The Four Jhāna

Jhana Bowen

As a foundation for the introduction of the Four Jhāna, Evola stressed the twin-disciplines of sīla and Samadhi. The former has to do with “right conduct”, but one that is “more than the limitations of accepted morality.” It is the development of an “internal mode” or mechanism that stands fast at all times and under all circumstances without ever giving-in to any perceived obstacle, in essence, remaining fundamentally One’s Best-Self under all conditions. The latter with its wholehearted one-pointed “spiritual concentration and contemplation” reinforces the former. We are more concerned now at this junction with the higher-ascesis, one that proves itself absolute champion and lord over the skandhas thus transcending the conditioned mind; the Four Jhānas are its gateway.

The term jhāna is translated by some as “deepening self-examination” (Selbstvertiefung), a rendering that should be remembered: indeed, in the disciplines of which we shall speak, we shall be dealing with a descent through successive purifications and simplifications into the deeper layers of one’s own being, where, in the common man, we find the kingdom of the subconscious…(The Doctrine of Awakening, pg.147)

The Four Jhāna (skt Dhyāna) are indeed the gateway for the full development of Mindful Awareness, when, as Evola indicates, the “Ariyan ascesis is hallmarked by super-consciousness.” There is no better way to observe this premier gateway than to experience them; what we will endeavor now is to walk through each of them via paraphrasing the Buddha-gnosis and Evola’s insightful examination.

The First Jhāna 

“After laying beneath a cloud of forgetfulness any lingering traces of desire, far from the stench of mind’s earthy vexations whilst still holding fast to feeling and thought, a state of serenity is reached born of detachment and flavored with fervent bliss as the Mind adept reaches the first contemplation (jhāna).”

This entails the same undertaking as:

“Dwelling in the body while watching the body, divorced from bringing to mind’s thinking-function attachments with any feeling; dwelling in the mind while watching the mind, not thinking any thought that is somehow linked with the mind; dwelling in the mental states (dhamma) while viewing the mental states, yet not connecting any thoughts with the self-same mental states.” 

All of mind’s vexatious wave-fluctuations have ceased. Calm-serenity comforts the mind as if unifying it with luminous-grace. In place of former aggravations there is now only clarity and effortless detachment. Silence reigns supreme in every mode of feeling and thought as the mechanism of perception is itself stilled.

Evola adds a simile in conjunction with the first jhāna:

“As an expert bath attendant or bath attendant’s apprentice puts soap powder in a bath, soaks it with water, mixes and dissolves it in such a manner that its foam is completely permeated, saturated within and without with moisture, leaving none over: just so the ascetic pervades and infuses, fills and saturates his body with the serenity born of detachment, perceptive and thoughtful, pervaded with fervor and beatitude, so that not the smallest part of his body is left unsaturated with this serenity born of detachment.” (ibid, pg.156)  

The Second Jhāna 

Now sensory impressions are put to sleep followed by any formal representation or mental imagery:

Having succeeded in allaying feeling and thought, the ascetic now enjoys a direct one-pointedness of mind that instills an intellectual simplicity highlighting the liberation from perceptional-images; the first fruits of Samadhi take root, as with blissful fervor, the Mind adept realizes the second contemplation.” 

Evola fleshes-out the term “intellectual simplicity”:

The term we have given as “intellectual simplicity” is ekodibhava. Some have translated it by: “the mind emerges alone and simple,” others “the mind grows calm and sure, dwelling on high,” whose corresponding state is said to be “self-evolved”: yet others use the expression “single-mindedness” or “one-pointedness”;  

It is a manifestation of the mind as a unique and simple essence no longer dependent upon psychical functions, sensations, or formed images and thoughts. This achievement results from the power and intensity of self-concentration that has been developed to a point where, as in the episode referred to by a text, “not even the noise produced by a large number of wagons is in any way noticed.” It is, in fact, much more a kind of “growing” of awakening than any form of direct “emptying” action that in many cases, to use two similes of Zen Buddhism, is like trying to drown an echo by raising the voice or trying to chase away one’s shadow by running after it… 

One must possess power-simply a “mental” power-of self-mastery and of calm practiced in detachment, confirmed by inward simplification and consolidated by the disidentifying contemplations, in order to furnish within oneself a support for consciousness and self-awareness when the “silence” is absolute and sensations or images no longer present themselves. Thus the term ekodibhava has not unjustly been compared with “simplicity of the will without thoughts.” The “intellectual simplicity” that is the center of the second jhāna is not a simple mental state, but rather the point in which a pure will-power concentrates and frees itself, an inwardly directed willpower having itself both as its object and as its base. (ibid, pg.149-150)

Evola’s simile in conjunction with the second jhāna:

