ACCESSING JHANA

Transcription of a Dhamma talk delivered on 11.12.95.
by Ajahn Brahmavamso

 

It is important to talk about the jhànas because it links up from the 2nd stage of the meditation which I was talking about earlier. In the 2nd stage one has full awareness on the breath. That is full continuous awareness from the very beginning of the in-breath until it's end. The very clear continuous awareness of the out-breath from the beginning until it's end. And then the next in-breath and the next out-breath. This full continuous awareness on the process of the breath and how one proceeds further to take that in the absorption of jhàna which has many benefits to the meditator. It not only gives the meditator faith in the Buddha's teaching, a faith which is born of the experience of these powerful and beautiful states, but it also by it's very nature, by reflecting on the experience afterwards, gives one an insight into the nature of dukkha. Why are the jhàna states peaceful? Because they are separated from a form of dukkha which one would not be able to recognise unless one leaves that particular realm and enters into the jhàna realm. And it gives one the understanding of what we mean by a powerful mind; the sort of mind which is liable to get the powerful insight which creates enlightening experiences. One tastes that power, that clarity, that strength. So the experience of jhàna is very useful indeed. I can not see any reason why people can not achieve these states if they persevere, if they get the right instructions, the correct instructions which will lead to these experiences. So, when starting from the point when the meditator has full awareness of the in-breath and the out-breath, the next stage in the ànàpànàsati-sutta is to tranquillise, calm, and settle down the so-called 'kàya-sankhàra', which is just the object of awareness being the breathing at this particular point. One should be able to calm down the object of awareness, the breath, but without losing contact with it. So you retain full awareness on the breath. But you allow the object of the breath to settle down, to become more and more peaceful. The result of the breath becoming more and more peaceful is the arising of what I call "the Beautiful breath".

The experience of breathing will start to take on a very attractive quality: a quality of pleasure, a quality of satisfaction; and a quality of peace. Because when the breath settles down and you have full awareness of that breath, it is the nature of that experience to be very joyful and happy. As the attention stays with that beautiful breath, the factor of beauty, the factor of pleasure, the factor of happiness, the factor of joy, whatever you wish to call is; that which is a very pleasant quality of that experience will start to become prominent. If one wishes to take this into a jhàna experience, then it is necessary for the mind to focus on that pleasure and to absorb into that joy. So the beautiful breath arises and that description of the breath disappears and just leaves the beautiful, the beauty. It is just an aspect of the breath which the mind latches on to, focuses on, and absorbs into, to the exclusion of all other aspects of the breath. So the mind literally takes the pleasure of that experience as its major object. Focuses on that and absorbs into it. You should know that the jhàna -experiences are a stable state of mind. If that pleasurable experience is strong, if the samàdhi-nimitta, which is the beauty of that breath, is very well established then the mind will become so strongly attracted to that beautiful sign that one will not need to put any effort into maintaining the attention on that which is highly pleasurable. The mind will get stuck on something which it is enjoying. You will get absorbed into it. It is the quality of that happiness in that joy which will produce that stability of the jhàna . To really call it jhàna it has to be a stable state of mind. Sometimes a meditator can touch those experiences but can not maintain them for any length of time and as such one can not really call it a good experience of the jhàna s. Jhàna s are samàdhi states, states of one-pointedness, states of stability. You may remember that one of the major attributes of samadhi, one of the words which you can use to translate the term samadhi, is the sustaining of the attention in that area. It does not translate it fully, but it gives a very important aspect of the term. The mind is sustained in that jhàna , it rests in that jhàna , it resides and dwells in that jhàna . This is because of the happiness, joy and bliss of that state. When one is going into those jhàna states and one finds that one cannot stay there very long, one retreats away from them, then there are a number of advises which I can give which might help stabilize those jhàna s.

