Is sammā-samādhi solely jhāna, and is jhāna required for the attainment of Nibbāna?

Thank you for your input, Bhante, it is much welcomed.

While I do agree that obsessing over theoretical details is completely missing the point, I think to know to what positive extent jhāna is important is a crucial aspect of the path.

Say if one were to think that jhāna isn’t required, probably not much effort would be put into practicing meditation. On the opposite side, however, if such a person were to find out that the first or all four jhānas are required to attain Enlightenment, surely this person would drastically change his approach to the practice.

It is for this reason why I think it is important to have a good understanding of how jhānas fit into the eightfold path—not to avoid them, but to underline their (highly probable) requirement and importance.

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  1. Sammasamadhi does mean jhana.

  2. At least the first jhana is required for attaining nibbana, but it’s probably not necessary for stream-entry.

I think that covers it.

:sunglasses:

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Hi daverupa,

The second statement hasn’t been presented in the discussion with conclusive passages.

Also, while I appreciate your input, please try to avoid directing the flow of a topic, or summarizing a discussion, which has been started by someone else.

The discussion is at an important stage, and having an incorrectly presented summary might misdirect the thread. It could also be interpreted as the discussion being over.

If you would like to present your above post, please do so as an opinion or with references from passages.

Warm regards.

Yes, my point was that one should never avoid jhāna because one has concluded they are unnecessary, even with reference tor stream-entry. Since they are part of the path, one should practice the jhānas when one gets there. Deliberately avoiding them would just slow you down or block you altogether from making progress. If one has doubts about the place of jhāna, it is perhaps best simply to leave the question open and practice the full path as it unfolds naturally.

Another point is that jhāna is a lesser degree of letting go than stream-entry. To reach the first jhāna you need to let go of a lot, but there is still a small aspect of the five khandhas you can hold on to. With stream-entry you need to let go of the five khandhas entirely, at least temporarily. So there is a natural progress on the path from satipaṭṭhāna to jhāna to stream-entry.

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According to the Susima sutta we can consider that immaterial states are not a necessity for nibbana. Here he asks arahanths who have been released through wisdom (panna vimutta) about their attainments:

“Then, having known thus, having seen thus, do you dwell touching with your body the peaceful emancipations, the formless states beyond form [the formless jhanas]?”
.
“No, friend.”
.
“So just now, friends, didn’t you make that declaration without having attained any of these Dhammas?”
.
"We’re released through discernment, friend Susima."SN12.70

Note that the arahanths say they do not have formless states, but there’s no discussion about the form jhana, suggesting they do have these. There’s a practical suggestion that what is required from the jhana for the attainment of nibbana is the high levels of samadhi developed while in those jhanic states and that the samadhi of the arupa jhana doesn’t exceed that of the fourth jhana (though there is a change of state)- therefore they are not an essential part of the Noble Eightfold path.

with metta

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Dear Bhante,

I have found in other topic here (thanks to @llt) that in the Chinese Agamas, sammāsamādhi is not defined as the four jhānas, but as unification of mind (ekaggata). For example, in the SA 784 (Pali parallel of SN 45.8):

何等為正定?謂住心不亂,堅固攝持,寂止、三昧、一心

What is Right Samādhi? That is to say, abiding with the mind not scattered, firm and collected, with tranquility, samādhi, and unity of mind.

What is your opinion about the difference of definition of Right Samādhi between Pali Nikayas and Chinese Agamas? Does this indicate the practice of Right Samādhi is different among early Buddhist traditions?

Thank you :anjal:

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Reminiscent of MN 44.

