[Jhana] Simile of Bath Powder & Losing Sense of Body


Moved as per sensible suggestion.


One thing that I haven’t thought about before is that immersion as a translation for samadhi seems to capture the jhana similies better than concentration, IMO.


Agreed. And it certainly requires less furrowing of brow!

(crosses eyes in concentration and tries to thread needle without poking self in near-sighted eye)


Perhaps a combination of these two sutta can help SN35.65

How do we define Māra or what is known as Māra?”

“Samiddhi, where there is the eye, sights, eye consciousness, and phenomena to be known by eye consciousness, there is Māra or what is known as Māra. (continue with the rest of six senses)

and MN26

In the same way, a mendicant, quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unskillful qualities, enters and remains in the first absorption, which has the rapture and bliss born of seclusion, while placing the mind and keeping it connected.

This is called a mendicant who has blinded Māra, put out his eyes without a trace, and gone where the Wicked One cannot see. (continue until dimension of neither perception nor non-perception)

As mentioned above, when you enter the first jhāna you has successfully blinded Māra. Which means combining with what The Buddha said to Samiddhi, it’s clear to me that even in the first jhāna there is no possibility for senses to be active. Besides, even the first jhāna is a state that is beyond human, which I take to be beyond the sense realm where Māra abides, if not what then?

It’s considered as a superhuman distinction (uttari manussadhammā) as per stated here by Anuruddha MN31

But as you live diligently like this, have you achieved any superhuman distinction in knowledge and vision worthy of the noble ones, a meditation at ease?”

“How could we not, sir?

Whenever we want, quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unskillful qualities, we enter and remain in the first absorption, which has the rapture and bliss born of seclusion, while placing the mind and keeping it connected.

And a monastic who lies about this achievement, which I take to be all kinds of jhāna, commits the fourth pārājika.

A superhuman quality: absorption, release, stillness, attainment, knowledge and vision, development of the path, realization of the fruits, abandoning the defilements, a mind without hindrances, delighting in empty dwellings.

Here, putting lying about jhāna together with committing sexual intercourse, stealing, or killing a human being definitely means The Buddha was projecting a very strong value in jhāna. Thus if jhāna is only a condition of stillness and peace where all senses still active: feeling touch, hearing sound, smelling odor, tasting saliva, can that even be consider valuable at all? For me, certainly not!

Have a great day! With mettā :pray:t2:


SN 35.65 also states:

Where there is no mind, no thoughts, no mind consciousness, and no phenomena to be known by mind consciousness, there is no Māra or what is known as Māra.

If this sutta is referring to jhāna, I’m curious how you reconcile the above quote with the descriptions of jhāna that describe perceiving delight, pleasure, and equanimity, which all seem to be phenomena known by mind consciousness. For example, in DN 9:

At that time they have a subtle and true perception of the rapture and bliss born of seclusion…

At that time they have a subtle and true perception of the rapture and bliss born of immersion…

At that time they have a subtle and true perception of equanimous bliss…

At that time they have a subtle and true perception of neutral feeling…


That’s a good argument. Those suttas make a good case that jhana is far from being a trivial attainment.

I wouldn’t say the first part of your argument is watertight though. I suppose it depends on what the intended meaning/sense of Māra is in MN26. If its meaning is as is in the definition in SN35.65 then your argument would hold. Of course, it can have other primary meanings like death or Māra as an actual being or deva.

For example in MN22, an arahant (even a living one) is in a sense untraceable by the gods:

And how is a mendicant a noble one with banner and burden put down, detached? It’s when a mendicant has given up the conceit ‘I am’, cut it off at the root, made it like a palm stump, obliterated it, so it’s unable to arise in the future. That’s how a mendicant is a noble one with banner and burden put down, detached.

When a mendicant’s mind is freed like this, the gods together with Indra, Brahmā, and Pajāpati, search as they may, will not find anything that such a Realized One’s consciousness depends on. Why is that? Because even in the present life the Realized One is undiscoverable, I say.

Or in SN4.23 (with Mara as a being actively looking for Godhika’s consciousness):

Now at that time a cloud of black smoke was moving east, west, north, south, above, below, and in-between.

