Nirōdha Samāpatti, Phala Samāpatti, Jhāna, and Jhāna Samāpatti

February 13, 2018

1. Nirōdha samāpatti and various phala samāpatti are different, and they are very different from jhānā and jhānā samāpatti.

  • The first two are related to Nibbānā. Jhānā belong to “this world”. Jhānas are basically the mindsets that rūpāvacara and arūpāvacara brahmas enjoy.

2. Before starting the discussion, I would like to emphasize the following. Concepts that deals with in this post, as well as that of Nibbānā (Arahanthood, in particular), are virtually impossible to imagine for most people. However, there could be a few people who have studied these concepts in detail and have some “nagging questions”, and hopefully this information will be helpful.

  • These concepts are contrary to ideas that normal humans are familiar with. Normal humans crave for things in the material world so much, it is almost impossible to rationalize why one would want to stop the rebirth process (i.e, to attain the Arahanthood). Therefore, it is a waste of time to spend too much time thinking about such abstract concepts, at least until one gets to the Sōtapanna stage; these concepts really start making sense only when one gets closer to the Anāgāmi stage.
  • In the same way, it is hard to imagine for a normal human how nirōdha samāpatti (where all thoughts are stopped) can provide happiness. This is why I have explained in the “Nibbānā” subsection that Nibbānic bliss is NOT a feeling of a pleasure (that would involve the vēdana cētasika, and thus would belong to this world). It is more like the sense of relief one would feel when a long-lasting migraine headache goes away.
  • With that out of the way, let us start the discussion.

3. First, it is important point to remember is that life is maintained by kammic energy, not via citta vithi. Therefore, kammaja kaya is present at ALL TIMES. Kammaja (“kamma” +”ja”) means “kamma created”.

  • The kammaja kaya or the gandhabba (hadaya vatthu plus the five pasada rūpa) is created at the cuti-patisandhi moment. The blueprint for our physical body is in the kammaja kaya (gandhabba), and thus the physical body grows according to the kammaja kaya (gandhabba).
  • When one’s kammaja kaya for the present bhava runs out of kammic energy, a new kammaja kaya matching the next bhava is initiated by kammic energy for the new bhava, at the cuti-patisandhi moment.

4. Therefore, each of us has had a kammaja kaya corresponding to most of the realms in this world from a time that cannot be traced to a beginning!

  • For those who are not familiar with those terms can use the “Search box” to find relevant posts. For example, we have four types of “kaya”: kammaja, cittaja, utuja, and karaja kaya. That last one is our physical body. Such a physical body is absent in rūpāvacara and arūpāvacara realms (basically just the gandhabba).

5. Cittaja kaya means the flow of citta vithi.  Citta arise in the hadaya vatthu in the kammaja kaya.

  • Citta always run in “packets” or vithi. Each pancadvara citta vithi ALWAYS has 17 citta.
  • A manōdvāra citta vithi normally has 10-12 citta. However, as we mentioned above, when in a samāpatti, manōdvāra citta vithi can run continuously. Therefore, there is no set upper limit to the number of manōdvāra citta running continuously when in a samāpatti.
  • The mind could be in different types of bhavanga states in between manōdvāra/pancadvāra citta vithi.

6. While the kammaja kaya is active AT ANY TIME, there CAN BE GAPS in the cittaja kaya.

  • Bhavanga is a “state of mind” other than bhavanga citta that sometimes come inside a citta vithi; see, “Bhava and Bhavanga – Simply Explained!
  • When in a bhavanga state, there are no citta vithi running, so there are not even universal cētasika present. One just knows that one is living, but there is no thought object (ārammana).
  • So, when the mind is in a bhavanga state, there are no citta vithi running. But the mind is “on” and one knows that one is living. It is just that no citta vithi running inside a bhavanga state.
  • A crude analogy of the bhavanga state is a TV set that is not tuned to a station. We can see flickering of white dots on the screen and hear a background “hum”. But there is no picture. So, the mind is “on” but has no thought object.
  • When an ārammana comes to the mind, the mind captures that sound, picture, smell, etc. That is like that TV being tuned to a station and one can see the picture.

7.  The main difference between any samāpatti and jhānā is that jhānā citta do not run continuously. When one is in a jhānā, jhānā citta vithi are interrupted by pancadvāra citta vithi running in between. Pancadvāra citta vithi are those coming through the five physical senses. Therefore, when one is in jhānā, one can see, hear, etc.

  • But when one is in any type of samāpatti, the corresponding manōdvāra citta vithi run continuously. Therefore, there is no opportunity for pancadvāra citta vithi to run, and thus one in a samāpatti is totally unaware of the external environment.

8. One could also be in a jhānā samāpatti. In this case also, there are no pancadvāra citta vithi interrupting the flow of jhānā citta vithi. One in a jhānā samāpatti also will not see, hear, smell, etc.

