Practicing the Jhanas: Traditional Concentration Meditation as Presented by the Venerable Pa Auk Sayadaw [NOOK Book]

Overview

This is a clear and in-depth presentation of the traditional Theravadin concentration meditation known as jhāna practice, from two authors who have practiced the jhānas in retreat under the guidance of one of the great living meditation masters, Pa
Auk Sayadaw. The authors describe the techniques and their results, based on their own experience.



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Practicing the Jhanas: Traditional Concentration Meditation as Presented by the Venerable Pa Auk Sayadaw

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Overview

This is a clear and in-depth presentation of the traditional Theravadin concentration meditation known as jhāna practice, from two authors who have practiced the jhānas in retreat under the guidance of one of the great living meditation masters, Pa
Auk Sayadaw. The authors describe the techniques and their results, based on their own experience.



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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780834822825
  • Publisher: Shambhala Publications, Inc.
  • Publication date: 7/5/2011
  • Series: Shambhala Publications
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 937,815
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

Tina Rasmussen has been practicing meditation intensively since 1976. In 2005, she attended a two-month jhana retreat with Ven. Pa Auk Sayadaw, who ordained her as a Theravada Buddhist nun. During the retreat, Tina became the first American and the first Western woman to complete the eight jhanas (as well as other practices) in the lineage of Ven. Pa Auk Sayadaw.

Stephen Snyder began practicing Zen Buddhism in 1976 and has had a daily meditation practice from that time on. He has practiced for twenty years with Western Zen masters. Stephen attended a two-month retreat with Ven. Pa Auk Sayadaw in 2005. He attained the eight jhanas (as well as other practices) in the span of the retreat, becoming the first American male to complete this attainment in the lineage of Ven. Pa Auk Sayadaw.

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Foreword

This book serves as a bridge—as a conduit to the traditional teachings of the Buddha that are outlined in the suttas, the Visuddhimagga, and my book Knowing and Seeing. My wish is that more practitioners will apply these suggestions in order to attain jhāna and go on to complete the entire Buddhist path. Obtaining and applying the concentration of the jhānas allows the student to progress more quickly and deeply through the vipassanā portion of the Buddhist path. The jhāna practice itself, however, has its own inherent value as a path of purification, the same one undertaken by the Buddha himself.

Many years ago, my teacher told me to plant the seed of this teaching in the West. This book serves to water this seed and help it flower. I wholeheartedly recommend it to all who are drawn to the jhānas and to all who seek to practice the Buddhist path as the Buddha lived and taught it.

Stephen Snyder and Tina Rasmussen (Ayya Pesala) know what they write about in this book, personally, through their own direct experience as practitioners and dedicated yogis. Both of them worked diligently under my direct guidance to attain mastery of the eight jhānas and the additional meditation practices.
— Pa Auk Sayadaw

From Chapter 2: Samatha Practice: The Purification of Mind

We would like to begin by setting this chapter in the context of the entire path of practice as outlined by the Buddha and preserved in the Theravada tradition. The path to liberation
includes three stages:

1. ethical behavior or morality (sīla)
2. concentration or serenity (samatha)
3. insight (vipassanā)

Ethical behavior lays the foundation for the other practices. The majority of this book focuses on the samatha practice, of which the possibility of experiencing the jhāna absorptions is a part. In undertaking concentration practice, you will inevitably encounter hindrances and attachments. Although these may seem like obstacles to the practice, working with them actually is the practice, when you understand that samatha is designed for purification of mind. How do you know if you are “doing” the practice? Often you know because you are encountering hindrances. This is, in fact, a common beginning stage of engaging the practice of purifying the mind. Purification of mind can be likened to the clearing of a cloudy glass of water. At first, there are particles of dirt floating throughout the water. Over time, with stillness, the particles settle, revealing a clear, sparkling, pure glass of water.

Vipassanā is the third segment of the Buddha’s teachings. Through vipassanā practices, it is possible to see beyond what is available to the normal sense perceptions. As meditative capacity deepens, the yogi can see directly into the nature of reality.


Preliminary Practices of Sīla
Whether you are practicing at home or on a retreat, it is essential to develop the wholesome moral ground from which the possibility of jhāna exploration can most readily commence. The eight precepts and the five precepts, listed below, can be considered as training guidelines that support all aspects of spiritual practice.

Jhānas are a highly specialized meditative undertaking. Daily samatha practice can be a wonderful means for cultivating serenity, developing concentration, and beginning to purify the mind. An in-depth exploration of the practice requires a minimum of ten days to several months on retreat.

