I don't think (hard)jhana is needed to attain nibbana

Thanks, a very good point.

It seems the suttas ask us to understand things and to cultivate various mind states, more than provide specific ‘techniques’. This can sometimes seem frustrating, as we ask, “but how do we do it??”

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I have to disagree with you that Jhannas is “the middle way, the direct path to realization”. Jhannas are just footings for Buddha to discover the Noble Eightfold path which the middle way.

Here are my reasons:

1st) The buddha clearly said noble eightfold path is the middle way NOT “Jhannas”

“…And what is that middle way of practice? It is simply this noble eightfold path, that is: right view, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right immersion.” SN56.11 SuttaCentral & AN3.156 SuttaCentral

2nd) The buddha had already attained the dimension of nothingness when was studied with Alara Kalama and dimension of neither perception nor non-perception with Uddaka and realized that they’re NOT leading to end of suffering so he left. So, obviously, Jhannas were not the middle path.

“Then it occurred to me, ‘This teaching doesn’t lead to disillusionment, dispassion, cessation, peace, insight, awakening, and extinguishment. It only leads as far as rebirth in the dimension of nothingness.’ Realizing that this teaching was inadequate, I left disappointed.” MN26 SuttaCentral

3rd) Jhannas have been around long before the Buddha time. If Jhannas really are the middle way, the Buddha’s teachers Alara Kalama and Uddaka as well as all those practiced Jhannas then would have been liberated already. There would be no need for the Buddha to appear in this world.

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I think buddha still didn’t know jhana at that time

For if he indeed entered jhana using his guru’s instruction he would easily attained jhana just by remembering his guru’s instruction instead of his childhood jhana attainment

Or do you think in order to get Neither perception nor non perception attainment you have to enter jhana beforehand ?

But you are right that hindus at that time did know how to attain jhanas

I refer you to this discussion then. The Noble Eightfold Path is the Jhāna Path! - #56 by cdpatton

You can seek out and debate with the people there, I have no energy or time to discuss with you.

Skillfully. :wink:

DN34:1.2.2: What one thing is helpful?
DN34:1.2.3: Diligence in skillful qualities.

That’s right.

It may help to think of jhana as a…tool, an exquisitely subtle instrument for dealing with delusion and ignorance, a scalpel for cutting attachment and craving.

And tools are discovered and re-discovered for many a purpose. As @hmong.buddhism points out, the Buddha did indeed attain the dimension of perception and non-perception. So this tool, this meditation, was used before, by Uddaka (not by Kalama, who taught the dimension of nothingness, which immediately precedes perception/non-perception). This meditation to the level of perception and non-perception was used before.

What then did the Buddha do differently? The Buddha was not happy with dimension of perception and non-perception.

Unsatisfied, the Buddha searched deeper:

MN26:18.1: And so, being myself liable to be reborn, understanding the drawbacks in being liable to be reborn, I sought the unborn supreme sanctuary, extinguishment—and I found it. Being myself liable to grow old, fall sick, die, sorrow, and become corrupted, understanding the drawbacks in these things, I sought the unaging, unailing, undying, sorrowless, uncorrupted supreme sanctuary, extinguishment—and I found it.

What did he find? Sariputta describes it this way:

DN34:1.2.11: What one thing should be given up?
DN34:1.2.12: The conceit ‘I am’.

Many can acquire a scalpel and cut with it. But a skilled surgeon understands how to apply the surgical instrument properly.

Meditation is like a scalpel. It cuts through the illusions of what we talk about as “reality”. Meditation cuts to the formless realms, allowing us to step back from the forms we habitually call “real”.

But the Buddha had the insight to use the scalpel of meditation in a different way than before. The Buddha used meditation to cut away the conceit, “I am”. With conceit cut away, he became an arahant. So this use of meditation, this use of meditation to cut away identity view, is a distinguishing factor of jhana.

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In several suttas the Buddha says you should practice jhanas so you don’t fall into later regret. He also says that the four noble truths (and the noble eightfold path, not sevenfold path) are like an elephants footprint, the largest footprint that envelopes everything. So all teachings fall under the context of the four noble truths. He also says the same thing about jhanas, all teachings fall under the context of jhanas. Therefore everything he teaches is for 1) attaining jhanas and 2) understanding the four noble truths (which includes jhanas)

They give up these five hindrances, corruptions of the heart that weaken wisdom. Then, quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unskillful qualities, they enter and remain in the first absorption, which has the rapture and bliss born of seclusion, while placing the mind and keeping it connected. This, brahmin, is called ‘a footprint of the Realized One’ and also ‘used by the Realized One’ and also ‘marked by the Realized One’. But a noble disciple wouldn’t yet come to the conclusion, ‘The Blessed One is a fully awakened Buddha. The teaching is well explained. The Saṅgha is practicing well.’

  • MN 27

One can even argue that Jhanas are needed for stream entry, as I’ve written long essays on that topic with plenty of sutta references, but that’s another topic.

