EBTs which indicate the experience of the body disappears while meditating?

I don’t think that the differences in my own preferred rendering would have any bearing on this thread’s topic. For a technical translation I’d prefer something that more or less replicates the form of the Pali:

‘I shall inhale experiencing pīti’, thus he trains.
‘I shall exhale experiencing pīti’, thus he trains.
‘I shall inhale experiencing sukha’, thus he trains.
‘I shall exhale experiencing sukha’, thus he trains.


And discussions of this sort almost invariably invoke notions of the “physical body”, which, strictly speaking, is not experienced directly. The modern notion ties in with the scientific view, which seeks the objective, that which is observed only externally. The body as “mine” is experienced phenomenologically – as proprioceptive phenomena presented to the mind.

Arguably, the Buddha speaks strictly of what appears in the mind, in the individual’s direct experience, which is where dukkha arises, and where it can be escaped from. In fact notions like the 5 khandha-s and the 4 Mahābhūta as perceptual modes represent what could be called a phenomenological analysis – they can be seen as byproducts of deeply investigating the details of mental processes.


Yes Bhante, as I stated earlier, Vism. and late Abhidhamma redefine jhana and kaya by brute force. The Abhidhamma passage you quoted comes from Abhidhamma pitaka, not the suttas, and not EBT (which is what OP @alaber is presumably looking for).

Ajahn Brahm and B. Sujato are entitled to believe whatever they want as far as what ‘body’ actually means, but as a translator and one of the leading figures of EBT, B. Sujato has a responsibility to translate ‘kaya’ in an unbiased way.

Bhante, could you comment on the appropriateness of B. Sujato’s 3rd jhana translation as “he personally experiences”? It sure looks like he’s trying to hide the body/kaya and make it disappear. Whereas the 4th jhana formula’s usage of

sukha, dukkha, somanassa, domanassa, upekkha, a-dukkham-asukham

makes it exceedingly clear that the Buddha is talking about all 5 types of vedana/feelings, so that when he’s referring to 3rd jhana’s “sukham ca kayena patisamvedeti”, he’s differentiating it from the other type of sukha vedana, somanassa.

Bhante @Sujato ’ s translation removes that important distinction. And what does “he personally experiences” 3rd jhana supposed to tell us? It’s not someone else experiencing the jhana? It’s not the monastery cat that’s experiencing 3rd jhana?


Another ‘kāya’ passage that might have some bearing on this discussion:

And what is the demonstration of psychic power?

It’s a mendicant who wields the many kinds of psychic power: multiplying themselves and becoming one again; going unimpeded through a wall, a rampart, or a mountain as if through space; diving in and out of the earth as if it were water; walking on water as if it were earth; flying cross-legged through the sky like a bird; touching and stroking with the hand the sun and moon, so mighty and powerful; controlling the body as far as the Brahmā realm.

Katamañca, kevaṭṭa, iddhipāṭihāriyaṃ?
Idha, kevaṭṭa, bhikkhu anekavihitaṃ iddhividhaṃ paccanubhoti—ekopi hutvā bahudhā hoti, bahudhāpi hutvā eko hoti; āvibhāvaṃ tirobhāvaṃ tirokuṭṭaṃ tiropākāraṃ tiropabbataṃ asajjamāno gacchati seyyathāpi ākāse; pathaviyāpi ummujjanimujjaṃ karoti seyyathāpi udake; udakepi abhijjamāne gacchati seyyathāpi pathaviyaṃ; ākāsepi pallaṅkena kamati seyyathāpi pakkhī sakuṇo; imepi candimasūriye evaṃ mahiddhike evaṃ mahānubhāve pāṇinā parāmasati parimajjati; yāva brahmalokāpi kāyena vasaṃ vatteti.


Does a mendicant touch the sun and the moon with their physical “flesh-and-blood” body? As they would if kāya always meant the same thing and was so “straightforward”.

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It’s not just about interpretation. It’s also about translating without bias, with integrity.

