Early Buddhist Meditation The Four Jhanas as the Actualization of Insight

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    • #36913

      I’m reading a book by Keren Arbel, while I stopped reading most books about “Buddhism” most days this grabbed my attention. It’s not really perfect in terms of explaining Dhamma but the author makes many unaware points related to pure dhamma and sets up a lot of interesting questions. Here is a pretty good quote that explains the difference between Anariya/Ariya Jhana but author seems not be directly aware of this distinction :)


      I may save this thread for further discussion of the book if I will find any interesting points we can discuss

    • #36914

      Both Ariya and anariya jhana REQUIRE one to abstain from akusala kamma and sensual pleasures. The standard verse includes, “vivicceva kāmehi vivicca akusalehi dhammehi..”

      In the anariya case, many yogis attained the highest jhana by avoiding sensual pleasures via living in jungles, without seeing women or other sensual temptations.

      But an Ariya SEES the dangers in sensual pleasures once comprehending the anicca, dukkha, anatta nature.
      – After seeing that they can live among temptations and may still get to jhana.

      The MAIN difference is that avijja is only SUPPRESSED in anariya jhana. Avijja is gradually REMOVED in Ariyas whether they attain jhana on the way or not.
      – Devadatta had not only anariya jhana but also iddhi (supernormal) powers. But he lost all that and was born in an apaya. That is the nature of anariya jhana.

      Isn’t that all one needs to know regarding Ariya/anariya jhana?

    • #36916

      There may be more to it, the more I study “early Buddhism” the more questions appear in terms of missing pieces we may have in pure dhamma for example author argues that:

      So probably I will make another topic soon when we can discuss those things

    • #36920

      I don’t know what those two suttas are. But the principle is the following.

      1. A Sekha is an Ariya at or above the Sotapanna Anugami stage. One who has SEEN that Nibbana is the cessation of existence (and that suffering will persist until getting to full Nibbana or Parinibbana.)
      – A Sekha is a “trainee/practitioner” who is working to get to the Arahant stage.

      2. One transcends or “goes above the Sekha stage” by following the Noble Path.
      – He/she has “Samma Ditthi” and now needs to complete the rest of the 7 factors.

      As mentioned in Christian’s above (second) post, overcoming “kāma” is not easy for a Sekha.
      – Another way to say the same is as follows: A Sotapanna has removed “diṭṭhi vipallāsa.” “Saññā vipallasa” removed at the Anagami stage and “citta vipallāsa” removed at the Arahant stage.
      – The following post provides a breakdown of how that happens in stages “Vipallāsa (Diṭṭhi, Saññā, Citta) Affect Saṅkhāra.”

      A “less deep” post is “Is It Necessary for a Buddhist to Eliminate Sensual Desires?

      So, I don’t see any “missing pieces.”

    • #36921

      The following post is from Christian:

      Summary of the suttas

    • #36923

      Christian found the name of the first sutta above. The following is the whole sutta and an acceptable translation for the discussion.

      Kosambi Sutta (SN 12.68)

      Christian, can you make your point using quotations from the English translation?
      – I am trying to understand the point that you are trying to make.

      By the way, please provide links to the suttas in questions/comments.
      – Some textbooks use “old ways of listing suttas” and it is very difficult to trace them. Usually, it is hard to comment on a sutta without looking at the whole sutta.

    • #36924


      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.

    • #36929

      Lang’s questions/comments:

      (1) It is true that some suttas describe Samma Samadhi as the four rupavacara jhanas.
      – However, that probably means being able to get into all four jhanas at the COMPLETION of Samma Samadhi at the Arahant stage.
      – We can easily see that getting into jhanas is NOT NECESSARY to attain at least the Sotapanna and Sakadagami stages. If ANY PERSON attains even the first Ariya OR anariya jhana, that person will be born in a Brahma realm, and WILL NOT be born in human or Deva realms. But we know that a Sotapanna could be reborn in human or Deva realms and a Sakadagami can be reborn in a Deva realm. That proves that even the first jhana is not necessary to attain the Sotapanna or Sakadagami stages.

      (2). The problem is with the following statement by Lang:
      “The Bodhisatta experienced an ariya jhana as a boy and learned anariya jhanas from the 2 teachers.”

      The jhana that the Bodhisatta experienced WAS an anariya jhana. To get to an Ariya jhana, one must have attained a magga phala. The Bodhisatta attained ALL stages of magga phala during the night of his Enlightenment. A Bodhisatta CANNOT get to any stage of magga phala BEFORE the night of Enlightenment.
      – The Bodhisatta attained the first anariya jhana as a boy under a rose apple tree per that account.
      – Later on, he attained ALL anariya jhanas with the help of those two yogis, Alara Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputta.

