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The Jhánas

In Theravada Buddhist Meditation

by

Henepola Gunaratana Maháthera

BUDDHIST PUBLICATION SOCIETY


Kandy Sri Lanka 2006
Buddhist Publication Society Contents
P.O. Box 61
54 Sangharaja Mawatha
Kandy
Sri Lanka List of Abbreviations v
http://www.bps.lk
1. INTRODUCTION 1
Copyright © 1988 by Henepola Gunaratana The Doctrinal Context of Jhána 1
First BPS edition: 1988 Etymology of Jhána 6
Second edition: 2006 Jhána and Samádhi 7
This book is an abridged version of the author's The 2. THE PREPARATION FOR JHÁNA 11
Path of Serenity and Insight: An Explanation of the Bud- The Moral Foundation for Jhána 11
dhist Jhánas, copyright © 1985 Motilal Banarsidass, The Good Friend and the Subject of Meditation 15
New Delhi, and is published in the Wheel series by Choosing a Suitable Dwelling 20
arrangement with that publisher.
3. THE FIRST JHÁNA AND ITS FACTORS 22
The Abandoning of the Hindrances 23
The Factors of the First Jhána 30
Applied Thought (vitakka) 32
Sustained Thought (vicára) 34
Rapture (pìti) 35
Happiness (sukha) 37
One-pointedness (ekaggatá) 40
Perfecting the First Jhána 42
4. THE HIGHER JHÁNAS 46
The Higher Fine-material Jhánas 47
The Immaterial Jhánas 54
The Jhánas and Rebirth 61

The Wheel Publication No. 351/353


iv The Jhánas

5. JHÁNAS AND THE SUPRAMUNDANE 65 List of Abbreviations


The Way of Wisdom 65 PTS Pali Text Society edition
The Two Vehicles 68 BBS Burmese Buddhasásana Samiti edition
Supramundane Jhána 73 AN Anguttara Nikáya (PTS)
The Jhánic Level of the Path and Fruit 80 D Dìgha Nikáya (PTS)
6. JHÁNA AND THE NOBLE DISCIPLES 84 Dhs Dhammasaògaói (BBS)
Dhs-a Dhammasaògaói Aþþhakathá = Atthasálinì
Seven Types of Disciples 84 (BBS)
Jhána and the Arahant 92 M Majjhima Nikáya (PTS)
About the Author 100 M-a Majjhima Nikáya Aþþhakathá (BBS)
Mil Milindapañha (PTS)
PP Path of Purification (translation of Visud-
dhimagga, by Bhikkhu Ñáóamoli; Kandy:
BPS, 1975)
S Saíyutta Nikáya (PTS)
S-a Saíyutta Nikáya Aþþhakathá (BBS)
ST. Saíyutta Nikáya Tika (BBS)
Vibh Vibhaòga (PTS)
Vin-a Vinaya Aþþhakathá (BBS)
Vism Visuddhimagga (PTS)
Vism-þ Visuddhimagga Tika (BBS)
1. INTRODUCTION
The Doctrinal Context of Jhána
The Buddha says that just as in the great ocean
there is but one taste, the taste of salt, so in his doc-
trine 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 free-
dom from suffering. In the process leading to
deliverance from suffering, meditation is the means
of generating the inner awakening required for lib-
eration. The methods of meditation taught in the
Theravada Buddhist tradition are based on the Bud-
dha'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 devel-
opment of serenity (samathabhávaná), the other the
development of insight (vipassanabhávaná). The
former also goes under the name of development of
concentration (samádhibhávaná), the latter the devel-
2 The Jhánas Introduction 3

opment of wisdom (paññábhávaná). The practice of its meaning emerge from its contextual usages.
serenity meditation aims at developing a calm, con- From these it is clear that the jhánas are states of
centrated, unified mind as a means of experiencing deep mental unification which result from the cen-
inner peace and as a basis for wisdom. The practice tering of the mind upon a single object with such
of insight meditation aims at gaining a direct power of attention that a total immersion in the
understanding of the real nature of phenomena. Of object takes place. The early suttas speak of four
the two, the development of insight is regarded by jhánas, named simply after their numerical position
Buddhism as the essential key to liberation, the in the series: the first jhána, the second jhána, the
direct antidote to the ignorance underlying bond- third jhána and the forth jhána. In the suttas the
age and suffering. Whereas serenity meditation is four repeatedly appear each described by a stan-
recognized as common to both Buddhist and non- dard formula which we will examine later in detail.
Buddhist contemplative disciplines, insight medita- The importance of the jhánas in the Buddhist
tion is held to be the unique discovery of the path can readily be gauged from the frequency with
Buddha and an unparalleled feature of his path. which they are mentioned throughout the suttas.
However, because the growth of insight presup- The jhánas figure prominently both in the Buddha's
poses a certain degree of concentration, and own experience and in his exhortation to disciples.
serenity meditation helps to achieve this, the devel- In his childhood, while attending an annual plow-
opment of serenity also claims an incontestable ing festival, the future Buddha spontaneously
place in the Buddhist meditative process. Together entered the first jhána. It was the memory of this
the two types of meditation work to make the mind childhood incident, many years later after his futile
a fit instrument for enlightenment. With his mind pursuit of austerities, that revealed to him the way
unified by means of the development of serenity, to enlightenment during his period of deepest
made sharp and bright by the development of despondency (M I 246-47). After taking his seat
insight, the meditator can proceed unobstructed to beneath the Bodhi tree, the Buddha entered the four
reach the end of suffering, Nibbána. jhánas immediately before direction his mind to the
Pivotal to both systems of meditation, though threefold knowledge that issued in his enlighten-
belonging inherently to the side of serenity, is a set ment (M i.247-49). Throughout his active career the
of meditative attainments called the jhánas. Though four jhánas remained “his heavenly dwelling” (D
translators have offered various renderings of this III 220) to which he resorted in order to live happily
word, ranging from the feeble “musing” to the mis- here and now. His understanding of the corruption,
leading “trance” and the ambiguous “meditation,” purification and emergence in the jhánas and other
we prefer to leave the word untranslated and to let meditative attainments is one of the Tathágata’’s
4 The Jhánas Introduction 5

ten powers which enable him to turn the matchless object is brought about by five opposing mental states—
wheel of the Dhamma (M I 70). Just before his pass- applied thought, sustained thought, rapture, happiness
ing away the Buddha entered the jhánas in direct and one pointedness3—called the jhána factors
and reverse order, and the passing away itself took (jhánaògáni) because they lift the mind to the level of the
place directly from the fourth jhána (D II 156). first jhána and remain there as its defining components.
The Buddha is constantly seen in the suttas After reaching the first jhána the ardent medita-
encouraging his disciples to develop jhána. The tor can go on to reach the higher jhánas, which is
four jhánas are invariably included in the complete done by eliminating the coarser factors in each
course of training laid down for disciples.1 They jhána. Beyond the four jhánas lies another fourfold
figure in the training as the discipline of higher set of higher meditative states which deepen still
consciousness (adhicittasikkhá), right concentration further the element of serenity. These attainments
(sammásamádhi) of the Noble Eightfold Path, and (áruppa), are the base of boundless space, the base of
the faculty and power of concentration boundless consciousness, the base of nothingness,
(samádhindriya, samádhibala). Though a vehicle of and the base of neither-perception-nor-non-percep-
dry insight can be found, indications are that this tion.4 In the Pali commentaries these come to be called
path is not an easy one, lacking the aid of the the four immaterial jhánas (arúpajhána), the four
powerful serenity available to the practitioner of preceding states being renamed for the sake of clarity,
jhána. The way of the jhána attainer seems by the four fine-material jhánas (rúpajhána). Often the two
comparison smoother and more pleasurable (AN II sets are joined together under the collective title of the
150-52). The Buddha even refers to the four jhánas eight jhánas or the eight attainments (aþþha-samápattiyo).
figuratively as a kind of Nibbána: he calls them The four jhánas and the four immaterial attain-
immediately visible Nibbána, factorial Nibbána, ments appear initially as mundane states of deep
Nibbána here and now (AN IV 453-54). serenity pertaining to the preliminary stage of the
To attain the jhánas, the meditator must begin Buddhist path, and on this level they help provide
by eliminating the unwholesome mental states the base of concentration needed for wisdom to
obstructing inner collectedness, generally grouped arise. But the four jhánas again reappear in a later
together as the five hindrances (pañcanìvaraóá): sen-
sual desire, ill will, sloth and torpor, restlessness
and worry and doubt.2 The mind's absorption on its 2. Kámacchanda, byápáda, thìnamiddha, uddhaccakukkucca,
vicikicchá.
3. Vitakka, vicára, pìti, sukha, ekaggatá.
1. See for example, the Sámaññaphala Sutta (DN 2), the 4. Ákásánañcáyatana, viññáóañcáyatana, ákiñcaññáyatana,
Cullahatthipadopama Sutta (MN 27), etc. nevasaññánásaññáyatana.
6 The Jhánas Introduction 7

stage in the development of the path, in direct asso- serenity together with their access, since these con-
ciation with liberating wisdom, and they are then template the object used as the basis for developing
designated the supramundane (lokuttara) jhánas. concentration; for this reason these attainments are
These supramundane jhánas are the levels of con- given the name “jhána” in the mainstream of Pali
centration pertaining to the four degrees of meditative exposition. However, Buddhaghosa also
enlightenment experience called the supramundane allows that the term “jhána” can be extended
paths (magga) and the stages of liberation resulting loosely to insight (vipassaná), the paths and the
from them, the four fruits (phala). fruits on the ground that these perform the work of
Finally, even after full liberation is achieved, the contemplating the characteristics of things the three
mundane jhánas can still remain as attainments marks of impermanence, suffering and non-self in
available to the fully liberated person, part of his the case of insight, Nibbána in the case of the paths
untrammelled contemplative experience. and fruits.
In brief the twofold meaning of jhána as “con-
Etymology of Jhána templation” and “burning up” can be brought into
connection with the meditative process as follows.
The great Buddhist commentator Buddhag- By fixing his mind on the object the meditator
hosa traces the Pali word “jhána” (Skt. dhyána) to reduces and eliminates the lower mental qualities
two verbal forms. One, the etymologically correct such as the five hindrances and promotes the
derivation, is the verb jháyati, meaning to think or growth of the higher qualities such as the jhána fac-
meditate; the other is a more playful derivation, tors, which lead the mind to complete absorption in
intended to illuminate its function rather than its the object. Then by contemplating the characteris-
verbal source, from the verb jhápeti meaning to burn tics of phenomena with insight, the meditator
up. He explains: “It burns up opposing states, thus eventually reaches the supramundane jhána of the
it is jhána” (Vin-a I 116), the purport being that four paths, and with this jhána he burns up the
jhána “burns up” or destroys the mental defile- defilements and attains the liberating experience of
ments preventing the developing the development the fruits.
of serenity and insight.
In the same passage Buddhaghosa says that Jhána and Samádhi
jhána has the characteristic mark of contemplation
(upanijjhána). Contemplation, he states, is twofold: In the vocabulary of Buddhist meditation the
the contemplation of the object and the contempla- word “jhána” is closely connected with another
tion of the characteristics of phenomena. The word, “samádhi” generally rendered by “concentra-
former is exercised by the eight attainments of tion.” Samádhi derives from the prefixed verbal root
8 The Jhánas Introduction 9

sam + á + ƒdhá, meaning to collect or to bring However, despite the commentator's bid for
together, thus suggesting the concentration or unifi- consistency, the word samádhi is used in the Pali lit-
cation of the mind. The word “samádhi” is almost erature on meditation with varying degrees of
interchangeable with the word “samatha,” serenity, specificity of meaning. In the narrowest sense, as
though the latter comes from a different root, ƒsam, defined by Buddhaghosa, it denotes the particular
meaning to become calm. mental factor responsible for the concentrating of
In the suttas samádhi is defined as mental one- the mind, namely, one-pointedness. In a wider
pointedness, (cittassekaggatá M I 301) and this defi- sense it can signify the states of unified conscious-
nition is followed through rigorously in the ness that result from the strengthening of
Abhidhamma. The Abhidhamma treats one-point- concentration, i.e., the meditative attainments of
edness as a distinct mental factor present in every serenity and the stages leading up to them. And in a
state of consciousness, exercising the function of still wider sense the word samádhi can be applied to
unifying the mind on its object. From this strict psy- the method of practice used to produce and culti-
chological standpoint samádhi can be present in vate these refined states of concentration, here
unwholesome states of consciousness as well as in being equivalent to the development of serenity.
wholesome an neutral states. In its unwholesome It is in the second sense that samádhi and jhána
forms it is called “wrong concentration” (mic- come closest in meaning. The Buddha explains
chásamádhi), In its wholesome forms “right right concentration as the four jhánas (D II 313), and
concentration” (sammásamádhi). in doing so allows concentration to encompass the
In expositions on the practice of meditation, meditative attainments signified by the jhánas.
however, samádhi is limited to one-pointedness of However, even though jhána and samádhi can over-
mind (Vism 84-85; PP 84-85), and even here we can lap in denotation, certain differences in their
understand from the context that the word means suggested and contextual meanings prevent
only the wholesome one-pointedness involved in unqualified identification of the two terms. First
the deliberate transmutation of the mind to a behind the Buddha's use of the jhána formula to
heightened level of calm. Thus Buddhaghosa explain right concentration lies a more technical
explains samádhi etymologically as “the centering of understanding of the terms. According to this
consciousness and consciousness concomitants understanding samádhi can be narrowed down in
evenly and rightly on a single object... the state in range to signify only one mental factor, the most
virtue of which consciousness and its concomitants prominent in the jhána, namely, one-pointedness,
remain evenly and rightly on a single object, undis- while the word “jhána” itself must be seen as
tracted and unscattered” (Vism 84-85; PP 85). encompassing the state of consciousness in its
10 The Jhánas

entirety, or at least the whole group of mental fac-


tors individuating that meditative state as a jhána.
In the second place, when samádhi is considered
in its broader meaning it involves a wider range of 2. THE PREPARATION FOR JHÁNA
reference than jhána. The Pali exegetical tradition
recognizes three levels of samádhi: preliminary con- The jhánas do not arise out of a void but in
centration (parikammasamádhi), which is produced dependence on the right conditions. They come to
as a result of the meditator's initial efforts to focus growth only when provided with the nutriments
his mind on his meditation subject; access concen- conductive to their development. Therefore, prior
tration (upacárasamádhi), marked by the suppression to beginning meditation, the aspirant to the jhánas
of the five hindrances, the manifestation of the must prepare a groundwork for his practice by ful-
jhána factors, and the appearance of a luminous filling certain preliminary requirements. He first
mental replica of the meditation object called the must endeavor to purify his moral virtue, sever the
counterpart sign (paþibháganimitta); and absorption outer impediments to practice, and place himself
concentration (appanásamádhi), the complete immer- under a qualified teacher who will assign him a
sion of the mind in its object effected by the full suitable meditation subject and explain to him the
maturation of the jhána factors.5 Absorption methods of developing it. After learning these the
concentration comprises the eight attainments, the disciple must then seek out a congenial dwelling
four immaterial attainments, and to this extent and diligently strive for success. In this chapter we
jhána and samádhi coincide. However, samádhi still will examine in order each of the preparatory steps
has a broader scope than jhána, since it includes not that have to be fulfilled before commencing to
only the jhánas themselves but also the two develop jhána.
preparatory degrees of concentration leading up to
them. Further, samádhi also covers a still different The Moral Foundation for Jhána
type of concentration called momentary A disciple aspiring to the jhánas first has to lay
concentration (khaóikasamádhi), the mobile mental a solid foundation of moral discipline. Moral purity
stabilization produced in the course of insight is indispensable to meditative progress for several
contemplation of the passing flow of phenomena. 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
5. See Nárada, A Manual of Abhidhamma, 4th ed. (Kandy: principles of morality are ignored or deliberately
Buddhist Publication Society, 1980), pp.389, 395-96. violated. Scrupulous conformity to virtuous rules of
12 The Jhánas Preparation for Jhána 13

