Do the Six Recollections result in Jhana or Nibbana?

Hello all and may you be well,

The Six Recollections of the Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha, Virtue, Generosity and Deva’s Qualities is of some misunderstanding it seems in the Suttas. AN 11.11-13 paint a nice little activity for householders to cultivate, while AN 6.26 goes so far as to call it a means for ending suffering, similar language for resulting in Nibbana comes from AN 1.296.

I’ve had a wonderful success from cultivating the six throughout my day and wanted some feedback on if this practice leads to Jhanas, Stream-entry or anything else?


I can’t offer a definitive answer based on the early discourses, but I can offer a few thoughts and suttas based on a little personal research project I recently did:

Recollecting the Buddha, the Dhamma, the Saṅgha, one’s generosity, one’s virtue, and the qualities of the devas can cleanse the mind of defilements and make it clear, calm, and inspired, leading to joy and pleasure. These recollections pertain to the “higher mind”, and a noble disciple dwelling in them dwells with a measureless mind.


AN 3.70 at AN I 206: When one recollects the Buddha, Dhamma, Saṅgha, one’s sīla, and the devas, the mind becomes bright/clear/calm/inspired (pasīdati), joy (pāmojja) arises, and the kilesas are abandoned.

AN 5.179 at AN III 211: Having absolute confidence in the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Saṅgha and having flawless sīla are four pleasant dwellings pertaining to the higher mind (ābhicetasikā) that one attains for the purification of an impure mind.

AN 6.25 at AN III 312: When a noble disciple undertakes the six recollections, at that time one escapes from lust, hatred, and delusion (rāga, dosa, moha) and the mind becomes straight.

AN 6.26 at AN III 314: Ven. Mahākaccāna says that the six recollections are for the purification of beings, the overcoming of sorrow and crying, the ending of pain and dejection, the achievement of the method, and the realization of nibbāna. When a noble disciple recollects this way, their mind is like space: vast, exalted, measureless, without hostility and without ill will.

At least one discourse seems to describe reflecting on certain thoughts leading to jhāna. This may imply that other kusala reflections, such as the six recollections, could also be used as the “samādhinimitta” for the jhānas.


AN 8.30 at AN IV 228: The Buddha teaches Anuruddha that when one reflects on the eight thoughts of a great person, one can enter and dwell in the jhānas as much as one wishes.


Thanks, I knew of all those already haha. This maybe should been listed as a Discussion rather than question, given the lack of online forums for the six recollections. Thanks again, I look forward to more answers.


I changed it for you.
To me, if one develops these recollections eventually the path gains the momentum required for all eight factors to flourish . In other words, eventually one gains confidence enough to take on robes and, with time, attain cessation of Nibbana , be it this life or a next one.



If it is useful at all for comparative analysis, this is a translation by Paul Harrison of EA 3.1 (not sure what the title of the individual text is though):

Thus have I heard. At one time the Buddha resided at the ārāma of Anāthapiṇḍada in the Jetavana at Śrāvastī. At that time the Lord addressed the bhikṣus: ‘You should practice one dharma, you should propagate one dharma, and when you have practiced one dharma you shall have renown, achieve the great fruit, attain all good, acquire the taste of nectar [amṛta], and reach the station of the unconditioned; then you shall achieve magic power, eliminate distractions of thought, attain the fruit of the śramaṇa, and arrive at Nirvāṇa. What is the one dharma? Namely, buddhānusmṛti.’

The Buddha addressed the bhikṣus: ‘How does one practice buddhānusmṛti, so that one then has renown, achieves the great fruit, […] and arrives at Nirvāṇa?’

[The bhikṣus entreat the Buddha to explain how.]

