John of the Cross, the Dark Night of the Soul, and the Jhanas and the Arupa States
A Critical Comparative Study
Keywords:jhāna, arūpa states, pīti, sukha, meditation, contemplation, comparative spirituality, dark night, union with God
This paper examines function and structure within the religious paths advocated by John of the Cross (1542–1591), and the Buddha, with particular reference to the jhanas and the arupa states, as represented in selected suttas within the Pali texts. First, John of the Cross and the jhana and arupa states are contextualised. The teaching in The Ascent of Mount Carmel and The Dark Night (John of the Cross), and the Samaññaphala Sutta, the Nivapa Sutta and the Anupada Sutta (Sutta Pitaka) is then summarised. The two are then brought into conversation with each other to examine the extent to which the religious paths described move within the same landscape of spiritual practice. Differences in context and metaphysical underpinning are recognised. The paper argues, nevertheless, that similarities are more than evident, particularly with reference to attachment to sensory objects, discursive thought, and the idea of the self or the ‘I’. The paper demonstrates that the two speak of mystical paths, which share many of the same practices and fruits, although couched in different metaphors.
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