The first piece of advice I gave a day or two ago is that if the beautiful breath, that which is enjoyable, appears too quickly when one gets into the 2nd stage of meditation of full awareness of the in- and out-breath, if that pleasurable samadhi nimitta arises too quickly and you allow the attention to go towards the samadhi nimitta you'll find that the mind isn't well enough prepared. It has not got enough peace and ability to sustain its attention on anything. You will find that the samadhi nimitta will disappear. Joy will be like a flash of thrill which disappears too quickly. If that is the case then you should spend more time developing and strengthening that 2nd stage of meditation so that you can pick up more and more of each in-breath, more and more of each out-breath, and continue that full attention on the breath, for more successive breaths. Sometimes you have only done 10 or 20 successive breaths with full attention and then the samadhi-nimitta already comes up, but you are not tranquil enough yet to go towards that samadhi-nimitta. Sometimes you will need to continue the full awareness on the breathing; much longer than 10 or 20 breaths. Make it 100, 200, 300 breaths in succession. I am not saying to count these breaths, but I am just giving you an indication of the sort of length of time one should stay on the in- and out-breath before one goes off to the samadhi nimitta. Then by strengthening that 2nd stage, by strengthening the ability of the mind to sustain it's attention on something peaceful and subtle, one usually find the samadhi-nimitta will become so strong, so bright and so appealing that when one does let go of the 2nd stage the mind gets drawn so powerfully towards the samadhi-nimitta, to the image of the breath which is beautiful, that one goes into a very deep state of concentration and remains in that without any effort, without it being unstable. You prepared the foundation well and so when you build the second story it is not wobbly, it stands and remains. So that is one piece of advice I can give you if you wish to develop the jhàna states and make them sustainable.

The second piece of advice which I can give you is that if you are developing this 2nd stage, you feel it is well enough developed, and you want to go into the 3rd stage of getting the samadhi-nimitta arising then remember that the main feature of the samadhi-nimitta which will take you into a jhàna is it's sense of joy and happiness. In Pàli it is called pãti-sukha, which you might have read about in the texts. I use the Pàli word because just about every meditator has got different translations of those two terms. Sometimes it is called rapture and happiness; sometimes joy and bliss; sometimes ecstasy. The important point about the pãti and sukha is that in both the 1st jhàna and 2nd jhàna , these two are so closely intertwined that you really cannot distinguish between them. You can not distinguish what part of these experiences is pãti and what part is sukha and my advice is not to concern yourself about this at this stage. It is just bliss; it is just happiness. It is just ecstasy; it is just joy. It is hard to give two distinct parts to what appears as a unified feeling or experience. What actually happens is that when one gets the experience of 3rd jhàna , the factor of pãti-sukha is splitting in half. Half of it drops away and what is left is what we call sukha. It is the happiness without the pãti part of it. It is only at that time that you can understand what sukha means in this context of jhàna . You know this just through experience. You actually see the heart of this twin alone without its partner, then you know what part is pãti and what part is sukha. So do not concern yourself by what you read in some of the books. What you should know is that pãti-sukha is the happiness which forms the prominent feature of the lower jhàna , which are born of seclusion, and which are apart from that which we call the world.

When the 5 hindrances are abandoned, when one leaves aside the world of the 5 senses, then one has in a very meaningful way separated oneself from the world. One has dropped a heavy burden. And it is because of the absence of that burden that one feels such delight and such happiness. It is actually the happiness born of the ending of an affliction, the dropping of a burden, the letting go of something very heavy of which one did not realise that one has been carrying it around with one all one's life. Every jhàna is a letting go and it is the happiness born of letting go. So, you should not regard jhàna as attachment, but as the fruit of abandoning something which was a level of dukkha, suffering. However to develop that pãti-sukha is one of the practices which the Buddha mentioned in the ànàpànàsati-sutta. In the 2nd stage of the meditation when the breath is peaceful and you have full awareness on it, it can be very helpful to look out for the pãti-sukha, look out for the happiness, if you can notice the beautiful breath. I mention this because very often a person who does not know these jhàna s and who is not familiar with them can sometimes actually miss the seed of this pãti-sukha. The happiness and bliss of these jhàna states is of a completely different quality than that which we call happiness or bliss in the ordinary world. They have something in common and this is why some still call this pãti-sukha happiness, bliss, or ecstasy. But it is very different from the happiness and bliss of, say, the sexual orgasm or winning the lotto or having a really good meal. That which is in common is the factor of delighting the mind. But there is something which is very, very different: this is the bliss and happiness of peace, not the happiness of excitement. And sometimes peace can be a little bit invisible to the perception of some inexperienced people. One does not really know where to look for this bliss and so one misses it. One very useful technique which was described by the Buddha when one gets to the 2nd stage of the meditation is that you calm the breath down and you actually look out for the happiness and bliss; you deliberately develop it. You ask yourself: "Is the mind peaceful? What does that peace feels like? Is that peace joyful, blissful?". If you ask questions like that, if you use this investigative mind to know the quality of what you are experiencing. If the breath is peaceful enough, if you have full awareness on it, then you should begin to notice that this experience is actually very pleasant. When you start to notice the pleasant experience of peacefulness, then that perception will start to grow. Once you discover the pleasure of silence; the bliss of peace; the ecstasy of stability and simplicity, then that perception will start to grow in the mind. You encourage that perception of bliss to grow so it overwhelms all other perceptions the mind.. It is still perception of peacefulness; it is still the perception of the peaceful breath; it is still the beautiful breath, but you are perceiving it in a way which emphasises its beauty, attractiveness, its pleasure, and joy: the happiness of peace. As you develop that perception, you will find that this perception grows until it becomes the prominent perception in the mind and the attention stabilises on that perception; the perception of pãti-sukha born of being separated from that which disturbs the mind. It is aloof from the search for the gratification in the realm of the 5 senses. It has left the world and has come to the lst abiding, outside of the world. The 1st abiding inside the mind. What you are conscious of at this particular time is just happiness and joy, pãti-sukha. This is a mental object, the mind sense is the one which is operative here. Because it is the mind which is operative here and not the other 5 senses, which are pretty much turned off, the experience is sometimes hard to put into words. What you are investigating here, what you are experiencing here, is the territory of the mind.

