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jhana attainments are 'benchmarks' towards the final release

Correspondence with Sudhamma 8 Jun 2004

From: "AQthermal" <airquip@pacific.net.sg>

To: "Jeffrey Brooks" <jhanananda@yahoo.com>

Subject: Re: Ordination

Date: Tue, 8 Jun 2004 10:17:44 +0800

<< Dear Jeff,

I'm sorry for you having to face so much difficulties. From my little understanding, jhana attainments are 'benchmarks' towards the final release, enlightenment. I did not read the arguments in its entirety between both Suan and you. I had saved them for future reading.

From the cursory glance at the arguments, you are emphasizing on jhanas attainments whereas, Suan is for the entire process of meditation. In both instances, the final goal is still the same. The basis of the argument, I feel is not important. If I can accept the doctrinal differences or emphasis amongst the 3 major sects, I can certainly accept both arguments with each having their merits. Please do straighten my understanding on this issue. I will appreciate your help on this matter.

The Theravaden community is closely knit and if you had 'angered' an influential bhikku, words can go round quickly. They are still human just like you and me.

The Sangha community provides the bhikku the place and space to further his quest for enlightenment. And this quest is a lonely journey, to be traveled all by yourself. The community can only provide you the knowledge and the discipline. Unless the senior monk himself has attained enlightenment, no one can give you that guidance you are seeking. You have to seek out the living arhants in cosmopolitan cities. You know that this is most improbable... the best place will be amongst forest-dwelling bhikkus.

The best solution is to seek enlightenment on your own and armed yourself with the tripitaka as your teacher and companion. This is your best bet given the amount of resistance you have faced. In the least you will be at peace and not perturbed by rejections from various organisations. Take these rejections as honing tools for your eradication of your own ego. I will certainly take up your invitation to visit your web-site. I wish you success in fulfilling your wish. Before that, remember to educate me on why there is so much resistance to jhanas.

Namo Buddhaya!

Sudhamma >>

Jhanananda's Response

Hello Sudhamma, it is in deed a great pleasure to hear from you again, and I thank-you ever so much for your continued kind support.

While I could be mistaken the nature of the conflict between Suan and myself is that he seems to reject jhana as some secondary and bypassable phenomena of meditation.  I believe it is he therefore who seeks a fragmented or partial meditation practice.  He is thus primarily a dry-insight practitioner.

I, on the other hand, support and teach from all three Sati suttas.  Therefore I believe it would be correct in saying that I support the full practice path as taught by the historic Buddha, not Suan, or any other dry insight practitioner.

I believe you are quite right when you say, "jhana attainments are 'benchmarks' towards the final release."  I have found they are in fact the becons that bring us in for a "landing" in nibbana.

Yes, I believe you are quite right, "the Theravaden community is closely knit and if you had 'angered' an influential bhikku, words can go round quickly."  I am certain in fact that I have annoyed more than just one influential bhikkhu.

While it would be very nice to have company on the solo journey of awakening, it seems I have found the "knowledge and the discipline" on my own.  However I have not been particularly successful at acquiring the requisites.

I would of course like to meet an Arahant for consolation, however wherever I seek I do not find them.  I do not particularly seek in the "cosmopolitan" areas however.  I seek wherever I hear one is mentioned.  But, I do not have many resources to go traveling all over the world at every claim of enlightenment.

I have of course sought enlightenment on my own, "armed" with the tipitaka as my teacher and companion.  In fact I am at the very moment in the Inyo National Forest and for about a week now I have been reading the Samyutta Nikaya.  I have of course already read the Digha and Majjhima Nikayas. I expect to finish the Samyutta before the end of this solo 3 month retreat.

On why there seems to be so much resistance to an open discussion on the jhanas:  I think this is a rather large topic.  However, while in the 30 years of my practice regimen I have studied from a few key teachers with whom I spent as much as a decade, I have over all been a free-ranging contemplative, who endeavors to attend every public dhamma talk and retreat that I come across.  This has allowed me to examine many schools within Buddhism, as well as various Hindu sects.

I have found each school of Buddhism acts as though they have a special line on the Buddha's teachings.  I find that quite funny really because I started reading through the Buddha's discourses, and I have found no support for the key premises of every school of Buddhism I have encountered.  Interesting huh.  Also, I have found few people claiming to be Buddhist teachers who have actually read the Buddha's discourses.  Most of the time teachers are familiar with their sect's commentaries only.

While all branches of Buddhism seem to reject the absorption states, I have found in the discourse of the Buddha he spoke about them in almost ever discourse.  I can only conclude that what the Buddha called the "snivelers and drivellers" have taken over the sangha.

Snivelers and drivellers
Ganakamoggallana Sutta, MN 107
Translated from the Pali by I.B. Horner.
"Even so, brahman, nibbana does exist, the way leading to nibbana exists and I exist as adviser. But some of my disciples, on being exhorted and instructed thus by me attain the unchanging goal -- nibbana, some do not attain it. What can I, brahman, do in this matter? A shower of the way, brahman, is a Tathagata."

When this had been said, the brahman Ganaka-Moggallana spoke thus to the Lord:

15. "Good Gotama, as for those persons who, in want of a way of living, having gone forth from home into homelessness without faith, who are crafty, fraudulent, deceitful, who are unbalanced and puffed up, who are shifty, scurrilous and of loose talk, the doors of whose sense-organs are not guarded, who do not know moderation in eating, who are not intent on vigilance, indifferent to recluseship, not of keen respect for the training, who are ones for abundance, lax, taking the lead in backsliding, shirking the burden of seclusion, who are indolent, of feeble energy, of confused mindfulness, not clearly conscious, not concentrated but of wandering minds, who are weak in wisdom, drivellers -- the good Gotama is not in communion with them.
But as for those young men of respectable families who have gone forth from home into homelessness from faith, who are not crafty, fraudulent or deceitful, who are not unbalanced or puffed up, who are not shifty, scurrilous or of loose talk, the doors of whose sense-organs are guarded, who know moderation in eating, who are intent on vigilance, longing for recluseship, of keen respect for the training, who are not ones for abundance, not lax, shirking, backsliding, taking the lead in seclusion, who are of stirred up energy, self-resolute, with mindfulness aroused, clearly conscious, concentrated, their minds one-pointed, who have wisdom, are not drivellers -- the good Gotama is in communion with them.

Kindest regards,

Jeff Brooks

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