Power of the Human Mind – Ariya Jhānā

One attains anariya jhāna by merely suppressing kāma rāga. An anariya jhāna can be converted into an Ariya jhāna by contemplating the “anicca nature” of that jhāna, i.e., by engaging in Vipassanā.

Revised February 12, 2018; December 3, 2019; May 8, 2024

Anariya Jhāna Belong to This World – Āsava and Anusaya Remain

1. We saw in the previous post that jhānās are the mental states of rupāvacara Brahmās, i.e., they belong to this world and have nothing to do with Nibbāna; see “Power of the Human Mind – Anariya or Mundane Jhānas.”

  •  Anariya jhānās can be attained by focusing the mind (savitakka/savicāra) on ANY neutral thought object (ārammana) devoid of defiled (akusala) or sensual (kāma) thoughts.
  • That ārammana could be breath, a kasina object, or any other religious symbol. Then, keeping the mind there (vicāra or sustained application) helps one to get to an anariya jhāna.
  • Therefore, anariya or mundane jhānās are attained by suppressing the five hindrances by concentrating on mundane objects (breath, a kasina object, etc.).
  • Those with anariya jhāna have not removed anusaya (hidden defilements) or samyojana (samsāric bonds) from their minds.

2. On the other hand, Ariya jhānās are attained via reciting a kammaṭṭhāna (to keep the mind from jumping off to other ārammana) and keeping in mind that the eventual goal is to attain Nibbāna. 

  • A suitable recital verse is used since Nibbāna is not “an object” in this world. For example, a verse that summarizes the anicca nature of rupa, vedanā, etc., can be used. I will discuss this in the upcoming posts in the “Buddha Dhamma – Advanced” section.
  • Of course, one must be an Ariya (at or above the Sotapanna Anugāmi stage) to cultivate an Ariya jhāna.

3. Thus, the key is first to become an Ariya and experience some “cooling down” by comprehending the Three Characteristics of “this world” of 31 realms. One examines real-life situations and understands that no lasting happiness is possible, either in this life or anywhere in these 31 realms; see. “Anicca, Dukkha, Anatta,” and “Why is Correct Interpretation of Anicca, Dukkha, Anatta so Important?“.

4. When one has experienced some “cooling down” that one can recall, then one can use it in a kammaṭṭhāna to cultivate jhāna.  This procedure is more effective for those who have attained the Sōtapanna stage. One can sit in a quiet place and recite a kammaṭṭhāna, as mentioned in #2 above.

  • That kammaṭṭhāna must be recited with Nibbāna in mind as expressed by “etaṃ santaṃ etaṃ paṇītaṃ, yadidaṃ sabbasaṅkhārasamatho sabbūpadhipaṭinissaggo taṇhākkhayo virāgo nirodho nibbānan’ti,” which means, “It is the only peace, the only happiness: prevent saṅkhāra from arising (via) eliminating taṇhā and excess greed, and thus stopping the arising of defilements, which is Nibbāna.” 
  • The above verse, by itself, is not enough to attain an Ariya jhana. However, it can be used to quickly enter a jhāna that one has already cultivated. 

5. Thus, the difference between the mundane and Ariya versions of Samatha meditation is the meditation object. In the former, one can focus on ANY neutral object like breath or a ball of clay. In the latter, one focuses on a specific recital associated with Nibbāna.

  • One could also start with an anariya jhāna and switch to the Ariya version by contemplating anicca, dukkha, and anatta nature of that jhāna.

6.  When one gets into jhānās, jhānic pleasure can be felt in the body. The Buddha described the experiences of all jhānās. See “Jhānic Experience in Detail – Sāmañ­ña­phala Sutta (DN 2).”

  • Jhānic states are mental states of the Brahma realms lying above the realms in the kāma lōka. In any realm in kāma lōka, including the human and deva realms, kāma rāga and paṭigha are present. Both kāma rāga and paṭigha are absent in Brahma realms, as in jhānic states. Thus, the jhānic experience will likely be the same in both versions.
  • One gets to anariya jhāna by SUPPRESSING the hindrances.

7. One can engage in insight (Vipassanā) meditation and convert that “mundane jhāna” into an “Ariya jhāna.” Of course, one must first comprehend the Four Noble Truths/ TilakkhanaPaṭicca Samuppāda; see, “Buddha Dhamma – Noble Truths, Paṭicca Samuppāda, Tilakkhana.”

  • Thus, as one contemplates anicca, dukkha, and anatta nature, one automatically starts reducing, not just suppressing, the hindrances.
  • In the post, “Akusala Citta – How a Sōtapanna Avoids Apayagami Citta,” I have explained how a Sōtapanna automatically removes the five types of citta that are responsible for rebirth in the apāyā (the lowest four realms). In that discussion, it was also shown how vicikicchā is responsible for such bad kamma and how contemplation on Tilakkhana (anicca, dukkha, anatta) can remove vicikicchā, and also four other greed-rooted cittā that arise because of the wrong views.

8. In summary, Ariya jhānās are permanent in nature compared to anariya jhānās. By that, I do not mean one will be permanently in a jhānic state. It means one will be able to get into the jhāna at will. 

  • On the other hand, anariya jhāna can be “lost.” By that, I mean one who has cultivated anariya jhāna may lose the ability to get to that jhāna. The best example is Devadatta, who attained the highest anariya jhānā and also cultivated supernormal (iddhi) powers. He lost all that and ended up in an apāya.
  • One can contemplate Dhamma concepts (savitakka, savicara) while in a jhāna. Vitakka and vicāra are reduced in the first jhāna and completely eliminated at higher jhānās. Insight meditation (contemplating anicca, dukkha, anatta, or any Dhamma concept) can be done with a clear, bright mind.
  • All jhānās are mundane in the sense that they provide the jhānic experience in the rupa lōka and arupa lōka, which still belong to the 31 realms of existence. The Nibbānic bliss is the ultimate bliss.
  • The nirōdha samāpatti that a Ubhatovimutta Arahant can attain is incomparably better than any jhāna. Such an Arahant can continually enjoy Nibbānic bliss for up to seven days in nirōdha samāpatti.
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