conduct protects the meditator from this danger cal principles promoting peace within oneself and
disruptive to inner calm, and brings joy and happi- harmony in one's relations with others. The basic
ness when the meditator reflects upon the purity of code of moral discipline taught by the Buddha for
his conduct (see AN V 1-7). the guidance of his lay followers is the five pre-
A second reason a moral foundation is needed cepts: abstinence from taking life, from stealing,
for meditation follows from an understanding of from sexual misconduct, from false speech, and
the purpose of concentration. Concentration, in the from intoxicating drugs and drinks. These princi-
Buddhist discipline, aims at providing a base for ples are bindings as minimal ethical obligations for
wisdom by cleansing the mind of the dispersive all practitioners of the Buddhist path, and within
influence of the defilements. But in order for the their bounds considerable progress in meditation
concentration exercises to effectively combat the can be made. However, those aspiring to reach the
defilements, the coarser expressions of the latter higher levels of jhánas and to pursue the path fur-
through bodily and verbal action first have to be ther to the stages of liberation, are encouraged to
checked. Moral transgressions being invariably take up the more complete moral discipline pertain-
motivated by defilements—by greed, hatred and ing to the life of renunciation. Early Buddhism is
delusion—when a person acts in violation of the unambiguous in its emphasis on the limitations of
precepts of morality he excites and reinforces the household life for following the path in its fullness
very same mental factors his practice of meditation and perfection. Time and again the texts say that
is intended to eliminate. This involves him in a the household life is confining, a “path for the dust
crossfire of incompatible aims which renders his of passion,” while the life of homelessness is like
attempts at mental purification ineffective. The only open space. Thus a disciple who is fully intent upon
way he can avoid frustration in his endeavor to making rapid progress towards Nibbána will when
purify the mind of its subtler defilements is to pre- outer conditions allow for it, “shave off his hair and
vent the unwholesome inner impulses from beard, put on the yellow robe, and go forth from the
breathing out in the coarser form of unwholesome home life into homelessness” (M I 179).
bodily and verbal deeds. Only when he establishes The moral training for the bhikkhus or monks
control over the outer expression of the defilements has been arranged into a system called the fourfold
can he turn to deal with them inwardly as mental purification of morality (catupárisuddhisìla).6 The
obsessions that appear in the process of meditation. first component of this scheme, its backbone,
The practice of moral discipline consists nega-
tively in abstinence from immoral actions of body
and speech and positively in the observance of ethi- 6. A full description of the fourfold purification of
morality will be found in the Visuddhimagga, Chapter 1.
14 The Jhánas Preparation for Jhána 15

consists in the morality of restraint according to the progress; gains, which may bind the monk by obli-
Pátimokkha, the code of 227 training precepts gation to those who offer them; a class of students
promulgated by the Buddha to regulate the conduct who must be instructed; building work, which
of the Sangha or monastic order. Each of these rules demands time and attention; travel; kin, meaning
is in some way intended to facilitate control over parents, teachers, pupils or close friends; illness; the
the defilements and to induce a mode of living study of scriptures; and supernormal powers,
marked by harmlessness, contentment and which are an impediment to insight (Vism 90-97; PP
simplicity. The second aspect of the monk's moral 91-98).
discipline is restraint of the senses, by which the
monk maintains close watchfulness over his mind The Good Friend and the Subject of
as he engages in sense contacts so that he does not Meditation
give rise to desire for pleasurable objects and
aversion towards repulsive ones. Third, the monk is The path of practice leading to the jhánas is an
to live by a purified livelihood, obtaining his basic arduous course involving precise techniques and
requisites such as robes food, lodgings and skillfulness is needed in dealing with the pitfalls
medicines in ways consistent with his vocation. The that lie along the way. The knowledge of how to
fourth factor of the moral training is proper use of the attain the jhánas has been transmitted through a
requisites, which means that the monk should reflect lineage of teachers going back to the time of the
upon the purposes for which he makes use of his Buddha himself. A prospective meditator is
requisites and should employ them only for advised to avail himself of the living heritage of
maintaining his health and comfort, not for luxury accumulated knowledge and experience by placing
and enjoyment. himself under the care of a qualified teacher,
After establishing a foundation of purified described as a “good friend” (kalyáóamitta), one
morality, the aspirant to meditation is advised to who gives guidance and wise advice rooted in his
cut off any outer impediments (paÿibodha) that may own practice and experience. On the basis of either
hinder his efforts to lead a contemplative life. These of the power of penetrating others minds, or by per-
impediments are numbered as ten: a dwelling, sonal observation, or by questioning, the teacher
which becomes an impediment for those who allow will size up the temperament of his new pupil and
their minds to become preoccupied with its upkeep then select a meditation subject for him appropriate
or with its appurtenances; a family of relatives or to his temperament.
supporters with whom the aspirant may become The various meditation subjects that the Bud-
emotionally involved in ways that hinder his dha prescribed for the development of serenity
have been collected in the commentaries into a set
16 The Jhánas Preparation for Jhána 17

called the forty kammaþþhána. This word means liter- mindfulness of the body, mindfulness of breathing,
ally a place of work, and is applied to the subject of and the recollection of peace. The first three are
meditation as the place where the meditator under- devotional contemplations on the sublime qualities
takes the work of meditation. The forty meditation of the “Three Jewels,” the primary objects of Bud-
subjects are distributed into seven categories, enu- dhist virtues and on the deities inhabiting the
merated in the Visuddhimagga as follows: ten heavenly worlds, intended principally for those still
kasióas, ten kinds of foulness, ten recollections, four intent on a higher rebirth. Mindfulness of death is
divine abidings, four immaterial states, one percep- reflection on the inevitably of death, a constant spur
tion, and one defining.7 to spiritual exertion. Mindfulness of the body
A kasióa is a device representing a particular involves the mental dissection of the body into
quality used as a support for concentration. The ten thirty-two parts, undertaken with a view to perceiv-
kasióas are those of earth, water, fire and air; four ing its unattractiveness. Mindfulness of breathing is
color kasióas—blue, yellow, red and white; the awareness of the in-and-out movement of the
light kasióa and the limited space kasióa. The breath, perhaps the most fundamental of all Bud-
kasióa can be either a naturally occurring form of dhist meditation subjects. And the recollection of
the element or color chosen, or an artificially pro- peace is reflection on the qualities of Nibbána.
duced device such as a disk that the meditator can The four divine abidings (brahmavihárá) are the
use at his convenience in his meditation quarters. development of boundless loving-kindness, com-
The ten kinds of foulness are ten stages in the passion, sympathetic joy and equanimity. These
decomposition of a corpse: the bloated, the livid, meditations are also called the “immeasurables”
the festering, the cut-up, the gnawed, the scattered, (appamaññá) because they are to be developed
the hacked and scattered, the bleeding, the worm- towards all sentient beings without qualification or
infested and a skeleton. The primary purpose of exclusiveness.
these meditations is to reduce sensual lust by gain- The four immaterial states are the base of
ing a clear perception of the repulsiveness of the boundless space, the base of boundless conscious-
body. ness, the base of nothingness, and the base of
The ten recollections are the recollections of the neither-perception-nor-non-perception. These are
Buddha, the Dhamma, the Sangha, morality, gener- the objects leading to the corresponding meditative
osity and the deities, mindfulness of death, attainments, the immaterial jhánas.
The one perception is the perception of the
repulsiveness of food. The one defining is the defin-
7. The following discussion is based on Vism 110– ing of the four elements, that is, the analysis of the
115; PP 112–118.
18 The Jhánas Preparation for Jhána 19

physical body into the elemental modes of solidity, abidings can induce the lower three jhánas but the
fluidity, heat and oscillation. fourth, since they arise in association with pleasant
The forty meditation subjects are treated in the feeling, while the divine abiding of equanimity
commentarial texts from two important angles— occurs only at the level of the fourth jhána, where
one their ability to induce different levels of concen- neutral feeling gains ascendancy. The four immate-
tration, the other their suitability for differing rial states conduce to the respective immaterial
temperaments. Not all meditation subjects are jhánas corresponding to their names.
equally effective in inducing the deeper levels of The forty subjects are also differentiated accord-
concentration. They are first distinguished on the ing to their appropriateness for different character
basis of their capacity for inducing only access con- types. Six main character types are recognized—the
centration or for inducing full absorption; those greedy, the hating, the deluded, the faithful, the
capable of inducing absorption are then distin- intelligent and the speculative—this oversimplified
guished further according to their ability to induce typology being taken only as a pragmatic guideline
the different levels of jhána. which in practice admits various shades and combi-
Of the forty subjects, ten are capable of leading nations. The ten kind of foulness and mindfulness
only to access concentration: eight recollections— of the body, clearly intended to attenuate sensual
i.e., all except mindfulness of the body and mind- desire, are suitable for those of greedy tempera-
fulness of breathing—plus the perception of ment. Eight subjects—the four divine abidings and
repulsiveness in nutriment and the defining of the four color kasióas—are appropriate for the hating
four elements. These, because they are occupied temperament. Mindfulness of breathing is suitable
with a diversity of qualities and involve and active for those of the deluded and the speculative tem-
application of discursive thought, cannot lead perament. The first six recollections are appropriate
beyond access. The other thirty subjects can all lead for the faithful temperament. Four subjects—mind-
to absorption. fulness of death, the recollection of peace, the
The ten kasióas and mindfulness of breathing, defining of the four elements, and the perception of
owing to their simplicity and freedom from thought the repulsiveness in nutriment—are especially
construction, can lead to all four jhánas. The ten effective for those of intelligent temperament. The
kinds of foulness and mindfulness of the body lead remaining six kasióas and the immaterial states are
only to the first jhána, being limited because the suitable for all kinds of temperaments. But the
mind can only hold onto them with the aid of kasióas should be limited in size for one of specula-
applied thought (vitakka) which is absent in the sec- tive temperament and large in size for one of
ond and higher jhánas. The first three divine deluded temperament.
20 The Jhánas Preparation for Jhána 21

Immediately after giving this breakdown Bud- The factors which make a dwelling favorable to
dhaghosa adds a proviso to prevent meditation are mentioned by the Buddha himself. If
misunderstanding. He states that this division by should not be too far from or too near a village that
way of temperament is made on the basis of direct can be relied on as an alms resort, and should have
opposition and complete suitability, but actually a clear path: it should be quiet and secluded; it
there is no wholesome form of meditation that does should be free from rough weather and from harm-
not suppress the defilements and strengthen the ful insects and animals; one should be able to obtain
virtuous mental factors. Thus an individual medita- one's physical requisites while dwelling there; and
tor may be advised to meditate on foulness to the dwelling should provide ready access to
abandon lust, on loving-kindness to abandon learned elders and spiritual friends who can be con-
hatred, on breathing to cut off discursive thought, sulted when problems arise in meditation (AN V
and on impermanence to eliminate the conceit “I 15). The types of dwelling places commended by
am” (AN IV 358). the Buddha most frequently in the suttas as conduc-
tive to the jhánas are a secluded dwelling in the
Choosing a Suitable Dwelling 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 teacher assigns a meditation subject to his the open air, or on a heap of straw (M I 181). Having
pupil appropriate to his character and explains the found a suitable dwelling and settled there, the dis-
methods of developing it. He can teach it gradually ciple should maintain scrupulous observance of the
to a pupil who is going to remain in close proximity rules of discipline, He should be content with his
to him, or in detail to one who will go to practice it simple requisites, exercise control over his sense
elsewhere. If the disciple is not going to stay with faculties, be mindful and discerning in all activities,
his teacher he must be careful to select a suitable and practice meditation diligently as he was
place for meditation. The texts mention eighteen instructed. It is at this point that he meets the first
kinds of monasteries unfavorable to the develop- great challenge of his contemplative life, the battle
ment of jhána: a large monastery, a new one, a with the five hindrances.
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 fron-
tier, a haunted place, and one without access to a
spiritual teacher (Vism 118-121; PP122-125).
First Jhána and its Factors 23

The Abandoning of the Hindrances


The five hindrances (pañcanìvaraóa) are sensual
3. THE FIRST JHÁNA AND ITS desire, ill will, sloth and torpor, restlessness and
worry, and doubt. This group, the principal classifi-
FACTORS
cation the Buddha uses for the obstacles to
The attainment of any jhána comes about meditation, receives its name because its five mem-
through a twofold process of development. On one bers hinder and envelop the mind, preventing
side the states obstructive to it, called its factors of meditative development in the two spheres of
abandonment, have to be eliminated, on the other serenity and insight. Hence the Buddha calls them
the states composing it, called its factors of posses- “obstructions, hindrances, corruptions of the mind
sion, have to be acquired. In the case of the first which weaken wisdom” (S V 94).
jhána the factors of abandonment are the five hin- The hindrance of sensual desire (kámacchanda) is
drances and the factors of possession the five basic explained as desire for the “five strands of sense
jhána factors. Both are alluded to in the standard pleasure,” that is, for pleasant forms, sounds,
formula for the first jhána, the opening phrase refer- smells, tastes and tangibles. It ranges from subtle
ring to the abandonment of the hindrances and the liking to powerful lust. The hindrance of ill will
subsequent portion enumerating the jhána factors: (byápáda) signifies aversion directed towards dis-
Quite secluded from sense pleasures, secluded agreeable persons or things. It can vary in range
from unwholesome states of mind, he enters and from mild annoyance to overpowering hatred. Thus
dwells in the first jhána, which is accompanied by the first two hindrances correspond to the first two
applied thought and sustained thought with rap- root defilements, greed and hate. The third root
ture and happiness born of seclusion. (M I 1818; defilement, delusion, is not enumerated separately
Vibh 245) among the hindrances but can be found underlying
In this chapter we will first discuss the five hin- the remaining three.
drances and their abandonment, then we will Sloth and torpor is a compound hindrance
investigate the jhána factors both individually and made up of two components: sloth (thìna), which is
by way of their combined contribution to the attain- dullness, inertia or mental stiffness; and torpor
ment of the first jhána. We will close the chapter (middha), which is indolence or drowsiness. Rest-
with some remarks on the ways of perfecting the lessness and worry is another double hindrance,
first jhána, a necessary preparation for the further restlessness (uddhacca) being explained as excite-
development of concentration. ment, agitation or disquietude, worry (kukkucca) as
24 The Jhánas First Jhána and its Factors 25

