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More Jhāna Theory

August 26, 2013

Q: In this post the other day, you were talking about some pretty far-out topics regarding jhānas. Is it possible to enlarge on this understanding to help us realize it?

The Arahant: Yes, certainly. The experience of jhāna is like entering another world or space. You forget everything of this world, and experience things from a different perspective. Whether it’s actually, literally another world or dimension is not as important as how it feels.

As I observed in the previous post, when entering jhānas the feeling is one of movement, and I compared that experience to shifting to a different coordinate system. Einstein showed that it’s possible to experience one and the same reality through any number of different coordinate systems. Some coordinate systems may be at rest relative to one another, but it’s more likely that they will be in motion with respect to one another.

Here’s a simple example. In school we are trained to experience the world through the Cartesian coordinate system, where there are three linear axes, all at right angles to one another. So all Cartesian coordinates assume these straight axes and right angles, with time as a separate quantity. The whole concept is based on plane geometry.

Navigators and astronomers, however, use an angular coordinate system that includes time, measured as a function of the earth’s rotation. Most of the axes in the astronomical coordinates are circular—the equator, the ecliptic, circles of latitude and longitude, or right ascension and declination. The navigational or astronomical system is based on spherical geometry. Its mathematics are very different from the Cartesian system, and it gives a completely different view of the world, where time is an integral part of a spatial coordinate system. This opens up some very interesting possibilities.

Imagine if you will, an artist whose medium is dimensions, and whose work consists of making interesting and aesthetic arrangements between them and among various coordinate systems. Is it likely that such as artist would restrict himself to static linear dimensions at right angles to one another? Or would he want to experiment with a more varied and nuanced palette of relationships?

The movement of life energy—prāṇa, chi or qi—through the chakras or energy centers of the human body is well-documented in the Āyurvedic and Chinese medical literature. But what happens when the life energy begins to move through the chakras or energy centers of the Arahant-body?

To me it seems quite natural that the Arahant-body is in a different space, dimension or space-time coordinate system from the ordinary human body. Thus when the energy or awareness shifts from one body to another, there is a feeling of moving from one space to another. These different spaces, dimensions or coordinate systems may not have linear axes, and may not be at rest with respect to each other; in fact, most likely they have higher-order geometries such as ellipsoidal, parabolic or logarithmic axes, in complex, multi-axis motion with respect to each other. Why not, if anything is possible?

There is no need to assume the existence of other worlds or dimensions for this theory to accurately describe or predict experience. After all, a ‘dimension’ is merely a conceptualization for perceiving or measuring location, distance, motion, time and so on. When we enter into jhāna in deep concentration, the ordinary world seems to recede from perception and we find ourselves in another world, with very different phenomena. There is often a sense of movement or change in momentum, not unlike the sensation of getting on and off an escalator or moving sidewalk. But we don’t have to go anywhere; this phenomenon can easily be explained simply as a change in our coordinate system.

In meditation we change our mental orientation, motion and momentum to match the coordinate system of the jhāna-space, and move along with it as long as we find it pleasurable. Then we either transfer to another higher jhāna or come back into external consciousness. Each of these transitions is accompanied by sensations of complex movement and change of momentum. I think if any accomplished meditator examines his experience closely, he would have to agree.

So just like the electron cloud of an atom is defined by the probabilities of the complex motions of the electrons, the Arahant-body is defined by the relative movements of the jhānas composing it. Just as in the process of living in the ordinary body, one perceives experience through the filters of the various chakras, in a similar process of living in an Arahant-body, the Arahant perceives experience through the filters of the various jhānas.

This theory is not meant to be taken as a ‘fact’ or to become dogma; it is simply an hypothesis to help explain the deep meditative experience. Take it lightly—that is, try it on and see if it fits. If it helps you, well and good. But if not, don’t give it a second thought.

From → Q&A

  1. peaceandwisdom2013 permalink

    Indeed, these are far-out topics! There is not much instruction in the Suttas on the attainment of the higher jhānas. However, the commentaries (ie Visuddhimagga) provide their own approach. How accurate are these post-Canonical texts in this regard and how does on go about to reach these higher states?

    • Thanks for your comment. I will show it to The Arahant for his review. — The Editor

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