Hearing sounds in samādhi, jhāna

(more passages coming later, but I wanted to point out this line I noticed recently, most people probably gloss over it without realizing the implications)

AN 5.209 chanting suttas is samādhi

sara-kuttimpi ni-kāma-yamānassa
(4) intonation-refining (for) one-desiring (that),
samādhissa bhaṅgo hoti,
(their) undistractable-lucidity breaks-up.

This sutta is talking about the problems with being too musical in how one chants suttas. Item #4 shows that the act of vocalizing, listening to one's own vocalization to adjust intonation, understanding the sutta's meaning as one chants, or even just knowing whether one's reciting is accurate, is samādhi.
Edit: The 4 jhānas are samādhi. One can hear sounds in jhāna.

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Don’t know if you noticed but this effectively depends on -

“If it’s a Jhana, then it’s Samadhi.
It’s Samadhi.
Therefore it’s a Jhana.”

Surely you recognise the formal fallacy of “Affirming the Consequent” here?


KN Iti 81, walking in almsround in jhāna and samādhi.

If one can walk around while in jhāna, and interact with laypeople making offerings of food, then the faculty of hearing is most likely involved. It would be strange to have 4 of the 5 sense faculties of the body operational (in order to walk), but only have hearing shut off.


♦ “yassa sakkariyamānassa,
Both when receiving offerings
asakkārena cūbhayaṃ.
& not,
♦ samādhi na vikampati,
his concentration doesn’t waver;
appamāda-vihārino .
he remains heedful:
♦ “taṃ jhāyinaṃ sātatikaṃ,
he–continually absorbed in jhāna,
sukhumaṃ diṭṭhi-vipassakaṃ .
subtle in view & clear-seeing,
♦ upādānak-khay-ārāmaṃ,
enjoying the ending of clinging–
āhu sappuriso itī”ti.
is called a man of integrity.
♦ ayampi attho vutto bhagavatā,
(this was spoken (by) the-blessed-one,)
iti me sutanti.
(thus I heard.)

I came across this in another sutta which I can’t trace it now.
Perhaps this is what they called Arahattaphala Samadhi.
I may be wrong.

I was going to agree with Sylvester that your argument in the OP depends on jhana and samadhi being equivalent, which I’m not so sure is that case. I’d tend to think that samma samadhi is some degree of unification of mind, with “samma” requiring that the other 7 path factors are present (though mastery of samadhi would seem to more solidly equate to jhana). IMO it’s a subset relationship: jhana is a subset of samadhi, but the contention that the subset relationship goes the other way is more shaky.

But your second post is interesting in that it seems to actually have a jhana reference. If so, that’s an interesting data point!

The first jhana seems to be more often described as “born of seclusion” rather than “born of concentration” (as for all the others), so if your theory did actually hold, I guess it is most likely to do so in the first jhana. If ekagatta doesn’t hold for the first jhana (though other suttas go in the other direction), this puts less restrictions on the possible meanings of vicara vitakka. Though there’s still, even then, SN 36.11 constraining their meanings. According to that sutta, speech ceases in the first jhana (more on that later).

To go off on a somewhat related tangent, lately, after reading a sutta with mention of the three formations: verbal, bodily and mental, it struck me that successive cessation of these is really what is supposed to be happening in jhana. This would tie in with the cessation of speech in the first jhana as described in SN 36.11, the cessation of breathing in the fourth jhana (surely, that’s the body close to shutting down) and the cessation of feeling and perception (surely, the mental formation has ceased at that stage). You’ve probably thought about all this before, but anyway, I’ll go on! :slight_smile:

The cessations of the three formations are also described:

“Then, bhikkhu, I have also taught the successive subsiding of formations. For one who has attained the first jhana speech has subsided…. For one who has attained the cessation of perception and feeling, perception and feeling have subsided.

MN 44 has some very interesting things to say on this topic (Bhikkhu Bodhi translation):

13. “Lady, how many formations are there?”
“There are these three formations, friend Visakha: the bodily formation, the verbal formation, and the mental formation.”
14. “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.”
15. “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.”

There’s a bit more later in the sutta about how, on the way to attaining cessation of feeling and perception, the speech formation ceases first, then the bodily and then finally the mental formation. Analayo says that, while the Chinese parallel to MN 44 doesn’t really have this part about the formations, a Tibetan parallel closely mirrors it (though the mental formation is equated to “perception and intention” rather than “perception and feeling”).

Equating the speech formation to vicara vitakka is quite neat. That nicely explains the description elsewhere of the second jhana as being “noble silence”.

