā), seeing that it can’t say that there is a label for what it has

11

just experienced or is now experiencing, and it can’t say that there isn’t. Thus it falls

into absorption in the sense of neither perception nor non-perception.

— The Craft of the Heart

BECOMING

§ 12. “And this, monks, is the noble truth of the origination of stress: the craving

that makes for renewed becoming [bhava]—accompanied by passion & delight,

relishing now here & now there—i.e., craving for sensuality, craving for becoming

[bhava], craving for non-becoming [vibhava].…

“Vision arose, insight arose, discernment arose, knowledge arose, illumination arose

within me with regard to things never heard before: ‘This is the noble truth of the way

of practice leading to the cessation of stress’.… ‘This noble truth of the way of practice

leading to the cessation of stress is to be developed [bhāvetabba]’.… ‘This noble truth of

the way of practice leading to the cessation of stress has been developed.” — SN 56:11

§ 13. Ven.  nanda: “This word, ‘becoming, becoming’—to what extent is there

becoming?”

The Buddha: “If there were no kamma ripening in the sensuality-property,

would sensuality-becoming be discerned?”

Ven.  nanda: “No, lord.”

The Buddha: “Thus kamma is the field, consciousness the seed, and craving the

moisture. The consciousness of living beings hindered by ignorance & fettered by

craving is established in/tuned to a lower property. Thus there is the production of

renewed becoming in the future.

“If there were no kamma ripening in the form-property, would form-becoming be

discerned?”

Ven.  nanda: “No, lord.”

The Buddha: “Thus kamma is the field, consciousness the seed, and craving the

moisture. The consciousness of living beings hindered by ignorance & fettered by

craving is established in/tuned to a middling property. Thus there is the production

of renewed becoming in the future.

“If there were no kamma ripening in the formless-property, would formlessbecoming

be discerned?”

Ven.  nanda: “No, lord.”

The Buddha: “Thus kamma is the field, consciousness the seed, and craving the

moisture. The consciousness of living beings hindered by ignorance & fettered by

craving is established in/tuned to a refined property. Thus there is the production of

renewed becoming in the future. This is how there is becoming.” — AN 3:76

§ 14. Having seen

danger

right in becoming,

and becoming

in searching for non-becoming,10

I didn’t affirm

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any kind of becoming,

or cling to any delight. — MN 49

§ 15. “Overcome by two viewpoints, some devas & human beings adhere,

other devas & human beings slip right past, while those with vision see.

“And how do some adhere? Devas & human beings delight in becoming,

enjoy becoming, are satisfied with becoming. When the Dhamma is being

taught for the sake of the cessation of becoming, their minds do not take to it,

are not calmed by it, do not settle on it, or become resolved on it. This is how

some adhere.

“And how do some slip right past? Some, feeling horrified, humiliated, &

disgusted with that very becoming, delight in non-becoming: ‘When this self,

at the break-up of the body, after death, perishes & is destroyed, and does

not exist after death, that is peaceful, that is exquisite, that is sufficiency!’

This is how some slip right past.

“And how do those with vision see? There is the case where a monk sees

what’s come to be as what’s come to be. Seeing this, he practices for

disenchantment with what’s come to be, dispassion for what’s come to be,

and the cessation of what’s come to be. This is how those with vision see.…

Those, having seen

what’s come to be [bhūta]

as what’s come to be,

and what’s gone beyond

what’s come to be,

are released in line

with what’s come to be,

through the exhaustion of craving for becoming.

If they’ve comprehended what’s come to be—

and are free from craving

for becoming & not-,

with the non-becoming

of what’s come to be—

monks come to no renewed becoming. — Iti 49

§ 16. “Develop [bhāvetha] concentration, monks. A concentrated monk discerns

things as they have come to be [bhūta]. And what does he discern as it has come to be?

“‘This is stress,’ he discerns as it has come to be. ‘This is the origination of stress…

This is the cessation of stress… This is the path of practice leading to the cessation

of stress,’ he discerns as it has come to be.” — SN 56:1