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Entering the Second Burning

A footnote from the editor of The Wheel (4. Discourse on the "Tamed Stage" (see: Danta-bhumi-sutta, Majjhima-Nikāya No. 125) ) brings up a question I think should be emphasized:

"It is noteworthy that the section on the Four Applications of Mindfulness (satipaṭṭhana) is here followed by the second meditation (jhāna) without mention of the first. This may either refer to a mediator who, already previously, has attained to the first jhāna, or, which seems more probable, it is meant to indicate that the intensive practice of satipaṭṭhana which, through emphasis on bare observation, tends to reduce discursive thought, and enables the mediator to enter directly into the second jhāna, which is free from initial and discursive thought (vitakka-vicara). This latter explanation is favored by the facts that (1) in our text, the practice of satipaṭṭhana is preceded by the temporary abandonment of the five diversions, which indicates a high degree of concentration approaching that of the jhāna; (2) in our text, the mediator is advised not to engage in the thought about the body, feelings, etc. — that is, in discursive thinking, which is still present in the first jhāna.[1].

This is the Horner text for the relevant section:

"As, Aggivessana, an elephant tamer, driving a great post into the ground, ties a forest elephant to it by his neck so as to subdue his forest ways, so as to subdue his forest aspirations, and so as to subdue his distress, his fretting and fever for the forest, so as to make him pleased with villages and accustom him to human ways — even so, Aggivessana, these four applications of mindfulness are ties of the mind so as to subdue the ways of householders and to subdue the aspirations of householders and to subdue the distress, the fretting and fever of householders; they are for leading to the right path, for realizing Nibbāna.

The Tathāgata then disciplines him further, saying: 'Come you, monk, fare along contemplating the body in the body, but do not apply yourself to a train of thought connected with the body; fare along contemplating the feelings in the feelings ... the mind in the mind ... mental states in mental states, but do not apply yourself to a train of thought connected with mental states,' He, by allaying initial thought and discursive thought, with the mind subjectively tranquillized and fixed on one point, enters on and abides in the second meditation which is devoid of initial and discursive thought, is born of concentration and is rapturous and joyful. ...

This is the Ñanamoli/Bodhi rendering:

(about the elephant ...) ... "Then the Tathāgata disciplines him further: 'Come, bhikkhu, abide contemplating the body as a body but do not think thoughts connected with the body; abide contemplating feelings as feelings but do not think thoughts connected with feelings; abide contemplating mind as mind but do not think thoughts connected with the mind; abide contemplating mind-objects as mind-objects but do not think thoughts connected with mind-objects.'

"With the stilling of applied and sustained thought, he enters upon and abides in the second jhana. ..."

B/N footnote:

Since the exposition begins here directly with the second jhāna, this suggests that the earlier passage on the development of the foundations of mindfulness must have implicitly covered the first jhāna.

Including the footnotes, this pretty well makes the point raised here in several places, namely that the first burning (jhāna) is essentially an ordinary state but one wherein the diversions have been at least temporarily left behind. I think the simile of the elephant is very helpful ... the first burning would be that point where one had (again, at least temporarily) given up the concerns and fretting associated with the world and had decided to "settle down" just where one was. I describe this as: "The appreciation of the peace and calm of solitude" (The solitude here is, whether one is alone or not, the "not being concerned with the world".

The other important feature of this segment is the description of the letting go of vitakka and vicara: it is by not thinking, or as Horner would have it, not taking up trains of thought about body, sense experiences, mental states, the Dhamma.

To see how this works, do your sit down exercise and watch for the time when you see that your thoughts have drifted off into some subject.

Make yourself conscious of the matter.

At that time, when you see that you have "taken up a train of thought", make yourself aware of the beginning "trigger" thought or idea or object or sensation or mental state or Dhamma.

The spot between seeing that trigger and taking up thought about it is the entrance to the second jhāna.

Thereafter train yourself to let go of these trains of thought as soon as you become aware of them. A little later you will find yourself coming out of your sitting meditation aware that you spent a long period not having taken up any train of thought. You have emerged from the second jhāna. Reflect on anything you notice about the process start to finish.

Side note: Let me assure you that as strange as it may seem: the more time you spend meditating; the more time you have to get the things of the world accomplished; there is no need to concern yourself that you are "wasting time" meditating.