the sense of guilt aroused by moral transgressions. each hindrance impeding in its own way the mind's
Finally, the hindrance of doubt (vicikicchá) is capacity for concentration.
explained as uncertainty with regard to the Bud- The mind affected through lust by greed for
dha, the Dhamma, the Sangha and the training. varied objective fields does not become concen-
The Buddha offers two sets of similes to illus- trated on an object consisting in unity, or being
trate the detrimental effect of the hindrances. The overwhelmed by lust, it does not enter on the way
first compares the five hindrances to five types of to abandoning the sense-desire element. When pes-
calamity: sensual desire is like a debt, ill will like a tered by ill will towards an object, it does not occur
disease, sloth and torpor like imprisonment, rest- uninterruptedly. When overcome by stiffness and
less and worry like slavery, and doubt like being torpor, it is unwieldy. When seized by agitation and
lost on a desert road. Release from the hindrances is worry, it is unquiet and buzzes about. When
to be seen as freedom from debt, good health, stricken by uncertainty, it fails to mount the way to
release from prison, emancipation from slavery, accomplish the attainment of jhána. So it is these
and arriving at a place of safety (D I 71-73). The sec- only that are called factors of abandonment because
ond set of similes compares the hindrances to five they are specifically obstructive to jhána.(Vism 146:
kinds of impurities affecting a bowl of water, pre- PP 152)
venting a keen-sighted man from seeing his own A second reason for confining the first jhána's
reflection as it really is. Sensual desire is like a bowl factors of abandoning to the five hindrances is to
of water mixed with brightly colored paints, ill will permit a direct alignment to be made between the
like a bowl of boiling water, sloth and torpor like hindrances and the jhánic factors. Buddhaghosa
water covered by mossy plants, restlessness and states that the abandonment of the five hindrances
worry like water blown into ripples by the wind, alone is mentioned in connection with jhána
and doubt like muddy water. Just as the keen-eyed because the hindrances are the direct enemies of the
man would not be able to see his reflection in these five jhána factors, which the latter must eliminate
five kinds of water, so one whose mind is obsessed and abolish. To support his point the commentator
by the five hindrances does not know and see as it cites a passage demonstrating a one-to-one corre-
is his own good, the good of others or the good of spondence between the jhána factors and the
both (S V 121-24). Although there are numerous hindrances: one-pointedness is opposed to sensual
defilements opposed to the first jhána the five hin- desire, rapture to ill will, applied thought to sloth
drances alone are called its factors of abandoning. and torpor, happiness to restlessness and worry,
One reason according to the Visuddhimagga, is that and sustained thought to doubt (Vism 141; PP 147).8
the hindrances are specifically obstructive to jhána, Thus each jhána factor is seen as having the specific
26 The Jhánas First Jhána and its Factors 27

task of eliminating a particular obstruction to the jhána does not depend on the third, which is its out-
jhána and to correlate these obstructions with the come rather than prerequisite, but it does require
five jhána factors they are collected into a scheme of physical solitude and the separation of the mind
five hindrances. from defilements, hence bodily and mental seclu-
The standard passage describing the attainment sion. The third type of seclusion pertinent to the
of the first jhána says that the jhána is entered upon context, seclusion by suppression, belongs to a dif-
by one who is “secluded from sense pleasures, ferent scheme generally discussed under the
secluded from unwholesome states of mind.” The heading of “abandonment” (pahána) rather than
Visuddhimagga explains that there are three kinds of “seclusion.” The type of abandonment required for
seclusion relevant to the present context—namely, the attainment of jhána is abandonment by sup-
bodily seclusion (káyaviveka), mental seclusion (cit- pression, which means the removal of the
taviveka), and seclusion by suppression hindrances by force of concentration similar to the
(vikkhambhanaviveka) (Vism 140; PP 145). These pressing down of weeds in a pond by means of a
three terms allude to two distinct sets of exegetical porous pot.9
categories. The first two belong to a threefold The work of overcoming the five hindrances is
arrangement made up of bodily seclusion, mental accomplished through the gradual training (anu-
seclusion, and “seclusion from the substance” (upa- pubbasikkhá) which the Buddha has laid down so
dhiviveka). The first means physical withdrawal often in the suttas, such as the Sámaññaphala Sutta
from active social engagement into a condition of and the Cullahatthipadopama Sutta. The gradual
solitude for the purpose of devoting time and training is a step-by-step process designed to lead
energy to spiritual development. The second, which the practitioner gradually to liberation. The training
generally presupposes the first, means the seclusion begins with moral discipline, the undertaking and
of the mind from its entanglement in defilements; it observance of specific rules of conduct which
is in effect equivalent to concentration of at least the enable the disciple to control the coarser modes of
access level. The third, “seclusion from the sub- bodily and verbal misconduct through which the
stance,” is Nibbána, liberation from the elements of
phenomenal existence. The achievement of the first 9. The other two types of abandoning are by
substitution of opposites (tadaògapahána), which
means the replacement of unwholesome states by
8. Buddhaghosa ascribes the passage he cites in wholesome ones specifically opposed to them, and
support of the correspondence to the “Peþaka,” but it abandoning by eradication (samucchedapahána), the
cannot be traced anywhere in the present Tipiþaka, final destruction of defilements by the supra-
nor in the exegetical work named Peþakopadesa. mundane paths. See Vism 693-96; PP 812-16.
28 The Jhánas First Jhána and its Factors 29

hindrances find an outlet. With moral discipline as teracts ill will; wise consideration of the elements of
a basis, the disciple practices the restraint of the effort, exertion and striving opposes sloth and tor-
senses. He does not seize upon the general appear- por; wise consideration of tranquillity of mind
ances of the beguiling features of things, but guards removes restlessness and worry; and wise consider-
and masters his sense faculties so that sensual ation of the real qualities of things eliminates doubt
attractive and repugnant objects no longer become (S V 105-106).
grounds for desire and aversion. Then, endowed Having given up covetousness [i.e., sensual
with the self-restraint, he develops mindfulness and desire] with regard to the world, he dwells with a
discernment (sati-sampajañña) in all his activities heart free of covetousness; he cleanses his mind
and postures, examining everything he does with from covetousness. Having given up the blemish of
clear awareness as to its purpose and suitability. He ill will, he dwells without ill will; friendly and com-
also cultivates contentment with a minimum of passionate towards all living beings, he cleanses his
robes, food, shelter and other requisites. mind from the blemishes of ill will. Having given
Once he has fulfilled these preliminaries the up sloth and torpor, he dwells free from sloth and
disciple is prepared to go into solitude to develop torpor, in the perception of light; mindful and
the jhánas, and it is here that he directly confronts clearly comprehending, he cleanses his mind from
the five hindrances. The elimination of the hin- sloth and torpor. Having given up restlessness and
drances requires that the meditator honestly worry, he dwells without restlessness; his mind
appraises his own mind. When sensuality, ill will being calmed within, he cleanses it from restless-
and the other hindrances are present, he must rec- ness and worry. Having given up doubt, he dwells
ognize that they are present and he must as one who has passed beyond doubt; being free
investigate the conditions that lead to their arising: from uncertainty about wholesome things, he
the latter he must scrupulously avoid. The medita- cleanses his mind from doubt...
tor must also understand the appropriate antidotes And when he sees himself free of these five hin-
for each of the five hindrances. The Buddha says drances, joy arises; in him who is joyful, rapture
that all the hindrances arise through unwise consid- arises; in him whose mind is enraptured, the body
eration (ayoniso manasikára) and that they can be is stilled; the body being stilled, he feels happiness;
eliminated by wise consideration (yoniso and a happy mind finds concentration. Then, quite
manasikára). Each hindrance, however, has its own secluded from sense pleasures, secluded from
specific antidote. Thus wise consideration of the unwholesome states of mind, he enters and dwells
repulsive feature of things is the antidote to sensual in the first jhána, which is accompanied by applied
desire; wise consideration of loving-kindness coun-
30 The Jhánas First Jhána and its Factors 31

thought and sustained thought, with rapture and hindrances, attenuate them, exclude them, and hold
happiness born of seclusion. (D I 73-74)10 them at bay. With continued practice the learning
sign gives rise to a purified luminous replica of
The Factors of the First Jhána itself called the counterpart sign (paþibháganimitta),
the manifestation of which marks the complete sup-
The first jhána possesses five component fac- pression of the hindrances and the attainment of
tors: applied thought, sustained thought, rapture, access concentration (upacárasamádhi). All three
happiness and one-pointedness of mind. Four of events-the suppression of the hindrances, the aris-
these are explicitly mentioned in the formula for the ing of the counterpart sign, and the attainment of
jhána; the fifth, one-pointedness, is mentioned else- access concentration—take place at precisely the
where in the suttas but is already suggested by the same moment, without interval (Vism 126; PP 131).
notion of jhána itself. These five states receive their And though previously the process of mental culti-
name, first because they lead the mind from the vation may have required the elimination of
level of ordinary consciousness to the jhánic level, different hindrances at different times, when access
and second because they constitute the first jhána is achieved they all subside together:
and give it its distinct definition. Simultaneously with his acquiring the counter-
The jhána factors are first aroused by the medi- part sign his lust is abandoned by suppression
tator's initial efforts to concentrate upon one of the owing to his giving no attention externally to sense
prescribed objects for developing jhána. As he fixes desires (as object). And owing to his abandoning of
his mind on the preliminary object, such as a kasióa approval, ill will is abandoned too, as pus is with
disk, a point is eventually reached where he can the abandoning of blood. Likewise stiffness and tor-
perceive the object as clearly with his eyes closed as por is abandoned through exertion of energy,
with them open. This visualized object is called the agitation and worry is abandoned through devo-
learning sign (uggahanimitta). As he concentrates on tion to peaceful things that cause no remorse; and
the learning sign, his efforts call into play the uncertainty about the Master who teaches the way,
embryonic jhána factors, which grow in force, dura- about the way, and about the fruit of the way, about
tion and prominence as a result of the meditative the way, and about the fruit of the way, is aban-
exertion. These factors, being incompatible with the doned through the actual experience of the
distinction attained. So the five hindrances are
10. Adapted from Nyanaponika Thera, The Five Mental abandoned. (Vism 189; PP 196)
Hindrances and Their Conquest (Wheel No. 26). This Though the mental factors determinative of the
booklet contains a full compilation of texts on the first jhána are present in access concentration, they
hindrances.
32 The Jhánas First Jhána and its Factors 33

do not as yet possess sufficient strength to consti- wholesome as in thoughts of renunciation, benevo-
tute the jhána, but are strong enough only to lence and compassion (M I 116).
exclude the hindrances. With continued practice, In jhána applied through is invariably whole-
however, the nascent jhána factors grow in strength some and its function of directing the mind upon its
until they are capable of issuing in jhána. Because of object stands forth with special clarity. To convey
the instrumental role these factors play both in the this the Visuddhimagga explains that in jhána the
attainment and constitution of the first jhána they function of applied thought is “to strike at and
are deserving of closer individual scrutiny. thresh—for the meditator is said, in virtue of it, to
have the object struck at by applied thought,
Applied Thought (vitakka) threshed by applied thought” (Vism 142; PP148).
The Milindapañhá makes the same point by defining
The word vitakka frequently appears in the texts applied thought as absorption (appaná): “Just as a
in conjunction with the word vicára. The pair sig- carpenter drives a well-fashioned piece of wood
nify two interconnected but distinct aspects of the into a joint, so applied thought has the characteris-
thought process, and to bring out the difference tic of absorption” (Mil 62).
between them (as well as their common character), The object of jhána into which vitakka drives the
we translate the one as applied thought and the mind and its concomitant states is the counterpart
other as sustained thought. sign, which emerges from the learning sign as the
In both the suttas and the Abhidhamma applied hindrances are suppressed and the mind enters
thought is defined as the application of the mind to access concentration. The Visuddhimagga explains
its object (cetaso abhiniropana), a function which the the difference between the two signs thus:
Atthasálinì illustrates thus: “Just as someone In the learning sign any fault in the kasióa is
ascends the king's palace in dependence on a rela- apparent. But the counterpart sign appears as if
tive of friend dear to the king, so the mind ascends breaking out from the learning sign, and a hundred
the object in dependence on applied thought” (Dhs- times, a thousand times more purified, like a look-
a 157). This function of applying the mind to the ing-glass disk drawn from its case, like a mother-of-
object is common to the wide variety of modes in pearl dish well washed, like the moon's disk com-
which the mental factor of applied thought occurs, ing out from behind a cloud, like cranes against a
ranging from sense discrimination to imagination, thunder cloud. But it has neither color nor shape;
reasoning and deliberation and to the practice of for if it had, it would be cognizable by the eye,
concentration culminating in the first jhána. gross, susceptible of comprehension (by insight)
Applied thought can be unwholesome as in and stamped with the three characteristics. But it is
thoughts of sensual pleasure, ill will and cruelty, or
34 The Jhánas First Jhána and its Factors 35

not like that. For it is born only of perception in one thought like the pin that revolves around (Vism
who has obtained concentration, being a mere 142-43; PP 148-49).
mode of appearance (Vism 125-26; PP 130) These similes make it clear that applied thought
The counterpart sign is the object of both access and sustained thought functionally associated, per-
concentration and jhána, which differ neither in form different tasks. Applied thought brings the
their object nor in the removal of the hindrances but mind to the object, sustained thought fixes and
in the strength of their respective jhána factors. In anchors it there. Applied thought focuses the mind
the former the factors are still weak, not yet fully on the object, sustained thought examines and
developed, while in the jhána they are strong inspects what is focused on. Applied thought
enough to make the mind fully absorbed in the brings a deepening of concentration by again and
object. In this process applied thought is the factor again leading the mind back to the same object, sus-
primarily responsible for directing the mind tained thought sustains the concentration achieved
towards the counterpart sign and thrusting it in by keeping the mind anchored on that object.
with the force of full absorption.
Rapture (pìti)
Sustained Thought (vicára)
The third factor present in the first jhána is pìti,
Vicára seems to represent a more developed usually translated as joy or rapture.11 In the suttas
phase of the thought process than vitakka. The com- pìti is sometimes said to arise from another quality
mentaries explain that it has the characteristic of called pámojja, translated as joy or gladness, which
“continued pressure” on the object (Vim. 142; PP springs up with the abandonment of the five hin-
148). Applied thought is described as the first drances. When the disciple sees the five hindrances
impact of the mind on the object, the gross inceptive abandoned in himself “gladness arises within him;
phase of thought; sustained thought is described as thus gladdened, rapture arises in him; and when he
the act of anchoring the mind on the object, the sub-
tle phase of continued mental pressure.
11. Ven. Ñáóamoli, in his translation of the Visuddhi-
Buddhaghosa illustrates the difference between the
magga, renders pìti by “happiness,” but this
two with a series of similes. Applied thought is like
rendering can be misleading since most translators
striking a bell, sustained thought like the ringing; use “happiness” as a rendering for sukha, the
applied thought is like a bee's flying towards a pleasurable feeling present in the jhána. We will
flower, sustained thought like its buzzing around render pìti by “rapture,” thus maintaining the
the flower; applied thought is like a compass pin connection of the term with ecstatic meditative
that stays fixed to the center of a circle, sustained experience.
36 The Jhánas First Jhána and its Factors 37

is rapturous his body becomes tranquil” (D I 73). development of meditation; it is capable of causing the
Tranquillity in turn leads to happiness, on the basis hairs of the body to rise. Momentary rapture, which is
of which the mind becomes concentrated. Thus rap- like lightning, comes next but cannot be sustained for
ture precedes the actual arising of the first jhána, long. Showering rapture runs through the body in waves,
but persists through the remaining stages up to the producing a thrill but without leaving a lasting impact.
third jhána. Uplifting rapture, which can cause levitation, is more
The Vibhaòga defines pìti as “gladness, joy, joy- sustained but still tends to disturb concentration, The
fulness, mirth, merriment, exultation, exhilaration, form of rapture most conductive to the attainment of
and satisfaction of mind” (Vibh 257). The commen- jhána is all-pervading rapture, which is said to suffuse
taries ascribe to it the characteristic of endearing, the whole body so that it becomes like a full bladder or
the function of refreshing the body and mind or like a mountain cavern inundated with a mighty flood of
pervading with rapture, and the manifestation as water. The Visuddhimagga states that what is intended
elation (Vism 143; PP 149). Shwe Zan Aung by the jhána factor of rapture is this all-pervading rapture
explains that “pìti abstracted means interest of vary- “which is the root of absorption and comes by growth
ing degrees of intensity, in an object felt as desirable into association with absorption” (Vism 144; PP 151)
or as calculated to bring happiness.”12
When defined in terms of agency, pìti is that Happiness (sukha)
which creates interest in the object; when defined in
As a factor of the first jhána, sukha signifies
terms of its nature it is the interest in the object.
pleasant feeling. The word is explicitly defined in
Because it creates a positive interest in the object,
the sense by the Vibhaòga in its analysis of the first
the jhána factor of rapture is able to counter and
jhána: “Therein, what is happiness? Mental plea-
suppress the hindrance of ill will, a state of aversion
sure and happiness born of mind-contact, the felt
implying a negative evaluation of the object.
pleasure and happiness born of mind-contact, plea-
Rapture is graded into five categories: minor
surable and happy feeling born of mind contact—
rapture, momentary rapture, showering rapture,
this is called ‘happiness’“ (Vibh 257). The Visud-
uplifting rapture and pervading rapture.13 Minor
dhimagga explains that happiness in the first jhána
rapture is generally the first to appear in the progressive has the characteristic of gratifying, the function of
intensifying associated states, and as manifestation,
12. Shwe Zan Aung, Compendium of Philosophy (London: the rendering of aid to its associated states (Vism
Pali Text Society, 1960), p.243. 145; PP 151).
13. Khuddakapìti, khaóikapìti, okkantikapìti, ubbegapìti and Rapture and happiness link together in a very
pharaóapìti. Vism 143-44; PP 149-51. Dhs-a 158. close relationship, but though the two are difficult
38 The Jhánas First Jhána and its Factors 39

