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PART II

BUDDHIST MEDITATION:
Stages of Mindfulness and Absorption


PATH OF MINDFULNESS LEADING TO INSIGHT


the Wanderling


Access Concentration followed by Absorption Concentration are traditionally the two primary steps that make up the meditative process that leads to Insight --- at least in the Buddha's case it was. The same would be true for most anybody. In its simplest formulation, Access Concentration is usually considered the first step of the process. After the full accomplishement of that first major step the meditator moves on to Absorption Concentration. During that first step, IF The Five Hindrances have been overcome, which is a primary goal, it is called Upacara Samadhi, also known as neighborhood concentration or neighborhood samadhi, where you are right NEXT to Jhanas but not fully in them. When you move into the first of the Eight Jhana States --- of which one-through-four are known as Jhanas With Form --- it still falls under the umbrella of Access Concentration, but called Samprajnata Samadhi.

When you cross out of the fourth Jhana state into the fifth of eight --- known as Jhanas Without Form --- you move out of Access Concentration into what is called Absorption Concentration, also known as Asamprajnata Samadhi.

The difference between Access Concentration and Absorption Concentration is not in the absence of the hindrances, which, after practice the absence is common to both, but in the relative strength of the Jhana factors. In Access Concentration the factors are weak so the concentration is fragile. In Absorption Concentration the Jhana factors are strong and well developed so that the mind can remain continuously in concentration.

Access Concentration can be induced in a number of different ways. There are forty different methods of meditation mentioned in the sutras and thirty of these are suitable for gaining entry to the First Jhana. The First Jhana has five factors, the first two being Vittaka and Vichara. These two words often get translated as something like "thinking and pondering." They do have these meanings in some contexts, but not in the context of the Jhanas. Here they are best translated as "initial and sustained attention to the meditation subject." You put your attention on the meditation subject and you leave it there until access concentration is established. For example, if you have chosen Anapanasati (mindfulness of breathing) as the meditation method, you put your attention on the breath and you keep your attention on the breath until access concentration is established. How do you know if Access Concentration has been established? It varies for each method. For mindfulness of breathing, the breath becomes very fine, almost undetectable when you have established Access Concentration.(source)

Working up through the Jhanas in an attempt to reach or attain Enlightenment is the typical Indian and Buddhist approach. The Zen approach, as well as practiced by some others in the Buddhist and Enlightenment fields, bypass all that and attempt to jump straight to Enlightenment.

An example of the latter among many is Achaan Buddhadasa, the southern Thailand master. His approach is to skip the Jhanas and practise Insight after attaining a sufficient degree of concentration to overcome The Five Hindrances.

So said, however, the Jhanas are accepted states of concentration. The Buddha practiced them, and it is clear from the Sutras that they comprise Right Concentration.

The problem is, the total overall cumulative effect of simply mastering all eight Jhanas in an attempt to reach Insight doesn't work, at least in the Buddha's case they didn't. Siddhattha Gotma studied under two teachers before he became the Buddha. His first teacher, Alara Kalama, taught him the First Seven Jhanas; the other teacher, Uddaka Ramaputta, taught him the Eighth Jhana. Both teachers told him they had taught him all there was to learn. But he still didn't know why there was suffering, so he left each of these teachers and wound up doing six years of austerity practices on his own. These too did not provide the answer to his question and he abandoned them as well. The Sutras indicate that on the night of his Enlightenment, he sat down under the Bohdi Tree and began his meditation by practicing the Jhanas. When his mind was "concentrated, purified, bright, unblemished, rid of imperfection, malleable, wieldy, steady and attained to imperturbability" he direct it to the "true knowledges" that gave rise to his incredible breakthrough in consciousness known in the sutras as Anuttara Samyak Sambodhi, beyond the beyond of the Eighth Jhana. His "Breakthough" did not transpire until he had surpassed the Eighth and final Jhana. So how did he do it? Through what has come down to us as Insight. The step that allows Insight is called Mindfulness.


In the end, Concentration Leading to Absorption is said to lead to the arrestment or suppression of Samsaric Conditionality sure enough, but it is Mindfulness (sati, smriti) that GROWS into Insight (vipassana), and Transcends Conditionality leading ultimately to wisdom (prajna) and Enlightenment (bodhi).

SEE:
MINDFULNESS LEADING TO INSIGHT


JHANA FACTORS: Traditional Factors of the Eight Jhana States




PART I
PATH OF CONCENTRATION LEADING TO ABSORPTION



Fundamentally, our experience as experienced is not different from the Zen master's. Where
we differ is that we place a fog, a particular kind of conceptual overlay onto that experience
and then make an emotional investment in that overlay, taking it to be "real" in and of itself.


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AWAKENED TEACHERS FORUM


ZEN ENLIGHTENMENT IN A NUTSHELL




GASSHO
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HERE FOR
ENLIGHTENMENT

ON THE RAZOR'S
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NIRVANA


Regarding Nirvana Nagarjuna writes:

Whatever can be conceptualized is therefore relative, and whatever is relative is Sunya, empty. Since absolute inconceivable truth is also Sunya, Sunyata or the void is shared by both Samsara and Nirvana. Ultimately, Nirvana truly realized is Samsara properly understood. The fully realized Bodhisattva, the Enlightened Buddha who renounces the Dharmakaya vesture to remain at the service of suffering beings, recognizes this radical transcendental equivalence. The Arhat and the PratyekaBuddha, who look to their own redemption and realization, are elevated beyond any conventional description, but nonetheless do not fully realize or freely embody this highest truth.

The definition for either Kensho or Satori, in some people's minds, may not, within the perimeter of their definitions (or in actuality) encompass Nirvana at it's ultimate or visa versa --- but, both should most certainly be allied peripherally in some fashion. However, one's personal being, encompassed by any of the three states (Kensho, Satori, Nirvana), does not say anything at all about the ability of the experiencer to teach others or in any way be of assistance to the spiritual needs of others. A clear distinction must be made between a person who has an Enlightenment-experience and an Enlightened Person. The latter category should be confined to those individuals who have the wisdom and moral character to rightfully influence others plus the charismatic abilities to do so in an entirely non-exploitive manner. This would define an Enlightened Sage or holy person. Such a person may have had a Enlightenment-experience, sudden or gradual, OR may have a natural spiritual maturity which excludes the need for a Satoric-experience; although if we depend on historical records, a natural sage without an Awakening experience operating at or near the level of an Enlightened Sage is far, far rarer than one having a similar or like natural spiritual maturity AND Enlightenment experience. (source)


AND NOW THIS:


It is often said that when you truly need a teacher, one will appear. This may due to some inexplicable serendipity. It may be due to the fact that the seeker has searched deeply within himself or herself and determined what sort of instruction seems to be required. It could be a spiritual desperation on the part of the seeker, or a successful sales pitch by a teacher (sincere or not). It may be a combination of the previous factors, or some intuitive awareness beyond expression. For whatever the reason, the saying often applies and the results can be found most eloquently in the following:


SRI RAMANA MAHARSHI: THE LAST AMERICAN DARSHAN
RECOUNTING A YOUNG BOY'S NEARLY INSTANT TRANSFORMATION INTO THE ABSOLUTE DURING HIS ONLY DARSHAN WITH THE MAHARSHI


It should be noted that Adam Osborne, who, as a young boy grew up at the Ramana ashram and the son of one of the foremost Ramana biographers Arthur Osborne, played a prominent role in the Last American Darshan as linked above.