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Is it possible to enter the formless dimensions without jhana? How?

After reading Majjhima Nikaya 26, this question always pops into my mind: How can one attain the formless dimensions without going first through 4th jhana? What type of meditation makes this possible?

https://suttacentral.net/en/mn26

“Thus Āḷāra Kālāma, my teacher, placed me, his pupil, on an equal footing with himself and awarded me the highest honour. But it occurred to me: ‘This Dhamma does not lead to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to peace, to direct knowledge, to enlightenment, to Nibbāna, but only to reappearance in the base of nothingness. Not being satisfied with that Dhamma, disappointed with it, I left.’

“Thus Uddaka Rāmaputta, my companion in the holy life, placed me in the position of a teacher and accorded me the highest honour. But it occurred to me: ‘This Dhamma does not lead to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to peace, to direct knowledge, to enlightenment, to Nibbāna, but only to reappearance in the base of neither-perception-nor-non-perception.’ Not being satisfied with that Dhamma, disappointed with it, I left.

It’s possible to attain them through jhānas which constitute wrong concentration (micchāsamādhi).

MN 121 seems to offer an entry into what is at least the perception of infinite space, infinite consciousness, nothingness, and neither-perception-nor-non-perception without moving through the jhanas first (or at least, they aren’t mentioned in the sutta).

Venerable Analayo discusses this sutta in detail, and from a practical perspective, in his excellent book Compassion and Emptiness in Early Buddhist Meditation. But he argues that the perceptions of these spheres outlined in the sutta fall short of the actual formless attainments.

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Oh I see. So if I understand this correctly, experiencing the formless dimensions without achieving 4th jhana would be considered more of an illusion, while experiencing them through 4th jhana would be considered right consentration/samadhi?

4th jhana’s considered to be the base for the rest of the formless meditative attainments. In the suttas, 4th jhana and the 4 formless are referred to as the states of the “imperturbable”/aninjita (Ex: MN 105 ).

No, not an illusion. It’s just a matter of the degree of depth. But as you can see from the sutta, it can still lead to full awakening.

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But they are implied by the meditation which is described before the first formless attainment.