AN 9.42 : is the aim of the path is to awaken by 'seeing with wisdom' the 'cessation of perception and feeling'?

AN 9.42 talks of the ‘five kinds of sensual stimulation’ as ‘confinement’. It then lists the 4 jhānas a 4 immaterial attainments as ‘openings amid confinement in a qualified sense’. But the 9th attainment is not in a qualified sense:

Furthermore, take a mendicant who, going totally beyond the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception, enters and remains in the cessation of perception and feeling. And, having seen with wisdom, their defilements come to an end.

Puna caparaṃ, āvuso, bhikkhu sabbaso nevasaññānāsaññāyatanaṃ samatikkamma saññāvedayitanirodhaṃ upasampajja viharati, paññāya cassa disvā āsavā parikkhīṇā honti.

This seems to be saying that enlightenment is gained by ‘seeing with wisdom’ the ‘cessation of perception and feeling’.

Now in the previous sutta, AN 9.41, we have the Buddha talking about the drawbacks of sensual pleasures, and his step by step training through meditative states with progressively fewer drawbacks. All the way up through those same 8 attainments, until he gets to the 9th.

And so, going totally beyond the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception, I was entering and remaining in the cessation of perception and feeling. And, having seen with wisdom, my defilements were ended.

So kho ahaṃ, ānanda, sabbaso nevasaññānāsaññāyatanaṃ samatikkamma saññāvedayitanirodhaṃ upasampajja viharāmi, paññāya ca me disvā āsavā parikkhayaṃ agamaṃsu.

As long as I hadn’t entered into and withdrawn from these nine progressive meditative attainments in both forward and reverse order, I didn’t announce my supreme perfect awakening in this world with its gods, Māras, and Brahmās, this population with its ascetics and brahmins, its gods and humans.

Yāvakīvañcāhaṃ, ānanda, imā nava anupubbavihārasamāpattiyo na evaṃ anulomapaṭilomaṃ samāpajjimpi vuṭṭhahimpi, neva tāvāhaṃ, ānanda, sadevake loke samārake sabrahmake sassamaṇabrāhmaṇiyā pajāya sadevamanussāya ‘anuttaraṃ sammāsambodhiṃ abhisambuddho’ti paccaññāsiṃ.

Again, his enlightenment seems to have ben dependent on ‘seeing with wisdom’ the 9th attainment, for which he needed to go through the previous 8.

I am not saying this is the only view in the suttas. But it does seem to be a view. So, how widespread is this idea that enlightenment is dependent on ‘seeing with wisdom’ ‘the cessation of perception and feeling’? And, could this be the original teaching of the Buddha?


One side of the coin of enlightenment is removal of craving, aversion and delusion. This gives rise to the other side of the coin, allowing one to go beyond the 8th jhana into cessation of perception and feeling (sanna vedaita nirodha), in those capable of immaterial attainment by then. Further insight, seeing the illusion of the senses creating the world like a mirage allows complete detaching in to Nibbana- this is the meditative non-experience of Nibbana.

Without the detachment arising from insight it’s not possible to experience these high meditative attainments, though some states like asanna samadhi states can mimic it.

See AN9.34 ‘why is Nibbana pleasant when nothing is experienced’?

With metta


There is this scenario, what if i were to drive a car, exit one station, going towards the next station, prior to reaching this next station, i engage a reverse gear; but before reaching the first station, there is a NO entry sign and so happens that the petrol is completely used up. (not a good one, but thats is the best i can come out with)

Imagine if the sequential progress from “Infinitude of Space” to “cessation” is a reverse description of reality phenomenal (just in case it is); or in other word, a regression process, in order to maintain the sequels of description in AN 9.42, what to add in in between the paragraphs?

I would add in Jhana.
Any other way round? Any suggestion?

To my understanding, kamma is linear ( i hope my previous post not the one that cause confusion @mpac , kamma is not what i am looking into for now )

When i wrote adding in Jhana, it might not actually means much for one that may regards the attainment of “Infinitude of Space” to “cessation” as jhana.
As i said, the simile is not a good one, might be painting a picture not my actual meaning; just meant to be a question. It is nice that AN 9.42 is brought up.

The Jhana that i meant is Jhana 4, in between all the paragraphs from “Infinitude of Space” to “Cessation”.

The sutta presented in this mode:
Sense Base
J1, J2, J3, J4
Infinitude of Space
infinitude of Consciousness
Neither Perception Nor Non-perception

From the sequels, if i were to draw a curve in term of subtle-ness, we have a downward slope, a complete negative, a -ve derivatives, now that would be strange. If this is the sequence of reality, then upon one enter Jhana 4, the push will force a one way trip to cessation. How vinnana is going to work would be even more inconceivable. I wander if live would be possible?

