The Jhanas - in Theravada Buddhist Meditation : 3. The First Jhana and its Factors
Friday 27 February 2009
3. The First Jhana and its Factors
The attainment of any jhana comes about through a twofold process of development. On one side the states obstructive to it, called its factors of abandonment, have to be eliminated, on the other the states composing it, called its factors of possession, have to be acquired. In the case of the first jhana the factors of abandonment are the five hindrances and the factors of possession the five basic jhana factors. Both are alluded to in the standard formula for the first jhana, the opening phrase referring to the abandonment of the hindrances and the subsequent portion enumerating the jhana factors:
Quite secluded from sense pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states of mind, he enters and dwells in the first jhana, which is accompanied by applied thought and sustained thought with rapture and happiness born of seclusion. (M.i,1818; Vbh.245)
In this chapter we will first discuss the five hindrances and their abandonment, then we will investigate the jhana factors both individually and by way of their combined contribution to the attainment of the first jhana. We will close the chapter with some remarks on the ways of perfecting the first jhana, a necessary preparation for the further development of concentration.
The Abandoning of the Hindrances
The five hindrances (pañcanivarana) are sensual desire, ill will, sloth and torpor, restlessness and worry, and doubt. This group, the principal classification the Buddha uses for the obstacles to meditation, receives its name because its five members hinder and envelop the mind, preventing meditative development in the two spheres of serenity and insight. Hence the Buddha calls them "obstructions, hindrances, corruptions of the mind which weaken wisdom"(S.v,94).
The hindrance of sensual desire (kamachanda) is explained as desire for the "five strands of sense pleasure," that is, for pleasant forms, sounds, smells, tastes and tangibles. It ranges from subtle liking to powerful lust. The hindrance of ill will (byapada) signifies aversion directed towards disagreeable persons or things. It can vary in range from mild annoyance to overpowering hatred. Thus the first two hindrances correspond to the first two root defilements, greed and hate. The third root defilement, delusion, is not enumerated separately among the hindrances but can be found underlying the remaining three.
Sloth and torpor is a compound hindrance made up of two components: sloth (thina), which is dullness, inertia or mental stiffness; and torpor (middha), which is indolence or drowsiness. Restlessness and worry is another double hindrance, restlessness (uddhacca) being explained as excitement, agitation or disquietude, worry (kukkucca) as the sense of guilt aroused by moral transgressions. Finally, the hindrance of doubt (vicikiccha) is explained as uncertainty with regard to the Buddha, the Dhamma, the Sangha and the training.
The Buddha offers two sets of similes to illustrate the detrimental effect of the hindrances. The first compares the five hindrances to five types of calamity: sensual desire is like a debt, ill will like a disease, sloth and torpor like imprisonment, restless and worry like slavery, and doubt like being lost on a desert road. Release from the hindrances is to be seen as freedom from debt, good health, release from prison, emancipation from slavery, and arriving at a place of safety (D.i,71-73). The second set of similes compares the hindrances to five kinds of impurities affecting a bowl of water, preventing a keen-sighted man from seeing his own reflection as it really is. Sensual desire is like a bowl of water mixed with brightly colored paints, ill will like a bowl of boiling water, sloth and torpor like water covered by mossy plants, restlessness and worry like water blown into ripples by the wind, and doubt like muddy water. Just as the keen-eyed man would not be able to see his reflection in these five kinds of water, so one whose mind is obsessed by the five hindrances does not know and see as it is his own good, the good of others or the good of both (S.v,121-24). Although there are numerous defilements opposed to the first jhana the five hindrances alone are called its factors of abandoning. One reason according to the Visuddhimagga, is that the hindrances are specifically obstructive to jhana, each hindrance impeding in its own way the mind’s capacity for concentration.
