Sammā Samādhi – How to Define It?

Sammā Samādhi is first established at the Sotapanna stage and completed at the Arahant stage. Between those two stages, sammā samādhi manifests at different levels. While jhāna can help, cultivating jhāna is not necessary to attain Sammā Samādhi and magga phala.

May 3, 2024; May 4, 2024 (#9)


1. The following are the critical points addressed in this post.

  1. Sammā Samādhi is possible only for an Ariya (a Noble Person starting at the Sotapanna Anugāmi stage). As the Noble Path is cultivated, Sammā Samādhi grows until the Arahant phala moment. 
  2. Jhānās are the mental states of rupa loka Brahmās and thus are part of this world (i.e., not part of Nibbāna.) Cultivating jhāna is possible for non-Buddhist yogis; such a jhāna can be called “anariya jhāna.” They are cultivated by taking a kasina object (like breath or a clay ball) as the focus of mediation (nimitta.) 
  3. In contrast, Buddhists cultivate jhāna by contemplating the fruitlessness/dangers of staying in the kāma loka. The following entities are eliminated in that order as one cultivates “Ariya jhāna“: kāmacchanda and kāma rāga. With the removal of kāmacchanda (at the Sotapanna stage), one becomes free of rebirths in the apāyās; removing kāma rāga (at the Anāgāmi stage) results in stopping rebirths in kāma loka. 
  4. The first Ariya jhāna is attained if the removal of kāmacchanda happens while in the first jhāna, per the “Mahāvedalla Sutta (MN 43).” That is compatible with the Abhidhamma analysis of 89 cittās, which switches to 121 cittās by considering attaining magga phala via jhāna.
  5. However, removing kāma rāga anusaya or saṁyojana (which will stop rebirths in kāma loka, including the human realm and six Deva realms) can happen only by attaining the Anāgāmi stage.
  6. All entities, including kāmacchanda, kāma rāga, rupa rāga, arupa rāga, and avijjā (i.e., all types of anusaya or saṁyojana), can be eliminated with or without jhāna. However, cultivating jhānās can help. 
  7. Cultivating jhānās is necessary to attain the ubhatovimutta Arahant stage. Only an ubhatovimutta Arahant can reach “nirodha samāpatti” by systematically proceeding through all the jhānās and arupāvacara samāpatti
  • This is a long post in which I tried to include many concepts. Please re-read as necessary and ask questions in the forum.
Jhāna Necessary to Attain Magga Phala?

2. Some believe attaining jhāna is required to attain any magga phala; others believe jhānas are necessary to attain magga phala above the Sotapanna stage. I will provide evidence that both are incorrect. Please feel free to point out any errors in my analysis. I would greatly appreciate that.

  • I thought about writing this series because some people are discouraged that their inability to cultivate jhāna means they are incapable of attaining magga phala. Cultivating jhāna is not easy for an “average householder” (however, it is relatively easy for those who cultivated jhāna in recent past lives). The Buddha only encouraged bhikkhus to cultivate (Ariya) jhānās. If you look at suttās on jhāna, almost all were delivered to bhikkhus.
  • While attaining jhānās can be beneficial (it is a higher state of samādhi), they are not essential for attaining any magga phala. I have provided evidence in the two previous posts: “Samādhi, Jhāna, and Sammā Samādhi” and “Jhāna – Finer Details.”
  • Here, I will discuss a few more relevant suttās (including the “Saccavibhaṅga Sutta (MN 141),” which seems to suggest that jhānās are essential to attain magga phala.
  • The following chart summarizes the difference between anariya and Ariya jhāna. I will discuss it further in the next post.

Download/Print:Jhāna and magga phala – very different-2

Any Ariya (Noble Person) Has Sammā Samādhi 

3. The Noble Eightfold Path begins with Sammā Diṭṭhi at the Sotapanna stage, accompanied by Sammā Samādhi for that stage. As one makes progress on the Noble Path, all eight path factors (Sammā Diṭṭhi through Sammā Samādhi) grow, and all are fulfilled at the Arahant stage. 

