You explained you can’t have both wholesome and unwholesome thoughts at the same time; does that mean one jumps in and out of a jhana?
Jhana is from the word the root dhy and this has many translations possible; seeing, understanding. And this is what we do in meditation, where you’re practicing this clarity of mind, seeing.
These jhanas are simply used as a kind of road map of our understanding. In the first jhana, for example, there are different factors, like the joy of letting go and the thinking and imagining are still there, thinking and reflection. Now at that time, it’s difficult to really see it as a definitive clear-cut thing. It doesn’t really work like that. The mind is more of a jungle than this [laughs]. We have to bushwhack in the jungle for a little bit, and make a path, and we see markers along the path. It becomes clearer and clearer. Now there are wholesome tree species that we can develop, that will help us walk the path in the forest. When you are with the feeling of Loving-kindness, it’s not so much that hatred will just kick in. It’s not really clear like that. It will be more like the mind starts getting bored, maybe, or it will start getting dull and it will lose interest. Then, mindfulness starts to slip, and then the Loving-kindness drops a little bit. When that happens, this opens the door for other states to come in. This is fairly unconscious, because these unwholesome states, as they creep in, are not really conscious. They’re just coming up, and that’s why we’re practicing the Loving-kindness. That’s the power of Loving-kindness, that it really makes a definite break between the Loving-kindness and any other kinds of thinking. If the feeling of Loving-kindness is gone, then it’s not there anymore; now you’re with something else, who knows what it is.
I try to answer your question as directly as I can, which is not easy because it’s not clear-cut like that. The mindfulness will get dull and then unwholesome things, unwholesome states, will creep in. But to just notice this, somebody needs quite good awareness, and that’s what we’re cultivating all the time. In fact, that’s the practice.
These states are conditioned within our psyche. Like I said, this is a talk on wholesome mental development. The mind gets conditioned, whether we like it or not, by everything that we do, and it leaves an impression on the mind. These bhavas, these habitual tendencies, that we develop by liking this or that, disliking this or that, it’s like writing our hard drive every time. We’re accumulating this all the time. And, unless we actually purify it, it sticks with us. These unwholesome states arise, because the mindfulness has gotten down a little bit. Our mindfulness slips, and then we slip into these pre-programmed sankaras – activities in the mind that are pre-programmed.
Perhaps I should say that it’s not so much that, either it’s completely unwholesome or wholesome. Perhaps more that these are wholesome states, and these are unwholesome states and just to know that, is what we need to do. To do the triage in our mind, and to sort them out, so that we can always cultivate towards wholesome states.
What I meant was closer to; when there is this feeling of Loving-kindness in all directions – and that’s why it’s so important to develop it in that way, as a feeling that is radiating in all directions – that’s one step, the feeling. That’s very important, it’s a very wholesome feeling. And the second step is the boundless part, which is the mental release, that is very important in this practice.
When it is done in that way, it is completely open. Then there are no unwholesome states in the mind. At that point you can be sure that, if this recollection or if this awareness of this broad, expansive, open Loving-kindness is happening, and if it fades away in any kind of way, then something else is happening in the mind. That’s what I meant. When there is this presence of Loving-kindness in all directions, completely boundless, then then there’s only that. There is only love. And then, whatever comes in, then the feeling will diminish, the feeling will change. Because the mind has to be completely released in that respect, to be able to do that.
If another thought comes in, that means it’s not completely with the Loving-kindness. That means, it’s not fully there, so there’s a little bit of an unwholesome thing happening. So, it’s not clear cut, no. [Laughter]