to distinguish, they are not identical. Happiness is a pleasure and, his oppression being allayed, he
feeling (vedaná); rapture a mental formation would eat the fibers and stalks of the lilies, adorn
(saòkhára). Happiness always accompanies rapture, himself with the blue lotus, carry on his shoulders
so that when rapture is present happiness must the roots of the mandalaka, ascend from the lake,
always be present; but rapture does not always put on his clothes, dry the bathing cloth in the sun,
accompany happiness, for in the third jhána, as we and in the cool shade where the breeze blew ever so
will see, there is happiness but no rapture. The gently lay himself down and saw: 'O bliss! O bliss!'
Atthasálinì, which explains rapture as “delight in Thus should this illustration be applied. The time of
the attaining of the desired object” and happiness gladness and delight from when he heard of the
as “the enjoyment of the taste of what is required,” natural lake and the dense forest till he say the
illustrates the difference by means of a simile: water is like rapture having the manner of gladness
Rapture is like a weary traveler in the desert in and delight at the object in view. The time when,
summer, who hears of, or sees water of a shady after his bath and dried he laid himself down in the
wood. Ease [happiness] is like his enjoying the cool shade, saying, ‘O bliss! O bliss!’ etc., is the
water of entering the forest shade. For a man who, sense of ease [happiness] grown strong, established
traveling along the path through a great desert and in that mode of enjoying the taste of the object.14
overcome by the heat, is thirsty and desirous of Since rapture and happiness co-exist in the first
drink, if he saw a man on the way, would ask jhána, this simile should not be taken to imply that
'Where is water?' The other would say, 'Beyond the they are mutually exclusive. Its purport is to sug-
wood is a dense forest with a natural lake. Go there, gest that rapture gains prominence before
and you will get some.' He, hearing these words, happiness, for which it helps provide a causal
would be glad and delighted and as he went would foundation.
see lotus leaves, etc., fallen on the ground and In the description of the first jhána, rapture and
become more glad and delighted. Going onwards, happiness are said to be “born of seclusion” and to
he would see men with wet clothes and hair, hear suffuse the whole body of the meditator in such a
the sounds of wild fowl and pea-fowl, etc., see the way that there is no part of his body which remains
dense forest of green like a net of jewels growing by unaffected by them:
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 14. Dhs-a 160-61. Translation by Maung Tin, The
descend into the natural lake, bathe and drink at Expositor (Atthasálinì) (London: Pali Text Society,
1921), I 155-56.
40 The Jhánas First Jhána and its Factors 41

Monks, secluded from sense pleasure... a monk eliminating distractions, non-wavering as its mani-
enters and dwells in the first jhána. He steeps, festation, and happiness as its proximate cause
drenches, fills and suffuses his body with the rap- (Vism 85; PP 85). As a jhána factor one-pointedness
ture and happiness born of seclusion, so that there is always directed to a wholesome object and wards
is no part of his entire body that is not suffused off unwholesome influences, in particular the hin-
with this rapture and happiness. Just as a skilled drance of sensual desire. As the hindrances are
bath-attendant or his apprentice might strew bath- absent in jhána one-pointedness acquires special
ing powder in a copper basin, sprinkle it again and strength, based on the previous sustained effort of
again with water, and knead it together so that the concentration.
mass of bathing soap would be pervaded, suffused, Besides the five jhána factors, the first jhána
and saturated with moisture inside and out yet contains a great number of other mental factors
would not ooze moisture, so a monk steeps, functioning in unison as coordinate members of a
drenches, fills and suffuses his body with the rap- single state of consciousness. Already the Anupada
ture and happiness born of seclusion, so that, there Sutta lists such additional components of the first
is no part of his entire body that is not suffused jhána as contact, feeling, perception, volition, con-
with this rapture and happiness born of seclusion. sciousness, desire, decision, energy, mindfulness,
(D I 74) equanimity and attention (M III 25). In the
Abhidhamma literature this is extended still further
One-pointedness (ekaggatá) up to thirty-three indispensable components. Nev-
ertheless, only five states are called the factors of
Unlike the previous four jhána factors, one- the first jhána, for only these have the functions of
pointedness is not specifically mentioned in the inhibiting the five hindrances and fixing the mind
standard formula for the first jhána, but it is in absorption. For the jhána to arise all these five
included among the jhána factors by the factors must be present simultaneously, exercising
Mahávedalla Sutta (M I 294) as well as in the their special operations:
Abhidhamma and the commentaries. One-pointed- But applied thought directs the mind onto the
ness is a universal mental concomitant, the factor object; sustained thought keeps it anchored there.
by virtue of which the mind is centered upon its Happiness [rapture] produced by the success of the
object. It brings the mind to a single point, the point effort refreshes the mind whose effort has suc-
occupied by the object. ceeded through not being distracted by those
One-pointedness is used in the text as a syn- hindrances; and bliss [happiness] intensifies it for
onym for concentration (samádhi) which has the the same reason. Then unification aided by this
characteristic of non-distraction, the function of
42 The Jhánas First Jhána and its Factors 43

directing onto, this anchoring, this refreshing and absorption the jhána factors are strong and well
this intensifying, evenly and rightly centers the developed so that the mind can remain continu-
mind with its remaining associated states on the ously in concentration just as a healthy man can
object consisting in unity. Consequently possession remain standing on his feet for a whole day and
of five factors should be understood as the arising night (Vism 126; PP 131).
of these five, namely, applied thought, sustained Because full absorption offers the benefit of
thought, happiness [rapture], bliss [happiness], and strengthened concentration, a meditator who gains
unification of mind. For it is when these are arisen access is encouraged to strive for the attainment of
that jhána is said to be arisen, which is why they are jhána. To develop his practice several important
called the five factors of possession. (Vism 146; PP measures are recommended.15 The meditator
152) should live in a suitable dwelling, rely upon a
Each jhána factor serves as support for the one suitable alms resort, avoid profitless talk, associate
which succeeds it. Applied thought must direct the only with spiritually-minded companions, make
mind to its object in order for sustained thought to use only of suitable food, live in a congenial
anchor it there. Only when the mind is anchored climate, and maintain his practice in a suitable
can the interest develop which will culminate in posture. He should also cultivate the ten kinds of
rapture. As rapture develops it brings happiness to skill in absorption. He should clean his lodging and
maturity, and this spiritual happiness, by providing his physical body so that they conduce to clear
an alternative to the fickle pleasures of the senses, meditation, balance his spiritual faculties by seeing
aids the growth of one-pointedness. In this way, as that faith is balanced with wisdom and energy with
Nágasena explains, all the other wholesome states concentration, and he must be skillful in producing
lead to concentration, which stands at their head and developing the sign of concentration (1-3). He
like the apex on the roof of a house (Mil 38-39). should exert the mind when it is slack, restrain it
when it is agitated, encourage it when it is restless
Perfecting the First Jhána or dejected, and look at the mind with equanimity
when all is proceeding well (4-7). The meditator
The difference between access and absorption
should avoid distracting persons, should approach
concentration, as we have said, does not lie in the
people experienced in concentration, and should be
absence of the hindrances, which is common to
firm in his resolution to attain jhána (8-10).
both, but in the relative strength of the jhána fac-
tors. 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 15. The following is based on Vism 126-35; PP 132-40.
44 The Jhánas First Jhána and its Factors 45

After attaining the first jhána a few times the the ability to advert to the jhána factors one by one after
meditator is not advised to set out immediately emerging from the jhána, wherever he wants, whenever
striving for the second jhána. This would be a fool- he wants, and for as long as he wants. Mastery in
ish and profitless spiritual ambition. Before he is attaining is the ability to enter upon jhána quickly,
prepared to make the second jhána the goal of his mastery in resolving the ability to remain in the jhána for
endeavor he must first bring the first jhána to per- exactly the pre-determined length of time, mastery in
fection. If he is too eager to reach the second jhána emerging the ability to emerge from jhána quickly
before he has perfected the first, he is likely to fail to without difficulty, and mastery in reviewing the ability to
gain the second and find himself unable to regain review the jhána and its factors with retrospective
the first. The Buddha compares such a meditator to knowledge immediately after adverting to them. When
a foolish cow who, while still unfamiliar with her the meditator has achieved this fivefold mastery, then he
own pasture, sets out for new pastures and gets lost is ready to strive for the second jhána.
in the mountains: she fails to find food or drink and
is unable to find her way home (AN IV 418-19).
The perfecting of the first jhána 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 jhána. Beginning with a small area,
the size of one or two fingers, the meditator gradu-
ally 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 jhána: mas-
tery in adverting, in attaining, in resolving, in
emerging and in reviewing.16 Mastery in adverting is

16. Ávajjanavasì, samápajjanavasì, adhiþþhánavasì, vut-


thánavasì, paccavekkhanavasì. For a discussion see
Vism 154-55; PP 160-61. The canonical source for
the five masteries is the Paþisambhidámagga, I 100.
The Higher Jhánas 47

The Higher Fine-material Jhánas


The formula for the attainment of the second
4. THE HIGHER JHÁNAS jhána runs as follows:
With the subsiding of applied thought and sus-
In this chapter we will survey the higher states tained thought he enters and dwells in the second
of jhána. First we will discuss the remaining three jhána, which has internal confidence and unifica-
jhánas of the fine-material sphere, using the tion of mind, is without applied thought and
descriptive formulas of the suttas as our starting sustained thought, and is filled with rapture and
point and the later literature as our source for the happiness born of concentration (M I 181; Vibh 245)
methods of practice that lead to these attainments. The second jhána, like the first, is attained by
Following this we will consider the four meditative eliminating the factors to be abandoned and by
states that pertain to the immaterial sphere, which developing the factors of possession. In this case
come to be called the immaterial jhánas. Our exami- however, the factors to be abandoned are the two
nation will bring out the dynamic character of the initial factors of the first jhána itself, applied
process by which the jhánas are successively thought and sustained thought; the factors of pos-
achieved. The attainment of the higher jhánas of the session are the three remaining jhána factors,
fine-material sphere, we will see, involves the suc- rapture, happiness and one-pointedness. Hence the
cessive elimination of the grosser factors and the formula begins “with the subsiding of applied
bringing to prominence of the subtler ones, the thought and sustained thought,” and then mentions
attainment of the formless jhánas the replacement the jhána's positive endowments.
of grosser objects with successively more refined After achieving the five kinds of mastery over
objects. From our study it will become clear that the the first jhána, a meditator who wishes to reach the
jhánas link together in a graded sequence of devel- second jhána should enter the first jhána and con-
opment in which the lower serves as basis for the template its defects. These are twofold: one, which
higher and the higher intensifies and purifies states might be called the defect of proximate corruption,
already present in the lower. We will end the chap- is the nearness of the five hindrances, against which
ter with a brief look at the connection between the the first jhána provides only a relatively mild safe-
jhánas and the Buddhist teaching of rebirth. guard; the other defect, inherent to the first jhána, is
its inclusion of applied and sustained thought,
which now appear as gross, even as impediments
48 The Jhánas The Higher Jhánas 49

needing to be eliminated to attain the more peaceful tion of the second jhána. “Internal confidence”
and subtle second jhána. (ajjhattaí sampasádanaí), conveys the twofold
By reflecting upon the second jhána as more meaning of faith and tranquillity. In the first jhána
tranquil and sublime than the first, the meditator the meditator's faith lacked full clarity and serenity
ends his attachment to the first jhána and engages due to “the disturbance created by applied and sus-
in renewed striving with the aim of reaching the tained thought, like water ruffled by ripples and
higher stage. He directs his mind to his meditation wavelets” (Vism 157; PP 163). But when applied
subject—which must be one capable of inducing the and sustained thought subside, the mind becomes
higher jhánas such as a kasióa or the breath—and very peaceful and the meditator's faith acquires
resolves to overcome applied and sustained fuller confidence.
thought. When his practice comes to maturity the The formula also mentions unification of mind
two kinds of thought subside and the second jhána (cetaso ekodibhávaí), which is identified with one-
arises. In the second jhána only three of the original pointedness or concentration. Though present in
five jhána factors remain—rapture, happiness, and the first jhána, concentration only gains special
one-pointedness. Moreover, with the elimination of mention in connection with the second jhána since
the two grosser factors these have acquired a sub- it is here that it acquires eminence. In the first jhána
tler and more peaceful tone.17 concentration was still imperfect, being subject to
Besides the main jhána factors, the canonical the disturbing influence of applied and sustained
formula includes several other states in its descrip- thought. For the same reason this jhána, along with
its constituent rapture and happiness, is said to be
born of concentration (samádhija): “It is only this
17. Based on the distinction between applied and concentration that is quite worthy to be called 'con-
sustained thought, the Abhidhamma presents a
centration' because of its complete confidence and
fivefold division of the jhánas obtained by recog-
nizing the sequential rather than simultaneous
extreme immobility due to absence of disturbance
elimination of the two kinds of thought. On this by applied and sustained thought” (Vism 158;
account a meditator of duller faculties eliminates p.164).
applied thought first and attains a second jhána with To attain the third jhána the meditator must use
four factors including sustained thought, and a third the same method he used to ascend from the first
jhána identical with the second jhána of the fourfold jhána to the second. He must master the second
scheme. In contrast a meditator of sharp faculties jhána in the five ways, enter and emerge from it,
comprehends quickly the defects of both applied and and reflect upon its defects. In this case the defect of
sustained thought and so eliminates them both at proximate corruption is the nearness of applied and
once.
50 The Jhánas The Higher Jhánas 51