Therefore, anyone who says jhanas aren’t needed for nibbana rejects the noble eightfold path, and therefore the four noble truths, and therefore the triple gem, and thus they are bahiro (outsiders) with wrong view.

It’s not logical to believe that there is a shorter path than that the Buddha himself took, the only shortcut he gave us is skipping the formless jhanas/ayatanas.

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I think, naturally, only very religious persons (or very fundamentalists) will consider that belief, a whole range of EBTS as being early, or even the words of the Buddha.

I think, they do not tend to ignore any other texts of agama/nikaya; they just consider all EBTs are just texts, some compiled early, some later, which are not established at once in a complete form in the early Buddhist council, for example, regarding the four agamas/nikayas.

Moggallana attained Arahantship while in formless jhanas, see the Moggallana Samyutta SN 40… He went from jhana 1 to 8, and then signless concentration.

"And then, friends, the Blessed One came to me by his powers[6] and said: ‘Moggallaana, Moggallaana, Brahman,[7] do not slacken off in the signless concentration, make your mind steady, make the mind one-pointed, concentrate your mind in the signless concentration!’

"And after that, friends, paying no attention to any distinguishing signs, I entered on and dwelt in the signless concentration of the heart.

“Now, friends, if anyone were to truly declare: ‘Through the Teacher’s compassion the disciple gained great super-knowledge,’[8] he could rightly declare this of me.”

Painful practice doesn’t mean no jhanas. It means they’re just very passionate and aversive.

"And which is painful practice with slow intuition? There is the case where a certain individual is normally of an intensely passionate nature. He perpetually experiences pain & distress born of passion. Or he is normally of an intensely aversive nature. He perpetually experiences pain & distress born of aversion. Or he is normally of an intensely deluded nature. He perpetually experiences pain & distress born of delusion. These five faculties of his — the faculty of conviction, the faculty of persistence, the faculty of mindfulness, the faculty of concentration, the faculty of discernment — appear weakly. Because of their weakness, he attains only slowly the immediacy [1] that leads to the ending of the effluents. This is called painful practice with slow intuition.

"And which is painful practice with quick intuition? There is the case where a certain individual is normally of an intensely passionate nature. He perpetually experiences pain & distress born of passion. Or he is normally of an intensely aversive nature. He perpetually experiences pain & distress born of aversion. Or he is normally of an intensely deluded nature. He perpetually experiences pain & distress born of delusion. These five faculties of his — the faculty of conviction, the faculty of persistence, the faculty of mindfulness, the faculty of concentration, the faculty of discernment — appear intensely. Because of their intensity, he attains quickly the immediacy that leads to the ending of the effluents. This is called painful practice with quick intuition.

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an04/an04.162.than.html

As I wrote earlier, jhanas are required, there’s no doubt about it.

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there is a little mess in this issue. although this is not rare when we find the mess in Buddha times. And despite it was clarified inside the Suttas the mess persist because different reasons.

There is no doubt about the possibility of nibbana and arhanthood without a previous practice of cultivation of jhanas. We can read this here in quite clear terms:

however, it doesn’t mean in the second type a jhana was absent and not fulfilled despite no previous practice on jhanas.

Then the Sai18ram questions:

could be more precise formulated in this another way:

"Who are these arahants without a previous practice of jhanas ?"
"Is there a way to be an arahant besides a practice of jhana ?"

and the answer is Yes. Because the development of concentration driving to a successful jhana is not the same type than the development of concentration driving to the end of defilement.
This second type of development is needed after both types of successful cultivation before joining the path of fruit, nibbana.

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What you quoted states that formless jhanas aren’t needed for the pannavimutti arahant, not that jhanas 1-4 aren’t needed.

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that’s the mess. One thing is to say a jhana was needed, a different thing is to say a jhana was practiced.

May I add some things:

we can read the difference between developments of concentration inside AN 4.41 "Samadhi Sutta:

"And what is the development of concentration that, when developed & pursued, leads to a pleasant abiding in the here & now? There is the case where a monk — quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful qualities — enters & remains in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. With the stilling of directed thoughts & evaluations, he enters & remains in the second jhana: rapture & pleasure born of composure, unification of awareness free from directed thought & evaluation — internal assurance. With the fading of rapture, he remains equanimous, mindful, & alert, and senses pleasure with the body. He enters & remains in the third jhana, of which the Noble Ones declare, ‘Equanimous & mindful, he has a pleasant abiding.’ With the abandoning of pleasure & pain — as with the earlier disappearance of elation & distress — he enters & remains in the fourth jhana: purity of equanimity & mindfulness, neither pleasure nor pain. This is the development of concentration that, when developed & pursued, leads to a pleasant abiding in the here & now."

the above is the type of concentration proper of a successful jhana. And it leads “to a pleasant abiding in the here & now”, which is the goal of a succesful jhana. It doesn’t drive to nibbana by itself

The still needed development is different as it is explained in the same AN 4.41:

“And what is the development of concentration that, when developed & pursued, leads to the ending of the effluents? There is the case where a monk remains focused on arising & falling away with reference to the five clinging-aggregates: ‘Such is form, such its origination, such its passing away. Such is feeling, such its origination, such its passing away. Such is perception, such its origination, such its passing away. Such are fabrications, such their origination, such their passing away. Such is consciousness, such its origination, such its disappearance.’ This is the development of concentration that, when developed & pursued, leads to the ending of the effluents.

