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The Process of the Jhānas

Updated: Feb 25, 2023


Copyright © 2023 Tomás Morales y Duran. All rights reserved


A process is a set of successive phases of an operation. To proceed is to do something according to reason, law, mandate, practice or convenience. We are going to see how the future Buddha proceeds to become enlightened by himself. It is a process with its clearly differentiated phases.

There are various forms of enlightenment and not all Buddhas are enlightened in the same way. The process that Gotama used was using paranormal abilities. For this, it is essential to reach the fourth jhāna to unleash them,

As said, there are various forms of enlightenment and not all Buddhas are enlightened in the same way. The process that Gotama used was using paranormal abilities. Once he reached the fourth jhāna he was able to unleash them because he had obtained them in a previous training:


I developed the foundations of paranormal power through concentration endowed with drive. I developed the foundations of paranormal power through energized concentration. I developed the foundations of paranormal power through concentration endowed with reasoning. I developed the foundations of paranormal power through investigative gifted concentration.


The first part is achieving the four jhānas, one after another.


When he had ingested abundant food, having gathered strength, separated from the pleasures of the senses, totally separated from sensory pleasures, separated from vices, he entered and remained in the first jhāna, which has the pleasure, happiness and joy that arise of recollection, while directing the mind and keeping it focused. However, the feeling of happiness that arose in his mind, having exhausted himself, did not last.

As the directing of the mind on the moving forms disappeared, he entered and remained in the second jhāna, which has the pleasure, happiness and joy that arise from concentration, with inner clarity and confidence, and with a concentrated mind. , the directing of the mind on the forms in movement disappears. However, the feeling of happiness that arose in his mind, having exhausted himself, did not last.

As the pleasure vanished, he remained impassive, pleasant and clearly conscious, and he experienced in himself that joy of which the nobles say, "joyful lives he who is impassive and conscious," and he entered and remained in the third jhāna. But, nevertheless, the pleasant sensation that arose in him persisted without affecting his mind.

Giving up pleasure and pain, and putting an end to previous happiness and sadness, he entered and remained in the fourth jhāna, without pleasure or pain, with pure impassivity and gnosis. But, nevertheless, the pleasant sensation that arose in him persisted without affecting his mind.


We are going to analyze the first jhāna, using speech 41.6 from the Collection of Interlocking Discourses:


At one time, the venerable Kāmabhū was staying near Macchikāsaṇḍa in the Wild Mango Grove. Then Citta, the head of the family, approached the venerable Kāmabhū, sat by one side and said:

"Sir, how many processes are there?"

—Family head, there are three processes. Physical, verbal and mental processes.

"Good, master," Citta replied, rejoicing at the answer. Then he asked a new question:

"But sir, what is a physical process?" What is a verbal process? What is a mental process?

“Breathing in and out is a physical process. Directing the mind over moving forms is a verbal process. Qualia and emotional reaction are mental processes.

"Good, master," Citta replied, rejoicing at the answer. He then asked a new question:

"But sir, why is inhaling and exhaling a physical process?" Directing the mind on the forms in movement is a verbal process? Why are qualia and emotional reaction mental processes?

“Inhaling and exhaling are physical processes. They are linked to the body, so inhaling and exhaling are physical. Directing the mind over moving shapes is considered a speech activity because words arise in the mind and are processed there before they burst into speech. That is why directing the mind on the forms in movement is a verbal process. The qualia and the emotional reaction are mental. They are tied to the mind, which is why qualia and emotional reaction are mental processes.


The jhānas are states of absorption in which consciousness is released from the human character, simply not paying attention to the interaction with the brain. This is achieved by turning it off, cutting off the oxygen supply and subjecting it to cerebral anoxia, but without interrupting the continuity of life or causing neuronal damage.

It is precisely what the future Buddha tried to do when he tried to stop breathing, but his body rebelled. He put all his energy and concentration without relaxing. But he did not get peace in his body, because all the concentration had to be used to fight and dominate the pain. However, his mind was not overwhelmed by pain.

In order to achieve both peace of mind and body, a series of neurotransmitters must be produced in cascade previously, which will serve as neuroprotectors during trance. Those neurotransmitters are translated into pure emotions, unrelated to the senses: pleasure, happiness, joy, excitement and ecstasy. These are mental processes. To achieve these processes it is necessary to direct the mind on the forms in movement, which constitute processes verbals. And to achieve these processes, you can use your breath as a support, which is a physical process. Although breathing is a popular method, it is not the only one that can give such support to forms in motion.


—But, venerable, what is the first jhāna?

—Venerable, it is when a bhikkhu, totally cut off from sensory pleasures, cut off from vices, enters and submerges in the first jhāna, having the pleasure, happiness and joy that arise from recollection, while directing the mind and consciousness. keeps focused. This is called the first jhāna.

—But how many factors does the first jhāna have?

—The first jhāna has five factors. When a bhikkhu has entered the first jhāna, he directs the mind and keeps it concentrated, pleasure, happiness, joy and concentration of mind being present. This is how the first jhāna has five factors.

—But how many factors has the first jhāna abandoned and how many does it possess?

—The first jhāna has given up five factors and has five factors. When a bhikkhu has entered the first jhāna, sense desire, malevolence, dullness and drowsiness, restlessness and remorse and doubt are given up. Directing the mind and keeping it focused, pleasure, happiness, joy and concentration of the mind are present. This is how the first jhāna has given up five factors and has five factors.


To enter the first jhāna one has to give up five things and acquire five things. The five that are abandoned are sensory desire, malevolence, dullness and drowsiness, restlessness and remorse, and doubt. The five that must be acquired are the direction of the mind and the ability to keep it concentrated, pleasure, happiness, joy and concentration or unification of the mind.


Having mastered entering the first jhāna, the mind will be able to enter the second without having to do any exercise, that is, without having to direct the mind or keep it concentrated. The brain is learning to enter these states.


Similarly, with mastery of the second jhāna, the mind will be able to dispense with happiness and thus enter the third jhāna, which, being less protected, is deeper.


And finally, with the mastery of the third jhāna, and giving up pleasure and pain, and putting an end to the previous happiness and sadness, without protection and more depth, one enters and remains in the fourth jhāna, without pleasure. nor pain, with pure impassivity and gnosis.


Now, like this, having reached the fourth jhāna, he can already experience the paranormal abilities that he will use to become enlightened.

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