The Witch-hunt Continues
The Oppression of Jhana, Samadhi and the Ecstatic Contemplative
PO Box 41795
Tucson, AZ 85717
Rocky Mountain National Forest, 06-11-06
This paper explores the history and current oppression of ecstatic contemplatives and Ecstatic Buddhist in US American culture and the Buddhist Communities of Asia:
The subject will be studied through personal experience; case histories and research among ecstatic contemplatives in contemporary US American culture; The Ecstatic Buddhist and ecstatic contemplative defined; The history of the ecstatic contemplative; Definition of a profound spiritual experience; Definition of charismatic phenomena; The characteristics of the ecstatic contemplative; The experience of the ecstatic contemplation revealed; The "fruits" of the contemplative; Definition of meditative absorption; Who is oppressing Ecstatic Contemplatives? A cross-cultural view of gnosis: A History of Gnosis: the Buddha's Night of enlightenment; The mystification of Gnosis; A mysterious religion necessitates the invention of evil, Siddhartha Gotama, Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, Discourses of the Buddha; Teresa of Avila, the Interior Castle; John of the Cross, Dark Night of the Soul; Maitraya, The Future Buddha.
The Future Buddha (1)Buddhism has been waitingfor the future Buddha forTwenty six centuries.Christians have been waitingfor the "second coming" fortwo thousand years.Oddly they have not figured outThe future never comes.The Buddha, the Christ,can only come in the present.In fact I am certainthere has never been a time,During the period of humanson this planet,When enlightened oneshave not been here.But, the proprietors of religionsWant us to believeEnlightened ones only comeEver few thousand years.The future BuddhaIs the man across the street,Who leads a quiet life,Who does not go into debt for things.He simply begins and ends each dayIn the silence of internal refuge.The future Messiah is the motherNext door who never yells at her children.And, before and after her day,When all are asleep,She communes with the Divine.The future Avatar worksat the convenience store,And two other jobs,to put food on the table,While going to college.He is always patient,Even when his customers are not,Because, he begins and endseach day in union with the Infinite.The future Prophetis never unkind.He never raises his voiceto his wife or children,because he faces MeccaEvery day at noonIn submission to the One.The future enlightened oneis not just one divinely inspired being,Who Moses-like, parts the seas,Buddha-like turns into a rainbow,Or Jesus-like walks on water.The future Buddhais you and IBeginning and ending each dayIn communionwith what we hold as sacredAnd, by connectingall of the momentsOf each daywith a calm and still presence,So that we walk all of our days, upon days,In the presence of the Shining One.The future Avatar, Buddha, Christis nowAnd, we are emerging,Not in grape-like clusters,But thinly dispersed,like wildflowers in the desert.It is you and Ibringing our cravingTo rest,and becomingliving Embodiments of peace,patience and compassionIn every moment.
This essay is to bring to the reader's attention to the plight of a people who have been more persecuted, more brutally abused, persecuted the longest, and persecuted by the largest number of cultures than any known religious or ethnic minority. The oral traditions and written histories of almost every culture and religion on earth reveals this to be true. These people are the ecstatic and charismatic contemplatives. They have been accused of being witches and sorcerers and thus persecuted by almost every culture on earth. Europe routinely burned witches at the stake until 1700. Spain was still burning witches at the stake into the 20th century. The last known witch burning was here in the USA on the Navajo reservation in the 1960s.
What does it mean for the Continuation of a witch-hunt? For the last 2,000 years of European culture there is evidence that communities of people were persecuted for one reason or another. The witches were one of those people. This essay will show the persecution of "witches" continues today.
Beginning in AD 65 the Jewish people were driven from their homeland by Roman invaders. It caused the Jewish people to spread out all over the known world in search of peace. They have been persecuted in various communities since.
The ecstatic and charismatic contemplatives were routinely called "witches" and burned at the stake until 1700. After 1700 we began to see the ecstatic and charismatic contemplatives emerge into the public eye. The Shakers and Quakers are such communities. These people were called "Shaker" and "Quaker" because their ecstatic and charismatic manifestations often appeared as shaking and quaking. They moved to North America in the late 1700s to avoid persecution in Europe.
The neurological disorder Sydenham's chorea was originally called "Saint Vitus' dance" after the third-century A.D. Christian martyr, Saint Vitus, who was martyred because when he was in religious ecstasy his body shook and quaked like the Shakers and Quakers. This made his neighbors nervous, so they burned him at the stake. Now days when people have jerks and shakes in meditation, we call it a "kriya." We do not burn these people at the stake, but remarkably they are very often marginalized in their contemplative community by saying their religious experience is due to "impurities." And, they are very often medicated and institutionalized.
Ecstatic Buddhist (contemplative) defined:
Every religion has an ecstatic form. The Christian mystics, such as Teresa of Avila, are one of the Christian forms; Sufism is the Islamic form; Kabbalah is the Jewish form; Yoga is the Hindu form, and Ecstatic Buddhism (2) is the Buddhist form of ecstatic mysticism. These ecstatic forms of religion are generally ecstatic and charismatic contemplatives. An ecstatic and charismatic contemplative is one who experiences pleasant states and various charismatic phenomena, such as kriyas. These pleasant states are also often called a "profound spiritual experience."
"...he enters and abides in the fourth ecstasy (jhana): which is purity of equanimity and mindfulness, with neither pleasure nor pain. This is called renunciation-pleasure, seclusion-pleasure, calm-pleasure, self-awakening-pleasure. And of this pleasure I say that it is to be cultivated, to be developed, to be pursued, it is not to be feared.
Definition of a profound spiritual experience:
A "profound spiritual experience" is the sensible experience of the sacred. It occurs through a form of communion with the sacred and very often manifests as an altered state of consciousness. This altered state of consciousness is also known as meditative absorption.