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Actually, Uddaka is Rama’s son. And only Rama did attained to that, not Uddaka (at least not when prince Siddhartha was learning from him. So that’s why Uddaka offered the leadership position entirely to Siddhartha when Siddhartha surpasses Uddaka. It seems that during the time of just after enlightenment, Uddaka succeeded and got reborn in the highest realm.

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Would you please share just one sutta that said “Jhanna are needed for stream entry” without adding commentary or opinion? If what you said is true, then there would be conflicts in the Buddha teachings. Why I said that?

(1) A Stream enterer has ended the lower three fetters (identity view, doubt, misapprehension of precepts and observances) and reborn at most seven times among gods and human (sensual realm). Why sensual realm? Because a stream enterer has not yet ended the lower 4th and 5th fetters (sensual desire and ill will). Assuming Jhannas are needed for stream entry as you said and a stream enterer has attained first Jhanna, then the stream enterer would no longer be a stream enterer. The stream enterer would be an Anagami reborn in the Pure Abode instead. If so, then there would be no point for the Buddha to declare Sotapana. This would cause great conflicts in the Buddha teachings because for an educated noble disciple of the Buddha to reborn in the Pure Abode, the lower five fetters must have ended. A stream enterer ends just the three lower fetters. So, whoever argue that “Jhannas are needed for stream entry” must have mis-interpreted or mistranslated the Buddha teachings.

“…a person, quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unskillful qualities, enters and remains in the first absorption … They contemplate the phenomena there—included in form, feeling, perception, choices, and consciousness—as impermanent, as suffering, as diseased, as an abscess, as a dart, as misery, as an affliction, as alien, as falling apart, as empty, as not-self. When their body breaks up, after death, they’re reborn in the company of the gods of the pure abodes. This rebirth is not shared with ordinary people.” AN4.124 SuttaCentral

(2) As the Buddha said, his teaching is for benefit of all beings; he wanted all beings to escape this Samsara as many as possible. It would make no sense for him to make Jhannas as a requirement for stream entry. This is just my opinion. How many people you know that have attained Jhannas already? By the way, I can provide you over 20 Suttas on Sotapana that mentioned nothing about “Jhannas are needed stream entry.”

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Can you point out where in this Sutta that the Buddha declared Moggallana is an Arahant? Or, Moggallana declared himself as Arahant? Hopefully, you’re not saying that someone who dwelling in signless concentration (animitta samadhi) is an Arahant? Or someone “gained super-knowledge” is an Arahant?

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Moggallana says at the end of the sutta I quoted that he attained maha-abhinata, which is only attained by Arahants, it’s what destroys the asavas. It’s the only abhinna that is Supermundane, the other abhinnas are not Supermundane and can be attained by non-ariyas.

As for your questions on stream entry, I said that’s another topic for another thread, but yes, there’s many suttas that show you need jhanas for attaining the fruit of stream entry (not path), even for a moment of a finger snap, as once you overcome the 5 hindrances and attain jhanas for the first time, it confirms confidence in the triple gem for the first time.

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That’s not the case, even in fourth jhana he said he attained great direct knowledge

Sn40.4
And so, after some time … I entered and remained in the fourth absorption.

So if anyone should be rightly called a disciple who attained to great direct knowledge with help from the Teacher, it’s me.”

Even if that were the case, you can only attain abhinnas in Jhanas… so Jhanas are still needed.

What’s the relation between abhinna and arahant ?

Do you want to argue that people need abhinna to become arahant ?

There are 6 abhinnas, 5 abhinnas can be attained by any ascetic, but the sixth abhinna, maha-abhina, is the only one that Ariyas can attain, and results in Arahantship

The six types of higher knowledges (chalabhiññā) are:

  • “Higher powers” (iddhi-vidhā), such as walking on water and through walls;
  • “Divine ear” (dibba-sota), that is, clairaudience;
  • “Mind-penetrating knowledge” (ceto-pariya-ñāṇa), that is, telepathy;
  • “Remember one’s former abodes” (pubbe-nivāsanussati), causal memory, that is, recalling one’s own past lives;
  • “Divine eye” (dibba-cakkhu), that is, knowing others’ karmic destinations; and,
  • "Extinction of mental intoxicants" (āsavakkhaya), upon which arahantship follows.[7]
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