The Venerable Pa Auk Sayadaw requires retreatants to adopt the eight precepts, or at a minimum the five precepts. Householders are encouraged to adopt a modified version of the five precepts. The precepts are taken as an act of virtue, a wholesomeness of person, intention, and spirit. Wholesomeness promotes successful ānāpānasati meditation and the possibility of jhāna. Inviting wholesomeness and turning away from unwholesome
thoughts and actions is absolutely vital to purifying the mind. If you are too distracted by attractions and aversions, concentration practice is not as productive as it could be. There are numerous counterproductive actions that may appear harmless but that do distract the awareness in a way that erodes the practice. Some examples include small amounts of talking, frequently evaluating your practice, and obsessing about food. You need to allow the precepts into your deepest level of intention and aspiration. You must honor the spirit and meaning of the precepts as a way of cultivating the ground for concentration practice.

Eight Precepts (for Use on Retreat)
1. I undertake the precept to refrain from harming living creatures.
2. I undertake the precept to refrain from taking that which is not given.
3. I undertake the precept to refrain from all sexual activity.
4. I undertake the precept to refrain from incorrect speech.
5. I undertake the precept to refrain from consuming intoxicating drinks and drugs.
6. I undertake the precept to refrain from eating during the forbidden time (that is, after twelve o’clock noon).
7. I undertake the precept to refrain from dancing, singing, listening to music, going to see entertainment, wearing garlands, using perfumes, and beautifying the body with cosmetics.
8. I undertake the precept to refrain from lying on a high or luxurious seat or sleeping place.

The Magga-vibhanga Sutta defines refraining from incorrect speech as “abstaining from lying, abstaining from divisive speech, abstaining from abusive speech, abstaining from idle
chatter.” Idle chatter, both external and internal, must be silenced during a concentration retreat.
Meditators usually take the precepts at the beginning of a retreat. To the extent feasible, honoring and applying as many of the precepts as possible prior to the retreat lays a wholesome groundwork for purification of mind as found in the samatha practice. A wholesome mind seeks and expresses wholesome actions.

The precepts can be modified to fit the life of a householder while living a worldly life, as is common with modern practitioners. Undertaking these precepts on an ongoing basis is a practice in itself, revealing areas of attachment, aversion, and delusion in your daily life. For example, suppose you apply the first precept (to refrain from harming living creatures) to your day-to-day life. Certainly there are obvious dietary questions. Should you be a vegetarian? What if your family pet becomes ill with terminal cancer? Do you put your pet down? When insects invade your home, do you exterminate them? What if your country is invaded by hostile forces? Do you support your country’s military in defending itself? These are the types of issues that challenge you to engage the precepts and live them more deeply. Living with consciousness of your deepest intentions cultivates wholesomeness in an ongoing way.


Five Precepts (as Used by Many Modern Buddhists)
1. I undertake the precept to refrain from harming living creatures.
2. I undertake the precept to refrain from taking that which is not given.
3. I undertake the precept to refrain from harming others through sexual activity.
4. I undertake the precept to refrain from incorrect speech.
5. I undertake the precept to refrain from clouding the mind by consuming intoxicating drinks and drugs that lead to carelessness.

The Four Noble Truths

The seminal teaching of the Buddha is the Four Noble Truths:

1. the fact that there is suffering and unsatisfactoriness in life
2. the origin of suffering
3. the cessation of suffering
4. the way to achieve the cessation of suffering

The Noble Truths are the subject of extensive teaching in Buddhism. We refer you to Walpola Rahula’s book What the Buddha Taught for a more detailed overview of the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path than we will present here.

To summarize, the unsatisfactoriness that is inevitable in life comes from our attachments—grasping or rejecting what is occurring. We suffer when we desire something that we do not obtain or receive the desired object and then either lose it or want more than was received. The origin of suffering is complex. Simply put, it is the belief that the five aggregates—materiality, sensations, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness—are “me.” The average person takes the aggregates as an individual “me”—a separate and distinct self. This imagined identity then seeks to reinforce itself both internally and externally, creating more grasping and attachment. This sense of a “me” also regards the thoughts as coming from an identity. Cessation of suffering, as taught by the Buddha, is becoming free of this delusion that there is an “I.” We become free by practicing the Eightfold Path.

The Eightfold Path

1. wise view
2. wise intention
3. wise speech
4. wise action
5. wise livelihood
6. wise effort
7. wise mindfulness
8. wise concentration

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Table of Contents



Foreword by Pa Auk Sayadaw vii
Preface ix
Acknowledgments xi


1. History of the Jhānas 1
2. Samatha Practice: The Purification of Mind 7
3. Foundational Understandings 37
4. Skillful Effort from First Sit to First Jhāna 51
5. Material Jhānas One through Four and Related Practices 71
6. Immaterial Jhānas Five through Eight and Related Practices 99
7. The Sublime Abidings and Protective Meditations 115
8. Four Elements Meditation 119
9. The Buddha as Our Role Model 129


Epilogue 131
Progression of Practice Chart 134
Notes 137
Bibliography 140
Index 141
About the Authors 147

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