Aug 22, 2019
The 9 Jhanas of Buddha
Location: Chiang Mai, Thailand
What is Jhana?
The story goes that in Buddha's quest for enlightenment, he reached up to the 8th Jhana but still came short of liberation. This word Jhana kept coming up in my readings. What the heck is Jhana? Curious, I devoted quality reading-time to learn more about this esoteric word.
In a nutshell, Jhana is an altered state of consciousness while in meditative absorption. It is one of the 8 paths in the Eightfold Path way to enlightenment - Right Concentration. It comes in 9 states although it's not very clear where one state ends and the next begins. While there is not even an official label for these altered states, some conventions have been established. Some say only 8 Jhanas exist. The higher Jhanas are far more subtle, it's even hard to explain into words. Others contend that they simply have to be experienced to be understood. It may take years of devoted practice before the 1st state of Jhana is realized. You cannot summon Jhana. Just do the proper meditation with no expectation, nor having Jhana as a goal. Jhana may or may not happen.
Jhana vs. Vipassana
My meditation background is Vipassana (as taught by SN Goenka), and there was no mention of Jhana, even though Vipassana and the Jhanas stem from Buddha. Both are powerful meditation methods but distinct from the other. Jhana is geared toward single-pointed concentration...like concentrating on an object, the breath, picture of a guru, etc. until everything else disappears or becomes imperceptible, except for that object. Vipassana, on the other hand, scans the entire body for any sensation with a calm and equanimous mind. While the first 3 days of a Vipassana course focuses on the breath, it is not yet Vipassana but Anapana Breathing Meditation.
Same Experience but Different Labels
Further scrutiny reveals that even though the approach is different, the meditative states achieved are the same. Vipassana simply doesn't put labels on the Jhanic states or uses a different name. Example, Vipassana calls the state where the physical body is no longer present and what's left is a mass of vibrations, Bhanga-ñana. This is simply called the 5th Jhana: Infinity of Space - a state of consciousness where there is no perception of a form or body.
Disclosure: I'm discussing Bhanga and Infinity of Space as I understand them from my readings. I have not experienced them...yet.
It is said that as a meditator goes through the Jhanic phases, superpowers inevitably develop. Yes, it is involuntary. I've met serious meditators who developed these powers in the course of practising meditation. The powers vary from person to person. You simply cannot know what powers develop - they just happen. But because there is great risk of inflating the ego and losing focus on the path when you openly exhibit or talk about these powers, it is considered taboo to even talk about them, let alone show it off.
What exactly are these powers? To the newbie, it could be seeing elementals, ghosts or spirits - much to their chagrin. To the seasoned meditators, it could be traveling to other unearthly places or leaving the physical body. To the very advanced ones, they could see their past lives or will to terminate their existence.
It is interesting to note that in Hindu Yoga, superpowers are developed when prana (life energy) goes through the central nadi (energy channel), the Sushumna, and travels up, touching-up the rest of the chakras (energy centers) all the way up to the highest chakra, the Sahasrara on the top of the head.
1st Jhana: Pleasant Sensations
With a single-pointed concentration of the mind on a subject (there are 40 established subjects for the choosing, one of which could be the breath), you could start feeling a pleasant physical sensation which could explode into a state of ecstasy (piti) - this is not a calm and peaceful state. The sensation could start from a specific body part like the hands or heart center. While observing the pleasant sensation without clinging to them and keeping the stillness of the mind, the physical rapture morphs into an emotional joy (sukha). I have met meditators who cling to this pleasant sensation and meditate for the purpose of arriving at this joy - like a junkie in search of his 'fix'. He has lost the balance of his mind. Thus it is important to observe this joy without attachment. At this point, it is important to shift the observation from the breath to the pleasant sensation - observing the meditation subject has already served its purpose by bringing about the rapture. While piti and sukha are in high gear, there is still thinking and analysis lurking in the background.
2nd Jhana: Stilling the Analytical Mind
While immersed in rapture, the meditator stills his analytical mind. Thinking and evaluation cease. There is now pure awareness, free of conceptualization.
