Reply To: Attaining Anariya Jhana as a Sotapanna


It could be a good idea to read the English translation of the whole sutta at Sutta Central. “Upakkilesa Sutta (MN 138)“. Even though the translation is not that good, one can get the background for the verses by the Buddha that Christian quoted. That quote comes at the very end of the sutta.
– In fact, the initial part of the sutta is not directly relevant for our discussion here.
– Start reading about 1/3 way into the sutta with the following “Then Anuruddha, Nandiya, and Kimbila came out to greet the Buddha…”

Here is a brief summary;
Some time into the conversation with Anuruddha, Nandiya, and Kimbila, the Buddha asks:
“Good, good, Anuruddha and friends!
But as you live diligently like this, have you achieved any superhuman distinction in knowledge and vision worthy of the noble ones, a meditation at ease? ”

This is better stated as “.. as you live diligently like this, have you achieved any jhana worthy of the noble ones (i.e., Ariya jhana)?

Ven. Anuruddha replies that they have attained jhana, but those are anariya jhana (i.e., they are unable to REMOVE kama raga, etc)

Then the Buddha tells them that while he was a Bodhisatta, he faced the same problem. Then he explains why.
For example, the following verses:
But before long my light and vision of forms vanished.
So kho pana me obhāso nacirasseva antaradhāyati dassanañca rūpānaṁ.

It occurred to me:
Tassa mayhaṁ, anuruddhā, etadahosi:

‘What’s the cause, what’s the reason why my light and vision of forms vanish?’
‘ko nu kho hetu ko paccayo yena me obhāso antaradhāyati dassanañca rūpānan’ti?
It occurred to me:
Tassa mayhaṁ, anuruddhā, etadahosi:

Doubt arose in me, and because of that my immersion fell away.
vicikicchā kho me udapādi, vicikicchādhikaraṇañca pana me samādhi cavi.

When immersion falls away, the light and vision of forms vanish.
Samādhimhi cute obhāso antaradhāyati dassanañca rūpānaṁ.

I’ll make sure that doubt will not arise in me again.’
Sohaṁ tathā karissāmi yathā me puna na vicikicchā uppajjissatī’ti.


Then the Buddha describes other reasons why the Bodhisatta could not get rid of those other types of defilements.

Then in the end he explains how he was finally able to REMOVE those defilements (not just suppress them). Those are the verses that Christian quoted.
Here is that verse:
So kho ahaṁ, anuruddhā, savitakkampi savicāraṁ samādhiṁ bhāvesiṁ, avitakkampi vicāramattaṁ samādhiṁ bhāvesiṁ, avitakkampi avicāraṁ samādhiṁ bhāvesiṁ, sappītikampi samādhiṁ bhāvesiṁ, nippītikampi samādhiṁ bhāvesiṁ, sātasahagatampi samādhiṁ bhāvesiṁ, upekkhāsahagatampi samādhiṁ bhāvesiṁ. ”
– He got to the first jhana by cultivating savitakka/savicara.
– Second, third, fourth, and fifth jhana via “avitakkampi vicāramattaṁ samādhiṁ bhāvesiṁ“, ” avitakkampi avicāraṁ samādhiṁ bhāvesiṁ“, “sappītikampi samādhiṁ bhāvesiṁ“, “nippītikampi samādhiṁ bhāvesiṁ, sātasahagatampi samādhiṁ bhāvesiṁ” and “upekkhāsahagatampi samādhiṁ bhāvesiṁ
– Note that here the second jhana is divided into two. In most suttas, the second and third jhana in the above description are combined as the second jhana.

So, the point is that many people are able to attain jhana just by doing breath meditation. Some, like Ven. Anuruddha, who may have been trying to follow the instructions of the Buddha but had not yet comprehended Tilakkhana (i.e., the Four Noble Truths correctly) may get into anariya jhana.
– To correctly cultivate savitakka/savicara, one MUST have comprehended Tilakkhana.
– As you see, the “meat” is in that verse quoted by Christian. That needs to be explained in detail.

You can see how those correspond to the four jhanas in the post, “Jhānic Experience in Detail – Sāmañ­ña­phala Sutta (DN 2)
– For example, #4 of that post describes getting into the second jhana as “removal of vitakka/vicāra”. In the above verse that is done via two steps (i.e., second jhana is divided into two jhana).

An introduction is at, “Samādhi, Jhāna, Magga Phala – Introduction