Revised May 30, 2018; February 10, 2020
1. As we discuss in the “Bhāvanā (Meditation)” section, meditation is of two types.
- One is done at all times, being “morally mindful.” Then the other type is formal meditation, where one contemplates a given “procedure” while sitting down or walking.
- In Buddhist meditation, the first is more important than the second.
2. Then there are three possible outcomes of meditation: Samādhi, jhāna, and magga phala.
- One can get to Samādhi by focusing the mind on one thing. Frequently a mind jumps incessantly from one thing to another. A sound pulls the mind one way, a sight another way, smell, etc., and the mind itself likes to jump around.
- When one is thinking about a greedy or angry thought, the “scatteredness” of the mind is intensified.
- Regardless of the cause, the “scatteredness” makes the mind tired.
What Is Samādhi?
3. Samādhi (“sama”+”adhi” where “sama” means “equilibrium” and “adhi” means “dominance”) means turning the mind towards an equilibrium state away from distractions (especially greedy, angry, or foolish thoughts.)
- The opposite of the Pali word “sama” is “visama.” When either the body or the mind gets “away from equilibrium,” that is “visama” and we become uncomfortable.
- A good analogy is the following. We become restless if our environment becomes too hot. Then we try to find a way to cool ourselves. We get very uncomfortable if we are in a “too cold” environment also. Then we try to be warm by turning on a heater or wrapping ourselves with blankets.
- However, if the room temperature is moderate and away from both those extremes, then we feel comfortable. We feel contended.
- A similar effect takes place when the mind stops going to the extremes. A greedy or angry mind is in a “visama” state and is away from samādhi.
- However, if the focus is a dhamma concept, then the mind moves toward “equilibrium.”
Getting to Samādhi
4. Unless one has experienced Samādhi, or especially jhāna, one may not even realize that one’s mind is always under stress. Of course, when a deadline approaches and the mind goes to overdrive, we notice that. One can truly appreciate this only after experiencing the tranquility of a focused mind. The mind gets “sensitized” as one gets to Samādhi.
- Most people do not realize how “inherently stressed” our minds are. We get used to things and do not feel even hardships. Only when we get to a “better state,” we feel the difference, and then it is hard to go back to the “lower state.”
- For example, one who has lived a life of poverty has gotten used to it. However, if one can upgrade the lifestyle to a higher level, then one can FEEL the difference, and now it will be tough to go back. One becomes “sensitized.” We will encounter this word “sensitized” in many cases when we discuss the Satipatthāna sutta.
5. There are three kinds of Samādhi when categorized according to morality, i.e., what the focus is on. There is micchā Samādhi and two types of Sammā Samādhi, one mundane (for living a better life) and one supermundane (focusing on Nibbāna).
- A suicide bomber who is assembling a bomb must focus on his task. Otherwise, he will blow himself up. He gets into a micchā samādhi.
- Most people meditate to get some “peace of mind” to get some relief from the pressures of a hectic life by focusing on the breath. That is a form of samādhi. When one focuses on a neutral object, like breath, one gets to such a “neutral kind of Samādhi.”
- The best kind of samādhi is attained when one focuses on a dhamma concept, which takes the mind off pancanivarana. See, “Key to Calming the Mind – The Five Hindrances.”
- There is a post on different types of Samādhi: “What is Samādhi? – Three Kinds of Mindfulness“.
Jhāna Is a Deeper Level of Samādhi
6. Jhāna is a deeper level of Samādhi, where the mind really gets absorbed in the object (ārammana). Then the tranquility is optimized, and there are eight levels of jhānā. The first four are the ones experienced by beings in the 16 realms of the rupa lōka, and the last four in the 4 realms of the arupa lōka.
- Jhānā CANNOT be attained via micchā Samādhi.
- The jhānā attained via Sammā Samādhi are two types, corresponding to Ariya jhānā and anāriya jhānā; see, “Power of the Human Mind – Anariya or Mundane Jhānā” and “Power of the Human Mind- Ariya Jhānā. “
- Even though one can get to anāriya jhānā by just focusing on the breath, it does require one to live a moral life. One who is not at least following the conventional five precepts will not be able to cultivate them; see, “Jhānic Experience in Detail – Sāmaññaphala Sutta (DN 2)“.
