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Dhyāna in Sanskrit (Devanagari: ध्यान) or jhāna (झान) in Pāli can refer to either meditation or meditative states. Equivalent terms are "Chán" in modern Chinese, "Zen" in Japanese, "Seon" in Korean, "Thien" in Vietnamese, and "Samten" in Tibetan.

As a meditative state, dhyāna is characterized by profound stillness and concentration. It is discussed in the Pāli canon (and the parallel agamas) and post-canonical Theravāda Buddhist literature, and in other literature. There has been little scientific study of the states so far.

Jhāna in the early suttasEdit

In the early texts, it is taught as a state of collected, full-body awareness in which mind becomes very powerful and still but not frozen, and is thus able to observe and gain insight into the changing flow of experience.[1][2] Later Theravada literature, in particular the Visuddhimagga, describes it as an abiding in which the mind becomes fully immersed and absorbed in the chosen object of attention,[3] characterized by non-dual consciousness.[4]

The Buddha himself entered jhāna, as described in the early texts, during his own quest for enlightenment, and is constantly seen in the suttas encouraging his disciples to develop jhāna as a way of achieving awakening and liberation.[5][6][7]

One key innovative teaching of the Buddha was that meditative absorption (jhāna) must be combined with liberating cognition.[8]

Just before his passing away, The Buddha entered the jhānas in direct and reverse order, and the passing away itself took place after rising from the fourth jhāna.[9]

The Buddha's instructions on attaining jhana are via mindfulness of breathing, found in the Ānāpānasati Sutta and elsewhere.

Stages of jhānaEdit

Template:JhanaFactors

In the Pāli canon the Buddha describes eight progressive states of absorption meditation or jhāna. Four are considered to be meditations of form (rūpa jhāna) and four are formless meditations (arūpa jhāna). The first four jhānas are said by the Buddha to be conducive to a pleasant abiding and freedom from suffering.[10] The jhānas are states of meditation where the mind is free from the five hindrances — craving, aversion, sloth, agitation and doubt — and (from the second jhāna onwards) incapable of discursive thinking. The deeper jhānas can last for many hours. Jhāna empowers a meditator's mind, making it able to penetrate into the deepest truths of existence.

There are four deeper states of meditative absorption called "the immaterial attainments." Sometimes these are also referred to as the "formless" jhānas (arūpa jhānas) in distinction from the first four jhānas (rūpa jhānas). In the Buddhist canonical texts, the word "jhāna" is never explicitly used to denote them, but they are always mentioned in sequence after the first four jhānas. The enlightenment of complete dwelling in emptiness is reached when the eighth jhāna is transcended.

The Rupa JhānasEdit

There are four stages of deep collectedness which are called the Rupa Jhāna (Fine-material Jhāna):

  1. First Jhāna - In the first jhana there are - "directed thought, evaluation, rapture, pleasure, unification of mind, contact, feeling, perception, intention, consciousness, desire, decision, persistence, mindfulness, equanimity & attention"
  2. Second Jhāna - In the second jhana there are - "internal assurance, rapture, pleasure, unification of mind, contact, feeling, perception, intention, consciousness, desire, decision, persistence, mindfulness, equanimity, & attention"
  3. Third Jhāna - In the third jhana, there are - "equanimity-pleasure, unification of mind, contact, feeling, perception, intention, consciousness, desire, decision, persistence, mindfulness, equanimity & attention"
  4. Fourth Jhāna - In the fourth jhana there are - "a feeling of equanimity, neither pleasure nor pain; an unconcern due to serenity of awareness; unification of mind, contact, feeling, perception, intention, consciousness, desire, decision, persistence, mindfulness, equanimity & attention".[11]

The Arupa JhānasEdit

Beyond the four jhānas lie four attainments, referred to in the early texts as aruppas. These are also referred to in commentarial literature as immaterial/the formless jhānas (arūpajhānas), also translated as The Formless Dimensions:

  1. Dimension of Infinite Space - In the dimension of infinite space there are - "the perception of the dimension of the infinitude of space, unification of mind, contact, feeling, perception, intention, consciousness, desire, decision, persistence, mindfulness, equanimity, & attention"
  2. Dimension of Infinite Consciousness - In the Dimension of infinite consciousness there are - "the perception of the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness, unification of mind, contact, feeling, perception, intention, consciousness, desire, decision, persistence, mindfulness, equanimity, & attention"
  3. Dimension of Nothingness - In the dimension of nothingness, there are - "the perception of the dimension of nothingness, singleness of mind, contact, feeling, perception, intention, consciousness, desire, decision, persistence, mindfulness, equanimity, & attention"
  4. Dimension of Neither Perception nor Non-Perception - About the role of this jhana it is said: "He emerged mindfully from that attainment. On emerging mindfully from that attainment, he regarded the past qualities that had ceased & changed: 'So this is how these qualities, not having been, come into play. Having been, they vanish.' He remained unattracted & unrepelled with regard to those qualities, independent, detached, released, dissociated, with an awareness rid of barriers. He discerned that 'There is a further escape,' and pursuing it there really was for him." [11]

In the suttas, these are never referred to as jhānas. And it is mistakenly believed that is likely that they belonged to the Brahmanical tradition.[12] However, according to the early scriptures, the Buddha did not say he learned the last two formless attainments from two teachers, he only mentioned that Alara Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputta claimed.[13] If the Buddha was taught these two states as they declared then he should have practiced the First Jhana many times and should have no trouble entering the First Jhana. The Uppakilesa Sutta shows that this is not the case. The Buddha had to struggle with a whole series of obstacles before he was able to find his way back into the First Jhana that he recalled practicing as a child. When looking into the Uppakilesa Sutta, it is clear that Alara and Uddaka overestimated themselves in their claims.[14] At that time, defilement such as desire and other hindrances were still present within the future Buddha even after following their teachings. He realized that the meditations they taught and their teachings do not lead to Nirvana and left. [15]