3rd Jhana: Contentment
As you let go of the peaceful joy, you transition into a quiet, placid state of contentment with an alert and vigilant mind.
4th Jhana: Peacefulness
As the mind remains equanimous without feeling anything positive or negative in the body or mind, a deep sense of peace prevails. The joyful sensations are no longer present.
5th Jhana: Infinity of Space
From hereon, the altered states of Jhana are said to be "absorption without form". The perception of the body disappears. There is a transformation into the heavenly realms where form is abstract. From feeling peaceful, you shift your attention to your physical boundaries which seem to be getting bigger and bigger until you feel everywhere.
6th Jhana: Infinity of Consciousness
When you realize that the expansive space you occupy includes your consciousness, you enter the 6th Jhana. As consciousness fills into infinity, you feel one with the universe. The one-pointedness of the mind remains. This is not yet enlightenment, even though it feels like it.
7th Jhana: No-thingness
With infinite consciousness, you realize there is nothing within this infinity that is permanent. Everything in it complies with the natural law of impermanence and is in a constant state of flux.
8th Jhana: Neither perception nor non-perception
This realm is very hard to grasp as it is so fine and subtle. It is at the highest pinnacle of concentration that the only way to describe it is to experience it. You let go of the nothingness of the 7th Jhana and into a natural and calm place where you have little recognition of what's happening even though you still have the awareness in you. You thread the world of perception and non-perception. Again, despite the permeating peace and calm, this is not enlightenment.
9th Jhana: Vipassana
According to SN Goenka, the Buddha found the 9th Jhana, and that is Vipassana - the development of insight that will take the meditator to the ultimate goal beyond the misery of sensory experience.
I find it interesting that other meditation teachers claim that Vipassana is a stepping stone in getting established in the practice of meditation. Stepping stone? When Buddha reached the 8th Jhana from the most learned teachers during his time, he was still short of enlightenment. There was no teacher alive who could liberate him. Thus he went deep within the physical structure of his body and gained wisdom which helped him develop Vipassana which opened up the gateway to enlightenment. So I have to strongly disagree that Vipassana is a beginner stepping stone.
This "stepping stone" claim was also uttered by a self-proclaimed "Vipassana teacher" in one of his sessions. When I asked him to clarify exactly what he meant by it, he recanted. I sat through his 1-hour "Vipassana class" and it was anything but Vipassana. Think about it. Authentic Vipassana in the Goenka tradition, in its most condensed form, takes 10 days. How could anyone claim to teach Vipassana in one hour?
Another Tibetan Yantra Yoga teacher I met in Dharamsala claimed the same thing - that Vipassana is a good start in meditation but that there are far more advanced forms of meditation. I'm not sure if he has ever done Vipassana (in the Goenka tradition) as he is steeped in his Tibetan Buddhism tradition. I'm familiar with Tibetan yoga retreats conducted in a cave or remote mountain highlands which lasts 3 years, 3 months, 3 weeks and 3 days. Yes, I will agree it's more intense, longer and more consuming. But I disagree that Vipassana is just a good start for the more advanced meditation modalities.
I will say that you can start a meditation practice with Vipassana, but you can go deeper and deeper into Vipassana until you reach liberation. I don't think anyone can max-out Vipassana to prompt him to "move on" to other types of meditation. My analogy is Photoshop. This program is so user-friendly that a 5 year old can play with it. But Photoshop has so much complexity to it that even a 30-year veteran power-user cannot claim that he has exhausted Photoshop.
I'm not saying that Vipassana is the be-all and end-all of meditation. There are many out there. If Vipassana doesn't work for you, try something else until you find one that works. Simple as that. Just don't make a claim or imply that Vipassana is a beginner stepping stone in a meditation practice - that is simply wrong and misleading.
I digressed, but there are other interpretations of the 9th Jhana. Some posit it as:
At this point, even consciousness stops. The heartbeat slows down to a faint beating and breathing is almost nil. It's like a deep state of sleep. This is as close as it gets to liberation.