  • The top part of the above chart shows that all magga phala can be attained while in the human realm. Millions of people attained the Sotapanna stage while listening to a single discourse by the Buddha. Did the Buddha mention any jhāna in his first sermon or even in many of his initial sermons?
  • To get to Sammā Samādhi, one needs to have Sammā Diṭṭhi. That is ALL about comprehending the “worldview according to the Buddha.” That worldview says the following:

(i) This world comprises 31 realms,
(ii) Births among those realms are according to the types of abhisaṅkhāra cultivated,
(iii) Most suffering results while in the apāyās and rebirths in the apāyās are due to apuñña abhisaṅkhāra,
(iv) Cultivation of apāyagāmi apuñña abhisaṅkhāra stops automatically with the grasping of Buddha’s worldview (Sammā Diṭṭhi) at the Sotapanna stage with the removal of the three “diṭṭhi saṁyojanatogether with kāmacchanda (“being blinded by sensory pleasures”); thus, a Sotapanna in the first jhāna has the “first Ariya jhāna” because he/she has removed kāmacchanda. See #5 in “Lōbha, Rāga and Kāmacchanda, Kāmarāga.”
(v) Rebirths in rupa loka (16 rupāvacara Brahma realms) happen by transcending the kāma loka with the cultivation of jhānās. Thus, the cultivation of jhānās is a puñña abhisaṅkhāra. It does not stop future rebirths in the kāma loka or the apāyās, as shown in the middle part of the above chart.  
(vi) Rebirths in kāma loka stops ONLY with the removal/burning of the “kāma rāga and paṭigha saṁyojana” at the Anāgāmi stage.
(vii) Rebirths in arupa loka (4 arupāvacara Brahma realms) happen by transcending the rupa loka by cultivating arupāvacara samāpatti with āneñja abhisaṅkhāra. This does not stop future rebirths in the kāma or rupa loka or even in the apāyās.
(vi) Rebirths in rupa and arupa lokās stop with the removal/burning of the “rupa rāga and arupa rāga saṁyojana” (and māna, uddhacca, avijjā saṁyojana) at the Arahant stage. See “Conditions for the Four Stages of Nibbāna.”

Cultivation of Anariya Jhānās Do Not Break Saṁyojana

4. The middle portion of the above chart also describes the rebirth process we have all been engaged in from a “timeless beginning.” Any living being has been born uncountable times in all possible realms (i.e., except for the suddhāvāsa realms reserved for the Anāgāmis.) Yet, most of the time in the rebirth process is spent in the apāyās.

  • Cultivating “rupa jhāna” and “arupa samāpatti” is also an abhisaṅkhāra generation process. However, they belong to the categories of “good abhisaṅkhāra“: Cultivation of rupāvacara jhāna takes place via a particular type of puññābhisaṅkhāra. Cultivation of āneñjābhisaṅkhāra leads to arupāvacara samāpatti. See “Rebirths Take Place According to Abhisaṅkhāra
  • On the other hand, cultivating apuññābhisaṅkhāra must be avoided. They lead to rebirths in the apāyās.
  • See “Rebirths Take Place According to Abhisaṅkhāra” for details/insights.
Yogis Who Cultivate Jhānās Are Reborn in Other Brahma Realms

5. Those who cultivate the four anariya jhānās temporarily transcend the “kāma loka” and grasp the mindset of rupa loka Brahmās. Depending on the jhānic factors cultivated (vitakkapiti, sukha, ekaggata), the yogi will be in the first through fourth jhānic state. The first jhāna is separated into two in the Abhidhamma analysis.

  • Yogis who cultivate anariya jhānās will be reborn in the Brahma realm corresponding to that jhāna; see #7 of “Jhāna – Finer Details.”
  • Furthermore, cultivating even an anariya jhana is a “mahaggata kamma” because it leads to rebirth in a “good realm”; it is also an “ānantarika kamma” which leads to rebirth in a Brahma realm immediately at death, even if more kammic energy is left in the human bhava.
  • For a list of various “rupa loka Brahma realms,” see “31 Realms of Existence.”
  • However, unless they attain magga phala from these jhānic states or while in the Brahma realm, they will “fall back” to kāma loka, as shown in the middle part of the above chart.
Breaking Saṁyojana Requires Sammā Samādhi

6. The “wider worldview” summarized in #1 above is clear to any Ariya at or above the Sotapanna stage with the eight path factors of Sammā Diṭṭhi through Sammā Samādhi.

