A Mind Pure, Concentrated, and Bright

An interview with meditation teacher Leigh Brasington

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Like a Lake
The Buddha describes the qualities of the jhanas and offers similes to illustrate them.

First jhana:
There is the case where a monk—quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful qualities—enters and remains in the first jhana: rapture and pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought and evaluation. He permeates and pervades, suffuses and fills this very body with the rapture and pleasure born from withdrawal. There is nothing of his entire body unpervaded by rapture and pleasure born from withdrawal.
   
Just as if a skilled bath man or bathman's apprentice would pour bath powder into a brass basin and knead it together, sprinkling it again and again with water, so that his ball of bath powder—saturated, moisture-laden, permeated within and withoutwould nevertheless not drip; even so, the monk permeates, suffuses and fills this very body with the rapture and pleasure born of withdrawal. There is nothing of his entire body unpervaded by rapture and pleasure born from withdrawal.

Second jhana:

Furthermore, with the stilling of directed thought and evaluation, he enters and remains in the second jhana: rapture and pleasure born of composure, unification of awareness free from directed thought and evaluation-internal assurance. He permeates and pervades, suffuses and fills this very body with the rapture and pleasure born of composure. There is nothing of his entire body unpervaded by rapture and pleasure born of composure.
   
Just like a lake with spring water welling up from within, having no inflow from east, west, north, or south, and with the skies periodically supplying abundant showers, so that the cool fount of water welling up from within the lake would permeate and pervade, suffuse and fill it with cool waters, there being no part of the lake unpervaded by the cool waters; even so, the monk permeates and pervades, suffuses and fills this very body with the rapture and pleasure born of composure. There is nothing of his entire body unpervaded by rapture and pleasure born of composure ....

Third jhana:

And furthermore, with the fading of rapture, he remains in equanimiry, mindful and alert, and physically sensitive to pleasure. He enters and remains in the third jhana, of which the noble ones declare, equanimous and mindful, he has a pleasurable abiding. He permeates and pervades, suffuses and fills this very body with the pleasure divested of rapture, so that there is nothing of his entire body unpervaded with pleasure divested of rapture.
   
Just as in a blue, white, or red lotus pond, there may be some of the blue, white, or red lotuses that, born and growing in the water, stay immersed in the water and flourish without standing up out of the water, so that they are permeated and pervaded, suffused and filled with cool water from their roots to their tips, and nothing of those blue, white, or red lotuses would be unpervaded with cool water; even so, the monk permeates and pervades, suffuses and fills this very body with the pleasure divested of rapture. There is nothing of his entire body unpervaded with pleasure divested of rapture ....

Fourth jhana:
And furthermore, with the abandoning of pleasure and stress—as with the earlier disappearance of elation and distress—he enters and remains in the fourth jhana: purity of equanimity and mindfulness, neither-pleasure-nor-pain. He sits, permeating the body with a pure, bright awareness, so that there is nothing of his entire body unpervaded by pure, bright awareness.
   
Just as if a man were sitting wrapped from head to foot with a white cloth so that there would be no part of his body to which the white cloth did not extend; even so, the monk sits, permeating his body with a pure, bright awareness. There is nothing of his entire body unpervaded by pure, bright awareness.

—From the Anguttara Nikaya 28, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu 

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Kayla's picture

I am reading the book "Simply This Moment" by Ajahn Brahm and he also encourages jhana states. To him, it's a deeper place inside the mind, a place of great peace and bliss, a very profound place which gives one great insights into the mind.

Yuriy-Wisdom's picture

This is so difficult to attain... but so rewarding that once you get it, you will never look at material pleasures in the same way again. I experienced access concentration once (by accident I think). Have not been able to replicate it since, but have been learning and practicing sila, so it should come back one day. Maybe going on this retreat would help? Sila and regular meditation practice have helped build concentration slowly but maybe to experience those states you also need inspiration from a good teacher...

Yuriy

Sareen's picture

I am interested in hearing from people who have practiced in this way. It sounds like Leigh is recommending jhana practice be combined with insight practice. This makes sense to me, as I understand it there are warnings in a lot of buddhist writing that jhana practice can be a place to hide out. It seems to me that it could possibly be used to cut off from inner material. This could mean that this inner material would still be there when you got off the cushion, and your behavior and attitude in life could be unaltered and remain quite unskillful.

James Mullaney's picture

I would assume that in addition to morality, a safe and secure meditation environment is necessary to attain these deep levels of concentration,.