The Jhanas: Perfect States of Concentration

Mary Talbot

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At the heart of the Buddha's teaching there are doctrines and strategies that dharma students must learn, and internalize, in order to understand his map to liberation. But few strategies are as central to the Buddhist path, and as little known to Westerners, as those called the jhanas. Jhana is the Pali word for mental or meditative absorption, and refers to a set of states of deep and subtle concentration focused on a single object. In the Pali suttas, the Buddha described four jhanas, each a more profound and refined state of consciousness than the preceding one, and each building on the preceding one. The fourth jhana, in turn, can be refined even further into four more states of ever deepening concentration. These latter jhanas are called the nonmaterial jhanas because perception of the material world fades and disappears.

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