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Right Concentration: A Practical Guide to the Jhanas

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A practical guidebook for meditators interested in achieving the states of bliss and deep focus associated with the Buddhist jhānas 

One of the elements of the Eightfold Path is Right the one-pointedness of mind that, together with ethics, livelihood, meditation, and more, leads to the ultimate freedom from suffering. So how does one achieve Right Concentration? According to the Buddha himself, the jhānas —a series of eight progressive altered states of consciousness—are an essential method. But because the jhānas can usually be achieved only through prolonged meditation retreat, they have been shrouded in mystery for years.
Not anymore. In Right Concentration , Leigh Brasington takes away the mystique and gives instructions on how to achieve them in plain, accessible language. He notes the various pitfalls to avoid along the way and provides a wealth of material on the theory of jhāna practice—all geared toward the practitioner rather than the scholar. As Brasington proves, these states of bliss and concentration are attainable by anyone who devotes the time and sincerity of practice necessary to realize them.

237 pages, Paperback

First published October 13, 2015

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Leigh Brasington

3 books12 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 34 reviews
Profile Image for Ulf Wolf.
48 reviews11 followers
January 8, 2016
To my mind, there is little if any doubt that what the Buddha meant by “Right Concentration” (as the Eighth, final, and crucial step of his Noble Eightfold Path) was the Jhanas.

I’ve read most of the Pali Canon by now, and it seems like every second or third Sutra mentions this fact: Jhana is Right Concentration.

In my late teens I experienced, quite spontaneously, what most likely was the second Jhana. Unfortunately, the state did not last and I could never get back to it. I’m not sure I have to say that I have spent the better part of my life trying to regain that wonderful state and experience.

After looking high and low in both likely and unlikely places I finally stumbled upon Theravada Buddhism and the Jhanas. Yes, yes, I said to myself as I read about them, this is what happened. Man, these guys have known about this all along.

That was about ten years ago, and I have been an avid and practicing Buddhist meditator ever since.

Needless to say, I have ferreted out, bought and read just about everything I could find in the Jhanas, including: “Breath by Breath” by Larry Rosenberg (my first meditation “manual” as it were); “Mindfulness with Breathing” by Buddhadasa Bhikkhu; “Focused and Fearless” by Shaila Catherine; “Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond” by Ajahn Brahm; “The Experience of Samadhi” and “The Art and Skill of Buddhist Meditation” by Richard Shankman; “The Path of Serenity and Insight” by Henepola Gunaratana; “The Heart of Buddhist Meditation” by Nyanaponika Thera; and “Practicing the Jhanas” by Stephen Snyder and Tina Rasmussen. These books are all quite wonderful and highly recommended.

And, I have read all these books not once, but at least twice, and each has added to my certainty and enthusiasm in my endeavor.

Also, I have listened to many lectures by many skilled meditation teachers about Buddhist Meditation and the Jhanas, always working on reconciling their message and their advice to incorporate it into my practice

Now, to be honest, these books and other sources on the subject of Jhana do not wholeheartedly agree with each other; in fact, many present conflicting views and advice. At the one extreme there is the Visudhimagga, which quite boldly (and not very encouragingly) suggests that it’s virtually impossible to attain Jhana (especially in our day and age, is the conclusion one draws); at the other extreme is the view that the Jhanas are not even needed to attain spiritual liberation and enlightenment (although the Buddha himself begged to differ throughout the Pali Canon).

This certainly made one wish for a voice that could reconcile things and spell out a workable approach.

Enter, finally, a wonderful and measured voice of reason: Leigh Brasington’s simply wonderful book, “Right Concentration: A Practical Guide to the Jhanas.”

To me, this is the book that reconciles everything. And not only does it make perfect sense, but Leigh’s careful handholding and spot-on advice actually—yes, actually—works. For I am finally seeing the Jhanas (and my wonderful teen experience) again. In other words, and to use a much over-used phrase: I cannot praise or recommend this book enough.

