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Dhammapada: Verses and Stories

Dhammapada Verses 143 and 144
Pilotikatissatthera Vatthu Avoid Evil Through Shame Effort Is Necessary To Avoid Suffering


143. Avoid Evil Through Shame

Where in the world is found
one restrained by shame,
awakened out of sleep
as splendid horse with whip?

Explanation: Rarely in the world is that person who is restrained
by shame. Like a well-breed horse who avoids the whip, he avoids disgrace.


144. Effort Is Necessary To Avoid Suffering

As splendid horse touched with whip,
be ardent, deeply moved,
by faith and virtue, effort too,
by meditation, Dhamma’s search,
by knowledge, kindness, mindfulness;
abandon dukkha limitless!

Explanation: Like a well-bred horse duly disciplined by the whip,
you shall be persistent and earnest. Possessed of devotion, discipline and
persistence and with composure examine experience. Attain to conscious
response with well established introspection.

Verses 143 and 144
Pilotikatissatthera Vatthu

Hirinisedho puriso
koci lokasmi vijjati
yo niddam apabodheti
asso bhadro kasamiva.

Asso yatha bhadro kasanivittho
atapino samvegino bhavatha
saddhaya silena ca viriyena ca
samadhina dhammavinicchayena1 ca
sampannavijjacarana patissata
jahissatha dukkhamidam anappakam.

Verse 143: Rare in this world is the kind of person who out of a
sense of shame restrains from doing evil and keeps himself awake like a good
horse that gives no cause to be whipped.

Verse 144: Like a good horse stirred at a touch of the whip, be
diligent and get alarmed by endless round of rebirths (i.e., samsara). By
faith, morality, effort, concentration, discernment of the Dhamma, be endowed
with knowledge and practice of morality, and with mindfulness, leave this
immeasurable dukkha (of samsara) behind.

1. dhammavinicchayena (dhamma + vinicchaya): discernment
of the Dharnma or Law. It is explained by the Commentary as karanakarana
jananam, knowing right and wrong causes of things.

The Story of Thera Pilotikatissa

While residing at the Jetavana monastery, the Buddha uttered Verses
(143) and (144) of this book, with reference to Thera Pilotikatissa.

Once, Thera Ananda saw a shabbily dressed youth going round begging
for food; he felt pity for the youth and made him a samanera. The young
samanera left his old clothes and his begging plate on the fork of a tree. When
he became a bhikkhu he was known as Pilotikatissa. As a bhikkhu, he did not
have to worry about food and clothing as he was in affluent circumstances. Yet,
sometimes he did not feel happy in his life as a bhikkhu and thought of going
back to the life of a lay man. Whenever he had this feeling, he would go back
to that tree where he had left his old clothes and his plate. There, at the
foot of the tree, he would put this question to himself, “Oh shameless
one! Do you want to leave the place where you are fed well and dressed well? Do
you still want to put on these shabby clothes and go begging again with this
old plate in your hand?” Thus, he would rebuke himself, and after calming
down, he would go back to the monastery.

After two or three days, again, he felt like leaving the monastic
life of a bhikkhu, and again, he went to the tree where he kept his old clothes
and his plate. After asking himself the same old question and having been
reminded of the wretchedness of his old life, he returned to the monastery.
This was repeated many times. When other bhikkhus asked him why he often went
to the tree where he kept his old clothes and his plate, he told them that he
went to see his teacher.* Thus keeping his mind on his old clothes as the
subject of meditation, he came to realize the true nature of the aggregates of
the khandhas (i.e., anicca, dukkha, anatta), and eventually he became an
arahat. Then, he stopped going to the tree. Other bhikkhus noticing that
Pilotikatissa had stopped going to the tree where he kept his old clothes and
his plate asked him, “Why don’t you go to your teacher any more?” To
them, he answered, “When I had the need, I had to go to him; but there is
no need for me to go to him now.” When the bhikkhus heard his reply, they
took him to see the Buddha. When they came to his presence they said,
“Venerable Sir! This bhikkhu claims that he has attained arahatship; he must
be telling lies.” But the Buddha refuted them, and said,
“Bhikkhus! Pilotikatissa is not telling lies, he speaks the truth. Though
he had relationship with his teacher previously, now he has no relationship
whatsoever with his teacher. Thera Pilotikatissa has instructed himself to
differentiate right and wrong causes and to discern the true nature of things.
He has now become an arahat, and so there is no further connection between him
and his teacher.”

Then the Buddha spoke in Verse as follows:

Verse 143: Rare in this world is the kind of person who out of a
sense of shame restrains from doing evil and keeps himself awake like a good
horse that gives no cause to be whipped.


Verse 144: Like a good horse stirred at a touch of the whip, be
diligent and get alarmed by endless round of rebirths (i.e., samsara). By
faith, morality, effort, concentration, discernment of the Dhamma, be endowed
with knowledge and practice of morality, and with mindfulness, leave this
immeasurable dukkha (of samsara) behind.

*teacher: here refers
to Pilotika’s old clothes and his begging plate; they are like a teacher to him
because they imbued him with a deep sense of shame and put him on the right












in Buddhism

Dhyāna in

Chinese name




Tibetan name





Quốc ngữ


Korean name




Japanese name



Sanskrit name


Dhyāna (

Pāli name


ඣාන (in Sinhala)
Jhāna (
ဈာန် (in Burmese)
ဇျာန် (in Mon)


Dhyāna in Sanskrit (Devanagari: ध्यान) or jhāna (झान) in Pāli
can refer to either meditation or meditative states. Equivalent terms are
Chán” in modern Chinese, “Zen
Japanese, “Seon” in Korean, “Thien” in Vietnamese, and “Samten” in Tibetan.

a meditative state, dhyāna is characterized by profound stillness and
concentration. It is discussed in the
Pāli canon (and the parallel agamas) and post-canonical Theravāda Buddhist literature, and in other
literature. There has been little scientific study of the states so far.



  • 3 Usage
    of jhāna
  • 4
    Historical development
  • 5 In
    Mahāyāna traditions
  • 6 In
    Vajrayāna traditions
  • 7
    Scientific studies
  • 8
  • 9
    External links
  • Jhāna
    in the early suttas

    In the early texts, it is taught as a state of collected,
    full-body awareness in which mind becomes very powerful and still but not
    frozen, and is thus able to observe and gain insight into the changing flow of
    [1][2] Later Theravada
    literature, in particular the
    Visuddhimagga, describes it as an abiding in which the mind becomes fully immersed
    and absorbed in the chosen object of attention,
    [3] characterized by
    non-dual consciousness.

    The Buddha himself entered jhāna, as described in
    the early texts, during his own quest for enlightenment, and is constantly seen
    in the
    suttas encouraging his disciples to develop jhāna as a way of
    achieving awakening and liberation.

    One key innovative teaching of the Buddha was that
    meditative absorption (jhāna) must be combined with liberating

    Just before his passing away, The Buddha entered the jhānas
    in direct and reverse order, and the passing away itself took place after
    rising from the fourth jhāna.

    The Buddha’s instructions on attaining jhana are via mindfulness of breathing, found in the Ānāpānasati Sutta and elsewhere.

    Stages of jhāna



    Buddha describes eight progressive
    states of absorption
    meditation or jhāna. Four are
    considered to be meditations of form (rūpa jhāna) and four are formless
    meditations (arūpa jhāna). The first four jhānas are said by the
    Buddha to be conducive to a pleasant abiding and freedom from suffering.
    [10] The jhānas are
    states of meditation where the mind is free from the
    five hindrances — craving, aversion, sloth,
    agitation and doubt — and (from the second jhāna onwards) incapable of
    discursive thinking. The deeper jhānas can last for many hours. Jhāna
    empowers a meditator’s mind, making it able to penetrate into the deepest
    truths of existence.

    are four deeper states of meditative absorption called “the immaterial
    attainments.” Sometimes these are also referred to as the
    “formless” jhānas (arūpa jhānas) in
    distinction from
    the first
    four jhānas

    (rūpa jhānas). In the Buddhist canonical texts, the word “jhāna
    is never explicitly used to denote them, but they are always mentioned in
    sequence after the first four jhānas. The enlightenment of complete
    dwelling in emptiness is reached when the eighth jhāna is transcended.

    The Rupa Jhānas

    There are four stages of deep collectedness which are
    called the Rupa Jhāna (Fine-material Jhāna):

    1. First Jhāna - In the first jhana there are - “directed thought, evaluation, rapture, pleasure, unification of mind, contact, feeling, perception, intention,
      consciousness, desire, decision, persistence,
      mindfulness, equanimity & attention”
    2. Second Jhāna - In the second jhana there are - “internal
      assurance, rapture, pleasure, unification of mind, contact, feeling,
      perception, intention, consciousness, desire, decision, persistence,
      mindfulness, equanimity, & attention”
    3. Third Jhāna - In the third jhana, there are -
      “equanimity-pleasure, unification of mind, contact, feeling,
      perception, intention, consciousness, desire, decision, persistence,
      mindfulness, equanimity & attention”
    4. Fourth Jhāna - In the fourth jhana there are - “a feeling of
      equanimity, neither pleasure nor pain; an unconcern due to serenity of
      awareness; unification of mind, contact, feeling, perception, intention,
      consciousness, desire, decision, persistence, mindfulness, equanimity
      & attention”.

    The Arupa Jhānas

    Beyond the four jhānas lie four attainments,
    referred to in the early texts as aruppas. These are also referred to in
    commentarial literature as
    immaterial/the formless jhānas (arūpajhānas), also translated as The Formless Dimensions:

    1. Dimension of Infinite Space - In the dimension of infinite space there are -
      “the perception of the dimension of the infinitude of space,
      unification of mind, contact, feeling, perception, intention,
      consciousness, desire, decision, persistence, mindfulness, equanimity,
      & attention”
    2. Dimension of Infinite
      - In the Dimension of
      infinite consciousness there are - “the perception of the dimension
      of the infinitude of consciousness, unification of mind, contact, feeling,
      perception, intention, consciousness, desire, decision, persistence,
      mindfulness, equanimity, & attention”
    3. Dimension of Nothingness - In the dimension of nothingness, there are -
      “the perception of the dimension of nothingness, singleness of mind,
      contact, feeling, perception, intention, consciousness, desire, decision,
      persistence, mindfulness, equanimity, & attention”
    4. Dimension of Neither
      Perception nor Non-Perception
      - About the
      role of this jhana it is said: “He emerged mindfully from that
      attainment. On emerging mindfully from that attainment, he regarded the
      past qualities that had ceased & changed: ‘So this is how these
      qualities, not having been, come into play. Having been, they vanish.’ He
      remained unattracted & unrepelled with regard to those qualities,
      independent, detached, released, dissociated, with an awareness rid of
      barriers. He discerned that ‘There is a further escape,’ and pursuing it
      there really was for him.”

    In the suttas, these are never referred to as jhānas.
    And it is mistakenly believed that is likely that they belonged to the Brahmanical
    [12] However, according
    to the early scriptures, the Buddha did not say he learned the last two
    formless attainments from two teachers, he only mentioned that Alara Kalama and
    Uddaka Ramaputta claimed.
    [13] If the Buddha was
    taught these two states as they declared then he should have practiced the
    First Jhana many times and should have no trouble entering the First Jhana. The
    Uppakilesa Sutta shows that this is not the case. The Buddha had to struggle
    with a whole series of obstacles before he was able to find his way back into
    the First Jhana that he recalled practicing as a child. When looking into the
    Uppakilesa Sutta, it is clear that Alara and Uddaka overestimated themselves in
    their claims.
    [14] At that time,
    defilement such as desire and other hindrances were still present within the
    future Buddha even after following their teachings. He realized that the
    meditations they taught and their teachings do not lead to Nirvana and left.

    The Buddha said in the Ariyapariyesana Sutta:

    ”But the thought occurred to me, ‘This Dhamma leads not to
    disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to stilling, to direct knowledge,
    to Awakening, nor to Unbinding, but only to reappearance in the dimension of
    neither perception nor non-perception.’ So, dissatisfied with that Dhamma, I

    Cessation of feelings and perceptions

    The Buddha also rediscovered an attainment beyond the
    dimension of neither perception nor non-perception, the “cessation of
    feelings and perceptions.” This is sometimes called the “ninth jhāna
    in commentarial and scholarly literature.

    About this, it is said: “Seeing with discernment, his
    fermentations were totally ended. He emerged mindfully from that attainment. On
    emerging mindfully from that attainment, he regarded the past qualities that
    had ceased & changed: ‘So this is how these qualities, not having been,
    come into play. Having been, they vanish.’ He remained unattracted &
    unrepelled with regard to those qualities, independent, detached, released,
    dissociated, with an awareness rid of barriers. He discerned that ‘There is no
    further escape,’ and pursuing it there really wasn’t for him.”

    Someone attaining this state is an anagami or an arahant.[18] In the above
    extract, the Buddha narrates that
    Sariputta became an arahant
    upon reaching it.

    Usage of jhāna

    meditator uses the jhāna state to strengthen and sharpen the mind, in
    order to investigate the true nature of phenomena (dhamma) and to gain
    higher knowledge. The longer the meditator stays in the state of jhāna
    the sharper and more powerful the mind becomes. The jhāna will sometimes
    cause the

    to be suppressed for days.

    to the later Theravāda commentorial tradition as outlined by Buddhago
    in his
    Visuddhimagga, after coming out of the
    state of jhāna the meditator will be in the state of post-jhāna access
    concentration. This will have the qualities of being certain, long-lasting and
    stable. It is where the work of investigation and analysis of the true nature
    of phenomena begins and is also where deep insight into the characteristics of
    impermanence, suffering and not-self arises. The meditator can experience these
    truths, which lie at the heart of the Buddha’s teachings, through direct

    contrast, according to the sutta descriptions of jhāna practice,
    the meditator does not emerge from jhāna to practice vipassana
    but rather the work of insight is done whilst in jhāna itself. In
    particular the meditator is instructed to “enter and remain in the fourth jhāna
    before commencing the work of insight in order to uproot the mental

    With the
    abandoning of pleasure and pain — as with the earlier disappearance of elation
    and distress — he enters and remains in the fourth jhāna: purity of
    equanimity and mindfulness, neither-pleasure nor pain…With his mind thus
    concentrated, purified, and bright, unblemished, free from defects, pliant,
    malleable, steady, and attained to imperturbability, the monk directs and
    inclines it to the knowledge of the ending of the mental fermentations. He
    discerns, as it has come to be, that ‘This is suffering… This is the
    origination of suffering… This is the cessation of suffering… This is the
    way leading to the cessation of suffering… These are mental fermentations…
    This is the origination of fermentations… This is the cessation of
    fermentations… This is the way leading to the cessation of fermentations.’

    Samaññaphala Sutta

    the five hindrances may be suppressed for days after entering jhāna, the
    meditator will feel perfectly clear, mindful, full of compassion, peaceful and
    light after the meditation session. This, according to Ajahn Brahm, may cause
    some meditators to mistakenly assume that they have gained enlightenment.

    jhāna state cannot by itself lead to enlightenment as it only suppresses
    the defilements. Meditators must use the jhāna state as an instrument
    for developing wisdom by cultivating insight and use it to penetrate the true
    nature of phenomena through direct cognition, which will lead to cutting off
    the defilements and


    Jhānas are normally described
    according to the nature of the mental factors which are present in these

    1. Movement of
      the mind onto the object
      (vitakka; Sanskrit: vitarka)
    2. Retention
      of the mind on the object
    3. Joy
      (pīti; Sanskrit: prīti)
    4. Happiness (sukha)
    5. Equanimity (upekkhā;
      Sanskrit: upek
    6. One-pointedness (ekaggatā;
      Sanskrit: ekāgratā)

    progressive states of Jhāna:

    1. First jhāna
      (vitakka, vicāra, pīti, sukha, ekaggatā):
      The five hindrances have completely disappeared and intense unified bliss
      remains. Only the subtlest of mental movement remains, perceivable in its
      absence by those who have entered the second jhāna. The ability to
      form unwholesome intentions ceases.
    2. Second jhāna
      (pīti, sukha, ekaggatā): All mental movement utterly
      ceases. There is only bliss. The ability to form wholesome intentions
      ceases as well.
    3. Third jhāna
      (sukha, ekaggatā): One-half of bliss (joy) disappears.
    4. Fourth jhāna
      (upekkhā, ekaggatā): The other half of bliss (happiness)
      disappears, leading to a state with neither pleasure nor pain, which the
      Buddha said is actually a subtle form of happiness (more sublime than pīti
      and sukha). The
      Buddha described
      the jhānas as “the footsteps of the
      Tathāgata“. The
      breath is said to cease temporarily in this state.

    this fourth jhāna is seen as the beginning of attaining psychic powers (

    scriptures state that one should not seek to attain ever higher jhānas
    but master one first, then move on to the next. Mastery of jhāna
    involves being able to enter a jhāna at will, stay as long as one likes,
    leave at will and experience each of the jhāna factors as required. They
    also seem to suggest that lower jhāna factors may manifest themselves in
    higher jhāna, if the jhānas have not been properly developed. The
    Buddha is seen to advise his disciples to concentrate and steady the jhāna

    Preliminary stage

    The Buddha explains right
    (samma samādhi), part of
    the noble eightfold path, as the four first jhānas. According to the
    Pāli canon commentary, there
    is a certain stage of meditation that the meditator should reach before
    entering into jhāna. This stage is access/neighbourhood concentration (upacāra-samādhi).
    The overcoming of the
    five hindrances — sensual desire, ill will, sloth and torpor, restlessness and worry
    and doubt — marked the entries into access concentration. This concentration is
    an unstable state where the mind becomes well concentrated on an object but it
    is still not yet a state of “full concentration” (jhāna). The
    difference is, in full concentration certain factors become strengthened to
    such a degree that they bring about a qualitative shift in the level of
    consciousness and the mind no longer functions on the ordinary sensory level.
    Access concentration is not mentioned in the discourses of the Buddha. However
    there are several suttas where a person gains insight into the Dhamma
    on hearing a teaching from the Buddha. Often their minds are described as being
    free from hindrances when this occurs and some have identified this as being a
    type of access concentration.
    [24] The equivalent of upacāra-samādhi
    used in
    Tibetan commentaries is nyer-bsdogs.[25]

    At the state of access concentration, some
    meditators may experience vivid mental imagery (Pāli: nimitta), which is
    similar to a vivid dream — as vividly as if seen by the eye, but in this case
    the meditator is fully aware and conscious that they are seeing mental images.
    This is discussed in the early texts, and expanded upon in Theravāda

    Different meditators will experience different mental
    images; some meditators may not experience any mental images at all. The same
    meditator doing multiple meditation sessions may experience different mental
    images for each session. The mental image may be pleasant, frightening,
    disgusting, shocking or neutral.

    As the concentration becomes stronger, the feelings of
    breathing and of having a physical body will completely disappear, leaving only
    pure awareness. At this stage inexperienced meditators may become afraid,
    thinking that they are going to die if they continue the concentration because
    the feeling of breathing and the feeling of having a physical body has
    completely disappeared. They should not be so afraid and should continue their
    concentration in order to reach “full concentration” (jhāna).

    Mastering jhāna

    A meditator should first master the lower jhānas,
    before they can go into the higher jhānas. There are five aspects of jhāna

    1. Mastery in adverting: the ability to advert[clarification needed] to the jhāna
      factors one by one after emerging from the jhāna, wherever he
      wants, whenever he wants, and for as long as he wants.
    2. Mastery in attaining: the ability to enter upon jhāna
    3. Mastery in resolving: the ability to remain in the jhāna
      for exactly the pre-determined length of time.
    4. Mastery in emerging: the ability to emerge from jhāna
      quickly without difficulty.
    5. Mastery in reviewing: the ability to review the jhāna
      and its factors with retrospective knowledge immediately after adverting
      to them.

    The early suttas state that “the most exquisite of
    recluses” is able to attain any of the jhānas and abide in them without
    difficulty. This particular arahant is “liberated in both
    ways:” he is fluent in attaining the jhānas and is also aware of
    their ultimate unsatisfactoriness. If he were not, he would fall into the same
    problem as the teachers from whom the Buddha learned the spheres of nothingness
    and neither perception nor non-perception, in seeing these meditative
    attainments as something final. Their problem lay in seeing permanence where
    there is


    Element and formless meditation

    Alexander Wynne attempted to find parallels in Brahmanical
    texts to the meditative goals the two teachers claimed to have taught, drawing
    especially on some of the Upanishads and the Mokshadharma chapter of the
    Mahabharata. But in the Brahmanical texts cited by Wynne assumed their final
    form long after the Buddha’s lifetime and all scholars agree that the
    Mokshadharma postdates him.

    The Four jhanas can’t be found in any pre-Buddhist texts,
    but later on others adapted them into the Mahabharata. That is not to say that
    other types of jhana do not exist ( such as “appana- kam jhana” (
    breathingless meditation). These meditations have been rejected by the Buddha
    as wrong meditation :

    “Suppose I were to meditate on the non-breathing
    meditation (appana- kam jhana)”- MN 36

    Or jhana where someone focuses on a sensual meditation
    object :

    “Making that sensual passion the focal point, he
    absorbs himself with it, premeditates, outmeditates, and mismeditates…..This
    is the sort of meditation (jhana) that the Blessed One did not praise.”-
    MN 108

    Later when the Buddha used the word jhana in short, his
    disciples understood that he meant First - Fourth Jhana included in Samma
    Samadhi and not appana- kam jhana or any other types of meditation. When
    disciples of the Buddha use the word jhana nowadays, we are referring to the
    First to Fourth Jhana in particular.

    The word jhana can be used to mean ” meditation”
    in general. However, later when the Buddha teaches meditation he only
    considered 1-4 Jhana as the right meditation. Therefore, when speaking about
    jhana ( meditation) he was only referring to the 1-4 Jhana. The word jhana
    began to took on a different meaning among many of his disciples, and that is
    the 1-4 Jhana while excluding other types of meditation found during his time,
    such as “appana-kam jhana” ( where someone hold back the breath and
    it causes great pain) or focusing on a sensual meditation object, etc…For
    this reason, sometimes we see the word jhana being used in its earlier meaning
    to refer to just ” meditation” in general. Other times we see the
    word jhana being used to refer to 1-4 Jhana of the Buddha’s teaching in
    particular for short instead of saying First Jhana, Second Jhana, Third Jhana
    and Fourth Jhana.

