Do we know that we are in Jhana?

The way I interpret (understand) the following sutta, a person is in Jhana is not aware of that he is in Jhana. If that is the case s/he can’t hear sound etc.
How do you interpret this sutta?

Yet, friend, it did not occur to me, `I attained to the first higher state of mind or got up from the first higher state of the mind’.”>

The next line in the sutta explains: Sāriputta is free of the latent tendency (anusaya) of conceit, he is an arahant, and so, “I attained […]” does not occur to him. This is disconnected from whether or not one is aware they are in jhana.

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What if he was not an Arahant?

To one who is not an arahant, “I attain or attained [jhana]” might occur.

My understanding is that this does not occur for the attainment of neither-perception-nor-non-perception or for cessation-of-perception-and-feeling from within those attainments, but only upon review. I don’t know Pali, but in the suttas in that vagga in the link you provided, for the four jhanas and first three formless spheres, we have “I attain, or attained to the sphere of nothingness or got up from it” (which contains the possibility of the present tense) whereas we have “I was neither perceptive nor non-perceptive” and “I abode in the cessation of perceptions and feelings, or got up from it” (which are both strictly the past tense).

Also see AN 9.36:

“Thus, as far as the perception-attainments go, that is as far as gnosis-penetration goes. As for these two dimensions—the attainment of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception & the attainment of the cessation of feeling & perception—I tell you that they are to be rightly explained by those monks who are meditators, skilled in attaining, skilled in attaining & emerging, who have attained & emerged in dependence on them.”

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Does this mean Arahants always in a Jhana state?

No. (There are suttas describing arahants entering and emerging from jhanas, most notably the Buddha himself on his deathbed in DN 16.)

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Why do Arahants enter Jhana if they are already eliminated ten fetters?

Because it is pleasurable.

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Then why Arahants sleep?
Why can’t they just stay in Jhana?

It has the same meaning as “there is jhana but there is no one that enters jhana”. A person that enters jhana knows before and after that he is going to enter and has been in jhana state. What Ven. Sariputta was saying is that he does not have the view of a being that enters jhana, only the state of jhana itself exists, thus his

latent tendency of measuring conceitedly has been completely destroyed

Jhana is attained by closing the door of the 5 sense objects, thus one in jhana cannot hear sounds, see objects, etc. That is why jhana is not an effective tool for the development of panna.


It seems @char101 thinks otherwise.

What about if a person keep sound as the meditation object?

The sound is changed into nimitta in the upacara samadhi, so when someone is in the jhana state, it is no longer the sound that is the object of his consciousness. The same with anapanasati, it is no longer the in-out breath that is the object but a concept (pannati) that comes as a reflection of the meditation object.

Of course, this is LBT (late Buddhist texts). I think the Buddha does not taught the details of the development of concentration because this is usually taught gradually by a meditation teacher to the student. Too much theory in the beginning is not really beneficial.


Hi Nicolas

The translation linked is incorrect. All of the 9 Abidings share the same formula in the Pali. Try BB’s translation instead.

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Thanks, Sylvester! That part of the argument thus falls apart.

The instructions for breath meditation in LBT is extremely simple.

  1. Stay with the breath sensation near the mouth continuously.
  2. if light appears and becomes very stable, then you abandon breath sensation and switch to perception of light.

It only takes only a few pali words to describe those two steps.

  1. Why, with the disciples recording everything of value they could possibly remember of the buddha teaching iin this entire lifetime, fail to mention those instructions two simple instructions?
  2. Why would different EBT traditions not have commentaries that explained these simple instructions in the same way?
  3. Why would earlier Theravada, but after EBT, agree with the EBT interpretation and then you see later Theravada overturn the earlier Theravada commentary?

For example, the famous 4 jhana similes, AN 5.28.
EBT is very straightforward. kāya is anatomical body. The Theravada commentary even says the body is of “skin, flesh, blood.” Why does Buddhaghosa never mention this commentary and the jhāna similes in Vism.? He doesn’t want to draw extra attention that LBT is overriding EBT with new definitions.

If you look at the state of early Abhidhamma, and the state of the Ab in Vimuttimagga, it’s quite a different thing than the LBT Ab.

AN 5.28, DN 2, MN 39, jhāna simile commentary – physical!

AN-a 5, 1. paṭhamapaṇṇāsakaṃ, 3. pañcaṅgikavaggo, 8. pañcaṅgikasuttavaṇṇanā, para. 1 ⇒
(geoff shatz trans.)
imameva kāyan-ti imaṃ karajakāyaṃ.
“This very body:” this body born of action [i.e. born of kamma].
Abhisandetī-ti temeti sneheti,
“He drenches:” he moistens,
sabbattha pavatta-pīti-sukhaṃ karoti.
he extends joy and pleasure everywhere.
Parisandetī-ti samantato sandeti.
“Steeps:” to flow all over.
Paripūretī-ti vāyunā bhastaṃ viya pūreti.
“Fills:” like filling a bellows with air.
Parippharatī-ti samantato phusati.
“Permeates:” to touch all over.
sabbāvato kāyassāti assa bhikkhuno
“His whole body:” in this monk’s body,
sabbakoṭṭhāsavato kāyassa kiñci upādinnakasantatipavattiṭṭhāne
with all its parts, in the place where acquired [material] continuity occurs there is not even the smallest part consisting of
skin, flesh, and blood
aṇumattampi ṭhānaṃ paṭhamaj-jhāna-sukhena a-phuṭaṃ nāma na hoti.
that is not-permeated with the pleasure of the first-jhāna.
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Arahants need to eat, drink water, and sleep.
If their viriyia is strong enough, like Ven. Anuruddha, they can get sleep “credits” while in a seated meditation posture. For many decades as a monk, Ven. A never had to lie down. The last part of his life though, he did need 2 hours per day of lying down. Such is the 4 properties of rupa, they break down over time.

Arahants can be in jhana most of the time, some exceptions would if they’re talking (speech ceases in first jhana), they’re experiencing intense physical pain, they’re unconscious or sleeping, etc.

If it’s genuine EBT 4 jhānas, you know if you’re in jhāna if you want to know that. If you’re in a frozen state where S&S (sati and sampajano) is not possible, then you’re not in jhāna. Look at the standard definition of 3rd jhana:
pitya ca viraga,
upekkakho ca viharati.
sato ca sampajano rememberful/mindful and clearly-comprehending.

If you want to know exactly what S&S can do, look in AN 4.41, AN 6.29, SN 47.2 .