Here is the sequence that i see.
Sense Base + B(reverse manner, ie b5,b4,b3,b2,b1); I will ignore this sequence of coarse ‘Infinitude of Space’ to ‘cessation’, my concern is only validating AN 9.42

Reality phenomenal is either one of J1 to J4 but J4 is preferred, upon exit passes thru (B), back to ( C ). What we have is a ‘V’ curve, that is the basic reason why one come back from J1 to J4, and of course b1 to b5, exception on b1 at death.

(B) is a very subtle and super fast process that is mostly goes undetected, even for a person that has attain Jhana 1, though it could but likely to go undetected. AN9.42 after J4 is rather a “Selective Process”.

b5 is less subtle compare to b4, thus upon exit J4, passes by b1 to b4, enter into b5. exit

Enter J4, exit J4, passes by b1 to b3, enter b4, exit, ignore b5

Enter J4, exit J4, passes by b1 to b2, enter b3, exit, ignore b4 & b5

Enter J4, exit J4, passes by b1, enter b2, exit, ignore b3 to b5

Enter J4, exit J4, enter b1

The process is actually a circle.
Sense Base → Coarse b5–> b4 → b3 (opening) → perception of nimitta → b1 of 5 Sense Base → Jhana 1 to 4
From J1-4 --> b1 --> b2 --> b3 --> b4 --> b5 --> back to Sense Base

As far as i see it, AN9.42 is a workable model.

Hi again

I think the Buddha’s teaching has to be understood/read in the context of the First Noble Truth.

Unfortunately, taking things on surface value, without proper investigation, imo and in my experience for many years, the First Noble Truth is interpreted only based on the first section disregarding the summary sentence. So it is taken as talking about physical birth, aging and death and that is summarised as ‘life’. So, taking that approach, one gets, ‘life is (the five aggregates are) suffering’.

But the summary sentence says, the five clung-to-aggregates are suffering. I believe that can accurately be paraphrased as ‘life with clinging is suffering’.

So when the Buddha is talking about the cessation of perception (saññā, my preferred translation is ideation or conception) and feeling (vedanā, my preferred translation is sensation), then, read in context of the First Noble Truth, it would have to be, to me, clung-to perception and clung-to feeling.

I think this omission of clinging, to me, the essential part of suffering, is widespread in the Buddhist world and can be often seen in EBTs.

best wishes


I am not sure I follow. An arahant does not cling. So are you saying they are constantly in ‘the cessation of perception and feeling’? If so, how would you explain that this seems to be presented specifically as a state of deep meditation while someone is sitting down after having gone through the 8 other attainments (jhāna etc.)?

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Hi Senryu

If it is presented as an enlightened state, especially the goal, then I would have to read it in context of the Four Noble Truths, especially the first and understand it to mean ‘cessation of clung-to perception and feeling’ and that would be, as you say, something an Arahant would experience all the time. Well spotted.

Placing it after the Formless attainments might not mean that it would (only) be developed after them, but that it is higher than or superior to them, the highest state or attainment. This might be seen in MN59: SuttaCentral

best wishes

But is that the way you read it? And if so, do you have any textual basis for such a view?

Although it does imply that to be the case.

That shows it is higher/superior, but I can see no suggestion there that it is not attained in sequence, nor that it is as you describe. You seem to be saying that one perceives feeling and vedana while in the state of ‘the cessation of perception and feeling’, right? It would make the name nonsensical in my opinion. And the sutta you just quoted seems to back up the idea that the name is accurate to the state, i.e. no vedana (they discuss this). I am finding it hard to follow your logic.

Yes. Only, ‘all I have taught is suffering and it’s end’.

Only if you accept the traditional idea that all the attainments spoken of are sequential.

I can see that and I think you make a good logical argument, but I do not take refuge in logic. It can only take us so far, imo.

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You are giving ‘all I have taught is suffering and it’s end’ as your textual support for the claim that the state known as ‘the cessation of perception and feeling’ given in the list along with the 4 jhānas and 4 immaterial attainments, is a state in which you are in fact perceiving perception and feeling (just not clinging to them)?

I genuinely cannot see how your reference supports your claim at all. Even if the Buddha had said ‘all I have taught is suffering and it’s end’, there is no logical step which leads from that to your conclusion.

There is no reason I can see, that a state in which there is no perception and feeling, should be excluded from teachings on suffering and its end. So far as the state is presented in the teachings, it seems to be a very very useful state for work on the path, and, there is no reason why we should assume that it would not be if we were to take it to mean what it says, rather than your suggestion.

On top of that, we should consider this idea of ‘all I have taught is suffering and it’s end’. Let’s see what Bodhi has to say about it:

One statement popularly ascribed to the Buddha is quoted so often that it has become virtually an axiom of modern Buddhism. The statement appears in several formulations, the broadest of which runs: “I teach only suffering and the cessation of suffering.” A variant reads: “I teach only two things: suffering and the end of suffering.” And another variant makes the point even more sharply: “I teach one thing and one thing only: suffering and the end of suffering.”