    Wynne claimed that Brahminic passages on meditation
    suggest that the most basic presupposition of early Brahmanical yoga is that
    the creation of the world must be reversed, through a series of meditative
    states, by the yogin who seeks the realization of the
    self.[30] These states were
    given doctrinal background in early Brahminic cosmologies, which classified the
    world into successively coarser strata. One such stratification is found at
    TU II.1 and Mbh XII.195, and proceeds as follows: self, space, wind, fire, water, earth. Mbh XII.224 gives alternatively: Brahman, mind, space, wind,
    fire, water, earth.
    [31] In Brahmanical
    thought, the meditative states of consciousness were thought to be identical to
    the subtle strata of the cosmos.
    [32] There is no similar
    theoretical background to element meditation in the early Buddhist texts, where
    the elements appear simply as suitable objects of meditation.[33] It is likely that
    the Brahmanic practices of element meditation were borrowed and adapted by early
    Buddhists, with the original Brahmanic ideology of the practices being
    discarded in the process.
    [34] The uses of the
    elements in early Buddhist literature have in general very little connection to
    Brahmanical thought; in most places they occur in teachings where they form the
    objects of a detailed contemplation of the human person. The aim of these
    contemplations is to induce the correct understanding that the various perceived
    aspects of the human person do not comprise a self.
    [35] Moreover, the self
    is conceptualized in terms similar to both “nothingness” and
    “neither perception nor non-perception” at different places in early
    Upanishadic literature.
    [32] The latter
    corresponds to
    Yajnavalkya’s definition of the self in his famous dialogue with Maitreyi in the Brihadaranyaka
    and the definition given in the
    . This is mentioned as a claim of
    non-Buddhist ascetics and Brahmins in the Pañcattaya Sutta (Majjhima
    Nikaya 102.2).
    [36][37] In the same
    dialogue in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, Yajnavalkya draws the
    conclusions that the self that is neither perceptive nor non-perceptive is a
    state of consciousness without object. The early Buddhist evidence suggests
    much the same thing for the state of “neither perception nor non-perception”.
    [37] It is a state
    without an object of awareness, that is not devoid of awareness.
    [38] The state following
    it in the Buddhist scheme, the “cessation of perception and
    sensation”, is devoid not only of objectivity, but of subjectivity as
    well: see
    Nibbana#Transcendent knowing.[39] It is suggested
    that Uddaka Ramaputta belonged to the pre-Buddhist tradition portrayed by the
    Buddhist and Brahmanic sources, in which the philosophical formulations of the
    early Upanishads were accepted and the meditative state of “neither
    perception nor non-perception” was equated with the self.
    [40] Furthermore, he
    suggested that the goal of Alara Kalama was a Brahminical concept. Evidence in
    and the Taittiriya Upanishad
    suggests that a different early Brahminic philosophical tradition held the view
    that the unmanifest state of Brahman was a form of non-existence.
    [41] Thus it seems likely
    that both element and formless meditation was learned by the Buddha from his
    two teachers and adapted by him to his own system.
    [42]While the Buddha was
    not the first to attain the formless meditative absorption, the stratification
    of particular samādhi experiences into the four jhānas seems to
    be a Buddhist innovation. It was then borrowed and presented in an incomplete
    form in the Mok
    adharma, a part of the Mahābhārata.[43] It appears that in
    early Brahminic yoga, the formless spheres were attained following element
    [44] This is also taught
    as an option in the early Buddhist texts.
    [45] The primary method
    taught to achieve the formless attainment in early Buddhist scriptures, on the
    other hand, is to proceed to the sphere of infinite space following the fourth jhāna.

    It is important to note that of the 200 or so Upanishads,
    only the first 10 or 12 are considered the oldest and principal Upanishads.
    Among these 10 or 12 principal Upanishads, the Taittiriya, Aitareya and
    Kausitaki shows Buddhist influence . The Brihadaranyaka,
    Jaiminiya-Upanisad-Brahmana and the Chandogya Upanishads were composed during
    the pre-Buddhist era while the rest of these 12 oldest Upanishads are dated to
    the last few centuries BCE.

    A closer look at the early suttas show some reasons why
    the Four Jhanas discussed by the Buddha was not practiced by people before the
    Buddha’s Enlightenment . That is not to say that people didn’t practice it some
    time after the previous Buddha. During the Buddha’s time there are Brahmins and
    Wandering Ascetics, such as Jains, etc..One of the reasons why Jhana was not
    practiced before the Buddha’s Enlightenment was because people then either
    indulged in seeking pleasure and comfort of the body or else following a
    religion of tormenting the body. Both were caught up with the body and its five
    senses and knew no release from the five senses. Neither produced the sustained
    tranquility of the body necessary as the foundation for Jhana . “.

    The texts cited by Alexander Wynne in an attempt to find
    parallels in Brahmanical texts to the meditative goals the two teachers claimed
    to have taught assumed their final form long after the Buddha’s lifetime .

    When it comes to the Brahmanical tradition during that
    time, various examples can be found in the Ambattha Sutta and others. Ambattha,
    “ who was a student of the Vedas, who knew the mantras, perfected in the Three
    Vedas, a skilled expounder of the rules and rituals, the lore of sounds and
    meanings and, fifthly, oral tradition, complete in philosophy and in the marks
    of a Great Man, admitted and accepted by his master in the Three Vedas with the
    words: “ What I know, you know; what you know, I know.”
    [48] He was sent to test
    the Buddha and was rude to him. He said “ These shaven little ascetics,
    menials, black scrapings from Brahma’s foot, what converse can they have with
    brahmins learned in the Three Vedas ?”

    The Buddha told him that “ they are far from attainment of
    the unexcelled knowledge – and – conduct”, which is attained by abandoning
    sensual attachments .

    “ But, Reverend Gotama, what is this conduct, what is this
    knowledge ?” The Buddha then taught him about morality, guarding the sense
    doors, jhanas, insights, and the like. Here is a man who mastered the Three
    Vedas and was declared by his teacher with the words : “ What I know, you
    know; what you know, I know.”, And yet still doesn’t know about sense
    restraints, as well as the Four Jhanas and panna :

    The Buddha then taught him the following subjects:

    1. “ A disciple goes forth and practices the moralities …(

    2. he guards the sense doors…..

    3. attains the four jhanas …… Thus he develops
    concentration ( Samadhi)

    4. He attains various insights ……( Panna)

    5. and the cessation of the corruptions……( Awakening)

    “…..What do you think, Ambattha ? Do you and your
    teacher live in accordance with this unexcelled knowledge and conduct ?” “
    No indeed, Reverend Gotama! Who are my teacher and I in comparison? We are far
    from it!”

    The Buddha also mentioned various sensory pleasure that
    Ambattha, his teachers and other Brahmins indulge in, which prevent them from
    experiencing seclusion from sense pleasure, jhanas, and insight :

    1. “ Perfumed, their hair and beards trimmed, adorned with
    garlands, and wreaths,… indulging in the pleasures of the five senses and
    addicted to them”

    2. “ Amuse themselves with women dressed up in flounces
    and furbelows”

    3. “ Ride around chariots drawn by mares with braided tails,
    that they urged on with long goad-sticks…have themselves guarded in fortified
    towns with palisades and barricades, by men with long swords..”

    “ So, Ambattha, neither you nor your teacher are a sage or
    one trained in the way of a sage.”

    He also taught other many other learned Brahmins masters (
    about sila, sense restraints, jhana, insight, etc..) in Sonadanda Sutta,
    Kutadanta Sutta, etc.…

    On the other extreme during that time, we have the
    wandering ascetics who indulge in torturing their bodies . “When the Bodhisatta
    began the easy ‘practices leading to such tranquility of body, his first five
    disciples abandoned – him in disgust. Such practice was not regarded as valid.
    Therefore it was not practiced, and so Jhana never occurred.”

    For example, in the Nigantha Nataputta sutta of the Citta
    Samyutta # 41, the Nigantha Nataputta, the Jain leader, does not even believe
    that it is possible
    [54], much less practice
    it, or attained it. Bhikkhu Brahmali pointed out that in the suttas the
    Nigantha Nataputta is portrayed as never having heard of samadhi without
    vitakka-vicara. That is, he doesn’t seem to know anything about the Four jhana,
    let alone the immaterial attainments. As the leader of one of the largest
    religious sects of the time one would have expected him to know a lot about
    meditation, even if only second hand:

    Nigantha Nataputta said to Citta ( a non-returner disciple
    of the Buddha) : “ Householder, do you have faith in the ascetic Gotama
    when he says: “ There is a concentration without thought and examination, there
    is a cessaton of thought and examination?”

    Citta : “ In this manner, venerable sir, I do not go
    by faith in the Blessed One …..”

    Nigantha Nataputta said “ …….One who thinks that thought
    and examination can be stopped might imagine he could catch the wind in a net
    or arrest the current of the river Ganges with his own fist.”

    Citta then goes on to explain that he doesn’t just go by
    mere faith, but directly experienced it for himself. Also he explained how he
    entered the Four Jhanas taught by the Buddha.

    Some might think that the Eight Limbs of the yoga sutras
    shows Samadhi as one of its limbs. But the Eight limbs of the Yoga Sutra was
    only developed after the Buddha and is influenced by the Buddha’s Eightfold
    Path. The suttas show that during the time of the Buddha Nigantha Nataputta,
    the Jain leader, did not even believe that it is possible to enter a state
    where the thoughts and examination stop.

    Samadhi was first found in the Tipitaka and not in any
    pre-buddhist text. But it was later incorporated into later texts such as the
    Maitrayaniya Upanishad . The Buddha was also incorporated into the Puranas .
    Although Samadhi where the mind stop was adopted by later hindu texts, but it
    was considered Enlightenment.
    [60] However, the Buddha
    clearly taught an Eightfold Path consisting of three division: Sila, Samadhi,
    and Panna. Just Samadhi alone will not be sufficient for enlightenment. The
    Buddha himself entered Samadhi when he was a little boy, but without the third
    division, Panna, he did not become enlightened back then. Later on he developed
    Panna using that Samadhi.

    Although the “Dimension of Nothingness” and the
    “Dimension of Neither Perception nor Non-Perception” are included in
    the list of nine Jhanas taught by the Buddha, they are not included in the
    Eightfold Path
    . Noble Path number eight is
    “Samma Samadhi” (Right Concentration), and only the first four Jhanas
    are considered “Right Concentration”. If he takes a disciple through
    all the Jhanas, the emphasis is on the “Cessation of Feelings and
    Perceptions” rather than stopping short at the “Dimension of Neither
    Perception nor Non-Perception”.

    In the Magga-vibhanga Sutta, the Buddha defines Right
    Concentration that belongs to the concentration (samadhi) division of the path
    as the first four Jhanas:

    “And what is right concentration? There is the case
    where a monk — quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful
    (mental) qualities — enters & remains in the first Jhana: rapture &
    pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought &
    evaluation. With the stilling of directed thoughts & evaluations, he enters
    & remains in the Second Jhana: rapture & pleasure born of composure,
    unification of awareness free from directed thought & evaluation — internal
    assurance. With the fading of rapture, he remains equanimous, mindful, &
    alert, and senses pleasure with the body. He enters & remains in the Third
    Jhana, of which the Noble Ones declare, ‘Equanimous & mindful, he has a
    pleasant abiding.’ With the abandoning of pleasure & pain — as with the
    earlier disappearance of elation & distress — he enters & remains in
    the Fourth Jhana: purity of equanimity & mindfulness, neither pleasure nor
    pain. This is called right concentration.”

    See also: Buddhism and Hinduism#Soteriology

    The Buddha and jhāna

    The meditations he learned did not lead to nibbana. He then underwent harsh ascetic practices with which he eventually
    also became disillusioned. He subsequently remembered entering jhāna as
    a child, and realized that “that indeed is the path to

    According to the Maha-Saccaka Sutta, the Buddha recalled a
    meditative state he entered by chance as a child and abandoned the ascetic
    practices he has been doing: 

    “I thought: ‘I recall once, when my father the Sakyan was
    working, and I was sitting in the cool shade of a rose-apple tree, then — quite
    secluded from sensuality, secluded from unskillful mental qualities — I entered
    & remained in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from seclusion,
    accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. Could that be the path to
    Awakening?’ Then following on that memory came the realization: ‘That is the
    path to Awakening.’”

    According to the Upakkilesa Sutta, after figuring out the
    cause of the various obstacles and overcoming them, the Buddha was able to
    penetrate the sign and enters 1st- 4th Jhana.

    “I also saw both the light and the vision of forms.
    Shortly after the vision of light and shapes disappear. I thought, ‘What is the
    cause and condition in which light and vision of the forms disappear?’ Then
    consider the following: ‘The question arose in me and because of doubt my
    concentration fell, when my concentration fell, the light disappeared and the
    vision of forms. I act so that the question does not arise in me again.’” “I
    remained diligent, ardent, perceived both the light and the vision of forms.
    Shortly after the vision of light and shapes disappear. I thought, ‘What is the
    cause and condition in which light and vision of the forms disappear?’ Then
    consider the following: ‘Inattention arose in me because of inattention and my
    concentration has decreased, when my concentration fell, the light disappeared
    and the vision of forms. I must act in such a way that neither doubt nor
    disregard arise in me again.’”

    In the same way as above, the Buddha encountered many more
    obstacles that caused the light to disappear and found his way out them. These
    includes, sloth and torpor, fear, elation, inertia, excessive energy, energy
    deficient, desire, perception of diversity, and excessive meditation on the
    ways. Finally, he was able to penetrate the light and entered jhana.

    The following descriptions in the Upakkilesa Sutta further
    show how he find his way into the first four Jhanas, which he later considered
    as “samma samadhi”.

    “When Anuruddha, I realized that doubt is an imperfection
    of the mind, I dropped out of doubt, an imperfection of the mind. When I
    realized that inattention … sloth and torpor … fear … elation … inertia …
    excessive energy … deficient energy … desire … perception of diversity …
    excessive meditation on the ways, I abandoned excessive meditation on the ways,
    an imperfection of the mind.” “When Anuruddha, I realized that doubt is an
    imperfection of the mind, I dropped out of doubt, an imperfection of the mind.
    When I realized that inattention … sloth and torpor … fear … elation … inertia
    … excessive energy … deficient energy … desire … perception of diversity …
    excessive meditation on the ways, I abandoned excessive meditation on the ways,
    an imperfection of the mind, so I thought, ‘I abandoned these imperfections of
    the mind.’ Now the concentration will develop in three ways. ..And so,
    Anuruddha, develop concentration with directed thought and sustained thought;
    developed concentration without directed thought, but only with the sustained
    thought; developed concentration without directed thought and without thought
    sustained, developed with the concentration ecstasy; developed concentration
    without ecstasy; develop concentration accompanied by happiness, developing
    concentration accompanied by equanimity … When Anuruddha, I developed
    concentration with directed thought and sustained thought to the development …
    when the concentration accompanied by fairness, knowledge and vision arose in
    me: ‘My release is unshakable, this is my last birth, now there are no more
    likely to be any condition.’”

    In the suttas, the immaterial attainments are never
    referred to as jhānas. The immaterial attainments have more to do with
    expanding, while the Jhanas (1-4) focus on concentration. A common translation
    for the term “samadhi” is concentration. Rhys Davids and Maurice
    Walshe agreed that the term “samadhi” is not found in any pre-buddhist text.
    Hindu texts later used that term to indicate the state of enlightenment. This
    is not in conformity with Buddhist usage. In “The Long Discourse of the
    Buddha: A Translation of the Digha Nikaya” ( pg. 1700) Maurice Walshe
    wrote that:

    Rhys Davids also states that the term samadhi is not found
    in any pre-Buddhist text. To his remarks on the subject should be added that
    its subsequent use in Hindu texts to denote the state of enlightenment is not
    in conformity with Buddhist usage, where the basic meaning of concentration is
    expanded to cover ‘meditation’ in general.”

    While the states of samādhi were not the goal, they
    were indeed the path.

    Three discourses in the Bhojjhanga-Samyutta present
    the claims of non-Buddhist wanderers that they too develop Buddhist-style
    meditation, including samādhi. They ask the Buddha what the difference
    is between their teachings and his. He does not respond by teaching right view,
    but by telling them that they do not fully understand samādhi practice.
    Ajahn Sujato interprets this statement as explaining a statement of the
    Buddha’s elsewhere that he “awakened to jhāna“; he was the
    first to fully comprehend both the benefits and limitations of samādhi

    In Mahāyāna

    Buddhism includes numerous schools of practice, which each draw upon various
    Buddhist sūtras, philosophical treatises, and commentaries. Accordingly, each
    school has its own meditation methods for the purpose of developing samādhi and
    prajñā, with the goal of
    ultimately attaining enlightenment. Nevertheless, each has its own emphasis,
    mode of expression, and philosophical outlook. In his classic book on
    meditation of the various
    Chinese Buddhist traditions, Charles Luk writes, “The Buddha
    Dharma is useless if it is not put into actual practice, because if we do not
    have personal experience of it, it will be alien to us and we will never awaken
    to it in spite of our book learning.”
    [65] Venerable Nan Huaijin echoes similar sentiments
    about the importance of meditation by remarking, “Intellectual reasoning
    is just another spinning of the
    whereas the practice of meditation is the true entry into the Dharma.”
    [66] Therefore, the importance
    of dhyāna in the broad sense of “meditation” in the
    Mahāyāna tradition is indeed

    China, the word “dhyāna” was originally transliterated as chánnà
    禪那), and shortened to just chán ()
    by common usage. This word chán is the same word used for the Chán
    school (Jp.
    Zen). Some scholars and various
    authors have claimed that Chán/Zen Buddhism does not utilize the stages of
    [67][68] However, this is
    contradicted by statements from well known exponents of Chán Buddhism such as
    Sheng Yen, Venerable Hsuan Hua, and Venerable Nan Huaijin.[69][70][71] Sheng Yen, a Buddhist monk
    and scholar from the Linji and Caodong lineages of the Chán school, clarifies
    that the Chán/Zen school does indeed include the dhyānas:

    Although the Chán school
    definitely advocates practicing meditation to reach absorption states (dhyāna),
    not all meditative absorption states are those of the Chán school.

    Yen also cites meditative concentration as necessary, citing samādhi as one of
    the requisite factors for progress on the path toward enlightenment.
    [69] Nan Huaijin also agrees
    about the dhyanas being necessary in Chán Buddhism, and regarding the various
    stages, he states, “Real cultivation going toward samādhi goes through the
    four dhyānas.”
    [71] Sheng Yen clarifies that
    the eight dhyānas are to be understood as mundane meditative states, which are
    also shared by practitioners on “outer paths”, as well as ordinary
    people, or in principle even animals.
    [69] He characterizes these as intermediate
    steps for supramundane realization in dhyāna.

    Hui Neng says : “To
    concentrate the mind and to contemplate it until it is still is a disease and
    not Zen.” He goes on to say that the meditator who enters a state in which
    thoughts are suppressed must allow them to arise naturally once again.
    [73] The early Buddhist texts
    describe right concentration, that is, dhyāna, as an abiding in which the mind
    is unified, but not static; it is not the suppression of all thought.

    Hsuan Hua, who taught Chán and
    Land Buddhism
    outlines the four preliminary stages of dhyāna:

    1. In the
      First Dhyāna, there is the arising of bliss. The external breathing stops,
      while the internal breathing comes alive, and it is said that the mind is
      as clear as water and as bright as a mirror.
      [74] When the
      external breathing stops, the nose and mouth do not breathe.
      [75] While in
      this state, the mind and body have a feeling of existing within empty
    2. In the
      Second Dhyāna, there is pure bliss born from samādhi. In this stage, there
      is said to be happiness without compare. After reaching this stage, it is
      said that some practitioners may go without food or water for many days
      and still be alright. When in this second stage, not only does the
      external breathing stop, but the pulse comes to a stop as well. After
      leaving this state, the pulse resumes its normal function.
    3. In the
      Third Dhyāna, the joy of the previous stages is left, leaving only a subtle
      and blissful peace.
      [78] At this
      stage it is said that not only do the breathing and pulse stop, but idle
      thoughts stop as well.
      [79] Although
      idle thoughts have been cleared away, it is emphasized that this stage is
      nothing special, and just part of the progression.
      [79] At this
      stage, the body becomes as soft as the body of an infant.
      [80] Softness
      and suppleness of the body is considered to be a physical indicator of the
      quality of an individual’s samādhi. Nan Huaijin states: “All the
      eminent monks of great virtue in the past were able to predict what day
      they would die, and even on the brink of death their bodies were as soft
      and supple as a baby’s. Others who were even more lofty turned into a
      field of light, and their human forms disappeared. At most all they left
      behind were a few pieces of fingernail, or a lock of hair as a memento.”
    4. In the
      Fourth Dhyāna, the only manifestation is that of complete purity and
      [79] At this
      stage one is still considered the stage of an ordinary mortal, and still
      far from the
      Nirvāa of the
      fully enlightened buddhas.
      [81] In the
      tradition of Chinese Buddhism, it is said that those individuals who have
      reached this stage sometimes choose to walk with their feet one inch above
      the earth, so they do not harm any living beings.

    Vajrayāna traditions

    Alan Wallace
    holds that modern Tibetan
    Buddhism lacks emphasis on achieving levels of concentration higher than access
    [82][83] According to
    Wallace, one possible explanation for this situation is that virtually all
    Tibetan Buddhist meditators seek to become enlightened through the use of
    . These require the presence of
    sense desire and passion in one’s consciousness, but jhāna effectively
    inhibits these phenomena.
    [82] While few Tibetan
    Buddhists, either inside or outside Tibet, devote themselves to the practice of
    concentration, Tibetan Buddhist literature does provide extensive instructions
    on it, and great Tibetan meditators of earlier times stressed its importance.
    [84] All this being
    said, Wallace has translated and commented on
    Tsongkapa’s Stages of the Path, a Tibetan classic
    on this topic, in his book Balancing the Mind. It is a very intricate guide on
    mastering equanimity and insight during meditation, both of which are claimed
    to be required to advance up the jhanas.


    There has been little scientific study of these mental
    states. In 2008, an
    EEG study found “strong, significant, and consistent differences in
    specific brain regions when the meditator is in a jhana state compared to
    normal resting consciousness”.
    [85] Tentative
    hypotheses on the neurological correlates have been proposed, but lack
    supporting evidence.


    a b c Richard Shankman, The
    Experience of Samadhi - an in depth Exploration of Buddhist Meditation
    Shambala publications 2008

    ^ “Should we come out of
    Jhana to practice vipassana?”
    . Venerable Henepola Gunaratana.

    ^ “Jhana”. Access to Insight.
    Retrieved 2007-12-03.

    ^ Ajahn Brahm, Mindfulness,
    Bliss, and Beyond.
    Wisdom Publications 2006, page 156.

    ^ “A Sketch of the Buddha’s Life”. Access to Insight.
    Retrieved 2007-12-03.

    ^ Henepola Gunaratana. “The Jhanas”. Buddhist Publication
    Society. Retrieved 2007-12-03.

    ^ In the Pali Canon, the
    instruction on jhana is contained in suttas MN119, AN 1.16, MN118, MN4, MN19,
    MN36, MN43,MN45, MN64, MN65, MN66, MN76, MN77, MN78, MN79, MN85, MN105, MN107,
    MN108, MN119, MN125, MN138, MN152, AN2.2, AN3.6, AN3.7, AN3.8, DN1, DN2, MN94,
    MN100, MN101, MN111, MN112, MN122, MN139 & MN141. This list is not

    ^ Alexander Wynne, The
    Origin of Buddhist Meditation
    . Routledge, 2007, page 73.

