Jhana and realms of existence

Are there just 8 jhanas and just 31 realms of existence in the EBTs?

Does the Buddha suggest that:

  1. This is all there is. 31 realms, 4 Rupa, 4 arupa jhanas - that’s the extent of existence.

  2. There are higher realms and jhanas, but they are irrelevant to the path.

  3. This is all he could see. Just like he could only recollect so many lifetimes.

  4. Some combination of the above or something else all together.

It’s a vexing question, as it happens.


And also maddening! :wink: Grrrrrr …

But I’m wondering if that sutta is actually addressing my questions. It seems to be talking in the particular rather than the abstract. So it talks about “jhana-range of a person in jhana”

Is there a unpacking/commentary of this sutta that you could recommend? Or could you unpack it yourself? It’s meaning is not obvious to me.

It seems clear (to me) that there are further jhanas and further (higher) realms of existence, but I’m surprised not to find then in the suttas. I understand the “hand full of leaves” analogy, so I’m thinking that it must be this, but I thought that maybe that was made explicit in the suttas.

What I heard you say:


As for the handful of leaves, maybe the Buddha was just talking about e.g. riding elephants and wielding state authority and various leisure games, etc. The fact is, we can’t use those leaves on the tree to shove any ol’ idea we want up there.

Frankly, anyone guessing about leaves on the tree is fairly off-target. (It’s also necessarily guessing; the Buddha’s omniscience is a later claim [another Buddha-range sort of thing], so that tree has limited leaves, but most aren’t important anyway…)

Oh no. It’s just what is apparent in front of me. I didn’t mean to offend, if I have. I don’t want to put words into the mouth of the Buddha.

I understand that it is not clear for contemporary Buddhist’s what constitutes a ‘jhana’, and hence what is arupa jhana to one might be considered rupa jhana to another, etc.

I have found this passage from MN 111 that seems relevant to my enquiry.

"Furthermore, with the complete transcending of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception, Sariputta entered & remained in the cessation of feeling & perception. Seeing with discernment, his fermentations were totally ended. He emerged mindfully from that attainment. On emerging mindfully from that attainment, he regarded the past qualities that had ceased & changed: ‘So this is how these qualities, not having been, come into play. Having been, they vanish.’ He remained unattracted & unrepelled with regard to those qualities, independent, detached, released, dissociated, with an awareness rid of barriers. He discerned that ‘There is no further escape,’ and pursuing it there really wasn’t for him.

No worries!

Yeah, about that…

Here is Sujato’s A History of Mindfulness:

16.1 Theravāda and Vipassanā

We have suggested that the difference in character of the emerging schools is reflected in the different orientation of their versions of the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta. The Mahā Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta is moving to a protoabhidhammic stance, where vipassanā is conceived as the systematic analysis of a comprehensive array of phenomena. A similar idea occurs in the Anupada Sutta, which is one of only a few discourses in the Majjhima Nikāya that has not so far been discovered in the existing Āgamas.

There, the Buddha praises Venerable Sāriputta, who is especially associated with the Theravāda school, for his practice of analytical insight based on the eight attainments. In addition to the usual jhāna factors, the discourse contains a unique long list of mental factors in strikingly Abhidhammic style; indeed, the Anupada Sutta is one of the key texts which has been invoked by the ābhidhammikas to support the notion that the Buddha, even if he did not actually teach the Abhidhamma Piṭaka itself, at least taught in Abhidhamma style.

But the Anupada Sutta is clearly late. It consists chiefly of stock phrases and technical terms; if these are left out there are only a few lines that make up the characteristic vocabulary of the Anupada Sutta. These lines include at least three words suggestive of a late idiom (anupada, vavattheti, and pāramī). In addition, the text is poorly edited. The jhāna factors are listed, as per the usual Sutta idiom, with the conjunctive particle ca. But the remaining factors are listed in the Abhidhamma style with no ca; they have clearly been inserted from another source.

The early Sangha already did this, at least to some extent (omniscience, extra formless stuff, women as a danger to the Sangha, MN 111, etc.). Be on watch for such things.

1 Like

@sarana It is fine to question things, but our community guidelines specify that it must be done using Right Speech. That is, in ways which are not not divisive or harsh. One can ask questions in a respectful and considerate manner

:pray: :thaibuddha: :dharmawheel:


@Sarana A further question for you…

You appear to think monks who wrote entries to the canon, were of impeccable character. You seem to have little familiarity with the canon. In Buddha’s day there were monks as noisy as fishermen, Chatuma sutta. There were times when Buddha withdrew from the society of monks, and preferred to live with wild animals. (a wild elephant, and a monkey who reportedly attended on him). Quarrels of Kosambi monks!
Monks rebelled when they were asked to cut down on the number of meals, Baddali sutta.

Monks like this surely appeared on a later day after the passing away of Buddha, rebelling against the teaching, poured their upanasadic ideas into the canon?
MN 19 and MN 4 describe the Four Buddhist Jhanas, Buddha’s awakening, with great clarity. There is no reference to Arupas at all.
Sandha sutta repeats that only the naive meditator (donkey meditator) resorts to Arupa meditation, a practice prevalent among non-buddhist practitioners.
Buddha to be, had practiced Arupas under some Indian ascetics, only to find that Arupas do not lead to deliverance from suffering. MN 38. Thus he rejected these practices.
Yet 25000 years after the incident some Buddhists (layman and monks) are stuck on Arupas, which reflects the craftiness of some remakably clever Upanisad oriented buddhist sutta makers (liars?), that forced their beliefs through the back door. Wily Hindus covered all their bases. Only the buddhist with with little dust could see. Others got carried away by lies.

As for MN 111, we can start another thread saying … “Why is Buddha calling Sariputta a donkey?” based on the teaching on Sandha Sutta. That would be some serious fun. Do you get my drift dear @sarana?

When you come to the home of a well conducted monk and accuse him of treachery be careful of what you are saying?
Are you familiar with Kokalika sutta?
An excerpt from Kokalika sutta, of Sn.

Once when the Buddha was staying in the Jetavana Monastery at Savatthi, a monk called Kokalika came up to him and said:

“Sir Sariputta and Moggallana are full of unwholesome desires. They have been quite taken over by unwholesome desires”

The Buddha answered:

“Kokalika, don’t say such a thing! Have confidence in your mind as far as they are concerned; They are well behaved”

But Kokalika repeated his accusation against the two disciples.

The Buddha replied as before, but the monk again insulted the disciples the same way…"

The comment is getting too long. You can read the rest of the sutta later.
With love

@Gabriel_L Pl accept my apologies. I did not mean to bend the rules or overstep them. I should read the rules again. It is been a while.
Will not post again until I have a good grasp of the rules.
With love


Enough has already been said on the principles of engagement in the forum. I see no reason to let this thread continue.

Any two people who wish to continue discussion have the Private Message facility available.

With respect, Venerable @sarana, I suggest that you take up this issue with Venerable Sujato in private, should you wish to pursue it further. There is no value in playing it out in public. :pray: