Jhaana – Absorption

Jhaana is a Paali word that may be translated as absorption. “The jhānas are states of meditation where the mind is free from the five hindrances (craving, aversion, sloth, agitation, doubt) and (from the second jhāna onwards) incapable of discursive thinking. The deeper jhānas can last for many hours. When a meditator emerges from jhāna, his or her mind is empowered and able to penetrate into the deepest truths of existence.” [source: wikipedia]

Leigh Brasington has lots of links on his jhaana page that I found independently before I found his website. I won’t paste the links we have in common on this post. http://www.leighb.com/jhanas.htm

Ven. Maháthera Henepola Gunaratana‘s book on jhaanas (PhD thesis), other books and online videos of interviews with him are interesting and very useful. The jhaana book is online and linked fromLeigh Brasington’s website. Ven. Maháthera Henepola Gunaratana is featured on DhammaTube videos on YouTube and Veoh.com. There are also many excellent Dhamma resources produced by the Ven. Maháthera on the Bhavana Society website.

Ven. Pa Auk Sayadaw: Ven. Pa Auk Sayadaw’s websites and his books in English translation are also linked from Leigh Brasington’s website. http://www.paauk.org/index.html From what I have read of Ven. Pa Auk Sayadaw’s jhaana methods, they appear quite consistent with the Visuddhimagga and Sutta. Ven. Pa Auk Sayadaw is very thorough and detailed.

Without practice and seeing for myself, I have so far relied on textual sources. Ven. Pa Auk’s teaching as described in books and by his followers is quite consistent with the Paali Canon. The only part of Ven. Pa Auk Sayadaw’s teaching I don’t understand is kalaapa. I have not found kalaapa in the Sutta and only found the word as a minor reference in the Visuddhimagga. The Concise Pali-English Dictionary by Ven. A.P.Buddhadatta Mahaathera defines Kalaapa as 1. a bundle; sheaf; 2. a quiver; 3. a group of elementary particles. Childers refers to it in conjunctions of string of pearls and a peacock’s tail feathers. The definition of a “group of elementary particles” comes closest to the meaning used by Ven. Pa Auk Sayadaw. Perhaps the term is significant in Abhidhamma texts.  I haven’t yet found any references on the Internet for articles that refer to this use of Kalaapa by Ven. Pa Auk Sayadaw.  [UPDATE]

Ven. Pa Auk Sayadaw suggests that once yogis have completed the jhaana training up to the eight jhaana (four ruupa jhaana and four aruupa jhaana) and attained the five jhaana mastery’s, they will begin four element vipassana practice and see the kalaapa as individual glowing particles or as bundles of them. The yogi will see these kalaapa are the fundamental particles of ultimate reality that lie beneath apparent reality [look out, I’ve paraphrased].

Maybe I need to attain full mastery of all eight jhaana and then I’ll understand. The concept also seems like a simsapa leaf from another tree. It may be true, it may exist, but is it useful or essential to the path of liberation? Perhaps yogis that can see kalaapa may truely see the emptiness of self, the lack of substance in body and mind. Then detachment, dispassion and liberation follow.

Tina Rasmussen and Stephen Snyder manage the JhaanasAdvice.com website, teach and train. I ordered their book “Jhanas Advice from Two Spiritual Friends: Concentration Meditation as Taught by Ven. Pa Auk Sayadaw” and a CD ROM with MP3 talks. Their talks maybe downloaded from their website too. The book appears aimed toward yogis who may be relatively new to jhaana practice. They refer sometimes to yogis who may be trying jhaana practice after some experience (months or years…) with Mahasi vipassana or Goenka vipassana techniques.