Sometimes we think we might know what the word 'mind' means, the word 'citta' in Pali. However the citta that you think is the mind is all caught up with the world of the 5 senses, with the world outside, and the language used is of the world outside. Actually what we are seeing is not the mind, but the world outside -- the world outside as reflected in the mind. It is like the simile of the lake. You think you are looking at the lake but all you are seeing is the reflection of the things outside the lake. Why does a lake, a body of water, sometimes appear blue, green, white, or grey when everybody knows that water has no colour? The reason the lake in our monastery looks green is because of the deep hillside on either side of the lake. What you are actually seeing is the reflections of the green leaves of the trees overhead. When there is a cloudless blue sky, then the lake appears blue. When there are white or grey clouds, then it looks white or grey. The colour of the lake is not part of the lake. It is the reflection of something outside of it. In the same way, that which most people know as the mind has nothing to do with the mind at all. It is the reflection of the external object on the surface of the mind. And that is why many people fail to understand experientially what we mean by the citta or the mind in Buddhism. However when you start to experience jhàna and stay in that area, then you let go of all these external reflections and you are dealing with the mind by itself.

One of the first things which you will notice when reflecting on these jhàna experiences is that the vocabulary to describe these states just is not there. One is actually experiencing something which is very different from one's normal experience in the world. However, because of the nature of consciousness, of the mental activity, you will do your best to find that which fits the experience as closely as possible; you will find similes from the external world. For most people the two senses which are predominant in experience are the senses of sight and touch. Because of that the samàdhi-nimitta which is a purely mental object, that which is the carrier of pãti-sukha, the vehicle of deep happiness, will very often appear to the meditator as a bright light, or as just a pleasant physical feeling. Whatever you perceive it to be, if you reflect on the experienced states many, many times, then you eventually realise that this is not an image of sight, that it is not a physical feeling, but that this is a mental object pure and simple, which perception has not been able to take as it truly is and describes it by it's nearest metaphor which can be a bright light or a pleasant physical feeling. So this is the explanation why meditators report this nimitta in many different ways. It is not that the nimitta is different for different meditators, it is exactly the same, but the way we describe it makes the difference. Because this is a weird experience for those who do not have much experience in the realm of mind alone we get some very interesting, and sometimes very amusing, descriptions of the nimitta. However, one can know it as a nimitta by it's intensity of pleasure, but a very pacifying tranquillising pleasure.

There is another type of experience which comes up at this stage, which is a thrilling type of pleasure which you should notice as quite disturbing to your concentration. This thrilling type of pleasure is more like excitement and you should know that that is not the samàdhi-nimitta which will take you into a jhàna . It is too coarse and too disturbing. As such one should let thrill disappear.

The nimitta whether it appears as a vision or a feeling inside, should be known by it's intensity of stillness, it's intensity of joy. It is something very attractive. If it is a light it will be a very beautiful light, a very vivid and attractive light. Whatever is it's colour that is by the way, but it should be something which draws you to it. If it is a physical feeling it should be something very delightful. So delightful that, again, it pulls your attention to it.

Sometimes it happens that the nimitta comes up a bit too soon and it is not strong. It's vividness, brightness, and strength is not quite enough and this is because you have not gained enough stability in the 2nd stage of meditation. If that nimitta is very weak then you should ignore it. Go back to the 2nd stage. Really strengthen that 2nd stage. Stay with it as long as you can. When that samàdhi-nimitta really arises; when it is really strong and bright, then you let yourself go into it. Or as I was mentioning you can try and develop samàdhi-nimitta deliberately by developing the happiness and joy of peace. Either way will work for you.