The Lord said: ‘A bhikṣu correct in body and correct in mind sits crosslegged and focuses his thought in front of him. Without entertaining any other thought he earnestly calls to mind [anusmṛ-] the Buddha. He contemplates the image of the Tathāgata without taking his eyes off it. Not taking his eyes off it he then calls to mind the qualities of the Tathāgata – the Tathāgata’s body made of vajra, endowed with the ten Powers [bala], and by virtue of the four Assurances [vaiśāradya] intrepid in assemblies; the Tathāgata’s countenance, upright and peerless, so that one never tires of beholding it; his perfection of the moral qualities [śīla] resembling vajra in indestructibility, like vaiḍūrya in flawless purity; the Tathāgata’s samādhis never diminishing, calm, ever tranquil, without any extraneous thought, having stilled arrogance, brutality, and the emotions, having eliminated thoughts of desire, of anger, of delusion, apprehension, and all meshes of the net; the Tathāgata’s body of wisdom [prajñā], its knowledge unlimited and unobstructed; the Tathāgata’s body perfected in liberation [vimukti], done with all destinies and no longer subject to rebirth with such words as: “I must again plunge into Saṃsāra!”; the Tathāgata’s body, a city of the knowledge and vision of liberation [vimukti-jñāna-darśana], knowing the faculties of others and whether or not they shall be liberated, whether, dying here, being reborn there, they shall go on revolving in Saṃsāra until Saṃsāra ends, knowing them all, those who possess liberation and those who do not.’

‘This is the practice of buddhānusmṛti, by which one has renown, achieves the great fruit, […] and arrives at Nirvāṇa. Therefore, bhikṣus, you should always meditate on, and never depart from, buddhānusmṛti; then you shall acquire these goodly qualities. Thus, bhikṣus, should you undertake this training.’

At that time the bhikṣus, hearing what the Buddha had expounded, accepted it with rejoicing.

I don’t think there is a Pali parallel here, and I think (someone may correct me if I’m wrong), the orthodox exegesis of buddhanusmrti in Theravada is that it cannot result in jhana. I believe the Visuddhimagga asserts this practice only can result in upacara samadhi, but I’m not sure on this as it isn’t something I study myself.


It’s all a matter of perspective. If it eventually gives you the confidence and impetus to really take on the path with all its factors, then yes, it is a very crucial enabling step into the journey towards awakening. :anjal:


AN 6.10 enumerates a gradual sequence going from each of these Six Recollections into samadhi and stream entry. Within the major frameworks of early Buddhism, the jhanas are grouped with samadhi.

Interestingly, the Ekottarika Agama has instead ten types of mindfulness: mindfulness of the Buddha 念佛, mindfulness of the Dharma 念法, mindfulness of the Samgha 念比丘僧, mindfulness of discipline 念戒, mindfulness of giving 念施, mindfulness of devas 念天, mindfulness of resting 念休息, mindfulness of anapana 念安般, mindfulness of the body 念身, and mindfulness of death 念死.


The key sutta is SN 47.10 where directed meditation means the use of subsidiary themes to settle or activate the mind in preliminary meditation. The six recollections and other themes such as impermanence play the main role in this depending if the state of mind is over-agitated or over relaxed, as instructed in the third tetrad and third foundation. This is best illustrated in MN 62, where a group of these themes (not including the six recollections) precede the breath which is the main meditation subject. AN 11.13 instructs how meditation on these themes results in a concentrated mind- state, that is their aim. The fact of who these suttas are delivered to, Ananda, the son of the Buddha, and a layperson, is also indicative of the preliminary level of the subject matter. For some learners this ‘preliminary’ meditation exercise in correcting the mind-state can form the main practice.


This is much more explicit in a Vinaya passage where Visakha, Migara’s mother, asks the Buddha for eight favors, eight things she would like to regularly donate to the monastics. The Buddha asks why she wants this:

“But, Visākhā, what benefit do you see that you ask me for these eight favors?”
“Monks who have completed the rainy-season residence in the various districts will come to Sāvatthī to visit the Buddha. If a monk has died, they will ask you about his destination, and you will tell them whether he’s reached the fruit of stream-entry, the fruit of once-returning, the fruit of non-returning, or perfection. I’ll then ask those monks whether that dead monk had previously visited Sāvatthī.
If they say he had, I may conclude, ‘No doubt that Venerable will have enjoyed a rainy-season robe supplied by me; or he will have enjoyed a meal for newly arrived monks, a meal for departing monks, a meal for sick monks, a meal for those nursing the sick, medicines, or a regular supply of rice porridge—all given by me.’ When I recall that, I will feel glad. The gladness will give rise to joy, and the mental joy will make my body tranquil. When my body is tranquil, I will feel bliss. And when I feel bliss, my mind will be stilled. In this way I will develop the spiritual faculties, the spiritual powers, and the factors of awakening. It’s because of this benefit that I ask for these eight favors.”
“Well said, Visākhā. It’s good that you ask me for these eight favors for the sake of this benefit. I grant you these eight favors.”
(Khandhaka 8, translation by Ajahn Brahmali)

I am really wondering, as AN 3.70 is addressed to Visakha who is one of the most generous people depicted in the Buddhist canon, why in this Sutta generosity is left out from the list of recollections. :thinking:


That’s a great point!

