Jhana Retreat: A Week of Silence and Samadhi

at Garrison Institute

Garrison, NY
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Right Concentration (Samma Samadhi), part of the Eightfold Path, is described in the Pali Canon as the ability to enter and remain in the four jhanas: powerful, immersive states of concentrated mind.  Over the centuries, however, this essential part of the Buddhist path has fallen into disuse.  Some say the jhanas are so rarified that few can attain them, while others point out (rightly!) that sublime, profound mindstates are not the goal of practice.

But jhana is accessible, just as the Buddha insisted.  On this retreat, we will learn and practice the Theravadan understanding of the jhanas as reflected in the Pali Canon — following the tradition of Ven. Ayya Khema and her student (and my teacher) Leigh Brasington.  Building deep concentration with focused meditative practice, we will create the conditions ideal for jhana to unfold.

Building a calm, collected mind is essential for many other kinds of meditation; in one Tibetan teaching, it is analogized to sharpening the sword to cut off the head of delusion!  Additionally, jhana states are themselves quite profound, and conducive to insight upon exiting them (not least, that even the most exquisite experience does not last and does not liberate).

On this short a retreat, we will only get a taste of jhana practice — but we will get a taste.  Cultivating deep, noble silence with longer sits and minimal distraction, we will settle into an equilibrium between diligence and letting go, and hopefully explore some lesser-known capacities of the human mind.

Dr. Jay Michaelson has taught meditation for fifteen years, and was authorized to teach jhana by his teacher, Leigh Brasington, in the tradition of Ven. Ayya Khema.  He is a board member of Barre Center for Buddhist Studies and author of Evolving Dharma, The Gate of Tears, and other books.