On the Meditative States

Clear Lake and Mount KonoctiA friend commented about the meditative states (jhanas):

[The jhanas] would be an easy way (if you are familiar with the states) to get yourself as deep in emptiness as you could so that you could easily recognize the clear light in the bardo state.

… we commonly pass through some of the jhanas accidentally, not realizing what they are. [They’ve been described] as like radio frequencies we learn to tune into.

(The Dao Bums, bracketed summaries mine)

My response–I open with a quote, to clarify “the clear light” experience associated with “the bardo state”:

In the dissolution process of the bodily elements as outlined previously, consciousness progressively relies on less elements [dissolution of the elements and three subsequent stages of creative energies are described]. After this comes the Clear Light Dharmakaya experience which can be had at death, falling asleep, fainting or in advanced tantric meditations.

(“The Mahamudra: Eliminating the Darkness of Ignorance”, Wang Chug Dor-je, Alexander Berzin, Beru Khyentze Rinpoche; p.142; commentary by Beru Khyentze Rinpoche; bracketed summary mine)

I write about the practice of falling asleep (and waking up), here.

More from the commentary above:

Normally consciousness relies on all the bodily elements as its basis. During the death process, however, the elements as bases progressively fail and consciousness relies on less and less of them. This is what experiences the Clear Light of death and passes into the in-between or “bardo” state and on into your next rebirth. Thus meditation on the mind with no object is similar to the tantric ones of taking the Dharmakaya as a pathway for death, in which you simulate in meditation the dissolution process of death and focus finally on the space-like mind itself in the Dharmakaya Clear Light experience.

(Ibid, pg 51-52, emphasis mine)

“Meditation on the mind with no object”–how about this:

Gautama emphasized “one-pointedness of mind” as a characteristic of concentration, and what I experience is a complete freedom of the singular location of self-awareness to move in space, with the coordination of the body following autonomically from the location of “mind”.

(from my post, Meditation Manuals)


The location of that mind is often in the “hara”, but the aim is to allow for experience like that Gautama described for the fourth of the initial states of concentration:

Again, a (person), putting away ease… enters and abides in the fourth musing; seated, (one) suffuses (one’s) body with purity by the pureness of (one’s) mind so that there is not one particle of the body that is not pervaded with purity by the pureness of (one’s) mind. … just as a (person) might sit with (their) head swathed in a clean cloth; even so (one) sits suffusing (their) body with purity…

(AN III 25-28, Pali Text Society Vol. III pg 18-19)

I don’t often experience an orderly progression of states of concentration, more like a jumble, but I keep an eye on “freedom of the singular location of self-awareness to move in space”, which to me is “purity by the pureness of (one’s) mind, so that there is not one particle of the body that is not pervaded with purity by the pureness of (one’s) mind”.

And I keep in mind the “head swathed in a clean cloth”. In several sermons, Gautama spoke of the entire body so swathed, not just the head–I look more to that. My explanation: “a heightened ability to feel dermatomes, as a consequence of the relaxed nerve exits from the sacrum and spine provided by an even stretch of ligaments”. I wrote that to describe how ch’i “manifests in the skin and hair” (here), but I think it applies to the “clean cloth” as well.

As Gautama said about each of the jhanas:

“… for whatever (one) imagines it to be, it is otherwise.”

(MN III 42-45)

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