sustained thought, which threaten to disrupt the of mental formations (saòkhárakkhandha) and thus
serenity of the second jhána; its inherent defect is should not be confused with equanimity as neutral
the presence of rapture, which now appears as a feeling. Though the two are often associated, each
gross factor that should be discarded. Aware of the can exist independently of the other, and in the
imperfections in the second jhána, the meditator third jhána equanimity as specific neutrality co-
cultivates indifference towards it and aspires exists with happiness or pleasant feeling.
instead for the peace and sublimity of the third The meditator in third jhána is also said to be
jhána, towards the attainment of which he now mindful and discerning, which points to another
directs his efforts. When his practice matures he pair of frequently conjoined mental functions.
enters the third jhána, which has the two jhána fac- Mindfulness (sati), in this context, means the
tors that remain when the rapture disappears, remembrance of the meditation object, the constant
happiness and one-pointedness, and which the sut- bearing of the object in mind without allowing it to
tas describe as follows: float away. Discernment (sampajañña) is an aspect of
“With the fading away of rapture, he dwells in wisdom or understanding which scrutinizes the
equanimity, mindful and discerning; and he experi- object and grasps its nature free from delusion.
ences in his own person that happiness of which the Though these two factors were already present
noble ones say: 'Happily lives he who is equani- even in the first two jhánas, they are first mentioned
mous and mindful'—thus he enters and dwells in only in connection with the third since it is here that
the third jhána.” (M I 182; Vibh 245) their efficacy becomes manifest. The two are
The formula indicates that the third jhána con- needed particularly to avoid a return to rapture.
tains, besides its two defining factors, three Just as a suckling calf, removed from its mother and
additional components not included among the left unguarded, again approaches the mother, so
jhána factors: equanimity, mindfulness and discern- the happiness of jhána tends to veer towards rap-
ment. Equanimity is mentioned twice. The Pali ture, its natural partner, if unguarded by
word for equanimity, upekkhá, occurs in the texts mindfulness and discernment (Dhs A.219). To pre-
with a wide range of meanings, the most important vent this and the consequent loss of the third jhána
being neutral feeling—that is, feeling which is nei- is the task of mindfulness and discernment.
ther painful nor pleasant—and the mental quality The attainment of the fourth jhána commences
of inner balance or equipoise called “specific neu- with the aforesaid procedure. In this case the medi-
trality” (tatramajjhattatá—see Vism 161; PP 167). The tator sees that the third jhána is threatened by the
equanimity referred to in the formula is a mode of proximity of rapture, which is ever ready to swell
specific neutrality which belongs to the aggregate up again due to its natural affinity with happiness;
52 The Jhánas The Higher Jhánas 53

he also sees that it is inherently defective due to the as the concomitant feeling of the jhána and also fig-
presence of happiness, a gross factor which pro- ures as one of the jhána factors. Thus this
vides fuel for clinging. He then contemplates the attainment has two jhána factors: neutral feeling
state where equanimous feeling and and one-pointedness of mind. Previously the ascent
one-pointedness subsist together—the fourth from one jhána to the next was marked by the pro-
jhána—as far more peaceful and secure than any- gressive elimination of the coarser jhána factors, but
thing he has so far experienced, and therefore as far none were added to replace those which were
more desirable. Taking as his object the same coun- excluded. But now, in the move from the third to
terpart sign he took for the earlier jhána, he the fourth jhána, a substitution occurs, neutral feel-
strengthens his efforts in concentration for the pur- ing moving in to take the place of happiness.
pose of abandoning the gross factor of happiness In addition we also find a new phrase com-
and entering the higher jhána. When his practice posed of familiar terms, “purity of mindfulness due
matures the mind enters absorption into the fourth to equanimity” (upekkhásatipárisuddhi). The Vib-
jhána: haòga explains: “This mindfulness is cleared,
With the abandoning of pleasure and pain, and purified, clarified by equanimity” (Vibh 261), and
with the previous disappearance of joy and grief, he Buddhaghosa adds: “for the mindfulness in this
enters and dwells in the fourth jhána, which has jhána is quite purified, and its purification is
neither-pain-nor-pleasure and has purity of mind- effected by equanimity, not by anything else” (Vism
fulness due to equanimity. (M I 182; Vibh 245) 167; PP 174). The equanimity which purifies the
The first part of this formula specifies the condi- mindfulness is not neutral feeling, as might be sup-
tions for the attainment of this jhána—also called posed, but specific neutrality, the sublime
the neither-painful-nor-pleasant liberation of mind impartiality free from attachment and aversion,
(M I 296)—to be the abandoning of four kinds of which also pertains to this jhána. Though both spe-
feeling incompatible with it, the first two signifying cific neutrality and mindfulness were present in the
bodily feelings, the latter two the corresponding lower three jhánas, none among these is said to
mental feelings. The formula also introduces sev- have “purity of mindfulness due to equanimity.”
eral new terms and phrases which have not been The reason is that in the lower jhánas the equanim-
encountered previously. First, it mentions a new ity present was not purified itself, being
feeling, neither-pain-nor-pleasure (adukkhama- overshadowed by opposing states and lacking asso-
sukha), which remains after the other four feelings ciation with equanimous feeling. It is like a crescent
have subsided. This kind of feeling also called moon which exists by day but cannot be seen
equanimous or neutral feeling, replaces happiness because of the sunlight and the bright sky. But in
54 The Jhánas The Higher Jhánas 55

the fourth jhána, where equanimity gains the sup- the subjective correlates of the immaterial planes of
port of equanimous feeling, it shines forth like the existence.
crescent moon at night and purifies mindfulness Like the fine-material jhánas follow a fixed
and the other associated states (Vism 169; PP 175). sequence and must be attained in the order in
which they are presented. That is, the meditator
The Immaterial Jhánas who wishes to achieve the immaterial jhánas must
begin with the base of boundless space and then
Beyond the four jhánas lie four higher attain- proceed step by step up to the base of neither-per-
ments in the scale of concentration, referred to in ception-nor-non-perception. However, an
the suttas as the “peaceful immaterial liberations important difference separates the modes of
transcending material form” (santá vimokkhá atika- progress in the two cases. In the case of the fine-
mma rúpe áruppá, M I 33). In the commentaries they material jhánas, the ascent from one jhána to
are also called the immaterial jhánas, and while this another involves a surmounting of jhána factors. To
expression is not found in the suttas it seems appro- rise from the first jhána to the second the meditator
priate in so far as these states correspond to jhánic must eliminate applied thought and sustained
levels of consciousness and continue the same pro- thought, to rise from the second to the third he
cess of mental unification initiated by the original must overcome rapture, and to rise from the third
four jhánas, now sometimes called the fine-material to the fourth he must replace pleasant with neutral
jhánas. The immaterial jhánas are designated, not feeling. Thus progress involves a reduction and
by numerical names like their predecessors, but by refinement of the jhána factors, from the initial five
the names of their objective spheres: the base of to the culmination in one-pointedness and neutral
boundless space, the base of boundless conscious- feeling.
ness, the base of nothingness, and the base of Once the fourth jhána is reached the jhána fac-
neither-perception-nor-non-perception.18 They tors remain constant, and in higher ascent to the
receive the designation “immaterial” or “formless” immaterial attainments there is no further elimina-
(arúpa) because they are achieved by surmounting tion of jhána factors. For this reason the formless
all perceptions of material form, including the sub- jhánas, when classified from the perspective of their
tle form of the counterpart sign which served as the factorial constitution as is done in the
object of the previous jhánas, and because they are Abhidhamma, are considered modes of the fourth
jhána. They are all two-factored jhánas, constituted
by one-pointedness and equanimous feeling.
18. Ákásánañcáyatana, viññáóañcáyatana, ákiñcaññá-
yatana, nevasaññánásaññáyatana.
56 The Jhánas The Higher Jhánas 57

Rather than being determined by a surmount- The motivation which initially leads a medita-
ing of factors, the order of the immaterial jhánas is tor to seek the immaterial attainments is a clear
determined by a surmounting of objects. Whereas recognition of the dangers inherent in material
for the lower jhánas the object can remain constant existence: it is in virtue of matter that injuries and
but the factors must be changed, for the immaterial death by weapons and knives occur that one is
jhánas the factors remain constant while the objects afflicted with diseases, subject of hunger and thirst,
change. The base of boundless space eliminates the while none of this takes place on the immaterial
kasióa object of the fourth jhána, the base of bound- planes of existence (M I 410). Wishing to escape
less consciousness surmounts the object of the base these dangers by taking rebirth in the immaterial
of boundless space, the base of nothingness sur- planes, the meditator must first attain the four fine-
mounts the object of base of boundless material jhánas and master the fourth jhána with
consciousness, and the base of neither-perception- any kasióa as object except the omitted space
nor-non-perception surmounts the objects the kasióa. By this much the meditator has risen above
object of the base of nothingness. gross matter, but he still has not transcended the
Because the objects become progressively more subtle material form comprised by the luminous
subtle at each level, the jhána factors of equanimous counterpart sign which is the object of his jhána. To
feeling and one-pointedness, while remaining con- reach the formless attainments the meditator, after
stant in nature throughout, become emerging from the fourth jhána, must consider that
correspondingly more refined in quality. Buddhag- even that jhána, as refined as it is, still has an object
hosa illustrates this with a simile of four pieces of consisting in material form and thus is distantly
cloth of the same measurements, spun by the same connected with gross matter; moreover, it is close to
person, yet made of thick, thin, thinner and very happiness, a factor of the third jhána, and is far
thin thread respectively (Vism 339; PP 369). Also, coarser than the immaterial states. The meditator
whereas the four lower jhánas can each take a vari- sees the base of boundless space, the first immate-
ety of objects—the ten kasióas, the in-and-out rial jhána, as more peaceful and sublime than the
breath, etc.—and do not stand in any integral rela- fourth fine-material jhána and as more safely
tion to these objects, the four immaterial jhánas removed from materiality.
each take a single object inseparably related to the Following these preparatory reflections, the
attainment itself. The first is attained solely with the meditator enters the fourth jhána based on a kasióa
base of boundless space as object, the second with object and extends the counterpart sign of the
the base of boundless consciousness, and so forth. kasióa “to the limit of the world-sphere, or as far as
he likes.” Then, after emerging from the fourth
58 The Jhánas The Higher Jhánas 59

jhána, he must remove the kasióa by attending as its object the boundless consciousness pertaining
exclusively to the space it has been made to cover to the first immaterial state (Vism 331-32; PP 360-
without attending to the kasióa itself. Taking as his 61).
object the space left after the removal of the kasióa, To attain the next formless state, the base of
the meditator adverts to it as “boundless space” or nothingness, the meditator who has mastered the
simply as “space, space,” striking at it with applied base of boundless consciousness must contemplate
and sustained thought. As he cultivates this prac- its defects in the same twofold manner and advert
tice over and over, eventually the consciousness to the superior peacefulness of the base of nothing-
pertaining to the base of boundless space arises ness. Without giving any more attention to the base
with boundless space as its object (Vism 327-28; PP of boundless consciousness, he should “give atten-
355-56). tion to the present non-existence, voidness,
A meditator who has gained mastery over the secluded aspect of that same past consciousness
base of boundless space, wishing to attain as well belonging to the base consisting of boundless
the second immaterial jhána, must reflect upon the space” (Vism 333; PP 362). In other words, the med-
two defects of the first attainment which are its itator is to focus upon the present absence or non-
proximity to the fine-material jhánas and its gross- existence of the consciousness belonging to the base
ness compared to the base of boundless of boundless space, adverting to it over and over
consciousness. Having in this way developed indif- thus: “There is not, there is not” or “void, void”.
ferent to the lower attainment, he must next enter When his efforts fructify there arises in absorption a
and emerge from the base of boundless space and consciousness belonging to the base of nothingness,
then fix his attention upon the consciousness that with the non-existence of the consciousness of
occurred there pervading the boundless space. boundless space as its object. Whereas the second
Since the space taken as the object by the first form- immaterial state relates to the consciousness of
less jhána was boundless, the consciousness of that boundless space positively, by focusing upon the
space also involves an aspect of boundlessness, and content of that consciousness and appropriating its
it is to this boundless consciousness that the aspir- boundlessness, the third immaterial state relates to
ant for the next attainment adverts. He is not to it negatively, by excluding that consciousness from
attend to it merely as boundless, but as “boundless awareness and making the absence or present non-
consciousness” or simply as “consciousness.” He existence of that consciousness its object.
continues to cultivate this sign again and again The fourth and final immaterial jhána, the base
until the consciousness belonging to the base of of neither-perception-nor-non-perception, is
boundless consciousness arises in absorption taking reached through the same preliminary procedure.
60 The Jhánas The Higher Jhánas 61

The meditator can also reflect upon the unsatisfac- give way to insight that alone leads to true
toriness of perception, thinking: “Perception is a liberation.
disease, perception is a boil, perception is a dart...
this is peaceful, this is sublime, that is to say, nei- The Jhánas and Rebirth
ther-perception-nor-non-perception” (M II 231). In
this way he ends his attachment to the base of noth- Buddhism teaches that all sentient beings in
ingness and strengthens his resolve to attain the whom ignorance and craving still linger are subject
next higher stage. He then adverts to the four men- to rebirth following death. Their mode of rebirth is
tal aggregates that constitute the attainment of the determined by their kamma, their volitional action,
base of nothingness—its feeling, perception, mental wholesome kamma issuing in a good rebirth and
formations and consciousness—contemplating unwholesome kamma in a bad rebirth. As a kind of
them as “peaceful, peaceful,” reviewing that base wholesome kamma the attainment of jhána can
and striking at it with applied and sustained play a key role in the rebirth process, being consid-
thought. As he does so the hindrances are sup- ered a weighty good kamma which takes
pressed, the mind passes through access and enters precedence over other lesser kammas in determin-
the base of neither-perception-nor-non-perception. ing the future rebirth of the person who attains it.
This jhána receives its name because, on the one Buddhist cosmology groups the numerous
hand, it lacks gross perception with its function of planes of existence into which rebirth takes place
clearly discerning objects, and thus cannot be said into three broad spheres each of which comprises a
to have perception; on the other, it retains a very number of subsidiary planes. The sense-sphere
subtle perception, and thus cannot be said to be (kámadhátu) is the field of rebirth for evil deeds and
without perception. Because all the mental func- for meritorious deeds falling short of the jhánas; the
tions are here reduced to the finest and most subtle fine-material sphere (rúpadhátu), the field of rebirth
level, this jhána is also named the attainment with for the fine-material jhánas; and the immaterial
residual formations. At this level the mind has sphere (arúpadhátu), the field of rebirth for the
reached the highest possible development in the immaterial jhánas.
direction of pure serenity. It has attained the most An unwholesome kamma, should it become
intense degree of concentration, becoming so determinative of rebirth, will lead to a new exist-
refined that consciousness can no longer be ence in one of the four planes of misery belonging
described in terms of existence or non-existence. to the sense-sphere: the hells, the animal kingdom,
Yet even this attainment, from the Buddhist point the sphere of afflicted spirits, or the host of titans. A
of view, is still a mundane state which must finally wholesome kamma of a subjhánic type produces
rebirth in one of the seven happy planes in the
62 The Jhánas The Higher Jhánas 63

sense-sphere, the human world or the six heavenly are reborn in the realm of Great Reward. There is no
worlds. differentiation by way of inferior, moderate or
Above the sense-sphere realms are the fine- superior grades of development. The Realm of
material realms, into which rebirth is gained only Non-percipient Beings is reached by those who,
through the attainment of the fine-material jhánas. after attaining the fourth jhána, then use the power
The sixteen realms in this sphere are hierarchically of their meditation to take rebirth with only mate-
ordered in correlation with the four jhánas. Those rial bodies; they do not acquire consciousness again
who have practiced the first jhána to a minor degree until they pass away from this realm. The five Pure
are reborn in the Realm of the Retinue of Brahma, to Abodes are open only to nonreturners (anágámis),
a moderate degree in the Realm of the Ministers of noble disciples at the penultimate stage of libera-
Brahma, and to a superior degree in the Realm of tion who have eradicated the fetters binding them
the Great Brahma.19 Similarly, practicing the second to the sense-sphere and thence automatically take
jhána to a minor degree brings rebirth in the Realm rebirth in higher realms, where they attain arahat-
of Minor Lustre, to a moderate degree in the Realm ship and reach final deliverance.
of Infinite Lustre, and to a superior degree the Beyond the fine-material sphere lie the immate-
Realm of Radiant Luster.20 Again, practicing the rial realms, which are four in number—the base of
third jhána to a minor degree brings rebirth in the boundless space, the base of boundless conscious-
Realm of Minor Aura, to a moderate degree in the ness, the base of nothingness, and the base of
Realm of Infinite Aura, and to a superior degree in neither-perception-nor-non-perception. As should
the Realm of Steady Aura.21 be evident, these are realms of rebirth for those
Corresponding to the fourth jhána there are who, without having broken the fetters that bind
seven realms: the Realm of Great Reward, the them to saísára, achieve and master one or another
Realm of Non-percipient Beings, and the five Pure of the four immaterial jhánas. Those meditators
Abodes.22 With this jhána the rebirth pattern devi- who have mastery over a formless attainment at the
time of death take rebirth in the appropriate plane,
ates from the former one. It seems that all beings
where they abide until the kammic force of the
who practice the fourth jhána of the mundane level
jhána is exhausted. Then they pass away, to take
without reaching any supramundane attainment
rebirth in some other realm as determined by their
accumulated kamma.23
19. Brahmapárisajja brahmapurohita, mahábrahmá.
20. Paritábha, appamáóábha, ábhassara.
21. Parittasubha, appamáóasubha, subhakióhá.
22. Vehapphala, asaññasattá, suddhávása.
64 The Jhánas

