Notable Books

Notable Books 64


Jhana Consciousness: Buddhist Meditation in the Age of Neuroscience, Paul Dennison. Available at Amazon. For more details click HERE

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For those having an interest in underlying neurological correlates of subjective stages of meditative withdrawal, this work will be found enlightening. It presents the idea that our overwhelming attachment to this sensory based objective world, and sense of “I”, can be progressively and systematically overcome through meditational practice. The author seeks to demonstrate this by providing us with data obtained from meditators, using the techniques of Buddhist based Jhâna meditation, as practiced according to the methods used by practitioners of the “Samatha Trust Tradition”.  The research study was carried on from 2014 through 2019 utilizing electroencephalogram brain wave recordings correlated with “Jhâna states”.

To help with this understanding, the book begins with an introduction to, and description of, the four lower Rûpa Jhāna’s, as understood and approached in the described Buddhist Jhâna meditational  system of the “Samatha Trust Tradition”.  Such introduction offers a clarifying understanding of the first Rupa Jhâna as involving “Attention”, or Vitakka and Vicāra, and the second as establishing “Piti”, better understood in this work as energization. The practitioner, with deepening  familiarization of, and building on these states, achieves a firmer ground upon which to experience the third and fourth rupa Jhâna states, entitled, “fully conscious”, and that of “equanimity” respectively.  Afterwards, there are similar explanations regarding the progression through the Arûpa Jhāna’s involving Infinity of Space, Infinity of Consciousness, followed by “Nothingness”, and then the state of, Neither Perception nor Non-Perception.

Throughout the work, the author readily recognizes that it is not possible to correlate and express Internal subjective states through limited and objectively biased language. Still, himself, having experience with such states, does his best to provide some of that subjective flavor in discussing the processes and experiences related to these stages and states in an objective manner.

Concerning the effects on the meditator’s mind or consciousness, as they work with, and move through the Jhâna’s, the author believes such inner work has a profound impact on, and helps one become freer from what he calls our “human default sensory consciousness”, or, object determining, sensory bound, preoccupied state of living. In other words, becoming efficient in Buddhist based Jhâna consciousness or meditational practice helps the brain withdraw from the dominating influence of our sensory based consciousness. It loosens our attachments to our mind-based obsessions, compulsions, desires, fears, anxieties, demands, and sense of “I”, with which we are seemingly ceaselessly preoccupied and perhaps possessed by, during our waking state. Interestingly, later in the work, these Jhâna states are discussed in relation to the Buddhist ideas of “suffering”, the four Noble Truths, the Bojjhangas, the fetters, Nidana’s and rebirth, as well as other Buddhist themes. These are integrated into a more wholistic perspective concerning the topic of Jhâna consciousness in the age of Neuro-scientific research, awareness, and the practical impact, for the better, such states can have in our lives.

For those having a neurological background with EEG’s, there are accompanying pictures of EEG recordings correlated with the different states, such that one can “see” the actual changes in brain wave patterns, as the different states are experienced.

As a whole, the book is well worth reading, and reflecting upon, as it relates to meditational states that are experienced, as one turns inward, and the freeing effects they can have. It will help in understanding how the outward flow of consciousness attachments, can be lessened, as one learns and attends to the inner space and peace of our being.

This neurologically supported work is a very practical, and understandable read. It can clearly be of assistance in obtaining a better appreciation of how a contemplative life of practice might be integrated into one’s daily life.

This edition of Notable Books was compiled by Eugene Jennings.

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