Leigh realized that he might ruffle some feathers in the Jhana community with his views and approach, but I cannot fault him in the least. His take on what the Pali Canon actually says (meaning, in essence, what the Buddha actually taught—as well as can be established lo these 2,500 years later) about the Jhanas makes courageous sense. His approach to reaching the Jhanas (and yes, he stresses, they are very reachable indeed) is practical and based both on the Canon and on his long experience both as a meditator and a teacher.

In other words, this is a book that not only promises but in fact delivers, and I am very grateful for that.

So, if you are a Buddhist meditator, or any kind of meditator, and if your deepest wish is to (in this life) reach enlightenment: buy this book; read this book; treat this book as your best teacher; use this book.

And so, may your dreams come true.
Profile Image for Michael.
57 reviews67 followers
January 9, 2016

“Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must remain silent.” –Wittgenstein

The term Jhana is most often meant to mean ‘concentration state’. And each of these, so it seems, is as close as it comes to a discernible milestone within that final frontier of the abstract. As both one of the rare books to tackle this subject and one penned by someone with an obvious wealth of specialized meditation experience, this is among the maps such a venturer ought to carry. In a nutshell, a what, why and how-to to:

“clean up your act, concentrate your mind, and use your concentrated mind to investigate reality.”
Profile Image for Andrew.
162 reviews5 followers
June 3, 2017
Ridiculously clear writing given the topic. I have not experienced any of the jhanas but this book makes it feel possible. I also appreciated the authors skepticism around psychic powers.
Profile Image for Shinta.
70 reviews
September 16, 2019
A good book to encourage people who want to start/try samatha practice. I learn samatha Visuddhimagga style (Pa-Auk Sayadaw method), the books that try to describe this method may sound daunting to someone who wants to try to embark on concentration meditation. However, it is also doable, I saw many people, both monastics and lay people, that attain jhanas following Pa-auk Sayadaw instruction. In my personal practice I don't worry about total absorption in the first jhana, if it happens, usually it happens in the third or fourth jhana. Does it make my experience of first jhana less legitimate then? Well, my teacher reminds us all the time that we practice samma samadhi to prepare the mind to practice insight. Attaining jhana is not a goal in itself, but part of the gradual training, part of the Path leading to Liberation. Furthermore, jhanas are also conditioned phenomenon, if the conditions are met it will arise, and as all conditioned things, it will also pass away. The practice includes reflection that even jhana states are anicca, dukkha, anatta.

Despite different approach to samatha, I recognize many things written by the author, such as the feelings of deeper concentration seated lower in the body, that book learning is not really optimal to learn samatha (you need a teacher and one-to-one instruction). So go ahead and read this book to get inspiration, afterwards go and find a teacher to learn it properly.
Profile Image for Aki Ranin.
100 reviews4 followers
January 30, 2021
Having recently stumbled into an altered state of consciousness during meditation, I’ve been seeking answers. Here I find them!

Three things I learned:
1. These states of consciousness were not invented but discovered centuries before the Buddha.
2. Any serious meditator will eventually discover their existence, yet likely not understand them.
3. Accidentally stumbling into them is no guarantee of repeating. Many factors determine sufficient concentration.

Who should read it:
People who either are already serious daily meditators, or planning to become serious, or questioning the progression that is possible in meditation.

Favorite quote:
“You actually have to become a human being, as opposed to a human doing.”
8 reviews4 followers
January 27, 2023
A remarkably direct book, with straightforward instructions and markers for deepening "samadhi" in meditation. A couple of caveats I'd offer if you're interested in this book:
a) If you're "curious" about meditation or don't generally consider yourself a practicing mediator or a student of meditation, this book might not be for you.
b) It's easy to get drawn to the directness of the instructions. In my case I was constantly comparing it with what I've been practicing (insight meditation).

