After meditation today, I found myself continuing to contemplate the usefulness of Jhana. As I have described many times before, the journey to Jhana is one of skillful use of the dynamics of concentration to solidify a state of peaceful abiding. What makes this process difficult is that it is twofold. On the one hand there is the task of release of all things sensual. This release is active and requires serious discipline in the process of identifying more and more subtle aspects of the activities of the mind, and then easing into a gradual release of these phenomenon. On the other hand, One is actively using the qualities of Concentration, Mindfulness and Ardency to literally become present within the breath. Neither one of these activities, which are done simultaneously, is passive. They demand a lot from the practitioner.
The Beauty of this process is also twofold. Firstly, any success that one makes toward either of the two aforementioned processes is presently rewarded by the arising of the individual qualities of what will eventually become in their totality, Jahna. The individual qualities that arise one after another are Rapture, Pleasure, Tranquility, and Equanimity. The practitioner can use the immediate feedback to gauge his or her mastery of the qualities needed to attain Jhana. As these “fruits” of meditation arise they also give the mind greater and greater incentive to release from grasping at the world of the senses, from which the whole of our experience of suffering arises. In other words, the experiential rewards of any success are also the incentives for greater success.
Secondly, once the practitioner’s blended qualities of Concentration, Mindfulness, Ardency, Tranquility, and Equanimity mature by use of breath as an object of concentration, there arises this natural quality of solidified union within the breath. This union is recognized by an immediate awareness of decreased need for the heightened amount of one’s Ardency in the form that got you to this point. One feels “stuck” or “fastened” in the experience of undivided awareness. This state of Jhana is described as release from Sensual Pleasure, Bliss that is free from Suffering.
From this state of Unified awareness, one can finally begin the process of viewing the arising and ceasing of every phenomenon that presents itself as an opportunity for the mind to Cling to. By viewing these phenomenon without clinging, the practitioner becomes fully aware of the foundational qualities of all phenomenon; Impermanence, Unsatisfactory, and Not-Self. Things that one would normally become enraptured in the drama and pleasure of, become clearly seen for BOTH the fleeting pleasurable form and the unattractive stress-full form.
This clear vision would frighten one into delusion if it was not fostered by the environment of Jhana. the Buddha knew this, and so he prescribed Jhana at every opportunity.
Jhana is not the destination of the Path, it IS all but the last stage of the Path. Eventually one will find even the Bliss of Jhana to be undesirable, and will find his or her way into final Release. I do not pretend to have entered that Final Release as of yet, but all other aspects of Jhana and the EightFold Path I practice, experience, and cultivate every day.
May your every endeavor bear much fruit.