The Buddha said in the Ariyapariyesana Sutta:

”But the thought occurred to me, ‘This Dhamma leads not to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to stilling, to direct knowledge, to Awakening, nor to Unbinding, but only to reappearance in the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception.’ So, dissatisfied with that Dhamma, I left.”[16]

Cessation of feelings and perceptionsEdit

The Buddha also rediscovered an attainment beyond the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception, the "cessation of feelings and perceptions." This is sometimes called the "ninth jhāna" in commentarial and scholarly literature.[13][17]

About this, it is said: "Seeing with discernment, his fermentations were totally ended. He emerged mindfully from that attainment. On emerging mindfully from that attainment, he regarded the past qualities that had ceased & changed: 'So this is how these qualities, not having been, come into play. Having been, they vanish.' He remained unattracted & unrepelled with regard to those qualities, independent, detached, released, dissociated, with an awareness rid of barriers. He discerned that 'There is no further escape,' and pursuing it there really wasn't for him."[11]

Someone attaining this state is an anagami or an arahant.[18] In the above extract, the Buddha narrates that Sariputta became an arahant upon reaching it.[19]

Usage of jhāna Edit

The meditator uses the jhāna state to strengthen and sharpen the mind, in order to investigate the true nature of phenomena (dhamma) and to gain higher knowledge. The longer the meditator stays in the state of jhāna the sharper and more powerful the mind becomes. The jhāna will sometimes cause the five hindrances to be suppressed for days.[20]

According to the later Theravāda commentorial tradition as outlined by Buddhagoṣa in his Visuddhimagga, after coming out of the state of jhāna the meditator will be in the state of post-jhāna access concentration. This will have the qualities of being certain, long-lasting and stable. It is where the work of investigation and analysis of the true nature of phenomena begins and is also where deep insight into the characteristics of impermanence, suffering and not-self arises. The meditator can experience these truths, which lie at the heart of the Buddha's teachings, through direct experience.

In contrast, according to the sutta descriptions of jhāna practice, the meditator does not emerge from jhāna to practice vipassana but rather the work of insight is done whilst in jhāna itself. In particular the meditator is instructed to "enter and remain in the fourth jhāna" before commencing the work of insight in order to uproot the mental defilements.[1][21]

With the abandoning of pleasure and pain — as with the earlier disappearance of elation and distress — he enters and remains in the fourth jhāna: purity of equanimity and mindfulness, neither-pleasure nor pain...With his mind thus concentrated, purified, and bright, unblemished, free from defects, pliant, malleable, steady, and attained to imperturbability, the monk directs and inclines it to the knowledge of the ending of the mental fermentations. He discerns, as it has come to be, that 'This is suffering... This is the origination of suffering... This is the cessation of suffering... This is the way leading to the cessation of suffering... These are mental fermentations... This is the origination of fermentations... This is the cessation of fermentations... This is the way leading to the cessation of fermentations.'
Samaññaphala Sutta

As the five hindrances may be suppressed for days after entering jhāna, the meditator will feel perfectly clear, mindful, full of compassion, peaceful and light after the meditation session. This, according to Ajahn Brahm, may cause some meditators to mistakenly assume that they have gained enlightenment.[20]

The jhāna state cannot by itself lead to enlightenment as it only suppresses the defilements. Meditators must use the jhāna state as an instrument for developing wisdom by cultivating insight and use it to penetrate the true nature of phenomena through direct cognition, which will lead to cutting off the defilements and nibbana.

Template:JhanaFactors Jhānas are normally described according to the nature of the mental factors which are present in these states:

  1. Movement of the mind onto the object (vitakka; Sanskrit: vitarka)
  2. Retention of the mind on the object (vicāra)
  3. Joy (pīti; Sanskrit: prīti)
  4. Happiness (sukha)
  5. Equanimity (upekkhā; Sanskrit: upekṣā)
  6. One-pointedness (ekaggatā; Sanskrit: ekāgratā)[22]

Four progressive states of Jhāna:

  1. First jhāna (vitakka, vicāra, pīti, sukha, ekaggatā): The five hindrances have completely disappeared and intense unified bliss remains. Only the subtlest of mental movement remains, perceivable in its absence by those who have entered the second jhāna. The ability to form unwholesome intentions ceases.
  2. Second jhāna (pīti, sukha, ekaggatā): All mental movement utterly ceases. There is only bliss. The ability to form wholesome intentions ceases as well.
  3. Third jhāna (sukha, ekaggatā): One-half of bliss (joy) disappears.
  4. Fourth jhāna (upekkhā, ekaggatā): The other half of bliss (happiness) disappears, leading to a state with neither pleasure nor pain, which the Buddha said is actually a subtle form of happiness (more sublime than pīti and sukha). The Buddha described the jhānas as "the footsteps of the Tathāgata". The breath is said to cease temporarily in this state.

Traditionally, this fourth jhāna is seen as the beginning of attaining psychic powers (abhigna).[23]

The scriptures state that one should not seek to attain ever higher jhānas but master one first, then move on to the next. Mastery of jhāna involves being able to enter a jhāna at will, stay as long as one likes, leave at will and experience each of the jhāna factors as required. They also seem to suggest that lower jhāna factors may manifest themselves in higher jhāna, if the jhānas have not been properly developed. The Buddha is seen to advise his disciples to concentrate and steady the jhāna further.

