How old was the Buddha-to-be when he experienced his 1st jhana (MN16)

Any way to infer this for some EBT texts?

As far as I’m aware it’s only mentioned in the Longer Discourse With Saccaka and no age is given. So the answer to your question seems to be no. All we can infer is that he was old enough at the time to later remember the incident without the aid of jhana induced powers of retrocognition, since he had not yet regained the bodily health necessary to enter jhana.

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Do the commentaries provide any further backstory? Maybe Bhante @Dhammanando could help?

In later Theravādin sources the Bodhisatta is represented as being extremely young at the time. The Milindapañha states that he was only a month old, while the Majjhima Atthakathā states no age but represents the Bodhisatta as still being suckled by wet-nurses.

Other Indian schools differ from the Theravāda on this point, as well as differing from each other. There’s a Sarvāstivāda tradition going back to Upagupta in the Aśokāvadāna which represents the Jambu tree event as occurring just before the vision of the four devadūtas, in effect making it an event occurring in Gotama’s manhood. The alleged contemporaneity of the two events is later reiterated in Aśvaghoṣa’s Buddhacarita, in which the Bodhisatta attains dhyāna when already old enough to go out riding a horse by himself.

Then there’s another tradition preserved in the Lalitavistara Sūtra in which the Bodhisatta is still a boy but well beyond early infancy, for he he has already graduated from writing school.


Unless of course it was the other way around, with the seeing of the devadūtas occurring in his boyhood. Either way we have a report that’s plainly at odds with earlier narrations.


I remember it is said the Bodhisatta was seven years old when he attained first jhana for the first time in the plough festival held by his father, but I can’t remember the source (perhaps from The Great Chronicle of the Buddhas, commentary of Buddhavamsa)…

Venerable Analayo talked about the one intent on awakening’s recollection of a past absorption experience in many different versions here:

He talked about it from page 240 to page 243.


Thank you very much bhante. :anjal:

Thanks you all for your replies. I enjoyed reading Analayo study.

My original question came from the reflexion that jhanas have to be a natural (not a mysterious one) phenomena that evolution has allowed us to experience when causes and conditions are right. The fact that possibly a young person can experience the 1st jhana makes it even more natural to me.

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The episode is recounted in vol. II part I of the the Great Chronicle. As in the Atthakathās no age is stated but the detail about the Bodhisatta still being looked after by nurses is repeated. What is reported as happening at the age of seven is Sakka’s sending of the deva Vissakamma to build a lake for the prince. But this is a later event than the jambu tree episode.