I sense they are very sincere and respect them for their efforts to teach meditation and spread Ven. Pa Auk Sayadaw’s system of meditation to a wider range of yogis. They are very gentle and not in the least bit critical of other meditation techniques. They also refer to kalaapa…

I also recommend Ven. Buddhadhasa Bhikkhu‘s book “Anapanasati” which has been translated from Thai for two quite different English editions. Ven. Buddhadasa’s book is a commentary on the Aanaapanasati Sutta – Mindfulness of Breathing.
1. translated from the Thai by Ven. Santikaro Bhikkhu http://www.what-buddha-taught.net/Books3/Bhikkhu_Buddhadasa_Anapanasati_Mindfulness_with_Breathing.htm
2. translated from the Thai by Ven. Bhikkhu Nagasena http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/anapanasati.pdf

I prefer Ven. Bhikkhu Nagasena’s translation which is more detailed than Ven. Santikaro Bhikkhu’s version. It seems closer to the original Thai volume which I bought in 1984 and gave away to a friend earlier this year. Ven. Santikaro Bhikkhu refers to the tapes and may not have used tapes rather than the published Thai book. They are both good though.

The Visuddhimagga is the core text for describing various samatha and vipassana meditation techniques taught by contemporary teachers including Ven. Pa Auk Sayadaw. I visited the Mahasi Centre in Yangon in January 2007, where I saw all the inside walls of the Mahasi Sayadaw Mausoleum beautifully decorated with Ven. Mahasi Sayadaw’s Burmese language translation of the Visuddhimagga. Ven. Mahasi Sayadaw cited the Visuddhimagga as support for the vipassana meditation technique he promoted.

Ven. Ajahn Brahmavamso (Ajahn Brahm) based in Perth has written and spoken a lot about jhaana. I have a recent published book of his called “Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond: A Mediator’s Handbook” which describes the technique for attaining jhaanas. The book has a tentative forward by Jack Kornfield. I haven’t practiced jhaana yet so I can’t comment with authority of experience. However, I note that some of Ven. Ajahn Brahm’s assertions about the nature of jhaana and requirements for attainment of ariyamagga and phala are not consistent with Ven. Mahasi Sayadaw tradition or even other Samatha traditions. For example, Leigh Brasington’s description of jhaanas differ markedly.

In describing a lay follower’s experience, Ven. Ajahn Brahm writes (p. 154) “Another strange quality that distinguishes jhaana from all other experiences is that within jhaana, all the senses are totally shut down. One cannot see, hear, smell, taste or feel touch. One cannot hear a crow cawing [magpies caw a lot at his centre near Perth Western Australia] or a person coughing… no heart beat registered on the ECG, and no brain activity was seen by the EEG.” The lay follower had been meditating at home and gone into first jhaana for the first time. His wife found him and couldn’t wake him or feel a pulse so she called an ambulance…

Ven. Ajahn Brahm also writes (p. 225) “A recurring topic among our Sangha is, can one attain to stream winning without any experience of jhaana? As should be obvious from what has been written so far, I cannot see a possibility of penetrating to the fully meaning of anattaa, dukkha and anicca without the radical data gained in jhaana experience. Yet, there are some stories in the Tipitaka … that suggest that it might be possible.” He then refers to the story of 31 soldiers of King Ajaatasattu sent by Ven. Devadatta to kill the Lord Buddha. Lord Buddha interrupts them, teaches them Dhamma and they all became Sotapannas just by listening to the Dhamma. These are soldiers who live a rough life, probably never kept even five precepts and yet they attained Sotapanna. Ven. Ajahn Brahm over looks many other examples in the Suttas including Ven. Sariputta and Ven. Moggallana who both attained Sotapanna by listening to Dhamma (Vinaaya 1:39). Ven. Sariputta attained Arahat by listening to the Dhamma (he was fanning the Lord Buddha at the same time) in the Dighanaka Sutta (MN 74). Ven. Ajahn Brahm writes that in our cynical modern world it would be impossible for someone to have enough confidence and energy to attain Sotapanna without jhaana. This is the difference between saddhaanusaarii and dhammaanusaarii (faith follower and a dhamma follower).