5. JHÁNAS AND THE


SUPRAMUNDANE
The Way of Wisdom particular plane of existence corresponding to its
own kammic potency, which can then be followed
The goal of the Buddhist path, complete and by rebirth in some lower realm.
permanent liberation from suffering, is to be What is required to achieve complete deliver-
achieved by practicing the full threefold discipline ance from the cycle of rebirths is the eradication of
of morality (sìla), concentration (samádhi), and wis- the defilements. Since the most basic defilement is
dom (paññá). The mundane jhánas, comprising the ignorance (avijjá), the key to liberation lies in devel-
four fine-material jhánas and the four immaterial oping its direct opposite, namely wisdom (paññá).
jhánas, pertain to the stage of concentration, which Since wisdom presupposes a certain proficiency
they fulfill to an eminent degree. However, taken in concentration it is inevitable that jhána comes to
by themselves, these states do not ensure complete claim a place in its development. This place, how-
deliverance, for they are incapable of cutting off the ever, is not fixed and invariable, but as we will see
roots of suffering. The Buddha teaches that the allows for differences depending on the individual
cause of suffering, the driving power behind the meditator's disposition.
cycle of rebirths, is the defilements with their three Fundamental to the discussion in this chapter is
unwholesome roots—greed, hatred and delusion. a distinction between two terms crucial to Thera-
Concentration of the absorption level, no matter to vada philosophical exposition, “mundane” (lokiya)
what heights it is pursued, only suppresses the and “supramundane” (lokuttara). The term “mun-
defilements, but cannot destroy their latent seeds. dane” applies to all phenomena comprised in the
Thence bare mundane jhána, even when sustained, world (loka)—to subtle states of consciousness as
cannot by itself terminate the cycle of rebirths. To well as matter, to virtue as well as evil, to medita-
the contrary, it may even perpetuate the round. For tive attainments as well as sensual engrossments.
if any fine-material or immaterial jhána is held to The term “supramundane,” in contrast, applies
with clinging, it will bring about a rebirth in that exclusively to that which transcends the world, that
is the nine supramundane states: Nibbána, the four
noble paths (magga) leading to Nibbána, and their
23. A good summary of Buddhist cosmology and of the corresponding fruits (phala) which experience the
connection between kamma and planes of rebirth bliss of Nibbána.
can be found in Nárada, A Manual of Abhidhamma,
pp.233-55.
66 The Jhánas Jhánas and the Supramundane 67

Wisdom has the specific characteristic of pene- neously realizes Nibbána, fathoms the Four Noble
trating the true nature of phenomena. It penetrates Truths, and cuts off the defilements. This wisdom is
the particular and general features of things called “supramundane” because it rises up from the
through direct cognition rather than discursive world of the five aggregates to realize the state tran-
thought. Its function is “to abolish the darkness of scendent to the world, Nibbána.
delusion which conceals the individual essences of The Buddhist disciple, striving for deliverance,
states” and its manifestation is “non-delusion.” begins the development of wisdom by first securely
Since the Buddha says that one whose mind is con- establishing its roots—purified moral discipline
centrated knows and sees things as they are, the and concentration. He then learns and masters the
proximate cause of wisdom is concentration (Vism basic material upon which wisdom is to work—the
438; PP 481). aggregates, elements, sense bases, dependent aris-
The wisdom instrumental in attaining libera- ing, the Four Noble Truths, etc. He commences the
tion is divided into two principal types: insight actual practice of wisdom by cultivating insight
knowledge (vipassanáñáóa) and the knowledge per- into the impermanence, suffering and non-self
taining to the supramundane paths (maggañáóa). aspect of the five aggregates. When this insight
The first is the direct penetration of the three char- reaches its apex it issues in supramundane wisdom,
acteristics of conditioned phenomena— the right view factor of the Noble Eightfold Path,
impermanence, suffering and non-self.24 It takes as which turns from conditioned formations to the
its objective sphere the five aggregates (pañ- unconditioned Nibbána and thereby eradicates the
cakkhandha)—material form, feeling perception, defilements.
mental formations and consciousness. Because
insight knowledge takes the world of conditioned The Two Vehicles
formations as its object, it is regarded as a mundane
The Theravada tradition recognizes two alter-
form of wisdom. Insight knowledge does not itself
native approaches to the development of wisdom,
directly eradicate the defilements, but serves to pre-
between which practitioners are free to choose
pare the way for the second type of wisdom, the
according to their aptitude and propensity. These
wisdom of the supramundane paths, which
two approaches are the vehicle of serenity
emerges when insight has been brought to its cli-
(samathayána) and the vehicle of insight (vipas-
max. The wisdom of the path, occurring in four
sanáyána). The meditators who follow them are
distinct stages (to be discussed below), simulta-
called, respectively, the samathayánika, “one who
makes serenity his vehicle,” and the vipassanáyánika,
24. Anicca, dukkha, anattá. “one who makes insight his vehicle.” Since both
68 The Jhánas Jhánas and the Supramundane 69

vehicles, despite their names, are approaches to from any fine-material or immaterial jhána except
developing insight, to prevent misunderstanding the base consisting of neither-perception-nor-non-
the latter type of meditator is sometimes called a perception, and he should discern, according to
suddhavipassanáyánika, “one who makes bare insight characteristic, function, etc. the jhána factors con-
his vehicle,” or a sukkhavipassaka, “a dry-insight sisting of applied thought, etc. and the states
worker.” Though all three terms appear initially in associated with them” (Vism 557; PP 679-80). Other
the commentaries rather than in the suttas, the rec- commentarial passages allow access concentration
ognition of the two vehicles seems implicit in a to suffice for the vehicle of serenity, but the last
number of canonical passages. immaterial jhána is excluded because its factors are
The samathayánika is a meditator who first too subtle to be discerned. The meditator whose
attains access concentration or one of the eight vehicle is pure insight, on the other hand, is advised
mundane jhánas, then emerges and uses his attain- to start directly by discerning material and mental
ment as a basis for cultivating insight until he phenomena, beginning with the four elements,
arrives at the supramundane path. In contrast, the without utilizing a jhána for this purpose (Vism
vipassanáyánika does not attain mundane jhána 558; PP 680). Thus the samathayánika first attains
prior to practicing insight contemplation, or if he access concentration or mundane jhána and then
does, does not use it as an instrument for cultivat- develops insight knowledge, by means of which he
ing insight. Instead, without entering and emerging reaches the supramundane path containing wis-
from jhána, he proceeds directly to insight contem- dom under the heading of right view, and
plation on mental and material phenomena and by supramundane jhána under the heading of right
means of this bare insight he reaches the noble path. concentration. The vipassanáyánika, in contrast,
For both kinds of meditator the experience of the skips over mundane jhána and goes directly into
path in any of its four stages always occurs at a insight contemplation. When he reaches the end of
level of jhánic intensity and thus necessarily the progression of insight knowledge he arrives at
includes supramundane jhána under the heading of the supramundane path which, as in the previous
right concentration (sammásamádhi), the eighth fac- case, brings together wisdom with supramundane
tor of the Noble Eightfold Path. jhána. This jhána counts as his accomplishment of
The classical source for the distinction between serenity.
the two vehicles of serenity and insight is the Visud- For a meditator following the vehicle of serenity
dhimagga where it is explained that when a the attainment of jhána fulfills two functions: first, it
meditator begins the development of wisdom “if produces a basis of mental purity and inner collect-
firstly, his vehicle is serenity, [he] should emerge edness needed for undertaking the work of insight
70 The Jhánas Jhánas and the Supramundane 71

contemplation; and second, it serves as an object to meditator attains provide him with a readily avail-
be examined with insight in order to discern the able and strikingly clear object in which to seek out
three characteristics of impermanence, suffering the three characteristics. After emerging from a
and non-self. Jhána accomplishes the first function jhána the meditator will proceed to examine the
by providing a powerful instrument for overcom- jhánic consciousness and to discern the way it
ing the five hindrances. As we have seen, for exemplifies the three universal marks. This process
wisdom to arise the mind must first be concentrated is called sammasanañáóa, “comprehension knowl-
well, and to be concentrated well it must be freed edge,” and the jhána subject to such treatment is
from the hindrances, a task accomplished termed sammasitajjhána, “the comprehended jhána”
preeminently by the attainment of jhána. Though (Vism 607-11; PP 706-10). Though the basic jhána
access concentration will keep the hindrances at and the comprehended jhána will often be the
bay, jhána will ensure that they are removed to a same, the two do not necessarily coincide. A medi-
much safer distance. tator cannot practice comprehension on a jhána
In their capacity for producing concentration higher than he is capable of attaining, but one who
the jhánas are called the basis (pada) for insight, and uses a higher jhána as his pádakajjhána can still prac-
that particular jhána a meditator enters and tice insight comprehension on a lower jhána which
emerges from before commencing his practice of he has previously attained and mastered. The
insight is designated his pádakajjhána, the basic or admitted difference between the pádakajjhána and
foundational jhána. Insight cannot be practiced the sammasitajjhána leads to discrepant theories
while absorbed in jhána, since insight meditation about the supramundane concentration of the noble
requires investigation and observation, which are path, as we will see.
impossible when the mind is immersed in one- Whereas the sequence of training undertaken
pointed absorption. But after emerging from the by the samathayánika meditator is unproblematic,
jhána the mind is cleared of the hindrances, and the the vipassanáyánika approach presents the difficulty
stillness and clarity that then result conduce to pre- of accounting for the concentration he uses to pro-
cise, penetrating insight. vide a basis for insight. Concentration is needed in
The jhánas also enter into the samathayánika’s order to see and know things as they are, but with-
practice in second capacity, that is, as objects for out access concentration or jhána, what
scrutinization by insight. The practice of insight concentration can he use? The solution to this prob-
consists essentially in the examination of mental lem is found in a type of concentration distinct from
and physical phenomena to discover their marks of the access and absorption concentrations pertaining
impermanence, suffering and non-self. The jhánas a to the vehicle of serenity, called “momentary con-
72 The Jhánas Jhánas and the Supramundane 73

centration” (khaóika samádhi). Despite its name, erally grouped into a set of ten “fetters” (saíyojana)
momentary concentration does not signify a single which keep beings chained to the round of rebirths.
moment of concentration amidst a current of dis- The first path, called the path of stream-entry (sotá-
tracted thoughts, but a dynamic concentration patti) because it marks the entry into the stream of
which flows from object to object in the ever-chang- the Dhamma, eradicates the first three fetters—The
ing flux of phenomena, retaining a constant degree false view of self, doubt, and clinging to rites and
of intensity and collectedness sufficient to purify rituals. The disciple who has reached stream-entry
the mind of the hindrances. Momentary concentra- has limited his future births to a maximum of seven
tion arises in the samathayánika simultaneously with in the happy realms of the human and heavenly
his post-jhánic attainment of insight, but for the worlds, after which he will attain final deliverance.
vipassanáyánika it develops naturally and spontane- But an ardent disciple may progress to still higher
ously in the course of his insight practice without stages in the same life in which he reaches stream-
his having to fix the mind upon a single exclusive entry, by making an aspiration for the next higher
object. Thus the follower of the vehicle of insight path and again undertaking the development of
does not omit concentration altogether from his insight with the aim of reaching that path.
training, but develops it in a different manner from The next supramundane path is that of the
the practitioner of serenity. Without gaining jhána once-returner (sakadágámi). This path does not erad-
he goes directly into contemplation on the five icate any fetters completely, but it greatly
aggregates and by observing them constantly from attenuates sensual desire and ill will. The once-
moment to moment acquires momentary concen- returner is so called because he is bound to make an
tration as an accompaniment of his investigations. end of suffering after returning to this world only
This momentary concentration fulfills the same one more time. The third path, that of the nonre-
function as the basic jhána of the serenity vehicle, turner (anágámi) utterly destroys the sensual desire
providing the foundation of mental clarity needed and ill will weakened by the preceding path. The
for insight to emerge. nonreturner is assured that he will never again take
rebirth in the sense-sphere; if he does not penetrate
Supramundane Jhána higher he will be reborn spontaneously in the Pure
Abodes and there reach final Nibbána. The highest
The climax in the development of insight is the path, the path of arahatship, eradicate the remain-
attainment of the supramundane paths and fruits. ing five fetters—desire for existence in the fine-
Each path is a momentary peak experience directly material and immaterial spheres, conceit, restless-
apprehending Nibbána and permanently cutting ness and ignorance. The arahat has completed the
off certain defilements. These defilements are gen-
74 The Jhánas Jhánas and the Supramundane 75

development of the entire path taught by the Bud- the paths and fruits may be reckoned as belonging
dha; he has reached the end of rebirths and can to either the first, second, third or fourth jhána of
sound his “lion's roar”: “Destroyed is birth, the holy the fourfold scheme, or to the first, second, third,
life has been lived, what was to be done has been fourth or fifth jhána of the fivefold scheme.
done, there is nothing further beyond this.” The basis for the recognition of a supramun-
Each path is followed immediately by the dane type of jhána goes back to the suttas,
supramundane experience of fruition, which results especially to the section of “The Great Discourse on
from the path, comes in the same four graded the Foundations of Mindfulness” where the Bud-
stages, and shares the path's world-transcending dha defines right concentration of the Noble
character. But whereas the path performs the active Eightfold Path by the standard formula for the four
function of cutting off defilements, fruition simply jhánas (D II 313). However, it is in the Abhidhamma
enjoys the bliss and peace that result when the path that the connection between the jhánas, paths and
has completed its task. Also, where the path is lim- fruits comes to be worked out with great intricacy
ited to a single moment of consciousness, the of detail. The Dhammasaògaóì, in its section on states
fruition that follows immediately on the path of consciousness, expounds each of the path and
endures for two or three moments. And while each fruition states of consciousness as occasions, first, of
of the four paths occurs only once and can never be one or another of the four jhánas in the fourfold
repeated, fruition remains accessible to the noble scheme, and then again as occasions of one or
disciple at the appropriate level. He can resort to it another of the five jhánas in the fivefold scheme
as a special meditative state called fruition attain- (Dhs 74-86). Standard Abhidhammic exposition, as
ment (phalasamápatti) for the purpose of formalized in the synoptical manuals of
experiencing nibbánic bliss here and now (Vism Abhidhamma, employs the fivefold scheme and
699-702; PP 819-24). brings each of the paths and fruits into connection
The supramundane paths and fruits always with each of the five jhánas. In this way the eight
arise as states of jhánic consciousness. They occur as types of supramundane consciousness—the path
states of jhána because they contain within them- and fruition consciousness of stream-entry, the
selves the jhána factors elevated to an intensity once-returner, the nonreturner and arahatship—
corresponding to that of the jhána factors in the proliferate to forty types of supramundane con-
mundane jhánas. Since they possess the jhána fac- sciousness, since any path or fruit can occur at the
tors these states are able to fix upon their object level of any of the five jhánas. It should be noted,
with the force of full absorption. Thence, taking the however, that there are no paths and fruits con-
absorptive force of the jhána factors as the criterion, joined with the immaterial attainments, the reason
76 The Jhánas Jhánas and the Supramundane 77