The mind affected through lust by greed for varied objective fields does not become concentrated on an object consisting in unity, or being overwhelmed by lust, it does not enter on the way to abandoning the sense-desire element. When pestered by ill will towards an object, it does not occur uninterruptedly. When overcome by stiffness and torpor, it is unwieldy. When seized by agitation and worry, it is unquiet and buzzes about. When stricken by uncertainty, it fails to mount the way to accomplish the attainment of jhana. So it is these only that are called factors of abandonment because they are specifically obstructive to jhana.(Vism.146: PP.152)
A second reason for confining the first jhana’s factors of abandoning to the five hindrances is to permit a direct alignment to be made between the hindrances and the jhanic factors. Buddhaghosa states that the abandonment of the five hindrances alone is mentioned in connection with jhana because the hindrances are the direct enemies of the five jhana factors, which the latter must eliminate and abolish. To support his point the commentator cites a passage demonstrating a one-to-one correspondence between the jhana factors and the hindrances: one-pointedness is opposed to sensual desire, rapture to ill will, applied thought to sloth and torpor, happiness to restlessness and worry, and sustained thought to doubt (Vism. 141; PP.147).  Thus each jhana factor is seen as having the specific task of eliminating a particular obstruction to the jhana and to correlate these obstructions with the five jhana factors they are collected into a scheme of five hindrances.
The standard passage describing the attainment of the first jhana says that the jhana is entered upon by one who is "secluded from sense pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states of mind." The Visuddhimagga explains that there are three kinds of seclusion relevant to the present context — namely, bodily seclusion (kayaviveka), mental seclusion (cittaviveka), and seclusion by suppression (vikkhambhanaviveka) (Vism. 140; PP.145). These three terms allude to two distinct sets of exegetical categories. The first two belong to a threefold arrangement made up of bodily seclusion, mental seclusion, and "seclusion from the substance" (upadhiviveka). The first means physical withdrawal from active social engagement into a condition of solitude for the purpose of devoting time and energy to spiritual development. The second, which generally presupposes the first, means the seclusion of the mind from its entanglement in defilements; it is in effect equivalent to concentration of at least the access level. The third, "seclusion from the substance," is Nibbana, liberation from the elements of phenomenal existence. The achievement of the first jhana does not depend on the third, which is its outcome rather than prerequisite, but it does require physical solitude and the separation of the mind from defilements, hence bodily and mental seclusion. The third type of seclusion pertinent to the context, seclusion by suppression, belongs to a different scheme generally discussed under the heading of "abandonment" (pahana) rather than "seclusion." The type of abandonment required for the attainment of jhana is abandonment by suppression, which means the removal of the hindrances by force of concentration similar to the pressing down of weeds in a pond by means of a porous pot. 
The work of overcoming the five hindrances is accomplished through the gradual training (anupubbasikkha) which the Buddha has laid down so often in the suttas, such as the Samaññaphala Sutta and the Culahatthipadopama Sutta. The gradual training is a step-by-step process designed to lead the practitioner gradually to liberation. The training begins with moral discipline, the undertaking and observance of specific rules of conduct which enable the disciple to control the coarser modes of bodily and verbal misconduct through which the hindrances find an outlet. With moral discipline as a basis, the disciple practices the restraint of the senses. He does not seize upon the general appearances of the beguiling features of things, but guards and masters his sense faculties so that sensual attractive and repugnant objects no longer become grounds for desire and aversion. Then, endowed with the self-restraint, he develops mindfulness and discernment (sati-sampajañña) in all his activities and postures, examining everything he does with clear awareness as to its purpose and suitability. He also cultivates contentment with a minimum of robes, food, shelter and other requisites.
Once he has fulfilled these preliminaries the disciple is prepared to go into solitude to develop the jhanas, and it is here that he directly confronts the five hindrances. The elimination of the hindrances requires that the meditator honestly appraises his own mind. When sensuality, ill will and the other hindrances are present, he must recognize that they are present and he must investigate the conditions that lead to their arising: the latter he must scrupulously avoid. The meditator must also understand the appropriate antidotes for each of the five hindrances. The Buddha says that all the hindrances arise through unwise consideration (ayoniso manasikara) and that they can be eliminated by wise consideration (yoniso manasikara). Each hindrance, however, has its own specific antidote. Thus wise consideration of the repulsive feature of things is the antidote to sensual desire; wise consideration of loving-kindness counteracts ill will; wise consideration of the elements of effort, exertion and striving opposes sloth and torpor; wise consideration of tranquillity of mind removes restlessness and worry; and wise consideration of the real qualities of things eliminates doubt (S.v,105-106).