Every religion has a form of communion with the sacred. And, most religions have a history of contemplatives who expressed the results of that communion in the form of ecstasies and various charismatic phenomena. In the writing of the mystics we find expressed a sensible experience of communion with the sacred in the form of sensory phenomena that arose during their communion. One of the terms for that sensory phenomena is "charismatic phenomena."
Sangiti Sutta (DN 188.8.131.52) (4)"There are [sets of] five things that were perfectly proclaimed by the Lord..."..."when he (she) has properly grasped the sign of ecstasy (samadhi-nimittam), has well considered it, applied his (her) awareness to it (supadharitam) and has penetrated it with wisdom (suppatividdham pannaya). At this joy (sukha) arises in him (her), and from this joy (sukha), [bliss (piti) arises); and by this (bliss) his (her) senses are calmed, he (she) feels happiness as a result, and with this happiness his (her) mind is established." (in absorption)
Definition of charismatic phenomena:
Charismatic phenomena are various non-physical phenomena that many contemplatives report during or in association with the practice of meditation. Thus an Ecstatic Buddhist or an ecstatic and charismatic contemplative is one who has these experiences. It also means that an Ecstatic Buddhist does not believe the Buddha was a stoic as he is so often represented by the Buddhist priesthood.
"There is no ecstasy (jhana) without wisdom (panna),No wisdom without ecstasy.One who is close to enlightenment (nibbana/nirvana)Has both wisdom and ecstasy."
If one were to read the Discourses of the Buddha (6), which is called the "Sutta Pitaka" in Pali, one will find the Buddha most often expressed himself in terms of bliss, joy and ecstasy. The Magadan (Pali) terms that he is recorded to have used for bliss, joy and ecstasy were "piiti, sukha and jhana" (7) respectively. Thus an Ecstatic Buddhist or an ecstatic and charismatic contemplative is also interested in cultivating the pleasant states of bliss, joy and ecstasy through following a contemplative lifestyle, such as the Noble Eightfold Path.
Jhana Sutta (AN XI.36) (8)"I tell you, the ending of mental agitation depends upon the cultivation of the ecstasies (jhana)..." (through 8th samadhi)
The "fruits" of the contemplative:
In the second sutta (chapter) in the Long Discourses of the Buddha (Digha Nikaya) the Buddha described the "Fruits" (9) of the contemplative life. The Pali term for fruit is "phala." The Fruits of the contemplative life actually appear from time to time in the Discourses of the Buddha and the number ranges from six to eleven fruits. They include various charismatic phenomena such as: energy (kundalini/viriya), Out-of-Body (10) (OOB/Manomaya), Clairaudience (dibba-sota); Clairvoyance (dibba-cakkhu); Mental telepathy (ceto-pariya-ñána); Recollection of past lives (paticcasamuppada); Meditative Absorption (jhana/samadhi); Equanimity (upekkha); Fearlessness (nibbhaya); Freedom from unhappiness and suffering (Asukhacaadukkha); Knowledge & vision (nanadassana).
11 "fruits" (phala) of the contemplative life, or types of higher wisdom, "knowledges"
nibbhaya; abhiiruka; nissaarajja; abhiita
Freedom from unhappiness and suffering
Asukhacaadukkha Beyond Pain and Discomfort
Manomaya "Mind-made body."
dibba-sota Divine hearing
ceto-pariya-ñána "Knows the minds of others" or parassa ceto-pariya-ñána: 'penetrates the mind of others'
Recollection of past lives
s. Patisandhi, paticcasamuppada) pubbenivásánussati: 'remembrance of former births', is one of the higher powers (abhiññá, q.v.), and a factor of threefold knowledge (tevijja, q.v.).
Clairvoyance, Divine seeing
dibba-cakkhu "sees beings passing away & re-appearing" (cutpapáta-ñána)
The ending of the mental agitation (effluents)
Knowledge & vision
nanadassana (knowledge (nana) and vision (dassana))
Definition of meditative absorption:
In the Maha-satipatthana Sutta (DN 22.21) (12), which is the 22nd sutta in the Long Discourses, the Buddha described the eighth fold of his Noble Eightfold Path. There he defined it in terms of meditative absorption. For that description he used the Sanskrit term "samadhi", and he further defined samadhi in terms of bliss, joy and ecstasy. It was in this sutta that the Buddha defined his practices of meditation and the Fruits (phala) there of.
The Buddha's definition of the 8th fold of the Noble Eightfold Path
"And what is noble meditative absorption (sama-samadhi)? There is the case where a contemplative; who is withdrawn from sensory phenomena, and withdrawn from unwholesome mental states; enters upon and abides in the first ecstasy (jhana), which is accompanied by bliss (piiti) and joy (sukha) originating from withdrawal..." (through fourth jhana).
Personal experience with meditative absorption and charismatic phenomena:
In 1973 I took up a daily meditation practice. I found some pretty nice sensations from that practice, so I felt I was succeeding at it. About 6 months into that period I began to have lucid dreams that I was slipping out of my body, like a snake sloughing off its skin. I thought I was going insane, but I did not want to be institutionalized so I did not talk to a lot of people about the experience with the exception of a few psychologists. The psychologists determined that I had a disassociative disorder and I should be medicated and undergo extensive therapy. I did not have the money for that therapeutic regimen and the idea of being medicated all of the time did not appeal to me, so I tried speaking to various meditation teachers in case these dreams were somehow connected to my meditation practice. They said, "Just ignore all of that nonsense." (13)
The Fruit (phala) Of Right Effort (samma-vayam)Devadaha Sutta (MN 101. 38-42) (14)"Having thus abandoned these five hindrances, imperfections of the mind that weaken wisdom, withdrawn from sensory phenomena, withdrawn from unwholesome mental states; one enters upon and abides in the first ecstasy (jhana)...(through 4th jhana)..."Thus too, bhikkhus, this exertion is fruitful, this striving is fruitful."
