Jhāna: A Practical Approach
Ajahn Pasanno and Ajahn Karuṇadhammo
Upāsikā Day, Oct. 10, 2015
Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastery in Redwood Valley, California
4 sessions, 46 excerpts, 1:21:05 total duration

Ajahn Pasanno explains jhāna as a fundamental clarity and stillness that the mind can experience.

External website

Session 1: What is Jhāna?

Session 2: Abandoning the Hindrances

Session 3: Questions and Answers about Jhāna

Session 4: More Questions about Jhāna

Session 1: What is Jhāna? – Ajahn Pasanno – Oct. 10, 2015 Download audio (29:04)

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1. [23:40] “Could you clarify the difference between mindfulness and concentration?” Answered by Ajahn Pasanno and Ajahn Karuṇadhammo. [Mindfulness] [Concentration] // [Nature of mind] [Pāli] [Translation]

Follow-up: “You said earlier that mindfulness always comes before concentration, but based on what you just defined, I would think it would be the opposite.” Aswered by Ajahn Pasanno.

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2. [28:07] “I was thinking about Ajahn Chah's advice that all you need to do is know and let go. I'm wondering about knowing, developing, and letting go. Where does development fit in?” [Ajahn Chah] [Knowing itself] [Relinquishment] [Right Effort]

Session 2: Abandoning the Hindrances – Ajahn Karuṇadhammo – Oct. 10, 2015 Download audio (47:17)

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1. [34:33] “What do you do when things like knee pain arise?” [Meditation/General advice] [Pain] [Aversion] // [Compassion]

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2. [37:18] “Is there ever a dominant hindrance, but then in the service of that, the mind picks up other hindrances?” [Aversion] // [Sensual desire] [Sloth and torpor]

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3. [41:00] “Sometimes I just notice that the state that is there [a hindrance] is going to go away. Isn't that a skillful way of looking at it?” [Impermanence] [Skillful qualities] // [Clear comprehension] [Habits]

Sutta: MN 20: The Removal of Distracting Thoughts [Right Effort] [Similes]

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4. [43:04] “If a hindrance comes up, one thing to do is to acknowledge it and observe it, but on the other hand, one can bring up its opposite. Do you do either depending on what is needed? Sometimes when I bring up the opposite, it prevents me from seeing it.” [Sloth and torpor] [Right Effort]

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5. [45:31] “Do you have any advice for obsessive thoughts, thinking the same thing again and again?” [Proliferation] // [Investigation of states] [Mindfulness of body]

Session 3: Questions and Answers about Jhāna – Ajahn Pasanno – Oct. 10, 2015 Download audio (1:10:26)

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1. [5:44] “Is jhāna the same as samādhi?” [Concentration]

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2. [6:27] “I'm thinking that not all samādhi is wholesome, but all jhāna is wholesome.” [Concentration] [Skillful qualities] // [Right Concentration]

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3. [7:01] “In the jhāna formula, in what sense is the word 'seclusion' used?” [Seclusion] // [Hindrances]

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4. [8:14] “Does jhāna arise only in seated meditation?” [Posture/Sitting]

Reference: Collected Teachings of Ajahn Chah, p. 332: Ajahn Chah talks about developing jhāna factors in walking meditation. [Ajahn Chah] [Posture/Walking]

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5. [9:42] “Is jhāna only in meditation?” [Meditation] // [Right Concentration]

Quote: “Only farangs [Westerners] go into meditation rock climbing! Does he contemplate the Four Noble Trurths?” — Ajahn Chah [Ajahn Chah] [Culture/West] [Recreation/leisure/sport] [Four Noble Truths] [Directed thought and evaluation] [Relinquishment]

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6. [14:44] “If there isn't an intention, [meditation] isn't useful for the goal?” [Meditation] [Volition] // [Volitional formations] [Kamma]

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7. [16:03] “The story that we hear frequently about the Buddhaa as a child in the cattle pasture with his father. He talks about going into a pleasant, rapturous state. Would you consider that jhāna?” [Buddha/Biography] [Happiness] [Rapture] // [Skillful qualities]

