Hearing sounds in samādhi, jhāna


That’s quite a fine distinction: “excluding the senses” versus “sense exclusion”! :slight_smile:

Sure. Or, if I was under general anesthetic, going by such thinking, I’d be quite impressively in the cessation of feelings and perception! :slight_smile:

Yes, that’s basically my question. It seems a reasonable question to ask given how the six sense bases are described in SN 35, e.g. in SN 35.23, as “the all”, which probably indicates that categorizing all human experience into one or other of these six categories should make sense. So, presumably, awareness of breathing would fall into the fifth sense base.

Thanks for this. I’m very unfamiliar with Pali grammar. It all seems a bit like Latin with all the different cases.

I’d agree with that. Generally, the thorn seems to be what needs to be suppressed before one can even enter the appropriate state. However, my impression would be that this suppression (perhaps suppression isn’t really the best word) is initially a bit shaky, not fully solid, and is capable of being upset by that which was suppressed (hence which is also a thorn). Of course, that assumes a precision for the Thorns sutta that may just not be there, e.g. this logic doesn’t hold for “For one practicing celibacy, nearness to women is a thorn.” (one doesn’t have to suppress “nearness to women” to maintain celibacy :slight_smile: ). And while it might well be the case that sound is a thorn for precisely the reasons you set out, it might also be a thorn for other reasons, e.g. speech and the speech formation might be the key things to be suppressed (and sound then a thorn because hearing sounds might threaten to reactivate the appropriate centres in brain etc.).

We are making a very small number of suttas, even single words, work very very hard to infer these types of conclusions!

So for “outside of a Jhana”, it seems you mean prior to entering any jhana at all? So you’d be of the view that awareness of the breathing is abandoned very early on? Or am I misunderstanding you?

I’d think that the simplest interpretation would be that to go from the third to the fourth jhana, breathing must cease, but that in fourth jhana one is actually aware of this cessation (so there’s still body awareness), and it’s only in the base of infinite space, " Through the complete transcending of material perceptions", that the body formation itself has really ceased.

Something doesn’t quite add up for me with the contrast between “vivicceva kāmehi” and the fourth jhana cessation of breathing. It indicates to me that perhaps either “kāmehi” might not quite equate to “sense objects” (maybe more to “sensuality” as alluded to by Mat) or, if it does, that “vivicceva” might equate to its softer connotation: “staying quite aloof from” rather than the harder: “fully separated from”. Or perhaps the suttas themselves are just inconsistent or unclear?


Hi again

I read the implications of the above rather differently. You’ll notice that the first 3 predicates are in the nominative, followed by the rest in the ablative. As such, I would say it’s probably correct to say that this samādhi is

na cābhinato+ na cāpanato + na ca sasaṅ­khā­ra­nig­gay­ha­vārita­gato

The ablatives mark the subsequent propositions as causal sequels to the concentration, eg from being liberated for vimuttattā.

The qualities na abhinata and na apanata are difficult to trace, but they do pop up in the Chinese parallel. The only other place where where I could find them occuring is in the verse in MN 56 -

Ariyassa bhāvitattassa,
Pattipattassa veyyākaraṇassa;
Satimato vipassissa,
Anabhinatassa no apanatassa;
Anejassa vasippattassa,
Bhagavato tassa sāvakohamasmi

Of him who is noble, is developed,
has attained to advantage, mindful, intuitive,
free from like and dislike,
is devoid of craving and has attained mastery,
of that Blessed One am I a disciple.

This looks like someone who has mastered sense restraint. It does not appear to be an arahant, since SN 35.91 advises such a person (in relation to ejā) to na maññeyya, which is the same advice given to Trainees in MN 1.

That’s correct, but I don’t think anupādāya necessarily is the monopoly of arahants. What do you think about its occurrence in SN 24.1, which is clearly applied to a Stream Winner?

PS - I should mention that none of the Chinese parallels to the non-clinging suttas clustered around SN 22.45 have the “vimuttattā ṭhitaṃ etc” pericope. They’re all found in the meditation suttas clustered around SA 557. Food for thought.


It’s just messy!

But out of curiosity, must there be body-awareness for consciousness of the breath to arise?

Caveat - just a query, as I don’t even posit consciousness of breath to arise in a jhana.


Sure. I think that, a lot of the time, we’re trying to impose consistency and precision on suttas that just don’t seem all that consistent or precise.

I don’t know. Maybe it might be direct awareness, or maybe the consciousness of cessation of this body process seeps into the mind in quite an indirect fashion, and perhaps it’s somewhere on the borderlines of the fifth and sixth sense bases. Though, I guess if one insists on putting it into one particular sense base basket, then it probably should go into the fifth basket.

For the most part, if one ignores breathing, the “exclusion of senses” interpretation works fairly well: higher and higher jhanas involve the suppression of factors that could (though not inevitably) be construed as not involving the body at all: piti, sukha etc. Even words like “Through the complete transcending of material perceptions” to get into the arupa jhanas could then be explained as a transition from material to non-material perceptions (not involving body awareness at all).