Not finding it possible to just ignore these hyper-real experiences in my sleep state, I tried my last resort, which was to speak to my grandmother. She was a wise old lady, but a little batty, for instance in the 50s she road her bicycle from Boston to Tucson. Today that is a pretty impressive feat for a woman in her 50s. But, then it was not even believable. I spoke to her because she had studied alternative medicine most of her life, and I trusted her.
She said, "Oh dear you are just having Out-of-Body experiences."
Back in 1974 I had never heard of the term or the idea that one could leave the body. She explained it was normal for people who meditate to leave the body and she gave me a set of booklets that described the experience in detail. It was those details that described my experience perfectly. Armed with a name for my "condition" I went to the local New Age bookstore and found other books on the subject of OOBs, and what I found out later was also called "Astral Traveling." It was a tremendous relief to find that I was not mentally ill, and that my "condition" was a byproduct of my contemplative life.
A Case history of oppression:
Oddly, over the decades when I spoke of my charismatic experiences with highly respected meditation teachers they typically told me to ignore the various phenomena that I have found associated with meditation. Some of them were even offended, or hostile toward me, so I learned to not speak about my meditation experiences with my meditation teachers.
Over there are the trunks of trees; over there are empty dwellings. Practice meditative absorption (jhana), Ananda. Don't be heedless. Don't later fall into regret. This is our message to you all."
One of the little external signs of the pleasantness of my meditation is my head bobs slightly when I am in deep meditation, which would be called a kriya, because the movement is spontaneous. I have sat about 50 or 60 meditation retreats over the last 3 decades. No one ever seemed to even notice this slight quirk. However, in the summer of 2001 I was attending a 10-day meditation retreat. There the retreat leader was quite alarmed by the bobbing of my head. And, telling him that I had the effect for 3 decades did not seem to relieve his anxiety. (16)
In an interview on the 8th day of that retreat, he said, "You have got to stop your head from bobbing while you meditate."
I said, "My head bobs on its own. I do nothing to make it bob."
He said, "If you cannot get your head to stop bobbing then you will have to leave this retreat."
I said, "I came here to meditate, not to police my head."
He said, "Then, you will have to go."
At that time I was an officer for one of the largest meditation centers (17) in my state. For that center, in addition to my board-level duties, I had also led their weekly meditations, functioned as registrar and manager for their retreats and setup public talks and radio interviews for their visiting meditation teachers (18). So, when I returned early from the 10-day meditation retreat, people noticed my early return and asked why I was back so soon. When I told them that I had been asked to leave the retreat by the retreat leader because my head bobbed when I meditated, they thought it was pretty funny.
One of them just looked at me quizzically, and said, "That meditation teacher must be insane."
Talk got around the meditation center that I had been thrown out of a 10-day meditation retreat. One of the senior members of that center suggested that I call the guiding teacher of our center to ask him about the situation. So, I called that teacher and told him about being tossed out of a 10-day meditation retreat.
He asked, "Well, what goes on in your meditations?"
His vocal inflection when he said the word "jhana" was similar to how a lover would say, "You have herpes." But, at least I had a name within a Buddhist context for my experience. I got right onto the web and browsed for the term, and right away found only about 3 hits for the term "jhana." I read all of the scant information I could find on the subject. And found while there seemed to be a lot of mystery and fiction assigned to the term, there was sufficient information for me to identify my experience within it, and there were even canonical references to look up. I spent the next three years studying everything on the subject of jhana and the Fruits (Phala) of the Contemplative Life including reading the first 5,000 pages of the Discourses of the Buddha.
In the intervening time I found my fellow board members becoming suspicious of my motives. Very often the items that I suggested for board-level discussion were removed from the list. At that time I also published a newsletter (19) to help promote our meditation retreats and our teachers. In that newsletter I began to publish editorials that addressed the issues that my fellow board members were not willing to address.
In the intervening three years after I was booted out of the retreat for a bobbing head I found no additional information on the subject of jhana being presented by my center's itinerant meditation teachers. Within my meditation organization I had asked for empowerment to teach meditation and to address jhana, which none of the other meditation teachers would address. However, that empowerment was not forth coming. Instead I found myself becoming increasingly marginalized after 13 years in the organization. In early 2003 the itinerant teachers for that meditation center filibustered the board to have me removed from office because of two articles that I had published on the importance of understanding the Dark Night of the Soul (20), and the Emergence of Western Teachers of Buddhism (21).
Dark Night of the Soul, John of the Cross (22)"The first purgation of the night is bitter and terrible to sense...for it is horrible and awful..."
Finding myself without a contemplative community after 30 years of daily meditation practice, and no venue within which to teach, and since at that time there was no information from our meditation teachers on the subject of jhana, and so very little information in the literature or on the web regarding the subject of jhana, and its associated phenomena, I decided to join listservs on Yahoo Groups to see if I could find any dialog lists that were friendly to meditative absorption, jhana, samadhi and the Fruits of the contemplative life (phala).
In my search I ended up joining over 450, mostly Buddhist, Yahoo Groups. I did not find a single Yahoo group that had even used the term "jhana" once in their dialogs. I then tried posting a message that described what took place in my meditations. I hoped by doing so to encourage dialog on the subject. I was promptly banned from about 150 mostly Buddhist Yahoo groups. And, very few of the remaining Yahoo Groups took an interest in my subject area, so I start a Yahoo group, the Jhana Support Group (23), on the subject of meditative absorption, jhana and samadhi and the Fruits of the contemplative life (phala). Within months hundreds of people had joined that group.
Within the first month of that list serve's inauguration I also began to receive very offensive emails from people claiming to be meditation teachers and Buddhist monks. I was generally dismissed as a "bliss ninny" (24) or mentally or neurologically "damaged" from "incorrect" meditation practice. And, I was even urged to "humble myself" as a "temple boy" (25) in Asia before the wise monks who taught meditation or I would forever be lost in hell or mental institutions.
