Power of the Human Mind – Ariya Jhānā

Revised February 12, 2018; December 3, 2019

Anariya Jhāna Belong to This World – Āsava and Anusaya Remain

1. We saw in the previous post that anariya (non-Buddhist) 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 (vitakka) on ANY neutral thought object (ārammana) devoid of sensory attraction. 
  • That ārammana could be breath, a kasina object, or any other religious symbol of any religion. 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 via concentrating on mundane objects (breath, a kasina object, etc.)
  • Those with anariya jhāna have not removed āsava and anusaya (hidden defilements) from their minds.

2. On the other hand, Ariya jhānās are attained via using Nibbāna as the ārammana (thought object.) However, Nibbāna is not “an object” in this world, so what is meant here is to recall some “cooling down” that one has experienced.

  • One can start “cooling down” first by living a moral life and by staying away from dasa akusala; see “Living Dhamma“.
  • When one comprehends the Three Characteristics (Tilakkhana) of anicca, dukkha, and anatta, at least to some extent, there is more permanent “cooling down” over time. One can look back and notice such a “cooling down.” For example, one may not “flare up” at the slightest provocation as one used to and may have lost cravings to some extent, etc. That is what needs to be recalled while cultivating Ariya jhāna; see #4 below for the kammaṭṭhāna.

3. Thus the key is to first experience some “cooling down” by comprehending the Three Characteristics of “this world” of 31 realms. One examines the 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 the following kammaṭṭhāna:

  • 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“. This needs to be done while recalling an instance of one’s own “cooling down”; see #3 above.
  • However, the above procedure is not effective unless one has at least some understanding of anicca, dukkha, anatta, and has experienced some “cooling down.” It can be used to quickly enter a jhāna that had been cultivated.

5. Thus the difference between the mundane and Ariya versions of Samatha meditation is the meditation object, and this is the reason that asañña jhānās are avoided in the Ariya meditation. In the former, one can focus on ANY object; in the latter one focuses on Nibbāna. Thus, vitakka, vicāra for Anariya samatha meditation becomes savitakka, savicara, emphasizing the focus on Nibbāna, with the prefix “sa“. 

  • etaṃ santaṃ etaṃ paṇītaṃ, …….” cannot be used just as a chanting without understanding what is meant by heart. Thus the chant will become more and more effective as one starts feeling the nirāmisa sukha at least to a certain extent. (One does not chant out loud; one could just say it in the mind to oneself or say it very quietly meaningfully).
  • One could also start with any Anariya samatha meditation (the breath meditation is easy to do), and once starts feeling the calmness and early stages of nirāmisa sukha, one could permanently switch over to the Ariya version, by contemplating on anicca, dukkha, anatta and recalling one’s own “cooling down”.

6. Another thing to remember is that nirāmisa sukha has no equivalent sensation in any type of āmisa sukha or sense pleasures that are available with the five physical senses. It is more like a relief sensation. When one has a headache and it goes away, one feels a relief, a calmness, a peace of mind. The nirāmisa sukha is something like that. The more nirāmisa sukha one feels one becomes calm inwardly AND outwardly.

  • When one gets into jhānās, jhānic pleasure can be felt in the body.
  • 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 vicikicca is responsible for such bad kamma, and how contemplation on Tilakkhana (anicca, dukkha, anatta) can remove vicikicca, and also four other greed-rooted cittā that arise because of the wrong views.

7. Thus as one contemplates on anicca, dukkha, anatta, one automatically starts reducing, not just suppressing the hindrances.

Jhanic 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.

One gets to anariya jhāna by SUPPRESSING kāma rāga and paṭigha. One gets to Ariya jhāna by REMOVING kāma rāga and paṭigha.

  • The two hindrances of kāmacchanda and vyāpāda were reduced to kāma rāga and paṭigha levels at the Sōtapanna stage. Kama rāga and paṭigha are reduced further at the Sakadāgāmi stage, are removed at the Anāgāmi stage. Thus it is only an Anāgāmi who has REMOVED kāma rāga and paṭigha.
  • As one moves to higher stages of Nibbāna, it should become easier to attain jhānās.

8. In summary, Ariya jhānās are permanent in nature compared to Anariya jhānās. By that, I do not mean that one will be permanently in a jhānic state. What I mean is that it will be possible for one to attain 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.
  • The clearest distinction of an Ariya jhāna is that once in the jhāna, the jhāna cannot be interrupted by anusaya or a lustful or a hateful thought. Even if one forcefully tries to think about such a thought, it does not “stick”; the mind rejects it; see, “11. Magga Phala via Cultivation of Saptha Bojjhaṅga“.
  • One can contemplate Dhamma concepts (savitakka, savicara) while in a jhāna. Only vitakka and vicāra are reduced at the first Ariya jhāna, and completely eliminated at higher jhānās. Doing 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 can be attained by an Arahant is incomparably better compared to any jhāna. An Arahant can enjoy the sensation of Nibbānic bliss continually for up to seven days in nirōdha samāpatti.
  • Thus ultimately what is most important is the purification of one’s own mind; see, “The Importance of Purifying the Mind“.

9. One gets to the first Ariya jhāna by removing (uccēda pahāna) kāma rāga, whereas one can get to the first anariya jhāna by suppressing (vikkhambana pahāna) kāma rāgaTherefore, one will be an Anāgami by the time one gets to the first Ariya jhāna.

  • This is discussed in detail and evidence from the Tipiṭaka provided in the post: “Mundane versus Supramundane Jhāna“.
  • Even some followers of Waharaka Thēro in Sri Lanka do not seem to understand this point. However, Waharaka Thēro has clearly explained this in the following short dēsana (in Sinhala):  “Ariya and Anariya Jhana“.

More information with references to suttās at: “Samādhi, Jhāna (Dhyāna), Magga Phala“.


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