- Of course, the uniqueness of Buddhist meditation is the supermundane Sammā Samādhi, leading to Ariya jhānā, and the four stages of Nibbāna.
- However, one could be distracted from attaining a magga phala if one starts enjoying anāriya jhānā. Therefore, it is best NOT to attain anāriya jhānā. However, some people can easily get to anāriya jhānā if they had cultivated jhānā in recent previous lives.
Permanent Removal of Suffering Attained Only With Magga Phala
7. Thus the highest levels of “peace of mind” are at the four stages of Nibbāna or magga phala: Sōtapanna, Sakadāgāmi, Anāgāmi, and Arahant. However, it is not necessary to PRACTICE Ariya jhānā to attain magga phala.
- For example, one could attain the Sōtapanna stage without practicing jhānā. What is needed for achieving the Sōtapanna stage is upacāra/anulōma samādhi; see, “Citta Vithi – Processing of Sense Inputs.”
- Furthermore, unless one has practiced it before, a Sōtapanna cannot automatically get into a jhāna. However, it will be easy for a Sōtapanna to attain jhānā with practice.
- We need to remember that jhānā are mental states of higher-lying Brahma realms. They still belong to the 31 realms of “this world.” One needs to lose cravings for jhanic pleasures to attain the Arahanthood.
Jhāna Not Necessary to Attain Magga Phala
8. What is required to attain magga phala is samādhi. Jhānā are NOT necessary to achieve magga phala.
- We know that there are jāti Sōtapannas born in the human realm. But if a jhāna were REQUIRED to attain the Sōtapanna stage, then that person WOULD NOT be born in the human realm, but in a Brahma-realm corresponding that jhāna. Waharaka Thero emphasizes that in the following desanā:
- Furthermore, just by listening to correct Buddha Dhamma and/or attaining jhāna does not make one become a Sōtapanna. The Thero points out that Devadatta ended up in an apāya, even though he had not only cultivated jhāna but had supernormal powers (iddhi) too. Devadatta listened to many discourses from the Buddha but was not able to attain the Sōtapanna stage of Nibbāna.
Getting to Ariya jhānā – Only After Anāgāmi Stage
9. One gets to anariya jhāna by SUPPRESSING kāma rāga and patigha. One gets to Ariya jhāna by REMOVING kāma rāga and patigha. See, “Power of the Human Mind- Ariya Jhānā. “ But before one can use this technique to attain Ariya jhānā, one needs to attain the Anāgāmi stage.
- One sits down in a quiet place and first contemplates on anicca, dukkha, anatta nature. One then keeps repeating the following (or the English translation; what matters is one has to have the understanding.) “Etaṃ santaṃ etaṃ paṇītaṃ, yadidaṃ sabbasaṅkhārasamatho sabbūpadhipaṭinissaggo taṇhākkhayo virāgo nirodho nibbānan’ti.” That means, “It is the only peace, the only happiness: prevent sankhara from arising (via) eliminating tanha and excess greed and thus stopping the arising of defilements, which is Nibbāna.“
- The reciting of a certain phrase (meaningfully, with understanding) is called a “kammatthāna“. A given meditation technique is also called a kammatthāna.
- Two important points. (1). One can either say it out quietly or say it in one’s mind, (2) This is not chanting; just saying the words will be just a waste of time. One needs to comprehend, to some extent, what is meant by anicca, dukkha, anatta, i.e., some idea of what Nibbāna (or “cooling down” is).
- If one has experienced any kind of “cooling down,” it is best to recall that while saying the above phrase. For example, if one does not flare up like one used to, or if one has less attachment to things, that is the best to recall.
- Unlike the Sōtapanna stage, it is relatively easy to confirm the attainment of Ariya jhāna. One must have REMOVED kāma rāga (craving for sensual pleasures, including the urge for sex) even to attain the first Ariya jhāna.
10. Thus reaching magga phala and Ariya jhānā REQUIRE the understanding of anicca, dukkha, anatta, the Three Characteristics of existence. Without the “correct vision” or Sammā ditthi at some level, the mind does not see the unfruitful nature of sense pleasures or the “superiority” of nirāmisa sukha.
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