The 2nd jhana
2nd jhana – I can enter this state in seconds on command sitting, walking, and standing. (This type of mastery is necessary for the attainment of Anagami and Arhat)
With the subsiding of applied thought and sustained thought he enters and dwells in the second jhana, which has internal confidence and unification of mind, is without applied thought and sustained thought, and is filled with rapture and happiness born of concentration (M.i,181; Vbh. 245)
The second jhana is more peaceful and pleasant than the first jhana- related- but more refined. In the 2nd jhana, the thinking related to the jhana is stopped, and the mind become silent. The mind is unified – there is effortless stability on the object of concentration- the mind focuses and settles and is unified. The rapture and happiness is bourne not from seclusion, but from the state of unified concentration and effortlessness. This is actually the next milestone in the development of samatha.
I sometimes go directly into the 2nd jhana because I find it easier than the 1st and more satisfying. From the 1st jhana, I begin to notice that there is a sense of joyfulness and relief, and that attention goes from being sustained to sustaining itself. I often don’t control the movement up the jhanas, but I can. The 2nd jhana pleasure originates from the base of the skull and showers my body. The physical pleasure is secondary, but the joyfulness is in the foreground. Effort drops away, and I continue to massage the spine and body with the breath, but now there’s a more stable object, the mental sweetness. It’s a very sweet joy, like MDMA at a rave and connecting with people. It’s a very exciting, joyful, sweet kind of pleasure. I can take the stable aspect of the joy and dive into it and harden the state, and a bright white light arises and there is only joy. Very simple. The mind feels pure and joyful.
Practical instruction for 2nd jhana.
In the first jhana- the mind is continually applying effort and conscious engagement with the pleasure and the factors of the jhana. There is a sense of effort and subtle strain, and it becomes really clear that the effort required to stay in the first jhana is inherently stressful on a subtle level. It’s much better to be joyful and pleasurable without having to try hard to sustain it. The very effort itself is a facet of self that when released, leads to profound, intense joy. The joy of 2nd jhana can be as intense as you want it to be- there is total and utter joy and it’s a very sweet, satisfying and pervasive joy. Compared to the 1st jhana, the joy of 2nd jhana is much more refined and satisfying, and it has a largely mental aspect to it, which makes it more of a stable object of focus. Hence, 2nd jhana is a very important attainment. In each of these states, there is a pleasurable aspect that tends to be originating from a main area in the body. This makes up somewhat of a focal point for the attention to rest. The 2nd jhana has a slightly more open feel to attention, and when the breath is used as an object- the joy and pleasure swells and oscillates with the breath. There is a sense of continuous-ness to the mental joy (sukkha). that is a welcome relief from the high-maintenance and easily lost pleasure (piti) of 1st jhana. Noticing what is better about 2nd jhana, and the craving that exists in 1st jhana, is the insight that leads to freedom. The mind will naturally reach out for the more refined type of joy in the 2nd jhana, and like the first jhana, the goal is to inspect the jhana mindfully and discern craving in the jhana. The craving in jhana becomes increasingly more subtle and refined- and that’s exactly why it is so powerful to watch craving processes in jhana- they allow you to see fundamental mental processes more clearly and from a place of joy. Good practice is to become intimately familiar with the mental phenomena of joy- what actually is joy? What differentiates joy from pleasure? These types of questions may arise as distractions when you touch upon 2nd jhana, and will take you out of it, but it’s a sign of investigation – a factor of awakening. Just keep mastering the state and be persistent and playful with it. This type of practice is inherently fun and enjoyable.