But what is a little confusing then is that SN 36.11 has speech itself ceasing in the first jhana, while the MN 44 has the speech formation ceasing in the second jhana. Evidently there’s a difference (either that or one of the suttas is confused). I suppose the sentence:

"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.

does point to vicara vitakka as being the underlying basis for speech (what can cause it to form). Perhaps speech itself is the first to be suppressed, and only the speech formation itself in the next jhana.

I suppose something similar may happen at the fourth jhana. In several places in the suttas, it says that breathing stops at the fourth jhana. I guess, though, that one really only has fully gone beyond the body in the arupa jhanas, i.e. perhaps actual cessation of the body formation only happens there.

Does something similar happen at the base of neither-perception-nor-nonperception? Presumably, there is not much left in the way of feeling or perception at that point, but maybe the mental formation itself only fully ceases at the stage of the cessation of feeling and perception?

I suppose this line of thought is fairly concordant with AN 10.72 (the Thorns suttas perennially coming up in these jhana discussions :slight_smile: ):

"To one who wants seclusion, company is a thorn. To one developing the sign of loathsomeness, an agreeable sign is a thorn. To one protected in the mental faculties, sight seeing is a thorn. To a man leading a celebate life, the behavior of a woman is a torn. To one in the first jhana, sounds are a thorn. To one in the second jhana, thinking and examining are a thorn. To one in the third jhana, piti is a thorn. To one in the fourth jhana, in breathing and out breathing is a thorn. To one attaining the cessation of perceptions and feelings, perceptions and feelings are a thorn. Greed is a thorn. Hate is a thorn and delusion is a thorn.

The thing one has just quietened to get into a particular jhana also tends to be a thorn to that state. Second jhana has suppressed vicara vitakka and so that is a thorn to that state, the same for breathing to the fourth jhana (I guess the relevant formation hasn’t fully ceased if the associated thorn can still knock one out of it). It’s interesting that sound is a thorn to the first jhana. If speech rather than the speech formation is what is suppressed in the first jhana, does this mean speech and sound are essentially the same thing here?

If the speech formation is a thorn to the second jhana, could it similarly be said that speech itself (or perhaps equivalently sound) is a thorn to the first jhana? Perhaps a possible reason for sound being a thorn is that it also may tend to stir up speech in the mind?

This all runs a bit counter to the hypothesis of your OP, but seemed relevant anyway.


This is how I understand too.
This can be confirmed by reading Jhana Sutta and Samadhi Sutta.

Hee hee. I wouldn’t be so sure about that!

If you’re referring to “taṃ jhāyinaṃ sātatikaṃ”, I don’t see the jhāna in there. Why not?

Jhāyinaṃ is the accusative singular of the jhāyi. Although the dictionary gives the following definitions of this adjective as -

meditative, self-concentrated, engaged in jhāna; who habitually practices jhāna.

, its usage hardly seems to be confined to jhāna.

Let’s take a very regular occurence of the nominatives jhāyi and jhāyī. In AN 6.46, we have the 2 types of monks pitted against one another, the dhamma-devoted monks versus the jhāyī bhikkhū (the jhāyī monks). If jhāyī actually means “absorbed in jhāna”, we have a really bizarre situation of people in absorption being overwhelmed by ill-will for dhamma-devoted monks. Does this make sense?

Which is why in these contexts, jhāyi merely means “meditator”, which is how BB renders the above sutta. The same is made for the Iti 81 verse that also occurs in SN 17.10.

The important thing to note is that this adjective jhāyi is related to its verb jhāyati. Now, if you are like Ven Thanissaro who treats this verb as meaning “do jhāna”, then that leads to the bizarre reading in AN 11.9 of a meditator “doing jhāna” with the hindrances and identification. Again, this verb does not mean “do jhāna”, but simply “meditate”.


Something from the EBTs -

云何九證法?謂九盡: 若入初禪,則聲 刺 滅。
What are the the 9 states to be attained? That is to say the 9 Cessations. When one enters the First Dhyana, the thorn of sounds ceases.

DA 10


Samādhi = concentration
Sammā-samādhi = right concentration
Miccha-samādhi = wrong concentration (micha-samādhi is samādhi, but is it jhāna?)
Jhāna = absorption / deep meditative concentration
Jhāna = jhāna

Jhāna is a form of deep concentration (samādhi), but samādhi is not equivallly jhāna.

It’s like saying, an orange (jhāna) is fruit (concentration). The Sutta is talking about fruit, therefore it is talking about oranges.