    • #36948

      Lang, yes the I’m speaking about early buddhist texts (EBTs)

      Also, another interesting sutta that explains Path step by step Cūḷahatthipadopamasutta

      What I just want to mention is that we should put most emphasis on meditation and jhanas after understanding Dhamma, just understanding may be not enough in most cases if we want finish the Path

    • #36953

      It’s from

      Towards a Critical Reconstruction of Early
      Buddhist Soteriology

      This may be a really serious problem in terms of meditative practices as most modern lineages seem do not to have a “legit” meditation connected to what really Buddha taught

    • #36954

      Why should we take these claims by people who have no idea what Buddhism is?

      These claims are preposterous. All necessary information on meditations (Anapanasati and Satipatthana have been in the Pali Tipitaka since the time of the Buddha.
      – People may not have practiced those proper meditations within the past hundreds of years, thanks to Buddhaghosa’s Visuddhimagga and other influences by Mahayana.

      P.S. I just did a quick search. The book is by Grzegorz Polak. I have no idea who it is. But just one review at Amazon on the book says:
      “Most of this book is devoted to showing that most of the traditional vision of early Buddhist meditation is fundamentally wrong.” (page 16).

      Please no more quotes or discussions based on this book. I will delete such comments.

    • #36958
      Tobias G

      Lal, I agree with your assessment about the distortion of the Sadhamma. Nevertheless one point from this discussion seems to be that before sotapatti learning and comprehension of the Dhamma is needed but after stream entry more formal meditation is required in order to get to deeper samadhi. That is what I also realized on my own. The question remains: how deep? Upacāra samādhi or appanā samādhi (..jhana)?

    • #36959

      The only method to attain jhanas and insight I see is chanting, while it’s not bad and I personally “feel” the practice, it would be nice if we can get more practical posts about how to practice properly or have explanations on suttas how exactly to practice so and so section compared to translations, I’m working on it on the side too. Cūḷahatthipadopamasutta is good that shows step by step Path but as most suttas do not explain meditations in details which is I think most problematic thing in Dhamma, personally.

    • #36960

      I understand what both of you are saying.

      Let me ask both of you a couple of questions before trying to give my thoughts.

      1. Tobias wrote, ” after stream entry more formal meditation is required in order to get to deeper samadhi..”
      – Do you mean getting to jhanas?
      – You must get to deeper samadhi (anuloma, upacara) to get to the Sotapanna stage. See the last part of “Citta Vīthi – Processing of Sense Inputs
      – But unless you get to a jhana AND stay there for a while, you may not realize that you got to upacara/anuloma stages. To get to a magga phala it may not take too long. Note that Upatissa (Ven. Sariputta) attained the Sotapanna stage just while hearing a verse.

      2. Christian wrote: “..most suttas do not explain meditations in details..”

      They do. Mahā Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta, Anāpānasati Sutta, provide the basis. However, those need to be explained in detail.
      – See, for example, “Mahā Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta” and “9. Key to Ānapānasati – How to Change Habits and Character (Gati)
      – Also, see, “Jhānic Experience in Detail – Sāmañ­ña­phala Sutta (DN 2)
      – So, it is preposterous to say (like that book) that Tipitaka does not teach how to meditate!

      Furthermore, people have the idea that one needs to cultivate formal meditation to attain magga phala.
      Jhana are NOT NECESSARY to attain at least the Sotapanna and Sakadagami stages, as I explained in response to Lang’s comment.
      Kayanupassana in particular and Satpiatthana in general (same as Anapanasati) are needed to get rid of kama raga/patigha and get to the Anagami stage. That is also called “Indriya bhavana” where one needs to CONSTANTLY be aware of getting attached to sensual thoughts.
      – Once getting to the Sotapanna stage, one could do formal sessions.

      Focusing on jhana is the wrong approach. Most people get to anariya jhana and get stuck. Some of them even think they attained Nibbana!

      P.S. It is not easy to get to even anariya jhanas.
      One must stay away from kama sankappa. That is hard to do for “householders” living family lives.
      – That is why yogis in the old days went deep into jungles and stayed away from women.
      – However, some people who had cultivated anariya jhana in previous recent lives may be able to anariya jhana without much effort. They are likely to have “less sensual desires” to begin with.

    • #36968
      Tobias G

      I mean upacara/anuloma samadhi is needed, not jhana. But is there any hint in the Tipitaka if more is required to realize Anagami/Arahant? I think such a distinction is not made there.

    • #36969

      The hardest part for a Sotapanna is to overcome kama raga.
      – As we know, kama raga and patigha are related and both are lessened at the Sakadagami stage and removed at the Anagami stage.

      If you read many suttas in the Digha Nikaya like the Samannaphala Sutta (DN 2) that I mentioned above, they always describe the experience of a person who has become a bhikkhu, i.e., left the family life.
      – It is quite difficult to overcome kama raga as a householder.
      – But, of course, Dhamma will guide one to the Arahant stage even if that happens over a few lives. And, no rebirths in the apayas until that happens.

      P.S. Furthermore, as time goes on, the time in upacara/anulomasamadhi states” will get longer. One will be get into jhana with time. As I also mentioned above, that time depends on the ability/habit to get into jhana cultivated over past recent lives.