Hopefully the urge to try the techniques described here energizes your practice, as opposed to inviting doubt about whatever you might be practicing currently. If the latter happens, my advice would be to evaluate and pick specific learnings, and use that to strengthen your practice, and not spend much time in skeptical limbo.
Profile Image for Max G..
22 reviews1 follower
December 21, 2022
The best instructions on Jhana practice I have found. Note that so far I have only read the parts of the book that are relevant for me currently. My review might change once I read more of it.
Profile Image for Jon Bash.
113 reviews19 followers
August 17, 2018
Awesome overview of these fascinating altered states called the "jhanas" that come from deep concentration. Contains both practical instruction and scholarly analysis of historical accounts of the states. He brings a healthy dose of skepticism and pragmatism that acknowledges the great benefits of cultivating these states, but also addresses their limitations (they're almost basically ways of getting high, though without any negative side-effects or drawbacks). I look forward to being able to eventually put this info into practice.
Profile Image for George Bremner.
41 reviews1 follower
January 25, 2018
Not for beginners, but any meditator with a year or so under their belt who is interested in deepening their concentration would benefit greatly from this book. Leigh presents an unorthodox, practical approach to jhanas in two parts. The first part is his breakdown of the jhanas and the second part is the sutta explication. One could just read part one and the appendices and get on with the training. His approach is well cited to back up his unconventional claims. He also provides a few appendices for FAQs and detailed instruction. I will be marking this one for a deeper, analytical read.
19 reviews1 follower
November 4, 2019
I've been practising daily meditation for roughly 2 years now, mainly using the Goenka method and more recently "The Mind Illuminated" by John Yates (Culadasa). Having reached the stage where concentration became strong enough that I sometimes spontaneously "dropped" into jhana, I looked for some instructions that could help me more reliably achieve that to cultivate mindfulness and develop insight.

"Right Concentration" contains exactly these instructions, which have enabled me to enter the first two jhanas fairly quickly and reliably. Brasington's focus on building good access concentration, signs to look out for that will help the jhanas "to find you," and pitfalls is very practical.