    ^ Sister Vajira & Francis
    Buddhist Publication Society. Retrieved 2007-12-03.

    10.  ^ DN 22

    11.  ^ a b c as stated by Buddha Gotama
    in the
    Anuppada Sutta, MN#111

    12.  ^ John J. Holder, Early
    Buddhist Discourses.
    Hackett Publishing Company, 2006, page xi.

    13.  ^ a b Steven Sutcliffe, Religion:
    Empirical Studies.
    Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2004, page 135.

    14.  ^ Mindfulness, Bliss, and
    Beyond: A Meditator’s Handbook. (2006). Wisdom Publications.
    ISBN 0-86171-275-7.

    15.  ^ Nanamoli Bhikkhu, The
    Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha. Wisdom Publications,1995, page 1070.

    16.  ^ a b c Nanamoli, Bhikkhu (trans.)
    (1995, ed. Bhikkhu Bodhi). The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha: A New
    Translation of the Majjhima Nikaya. Boston: Wisdom Publications. ISBN 0-86171-072-X.

    17.  ^ Chandima Wijebandara, Early
    Buddhism, Its Religious and Intellectual Milieu.
    Postgraduate Institute of
    Pali and Buddhist Studies, University of Kelaniya, 1993, page 22.

    18.  ^ Peter Harvey, An
    Introduction to Buddhism.
    Cambridge University Press, 1990, page 252.

    19.  ^ Thanissaro Bhikkhu’s
    commentary on the
    Anuppada Sutta, MN#111

    20.  ^ a b Ajahn Brahmavamso. “Deep Insight”. BuddhaSasana. Retrieved 2009-03-23.

    21.  ^ “Samaññaphala

    22.  ^ In the Suttapitaka, right concentration is
    often referred to as having five factors, with one-pointedness (ekaggatā)
    not being explicitly identified as a factor of jhana attainment (see,
    for instance, SN 28.1-4, AN 4.41, AN 5.28).

    23.  ^ For instance in AN 5.28, the Buddha states
    (Thanissaro, 1997.):

    a monk has developed and pursued the five-factored noble right concentration in
    this way, then whichever of the six higher knowledges he turns his mind to know
    and realize, he can witness them for himself whenever there is an opening….

    he wants, he wields manifold supranormal powers. Having been one he becomes
    many; having been many he becomes one. He appears. He vanishes. He goes
    unimpeded through walls, ramparts, and mountains as if through space. He dives
    in and out of the earth as if it were water. He walks on water without sinking
    as if it were dry land. Sitting crosslegged he flies through the air like a
    winged bird. With his hand he touches and strokes even the sun and moon, so
    mighty and powerful. He exercises influence with his body even as far as the
    Brahma worlds. He can witness this for himself whenever there is an opening …

    24.  ^ Peter Harvey, Consciousness
    Mysticism in the Discourses of the Buddha.
    In Karel Werner, ed., The
    Yogi and the Mystic.
    Curzon Press 1989, page 95. He finds access
    concentration described at Digha Nikaya I, 110, among other places.
    “The situation at D I, 110, then, can be seen as one where the hearer of a
    discourse enters a state which, while not an actual jhana, could be bordering
    on it. As it is free from hindrances, it could be seen as ‘access’
    concentration with a degree of wisdom.” See also Peter Harvey, The
    Selfless Mind,
    page 170.

    25.  ^ B. Alan Wallace, The
    bridge of quiescence: experiencing Tibetan Buddhist meditation.
    Publishing Company, 1998, page 92. Wallace translates both as “the first
    proximate meditative stabilization”.

    26.  ^ Tse-fu Kuan, Mindfulness
    in Early Buddhism: New Approaches Through Psychology and Textual Analysis of
    Pali, Chinese and Sanskrit Sources.
    Routledge, 2008, pages 65-67.

    27.  ^ Venerable Sujivo, Access
    and Fixed Concentration
    . Vipassana Tribune, Vol 4 No 2, July 1996, Buddhist
    Wisdom Centre, Malaysia. Available

    28.  ^ Nathan Katz, Buddhist
    Images of Human Perfection: The Arahant of the Sutta Pi
    Compared with the Bodhisattva and the Mahāsiddha.
    Motilal Banarsidass, 1990,
    page 78.

    29.  ^ Vishvapani (rev.) (1997).
    Review: Origin of Buddhist Meditation . Retrieved 2011-2-17 from “Western
    Buddhist Review” at

    30.  ^ Alexander Wynne, The Origin
    of Buddhist Meditation. Routledge 2007, pages 41, 56.

    31.  ^ Alexander Wynne, The Origin
    of Buddhist Meditation. Routledge 2007, page 49.

    32.  ^ a b Alexander Wynne, The Origin
    of Buddhist Meditation. Routledge 2007, page 42.

    33.  ^ Alexander Wynne, The Origin
    of Buddhist Meditation. Routledge 2007, page 39.

    34.  ^ Alexander Wynne, The Origin
    of Buddhist Meditation. Routledge 2007, page 41.

    35.  ^ Alexander Wynne, The Origin
    of Buddhist Meditation. Routledge 2007, page 35.

    36.  ^ M II.228.16 ff according to
    the PTS numbering.

    37.  ^ a b Alexander Wynne, The Origin
    of Buddhist Meditation. Routledge 2007, page 43.

    38.  ^ Alexander Wynne, The Origin
    of Buddhist Meditation. Routledge 2007, page 44.

    39.  ^ Alexander Wynne, The Origin
    of Buddhist Meditation. Routledge 2007, page 99.

    40.  ^ Alexander Wynne, The Origin
    of Buddhist Meditation. Routledge 2007, page 44, see also 45-49.

    41.  ^ Alexander Wynne, The Origin
    of Buddhist Meditation. Routledge 2007, pages 44-45, see also Noa Ronkin, Early
    Buddhist Metaphysics.
    Routledge 2005, page 196.

    42.  ^ Alexander Wynne, The Origin
    of Buddhist Meditation. Routledge 2007, page 50.

    43.  ^ Alexander Wynne, The Origin
    of Buddhist Meditation. Routledge 2007, page 29.

    44.  ^ Alexander Wynne, The Origin
    of Buddhist Meditation. Routledge 2007, page 56.

    45.  ^ Alexander Wynne, The Origin
    of Buddhist Meditation. Routledge 2007, pages 29-31.

    46.  ^ Henepola Gunaratana, The
    Jhanas in Theravada Buddhist Meditation.

    47.  ^ Mindfulness, Bliss, and
    Beyond: A Meditator’s Handbook. (2006). Wisdom Publications.
    ISBN 0-86171-275-7.

    48.  ^ Nanamoli Bhikkhu, The
    Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha. Wisdom Publications,1995, page 1070.

    49.  ^ Walshe, Maurice (trans.)
    (1995). The Long Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Digha Nikaya.
    Boston: Wisdom Publications.
    ISBN 0-86171-103-3.

    50.  ^ Walshe, Maurice (trans.)
    (1995). The Long Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Digha Nikaya.
    Boston: Wisdom Publications.
    ISBN 0-86171-103-3.

    51.  ^ Walshe, Maurice (trans.)
    (1995). The Long Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Digha Nikaya.
    Boston: Wisdom Publications.
    ISBN 0-86171-103-3.

    52.  ^ Walshe, Maurice (trans.)
    (1995). The Long Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Digha Nikaya.
    Boston: Wisdom Publications.
    ISBN 0-86171-103-3.

    53.  ^ Mindfulness, Bliss, and
    Beyond: A Meditator’s Handbook. (2006). Wisdom Publications.
    ISBN 0-86171-275-7.

    54.  ^ Bodhi, Bhikkhu (trans.)
    (2000). The Connected Discourses of the Buddha: A New Translation of the
    Samyutta Nikaya. Boston: Wisdom Publications.
    ISBN 0-86171-331-1.

    55.  ^ Bodhi, Bhikkhu (trans.)
    (2000). The Connected Discourses of the Buddha: A New Translation of the
    Samyutta Nikaya. Boston: Wisdom Publications.
    ISBN 0-86171-331-1.

    56.  ^ Bodhi, Bhikkhu (trans.)
    (2000). The Connected Discourses of the Buddha: A New Translation of the
    Samyutta Nikaya. Boston: Wisdom Publications.
    ISBN 0-86171-331-1.

    57.  ^ Bodhi, Bhikkhu (trans.)
    (2000). The Connected Discourses of the Buddha: A New Translation of the
    Samyutta Nikaya. Boston: Wisdom Publications.
    ISBN 0-86171-331-1.

    58.  ^ Bodhi, Bhikkhu (trans.)
    (2000). The Connected Discourses of the Buddha: A New Translation of the
    Samyutta Nikaya. Boston: Wisdom Publications.
    ISBN 0-86171-331-1.

    59.  ^ Bodhi, Bhikkhu (trans.)
    (2000). The Connected Discourses of the Buddha: A New Translation of the
    Samyutta Nikaya. Boston: Wisdom Publications.
    ISBN 0-86171-331-1.

    60.  ^ Walshe, Maurice (trans.)
    (1995). The Long Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Digha Nikaya.
    Boston: Wisdom Publications.
    ISBN 0-86171-103-3.

    61.  ^ Bodhi, Bhikkhu (trans.)
    (2000). The Connected Discourses of the Buddha: A New Translation of the
    Samyutta Nikaya. Boston: Wisdom Publications.
    ISBN 0-86171-331-1.

    62.  ^ Walshe, Maurice (trans.)
    (1995). The Long Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Digha Nikaya.
    Boston: Wisdom Publications.
    ISBN 0-86171-103-3.

    63.  ^ Ajahn Sujato, A History
    of Mindfulness.
    Santipada Publications, page 97. Digital version available

    64.  ^ Ajahn Sujato, A History
    of Mindfulness.
    Santipada Publications, page 98. Digital version available

    65.  ^ Luk, Charles. The
    Secrets of Chinese Meditation.
    1964. p. 11

    66.  ^ Nan, Huai-Chin. To Realize
    Enlightenment: Practice of the Cultivation Path.
    1994. p. 1

    67.  ^ Peter N. Gregory, Traditions
    of Meditation in Chinese Buddhism.
    University of Hawaii Press, 1986, page

    68.  ^ B. Alan Wallace, The
    Attention Revolution: Unlocking the Power of the Focused Mind
    . Wisdom
    Publications, 2006, page xii.

    69.  ^ a b c d Sheng Yen. Orthodox
    Chinese Buddhism.
    North Atlantic Books. 2007. p. 122

    70.  ^ a b Hsuan Hua. The Chan
    2004. p. 85

    71.  ^ a b Nan, Huai-Chin. Diamond
    Sutra Explained.
    2004. p. 60

    72.  ^ Sheng Yen. Orthodox
    Chinese Buddhism.
    North Atlantic Books. 2007. pp. 122-124

    73.  ^ Roderick S. Bucknell and
    Martin Stuart-Fox, The Twilight Language: Explorations in Buddhist
    Meditation and Symbolism.
    Routledge, 1995, pages 49-50.

    74.  ^ Hsuan Hua. The Chan Handbook.
    2004. pp. 85-86

    75.  ^ Hsuan Hua. The Chan
    2004. p. 44

    76.  ^ Nan, Huai-Chin. Working
    Toward Enlightenment: The Cultivation of Practice.
    1993. p. 132

    77.  ^ Hsuan Hua. The Chan
    2004. p. 86

    78.  ^ Hsuan Hua. The Chan
    2004. pp. 86-87

    79.  ^ a b c Hsuan Hua. The Chan
    2004. p. 87

    80.  ^ a b Nan, Huai-Chin. Working Toward
    Enlightenment: The Cultivation of Practice.
    1993. p. 135

    81.  ^ a b Hsuan Hua. The Chan
    2004. p. 88

    82.  ^ a b B. Alan Wallace, The
    bridge of quiescence: experiencing Tibetan Buddhist meditation.
    Publishing Company, 1998, pages 215-216.

    83.  ^ Study and Practice of
    Meditation: Tibetan Interpretations of the Concentrations and Formless
    by Leah Zahler. Snow Lion Publications: 2009 pg 264-5

    84.  ^ B. Alan Wallace, The
    Attention Revolution: Unlocking the Power of the Focused Mind
    . Wisdom
    Publications, 2006, page xii.

    85.  ^ Hagerty et al 2008,
    “EEG Power and Coherence Analysis of an Expert Meditator in the Eight

    86.  ^ Leigh Brasington 2010
    “The Neurological Correlates of the Jhanas. A Tentative Hypothesis”

    External links


    The Jhanas in
    Theravada Buddhist Meditation



    © 1995–2012


  • 2. The Preparation for Jhana
  • 3. The First Jhana and its
  • 4. The Higher Jhanas
  • 5. Jhanas and the
  • 6. Jhana and the Noble
  • About the Author
  • Notes
  • Abbreviations

    PTS = Pali Text Society edition
    BBS = Burmese Buddhasasana Samiti edition

    A. …. Anguttara Nikaya (PTS)
    D. …. Digha Nikaya (PTS)
    Dhs. …. Dhammasangani (BBS)
    Dhs.A. …. Dhammasangani Atthakatha = Atthasalini (BBS)
    M. …. Majjhima Nikaya (PTS)
    M.A. …. Majjhima Nikaya Atthakatha (BBS)
    Miln. …. Milindapanha (PTS)
    PP. …. Path of Purification (translation of Visuddhimagga, by Bhikkhu
    Ñanamoli; Kandy: BPS, 1975)
    S. …. Samyutta Nikaya (PTS)
    SA. …. Samyutta Nikaya Atthakatha (BBS)
    ST. …. Samyutta Nikaya Tika (BBS)
    Vbh. …. Vibhanga (PTS)
    Vin.A. …. Vinaya Atthakatha (BBS)
    Vism. …. Visuddhimagga (PTS)
    Vism.T. …. Visuddhimagga Tika (BBS)


    The Doctrinal Context of

    The Buddha says that just as in the great ocean there is
    but one taste, the taste of salt, so in his doctrine and discipline there is
    but one taste, the taste of freedom. The taste of freedom that pervades the
    Buddha’s teaching is the taste of spiritual freedom, which from the Buddhist
    perspective means freedom from suffering. In the process leading to deliverance
    from suffering, meditation is the means of generating the inner awakening
    required for liberation. The methods of meditation taught in the Theravada
    Buddhist tradition are based on the Buddha’s own experience, forged by him in
    the course of his own quest for enlightenment. They are designed to re-create
    in the disciple who practices them the same essential enlightenment that the
    Buddha himself attained when he sat beneath the Bodhi tree, the awakening to
    the Four Noble Truths.

    The various subjects and methods of meditation expounded
    in the Theravada Buddhist scriptures — the Pali canon and its commentaries —
    divide into two inter-related systems. One is called the development of
    serenity (samathabhavana), the other the development of insight (vipassanabhavana).
    The former also goes under the name of development of concentration (samadhibhavana),
    the latter the development of wisdom (paññabhavana). The practice of
    serenity meditation aims at developing a calm, concentrated, unified mind as a
    means of experiencing inner peace and as a basis for wisdom. The practice of
    insight meditation aims at gaining a direct understanding of the real nature of
    phenomena. Of the two, the development of insight is regarded by Buddhism as
    the essential key to liberation, the direct antidote to the ignorance
    underlying bondage and suffering. Whereas serenity meditation is recognized as
    common to both Buddhist and non-Buddhist contemplative disciplines, insight
    meditation is held to be the unique discovery of the Buddha and an unparalleled
    feature of his path. However, because the growth of insight presupposes a
    certain degree of concentration, and serenity meditation helps to achieve this,
    the development of serenity also claims an incontestable place in the Buddhist
    meditative process. Together the two types of meditation work to make the mind
    a fit instrument for enlightenment. With his mind unified by means of the
    development of serenity, made sharp and bright by the development of insight,
    the meditator can proceed unobstructed to reach the end of suffering, Nibbana.

    Pivotal to both systems of meditation, though belonging
    inherently to the side of serenity, is a set of meditative attainments called
    the jhanas. Though translators have offered various renderings of this
    word, ranging from the feeble “musing” to the misleading
    “trance” and the ambiguous “meditation,” we prefer to leave
    the word untranslated and to let its meaning emerge from its contextual usages.
    From these it is clear that the jhanas are states of deep mental unification
    which result from the centering of the mind upon a single object with such
    power of attention that a total immersion in the object takes place. The early
    suttas speak of four jhanas, named simply after their numerical position in the
    series: the first jhana, the second jhana, the third jhana and the forth jhana.
    In the suttas the four repeatedly appear each described by a standard formula
    which we will examine later in detail.

    The importance of the jhanas in the Buddhist path can
    readily be gauged from the frequency with which they are mentioned throughout
    the suttas. The jhanas figure prominently both in the Buddha’s own experience
    and in his exhortation to disciples. In his childhood, while attending an
    annual plowing festival, the future Buddha spontaneously entered the first
    jhana. It was the memory of this childhood incident, many years later after his
    futile pursuit of austerities, that revealed to him the way to enlightenment
    during his period of deepest despondency (M.i, 246-47). After taking his seat
    beneath the Bodhi tree, the Buddha entered the four jhanas immediately before
    direction his mind to the threefold knowledge that issued in his enlightenment
    (M.i.247-49). Throughout his active career the four jhanas remained “his
    heavenly dwelling” (D.iii,220) to which he resorted in order to live
    happily here and now. His understanding of the corruption, purification and
    emergence in the jhanas and other meditative attainments is one of the
    Tathagata’s ten powers which enable him to turn the matchless wheel of the
    Dhamma (M.i,70). Just before his passing away the Buddha entered the jhanas in
    direct and reverse order, and the passing away itself took place directly from
    the fourth jhana (D.ii,156).

    The Buddha is constantly seen in the suttas encouraging
    his disciples to develop jhana. The four jhanas are invariably included in the
    complete course of training laid down for disciples.[1]

    They figure in the training as the discipline of higher consciousness (adhicittasikkha),
    right concentration (sammasamadhi) of the Noble Eightfold Path, and the
    faculty and power of concentration (samadhindriya, samadhibala). Though
    a vehicle of dry insight can be found, indications are that this path is not an
    easy one, lacking the aid of the powerful serenity available to the
    practitioner of jhana. The way of the jhana attainer seems by comparison
    smoother and more pleasurable (A.ii,150-52). The Buddha even refers to the four
    jhanas figuratively as a kind of Nibbana: he calls them immediately visible
    Nibbana, factorial Nibbana, Nibbana here and now (A.iv,453-54).

    To attain the jhanas, the meditator must begin by
    eliminating the unwholesome mental states obstructing inner collectedness,
    generally grouped together as the five hindrances (pañcanivarana):
    sensual desire, ill will, sloth and torpor, restlessness and worry and doubt.[2]

    The mind’s absorption on its object is brought about by five opposing mental
    states — applied thought, sustained thought, rapture, happiness and one
    — called the jhana factors (jhanangani) because they lift the mind to
    the level of the first jhana and remain there as its defining components.

    After reaching the first jhana the ardent meditator can go
    on to reach the higher jhanas, which is done by eliminating the coarser factors
    in each jhana. Beyond the four jhanas lies another fourfold set of higher
    meditative states which deepen still further the element of serenity. These
    attainments (aruppa), are the base of boundless space, the base of
    boundless consciousness, the base of nothingness, and the base of

    In the Pali commentaries these come to be called the four immaterial jhanas
    the four preceding states being renamed for the sake of
    clarity, the four fine-material jhanas (rupajhana). Often the two sets
    are joined together under the collective title of the eight jhanas or the eight
    attainments (atthasamapattiyo).

    The four jhanas and the four immaterial attainments appear
    initially as mundane states of deep serenity pertaining to the preliminary
    stage of the Buddhist path, and on this level they help provide the base of
    concentration needed for wisdom to arise. But the four jhanas again reappear in
    a later stage in the development of the path, in direct association with
    liberating wisdom, and they are then designated the supramundane (lokuttara)
    These supramundane jhanas are the levels of concentration
    pertaining to the four degrees of enlightenment experience called the
    supramundane paths (magga) and the stages of liberation resulting from
    them, the four fruits (phala).

    Finally, even after full liberation is achieved, the
    mundane jhanas can still remain as attainments available to the fully liberated
    person, part of his untrammeled contemplative experience.

    Etymology of Jhana

    The great Buddhist commentator Buddhaghosa traces the Pali
    word “jhana” (Skt. dhyana) to two verbal forms. One, the
    etymologically correct derivation, is the verb jhayati, meaning to think
    or meditate; the other is a more playful derivation, intended to illuminate its
    function rather than its verbal source, from the verb jhapeti meaning to
    burn up. He explains: “It burns up opposing states, thus it is jhana”
    (Vin.A. i, 116), the purport being that jhana “burns up” or destroys
    the mental defilements preventing the developing the development of serenity
    and insight.

    In the same passage Buddhaghosa says that jhana has the
    characteristic mark of contemplation (upanijjhana). Contemplation, he
    states, is twofold: the contemplation of the object and the contemplation of
    the characteristics of phenomena. The former is exercised by the eight
    attainments of serenity together with their access, since these contemplate the
    object used as the basis for developing concentration; for this reason these
    attainments are given the name “jhana” in the mainstream of Pali
    meditative exposition. However, Buddhaghosa also allows that the term
    “jhana” can be extended loosely to insight (vipassana), the
    paths and the fruits on the ground that these perform the work of contemplating
    the characteristics of things the three marks of impermanence, suffering and
    non-self in the case of insight, Nibbana in the case of the paths and fruits.

    In brief the twofold meaning of jhana as
    “contemplation” and “burning up” can be brought into
    connection with the meditative process as follows. By fixing his mind on the
    object the meditator reduces and eliminates the lower mental qualities such as
    the five hindrances and promotes the growth of the higher qualities such as the
    jhana factors, which lead the mind to complete absorption in the object. Then
    by contemplating the characteristics of phenomena with insight, the meditator
    eventually reaches the supramundane jhana of the four paths, and with this
    jhana he burns up the defilements and attains the liberating experience of the

    Jhana and Samadhi   

    In the vocabulary of Buddhist meditation the word
    “jhana” is closely connected with another word, “samadhi”
    generally rendered by “concentration.” Samadhi derives from
    the prefixed verbal root sam-a-dha, meaning to collect or to bring
    together, thus suggesting the concentration or unification of the mind. The
    word “samadhi” is almost interchangeable with the word “samatha,”
    serenity, though the latter comes from a different root, sam, meaning to
    become calm.

