Black Hole analogy to the four stages of Enlightenment

Dear reader,

Given my conditioning, and the resulting difficulty to have fate without some form of intellectual understanding, I was for a long time pondering why the Enlightened One teaches about four states of enlightenment (Stream-Entry, Once-Returning, Non-Returning and Fully Enlightened). For me, the understanding that a Black Hole works in a similar (numerical) manner aided in putting this pondering to rest, that is:

  • Stream-Entry can be compared to putting one foot into the Event-Horizon (this works pretty well, as when performing this action, there is no escape anymore)
  • Once-Returning then can be compared to being past the Event-Horizon
  • None-Returning then can be compared to putting one foot into the actual Black Hole
  • Full Enlightenment then can be compared to cease into the Black Hole

Note that I have been pondering about this topic for over a decade, and I have been pondering whether I should share my thoughts for another few more years. I was restraining myself - Seeing others comparing a Black Hole to Enlightenment itself - as I do not desire to draw that comparison. At the other end, if others, like me, find it difficult to accept the four stages of Enlightenment (and to a lesser extend the four Jhanas), then for them it might be helpful to intellectually use this analogy so to put that pondering to rest (instead of pondering over it for over a decade like me, and just experience more suffering).

May Suffering Cease,


Buddhism has a different epistemology than modern science, as its goal is freedom from suffering, which you already accept. That growth process has to be gradual so as a form of help is classified into stages most effectively understood by studying abandonment of the ten fetters. Practitioners like yourself are in a state of doubt, which is one of the first three fetters. These three are eliminated simultaneously with the removal of doubt, achieved by personal investigation:

It cannot be like that.
If you want to understand be something related to black hole… then I have one thing which might interest you.

Normal puthujana is like black hole. It desires and wants everything just like black hole has so much gravity which just wants to absorb & eat up everything. Puthujana(most of us) are always discontent, dissatisfied & unstable and hence suffers…just like black hole… Which is also discontent, dissatisfied & unstable.
So black hole is just kind of continuous movement… It can be related to having 3 poisons… Desire relatable mainly. And enlightenment means going beyond this world of desire/want meaning going beyond world of dissatisfaction of black holes towards there where there is ultimate happiness.

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Thanks for the reply.

Of course, it is not the same, I do understand that. I see that I emphasized too much on the states. I was having (intellectual) difficulty to understand at the time (roughly five years ago) why there are four stages. I was looking at natural phenomena which shared this in numerical sense, that is, can be divided into four stages.

The whole comparison would not make sense in any other sense, since a black hole is a natural / physical / material phenomenon.

In the end, the only thing that was of importance is that there was an acceptance that indeed four stages make sense. I do understand by now, that they fold beautifully on top of the Noble Eightfold Path, but at the time, I was hindered by trying to figure out the number “four”. And I agree, this pondering wasn’t helpful. Therefore, the only thing that I attempt to point out is that the “four” stages make sense, and hoping others don’t fall into the same trap I ended up in.

In any case,
May suffering cease,


I really like this comparison @sjoerdvanleent , it’s very beautiful. The jhanas have been described by Bhante Sujato as something like ‘the most natural’ experience one can feel.

The dhamma is often an exposition of natural laws. So it follows that analogies with natural processes such as those found in physics might be better than other analogies to be close to how the path works.


Yes I understood that sir! That’s nice.

TBH I have also tried to use black hole as an analogy to understand liberation and all. I find it more comfortable to see puthujana such as most of us as black holes. Well only understanding matters whatever analogy we use!

Anyways nice discussion! :grin:

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Thanks, I rather like physics analogies! The “past the point of no return” part of passing the event horizon is nice too. I also rather like the analogy in SN 12.68. More low tech with water and a well :slight_smile: and really only delineates between a sotapanna and an arahant, but still nice I think:

“Friend, though I have clearly seen as it really is with correct wisdom, ‘Nibbāna is the cessation of existence,’ I am not an arahant, one whose taints are destroyed. Suppose, friend, there was a well along a desert road, but it had neither a rope nor a bucket. Then a man would come along, oppressed and afflicted by the heat, tired, parched, and thirsty. He would look down into the well and the knowledge would occur to him, ‘There is water,’ but he would not be able to make bodily contact with it. So too, friend, though I have clearly seen as it really is with correct wisdom, ‘Nibbāna is the cessation of existence,’ I am not an arahant, one whose taints are destroyed.”