Preliminary stage Edit

The Buddha explains right concentration (samma samādhi), part of the noble eightfold path, as the four first jhānas. According to the Pāli canon commentary, there is a certain stage of meditation that the meditator should reach before entering into jhāna. This stage is access/neighbourhood concentration (upacāra-samādhi). The overcoming of the five hindrances — sensual desire, ill will, sloth and torpor, restlessness and worry and doubt — marked the entries into access concentration. This concentration is an unstable state where the mind becomes well concentrated on an object but it is still not yet a state of "full concentration" (jhāna). The difference is, in full concentration certain factors become strengthened to such a degree that they bring about a qualitative shift in the level of consciousness and the mind no longer functions on the ordinary sensory level. Access concentration is not mentioned in the discourses of the Buddha. However there are several suttas where a person gains insight into the Dhamma on hearing a teaching from the Buddha. Often their minds are described as being free from hindrances when this occurs and some have identified this as being a type of access concentration.[24] The equivalent of upacāra-samādhi used in Tibetan commentaries is nyer-bsdogs.[25]

At the state of access concentration, some meditators may experience vivid mental imagery (Pāli: nimitta), which is similar to a vivid dream — as vividly as if seen by the eye, but in this case the meditator is fully aware and conscious that they are seeing mental images. This is discussed in the early texts, and expanded upon in Theravāda commentaries.[26]

Different meditators will experience different mental images; some meditators may not experience any mental images at all. The same meditator doing multiple meditation sessions may experience different mental images for each session. The mental image may be pleasant, frightening, disgusting, shocking or neutral.

As the concentration becomes stronger, the feelings of breathing and of having a physical body will completely disappear, leaving only pure awareness. At this stage inexperienced meditators may become afraid, thinking that they are going to die if they continue the concentration because the feeling of breathing and the feeling of having a physical body has completely disappeared. They should not be so afraid and should continue their concentration in order to reach "full concentration" (jhāna).[27]

Mastering jhāna Edit

A meditator should first master the lower jhānas, before they can go into the higher jhānas. There are five aspects of jhāna mastery:

  1. Mastery in adverting: the ability to advert to the jhāna factors one by one after emerging from the jhāna, wherever he wants, whenever he wants, and for as long as he wants.
  2. Mastery in attaining: the ability to enter upon jhāna quickly.
  3. Mastery in resolving: the ability to remain in the jhāna for exactly the pre-determined length of time.
  4. Mastery in emerging: the ability to emerge from jhāna quickly without difficulty.
  5. Mastery in reviewing: the ability to review the jhāna and its factors with retrospective knowledge immediately after adverting to them.

The early suttas state that "the most exquisite of recluses" is able to attain any of the jhānas and abide in them without difficulty. This particular arahant is "liberated in both ways:" he is fluent in attaining the jhānas and is also aware of their ultimate unsatisfactoriness. If he were not, he would fall into the same problem as the teachers from whom the Buddha learned the spheres of nothingness and neither perception nor non-perception, in seeing these meditative attainments as something final. Their problem lay in seeing permanence where there is impermanence.[28]

Historical development Edit

Element and formless meditation Edit

Alexander Wynne attempted to find parallels in Brahmanical texts to the meditative goals the two teachers claimed to have taught, drawing especially on some of the Upanishads and the Mokshadharma chapter of the Mahabharata. But in the Brahmanical texts cited by Wynne assumed their final form long after the Buddha’s lifetime and all scholars agree that the Mokshadharma postdates him.[29]

The Four jhanas can't be found in any pre-Buddhist texts, but later on others adapted them into the Mahabharata. That is not to say that other types of jhana do not exist ( such as "appana- kam jhana" ( breathingless meditation). These meditations have been rejected by the Buddha as wrong meditation :

"Suppose I were to meditate on the non-breathing meditation (appana- kam jhana)"- MN 36

Or jhana where someone focuses on a sensual meditation object :

"Making that sensual passion the focal point, he absorbs himself with it, premeditates, outmeditates, and mismeditates.....This is the sort of meditation (jhana) that the Blessed One did not praise."- MN 108

Later when the Buddha used the word jhana in short, his disciples understood that he meant First - Fourth Jhana included in Samma Samadhi and not appana- kam jhana or any other types of meditation. When disciples of the Buddha use the word jhana nowadays, we are referring to the First to Fourth Jhana in particular.

The word jhana can be used to mean " meditation" in general. However, later when the Buddha teaches meditation he only considered 1-4 Jhana as the right meditation. Therefore, when speaking about jhana ( meditation) he was only referring to the 1-4 Jhana. The word jhana began to took on a different meaning among many of his disciples, and that is the 1-4 Jhana while excluding other types of meditation found during his time, such as "appana-kam jhana" ( where someone hold back the breath and it causes great pain) or focusing on a sensual meditation object, etc...For this reason, sometimes we see the word jhana being used in its earlier meaning to refer to just " meditation" in general. Other times we see the word jhana being used to refer to 1-4 Jhana of the Buddha's teaching in particular for short instead of saying First Jhana, Second Jhana, Third Jhana and Fourth Jhana.