Jhanic states are not something to pursue. The more it is pursued, the more it becomes elusive. It is best to stay focused on the goal and not be distracted by the sensations that happen along the journey. Talking about reaching Jhanic states is discouraged and frowned upon, but honestly, if that happens to me, I cannot resist the temptation of writing about it.
There was a time in my early meditation days that my focus was experiencing bhanga-nana. It was a high I wanted to have. Of course, nothing happened. Now, it doesn't even appeal to me. If I can just find time to meditate and still my mind for a few moments, I'm already happy. To this date, I can easily still my mind in meditation, but I can't seem to go deeper as in dissolving my solidity and becoming a spec of consciousness. But again, I no longer aim for it. While meditating, being at peace with myself and the planet I live in is reward enough.
This pursuit of Jhanic states is simply intellectual adventurism for me...or a 'nice to have' at best. Perhaps it is best seen that way so it becomes part of a journey but not the destination. Jhana can best be viewed as a blueprint to enlightenment. Buddha confirms this when he said, "Jhana is the path to enlightenment". Experience of Jhana is a validation that you're on the right path - but you're not there yet.
--- Gigit (TheLoneRider)
YOGA by Gigit | Learn English | Travel like a Nomad | Donation Bank
(Aug 22, 2019) I think your right Gigit. It's not to be thought of just experienced if that's what happens. But as we know being at peace with yourself enables you to be at peace with things that perhaps you would not otherwise. I've taken the position that it's just so personal but that the important thing is to continue to try and be as understanding and empathetic as one can manage and then to keep trying to improve on this.
Brazen Travel Thoughts
(Aug 22, 2019) Gigit yes!! Thank you for this explanation!! Very interesting.
Leave a comment?
Next stop: Movie Review: Ready or Not (2019)
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Chiang Mai International Airport
Nong Buak Hard Park - free yoga classes daily
Arun Dara Villa - 7 exclusive rooms, 1 swimming pool for every room, grand opening
Nawa Sheeva Hotel - big rooms, high ceiling, salt-water pool, restaurant, cafe
Nawa Saraan Hotel - low density (4 spacious rooms), stone garden setting, Koi fish pond, Old City location
Arun Suite - 3 bedrooms in a 3-storie guesthouse within Old City, ideal for families
La Pizza Chiang Mai - Italian pizza, pasta, wine, dessert, coffee
Natural Bird Nest by Burapa - authentic bird's nest soup
ITM - International Training Massage School - Chiang Mai's most prestigious massage school
Float Chiang Mai - sensory deprivation float pod
Zira Spa - upscale authentic Thai massage and spa treatment
Tawan Bike - motorcycle rental | +66 91 635 2863 | Si Phum, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50200
Chiang Mai FYI / Tips
- crop-burning season in Chiang Mai is between late Feb to early April. But laws change everytime. This year, 2019, there is a 61-day ban on burning so the farmers started burning early. When my plane was approaching Chiang Mai on Jan 24, 2019, there was already a thick blanket of smog covering the entire city (and beyond). But within the city itself, you won't feel it (but that doesn't mean the air is healthy). To monitor air conditions in real time, refer to site: Chiang Mai Air Pollution: Real-time Air Quality Index (AQI)
- hot season begins March and lasts until June
- wet season begins July and lasts until September
- best time to visit Chiang Mai is mid-September to mid-February - after the monsoon and before the burning
- you have to try Khao Soi, this is north Thailand's culinary staple
- the tourist area where most of the hotels, restaurants, ticket offices, tour operators are, is located in the Old City
- to exchange your dollars to Thai Baht, the Super Rich Money Exchange give the best rates. There are many branches scattered around Chiang Mai
- get a red cab (songthao) outside the train station for Baht 50 (instead of paying B100 if inside the train station) to Old City - if you haggle nicely enough...I did!
- shared red taxi (songthao) - B30 standard fare plying all over Old City
- for only B50/day, best to rent a bike to go around the Old City - it's a 2.5km2 with lots to discover
- FREE daily yoga classes from 9:00am to 10:15am at Nong Buak Hard Park (southwest corner of Old City). Resident and passing-through teachers take turns conducting yoga classes.
