SuttaCentral

Equanimity without Jhana?

Several years ago, during meditation I would get what you call piti and sukha and the factors of jhana, those strong energy vibrations. Then I lost the ability to get it, as I would get neck pain and sloth. This lasted for a couple of years. The inability to get it messed with my expectations and ego that I eventually gave up on getting it. If it comes great, if it doesn’t, then whatever.

Now I’ve arrived at a point that seems like equanimity but without jhanas. For example, when I sit down and meditate, I am content, there is nothing I want. If a thought arises of doing some activity, say like eating food, it has no effect because there is the realization doing that activity is not better than sitting here, so it’s not worth doing or changing my posture for.

The perception is “nothing is worth doing” or “nothing is worth moving for” for. Unless it was an emergency or responsibility situation, which would require helping others or completing a necessary task.

So I was wondering, what would you call this state, and if it’s described in the suttas? Is it the perception of equanimity? or the perception of emptiness? It’s a very calm and pleasant state, even though there is no pleasant feelings, it’s just pleasant because you are content with doing nothing because there is no reason to do anything.

It’s not really indifference either, as I’m not depressed, and I know what depressed indifference feels like. I say it’s more like equanimity, it’s like laying down at the beach and there’s no reason to get up because you are content.

4 Likes

Jhana is not needed to attain equanimity

Here the buddha were still unawakened and he still had difficulty to reach jhana yet he still had equanimity

Mn12
"I would make my bed in a charnel ground, with the bones of the dead for a pillow. Then the cowboys would come up to me. They’d spit and piss on me, throw mud on me, even poke sticks in my ears. But I don’t recall ever having a bad thought about them. Such was my abiding in equanimity

But Sāriputta, I did not achieve any superhuman distinction in knowledge and vision worthy of the noble ones by that conduct, that practice, that grueling work. Why is that? Because I didn’t achieve that noble wisdom that’s noble and emancipating, and which leads someone who practices it to the complete ending of suffering

3 Likes

I would say that this is one of the right attitudes in meditation. Method language wise, you’re doing great.

Equanimity can have many levels, so the equanimity from 4th Jhana is one of the deepest. Your level is more of good level, near surface, which when developed and continued to be practised like this can go become deeper and deeper all the way into 4th Jhana.

4 Likes

In my experience, I like to call it serenity or peacefulness. And in this non-state, all of the four Bhrama Viharas comes naturally like it’s the essence.

4 Likes

AN9.37
Reverend, one time I was staying near Sāketa in the deer park in Añjana Wood. 7.2Then the nun Jaṭilagāhikā came up to me, bowed, stood to one side, and said to me: 7.3‘Sir, Ānanda, regarding the immersion that does not lean forward or pull back, and is not held in place by forceful suppression. 7.4Being free, it’s stable. Being stable, it’s content. Being content, one is not anxious. 7.5What did the Buddha say was the fruit of this immersion?’

8.1When she said this, I said to her: 8.2‘Sister, regarding the immersion that does not lean forward or pull back, and is not held in place by forceful suppression. 8.3Being free, it’s stable. Being stable, it’s content. Being content, one is not anxious. 8.4The Buddha said that the fruit of this immersion is enlightenment.’

3 Likes

I appreciate everyone’s great responses, and thank you for the sutta references.

I don’t think I attained nibbana as I still have occasional sensual desires, so not even non-return. If I had this state 24/7 that would be amazing, and maybe then I would think it could be nibbana related, but when I am able to have this state of equanimity for several hours in a day I feel very grateful, like given a gift. It may be related to a fruit, perhaps sotapanna, but I make no claims and I am not certain and do not like being over confident as it usually results in later regret.

Thanks @Sai18ram for that sutta, I don’t think I’ve read it thoroughly before so I will definitely research it.

2 Likes

some observations :slight_smile:

Great

Equanimity is a place of wholesome abiding. This is a temporary state (longer and shorter durations), all the way until Nibbana.

