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Getting first jhāna... 4th jhāna, KN Iti 109 ... KN Iti 112

The four jhānas, in Iti Vuttuka (KN Iti) are never explicitly named as such. jhana-meditator appears a few times. In the final four suttas of the Iti Vuttuka, which was a small collection of verse/prose passages memorized by one of the Queen’s lady friends to report back to her a series of talks the Buddha was giving to monks over several days.

One of the things about the EBT is you have to learn some of the terse code phrases and how they correspond to the more fleshed out pericopes we’re more familiar with from later works like MN. Whereas the majjhima nikaya has a much more verbose and detailed gradual training sequence from sila to nirvana (compared to the really early stuff like KN Iti, Udana, Sutta Nipata), with careful study you’ll see how things map.

I’ve added pali/english translations for the last four suttas in the KN Iti so you can see this.


etc…

Iti 109 is basically a commentary on the standard first jhāna formula portion of “vivicceva kamehi… akusalehi dhammehi” (seclusion from sensual pleasures and unskillful dhammas), describing in practical terms what those alluruing and unwholesome states are with a simile.

Iti 110 is a good description of how you train 24/7 and in all four postures to get close to and purify first jhana. The expression “first jhāna” never appears. But comparison with the next sutta, and MN 19 and MN 20 you can map the correspondence and see superman in his clark kent disguise.

Iti 111 shows the training to get from first to fourth jhāna, 24/7 and in all postures.

Iti 112 shows you what you do with the fourth jhāna to penetrate the many elements and attain nirvana.

But in 111 and 112, it doesn’t refer to jhāna by name, you have to recognize the clark kent disguise (ekagga, samadhi, kaya-passadhi, etc…)

People often want to know, how do you get first jhāna. This 4 sutta sequence lets you see it in the whole context of the big picture. What you’re doing moment to moment, is assiduously, ardently performing the 4 duties of right effort and 4sp. Even after you get first jhana, right effort is still working nonstop (MN 78). It’s just that once you get the hang of kaya-passadhi, your right effort becomes easier and gradually more effortless.

When you can do first and second jhana, you may be hit with the realization, “this is actually so damn easy, why didn’t anyone tell me?” Well I’m here to tell you, it’s easy, if you follow the simple instructions in Iti 110 and 111. The actual obstacle is that people don’t make a firm commitment to do that 24/7. And for people who do make that committment, Kāya passaddhi, not enough of it, and too much thinking are usually the things that prevent a solid second jhana experience.

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The word jhana appears in seven of the 112 Itivuttaka suttas mainly in the verses (“absorbed in jhana”).
The word jhana is not in 109, 110, 111, 112 and as far as I can read their topic is not jhana instead:

  • 109 the job of the tathagata
  • 110 practice of stilling the mind in the four postures
  • 111 practice of sati in the four postures
  • 112 the achievements of the tathagata
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I’ve posted translation with pali and english side by side for those 4 suttas, have some comments as well to point out key words like samadhi, ekagga, kaya-passadi, samatha, etc. Not much else I can do to make it any clearer.

Those are the last 4 suttas in the Itivuttuka collection, and the few before that, talk about newly ordained monks and the kind of things they have to watch out for. The order of the last 6 or so suttas is very clearly showing a gradual training, that leads to nirvana.

Being the last sutta, 112 also has a long section in verse praising the Tathagata, but the main point that I drew out of the sequence of last 4 suttas is that it’s the knowledge of the 4 truths, and the destruction of dukkha, is the point of doing 110 and 111, not to become the tathagata.

And would it not be strange for the Buddha to show a gradual training that culminates in the destruction of suffering, and not have the 4 jhānas necessary at all?

If that’s all 111 is saying, then might as well follow the Mahasi system for a mindfulness only devoid of jhana.

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Thank you for bringing up these suttas to highlight the methods to get into Jhana. I notice they are also stated in MN19 Two Kinds of Thought Dvedhāvitakkasutta. I’ll try practicing it.

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Sorry, jhana is not as result of a “practice” but of having abandoned the five hindrances. That’s why the focus should be on on transforming ourselves rather than on meditating.

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Thanks for the input. As the Sutta mentioned, first recognise and differentiate thoughts that are unskillful vs skillful, i.e. , those leading to infliction vs peace. Abandon those unskillful and develop skillful by vitakka and vicara. Analogous to poking the cows so that they don’t eat crops from the farm which will bring calamities to the cowherd.

Experience piti and sukkha resulting from skillful thoughts. When the mind can stays with piti and sukkha confidently, let go of vitakka and vicara. At this point, the crop has been harvested and the cowherd no longer poke the cows constantly which becomes wearisome after a while. The cowherd just sit back and watch over the cows (piti and sukkha) with ease.

When the mind becomes more stable, let go of piti and stay only with sukkha. Finally, let go of sukkha and only remain mindful and equanimous with all mental objects.

Initially, when one is not familiar with process, practice in a controlled environment with formal sitting or walking meditation. When the practice becomes more developed, extend it to all wakeful states in any of the four postures.

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Looks like you havent understood. One needs to understand what/how right view arise first.

Otherwise, no one will know what is skillful or unskillful. How can one know vitakka vicara if they havent even progress into the dhamma door? That is impossible I said.

This is inacurrate. Abandoning five hindrances is a practice. The practice is not 1-2 times. It could take multiple existences to perfecting it, but for one who have develop it may take a short time.

Therefore for purification of mind (citta visuddhi), one needs a right practice/effort (vayama), a right introspection (sati or “mindfullness”) and right samadhi (jhana, balance/equilibrium/happiness).

However before this, one needs to know what is right view, right orientation, right speech, right conducts, right lifestyle. And of course guarding the senses. Without N8FP and understand 4NT, it is not possible.

Hence, it is impossible to know and see personally what are hindrances and reach samadhi (jhana).

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Thanks for the comment. I understand the importance of right view and the need to pay wise attention to the root cause of mental phenomena for it to arise.

However, I find this overstated as it has been clearly mentioned in the Sutta what constitute skillful and unskillful. Also, vitakka and vicara are mental faculties of placing the mind and connecting it to an object. It is an ability that everyone knows. Perhaps the crux of the issue might be the following
(1) whether the mental object is useful for liberation
(2) how to keep the mind connected continuously

For the first question, the answer lies in the 2nd and 3rd noble truths. Anything that supports the origination of dukkha, renew existence of the five clinging aggregates, craving for sensual pleasure, craving for existence or non-existence are to be abandoned. MN20 suggested five methods of doing so.

Conversely, anything that leads to the cessation are to be developed. So the renunciation of sensual pleasure and craving for existence, non i’ll-will, harmlessness are skillful thoughts to be developed.

For the second question, the key is to engage piti and sukkha. Making use of pleasure, one could keep mind connected continuously. Just make sure that they are not those connected with the origination of dukkha.

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