How to reach the first jhâna?


According to you, which method of meditation allows to reach the first jhana?

Personally, I am particularly interested in the method of Pa Auk Sayadaw.
If I understand correctly, his technique consists in concentrating on the breath passing through the tip of the nose or the upperlip. By maintaining the concentration on this breath, a “first mental replica of the breath” (parikamma nimitta) should appear (it often looks like a grey smoke). When it appears, one should not immediately concentrate on it, but should stay focused on the breath. Thanks to this, the mind will automatically end up concentrating on parikamma nimitta; at this moment, we can concentrate on parikamma nimitta. Because of this concentration on parikamma nimitta, parikamma nimitta will become a “second mental replica of the breath” (uggaha nimitta; often like cotton), and after a while, the mind will automatically concentrate on uggaha nimitta. Through this concentration on uggaha nimitta, uggaha nimitta will become a “third mental replica of the breath” (patibagha nimitta; often like a starlight). We then move on to another stage of concentration: access concentration. After a while, the mind automatically concentrates on patibagha nimitta, and after a certain time of concentration on patibagha nimitta, the absorption concentration (jhana) is experienced.

To help us concentrate on the breath passing through the tip of the nose or at the upperlip, Pa Auk advises to count the breaths, or to notice the length of each breath (long or short). He also says to focus on the whole body of the breath (i.e. to be aware of the breath from the beginning to the end, at every moment).

Pa Auk also talks about conceptual breathing. I’m not sure what he means by this, but he seems to be saying that we shouldn’t focus on the details of the physical breath. Apparently this is something very important, because if you focus on the details of the physical breath, then you are practicing elemental meditation, and that doesn’t lead to jhana.
I don’t know if what I’m doing is correct, but personally what I do is I count the breaths. Sometimes when I count the breaths, it happens that the breath appears to me physically. But even if I notice that my breath is physical, I don’t focus on the physical aspect of it, I “ignore” it, I pretend it’s not there, and I count the (physical) breath. Sometimes the physical breath turns into a much softer, more even breath. When this happens, I don’t interfere with this process, I don’t try to bring back the physical breath. I let the mind automatically make this transformation, and I keep counting the breaths, no matter how it comes to me.

But I have not always used this method of meditation EXACTLY. In fact, I have changed one small thing from my previous meditation sessions: I have started counting my breaths. Before, I didn’t count them, I preferred to “directly” concentrate without using the counting technique. I think this tended to make my mind very tense (I was very tense), even though my concentration quickly became strong because of this tense effort. In fact, I feel that even though my concentration was strong (it was destroying any sharp physical pain), it was “plateauing”, i.e., it was not making any progress. This is why I tried to start counting the breaths: I told myself that this would allow me to find the right effort, and thus to be able to improve my concentration a lot as time went by. For the moment, with this counting technique, I am much more relaxed while being concentrated. However, I am less concentrated than when I was very tense. But I have the intuition that I will progress much more. (Edit: however, it seems that even with the counting technique, my mind automatically ends up getting a little tight. I hope this is normal.) However, maybe I’m wrong, maybe I should go back to the powerful tense meditation; I don’t know, I’m a beginner, I’ve been meditating for a few months.

Thank you for reading me.

I am highly interested in your opinions, and I will be very attentive to your answers.

Thank you in advance.

May all beings reach the complete Buddha Awakening.

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This is a common question and good question to ask. I have addressed this question in one of my articles found on the website below. Furthermore, know that the meditation object is in the mind and the mind knowing the breath as a whole or “generally”. You mind and body should be relaxed. Just wait if you are struggling. Don’t chase after the breath. I will hopefully write about this later. For now, please refer to the article below:


Hello Bhante,

Thank you very much for your message. I have read some of your posts on the forum, as well as some of your articles; I find you very clear and helpful. In your article on conceptual breathing, the image of the cars is very educational, thank you.

Sometimes when I observe the conceptual breathing of the physical breathing, the physical breathing automatically turns into a very soft kind of breathing. Please, do you think that when this happens, I should intervene by preventing this transformation in order to keep the physical breath?

Finally, I would like to know if you consider Stephen Snyder and Tina Rasmussen (who wrote the book “Practicing the jhanas”) as a reliable source. I don’t know if Pa Auk Sayadaw has changed his mind about them, but I know that he wrote the preface to their book certifying that they have both attained mastery of the 8 jhanas (which seems, a priori, to be a guarantee of authority and confidence).

Thank you in advance, and thank you for your work dedicated to beings.

Sayadawgyi pretty much only recommends Shaila Catherine as a lay teacher from what I can see.

She has some books

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Thank you so much for your response, you are so quick!