Being uninterested in all the wordly things comes from having realised that there is no satisfaction to be had there > weakening/eradication of desire for sensual craving. Contentment (lack of craving) leads to the ‘fruit’ freedom from suffering.

In order to really make it ‘bomb-proof’ though (not just attainable when the conditions are ‘nice’), one can train to strengthen this in combination with the full penetration of the 4NT’s, including No-Self.
(In terms of the sutta quote below AN9.45 the progression of Jhanas gives experience of this, not just of equanimity)

That means that whatever conditions one (self) is subject to (pleasant, painful or neutral), one can remain personally untouched (equanimous) … no craving, no aversion (no self)… no matter what arises. I think this is what is referred to as freedom in both ways - by heart (experience) as well as by wisdom - I’m not 100% sure of the doctrine here though - and it would be very useful :slight_smile: perhaps Ajahn @Brahmali could clarify or elaborate :pray:

Freed Both Ways, AN9.45

1.1“Reverend, they speak of a person called ‘freed both ways’. 1.2What is the one freed both ways that the Buddha spoke of?”

2.1“First, take a mendicant who, quite secluded from sensual pleasures … enters and remains in the first absorption. 2.2They meditate directly experiencing that dimension in every way. And they understand that with wisdom. 2.3To this extent the Buddha spoke of the one freed both ways in a qualified sense.

3.1Furthermore, 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. 3.2They meditate directly experiencing that dimension in every way. And they understand that with wisdom. 3.3To this extent the Buddha spoke of the one freed both ways in a definitive sense.”

6 Likes

Just another sutta quote from MN10, that may be of use, in where to direct attention for further development.

MN10 Mahasatipattana sutta - extract
40.8They understand the mind, thoughts, and the fetter that arises dependent on both of these. They understand how the fetter that has not arisen comes to arise; how the arisen fetter comes to be abandoned; and how the abandoned fetter comes to not rise again in the future.

41.1And so they meditate observing an aspect of principles internally … 41.2 41.3

41.4That’s how a mendicant meditates by observing an aspect of principles with respect to the six internal and external sense fields.

41.5

4.4. The Awakening Factors

42.1Furthermore, a mendicant meditates by observing an aspect of principles with respect to the seven awakening factors. 42.2And how does a mendicant meditate observing an aspect of principles with respect to the seven awakening factors?

42.3It’s when a mendicant who has the awakening factor of mindfulness in them understands: ‘I have the awakening factor of mindfulness in me.’ When they don’t have the awakening factor of mindfulness in them, they understand: ‘I don’t have the awakening factor of mindfulness in me.’ They understand how the awakening factor of mindfulness that has not arisen comes to arise; and how the awakening factor of mindfulness that has arisen becomes fulfilled by development.

42.4When they have the awakening factor of investigation of principles … 42.5energy … 42.6rapture … 42.7tranquility … 42.8immersion … 42.9equanimity in them, they understand: ‘I have the awakening factor of equanimity in me.’ When they don’t have the awakening factor of equanimity in them, they understand: ‘I don’t have the awakening factor of equanimity in me.’ They understand how the awakening factor of equanimity that has not arisen comes to arise; and how the awakening factor of equanimity that has arisen becomes fulfilled by development.

43.1And so they meditate observing an aspect of principles internally, externally, and both internally and externally. 43.2They meditate observing the principles as liable to originate, as liable to vanish, and as liable to both originate and vanish. 43.3Or mindfulness is established that principles exist, to the extent necessary for knowledge and mindfulness. They meditate independent, not grasping at anything in the world.

43.4That’s how a mendicant meditates by observing an aspect of principles with respect to the seven awakening factors.

etc.

4 Likes

Well said Viveka,

As far doctorine goes, both pannavimmutti and cetovimutti require jhanas, just the pannavimutti doesn’t require formless jhanas.

