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16 February 2015

The Deep Experiences of Samadhi and Insight

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Samadhi or real jhana practice is a very deep thing. It’s not simply something that you just work through one day after the next following formulaic steps. Real mastery of jhana is profound mastery, it is rare and requires real commitment and a long time. This notion of one day I am practising first jhana, I stay with it for three hours and then the next day I am on to second jhana etc. is simply not realistic. This is not how it works. Once someone has had a genuine experience of absorption then I would get them to keep going into that for a long time so it becomes really stable and reliable. If immediately they were to go on to try and practice second jhana then the first jhana experience will never have the time to mature. If you also fill someone’s mind up with stuff to do at this delicate stage of the practice it can also be a hindrance.

These states are not ordinary, they are extraordinary and they have a profound transformative effect on us in the way that they prompt in us our letting go of our attachment to states. So actually that is as significant in breaking down our attachment and clinging as the insight that comes from seeing impermanence. To turn away from the gross to the subtle, and then to keep turning away from the subtler and subtler, is how we realise that there is no resolution there in clinging to states of any kind. It’s only in the seeing them get subtler that we see, “Ah, the less that is there, the less oppressive it is”. One who has come to truly know the subtle and seen into the processes that underpin our lives in ways we may previously not have known, will come to a sure knowledge that there is no refuge to be found through clinging to the gross. Have no doubt that this will be every much as compelling an experience upon our path as is the insight that is born of witnessing the momentary arising and passing away of phenomena within our practice of vipassana.

This effect that serenity has upon breaking our attachment to all this variety of stuff is as important as seeing impermanence. With not enough concentration or not enough mindfulness or reflecting upon impermanence it quite often doesn’t perform the function of causing us to turn away.

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