Bhante Sujato’s hiding kāya in the 3rd jhana formula is not proper. (discussed in other messages)

Here, Bhante Brahmali in the Vinaya parajika #3, is not translating kāya properly, in an unbiased way. First 4 steps of 16APS (anapana).

When he breathes in long, he knows it; and when he breathes out long, he knows that. When he breathes in short, he knows it; and when he breathes out short, he knows that. When breathing in, he trains in having the full experience of the breath; when breathing out, he trains in having the full experience of the breath. When breathing in, he trains in calming the activity of the body; when breathing out, he trains in calming the activity of the body.

Here’s my translation, with pali, in word for word order, so you can see where kaya disappeared:

(1. kāyā-(a)nupassī)

Dīghaṃ vā assasanto ‘dīghaṃ assasāmī’ti pajānāti, (1) long ** breathing-in, ‘long (I) am-breathing-in’ (he) discerns;
dīghaṃ vā passasanto ‘dīghaṃ passasāmī’ti pajānāti; long ** breathing-out, ‘long (I) am-breathing-out’ (he) discerns;
rassaṃ vā assasanto ‘rassaṃ assasāmī’ti pajānāti, (2) short ** breathing-in, ‘short (I) am-breathing-in’ (he) discerns;
rassaṃ vā passasanto ‘rassaṃ passasāmī’ti pajānāti; short ** breathing-out, ‘short (I) am-breathing-out’ (he) discerns;
‘sabba-kāya-p-paṭisaṃvedī assasissāmī’ti sikkhati, (3) ‘(the) entire-body: sensitive-to (it), (I) will-breathe-in.’ (Thus he) trains.
‘sabba-kāya-p-paṭisaṃvedī passasissāmī’ti sikkhati; (the) entire-body: sensitive-to (it), (I) will-breathe-out.’ (Thus he) trains.
‘passambhayaṃ kāya-saṅkhāraṃ assasissāmī’ti sikkhati, (4) ‘pacifying bodily-fabrication, (I) will-breathe-in.’ (Thus he) trains.
‘passambhayaṃ kāya-saṅkhāraṃ passasissāmī’ti sikkhati. pacifying bodily-fabrication, (I) will-breathe-out.’ (Thus he) trains.

levels of inappropriateness and bias

In an earlier version of the vinaya, B. Brahmali had something like “body [of breath]”. Which is still biased, and inappropriate as a translation, but at least it retained the correct, consistent, coherent meaning of kaya as body. And having “of breath” in parenthesis clues in the reader someone is inserting their opinion in there.

But in the current translation, kaya has completely disappeared. This is orders of magnitude more biased and inappropriate than the last iteration.

See MN 119 to see how ‘kāya’ needs to be translated consistently all the way through all the exercises in kaya-anupassa to remain coherent.

See Dipa ma, demonstrating levitation, walking through walls, cloning herself and appearing in multiple places. That’s the kāya/rupa/body being referred to by the formula you reference. Touching the sun and the moon and visiting the brahma realm is part of the general practice of levitation. It’s not good to cherry pick and quote out of context, it’s important to understand the general principle and see how applicable it is.

And there’s also this, which makes a clear distinction between body and mind in levitation.

Hi frankk, your thought process appears to be “when I translate the Pali, it comes out different, therefore, other translators must be biased and lack integrity”.

I don’t see you doing much else than saying that other translators are biased, and then providing your own translation as proof.

Is there a particular reason why your translations should be considered authoritative? Do you have any relevant academic qualifications in e.g. Pali, linguistics or Buddhist studies?


No, I am actually following your principle of interpreting Canonical passages by means of other Canonical passages. The Ānāpānasati Sutta specifically states:

Kāyesu kāyaññatarāhaṃ, bhikkhave, evaṃ vadāmi yadidaṃ—assāsapassāsā.

I say that this is a certain body among the bodies, namely, in-breathing and out-breathing.

This, in fact, confirms that kāya cannot simply be equated with the physical body in general.