  • Sammā Samādhi is a unique Samādhi. One gets to it by understanding how to remove “sañ” (rāga, dosa, moha); here, “mā” means to avoid/remove, and “sañ” “mā” rhymes as “sammā.” See #7 of “Samādhi, Jhāna, and Sammā Samādhi.”
  • Many wrongly assume that one must be in meditation to have the mindset of Sammā Samādhi. However, samādhi (“sama” +” adhi” where “sama” means “same” and “adhi” means “dominance”) means one’s mind is focused on a certain goal or type. A sotapanna‘s mind is ALWAYS in Sammā Samādhi at the level of a Sotapanna. That mindset would not allow committing an “apāyagāmi action.” 
  • Breaking the three diṭṭhi saṁyojana (mental bonds) at the Sotapanna stage guarantees the above “protection.”
  • At the Arahant stage, one would have completed Sammā Samādhi and removed all anusaya/saṁyojana, thus (automatically) preventing committing even the slightest akusala kamma!
One Must be in Sammā Samādhi to “Burn Samsaric Bonds” or Saṁyojana

7. To start “burning the sansāric (saṁsāric) bonds or saṁyojana,” one needs to get into Sammā Samādhi by comprehending the Four Noble Truths. That is the definition of Sammā Samādhi and it has nothing to do with jhāna.

  • The first three saṁyojana are “broken” with the first step in the Noble Eightfold Path, Sammā Diṭṭhi. Thus, one enters the Noble Path by “removing of the first three saṁyojana.” Simultaneously, kāmacchanda is also removed.
  • The next step is to comprehend the concept of “distorted saññā” that will enable to “burn the kāma rāga saṁyojana.” The steps involved are described in the two Satipaṭṭhāna suttās. See “Sotapanna Stage via Understanding Perception (Saññā).”
  • The same procedures are used to overcome the “distorted jhānic saññā” and “distorted arupa samāpatti saññā” to “burn the rupa rāga and arupa rāga saṁyojana” and subsequently the final three saṁyojana.
  • Breaking off all ten saṁyojana happens via wisdom or paññā! Experience of jhāna/samāpatti may or may not happen on the way.

8. The saṁyojanās (mental bonds to the rebirth process) break off at various stages of magga phala with increasing wisdom (paññā). Here, the paññā grows as Sammā Samādhi grows based on the other seven path factors (Sammā Diṭṭhi through Sammā Sati). 

  • At the fundamental level, the mind is like a machine that responds to external stimuli automatically. We have control over our actions and speech because the brain’s processing of external stimuli slows down the mind. Once certain saṁyojanās (mental bonds to the rebirth process) break off, related processes do not get an opportunity to arise or “to proceed.” That happens at a “sub-conscious level” in the “purāna kamma stage.” (see “Purāna and Nava Kamma – Sequence of Kamma Generation.”) That is why a Sotapanna is incapable of doing apāyagāmi deeds” due to the absence of the three diṭṭhi saṁyojanās.
  • I will discuss this critical point in detail in the future.
What Is an “Ariya Jhāna“?

9. “Ariya jhāna” as a specific category does not appear in the Tipiṭaka. The phrase used is “ājānīya jhāyita,” or “meditate like a well-trained horse and not like a wild colt.” An Ariya attains an “ājānīya jhāna” by focusing on the fruitless/dangers of “the world.” See, for example, “Sandha Sutta (AN 11.9).”

  • The Buddha recommended cultivating “Ariya jhāna” mainly for bhikkhus, who are supposed to avoid sex and other types of “kāma assāda.”
  • Bhikkhus attain Ariya jhāna in a way very different from other yogis who attain anariya jhāna by focusing the mind on a lokiya object (like breath or a kasina object). See #13 of “Jhāna – Finer Details.”
  • In addition, any yogi can convert an anariya jhāna to an Ariya jhāna by comprehending the Four Noble Truths. For example, those with the first anariya jhāna can convert it to the “first Ariya jhāna” by attaining the Sotapanna stage. Five ways of attaining the Sotapanna stage via a jhāna are shown in the bottom part of the above chart. Thus, all four magga phala are attained with 40 types of cittas. This way of converting anariya jhānās to Ariya jhānās involves adding 40 cittās to the total number of possible cittās in the Abhidhamma analysis.
  • I will have more details in the next post, “Ariya Jhāna – What Is It?”
Many ways to Express Sammā Samādhi

10. Sammā Samādhi is described in various ways in different suttās.

  • The main description of Sammā Samādhi, which appears in several suttās, is that cultivation of the first seven path factors leads to “Sammā Samādhi.”
  • For example, see “Mahāsaḷāyatanika Sutta (MN 149)” and “Janavasabha Sutta (DN 18).”  
  • I have linked the above links to the statement on Sammā Samādhi.