Many of Ven. Ajahn Brahm’s video, audio and text discourses are available for download from the following website: http://www.bswa.org.au/

Ven. Dhammavuddho writes that attaining up to Sakidagaami is possible without jhaana but further attainments to Anaagaami and Arahat are only possible with jhaana. In an article “Liberation: Relevance of Sutta-Vinaya“on the following website, you can go to page 12 for the Sutta references. http://www.vbgnet.org/resources.asp

Ven. Dhammavuddho was a Mahayana monk in Malaysia described in a video available from YouTube/DhammaTube and Veoh.com how he was forcibly disrobed on orders from his master because he had published many books indicating the contradictions and problems in Mahayana Buddhism. He then went to Thailand and ordained as a Theravada monk and then went to Wat Pananachaht for training. Now he is an Abbot of Vihara Buddha Gotama in Malaysia. He is a meditator and scholar. The VBG website has many photos of the centre and many excellent Dhamma articles in English, Chinese and Bahasa.


Four Factors for Success Applied to Worthy Projects

May everyone successfully complete worthy projects. May those projects be beneficial and not harmful.

I would like to share the four factors for success – chanda, viriya, citta and vimamsaa also known collectively in Paali language as the iddhipaada. [source: Samyuttanikaaya 51.1-86]

1. Chanda is the sincere wish to accomplish your goal. It manifests as aspiration and determination.

Be clear about the goal. Visualise, feel, hear or imagine what it would be like to achieve the goal. Create an implementation plan which explains in some detail how to achieve the goal. The plan will include lists of milestones with dates and deliverables. Divide the project into smaller tasks and then note which tasks depend on other tasks (dependencies). Note things that could go wrong (risks) and note resources that will help you along the way. Consider how to minimise the risks and outline the tactics for dealing with risks in the plan. Consider how to marshal the helpful resources and incorporate these tactics in the plan. Include a budget section in the plan.

Plan time and space for your personal life during the period you are working on your project. Make a detailed schedule or calendar showing when things are due. You can modify all of the above as you go. Sometimes there are events outside your knowledge that will impact on deliverables and time frames so you have to be flexible. Even so, it is good to have a clear and detailed implementation plan to achieve your goal.

Write the primary project objective in one or two sentences. Describe it in one page. Prepare this and stick it right above your computer screen, the back of your toilet door, the fridge door, the bed room door and everywhere you will notice it. Read it every day and check if it needs to be changed.

At least once a day you need to spend at least a few minutes focusing on your goal.

2. Viriya is the energy and effort applied to accomplish your goal. It manifests as persistence.

Keep checking the implementation plan to stay on track. Use the plan as a key motivator and guide whenever you are confused or vague about what to do right now.

If sometimes you lack energy then you increase it by developing faith in the worthiness of the goal and building confidence in your own ability to achieve it. Remember why you chose to do this project in the beginning, what inspired you. If you haven’t done so already, write that down quickly with words of exuberance and enthusiasm. Look at that statement when you feel low energy and don’t lose it. You have skills and talents for achieving goals. You can enhance these and become more effective. You have achieved a lot already just to get to this point. Remember your previous successes. Examine how you succeeded before and what personal qualities helped you. You can do that again and again. Look for inspiration around you by admiring other worthy successful people. Respect them and emulate the best in them.

You can also remember that others are counting on you. Your family and friends miss you while you are working. You have all sacrificed time together so you can complete this project. You will not let them down. You will make the best use of your time and resources, right now, to complete this project for your own sake, for the sake of your family and for the sake of others that you may not yet know.

Recognise and celebrate milestones.

Don’t allow setbacks to prevent ultimate success. Keep working!

3. Citta is a purity of mind that is focused on the objective. It manifests as dedication or cool focus.

It is a mind dedicated to the goal of accomplishing the goal. It is non-distraction and not procrastinating. It is staying on track. It is completing the project of high quality in the shortest possible time. It is not paying attention to irrelevant issues that are not your business. It is being very clear about what you are doing right now to achieve your goal.

Complete and total focus on your goal of completing the project.

You can strengthen this by only associating with wise, virtuous, calm people who also work hard and who embody all the good habits and skills you admire. You can avoid those people who are not so focused and who present distractions to your goal. You can stay physically and mentally healthy. You can rest properly, eat properly and exercise properly. Avoid gossip and frivolous talk.