Wynne claimed that Brahminic passages on meditation suggest that the most basic presupposition of early Brahmanical yoga is that the creation of the world must be reversed, through a series of meditative states, by the yogin who seeks the realization of the self.[30] These states were given doctrinal background in early Brahminic cosmologies, which classified the world into successively coarser strata. One such stratification is found at TU II.1 and Mbh XII.195, and proceeds as follows: self, space, wind, fire, water, earth. Mbh XII.224 gives alternatively: Brahman, mind, space, wind, fire, water, earth.[31] In Brahmanical thought, the meditative states of consciousness were thought to be identical to the subtle strata of the cosmos.[32] There is no similar theoretical background to element meditation in the early Buddhist texts, where the elements appear simply as suitable objects of meditation.[33] It is likely that the Brahmanic practices of element meditation were borrowed and adapted by early Buddhists, with the original Brahmanic ideology of the practices being discarded in the process.[34] The uses of the elements in early Buddhist literature have in general very little connection to Brahmanical thought; in most places they occur in teachings where they form the objects of a detailed contemplation of the human person. The aim of these contemplations is to induce the correct understanding that the various perceived aspects of the human person do not comprise a self.[35] Moreover, the self is conceptualized in terms similar to both "nothingness" and "neither perception nor non-perception" at different places in early Upanishadic literature.[32] The latter corresponds to Yajnavalkya’s definition of the self in his famous dialogue with Maitreyi in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad and the definition given in the post-Buddhist Mandukya Upanishad. This is mentioned as a claim of non-Buddhist ascetics and Brahmins in the Pañcattaya Sutta (Majjhima Nikaya 102.2).[36][37] In the same dialogue in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, Yajnavalkya draws the conclusions that the self that is neither perceptive nor non-perceptive is a state of consciousness without object. The early Buddhist evidence suggests much the same thing for the state of "neither perception nor non-perception".[37] It is a state without an object of awareness, that is not devoid of awareness.[38] The state following it in the Buddhist scheme, the "cessation of perception and sensation", is devoid not only of objectivity, but of subjectivity as well: see Nibbana#Transcendent knowing.[39] It is suggested that Uddaka Ramaputta belonged to the pre-Buddhist tradition portrayed by the Buddhist and Brahmanic sources, in which the philosophical formulations of the early Upanishads were accepted and the meditative state of "neither perception nor non-perception" was equated with the self.[40] Furthermore, he suggested that the goal of Alara Kalama was a Brahminical concept. Evidence in the Chandogya Upanishad and the Taittiriya Upanishad suggests that a different early Brahminic philosophical tradition held the view that the unmanifest state of Brahman was a form of non-existence.[41] Thus it seems likely that both element and formless meditation was learned by the Buddha from his two teachers and adapted by him to his own system.[42]While the Buddha was not the first to attain the formless meditative absorption, the stratification of particular samādhi experiences into the four jhānas seems to be a Buddhist innovation. It was then borrowed and presented in an incomplete form in the Mokṣadharma, a part of the Mahābhārata.[43] It appears that in early Brahminic yoga, the formless spheres were attained following element meditation.[44] This is also taught as an option in the early Buddhist texts.[45] The primary method taught to achieve the formless attainment in early Buddhist scriptures, on the other hand, is to proceed to the sphere of infinite space following the fourth jhāna.[46]

It is important to note that of the 200 or so Upanishads, only the first 10 or 12 are considered the oldest and principal Upanishads. Among these 10 or 12 principal Upanishads, the Taittiriya, Aitareya and Kausitaki shows Buddhist influence . The Brihadaranyaka, Jaiminiya-Upanisad-Brahmana and the Chandogya Upanishads were composed during the pre-Buddhist era while the rest of these 12 oldest Upanishads are dated to the last few centuries BCE.

A closer look at the early suttas show some reasons why the Four Jhanas discussed by the Buddha was not practiced by people before the Buddha’s Enlightenment . That is not to say that people didn’t practice it some time after the previous Buddha. During the Buddha’s time there are Brahmins and Wandering Ascetics, such as Jains, etc..One of the reasons why Jhana was not practiced before the Buddha’s Enlightenment was because people then either indulged in seeking pleasure and comfort of the body or else following a religion of tormenting the body. Both were caught up with the body and its five senses and knew no release from the five senses. Neither produced the sustained tranquility of the body necessary as the foundation for Jhana . “.[47]

The texts cited by Alexander Wynne in an attempt to find parallels in Brahmanical texts to the meditative goals the two teachers claimed to have taught assumed their final form long after the Buddha’s lifetime .

When it comes to the Brahmanical tradition during that time, various examples can be found in the Ambattha Sutta and others. Ambattha, “ who was a student of the Vedas, who knew the mantras, perfected in the Three Vedas, a skilled expounder of the rules and rituals, the lore of sounds and meanings and, fifthly, oral tradition, complete in philosophy and in the marks of a Great Man, admitted and accepted by his master in the Three Vedas with the words: “ What I know, you know; what you know, I know.” [48] He was sent to test the Buddha and was rude to him. He said “ These shaven little ascetics, menials, black scrapings from Brahma’s foot, what converse can they have with brahmins learned in the Three Vedas ?”[49]

The Buddha told him that “ they are far from attainment of the unexcelled knowledge – and – conduct", which is attained by abandoning sensual attachments .[50]

“ But, Reverend Gotama, what is this conduct, what is this knowledge ?” The Buddha then taught him about morality, guarding the sense doors, jhanas, insights, and the like. Here is a man who mastered the Three Vedas and was declared by his teacher with the words : “ What I know, you know; what you know, I know.”, And yet still doesn’t know about sense restraints, as well as the Four Jhanas and panna :

The Buddha then taught him the following subjects:

1. “ A disciple goes forth and practices the moralities …( Sila)

2. he guards the sense doors…..

3. attains the four jhanas …… Thus he develops concentration ( Samadhi)

4. He attains various insights ……( Panna)

5. and the cessation of the corruptions……( Awakening)

“…..What do you think, Ambattha ? Do you and your teacher live in accordance with this unexcelled knowledge and conduct ?” “ No indeed, Reverend Gotama! Who are my teacher and I in comparison? We are far from it!” [51]

The Buddha also mentioned various sensory pleasure that Ambattha, his teachers and other Brahmins indulge in, which prevent them from experiencing seclusion from sense pleasure, jhanas, and insight :

1. “ Perfumed, their hair and beards trimmed, adorned with garlands, and wreaths,… indulging in the pleasures of the five senses and addicted to them”

2. “ Amuse themselves with women dressed up in flounces and furbelows”

3. “ Ride around chariots drawn by mares with braided tails, that they urged on with long goad-sticks…have themselves guarded in fortified towns with palisades and barricades, by men with long swords..”