being that supramundane jhána is presented solely (apacayagámì) that it demolishes and dismantles the
from the standpoint of its factorial constitution, process of rebirth (Dhs-a 259).
which for the immaterial attainment and the fifth This last phrase points to a striking difference
jhána is identical—equanimity and one- between mundane and supramundane jhána. The
pointedness. Dhammasaògaóì's exposition of the former begins:
The fullest treatment of the supramundane jhá- “On the occasion when one develops the path for
nas in the authoritative Pali literature can be found rebirth in the fine-material sphere... one enters and
in the Dhammasaògaóì read in conjunction with its dwells in the first jhána” [my italics]. Thus, with
commentary, the Atthasálinì. The Dhammasaògaóì this statement, mundane jhána is shown to sustain
opens its analysis of the first wholesome supramun- the round of rebirths; it is a wholesome kamma
dane consciousness with the words: leading to renewed existence. But the supramun-
On the occasion when one develops supramun- dane jhána of the path does not promote the
dane jhána which is emancipating, leading to the continuation of the round. To the contrary, it brings
demolition (of existence), for the abandonment of about the round's dismantling and demolition, as
views, for reaching the first plane, secluded from the Atthasálinì shows with an illustrative simile:
sense pleasures... one enters and dwells in the first The wholesome states of the three planes are
jhána. (Dhs 72) said to lead to accumulation because they build up
The Atthasálinì explains the word lokuttara, and increase death and rebirth in the round. But not
which we have been translating “supramundane,” this. Just as when one man has built up a wall eigh-
as meaning “it crosses over the world, it transcends teen feet high another might take a club and go
the world, it stands having surmounted and over- along demolishing it, so this goes along demolish-
come the world.” It glosses the phrase “one ing and dismantling the deaths and rebirths built
develops jhána” thus: “One develops, produces, up by the wholesome kammas of the three planes
cultivates absorption jhána lasting for a single by bringing about a deficiency in their conditions.
thought-moment.” This gloss shows us two things Thus it leads to demolition.25
about the consciousness of the path: that it occurs as Supramundane jhána is said to be cultivated
a jhána at the level of full absorption and that this “for the abandoning of views.” This phrase points
absorption of the path lasts for only a single to the function of the first path, which is to eradicate
thought-moment. The word “emancipating” the fetters. The supramundane jhána of the first
(niyyánika) is explained to mean that this jhána path cuts off the fetter of personality view and all
“goes out” from the world, from the round of exist-
ence, the phrase “leading to demolition”
25. Dhs-a 259. See Expositor, II 289-90.
78 The Jhánas Jhánas and the Supramundane 79

speculative views derived from it. The Atthasálinì close attention with wisdom brings the exercise of
points out that here we should understand that it four functions at a single moment. These four func-
abandons not only wrong views but other tions each apply to one of the Four Noble Truths.
unwholesome states as well, namely, doubt, cling- The path penetrates the First Noble Truth by fully
ing to rites and rituals, and greed, hatred and understanding suffering; it penetrates the Second
delusion strong enough to lead to the plane of mis- Noble Truth by abandoning craving, the origin of
ery. The commentary explicates “for reaching the suffering; it penetrates the Third Noble Truth by
first plane” as meaning for attaining the fruit of realizing Nibbána, the cessation of suffering; and it
stream-entry. penetrates the fourth Noble Truth by developing
Besides these, several other differences between the Noble Eightfold Path that leads to the end of
mundane and supramundane jhána may be briefly suffering. Buddhaghosa illustrates this with the
noted. First, with regard to their object, the mun- simile of a lamp, which also performs four tasks
dane jhánas have as object a conceptual entity such simultaneously: it burns the wick, dispels darkness,
as the counterpart sign of the kasióas or, in the case makes light appear, and consumes oil (Vism 690; PP
of the divine abodes, sentient beings. In contrast, for 808).
the supramundane jhána of the paths and fruits the
object is exclusively Nibbána. With regard to their The Jhánic Level of the Path and Fruit
predominant tone, in mundane jhána the element of
serenity prevails, while the supramundane jhána of When the paths and fruits are assigned to the
the paths and fruits brings serenity and insight into level of the four or five jhánas, the question arises as
balance. Wisdom is present as right view and seren- to what factor determines their particular level of
ity as right concentration, both function together in jhánic intensity. In other words, why do the path
perfect harmony, neither one exceeding the other. and fruit arise for one meditator at the level of the
This difference in prevailing tone leads into a first jhána, for another at the level of the second
difference in function or activity between the two jhána, and so forth? The commentaries present
kinds of jhána. Both the mundane and supramun- three theories concerning the determination of the
dane are jhánas in the sense of closely attending jhánic level of the path, apparently deriving from
(upanijjhána), but in the case of mundane jhána this the lineages of ancient teachers (Vism 666-67; PP
close attention issues merely in absorption into the 778-80. Dhs-a 271-74). The first holds that it is the
object, an absorption that can only suppress the basic jhána, i.e., the jhána used as a basis for the
defilement temporarily. In the supramundane insight leading to emergence in immediate proxim-
jhána, particularly of the four paths, the coupling of ity to the path, that governs the difference in the
jhánic level of the path. A second theory says that
80 The Jhánas Jhánas and the Supramundane 81

the difference is governed by the aggregates made first jhána. On this theory, then, it is the compre-
the objects of insight on the occasion of insight lead- hended jhána (sammasitajjhána) that determines the
ing to emergence. A third theory holds that it is the jhánic quality of the path. The one qualification that
personal inclination of the meditator that governs must be added is that a meditator cannot contem-
the difference. plate with insight a jhána higher than he is capable
According to the first theory the path arisen in a of attaining.
dry-insight meditator who lacks jhána, and the path According to the third theory, the path occurs at
arisen in one who possesses a jhána attainment but the level of whichever jhána the meditator wishes—
does not use it as a basis for insight, and the path either at the level of the jhána he has used as the
arisen by comprehending formations after emerg- basis for insight or at the level of the jhána he has
ing from the first jhána, are all paths of the first made the object of insight comprehension. In other
jhána only. When the path is produced after emerg- words, the jhánic quality of the path accords with
ing from the second, third, fourth and fifth jhánas his personal inclination. However, mere wish alone
(of the fivefold system) and using these as the basis is not sufficient. For the path to occur at the jhánic
for insight, then the path pertains to the level of the level wished for, the mundane jhána must have
jhána used as a basis—the second, third, fourth of been either made the basis for insight or used as the
fifth. For a meditator using an immaterial jhána as object of insight comprehension.
basis the path will be a fifth jhána path. Thus in this The difference between the three theories can be
first theory, when formations are comprehended by understood through a simple example.26 If a medi-
insight after emerging from a basic jhána, then it is tator reaches the supramundane path by
the jhána attainment emerged from at the point contemplating with insight the first jhána after
nearest to the path, i.e., just before insight leading to emerging from the fifth jhána, then according to the
emergence is reached, that makes the path similar first theory his path will belong to the fifth jhána,
in nature to itself. while according to the second theory it will belong
According to the second theory the path that to the first jhána. Thus these two theories are
arises is similar in nature to the states which are incompatible when a difference obtains between
being comprehended with insight at the time basic jhána and comprehended jhána. But accord-
insight leading to emergence occurs. Thus if the ing to the third theory, the path becomes of
meditator, after emerging from a meditative attain- whichever jhána the meditator wishes, either the
ment, is comprehending with insight sense-sphere
phenomena or the constituents of the first jhána,
then the path produced will occur at the level of the
26. Dhs-a 274. See Expositor, II 310.
82 The Jhánas Jhána and the Noble Disciples 83

first or the fifth. Thus this doctrine does not neces- 6. JHÁNA AND THE NOBLE
sarily clash with the other two. DISCIPLES
Buddhaghosa himself does not make a decision
among these three theories. He only points out that All noble persons, as we saw, acquire supra-
in all three doctrines, beneath their disagreements, mundane jhána along with their attainment of the
there is the recognition that the insight immediately noble paths and fruits. The noble ones at each of the
preceding the supramundane path determines the four stages of liberation, moreover, have access to
jhánic character of the path. For this insight is the the supramundane jhána of their respective fruition
proximate and the principal cause for the arising of attainments, from the fruition attainment of stream-
the path, so whether it be the insight leading to entry up to the fruition attainments of arahatship. It
emergence near the basic jhána or that occurring remains problematic, however to what extent they
through the contemplated jhána or that fixed by the also enjoy the possession of mundane jhána. To
meditator's wish, it is in all cases this final phase of determine an answer to this question we will con-
insight that gives definition to the supramundane sult an early typology of seven types of noble
path. Since the fruition that occurs immediately disciples, which provides a more psychologically
after the path has an identical constitution to the oriented way of classifying the eight noble individ-
path, its own supramundane jhána is determined uals. A look at the explanation of these seven types
by the path. Thus a first jhána path produces a first will enable us to see the range of jhánic attainment
jhána fruit, and so forth for the remaining jhánas. reached by the noble disciples. On this basis we will
proceed to assess the place of mundane jhána in the
early Buddhist picture of the arahat, the perfected
individual.

Seven Types of Disciples


The sevenfold typology is originally found in
the Kìþágiri Sutta of the Majjhima Nikáya (M I 477-
79) and is reformulated in the Puggalapaññatti of
the Abhidhamma Piþaka. This typology classifies
the noble persons on the paths and fruits into seven
types: the faith-devotee (saddhánusárì), the one lib-
erated by faith (saddhávimutta), the body-witness
84 The Jhánas Jhána and the Noble Disciples 85

(káyasakkhi), the one liberated in both ways (ubhatob- in the fruit he becomes one liberated by faith.
hágavimutta), the truth-devotee (dhammánusárì), the Although the sutta excluded the “peaceful immate-
one attained to understanding (diþþhipatta), and the rial attainments,” i.e., the four immaterial jhána,
one liberated by wisdom (paññávimutta). The seven from the faith-devotee's equipment, this implies
types may be divided into three general groups, nothing with regard to his achievement of the four
each defined by the predominance of a particular lower mundane jhánas. It would seem that the
spiritual faculty, The first two types are governed faith-devotee can have previously attained any of
by a predominance of faith, the middle two by a the four fine-material jhánas before reaching the
predominance of concentration, and the last three path, and can also be a dry-insight worker bereft of
by a predominance of wisdom. To this division, mundane jhána.
however, certain qualifications will have to made as [2] The one liberated by faith is strictly and liter-
we go along. ally defined as a noble disciple at the six
[1] The faith-devotee is explained the sutta thus: intermediate levels, from the fruit of stream-entry
Herein, monks, some person has not reached through to the path of arahatship, who lacks the
with his own (mental) body those peaceful immate- immaterial jhánas and has a predominance of the
rial deliverances transcending material form: nor faith faculty.
after seeing with wisdom, have his cankers been The Buddha explains the one liberated by faith
destroyed.27 But he has a certain degree of faith in as follows:
the Tathágata, a certain degree of devotion to him, Herein, monks, some person has not reached
and he has these qualities—the faculties of faith, with his own (mental) body those peaceful immate-
energy, mindfulness, concentration and wisdom. rial deliverances transcending material form; but
This person, monks, is called a faith-devotee. (M I having seen with wisdom, some of his cankers have
479) been destroyed, and his faith in the Tathágata is set-
The Puggalapaññatti (p 182) defines the faith- tled, deeply rooted, well established. This person,
devotee from a different angle as a disciple practic- monks, is called one liberated by faith. (M I 478)
ing for the fruit of stream-entry in whom the faculty As in the case of the faith-devotee, the one liber-
of faith is predominant and who develops the noble ated by faith, while lacking the immaterial jhánas,
path led by faith. It adds that when he is established may still be an obtainer of the four mundane jhánas
as well as a dry insight worker.
The Puggalapaññatti states (pp.184-85) that the
27. The cankers (ásavá) are four powerful defilements person liberated by faith is one who understands
that sustain saísára; sensual desire, desire for the Four Noble Truths, has seen and verified by
existence, wrong views and ignorance.
86 The Jhánas Jhána and the Noble Disciples 87

means of wisdom the teachings proclaimed by the deliverances” (aþþhavimokkha) for the sutta's “peace-
Tathágata, and having seen with wisdom has elimi- ful immaterial deliverances” (santa vimokkha
nated some of his cankers. However, he has not áruppa). These eight deliverances consist of three
done so as easily as the diþþhipatta, the person meditative attainments pertaining to the fine-mate-
attained to understanding, whose progress is easier rial sphere (inclusive of all four lower jhánas), the
due to his superior wisdom. The fact that the one four immaterial jhánas, and the cessation of percep-
liberated by faith has destroyed only some of this tion and feeling (saññávedayitanirodha)—the last a
cankers implies that he has advanced beyond the special attainment accessible only to those nonre-
first path but not yet reached the final fruit, the fruit turners and arahats who have also mastered the
of arahatship.28 eight jhánas.29 The statement of the Puggala-
[3] The body-witness is a noble disciple at the six paññatti does not mean either that the achievement
intermediate levels, from the fruit of stream-entry of all eight deliverances is necessary to become a
to the path of arahatship, who has a predominance body-witness or that the achievement of the three
of the faculty of concentration and can obtain the lower deliverances is sufficient. What is both requi-
immaterial jhánas. The sutta explanation reads: site and sufficient to qualify as a body-witness is the
And what person, monks is a body-witness? partial destruction of defilements coupled with the
Herein, monks, some person has reached with his attainment of at least the lowest immaterial jhána.
own (mental) body those peaceful immaterial deliv- Thus the body witness becomes fivefold by way of
erances transcending material form, and having those who obtain any of the four immaterial jhánas
seen with wisdom, some of his cankers having been and the one who also obtains the cessation of per-
destroyed. This person, monks, is called a body- ception and feeling.
witness. (M I 478) [4] One who is liberated in both ways is an arah-
The Puggalapaññatti (p. 184) offers a slight ant who has completely destroyed the defilements
variation in this phrasing, substituting “the eight and possesses the immaterial attainments. The com-
mentaries explain the name “liberated in both
28. The Visuddhimagga, however says that arahats in
whom faith is predominant can also be called 29. The first three emancipations are: one possessing
“liberated by faith” (Vism 659; PP 770). Its material form sees material forms; one not
commentary points out that this statement is perceiving material forms internally sees material
intended only figuratively, in the sense that those forms externally; and one is released upon the idea
arahats reach their goal after having been liberated of the beautiful. They are understood to be variations
by faith in the intermediate stages. Literally, they on the jhánas attained with color kasióas. For the
would be “liberated by wisdom”. (Vism-þ II 468) attainment of cessation, see PP 824-833.
88 The Jhánas Jhána and the Noble Disciples 89