H: What is the scope of the second burning, how far does the rabbit hole go?

What is the practice or understanding that will lead one to the third burning?

What is the scope of the third burning?

You are asking about "extent of scope" and the jhānas are broader in scope than I am able to speak about comprehensively, either by way of experience or hearsay. I can contribute this to the beginnings of our understanding:

In conceptual terms, from the point of view of this system, their limits are a matter of goals and emerging.

One limit to the second jhāna, for example, would be the third jhāna, another would be attaining the jhāna known as "The Ending of Perception and Sense Experience (or the entrance-way to Nibbāna), at the other end the limit is the first jhāna.

As far as "Powers" (Iddhi) are concerned; I do not recall any sutta that discusses the benefits of the jhānas individually other than in terms of attaining Arahantship.

When magic powers are discussed they are usually described as occurring after the fourth jhāna. However we know from outside the suttas that almost all of these powers are possible from states that by their descriptions would be no higher than the first and second burnings.

I do believe I have read of Devadatta (the notorious Buddhist bad-guy who had considerable magic power) as having attained only the First Jhāna (I have a vague recollection that he was derided, as not even being able to attain the first jhāna). Angulimala (the bandit known as "Garland of Thumbs") appears to have had magic powers of considerable extent as a consequence of study under one of the Buddha's teachers, which would imply the possibility at least that he was able to attain the Sphere of No Thing to be Had There, but may never have attained the four jhānas at all.[2]

Carlos Castaneda's Don Juan continuously throws Carlos into what looks to be the first or second burning (he calls it "the second attention") in order to teach him the powers described in those books.

Sai Baba

Sai Baba [Edit: I no longer (Thursday, January 03, 2013 12:36 PM) take it at face value! I have seen a few videos of him in action and not only is he just using old magician's tricks, but he isn't very good at it.]

I take it at face value that he can do what he claims. There are those who would say he was just a trickster. To me this is an impossible issue to resolve: there are those who have an interest in making it out that there is no such thing as magic power ... who is to say who is the trickster? It doesn't matter. As described, his methods fit the formulas. He would be getting his magic power from direct contact with the Sphere of Akasa, apparently without any of the four standard Buddhist jhānas.

In one way of describing the Arahant, as the "Tivijjaman" (The Three Visions Man) certain "magic" powers are said to be the mark of the Arahant: The ability to see past lives, the ability to know the outcome of deeds ("given such and such a deed, without changing his course, this will be the future of this individual."), and knowing the Āsavas are done wore out. Since we know Arahantship can be attained at the level of the First Jhāna, we can infer that these powers are attainable from the first jhāna ... and of course we do have plenty of evidence that there are ordinary people who recall past lives and who are able to see the future.

The commentaries have more to say. They speak of needing to have attained the first jhāna in order to find consciousness relocated after death in the Brahmā Worlds. I believe they speak of the second jhāna as being necessary for attaining the Abhissara Realm[3] and higher. (Per usual, I object in my mind to the attitude of the commentaries as always seeming to be imposing limits ... and not always with very good evidence.)

The second burning as described above is marked by the ending of thinking. We need to understand the concept of thinking in this system: For a thought to be a "disturbance" to meditation, it needs to have been "taken up". Identified with. The simple appearance of a thought is not the mark of emergence from the second burning. It is when Objective Detachment is lost that identification is taken up.

Although the entrance to the second burning is marked by the ending of thinking, the reason is the appreciation of the state of jhāna itself "I like doing this!". The second jhāna is said to be "Born of serenity samādhi". I call this turning the mind on itself.

This turning the mind on itself is one step removed from the identification with thought I just described; the second level of detachment. This produces a "characteristic" or "sign": that of "Enthusiasm".[4]

So the entrance to the third burning is marked by the smoothing out of this "rush of enthusiasm". In the beginning what will more likely happen is that it will end rather than smooth out. What you want for the third burning is to get it under control, not kill it. The reason for this will be noticing and appreciating and cultivating a sense of ease. 'No thrill, no rush, quiet comfortable, quite at ease with getting high,' they will say of such a one.