“ So, Ambattha, neither you nor your teacher are a sage or one trained in the way of a sage.”

He also taught other many other learned Brahmins masters ( about sila, sense restraints, jhana, insight, etc..) in Sonadanda Sutta, Kutadanta Sutta, etc.…[52]

On the other extreme during that time, we have the wandering ascetics who indulge in torturing their bodies . “When the Bodhisatta began the easy ‘practices leading to such tranquility of body, his first five disciples abandoned – him in disgust. Such practice was not regarded as valid. Therefore it was not practiced, and so Jhana never occurred.”[53]

For example, in the Nigantha Nataputta sutta of the Citta Samyutta # 41, the Nigantha Nataputta, the Jain leader, does not even believe that it is possible [54], much less practice it, or attained it. Bhikkhu Brahmali pointed out that in the suttas the Nigantha Nataputta is portrayed as never having heard of samadhi without vitakka-vicara. That is, he doesn’t seem to know anything about the Four jhana, let alone the immaterial attainments. As the leader of one of the largest religious sects of the time one would have expected him to know a lot about meditation, even if only second hand:

Nigantha Nataputta said to Citta ( a non-returner disciple of the Buddha) : “ Householder, do you have faith in the ascetic Gotama when he says: “ There is a concentration without thought and examination, there is a cessaton of thought and examination?”[55]

Citta : “ In this manner, venerable sir, I do not go by faith in the Blessed One …..”[56]

Nigantha Nataputta said “ …….One who thinks that thought and examination can be stopped might imagine he could catch the wind in a net or arrest the current of the river Ganges with his own fist.”[57]

Citta then goes on to explain that he doesn’t just go by mere faith, but directly experienced it for himself. Also he explained how he entered the Four Jhanas taught by the Buddha.[58]

Some might think that the Eight Limbs of the yoga sutras shows Samadhi as one of its limbs. But the Eight limbs of the Yoga Sutra was only developed after the Buddha and is influenced by the Buddha’s Eightfold Path. The suttas show that during the time of the Buddha Nigantha Nataputta, the Jain leader, did not even believe that it is possible to enter a state where the thoughts and examination stop.[59]

Samadhi was first found in the Tipitaka and not in any pre-buddhist text. But it was later incorporated into later texts such as the Maitrayaniya Upanishad . The Buddha was also incorporated into the Puranas . Although Samadhi where the mind stop was adopted by later hindu texts, but it was considered Enlightenment.[60] However, the Buddha clearly taught an Eightfold Path consisting of three division: Sila, Samadhi, and Panna. Just Samadhi alone will not be sufficient for enlightenment. The Buddha himself entered Samadhi when he was a little boy, but without the third division, Panna, he did not become enlightened back then. Later on he developed Panna using that Samadhi.

Although the "Dimension of Nothingness" and the "Dimension of Neither Perception nor Non-Perception" are included in the list of nine Jhanas taught by the Buddha, they are not included in the Noble Eightfold Path. Noble Path number eight is "Samma Samadhi" (Right Concentration), and only the first four Jhanas are considered "Right Concentration". If he takes a disciple through all the Jhanas, the emphasis is on the "Cessation of Feelings and Perceptions" rather than stopping short at the "Dimension of Neither Perception nor Non-Perception".

In the Magga-vibhanga Sutta, the Buddha defines Right Concentration that belongs to the concentration (samadhi) division of the path as the first four Jhanas:

"And what is right concentration? There is the case where a monk — quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful (mental) qualities — enters & remains in the first Jhana: rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. With the stilling of directed thoughts & evaluations, he enters & remains in the Second Jhana: rapture & pleasure born of composure, unification of awareness free from directed thought & evaluation — internal assurance. With the fading of rapture, he remains equanimous, mindful, & alert, and senses pleasure with the body. He enters & remains in the Third Jhana, of which the Noble Ones declare, 'Equanimous & mindful, he has a pleasant abiding.' With the abandoning of pleasure & pain — as with the earlier disappearance of elation & distress — he enters & remains in the Fourth Jhana: purity of equanimity & mindfulness, neither pleasure nor pain. This is called right concentration." [61]

The Buddha and jhāna Edit

The meditations he learned did not lead to nibbana. He then underwent harsh ascetic practices with which he eventually also became disillusioned. He subsequently remembered entering jhāna as a child, and realized that "that indeed is the path to enlightenment."

According to the Maha-Saccaka Sutta, the Buddha recalled a meditative state he entered by chance as a child and abandoned the ascetic practices he has been doing:

“I thought: 'I recall once, when my father the Sakyan was working, and I was sitting in the cool shade of a rose-apple tree, then — quite secluded from sensuality, secluded from unskillful mental qualities — I entered & remained in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from seclusion, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. Could that be the path to Awakening?' Then following on that memory came the realization: 'That is the path to Awakening.'” [16]

According to the Upakkilesa Sutta, after figuring out the cause of the various obstacles and overcoming them, the Buddha was able to penetrate the sign and enters 1st- 4th Jhana.

“I also saw both the light and the vision of forms. Shortly after the vision of light and shapes disappear. I thought, ‘What is the cause and condition in which light and vision of the forms disappear?' Then consider the following: ‘The question arose in me and because of doubt my concentration fell, when my concentration fell, the light disappeared and the vision of forms. I act so that the question does not arise in me again.'” “I remained diligent, ardent, perceived both the light and the vision of forms. Shortly after the vision of light and shapes disappear. I thought, 'What is the cause and condition in which light and vision of the forms disappear?' Then consider the following: 'Inattention arose in me because of inattention and my concentration has decreased, when my concentration fell, the light disappeared and the vision of forms. I must act in such a way that neither doubt nor disregard arise in me again.'”

