Last night, during Uposatha,1 I took the opportunity to start a book I had been wanting to get into for a while, Reexamining Jhāna: Towards a Critical Reconstruction of Early Buddhist Soteriology.2 In it, Grzegorz Polak argues that the Theravada tradition3 has misinterpreted the role of Jhāna4 as an optional attainment, when it is in fact presented as necessary for enlightenment in the Sutta Piṭaka.5 According to him, it’s simply a matter of misinterpretation by later Buddhists, who had difficulty grasping the meditative practice of the Buddha as separate from the Yogic tradition. One compelling piece of evidence is the Sandha Sutta (AN 11:10), in which the Buddha condemns Jhāna practiced as absorption on a single object, leading to the cessation of the senses, etc; and instead, praises Jhāna not dependent on anything.
A few years ago, a friend of mine recommended a fantastic essay by Greg Costikyan to me, I Have No Words & I Must Design,1 in which he proposes a basic shared vocabulary for game design, and through which I was introduced to the illuminating distinction between toys and games. Costikyan argues that games are organized behavior with well defined goals—an end-game, a victory state; whereas toys are merely interactive objects through which play may be constructed.
Think of a basketball ball: the ball is a toy (and what a wonderful toy it is), but by itself it provides no structure. The ball needs the game of basketball, with all of its rules and complex subtleties, if organized fun is to be had.
Strange, that we don’t know each other
and yet in dreams you show me color.
Send me something I’m not looking for
to help me sleep at night, when
I wake looking for your fingers
running on my back.