The scope of the Third Jhāna is the Second Jhāna, The Fourth Jhāna (or one of the other Jhānas) and attaining the Ending of Perception and Sense Experience. The mark for the attaining of the end of the Third Jhāna in exiting to the Second Jhāna is, of course, the renewal of enthusiasm. The mark indicating the beginning of the Fourth Jhāna is the settling down of the sense of ease, and the fading away of any sort of experience of (identification with) mental or physical pleasure or pain. The reason for the Fourth Jhāna is Upekkha, Detachment.

This is all described in formula form in the suttas; almost always using the same words ... words, which if translated properly, probably have more universal application than those I am using.[5]



H: You have said:[6]:

"People who Get High from drugs or natural means for the most part instinctively know (or have experienced first hand[7]) the power of the state. This results in a sort of experiential self-censorship: without training in self-discipline,[8] no matter how intense the meditation training or frequency of drug use, the experience stops at a certain point and the individual turns away or experiences a lengthy period of frustration with his system of choice."

I don't exactly understand what you mean about "experiential self-censorship." Is this self-censorship brought about from the experience of doing drugs, or of the practice of doing drugs?

Also you mentioned a limit to the "height" attainable through the use of these substances. Is this level comparable to the first, second, third, or fourth Burning? Or, put more specifically, What is the maximum state of detachment in terms of the four Burnings that is attainable by, ... say, marijuana or LSD?

I do understand, however, the point you make in the next section of that page about the limit of the practice of doing drugs in terms of the overall practice of letting go:

Moreover, the individual who learns to get high using drugs does not, through that, actually learn to get high, should the drug become unavailable (as in a subsequent birth) he has not trained himself. The accomplishments of the individual who has learned to Get High on his own power travel with him.

My question is about the level at which the tool (i.e., the substances) is no longer able to unlock anything Higher Up on I and I's Way Up.

What I mean by the phrase "experiential self-censorship" is that the individual will [unconsciously set and] experience the limitation of how "high" he can get.[9] Its a matter of being confident that with X amount of power one will behave without getting one's self reborn in Hell. The more well trained the individual is in ethical culture the further ahead he can see and the further he will let himself go.

By well trained, I do not just mean understanding, I mean having seen himself in action.

It is only when temptation is placed in one's path that one knows if one is able to resist.

One needs to have seen face-to-face the love of one's life to know that one is finished with "loving", or
to have encountered the most sexually desirable person (according to one's own taste) to know that one is finished with sex.

One needs to have dealt with an enemy that makes one furious to know that one can control one's anger.

One needs to have gone hungry to know how far one would go to get food.

This isn't something limited to drug users. I see it with virtually every mediator I have encountered or heard of. When they are honest, they say: "I've done this for years and years and years and have gotten nowhere." Then you observe them in action and they lie, steal, are dominated by desire for fame and fortune, indulge in sex, and are not very generous. What can you do? Great mental powers and self-indulgence just do not go together.

This leads into the answer to your second question: On questioning, usually you will find that these people have had one or two major peeks into the power of getting high; it's the rare person who has not seen something magical in their life. It is after that that they stopped making progress.[10]

In this system the trick is to get thought, word, and deed into alignment; out of alignment, the aspects of behavior that are ahead will wait for the laggard to catch up.[11]

Here I am speaking about someone who is conscientiously making an effort, not someone who doesn't make an effort.

So the answer is that short of actually attaining Nibbāna I do not see the top limit of even marijuana in terms of getting high. Its not really any different than any other "concentration device". This whole game is really not a matter of working at it, or using this drug or that device, its a matter of letting go. Anyone can let go at any time; it's not a matter of so and so many years, or such and such a device; it's a matter of being ready.



Let me put a "PS" on this one. I do not want this site to become a destination for technique in drug use. I am saying this is a "problematic" technique. The fact that one does not learn meditation technique, the fact that the phenomena of getting high is limited by the duration of the "effects" of the drug, and the fact that the drugs are "fascinating" (the exact opposite of the effects one is seeking in this system, all make the use of pharmaceuticals as concentration devices (no matter how powerful (high) the results) dangerous for one simple reason: no one knows when Death will reach them. In other words, it is a risky use of time.

This is the thing: Using weed or whatever, with an absolutely pure intent to follow this system will result in the abandoning of all the world for the state of being "high". This is exactly what will happen to the mediator who, without drugs, sits down and meditates. This is the difference: both the "straight" and "high" mediator will have had to deal with desires for the world face on as they appear (given that there is transfer between states — and with a Don Juan-like recapitulation after use, there is — ); the drug user will, at the end of his "trip" still have one more desire to deal with. Will he have trained sufficiently?