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OK, I’ll believe you :wink: I have very little Pali (certainly not any of the fancy stuff above)! :slight_smile: I’ll leave the experts battle this one out!

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You’re on the right track, there’s something throwing you off though. B.Bodhi in MN translated some jhana related terms according to LBT (late buddhist texts in particular late abhidhamma). He translated MN first, then SN, AN. If you look at SN and AN, he translates (V&V) vitakka and vicara the same as Thanissaro (not exact same words, same concept). Thanissaro translates V&V as directed-thoughts and evaluation. Bodhi currently uses something like “thinking and pondering”.

So now if you plug the correct V&V translation back into MN 44, it makes perfect sense. V&V, thinking and evaulation, are the thoughts you speak in your mind before you speak them, that’s why theyr’e called speech fabrications. And this is why 1st jhana is not noble silence, second jhana is. Because to someone with the iddhi of mind reading, the thoughts they think but don’t speak are just as intrusive and “loud”. If you’ve hung around yogis and monastics who have mind reading. Tons of examples in Ajahn Mun and Ajahn Maha boowas biographies of the great thai forest masters. Thanissaro B. also talks about his teacher reading minds with uncanny accuracy.

If you try to plug the vism. definition of V&V into the MN 44 passage you quoted, it’s just non sensical. How is the mind gluing itself to a kasina (V&V in Vism) lead to speech breaking out? Vism. is just ridiculously wrong.

So now with a correct understanding of V&V, then this is why speech is said to cease in first jhana, because you can still have thought of metta and other kusala thoughts related to dhamma and the meditation practice you’re doing for that jhana. And it’s not noble silence until second jhana where V&V ceases.

Will address AN 10.72 another time.

But you’re on the right track, it takes time to unlearn the lies that Theravada has indoctrinated us with.


As I said in the first message, more passages are coming, I wasn’t basing my statements on that one passage alone.

Jhāna doesn’t only mean 4 jhānas. The Buddha uses the same word, “jhāna” to describe other types of meditation that are wrong or not optimal. He also describes the samadhi we think of as “4 jhanas” as satipatthana. He also describes the activities we think of as satipatthana as “jhana”. He described all the activities we think of as jhana or satipatthana as samadhi. He also describes the 4 jhanas as gradual emptiness. He described NIrvana perception as a samadhi. If you look at enough EBT passages carefully, you realize those samadhi related terms can have quite a range. Unfortunately lots of passages are terse so depending on context there can be some ambiguity. The safest approach is to leave the ambiguity open, and not try to squeeze LBT interpretations of samadhi or our own interpretations into the EBT usage of those terms. That’s the approach I’ve taken, and I don’t see any other way. If you try to nail things down too specifically where there is ambiguity or room for interpretation, then you’re going to get incoherence and contradictions.


In all the super early EBT’s like the Udana, Sutta Nipata, Iti vutthaka, the Buddha never talks about 4 jhānas, he just talks about jhāna, so the translator has the leeway to choose between “meditation” or “doing jhana”, or even “absorption”, at their discretion. What Thanissaro did was perfectly legitimate, basically he’s leaving jhāna untranslated. Jhāna does not only mean “the four jhānas”.

Similarly, one could choose not to ever use “jhana” at all their translations, and use “meditation” everywhere the word jhana occurs. Early PTS translations have “first meditation, second… , fourth meditation”

AN 5.26 hearing, speaking, V&V while in jhāna samādhi

(1) First jhāna possible while hearing live dhamma talk

idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhuno
Here, monks, (for a) monk,
satthā dhammaṃ deseti
(a) teacher (of) dhamma teaches (him),
aññataro vā garuṭṭhāniyo sabrahmacārī.
{or a} certain fellow monk [teaches him],
yathā yathā, bhikkhave, tassa bhikkhuno
in whatever way , *********, (for the) monk (that)
satthā dhammaṃ deseti
(a) teacher (of) dhamma teaches (him),
aññataro vā garuṭṭhāniyo sabrahmacārī.
{or a} certain fellow monk [teaches him],