However, when that nimitta comes up and when you have the delicious mental experience calling you, then that is the time to do a lot of letting go. Jhàna experience is the manifestation of detachment. The manifestation of having let go of the mind's concern and attachment in a certain realm: the realm of our ordinary experience. When you drop that realm you enter into jhàna . Because the jhàna is a letting go, at this particular stage one should remember that word very strongly - to let go of the controlling mind and to allow the attention to be attracted into the samàdhi-nimitta

Very often the meditator will feel the pull of this beautiful object, it is, as it were, dragging you towards it. At that time the meditator should be aware of two major obstacles to gain the absorption. The first one is a very common one for meditators and it is called 'fear'. You are not quite sure that you can handle this since it feels a bit too powerful, it feels a bit too scary. On reflection you can actually see that exactly after you have taken the plunge and entered jhàna and reflect: "What was that fear about anyway?", that actually you have let go of the sense of self . The sense of self which searches for pleasure in the external world of the 5 senses, which seeks the control of that world, which seeks the control of the body. You are actually letting go in a very profound sense of your body and the 5 senses which are concerned with feeding it pleasure and avoiding it's harm and pain. You are letting go of all that and that is why it is scary for many people at first. That scariness is of letting go of control. If you are a person who is always controlling; if controlling is an aspect of your life and of your body, then you will find it hard to get into jhàna . That is why letting go, practising relinquishment of things, is a very good preparation for entering into jhàna s. As a young man I gave up eating meat and became a vegetarian. Letting go of that pleasure, since I enjoyed eating meat, just gave me that enormous sense of freedom. Every time I let go of something it has always been a beautiful and pleasurable feeling of letting go of a burden.

So if you practise letting go of other things in the world and it works and it is giving you happiness, then remind yourself that this is another letting go of this controller, this tyrant inside who is giving you orders. This will give you the confidence to try to let go and allow the mind to do it's thing, letting the mind follow it's nature and go into a jhàna experience. You just get out of the way and let the mind do it. Let go of this sense of self and the main function of the sense of self: to control. Remember that which we call desire or craving is just the trying to control the external world. The control through desire which tries to gain that which fulfils your wishes, and through aversion which tries to push away and suppress that which you do not like. These are the manifestations of control: desire and aversion. Because of this it is a very vital point that at this stage at the door to jhàna that you should not try to desire the jhàna . Just let the nature of the mind do the work. If you desire that jhàna then you will control and the illusory sense of self will still be working. It will disturb the peace and it will prevent you from entering the jhàna . When the nimitta comes up, when it becomes very strong, then you have done your job -- this is the time to let go. This is the time you have to be very still inside. What you are stilling is the controller, the commentator, the one who gives orders, the one who is always doing. Doing and stillness are opposites. You have done what needed to be done at that point when the nimitta is very strong. Let go and allow the mind to enter into jhàna .

So the first of the obstacles you should be careful of is fear which has been manifested by the controller. If this happens remember to let go. Letting go is the way to overcome dukkha. This might give you the confidence to let go. Also what will help you to overcome the fear is the power of the spiritual faculty of faith. The remembering to let go which brings happiness is the faculty of wisdom. Here I am also asking you to use the faculty of faith, the faculty of trust, the faculty which will let go out of faith and trust in the teacher and teachings, out of faith in the experience of the Buddha. It is faith which can take you into areas where you are not familiar. Sometimes those who do have strong faith and confidence are the ones who have no obstacle at this stage of the meditation; they have trust in the teacher. Just that amount takes them over the hurdle of fear. So if the hurdle of fear is an obstacle to this stage then check the two spiritual faculties of faith, saddha, and wisdom, pañña, and you may be able to overcome that hurdle by strengthening one of the spiritual faculties which is a bit too weak.

The other hurdle which comes up here is excitement. You are finally getting something: "Wow, this is it; this is beautiful; this is great" and it is gone. Because this is a peaceful state of mind, a fragile state of mind, when you begin to go into it then it is so easy to go round and go the opposite direction. It takes a lot of mindfulness to be wary of that obstacle. If that happens once then set your mindfulness there; set that supervisor. The one you have got to be careful of most, the one which is going to be your biggest enemy, is the "Wow-this-is-it- mind". Once that mindfulness is primed to look out for that excitement, then once excitement starts to arise mindfulness catches and suppresses it right away:`Keep still, don't move, don't say that, Wow!'. You will find that you can just keep that "Wow!'' suppressed long enough so that the mind does not get excited and the attention can be absorbed into the samadhi-nimitta. These are the two major obstacles at this stage: fear and excitement.

