This is physical pleasure and mental pleasure that is brought about by unification of mind – not dependent on sense objects. Rapture is an orgasmic, blissful feeling of pleasure that is very soothing for the mind. Rapture is highly compatible with the other factors of awakening, but when rapture is misbalanced, then it can become an obstacle. This is a natural phase of development toward full calm abiding, and a quality of mind that is present in balance with the other factors.
Generally, it is not discouraged to develop rapture through mindfulness of breathing, visualization, metta, mantra, or any of the other techniques introduced in the three categories of concentration and the three stages of samatha. We want to become very aware of the energy in our body and this training gives us a very subtle energetic awareness. As such, rapture naturally arises in category III as a result of natural unification processes, and is expected, but we can also feel free to encourage it along. This serves to unify the mind further. We want to notice whenever rapture does arise but also not make a big deal of it. It is a mostly pleasant feeling in most cases and can only ever cause real problems if it is stuck on, in which case eventually with grounding exercises and other techniques, we can learn to dissipate the energy back into the ground and into digestion, repair, rest.
If the meditator is practicing Brahmacharya they will inevitably reach a state where very pleasurable blissful sensations pervade their being and are easily tuned into and these “frequencies” if you will, are like radio stations that the meditator can learn to resonate with. The jhana pages and vibrational awareness pages describe the details of this.
How to cultivate Rapture
In order to cultivate rapture, it is useful to regard rapture through the lens of dependent origination, which we will develop throughout the training to its full fruition. Rapture can be observed to arise dependent on two conditions: seclusion of the mind from the hindrances, and seclusion of the mind from sensuality. These two seclusions of mind are mentioned numerous times in relation to jhana practice in the Buddhist Pali Canon. As such, they can be seen as conditioning factors for the state. In the system described here, when we learn the conditioning factors which bring about a state, then we can condition the mind through practice to revisit that state and reproduce the same conditions. So in essence, what we’re really trying to do is to seclude the mind from sensuality and the hindrances. By turning away from the world of objects and turning inward, if we have a strong enough conditioned intention for this, it will produce that state of mind. And if we condition ourselves to automatically notice and defuse hindrances, then the rapture of the first jhana arises as a result. It is easiest to just try to see this process occurring in our direct experience. We want to actually see value in turning the mind inward, or else we won;t have a genuine seclusion of the mind. So we have to be willing to sit down to meditate for starters, and if we want to develop jhana in daily life, then we should be very familiar with the seclusion of the mind at will.
Some pointers that I have found personally helpful along the way have been to really soak into any pleasantness in experience and learn to really enjoy subtle pleasant experiences. There is an attentiveness that is developed when you do that, and the bias for positive experiences actually karmically conditions the mind for more positive experiences in the future. This is a trainable skill that we touched on in the accumulation concentration concept. But we want to actually find fulfillment inwardly, rather than looking to external objects. Some make the mistake of never seeking fulfillment altogether, with an attitude of nihlism, but when we soak into the experrience of being a human breathing, enjoying the birds chirping, then we can tune into the simple pleasures that are all around us.
One can also listen to inspiring music or an inspiring dharma talk, and reflect on the positive skillful acts you’ve done so far and take pride in the skillful way that you are leading toward realization. We can reflect on our acts of charity and goodwill, and these will condition us to cherish those and give of ourselves further. We can really calm and soothe the mind when we reflect on our wholesome behavior and our giving. When we give freely we benefit even if we are not recognized for it.