Reply To: Early Buddhist Meditation The Four Jhanas as the Actualization of Insight



I recently had a discussion with someone, and was about to bring up a few things about the jhanas when I saw this thread, so I’ll post them here. It may or may not be relevant to the topic at hand, but we may inadvertably stumble onto it, i.e. the critical role of the jhanas.

According to this person, THE way to liberation is via the 4 jhanas, or at least the 4 jhanas have to be there. This is what his teacher teaches, and the argument goes something like this (there are 2 aspects to it):

The noble eightfold path is the way to liberation.
samma samadhi is part of the path.
samma samadhi is defined as the 4 jhanas.

For the last point, he said that was found in many places, one of which was the Magga-vibhanga Sutta.

I did a search and found one version of Pali and English (it has the verse Lal mentioned):

Vibhaṅga Sutta (sn 45.8)

He said I should be able to find the definition of samma samadhi as the 4 jhanas in many other places, including the Mahasatipatthana Sutta.

(2) The story of the enlightenment of the Buddha

The argument here is something like this:

As a boy, the Bodhisatta attended a groundbreaking festival, and he inadvertently got into the 1st jhana under a rose apple tree.

Later on, in the quest for enlightenment he almost died from extreme asceticism.

When he regained his strength he remembered the experience under the rose apple tree and thought that that may be the way to liberation and used that as the starting point all over again.

Conclusion: whatever he experienced as a boy, when fully cultivated led to enlightenment.

Side note: this person did not make a distinction between anariya and ariya jhana, and also, the stages of absorptions the Bodhisatta learned from the 2 teachers were not the jhanas. Otherwise, the Bodhisatta would have remembered that experience, which was more recent, rather than the experience as a boy.

What are your thoughts on these?

I need a refresher course on the life of the Buddha, but the arguments are well structured. For point (2) above, I can only think of this: The Bodhisatta experienced an ariya jhana as a boy and learned anariya jhanas from the 2 teachers. But this also has a problem: it means that he was an anagami as a boy, which was not possible.

Finally, Christian, when you said you were studying “Early Buddhism”, what do you mean by that? Are you saying that in the Tipitaka some suttas are older than others, and that you are studying those suttas?


Lal’s Note: I have given the name of the sutta for Lang’s link. Please also don’t forget to check the “Open link in a new tab” box when inserting the link. That will open the link in a new tab so that the reader can go back and forth between the post and the link.