Sutta: MN 36.31 Mahāsaccaka Sutta

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8. [19:46] Comment by Ajahn Karuṇadhammo: Absorption dependent on the pleasure that comes from sense contact may not be completely wholesome. [Concentration] [Happiness] [Contact] [Sense bases] [Skillful qualities]

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9. [20:47] “Isn't rapture and joy a sensual pleasure?” Answered by Ajahn Pasanno and Ajahn Karuṇadhammo. [Rapture] [Happiness] [Sense bases] // [Dhamma] [Virtue] [Generosity] [Compassion] [Recollection/Virtue]

Quote: “You can actually give yourself permission to enjoy the meditation.” — Ajahn Pasanno [Meditation]

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10. [23:10] “I meditate. Pleasure arises, and I enjoy that. Does that mean it's Dhamma practice?” [Meditation] [Happiness] [Practicing in accordance with Dhamma] // [Investigation of states] [Feeling] [Mindfulness of mind]

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11. [25:00] “How are the jhāna factors causal bases for awareness to relase into Nibbāna? Do they diminish craving all the way?” [Release] [Nibbāna] [Craving] // [Contentment]

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12. [26:25] Comment: Excercise in the morning can be used to overcome sloth. [Excercise] [Sloth and torpor] [Energy]

Response by Ajahn Pasanno. [Ajahn Pasanno]

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13. [27:35] “Ajahn Chah said happiness and unhappiness are two ends of suffereing and we should aim for peace. Is this kind of jhānic happiness different from what he was talking about?” [Ajahn Chah] [Happiness] [Suffering]

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14. [28:41] “That sukha (happiness) is still experienced through the sense object of the mind?” [Happiness] [Rapture] [Sense bases] // [Mindfulness of body]

Quote: “The way the Buddha describes the jhāna factors, all the images are grounded in the body.” (MN 39.15) [Similes]

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15. [30:12] “So it [jhāna] is still a conditional thing?” [Conditionality]

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16. [30:17] “The rapture and joy that are being described are not pleasure, right?” [Rapture] [Happiness] // [Pāli]

Commentary: Path of Purification by Bhikkhu Ñāṇamoli, p. 139 [Similes]

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17. [32:54] “Does jhāna exclusively contain the five mental states?” [Directed thought and evaluation] [Rapture] [Happiness] [One pointedness] // [Right Concentration]

Sutta: MN 111 Anupada Sutta

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18. [39:14] “As our practice develops, is it common or normal for the mind to bypass first and second jhāna and go straight to three or four?” [Long-term practice] // [Ajahn Pasanno]

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19. [42:11] Quote: “There are a lot of confusing views and opinions about jhāna and meditation. It's helpful to ask, 'What's the Buddha actually say? How does he put it?' I have a lot more faith in him than in a lot of what's out there.” [Meditation] [Faith] [Views] [Buddha]

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20. [42:38] “What's the difference between directed thought and mindfulness?” [Directed thought and evaluation] [Mindfulness]

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21. [43:18] “When it says neither pleasant nor unpleasant, is this neutral?” [Feeling] [Neutral feeling] // [Mindfulness] [Pāṭimokkha]

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22. [44:56] “So the rapture and joy has dropped away between second and third jhāna?” [Rapture] // [Happiness] [Mindfulness] [Equanimity]

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23. [47:05] “When we drop directed thought and evaluation, do we drop the object of our concentration and just abide in mindfulness?” [Directed thought and evaluation] [Concentration] [Mindfulness] [Meditation] // [Knowing itself]

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24. [48:10] “In the jhāna similies (MN 39.15), 'He makes...' seems very active. In dropping away things, is it a conscious dropping or an allowing?” Answered by Ajahn Pasanno and Ajahn Karuṇadhammo. [Right Concentration] [Relinquishment] // [Volitional formations] [Conditionality] [Right Effort]

