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long term meditator but no hint of Jhanna! And anti Jhanna philosophy of some Buddhist schools.

By Stephen Hendry


Date: Fri, 29 Jul 2005 03:44:03 -0700 (PDT)

 From: "Stephen H." <henntsp@yahoo.com>


Dear Jhananda, just a quick response to the Jhanna information.

As a new member and 20+year meditator I want to own up and admit I have never achieved Jhanna. I feel like an imposter in this group as many of you have attained Jhanna. I am an ex Bhikkhu and have practiced in various Asian countries and am most impressed by the level of honest dialogue happening here. As a non-Jhanna achiever I would very much like to contribute and observe the discussion. Is this ok?

I hope before I die to one day achieve Jhanna. For years I have struggled to attain but presently my mind does not allow it. My concentration etc is strong, I guess the reason I don't achieve Jhanna is connected to vitaka etc. I have deep emotional difficulties resulting from an abusive childhood and intuitively I feel until I am deeply honest about my inner pain etc then Jhanna shall be denied me. This is my take on the subject.

I trained for 3 years in Mahasi Vipassana schools and it was obvious in the stages of progress of Vipassana, the 16 Nyanas, those with emotional problems did not get past the early stages. I also observed that those with emotional difficulties, if they did somehow get into Nyannas, they would flip out.

In intense Zen sessions and intensive Vajrayana retreats some practitioners were carted off to hospitals, as they could not handle the effects of deeper concentration. The concentration brought up hellish visions. It was very sad. When I practiced in Thailand the Thai's acknowledge Meditation Sickness. While I lived there some heavy-duty meditators flipped, walking naked around the temple claiming to be Buddha etc. I witnessed similar in intense Zen sessions.

I wonder if Jhanna can bring up similar difficult results for those with unresolved issues. Any ideas?

In Zen meditation, which in my experience (2 years practicing in Japan) is not about access concentration or momentary concentration but is about something different, I done rather well and gained satori while others could not. So it seems swings and roundabouts if you know what I mean.

When I trained within the vipassana school of Mahasi Sayadaw Buddhism the Jhannas were portrayed as dangerous mind states to be avoided.

Jhannas are sometimes referred to as "the ice cream mind states" by certain senior Theravada teachers.

And lastly, modern Theravada portrays Devadatta, a contemporary of Buddha, as an evil monk who attempted to kill Buddha. Devadatta was alleged to have mastered all the Jhannas, so he is held up as en example of the dangers of Jhanna. He was a renegade monk who developed supernatural powers through profound Jhanna practice and was overtaken by defilements, which Jhanna could only temporarily suppress.

However what modern Theravada does not say is that when the Chinese pilgrims, Fa Hsien, Hsuan Tsang, ventured through India in 8th-12 centuries the followers of Davadatta were flourishing. And there were camps of "Devadattains" within the vicinity of Nalanda.

Good luck with your pro-Jhanna work. I totally support your aspiration to publicize what the suttas say about Jhanna. If you are interested let me know and I can dig out contact details of a new Jhanna school evolving in Sri Lanka. One of their teachers lives locally who teaches Jhanna and has mastered all 8.

Ven Vimalaramsi at Santisukkha (I think it's Sanitsukkha?) in US, may be an interesting contact for you.

He is an American Bhikkhu, with strong Vipassana and Samatha experience. He and I were monks together many years ago. He now has good practice behind him.

If you contact him please pass my regards to him.

I am particularly interested in "new" Buddhism, which will no doubt evolve in the west. Currently I am researching the bhikkhu's rules regarding the issue of sexism in the monastic sangha. It is predicted by various long term Buddhists that if the Dhamma is to spread widely in the West the issue of alleged sexism in Buddhism needs to be addressed.

Thank you for your revolutionary approach, it will help many people.

Take care.

Stephen Hendry

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