In the same way as above, the Buddha encountered many more obstacles that caused the light to disappear and found his way out them. These includes, sloth and torpor, fear, elation, inertia, excessive energy, energy deficient, desire, perception of diversity, and excessive meditation on the ways. Finally, he was able to penetrate the light and entered jhana.

The following descriptions in the Upakkilesa Sutta further show how he find his way into the first four Jhanas, which he later considered as “samma samadhi”.

“When Anuruddha, I realized that doubt is an imperfection of the mind, I dropped out of doubt, an imperfection of the mind. When I realized that inattention … sloth and torpor … fear … elation … inertia … excessive energy … deficient energy … desire … perception of diversity … excessive meditation on the ways, I abandoned excessive meditation on the ways, an imperfection of the mind.” “When Anuruddha, I realized that doubt is an imperfection of the mind, I dropped out of doubt, an imperfection of the mind. When I realized that inattention … sloth and torpor … fear … elation … inertia … excessive energy … deficient energy … desire … perception of diversity … excessive meditation on the ways, I abandoned excessive meditation on the ways, an imperfection of the mind, so I thought, 'I abandoned these imperfections of the mind.' Now the concentration will develop in three ways. ..And so, Anuruddha, develop concentration with directed thought and sustained thought; developed concentration without directed thought, but only with the sustained thought; developed concentration without directed thought and without thought sustained, developed with the concentration ecstasy; developed concentration without ecstasy; develop concentration accompanied by happiness, developing concentration accompanied by equanimity … When Anuruddha, I developed concentration with directed thought and sustained thought to the development … when the concentration accompanied by fairness, knowledge and vision arose in me: 'My release is unshakable, this is my last birth, now there are no more likely to be any condition.'”[16]

In the suttas, the immaterial attainments are never referred to as jhānas. The immaterial attainments have more to do with expanding, while the Jhanas (1-4) focus on concentration. A common translation for the term "samadhi" is concentration. Rhys Davids and Maurice Walshe agreed that the term “samadhi” is not found in any pre-buddhist text. Hindu texts later used that term to indicate the state of enlightenment. This is not in conformity with Buddhist usage. In "The Long Discourse of the Buddha: A Translation of the Digha Nikaya" ( pg. 1700) Maurice Walshe wrote that:

Rhys Davids also states that the term samadhi is not found in any pre-Buddhist text. To his remarks on the subject should be added that its subsequent use in Hindu texts to denote the state of enlightenment is not in conformity with Buddhist usage, where the basic meaning of concentration is expanded to cover ‘meditation’ in general.” [62]

While the states of samādhi were not the goal, they were indeed the path.[63]

Three discourses in the Bhojjhanga-Samyutta present the claims of non-Buddhist wanderers that they too develop Buddhist-style meditation, including samādhi. They ask the Buddha what the difference is between their teachings and his. He does not respond by teaching right view, but by telling them that they do not fully understand samādhi practice. Ajahn Sujato interprets this statement as explaining a statement of the Buddha's elsewhere that he "awakened to jhāna"; he was the first to fully comprehend both the benefits and limitations of samādhi experiences.[64]


In Mahāyāna traditionsEdit

Mahāyāna Buddhism includes numerous schools of practice, which each draw upon various Buddhist sūtras, philosophical treatises, and commentaries. Accordingly, each school has its own meditation methods for the purpose of developing samādhi and prajñā, with the goal of ultimately attaining enlightenment. Nevertheless, each has its own emphasis, mode of expression, and philosophical outlook. In his classic book on meditation of the various Chinese Buddhist traditions, Charles Luk writes, "The Buddha Dharma is useless if it is not put into actual practice, because if we do not have personal experience of it, it will be alien to us and we will never awaken to it in spite of our book learning."[65] Venerable Nan Huaijin echoes similar sentiments about the importance of meditation by remarking, "Intellectual reasoning is just another spinning of the sixth consciousness, whereas the practice of meditation is the true entry into the Dharma."[66] Therefore, the importance of dhyāna in the broad sense of "meditation" in the Mahāyāna tradition is indeed emphasized.

In China, the word "dhyāna" was originally transliterated as chánnà (禪那), and shortened to just chán (禪) by common usage. This word chán is the same word used for the Chán school (Jp. Zen). Some scholars and various authors have claimed that Chán/Zen Buddhism does not utilize the stages of dhyāna.[67][68] However, this is contradicted by statements from well known exponents of Chán Buddhism such as Venerable Sheng Yen, Venerable Hsuan Hua, and Venerable Nan Huaijin.[69][70][71] Sheng Yen, a Buddhist monk and scholar from the Linji and Caodong lineages of the Chán school, clarifies that the Chán/Zen school does indeed include the dhyānas:[69]

Although the Chán school definitely advocates practicing meditation to reach absorption states (dhyāna), not all meditative absorption states are those of the Chán school.

Sheng Yen also cites meditative concentration as necessary, citing samādhi as one of the requisite factors for progress on the path toward enlightenment.[69] Nan Huaijin also agrees about the dhyanas being necessary in Chán Buddhism, and regarding the various stages, he states, "Real cultivation going toward samādhi goes through the four dhyānas."[71] Sheng Yen clarifies that the eight dhyānas are to be understood as mundane meditative states, which are also shared by practitioners on "outer paths", as well as ordinary people, or in principle even animals.[69] He characterizes these as intermediate steps for supramundane realization in dhyāna.[72]

In the Platform Sutra, Hui Neng says : "To concentrate the mind and to contemplate it until it is still is a disease and not Zen." He goes on to say that the meditator who enters a state in which thoughts are suppressed must allow them to arise naturally once again.[73] The early Buddhist texts describe right concentration, that is, dhyāna, as an abiding in which the mind is unified, but not static; it is not the suppression of all thought.[1]

Venerable Hsuan Hua, who taught Chán and Pure Land Buddhism, outlines the four preliminary stages of dhyāna:[70]

