Thanks, AdvaitaJ, for a more accessible link to Ajahn Sona's very useful essay.
I attended a teaching session with Leigh Brasington here in Toronto. I was surprised at how easy he made at least the first jhana seem. My own experience is that, yes, settling down, becoming content and tranquil is indeed a matter of no effort. I must research to see if Leigh has any audio guided meditations in this respect. However, I also feel very strongly that just
settling down, just
becoming content, just
becoming tranquil is neither sufficient nor anything other than a potential trap: sort of like deciding to take a cruise ship to see the Mediterranean but getting off to sightsee at the first island and going no further.
As I read the Buddha's words, I see only one specific kind of "what to do" and that is let go
. Otherwise, why would the Buddha have pointed us in the direction of understanding everything as only impermanent, unsatisfactory and selfless? I wonder if when the commentaries were put together and the material of the Visuddhimagga was catalogued - perhaps by that time already just a faint, vague kind of ego had crept into the teachings of the most charismatic of the elders?
I do not know. At some point the message seemed to shift from "let go" to "like this" ... and I am fully aware that I am completely out of my depth with respect to any of the scholarship I should probably take much more seriously ... in my university daze, we called it scholarshit and thought we were being ever so very clever
. After all, in the Buddha's time there were only two baskets of the Teaching ... actually, no writing had been done, so there were really no baskets, but only two parts: Dhamma and vinaya. The whole idea of abhidhamma seems to have crept in later as if, perhaps, some of the elders failed to notice that no further explanations were necessary as the Buddha had already explained everything. I'm demonstrating my profound ignorance of the abhidhamma material, teased out of the Dhamma and vinaya, which I know is of extraordinary value to us today.