3rd to 4th jhana: what is the pain given up?

Hi. The sutta teaching about jhana says:

With the giving up of pleasure and pain, and the ending of former happiness and sadness, I entered and remained in the fourth absorption, without pleasure or pain, with pure equanimity and mindfulness.

Sukhassa ca pahānā dukkhassa ca pahānā pubbeva somanassadomanassānaṃ atthaṅgamā adukkhamasukhaṃ upekkhāsatipārisuddhiṃ catutthaṃ jhānaṃ upasampajja vihāsiṃ.

Two questions:

  1. Can feelings of pain & sadness occur/come into consciousness between the happiness of the 3rd and the equanimity of the 4th jhana? If not, why do the suttas refer to the above, when all other jhanas simply refer to the abandoning of the immediate prior jhana factors?

  2. Are there any suttas or non-sutta teachings that say defilements can underlie the 1st, 2nd & 3rd jhanas; where those defilements may come into consciousness between the 3rd and 4th jhana? Since ruparaga is the 6th fetter, only cut by Arahants, it seems feasible that lust or delight for jhana can underlie the pleasant feelings (piti & sukha) of the first three jhanas.

Thank you :slightly_smiling_face:

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I do recall a sutta (can’t quite recall where) I read a while back where Bhikkhu Bodhi footnote seemed a little bit puzzled by a similar issue too (though I think a commentarial explanation was mentioned).

Was thinking of SN48.40. Am not sure how relevant it is to your question, but this says the pain faculty ceases 1st jhana, the displeasure faculty ceases in the 2nd jhana,
the pleasure faculty ceases in the 3rd jhana, the joy faculty ceases in the 4th jhana and the equanimity faculty ceases in the cessation feeling & perception.
It also has similar wording to your quote in there too.

Bodhi seems a bit puzzled at some aspects of this, particularly at the ceasing of the displeasure faculty in 2nd jhana. His footnote says:

This seems difficult to square with the usual jhana formula, which indicates that the first jhana is already free from all unwholesome states, including domanassa. Spk: The faculty of displeasure is abandoned in the access to the second jhana but arises again when there is bodily fatigue and mental strain on account of thought and examination. But in the second jhana, which is devoid of thought and examination, it does not arise at all.

The Bodhi footnote about the ceasing of “pleasure faculty” in the third jhana:

The pleasure faculty (sukhindriya) here is bodily pleasant feeling, not the happiness (also called sukha) the meditator is said to “experience with the body” in the third jhana. The latter sukha is actually mental happiness, identical with somanassa. Spk: The pleasure faculty is abandoned already in the access to the third jhana, but it may arise when the body is touched by the sublime physical phenomena originating from rapture; but it does not arise in the third jhana itself, for there the rapture that is a condition for bodily pleasure has entirely ceased.


I take this passage to be emphasizing the fourth jhāna’s freedom from the entire spectrum of pleasure and pain, both physical and mental. I think this is why the description is so particular and thorough, so as to make it very clear that all pleasure and pain have ceased in this state. I don’t think it’s meant to imply that pain or sadness had arisen just prior to the fourth jhāna. Since fourth jhāna is the culmination of the jhāna progression, perhaps it serves also as a recap of what has been abandoned at the end of this progression.

This is an interesting question. I don’t think defilements can be present when one is dwelling in a jhāna. There are a couple of passages that seem to support this:

These are the four kinds of indulgence in pleasure which, when developed and cultivated, lead solely to disillusionment, dispassion, cessation, peace, insight, awakening, and extinguishment. - DN 29

I thought: ‘Why am I afraid of that pleasure that has nothing to do with sensual pleasures and unwholesome states?’ I thought: ‘I am not afraid of that pleasure since it has nothing to do with sensual pleasures and unwholesome states.’ - MN 36

Take a mendicant who, quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unskillful qualities, enters and remains in the first absorption … second absorption … third absorption … fourth absorption.

This is called the pleasure of renunciation, the pleasure of seclusion, the pleasure of peace, the pleasure of awakening. Such pleasure should be cultivated and developed, and should not be feared, I say. -MN 66

At the same time, though, MN 139 describes the possibility of clinging to the pleasure of jhāna and getting stuck:

And how is their consciousness stuck internally? Take a mendicant who, quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unskillful qualities, enters and remains in the first absorption, which has the rapture and bliss born of seclusion, while placing the mind and keeping it connected. Their consciousness follows after that rapture and bliss born of seclusion, tied, attached, and fettered to gratification in that rapture and bliss born of seclusion. So their mind is said to be stuck internally.

The sutta goes on to include the other jhānas, including the fourth. It’s interesting, though, that this passage specifies that one is “secluded from unskillful qualities” (presumably the defilements) and yet is attached and fettered to the pleasure of jhāna.



With metta

Thank you for this. SN 48.40 appears most relevant. The phrase makes perfect sense in its context.

MN 137 refers to the six kinds of renunciate sadness (domanassāni), which includes: ‘Oh, when will I enter and remain in the same dimension that the noble ones enter and remain in today?’ However, this said, it is the 3rd jhana (rather than the 2nd jhana) that is: “the bliss of which the noble ones declare, ‘Equanimous and mindful, one meditates in bliss.’

Thank you Christopher. After reviewing SN 48.40, I tend to agree with your assessment above.

I think the phrase: “secluded from unskillful qualities” refers to the five hindrances prior to reaching the 1st jhana. But once the 1st jhana is reached, the new experience of rapture & happiness could cause the arising of lust towards the jhana. I think the sutta quotes provided from MN 36, DN 29, etc, do not eliminate the possibility of lust for jhana (ruparaga) occurring.

Regards :slightly_smiling_face:


I agree with you that this phrase covers the five hindrances. But I think it also covers any other akusala state, which is why the delight and pleasure of seclusion arises — because the mind has been temporarily purified from the akusala. MN 68 seems to support this by listing the five hindrances and adding a couple of other akusala states:

Take someone who does achieve the rapture and bliss that are secluded from sensual pleasures and unskillful qualities, or something even more peaceful than that. Their mind is not occupied by desire, ill will, dullness and drowsiness, restlessness and remorse, doubt, discontent, and sloth.

MN 64 also adds “seclusion from attachments” to the akusala list, though it could be argued that this is covered by the first hindrance.

That seems to be what MN 139 is describing (quoted in my previous post), doesn’t it?

Just to throw another wrinkle in, AN 5.176 says that the pleasure and happiness connected with the unskillful isn’t present in someone in jhāna (bold added by me):

At a time when a noble disciple enters and dwells in the rapture of seclusion, five things aren’t present in him. The pain and sadness connected with sensual pleasures. The pleasure and happiness connected with sensual pleasures. The pain and sadness connected with the unskillful. The pleasure and happiness connected with the unskillful. The pain and sadness connected with the skillful. At a time when a noble disciple enters and dwells in the rapture of seclusion, these five things aren’t present in him.

Considering that the Buddha said there is nothing to fear from the pleasure of the jhānas, that the suttas strongly imply that there are no unwholesome states present in the jhānas, yet the Buddha allows that one can get “internally stuck” by being attached to the pleasure of the jhānas — does it then follow that this kind of attachment, while clearly not recommended, is not considered unwholesome (akusala) by the Buddha?