Blues/Jazz Bars in Chiang Mai
- North Gate Pub - at Chang Phueg Gate, great Tuesday jam session, Blues on Sundays by the 11pm band
- Taphae East - 88 Thapae Rd. (just north of Night Bazaar). Fridays at 9:30pm by Chiang Mai Blues Band
- Boy Blues Bar - at the Night Bazaar. Mondays at 9:30pm is open mic
Chiang Mai Cost Index
- B60 Chiang beer
- B250 1 hour drop-in yoga session
- B200 one hour Thai body massage at WAYA Massage (highly recommended)
- B50 noodle soup with meat
- B50 coffee
- B40 pad thai
- B30/kilo wash-only laundry
- B50/kilo wash+iron laundry
- B100-150 dorm bed/night
- B250 fan room/night
- B30 internet cafe/hour
- B170-190 Movies Sat-Sun and public holidays
- B130-150 Movies weekdays
- B100 Movies Wednesdays (movie discount day)
- B750 1/2 day Thai cooking lessons
- B900-1000 1 full day Thai cooking lessons
- B400 Muay Thai boxing ticket
- B2500 starting room rate at the luxury hotel, Nawa Sheeva (highly recommended)
- B450 bus, Chiang Mai to Bangkok
- B160-180 bus, Chiang Mai to Pai
- B1250 bus, Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang
- B1650 slow boat, Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang
- B210 bus, Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai, 3-4 hours
- B360 Green VIP bus, Chiang Mai to Mae Sai (Thai border town for visa run to Tachileik, Myanmar)
- B50 bicycle rental, 24 hours
- B200 motorbike rental, 24 hours
- B273 #51 sleeping train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
- B638 #7 a/c train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
- B50 red taxi fare from point to point
- B100 red taxi fare from train terminal to city
- B2000 full day elephant sanctuary
- B750 Chiang Rai one-day tour
- B1500 mountain biking scenic ride
How to Get to Chiang Mai from Bangkok by Train from Bang Sue Train Station
For more train info: Bangkok to Chiang Mai trains - departing from Hua Lamphong - MRT (Bangkok)
(I'm using Bang Sue as a starting point because I was closer to it, but you may be closer to the Hua Lamphong station)
- take the MRT train to Bang Sue Station. Take the #1 Exit to the north provincial trains
- Proceed to Counter 2. You will see an information booth, a train schedule chart and the ticket counter. Choose the train and pay at the ticket counter.
- daily train schedule:
- 8:48am - #7 Train, arrive Chiang Mai 7:30pm, not sleeper, B638
- 2:06pm - #109 Train, arrive Chiang Mai 4:05am, sleeper
- 6:31pm - #9 Premium Train, arrive Chiang Mai 7:15am, sleeper, B938 upper deck, B1038 lower deck
- 7:56pm - #13 Train, arrive Chiang Mai 8:40am, sleeper, B768 upper deck, B838 lower deck
- 10:22pm - #51 Train, arrive Chiang Mai 12:10pm, sleeper, 3rd class B270 (non sleeper), 2nd class B438, B728 upper deck, B798 lower deck
Chiangmai Blogs by TheLoneRider
- Vayu (Pranic Wind) Sep 20, 2019
- Apana Mudra Sep 20, 2019
- Varun Mudra Sep 19, 2019
- Surya Mudra Sep 18, 2019
- 2-Week Yoga Challenge by Agnese Erba Sep 17, 2019
- Prithvi Mudra Sep 17, 2019
- Movie Review: Farewell Song (2019) Sep 16, 2019
- Shunya Mudra Sep 16, 2019
- Akash Mudra Sep 15, 2019
- Gyana Mudra Sep 15, 2019
- The Mudra Project Sep 13, 2019
- Movie Review: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019) Sep 12, 2019
- Sunday Vinyasa Flow with Marina Forster Sep 8, 2019
- Shamanic Breathwork by Rachel Constantino Sep 4, 2019
- Movie Review: Yesterday (2019) Sep 3, 2019
- The Conscious Peoplescape of Chiang Mai Aug 31, 2019