11. In the “Nimitta Sutta (AN 3.102),” it is stated that one can get to Sammā Samādhi and attain Nibbāna by focusing on certain nimitta (i.e., insight meditation or Vipassanā.) 

While one is in Sammā Samādhi (attained in any of the above ways), jhāna cittās likely flow intermittently even without one realizing it. To experience the “jhānic sukha,” one must CULTIVATE the jhāna to have jhāna cittās flowing continuously; when that happens, one is in a “jhāna samāpatti.” See #4 through #6 in Jhāna – Finer Details.”

Saccavibhaṅga Sutta Says Samma Samadhi Require Ariya Jhāna?

12. The “Saccavibhaṅga Suttaseems to suggest that jhānās are essential to attain magga phala.

  • I have linked to the specific verse in the “Saccavibhaṅga Sutta (MN 141)” @marker 31.1: “Katamo cāvuso, sammā samādhi?” The subsequent verses there refer to the four jhānās as “Sammā Samādhi.”
  • This is just another possible aspect of attaining sammā samādhi, just like the suttas mentioned in #10 and #11 express sammā samādhi in different ways.
  • When one attains the Sotapanna stage, one automatically gets Sammā Samādhi” associated with the Sotapanna stage. 
  • The verses @31.2 through 31.5 state that Sammā Samādhicorresponds to any of the four possible Ariya jhānās. That is because any “Ariya jhāna” is attained with at least the Sotapanna stage; see #9 above. One misinterpretation is to assign “Sammā Samādhi” only to the fourth jhānaSuch a statement is absent in the “Saccavibhaṅga Sutta.”

13. The second misconception is whether any Ariya jhāna is NECESSARY to attain Sammā Samādhi.  

  • The point is that a Sotapanna has Sammā Samādhi regardless of how he/she gets it. 
  • In the discourse “ධ්‍යාන සහ සමාධි (ක්ෂණික, අර්පණා, උපචාර),” Waharaka Thero points out the following fact: If a Sotapanna/Sakadagami had cultivated a jhāna, it would not be possible to be reborn in the kāma loka; they would be reborn in a Brahma realm and attain higher magga phala there. However, accounts exist in the Tipiṭaka of Sotapannas (and Sakadagamis) who are reborn in the human or Deva realms, i.e., in the kāma loka. That means they had attained magga phala without jhāna.
  • In addition, the 89-citta analysis in Abhidhamma clearly shows that attaining any magga phala is possible without a single jhāna, as pointed out in #1 above. I will discuss that in the next post, “Ariya Jhāna – What Is It?”
Final Thoughts

14. Cultivating jhāna is an excellent way to progress on the Path, especially after getting to the Sotapanna stage. 

  • Still, one must be careful not to “get stuck” in the “jhānic pleasures.” From what I hear about jhānic experiences, many people incorrectly equate “jhānic pleasures” to “Nibbānic sukha” (which is NOT a vedanā). As Wharaka Thero points out in the above desanā, Devadatta cultivated not only jhāna but also supernormal power (iddhi.) Yet, he was not even a Sotapanna and was reborn in an apāya.

15. Furthermore, reading/listening (jānato) to the correct Buddha Dhamma or attaining jhāna does not make one a Sōtapanna automatically.  Devadatta listened to many discourses from the Buddha but could not attain the Sōtapanna stage of Nibbāna. One must “see with wisdom” (passato) what one learned. That is possible with or without jhāna.

  • The critical point is that without comprehending the Four Noble Truths, just getting to jhāna is useless. But one can use jhāna effectively to comprehend the Four Noble Truths. See “Paṭicca Samuppāda, Tilakkhana, Four Noble Truths” to read about comprehending the Noble Truths.
  • It is possible that some people use the term “Ariya jhāna” to refer to transcending kāma loka by permanently removing kāma rāga. If that is the definition, one with “Ariya jhāna” would be an Anāgāmi.
  • The best way to verify that one has overcome kāma rāga (i.e., whether kāma rāga saṁyojana/anusaya has been removed) is to check whether one has lost any desire for all sensory pleasures (including sex.) As explained above, only an Anāgāmi or an Arahant has accomplished that.

16. My goal is to have correct information on this website consistent with the Tipiṭaka. I believe that is everyone’s goal, so we should try to help each other by engaging in open discussion. The discussion forum is open to anyone to discuss any post on this website.

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