Nirōdha Samāpatti, Phala Samāpatti, Jhāna, and Jhāna Samāpatti

Nirōdha samāpatti and various phala samāpatti are related to Nibbānā. Jhānā and jhānā samāpatti belong to “this world.”

February 13, 2018; revised July 3, 2022; October 9, 2022; November 14, 2022; December 14, 2022

Introduction

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.
  • Jhānās belong to “this world.” Jhānas are the mindsets that rūpāvacara and arūpāvacara Brahmā enjoy.

2. Before starting the discussion, I would like to emphasize the following. The concepts we deal with in this post and that of Nibbāna (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.” Hopefully, this information will be helpful.

  • These concepts are contrary to ideas that normal humans are familiar with. Normal humans crave 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 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 start making sense only when one gets closer to the Anāgāmi stage.
  • In the same way, it is hard for an average human to imagine 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 pleasure (that would involve the vēdana cētasika and thus would belong to this world). It is more like the relief one would feel when a long-lasting migraine headache goes away.
  • With that out of the way, let us start the discussion.
Life Maintained by Kammic Energy

3. Humans have four types of “kāya”: kammaja, cittaja, utuja, and karaja (or āhāraja) kāya. That last one is our physical body. Such a physical body is absent in rūpāvacara and arūpāvacara realms. 

  • It is essential to remember that life is maintained by kammic energy, not via citta vithi. Therefore, kammaja kāya is present at ALL TIMES. Kammaja (“kamma” +”ja”) means “created by kamma (vipāka)”.
  • The kammaja kāya (hadaya vatthu plus a set of pasāda rūpa) is created at the cuti-paṭisandhi moment. 
  • When kammaja kāya for the present bhava runs out of kammic energy, a new kammaja kāya matching the next bhava is initiated by kammic energy for the new bhava, at the cuti-paṭisandhi moment.

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

  • Kammaja kāya in human or animal realms is also called gandhabba kāya or simply gandhabba.
  • The blueprint for the human physical body is in the kammaja kāya (gandhabba.) Thus, the physical body grows according to the kammaja kāya (gandhabba).
Cittaja Kāya Is Present Only With Active Citta Vithi

5. Cittaja kāya means the flow of citta vithi. Remember that kāya is a “collection.”  Citta arise in the hadaya vatthu in the kammaja kāya.

  • Cittās always run in “series ” or vithi. Each pañcadvāra (arising due to the five physical senses) citta vithi ALWAYS has 17 citta.
  • A manōdvāra (arising directly in mind) citta vithi typically has 12 cittā. However, as discussed below, when in a samāpatti, manōdvāra citta vithi can run continuously. 

6. While the kammaja kāya is active AT ALL TIMES, there can be gaps in the cittaja kāya.

  • In the absence of citta vithi (i.e., active citta flow), the mind is in a bhavaṅga state.
  • While the mind is in a bhavaṅga state, cittaja kāya is absent.
Citta Absent in the Asaññā Realm

7. In the asaññā realm, there is no cittaja kāya or even a bhavaṅga 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 kāya is there.

  • This is why the Buddha said it is a waste of time to be born in the asaññā realm by cultivating asaññā meditation techniques. One will live in the asaññā realm for 500 mahā kappa (that is trillions of years) and comes back to the human realm and start all over.
  • In a previous post, I provided evidence that viññāna cannot exist without a rupakkhandha; see #10 of “Gandhabba State – Evidence from Tipiṭaka.” However, rupakkhandha can exist without viññāna.
  • If we become unconscious for some reason, that is like living in the asaññā realm during that time.
Bhavaṅga State – Not a Citta

8. Bhavaṅga is a “state of mind” (other than bhavaṅga citta that sometimes appears inside a citta vithi); see “Bhava and Bhavaṅga – Simply Explained!

  • When in a bhavaṅga state, there are no citta vithi running, so not even universal cētasika present. One only knows that one is living, but there is no thought object (ārammana). No citta vithi run inside a bhavaṅga state.
  • A crude analogy of the bhavaṅga state is a TV set that is not tuned to a station. We can see the flickering 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., with the help of citta vithi. That is like that TV being tuned to a station, and one can see the picture.
  • Now that we have covered the basics, let us discuss jhāna and samāpatti.
What Is a Jhāna?

9. When a mind transcends the kama loka, it gets to the mindset of rupāvacara Brahmas. Those are the jhānic states. Lower Brahma realms have lower jhānic states, and higher Brahma realms have higher jhānic states.

  • But when a human enters a jhāna (especially without much practice), the mind does not stay continuously in the jhāna citta stream. It alternates between jhānic citta vithi and pañcadvāra citta vithi belonging to the kama loka. Thus, the yogi may see and hear while in a jhānic state.
  • Initially, only 2-3 jhānā citta vithi flow before a pañcadvāra citta vithi comes in. As one cultivates the jhānā, there will be less and less pañcadvāra citta vithi coming in between successive jhānā citta vithi. 
What Is a Jhāna Samāpatti?

10. With practice, one could be experiencing jhānā citta vithi continuously for many minutes. That means the yogi will not be aware of any sensory inputs through the five physical senses; thus, he will not see, hear, etc. During that time, the yogi is in a jhāna samāpatti.