Quote: “Ajahn Chah emphasizes the doing within a sphere of detachment and letting go.” [Ajahn Chah]

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25. [51:21] “In concentration, you're aware of one object. If in that state you become aware of pleasure, does that mean you've already left jhāna?” [Right Concentration] [One pointedness] [Happiness] [Right Mindfulness] // [Self-identity view] [Discernment] [Clinging]

Session 4: More Questions about Jhāna – Ajahn Pasanno – Oct. 10, 2015 Download audio (26:38)

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1. [0:11] “What is the difference between ekaggatā and vitakka?” [One pointedness] [Directed thought and evaluation] [Pāli] // [Right Concentration]

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2. [2:58] “Could we say that it [unification] is expansive?” [One pointedness] [Spaciousness] // [Right Concentration]

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3. [3:46] Comment: This reminds me of finding a unified theory of the universe.

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4. [4:17] “Before the Buddha practiced the ascetic way, he already learned the seventh and eighth levels of jhāna. Why didn't that lead to his awakening?” [Buddha/Biography] [Formless attainments] [Liberation] // [Right Concentration] [Right View] [Suffering] [Middle Path] [Characteristics of existence]

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5. [7:24] “Is the purpose of jhāna aand meditation to build up the strength of the mind so we will be able to contemplate the Four Noble Truths?” [Meditation] [Heart/mind] [Four Noble Truths] // [Calming meditation] [Insight meditation]

Sutta: AN 4.170: In Conjunction

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6. [9:35] “The jhānas seem foundational to the practice, yet Ajahn Chah was reluctant to talk about them. Is this a view that was pervasive among the other Krooba Ajahns?” [Ajahn Chah] [Teaching Dhamma] [Thai Forest Tradition] // [Desire]

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7. [10:47] “If the jhānas aren't accessible to everyone, can you still go far along the path without them?” [Eightfold Path] // [Desire] [Right Effort] [Right Concentration] [Thai Forest Tradition] [Self-identity view]

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8. [12:47] “I practice the brahmavihāras, and not just on the cushion. How do these relate to jhāna?” [Divine Abidings] [Posture/Sitting] [Posture/Walking] // [Continuity of mindfulness] [Skillful qualities]

Quote: “You can sit on your cushion for a long time. Chickens sit for a long time, and they don't get enlightened!” — Ajahn Chah [Ajahn Chah] [Liberation] [Animal]

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9. [14:53] “What would you respond to the perspecitve, 'Those jhānas seem impossible to attain, so I'm going to forget about them.'” // [Continuity of mindfulness] [Skillful qualities] [Directed thought and evaluation] [Self-identity view] [Mindfulness of breathing] [Goodwill] [Happiness]

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10. [17:18] Comment: Hearing about vitakka and vicāra, I just realized that they're not exclusive to getting jhāna. [Directed thought and evaluation]

Response by Ajahn Pasanno. [Becoming]

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11. [18:19] Comment: This wanting mind becomes doing something... [Desire]

Response by Ajahn Pasanno. [Feeling] [Craving] [Ardency] [Happiness] [Tranquility] [Mindfulness of body]

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12. [19:43] Comment: In mindfulness of breathing, you feel the breath throughout the body. This suffusion is similar in jhāna. [Mindfulness of breathing] [Mindfulness of body]

Response by Ajahn Pasanno. [Right Mindfulness]

Suttas: MN 10: Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta, MN 118: Ānāpānasati Sutta

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13. [21:14] “Ajahn Chah talks about the one who knows. Is this a purely mental excercise or is it embodied?” [Ajahn Chah] [Knowing itself] [Mindfulness of body] // [Culture/West] [Nature of mind]

Quote: “The Thai Krooba Ajahns translate 'Buddho' as 'being the one who knows.'” [Thai Forest Tradition] [Buddho mantra] [Translation]

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14. [23:37] “So the one who knows includes the other five sense bases?” [Knowing itself] [Sense bases]