  1. In the First Dhyāna, there is the arising of bliss. The external breathing stops, while the internal breathing comes alive, and it is said that the mind is as clear as water and as bright as a mirror.[74] When the external breathing stops, the nose and mouth do not breathe.[75] While in this state, the mind and body have a feeling of existing within empty space.[76]
  2. In the Second Dhyāna, there is pure bliss born from samādhi. In this stage, there is said to be happiness without compare. After reaching this stage, it is said that some practitioners may go without food or water for many days and still be alright. When in this second stage, not only does the external breathing stop, but the pulse comes to a stop as well. After leaving this state, the pulse resumes its normal function.[77]
  3. In the Third Dhyāna, the joy of the previous stages is left, leaving only a subtle and blissful peace.[78] At this stage it is said that not only do the breathing and pulse stop, but idle thoughts stop as well.[79] Although idle thoughts have been cleared away, it is emphasized that this stage is nothing special, and just part of the progression.[79] At this stage, the body becomes as soft as the body of an infant.[80] Softness and suppleness of the body is considered to be a physical indicator of the quality of an individual's samādhi. Nan Huaijin states: "All the eminent monks of great virtue in the past were able to predict what day they would die, and even on the brink of death their bodies were as soft and supple as a baby's. Others who were even more lofty turned into a field of light, and their human forms disappeared. At most all they left behind were a few pieces of fingernail, or a lock of hair as a memento."[80]
  4. In the Fourth Dhyāna, the only manifestation is that of complete purity and perfection.[79] At this stage one is still considered the stage of an ordinary mortal, and still far from the Nirvāṇa of the fully enlightened buddhas.[81] In the tradition of Chinese Buddhism, it is said that those individuals who have reached this stage sometimes choose to walk with their feet one inch above the earth, so they do not harm any living beings.[81]

In Vajrayāna traditionsEdit

B. Alan Wallace holds that modern Tibetan Buddhism lacks emphasis on achieving levels of concentration higher than access concentration.[82][83] According to Wallace, one possible explanation for this situation is that virtually all Tibetan Buddhist meditators seek to become enlightened through the use of tantric practices. These require the presence of sense desire and passion in one's consciousness, but jhāna effectively inhibits these phenomena.[82] While few Tibetan Buddhists, either inside or outside Tibet, devote themselves to the practice of concentration, Tibetan Buddhist literature does provide extensive instructions on it, and great Tibetan meditators of earlier times stressed its importance.[84]

Scientific studiesEdit

There has been little scientific study of these mental states. In 2008, an EEG study found "strong, significant, and consistent differences in specific brain regions when the meditator is in a jhana state compared to normal resting consciousness".[85] Tentative hypotheses on the neurological correlates have been proposed, but lack supporting evidence.[86]