And the equanimity in the awakening factors, is referring to the equanimity of jhanas, and it is attained by progressing through the previous awakening factors, which begins with sati and dhamma vicaya (reflecting on the dhamma)

And from my understanding, making it bomb proof or lasting in all conditions, can only happen at Arahantship. Prior to that, monks are supposed to attain a measureless mind (appamāṇacetaso), first thing after the morning meal, which then makes it bomb proof for the rest of the day and needs to be reapplied daily. So the sense restraint is needed prior to measureless mind, then after the measureless mind one is protected. A metaphor I heard is like putting your camp fire (equanimity) in a glass lamp (measureless mind) which then protects it from wind and water, and dying out.

But I’m digressing into another topic, it’s interesting though, if you want to research it on suttacentral, the keyword is “appamāṇacetaso”.

So True! But that’s the difficult part isn’t it? Mindfully maintaining that equanimous state of heart/ mind through the day, specially when meeting difficult people! As my daughter once said “They make me want to slap them!” :japanese_ogre::rofl:
Thank goodness for the refuge of jhana!

1 Like

I remember around 16 or so years ago after meditating daily for months, I visited my parents place but they were not home. So I meditated until they came back home. At that time piti and sukha and the feeling of my body disappearing was rare, new and exciting, and it took me a long time to get it. So after hours of trying, and luckily getting piti and sukha, after 5 minutes my dad enters the house and slams the door as usual, causing the whole house to shake, which blew away my nice states, like someone blowing out a candle, and that greatly annoyed me.

Needless to say, I stopped visiting as much after that event :laughing: - the lay life really is at odds with the spiritual life.

3 Likes

If you want someone to verify your experiences, I suggest visiting Tan Ajahn Anan at his monastery in Thailand (when the pandemic is over): Wat Marp Jan. He’ll be able to tell you exactly what’s going on.

Thank you :slight_smile:

It sounds like you already know the doctrine :smiley:

I was trying to come at it from an oblique angle :grin: - sometimes if one has been ‘stuck’ for a while, a new perspective or approach may be useful to provide a little jolt… It is one of the things that I really appreciate about Ajahn Brahm, he always encourages exploration… I’ve found this approach to be of great use - it makes it fun, and one can be as creative as one wants in adapting or finding new skillful means. To keep looking for things (conditions) that help, and eradicating those that hinder :slight_smile:

All the best for your journey :pray: :dharmawheel: :sunflower:

3 Likes

Sorry, this is not quite correct. The suttas speak of three kinds of vimutti: paññāvimutti, cetovimutti, and ubhatobhāgavimutti. All arahants are both paññāvimutti and cetovimutti, but only those who also attain the immaterial attainments are ubhatobhāgavimutti, “liberated in both ways”.

3 Likes

Thank you Ajahn :pray:t2:

I found this resource by Lily DeSilva that explains all the types of Vimutti. If there is a better/more reliable one, please let me know :slight_smile:

With metta :pray: :slight_smile: :sunflower:

Is this source from you Ven @Khemarato.bhikkhu ? :smiley: Really great! Came up in Google search results beautifully!

5 Likes

Indeed it is! Or at least this particular pdf :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes: Pali Buddhist Review was the original publisher

3 Likes

Thank you Bhante, for some reason I thought cetovimutti was only accessible by those who had formless meditation, like maha moggallana in the animtto sutta (SN 40.9) where the Buddha instructs him to attain the signless concentration (animittaceto) which then results in him attaining maha-abhinata, the only Supermundane abhinna.

I incorrectly thought that the pannavimutti arahants were able to attain the maha-abhinata by skipping cetovimutti and the formless jhanas and going straight nirodha Samapatti and attaining it there somehow…

So do pannavimutti attain through suññatā cetovimutti, animitta cetovimutti, or appamāṇā cetovimutti, but not ākiñcaññā cetovimutti which is formless (SN 41.7)?

And just a general overview from MN 70

And what person is freed by wisdom? It’s a person who does not have direct meditative experience of the peaceful liberations that are formless, transcending form. Nevertheless, having seen with wisdom, their defilements have come to an end. This person is called freed by wisdom. I say that this mendicant has no work to do with diligence. Why is that? They’ve done their work with diligence. They’re incapable of being negligent.