  • It is with practice that one who can get into jhānā can develop the ability to get into jhānā samāpatti. As one cultivates the jhānā, there will be less and less pancadvāra citta vithi coming in between successive jhānā citta vithi. Initially, only 2-3 jhānā citta vithi flow before a pancadvāra citta vithi comes in. With practice, one could be experiencing jhānā citta vithi continuously for hours.

9. However, in the asaññā realm, there is no cittaja kaya or even a bhavanga state. One does not even know that one is alive. There is a fine physical body that is kept alive by kammic energy. So, the kammaja kaya is there.

  • This is why the Buddha said it is a waste of time to get a birth in the asaññā realm by cultivating asaññā meditation techniques. One will live in the asaññā realm for 500 mahā kalpa (that is trillions of years), and just comes back to the human realm and start all over.
  • In a previous post I provided evidence that viññāna cannot exist without a rupakkhandha. However, rupakkhandha can exist without viññāna.
  • If we become unconscious for some reason, that is like living in the asaññā realm during that time. There is no bhavanga state there either. Life is maintained by the kammaja kaya via an active rūpa jivitindriya (not the jivitindriya cētasika).

10. When one is in a phala samāpatti, that phala citta runs continuously.

  • For example, if one is in the Sōtapanna phala samāpatti, one has the Sōtapanna phala citta running continuously. If one is in the Arahant phala samāpatti, the Arahant phala citta runs continuously.
  • Not everyone with a magga phala can get into phala samāpatti automatically. Just like jhāna, they require a lot of practice unless one had cultivated jhāna in recent lives.

11. When one is in nirōdha samāpatti, there are no citta vithi or a bhavanga state. It is just like in the asaññā realm.

  • But of course, there is huge difference between nirōdha samāpatti and being in the asaññā realm. One who can get to nirōdha samāpatti has removed ALL DEFILEMENTS (and thus avijjā), but one in the asaññā realm has not. So, at the end of the life in the asaññā realm, that person would come back to the human realm and can be reborn even in the apāyas in later rebirths.
  • This point actually explains why it is so peaceful not to have any citta running through the mind. That is the closest explanation that can be given to a normal human as to how having no citta can be so peaceful. But this is hard even to imagine for a normal human, as I mentioned at the beginning. Those who cultivate jhānā, and get to higher jhānic states, can start seeing that this is true. That is why they cultivate jhānā all the way up to the 8th jhānā (nēva saññā nā saññā).

12. Nirōdha samāpatti is succinctly described in a verse in the Mahāve­dalla Sutta (MN 43), where the difference between a dead body and the body of one in nirōdha samāpatti is described: “Yvāyaṃ, āvuso, mato kālaṅkato tassa kāyasaṅkhārā niruddhā paṭippassaddhā, vacīsaṅkhārā niruddhā paṭippassaddhā, cittasaṅkhārā niruddhā paṭippassaddhā, āyu parikkhīṇo, usmā vūpasantā, indriyāni paribhinnāni. Yo cāyaṃ bhikkhu saññā­ve­dayi­ta­nirodhaṃ samāpanno tassapi kāyasaṅkhārā niruddhā paṭippassaddhā, vacīsaṅkhārā niruddhā paṭippassaddhā, cittasaṅkhārā niruddhā paṭippassaddhā, āyu na parikkhīṇo, usmā avūpasantā, indriyāni vippasannāni. Yvāyaṃ, āvuso, mato kālaṅkato, yo cāyaṃ bhikkhu saññā­ve­dayi­ta­nirodhaṃ samāpanno—idaṃ nesaṃ nānākaraṇan”ti.“.

Translated: āvuso, a dead body does not generate any  kāyasaṅkhārā,  vacīsaṅkhārā, or cittasaṅkhārā; its lifetime expired and it does not breathe,  and the body gets cold with all sense organs deadBut that bhikkhu in saññā­ve­dayi­ta-nirōdha samāpatti, even though his  kāyasaṅkhārā,  vacīsaṅkhārā, and cittasaṅkhārā all have ceased, and does not breathe,  his body does not get cold and all sense organs are kept alive. This, āvuso, is the difference between a dead body and that bhikkhu in nirōdha samāpatti.”

  • Since all sankhara are stopped, there are no citta with even the universal cetasika when in saññā­ve­dayi­ta nirōdha samāpatti.
  • This also clarifies that saññā­ve­dayi­ta means without any saññā or vedana.

13. Not all Arahants can get into nirōdha samāpatti. Access to nirōdha samāpatti is NOT by taking Nibbānā as the thought object, but via the 8th jhānā. As one gets to higher jhānā, number of cētasika in a citta get smaller, i.e., citta become less and less “burdened”.

