Go, Do Jhana
July 17, 2004

There are many passages in the Canon where the Buddha — after explaining the path of practice, or talking about the urgency of following the path — sends the monks back to meditate. “Look,” he says. “Over there are roots of trees, over there are empty dwellings. Meditate. Don’t regret later that you didn’t meditate, that you didn’t practice.” The word he uses for going to meditate is “to go do jhana” — jhayati is the verb in Pali. It’s a homonym with a verb for burning, as when a flame burns steadily. They have lots of different words for burning in Pali — words for raging fires, words for smoldering fires — but the verb for a steady burn, as in the flame of an oil lamp, is jhayati. And the same verb is used for doing jhana. As you practice concentration, you try to make the mind burn steadily, with a clean, clear flame. Flames that flicker up and down are hard to read by, but a steady flame is one you can read by clearly. That’s the quality you’re trying to develop so that you can read the mind.