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@samseva
One more short thought crossed my mind this morning on the SN Indriya Samyutta’s treatment of jhana. While SN48 does seem to imply an arahant has a mastery of concentration (essentially equating to the four rupa jhanas in that section), that, however, doesn’t at all necessarily imply that a full mastery of jhana is necessary to become an arahant in the first place (the arrow may run both ways). Wisdom’s role as strengthener and stabilizer of the other four faculties, including concentration (as in the “roof peak” metaphor) would kick in after a wisdom/enlightenment breakthrough. Presumably, once a person breaks through to arahantship, then there’s really nothing left blocking him/her from full concentration mastery. It would logically follow that a similar pattern would happen also with the earlier three enlightenment stages: a partial wisdom breakthrough partially reinforces the other faculties. So, even if, hypothetically, a new sotapanna didn’t have jhana before, then his newly acquired wisdom should then establish it in him to some degree. So he will have some foothold in all five faculties (though perhaps strongest in saddha), and hence the stream has become established in him.

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Jhāna (from jhāyati) - Sanskrit: kṣāyati, from √ क्षि kṣi - to make an end of (cessation) [RV. AV. MBh.]

Then, bhikkhu, I have also taught the successive cessation of formations.

For one who has attained the first jhana, speech has ceased (and subsided and have been tranquillized).
For one who has attained the second jhana, vitakka and vicāra have ceased (and subsided and have been tranquillized).
For one who has attained the third jhana, delight has ceased (and subsided and have been tranquillized).
For one who has attained the fourth jhana, in-breathing and out-breathing have ceased (and subsided and have been tranquillized).
For one who has attained the base of the infinity of space, the perception of form has ceased (and subsided).
For one who has attained the base of the infinity of consciousness, the perception pertaining to the base of the infinity of space has ceased (and subsided).
For one who has attained the base of nothingness, the perception pertaining to the base of the infinity of consciousness has ceased (and subsided).
For one who has attained the base of neither-perception-nor-nonperception, the perception pertaining to the base of nothingness has ceased (and subsided).
For one who has attained the cessation of perception and feeling, perception and feeling have ceased (and subsided and have been tranquillized).
For a bhikkhu whose taints are destroyed, lust has ceased, hatred has ceased, delusion has ceased (and subsided and have been tranquillized).
SN 36.11 (SA 474)

Note that nirodha does not always necessarly convey the meaning of cessation.
निरोध nirodha [act. nirudh]
निरुध् nirudh [ni-rudh]
√ रुध् rudh

In MBh., it conveys the meaning of restraint , check , control - as much as the meaning of suppression , destruction.
The verb निरुध् nirudh conveys the meaning of: to hold back , restrain , check - as much as to suppress , destroy, in RV. ; or to keep away , ward off , and remove, in RV. & Br.
The root √ रुध् rudh conveys also this meaning - and particularly the meaning of “restraint”, as far as we are concerned.

In this case, the above extract is translated as:

For one who has attained the first jhana, speech has been restrained (and subsided and have been tranquillized). Etc.

This is more logical indeed.
Viz. restrained >> brought to a lower level >> tranquilized - instead of ceased !?!? >> brought to a lower level >> tranquilized.


Note: Vimutti (liberation) [might it be pañña or citta], has never equated nibbāna.


This is jhāna, in the suttas with parallels: https://justpaste.it/1avur


As far as samādhi is concerned, I would translate it as:
“To direct (pro-actively) the mind (citta) towards constant, right homogeneity” (& towards oneself [internal]).
(viz. the serene homogeneity of the transcendence of one’s own (liberated) citta; over mano’s bilateral “external & internal “ process).
https://justpaste.it/zcue


Also, this might be of interest (jhanawise):
https://justpaste.it/1cmhg


“Whether or not you understand, Susīma, first comes knowledge of the stability (unmoving) of the Dhamma, afterwards knowledge of Nibbāna.”

See the “perturbable” (iñjita (fr. pp. iñjati) >> Sk. ṛñjati - √ ऋज् ṛj in MN 66 (MA 192).