Today, [Sunday, January 31, 2010 4:45 AM] we need to confront the fact that there will soon be huge numbers more people using Marijuana because it is being made legal for medical use across the country. It is not reasonable to say, when it is not the case, that:

1. Buddhism forbids marijuana use. It doesn't. The precept regarding drug use is clearly aimed at alcohol consumption: 'Abstain from the use of drugs fermented and distilled, the source of sloth and negligence. This is describing Narcotics. Sleep inducing drugs. Drugs that dull perception. Psychedelics sharpen perception, open perception, clarify perception. However, the marijuana/LSD/mushroom/peyote user will need to deal with an almost 100% consensus by the established orders that the precept does cover such use. A closed-minded bias that I find an interesting phenomena in practitioners of a system that attempts to open the mind.

p.p. explains it all

"any" goes too far. Nobody uses drugs 100% of the time. The situation exists where 'straight' man learns from 'high' man. High man can see immediately, without difficulty that his skill at generosity, ethical behavior and thinking, self-control, development of mind, fine detail concerning sitting practice, and letting go directly effect the highness of his high. He is 'highly' motivated to change. Straight man does not see this as easily, but sitting down to think about it immediately is able to remember what was learned by high man about the benefits of such behavior. Something given up by high man may be seen as given up by straight man. A healthy dialogue may come forward concerning issues in doubt by one side or another. The being profits. Nibbāna is as always described here, only one step away from any given state. Any given state. — p.p. Sunday, January 31, 2010 3:56 AM

2. That drug use may prevent attainments in the Dhamma. It doesn't. We even have one case in the Suttas describing an alcoholic who has attained non-returner status. Attainment is entirely a matter of effort. It works for drug user's too.

If you think about death as a confrontation with the temptation for rebirth (and all the worldly pleasures offered by the world), you will see the problem: the drug user is facing that situation without any training practice without his "device," and perhaps[12] when there is no time left for training.

It may be that the "high" the user has had has resulted in such convincing insight as to itself constitute "training," but this is not guaranteed by the process of getting high (This is true even for the non drug-using mediator ... again see [sn03.34.001-055] for an elaborate sutta where one of the points is that getting high alone is no guarantee of success in this system.

With any appreciation of the dangers of rebirth, the dangers of drug use will come into focus. What needs stating here is that it is more likely the drug user will respond to this danger more conscientiously than the straight man!

This is the simile describing the rarity of birth as a man:

Imagine a yoke with one hole[13] cast out onto the sea;
the current results in it drifting to the East,
the current results in it drifting to the West,
the current results in it drifting to the North,
he current results in it drifting to the South;
the Wind results in it drifting to the East,
the Wind results in it drifting to the West,
the Wind results in drifting to the North,
the Wind results in it drifting to the South;
then imagine a blind sea turtle.
He swims to the East,
he swims to the West,
he swims to the North,
he swims to the South;
once every hundred years he pokes his head up to the surface


"Sooner or later, monks, could the blind turtle push his neck through the one hole in the yoke; more difficult than that, do I say, monks, is human status once again for the fool who has gone to the Downfall.
What is the reason for that?
Monks, there is no dhamma-faring there,
no even-faring,
no doing of what is skilled,
no doing of what is good.
Monks, there is devouring of one another there and feeding on the weak.
Monks, if some time or other once in a very long while that fool came to human status again,
he would be born into those families that are low;
a family of low caste or
a family of hunters or
a family of bamboo-plaiters or
a family of cartwrights or
a family of refuse-scavengers,
in such a family as is needy,
without enough to drink or to eat,
where covering for the back is with difficulty obtained.
Moreover, he would be ill-favoured,
blind or
deformed or
lame or
he would be unable to get food,
scents and perfumes,
dwelling, and
he would fare wrongly in body,
wrongly in speech,
wrongly in thought.
Because he had fared wrongly in body, speech and thought,
at the breaking up of the body after dying
he would arise in the sorrowful ways,
a bad bourn,
the Downfall,
Niraya Hell."

I believe individuals deserve straight talk about drugs, something this society has never provided. This is why I deal with questions related to this subject as long as they are confined to matters of technique for "withdrawal" or letting go, or making use of the insights received in past drug experiences to deal with "straight" life in This Way.