Having given up covetousness [i.e., sensual desire] with regard to the world, he dwells with a heart free of covetousness; he cleanses his mind from covetousness. Having given up the blemish of ill will, he dwells without ill will; friendly and compassionate towards all living beings, he cleanses his mind from the blemishes of ill will. Having given up sloth and torpor, he dwells free from sloth and torpor, in the perception of light; mindful and clearly comprehending, he cleanses his mind from sloth and torpor. Having given up restlessness and worry, he dwells without restlessness; his mind being calmed within, he cleanses it from restlessness and worry. Having given up doubt, he dwells as one who has passed beyond doubt; being free from uncertainty about wholesome things, he cleanses his mind from doubt...
And when he sees himself free of these five hindrances, joy arises; in him who is joyful, rapture arises; in him whose mind is enraptured, the body is stilled; the body being stilled, he feels happiness; and a happy mind finds concentration. Then, quite secluded from sense pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states of mind, he enters and dwells in the first jhana, which is accompanied by applied thought and sustained thought, with rapture and happiness born of seclusion. (D.i,73-74) 
The Factors of the First Jhana
The first jhana possesses five component factors: applied thought, sustained thought, rapture, happiness and one-pointedness of mind. Four of these are explicitly mentioned in the formula for the jhana; the fifth, one-pointedness, is mentioned elsewhere in the suttas but is already suggested by the notion of jhana itself. These five states receive their name, first because they lead the mind from the level of ordinary consciousness to the jhanic level, and second because they constitute the first jhana and give it its distinct definition.
The jhana factors are first aroused by the meditator’s initial efforts to concentrate upon one of the prescribed objects for developing jhana. As he fixes his mind on the preliminary object, such as a kasina disk, a point is eventually reached where he can perceive the object as clearly with his eyes closed as with them open. This visualized object is called the learning sign (uggahanimitta). As he concentrates on the learning sign, his efforts call into play the embryonic jhana factors, which grow in force, duration and prominence as a result of the meditative exertion. These factors, being incompatible with the hindrances, attenuate them, exclude them, and hold them at bay. With continued practice the learning sign gives rise to a purified luminous replica of itself called the counterpart sign (patibhaganimitta), the manifestation of which marks the complete suppression of the hindrances and the attainment of access concentration (upacarasamadhi). All three events-the suppression of the hindrances, the arising of the counterpart sign, and the attainment of access concentration — take place at precisely the same moment, without interval (Vism. 126; PP.131). And though previously the process of mental cultivation may have required the elimination of different hindrances at different times, when access is achieved they all subside together:
Simultaneously with his acquiring the counterpart sign his lust is abandoned by suppression owing to his giving no attention externally to sense desires (as object). And owing to his abandoning of approval, ill will is abandoned too, as pus is with the abandoning of blood. Likewise stiffness and torpor is abandoned through exertion of energy, agitation and worry is abandoned through devotion to peaceful things that cause no remorse; and uncertainty about the Master who teaches the way, about the way, and about the fruit of the way, about the way, and about the fruit of the way, is abandoned through the actual experience of the distinction attained. So the five hindrances are abandoned. (Vism. 189; PP.196)
Though the mental factors determinative of the first jhana are present in access concentration, they do not as yet possess sufficient strength to constitute the jhana, but are strong enough only to exclude the hindrances. With continued practice, however, the nascent jhana factors grow in strength until they are capable of issuing in jhana. Because of the instrumental role these factors play both in the attainment and constitution of the first jhana they are deserving of closer individual scrutiny.
Applied Thought (vitakka)
The word vitakka frequently appears in the texts in conjunction with the word vicara. The pair signify two interconnected but distinct aspects of the thought process, and to bring out the difference between them (as well as their common character), we translate the one as applied thought and the other as sustained thought.
In both the suttas and the Abhidhamma applied thought is defined as the application of the mind to its object (cetaso abhiniropana), a function which the Atthasalini illustrates thus: "Just as someone ascends the king’s palace in dependence on a relative of friend dear to the king, so the mind ascends the object in dependence on applied thought" (Dhs.A.157). This function of applying the mind to the object is common to the wide variety of modes in which the mental factor of applied thought occurs, ranging from sense discrimination to imagination, reasoning and deliberation and to the practice of concentration culminating in the first jhana. Applied thought can be unwholesome as in thoughts of sensual pleasure, ill will and cruelty, or wholesome as in thoughts of renunciation, benevolence and compassion (M.i,116).