Once you enter the samadhi-nimitta and the nimitta has established itself, then this experience is a very blissful and happy state which remains. The stability of that state is the jhàna factor of one-pointedness. One-pointedness does not mean one point now, another point next moment and another point a few moments later. One-pointedness means that it is the same object of consciousness now and now and now and now... It means no movement, but a stability of the object of awareness. You are aware of the bliss and that bliss hardly moves. In the Ist jhàna that bliss hardly moves, but it does move, it does wobble slightly. It is the mind which moves to and away from the bliss. The mind has not yet fully entered into samadhi. This wobbling is the vitakka-vicara. Vitakka-vicara in other contexts means that which thinks and ponders. It is the mind which moves on to an area of thoughts and the function of mind to circle about the object of thought. To contemplate as it were. However the lst jhàna is beyond such coarse things as thinking. Vitakka and vicara are like this: the attention is absorbed into this bliss, but the object still lacks this stability. The attention moves away, recedes from that object. Vitakka pushes it back again. At a pre-verbal level vitakka becomes a movement of the mind onto its object. The movement of the mind onto its object is the activity of mind. It is the moving of the mind. In more coarser modes that manifests as a verbalised thought or intention: an "I will do" sort of thought, or an "I am doing" sort of thought. Here the mind is more refined and it does not manifest as a thought. More as a movement of mind onto the object. The vicara having moved on to the blissful object remains on it for a while. That is the vicara. Then it moves off again and vitakka pushes it back on again. Vicara keeps it there, then it moves off a bit. This movement is very closely in the vicinity of the nimitta. One never loses sight of it. It is just that the bliss is slightly wobbling. Vitakka-vicara is the manifestation of the wobbliness of that bliss. It is as if the mind has some room there. That is why one can move backwards and forwards, around and into the object. It is still blissful, but because of the wobbliness, the slight instability of the nimitta, of the experience, it is only called the first jhàna .

Once that instability of the nimitta is overcome and the mind absorbs more fully into the nimitta, into the bliss, and there is no movement of the mind at all, then that becomes the second jhàna . There the bliss and happiness is of a different quality. In the first jhàna the bliss is caused by having let go of the world of the five senses. In the second jhàna the stability of the mind has increased and it is the happiness of that stability. The mind is strong, fixed like a rock. It has no possibility of movement, of thought and not even of reflection. You are stuck with one object of mind. You can not do anything. This becomes a very fascinating experience. The mind does not move. There is no vitakka-vicara left. There is no possibility of the mind doing anything, except experiencing one thing continuously. Because of this, especially in the second jhàna , one can not come out until the energy of that experience uses itself up. That is why sometimes if monks get into that experience they just sit there and can not move. They just have to wait until the force of the jhàna expends itself.

One way of alleviating that problem is to resolve before entering that one will enter for a certain time. It will be enough if one makes a strong, firm resolution for a certain time, no more, no less. However once you are in that state you can not change that resolution. One interesting thing after one emerges is that because of the strength of that experience one can see it through the power of memory, reflection, and recollection. Then one starts to reflect: "What was that?" , "How was that?". Certainly, the second jhàna becomes so much more blissful than the first jhàna . Why? Because the movement of the mind has been abandoned. You realise that the movement of the mind is painful; it is a disturbance. In all these jhàna s you are letting go of something which is an aspect of dukkha. Only when you let go of it, when you are apart from it, you realise that it is dukkha. Unless you have got a very, very powerful intellect and influence,( I do not know if anyone can actually do it), you can not realise that that what you experienced all the time is actually dukkha. It is only when you leave it alone, and get away from it, separate yourself from the thinking mind, the moving mind, that you know that it actually is suffering.

This is the piti-sukha of samadhi, it says in the texts. This is the first time you know what samadhi truly is. This is a mind which is still, not moving. In the second jhàna the mind is truly one-pointed. In the first jhàna that point has some size, some extension, some breadth and depth. In the second jhàna there is no size at all; one is really at a point and can not move outside of that point. This is a very blissful experience.