Letting Go of Vitakka and Vicara

There is a way that the very difficult trick of letting go of the inner dialog is made much easier: When you are sitting in the first jhāna, still thinking, bring your attention to the fact that this thinking you are doing consists largely of repeating certain ideas over and over. You sit down with a problem, and a short time later the solution to the problem occurs. Then you regurgitate the solution putting it into words, then you repeat the words. Etc. What you want to notice is the initial point where the solution occurred. You can see when you focus on that point that it was at that point that the solution was completely known to you and that all the rest is absolutely unnecessary. That first understanding was done without any "vitakka or vicara" ("thinking") at all! So now, so seeing, you have a piece of understanding you can use against your anxious desire to make yourself think through these "valuable" insights that come in meditation. Making much of this trick you have entered into and reside in the second burning.


[1] Ed., Wheel, The

[2] Side note: the Buddha studied under this same teacher, and accomplished as much as this teacher taught ... that is, the Sphere of No Thing to be Had There ... so we know, because the Buddha "discovered" the jhānas only just before his enlightenment, that the so-called "arupajhānas" are attainable without the four jhānas as pre-requisites. Some may point to the existence of the jhānas prior to the Buddha. This may be, but I would suggest that this is a matter of names and that the description elsewhere will not reflect the same structure, that is a progressive reduction that is the characteristic of the jhānas as described in Pāḷi Buddhism.

[3] Since we are told that it is to the Abhissara Realm that "nearly all" beings are reborn at the end of a world cycle, we have a problem for those commentators who state that already at this time (a good long time before the end of a world cycle) the jhānas are unattainable; either what they say is fiction (nice word) or the text they hold as sacred is fiction.

[4] There is difference of opinion, exactly concerning the meaning of the term pīti. I call it Enthusiasm; it could be called "excitement" as in ordinary use this word has both a carnal and an un-carnal meaning. Bhikkhu Thanissaro and others have called it "rapture", but I object to this term on the grounds that it carries European and Christian implications, and I don't see an ordinary state of rapture, let alone a carnal one ... well, maybe at Raves. You might call it a "rush".

[5] See the Jhāna-saṃyutta section of the index for a selection of materials for further research;
For more on the First Burning see: Dhammatalk: Sitting under the Tree of Knowledge, and especially, Attaining Nibbāna without Jhāna for a word-by-word breakdown of the formula for the First Burning.
Then see the rest of the topics in DhammaTalk: Sitting Practice.

[6] High Get'n High, Introduction

[7] Meaning not the experience of the high-getting, but the power of the high-getting.

[8] Training in Ethical Culture and Self Control.

[9] This whole discussion needs to be qualified by the understanding that this applies to the well-intentioned individual. The individual who is already lost to a destiny in Hell will experience no such self-censorship. While the power of the bad man will be limited by his kamma, the power of the well-intentioned man is essentially unlimited in that at each step forward virtually incalculable kammic power is being generated.

[10] Actually, they didn't stop making progress, but the time they put in will not be very fruitful until they have reached a satisfactory level of training in the basics.

[11] In other words, usually the mind will wait for the bodily behavior to sync up with it. 'When will that fool learn to follow his mind and not his ... um ... tongue!"

[12] Everything is always changeable, even just past the moment of death, prior to the taking up of a new birth. If at such an interval an individual were to recall the Dhamma and let go of his attachments for worldly pleasures, rebirth, and ending, even then Arahantship is possible.

[13] I ask you to think about the meaning (visualize the meaning of the imagery) of this "Blind Sea Turtle" and the "Yoke with one hole."
[MN 129] Majjhima Nikāya, III: 129: Bala-pandita Sutta, PTS Horner, trans,pp 214
Link to an Access to Insight, Bhikkhu Thanissaro translation of the Saṃyutta version of this tale: sn05.56.048.than




[MN 125]
PTS; R. Chalmers, ed., The Majjhima Nikāya, III: #125: Danta-bhumi Sutta, pp136ff
PTS; I.B.Horner, trans., The Middle Length Sayings, III: #125: The "Tamed Stage", pp 182
WP: Bhikkhu Ñanamoli and Bhikkhu Bodhi, trans., The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha, #125: The Grade of the Tamed, pp995

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