In jhana applied through is invariably wholesome and its function of directing the mind upon its object stands forth with special clarity. To convey this the Visuddhimagga explains that in jhana the function of applied thought is "to strike at and thresh — for the meditator is said, in virtue of it, to have the object struck at by applied thought, threshed by applied thought" (Vism.142;PP148). The Milindapanha makes the same point by defining applied thought as absorption (appana): "Just as a carpenter drives a well-fashioned piece of wood into a joint, so applied thought has the characteristic of absorption" (Miln.62).
The object of jhana into which vitakka drives the mind and its concomitant states is the counterpart sign, which emerges from the learning sign as the hindrances are suppressed and the mind enters access concentration. The Visuddhimagga explains the difference between the two signs thus:
In the learning sign any fault in the kasina is apparent. But the counterpart sign appears as if breaking out from the learning sign, and a hundred times, a thousand times more purified, like a looking-glass disk drawn from its case, like a mother-of-pearl dish well washed, like the moon’s disk coming out from behind a cloud, like cranes against a thunder cloud. But it has neither color nor shape; for if it had, it would be cognizable by the eye, gross, susceptible of comprehension (by insight) and stamped with the three characteristics. But it is not like that. For it is born only of perception in one who has obtained concentration, being a mere mode of appearance (Vism. 125-26; PP.130)
The counterpart sign is the object of both access concentration and jhana, which differ neither in their object nor in the removal of the hindrances but in the strength of their respective jhana factors. In the former the factors are still weak, not yet fully developed, while in the jhana they are strong enough to make the mind fully absorbed in the object. In this process applied thought is the factor primarily responsible for directing the mind towards the counterpart sign and thrusting it in with the force of full absorption.
Sustained Thought (vicara)
Vicara seems to represent a more developed phase of the thought process than vitakka. The commentaries explain that it has the characteristic of "continued pressure" on the object (Vim. 142; PP.148). Applied thought is described as the first impact of the mind on the object, the gross inceptive phase of thought; sustained thought is described as the act of anchoring the mind on the object, the subtle phase of continued mental pressure. Buddhaghosa illustrates the difference between the two with a series of similes. Applied thought is like striking a bell, sustained thought like the ringing; applied thought is like a bee’s flying towards a flower, sustained thought like its buzzing around the flower; applied thought is like a compass pin that stays fixed to the center of a circle, sustained thought like the pin that revolves around (Vism. 142-43; PP.148-49).
These similes make it clear that applied thought and sustained thought functionally associated, perform different tasks. Applied thought brings the mind to the object, sustained thought fixes and anchors it there. Applied thought focuses the mind on the object, sustained thought examines and inspects what is focused on. Applied thought brings a deepening of concentration by again and again leading the mind back to the same object, sustained thought sustains the concentration achieved by keeping the mind anchored on that object.
The third factor present in the first jhana is piti, usually translated as joy or rapture.  In the suttas piti is sometimes said to arise from another quality called pamojja, translated as joy or gladness, which springs up with the abandonment of the five hindrances. When the disciple sees the five hindrances abandoned in himself "gladness arises within him; thus gladdened, rapture arises in him; and when he is rapturous his body becomes tranquil" (D.i,73). Tranquillity in turn leads to happiness, on the basis of which the mind becomes concentrated. Thus rapture precedes the actual arising of the first jhana, but persists through the remaining stages up to the third jhana.
The Vibhanga defines piti as "gladness, joy, joyfulness, mirth, merriment, exultation, exhilaration, and satisfaction of mind" (Vbh. 257). The commentaries ascribe to it the characteristic of endearing, the function of refreshing the body and mind or pervading with rapture, and the manifestation as elation (Vism.143; PP.149). Shwe Zan Aung explains that "piti abstracted means interest of varying degrees of intensity, in an object felt as desirable or as calculated to bring happiness." 