In order to gain the third jhàna you can not move from within the second to the third jhàna . You can not simply form that resolution in the second jhàna : "May I attain the third jhàna now." There are only the two possibilities: once the second jhàna finishes you can go up to the third jhàna , or you can go back to the first jhàna . If one enters these jhàna s and one makes an aspiration to go as deep as possible, if one makes the mind that peaceful, if the strength of the five spiritual faculties is very, very strong, then, as it were, one dives in and goes from the first jhàna , into the second, from the second into the third, from the third into the fourth, and remains there in that final state. Then one emerges from the fourth into the third... second... first, and then out again. This is the only way you can go in and out, through those successive stages. Those stages might occur rapidly, but because each stage is a further refinement of the mind, you have to let go of this before you can let go of that, before you can let go of something else. One needs that gradual process to get into the deeper jhàna s. If you are aiming for the third then you have to go through the first and second.

I have already mentioned that from the first jhàna to the second and then from the second to the third that bliss of samadhi changes. A part of it drops away. And one can not will this because will is manifested as the movement of the mind, even the very refined , pre-verbal will of the first jhàna . But in the second jhàna one has no ability to make any choice, and any decision. The going from the second to the third jhàna is the result of the will or decision which was made outside of the jhàna . The mind drops half of the ecstasy, that part which is called piti. In the third jhàna the object of mind is the very weird experience of just happiness, sukha, without the rapture-part of it. It is a more peaceful bliss than it was in the second jhàna and it is a very pleasant abiding indeed.

To go into the fourth jhàna you even let go of the happy aspect of the mind. You are just left with equanimity. The mind is aware of equanimity. It is not something which is equanimous: it is the experience of equanimity itself. It is the mental object, the "concept" of the mind, and it stays.

So these are the jhàna s and they are not only delicious experiences, but they are also very interesting because they give an aspect of experience, an insight into the nature of the mind and what it can do and what it actually is. This insight is very hard to gain through mere influence, or faith, or book-learning, because it is very different from ones ordinary experience of life.

When you emerge from a jhàna there are some interesting things you can do. You recognise that the jhàna s occurred because at the post-stage the mind still has bliss, it is still very strong, and mindfulness is very easy. The mind can very easily be turned to whatever reflection or work you wish to do. You are energised and you are empowered. The mind is clear, bright, and strong. This is one of the tell-tale signs that you have achieved one of these jhàna states. Once you can experience that post-jhàna state you can understand why most monks, nuns, lay-people, and the Buddha himself, gained enlightenment experiences after having empowered the mind with the jhànas.

Question inaudible. ... If one does get into one of these jhàna s, the post-jhàna experience can be very pleasurable, weird, wonderful, and with all sorts of interesting things happening. But in Buddhism the thing to do when one has gained a jhàna and one emerges is to remember the Buddha's teachings. To turn the mind onto the destruction of the kilesas, the defilements, to contemplate the three characteristics of impermanence, non-satisfactoriness, and not-self. To overcome avijja, ignorance, is very difficult in a normal state of mind. In this state of mind you have got a decent chance. I mention this because, when these states occur, and sometimes you do not know when they are going to happen, then you have got the chance that after the jhàna , instead of indulging and being blissed out, you grab hold of the mind, and turn it to that which really overcomes dukkha.

Question inaudible. ...You are asking about people leaving their bodies and having out of body experiences and whether that is a similar state to jhàna . It is not. It has some similarities to it, but it is very different to a jhàna , because the mind there is not settled down and is still very diffuse. However, there are certain things which are parallel.

The first parallel is that once people let go of their bodies they feel a lot of happiness and lightness. It is the happiness of having let go of a burden. This is why when they come back to the body they always come back to something which is painful, heavy and a burden. The second thing which has it's parallel is that of the light at the end of the tunnel. Again it is something which is mind-made. I read a book about this and it was interesting to read that if it is a Hindu who is having this experience he will see the light at the end of the tunnel as Krishna. If it is a Mahayana Buddhist he might see it as the Bodhisatva Kuan Yin. If it is a Christian he might see it as Jesus Christ. If it is an Atheist he might see it as Uncle George! The interesting thing is that it is one light and it is the perception, what we add on to it, which gives it the name of Jesus, Uncle George, or whatever.

It is interesting to notice how much perception adds to reality. It is actually quite frightening when you see that that which you think is real, that which you see with your own eyes, hear with your own ears, think with your own mind, how much of that is just layers of delusion. There is something which is real: the light, but that is not the important part for us. The important part is that we perceive it as Jesus or the Buddha or someone else and it is that illusion, that delusion, which causes all the problems. It is what we add to reality which causes the difficulty.