However, the involvement of the messy physical process of breathing at the fourth jhana (and the bodily formation) does stick out like a thumb in that regard.

Sure. Some of the arguments elsewhere on the thread involving the fine points of Pali grammar and ablatives etc. are a bit above my pay grade! :slight_smile: But the question of breathing is a more concrete point I can get my teeth into. Was just trying to tease out some thoughts on this issue from someone obviously holding this type of interpretation, so thanks for the thoughts. Yes, jhana in the suttas is messy. No jhana interpretation that I’ve seen is entirely satisfactory.


Hello again. Just noticed I missed this.

There is something very perplexing about the above, when the passage continues with the assertion that because because consciousness is not established, it is liberated.

As far as I can tell, this seems to be the standard import of consciousness not being established -

Where consciousness does not become established and come to growth, there is no descent of name-and-form : SN 12.64

It’s talking about rebirth. The Arahant has just died but there is no rebirth sequel. See also SN 12.39.

Might you be able to explain how to reconcile this?


Thanks for the reply, @Sylvester. I didn’t realise you wrote about this topic so extensively. So I’m sorry that it looked like I want discuss something ad nauseam, without really making any point. You’re right that indeed two types of attainments are discussed here. Thanks for pointing this out to me.

As a follow up for @silence arguments, I’d like to draw your attention to an interesting gātha from SN 1.38:

This seems to suggest that such state is attained by a liberated mind, or at least it points to uncommon mastery of a person in such a state.

Moreover, in his footnotes to AN3.101 regarding “na sasaṅ­khā­ra­nig­gay­ha­vārita­gataṃ”, Bhikkhu Bodhi points out that corresponding passage from the Āgama reads:

Again, it’s not just regular samādhi but of an arahant or someone who is about to attain arahantship. What are you thoughts about this?


Forced focus (ie fosed focus or concentration, as in the concentration camp type focus) can give rise to samadhi. This is forced against, the defilements. However when those upakilesas are removed (see AN3.101), ceto-vimutti, the final outcome of purifying the mind, is realized. This samadhi is pure and doesn’t need forced focus (ie mental fabrications) to maintain it. The na in front of na sasaṅ­khā­ra­nig­gay­ha­vārita­gata says it is not the forced focus type of samadhi.

What is later called phalasamawata is said to be accessible to stream entrants onwards. This is said to be where the six senses do not work; it is Nibbana (see AN10.6). It can be noted that this is called a samadhi; this made me wonder if all mental states that arrive in meditation were called samadhi as they are all unified on a particular object or desired outcome. Arahanth phala is said to be a similar state -however it isn’t clear to me whether it is a meditative or non-meditative state. Either way it would be na sasaṅ­khā­ra­nig­gay­ha­vārita­gata.

"There is the case where a monk — quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful qualities — enters and remains in the first jhana: rapture and pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought and evaluation. He permeates and pervades, suffuses and fills this very body with the rapture and pleasure born from withdrawal. There is nothing of his entire body unpervaded by rapture and pleasure born from withdrawal.

"Just as if a skilled bathman or bathman’s apprentice would pour bath powder into a brass basin and knead it together, sprinkling it again and again with water, so that his ball of bath powder — saturated, moisture-laden, permeated within and without — would nevertheless not drip; even so, the monk permeates, suffuses and fills this very body with the rapture and pleasure born of withdrawal. There is nothing of his entire body unpervaded by rapture and pleasure born from withdrawal… AN5.28

Clearly there is awareness of the body, IMO -otherwise some of the things said in this and other suttas wont make sense- I’m not sure if there is any commentarial description that maintains that the body cannot be felt in jhana- just my lack of awareness. :no_mouth: :slight_smile: .

with metta


I have discussed this passage with Sylvester at length in another thread. My opinion is that you are correct, but his is that there is only awareness of the mind and that kaya means the mind or something related to it, but not the physical body (Sylvester please correct me if I misrepresent your opinion).


Am I summarizing the first part of your point accurately by the following?

  1. vimuttattā ṭhito, ṭhitattā santusito, santusitattā no paritassati are in the ablative case, which marks causality
  2. therefore they do not describe that particular samadhi but its resulting, following state

If I am reformulating your point accurately above, then what subject do the past participles ṭhito, santusito, no paritassati apply to (this was addressed by ven. Bodhi in quote I provided earlier)?

Also, can you explain how this helps bolster your claim that

since the expression Evaṃsaññīpi kho, āvuso, tadāyatanaṃ no paṭisaṃvedeti at the end of AN 9.37 seems to apply to all that was described just before (ie. the 5 afore mentioned items, plus possibly aññā) and there is no reason a priori to think it applies only to a samadhi that would (in your view) precede said 3 predicates. Can you point to such a reason that would be completely separated from any propensity to interpret the texts in a light that favors your overall opinion on this subject?

Do you mean to say that SN 24.1 demonstrates that a sotapanna is ‘without clinging to what is impermanent, suffering, and subject to change’? Does the statement made in this sutta not rather simply mean that when a noble disciple has abandoned perplexity, he is a sotapanna?