Then the Buddha said to the mendicants,

“Mendicants, do you see that cloud of black smoke moving east, west, north, south, above, below, and in-between?”

“Yes, sir.”

“That’s Māra the Wicked searching for Godhika’s consciousness, wondering: ‘Where is Godhika’s consciousness established?’ But since his consciousness is not established, Godhika is extinguished.”

So, an alternative possible view on MN 26 is that blinding Māra may not mean the meditator him/herself is blinded in jhana but that, at least temporarily, somewhat like an arahant, Māra cannot find/see him/her.

I realize this argument also is not watertight! :slight_smile:


The reason why I decided to comment on this jhāna business was because whenever people are discussing about jhāna, they tend to stick within the constraint of jhāna itself. Where actually The Buddha’s teachings are a complete whole interconnected package, only if you stick to EBT though. At the very least, I’m glad if someone can see that jhāna, even the first one isn’t a trivial attainment :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:

@Christopher Based on your research so far, you stated that pīti isn’t physical phenomenon right? Which I agree too! To clarify more perhaps look at the description of pītisambojjhaṅga in MN 118 can help.

When they’re energetic, spiritual rapture arises.
Āraddhavīriyassa uppajjati pīti nirāmisā.

Then it is suffice to say, combining the notion that pīti is mental phenomenon with The Buddha’s statement to Samiddhi as per I stated above:

“Samiddhi, where there is the eye, sights, eye consciousness, and phenomena to be known by eye consciousness , there is Māra or what is known as Māra. (continue with the rest of six senses)

Up to here, I can conclude that all the other five senses apart from the mind are completely not necessary even in first jhāna, beyond the reach of Māra. What’s left is mind consciousness for you to figure out, which… I’m also trying to grasp :rofl:

Here is my attempt! One thing I notice so far when The Buddha was talking about development of the mind, the word mentioned was citta instead of viññāṇa. This is especially true in anupubbasikkhā. So the one being mentioned in anything related to jhāna is citta, and this citta is the thing that conscious of every mental phenomenon that’s happening inside jhāna. No mention of viññāṇa here. Maybe there is a reason why The Buddha was using two different terms about the same thing, citta and viññāṇa. Perhaps this is why? Maybe? I’m not sure!

Another thing if we look at various sutta that mention about jhāna, they are always being contrasted with five kinds of sensual stimulation (kāmaguṇā), like the one here MN139

There are these five kinds of sensual stimulation. What five? Sights known by the eye that are likable, desirable, agreeable, pleasant, sensual, and arousing. Sounds known by the ear … Smells known by the nose … Tastes known by the tongue … Touches known by the body that are likable, desirable, agreeable, pleasant, sensual, and arousing. These are the five kinds of sensual stimulation. The pleasure and happiness that arise from these five kinds of sensual stimulation is called sensual pleasure—a filthy, common, ignoble pleasure. Such pleasure should not be cultivated or developed, but should be feared, I say.

Now, take a mendicant who, quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unskillful qualities, enters and remains in the first absorption, which has the rapture and bliss born of seclusion, while placing the mind and keeping it connected. As the placing of the mind and keeping it connected are stilled, they enter and remain in the second absorption … third absorption … fourth absorption. This is called the pleasure of renunciation, the pleasure of seclusion, the pleasure of peace, the pleasure of awakening. Such pleasure should be cultivated and developed, and should not be feared, I say.

As you can see, The Buddha clearly separated these two kinds of pleasure. This happened in every step of his life, even before his liberation when he remembered about his first jhāna experience here MN36. Dhammacakkappavattana SN 56.11 was a clear attempt to contrast the two, three if you include self mortification. If anyone then attempt to say that in jhāna you can sense a pleasure that is filthy, common, and ignoble, which includes: sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touches by the respective senses… whooops! :hot_face: :cold_face: :nauseated_face: :face_vomiting:

It is quite clear for me that sensual pleasure can only happen through the five senses. When there is no object of five senses, then the mind won’t have any business in the sense world. Those five senses simply shutdown. And because jhāna is beyond the reach of Māra, every phenomenon inside jhāna can’t be considered as worldly. Thus, the term citta is being used to express the consciousness that experience the subtle and true perception of the phenomenon within jhāna as in DN9, not viññāṇa. In fact the usual formula of samādhi is mentioned right before the statement of subtle and true perception:

Seeing that the hindrances have been given up in them, joy springs up. Being joyful, rapture springs up. When the mind is full of rapture, the body becomes tranquil. When the body is tranquil, they feel bliss. And when blissful, the mind becomes immersed.
tassime pañcanīvaraṇe pahīne attani samanupassato pāmojjaṃ jāyati, pamuditassa pīti jāyati, pītimanassa kāyo passambhati, passaddhakāyo sukhaṃ vedeti, sukhino cittaṃ samādhiyati.