- Movie Review: Midsommar (2019) Aug 28, 2019
- Of Winos and Yogis Aug 26, 2019
- Movie Review: Ready or Not (2019) Aug 22, 2019
- The 9 Jhanas of Buddha Aug 22, 2019
- Full Moon Ceremony at Heart Space Aug 15, 2019
- Yin Yoga - Water Element by Martina Barabas Aug 15, 2019
- Movie Review: The Art of Racing in the Rain (2019) Aug 14, 2019
- Hatha Mix Yoga with Christin Aug 13, 2019
- Boy Blues Bar Rocks Chiang Mai Aug 5, 2019
- Back to my Beloved Chiang Mai Aug 1, 2019
- Kaleidoscope of Chiang Mai's Peoplescape July 27, 2019
- Secret Sunrise: Nelson Mandela International Day July 17, 2019
- Movie Review: Anna (2019) July 15, 2019
- Farewell Picnic with Alan and Nicola July 15, 2019
- Movie Review: Spider-Man: Far from Home (2019) July 4, 2019
- Secret Sunrise: Water July 3, 2019
- Hotel Review: Arun Suite June 27, 2019
- Movie Review: Rocketman (2019) June 25, 2019
- Bruce Lipton: Epigentics to Transcend Genes June 24, 2019
- Optimizing Life thru Heart Math May 8, 15 and 22, 2019
- Movie Review: Aladdin (2019) June 13, 2019
- Connective Cacao and Sound Journey June 12, 2019
- Movie Review: X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019) June 6, 2019
- Chiangmai BLUES June 6, 2019
- Movie Review: John Wick 3 - Parabellum (2019) June 4, 2019
- Hatha Slow Flow with Neil Jefferson June 3, 2019
- Meditating with One Million Meditators Movement June 1, 2019
- Vinyasa Happy Flow Series by Vaida May 31, 2019
- Muay Thai at the Chiang Mai Boxing Stadium May 30, 2019
- Yoga Flow Through the 7 Chakras May 30, 2019
- The Outsiders (people you need to push out of your sacred circle) May 31, 2019
- Fascinating Peoplescape of Chiang Mai May 22, 2019
- World Meditation Day at Heart Space May 21, 2019
- Movie Review: Avengers: Endgame (2019) May 14, 2019
- Movie Review: Arctic (2018) May 13, 2019
- Abs Yoga May 12, 2019
- Kundalini and Vinyasa Yoga with Nicola Symons May 10, 2019
- Secret Sunrise Interactive Dance May 9, 2019
- Tok Sen Massage from Ying May 8, 2019
- Bruschetta: Nawa Saraan Style Apr 22, 2019
- Thai Cooking at Pra Nang Thai Cookery School Apr 20, 2019
- Movie Review: Hellboy (2019) Apr 15, 2019
- Bonding with the Elephants in Chiang Mai Apr 11, 2019
- Ziplining in Chiang Mai with Eagle Track Zipline Apr 10, 2019
- Movie Review: Shazam! (2019) Apr 4, 2019
- Movie Review: Captive State (2019) Mar 27, 2019
- Getting Thai Massage from Chiang Mai's Best (Lar Thanakrit Khamtanong) Mar 21, 2019
- Movie Review: Captain Marvel (2019) Mar 19, 2019
- Being the Soul of Nawa Saraan Hotel Mar 18, 2019
- Peoplescape of Chiang Mai Jan 24 - Mar 13, 2019
- Movie Review: Vox Lux (2018) Mar 2, 2019
- Movie Review: The Favourite (2018) Feb 25, 2019
- Curing Cancer with Yoga? Feb 21, 2019
- Movie Review: Alita Battle Angel Feb 19, 2019
- International Training Massage School (ITM): Level 1 Feb 11-15, 2019
- Sandesch Album Launch by Christoph Joerg Feb 13, 2019
- Movie Review: Spider-Man - Into the Spider-Verse (2018) Feb 3, 2018
- Movie Review: Green Book Jan 30, 2019
- Meditation in a Sensory Deprivation Tank at Float Chiang Mai Jan 29, 2019
- Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) Jan 27, 2019
- Movie Review: Aquaman Jan 26, 2019
- Reiki Share at the Mastermind Brain Spa Jan 26, 2019
- Resuming Life in Chiang Mai Jan 24, 2019
- 4 Days in Chiang Mai at Nawa Saraan Hotel Jan 2-6, 2019
- Mike Chong Aug 8, 2018
- An Intimate Conversation with my Universe in Chiang Mai Aug 8, 2018
- Kneaded and Pampered at Zira Spa Aug 4, 2018