Dark Night of the Soul, John of the Cross"...the soul can no longer meditate or reflect in the imaginative sphere of the senses...God now begins to communicate Himself to it...by pure spirit. He communicates Himself to it by an act of simple contemplation, to which neither the exterior nor interior senses of the lower part of the soul can attain. From this time forward, therefore, imagination and fancy can find no support in any meditation, and can gain no foothold by means thereof."
Who is oppressing Ecstatic Contemplatives?
Now, one would think this kind of response would be typical of a religious cult. However, these responses came from Buddhist monks and meditation teachers from many mainstream branches of Buddhism. The Zen monks called me a "bliss ninny." The Theravadan monks thought I should be a temple boy to "learn proper respect." The Pureland Buddhists said I was filled with demons. The Tibetan (26) Buddhist monks thought I was deluded. And, the western Insight and Vipassana meditation teachers said I was mentally or neurologically "damaged" for "incorrect" meditation practice. Which are not responses one would expect of the Buddhist teachers and monks who have a reputation for being peaceful and compassionate.
Two years ago I decided to take the issue of meditative absorption and jhana on the road. At that time I helped organize a retreat led by a senior monk who was one of the few Theravadan monks who would even mentioned the term "jhana." Through my contacts on the web I had brought more people to that retreat than the monk had attracted. At that retreat I described to the monk in a private interview what takes place during my meditations, which is common practice.
His only response was to cross his arms and lean back in his chair and say, "You are so arrogant."
He never did tell me precisely what it was about the description of my meditations that annoyed him so very much. A month later I was invited to lead a mediation retreat in northern California. Two weeks before that retreat was supposed to start the local Theravadan monastery filibustered (27) that retreat center's board, which forced them to cancel my retreat.
Jhanasamyutta, SN 34 (28)
History of the ecstatic contemplative:
As an Anthropologist looking at religion I find there are a number of purposes for religion. Most notably it is one of the important ways by which people express their cultural identity. Within each religion is also evidence that a small community of people used that religion as a vehicle for their spiritual aspirations for a profound spiritual experience.
Dark Night of the Soul, John of the Cross"The soul, after it has been definitely converted to the service of God, is, as a rule, spiritually nurtured and caressed by God...Me makes it to find spiritual milk, sweet and delectable, in all of the things of God, without any labor of its own, and also great pleasure in spiritual exercises (practice), for here God is giving it the breast of his tender love, eve as to a tender child"
I believe the very purpose of the spiritual and/or contemplative life is the intentional cultivation of what is often called a "profound spiritual experience." This "profound spiritual experience" was called "gnosis" back about 300 years on either side of Jesus' life, and scholars tend to say that Jesus was a Gnostic; and thus Christianity, before it became the state religion of Rome, was a Gnostic cult. The experience of gnosis in Christianity is now generally referred to as communion with the Holy Spirit.
All religions seem to express in their history one or more individuals who experienced a "profound spiritual experience." Most religions tend to believe that their religion is the only one that has the direct line on that "profound spiritual experience."
If all religions are ultimately looking for the direct religious experience, which I believe they are, then we can accept that almost all religious activity is intended to produce that experience. If we unpack all religious activity within this context, then we can see that most, if not all, religious activity is nothing more than a "set and setting" for stimulating a profound religious experience. From unpacking Christian mysticism, Hinduism and Buddhism it appears that the pre-Christian experience of gnosis is the same as a visit from the Holy Spirit, which is the same as samadhi in a Hindu context and jhana in a Buddhist context, which is none other the ecstatic and charismatic contemplative experience.
Dark Night of the Soul, John of the Cross"God is now leading them to another road, which is that of contemplation, and is very different from the first (meditation); for the one is meditation and reasoning, and the other belongs neither to imagination nor yet to reasoning"
A cross-cultural view of gnosis:
When we distill down the various cultural behaviors that are associated with religious practices, and we also unpack the experience and practices of the mystics of the various religions, we find some rather interesting similarities from one religion and culture to the next. Generally, those who made it into the record as authentic saints, had acquired a religious experience. And, most often they moved from, a conversational framework of communication with the sacred, to a listening stance to what the sacred had to "say." This shift to a "listening stance" is what is otherwise known as meditative absorption, communion with the Holy Spirit, gnosis, samadhi, jhana or the ecstatic and charismatic contemplative experience.
Dark Night of the Soul, John of the Cross"For contemplation is naught else than a secret, peaceful and loving infusion from God, which if it be permitted, enkindles the soul with the spirit of love..."
In the contemplative arts there are three basic modalities. First there is the prayer, which is a beseeching, or conversational framework with the sacred. Then, there is the methodological framework that we know of as a meditation technique. A meditation technique is a cognitive process of directing and redirecting one's attention to some meditation "object."
A meditation object basically utilizes a single sense, such as hearing or seeing, and diverts it to a meditation object. In the case of hearing, the repetition of a prayer, mantra-like, is the auditory meditation object. In the case of the visual sense sphere, one directs one's inner visual brain functions to imagining, or visualizing an image of the sacred, such as a picture of Jesus, Krishna, or the Buddha.
The final phase in the contemplative methodology is when one lets go of the volitional activity of projecting an image or sound, or smell, or feeling of the sacred, and begins to "listen" to the Sacred. Listening to the sacred is simply entering a passive cognitive state in which the mind is no longer active, and one simply senses ever so quietly for any sensible experience that would be outside of the ordinary sensory domain. This sensible experience that is outside of the ordinary sensory domain is the experience of gnosis, or samadhi, and it is ecstatic and charismatic.