When defined in terms of agency, piti is that which creates interest in the object; when defined in terms of its nature it is the interest in the object. Because it creates a positive interest in the object, the jhana factor of rapture is able to counter and suppress the hindrance of ill will, a state of aversion implying a negative evaluation of the object.
Rapture is graded into five categories: minor rapture, momentary rapture, showering rapture, uplifting rapture and pervading rapture.  Minor rapture is generally the first to appear in the progressive development of meditation; it is capable of causing the hairs of the body to rise. Momentary rapture, which is like lightning, comes next but cannot be sustained for long. Showering rapture runs through the body in waves, producing a thrill but without leaving a lasting impact. Uplifting rapture, which can cause levitation, is more sustained but still tends to disturb concentration, The form of rapture most conductive to the attainment of jhana is all-pervading rapture, which is said to suffuse the whole body so that it becomes like a full bladder or like a mountain cavern inundated with a mighty flood of water. The Visuddhimagga states that what is intended by the jhana factor of rapture is this all-pervading rapture "which is the root of absorption and comes by growth into association with absorption" (Vism.144; PP.151)
As a factor of the first jhana, sukha signifies pleasant feeling. The word is explicitly defined in the sense by the Vibhanga in its analysis of the first jhana: "Therein, what is happiness? Mental pleasure and happiness born of mind-contact, the felt pleasure and happiness born of mind-contact, pleasurable and happy feeling born of mind contact — this is called ’happiness’ " (Vbh.257). The Visuddhimagga explains that happiness in the first jhana has the characteristic of gratifying, the function of intensifying associated states, and as manifestation, the rendering of aid to its associated states (Vism. 145; PP.151).
Rapture and happiness link together in a very close relationship, but though the two are difficult to distinguish, they are not identical. Happiness is a feeling (vedana); rapture a mental formation (sankhara). Happiness always accompanies rapture, so that when rapture is present happiness must always be present; but rapture does not always accompany happiness, for in the third jhana, as we will see, there is happiness but no rapture. The Atthasalini, which explains rapture as "delight in the attaining of the desired object" and happiness as "the enjoyment of the taste of what is required," illustrates the difference by means of a simile:
Rapture is like a weary traveler in the desert in summer, who hears of, or sees water of a shady wood. Ease [happiness] is like his enjoying the water of entering the forest shade. For a man who, traveling along the path through a great desert and overcome by the heat, is thirsty and desirous of drink, if he saw a man on the way, would ask ’Where is water?’ The other would say, ’Beyond the wood is a dense forest with a natural lake. Go there, and you will get some.’ He, hearing these words, would be glad and delighted and as he went would see lotus leaves, etc., fallen on the ground and become more glad and delighted. Going onwards, he would see men with wet clothes and hair, hear the sounds of wild fowl and pea-fowl, etc., see the dense forest of green like a net of jewels growing by the edge of the natural lake, he would see the water lily, the lotus, the white lily, etc., growing in the lake, he would see the clear transparent water, he would be all the more glad and delighted, would descend into the natural lake, bathe and drink at pleasure and, his oppression being allayed, he would eat the fibers and stalks of the lilies, adorn himself with the blue lotus, carry on his shoulders the roots of the mandalaka, ascend from the lake, put on his clothes, dry the bathing cloth in the sun, and in the cool shade where the breeze blew ever so gently lay himself down and saw: ’O bliss! O bliss!’ Thus should this illustration be applied. The time of gladness and delight from when he heard of the natural lake and the dense forest till he say the water is like rapture having the manner of gladness and delight at the object in view. The time when, after his bath and dried he laid himself down in the cool shade, saying, ’O bliss! O bliss!’ etc., is the sense of ease [happiness] grown strong, established in that mode of enjoying the taste of the object. 
Since rapture and happiness co-exist in the first jhana, this simile should not be taken to imply that they are mutually exclusive. Its purport is to suggest that rapture gains prominence before happiness, for which it helps provide a causal foundation.
