Stages of deepening meditation
Meditation is the primary spiritual practice leading to the statue of Buddha. In this article, I will briefly outline the fundamentals of the Buddhist teaching “Visuddhimagga” – about the eight stages of meditation. A brief explanation of these stages in the article based on the text of the beautiful book by Daniel Goleman – “The diversity of meditative experience.”
The path of purification
Satcitananda (Buddha-nature) means Sanskrit as being-consciousness-bliss. In Sanskrit, all three words are usually used precisely in such a bundle – as a symbol of the higher primordial reality of pure consciousness inherent in every person. Indian Swami uses holy names in conjunction with the term “ananda.” For example, Yogananda can translate as “enthusiastic in yoga,” Muktananda – liberation, Brahmananda – Brahman, etc.
As for such an aspect of meditation as bliss (ananda), classical texts sometimes deliberately keep silent about the fact that an enlightened person does not care about him, because he has no attachments and, accordingly, no clings to specific states. They are silent, as I believe that the seekers move at least for the sake of passing temporary goals. After all, the real goal is to get rid of suffering.
Some texts say that at the top of meditation – in nirvana, there is the subtlest bliss. It is unlikely that this is so because masters talk about nirvana as a phenomenon outside of all possible experiences and characteristics. Even at the initial levels of samadhi (meditative “trance”), the feeling of “I” disappears. There is bliss in samadhi (the state of total attention), but at the same time, practice doesn’t matter whether it is or not, because as soon as you get involved in it, meditation turns into the wanderings of the mind, and bliss leaves.
“Visuddhimagga” can translate as “the path of purification.” This teaching is one of the primary Buddhist texts on meditation. The practice divided into eight stages (eight dhyanas). These are excellent experiences that accompany practitioners’ reflections in the order listed below.
Stages of meditation
During concentration, clinging to thoughts is overcome, but ideas as a general background remain. There remains the experience of the body and other objects accessible to the organs of perception, but they do not entirely draw the attention of the practice. Thoughts about the main objective, on which awareness and ideas about meditation itself are dominant, dominate. The practitioner seems to jump from one mental form of this object to the next until he enters into meditation. At this level, sensations of delight, happiness, and serenity can already flicker.
At the first stage of meditation (the level of savikalpa samadhi in yoga), the meditator experiences unidirectional attention, delight, wave after wave of goosebumps all over the body, and bliss similar to orgasmic, but more subtle, even and deep. With the entry into the first dhyana, the impulses emanating from the body and sensory organs disappear. Thoughts appear, but do not carry away. If there is a fascination with dreams, the practitioner reverts to dhyana (meditation).
The second stage of meditation differs from the first in that the distraction for thoughts disappears with a second return to “dhyana.” The practice is becoming sustainable.
In the third stage of meditation, to move even more profound, the attention of the practitioner is distracted from the sensation of delight, which in such a deep state perceived as one of the forms of excessive excitement against the general background of consciousness.
At the fourth stage of meditation, the practitioner is also distracted from bliss, being absorbed by an even deeper one-pointedness towards the object of meditation. It said that this stage characterized by a gradual extinction of breathing up to its complete cessation because of the energy necessary for life drawn from practice.
At the fifth stage of meditation, a breakthrough occurs. If the object was necessary for the practice of unidirectional contemplation in the first four stages, then with the beginning of the fifth “dhyana” perception deepens so much that knowledge of any kind disappears and the meditator enters into objectless nondual reality (nirvikalpa samadhi) in which he experiences a void of endless space. Meditation by this time reaches perfection and indestructibility. The fifth dhyana level is the level of a real master.
The sixth stage of meditation characterized by going beyond space into infinite awareness. This transition carried out by switching attention from the perception of endless space to infinite consciousness itself.
The seventh stage of meditation corresponds to the level of the pure being of Buddhist nirvana. During the seventh dhyana, consciousness does not disappear but ceases its activity. At this stage of meditation, the practitioner may feel that the fact of perception (emptiness) in itself is an obstacle. And the lack of judgment as to such will be an even deeper level of appeasement (see the article “reality does not exist”).
The eighth stage of meditation is the state of “nirodhi” – neither existence nor absence of life.
In Buddhism, nirvana is considered the most profound possible state. The division into the seventh and eighth stages of meditation in the teachings of “Visuddhimagga” occurred because, in nirvana, there is still some kind of consciousness experiencing emptiness, while in the eighth dhyana, even this ultrathin consciousness disappears.
Some texts claim that the seventh stage of meditation is not a level of nirvana, because the complete withdrawal of consciousness into nirvana carried out once and for all because, at this level, connection with the psyche lost. However, there is an opinion that even a way out of nirvana is possible and a return to form.
One thing is sure – the theoretical side is not as important as the practical one – it can be anything depending on tradition, perception, and other factors. An article on worldview is devoted to this topic on progressman.ru. The confusion in terminology should not cause unrest. In the practice of different people, depending on the data of the mental, various aspects of deepening meditation can manifest themselves — that which, due to collective karma, is typical of one school, maybe unusual for another.
It said that aerobatics of awareness and meditation is “sahaja samadhi” – staying in a pure consciousness always, regardless of quiet reflection meditation – even in any manifestations of daily activities.
As far as I know, the ideal of Hinayana (southern Buddhism) is Arhat – an enlightened being who has gone into nirvana. In northern Buddhism (Mahayana), the enlightened Bodhisattva considered the ideal, continuing to be reborn from compassion to ordinary mortals.
Reading the books of the masters, one can see how carefully they relate to the words, try to give logical, sometimes completely unconvincing evidence of various conditions. Then it looks like an ordinary philosophy. But all these experiences exist, and verbal confirmation is the same as “humanitarian aid” to Western minds. A right practitioner can and must convince of the reality of these experiences from his own experience.