Surprise, surprise! Nowhere in the Pali canon does the Buddha himself actually say this. The statement ascribed to him is not altogether without a basis in the canon, but the way the original is commonly expressed represents a translation error rooted in a grammatical misunderstanding. The sentence we do find reads in Pali: pubbe c’aham bhikkhave etarahi ca dukkhan c’eva pannapemi, dukkhassa ca nirodham. Before I get to the grammatical error, I should point out that, contrary to what we might expect, the sentence in no way serves as a hallmark of the Buddha’s teaching in its entirety. An online search through the thousands of pages of Buddhist scriptures turns up the sentence only twice. And the two places in which it occurs make it plain that the Buddha did not mean to say he teaches only suffering and its cessation and nothing else. Rather, he was saying something quite different, which on each occasion is determined by the context.
With a proper understanding of the c’eva . . . ca construction, the sentence about the Buddha’s teaching is more correctly translated: “In the past, monks, and also now, I teach suffering and the cessation of suffering.” There is no “only” in the sentence, and thus the purport of the words is not categorically exclusive. In each of the passages in which the statement is made, it occurs in a specific context that brings out the intended meaning. In Majjhima Nikaya 22 it is a rejoinder to the charge, raised by hostile ascetics and brahmins, that the Buddha teaches the annihilation of a truly existent being. In Samyutta Nikaya 22.86 it explains the Buddha’s refusal to take a stand in the debates concerning the fate of an enlightened person after death. In both instances, the sentence shifts attention away from speculative hypotheses toward a practical project, but in neither case does it tie the teaching down to an exclusive area of concern.

In thousands of suttas the Buddha teaches other things besides “suffering and its cessation.” For instance, in a series of dialogues in the Samyutta Nikaya monks ask him how one can be reborn as a naga, a garuda, or a gan-dhabba—that is, as a celestial dragon, a celestial eagle, or a fragrance deity—and the Buddha doesn’t wave the questions aside because they aren’t concerned with suffering and its cessation; rather, he gives straightforward answers based on the law of karma. The Anguttara Nikaya is particularly rich in suttas touching on a wide range of practical topics, from types of marriages to planning the household budget. When the Buddha speaks, it is said, he always intends his words to lead to the welfare and happiness of the hearers. But his words are not always tied to the theme of “suffering and its cessation.” To insist on confining them to this topic is to drastically narrow the range of the dharma.

From I Teach Only Suffering and the End of Suffering

I would say that logic is important here. You have made your own view on the basis of your cognitive (intellectual) functioning. One of the logical steps you have made explicit is taking as textual support for your view, ‘all I have taught is suffering and it’s end’. Logic can be very useful to check if your logic is viable. You see, you might not want to take refuge in logic, but you are nevertheless using it to build your views. Similarly with the way you have attempted to connect it the the 4 Noble Truths.

So it is worth considering what ‘all I have taught is suffering and it’s end’ actually says, in a proper translation. And also considering the other various logical bases and consequences of your view, and whether your resultant view then lies in logical conflict with the body of teachings in which you do have faith.

a very nice logical reply!

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to address this another way:

AN 9.42 : is the aim of the path is to awaken by ‘seeing with wisdom’ the ‘cessation of perception and feeling’?

I could say, ‘yes, I believe so’. The distinction being ‘seeing with wisdom’, which for me is the same as saying ‘seeing without clinging’.

If you could explain to me how you see ‘seeing with wisdom the cessation of perception and feeling’ as an immediate and timeless (sandiṭṭhiko, akāliko) experience, without changing the meaning of seeing into recollecting or remembering and how one could see, without perception and feeling. I would find that interesting.

I’d like to offer this text for your reflection, in an attempt to share my take on this:
That paragraph on, the Buddha says the 5 aggregates (my translations: form, sensation, idea, emotion, consciousness) are ‘exterminated, and unable to arise in the future’. ‘Exterminated’ is for me referring to the present (that is, for the Buddha, from the time of full enlightenment, under the Bodhi Tree). So, one could ask, did the Buddha have form…, sitting in front of Vacchagotta, or did he not?

As you see from the text, the Buddha qualifies it, saying ‘any form by which a Realized One might be described’. So this limits the scope, not saying ‘all form’. To me, the scope is limited to ‘clung-to form’, in line with the First Noble Truth summary sentence, ‘the five clung-to aggregates are suffering’ and what he has taught is ‘suffering (the 5 clung-to aggregates) and it’s ending’.

So for me, the answer is, ‘yes the Buddha had non-clung-to form… from the time of full enlightenment’ all clung-to form… had ceased (had been exterminated) and he could see with wisdom the cessation of clung-to form, sensation, idea (AKA feeling, perception), emotion and consciousness.

best wishes