    In the suttas samadhi is defined as mental one-pointedness,
    (cittass’ekaggata M.i,301) and this definition is followed through
    rigorously in the Abhidhamma. The Abhidhamma treats one-pointedness as a
    distinct mental factor present in every state of consciousness, exercising the
    function of unifying the mind on its object. From this strict psychological
    standpoint samadhi can be present in unwholesome states of consciousness
    as well as in wholesome an neutral states. In its unwholesome forms it is
    called “wrong concentration” (micchasamadhi), In its wholesome
    forms “right concentration” (sammasamadhi).

    In expositions on the practice of meditation, however, samadhi
    is limited to one-pointedness of mind (Vism.84-85; PP.84-85), and even here we
    can understand from the context that the word means only the wholesome
    one-pointedness involved in the deliberate transmutation of the mind to a
    heightened level of calm. Thus Buddhaghosa explains samadhi
    etymologically as “the centering of consciousness and consciousness
    concomitants evenly and rightly on a single object… the state in virtue of
    which consciousness and its concomitants remain evenly and rightly on a single
    object, undistracted and unscattered” (Vism.84-85; PP.85).

    However, despite the commentator’s bid for consistency,
    the word samadhi is used in the Pali literature on meditation with
    varying degrees of specificity of meaning. In the narrowest sense, as defined
    by Buddhaghosa, it denotes the particular mental factor responsible for the
    concentrating of the mind, namely, one-pointedness. In a wider sense it can
    signify the states of unified consciousness that result from the strengthening
    of concentration, i.e., the meditative attainments of serenity and the stages
    leading up to them. And in a still wider sense the word samadhi can be
    applied to the method of practice used to produce and cultivate these refined
    states of concentration, here being equivalent to the development of serenity.

    It is in the second sense that samadhi and jhana
    come closest in meaning. The Buddha explains right concentration as the four
    jhanas (D.ii,313), and in doing so allows concentration to encompass the
    meditative attainments signified by the jhanas. However, even though jhana and samadhi
    can overlap in denotation, certain differences in their suggested and
    contextual meanings prevent unqualified identification of the two terms. First
    behind the Buddha’s use of the jhana formula to explain right concentration
    lies a more technical understanding of the terms. According to this
    understanding samadhi can be narrowed down in range to signify only one
    mental factor, the most prominent in the jhana, namely, one-pointedness, while
    the word “jhana” itself must be seen as encompassing the state of
    consciousness in its entirety, or at least the whole group of mental factors
    individuating that meditative state as a jhana.

    In the second place, when samadhi is considered in
    its broader meaning it involves a wider range of reference than jhana. The Pali
    exegetical tradition recognizes three levels of samadhi: preliminary
    concentration (parikammasamadhi), which is produced as a result of the
    meditator’s initial efforts to focus his mind on his meditation subject; access
    concentration (upacarasamadhi), marked by the suppression of the five
    hindrances, the manifestation of the jhana factors, and the appearance of a
    luminous mental replica of the meditation object called the counterpart sign (patibhaganimitta);
    and absorption concentration (appanasamadhi), the complete immersion of
    the mind in its object effected by the full maturation of the jhana factors.[5]

    Absorption concentration comprises the eight attainments, the four immaterial
    attainments, and to this extent jhana and samadhi coincide. However, samadhi
    still has a broader scope than jhana, since it includes not only the jhanas
    themselves but also the two preparatory degrees of concentration leading up to
    them. Further, samadhi also covers a still different type of concentration
    called momentary concentration (khanikasamadhi), the mobile mental
    stabilization produced in the course of insight contemplation of the passing
    flow of phenomena.

    2. The
    Preparation for Jhana   

    The jhanas do not arise out of a void but in dependence on
    the right conditions. They come to growth only when provided with the
    nutriments conductive to their development. Therefore, prior to beginning
    meditation, the aspirant to the jhanas must prepare a groundwork for his
    practice by fulfilling certain preliminary requirements. He first must endeavor
    to purify his moral virtue, sever the outer impediments to practice, and place
    himself under a qualified teacher who will assign him a suitable meditation
    subject and explain to him the methods of developing it. After learning these
    the disciple must then seek out a congenial dwelling and diligently strive for
    success. In this chapter we will examine in order each of the preparatory steps
    that have to be fulfilled before commencing to develop jhana.

    The Moral Foundation for

    A disciple aspiring to the jhanas first has to lay a solid
    foundation of moral discipline. Moral purity is indispensable to meditative
    progress for several deeply psychological reasons. It is needed first, in order
    to safeguard against the danger of remorse, the nagging sense of guilt that
    arises when the basic principles of morality are ignored or deliberately
    violated. Scrupulous conformity to virtuous rules of conduct protects the
    meditator from this danger disruptive to inner calm, and brings joy and
    happiness when the meditator reflects upon the purity of his conduct (see

    A second reason a moral foundation is needed for
    meditation follows from an understanding of the purpose of concentration.
    Concentration, in the Buddhist discipline, aims at providing a base for wisdom
    by cleansing the mind of the dispersive influence of the defilements. But in
    order for the concentration exercises to effectively combat the defilements,
    the coarser expressions of the latter through bodily and verbal action first
    have to be checked. Moral transgressions being invariably motivated by
    defilements — by greed, hatred and delusion — when a person acts in violation
    of the precepts of morality he excites and reinforces the very same mental
    factors his practice of meditation is intended to eliminate. This involves him
    in a crossfire of incompatible aims which renders his attempts at mental
    purification ineffective. The only way he can avoid frustration in his endeavor
    to purify the mind of its subtler defilements is to prevent the unwholesome
    inner impulses from breathing out in the coarser form of unwholesome bodily and
    verbal deeds. Only when he establishes control over the outer expression of the
    defilements can he turn to deal with them inwardly as mental obsessions that
    appear in the process of meditation.

    The practice of moral discipline consists negatively in
    abstinence from immoral actions of body and speech and positively in the
    observance of ethical principles promoting peace within oneself and harmony in
    one’s relations with others. The basic code of moral discipline taught by the
    Buddha for the guidance of his lay followers is the five precepts: abstinence
    from taking life, from stealing, from sexual misconduct, from false speech, and
    from intoxicating drugs and drinks. These principles are bindings as minimal
    ethical obligations for all practitioners of the Buddhist path, and within
    their bounds considerable progress in meditation can be made. However, those
    aspiring to reach the higher levels of jhanas and to pursue the path further to
    the stages of liberation, are encouraged to take up the more complete moral
    discipline pertaining to the life of renunciation. Early Buddhism is
    unambiguous in its emphasis on the limitations of household life for following
    the path in its fullness and perfection. Time and again the texts say that the
    household life is confining, a “path for the dust of passion,” while
    the life of homelessness is like open space. Thus a disciple who is fully
    intent upon making rapid progress towards Nibbana will when outer conditions
    allow for it, “shave off his hair and beard, put on the yellow robe, and
    go forth from the home life into homelessness” (M.i,179).

    The moral training for the bhikkhus or monks has been
    arranged into a system called the fourfold purification of morality (catuparisuddhisila).[6]

    The first component of this scheme, its backbone, consists in the morality
    of restraint according to the Patimokkha,
    the code of 227 training precepts
    promulgated by the Buddha to regulate the conduct of the Sangha or monastic
    order. Each of these rules is in some way intended to facilitate control over
    the defilements and to induce a mode of living marked by harmlessness,
    contentment and simplicity. The second aspect of the monk’s moral discipline is
    restraint of the senses, by which the monk maintains close watchfulness
    over his mind as he engages in sense contacts so that he does not give rise to
    desire for pleasurable objects and aversion towards repulsive ones. Third, the
    monk is to live by a purified livelihood, obtaining his basic requisites
    such as robes, food, lodgings and medicines in ways consistent with his
    vocation. The fourth factor of the moral training is proper use of the
    which means that the monk should reflect upon the purposes for
    which he makes use of his requisites and should employ them only for
    maintaining his health and comfort, not for luxury and enjoyment.

    After establishing a foundation of purified morality, the
    aspirant to meditation is advised to cut off any outer impediments (palibodha)
    that may hinder his efforts to lead a contemplative life. These impediments are
    numbered as ten: a dwelling, which becomes an impediment for those who allow
    their minds to become preoccupied with its upkeep or with its appurtenances; a
    family of relatives or supporters with whom the aspirant may become emotionally
    involved in ways that hinder his progress; gains, which may bind the monk by
    obligation to those who offer them; a class of students who must be instructed;
    building work, which demands time and attention; travel; kin, meaning parents,
    teachers, pupils or close friends; illness; the study of scriptures; and
    supernormal powers, which are an impediment to insight (Vism.90-97; PP.91-98).

    The Good Friend and the
    Subject of Meditation   

    The path of practice leading to the jhanas is an arduous course
    involving precise techniques and skillfulness is needed in dealing with the
    pitfalls that lie along the way. The knowledge of how to attain the jhanas has
    been transmitted through a lineage of teachers going back to the time of the
    Buddha himself. A prospective meditator is advised to avail himself of the
    living heritage of accumulated knowledge and experience by placing himself
    under the care of a qualified teacher, described as a “good friend” (kalyanamitta),
    one who gives guidance and wise advice rooted in his own practice and
    experience. On the basis of either of the power of penetrating others minds, or
    by personal observation, or by questioning, the teacher will size up the
    temperament of his new pupil and then select a meditation subject for him
    appropriate to his temperament.

    The various meditation subjects that the Buddha prescribed
    for the development of serenity have been collected in the commentaries into a
    set called the forty kammatthana. This word means literally a place of
    work, and is applied to the subject of meditation as the place where the
    meditator undertakes the work of meditation. The forty meditation subjects are
    distributed into seven categories, enumerated in the Visuddhimagga as
    follows: ten kasinas, ten kinds of foulness, ten recollections, four divine
    abidings, four immaterial states, one perception, and one defining.[7]

    A kasina is a device representing a particular quality
    used as a support for concentration. The ten kasinas are those of earth, water,
    fire and air; four color kasinas — blue, yellow, red and white; the light
    kasina and the limited space kasina. The kasina can be either a naturally
    occurring form of the element or color chosen, or an artificially produced
    device such as a disk that the meditator can use at his convenience in his
    meditation quarters.

    The ten kinds of foulness are ten stages in the
    decomposition of a corpse: the bloated, the livid, the festering, the cut-up,
    the gnawed, the scattered, the hacked and scattered, the bleeding, the
    worm-infested and a skeleton. The primary purpose of these meditations is to
    reduce sensual lust by gaining a clear perception of the repulsiveness of the

    The ten recollections are the recollections of the Buddha,
    the Dhamma, the Sangha, morality, generosity and the deities, mindfulness of
    death, mindfulness of the body, mindfulness of breathing, and the recollection
    of peace. The first three are devotional contemplations on the sublime
    qualities of the “Three Jewels,” the primary objects of Buddhist
    virtues and on the deities inhabiting the heavenly worlds, intended principally
    for those still intent on a higher rebirth. Mindfulness of death is reflection
    on the inevitability of death, a constant spur to spiritual exertion.
    Mindfulness of the body involves the mental dissection of the body into
    thirty-two parts, undertaken with a view to perceiving its unattractiveness.
    Mindfulness of breathing is awareness of the in-and-out movement of the breath,
    perhaps the most fundamental of all Buddhist meditation subjects. And the
    recollection of peace is reflection on the qualities of Nibbana.

    The four divine abidings (brahmavihara) are the
    development of boundless loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and
    equanimity. These meditations are also called the “immeasurables” (appamañña)
    because they are to be developed towards all sentient beings without
    qualification or exclusiveness.

    The four immaterial states are the base of boundless
    space, the base of boundless consciousness, the base of nothingness, and the
    base of neither-perception-nor-non-perception. These are the objects leading to
    the corresponding meditative attainments, the immaterial jhanas.

    The one perception is the perception of the repulsiveness
    of food. The one defining is the defining of the four elements, that is, the
    analysis of the physical body into the elemental modes of solidity, fluidity,
    heat and oscillation.

    The forty meditation subjects are treated in the
    commentarial texts from two important angles — one their ability to induce
    different levels of concentration, the other their suitability for differing
    temperaments. Not all meditation subjects are equally effective in inducing the
    deeper levels of concentration. They are first distinguished on the basis of
    their capacity for inducing only access concentration or for inducing full
    absorption; those capable of inducing absorption are then distinguished further
    according to their ability to induce the different levels of jhana.

    Of the forty subjects, ten are capable of leading only to
    access concentration: eight recollections — i.e., all except mindfulness of the
    body and mindfulness of breathing — plus the perception of repulsiveness in
    nutriment and the defining of the four elements. These, because they are
    occupied with a diversity of qualities and involve and active application of
    discursive thought, cannot lead beyond access. The other thirty subjects can all
    lead to absorption.

    The ten kasinas and mindfulness of breathing, owing to
    their simplicity and freedom from thought construction, can lead to all four
    jhanas. The ten kinds of foulness and mindfulness of the body lead only to the
    first jhana, being limited because the mind can only hold onto them with the
    aid of applied thought (vitakka) which is absent in the second and
    higher jhanas. The first three divine abidings can induce the lower three
    jhanas but not the fourth, since they arise in association with pleasant
    feeling, while the divine abiding of equanimity occurs only at the level of the
    fourth jhana, where neutral feeling gains ascendency. The four immaterial
    states conduce to the respective immaterial jhanas corresponding to their

    The forty subjects are also differentiated according to
    their appropriateness for different character types. Six main character types
    are recognized — the greedy, the hating, the deluded, the faithful, the
    intelligent and the speculative — this oversimplified typology being taken only
    as a pragmatic guideline which in practice admits various shades and
    combinations. The ten kind of foulness and mindfulness of the body, clearly
    intended to attenuate sensual desire, are suitable for those of greedy
    temperament. Eight subjects — the four divine abidings and four color kasinas —
    are appropriate for the hating temperament. Mindfulness of breathing is
    suitable for those of the deluded and the speculative temperament. The first
    six recollections are appropriate for the faithful temperament. Four subjects —
    mindfulness of death, the recollection of peace, the defining of the four
    elements, and the perception of the repulsiveness in nutriment — are especially
    effective for those of intelligent temperament. The remaining six kasinas and
    the immaterial states are suitable for all kinds of temperaments. But the
    kasinas should be limited in size for one of speculative temperament and large
    in size for one of deluded temperament.

    Immediately after giving this breakdown Buddhaghosa adds a
    proviso to prevent misunderstanding. He states that this division by way of
    temperament is made on the basis of direct opposition and complete suitability,
    but actually there is no wholesome form of meditation that does not suppress
    the defilements and strengthen the virtuous mental factors. Thus an individual
    meditator may be advised to meditate on foulness to abandon lust, on
    loving-kindness to abandon hatred, on breathing to cut off discursive thought,
    and on impermanence to eliminate the conceit “I am” (A.iv,358).

    Choosing a Suitable

    The teacher assigns a meditation subject to his pupil
    appropriate to his character and explains the methods of developing it. He can
    teach it gradually to a pupil who is going to remain in close proximity to him,
    or in detail to one who will go to practice it elsewhere. If the disciple is
    not going to stay with his teacher he must be careful to select a suitable
    place for meditation. The texts mention eighteen kinds of monasteries
    unfavorable to the development of jhana: a large monastery, a new one, a
    dilapidated one, one near a road, one with a pond, leaves, flowers or fruits,
    one sought after by many people, one in cities, among timber of fields, where
    people quarrel, in a port, in border lands, on a frontier, a haunted place, and
    one without access to a spiritual teacher (Vism. 118-121; PP122-125).

    The factors which make a dwelling favorable to meditation
    are mentioned by the Buddha himself. If should not be too far from or too near
    a village that can be relied on as an alms resort, and should have a clear
    path: it should be quiet and secluded; it should be free from rough weather and
    from harmful insects and animals; one should be able to obtain one’s physical
    requisites while dwelling there; and the dwelling should provide ready access
    to learned elders and spiritual friends who can be consulted when problems
    arise in meditation (A.v,15). The types of dwelling places commended by the
    Buddha most frequently in the suttas as conductive to the jhanas are a secluded
    dwelling in the forest, at the foot of a tree, on a mountain, in a cleft, in a
    cave, in a cemetery, on a wooded flatland, in the open air, or on a heap of
    straw (M.i,181). Having found a suitable dwelling and settled there, the
    disciple should maintain scrupulous observance of the rules of discipline, He
    should be content with his simple requisites, exercise control over his sense
    faculties, be mindful and discerning in all activities, and practice meditation
    diligently as he was instructed. It is at this point that he meets the first
    great challenge of his contemplative life, the battle with the five hindrances.

    3. The
    First Jhana and its Factors   

    The attainment of any jhana comes about through a twofold
    process of development. On one side the states obstructive to it, called its factors
    of abandonment, have to be eliminated, on the other the states composing it,
    called its factors of possession, have to be acquired. In the case of the first
    jhana the factors of abandonment are the five hindrances and the factors of
    possession the five basic jhana factors. Both are alluded to in the standard
    formula for the first jhana, the opening phrase referring to the abandonment of
    the hindrances and the subsequent portion enumerating the jhana factors:

    Quite secluded
    from sense pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states of mind, he enters and
    dwells in the first jhana, which is accompanied by applied thought and
    sustained thought with rapture and happiness born of seclusion. (M.i,1818;

    In this chapter we will first discuss the five hindrances
    and their abandonment, then we will investigate the jhana factors both
    individually and by way of their combined contribution to the attainment of the
    first jhana. We will close the chapter with some remarks on the ways of
    perfecting the first jhana, a necessary preparation for the further development
    of concentration.

    The Abandoning of the

    The five hindrances (pañcanivarana) are sensual
    desire, ill will, sloth and torpor, restlessness and worry, and doubt. This
    group, the principal classification the Buddha uses for the obstacles to
    meditation, receives its name because its five members hinder and envelop the
    mind, preventing meditative development in the two spheres of serenity and
    insight. Hence the Buddha calls them “obstructions, hindrances,
    corruptions of the mind which weaken wisdom”(S.v,94).

    The hindrance of sensual desire (kamachanda) is
    explained as desire for the “five strands of sense pleasure,” that
    is, for pleasant forms, sounds, smells, tastes and tangibles. It ranges from
    subtle liking to powerful lust. The hindrance of ill will (byapada)
    signifies aversion directed towards disagreeable persons or things. It can vary
    in range from mild annoyance to overpowering hatred. Thus the first two
    hindrances correspond to the first two root defilements, greed and hate. The
    third root defilement, delusion, is not enumerated separately among the
    hindrances but can be found underlying the remaining three.

    Sloth and torpor is a compound hindrance made up of two
    components: sloth (thina), which is dullness, inertia or mental
    stiffness; and torpor (middha), which is indolence or drowsiness.
    Restlessness and worry is another double hindrance, restlessness (uddhacca)
    being explained as excitement, agitation or disquietude, worry (kukkucca)
    as the sense of guilt aroused by moral transgressions. Finally, the hindrance
    of doubt (vicikiccha) is explained as uncertainty with regard to the
    Buddha, the Dhamma, the Sangha and the training.

    The Buddha offers two sets of similes to illustrate the
    detrimental effect of the hindrances. The first compares the five hindrances to
    five types of calamity: sensual desire is like a debt, ill will like a disease,
    sloth and torpor like imprisonment, restless and worry like slavery, and doubt
    like being lost on a desert road. Release from the hindrances is to be seen as
    freedom from debt, good health, release from prison, emancipation from slavery,
    and arriving at a place of safety (D.i,71-73). The second set of similes
    compares the hindrances to five kinds of impurities affecting a bowl of water,
    preventing a keen-sighted man from seeing his own reflection as it really is.
    Sensual desire is like a bowl of water mixed with brightly colored paints, ill
    will like a bowl of boiling water, sloth and torpor like water covered by mossy
    plants, restlessness and worry like water blown into ripples by the wind, and
    doubt like muddy water. Just as the keen-eyed man would not be able to see his
    reflection in these five kinds of water, so one whose mind is obsessed by the
    five hindrances does not know and see as it is his own good, the good of others
    or the good of both (S.v,121-24). Although there are numerous defilements opposed
    to the first jhana the five hindrances alone are called its factors of
    abandoning. One reason according to the Visuddhimagga, is that the
    hindrances are specifically obstructive to jhana, each hindrance impeding in
    its own way the mind’s capacity for concentration.

    The mind affected
    through lust by greed for varied objective fields does not become concentrated
    on an object consisting in unity, or being overwhelmed by lust, it does not
    enter on the way to abandoning the sense-desire element. When pestered by ill
    will towards an object, it does not occur uninterruptedly. When overcome by
    stiffness and torpor, it is unwieldy. When seized by agitation and worry, it is
    unquiet and buzzes about. When stricken by uncertainty, it fails to mount the
    way to accomplish the attainment of jhana. So it is these only that are called
    factors of abandonment because they are specifically obstructive to
    jhana.(Vism.146: PP.152)

    A second reason for confining the first jhana’s factors of
    abandoning to the five hindrances is to permit a direct alignment to be made
    between the hindrances and the jhanic factors. Buddhaghosa states that the
    abandonment of the five hindrances alone is mentioned in connection with jhana
    because the hindrances are the direct enemies of the five jhana factors, which
    the latter must eliminate and abolish. To support his point the commentator
    cites a passage demonstrating a one-to-one correspondence between the jhana
    factors and the hindrances: one-pointedness is opposed to sensual desire,
    rapture to ill will, applied thought to sloth and torpor, happiness to
    restlessness and worry, and sustained thought to doubt (Vism. 141; PP.147).[8]

    Thus each jhana factor is seen as having the specific task of eliminating a
    particular obstruction to the jhana and to correlate these obstructions with
    the five jhana factors they are collected into a scheme of five hindrances.

    The standard passage describing the attainment of the
    first jhana says that the jhana is entered upon by one who is “secluded
    from sense pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states of mind.” The Visuddhimagga
    explains that there are three kinds of seclusion relevant to the present
    context — namely, bodily seclusion (kayaviveka), mental seclusion (cittaviveka),
    and seclusion by suppression (vikkhambhanaviveka) (Vism. 140; PP.145).
    These three terms allude to two distinct sets of exegetical categories. The
    first two belong to a threefold arrangement made up of bodily seclusion, mental
    seclusion, and “seclusion from the substance” (upadhiviveka).
    The first means physical withdrawal from active social engagement into a
    condition of solitude for the purpose of devoting time and energy to spiritual
    development. The second, which generally presupposes the first, means the
    seclusion of the mind from its entanglement in defilements; it is in effect
    equivalent to concentration of at least the access level. The third,
    “seclusion from the substance,” is Nibbana, liberation from the
    elements of phenomenal existence. The achievement of the first jhana does not
    depend on the third, which is its outcome rather than prerequisite, but it does
    require physical solitude and the separation of the mind from defilements, hence
    bodily and mental seclusion. The third type of seclusion pertinent to the
    context, seclusion by suppression, belongs to a different scheme generally
    discussed under the heading of “abandonment” (pahana) rather
    than “seclusion.” The type of abandonment required for the attainment
    of jhana is abandonment by suppression, which means the removal of the
    hindrances by force of concentration similar to the pressing down of weeds in a
    pond by means of a porous pot.[9]

    The work of overcoming the five hindrances is accomplished
    through the gradual training (anupubbasikkha) which the Buddha has laid
    down so often in the suttas, such as the Samaññaphala Sutta and the Culahatthipadopama
    Sutta. The gradual training is a step-by-step process designed to lead the
    practitioner gradually to liberation. The training begins with moral
    discipline, the undertaking and observance of specific rules of conduct which
    enable the disciple to control the coarser modes of bodily and verbal
    misconduct through which the hindrances find an outlet. With moral discipline
    as a basis, the disciple practices the restraint of the senses. He does not
    seize upon the general appearances of the beguiling features of things, but
    guards and masters his sense faculties so that sensual attractive and repugnant
    objects no longer become grounds for desire and aversion. Then, endowed with
    the self-restraint, he develops mindfulness and discernment (sati-sampajañña)
    in all his activities and postures, examining everything he does with clear
    awareness as to its purpose and suitability. He also cultivates contentment
    with a minimum of robes, food, shelter and other requisites.