(refrain: 7sb → jhāna → arahantship)

tathā tathā so tasmiṃ
like-that, accordingly, he ******
dhamme attha-paṭisaṃvedī ca hoti
{feels [inspiration]} in Dhamma meaning and
dhamma-paṭisaṃvedī ca.
{feels [inspiration]} in Dhamma,
tassa attha-paṭisaṃvedino dhamma-paṭisaṃvedino
as he {feels [inspiration] in} Dhamma-meaning (and) Dhamma,
pāmojjaṃ jāyati.
joy arises.
pamuditassa pīti jāyati.
(When he is) joyful, rapture arises.
pīti-manassa kāyo passambhati.
(with) rapturous-mind, (the) body (becomes) tranquil.
passaddha-kāyo sukhaṃ vedeti.
(with) tranquil-body, pleasure (he) feels.
sukhino cittaṃ samādhiyati.
(For one feeling) pleasure, (the) mind (becomes) concentrated.
idaṃ, bhikkhave, paṭhamaṃ vimutt-āyatanaṃ
This, monks, (is the) first liberation-basis,
yattha bhikkhuno appamattassa
by means of which, if a monk {dwells} assiduous,
ātāpino pahitattassa viharato
ardent, resolute, ********,
a-vimuttaṃ vā cittaṃ vimuccati,
(his) un-liberated ** mind (is) liberated,
a-parik-khīṇā vā āsavā parik-khayaṃ gacchanti,
un-destroyed ** asinine-inclinations, utterly-destroyed (they) become.
An-anuppattaṃ vā an-uttaraṃ yogak-khemaṃ
(the) un-reached un-surpassed security-from-the-yoke
(he) reaches.”
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Let me get personal for a moment. You seriously need to chill, mate. You sometimes come across of being just one step away from taking your ditthis to the street and going from door to door asking people if they have a minute for you to indoctrinate them with your reading of the super early EBT’s.

Unnecessary stuff like the above doesn’t help in getting your message across, but makes people - at least me - tune out.


Assuming I grant you this, but what has this non-sequitor have to do with the discussion above? The word that was being translated and disputed was the stem jhāyi. Why is your digression into the substantive noun jhāna relevant to the issue?

Worse -

From your assertion about jhāna, you are lumping it with the verb “doing jhana” as if jhāyati (verb) is jhāna (noun). Isn’t this the fallacy of petitio principii?

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Thanks! I think I’m very gradually building up an overall sense of the EBTs by reading lots of suttas (slowly beginning to have some idea of how the pieces fit together). I’ve mostly held off reading on reading academic books on early Buddhism and later works and systematizations (though some look very tempting) including the Visuddhimagga, except to dip into to look at specific techniques, to try not to saddle myself with too many preconceptions (though it’s kind of hard to escape these entirely). So I don’t have strong opinions on Vism (let alone much of a familiarity). Probably will read Vism and the Vimuttimagga in their entirety later, but just not for now; I suspect later systematizations will have their value.

The quite varied renderings of vicara and vitakka did prompt me at one stage to investigate those words. I’d tend to think the original meanings should be stuck to as much as possible (be the default meanings) except as otherwise constrained and modified elsewhere in the suttas. A definition for words that I came across once was: words are but symbols of images of experience, or another: “words are but symbols of symbols; they are thus twice removed from reality”. So I guess perhaps as the speech/verbal formation is quieted, experience is becoming somewhat more direct and less mediated.

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I’ve been collecting and auditing passages on V&V for years now. I have almost every V&V reference in a samadhi context from the Pali EBT that I can find, and many that are not in a direct samadhi context. I’ll post those notes up at some point. I have yet to find a single passage that suggests the Vism. interpretation of V&V. I’m almost 100% it doesn’t exist, because if it did you can be sure Buddhaghosa would have quoted it in Vism to help bolster his case.

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Sorry I don’t know the latin name for this fallacy, I’ll just call this the red herring misdirection. This is where, instead of providing legitimate reasons and evidence to rationally dispute a claim, one lobs red herrings and throws latin smokescreens to present the appearance of reason. When examined carefully, those “reasons” dissolve like a mirage.

(quoting post:16, topic:7784, only adding names for clarity)

Thanks for that interesting passage Sylvester. I asked Dr. Chu, an Agama expert for his take:

This obviously is inconsistent with what other suttas say. Other suttas state that sound is a thorn in first jhana, and this one states that the thorn of sounds ceases–a direct contradiction.
There are many typos and mistranslations in the Taisho. I would chalk it up to such abnormality. Or, I would read “thorn of sounds ceases” in some peculiar way: e.g. seclusion can mean being away from crowds and their boisterousness, and being born of seclusion, first jhana is an escape from them.

From what I remember the agama for parallel to AN 10.72 (sounds are a thorn sutta) match pretty closely, so the DA passage would contradict that. Is that DA passage a single anomaly, or are there other passages that can corroborate that?