Is it bad kamma for laypeople to honestly claim jhāna?

If a layperson entered jhāna before (the definition of jhāna where all hindrances and five senses are utterly lost and pīti arises), did research to find out that that experience was jhāna, and then tells others in only the right situation such as purely for the purpose of educating, relating to, asking help from, or to help others (given they’ve adequately understood their audience’s mind) and not for the purpose of anything like bragging, is this still bad kamma?

Yes it’s a rule for monastics (Bu Pc8 / Bi Pc104), probably out of safety and also so some don’t get donations more than others, but does this attitude hold true for laypeople?


There is nothing bad about the situation that you have mentioned.

I think it’s okay, provided they explain what they mean by jhāna (not necessarily the specific steps they took), so that we can all benefit from understanding their position, and perhaps learning from them.

It seems different people have different interpretations of jhāna, which is understandable given the Buddha does not really explain them other than the stock phrases or pericopes.

For example, I have seen some people here claim it is a supernatural attainment, or an altered state of consciousness, while others think it’s a meditative state, and still others don’t believe it has anything to do with meditation.

If someone told me they have experienced jhāna states, I would not think they are bragging. Why would they brag, as that would only hurt themselves? Similar if they say they are awakened - I would love to hear more about their experiences, and would congratulate them. If they are truly awakened, then congratulations to them. If they are mistaken, then it is not for me to tell them otherwise, and in any case who am I to judge (unless I am awakened myself). In either case I would wish them well and have nothing but loving-kindness towards them.


Maybe link the sutta and quote that has the definition of jhana you are describing as well as the monastic law you are citing. :pray:

Bu Pc8

‘If a monk truthfully tells a person who is not fully ordained of a superhuman quality, he commits an offense entailing confession.’

Bi Pc104 (no translation)


Do those super human qualities realy refer to jhana?

if a monk says to a person who is not fully ordained, “I attained the first jhāna,” he commits an offense entailing confession.


I read an interesting book entitled “Entering the Stream to Enlightenment: Experiences of the Stages of the Buddhist Path in Contemporary Sri Lanka” by Yuki Sirimane. The description:

“This book is a study on the nature and effects of the Theravada Buddhist religious experiences of the four supramundane fruits of the Noble Eightfold Path - the experience of the fruit which is stream-entry, once returning, non-returning and Arahanthship - with special focus on the experience of stream-entry.It represents the first time within Theravada Buddhist studies that a serious textual study has been combined with a substantial field research. Despite disciplinary rules which virtually prohibit a monk with higher ordination from discussing their personal religious experiences, this book presents seven comprehensive anonymous interviews conducted mainly with forest monks on their meditative experiences. The study presents a definition for the ‘supramundane fruit’ of the path and an alternate framework to discuss and evaluate Theravada Buddhist religious experiences. It then uses this framework to address some longstanding debates around the Theravada path and its fruits thus bringing experience back to the centre stage of these debates.”

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It sounds like bad kamma because i read in MN 14 a jhana attainer does not return to sensual pleasures therefore it sounds unlikely an ordinary layperson has entered jhana. I also read in MN 19 ending the five hindrances is not immediately jhana therefore those with wrong view about instant jhana will easily overestimate their experience. Also there is no need to make a declaration of attaining jhana when teaching about jhana because a student that has not already developed a strong amount of long lasting concentration will not attain jhana. The whole idea jhana must be declared to teach jhana sounds like it comes from a wrong view of underestimating what jhana is; from the wrong view that jhana is something easily & quickly attained. The very “definition” of jhana you provided sounds like this wrong view of instant jhana. I think a person that properly understands how difficult it is to attain jhana would not spend their time on the internet trying to teach jhana. In conclusion, it sounds like bad kamma because the wouldbe layteacher is probably engaged in false speech about jhana. I read the sutta AN 10.211 say false speech leads to hell.

That doesn’t mean it’s not true. And my question was really about non-ordained people since it was about the vinaya rule, and by that definition, laypeople could live their lives closer to monastic life if they wished.

That doesn’t mean it didn’t or can’t happen.

I didn’t say that.

I think I phrase my questions quite carefully, but maybe I do need to include lots of qualifiers and exceptions. I didn’t say this.

My original question was actually not intended to refer to or include “teaching it to others”. I did say “educating”, but I didn’t actually mean “teach how to do it”, just teach what that experience is even like. I’m also referring to if they talk to non-Buddhists or their friends (who have never heard of the term “jhāna”) just to share what very deep meditation is like. It’s really a wide range of possibilities as I mentioned. They may also want to ask for help, relate to others, help prepare others for shocking parts of it, or inspire confidence in other Buddhists.

“given they’ve adequately understood their audience’s mind”. If it’s something where they are just attention-seeking, then that’d be pretty weird, but I’m talking like some (maybe private) groups online with a more trustworthy audience. Maybe this website for example.