    Once he has fulfilled these preliminaries the disciple is
    prepared to go into solitude to develop the jhanas, and it is here that he
    directly confronts the five hindrances. The elimination of the hindrances
    requires that the meditator honestly appraises his own mind. When sensuality,
    ill will and the other hindrances are present, he must recognize that they are
    present and he must investigate the conditions that lead to their arising: the
    latter he must scrupulously avoid. The meditator must also understand the
    appropriate antidotes for each of the five hindrances. The Buddha says that all
    the hindrances arise through unwise consideration (ayoniso manasikara)
    and that they can be eliminated by wise consideration (yoniso manasikara).
    Each hindrance, however, has its own specific antidote. Thus wise consideration
    of the repulsive feature of things is the antidote to sensual desire; wise
    consideration of loving-kindness counteracts ill will; wise consideration of
    the elements of effort, exertion and striving opposes sloth and torpor; wise
    consideration of tranquillity of mind removes restlessness and worry; and wise
    consideration of the real qualities of things eliminates doubt (S.v,105-106).

    Having given up
    covetousness [i.e., sensual desire] with regard to the world, he dwells with a
    heart free of covetousness; he cleanses his mind from covetousness. Having
    given up the blemish of ill will, he dwells without ill will; friendly and
    compassionate towards all living beings, he cleanses his mind from the
    blemishes of ill will. Having given up sloth and torpor, he dwells free from
    sloth and torpor, in the perception of light; mindful and clearly
    comprehending, he cleanses his mind from sloth and torpor. Having given up
    restlessness and worry, he dwells without restlessness; his mind being calmed
    within, he cleanses it from restlessness and worry. Having given up doubt, he
    dwells as one who has passed beyond doubt; being free from uncertainty about
    wholesome things, he cleanses his mind from doubt…

    And when he sees himself free of these five hindrances,
    joy arises; in him who is joyful, rapture arises; in him whose mind is
    enraptured, the body is stilled; the body being stilled, he feels happiness;
    and a happy mind finds concentration. Then, quite secluded from sense
    pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states of mind, he enters and dwells in
    the first jhana, which is accompanied by applied thought and sustained thought,
    with rapture and happiness born of seclusion. (D.i,73-74)[10]

    The Factors of the First

    The first jhana possesses five component factors: applied
    thought, sustained thought, rapture, happiness and one-pointedness of mind.
    Four of these are explicitly mentioned in the formula for the jhana; the fifth,
    one-pointedness, is mentioned elsewhere in the suttas but is already suggested
    by the notion of jhana itself. These five states receive their name, first
    because they lead the mind from the level of ordinary consciousness to the
    jhanic level, and second because they constitute the first jhana and give it
    its distinct definition.

    The jhana factors are first aroused by the meditator’s
    initial efforts to concentrate upon one of the prescribed objects for
    developing jhana. As he fixes his mind on the preliminary object, such as a
    kasina disk, a point is eventually reached where he can perceive the object as
    clearly with his eyes closed as with them open. This visualized object is
    called the learning sign (uggahanimitta). As he concentrates on the
    learning sign, his efforts call into play the embryonic jhana factors, which
    grow in force, duration and prominence as a result of the meditative exertion.
    These factors, being incompatible with the hindrances, attenuate them, exclude
    them, and hold them at bay. With continued practice the learning sign gives
    rise to a purified luminous replica of itself called the counterpart sign (patibhaganimitta),
    the manifestation of which marks the complete suppression of the hindrances and
    the attainment of access concentration (upacarasamadhi). All three
    events — the suppression of the hindrances, the arising of the counterpart
    sign, and the attainment of access concentration — take place at precisely the
    same moment, without interval (Vism. 126; PP.131). And though previously the
    process of mental cultivation may have required the elimination of different
    hindrances at different times, when access is achieved they all subside

    with his acquiring the counterpart sign his lust is abandoned by suppression
    owing to his giving no attention externally to sense desires (as object). And
    owing to his abandoning of approval, ill will is abandoned too, as pus is with
    the abandoning of blood. Likewise stiffness and torpor is abandoned through
    exertion of energy, agitation and worry is abandoned through devotion to
    peaceful things that cause no remorse; and uncertainty about the Master who
    teaches the way, about the way, and about the fruit of the way, about the way,
    and about the fruit of the way, is abandoned through the actual experience of
    the distinction attained. So the five hindrances are abandoned. (Vism. 189;

    Though the mental factors determinative of the first jhana
    are present in access concentration, they do not as yet possess sufficient
    strength to constitute the jhana, but are strong enough only to exclude the
    hindrances. With continued practice, however, the nascent jhana factors grow in
    strength until they are capable of issuing in jhana. Because of the
    instrumental role these factors play both in the attainment and constitution of
    the first jhana they are deserving of closer individual scrutiny.

    Thought (vitakka)   

    The word vitakka frequently appears in the texts in
    conjunction with the word vicara. The pair signify two interconnected
    but distinct aspects of the thought process, and to bring out the difference
    between them (as well as their common character), we translate the one as
    applied thought and the other as sustained thought.

    In both the suttas and the Abhidhamma applied thought is
    defined as the application of the mind to its object (cetaso abhiniropana),
    a function which the Atthasalini illustrates thus: “Just as someone
    ascends the king’s palace in dependence on a relative of friend dear to the
    king, so the mind ascends the object in dependence on applied thought”
    (Dhs.A.157). This function of applying the mind to the object is common to the
    wide variety of modes in which the mental factor of applied thought occurs, ranging
    from sense discrimination to imagination, reasoning and deliberation and to the
    practice of concentration culminating in the first jhana. Applied thought can
    be unwholesome as in thoughts of sensual pleasure, ill will and cruelty, or
    wholesome as in thoughts of renunciation, benevolence and compassion (M.i,116).

    In jhana applied through is invariably wholesome and its
    function of directing the mind upon its object stands forth with special
    clarity. To convey this the Visuddhimagga explains that in jhana the function
    of applied thought is “to strike at and thresh — for the meditator is
    said, in virtue of it, to have the object struck at by applied thought,
    threshed by applied thought” (Vism.142;PP148). The Milindapanha
    makes the same point by defining applied thought as absorption (appana):
    “Just as a carpenter drives a well-fashioned piece of wood into a joint,
    so applied thought has the characteristic of absorption” (Miln.62).

    The object of jhana into which vitakka drives the
    mind and its concomitant states is the counterpart sign, which emerges from the
    learning sign as the hindrances are suppressed and the mind enters access
    concentration. The Visuddhimagga explains the difference between the two
    signs thus:

    In the learning
    sign any fault in the kasina is apparent. But the counterpart sign appears as
    if breaking out from the learning sign, and a hundred times, a thousand times
    more purified, like a looking-glass disk drawn from its case, like a
    mother-of-pearl dish well washed, like the moon’s disk coming out from behind a
    cloud, like cranes against a thunder cloud. But it has neither color nor shape;
    for if it had, it would be cognizable by the eye, gross, susceptible of
    comprehension (by insight) and stamped with the three characteristics. But it
    is not like that. For it is born only of perception in one who has obtained
    concentration, being a mere mode of appearance (Vism. 125-26; PP.130)

    The counterpart sign is the object of both access
    concentration and jhana, which differ neither in their object nor in the
    removal of the hindrances but in the strength of their respective jhana
    factors. In the former the factors are still weak, not yet fully developed,
    while in the jhana they are strong enough to make the mind fully absorbed in
    the object. In this process applied thought is the factor primarily responsible
    for directing the mind towards the counterpart sign and thrusting it in with
    the force of full absorption.

    Thought (vicara)   

    Vicara seems to represent a more
    developed phase of the thought process than vitakka. The commentaries
    explain that it has the characteristic of “continued pressure” on the
    object (Vim. 142; PP.148). Applied thought is described as the first impact of
    the mind on the object, the gross inceptive phase of thought; sustained thought
    is described as the act of anchoring the mind on the object, the subtle phase
    of continued mental pressure. Buddhaghosa illustrates the difference between
    the two with a series of similes. Applied thought is like striking a bell,
    sustained thought like the ringing; applied thought is like a bee’s flying
    towards a flower, sustained thought like its buzzing around the flower; applied
    thought is like a compass pin that stays fixed to the center of a circle,
    sustained thought like the pin that revolves around (Vism. 142-43; PP.148-49).

    These similes make it clear that applied thought and
    sustained thought functionally associated, perform different tasks. Applied
    thought brings the mind to the object, sustained thought fixes and anchors it
    there. Applied thought focuses the mind on the object, sustained thought
    examines and inspects what is focused on. Applied thought brings a deepening of
    concentration by again and again leading the mind back to the same object,
    sustained thought sustains the concentration achieved by keeping the mind
    anchored on that object.


    The third factor present in the first jhana is piti,
    usually translated as joy or rapture.[11]

    In the suttas piti is sometimes said to arise from another quality
    called pamojja, translated as joy or gladness, which springs up with the
    abandonment of the five hindrances. When the disciple sees the five hindrances
    abandoned in himself “gladness arises within him; thus gladdened, rapture
    arises in him; and when he is rapturous his body becomes tranquil”
    (D.i,73). Tranquillity in turn leads to happiness, on the basis of which the
    mind becomes concentrated. Thus rapture precedes the actual arising of the
    first jhana, but persists through the remaining stages up to the third jhana.

    The Vibhanga defines piti as “gladness, joy,
    joyfulness, mirth, merriment, exultation, exhilaration, and satisfaction of
    mind” (Vbh. 257). The commentaries ascribe to it the characteristic of
    endearing, the function of refreshing the body and mind or pervading with rapture,
    and the manifestation as elation (Vism.143; PP.149). Shwe Zan Aung explains
    that “piti abstracted means interest of varying degrees of
    intensity, in an object felt as desirable or as calculated to bring

    When defined in terms of agency, piti is that which
    creates interest in the object; when defined in terms of its nature it is the
    interest in the object. Because it creates a positive interest in the object,
    the jhana factor of rapture is able to counter and suppress the hindrance of
    ill will, a state of aversion implying a negative evaluation of the object.

    Rapture is graded into five categories: minor rapture,
    momentary rapture, showering rapture, uplifting rapture and pervading rapture.[13]

    Minor rapture is generally the first to appear in the progressive development
    of meditation; it is capable of causing the hairs of the body to rise.
    Momentary rapture, which is like lightning, comes next but cannot be sustained
    for long. Showering rapture runs through the body in waves, producing a thrill
    but without leaving a lasting impact. Uplifting rapture, which can cause
    levitation, is more sustained but still tends to disturb concentration, The
    form of rapture most conductive to the attainment of jhana is all-pervading
    rapture, which is said to suffuse the whole body so that it becomes like a full
    bladder or like a mountain cavern inundated with a mighty flood of water. The Visuddhimagga
    states that what is intended by the jhana factor of rapture is this
    all-pervading rapture “which is the root of absorption and comes by growth
    into association with absorption” (Vism.144; PP.151)


    As a factor of the first jhana, sukha signifies
    pleasant feeling. The word is explicitly defined in the sense by the Vibhanga
    in its analysis of the first jhana: “Therein, what is happiness? Mental
    pleasure and happiness born of mind-contact, the felt pleasure and happiness
    born of mind-contact, pleasurable and happy feeling born of mind contact — this
    is called ‘happiness’ ” (Vbh.257). The Visuddhimagga explains that
    happiness in the first jhana has the characteristic of gratifying, the function
    of intensifying associated states, and as manifestation, the rendering of aid
    to its associated states (Vism. 145; PP.151).

    Rapture and happiness link together in a very close
    relationship, but though the two are difficult to distinguish, they are not
    identical. Happiness is a feeling (vedana); rapture a mental formation
    (sankhara). Happiness always accompanies rapture, so that when rapture is
    present happiness must always be present; but rapture does not always accompany
    happiness, for in the third jhana, as we will see, there is happiness but no
    rapture. The Atthasalini, which explains rapture as “delight in the
    attaining of the desired object” and happiness as “the enjoyment of
    the taste of what is required,” illustrates the difference by means of a

    Rapture is like a
    weary traveler in the desert in summer, who hears of, or sees water of a shady
    wood. Ease [happiness] is like his enjoying the water of entering the forest
    shade. For a man who, traveling along the path through a great desert and
    overcome by the heat, is thirsty and desirous of drink, if he saw a man on the
    way, would ask ‘Where is water?’ The other would say, ‘Beyond the wood is a
    dense forest with a natural lake. Go there, and you will get some.’ He, hearing
    these words, would be glad and delighted and as he went would see lotus leaves,
    etc., fallen on the ground and become more glad and delighted. Going onwards,
    he would see men with wet clothes and hair, hear the sounds of wild fowl and
    pea-fowl, etc., see the dense forest of green like a net of jewels growing by
    the edge of the natural lake, he would see the water lily, the lotus, the white
    lily, etc., growing in the lake, he would see the clear transparent water, he
    would be all the more glad and delighted, would descend into the natural lake,
    bathe and drink at pleasure and, his oppression being allayed, he would eat the
    fibers and stalks of the lilies, adorn himself with the blue lotus, carry on
    his shoulders the roots of the mandalaka, ascend from the lake, put on his
    clothes, dry the bathing cloth in the sun, and in the cool shade where the
    breeze blew ever so gently lay himself down and saw: ‘O bliss! O bliss!’ Thus
    should this illustration be applied. The time of gladness and delight from when
    he heard of the natural lake and the dense forest till he saw the water is like
    rapture having the manner of gladness and delight at the object in view. The time
    when, after his bath and dried he laid himself down in the cool shade, saying,
    ‘O bliss! O bliss!’ etc., is the sense of ease [happiness] grown strong,
    established in that mode of enjoying the taste of the object.[14]

    Since rapture and happiness co-exist in the first jhana,
    this simile should not be taken to imply that they are mutually exclusive. Its
    purport is to suggest that rapture gains prominence before happiness, for which
    it helps provide a causal foundation.

    In the description of the first jhana, rapture and
    happiness are said to be “born of seclusion” and to suffuse the whole
    body of the meditator in such a way that there is no part of his body which remains
    unaffected by them:

    Monks, secluded
    from sense pleasure… a monk enters and dwells in the first jhana. He steeps,
    drenches, fills and suffuses his body with the rapture and happiness born of
    seclusion, so that there is no part of his entire body that is not suffused
    with this rapture and happiness. Just as a skilled bath-attendant or his
    apprentice might strew bathing powder in a copper basin, sprinkle it again and
    again with water, and knead it together so that the mass of bathing soap would
    be pervaded, suffused, and saturated with moisture inside and out yet would not
    ooze moisture, so a monk steeps, drenches, fills and suffuses his body with the
    rapture and happiness born of seclusion, so that, there is no part of his
    entire body that is not suffused with this rapture and happiness born of
    seclusion. (D.i,74)


    Unlike the previous four jhana factors, one-pointedness is
    not specifically mentioned in the standard formula for the first jhana, but it
    is included among the jhana factors by the Mahavedalla Sutta (M.i,294) as well
    as in the Abhidhamma and the commentaries. One-pointedness is a universal
    mental concomitant, the factor by virtue of which the mind is centered upon its
    object. It brings the mind to a single point, the point occupied by the object.

    One-pointedness is used in the text as a synonym for
    concentration (samadhi) which has the characteristic of non-distraction,
    the function of eliminating distractions, non-wavering as its manifestation,
    and happiness as its proximate cause (Vism.85; PP.85). As a jhana factor
    one-pointedness is always directed to a wholesome object and wards off
    unwholesome influences, in particular the hindrance of sensual desire. As the
    hindrances are absent in jhana one-pointedness acquires special strength, based
    on the previous sustained effort of concentration.

    Besides the five jhana factors, the first jhana contains a
    great number of other mental factors functioning in unison as coordinate
    members of a single state of consciousness. Already the Anupada Sutta lists
    such additional components of the first jhana as contact, feeling, perception,
    volition, consciousness, desire, decision, energy, mindfulness, equanimity and
    attention (M.iii,25). In the Abhidhamma literature this is extended still
    further up to thirty-three indispensable components. Nevertheless, only five
    states are called the factors of the first jhana, for only these have the
    functions of inhibiting the five hindrances and fixing the mind in absorption.
    For the jhana to arise all these five factors must be present simultaneously,
    exercising their special operations:

    But applied
    thought directs the mind onto the object; sustained thought keeps it anchored
    there. Happiness [rapture] produced by the success of the effort refreshes the
    mind whose effort has succeeded through not being distracted by those
    hindrances; and bliss [happiness] intensifies it for the same reason. Then
    unification aided by this directing onto, this anchoring, this refreshing and
    this intensifying, evenly and rightly centers the mind with its remaining
    associated states on the object consisting in unity. Consequently possession of
    five factors should be understood as the arising of these five, namely, applied
    thought, sustained thought, happiness [rapture], bliss [happiness], and
    unification of mind. For it is when these are arisen that jhana is said to be
    arisen, which is why they are called the five factors of possession.

    Each jhana factor serves as support for the one which
    succeeds it. Applied thought must direct the mind to its object in order for
    sustained thought to anchor it there. Only when the mind is anchored can the
    interest develop which will culminate in rapture. As rapture develops it brings
    happiness to maturity, and this spiritual happiness, by providing an
    alternative to the fickle pleasures of the senses, aids the growth of
    one-pointedness. In this way, as Nagasena explains, all the other wholesome
    states lead to concentration, which stands at their head like the apex on the
    roof of a house (Miln. 38-39).

    Perfecting the First

    The difference between access and absorption
    concentration, as we have said, does not lie in the absence of the hindrances,
    which is common to both, but in the relative strength of the jhana factors. In
    access the factors are weak so that concentration is fragile, comparable to a
    child who walks a few steps and then falls down. But in absorption the jhana
    factors are strong and well developed so that the mind can remain continuously in
    concentration just as a healthy man can remain standing on his feet for a whole
    day and night (Vism.126; PP.131).

    Because full absorption offers the benefit of strengthened
    concentration, a meditator who gains access is encouraged to strive for the
    attainment of jhana. To develop his practice several important measures are

    The meditator should live in a suitable dwelling, rely upon a suitable alms
    resort, avoid profitless talk, associate only with spiritually-minded
    companions, make use only of suitable food, live in a congenial climate, and
    maintain his practice in a suitable posture. He should also cultivate the ten
    kinds of skill in absorption. He should clean his lodging and his physical body
    so that they conduce to clear meditation, balance his spiritual faculties by
    seeing that faith is balanced with wisdom and energy with concentration, and he
    must be skillful in producing and developing the sign of concentration (1-3).
    He should exert the mind when it is slack, restrain it when it is agitated,
    encourage it when it is restless or dejected, and look at the mind with
    equanimity when all is proceeding well (4-7). The meditator should avoid distracting
    persons, should approach people experienced in concentration, and should be
    firm in his resolution to attain jhana (8-10).

    After attaining the first jhana a few times the meditator
    is not advised to set out immediately striving for the second jhana. This would
    be a foolish and profitless spiritual ambition. Before he is prepared to make
    the second jhana the goal of his endeavor he must first bring the first jhana
    to perfection. If he is too eager to reach the second jhana before he has
    perfected the first, he is likely to fail to gain the second and find himself
    unable to regain the first. The Buddha compares such a meditator to a foolish
    cow who, while still unfamiliar with her own pasture, sets out for new pastures
    and gets lost in the mountains: she fails to find food or drink and is unable
    to find her way home (A.iv, 418-19).

    The perfecting of the first jhana involves two steps: the
    extension of the sign and the achievement of the five masteries. The extension
    of the sign means extending the size of the counterpart sign, the object of the
    jhana. Beginning with a small area, the size of one or two fingers, the
    meditator gradually learns to broaden the sign until the mental image can be
    made to cover the world-sphere or even beyond (Vism. 152-53; PP.158-59).

    Following this the meditator should try to acquire five
    kinds of mastery over the jhana: mastery in adverting, in attaining, in
    resolving, in emerging and in reviewing.[16]

    Mastery in adverting is the ability to advert to the jhana factors one by one
    after emerging from the jhana, wherever he wants, whenever he wants, and for as
    long as he wants. Mastery in attaining is the ability to enter upon jhana quickly,
    mastery in resolving the ability to remain in the jhana for exactly the
    pre-determined length of time, mastery in emerging the ability to emerge from
    jhana quickly without difficulty, and mastery in reviewing the ability to
    review the jhana and its factors with retrospective knowledge immediately after
    adverting to them. When the meditator has achieved this fivefold mastery, then
    he is ready to strive for the second jhana.

    4. The
    Higher Jhanas   

    In this chapter we will survey the higher states of jhana.
    First we will discuss the remaining three jhanas of the fine-material sphere,
    using the descriptive formulas of the suttas as our starting point and the
    later literature as our source for the methods of practice that lead to these
    attainments. Following this we will consider the four meditative states that
    pertain to the immaterial sphere, which come to be called the immaterial
    jhanas. Our examination will bring out the dynamic character of the process by
    which the jhanas are successively achieved. The attainment of the higher jhanas
    of the fine-material sphere, we will see, involves the successive elimination
    of the grosser factors and the bringing to prominence of the subtler ones, the
    attainment of the formless jhanas the replacement of grosser objects with
    successively more refined objects. From our study it will become clear that the
    jhanas link together in a graded sequence of development in which the lower
    serves as basis for the higher and the higher intensifies and purifies states
    already present in the lower. We will end the chapter with a brief look at the
    connection between the jhanas and the Buddhist teaching of rebirth.

    The Higher Fine-material

    The formula for the attainment of the second jhana
    runs as follows:

    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, like the first, is attained by
    eliminating the factors to be abandoned and by developing the factors of
    possession. In this case however, the factors to be abandoned are the two
    initial factors of the first jhana itself, applied thought and sustained thought;
    the factors of possession are the three remaining jhana factors, rapture,
    happiness and one-pointedness. Hence the formula begins “with the
    subsiding of applied thought and sustained thought,” and then mentions the
    jhana’s positive endowments.