And what person is freed both ways? It’s a person who has direct meditative experience of the peaceful liberations that are formless, transcending form. And, having seen with wisdom, their defilements have come to an end.

1 Like

I deeply disagree but don’t know how or find words to describe where in my sense of being, this isn’t right. Maybe it has something to do with the word spiritual … What is it to be spiritual, is it to be authentic, or is it a special form? I don’t know what it is. But maybe it has to do with my lack of belief that one has to be monastic to really get to the core.

I just quoted to make myself come back and hopefully make this clear later. Please continue :pray:

Normally they would reach arahantship through the jhānas. The factors of the noble eightfold path are sufficient for arahantship. Although it would obviously help, you don’t actually need saññā-vedayita-nirodha (nirodha-samāpatti) to become an arahant.

@winkingsequence Is it the development of the Faculties (sutta extracts below) that you are referring to? Would you like to elaborate on your comment? :slight_smile:

Excerpt

10.1And how are they a practicing trainee? 10.2When a mendicant sees a sight with their eyes, liking, disliking, and both liking and disliking come up in them. 10.3They are horrified, repelled, and disgusted by that. 10.4When they hear a sound with their ears … 10.5When they smell an odor with their nose … 10.6When they taste a flavor with their tongue … 10.7When they feel a touch with their body … 10.8When they know a thought with their mind, liking, disliking, and both liking and disliking come up in them. 10.9They are horrified, repelled, and disgusted by that. 10.10That’s how they are a practicing trainee.

11-15.1And how are they a noble one with developed faculties? 11-15.2When a mendicant sees a sight with their eyes, liking, disliking, and both liking and disliking come up in them. 11-15.3If they wish: ‘May I meditate perceiving the unrepulsive in the repulsive,’ that’s what they do. 11-15.4If they wish: ‘May I meditate perceiving the repulsive in the unrepulsive,’ that’s what they do. 11-15.5If they wish: ‘May I meditate perceiving the unrepulsive in the repulsive and the unrepulsive,’ that’s what they do. 11-15.6If they wish: ‘May I meditate perceiving the repulsive in the unrepulsive and the repulsive,’ that’s what they do. 11-15.7If they wish: ‘May I meditate staying equanimous, mindful and aware, rejecting both the repulsive and the unrepulsive,’ that’s what they do.

16.1When they hear a sound with their ear … 16.2When they smell an odor with their nose … 16.3When they taste a flavor with their tongue … 16.4When they feel a touch with their body … 16.5When they know a thought with their mind, liking, disliking, and both liking and disliking come up in them. 16.6If they wish: ‘May I meditate perceiving the unrepulsive in the repulsive,’ that’s what they do. 16.7If they wish: ‘May I meditate perceiving the repulsive in the unrepulsive,’ that’s what they do. 16.8If they wish: ‘May I meditate perceiving the unrepulsive in the repulsive and the unrepulsive,’ that’s what they do. 16.9If they wish: ‘May I meditate perceiving the repulsive in the unrepulsive and the repulsive,’ that’s what they do. 16.10If they wish: ‘May I meditate staying equanimous, mindful and aware, rejecting both the repulsive and the unrepulsive,’ that’s what they do. 16.11That’s how they are a noble one with developed faculties.

17.1So, Ānanda, I have taught the supreme development of the faculties in the training of the Noble One, I have taught the practicing trainee, and I have taught the noble one with developed faculties.

and AN5.144

Excerpt

7.1For what reason should a mendicant meditate staying equanimous, mindful and aware, rejecting both the repulsive and the unrepulsive? 7.2‘May no greed for things that arouse greed, hate for things that provoke hate, or delusion for things that promote delusion arise in me in any way at all.’ 7.3For this reason a mendicant should meditate staying equanimous, mindful and aware, rejecting both the repulsive and the unrepulsive.”