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Hi Suci, I’m wasn’t aware of this etymology-attempt for jhana - do you have a source for it?
Thanks

Hi Gabriel,

See Jhāna:
http://dsalsrv02.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/philologic/contextualize.pl?p.1.pali.1340646

See Jhāyati
http://dsalsrv02.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/philologic/contextualize.pl?p.1.pali.1349047

But also:
See Jhāyati
http://dsalsrv02.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/philologic/contextualize.pl?p.1.pali.1349865

√ क्षि kṣi
http://sanskritdictionary.com/?iencoding=deva&q=क्षि&lang=sans&action=Search

  • to destroy , corrupt , ruin , make an end of, kill , injure RV. AV.
  • to destroy , ruin , make an end of , finish MBh.
  • to be diminished , decrease , wane (as the moon) , waste away , perish RV. AV. ŚBr.
  • to weaken MBh.

Also, if you use this cheatsheet for jhāna (https://justpaste.it/1b877), you will understand what jhāna really conveys with all these “near total cessation”, “not following”, “transcending”, “vanishing”, etc.


Fits perfectly with SN 36.11, doesn’t it?

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The Buddha does not need a speaker!

The Buddha can convey his voice as far as he wishes, to any world systems, and far more (AN 3.80).

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There are two kind of right concentrations:

  1. The general right concentration (jhāna 1 to 4) as seen in many suttas. Other teachings besides Buddhism can achieve this as well.
    "And what, bhikkhus, is right concentration? Here, bhikkhus, secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states, a bhikkhu enters and dwells in the first jhana, which is accompanied by thought and examination, with rapture and happiness born of seclusion…With the abandoning of pleasure and pain, and with the previous passing away of joy and displeasure, he enters and dwells in the fourth jhana, which is neither painful nor pleasant and includes the purification of mindfulness by equanimity. This is called right concentration.” SN45.8
  1. The noble right concentration ( ariyo sammāsamādhi) which only exists in this teaching.
    “What, bhikkhus, is noble right concentration with its supports and its requisites, that is, right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, and right mindfulness? Unification of mind equipped with these seven factors is called noble right concentration with its supports and its requisites.” MN117.
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Jhana is just one of the many many ways to attain Nibbana. It’s considered as a sukha patipadas which is pleasant to practice (AN4.163).

Note: Jhanna alone is not sufficient to attain Nibbana since Jhanna is impermanent.

" This first jhāna is conditioned and volitionally produced. But whatever is conditioned and volitionally produced is impermanent, subject to cessation…" (MN 52)

One will need to master at least one of the meditations levels + apply 4 noble truths to obtain nibbana (AN9.36).

“I tell you, the ending of the mental fermentations depends on the first jhana… the second jhana… the third… the fourth… the dimension of the infinitude of space… the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness… the dimension of nothingness. I tell you, the ending of the mental fermentations depends on the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception…"

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I think we have more conclusive passages. Thanks to @Erik_ODonnell for MN 64 and @Mat for SN 12.70.

  • The formless attainments (arūpa jhānas) are not a requirement for Nibbāna.

“Then knowing and seeing thus, do you venerable ones dwell in those peaceful deliverances that transcend forms, the formless attainments, having touched them with the body?”

No, friend.

“Here now, venerable ones: this answer and the nonattainment of those states, how could this be, friends?”

We are liberated by wisdom, friend Susīma.”

SN 12.70, Susima­parib­bāja­ka­sutta — Susīma (transl. Bhikkhu Bodhi)

  • The first jhāna is required to attain Nibbāna.

“And what, Ānanda, is the path, the way to the abandoning of the five lower fetters? Here, with seclusion from the acquisitions, with the abandoning of unwholesome states, with the complete tranquillization of bodily inertia, quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states, a bhikkhu enters upon and abides in the first jhāna, which is accompanied by applied and sustained thought, with rapture and pleasure born of seclusion.

