Reply To: Post on “Fear of Nibbāna (Enlightenment)”


Thank you, Lal.

I read the post about the jhanā, and just one curiosity: what is the Pali breakdown of the word jhana?

I tend to be curious about the breakdown of words, and I apologize if this has been discussed elsewhere on the site.

Reflecting on my time as a breath meditator, I am almost thankful that I did not get into jhanā. For a time, I was following a venerable bhikkhu (well-known and beloved around the world) who taught that the jhanā are necessary for nibbāna.

The rationale was that the noble eightfold path culminates in sammā samādhi, and sammā samādhi is defined in numerous suttā as the four jhanā. He did not differentiate between ariya and anariya jhanā. I do not dout that, but there is at least once exception: the Mahācattārīsaka Sutta that you have been discussing in the new section “Worldview of the Buddha”. Here, sammā samādhi is presented as something that is supported by the first 7 factors. We don’t see sammā samādhi defined as the four jhanā here.

Another equally well-known and beloved bhikkhu taught the same thing, but he does have a specific formulaic procedure for getting into jhanā. The message is still the same: the jhanā are necessary for nibbāna.

Now that I have learned about gati, I think I know what was going on: these bhikkhus taught from experience. They attained jhanā according to their gati from past lives, and when they attained nibbāna, they made the connection between the two.

Knowing about gati also tells me why I was not able to get into jhanā: kāma rāga is still strong. So, I feel more confident to set that aside to get “back to the basics”: abstaining from the BIG EIGHT, removing the ten types to micchā ditthi; and I am happy to say that this has paid off already.