ReferencesEdit

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Richard Shankman, The Experience of Samadhi - an in depth Exploration of Buddhist Meditation, Shambala publications 2008
  2. Should we come out of Jhana to practice vipassana?. Venerable Henepola Gunaratana.
  3. Jhana. Access to Insight. URL accessed on 2007-12-03.
  4. Ajahn Brahm, Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond. Wisdom Publications 2006, page 156.
  5. A Sketch of the Buddha's Life. Access to Insight. URL accessed on 2007-12-03.
  6. Henepola Gunaratana The Jhanas. Buddhist Publication Society. URL accessed on 2007-12-03.
  7. In the Pali Canon, the instruction on jhana is contained in suttas MN119, AN 1.16, MN118, MN4, MN19, MN36, MN43,MN45, MN64, MN65, MN66, MN76, MN77, MN78, MN79, MN85, MN105, MN107, MN108, MN119, MN125, MN138, MN152, AN2.2, AN3.6, AN3.7, AN3.8, DN1, DN2, MN94, MN100, MN101, MN111, MN112, MN122, MN139 & MN141. This list is not exhaustive.
  8. Alexander Wynne, The Origin of Buddhist Meditation. Routledge, 2007, page 73.
  9. Sister Vajira & Francis Story Maha-parinibbana Sutta. Buddhist Publication Society. URL accessed on 2007-12-03.
  10. DN 22
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 as stated by Buddha Gotama in the Anuppada Sutta, MN#111
  12. John J. Holder, Early Buddhist Discourses. Hackett Publishing Company, 2006, page xi.
  13. 13.0 13.1 Steven Sutcliffe, Religion: Empirical Studies. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2004, page 135.
  14. Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond: A Meditator's Handbook. (2006). Wisdom Publications. ISBN 0-86171-275-7.
  15. Nanamoli Bhikkhu, The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha. Wisdom Publications,1995, page 1070.
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 Nanamoli, Bhikkhu (trans.) (1995, ed. Bhikkhu Bodhi). The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha: A New Translation of the Majjhima Nikaya. Boston: Wisdom Publications. ISBN 0-86171-072-X.
  17. Chandima Wijebandara, Early Buddhism, Its Religious and Intellectual Milieu. Postgraduate Institute of Pali and Buddhist Studies, University of Kelaniya, 1993, page 22.
  18. Peter Harvey, An Introduction to Buddhism. Cambridge University Press, 1990, page 252.
  19. Thanissaro Bhikkhu's commentary on the Anuppada Sutta, MN#111
  20. 20.0 20.1 Ajahn Brahmavamso Deep Insight. BuddhaSasana. URL accessed on 2009-03-23.
  21. Samaññaphala Sutta.
  22. In the Suttapitaka, right concentration is often referred to as having five factors, with one-pointedness (ekaggatā) not being explicitly identified as a factor of jhana attainment (see, for instance, SN 28.1-4, AN 4.41, AN 5.28).
  23. For instance in AN 5.28, the Buddha states (Thanissaro, 1997.):
    When a monk has developed and pursued the five-factored noble right concentration in this way, then whichever of the six higher knowledges he turns his mind to know and realize, he can witness them for himself whenever there is an opening....
    If he wants, he wields manifold supranormal powers. Having been one he becomes many; having been many he becomes one. He appears. He vanishes. He goes unimpeded through walls, ramparts, and mountains as if through space. He dives in and out of the earth as if it were water. He walks on water without sinking as if it were dry land. Sitting crosslegged he flies through the air like a winged bird. With his hand he touches and strokes even the sun and moon, so mighty and powerful. He exercises influence with his body even as far as the Brahma worlds. He can witness this for himself whenever there is an opening ...
  24. Peter Harvey, Consciousness Mysticism in the Discourses of the Buddha. In Karel Werner, ed., The Yogi and the Mystic. Curzon Press 1989, page 95. He finds access concentration described at Digha Nikaya I, 110, among other places. "The situation at D I, 110, then, can be seen as one where the hearer of a discourse enters a state which, while not an actual jhana, could be bordering on it. As it is free from hindrances, it could be seen as 'access' concentration with a degree of wisdom." See also Peter Harvey, The Selfless Mind, page 170.
  25. B. Alan Wallace, The bridge of quiescence: experiencing Tibetan Buddhist meditation. Carus Publishing Company, 1998, page 92. Wallace translates both as "the first proximate meditative stabilization".
  26. Tse-fu Kuan, Mindfulness in Early Buddhism: New Approaches Through Psychology and Textual Analysis of Pali, Chinese and Sanskrit Sources. Routledge, 2008, pages 65-67.
  27. Venerable Sujivo, Access and Fixed Concentration. Vipassana Tribune, Vol 4 No 2, July 1996, Buddhist Wisdom Centre, Malaysia. Available here.
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  30. Alexander Wynne, The Origin of Buddhist Meditation. Routledge 2007, pages 41, 56.
  31. Alexander Wynne, The Origin of Buddhist Meditation. Routledge 2007, page 49.
  32. 32.0 32.1 Alexander Wynne, The Origin of Buddhist Meditation. Routledge 2007, page 42.
  33. Alexander Wynne, The Origin of Buddhist Meditation. Routledge 2007, page 39.
  34. Alexander Wynne, The Origin of Buddhist Meditation. Routledge 2007, page 41.
  35. Alexander Wynne, The Origin of Buddhist Meditation. Routledge 2007, page 35.
  36. M II.228.16 ff according to the PTS numbering.
  37. 37.0 37.1 Alexander Wynne, The Origin of Buddhist Meditation. Routledge 2007, page 43.
  38. Alexander Wynne, The Origin of Buddhist Meditation. Routledge 2007, page 44.
  39. Alexander Wynne, The Origin of Buddhist Meditation. Routledge 2007, page 99.
  40. Alexander Wynne, The Origin of Buddhist Meditation. Routledge 2007, page 44, see also 45-49.
  41. Alexander Wynne, The Origin of Buddhist Meditation. Routledge 2007, pages 44-45, see also Noa Ronkin, Early Buddhist Metaphysics. Routledge 2005, page 196.
  42. Alexander Wynne, The Origin of Buddhist Meditation. Routledge 2007, page 50.
  43. Alexander Wynne, The Origin of Buddhist Meditation. Routledge 2007, page 29.
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  48. Nanamoli Bhikkhu, The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha. Wisdom Publications,1995, page 1070.
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  64. Ajahn Sujato, A History of Mindfulness. Santipada Publications, page 98. Digital version available online: [3].
  65. Luk, Charles. The Secrets of Chinese Meditation. 1964. p. 11
  66. Nan, Huai-Chin. To Realize Enlightenment: Practice of the Cultivation Path. 1994. p. 1
  67. Peter N. Gregory, Traditions of Meditation in Chinese Buddhism. University of Hawaii Press, 1986, page 27.
  68. B. Alan Wallace, The Attention Revolution: Unlocking the Power of the Focused Mind. Wisdom Publications, 2006, page xii.[4]
  69. 69.0 69.1 69.2 69.3 Sheng Yen. Orthodox Chinese Buddhism. North Atlantic Books. 2007. p. 122
  70. 70.0 70.1 Hsuan Hua. The Chan Handbook. 2004. p. 85
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  74. Hsuan Hua. The Chan Handbook. 2004. pp. 85-86
  75. Hsuan Hua. The Chan Handbook. 2004. p. 44
  76. Nan, Huai-Chin. Working Toward Enlightenment: The Cultivation of Practice. 1993. p. 132
  77. Hsuan Hua. The Chan Handbook. 2004. p. 86
  78. Hsuan Hua. The Chan Handbook. 2004. pp. 86-87
  79. 79.0 79.1 79.2 Hsuan Hua. The Chan Handbook. 2004. p. 87
  80. 80.0 80.1 Nan, Huai-Chin. Working Toward Enlightenment: The Cultivation of Practice. 1993. p. 135
  81. 81.0 81.1 Hsuan Hua. The Chan Handbook. 2004. p. 88
  82. 82.0 82.1 B. Alan Wallace, The bridge of quiescence: experiencing Tibetan Buddhist meditation. Carus Publishing Company, 1998, pages 215-216.
  83. Study and Practice of Meditation: Tibetan Interpretations of the Concentrations and Formless Absorptions by Leah Zahler. Snow Lion Publications: 2009 pg 264-5
  84. B. Alan Wallace, The Attention Revolution: Unlocking the Power of the Focused Mind. Wisdom Publications, 2006, page xii.
  85. Hagerty et al 2008, "EEG Power and Coherence Analysis of an Expert Meditator in the Eight Jhanas" [5]
  86. Leigh Brasington 2010 "The Neurological Correlates of the Jhanas. A Tentative Hypothesis" [6]

External links Edit

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