THE MANY PATHS OF CORRECT MEDITATION
PALI-CANNON’S TEACHINGS ON JHANA
The Pali-cannon says quite a lot about the Jhana’s such as noting that it is extremely difficult to obtain even the first Jhana and in the Upakkilesa Sutra there is a detailed account of the Buddha’s struggle to obtain the first absorption and the case is similar for others monks (eg, A.I.12).
CONCENTRATION AND THE FIRST JHANA
The first Jhana is not just a relaxed state of being or merely feeling happy but a deeper state of meditation where one does not hear any sounds and one cannot speak (cf, A.V.13). The experience of the first absorption is an otherworldly experience (cf, A.IV.430) constituting another world in the psychological and cosmological sense (cf, D.III.215 and S.V.56) and to reach here is to enter a ‘Superbly Extraordinary State’ (cf, M.I.159 and M.I.147). The absorption of the first Jhana is beyond mere reflection and conceptual thought. Concentration is essential for full awakening (cf, A.III. 426).
NOT ANY CONCENTRATION, BUT RIGHT CONCENTRATION.
Over and over again in the Pali-cannon right concentration (samma samadhi) is equated with the four absorptions (eg, D.II.313) however, as the Buddha’s former teachers show despite deep concentration/absorption one has not reached enlightenment without combining it with right view (cf, A.III.19; A.III.200; A.IV.99; A.IV.336; A.V.4-6 and A.V.314). It is worth noting that it is possible to enter a jhana and still have all the hindrances obsessing the mind (cf, Gopakamaggallana Sutra).
CONCENTRATION AND STREAM ENTRY
A sotāpanna (“stream-entrant”) is a person who has seen the Dharma and consequently has dropped the first three fetters that bind a being to rebirth. A Sotapanna will reach full enlightenment within the next seven lives. Perhaps the biggest difference between a Sotapanna and Buddha is the lack of absorption. According to a discourse in the Itivuttaka the hindrances can be removed during walking meditation (a posture not suitable for attaining absorption – cf It.118) and listening to the Dharma (cf, S.V.95) and for people who have never meditated (D.I.110; D.I.148; M.I.380; A.IV.186; A.IV.213).
CONCENTRATION AND ONCE RETURNERS
Those people who have gained the ability to enter absorption at will are never going to return to this world (A.II.126) and the difference between a once returner and never returner is the development of concentration (cf, A.IV.380; A.I.232; A.I.233).