Also that’s why this statement comes up in SN54.1, which I take to be freeing the citta from the senses.

They practice breathing in freeing the mind. They practice breathing out freeing the mind.
vimocayaṃ cittaṃ assasissāmī’ti sikkhati, ‘vimocayaṃ cittaṃ passasissāmī’ti sikkhati.

Thus, even if in SN35.65 manoviññāṇa needs to be ceased to be considered as blinding Māra, it’s ok because that’s a term for consciousness that relates to sense world. While in jhāna, citta is still there to feel the pīti sukha and every phenomenon inside. Only until you reach saññāvedayitanirodha, then citta cease completely. Zero!

Last thing, the attainment of jhāna and immaterial can take you to rūpa and arūpa realm. Which also signify the notion that they are above kāmaloka, beyond the grasp of Māra! Even the first jhāna!

@suaimhneas But I can’t see the difference even if Māra is a personified being or simply an unskillful mental state. He/she or whatever gender you might identify as Māra :japanese_ogre:, simply can’t find someone that is currently in jhāna. Can you point out why this differs? While Māra as death, I think the distinction for a statement with this kind of meaning in the sutta is pretty clear, no?

Beside further down the line in MN26 the statement applies just the same for first jhāna up to saññāvedayitanirodha, which is considered as experiencing nibbāna here and now. I realized I made an error by stating it’s only ‘until dimension of neither perception nor non-perception’ in my first post.

Furthermore, a mendicant, going totally beyond the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception, enters and remains in the cessation of perception and feeling. And, having seen with wisdom, their defilements come to an end.

This is called a mendicant who has blinded Māra, put out his eyes without a trace, and gone where the Wicked One cannot see.

While for the statement in MN22, in my point of view is just to clarify that The Buddha’s consciousness doesn’t depend on anything, the dependence simply can’t be know even in this life. I think this refers to the eradication of avijja so there is no saṅkhāra that leads to future rebirth. So try if you want, you can’t never find where the consciousness is established on even when an arahant is still alive. No conceit ‘I am’ there already. This is emphasize further in the next statement where The Buddha denied the claim to be an exterminator. It’s middle way folks, just anattā! When there is no I making, then no future rebirth. Side note, in that statement it changes from bhikkhu to tathāgata. I just noticed, weird!

I think my argument, if that’s even being regarded as one, still holds. Pretty watertight! If it leaks again, well anicca right. Anyway I learn a new vocabulary ‘watertight’ :grin:


Well, I suppose if you are taking the definition of Mara as the senses, then blinding Mara would then be equivalent to blinding the senses in the meditator (with no sense of the body), which is I think your argument. However, IMO blinding here may not necessary refer to the meditator’s senses. It seems Mara as a being (not in the sense of sense bases) is blind to arahants in a certain sense all the time even when they are not in jhana. Maybe something along these lines could be meant? Also SN35.65 is defining Mara as the six sense bases, including mind. The mind sense base really only fully ceases in the state of cessation of perception and feeling (so using your metaphor Mara would only be partially blinded up until then with full blindness only in this final cessation of feeing & perception stage, whereas MN26 talks about Mara being blinded for all jhanas).

Stepping away from the Mara argument, IMO the strongest data point against losing sense of the body is the association of cessation of breathing with the fourth jhana in several suttas. One can argue that if breathing is to function a thorn to the fourth jhana as in AN10.72, then the meditator would need to be aware of the physical process of breathing (at least in the third jhana) or its absence in the fourth. The details are very vague on the other senses (maybe these have pretty much all been set aside at this point but I think one can mount a decent argument that some core body sense of breathing must remain). Though that argument may be a little leaky too (am glad you liked the “watertight” wording :slight_smile: ). Maybe breathing is just a marker of the fourth jhana without the meditator needing to be aware of. That wouldn’t fit well then with the thorns AN10.72 sutta but that is only just one sutta after all (I can’t recall other suttas with this breathing as a thorn connotation).


