The Concentration States

Estimated time to read: 5 minutes

The Meditator Begins:

Before achieving access concentration, the “viewer” is lost in amorphous space and time. It’s neither organized nor understandable. The meditator takes it upon herself to make sense of her sensate world and begins to practice. The meditator limits the sensations entering her “view” and notes quickly. Her mind begins to settle, and she enters access concentration.

Jhana 0 – Access Concentration: The “viewer” is now active and noting the sensations as they appear. They’ve filtered out the usual distractions by noting quickly. Although, sensations previously unnoticed begin to enter the vision of the “viewer.” Freighted by the task at hand, she becomes fierce in her confidence and continues to note. Eventually, her concentration begins to settle on a single point of “space” in front of her, and she enters the first Jhana.

The Formed Realms:

Jhana 1 – A single point: The first jhana is entering one-dimensional space. The “viewer” remains transfixed on a single point within her “view.” Sensations occur outside this point, but they’re too distracting, and they repel her. She continues to note all the sensations at this focal point but what was once repelling becomes seducing. The sensations to the left and right of the focal point become unavoidable. The “viewer’s” peripheral vision increases, and she enters the second jhana.

Jhana 2 – A square: The second jhana is entering two-dimensional space. The “viewer’s” perception strengthens. Previously she was focused on a single point and now views infinitely many issues within a two-dimensional plane. It’s similar to watching television, but with an extreme concentration on every pixel of entertainment. The mind speeds up, and she’s able to note these sensations as they come. For moments, it’s overwhelming, and the body begins to shake, but she remains steadfast in her duty. She notes quicker and quicker, almost to the point of pain. The sensations fill up her “view,” and she begins to notice their depth. The sensations which once appeared to be as sharp as pins start to show their structure. They’re not just simple blips as they once appeared but have structure, length, and width. What appeared to be one sensation has become many. What was a two-dimensional plane has become broader and wider. She begins to notice what’s behind the screen and enters the third jhana.

Jhana 3 – A cube: The third jhana is entering three-dimensional space. The “viewer’s” perception has grown significantly. The sensations begin to fill in space around her as they come and go. Her heart rate may increase, but she remains calm. She understands her mission to deconstruct these sensations. Eventually, they will reveal their true self. The body begins to have incredible energy. It feels alive. The sensations fill every part of her perception. She notes comfortably and quickly. The sensations have revealed their true self. There’s nothing more to learn. She gets bored of this three-dimensional space, but sensations begin to appear outside of the three-dimensional space. This space frightens her. She thinks, “What could that possibly be?” She has no perception of this space, and before she knows it, she’s flying. She’s entered the fourth jhana.

Jhana 4 – A tesseract: The fourth jhana is entering four-dimensional space. The “viewer” flies in any and every direction. Space continues to expand and expand. She’s frightened and scared. She notices the energy in her body transforming. She’s aware of everything. It’s unsustainable, and she knows she needs to either exit this space or find recluse elsewhere. In the face of fear, she continues to note everything she can. She knows she’s failing to note almost every sensation because they’re too quick! She tries her hardest. Then, the “viewer” takes a step back from expanding space and moves back to the original focal point. It stares off into the distance and notices space is expanding in every direction. Eventually, the “viewer” is alone but calm. She’s exited the formed realms and entered the fifth jhana.

The Formless Realms:

Jhana 5 – Infinite Space: The fifth jhana exits dimensional space and enters dimensional time. The “viewer” no longer understands her surroundings in terms of space, noticing only the sensations around her. Before this change, a sensation would appear and then disappear at a distance; now, they flicker in and out. Her relationship to the sensations changes as the distance is no longer purposeful. Everything exists within herself. It’s as if she’s in a dark void with lights appearing and disappearing all around her. Sometimes the sensations are frequent, and other times infrequent. She continues to note them but finds herself bored. Eventually, she realizes, sensations are not precisely what she thought they were. She understands the void itself, too, is a sensation, and she begins to note the void vigorously. Like a thief in the night, the void, once found, begins to run for cover. The “viewer” chases her prey and notes it quicker and quicker. The space around her, which appeared to be infinite, begins to deconstruct. Like a black hole, the gravity of her awareness absorbs the endless space. She’s paralyzed and has entered the sixth jhana.

Jhana 6 – Infinite Consciousness: The sixth jhana exits infinite space and dimensional time and enters awareness. The “viewer” herself now stands on trial alone within her consciousness. She’s alone with herself. Her emotions are overwhelming here. Her desire for enlightenment is incredible, as well as her anger and frustration towards not being enlightened. These moments are painful as the usual distractions of normal sensations are no longer here. Eventually, upon the bed of frustration, she notices, she too is a sensation and begins to note herself and the sensations which arise around her. She notices the viewer too is impermanent, not her and the cause of suffering. The viewer begins to deconstruct, and with nothing left to view, she enters the seventh jhana.

Jhana 7 – Nothingness: The seventh jhana exits conscious awareness and enters nothingness. Nothingness differs from the void as it exists outside of space. It’s uncomfortable and quiet. She becomes impatient and anxious over her meditative progress. She knows not where to go from here. She thinks to herself, “I’ve deconstructed the spatial sensations, the void (non-spatial sensations), and consciousness. What else remains!” She cycles through the formless realms eliminating void, emotions, and consciousness until nothing else remains. Then, it becomes obvious. All which remains is the space between the space! It’s perception itself she must eliminate. She begins to note perception quickly, and then she enters the eighth jhana.

Jhana 8 – Neither Perception nor Non-Perception: The eight jhana exists outside perception and non-perception. She’s excited about her person-hood and entered a world that is not hers. Whether through reward from God Himself or another means, she enters a higher level of perception and insight. For a few quick moments, what was previously outside of possible understanding becomes understood. These moments may take years to understand, but they’ve happened. This world is not hers and forcibly removes her. She returns to her body and regains consciousness—this time, with more wisdom.

The above concentration states are complicated and most likely out of range for your current level of practice. This explanation shows what’s to come. If you continue with your daily practice, you will uncover this ground. Should you find yourself confused or curious, feel free to ask questions. Everyone’s experience differs slightly.

David Bowman
David's teaching style is direct, clear, and to the point. With over 8 years of experience in the field of meditation, his work is both accessible as well as pragmatic. Having worked in think tanks, financial institutes, rabbinical and graduate schools, David’s personal philosophy is deeply informed by his eclectic past.

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