As he himself says, the jhanas he teaches are "lite," but that's exactly the point and is aligned with descriptions of jhanas in many suttas (which Brasington also details for reference). He also makes a strong case that the jhanas described in the Visuddhimagga have probably little to do with the jhanas the Buddha taught and provides some useful suggestions for using the jhanas he teaches for insight practice (seeing that for some it's tempting to just hang out in the pleasant jhana states, foregoing great opportunities for growth in the practice). Highly recommended!
Profile Image for David Gross.
Author 10 books101 followers
August 15, 2021
Brasington believes that jhāna practice as taught in the suttas has been misinterpreted in later works in such a way as to confuse it and make it seem unattainable by typical non-monastic practitioners today. He believes that the jhānas are accessible by determined practitioners and that jhānas are both immediately encouraging (and fun) and useful in how they can assist later insight practice. This book walks you through brief descriptions of how these jhānas play out and how to go about discovering them, after which Brasington goes into detail about how he resolves the conflicts between the suttas and later works on the subject. Most of that last bit was lost on me as I have only the most superficial familiarity with Buddhist scripture. But the earlier stuff about jhānas and how to get there from here was fairly easy to follow without a lot of scriptural background.
Profile Image for Navneet Nair.
46 reviews8 followers
November 26, 2020
I liked the book but at the same time I'm concerned. Firstly the descriptions here are to states that the author himself calls jhana light. They are useful but don't need as much effort as it is mentioned in the vissudhimagga. Secondly, the author himself mentions that the jhanas are useless without insight. This book however does not get into insight and goes all the way up to the eighth jhana which is not just useless but even detrimental. The concentration of the first jhana is useful enough to get into Vipassana. But that said, I found the light jhanas useful in my practice of insight meditation...
Profile Image for Jeffrey.
163 reviews1 follower
January 24, 2021
A decent introduction to the very important and last of the eight-fold path, what is translated as right concentration sammasamadhi. Samadhi is not really what we would call concentration because we usually mean is prolonged thinking on a problem. What Samadhi means is more like what we associate with deep transcendental meditation.
The author walks us through the sign post of each of the jhanas, and gives helpful hints as to how to experience them. He is not without critics however. Some Buddhist scholars believe that the phenomena he describes are not really the jhanas. This is why I have given it three stars. The last 4/5the of the book is taken up by his answers to his critics.
Profile Image for David.
161 reviews
July 31, 2018
A sufficiently well written book on how to attain the jhanas (a progressive series of meditative states.) The value of this sort of book depends almost entirely on it's practical application so until I've put it's suggestions to work for some time there's not really much I can say. The first half is "how to" and the 2nd half basically justifies its presentation and interpretation of these brain states in light of various sutras. Brasington writes engagingly and doesn't take himself too seriously and the advice seems clear.
Profile Image for Dmitrii.
49 reviews5 followers
March 27, 2023
Awesome reading. The most practical description of jhanas as possible. Pretty condensed. The middle part (the one with analysis of suttas) is of question, though - not sure if it brings any value, but on the other hand it is used to justify the content of the rest of the book. Probably I'd like to see the chapter on insight practice, because it's quite strange to have the whole book saying how jhanas are an important pathway to insight practice, but then giving only links to it. Anyway, those are just mild complains, and the book is definitely a must-read.
Profile Image for Paul.
Author 5 books104 followers
December 29, 2017
The author shares the benefit of his extensive experience with and research into the jhanas--apparently natural mental states of concentration that were described and used by the Buddhas, but which have been largely ignored or forgotten since his time. I knew almost nothing about them when I started this book; now I know enough to be eager to explore this supercharged meditative technique. I'm grateful to Leigh Brasington for providing this guide.
Profile Image for Ihor Kolesnyk.
401 reviews
March 17, 2022
Це книга, яку слід читати у поєднанні із практикою. Найкраще - після ретриту по джнянам, коли досвідне знання буде опиратися на певні тези.
Дещо із описаного розумію із власного досвіду, але є речі, які потребують уточнення і книга не може дати цього.
Для базового знайомства із картографією змінених станів свідомості і стадій розвитку уваги - цілком пасує.
Profile Image for Carmen.
52 reviews12 followers
October 16, 2022
A straightforward and practical guide to the jhanas and how to enter them, rooted in the suttas and history of the jhanas. At times too scholarly for me as Brasington goes into detailed analysis of suttas and commentaries, so I skimmed those parts and focused on the practical parts to apply to my practice. I'd recommend to anyone interested in the jhanic states or cultivating concentration.
Profile Image for Quentin Didier.
19 reviews4 followers
July 13, 2022
Extremely clear, well written, direct and useful guide on this fascinating subject!
It was nice to witness the epistemological humility of the author, explaining the sensations and states without including superfluous claims.
Profile Image for Artem.
210 reviews
April 9, 2018
скользкая тема. есть только один вариант проверить на собственном опыте. благо инструкции в данной книге вполне просты и понятны. как и описания состояний для проверки. дело за малым...)
Profile Image for Brian Fang.
89 reviews28 followers
April 4, 2020
accessible and intellectual. author is very good at drawing analogies to explain concepts.
62 reviews1 follower
May 1, 2021
excellent, clear, no nonsense intro to jhanas. this stuff works provided one goes on retreat, practices diligently and follows instructions. its well worth it! thanks Leigh!
Profile Image for Ata A.
21 reviews
October 10, 2022
The best book on the topic of the Jhanas! He described and explained the process exactly as I experienced it!
Profile Image for Charlie Levett.
15 reviews
January 28, 2023
This book was an invaluable resource in learning the body based (pali canon ‘soft’) jhanas. A beautiful journey in phenomenology and the deepening of letting go.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 34 reviews

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