The way I understand all this is that it has more to do with imperturbability of mind and not so much to do with the senses being inactive. If the mind remains undisturbed by phenomena then mara can gain no foothold.

Ordinary consciousness is described as being composed of essentially subject+sense door+object. We have little if any ability to control this composite in daily life. Ignorance is required for a sense of self to arise. We know that for the arahant, as long as there remains a body, the 6 sense doors remain active and yet we have many descriptions of the arahant’s mind not being reactive with regard to the senses.

We also know that the jhanas are considered a kind of release but with a sequel. So it makes sense to me that the jhanas are temporary levels of imperturbability or equanimity if you will – if they are to be considered a kind of release. I don’t see that a shutting down of the senses is required – given that the arahant does not experience this – in any case, would we not already be awakened through sleep if this were so?

We can only know equanimity or the minds ability to not react to changing phenomena if the senses are active. I am not suggesting that one could not experience the senses shutting down, I think this is quite possible and even likely at least at times especially as practice deepens.

Based on the extensive conversations we have had on this topic in the past and the research by Frankk (a past forum member) I think there is ample evidence to show that the ebt’s describe both conditions as being possible. That is, maybe you will experience the senses and maybe not.


Any parent who has experienced the intermittent deafness of their teenagers will understand that immersion, even wrong immersion, will shut down senses. “Sorry, Mom, I didn’t hear you.”

Because of this common experience, I don’t see any reason to elevate the losing of body sense to an esoterically unattainable practice for all but a privileged and diligent few. Anybody who has threaded a needle will have experienced a diminution of the senses that are not related to the focus of attention.

Indeed, MN8 cautions us to not rely solely on blissful meditations, and encourages us to practice sila as an integral part of our practice. Jhana is important and difficult, but it does not stand alone. There are three practices for us. These are ethics, immersion and wisdom:

MN44:11.3: Right speech, right action, and right livelihood: these things are included in the category of ethics.
MN44:11.4: Right effort, right mindfulness, and right immersion: these things are included in the category of immersion.
MN44:11.5: Right view and right thought: these things are included in the category of wisdom.”

Perhaps we should not be so focused on jhana alone.


Are you implying that shutting down of senses equals to unconscious in sleep? Let’s see here DN16:

‘Just now, sir, it was raining and pouring, lightning was flashing, and thunder was cracking. And two farmers who were brothers were killed, as well as four oxen. Then this crowd gathered here. But sir, where were you?’

‘I was right here, friend.’ ‘But sir, did you see?’ ‘No, friend, I didn’t see anything.’ ‘But sir, didn’t you hear a sound?’ ‘No, friend, I didn’t hear a sound.’ ‘But sir, were you asleep?’ ‘No, friend, I wasn’t asleep.’ ‘But sir, were you conscious?’ ‘Yes, friend.’

This statement by The Buddha is also pretty much similar to Āḷāra Kālāma. We know for sure that Āḷāra Kālāma can only attain dimension of nothingness, which implies this doesn’t happen only in nirodha. Also there are no mention of what attainment both of them abide in at that time. So don’t conclude it’s the highest one.

Sound is a thorn to the first jhāna AN10.72. Above The Buddha answered "Nope, na ah I didn’t hear sound! Unless if you think this is just a metaphor, not a true statement, then clearly The Buddha wasn’t just being equanimous to sound while still hearing the sound. I can easily extend the shutting down to the five senses, because it is implied that The Buddha didn’t feel the touch of rain too. Heck maybe the thunder stroke him a couple of time, but he was simply invincible.

So when the Buddha said sound is a thorn to the first jhāna, it means no sound is perceived there. If not, then that’s not the first jhāna. Simple as that.

If The Buddha still can sense the external objects during that crazy storm, he will certainly find shelter. Because if not, that’s just totally unwise. I will be the first to doubt his wisdom! Here is an example where The Buddha, personally reacted to dangerous things Snp2.5:

Then the yakkha Sūciloma approached the Radiant One and pressed his body against him, at which the Radiant One drew back. The yakkha then said to him, “Are you afraid of me, monk?” “Friend, I am not afraid of you, but your touch is evil.”