Maybe they have no support in non-internet life, and most of their Buddhist interaction has happened on the internet.

In this way, there isn’t too big of a difference between communicating an idea in-person vs online if you comprehend who’s listening, but the advantage of it being online is that it’s documented and sited, not just being hearsay. Also there’s a reason the suttas are online.

My question was supposing that they are telling the truth, but you probably guessed that.

In the “definition” I gave, this was just a shorthand for a more common, longer definition. It’s what I believe the suttas refer to (besides “jhāna” also meaning “meditation”, but so I’m referring to just the parts which mention four jhānas) and what Ajahn Brahm refers to. I never said that this is entered from something like regular sensual pleasure enjoying life or even just lower meditation, I also didn’t necessarily say it was instant, but I would say it happens only after very deeply meditating, and at the end, it is a discrete step, only with that proper conditioning (as well as excellent virtue). Entering discrete states for us isn’t even that uncommon, such as falling asleep, but this state is obviously quite different as you would be stepping into a life transforming joy.


Firstly, a mendicant, quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unskillful qualities, enters and remains in the first absorption. It has the rapture and bliss born of seclusion, while placing the mind and keeping it connected.
They drench, steep, fill, and spread their body with rapture and bliss born of seclusion. There’s no part of the body that’s not spread with rapture and bliss born of seclusion. It’s like when a deft bathroom attendant or their apprentice pours bath powder into a bronze dish, sprinkling it little by little with water.
They knead it until the ball of bath powder is soaked and saturated with moisture, spread through inside and out; yet no moisture oozes out.
In the same way, a mendicant drenches, steeps, fills, and spreads their body with rapture and bliss born of seclusion.
There’s no part of the body that’s not spread with rapture and bliss born of seclusion.
This is the first way to develop noble right immersion (sammāsamādhi) with five factors.

One might call this a stock description, becoming meaningless with repetition, but it’s actually exactly enough, and it’s a perfect description of what that’s like.

I can’t tell from what you said, but if you still call this meaning of jhāna wrong, then maybe you believe that “right jhāna” is something like metaphors for different stages of your practice or states of meditation where you still have some amount of 5 senses. Those things could obviously technically be real, but it suggests that The Buddha didn’t teach these actual discrete and beautiful stages of higher meditation.

Those views are actually why I made this thread. And I didn’t make it so I could argue about some stupid meaning of what a word is, although your post kinda began to, and I’m not going to from here. I made this thread so that I can point out the truth and what the reality of meditation is, and that matters.

People try to change the definition from what the suttas say, cope endlessly over the semantics of it, or say that you should avoid it when it does happen. When people do this, enormous happiness and wisdom are blocked to themselves, their listeners, or students, and they aren’t teaching the end of suffering. Of course such people were conditioned by a complex history to believe and then teach this, and I never really expected them or even any religion to be perfect, but their students expect those teachings to take them to the ending of all suffering, so they would not be inclined to look further into the suttas, and they’d be stuck for as long as they don’t rebel or until they are reborn with a better teacher. If having to tell others they entered the so-called jhānas as anecdotal evidence that it’s actually exactly how the suttas describe it in order to convince teachers to teach it correctly only for the sake of their students’ and others’ suffering, to preserve and uncorrupt The Buddha’s Dhamma, then so be it, I really don’t think that is that big of a problem. I know you may think it’s contradictory because things like scholasticism become quite disinteresting with advanced practice, but this is beyond just that, and unless those schools just hide to the public that they do teach this (could easily be true), then the ending of suffering is at stake for many followers.

I believe that it is possible to interpret the Buddha’s descriptions literally, and if one has experienced exactly what the Buddha has described, then I believe it is valid.

Yeah it would have to depend on how you interpret it, but I was wishfully thinking there was a most obvious interpretation. I’ve heard that The Buddha selected each word such as pīti to refer to a “higher version” of them, which is how I was interpreting it. I’m not sure that counts as taking it literally. The “no part of the body” part I’m taking more literally, although even the word body can be used as an abstraction for everything that happens to you. Sometimes these texts are clearly meant to be literal, or some are clearly existing on such a wide range that you can’t even call it non-literal or metaphorical anymore, and I think this description isn’t vague if you add it up with all the other ways it’s described and even how it fits in with the practice and cosmology.

Like: “dhp says that there’s no wisdom without jhāna and no jhāna without wisdom, and I can clearly see there was much deeper wisdom in this state; it was like kneading a bowl; I can see a strong pīti and a subtler sukha; I can see it fade into a stiller sukha; the hindrances are clearly lost; there really can’t be much above these states; this wisdom is very conducive towards the end of suffering, and that’s what the Buddha taught” would be some supporting deductions that that sutta description is the same thing as what someone experienced.