“Whatever exists therein of material form, feeling, perception, formations, and consciousness, he sees those states as impermanent, as suffering, as a disease, as a tumour, as a barb, as a calamity, as an affliction, as alien, as disintegrating, as void, as not self. He turns his mind away from those states and directs it towards the deathless element thus: ‘This is the peaceful, this is the sublime, that is, the stilling of all formations, the relinquishing of all attachments, the destruction of craving, dispassion, cessation, Nibbāna.’ If he is steady in that, he attains the destruction of the taints. But if he does not attain the destruction of the taints because of that desire for the Dhamma, that delight in the Dhamma, then with the destruction of the five lower fetters he becomes one due to reappear spontaneously in the Pure Abodes and there attain final Nibbāna without ever returning from that world. This is the path, the way to the abandoning of the five lower fetters.

MN 64, Mahā­māluk­ya Sutta — The Greater Discourse to Mālunkyāputta (transl. Bhikkhu Bodhi)

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Finally, thanks to @daverupa for posting Ven. Anālayo’s work From Grasping to Emptiness — Excursions into the Thought-world of the Pāli Discourses II [PDF] (which is very good).

Notes: I have added MN 64 in brackets, where it was mentioned, but without the Sutta number. I also added a relevant passage of Bhikkhu Bodhi’s translation of MN 64 at the end of the post—which describes the possibility of attaining Nibbāna from the first jhāna alone—since, while MN 64 is quoted a bit earlier in Ven. Anālayo’s work, this is not discussed.

There is also an important part, with specifications regarding the first jhāna in relation to the other three (with a quote from Ven. Anālayo), also at the end of the post.

Do keep in mind that this is based on Ven. Anālayo’s findings. While he is a highly credible and trustworthy source, a thorough investation of the topic and the presented information would also require reading the Suttas referenced.


  • Only the first jhāna is needed for attaining Nibbāna. [however, quite important, do read annotation 1.] 1

Since some discourses describe the gaining of full awakening based on the first absorption (see MN I 350; MN I 435; AN IV 422 and AN V 343), it would follow that not all four absorptions have to be developed to win full awakening. All four absorptions would however be needed to gain the threefold higher knowledge (tevijjā).

(p. 132)

  • Sammā-samādhi includes other aspects other than jhāna.

Another definition of right concentration, found in a few discourses, does not mention the absorptions (see DN II 217; MN III 71; SN V 21 and AN IV 40). One of these discourses is the Mahācattārīsaka-sutta, a discourse which defines right concentration as unification of the mind (cittassekaggatā) developed in interdependence with the other seven path-factors (MN III 71). This definition highlights the fact that in order for concentration to become ‘right’ concentration, it needs to be developed as part of the noble eightfold path.

Judging from other discourses, the expression ‘unification of the mind’ is not confined to absorption concentration, since the same expression occurs in relation to walking and standing (AN II 14) or to listening to the Dhamma (AN III 175), activities which would not be compatible with absorption attainment. This suggests that this second definition of ‘right concentration’ would also include levels of samādhi that have not yet reached the depth of absorption concentration. In fact, the formulation of this second definition makes it clear that the decisive factor qualifying concentration as ‘right’ is not merely the depth of concentration achieved, but the purpose for which concentration is employed.

A similar nuance underlies the qualification sammā, ‘right’, which literally means “togetherness”, or to be “connected in one”. This thus indicates that the criterion for describing concentration as sammā, as ‘right’, is whether it is developed ‘together’ with the other factors of the noble eightfold path. Of central importance here is the presence of right view, as the forerunner of the whole path, without whose implementation concentration can never be reckoned sammā.

(pp. 132-133)

  • Jhāna is not required for attaining Stream-Entry.

According to numerous discourses (e.g. AN III 423), the development of the path factor of ‘right concentration’ is indispensable for eradicating the fetters and gaining awakening. This brings up the question whether it is necessary to develop samādhi to the level of absorption in order to attain any of the four stages of awakening.