In the description of the first jhana, rapture and happiness are said to be "born of seclusion" and to suffuse the whole body of the meditator in such a way that there is no part of his body which remains unaffected by them:
Monks, secluded from sense pleasure... a monk enters and dwells in the first jhana. He steeps, drenches, fills and suffuses his body with the rapture and happiness born of seclusion, so that there is no part of his entire body that is not suffused with this rapture and happiness. Just as a skilled bath-attendant or his apprentice might strew bathing powder in a copper basin, sprinkle it again and again with water, and knead it together so that the mass of bathing soap would be pervaded, suffused, and saturated with moisture inside and out yet would not ooze moisture, so a monk steeps, drenches, fills and suffuses his body with the rapture and happiness born of seclusion, so that, there is no part of his entire body that is not suffused with this rapture and happiness born of seclusion. (D.i,74)
Unlike the previous four jhana factors, one-pointedness is not specifically mentioned in the standard formula for the first jhana, but it is included among the jhana factors by the Mahavedalla Sutta (M.i,294) as well as in the Abhidhamma and the commentaries. One-pointedness is a universal mental concomitant, the factor by virtue of which the mind is centered upon its object. It brings the mind to a single point, the point occupied by the object.
One-pointedness is used in the text as a synonym for concentration (samadhi) which has the characteristic of non-distraction, the function of eliminating distractions, non-wavering as its manifestation, and happiness as its proximate cause (Vism.85; PP.85). As a jhana factor one-pointedness is always directed to a wholesome object and wards off unwholesome influences, in particular the hindrance of sensual desire. As the hindrances are absent in jhana one-pointedness acquires special strength, based on the previous sustained effort of concentration.
Besides the five jhana factors, the first jhana contains a great number of other mental factors functioning in unison as coordinate members of a single state of consciousness. Already the Anupada Sutta lists such additional components of the first jhana as contact, feeling, perception, volition, consciousness, desire, decision, energy, mindfulness, equanimity and attention (M.iii,25). In the Abhidhamma literature this is extended still further up to thirty-three indispensable components. Nevertheless, only five states are called the factors of the first jhana, for only these have the functions of inhibiting the five hindrances and fixing the mind in absorption. For the jhana to arise all these five factors must be present simultaneously, exercising their special operations:
But applied thought directs the mind onto the object; sustained thought keeps it anchored there. Happiness [rapture] produced by the success of the effort refreshes the mind whose effort has succeeded through not being distracted by those hindrances; and bliss [happiness] intensifies it for the same reason. Then unification aided by this directing onto, this anchoring, this refreshing and this intensifying, evenly and rightly centers the mind with its remaining associated states on the object consisting in unity. Consequently possession of five factors should be understood as the arising of these five, namely, applied thought, sustained thought, happiness [rapture], bliss [happiness], and unification of mind. For it is when these are arisen that jhana is said to be arisen, which is why they are called the five factors of possession. (Vism.146;PP.152)
Each jhana factor serves as support for the one which succeeds it. Applied thought must direct the mind to its object in order for sustained thought to anchor it there. Only when the mind is anchored can the interest develop which will culminate in rapture. As rapture develops it brings happiness to maturity, and this spiritual happiness, by providing an alternative to the fickle pleasures of the senses, aids the growth of one-pointedness. In this way, as Nagasena explains, all the other wholesome states lead to concentration, which stands at their head like the apex on the roof of a house (Miln. 38-39).
Perfecting the First Jhana
The difference between access and absorption concentration, as we have said, does not lie in the absence of the hindrances, which is common to both, but in the relative strength of the jhana factors. In access the factors are weak so that concentration is fragile, comparable to a child who walks a few steps and then falls down. But in absorption the jhana factors are strong and well developed so that the mind can remain continuously in concentration just as a healthy man can remain standing on his feet for a whole day and night (Vism.126; PP.131).
Because full absorption offers the benefit of strengthened concentration, a meditator who gains access is encouraged to strive for the attainment of jhana. To develop his practice several important measures are recommended.  The meditator should live in a suitable dwelling, rely upon a suitable alms resort, avoid profitless talk, associate only with spiritually-minded companions, make use only of suitable food, live in a congenial climate, and maintain his practice in a suitable posture. He should also cultivate the ten kinds of skill in absorption. He should clean his lodging and his physical body so that they conduce to clear meditation, balance his spiritual faculties by seeing that faith is balanced with wisdom and energy with concentration, and he must be skillful in producing and developing the sign of concentration (1-3). He should exert the mind when it is slack, restrain it when it is agitated, encourage it when it is restless or dejected, and look at the mind with equanimity when all is proceeding well (4-7). The meditator should avoid distracting persons, should approach people experienced in concentration, and should be firm in his resolution to attain jhana (8-10).
