Mastering an Absorption
When one is sure (e.g.
through suitable guidance) to have experienced an absorption then one can
make resolutions (adhitthana) to master it. There are five
aspects of mastery:
1. mastery in
2. mastery in entering
3. mastery in staying on
mastery in emerging
5. mastery in reflection
1. MASTERY IN
This is the mastery of being able to bring up (make an object
of) one of the five jhana factors, one after another immediately upon
emerging from jhana. It is brought about by making
2. MASTERY IN
"Entering" means the shifting of the sensual sphere
concentration to a form sphere (jhanic consciousness). It
involves the switching off of the normal sense sphere consciousness to
that of the absorption. One has to be familiar as to what the absorption
is. One also has to have the factors of concentration sufficiently
developed. Mastery of resolution is also important. When one knows that
preparations have been well made, and faculties developed to the near
access, then the mind flies off to absorption or sinks into the object by
the switching of the will power to direct the powers and development of
previous practice towards the required direction. It is like jumping off
the diving board into the pool. It is like letting go of
3. MASTERY IN STAYING
This is the ability to stay as long as one wishes in that
absorption. One can stay in for as long as seven days at a stretch.
Adequate preparations we are told are very important. When we are not
worried e.g. about lunch or appointments, the mind is at rest to go on.
Preparations may involve making sure no one will disturb us over a period
of time and all important matters are put aside. Having cleaned the body
and made a very thorough practice that will bring about lengthy sitting,
with the making of suitable resolution for a fixed period, one enters and
abides therein. Usually one has to be trained to lengthen the period of
the absorption by making successive resolutions for increasing
4. MASTERY IN
"Emerging" means emerging from the state of absorption. Its
precision can be based on, firstly, the point of time. This depends
firstly whether one is able to hold on that long first (i.e. the mastery
of abiding). But if one is able to, the precision is exactly when. It is
said that it can be done to the accuracy of the required second. Secondly
it is based on the event or occasion. For example, one may decide to
emerge if anyone comes to knock at the door, or as in suttas, the sangha
or Buddha summons! All these abilities will depend on practice and mastery
5. MASTERY IN
"Reflection" here is the reflection of the
absorption from which one has just emerged. Reflection here does not mean
thinking but full awareness of the components that make up what has just
occurred. Therefore the reflection is done only immediately after
emergence. It can occur in two ways.
I. The reflection of
the consciousness that has just passed. From it one can identify which
absorption it is and the factors that constitute it. However one will have
to be familiar first with what all these are through experience and
guidance. Usually for first-timers it is unfamiliar.
II. Reflection by the
use of resolution. Here one resolves to witness the factors of
concentration present in the absorption just passed. Through the power of
the resolution, one will witness, one by one, the factors.
It is similar to the
first mastery which involves adverting the mind to the jhana factors.
Immediately following it is the reflection. It is through this reflection
that there is awareness that one knows which absorption one has entered as
well as the unsatisfactoriness of the lower factors. For example,
reflection on initial and sustained application will form a base for the
attainment of the higher jhanas.
This reflection has
often to be made many times but care must be made not to overdo it as it
will develop a strong dispassion for it as one sees the faults. Then one
will be unable to enter into that absorption even if one resolves
Resolutions to see the
May I see the 1st
factor of that absorption.
May I see the 2nd factor of that
May I see the 3rd factor of that absorption.
May I see
the 4th factor of that absorption.
May I see the 5th factor of that
After having seen
them, e.g. one may know one was within the first absorption and then one
may proceed on again to the process of adverting and work towards the
second. After the next absorption one can again see the factors of
absorption that make it up and then work up to the third and fourth
absorption in the same way.
Once one has gained
the five-fold mastery of the jhanas one to four, then one may
further the mastery by gaining them:
I. in the direct
ascending order i.e.
II. in the reverse or
descending order i.e.
III. in the ascending
and descending order i.e.
IV. in skipping of
V. in weaving of
Such practice enables
one to be very familiar with these states of mind, to gain them easily and
move about with ease.