- Savoring a Baht 3,500 Birds Nest Soup at Natural Bird Nest by Burapa Aug 3, 2018
- Yoga Exploration at The Yoga Tree with Gernot Aug 1, 2018
- Laughter Yoga with Saffiya Arnous July 31, 2018
- Yoga with Adam at Hidden House Yoga, Chiang Mai July 29, 2018
- 2 Weeks in Chiang Mai July 25 - Aug 7, 2018
- A First Timer in Chiang Mai Apr 9-23, 2016
- Chiang Mai's Amazing Peoplescape Apr 9-23, 2016
- Dance Mandala in Chiang Mai at The Yoga Tree Apr 19, 2016
- Songkran Waterfight Festival in Chiang Mai Apr 13-15, 2016
- Border Crossing from Siem Reap (Cambodia) to Bangkok (Thailand) to Chiang Mai April 9-10, 2016
Travel Tips for Thailand
How to Get a 60-Day Thai Tourist Visa and then Extend by another 30 Days
- Bring the following to the Thai embassy:
a) proof of money (bank statement will suffice)
b) flight booking to Thailand
c) onward flight back to your country from Thailand
d) filled-in tourist visa form
e) 2 passport pictures
f) hotel booking in Thailand (they didn't ask me for this but better be safe)
g) passport with at least 6 months validity
- After handing over all the documents, they will ask you to come pick your passport with the visa the following day from 4 to 5pm. That's it!
- NOTE: after 2 successful attempts, I was already questioned the 3rd time.
60-Day Thai Tourist Visa
NOTE: There is no need to go back to your country to get the Thai tourist visa. Any major city with a Thai Embassy will do. Apparently there is also no need to have an invitation from a Thai establishment to justify the visa.
- bring the following to the Immigration Office:
a) passport (make sure your Tourist Visa hasn't expired yet)
b) Baht 1900
c) photocopy of your passport + visa duration date stamp + TM6 card (white immigration card) and sign all the copies
d) completed TM7 visa extension form (available at the Immigration Office)
e) one 4cmx6cm passport picture
- submit the above to the Front Desk. They will give you a stub with your number on it. Take a seat and wait for your number to be called
- when your number is called, your picture will be taken. Then go back to your seat. They will call you again.
- when they call you again, they'll give you your passport with your extended visa. That's it!
- when there are no lines, the whole process can take only 10 minutes
NOTE: When your 60-day visa is close to expiry and you want to extend your stay. No need to leave Thailand.
General Travel Tips
- avoiding scams - as a general rule, I ignore the touts or anyone I don't know who call out to me. The calling comes in many forms - "Hi! Where are you from?", "Excuse me! Excuse me!", "Where are you going?". I don't look them in the eye and I remain non-verbal with them. If you reply to them, you just gave them an 'in' to hound you. In order not to look rude, I smile and wave the 'not interested' hand to them, without looking at them.
- power bank - hand-carry your power bank. Do not check it in. You can be called in when you are already inside the plane to go all the way to the loading dock so you can personally remove the power bank...and chances are, you'll have to surrender it to them. And you might delay the plane departure!
»» next story: Movie Review: Ready or Not (2019)
»» next Meditation story: Shamanic Breathwork by Rachel Constantino
»» back to Meditation
»» back to Homepage
2000 | 2001 | 2002 | 2003 | 2004 | 2005 | 2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016 | 2017 | 2018 | ALL BLOGS