Dark Night of the Soul, John of the Cross"The way in which they are to conduct themselves in this night of sense is to devote themselves not at all to reasoning and meditation, since this is not the time for it, but to allow the soul to remain in peace and quietness, although it may seem clear to them that they are doing nothing and are wasting their time...The truth is that they will be doing quite sufficient if they have patience and persevere in prayer without making any effort. What they must do is merely to leave the soul free and disencumbered and at rest from all knowledge and thought, troubling not themselves, in that state, about what they shall think or meditate upon, but contenting themselves with merely a peaceful and loving attentiveness toward God, and in being without anxiety, without the ability and without desire to have experience of Him or to perceive Him. For all these yearnings disquiet and distract the soul from the peaceful quiet and sweet ease of contemplation which is here granted to it"
The sensible experience of the sacred can occur in any one or more of the senses. Most often a vision of the sacred is reported, for which the religions, such as Catholicism and Hinduism have provided ample stories and paintings to embellish. However, not everyone reports a vision. Some people report hearing the sacred. This usually begins with a kind of chirping, or whirring sound and develops into whistles or flutes and eventually becomes choirs of angels and/or an orchestra. In Sufism the sensible experience of the sacred is very often expressed as a smell, such as the smell of roses. In Hinduism there are references to a sweet, honey-like, taste.
My sensible experience of the sacred most often manifests as a high pitch ringing sound, a general luminosity when the eyes are closed and a kind of moving paisley background pattern. I also experience a kind of vertigo without the nausea. I have had these experiences for over 30 years and I have found they have only become richer and more lucid as the decades have gone by.
The Interior Castle, St. Teresa of Avila, (29)"As I write this, by the way, I can't help but wonder what's going on inside my own head. Those noises I told you about in the beginning are getting so loud that it's almost impossible for me to obey the order to write this. It sounds like there are a multitude of rushing rivers inside my head, their waters cascading downward, surrounded by many little birds and other whistling sounds. This is all unfolding not in the ears but the upper part of the head, where they say the higher part of the soul resides. I have spent long periods in these regions. The spirit seems to push its way upward with great power and speed...all of this turmoil doe not hinder my prayer or interfere with what I am trying to say. Instead, my soul is whole within its quietude, its love, its longing, and its clarity of consciousness."
A History of Gnosis:
The Buddha spoke about the sensible experience of the sacred and gave it the name "Jhana-Nimitta" (30). The Pali term "jhana" is a synonym for the Sanskrit term "samadhi" and the Pali term "nimitta" means 'sign' or 'characteristic.' Christian mysticism has a term for this phenomena, it is "charism" from which the terms "charisma" and "charismatic" came.
Satipatthana Samyutta SN 8 (8) The Competent Cook (31)"Suppose, monks, a wise, competent (and) skillful cook were to present a king or royal minister with various kinds of curries...that wise...cook observes the sign of his master's preferences."
"So too, monks, here some wise, competent, skillful contemplative dwells contemplating the physical body, ardent, clearly comprehending, mindful, having removed covetousness and displeasure in regard to the world. While he (or she) dwells contemplating the physical body, his (her) mind becomes absorbed (jhana), his (her) corruptions (nivarana) are abandoned, he (she) picks up the sign (nimitta). He (she) dwells contemplating the (5 Skhandas) body (rupa)... sensations (vedana)... perception (sañña)... mental states (sañkhara)... cognition (viññana)... ardent, clearly comprehending, mindful, having removed covetousness and displeasure in regard to the world. While he dwells contemplating phenomena, his (her) mind becomes absorbed (jhana), his (her) corruptions (nivarana) are abandoned he (she) picks up the sign (nimitta)" of absorption (jhana).
Patanjali, the ancient author of the Yoga Sutras, described 2 basic stages of the sensible experience of the sacred, which he called "samadhi." The first phase, he said, occurs while there is still an awareness of the sensory domain, so he called that phase in Sanskrit "savikalpa samadhi," which means sa=with + vikalpa=cognition and the Sanskrit term 'samadhi' best translates as gnosis or meditative absorption. The second phase he said occurred when there was no awareness of the sensory domain, so he called that phase "nirvikalpa samadhi," which means nir=without + vikalpa=cognition, and is where the Sanskrit term "nirvana" comes. The Sanskrit term "Nirvana" means nir=without + vana=turning, and implies the ending of the turnings, or machinations, of the mind.
Patanjali's Yoga Sutras (1.40-1.51) (32)"A contemplative's mastery can extend to the infinite or the infinitesimal. Through becoming saturated in meditative absorption (samadhi) the habits of the mind, perceiver, perceiving and perception, dwindle until transparent as a jewel. Meditative absorption (samâpattiï) that is combined with sounds (åabda), forms (artha) and concepts (jõâna) is a conceptual meditative absorption with (sa) applied attention (vitarka) (savitarka samadhi) (upon objects)."Meditative absorption (samadhi) that is free of the (objects) of memory, thought and an awareness of a physical body, which is radiant in the emptiness of its own true nature, is meditative absorption without (nir) applied attention (vitarka) (nirvitarka samadhi). In this way subtle phenomenon arise during conceptual (savicârâ) and non-conceptual (nirvicârâ) meditative absorption (samadhi). Ending in subtle objects and without form. These meditative absorptions (samadhis) occur also with the seed sound."In the non-conceptual (nirvicâra) meditative absorption (samadhi) the soul (adhyâtma) is lucidly revealed. This is consciousness in its absolute truest state. This wisdom is uniquely different from that which is acquired through testimony, scholarship and inference. Its impressions efface all other impressions. In seedless (nirbîjaï) meditative absorption (samadhi) all impressions are stilled, even the impressions of meditative absorption (samadhi)."
Teresa of Avila, in her book the "Interior Castle," described 7 stages of gnosis, which are none other than 7 stages of the sensible experience of the sacred, which she called "ecstasy." We can see from reading her book that she divided them into two classes, those which involved the sensory domain, she called "bliss;" and those which did not, she called "raptures."
Siddhartha Gotama talked about 9 stages of the sensible experience of the sacred, which are described in the Discourses of the Buddha (sutta pitaka). He classified them in two basic phases as well. Those that occurred within the sensory domain, he called "jhana;" and those that occurred without sensory phenomena, he called "samadhi." The final phase, or 9th stage of meditative absorption he called "nibbana," which is derived from the Sanskrit term "nirvana."
