BG 114: Different Types of Jhana: Sutta, Vishudimagga, & Vipassana

Episode Description:

We continue our discussion with insight meditation teacher and author, Richard Shankman. In this episode we continue to dissect the different kinds of samadhi and their respective fruits–what in the Theravada tradition are called jhana (or “meditative absorption”). According to Shankman there are two ways of approaching the attainment of jhana, one as was taught in the original canonical texts of the Theravada, the Pali Suttas, and the other from the later commentaries on the Buddha’s teachings, the Vishudimagga. As a result we get two different forms of jhana–one called Sutta jhana and the other called Vishudimagga jhana. This two-fold understanding, though geeky, shines light on the different methods of practicing both samadhi and vipassana meditation and offers a unitary model for understanding the two together.

We also briefly touch on a term called “vipassana jhana,” which is used by notable Burmese and American insight meditation teachers, and relate the development of insight (via vipassana) to these two jhana systems. For those folks who have experience practicing or studying in the Theravada tradition you will likely find your understanding of the tradition deeply enriched. For those in other traditions you will almost certainly find this an interesting glimpse into the detailed intricacies of a one of the oldest Buddhist traditions of meditation.

This is part 2 of a two-part series. Listen to part 1, The Power of Samadhi.

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Richard Shankman