    After achieving the five kinds of mastery over the first
    jhana, a meditator who wishes to reach the second jhana should enter the first
    jhana and contemplate its defects. These are twofold: one, which might be
    called the defect of proximate corruption, is the nearness of the five
    hindrances, against which the first jhana provides only a relatively mild
    safeguard; the other defect, inherent to the first jhana, is its inclusion of
    applied and sustained thought, which now appear as gross, even as impediments
    needing to be eliminated to attain the more peaceful and subtle second jhana.

    By reflecting upon the second jhana as more tranquil and
    sublime than the first, the meditator ends his attachment to the first jhana
    and engages in renewed striving with the aim of reaching the higher stage. He
    directs his mind to his meditation subject — which must be one capable of
    inducing the higher jhanas such as a kasina or the breath — and resolves to
    overcome applied and sustained thought. When his practice comes to maturity the
    two kinds of thought subside and the second jhana arises. In the second jhana
    only three of the original five jhana factors remain — rapture, happiness, and
    one-pointedness. Moreover, with the elimination of the two grosser factors
    these have acquired a subtler and more peaceful tone.[17]

    Besides the main jhana factors, the canonical formula
    includes several other states in its description of the second jhana. “Internal
    confidence” (ajjhattamsampasadanam), conveys the twofold meaning of
    faith and tranquillity. In the first jhana the meditator’s faith lacked full
    clarity and serenity due to “the disturbance created by applied and
    sustained thought, like water ruffled by ripples and wavelets” (Vism. 157;
    PP.163). But when applied and sustained thought subside, the mind becomes very
    peaceful and the meditator’s faith acquires fuller confidence.

    The formula also mentions unification of mind (cetaso
    which is identified with one-pointedness or concentration.
    Though present in the first jhana, concentration only gains special mention in
    connection with the second jhana since it is here that it acquires eminence. In
    the first jhana concentration was still imperfect, being subject to the
    disturbing influence of applied and sustained thought. For the same reason this
    jhana, along with its constituent rapture and happiness, is said to be born of
    concentration (samadhijam): “It is only this concentration that is
    quite worthy to be called ‘concentration’ because of its complete confidence
    and extreme immobility due to absence of disturbance by applied and sustained
    thought” (Vism.158; PP.164).

    To attain the third jhana the meditator must use
    the same method he used to ascend from the first jhana to the second. He must
    master the second jhana in the five ways, enter and emerge from it, and reflect
    upon its defects. In this case the defect of proximate corruption is the
    nearness of applied and sustained thought, which threaten to disrupt the
    serenity of the second jhana; its inherent defect is the presence of rapture,
    which now appears as a gross factor that should be discarded. Aware of the
    imperfections in the second jhana, the meditator cultivates indifference
    towards it and aspires instead for the peace and sublimity of the third jhana,
    towards the attainment of which he now directs his efforts. When his practice
    matures he enters the third jhana, which has the two jhana factors that remain
    when the rapture disappears, happiness and one-pointedness, and which the
    suttas describe as follows:

    With the fading away of rapture, he dwells in equanimity,
    mindful and discerning; and he experiences in his own person that happiness of
    which the noble ones say: ‘Happily lives he who is equanimous and mindful’ —
    thus he enters and dwells in the third jhana. (M.i,182; Vbh.245)

    The formula indicates that the third jhana contains,
    besides its two defining factors, three additional components not included
    among the jhana factors: equanimity, mindfulness and discernment. Equanimity is
    mentioned twice. The Pali word for equanimity, upekkha, occurs in the
    texts with a wide range of meanings, the most important being neutral feeling —
    that is, feeling which is neither painful nor pleasant — and the mental quality
    of inner balance or equipoise called “specific neutrality” (tatramajjhattata
    — see Vism.161; PP.167). The equanimity referred to in the formula is a mode of
    specific neutrality which belongs to the aggregate of mental formations (sankharakkhandha)
    and thus should not be confused with equanimity as neutral feeling. Though the
    two are often associated, each can exist independently of the other, and in the
    third jhana equanimity as specific neutrality co-exists with happiness or
    pleasant feeling.

    The meditator in third jhana is also said to be mindful
    and discerning, which points to another pair of frequently conjoined mental
    functions. Mindfulness (sati), in this context, means the remembrance of
    the meditation object, the constant bearing of the object in mind without
    allowing it to float away. Discernment (sampajañña) is an aspect of
    wisdom or understanding which scrutinizes the object and grasps its nature free
    from delusion. Though these two factors were already present even in the first
    two jhanas, they are first mentioned only in connection with the third since it
    is here that their efficacy becomes manifest. The two are needed particularly
    to avoid a return to rapture. Just as a suckling calf, removed from its mother
    and left unguarded, again approaches the mother, so the happiness of jhana
    tends to veer towards rapture, its natural partner, if unguarded by mindfulness
    and discernment (Dhs. A.219). To prevent this and the consequent loss of the
    third jhana is the task of mindfulness and discernment.

    The attainment of the fourth jhana commences with
    the aforesaid procedure. In this case the meditator sees that the third jhana
    is threatened by the proximity of rapture, which is ever ready to swell up
    again due to its natural affinity with happiness; he also sees that it is
    inherently defective due to the presence of happiness, a gross factor which
    provides fuel for clinging. He then contemplates the state where equanimous
    feeling and one-pointedness subsist together — the fourth jhana — as far more
    peaceful and secure than anything he has so far experienced, and therefore as
    far more desirable. Taking as his object the same counterpart sign he took for
    the earlier jhana, he strengthens his efforts in concentration for the purpose
    of abandoning the gross factor of happiness and entering the higher jhana. When
    his practice matures the mind enters absorption into the fourth jhana:

    With the
    abandoning of pleasure and pain, and with the previous disappearance of joy and
    grief, he enters and dwells in the fourth jhana, which has
    neither-pain-nor-pleasure and has purity of mindfulness due to equanimity.
    (M.i,182; Vbh.245)

    The first part of this formula specifies the conditions
    for the attainment of this jhana — also called the neither-painful-nor-pleasant
    liberation of mind (M.i, 296) — to be the abandoning of four kinds of feeling
    incompatible with it, the first two signifying bodily feelings, the latter two
    the corresponding mental feelings. The formula also introduces several new
    terms and phrases which have not been encountered previously. First, it
    mentions a new feeling, neither-pain-nor-pleasure (adukkhamasukha),
    which remains after the other four feelings have subsided. This kind of feeling
    also called equanimous or neutral feeling, replaces happiness as the
    concomitant feeling of the jhana and also figures as one of the jhana factors.
    Thus this attainment has two jhana factors: neutral feeling and one-pointedness
    of mind. Previously the ascent from one jhana to the next was marked by the progressive
    elimination of the coarser jhana factors, but none were added to replace those
    which were excluded. But now, in the move from the third to the fourth jhana, a
    substitution occurs, neutral feeling moving in to take the place of happiness.

    In addition we also find a new phrase composed of familiar
    terms, “purity of mindfulness due to equanimity” (upekkhasatiparisuddhi).
    The Vibhanga explains: “This mindfulness is cleared, purified, clarified
    by equanimity” (Vbh. 261), and Buddhaghosa adds: “for the mindfulness
    in this jhana is quite purified, and its purification is effected by
    equanimity, not by anything else” (Vism.167; PP.174). The equanimity which
    purifies the mindfulness is not neutral feeling, as might be supposed, but
    specific neutrality, the sublime impartiality free from attachment and
    aversion, which also pertains to this jhana. Though both specific neutrality
    and mindfulness were present in the lower three jhanas, none among these is
    said to have “purity of mindfulness due to equanimity.” The reason is
    that in the lower jhanas the equanimity present was not purified itself, being
    overshadowed by opposing states and lacking association with equanimous
    feeling. It is like a crescent moon which exists by day but cannot be seen
    because of the sunlight and the bright sky. But in the fourth jhana, where
    equanimity gains the support of equanimous feeling, it shines forth like the
    crescent moon at night and purifies mindfulness and the other associated states
    (Vism. 169; PP.175).

    The Immaterial Jhanas

    Beyond the four jhanas lie four higher attainments in the
    scale of concentration, referred to in the suttas as the “peaceful
    immaterial liberations transcending material form” (santa vimokkha
    atikammarupe aruppa,
    M.i,33). In the commentaries they are also called the
    immaterial jhanas, and while this expression is not found in the suttas it
    seems appropriate in so far as these states correspond to jhanic levels of
    consciousness and continue the same process of mental unification initiated by
    the original four jhanas, now sometimes called the fine-material jhanas. The
    immaterial jhanas are designated, not by numerical names like their
    predecessors, but by the names of their objective spheres: the base of
    boundless space, the base of boundless consciousness, the base of nothingness,
    and the base of neither-perception-nor-non-perception.[18]

    They receive the designation “immaterial” or ” formless” (arupa)
    because they are achieved by surmounting all perceptions of material form,
    including the subtle form of the counterpart sign which served as the object of
    the previous jhanas, and because they are the subjective correlates of the
    immaterial planes of existence.

    Like the fine-material jhanas follow a fixed sequence and
    must be attained in the order in which they are presented. That is, the
    meditator who wishes to achieve the immaterial jhanas must begin with the base
    of boundless space and then proceed step by step up to the base of
    neither-perception-nor-non-perception. However, an important difference
    separates the modes of progress in the two cases. In the case of the
    fine-material jhanas, the ascent from one jhana to another involves a
    surmounting of jhana factors. To rise from the first jhana to the second the
    meditator must eliminate applied thought and sustained thought, to rise from
    the second to the third he must overcome rapture, and to rise from the third to
    the fourth he must replace pleasant with neutral feeling. Thus progress
    involves a reduction and refinement of the jhana factors, from the initial five
    to the culmination in one-pointedness and neutral feeling.

    Once the fourth jhana is reached the jhana factors remain
    constant, and in higher ascent to the immaterial attainments there is no
    further elimination of jhana factors. For this reason the formless jhanas, when
    classified from the perspective of their factorial constitution as is done in
    the Abhidhamma, are considered modes of the fourth jhana. They are all
    two-factored jhanas, constituted by one-pointedness and equanimous feeling.

    Rather than being determined by a surmounting of factors,
    the order of the immaterial jhanas is determined by a surmounting of objects.
    Whereas for the lower jhanas the object can remain constant but the factors
    must be changed, for the immaterial jhanas the factors remain constant while
    the objects change. The base of boundless space eliminates the kasina object of
    the fourth jhana, the base of boundless consciousness surmounts the object of
    the base of boundless space, the base of nothingness surmounts the object of
    base of boundless consciousness, and the base of
    neither-perception-nor-non-perception surmounts the objects the object of the
    base of nothingness.

    Because the objects become progressively more subtle at
    each level, the jhana factors of equanimous feeling and one-pointedness, while
    remaining constant in nature throughout, become correspondingly more refined in
    quality. Buddhaghosa illustrates this with a simile of four pieces of cloth of
    the same measurements, spun by the same person, yet made of thick, thin,
    thinner and very thin thread respectively (Vism. 339; PP.369). Also, whereas
    the four lower jhanas can each take a variety of objects — the ten kasinas, the
    in-and-out breath, etc. — and do not stand in any integral relation to these
    objects, the four immaterial jhanas each take a single object inseparably
    related to the attainment itself. The first is attained solely with the base of
    boundless space as object, the second with the base of boundless consciousness,
    and so forth.

    The motivation which initially leads a meditator to seek
    the immaterial attainments is a clear recognition of the dangers inherent in
    material existence: it is in virtue of matter that injuries and death by
    weapons and knives occur that one is afflicted with diseases, subject of hunger
    and thirst, while none of this takes place on the immaterial planes of
    existence (M.i,410). Wishing to escape these dangers by taking rebirth in the
    immaterial planes, the meditator must first attain the four fine-material
    jhanas and master the fourth jhana with any kasina as object except the omitted
    space kasina. By this much the meditator has risen above gross matter, but he
    still has not transcended the subtle material form comprised by the luminous
    counterpart sign which is the object of his jhana. To reach the formless
    attainments the meditator, after emerging from the fourth jhana, must consider
    that even that jhana, as refined as it is, still has an object consisting in
    material form and thus is distantly connected with gross matter; moreover, it
    is close to happiness, a factor of the third jhana, and is far coarser than the
    immaterial states. The meditator sees the base of boundless space, the first
    immaterial jhana, as more peaceful and sublime than the fourth fine-material
    jhana and as more safely removed from materiality.

    Following these preparatory reflections, the meditator
    enters the fourth jhana based on a kasina object and extends the counterpart sign
    of the kasina “to the limit of the world-sphere, or as far as he
    likes.” Then, after emerging from the fourth jhana, he must remove the
    kasina by attending exclusively to the space it has been made to cover without
    attending to the kasina itself. Taking as his object the space left after the
    removal of the kasina, the meditator adverts to it as “boundless
    space” or simply as “space, space,” striking at it with applied
    and sustained thought. As he cultivates this practice over and over, eventually
    the consciousness pertaining to the base of boundless space arises with
    boundless space as its object (Vism. 327-28; PP.355-56).

    A meditator who has gained mastery over the base of
    boundless space, wishing to attain as well the second immaterial jhana, must
    reflect upon the two defects of the first attainment which are its proximity to
    the fine-material jhanas and its grossness compared to the base of boundless
    consciousness. Having in this way developed indifferent to the lower
    attainment, he must next enter and emerge from the base of boundless space and
    then fix his attention upon the consciousness that occurred there pervading the
    boundless space. Since the space taken as the object by the first formless
    jhana was boundless, the consciousness of that space also involves an aspect of
    boundlessness, and it is to this boundless consciousness that the aspirant for
    the next attainment adverts. He is not to attend to it merely as boundless, but
    as “boundless consciousness” or simply as “consciousness.”
    He continues to cultivate this sign again and again until the consciousness
    belonging to the base of boundless consciousness arises in absorption taking as
    its object the boundless consciousness pertaining to the first immaterial state
    (Vism. 331-32; PP.360-61).

    To attain the next formless state, the base of
    nothingness, the meditator who has mastered the base of boundless consciousness
    must contemplate its defects in the same twofold manner and advert to the
    superior peacefulness of the base of nothingness. Without giving any more
    attention to the base of boundless consciousness, he should “give
    attention to the present non-existence, voidness, secluded aspect of that same
    past consciousness belonging to the base consisting of boundless space”
    (Vism. 333; PP.362). In other words, the meditator is to focus upon the present
    absence or non-existence of the consciousness belonging to the base of
    boundless space, adverting to it over and over thus: “There is not, there
    is not” or “void, void”. When his efforts fructify there arises
    in absorption a consciousness belonging to the base of nothingness, with the
    non-existence of the consciousness of boundless space as its object. Whereas
    the second immaterial state relates to the consciousness of boundless space
    positively, by focusing upon the content of that consciousness and
    appropriating its boundlessness, the third immaterial state relates to it
    negatively, by excluding that consciousness from awareness and making the
    absence or present non-existence of that consciousness its object.

    The fourth and final immaterial jhana, the base of
    neither-perception-nor-non-perception, is reached through the same preliminary
    procedure. The meditator can also reflect upon the unsatisfactoriness of
    perception, thinking: “Perception is a disease, perception is a boil,
    perception is a dart… this is peaceful, this is sublime, that is to say,
    neither-perception-nor-non-perception” (M.ii,231). In this way he ends his
    attachment to the base of nothingness and strengthens his resolve to attain the
    next higher stage. He then adverts to the four mental aggregates that
    constitute the attainment of the base of nothingness — its feeling, perception,
    mental formations and consciousness — contemplating them as “peaceful,
    peaceful,” reviewing that base and striking at it with applied and
    sustained thought. As he does so the hindrances are suppressed, the mind passes
    through access and enters the base of neither-perception-nor-non-perception.

    This jhana receives its name because, on the one hand, it
    lacks gross perception with its function of clearly discerning objects, and
    thus cannot be said to have perception; on the other, it retains a very subtle
    perception, and thus cannot be said to be without perception. Because all the
    mental functions are here reduced to the finest and most subtle level, this
    jhana is also named the attainment with residual formations. At this level the
    mind has reached the highest possible development in the direction of pure
    serenity. It has attained the most intense degree of concentration, becoming so
    refined that consciousness can no longer be described in terms of existence or
    non-existence. Yet even this attainment, from the Buddhist point of view, is
    still a mundane state which must finally give way to insight that alone leads
    to true liberation.

    The Jhanas and Rebirth

    Buddhism teaches that all sentient beings in whom
    ignorance and craving still linger are subject to rebirth following death.
    Their mode of rebirth is determined by their kamma, their volitional action,
    wholesome kamma issuing in a good rebirth and unwholesome kamma in a bad
    rebirth. As a kind of wholesome kamma the attainment of jhana can play a key
    role in the rebirth process, being considered a weighty good kamma which takes
    precedence over other lesser kammas in determining the future rebirth of the
    person who attains it.

    Buddhist cosmology groups the numerous planes of existence
    into which rebirth takes place into three broad spheres each of which comprises
    a number of subsidiary planes. The sense-sphere (kamadhatu) is the field
    of rebirth for evil deeds and for meritorious deeds falling short of the
    jhanas; the fine-material sphere (rupadhatu), the field of rebirth for
    the fine-material jhanas; and the immaterial sphere (arupadhatu), the
    field of rebirth for the immaterial jhanas.

    An unwholesome kamma, should it become determinative of
    rebirth, will lead to a new existence in one of the four planes of misery
    belonging to the sense-sphere: the hells, the animal kingdom, the sphere of
    afflicted spirits, or the host of titans. A wholesome kamma of a subjhanic type
    produces rebirth in one of the seven happy planes in the sense-sphere, the
    human world or the six heavenly worlds.

    Above the sense-sphere realms are the fine-material
    realms, into which rebirth is gained only through the attainment of the
    fine-material jhanas. The sixteen realms in this sphere are hierarchically
    ordered in correlation with the four jhanas. Those who have practiced the first
    jhana to a minor degree are reborn in the Realm of the Retinue of Brahma, to a
    moderate degree in the Realm of the Ministers of Brahma, and to a superior
    degree in the Realm of the Great Brahma.[19]

    Similarly, practicing the second jhana to a minor degree brings rebirth in the
    Realm of Minor Luster, to a moderate degree in the Realm of Infinite Luster,
    and to a superior degree the Realm of Radiant Luster.[20]
    Again, practicing the third jhana to a minor degree brings rebirth in the Realm
    of Minor Aura, to a moderate degree in the Realm of Infinite Aura, and to a
    superior degree in the Realm of Steady Aura.[21]

    Corresponding to the fourth jhana there are seven realms:
    the Realm of Great Reward, the Realm of Non-percipient Beings, and the five
    Pure Abodes.[22]

    With this jhana the rebirth pattern deviates from the former one. It seems that
    all beings who practice the fourth jhana of the mundane level without reaching
    any supramundane attainment are reborn in the realm of Great Reward. There is
    no differentiation by way of inferior, moderate or superior grades of
    development. The Realm of Non-percipient Beings is reached by those who, after
    attaining the fourth jhana, then use the power of their meditation to take
    rebirth with only material bodies; they do not acquire consciousness again
    until they pass away from this realm. The five Pure Abodes are open only to
    non-returners (anagamis), noble disciples at the penultimate stage of
    liberation who have eradicated the fetters binding them to the sense-sphere and
    thence automatically take rebirth in higher realms, where they attain
    arahatship and reach final deliverance.

    Beyond the fine-material sphere lie the immaterial realms,
    which are four in number — the base of boundless space, the base of boundless
    consciousness, the base of nothingness, and the base of
    neither-perception-nor-non-perception. As should be evident, these are realms
    of rebirth for those who, without having broken the fetters that bind them to
    samsara, achieve and master one or another of the four immaterial jhanas. Those
    meditators who have mastery over a formless attainment at the time of death
    take rebirth in the appropriate plane, where they abide until the kammic force
    of the jhana is exhausted. Then they pass away, to take rebirth in some other
    realm as determined by their accumulated kamma.[23]

    Jhanas and the Supramundane   

    The Way of Wisdom   

    The goal of the Buddhist path, complete and permanent
    liberation from suffering, is to be achieved by practicing the full threefold
    discipline of morality (sila), concentration (samadhi), and wisdom (pañña). The
    mundane jhanas, comprising the four fine-material jhanas and the four
    immaterial jhanas, pertain to the stage of concentration, which they fulfill to
    an eminent degree. However, taken by themselves, these states do not ensure
    complete deliverance, for they are incapable of cutting off the roots of
    suffering. The Buddha teaches that the cause of suffering, the driving power
    behind the cycle of rebirths, is the defilements with their three unwholesome
    roots — greed, hatred and delusion. Concentration of the absorption level, no
    matter to what heights it is pursued, only suppresses the defilements, but
    cannot destroy their latent seeds. Thence bare mundane jhana, even when
    sustained, cannot by itself terminate the cycle of rebirths. To the contrary,
    it may even perpetuate the round. For if any fine-material or immaterial jhana
    is held to with clinging, it will bring about a rebirth in that particular
    plane of existence corresponding to its own kammic potency, which can then be
    followed by rebirth in some lower realm.

    What is required to achieve complete deliverance from the
    cycle of rebirths is the eradication of the defilements. Since the most basic
    defilement is ignorance (avijja), the key to liberation lies in developing its
    direct opposite, namely wisdom (pañña).

    Since wisdom presupposes a certain proficiency in
    concentration it is inevitable that jhana comes to claim a place in its
    development. This place, however, is not fixed and invariable, but as we will
    see allows for differences depending on the individual meditator’s disposition.

    Fundamental to the discussion in this chapter is a
    distinction between two terms crucial to Theravada philosophical exposition,
    “mundane” (lokiya) and “supramundane” (lokuttara).
    The term “mundane” applies to all phenomena comprised in the world (loka)
    — to subtle states of consciousness as well as matter, to virtue as well as
    evil, to meditative attainments as well as sensual engrossments. The term
    “supramundane,” in contrast, applies exclusively to that which
    transcends the world, that is the nine supramundane states: Nibbana, the four
    noble paths (magga) leading to Nibbana, and their corresponding fruits (phala)
    which experience the bliss of Nibbana.

    Wisdom has the specific characteristic of penetrating the
    true nature of phenomena. It penetrates the particular and general features of
    things through direct cognition rather than discursive thought. Its function is
    “to abolish the darkness of delusion which conceals the individual essences
    of states” and its manifestation is “non-delusion.” Since the
    Buddha says that one whose mind is concentrated knows and sees things as they
    are, the proximate cause of wisdom is concentration (Vism. 438; PP.481).

