Is the four stages of attainment in any way connected to the four jhanas?

Can you experience/master the four jhanas as a lay person? Do you have to be a stream-enterer or non-returner or an arahant to attain all four? Is there a correspondence between the jhanas and the four attainments?

The jhānas are a part of the path.

Try not to think of it in terms of “do you have to?”

When you let go, the mind becomes peaceful. When you let go even more, you become even more peaceful. What we call “jhānas” are merely signposts along that road of letting go.

Someone who, when grounded in right view, practices that deep level of letting go, regardless of their status as lay or ordained, completes the factors of the path and will experience the fruit.

From DN 29:

These four kinds of indulgence in pleasure, when developed and cultivated, lead solely to disillusionment, dispassion, cessation, peace, insight, awakening, and extinguishment. What four?

It’s when a mendicant, quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unskillful qualities, enters and remains in the first absorption … second absorption … third absorption … fourth absorption.

It’s possible that wanderers who follow other paths might say, ‘How many fruits and benefits may be expected by those who live indulging in pleasure in these four ways?’ You should say to them, ‘Four benefits may be expected by those who live indulging in pleasure in these four ways. What four?

Firstly, with the ending of three fetters a mendicant becomes a stream-enterer, not liable to be reborn in the underworld, bound for awakening. This is the first fruit and benefit.

Furthermore, a mendicant—with the ending of three fetters, and the weakening of greed, hate, and delusion—becomes a once-returner. They come back to this world once only, then make an end of suffering. This is the second fruit and benefit.

Furthermore, with the ending of the five lower fetters, a mendicant is reborn spontaneously and will become extinguished there, not liable to return from that world. This is the third fruit and benefit.

Furthermore, a mendicant realizes the undefiled freedom of heart and freedom by wisdom in this very life, and lives having realized it with their own insight due to the ending of defilements. This is the fourth fruit and benefit.

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No, as pointed out the correspondence is with the progressive removal of the ten fetters, which are divided into gross and fine, so it’s removal of the lower fetters that should be the focus. This relates to the causal sequence of sila/samadhi/panna, where sila is the cause of samadhi, a degree of which is necessary for vipassana leading to panna. The requirement of the seven factors of awakening is ‘tranquillity,’ not necessarily jhana.

“And what is the food for the arising of unarisen serenity as a factor for Awakening, or for the growth & increase of serenity… once it has arisen? There is physical serenity & there is mental serenity. To foster appropriate attention to them: This is the food for the arising of unarisen serenity as a factor for Awakening, or for the growth & increase of serenity… once it has arisen.”—SN 46.51

The Dirt Washer:

"In the same way, there are these gross impurities in a monk intent on heightened mind: misconduct in body, speech, & mind. These the monk — aware & able by nature — abandons, dispels, wipes out of existence. When he is rid of them, there remain in him the moderate impurities: thoughts of sensuality, ill will, & harmfulness. These he abandons, dispels, wipes out of existence. When he is rid of them there remain in him the fine impurities: thoughts of his caste, thoughts of his home district, thoughts related to not wanting to be despised. These he abandons, dispels, wipes out of existence.

“When he is rid of them, there remain only thoughts of the Dhamma. His concentration is neither calm nor refined, it has not yet attained serenity or unity, and is kept in place by the fabrication of forceful restraint. But there comes a time when his mind grows steady inwardly, settles down, grows unified & concentrated. His concentration is calm & refined, has attained serenity & unity, and is no longer kept in place by the fabrication of forceful restraint.”—AN 3.100 i-x

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Yes it is possible. Please check Citta the householder on SN 41 and many other non-retuner lay people. But the questions to ask oneself are:

  1. Are you ready to let go your family, sensual pleasures, your money, your houses, your regular job, all lay people activities, etc? Be content with just whatever you have now?
  2. Do you know what the main teaching of Buddha is?
  3. Do you have right view yet? Do you know the conditions for right view to arise? Have you seen any noble persons? Have you associated with them? Have you heard the true teaching from them?
  4. Do you know what guarding the senses is? Do you know what the drawback of sensual pleasures is?
  5. Do you know what is 5 hindrances? Have you get rid of them?
  6. Etc.
    Note: this is not just saying “yes”, this has been done & experience personally.

Only non returner and arahant have perfected samma samadhi/samma sati and samma vayama.

The rest noble ones have not fully developed the jhana. Stream enterer doesn’t have any. But if they put effort, they may reach it.

Note: I’m referring jhana as described in Sutta only. Not any non ariya jhana.

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This is an interesting question. In the EBTs four jhanas are included in the path to Arahantship which is described as path of gradual training (anupubbasikkha). But four stages of enlightenment doesn’t mention four jhanas as their requirement (especially for first stage of Sotapanna and Sakadagami). Perhaps (in my personal opinion, I don’t know if there is any scholarly research about this), the four stages of enlightenment is a later doctrinal development (but not so much later because it is shared by all early Buddhist schools) in Buddhism born from emphasis of vipassana and de-emphasis of jhanas. Early Buddhism is aimed at Arahantship alone and we never heard of intermediate stages like Sotapanna to Anagami in other Sramana sects (like Jainism and Ajivikism). Perhaps, the intermediate stages before Arahantship sprang out of the need to include more advanced practitioners than beginners but not yet arrived at the final goal as Ariyas worthy of respect and gifts. Just IMHO…

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