Concerning stream-entry, the qualities mentioned in the discourses as essential for the realization of stream-entry do not stipulate the ability to attain absorption (cf. SN V 410). Nor is such an ability included among the qualities that are characteristic of a stream-enterer subsequent to realization (cf. e.g. SN V 357). A necessary condition for winning stream-entry is a state of mind completely free from the five hindrances (AN III 63). Such a removal, however, can take place during walking meditation (It 118) or while listening to the Dhamma (SN V 95). This indicates that the ability to gain absorption concentration would not be required for stream-entry.

(pp. 133-134)

  • Jhāna might not be needed for the attainment of Once-Return, although this being inconclusive.

The same seems to apply to the realization of once-return. Once-returners are so called because they will be reborn only once again in “this world”, i.e. the sensual realm. On the other hand, those who have developed the ability to attain absorption are not going to return to “this world” in their next life (AN II 126), but will be reborn in a higher heavenly sphere (i.e. the form realm or the immaterial realm).

This certainly does not imply that a once-returner cannot have absorption attainments. But if all once-returners were absorption attainers, the very concept of a ‘once-returner’ would be superfluous, since not a single once-returner would ever return ‘to this world’. That once-returners do indeed come back to ‘this world’ is documented in passages that report the rebirth of once-returners in the Tusita realm (AN III 348 and AN V 138).

Hence, although some once-returners may have attained absorption, this does not appear to have been the rule. The same then evidently holds for stream-enterers, in fact the most advanced out of a listing of stream-enterers, the “one-seeder”, will be reborn in the human world (AN IV 380), not in a higher heavenly sphere.

(p. 134)

  • The first jhāna is needed for attaining Non-Return.

When considering the realization of non-return, however, the situation seems to be different. Some discourses point out that the non-returner, in contrast to the once-returner, has fulfilled the development of concentration (AN I 232 and AN IV 380). This indicates that the difference between the two is related to differing levels of concentrative ability. Other discourses relate progress towards the higher two stages of the path, non-returning and full awakening, to having had the experience of the first or higher absorptions.

A particularly explicit statement can be found in the Mahā-mālukya-sutta [MN 64], according to which it is impossible to overcome the five higher fetters without undertaking the path required for such overcoming, and this path is contemplation of an absorption experience from an insight perspective (MN I 435). Without having attained absorption, such contemplation can obviously not be undertaken.

(p. 135)

  • Jhāna is needed for attaining Nibbāna. [the first jhāna according to MN 64] 2

The need for the absorptions in order to be able to reach full awakening is also stipulated in the Sekha-sutta (MN I 357). The same position is reflected in the opening section of a discourse that describes various approaches to full awakening, which are invariably based on the experience of absorption or an immaterial attainment (AN IV 422).

(p135)


While the first jhāna might be thought as the easier jhāna, being the initial jhāna, it seems to not be how jhāna works—getting into jhāna is the difficult part, while progressing to higher jhānas, when one is already in jhāna, is of lesser difficulty. Meaning, that out of the four jhānas, the one that will require a lot of the effort is the first jhāna.

Here is a part from Ven. Anālayo’s From Grasping to Emptiness (p. 123):

Another significant indication related to the nature of absorption can also be gathered from the Upakkilesa-sutta. According to its account, before his awakening the Buddha had to make quite an effort in order to overcome a whole series of obstructions until he was able to attain the first absorption (MN III 157). This suggests the first absorption to be a state of mind reached only after prolonged practice and requiring considerable meditative expertise.

This impression is confirmed by turning to the cases of Anuruddha and Mahāmoggallāna. In the case of each of these two chief disciples the personal intervention of the Buddha was required for them to be able to attain and stabilize the first absorption (MN III 157 and SN IV 263). If Anuruddha and Mahāmoggallāna, who later on were reckoned as outstanding among the Buddha’s disciples for their concentrative abilities (AN I 23), had such difficulties, then it can safely be concluded that the first absorption stands for a level of concentration that requires considerable meditative training.