As someone who is battling with Pali 101 I seldom comment in threads of this type, but I do follow some of them with interest. At this juncture I feel moved to comment that translation can never be an exact science. (Of course I’m not suggesting that the effort to be as accurate as possible isn’t a worthy one.)

Many aspects of translation need to considered and discussed, and sometimes simply accepted as ambiguous.

The semantic spread of words in different languages is different, which results in there being few areas of uncontroversial equivalence in meaning. There are many grey areas where overlap is partial and one-to-one equivalents don’t exist.

Additionally Pali is a highly nominalised inflectional language and English is an analytic language. This is bound to present the translator with constant arrays of difficult choices and more ambiguity.

Word meanings need to be considered from more than these lexical and grammatical points of view. Context needs to be considered. Context occurs at three levels: the text a word appears in (eg specific sutta), the situational-social context a text was produced in (eg the Buddha speaking to bikkhus), and the wider cultural context (eg philosophical world of ancient India).

We have access to the text as it was written down from the oral tradition. We are aware of the social and cultural contexts of production, but however closely we study them we do so through the filter of our own social and cultural contexts: from within which we are forced to read the EBTs. One example of this difference is the Cartesian mindset that separates the world views of those of us born and educated in the Western European cultural tradition from the mindset of people in ancient India. (I tend to envy people born into other cultural traditions who may not be so burdened by the Cartesian mind-body split.)

These considerations make me feel somewhat uneasy when opinions on the meanings of words/texts that are stated uncontroversially as assumed facts. Translation takes place in an uncertain and changing space. (Hey! Where have I heard that before? lol) It’s a difficult space to negotiate.


It is really patient and kind of Ajahn Brahmāli to reply at all. I think you would get replies from Bhante Sujato as well if the tone were only more respectful; and I’m speaking as someone who would actually like to see good reasoning and discussion take place on this issue. As it stands, the tone of a crusading war campaign rather than genuine inquiry, I don’t think will lead anywhere, sadly…


Bhikkhu Anālayo, who takes the position that there is a kind of bodily experience in jhana, also takes the kāyena in the third jhana formula to be idiomatic and not literal. I believe he suggests translating it as ‘experiencing with one’s whole being’. This explanation is found in one of his lecture series on the Agamas. Sorry I don’t have the source.

So while the kāyena in the third jhana is not about the body specifically, that doesn’t mean that the other uses of kāya in the jhana formula are not.


Is the section of text calling the breath a body among bodies found in the Chinese? One could argue if it is not that the Pāli Text was possibly added to in order to suit a later interpretation. Although I’m pretty sure the term Nama-kaya occurs in DN 15 so the point that kāya doesn’t exclusively refer to the physical body still holds. Also, the section where it describes attention as as an aspect of feelings also reads as clumsy which makes me think that some confused commentary may have been inserted into MN 19 at some point.


MN 118 at MN III 83,32: “I call this a certain body among bodies, namely breathing in and out”, kāye- su kāyaññatarāha􏰆 … eta􏰆 vadāmi yadida􏰆 assāsapassāsa􏰆 (Be-MN III 126,11 and Ce-MN III 230,18: assāsapassāsā) and SĀ 810 at T II 208a29: “at that time [in regard to] the body he contemplates the body with mindfulness established on a certain kind of body”, (my transla- tion is based on assuming that renders an expression similar to kāyaññatara).

Ven Brahmali beat me to it.


Yes, it is. Here is Ven. Anālayo’s translation of the Chinese in his Comparative Study of the Majjhima Nikāya (SĀ 810 at T II 208a29):

at that time [in regard to] the body he contemplates the body with mindfulness established on a certain kind of body


Anyone know how can I convert these references into the ones suttacentral uses?

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And, for some, they are used as part of the path. Whether they assert these are indispensable parts of everyone’s path/practice is a different matter.