    The wisdom instrumental in attaining liberation is divided
    into two principal types: insight knowledge (vipassanañana) and the
    knowledge pertaining to the supramundane paths (maggañana). The first is
    the direct penetration of the three characteristics of conditioned phenomena —
    impermanence, suffering and non-self.[24]

    It takes as its objective sphere the five aggregates (pañcakkhandha)
    material form, feeling perception, mental formations and consciousness. Because
    insight knowledge takes the world of conditioned formations as its object, it
    is regarded as a mundane form of wisdom. Insight knowledge does not itself
    directly eradicate the defilements, but serves to prepare the way for the
    second type of wisdom, the wisdom of the supramundane paths, which emerges when
    insight has been brought to its climax. The wisdom of the path, occurring in
    four distinct stages (to be discussed below ), simultaneously realizes Nibbana,
    fathoms the Four Noble Truths, and cuts off the defilements. This wisdom is
    called “supramundane” because it rises up from the world of the five
    aggregates to realize the state transcendent to the world, Nibbana.

    The Buddhist disciple, striving for deliverance, begins
    the development of wisdom by first securely establishing its roots — purified
    moral discipline and concentration. He then learns and masters the basic
    material upon which wisdom is to work — the aggregates, elements, sense bases,
    dependent arising, the Four Noble Truths, etc. He commences the actual practice
    of wisdom by cultivating insight into the impermanence, suffering and non-self
    aspect of the five aggregates. When this insight reaches its apex it issues in
    supramundane wisdom, the right view factor of the Noble Eightfold Path, which
    turns from conditioned formations to the unconditioned Nibbana and thereby
    eradicates the defilements.

    The Two Vehicles   

    The Theravada tradition recognizes two alternative
    approaches to the development of wisdom, between which practitioners are free
    to choose according to their aptitude and propensity. These two approaches are
    the vehicle of serenity (samathayana) and the vehicle of insight (vipassanayana).
    The meditators who follow them are called, respectively, the samathayanika,
    “one who makes serenity his vehicle,” and the vipassanayanika,
    “one who makes insight his vehicle.” Since both vehicles, despite
    their names, are approaches to developing insight, to prevent misunderstanding
    the latter type of meditator is sometimes called a suddhavipassanayanika,
    “one who makes bare insight his vehicle,” or a sukkhavipassaka,
    “a dry-insight worker.” Though all three terms appear initially in
    the commentaries rather than in the suttas, the recognition of the two vehicles
    seems implicit in a number of canonical passages.

    The samathayanika is a meditator who first attains
    access concentration or one of the eight mundane jhanas, then emerges and uses
    his attainment as a basis for cultivating insight until he arrives at the
    supramundane path. In contrast, the vipassanayanika does not attain
    mundane jhana prior to practicing insight contemplation, or if he does, does
    not use it as an instrument for cultivating insight. Instead, without entering
    and emerging from jhana, he proceeds directly to insight contemplation on
    mental and material phenomena and by means of this bare insight he reaches the
    noble path. For both kinds of meditator the experience of the path in any of
    its four stages always occurs at a level of jhanic intensity and thus
    necessarily includes supramundane jhana under the heading of right concentration
    (samma samadhi), the eighth factor of the Noble Eightfold Path.

    The classical source for the distinction between the two
    vehicles of serenity and insight is the Visuddhimagga where it is
    explained that when a meditator begins the development of wisdom “if
    firstly, his vehicle is serenity, [he] should emerge from any fine-material or
    immaterial jhana except the base consisting of
    neither-perception-nor-non-perception, and he should discern, according to
    characteristic, function, etc. the jhana factors consisting of applied thought,
    etc. and the states associated with them” (Vism. 557; PP679-80). Other
    commentarial passages allow access concentration to suffice for the vehicle of
    serenity, but the last immaterial jhana is excluded because its factors are too
    subtle to be discerned. The meditator whose vehicle is pure insight, on the
    other hand, is advised to start directly by discerning material and mental
    phenomena, beginning with the four elements, without utilizing a jhana for this
    purpose (Vism. 558; PP.680). Thus the samathayanika first attains access
    concentration or mundane jhana and then develops insight knowledge, by means of
    which he reaches the supramundane path containing wisdom under the heading of
    right view, and supramundane jhana under the heading of right concentration.
    The vipassanayanika, in contrast, skips over mundane jhana and goes
    directly into insight contemplation. When he reaches the end of the progression
    of insight knowledge he arrives at the supramundane path which, as in the
    previous case, brings together wisdom with supramundane jhana. This jhana
    counts as his accomplishment of serenity.

    For a meditator following the vehicle of serenity the
    attainment of jhana fulfills two functions: first, it produces a basis of
    mental purity and inner collectedness needed for undertaking the work of
    insight contemplation; and second, it serves as an object to be examined with
    insight in order to discern the three characteristics of impermanence,
    suffering and non-self. Jhana accomplishes the first function by providing a
    powerful instrument for overcoming the five hindrances. As we have seen, for
    wisdom to arise the mind must first be concentrated well, and to be
    concentrated well it must be freed from the hindrances, a task accomplished
    pre-eminently by the attainment of jhana. Though access concentration will keep
    the hindrances at bay, jhana will ensure that they are removed to a much safer

    In their capacity for producing concentration the jhanas
    are called the basis (pada) for insight, and that particular jhana a
    meditator enters and emerges from before commencing his practice of insight is
    designated his padakajjhana, the basic or foundational jhana. Insight
    cannot be practiced while absorbed in jhana, since insight meditation requires
    investigation and observation, which are impossible when the mind is immersed
    in one-pointed absorption. But after emerging from the jhana the mind is
    cleared of the hindrances, and the stillness and clarity that then result
    conduce to precise, penetrating insight.

    The jhanas also enter into the samathayanika’s
    practice in second capacity, that is, as objects for scrutinization by insight.
    The practice of insight consists essentially in the examination of mental and
    physical phenomena to discover their marks of impermanence, suffering and
    non-self. The jhanas a meditator attains provide him with a readily available
    and strikingly clear object in which to seek out the three characteristics.
    After emerging from a jhana the meditator will proceed to examine the jhanic
    consciousness and to discern the way it exemplifies the three universal marks.
    This process is called sammasanañana, “comprehension
    knowledge,” and the jhana subject to such treatment is termed sammasitajjhana,
    “the comprehended jhana” (Vism. 607-11; PP.706-10). Though the basic
    jhana and the comprehended jhana will often be the same, the two do not
    necessarily coincide. A meditator cannot practice comprehension on a jhana
    higher than he is capable of attaining, but one who uses a higher jhana as his padakajjhana
    can still practice insight comprehension on a lower jhana which he has
    previously attained and mastered. The admitted difference between the padakajjhana
    and the sammasitajjhana leads to discrepant theories about the
    supramundane concentration of the noble path, as we will see.

    Whereas the sequence of training undertaken by the samathayanika
    meditator is unproblematic, the vipassanayanika’s approach presents the
    difficulty of accounting for the concentration he uses to provide a basis for
    insight. Concentration is needed in order to see and know things as they are,
    but without access concentration or jhana, what concentration can he use? The
    solution to this problem is found in a type of concentration distinct from the
    access and absorption concentrations pertaining to the vehicle of serenity,
    called “momentary concentration” (khanika samadhi). Despite
    its name, momentary concentration does not signify a single moment of
    concentration amidst a current of distracted thoughts, but a dynamic
    concentration which flows from object to object in the ever-changing flux of
    phenomena, retaining a constant degree of intensity and collectedness
    sufficient to purify the mind of the hindrances. Momentary concentration arises
    in the samathayanika simultaneously with his post-jhanic attainment of
    insight, but for the vipassanayanika it develops naturally and
    spontaneously in the course of his insight practice without his having to fix
    the mind upon a single exclusive object. Thus the follower of the vehicle of
    insight does not omit concentration altogether from his training, but develops
    it in a different manner from the practitioner of serenity. Without gaining
    jhana he goes directly into contemplation on the five aggregates and by
    observing them constantly from moment to moment acquires momentary
    concentration as an accompaniment of his investigations. This momentary
    concentration fulfills the same function as the basic jhana of the serenity
    vehicle, providing the foundation of mental clarity needed for insight to

    Supramundane Jhana

    The climax in the development of insight is the attainment
    of the supramundane paths and fruits. Each path is a momentary peak experience
    directly apprehending Nibbana and permanently cutting off certain defilements.
    These defilements are generally grouped into a set of ten “fetters” (samyojana)
    which keep beings chained to the round of rebirths. The first path, called the
    path of stream-entry (sotapatti) because it marks the entry into the
    stream of the Dhamma, eradicates the first three fetters — The false view of
    self, doubt, and clinging to rites and rituals. The disciple who has reached
    stream-entry has limited his future births to a maximum of seven in the happy
    realms of the human and heavenly worlds, after which he will attain final
    deliverance. But an ardent disciple may progress to still higher stages in the
    same life in which he reaches stream-entry, by making an aspiration for the
    next higher path and again undertaking the development of insight with the aim
    of reaching that path.

    The next supramundane path is that of the once-returner (sakadagami).
    This path does not eradicate any fetters completely, but it greatly attenuates
    sensual desire and ill will. The once-returner is so called because he is bound
    to make an end of suffering after returning to this world only one more time.
    The third path, that of the non-returner (anagami) utterly destroys the
    sensual desire and ill will weakened by the preceding path. The non-returner is
    assured that he will never again take rebirth in the sense-sphere; if he does
    not penetrate higher he will be reborn spontaneously in the Pure Abodes and
    there reach final Nibbana. The highest path, the path of arahatship, eradicate
    the remaining five fetters — desire for existence in the fine-material and
    immaterial spheres, conceit, restlessness and ignorance. The arahant has
    completed the development of the entire path taught by the Buddha; he has
    reached the end of rebirths and can sound his “lion’s roar”:
    “Destroyed is birth, the holy life has been lived, what was to be done has
    been done, there is nothing further beyond this.”

    Each path is followed immediately by the supramundane
    experience of fruition, which results from the path, comes in the same four
    graded stages, and shares the path’s world-transcending character. But whereas
    the path performs the active function of cutting off defilements, fruition
    simply enjoys the bliss and peace that result when the path has completed its
    task. Also, where the path is limited to a single moment of consciousness, the
    fruition that follows immediately on the path endures for two or three moments.
    And while each of the four paths occurs only once and can never be repeated,
    fruition remains accessible to the noble disciple at the appropriate level. He
    can resort to it as a special meditative state called fruition attainment (phalasamapatti)
    for the purpose of experiencing nibbanic bliss here and now (Vism. 699-702;

    The supramundane paths and fruits always arise as states
    of jhanic consciousness. They occur as states of jhana because they contain
    within themselves the jhana factors elevated to an intensity corresponding to
    that of the jhana factors in the mundane jhanas. Since they possess the jhana
    factors these states are able to fix upon their object with the force of full
    absorption. Thence, taking the absorptive force of the jhana factors as the
    criterion, the paths and fruits may be reckoned as belonging to either the
    first, second, third or fourth jhana of the fourfold scheme, or to the first,
    second, third, fourth or fifth jhana of the fivefold scheme.

    The basis for the recognition of a supramundane type of
    jhana goes back to the suttas, especially to the section of “The Great
    Discourse on the Foundations of Mindfulness” where the Buddha defines
    right concentration of the Noble Eightfold Path by the standard formula for the
    four jhanas (D.ii,313). However, it is in the Abhidhamma that the connection
    between the jhanas, paths and fruits comes to be worked out with great
    intricacy of detail. The Dhammasangani, in its section on states of
    consciousness, expounds each of the path and fruition states of consciousness
    as occasions, first, of one or another of the four jhanas in the fourfold
    scheme, and then again as occasions of one or another of the five jhanas in the
    fivefold scheme (Dhs.74-86). Standard Abhidhammic exposition, as formalized in
    the synoptical manuals of Abhidhamma, employs the fivefold scheme and brings
    each of the paths and fruits into connection with each of the five jhanas. In
    this way the eight types of supramundane consciousness — the path and fruition
    consciousness of stream-entry, the once-returner, the non-returner and
    arahatship — proliferate to forty types of supramundane consciousness, since
    any path or fruit can occur at the level of any of the five jhanas. It should
    be noted, however, that there are no paths and fruits conjoined with the
    immaterial attainments, the reason being that supramundane jhana is presented
    solely from the standpoint of its factorial constitution, which for the
    immaterial attainment and the fifth jhana is identical — equanimity and

    The fullest treatment of the supramundane jhanas in the
    authoritative Pali literature can be found in the Dhammasangani read in
    conjunction with its commentary, the Atthasalini. The Dhammasangani
    opens its analysis of the first wholesome supramundane consciousness with the

    On the occasion
    when one develops supramundane jhana which is emancipating, leading to the
    demolition (of existence), for the abandonment of views, for reaching the first
    plane, secluded from sense pleasures… one enters and dwells in the first
    jhana. (Dhs. 72)

    The Atthasalini explains the word lokuttara,
    which we have been translating “supramundane,” as meaning “it
    crosses over the world, it transcends the world, it stands having surmounted
    and overcome the world.” It glosses the phrase “one develops
    jhana” thus: “One develops, produces, cultivates absorption jhana
    lasting for a single thought-moment.” This gloss shows us two things about
    the consciousness of the path: that it occurs as a jhana at the level of full
    absorption and that this absorption of the path lasts for only a single
    thought-moment. The word “emancipating” (niyyanika) is
    explained to mean that this jhana “goes out” from the world, from the
    round of existence, the phrase “leading to demolition” (apacayagami)
    that it demolishes and dismantles the process of rebirth (Dhs.A.259).

    This last phrase points to a striking difference between
    mundane and supramundane jhana. The Dhammasangani’s exposition of the
    former begins: “On the occasion when one develops the path for rebirth
    in the fine-material sphere
    … one enters and dwells in the first
    jhana” [my italics]. Thus, with this statement, mundane jhana is shown to
    sustain the round of rebirths; it is a wholesome kamma leading to renewed
    existence. But the supramundane jhana of the path does not promote the
    continuation of the round. To the contrary, it brings about the round’s
    dismantling and demolition, as the Atthasalini shows with an illustrative

    The wholesome
    states of the three planes are said to lead to accumulation because they build
    up and increase death and rebirth in the round. But not this. Just as when one
    man has built up a wall eighteen feet high another might take a club and go
    along demolishing it, so this goes along demolishing and dismantling the deaths
    and rebirths built up by the wholesome kammas of the three planes by bringing
    about a deficiency in their conditions. Thus it leads to demolition.[25]

    Supramundane jhana is said to be cultivated “for the
    abandoning of views.” This phrase points to the function of the first
    path, which is to eradicate the fetters. The supramundane jhana of the first
    path cuts off the fetter of personality view and all speculative views derived
    from it. The Atthasalini points out that here we should understand that
    it abandons not only wrong views but other unwholesome states as well, namely,
    doubt, clinging to rites and rituals, and greed, hatred and delusion strong
    enough to lead to the plane of misery. The commentary explicates “for
    reaching the first plane” as meaning for attaining the fruit of

    Besides these, several other differences between mundane
    and supramundane jhana may be briefly noted. First, with regard to their
    object, the mundane jhanas have as object a conceptual entity such as the
    counterpart sign of the kasinas or, in the case of the divine abodes, sentient
    beings. In contrast, for the supramundane jhana of the paths and fruits the
    object is exclusively Nibbana. With regard to their predominant tone, in
    mundane jhana the element of serenity prevails, while the supramundane jhana of
    the paths and fruits brings serenity and insight into balance. Wisdom is
    present as right view and serenity as right concentration, both function
    together in perfect harmony, neither one exceeding the other.

    This difference in prevailing tone leads into a difference
    in function or activity between the two kinds of jhana. Both the mundane and
    supramundane are jhanas in the sense of closely attending (upanijjhana),
    but in the case of mundane jhana this close attention issues merely in
    absorption into the object, an absorption that can only suppress the defilement
    temporarily. In the supramundane jhana, particularly of the four paths, the
    coupling of close attention with wisdom brings the exercise of four functions
    at a single moment. These four functions each apply to one of the Four Noble
    Truths. The path penetrates the First Noble Truth by fully understanding
    suffering; it penetrates the Second Noble Truth by abandoning craving, the
    origin of suffering; it penetrates the Third Noble Truth by realizing Nibbana,
    the cessation of suffering; and it penetrates the fourth Noble Truth by
    developing the Noble Eightfold Path that leads to the end of suffering.
    Buddhaghosa illustrates this with the simile of a lamp, which also performs
    four tasks simultaneously: it burns the wick, dispels darkness, makes light
    appear, and consumes oil (Vism.690; PP.808).

    The Jhanic Level of the
    Path and Fruit   

    When the paths and fruits are assigned to the level of the
    four or five jhanas, the question arises as to what factor determines their particular
    level of jhanic intensity. In other words, why do the path and fruit arise for
    one meditator at the level of the first jhana, for another at the level of the
    second jhana, and so forth? The commentaries present three theories concerning
    the determination of the jhanic level of the path, apparently deriving from the
    lineages of ancient teachers (Vism. 666-67; PP.778-80. Dhs.A.271-74). The first
    holds that it is the basic jhana, i.e., the jhana used as a basis for the
    insight leading to emergence in immediate proximity to the path, that governs
    the difference in the jhanic level of the path. A second theory says that the
    difference is governed by the aggregates made the objects of insight on the
    occasion of insight leading to emergence. A third theory holds that it is the
    personal inclination of the meditator that governs the difference.

    According to the first theory the path arisen in a
    dry-insight meditator who lacks jhana, and the path arisen in one who possesses
    a jhana attainment but does not use it as a basis for insight, and the path
    arisen by comprehending formations after emerging from the first jhana, are all
    paths of the first jhana only. When the path is produced after emerging from
    the second, third, fourth and fifth jhanas (of the fivefold system) and using
    these as the basis for insight, then the path pertains to the level of the
    jhana used as a basis — the second, third, fourth of fifth. For a meditator
    using an immaterial jhana as basis the path will be a fifth jhana path. Thus in
    this first theory, when formations are comprehended by insight after emerging
    from a basic jhana, then it is the jhana attainment emerged from at the point
    nearest to the path, i.e., just before insight leading to emergence is reached,
    that makes the path similar in nature to itself.

    According to the second theory the path that arises is
    similar in nature to the states which are being comprehended with insight at
    the time insight leading to emergence occurs. Thus if the meditator, after
    emerging from a meditative attainment, is comprehending with insight
    sense-sphere phenomena or the constituents of the first jhana, then the path
    produced will occur at the level of the first jhana. On this theory, then, it
    is the comprehended jhana (sammasitajjhana) that determines the jhanic
    quality of the path. The one qualification that must be added is that a
    meditator cannot contemplate with insight a jhana higher than he is capable of

    According to the third theory, the path occurs at the
    level of whichever jhana the meditator wishes — either at the level of the
    jhana he has used as the basis for insight or at the level of the jhana he has
    made the object of insight comprehension. In other words, the jhanic quality of
    the path accords with his personal inclination. However, mere wish alone is not
    sufficient. For the path to occur at the jhanic level wished for, the mundane
    jhana must have been either made the basis for insight or used as the object of
    insight comprehension.

    The difference between the three theories can be
    understood through a simple example.[26]

    If a meditator reaches the supramundane path by contemplating with insight the
    first jhana after emerging from the fifth jhana, then according to the first
    theory his path will belong to the fifth jhana, while according to the second
    theory it will belong to the first jhana. Thus these two theories are
    incompatible when a difference obtains between basic jhana and comprehended
    jhana. But according to the third theory, the path becomes of whichever jhana
    the meditator wishes, either the first or the fifth. Thus this doctrine does
    not necessarily clash with the other two.

    Buddhaghosa himself does not make a decision among these
    three theories. He only points out that in all three doctrines, beneath their
    disagreements, there is the recognition that the insight immediately preceding
    the supramundane path determines the jhanic character of the path. For this
    insight is the proximate and the principal cause for the arising of the path,
    so whether it be the insight leading to emergence near the basic jhana or that
    occurring through the contemplated jhana or that fixed by the meditator’s wish,
    it is in all cases this final phase of insight that gives definition to the
    supramundane path. Since the fruition that occurs immediately after the path
    has an identical constitution to the path, its own supramundane jhana is
    determined by the path. Thus a first jhana path produces a first jhana fruit,
    and so forth for the remaining jhanas.

    Jhana and the Noble Disciples   

    All noble persons, as we saw, acquire supramundane jhana
    along with their attainment of the noble paths and fruits. The noble ones at
    each of the four stages of liberation, moreover, have access to the
    supramundane jhana of their respective fruition attainments, from the fruition
    attainment of stream-entry up to the fruition attainments of arahatship. It
    remains problematic, however to what extent they also enjoy the possession of
    mundane jhana. To determine an answer to this question we will consult an early
    typology of seven types of noble disciples, which provides a more
    psychologically oriented way of classifying the eight noble individuals. A look
    at the explanation of these seven types will enable us to see the range of
    jhanic attainment reached by the noble disciples. On this basis we will proceed
    to assess the place of mundane jhana in the early Buddhist picture of the
    arahant, the perfected individual.

    Seven Types of Disciples

    The sevenfold typology is originally found in the Kitagiri
    Sutta of the Majjhima Nikaya (M.i,477-79) and is reformulated in the Puggalapaññatti
    of the Abhidhamma Pitaka. This typology classifies the noble persons on the
    paths and fruits into seven types: the faith-devotee (saddhanusari), the
    one liberated by faith (saddhavimutta), the body-witness (kayasakkhi),
    the one liberated in both ways (ubhatobhagavimutta), the truth-devotee (dhammanusari),
    the one attained to understanding (ditthipatta), and the one liberated
    by wisdom (paññavimutta). The seven types may be divided into three
    general groups, each defined by the predominance of a particular spiritual
    faculty, The first two types are governed by a predominance of faith, the
    middle two by a predominance of concentration, and the last three by a
    predominance of wisdom. To this division, however, certain qualifications will
    have to made as we go along.

    [1] The faith-devotee is explained the sutta thus:

    Herein, monks,
    some person has not reached with his own (mental) body those peaceful
    immaterial deliverances transcending material form: nor after seeing with
    wisdom, have his cankers been destroyed.[27]

    But he has a certain degree of faith in the Tathagata, a certain degree of
    devotion to him, and he has these qualities — the faculties of faith, energy,
    mindfulness, concentration and wisdom. This person, monks, is called a
    faith-devotee. (M.i,479)

    The Puggalapaññatti (p 182) defines the
    faith-devotee from a different angle as a disciple practicing for the fruit of
    stream-entry in whom the faculty of faith is predominant and who develops the
    noble path led by faith. It adds that when he is established in the fruit he becomes
    one liberated by faith. Although the sutta excluded the “peaceful
    immaterial attainments,” i.e., the four immaterial jhana, from the
    faith-devotee’s equipment, this implies nothing with regard to his achievement
    of the four lower mundane jhanas. It would seem that the faith-devotee can have
    previously attained any of the four fine-material jhanas before reaching the
    path, and can also be a dry-insight worker bereft of mundane jhana.