"And what sort of meditation did he (the Buddha) praise? There is the case where a contemplative; who is withdrawn from sensory phenomena, and withdrawn from unwholesome mental states; enters upon and abides in the first meditative absorption state (jhana), which is accompanied by bliss (piiti) and joy (sukha) originating from withdrawal..." (through fourth jhana). "This is the sort of (meditation) that the Blessed One praised."
The mystification of Gnosis
Not all religions demonize the experience of gnosis, but those that do not demonize it very often mystify the experience beyond human attainment. Hinduism and Buddhism are examples of religions that have not demonized gnosis but instead have mystified the attainment of gnosis (samadhi).
For the entire period of my contemplative life I have read the writing of the mystics wherever I could find them. I read many of the Christian mystics, the Kabbalist mystics, the Sufi mystics, the Hindu mystics, the Buddhist mystics, the Taoist mystics and the Shamanistic mystics. This enquiry is in part how I acquired a degree in Anthropology. In this enquiry I found that not all of the saints of a given religion, such as Catholicism or Hinduism, reflected the same level of enlightenment, and yet to become recognized as a saint in the Catholic Church a saint must have miracles attributed to him or her. Most religions stipulate the necessity of their saints or enlightened ones manifesting miracles.
If we look into the history of the saints of the Catholic Church we find dubious conditions upon some of their canonizations. Most notably the Emperor Constantine's mother and sister were among the first official saints of the Christian Church. We also know that the papacy of the Catholic Church was basically bought and sold in competition between two powerful Italian families, one of which was the Medicis. Further upon investigation we also find the largest contributors to the Catholic Church today are the mafia. Thus it is very possible that at least some of the saints of the Catholic Church are less than saintly and their miraculous stories may very well be nothing more than fiction.
We should not be surprised to find the same nonsense exists in Hinduism and Buddhism. For instance there are indicators that the Asian mafia is the primary donor to Buddhism. In India it is easy to find 3 million devotees for any one with the money to feed three million people. It is not surprising to find that most of the Hindu and Buddhist saints of the 20th century came from wealthy and powerful families. For instance Yogananda's father owned the Indian Railroad.
The ultimate form of opulent wealth in India is to buy your son an ashram in Hollywood to be the guru to the stars, which is what Yogananda was, not that he was not a saintly guy. But, the peasant saints are rarely heard from anywhere. Thus the question of the validity of the miraculous stories is worth reflecting upon which I have done for these three decades, and I have found the fantastic stories rarely reveal enlightenment but most probably priestly manipulation.
A mysterious religion necessitates the invention of evil
Further some claim that sorcerers can develop the occult powers through methods similar to the contemplative, but how can they, if those "powers" are cultivated by leading a contemplative life? And, further, if one who leads a contemplative life becomes selfish and harmful, as a sorcerer would be who wishes to harm people through the use of psychic powers, then that would be a failure of the contemplative life, not a success. Thus, how can we presume that someone who fails at the contemplative life could acquire power? And, further how can we assume that sorcerers can develop more powers than enlightened beings, such as Siddhartha Gotama and Patanjali, who only spoke of subjective fruits, not control of the physical universe?
It is nonsense to believe that sorcery even exists, because it cannot stand up to simple logic that one who leads a contemplative life, which is founded upon avoiding harm, can then become harmful. If such a person did, they would have failed at the contemplative life. And, besides where are these powerful sorcerers? Castañeda was supposed to be a powerful sorcerer, except he died of cancer. If he was so powerful, why did he not heal himself? Because, friends, he could not.
The consequence in believing that a sorcerer can have psychic powers is the hysteria of witch burnings that gripped the European peoples from roughly 1400 to 1700. Believe me friends I have met people who believed they were "powerful" sorcerers and I found these people to be weak and ineffective, and only neurotic and narcissistic enough to believe that their foolish incantations could really cause harm. These people could not even produce so much as a headache in me when they attempted to attack me with their fictional "powers."
There is a yogi in India who is said to have psychic powers, Sai Baba. Most of his tricks are nothing more than parlor magic, such as manifesting ashes (verbuti) from his apparently empty hands. But he is widely reported to be a child molester. How can a contemplative who has succeeded at the contemplative life, as evidenced by attaining the "Fruits" of the contemplative life, be a child molester? It is impossible, because a contemplative is harmless and child molesting harms children. Thus, Sai Baba, if he molests children, is only a stage magician masquerading as a saint.
Nivapa Sutta MN 25.12 (34)12 "And where is it that the evil one (Mara) and his following cannot go? Here, secluded from sensory stimuli, secluded from unwholesome mental states, a contemplative enter upon and abides in the first meditative absorption (jhana)"... (through 9th samadhi)...One's taints are destroyed by seeing with wisdom. This contemplative is said to have blindfolded the evil one (Mara), to have become invisible to the Evil One by depriving Mara's eye of its opportunity, and to have crossed beyond attachment to the world."
Now, one would think that someone with over 30 years of daily meditation practice, and success in that practice, as defined by the Buddha in terms of "jhana," and having three degrees from a well respected American university, articulate in speech and writing, and with an IQ of 145, and not having a criminal record or a poor reputation; would be the poster boy of Buddhism in the West. Instead we find this contemplative has been dismissed marginalized and demonized by every Buddhist meditation teacher he has studied with.
"Contemplatives, just as the River Ganges slants, slopes and inclines toward the East, so too a contemplative who develops and cultivates the four meditative absorptions (jhanas) slants, slopes, and inclines toward nibbana."
With that kind of response to my meditation one would think that I would have left Buddhism and joined another religion. I did. In 1975 I took my first 10-day Buddhist meditation retreat. When the teacher dismissed my meditation experiences I indeed tried another venue, which was a Hindu organization based upon Advaita Vedanta. There I was marginalized as well. In fact I have tried many different religions and contemplative traditions over these three decades and did not find a single one that did not dismiss, marginalize or demonize me for my meditation experiences.