At times that infinite space is the result of the absence things sensed, as in the Culasunnata Sutta. This “infinite” refers to, if I recall, an “unbounded” state of mind, a ceto vimutti; the mind here is not bounded, limited by a focus on rupa, on sensory perception. Hence the designation as “arupa”.

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Personally, I, like @frankk, have tended to see the kāya in aps (and jhāna, too, I guess) as the normal, physical kāya. I don’t know how frankk practices, but I pepper my first tetrad, third step with a little"kesā, lomā…" asubha practice. The fact that kāyagatāsati (especially according to Bhante’s “root” 4sp) revolves around strengthened me in this view.

But the Bhante’s point above about the breath being “a body among bodies” is hard to refute. At the same time, I don’t know that focusing on the “whole body” of breath and focusing on the body parts being practiced in tandem, as I have been doing, is against what the suttas prescribed. Perhaps someone here can show me otherwise?

In any case, my real question is this: what is the significance of “sabba” in first tetrad, step three? For years, this has puzzled me. Is “sabba” commonly used to signify “whole” or “entire” as opposed to “all” or “every?” I don’t recall any other time when it means that. Could someone more expert in Pāli than I please answer this for me? I know the corresponding Chinese here is 一切, which I have never known to mean anything but “all” or “every.”

MN 44, when it talks about the kāyasaṅkhāro, does seem to give the breath a preeminent status as the most representative body amongst the bodies (though maybe this passage is also indicating it doesn’t have to be a mutually exclusive either-or). Cessation of the physical breath process (the bodily formation) is a primary indicator for fourth jhana. Maybe there also were pranic/breath of life associations back then that made breath strongly synonymous with bodily life and the body in general?

“Lady, how many formations are there?”
"There are these three formations, friend Visakha: the bodily formation, the verbal formation, and the mental formation.
"But, lady, what is the bodily formation? What is the verbal formation? What is the mental formation?"
"In-breathing and out-breathing, friend Visakha, are the bodily formation; applied thought and sustained thought are the verbal formation; perception and feeling are the mental formation."
"But, lady, why are in-breathing and out-breathing the bodily formation? Why are applied thought and sustained thought the verbal formation? Why are perception and feeling the mental formation?"
"Friend Visakha, in-breathing and out-breathing are bodily, these are states bound up with the body; that is why in-breathing and out-breathing are the bodily formation. First one applies thought and sustains thought, and subsequently one breaks out into speech; that is why applied thought and sustained thought are the verbal formation. Perception and feeling are mental, these are states bound up with the mind; that is why perception and feeling are the mental formation."

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I too found this quite eye-catching since it is echoed in DN33 and provides a framework for understanding personal experience.

As I meditate on breath, in the beginning it is easy to say “this is breathing in” or “this is breathing out”. Later, the boundary gets blurry and returning from a distracting thought it can sometimes take a while to understand which way the breath is actually going. There is a sense of oxygen exchange, but the direction becomes elusive. Direction of breathing seems to fade into a sense of continuous oxygen permeation. And that sense of continuous oxygen permeation is deeply immersive. I do not know what the cessation of bodily processes feels like, but I do know that in focusing on the sensation of continous oxygen permeation the six senses recede. Perhaps at one point one relinquishes the sense of oxygen permeation and simply exists here and now?

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There’s a point called ‘cessation of the bodily formation’ where the breath ceases- some people have mistaken it for nibbana. Others conflate it with the fourth jhana. It is simply a point in samadhi which one goes past on their way to the first jhana. Distraction can also be confusing in a similar way and not to be confused with nibbana or jhana as there is no special attaining into (abiding) a different state of consciousness called Rupa Jhana. There has to be phase shift.

There’s no rapture and joy after the cessation of breath in the fourth jhana- so this cessation has to be before that.


Cessation of perception and feeling (sanna vedaita nirodha) is the name for nibbana when that dimension is approached via the jhana by an arahanth. It is not a jhana. Jhana’s are conditioned and there’s never cessation of perception in jhana.

There’s no talking in the first jhana. So therefore the above translation is ‘unsustainable’!

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