February 23, 2005
By the contemplative recluse monk Sotapanna Jhanananda (Jeffrey S, Brooks)
(copyright 2005 all rights reserved)
"Can one be in absorption (jhana) during walking or standing meditation?" The answer is, yes of course, as long as we are speaking of the material absorptions (rupa-jhanas). I have done it many times, and I have taught my students to do it. When I was visiting Millennium Twain last summer, in Santa Monica, we practiced various forms of walking and standing meditation. I also took the class through Surya Namaskar (sun worshiper), which is a Hatha Yoga set. We did the set in a very slow and contemplative form to support entry into absorption while in movement. We also engaged in some simplified Tai Chi movement, which I have found is very conducive to supporting jhana while in motion and with the eyes open.
When I teach moving jhana I begin with the Bahiya Sutta (U 1.10). I believe the central concept in this sutta is getting to a place were one does not objectify the objects of the senses. That means allowing oneself to sense without the mind engaging in the act of sensing. What I mean by this is simply allowing the sensory data to stream in without an attempt of the mind to interpret that data.
Bahiya Sutta (U 1.10)."When (Bahiya) for you there will be only the seen in reference to the seen...then, Bahiya, there is no you (there)...When there is no you there, you are neither here nor yonder nor between the two. This, just this, is the end of dissatisfaction (dukkha)."
In the next phase of this training we engage in kasina meditation. With kasina meditation we extend the concepts of the Bahiya Sutta to the practice of Kasina meditation. In this practice we gaze upon a simple circular object and defocus the sight so that we simply sample the luminance, or the quality of light, without resolving the individual components of the object. For more on Kasina meditation, please see this article:
It is the sense of sight that we all have the facility to defocus from and observe the light streaming in without focusing on the object. This is defocused from of seeing is observing just the luminance of an object. This idea of defocused sensing can be extended to the other senses as well, but "defocusing" from the other senses is rather difficult to get at for most people until they arrive at absorption (jhana).
The next step in this training is to take the kasina, open-eyed meditation practice, to standing meditation. This practice is especially useful for meditating upon the rising moon or sun, but can be used with a simplified meditation object such as a disk or sphere.
The next step in this series is to collect all of these practices and concepts together and apply them to walking meditation. In walking meditation, then, the object is to endeavor to remain in absorption (jhana) while walking. The practice begins with standing meditation, and one simply stands in meditation until one can withdraw from the sense of sight sufficiently to the point of sampling the whole visual field equally. When this is established then the contemplative begins to walk very slowly, because remember one is no longer focusing on anything, which means one wont actually be looking at the ground. It would be useful here to make sure one has an unobstructed path so one does not trip or fall over something in the path.
Next sun worshiper, which is a yoga series called Surya Namaskar is practiced. Here we attempt to go through a series of postures while remaining defocused from the visual field, and of course attempting to remain in absorption. In this case repetition becomes an aid. It is the repeated movement through a series of postures very slowly, in silence and defocused from the visual field that allows us to remain in absorption.
The final phase in this movement training for absorption is to instruct the students in some basic Tai Chi movements. Once these basic forms are established, then we all enter into defocused sight and move freely through space silently and very slowly moving in and around each other without ever touching or leaving absorption.
You may find reading this article on posture of some additional use:
Posture for the Skillful Practice of Meditation
May you become enlightened in this very lifetime,
Jhanananda (Jeffrey S, Brooks)