So, is it Jeff Brooks who is a monster? Over the decades I have met quite a few people who have had similar experiences to mine. However, not one of them ever found a meditation teacher or religious professional who validated, respected or honored him or her for their meditation experiences. Most of these people lived rather marginal lives in their religious institutions and learned, like me, not to speak about their subjective experiences in meditation.
From the Buddha's Night of enlightenmentMahaasaccaka sutta (MN 36) (36)"It occurred to me: Doing these difficult exertions (his earlier ascetic practices), I will not attain, any noble distinctive knowledge and vision above human. There should be some other method for the realization of enlightenment. Then Aggivessana, I recalled the experience under the shade of the rose apple tree near my father's field: Secluded from sensory stimuli and secluded from unwholesome thoughts, with applied and sustained attention (vitakka and vicára) and with joy (sukha) and bliss (piiti) originating from seclusion, I attained to the first ecstasy (jhana). Then the awareness arose this is the path to enlightenment. I thought, why should I fear this pleasantness, which is other than sensual pleasure and away from unwholesome thoughts?"
I now manage three Yahoo groups that are focused upon various aspects of the ecstatic contemplative experience. There have been about 2,000 people who have joined those groups in the last 3 years. And, most of them have reported being, dismissed, marginalized or even demonized for their meditation experiences.
These ecstatic contemplatives come from every walk of life, every religion, and every culture. Thus we can conclude that the ecstatic and charismatic contemplative is most certainly dismissed, marginalized or even demonized by every religion on earth today. In fact I have not found a single contemplative tradition that does not at least mystify the ecstatic and charismatic contemplative's experience, if not outright demonize it.
One might be surprised to know that bringing the two terms together 'Ecstatic' and 'Buddhist' is like waving a red flag before a bull. In fact bliss, joy and ecstasy within a Buddhist context very often drives the otherwise placid Buddhist monk into a raving maniac. How do I know this? Because I have been receiving hate mail from people claiming to be Buddhist monks for three years now. The tension within the Buddhist community has gotten so severe over this work that I fully expect to be assassinated for my efforts of revealing the ecstatic aspect of the Buddha's discourses and providing one of the few safe places for the ecstatic and charismatic contemplative to speak openly about their experiences in meditation.
How did this all happen?
We should ask just how did the religions of today somehow lose track of the methodology and attainment of gnosis? If we consider that the priesthood has become an intellectual pursuit in every religion, then we can see that it is the intellectual who would be favored in selection as a priest over the simple contemplative. If the priesthood falls into the hands of an intellectual elite, then we can see how they might just be threatened by those who actually have the attainment of gnosis. Thus the abbot is likely to discourage monks and nuns who are experiencing gnosis, and encourage those who excel in an intellectual understanding of that religions doctrine.
Further we can also see that if a religion's doctrine has for a very long time been in the hands of an intellectual elite who do not have gnosis, then they are likely to reinterpret that doctrine in intellectual terms. It is this reinterpretation of the doctrine that often disparages the contemplative with gnosis or mystifies the experience beyond attainment.
Thus we can see how the ecstatic and charismatic contemplative has been more persecuted and persecuted for longer than any known religious or ethnic minority. The oral traditions and written histories of almost every culture and religion on earth reveals this to be true. The ecstatic and charismatic contemplatives have been accused of being witches and sorcerers and criminals and mentally ill in almost every culture on earth. This essay proves the ecstatic and charismatic contemplative continues to be misunderstood, dismissed, marginalized, demonized and even persecuted, by almost every religion, every culture every nation and even the medical and psychiatric community today. That persecution will not stop until the ecstatic and charismatic contemplatives join together to form their own community and they stand up together and show themselves as one people in the sacred.
A teaching on the day the Buddha diedMAHå-PARINIBBåNA-SUTTANTA (DN 16) (37)The conditions of welfare for the order (aparihániya-dhamma)The growth of the bhikkhus is to be expected, not their decline, so long as they cultivate the seven factors of enlightenment, that is: mindfulness (sati), investigation into the way (dhamma-vicaya), energy (viriya), bliss (piiti), tranquility (passaddhi), meditative absorption (samadhi), and equanimity (upekkha). So long, bhikkhus, as these seven conditions leading to welfare endure among the bhikkhus, and the bhikkhus are known for it, their growth is to be expected, not their decline.