After attaining the first jhana a few times the meditator is not advised to set out immediately striving for the second jhana. This would be a foolish and profitless spiritual ambition. Before he is prepared to make the second jhana the goal of his endeavor he must first bring the first jhana to perfection. If he is too eager to reach the second jhana before he has perfected the first, he is likely to fail to gain the second and find himself unable to regain the first. The Buddha compares such a meditator to a foolish cow who, while still unfamiliar with her own pasture, sets out for new pastures and gets lost in the mountains: she fails to find food or drink and is unable to find her way home (A.iv, 418-19).
The perfecting of the first jhana involves two steps: the extension of the sign and the achievement of the five masteries. The extension of the sign means extending the size of the counterpart sign, the object of the jhana. Beginning with a small area, the size of one or two fingers, the meditator gradually learns to broaden the sign until the mental image can be made to cover the world-sphere or even beyond (Vism. 152-53; PP.158-59).
Following this the meditator should try to acquire five kinds of mastery over the jhana: mastery in adverting, in attaining, in resolving, in emerging and in reviewing.  Mastery in adverting is the ability to advert to the jhana factors one by one after emerging from the jhana, wherever he wants, whenever he wants, and for as long as he wants. Mastery in attaining is the ability to enter upon jhana quickly, mastery in resolving the ability to remain in the jhana for exactly the pre-determined length of time, mastery in emerging the ability to emerge from jhana quickly without difficulty, and mastery in reviewing the ability to review the jhana and its factors with retrospective knowledge immediately after adverting to them. When the meditator has achieved this fivefold mastery, then he is ready to strive for the second jhana.
About the Author
Mahathera Henepola Gunaratana was ordained as a Buddhist monk in Kandy, Sri Lanka, in 1947 and received his education at Vidyalankara College and Buddhist Missionary College, Colombo. He worked for five years as a Buddhist missionary among the Harijans (Untouchables) in India and for ten years with the Buddhist Missionary Society in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. In 1968 he came to the United States to serve as general secretary of the Buddhist Vihara Society at the Washington Buddhist Vihara. In 1980 he was appointed president of the Society. He has received a Ph.D. from The American University and since 1973 has been Buddhist Chaplain at The American University. He is now director of the Bhavana Meditation Center in West Virginia in the Shenandoah Valley, about 100 miles from Washington, D.C.
THE FULL TEACHING
The Doctrinal Context of Jhana
Etymology of Jhana
Jhana and Samadhi
2. The Preparation for Jhana
The Moral Foundation for Jhana
The Good Friend and the Subject of Meditation
Choosing a Suitable Dwelling
3. The First Jhana and its Factors
The Abandoning of the Hindrances
The Factors of the First Jhana
Perfecting the First Jhana
4. The Higher Jhanas
The Higher Fine-material Jhanas
The Immaterial Jhanas
The Jhanas and Rebirth
5. Jhanas and the Supramundane
The Way of Wisdom
The Two Vehicles
The Jhanic Level of the Path and Fruit
6. Jhana and the Noble Disciples
Seven Types of Disciples
Jhana and the Arahant
Source : The Wheel Publication No. 351/353 (Kandy: Buddhist Publication Society, 1988).
Transcribed from the print edition in 1995 by Bill Petrow and Jane Yudelman under the auspices of the DharmaNet Dharma Book Transcription Project, with the kind permission of the Buddhist Publication Society.
This book is an abridged version of the author’s The Path of Serenity and Insight: An Explanation of the Buddhist Jhanas, copyright © 1985 Motilal Banarsidass, New Delhi, and is published in the Wheel series by arrangement with that publisher.
Copyright © 1988 Buddhist Publication Society
Access to Insight edition © 1995
For free distribution. This work may be republished, reformatted, reprinted, and redistributed in any medium. It is the author’s wish, however, that any such republication and redistribution be made available to the public on a free and unrestricted basis and that translations and other derivative works be clearly marked as such.