ways” as meaning “through the immaterial attain- Herein, monks, some person has not reached
ment he is liberated from the material body and with his own (mental) body those peaceful immate-
through the path (of arahatship) he is liberated rial deliverances transcending material form; nor,
from the mental body” (MA.II 131). The sutta after seeing with wisdom, have his cankers been
defines this type of disciple thus: destroyed. But the teachings proclaimed by the
And what person, monks, is liberated in both Tathágata are accepted by him through mere reflec-
ways? Herein, monks, someone has reached with tion, and he has these qualities—the faculties of
his own (mental) body those peaceful immaterial faith, energy, mindfulness, concentration and wis-
deliverances transcending material form, and hav- dom. This person, monks, is called a truth-devotee.
ing seen with wisdom, his cankers are destroyed. (M I 479)
This person, monks, is called liberated in both The Puggalapaññatti (p.185) defines the truth-
ways. (M I 477) devotee as one practicing for realization of the fruit
The Puggalapaññatti (p.184) gives basically the of stream-entry in whom the faculty of wisdom is
same formula but replaces “immaterial deliver- predominant, and who develops the path led by
ances” with “the eight deliverances.” The same wisdom. It adds that when a truth-devotee is estab-
principle of interpretation that applied to the body- lished in the fruit of stream-entry he becomes one
witness applies here: the attainment of any immate- attained to understanding, the sixth type. The sutta
rial jhána, even the lowest, is sufficient to qualify a and Abhidhamma again differ as to emphasis, the
person as both-ways liberated. As the commentary one stressing lack of the immaterial jhánas, the
to the Visuddhimagga says: “One who has attained other the ariyan stature. Presumably, he may have
arahatship after gaining even one [immaterial any of the four fine-material jhánas or be a bare-
jhána] is liberated both ways” (Vism-þ II 466). This insight practitioner without any mundane jhána.
type becomes fivefold by way of those who attain [6] The one attained to understanding is a noble
arahatship after emerging from one or another of disciple at the six intermediate levels who lacks the
the four immaterial jhánas and the one who attains immaterial jhánas and has a predominance of the
arahatship after emerging from the attainment of wisdom faculty. The Buddha explains:
cessation (MA:III 131). And what person, monks, is the one attained to
[5] The truth-devotee is a disciple on the first understanding? Herein, monks someone has not
path in whom the faculty of wisdom is predomi- reached with his own mental body those peaceful
nant. The Buddha explains the truth-devotee as immaterial deliverances transcending material
follows: form, but having seen with wisdom some of his
cankers are destroyed, and the teachings pro-
90 The Jhánas Jhána and the Noble Disciples 91

claimed by the Tathágata have been seen and who attain arahatship after emerging from the four
verified by him with wisdom. This person, monks, jhánas.
is called the one attained to understanding. (M I It should be noted that the one liberated by wis-
478) dom is contrasted not with the one liberated by
The Puggalapaññatti (p.185) defines the one faith, but with the one liberated in both ways. The
attained to understanding as a person who under- issue that divides the two types of arahant is the
stands the Four Noble Truths, has seen and verified lack or possession of the four immaterial jhánas and
by means of wisdom the teachings proclaimed by the attainment of cessation. The person liberated by
the Tathágata, and having seen with wisdom has faith is found at the six intermediate levels of sanc-
eliminated some of his cankers. He is thus the “wis- tity, not at the level of arahatship. When he obtains
dom counterpart” of the one liberated by faith, but arahatship, lacking the immaterial jhánas, he
progresses more easily than the latter by virtue of becomes one liberated by wisdom even though
his sharper wisdom. Like his counterpart, he may faith rather that wisdom is his predominant faculty.
possess any of the four mundane jhánas or may be a Similarly, a meditator with predominance of con-
dry-insight worker. centration who possesses the immaterial
[7] The one liberated by wisdom is an arahant who attainments will still be liberated in both ways even
does not obtain the immaterial attainments. In the if wisdom rather than concentration claims first
words of the sutta: place among his spiritual endowments, as was the
And what person, monks, is the one liberated case with the venerable Sáriputta.
by wisdom? Herein, monks, someone has not
reached with his own (mental) body those peaceful Jhána and the Arahant
material deliverances transcending material form,
but having seen with wisdom his cankers are From the standpoint of their spiritual stature
destroyed. This person, monks, is called one liber- the seven types of noble persons can be divided
ated by wisdom. (M I 477-78) into three categories. The first, which includes the
The Puggalapaññatti's definition (p.185) merely faith-devotee and the truth-devotee, consists of
replaces “immaterial deliverance” with “the eight those on the path of stream-entry, the first of the
deliverances.” Though such arahats do not reach eight noble individuals. The second category, com-
the immaterial jhánas it is quite possible for them to prising the one liberated by faith, the body-witness
attain the lower jhánas. The sutta commentary in and the one attained to understanding, consists of
fact states that the one liberated by wisdom is five- those on the six intermediate levels, from the
fold by way of the dry-insight worker and the four stream-enterer to one on the path of arahatship. The
third category, comprising the one liberated in both
92 The Jhánas Jhána and the Noble Disciples 93

ways and the one liberated by wisdom, consists for insight (Vism 666-67; PP 779). Textual evidence
only of arahats.30 that there can be arahats lacking mundane jhána is
The ubhatobhágavimutta, “one liberated in both provided by the Susìma Sutta (S II 199-23) together
ways,” and the paññávimutta “one liberated by wis- with is commentaries. When the monks in the sutta
dom,” thus form the terms of a twofold typology of are asked how they can be arahats without possess-
arahats distinguished on the basis of their accom- ing supernormal powers of the immaterial
plishment in jhána. The ubhatobhágavimutta arahant attainments, they reply: “We are liberated by wis-
experiences in his own person the “peaceful deliv- dom” (paññávimuttá kho mayaí). The commentary
erances” of the immaterial sphere, the paññávimutta glosses this reply thus: “We are contemplatives,
arahant lacks this full experience of the immaterial dry-insight meditators, liberated by wisdom alone”
jhánas. Each of these two types, according to the (Mayaí nijjhánaka-sukkhavipassaka-paññámatten'eva
commentaries, again becomes fivefold—the ubhato- vimuttá ti, S-a II 117). The commentary also states
bhágavimutta by way of those who possess the that the Buddha gave his long disquisition on
ascending four immaterial jhánas and the attain- insight in the sutta “to show the arising of knowl-
ment of cessation, the paññávimutta by way of those edge even without concentration” (viná pi samádhií
who reach arahatship after emerging from one of evaí ñáóuppattidassanatthaí, S-a II 117). The sub-
the four fine-material jhánas and the dry-insight commentary establishes the point by explaining
meditator whose insight lacks the support of mun- “even without concentration” to mean “even with-
dane jhána. out concentration previously accomplished
The possibility of attaining the supramundane reaching the mark of serenity” (samathalakkhaóap-
path without possession of a mundane jhána has pattaí purimasiddhaí viná pi samádhin-ti), adding
been questioned by some Theravada scholars, but that this is said in reference to one who makes
the Visuddhimagga clearly admits this possibility insight his vehicle (ST.II 125).
when it distinguishes between the path arisen in a In contrast to the paññávimutta arahats, those
dry-insight meditator and the path arisen in one arahats who are ubhatobhágavimutta enjoy a twofold
who possesses a jhána but does not use it as a basis liberation. Through their mastery over the formless
attainments they are liberated from the material
30. It should be noted that the Kìþágiri Sutta makes no body (rúpakáya), capable of dwelling in this very life
provision in its typology for a disciple on the first in the meditations corresponding to the immaterial
path who gains the immaterial jhánas. Vism-þ (II 466) planes of existence; through their attainment of ara-
holds that he would have to be considered either a hatship they are liberated from the mental body
faith-devotee or a truth-devotee, and at the final (námakáya), presently free from all defilements and
fruition would be one liberated in both ways.
94 The Jhánas Jhána and the Noble Disciples 95

sure of final emancipation from future becoming. direct knowledge. And he dwells experiencing the
Paññávimutta arahats only possess the second of eight deliverances with his body. Thus, monks, a
these two liberations. person is a red lotus recluse. (AN II 87)
The double liberation of the ubhatobhágavimutta Since the description of these two types coin-
arahant should not be confused with another dou- cides with that of paññávimutta and
ble liberation frequently mentioned in the suttas in ubhatobhágavimutta the two pairs may be identified,
connection with arahatship. This second pair of lib- the white lotus recluse with the paññávimutta, the
erations, called cetovimutti paññávimutti, “liberation red lotus recluse with the ubhatobhágavimutta. Yet
of mind, liberation by wisdom,” is shared by all ara- the paññávimutta arahant, while lacking the experi-
hats. It appears in the stock passage descriptive of ence of the eight deliverances, still has both
arahatship: “With the destruction of the cankers he liberation of mind and liberation by wisdom.
here and now enters and dwells in the cankerless When liberation of mind and liberation by wis-
liberation of mind, liberation by wisdom, having dom are joined together and described as
realized it for himself with direct knowledge.” That “cankerless” (anásava), they can be taken to indicate
this twofold liberation belongs to paññávimutta ara- two aspects of the arahant's deliverance. Liberation
hats as well as those who are ubhatobhágavimutta of mind signifies the release of his mind from crav-
is made clear by the Putta Sutta, where the stock ing and its associated defilements, liberation by
passage is used for two types of arahats called the wisdom the release from ignorance: “With the fad-
“white lotus recluse” and the “red lotus recluse”: ing away of lust there is liberation of mind, with the
How, monks, is a person a white lotus recluse fading away of ignorance there is liberation by wis-
(samaóapuóðarìka)? Here, monks, with the destruc- dom” (AN I 61). “As he sees and understands thus
tion of the cankers a monk here and now enters and his mind is liberated from the canker of sensual
dwells in the cankerless liberation of mind, libera- desire, from the canker of existence, from the can-
tion by wisdom, having realized it for himself with ker of ignorance” (M I 183-84)—here release from
direct knowledge. Yet he does not dwell experienc- the first two cankers can be understood as libera-
ing the eight deliverances with his body. Thus, tion of mind, release from the canker of ignorance
monks, a person is a white lotus recluse. as liberation by wisdom. In the commentaries “lib-
And how, monks, is a person a red lotus recluse eration of mind” is identified with the
(samaóapaduma)? Here, monks, with the destruction concentration factor in the fruition attainment of
of the cankers a monk here and now enters and arahatship, “liberation by wisdom” with the wis-
dwells in the cankerless liberation of mind, libera- dom factor.
tion by wisdom, having realized it for himself with
96 The Jhánas Jhána and the Noble Disciples 97

Since every arahant reaches arahatship through of an arahant and those of a non-arahant. The dif-
the Noble Eightfold Path, he must have attained ference concerns their function. For non-arahats the
supramundane jhána in the form of right concentra- mundane jhánas constitute wholesome kamma;
tion, the eighth factor of the path, defined as the they are deeds with a potential to produce results,
four jhánas. This jhána remains with him as the con- to precipitate rebirth in a corresponding realm of
centration of the fruition attainment of arahatship, existence. But in the case of an arahant mundane
which occurs at the level of supramundane jhána jhána no longer generates kamma. Since he has
corresponding to that of his path. Thus he always eradicated ignorance and craving, the roots of
stands in possession of at least the supramundane kamma, his actions leave no residue; they have no
jhána of fruition, called the “cankerless liberation of capacity to generate results. For him the jhánic con-
mind.” However, this consideration does not reflect sciousness is a mere functional consciousness
back on his mundane attainments, requiring that which comes and goes and once gone disappears
every arahant possess mundane jhána. without a trace.
Although early Buddhism acknowledges the The value of the jhánas, however, extends
possibility of a dry-visioned arahatship, the attitude beyond the confines of the arahant's personal expe-
prevails that jhánas are still desirable attributes in rience to testify to the spiritual efficacy of the
an arahant. They are of value not only prior to final Buddha's dispensation. The jhánas are regarded as
attainment, as a foundation for insight, but retain ornamentations of the arahant, testimonies to the
their value even afterwards. The value of jhána in accomplishment of the spiritually perfect person
the stage of arahatship, when all spiritual training and the effectiveness of the teaching he follows. A
has been completed, is twofold. One concerns the worthy monk is able to “gain at will without trou-
arahant's inner experience, the other his outer sig- ble or difficulty, the four jhánas pertaining to the
nificance as a representative of the Buddha's higher consciousness, blissful dwellings here and
dispensation. now.” This ability to gain the jhánas at will is a
On the side of inner experience the jhánas are “quality that makes a monk an elder.” When
valued as providing the arahant with a “blissful accompanied by several other spiritual accomplish-
dwelling here and now” (diþþhadhammasukhavihára). ments it is an essential quality of “a recluse who
The suttas often show arahats attaining to jhána graces recluses” and of a monk who can move
and the Buddha himself declares the four jhánas to unobstructed in the four directions. Having ready
be figuratively a kind of Nibbána in this present life access to the four jhánas makes an elder dear and
(AN iv.453-54). With respect to levels and factors agreeable, respected and esteemed by his fellow
there is no difference between the mundane jhánas monks. Facility in gaining the jhánas is one of the
98 The Jhánas Jhána and the Noble Disciples 99

eight qualities of a completely inspiring monk ties: moral virtue, learning, contentment, mastery
(samantapásádika bhikkhu) perfect in all respects; it is over the four jhánas, the five mundane abhiññás and
also one of the eleven foundations of faith (sad- attainment of the cankerless liberation of mind, lib-
dhápáda). It is significant that in all these lists of eration by wisdom (M III 11-12). Perhaps it was
qualities the last item is always the attainment of because he was extolled by the Buddha for his facil-
arahatship, “the cankerless liberation of mind, liber- ity in the meditative attainments and the abhiññás
ation by wisdom,” showing that all desirable that the venerable Mahákassapa assumed the presi-
qualities in a bhikkhu culminate in arahatship.31 dency of the first great Buddhist council held in
The higher the degree of his mastery over the Rájagaha after the Buddha's passing away.
meditative attainments, the higher the esteem in The graduation in the veneration given to ara-
which an arahant monk is held and the more hats on the basis of their mundane spiritual
praiseworthy his achievement is considered. Thus achievements implies something about the value
the Buddha says of the ubhatobhágavimutta arahant: system of early Buddhism that is not often recog-
“There is no liberation in both ways higher and nized. It suggests that while final liberation may be
more excellent than this liberation in both ways” (D the ultimate and most important value, it is not the
II 71). sole value even in the spiritual domain. Alongside
The highest respect goes to those monks who it, as embellishments rather than alternatives, stand
possess not only liberation in both ways but the six mastery over the range of the mind and mastery
abhiññás or “super-knowledges”: the exercise of over the sphere of the knowable. The first is accom-
psychic powers, the divine ear, the ability to read plished by the attainment of the eight mundane
the minds of others, the recollection of past lives, jhánas, the second by the attainment of the abhiññás.
knowledge of the death and rebirth of beings, and Together, final liberation adorned with this twofold
knowledge of final liberation. The Buddha declares mastery is esteemed as the highest and most desir-
that a monk endowed with the six abhiññás, is wor- able way of actualizing the ultimate goal.
thy of gifts and hospitality, worthy of offerings and
reverential salutations, a supreme field of merit for
the world (AN III 280-81). In the period after the
Buddha's demise, what qualified a monk to give
guidance to others was endowment with ten quali-

31. The references are to: A II 23; III 131,135,114; IV


314-15; V 337.
100 The Jhánas

About the Author


Maháthera Henepola Gunaratana was ordained
as a Buddhist monk in Kandy, Sri Lanka, in 1947
and received his education at Vidyálaòkára 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 Vihára Society at the Washington Bud-
dhist Vihára. In 1980 he was appointed president of
the Society. He has received a Ph.D. from The
American University and since 1973 has been Bud-
dhist Chaplain at The American University. He is
now director of the Bhávaná Meditation Center in
West Virginia in the Shenandoah Valley, about 100
miles from Washington, D.C.
102 The Jhánas
Of related interest from BPS
Of related interest from BPS THE BUDDHIST PUBLICATION SOCIETY

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