Metta Bhavana

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 adverting
2. mastery in entering
3. mastery in staying on
4. mastery in emerging
5. mastery in reflection

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 resolutions.

"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 everything.

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 periods.

"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 through resolution.

"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 to.

Resolutions to see the factors:

May I see the 1st factor of that absorption.
May I see the 2nd factor of that absorption.
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 absorption.

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 absorptions i.e.

V. in weaving of absorptions i.e.

Such practice enables one to be very familiar with these states of mind, to gain them easily and move about with ease.

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