MN 64, Mahā­māluk­ya Sutta — The Greater Discourse to Mālunkyāputta
(transl. Bhikkhu Bodhi)
This Sutta indicates that Nibbāna can be attained from the first jhāna.

“And what, Ānanda, is the path, the way to the abandoning of the five lower fetters? Here, with seclusion from the acquisitions, with the abandoning of unwholesome states, with the complete tranquillization of bodily inertia, quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states, a bhikkhu enters upon and abides in the first jhāna, which is accompanied by applied and sustained thought, with rapture and pleasure born of seclusion.

“Whatever exists therein of material form, feeling, perception, formations, and consciousness, he sees those states as impermanent, as suffering, as a disease, as a tumour, as a barb, as a calamity, as an affliction, as alien, as disintegrating, as void, as not self. He turns his mind away from those states and directs it towards the deathless element thus: ‘This is the peaceful, this is the sublime, that is, the stilling of all formations, the relinquishing of all attachments, the destruction of craving, dispassion, cessation, Nibbāna.’ If he is steady in that, he attains the destruction of the taints. But if he does not attain the destruction of the taints because of that desire for the Dhamma, that delight in the Dhamma, then with the destruction of the five lower fetters he becomes one due to reappear spontaneously in the Pure Abodes and there attain final Nibbāna without ever returning from that world. This is the path, the way to the abandoning of the five lower fetters.

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This is interesting. In my experience the terms samādhi and sammāsamādhi are used quite inconsistently, especially across different traditions. As Sylvester has already pointed out, the definition for sammāsamādhi found at SA 784 is the same as the definition for samādhi at MN 44. This difference in usage is also found elsewhere, such as in the sequence of dependent liberation. In this case, too, the Pali just has samādhi (e.g. MN 10.1), whereas the Chinese version at MA 42 has sammāsamādhi . (I am going by memory here, so please correct me if I am wrong.)

I would hypothesise that the tradition regarded samādhi and sammāsamādhi as virtually interchangeable. As a consequence they were not too concerned with whether they used one or the other. Alternatively, and perhaps additionally, it may be that it was hard to keep a consistent separation of the two terms in the oral tradition.

I think the main lesson from this is that samādhi, too, normally refers to the four jhānas, especially when it is not further qualified. There are other types of samādhi mentioned in the EBTs, but they are quite marginal compared to the jhānas. As such it makes sense to assume the jhānas are meant if nothing else is specified.

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One of the strongest supports in the suttas that stream-entry requires jhāna is the the very common sequence of dependent liberation, found e.g at AN 10.3:

Sammā­samā­dhimhi asati sammā­samā­dhi­vi­pan­nassa hatūpanisaṃ hoti yathā­bhūta­ñāṇadas­sanaṃ

When there is no right concentration, for one deficient in right concentration, the knowledge and vision of things as they really are lacks its proximate cause.

Stream-entry is included in “the knowledge and vision of things as they really”. Because this formula is so common, it must to be given a lot of weight.

While it is possible that this statement is not be meant to be taken as absolute, it is nevertheless clear that the natural progress on the path is to attain stream-entry via jhāna. As I have mentioned above, jhāna requires a lesser degree of letting go than stream-entry.

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Bhante

Might it be possible that something like, but short of a full jhana, is required for Stream Entry? I would argue that the First Jhana is predicated upon 2 seclusions, ie seclusion from the kaamaa, as well as seclusion from the 5 Hindrances. In the Stream Entry pericopes, the listener is said to be free of the Hindrances, but there is no mention of seclusion from the kaamaa.

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Yes, a lesser form of samādhi is absolutely required, as is clear from AN 10.3 quoted above. I just wonder how useful it is to say that jhāna is not required. It might encourage people to stop short, with the potential of stopping their progress on the path. And I am not speaking from theory; I know people who have had this exact problem.

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