    [2] The one liberated by faith is strictly and literally defined
    as a noble disciple at the six intermediate levels, from the fruit of
    stream-entry through to the path of arahatship, who lacks the immaterial jhanas
    and has a predominance of the faith faculty.

    The Buddha explains the one liberated by faith as follows:

    Herein, monks, some person has not reached with his own
    (mental) body those peaceful immaterial deliverances transcending material
    form; but having seen with wisdom, some of his cankers have been destroyed, and
    his faith in the Tathagata is settled, deeply rooted, well established. This
    person, monks, is called one liberated by faith. (M.i,478)

    As in the case of the faith-devotee, the one liberated by
    faith, while lacking the immaterial jhanas, may still be an obtainer of the
    four mundane jhanas as well as a dry insight worker.

    The Puggalapaññatti states (pp.184-85) that the
    person liberated by faith is one who understands the Four Noble Truths, has
    seen and verified by means of wisdom the teachings proclaimed by the Tathagata,
    and having seen with wisdom has eliminated some of his cankers. However, he has
    not done so as easily as the ditthipatta, the person attained to
    understanding, whose progress is easier due to his superior wisdom. The fact
    that the one liberated by faith has destroyed only some of this cankers implies
    that he has advanced beyond the first path but not yet reached the final fruit,
    the fruit of arahatship.[28]

    [3] The body-witness is a noble disciple at the six intermediate
    levels, from the fruit of stream-entry to the path of arahatship, who has a
    predominance of the faculty of concentration and can obtain the immaterial
    jhanas. The sutta explanation reads:

    And what person,
    monks is a body-witness? Herein, monks, some person has reached with his own
    (mental) body those peaceful immaterial deliverances transcending material
    form, and having seen with wisdom, some of his cankers having been destroyed.
    This person, monks, is called a body-witness. (M.i,478)

    The Puggalapaññatti (p. 184) offers a slight
    variation in this phrasing, substituting “the eight deliverances” (atthavimokkha)
    for the sutta’s “peaceful immaterial deliverances” (santa vimokkha
    These eight deliverances consist of three meditative attainments
    pertaining to the fine-material sphere (inclusive of all four lower jhanas),
    the four immaterial jhanas, and the cessation of perception and feeling (saññavedayitanirodha)
    — the last a special attainment accessible only to those non-returners and
    arahats who have also mastered the eight jhanas.[29]

    The statement of the Puggalapaññatti does not mean either that the achievement
    of all eight deliverances is necessary to become a body-witness or that the
    achievement of the three lower deliverances is sufficient. What is both
    requisite and sufficient to qualify as a body-witness is the partial
    destruction of defilements coupled with the attainment of at least the lowest
    immaterial jhana. Thus the body witness becomes fivefold by way of those who
    obtain any of the four immaterial jhanas and the one who also obtains the
    cessation of perception and feeling.

    [4] One who is liberated in both ways is an arahant who has
    completely destroyed the defilements and possesses the immaterial attainments.
    The commentaries explain the name “liberated in both ways” as meaning
    “through the immaterial attainment he is liberated from the material body
    and through the path (of arahatship) he is liberated from the mental body”
    (MA.ii,131). The sutta defines this type of disciple thus:

    And what person,
    monks, is liberated in both ways? Herein, monks, someone has reached with his
    own (mental) body those peaceful immaterial deliverances transcending material
    form, and having seen with wisdom, his cankers are destroyed. This person,
    monks, is called liberated in both ways. (M.i,477)

    The Puggalapaññatti (p.184) gives basically the
    same formula but replaces “immaterial deliverances” with “the
    eight deliverances.” The same principle of interpretation that applied to
    the body-witness applies here: the attainment of any immaterial jhana, even the
    lowest, is sufficient to qualify a person as both-ways liberated. As the
    commentary to the Visuddhimagga says: “One who has attained
    arahatship after gaining even one [immaterial jhana] is liberated both
    ways” (Vism.T.ii,466). This type becomes fivefold by way of those who
    attain arahatship after emerging from one or another of the four immaterial
    jhanas and the one who attains arahatship after emerging from the attainment of
    cessation (MA:iii,131).

    [5] The truth-devotee is a disciple on the first path in whom the
    faculty of wisdom is predominant. The Buddha explains the truth-devotee as

    Herein, monks,
    some person has not reached with his own (mental) body those peaceful
    immaterial deliverances transcending material form; nor, after seeing with
    wisdom, have his cankers been destroyed. But the teachings proclaimed by the
    Tathagata are accepted by him through mere reflection, and he has these
    qualities — the faculties of faith, energy, mindfulness, concentration and
    wisdom. This person, monks, is called a truth-devotee. (M.i,479)

    The Puggalapaññatti (p.185) defines the
    truth-devotee as one practicing for realization of the fruit of stream-entry in
    whom the faculty of wisdom is predominant, and who develops the path led by
    wisdom. It adds that when a truth-devotee is established in the fruit of
    stream-entry he becomes one attained to understanding, the sixth type. The
    sutta and Abhidhamma again differ as to emphasis, the one stressing lack of the
    immaterial jhanas, the other the ariyan stature. Presumably, he may have any of
    the four fine-material jhanas or be a bare-insight practitioner without any
    mundane jhana.

    [6] The one attained to understanding is a noble disciple at the
    six intermediate levels who lacks the immaterial jhanas and has a predominance
    of the wisdom faculty. The Buddha explains:

    And what person,
    monks, is the one attained to understanding? Herein, monks someone has not
    reached with his own mental body those peaceful immaterial deliverances
    transcending material form, but having seen with wisdom some of his cankers are
    destroyed, and the teachings proclaimed by the Tathagata have been seen and
    verified by him with wisdom. This person, monks, is called the one attained to
    understanding. (M.i,478)

    The Puggalapaññatti (p.185) defines the one
    attained to understanding as a person who understands the Four Noble Truths,
    has seen and verified by means of wisdom the teachings proclaimed by the
    Tathagata, and having seen with wisdom has eliminated some of his cankers. He
    is thus the “wisdom counterpart” of the one liberated by faith, but
    progresses more easily than the latter by virtue of his sharper wisdom. Like
    his counterpart, he may possess any of the four mundane jhanas or may be a
    dry-insight worker.

    [7] The one liberated by wisdom is an arahant who does not obtain
    the immaterial attainments. In the words of the sutta:

    And what person,
    monks, is the one liberated by wisdom? Herein, monks, someone has not reached
    with his own (mental) body those peaceful material deliverances transcending
    material form, but having seen with wisdom his cankers are destroyed. This
    person, monks, is called one liberated by wisdom. (M.i,477-78)

    The Puggalapaññatti’s definition (p.185) merely
    replaces “immaterial deliverance” with “the eight
    deliverances.” Though such arahats do not reach the immaterial jhanas it
    is quite possible for them to attain the lower jhanas. The sutta commentary in
    fact states that the one liberated by wisdom is fivefold by way of the
    dry-insight worker and the four who attain arahatship after emerging from the
    four jhanas.

    It should be noted that the one liberated by wisdom is contrasted
    not with the one liberated by faith, but with the one liberated in both ways.
    The issue that divides the two types of arahant is the lack or possession of
    the four immaterial jhanas and the attainment of cessation. The person
    liberated by faith is found at the six intermediate levels of sanctity, not at
    the level of arahatship. When he obtains arahatship, lacking the immaterial
    jhanas, he becomes one liberated by wisdom even though faith rather that wisdom
    is his predominant faculty. Similarly, a meditator with predominance of
    concentration who possesses the immaterial attainments will still be liberated
    in both ways even if wisdom rather than concentration claims first place among
    his spiritual endowments, as was the case with the venerable Sariputta.

    Jhana and the Arahant

    From the standpoint of their spiritual stature the seven
    types of noble persons can be divided into three categories. The first, which
    includes the faith-devotee and the truth-devotee, consists of those on the path
    of stream-entry, the first of the eight noble individuals. The second category,
    comprising the one liberated by faith, the body-witness and the one attained to
    understanding, consists of those on the six intermediate levels, from the
    stream-enterer to one on the path of arahatship. The third category, comprising
    the one liberated in both ways and the one liberated by wisdom, consists only
    of arahats.[30]

    The ubhatobhagavimutta, “one liberated in both
    ways,” and the paññavimutta “one liberated by wisdom,”
    thus form the terms of a twofold typology of arahats distinguished on the basis
    of their accomplishment in jhana. The ubhatobhagavimutta arahant
    experiences in his own person the “peaceful deliverances” of the
    immaterial sphere, the paññavimutta arahant lacks this full experience
    of the immaterial jhanas. Each of these two types, according to the
    commentaries, again becomes fivefold — the ubhatobhagavimutta by way of
    those who possess the ascending four immaterial jhanas and the attainment of
    cessation, the paññavimutta by way of those who reach arahatship after
    emerging from one of the four fine-material jhanas and the dry-insight
    meditator whose insight lacks the support of mundane jhana.

    The possibility of attaining the supramundane path without
    possession of a mundane jhana has been questioned by some Theravada scholars,
    but the Visuddhimagga clearly admits this possibility when it
    distinguishes between the path arisen in a dry-insight meditator and the path
    arisen in one who possesses a jhana but does not use it as a basis for insight
    (Vism.666-67; PP.779). Textual evidence that there can be arahats lacking
    mundane jhana is provided by the Susima Sutta (S.ii, 199-23) together with is
    commentaries. When the monks in the sutta are asked how they can be arahats
    without possessing supernormal powers of the immaterial attainments, they
    reply: “We are liberated by wisdom” (paññavimutta kho mayam).
    The commentary glosses this reply thus: “We are contemplatives,
    dry-insight meditators, liberated by wisdom alone” (Mayam nijjhanaka
    sukkhavipassaka paññamatten’eva vimutta ti,
    SA.ii,117). The commentary also
    states that the Buddha gave his long disquisition on insight in the sutta
    “to show the arising of knowledge even without concentration” (vina
    pi samadhimevam nanuppattidassanattham,
    SA.ii,117). The subcommentary
    establishes the point by explaining “even without concentration” to
    mean “even without concentration previously accomplished reaching the mark
    of serenity” (samathalakkhanappattam purimasiddhamvina pi samadhin ti),
    adding that this is said in reference to one who makes insight his vehicle

    In contrast to the paññavimutta arahats, those
    arahats who are ubhatobhagavimutta enjoy a twofold liberation. Through
    their mastery over the formless attainments they are liberated from the
    material body (rupakaya), capable of dwelling in this very life in the
    meditations corresponding to the immaterial planes of existence; through their
    attainment of arahatship they are liberated from the mental body (namakaya),
    presently free from all defilements and sure of final emancipation from future
    becoming. Paññavimutta arahats only possess the second of these two

    The double liberation of the ubhatobhagavimutta
    arahant should not be confused with another double liberation frequently
    mentioned in the suttas in connection with arahatship. This second pair of
    liberations, called cetovimutti paññavimutti, “liberation of mind,
    liberation by wisdom,” is shared by all arahats. It appears in the stock
    passage descriptive of arahatship: “With the destruction of the cankers he
    here and now enters and dwells in the cankerless liberation of mind, liberation
    by wisdom, having realized it for himself with direct knowledge.” That
    this twofold liberation belongs to paññavimutta arahats as well as those
    who are ubhatobhagavimutta is made clear by the Putta Sutta, where the stock
    passage is used for two types of arahats called the “white lotus
    recluse” and the “red lotus recluse”:

    How, monks, is a
    person a white lotus recluse (samanapundarika)? Here, monks, with the
    destruction of the cankers a monk here and now enters and dwells in the
    cankerless liberation of mind, liberation by wisdom, having realized it for
    himself with direct knowledge. Yet he does not dwell experiencing the eight
    deliverances with his body. Thus, monks, a person is a white lotus recluse.

    And how, monks, is a person a red lotus recluse (samanapaduma)?
    Here, monks, with the destruction of the cankers a monk here and now enters and
    dwells in the cankerless liberation of mind, liberation by wisdom, having
    realized it for himself with direct knowledge. And he dwells experiencing the
    eight deliverances with his body. Thus, monks, a person is a red lotus recluse.

    Since the description of these two types coincides with
    that of paññavimutta and ubhatobhagavimutta the two pairs may be
    identified, the white lotus recluse with the paññavimutta, the red lotus
    recluse with the ubhatobhagavimutta. Yet the paññavimutta
    arahant, while lacking the experience of the eight deliverances, still has both
    liberation of mind and liberation by wisdom.

    When liberation of mind and liberation by wisdom are
    joined together and described as “cankerless” (anasava), they
    can be taken to indicate two aspects of the arahant’s deliverance. Liberation
    of mind signifies the release of his mind from craving and its associated
    defilements, liberation by wisdom the release from ignorance: “With the
    fading away of lust there is liberation of mind, with the fading away of
    ignorance there is liberation by wisdom” (A.i,61). “As he sees and
    understands thus his mind is liberated from the canker of sensual desire, from
    the canker of existence, from the canker of ignorance” (M.i,183-84) — here
    release from the first two cankers can be understood as liberation of mind,
    release from the canker of ignorance as liberation by wisdom. In the
    commentaries “liberation of mind” is identified with the
    concentration factor in the fruition attainment of arahatship, “liberation
    by wisdom” with the wisdom factor.

    Since every arahant reaches arahatship through the Noble
    Eightfold Path, he must have attained supramundane jhana in the form of right
    concentration, the eighth factor of the path, defined as the four jhanas. This
    jhana remains with him as the concentration of the fruition attainment of
    arahatship, which occurs at the level of supramundane jhana corresponding to
    that of his path. Thus he always stands in possession of at least the supramundane
    jhana of fruition, called the “cankerless liberation of mind.”
    However, this consideration does not reflect back on his mundane attainments,
    requiring that every arahant possess mundane jhana.

    Although early Buddhism acknowledges the possibility of a
    dry-visioned arahatship, the attitude prevails that jhanas are still desirable
    attributes in an arahant. They are of value not only prior to final attainment,
    as a foundation for insight, but retain their value even afterwards. The value
    of jhana in the stage of arahatship, when all spiritual training has been
    completed, is twofold. One concerns the arahant’s inner experience, the other
    his outer significance as a representative of the Buddha’s dispensation.

    On the side of inner experience the jhanas are valued as
    providing the arahant with a “blissful dwelling here and now” (ditthadhammasukhavihara).
    The suttas often show arahats attaining to jhana and the Buddha himself
    declares the four jhanas to be figuratively a kind of Nibbana in this present
    life (A.iv.453-54). With respect to levels and factors there is no difference
    between the mundane jhanas of an arahant and those of a non-arahant. The
    difference concerns their function. For non-arahats the mundane jhanas
    constitute wholesome kamma; they are deeds with a potential to produce results,
    to precipitate rebirth in a corresponding realm of existence. But in the case
    of an arahant mundane jhana no longer generates kamma. Since he has eradicated
    ignorance and craving, the roots of kamma, his actions leave no residue; they
    have no capacity to generate results. For him the jhanic consciousness is a
    mere functional consciousness which comes and goes and once gone disappears
    without a trace.

    The value of the jhanas, however, extends beyond the
    confines of the arahant’s personal experience to testify to the spiritual
    efficacy of the Buddha’s dispensation. The jhanas are regarded as
    ornamentations of the arahant, testimonies to the accomplishment of the
    spiritually perfect person and the effectiveness of the teaching he follows. A
    worthy monk is able to “gain at will without trouble or difficulty, the
    four jhanas pertaining to the higher consciousness, blissful dwellings here and
    now.” This ability to gain the jhanas at will is a “quality that
    makes a monk an elder.” When accompanied by several other spiritual
    accomplishments it is an essential quality of “a recluse who graces
    recluses” and of a monk who can move unobstructed in the four directions.
    Having ready access to the four jhanas makes an elder dear and agreeable,
    respected and esteemed by his fellow monks. Facility in gaining the jhanas is
    one of the eight qualities of a completely inspiring monk (samantapasadika
    perfect in all respects; it is also one of the eleven foundations
    of faith (saddha pada). It is significant that in all these lists of
    qualities the last item is always the attainment of arahatship, “the
    cankerless liberation of mind, liberation by wisdom,” showing that all
    desirable qualities in a bhikkhu culminate in arahatship.[31]

    The higher the degree of his mastery over the meditative
    attainments, the higher the esteem in which an arahant monk is held and the
    more praiseworthy his achievement is considered. Thus the Buddha says of the ubhatobhagavimutta
    arahant: “There is no liberation in both ways higher and more excellent
    than this liberation in both ways”(D.ii,71).

    The highest respect goes to those monks who possess not
    only liberation in both ways but the six abhiññas or
    “super-knowledges”: the exercise of psychic powers, the divine ear,
    the ability to read the minds of others, the recollection of past lives,
    knowledge of the death and rebirth of beings, and knowledge of final liberation.
    The Buddha declares that a monk endowed with the six abhiññas, is worthy
    of gifts and hospitality, worthy of offerings and reverential salutations, a
    supreme field of merit for the world (A.iii,280-81). In the period after the
    Buddha’s demise, what qualified a monk to give guidance to others was endowment
    with ten qualities: moral virtue, learning, contentment, mastery over the four
    jhanas, the five mundane abhiññas and attainment of the cankerless
    liberation of mind, liberation by wisdom (M.iii,11-12). Perhaps it was because
    he was extolled by the Buddha for his facility in the meditative attainments
    and the abhiññas that the venerable Mahakassapa assumed the presidency
    of the first great Buddhist council held in Rajagaha after the Buddha’s passing

    The graduation in the veneration given to arahats on the
    basis of their mundane spiritual achievements implies something about the value
    system of early Buddhism that is not often recognized. It suggests that while
    final liberation may be the ultimate and most important value, it is not the
    sole value even in the spiritual domain. Alongside it, as embellishments rather
    than alternatives, stand mastery over the range of the mind and mastery over
    the sphere of the knowable. The first is accomplished by the attainment of the
    eight mundane jhanas, the second by the attainment of the abhiññas.
    Together, final liberation adorned with this twofold mastery is esteemed as the
    highest and most desirable way of actualizing the ultimate goal.

    the Author   

    Mahathera Henepola Gunaratana was ordained as a Buddhist
    monk in Kandy, Sri Lanka, in 1947 and received his education at Vidyalankara
    College and Buddhist Missionary College, Colombo. He worked for five years as a
    Buddhist missionary among the Harijans (Untouchables) in India and for ten
    years with the Buddhist Missionary Society in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. In 1968
    he came to the United States to serve as general secretary of the Buddhist
    Vihara Society at the Washington Buddhist Vihara. In 1980 he was appointed
    president of the Society. He has received a Ph.D. from The American University
    and since 1973 has been Buddhist Chaplain at The American University. He is now
    director of the Bhavana Meditation Center in West Virginia in the Shenandoah
    Valley, about 100 miles from Washington, D.C.



    for example, the Samaññaphala Sutta (
    D. 2), the Culahatthipadopama Sutta (M. 27),etc.


    byapada, thinamiddha, uddhaccakukkucca, vicikiccha.


    vicara, piti, sukha, ekaggata.


    viññanañcayatana, akincaññayatana, nevasaññanasaññayatana.


    Narada, A Manual of Abhidhamma, 4th ed. (Kandy: Buddhist Publication
    Society, 1980), pp.389, 395-96.


    full description of the fourfold purification of morality will be found in the Visuddhimagga,
    Chapter 1.


    following discussion is based on Vism.110-115; PP.112-118.


    ascribes the passage he cites in support of the correspondence to the
    “Petaka,” but it cannot be traced anywhere in the present Tipitaka,
    nor in the exegetical work named Petakopadesa.


    other two types of abandoning are by substitution of opposites (tadangappahana),
    which means the replacement of unwholesome states by wholesome ones
    specifically opposed to them, and abandoning by eradication (samucchedappahana),
    the final destruction of defilements by the supramundane paths. See


    from Nyanaponika Thera, The Five Mental Hindrances and Their Conquest
    (Wheel No. 26). This booklet contains a full compilation of texts on the


    Ñanamoli, in his translation of the Visuddhimagga, renders piti by
    “happiness,” but this rendering can be misleading since most
    translators use “happiness” as a rendering for sukha, the pleasurable
    feeling present in the jhana. We will render piti by “rapture,” thus
    maintaining the connection of the term with ecstatic meditative experience.


    Zan Aung, Compendium of Philosophy (London: Pali Text Society, 1960),


    khanikapiti, okkantikapiti, ubbega piti

    and pharana piti. Vism 143-44; PP. 149-51. Dhs.A.158.


    Translation by Maung Tin, The Expositor (Atthasalini) (London: Pali Text
    Society, 1921), i.155-56.


    following is based on Vism. 126-35; PP.132-40


    samapajjanavasi, adhitthanavasi, vutthanavasi, paccavekkhanavasi.
    For a discussion see Vism. 154-55; PP.160-61. The
    canonical source for the five masteries is the Patisambhidamagga, i.100.


    on the distinction between applied and sustained thought, the Abhidhamma
    presents a fivefold division of the jhanas obtained by recognizing the
    sequential rather than simultaneous elimination of the two kinds of thought. On
    this account a meditator of duller faculties eliminates applied thought first
    and attains a second jhana with four factors including sustained thought, and a
    third jhana identical with the second jhana of the fourfold scheme. In contrast
    a meditator of sharp faculties comprehends quickly the defects of both applied
    and sustained thought and so eliminates them both at once.


    viññanañcayatana, akincaññayatana, nevasaññana saññayatana.


    brahmapurohita, maha brahma.


    appamanabha, abhassara.


    appamanasubha, subhakinha.


    asaññasatta, suddhavasa.


    good summary of Buddhist cosmology and of the connection between kamma and
    planes of rebirth can be found in Narada, A Manual of Abhidhamma,


    dukkha, anatta.


    Expositor, ii.289-90.


    See Expositor, ii.310.


    cankers (asava) are four powerful defilements that sustain samsara;
    sensual desire, desire for existence, wrong views and ignorance.


    Visuddhimagga, however says that arahats in whom faith is predominant
    can also be called “liberated by faith” (Vism.659; PP.770). Its
    commentary points out that this statement is intended only figuratively, in the
    sense that those arahats reach their goal after having been liberated by faith
    in the intermediate stages. Literally, they would be “liberated by
    wisdom”. (Vism.T.ii,468)


    first three emancipations are: one possessing material form sees material
    forms; one not perceiving material forms internally sees material forms
    externally; and one is released upon the idea of the beautiful. They are
    understood to be variations on the jhanas attained with color kasinas. For the
    attainment of cessation, see PP.824-833.


    should be noted that the Kitagiri Sutta makes no provision in its typology for
    a disciple on the first path who gains the immaterial jhanas. Vism.T.(ii,466)
    holds that he would have to be considered either a faith-devotee or a
    truth-devotee, and at the final fruition would be one liberated in both ways.


    references are to: A,ii,23; iii,131,135,114; iv,314-15; v,337.




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