It’s really odd, especially given how powerful the recollection of generosity is for her, as shown in the Vinaya passage you cited. It’s that way in the Chinese parallel too. Ven. Bodhi’s footnote says:

For some reason, the sixth recollection, of generosity (cāgānussati), is omitted. The omission would seem, at first blush, to result from a fault in transmission. However, the Chinese parallel, MĀ 202 (at T I 770a16–773a1), also lacks this recollection, which suggests that the omission—whether accidental or deliberate—preceded the split between the Vibhajjavādins (the ancestors of the Theravāda) and the Sarvāstivādins. Interestingly, in MĀ 202 the eight precepts precede the five recollections, while the Pāli has the sets in reverse. The sequence of the Chinese version is more consistent with other Buddhist teachings, which treat virtuous conduct as the basis for meditation.


The six recollections offer an opportunity for freedom, not a guarantee:

AN5.26:1.1: “Mendicants, there are these five opportunities for freedom. If a mendicant stays diligent, keen, and resolute at these times, their mind is freed, their defilements are ended, and they arrive at the supreme sanctuary.
AN5.26:2.1: What five?
AN5.26:2.2: Firstly, the Teacher or a respected spiritual companion teaches Dhamma to a mendicant.
AN5.26:2.3: That mendicant feels inspired by the meaning and the teaching in that Dhamma, no matter how the Teacher or a respected spiritual companion teaches it.
AN5.26:2.4: Feeling inspired, joy springs up.
AN5.26:2.5: Being joyful, rapture springs up.
AN5.26:2.6: When the mind is full of rapture, the body becomes tranquil.
AN5.26:2.7: When the body is tranquil, one feels bliss.
AN5.26:2.8: And when blissful, the mind becomes immersed in samādhi.

We gotta work for it…

AN5.26:2.9: This is the first opportunity for freedom. If a mendicant stays diligent, keen, and resolute at this time, their mind is freed, their defilements are ended, and they arrive at the supreme sanctuary.


Thank you all for your replies. It’s helped me make an informed decision on whether to continue the practice or not. Thank you all!

The transition between dana based practice and recognition of impermanence marks the division between the way to fortunate rebirth and entry to the path to liberation. The superior value of contemplation of impermanence compared with dana:

“If one were to develop even for just a finger-snap the perception of inconstancy, that would be more fruitful than the gift, the great gift, that Velāma the brahman gave, and [in addition to that] if one were to feed one person… 100 people consummate in view, and were to feed one once-returner… 100 once-returners, and were to feed one non-returner… 100 non-returners, and were to feed one arahant… 100 arahants, and were to feed one Private Buddha… 100 Private Buddhas, and were to feed a Tathagata — a worthy one, rightly self-awakened — and were to feed a community of monks headed by the Buddha, and were to have a dwelling built and dedicated to the Community of the four directions, and with a confident mind were to go to the Buddha, Dhamma, & Sangha for refuge, and with a confident mind were to undertake the training rules — refraining from taking life, refraining from taking what is not given, refraining from illicit sex, refraining from lying, refraining from distilled & fermented drinks that cause heedlessness — and were to develop even just one whiff of a heart of good will.”—AN 9.20

Mahānāma, when a noble disciple has reached the fruit and understood the instructions they frequently practice this kind of meditation.

Firstly, a noble disciple recollects the Realized One: ‘That Blessed One is perfected, a fully awakened Buddha, AN6.10

It seems the stream entrants due their massive faith in the triple gem are able to do theses meditations easily.


@Mat! It’s delightful to see you again. :smiley:


Its nice to be back!