This irregular “Dharma Questions” series deals with “dharma” meaning both the truth of the nature of reality and some Buddhist teachings. Amongst other things these questions can be:
- thought experiments
- borderline musings not meant to be answered
- from laziness of not contemplating or researching them yet
Please comment below with anything remotely related
There seem to be plenty of variation on the descriptions of the jhanas (especially surrounding “Nimittas”); the history and backgrounds of the jhanas — which were supposedly established well before the historical Buddha; — and how to properly practice the jhanas, or meditative absorption states. And due to encouragement to not mention levels of attainment — for some very valid reasons and some not so valid reasons — it is often challenging to get a bead on sorting what is most legitimate, wise and skillful when delving into the jhanas. I’m only partly through the books Practicing the Jhanas and Beyond Mindfulness in Plain English so please forgive the lack of substantial research and proper practice with the jhanas for the following questions:
- Are there any connections between the jhana of boundless consciousness and the consciousnesses of the six sense spheres [and the other two consciousnesses mentioned in Mahayana: defiled mental consciousness (kliṣṭamanovijñāna) and the fundamental store-house consciousness (ālāyavijñāna)]?
- Why no right jhana (as in right view, right resolve, right speech, right conduct, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right samadhi)? [Update: Beyond Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana mentions “right jhana.” Curious if certain suttas mention this exact term and/or if a case is/ can be built from various teachings in the suttas.]
- Did the historical Buddha give detailed teachings on how to properly practice the jhanas? If so, what are the suttas? If not, why not?
- Why are the formless jhanas also known as The Sphere of ______ ? How can there be a “sphere” of boundless/infinite space if it is boundless/infinite?
- What are the origin(s) of the jhanas? Are the jhanas part of the organic — so to speak — innate human consciousness? If not, why not? If so, can the jhanas still be considered altered states of consciousness? If not, why not?
- Is jhana possible using discursive thinking/thoughts as the object? If not, why not, and has it been attempted?
- In the Agganna Sutta — The Origin of the World, or the Buddhist human origin story — I remember someone once mentioning second jhana somehow involved. Do any of the jhanas have anything to do with the “realm of streaming radiance” and “as the cosmos expands, sentient beings mostly pass away from that host of radiant deities and come back to this realm. Here they are mind-made, feeding on rapture, self-luminous, moving through the sky, steadily glorious, and they remain like that for a very long time.”
- I’ve heard Transcendental Meditation could lead to rebirth in formless realms. If true, what is the basis and explanation for this?
- Is more than one jhana at a time possible? How quickly can switching between jhanas occur?
- What enters into and experiences jhana?
- If I’m relating correctly, Practicing the Jhanas mentions doing Ānāpānasati using primarily the “Ānāpānasati spot” by exclusively experiencing the breath at the upper lip and/or exterior rim of the nostrils. How does or doesn’t this jibe with being “sensitive to the entire body” in the Buddha’s Ānāpānasati instructions.
- Can there be more than one nimitta either separately and/or concurrently?
- Could any of the material jhanas be contained/limited/cordoned off/aimed at specific areas of the body (and not other areas of the body)? If so, how would this be possible, and how would this happen/work? If not, why not?
- Are the jhanas dependent upon and/or only accessible to certain kinds of beings? If so, what kinds of beings; why is this the case and how does this work?