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Just to make sure I understand what the Buddha was saying, I made my own translation of the first jhāna, from DN 9:

10.1 So vivicceva kāmehi, vivicca akusalehi dhammehi, savitakkaṁ savicāraṁ vivekajaṁ pītisukhaṁ paṭhamaṁ jhānaṁ upasampajja viharati.
:mens:①⨀(ta) :arrow_up_small:(vivicceva) :mens:⑤⨂(kāma) :stop_button::metal:⨀(viviccati) :mens:⑤⨂(akusala) :mens:⑤⨂(dhamma) :mens:②⨀(savitakka) :mens:②⨀(savicāra) :mens:②⨀(vivekaja) :mens:②⨀(pītisukha) :mens:②⨀(paṭhama) :mens:②⨀(jhāna) :stop_button::metal:⨀(upasampajjati) :arrow_forward::love_you_gesture:⨀(viharati)
that | just secluding oneself from | sensual pleasure | may you detach from | unskillful | behaviour | accompanied by reflection | with planning | secluded from defilements | with joy and happiness | first | jhāna | may you enter | continue in
Secluding yourself from sensual pleasure, may you detach from unskillful behaviour, and enter and continue in the first jhāna, accompanied by reflection, consideration, secluded from defilements, with joy and happiness.

10.2 Tassa yā purimā kāmasaññā, sā nirujjhati.
:mens:⑥⨀(ta) :mens:①⨂(ya) :mens:①⨂(purima) :womens:①⨀(kāmasaññā) :womens:①⨀(ta) :arrow_forward::love_you_gesture:⨀(nirujjhati)
of that | whatever | past | perceptions of sensual pleasure | that | ceases
Of that, whatever past perceptions of sensual pleasure cease.

10.3 Vivekajapītisukhasukhumasaccasaññā tasmiṁ samaye hoti, vivekajapītisukhasukhumasaccasaññīyeva tasmiṁ samaye hoti.
:womens:①⨀(vivekajapītisukhasukhumasaccasaññā) :mens:⑦⨀(ta) :mens:⑦⨀(samaya) :arrow_forward::love_you_gesture:⨀(hoti) :womens:①⨀(vivekajapītisukhasukhumasaccasaññī) :arrow_up_small:(eva) :mens:⑦⨀(ta) :mens:⑦⨀(samaya) :arrow_forward::love_you_gesture:⨀(hoti)
refined and true perception of joy and happiness born from seclusion | in that | in occasion | is | with a refined and true perception of joy and happiness born from seclusion | only | in that | in occasion | is
In that occasion, there is refined and true perception of joy and happiness born from seclusion, and in that time there is only a refined and true perception of joy and happiness born from seclusion.

PS: even though the dictionary says “seclusion”, the sense I am getting from the passage is actually “detachment”. Also, on reflection, I think pītisukhaṁ is better translated as “compassion and happiness.”


After some research, I wish to retract the translation of pītisukhaṁ as “joy and happiness”

The main issue is that pīti is a mental property (cetasika) not a feeling (vedanā) so “joy and happiness” gives the wrong impression that one is feeling delight or rapture in the first jhāna.

According to Nyana it can be described psychologically as ‘joyful interest’ but even this carries an impression of emotion.

After poking around with synonyms, I may have to settle for “felicity and satisfaction” as these words have more of a connotation with psychological states rather than emotion.

Hope this helps for those who wish to understand the description of the first jhāna.

This is an interesting distinction. I’ve never heard of such and so when I go looking for the definition of “psychological state” what I see is this:

A psychological state is a person’s state of mind which comprises a diverse class, including pain experience, perception, desire, belief, intention, emotion, and memory (Martin, 1990). From: Applied Ergonomics, 2022.

Which is the first link that comes up on google. The third link gives the definition on Wikipedia for the synonym “mental state.”

Mental states comprise a diverse class, including perception, pain/pleasure experience, belief, desire, intention, emotion, and memory. There is controversy concerning the exact definition of the term.

Do you have a definition that makes clear the distinction between a mental property or psychological state versus emotion?


Why is that a problem? Don’t most of the items classed as cetasikas or caittas in the various Abhidharma systems in fact correspond to what modern psychologists are wont to call emotions (or affects)?

For example, here’s the scheme used in the modern Abhidharma of Robert Plutchik

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I wish I could help, but it’s very difficult to translate cetasika into English, and to be honest I struggle to understand it myself.

Psychological state is a very imprecise translation, and probably misleading.

From my understanding, cetasika is a mental construction as a result of saṅkhāra (volitional processes). There are “good” (sobhanacetasika) and “bad” (akusalacetasika) cetasikas, but pīti is classified as “neutral” (aññasamānacetasika) - this is according to the Abhidhamma, if you believe that.

For what it is worth, Bhikkhu Bodhi translates pīti as “zest”.

For reference on the cetasikas as defined in the Abhidhamma, please refer to this (which I did last year when I was studying it):