      P.P.S. As we also know, suppression/elimination of kama raga is also a requirement for anariya/Ariya jhana. That again is hard to do while being a “householder.”

    • #37006

      The following post is by Christian:

      From the “Susi­ma­parib­bāja­ka Su­tta (SN 12.70)

      Pubbe kho, susima, dhammaṭṭhitiñāṇaṁ, pacchā nibbāne ñāṇan”ti.

      This is a very nice sutta, but can we get detail on this verse?

      What I’m planning to do is or what I think is missing is a kind of system of reference when the practitioner can use certain information from sutta (types of people + types of practices, if they can attain or they do not have what it got to attain jhana) so there are further instructions, while it’s good to have all the information we have but there need to be the more precise way how people move up from Sotapanna further and what they need to do in their case. I know it may not be perfect because only Buddha can do that precisely but we need to have a general framework. For example, saying “Sotapanna will know the way to Nibbana” I think it’s not really correct as the example of that person who was Sotapanna but didn’t believe it even if Buddha said so, the problem is that “Sotapanna may see the way to Nibbana” but not necessary will execute steps properly even after seeing how things are and this may boil to various factors of types of people and types of knowledge people may have even with attainments, I think it’s very important to look at this otherwise most people will be stuck and dissatisfied even having proper understanding (which I saw this happening already)

    • #37007

      1. Christian wrote, “I think it’s not really correct as the example of that person who was Sotapanna but didn’t believe it even if Buddha said so,.”

      – Does the above sutta say that Susima was a Sotapanna? If so, please quote that verse.

      – What I read was that Susima was not a Sotapanna. He had the wrong view that all Arahants would have supernormal powers, could read other people’s minds, etc.

      2. Now, Christian’s request to clarify what is meant by the verse, “Pubbe kho, susima, dhammaṭṭhitiñāṇaṁ, pacchā nibbāne ñāṇan”ti.

      It says that one needs to first understand how to establish oneself in the Dhamma (Pubbe dhammaṭṭhitiñāṇaṁ) before being able to become a Sotapanna, i.e., “pacchā nibbāne ñāṇan” or the “path to Nibbana” comes later.
      – “Pubbe” means “beforehand” AND “pacchā” means “later” or “next”.
      – “Pubbe dhammaṭṭhitiñāṇaṁ” means one needs to first get rid of the ten types of miccha ditthi and also understand that one needs to learn Dhamma from a Noble Person (i.e., the four conditions must be satisfied: “Four Conditions for Attaining Sōtapanna Magga/Phala“).

    • #37008

      when I mentioned “I think it’s not really correct as of the example of that person who was Sotapanna but didn’t believe it even if Buddha said so” – I mean that one of your posts about Sotapanna had this story from the suttas, it’s from a different one. :)

      “Mahānāma was a wealthy person who was related to Prince Siddhartha’s family. The Buddha told him that he had attained the Sōtapanna stage. However, when he was engaging in his business activities, he often got frustrated and angry with his servants and yelled at them. After such an episode of outburst, he would think, “if I am still able to become angry like this, I must not have attained the Sōtapanna stage yet.” So, he would go to see the Buddha, explained what happened, and ask whether the Buddha was sure about the declaration. He still had doubts about his attainment of the Sōtapanna stage until the Buddha confirmed it for the third time; see, “Paṭha­ma ­Mahā­nāma Sutta (SN 55.21)“”

      Saying that for example that every Sotapanna will know the way to Nibbana seems not consistent also

      “What sort of person is one who may be guided (neyya)?
      The person for whom penetration of the Dhamma comes gradually by means of recitation, questioning, proper attention, and by serving, cultivating and waiting upon kalyānamittas is called “one who may be guided.”

      so if person falls into category it seems one will not able to attain Nibbana on it’s own even after being Sotapanna even above.

    • #37010

      Pubbe dhammaṭṭhitiñāṇaṁ, pacchā nibbāne ñāṇan

      Is this yet another way to formulate the conditions for the sotapanna stage?

      We have learned about the four conditions to the sotapanna stage:


      In yet another post, we also learned of two more terms: Anuloma Khanti and Sammattaniyāma.

      It looks like these are 3 different ways to express the same thing, correct?

      Thank you,

    • #37011

      Christian: Mahanama was not certain whether he had attained the Sotapanna stage.

      There are many suttas that say a Sotapanna DOES NOT need further guidance. However, further guidance may help accelerate the progress.
      – There were many people during the time of the Buddha who simply did not have the desire to make further progress. A good example is Vishaka, who attained the Sotapanna stage at age 7. Even though she visited the Buddha almost daily, she never progressed any further until death.

      I think we had enough discussion on that issue.

      P.S. A “neyya” is an average person who has not yet heard or understood Dhamma to become even a Sotapanna Anugami. Of course, such a person does need guidance.

      Lang: Yes. There are many ways to say the same thing.

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