  • An Arahant has to cultivate all the jhānas, and get to the 8th jhānā (nēva saññā nā saññā). The nēva saññā nā saññā state is just a step away from stopping the arising of citta vithi.
  • From that state, the Arahant can make a determination of how long to stay in nirōdha samāpatti, and make the transition from the nēva saññā nā saññā state to nirōdha samāpatti.
  • While anāriya yōgis can get to the nēva saññā nā saññā state, I do not think they can make the transition to saññā­ve­dayi­ta nirōdha samāpatti. It is questionable whether an Anāgami who has cultivated the eight jhānas, can get into saññā­ve­dayi­ta nirōdha samāpatti either. It would be good to clarify these two issues.
  • By the way, this process of getting to nirōdha samāpatti is described in the “Anupada Sutta (MN 111)” and in the “Pañca­kaṅ­ga Sutta (SN 36.19)“.

14. The Pañca­kaṅ­ga Sutta (SN 36.19)” also clarifies another important point. If there are no citta flowing with saññā or vedana, when one is in saññā­ve­dayi­ta nirōdha samāpatti, how can one say that it is the ultimate happiness (Nibbanic bliss)?

  • Nibbanic bliss is not a cetasika vedana, which would belong to this world. I have compared it to the relief one feels when a long-experienced migraine headache finally goes away; see, the Nibbana subsection.

The above sutta, in the last verse, put it this way: “Ṭhānaṃ kho panetaṃ, ānanda, vijjati yaṃ aññatitthiyā paribbājakā evaṃ vadeyyuṃ: ‘saññā­ve­dayi­ta­nirodhaṃ samaṇo gotamo āha, tañca sukhasmiṃ paññapeti. Tayidaṃ kiṃsu, tayidaṃ kathaṃsū’ti?

Evaṃvādino, ānanda, aññatitthiyā paribbājakā evamassu vacanīyā: ‘na kho, āvuso, bhagavā sukhaññeva vedanaṃ sandhāya sukhasmiṃ paññapeti. Yattha yattha, āvuso, sukhaṃ upalabbhati, yahiṃ yahiṃ taṃ taṃ tathāgato sukhasmiṃ paññapetī’”ti.”

Translated: “It may happen, Ananda, that Wanderers of other sects will be saying this: ‘The recluse Gotama speaks of the saññā­ve­dayi­ta nirōdha and describes it as pleasure. What is this pleasure and how is this a pleasure?

“Those who say so, should be told: ‘The Blessed One describes as pleasure not only the feeling of pleasure. But a Tathagata describes as pleasure whenever and wherein so ever it is obtained.'”

15. No citta vithi run in nirōdha samāpatti, and bhavanga state is not present either. Life in the body is maintained with kammic energy. No vedana, saññā, etc. Maximum time in nirōdha samāpatti is 7 days. The Arahant can make a determination before getting into nirōdha samāpatti, as to how long (up to 7 days) to stay in that state.

  • Parinibbāna state is just like nirōdha samāpatti. The only difference is that there is no “coming back” to this world upon entering Parinibbāna.
  • Therefore, Arahants tend to get to nirōdha samāpatti whenever possible, in order to experience the “Nibbānic bliss”, and to get away from the “burdensome worldly thoughts”. As I said, it is hard for normal humans to imagine this.

16In other types of samāpatti (other than the nirōdha samāpatti), manōdvāra citta vithi will flow continuously. There is no falling to bhavanga or to take an external object with a pancadvāra citta vithi. Thus one cannot see, hear, etc. Normally, samāpatti will eventually break on its own or (when one gets good at it) one can pre-set the time to be in samāpatti.

  • Arahant phala samāpatti is where an Arahant experiences the pabhassara citta, a pure citta with just the universal cētasika, where the saññā cētasika is not contaminated. Nibbānā is the thought object made contact with phassa cētasika and vēdana and saññā are based on that (we have no idea about that). There, one does not hear, see, anything either, just like in jhānā samāpatti.
  • When an Arahant is not in nirōdha samāpatti or Arahant phala samāpatti, his/her citta get only to the “manō” state, in the sequence that normally ends up in the viññānkkhandha state for a normal human; see #4 of “Pabhassara Citta, Radiant Mind, and Bhavanga“.

17. Hopefully, that should cover the questions raised in the discussion forum under the topics:” Nirōdha Samāpatti”,  “Difference between “Arahant phala samāpatti” and “Nirōdha samāpatti” ?”, and “Nirōdha Samāpatti and Amoha”.

  • If there are more questions on this and related issues, please ask them under the topic “Difference between “Arahant phala samāpatti” and “Nirōdha samāpatti”?”. I am going to close the other two topics, in order to not have too many parallel and related discussions.
  • Please also include any references from the Tipitaka, for above descriptions. This post was put together from what I have heard from Waharaka Thēro‘s dēsanas,  and I will also add references as I come across them in the Tipitaka.
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