  • With more practice, the yogi can lengthen the time in the samāpatti to many hours.
Difference Between Samāpatti and Jhānā

11.  Therefore, 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 pañcadvāra citta vithi running in between. Pañcadvāra 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 samāpatti, corresponding manōdvāra citta vithi runs continuously. Therefore, there is no set upper limit to the number of manōdvāra citta running continuously in a samāpatti. Also, there is no opportunity for pañcadvāra citta vithi to run; thus, one in a samāpatti is unaware of the external environment. 
  • There are only four jhānic states (rupāvacara jhāna.) Today, many English texts incorrectly label the “higher arupāvacara samāpatti” as the fifth through the eighth jhāna. In the Tipiṭaka, they are labeled as  ākāsānañcāyatana, viññāṇañcāyatana,  ākiñcaññāyatana, and nevasaññānāsaññāyatana samāpatti. There are no arupāvacara jhānic states. 
Phala Samāpatti

12. Of course, only those who have attained magga phala (Sotapanna, Sakadāgāmi, Anāgāmi, Arahant) can get into phala samāpatti. 

  • When in a phala samāpatti, that phala citta runs continuously. Again, one will not see or hear during that samāpatti since only manodvara cittas flow continuously.
  • For example, if one is in the Arahant phala samāpatti, one has the Arahant phala citta running continuously.
  • Not everyone with a magga phala can get into phala samāpatti automatically. Just like jhāna, they require a lot of practice unless one has cultivated jhāna in recent lives.
Nirōdha Samāpatti Versus Asaññā Realm

13. In nirōdha samāpatti, there is no citta vithi or a bhavaṅga state. It is sort of like in the asaññā realm.

  • But of course, there is a vast 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 apāyā in later rebirths.
  • This point 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 an average human as to how having no citta can be so peaceful. But this is hard even to imagine for an average human, as I mentioned at the beginning. Those who cultivate jhānā, and get to higher rupāvacara jhānic and arupāvacara samāpatti states, can start seeing that this is true. That is why they cultivate arupāvacara samāpatti up to the nēva saññā nā saññā state.
Nirōdha Samāpatti

14. 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, cittāaṅkhārā niruddhā paṭippassaddhā, āyu parikkhīṇo, usmā vūpasantā, indriyāni paribhinnāni. Yo cāyaṃ bhikkhu saññā­ve­dayi­ta­nirodhaṃ samāpanno tassapi kāyasaṅkhārā niruddhā paṭippassaddhā, vacīsaṅkhārā niruddhā paṭippassaddhā, cittāaṅkhārā 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 kāya saṅkhārā,  vacī saṅkhārā, or citta saṅkhārā; 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 kāya saṅkhārā,  vacī saṅkhārā, and citta saṅkhārā 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 saṅkhāra are stopped, there is no citta with even the universal cetasika when in saññā­ve­dayi­ta nirōdha samāpatti.
  • This also clarifies that saññā­ve­dayi­ta means without any saññā or vedanā.
Getting into Nirōdha Samāpatti

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

  • An Arahant has to go through the following sequence to get to nirōdha samāpatti. Cultivate all the jhānā, get to the fourth jhāna samāpatti, and access all arupāvacara samāpatti up to the nēva saññā nā saññā. The nēva saññā nā saññā state is just a step away from stopping the rising of any citta.
  • From there, the Arahant can determine 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, they CAN NOT make the transition to saññā­ve­dayi­ta nirōdha samāpatti. Only an Arahant who has cultivated arupāvacara samāpatti can get into saññā­ve­dayi­ta nirōdha samāpatti.
  • 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).
Nibbānic Bliss Is not a Cetasika Vedanā

16. The “Pañca­kaṅ­ga Sutta (SN 36.19) also clarifies another critical point. If there are no cittā (with saññā or vedanā) when one is in saññā­ve­dayi­ta nirōdha samāpatti, how can one say that it is the ultimate happiness (Nibbānic bliss)?

  • Nibbānic bliss is not a cetasika vedanā, 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 “Nibbāna” subsection.

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

Evaṃvādino, āvuso, aññatitthiyā paribbājakā evamassu vacanīyā: ‘na kho, āvuso, bhagavā sukhaññeva vedanāṃ 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 the feeling of pleasure. But a Tathāgata describes as Nibbānic pleasure absence of suffering.'”

 Nirōdha Samāpatti and Parinibbāna

17. No citta vithi run in nirōdha samāpatti, and bhavaṅga state is not present either. Life in the body is maintained with kammic energy. No vedanā, saññā, etc. The maximum time in nirōdha samāpatti is seven days. The Arahant can determine, before getting into nirōdha samāpatti, 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 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.
 Nirōdha Samāpatti and Arahant Phala Samāpatti

16In other types of samāpatti (other than the nirōdha samāpatti), manōdvāra citta vithi will flow continuously. There is no falling to bhavaṅga or taking an external object with a pañcadvāra citta vithi. Thus one cannot see, hear, etc. Usually, 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). One does not hear or see anything there, just like in jhānā samāpatti.
  • When an Arahant is not in nirōdha samāpatti or Arahant phala samāpatti, his/her citta gets only to the “mānasan” state, in the sequence that usually ends up in the viññānkkhandha state for an average human; see #4 of “Pabhassara Citta, Radiant Mind, and Bhavaṅga.”

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