Jeffrey S. Brooks (Jhanananda)
2) What is Ecstatic Buddhism? Brooks, Jeffrey S., Great Western Vehicle, September 19, 2004
3) Latukikopama Sutta (MN 66), Translated by Bhikkhus Nanamoli & Bodhi, Majjhima Nikaya, Wisdom, 1995
4) Sangiti Sutta (DN 184.108.40.206) Translated by Maurice Walshe, "The Long Discourses of the Buddha" (Digha Nikaya), Wisdom Publishing, Boston, 1987, 1995
6) The Great Western Vehicle master directory of translations of the TIPITAKA, The Earliest Buddhist Canon of Literature
8) Jhana Sutta (AN XI.36) Translated by Geoffrey DeGraff (Thanissaro Bhikkhu), Access to insight http://www.accesstoinsight.org/index.html
9) The Fruits (Phala) of the Contemplative Life, Brooks, Jeffrey S., Great Western Vehicle, September 13, 2004
11) Samaññaphala Sutta (DN 2) "The Discourse on the Fruits of the Contemplative Life" Phala Niakaya, Brooks, Jeffrey S., Great Western Vehicle,
13) The Experience of Meditation, Brooks, Jeffrey S., Great Western Vehicle, July 23, 2004
14) Devadaha Sutta (MN 101. 38-42) Translated by Bhikkhus Nanamoli & Bodhi, Majjhima Nikaya, Wisdom, 1995
15) Aneñja-sappaya Sutta (MN 106) Phala Niakaya, Brooks, Jeffrey S., Great Western Vehicle,
16) The Suppression of Jhana at a Goenka Retreat, Brooks, Jeffrey S., Great Western Vehicle, (August, 2001)
17) Tucson Community Meditation Center (TCMC) oppressing people for the attainment of meditative absorption, Brooks, Jeffrey S., Great Western Vehicle,
18) Evidence of Shinzen Young oppressing people for the attainment of meditative absorption, Brooks, Jeffrey S., Great Western Vehicle,
19) Southwest Insight E'letter, Great Western Vehicle
22) Dark Night of the Soul, by St. John of the Cross (1542-1591) translated by E. Allison Peers, Image Books, Garden City, New York, 3rd addition, 1959
23) Jhana Support Group, Great Western Vehicle
24) Correspondence with Mark Vetanen Jan 22, 2004, revealing the negative Zen attitude toward jhana as "bliss ninny"
25) The orthodox views of some Theravadan monks revealed in Correspondence with Richard Estes (aka Bhikkhu Dhammarato) in the guise of Phramaha Somsak 7/21/05
27) The Boycotting of a GWV Jhana Retreat at Bell Springs Hermitage by the monks of Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastery (14 Apr 2004)
28) Jhanasamyutta, SN 34, Bodhi, Bhikkhu trans., Samyutta Nikaya Wisdom, 2000
29) The Interior Castle, St. Teresa of Avila, translation and introduction by Mirabai Star. Riverhead Books, Published by the Berkley Publishing Group a division of Penguin Group USA Inc. 375 Hudson Street, New York NY 10014, 2003
31) Satipatthana Samyutta SN 8 (8) The Competent Cook (31)
34) Nivapa Sutta MN 25.12 (Majjhima Nikaya trans. Bhikkhus Nanamoli & Bodhi, Wisdom, 1995)
35) Jhanasamyutta, SN 9.53, (Bodhi, Bhikkhu trans., Samyutta Nikaya Wisdom, 2000)
36) Mahaasaccaka sutta (MN 36) Phala Niakaya, Brooks, Jeffrey S., Great Western Vehicle,
37) MAHå-PARINIBBåNA-SUTTANTA (DN 16) Translated by Maurice Walshe, "The Long Discourses of the Buddha" (Digha Nikaya), Wisdom Publishing, Boston, 1987, 1995
The Great Western Vehicle Archive of Gnosis, Jhana, Samadhi, Kundalini, Ecstatic Meditation (Jhana/Samadhi) and Ecstatic Buddhism
Anapanasati Sutta (MN 118) Mindfulness of the breath Phala Niakaya, Brooks, Jeffrey S., Great Western Vehicle,
Kayagata-sati Sutta, MN 119 "Mindfulness of the Body" Phala Niakaya, Brooks, Jeffrey S., Great Western Vehicle,
Satipatthana Sutta (MN 10) the Four Paths of Mindfulness Phala Niakaya, Brooks, Jeffrey S., Great Western Vehicle,
The Witch-hunt Continues, The Oppression of the Ecstatic Contemplative, Brooks, Jeffrey S., Great Western Vehicle, 06-19-06
The Suppression of Jhana by the "Sangha", Brooks, Jeffrey S., Great Western Vehicle, July, 7, 2005
The Demonizing of Ecstatic Meditation (Jhana) , Brooks, Jeffrey S., Great Western Vehicle,
The Boycotting of Jhana by IMS and Spirit Rock revealed in Correspondence with Marcia Rose, Guiding Teacher, Taos Mtn. Sangha & The Mtn. Hermitage, Brooks, Jeffrey S., Great Western Vehicle, February, 2003
The Boycotting of Jhana by IMS and Spirit Rock revealed in Correspondence with Eric Kolvig, an Insight Meditation Society teacher, , Brooks, Jeffrey S., Great Western Vehicle, 07/2005
Correspondence with Sudhamma 04-19-04, revealing the lack of jhana among the orthodoxy, Great Western Vehicle,
Correspondence with Sudhamma 8 Jun 2004, revealing the resistance to jhana and the ability to oppress those ideas by the Theravadan Orthodoxy, Great Western Vehicle,
Correspondence with Bhikkhu Samahita 04-04, revealing the attempt to subvert jhana in the non-canonical belief in "supramundane" verses "mundane" jhana by the orthodoxy, Great Western Vehicle,
Herman Hofman on the poor treatment of ecstatic meditators on Yahoo Groups, Great Western Vehicle, 10 Apr 2004
The dirty little secret of Asian Buddhism by Mark Vetanen, Great Western Vehicle, 25 Apr 2004
Correspondence with Mark Vetanen 27 Apr 2004, revealing the oppression of a Western interpretation of the Dhamma by the Zen Orthodoxy, Great Western Vehicle,
Correspondence with Bhikkhu Sujato revealing the conflict over jhana within the Theravadan Orthodoxy, Great Western Vehicle, Wed, 27 Jul 2005
Long term meditator but no hint of Jhanna! And anti Jhanna philosophy of some Buddhist schools. By Stephen Hendry, Great Western Vehicle, 29 Jul 2005
Original Buddhism And Brahminic Interference by Dr. K. Jamanadas
Jnanavira, Dharmachari. Homosexuality in the Japanese Buddhist Tradition. Western Buddhist Review, Volume 3. Journal of the Western Buddhist Order, 12 Oct, 2005 revealing pedophilia and misogyny in Japanese Buddhism.
SCANDAL HAUNTS TEMPLE MURDERS, A textbook example of the warping effect that $10 billion of China White heroin had upon major media, law enforcement, and judicial processes in Arizona. B.Q. 4-20-96 by Brian Downing Quig, also reveals ties between organized crime and the Buddhist orthodoxy of Asia
More information on Goenka's cult-like activities within VRI
A view into the Goenka cult by a long-term member