Always keep the five moral precepts to protect yourself and others from harm and to cultivate peace and happiness. Peace and happiness lead to concentration which in turn leads to discernment and wisdom. Practice the eight moral precepts when possible. Go on intensive meditation retreats at least once a year. Daily practice mindfulness of breathing aanaapanasati and build concentration/one pointed mind samaadhi.

Be generous to others and yourself. Cultivate divine mental states such as loving kindness metta, compassion karuna, sympathetic joy mudita and equanimity upekkha.

4. Vimamsaa is the investigation and analysis of the project topic. It is the deep penetration into the project issues, to understand the concepts and relations between concepts in this project. It manifests as expertise and insight.

You can understand concepts and relations between concepts by seeking advice from mentors, elders and expert advisors in books and in person. Keep notes of helpful information. Get advice from more than one respected experts on whether your plan is viable and may be improved. When your project is quality tested or applied in the world, others will examine your thoroughness and knowledge. Do you have the ability to do a presentation on the main ideas in this project topic for people who may not know anything about it? Sustain a network of contacts of people in this field who can help you with your project.

Insight arises when the mind is tranquil and focused. Insight is not controlled by an act of will. Prepare the mind, balance the mental factors of confidence saddha, discernment panna, energy viriya, collectedness samaadhi with mindfulness sati. Mindfulness is the essential mental factor for the arising of skillful kusala mental states. Pay attention, be aware of body and mind at all times.

All the above iddhipaada success factors are powered by sammaa padaana the four right strivings (efforts) and samaadhi concentration.

Sammaapadaana is the four right strivings. 1. to restrain from adopting new bad habits and behaviours; 2. to abandon existing bad habits and behaviours; 3. to cultivate new good habits and behaviours; and 4. to maintain existing good habits and behaviours.

Samaadhi is concentration, focus and tranquillity of mind. Practice mindfulness of breathing aanaapanasati frequently to develop a one-pointed mind. This will build mental power and strength that will support all skillful kusala mental states.

These notes are a personal interpretation of the Dhamma as applied to worthy projects. The suttas describing these principles are not very accessible for casual readers who may not know how to apply them in daily life. I used some creative license to elaborate the basic principles and hopefully share them with a wider audience with a broader application. By applying techniques for spiritual success to worthy worldly projects we may create a more spiritual world.

Perhaps hindering accessibility, I included some Paali technical terms because they are interpreted into English in different ways. Some readers who know Paali may prefer alternative English words to the ones I’ve chosen here.

Lord Buddha originally taught the iddhipaada as The Bases for Spiritual Power, the power that leads to Nibanna – enlightenment.

“Bhikkhus, these four bases of spiritual power, when developed and cultivated, are noble and emancipating; they lead the one who acts upon them to the complete destruction of suffering. What four? Here, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu develops the basis for spiritual power that possesses concentration due to desire [chanda] and volitional formations of striving. He develops the basis for spiritual power that possesses concentration due to energy [viriya] and volitional formations of striving. He develops the basis for spiritual power that possesses concentration due to mind [citta] and volitional formations of striving. He develops the spiritual power that possesses concentration due to investigation [vimamsaa]and volitional formations of striving. These four bases of spiritual power, when developed and cultivated, are noble and emancipating; they lead the one who acts upon them to the complete destruction of suffering.”

[source: SN 51.3 Noble Sutta, The Connected Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Saṃyutta Nikāya ; Translated from the Pāli by Bhikkhu Bodhi, Published by Wisdom Publications, 2000, page 1719]


I’m recovering from a cold. Other family members had it before me and recovered already.

I’ve been applying for many jobs in the WA and federal governments, many in policy development and project management roles. I’ve had a few interviews and two confirmed rejects. Many applications still pending. I’m confident the right job will come along sooner or later.

Last week Mum’s kitchen was renovated. Mum is very pleased with the look and convenience of the new kitchen and appliances.

I spend a lot of my day writing applications, surfing the net or reading Samyuttanikaaya. I’m about half way through. I get a thrill from reading suttas that refer directly to vipassana practice. All of it is great though. I particularly like reading the suttas in Khandhanikaaya and Salyaayatananikaaya sections. I can’t recommend them enough… brilliant.