Second jhāna: “As a lake with a subterranean spring; and into this lake there flows no rivulet from east or from west, from north or from south, nor do the clouds pour their rain into it, but only the fresh spring at the bottom wells up and completely pervades it, infuses, fills, and saturates it, so that not the smallest part of the lake is left unsaturated with fresh water; just so the ascetic pervades and infuses his body with internal serene calm, born of self-recollection, pervaded with fervor and beatitude.” We should note, here, the simile of the internal spring, the idea of something fresh that spreads out from the inside and from the “bottom”-from the detached “intellectual simplicity” which has been achieved-unsullied by any influx of out-side currents; that is to say, with all vital samsaric nourishment neutralized. (ibid, pg.156)

The Third Jhāna 

“The ascetic now enjoys even-mindedness as consciousness is cleared and controlled as both fervor and bliss have now been allayed; in such fashion the Mind adept senses the arising in one’s body the joy of felicity the Ariya portray as, ‘The even-minded wise one dwells in felicity.’ Thus one now realizes the third contemplation.” 

In the second jhāna feeling and thought had been brought to a fertile point of equilibrium; here the element of fervor and bliss has been cessated. It is during the third jhāna that the aforementioned “intellectual felicity” itself is further refined. This can be likened to the perfect unobstructed serenity that is enjoyed when the Supreme Luminous Light makes Its presence known. One needs to be careful here not to fall into a state of trance or even sleep.

Evola’s simile in conjunction with the third jhāna: 

Third jhāna: “As in a lake with lotus plants some lotus flowers are born in water, develop in the water, remain below the surface of the water, and draw their nourishment from the depths of the water, and their blooms and their roots are pervaded, infused, filled, and saturated with fresh water, so that not the smallest part of any lotus flower is left unsaturated with fresh moisture: just so the ascetic persuades and infuses, tills and saturates his body with purified joy, so that not the smallest part of his body is left unsaturated with purified joy.” While in the preceding phase we spoke only of a deep internal spring, here we have a further development, we have a state that now encloses, permeates, and nourishes the entire bodily structure, by transforming the general sensation that corresponds to it, just as we have already said. (ibid, pg.157)

The Fourth Jhāna 

“The ascetic now passes into a state that transcends all former states of karmic sorrow and even joy, as one now rests in pure equanimity of spirit, purified from all former sensate attributes and associations and enters into the illumination of the fourth contemplation.” 

Pure and unequivocal catharsis is experienced as one is now liberated from ALL former samsaric vexations. One is at the threshold of a transfiguration as the Supreme Luminous Light no longer just makes its appearance known, but the Divine Spirit now breathes through you with Its own Undivided Suchness. Deathlessness reaches out and parches the wounds of carnality; yet with all this, the state of mortality is still a constant companion until the point beyond, revealing tathatic-regions free from both form and extinction.

Evola’s simile in conjunction with the fourth jhāna:

Fourth jhāna: “As a man might cloak himself from head to foot in a white mantle, so that not the smallest part of his body was left uncovered by the white mantle: just so the ascetic sits, having covered his body with a state of extreme equanimity and purity and clarity, so that not the smallest part of his body is left uncovered by the state of extreme equanimity and purity and illumination.” We are, then, at a third phase: the body is not only pervaded but also covered by the new force, it is enveloped in the force as if the body did not contain the force but the force contained the body. The ascetic dominates his body, covers his body.” (ibid, pg.157)

Evola’s continuing analysis of the Four Jhāna is well-worth the read; the following acts as if it was written in light of the Surangama Sutra:

When contemplating the phenomena proper to each jhāna in their appearance and development, the ascetic must confront them without inclination, without interest, without ties, without being attached, with his mind not limited by them, and he must apprehend “There is a higher liberty”; and by developing his experience he will, in fact, see: “There is.”” The demon of identification and of satisfaction raises its head here also. It must be anticipated and conquered. Every feeling of enjoyment or of satisfaction that may arise upon the realization of each jhāna is immediately seen as a possible bond for the mind and is to be rejected. One must apply here the general Buddhist principle that all enjoyment through attachment is lethal, be it either of the “heavens” or of nibbāna itself, since “a fire lighted with sandalwood bums no less fiercely than any other tire.” The action must be neutral, absolutely purified and naked. As in the Carmelite symbolism of the ascent of the mountain, the path that does not become lost, which leads straight up to the summit, is that to which are attributed the words: nada, nada, nada-“nothing, nothing, nothing.” The difference is that in the “Ariyan path of awakening” there is found no equivalent to the crisis that Saint John of the Cross called the “dark night of the soul.” In the texts the impersonality of the action is evident also from the fact that the four jhāna are given as phases of a development from within, phases that occur normally as a result of the fundamental direction that one’s own being has taken, without “volitional” intervention in a strict personal sense. (ibid, pg.152)

Today’s section is best summed-up, in light of entering the gateway of the Four Jhānas, with Evola’s quote from a Taoist maxim: “To achieve intentionally the absence of intentions.”

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