Lots of people write about jhana even if they have never experienced it because it’s so much a part of Buddha’s teachings. On his death bed (see part 6 number 9), Buddha was observed by his disciple Anuruddha to enter each of the 8 jhanas then pass away. Some of what I’ve heard from students of the Vipassana tradition created by Mr. Goenka contradicts what I know of jhanas by claiming that each can be practiced separately as distinct exercises. I know them to instead be like signposts as you settle deeper into your self. It doesn’t make sense then to “practice 4th jhana” without calming your mind to the degree of 3rd jhana first.
Well, I came across a website recently describing the jhanas that I think is very good. I think it useful to talk about it here, so we can get specific about the details and therefore better evaluate our own experiences (like I spoke about last week). I believe the author experiences it regularly based on what he’s written and my own experience of jhana. I particularly noticed that he comments on the above misunderstanding that he observed as well. A couple other things seem different to me but that’s to be expected of two persons writing about their experience of the same thing. First he writes that the senses do not work in jhana, but he practices with eyes closed. I practice with eyes open and the senses appear to work fine for me. It’s my experience of the world that changes in jhana. I experience it all at once in a gestalt way, rather than experiencing this sound or that image. Second, he mentions a lasting effect, persisting for hours or even days, whereas I find myself returned to everyday mind much sooner. It may be that I’ve ‘gotten used to it’ in some sense and move back and forth more quickly than I did when I had that first life-changing experience many years ago. Lastly, his descriptions of the different jhanas seem to be different numbers than what I experience. Specifically, we line up on 1st and 2nd jhana but my experience of 3rd jhana sounds like his 6th jhana having the quality of merging into non-dual experience. Anyway, I encourage you to read his website and hear about the experience from more than just me. You might also look it up in various places such as “Buddhist Dictionary” – Nyanatiloka.