I don’t see a problem here.

One becomes an arahant > there is no support for the establishing of consciousness > ‘it’ is liberated > at the time of death there is no rebirth

What’s the problem? Am I missing anything here?


I was under the impression that the stream entrant was not attached to views about the five aggregates rather than the five aggregates themselves. kāma tanha, bhava tanha vanishes late in the process so attachment (upadana) must still persist, but I suppose not necessarily at the same strength or equally for all the aggregates.

With metta


Hi Piotr

This should be fairly easy to disposed off. I would not read that passage in isolation, as the opposite situation is posited in the preceding paragraph -



The preceding paragraph also mentions the exhaustion of the effluents, even though it is in the context of not attaining this peaceful concentration.

The only I can think of to resolve this seeming inconsistency is that the Chinese translators were working with a text that has the instrumental case, instead of the locative rendering given by BB. Would this now read better -

…does not attain the peaceful and the sublime, does not attain the quiescent pleasant state, by which all the effluents are exhausted.

… he attains the peaceful and the sublime, he attains the quiescent pleasant state, the unified mind, by which all the effluents are exhausted.

Let me try to locate my old post on AN 1.38 in this subject from DW. It was also raised by Dmytro (I believe).

Pls don’t apologize for raising this! It’s a legitimate question and I can’t expect you to be in DD stalking me 24/7.

PS - I thought I should elaborate a little about the SA 1246 analysis. Although BB inserted the postposition “in” to “in which all the taints are destroyed” (盡諸有漏), the text actually does not have any postposition or even a preposition. It’s just in the nature of the SA in Chinese - many words are rendered as stems without any preposition/postposition to indicate the grammatical relation that word is showing within a clause/sentence. That is why I think an instrumental or ablative probably makes more sense for the 2 passages than a locative case.


Hi silence

Quick one before I run off.

Yes, you have understood one of my points concerning the nature of the kāya in the jhana pericopes. For this point, I think we need to have a fulsome re-ventilation of the semantic shifts around attan and kāya that was discussed in @Gabriel 's lovely essay ‘Kāya’ and ‘body’ in context

I’ve raised other objections as well, principally dealing with the impossibility of any of the 5 senses contacting mind-born pleasure (MN 43) and the base nature of pleasure born from the kāmā (MN 66).


Would you then assert that anyone who feels pleasure while reading an interesting book or ‘Gabriel’s lovely essay’ is in fact deluding himself into believing he is feeling an impossible pleasure?


Aah, but where is that pleasure felt? The mind or the skin/muscle?

It’s part of the old debate - does the mind experience kāyika feelings, or does the mind experience only cetasika feelings?


Exactly what I am saying. The pleasure is felt in the body, but it is mind-born since it originates from juggling with ideas in the mind.


How do you describe the hedonic tone of that feeling? Is it tactile in nature?


Say the reader even has goosebumps… yes it is an obviously mind-born tactile pleasure


Not quite. I believe I was referring to vimuttattā, ṭhitattā and santusitattā as the ablatives in question. Vimuttattā = from being liberated. I take it that this to refer back to the state of vimutti that flows out from being concentrated, given that vimutti is an umbrella term used for the attainments, among others.

The participles in nominative ṭhito and santusito are part of a standard periphrasis, where the auxillary verb hoti is silent. Here, the hoti would be referring to the person in question, namely the meditator who has attained this concentration. Looking at the na paritassati would confirm this, since it is always used in suttas to refer to the person being discussed in the sutta.

I think it would be quite ungrammatical to read the passage as you propose. Let’s render the text in full, including the pronoun in locative yāyaṃ. If you are to translate this precisely into ugly Buddhist Hybrid English, you will have -

Sister, with reference to the concentration that does not lean forward and does not lean back and that is not reined in and checked by forcefully suppressing the defilements, by being liberated, one is steady…

It is impossible to translate it as -

Sister, with reference to the concentration that does not lean forward and does not lean back and that is not reined in and checked by forcefully suppressing the defilements, that is liberated, one is steady…

Do you see now my point about the ablative? If you wish to argue for your translation, the participle “liberated” would need to be in the nominative as well, as the grammar brooks no mixing up of the declension of adjectives in a junction with its noun. In fact, AN 9.37would have had to use the participle vimutto instead of a substantive noun vimuttatta.

Can I take this point as resolved? Or do you wish to insist that this samadhi is predicated on 5 qualities, when the grammar clearly only allows 3, ie na abhinata, na apanata, and na sasaṅ­khā­ra­nig­gay­ha­vārita­gata?


I don’t believe the texts identify that as mind-born tactile pleasure. It is simply tactility born pleasure.

That does not mean that tactility born pleasure cannot be the result of the CNS acting as the bridge between the mind and neurotransmitters and skin. The texts are quite clear - the 5 senses can only touch their respective external base. It is impossible for any of the 5 senses to touch dhammas. By the time, pleasure has arisen at the skin, some many biological intermediaries have already kicked in.

Unless you wish to argue that all of the intermediaries all fall under mind?