Power of the Human Mind – Ariya Jhanas

1. We saw in the previous post that  Anariya jhanas are attained via focusing the mind on ANY thought object (vitakka), whether it is breath, a kasina object, or any other religious symbol of any religion, and then keeping the mind there (vicara or sustained application).

2. Whereas the Anariya or mundane jhanas are attained by SUPPRESSING the five hindrances via concentrating on mundane objects (breath, a kasina object, etc) , Ariya jhanas are attained via using Nibbana as the arammana (thought object); actually, Nibbana is not “an object” in this world, so what is meant here is to recall some “cooling down” that one has experienced.

  • One can start “cooling down” first by living a moral life and by staying away from dasa akusala; see, “Living Dhamma”.
  • When one comprehends the Three Characteristics (Tilakkhana) of anicca, dukkha, anatta at least to some extent, there is definitely more permanent “cooling down” over time. One can look back and notice such a “cooling down”. For example, one may not “flare up” at the slightest provocation as one used to, or one may have lost cravings to some extent, etc. That is what needs to be recalled while cultivating Ariya jahna; see #4 below for the kammatthana.

3. Thus the key is to first experience some “cooling down” by comprehending the Three Characteristics of “this world” of 31 realms. One examines the real life situations and understands that no lasting happiness is possible, either in this life or anywhere in these 31 realms; see. “Anicca, Dukkha, Anatta“, and “Why is Correct Interpretation of Anicca, Dukkha, Anatta so Important?“.  This gives rise to niramisa sukha (see, “Three Kinds of Happiness – What is Niramisa Sukha?“) of Nibbana, i.e., some sort of a “cooling down”, over time. How long it takes to experience some “cooling down” will depend on the person.

4. When one has experienced some “cooling down” that one can recall, then one can use it in a kammatthana to cultivate jhana.  This procedure is more effective for those who have attained the Sotapanna stage. One can sit in a quiet place and recite the following kammatthana:

  • Ethan santhan ethan paneethan, sabba sankhara samatho, Sabbhupathi patinissaggo, tanhkkhayo, virago, nirodho, Nibbanan ti“, which 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 Nibbana“. This needs to be done while recalling an instance of one’s own “cooling down”; see #3 above.
  • However, the above procedure is not much effective unless one has at least some understanding of anicca, dukkha, anatta and has experienced some “cooling down”;  it can be used to quickly enter a jhana that had been cultivated.

5. Thus the difference between the mundane and Ariya versions of samatha meditation is the meditation object, and this is the reason that asanna jhanas are avoided in the Ariya meditation. In the former, one can focus on ANY object; in the latter one focuses on Nibbana. Thus, vitakka, vicara for Anariya samatha meditation becomes savitakka, savicara, emphasizing the focus on Nibbana, with the prefix “sa“. 

  • Ethan santhan ethan paneethan, …….” cannot be used just as a chanting without understanding what is meant by heart. Thus the chant (one does not chant out loud; one could just say it in the mind to oneself or say it very quietly meaningfully) will become more and more effective as one starts feeling the niramisa sukha at least to a certain extent. One could also start with any Anariya samatha meditation (the breath meditation is easy to do), and once starts feeling the calmness and early stages of niramisa sukha, one could permanently switch over to the Ariya version, by contemplating on anicca, dukkha, anatta and recalling one’s own “cooling down”.

6. Another thing to remember is that niramisa sukha has no equivalent sensation in any type of amisa sukha or sense pleasures that are available with the five physical senses. It is more like a relief sensation. When one has a headache and it goes away, one feels a relief, a calmness, a peace of mind. The niramisa sukha is something like that. The more niramisa sukha one feels one becomes calm inwardly AND outwardly.

  • When one gets into jhanas, jhanic pleasure can be felt in the body.
  • In the post, “Akusala Citta – How a Sotapanna Avoids Apayagami Citta“, I have explained how a Sotapanna automatically removes the five types of citta that are responsible for rebirth in the apayas (the lowest four realms). In that discussion, it was also shown how vicikicca is responsible for such bad kamma, and how contemplation on Tilakkhana (anicca, dukkha, anatta) can remove vicikicca, and also four other greed-rooted cittas that arise because of the wrong views.

7. Thus as one contemplates on anicca, dukkha, anatta, one automatically starts reducing, not just suppressing the hindrances. By the time one attains the Sotapanna stage, these five hindrances are reduced to a level that is sufficient to attain the first Ariya jhana with the jhana factors of savitakka, savicara, piti, sukha, ekaggata fairly easily.

  • As pointed out above, the hindrance of  vicikicca is removed at the Sotapanna stage. The other four hindrances are removed in stages as one moves to higher Nibbanic states.
  • For example, as one progresses from the Sotapanna stage to higher Nibbanic states, all jhanic factors are automatically fulfilled: The two hindrances of kamachanda and vyapada were reduced to kamaraga and patigha levels at the Sotapanna stage. Kamaraga and patigha are reduced further at the Sakadagami stage, are removed at the Anagami stage. Thus an Anagami is left with rupa raga and arupa raga, and thus one has only attachment for rupa loka and arupa loka.
  • On the other hand, the hindrance of thina middha is easily overcome by savitakka, i.e., when the mind is focused on Nibbana (anicca, dukkha, anatta). Thus any sleepiness or lethargic feeling cannot survive and one feels energetic.  A Sotapanna is at the entry level of comprehending anicca, dukkha, anatta, and the understanding gets progressively better as one moves to higher stages and becomes complete only at the Arahant stage.
  • The hindrance of Uddacca also decreases by stages and is completely removed only at the Arahant stage.
  • Thus we can see that even without cultivating jhanas, an Arahant automatically removes all five hindrances. As one moves to higher stages of Nibbana, it should become easier to attain jhanas.

8. In summary, Ariya jhanas are permanent in nature compared to Anariya jhanas. Thus a Sotapanna will be able to easily get to the first Ariya jhana in any of the future lives, because some of the five hindrances have been permanently reduced, and vicikicca permanently removed. Even in a noisy environment, Ariya jhanas (especially second or higher) can be summoned at will.

  • The clearest distinction of an Ariya jhana is that once in the jhana, the jhana cannot be interrupted by anusaya or a lustful or a hateful thought. Even if one forcefully tries to think about such a thought, it does not “stick”; the mind rejects it; see, “Ariya Jhanas via Cultivation of Saptha Bojjanga“.
  • One can contemplate Dhamma concepts (savitakka, savicara) while in a jhana. Only vitakka and vicara are reduced at the first Ariya jhana, and completely eliminated at higher jhanas. Doing insight meditation (contemplating on anicca, dukkha, anatta or any Dhamma concept) can be done with a clear, bright mind.
  • All jhanas are mundane in the sense that they provide the jhanic experience in the rupaloka and arupaloka, which still belong to the 31 realms of existence. The Nibbanic bliss is the ultimate bliss.
  • It is said that the nirodha sammapatti that can be attained by an Arahant is incomparably better compared to any jhana. It is said that an Arahant can enjoy the sensation of Nibbanic bliss continually for up to seven days in nirodha sammapatti.
  • Thus ultimately what is most important is the purification of one’s own mind; see, “The Importance of Purifying the Mind“.

Next, “Transfer of Merits (Pattidana) – How Does it Happen?“, ……….

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