Another account on the idea of unable to sense external objects, not just being equanimous MN50:

Once upon a time, Sañjīva was sitting at the root of a certain tree having attained the cessation of perception and feeling. Some cowherds, shepherds, farmers, and passers-by saw him sitting there and said, ‘It’s incredible, it’s amazing! This ascetic passed away while sitting. We should cremate him.’ They collected grass, wood, and cow-dung, heaped it all on Sañjīva’s body, set it on fire, and left.

Then, when the night had passed, Sañjīva emerged from that attainment, shook out his robes, and, since it was morning, he robed up and entered the village for alms. Those cowherds, shepherds, farmers, and passers-by saw him wandering for alms and said, ‘It’s incredible, it’s amazing! This ascetic passed away while sitting, and now he has come back to life!’ And that’s how he came to be known as Sañjīva.

If Sañjīva was only being equanimous, this surely won’t happen. He could simply say ‘I’m not dead dude!’ That should be the common sense. But because the senses were completely shut off, plus the mind as this was nirodha, then he didn’t know what’s going on. He became invincible too. Notice even his robe wasn’t burn. I don’t know the logic behind that one, but I let that be.

Shutting down isn’t asleep. Certainly doesn’t mean the senses stop working too. Because when we are asleep, our bodily functions are still active. Though this can happen in the higher attainment, for example the fourth jhāna where the activity of breathing totally stop. There is also a mention that only warmth is left in nirodha, no pulse is detected MN43. Thus Sañjīva event happened.

When a mendicant has attained the cessation of perception and feeling, their physical, verbal, and mental processes have ceased and stilled. But their vitality is not spent; their warmth is not dissipated; and their faculties are very clear. That’s the difference between someone who has passed away and a mendicant who has attained the cessation of perception and feeling.”

What I mean by shutting down is that you can’t sense the external objects, particularly the five senses because your mindfulness is so sharp towards the object you are aware of. Have you ever been so focus on doing something that you weren’t aware someone’s standing right beside you? Something like the example of teenagers intermittent deafness by @karl_lew is also a nice one. It’s something like these, but definitely much profound.

This is what I can regard as uttari manussadhammā. Below this I simply can’t considered as jhāna, sure that can happen, but the label uttari isn’t fit for them. The way to jhāna is simple, just rely on letting go SN48.9. But it is difficult to do because we need to lose control, losing the senses, losing ‘the I making’, until totally empty. For me even if it’s difficult, I let it be that way. Why do I need to cling on the senses if all there is just processes?

And what is the faculty of immersion? It’s when a noble disciple, relying on letting go, gains immersion, gains unification of mind. This is called the faculty of immersion.

This is clearly a conclusion in your part. Plus just because someone did a research, doesn’t mean I have to believe that. I myself tend to look at their overall behavior, before I trust someone. Certainly everyone can have their own opinion.


I see your point. But there are many accounts where Māra regarded as a being can indeed see and interact with an arahant. For example here with Moggallāna MN50. When Māra is considered as a being, most of them are in fact an interaction with an arahant. Of course that interaction has never happen inside jhāna. Thus it actually emphasize more the idea that Māra can’t see someone inside jhāna. Perhaps some kind of force field or invincible cloak temporary establish during jhāna :nerd_face:

But again the number of occurences of Māra as a being is pretty small. Most of them are psychological problems within oneself. I would even say Māra is another term for greed, hatred, and delusion.

As I explained above, I’m also trying to grasp this notion and elaborate on the difference between viññāṇa and citta. Even if there is no difference between the two, Māra as usually mentioned is quite clear a term for sensual pleasure / a being that try to make people give up and go to a lesser life which is a sensual life. The pleasure in jhāna is outside the territory of Māra.

When you aren’t conscious of worldly sense objects: sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touches, meaning no external contact, but you are totally mindful and aware while experiencing a superhuman happiness in jhāna, this then should be implied as blinding Māra. Also when those five senses object are gone, thought goes away too, because thought always revolves around those external objects. Without them nothing recourse to the mind MN43. The mind only aware of the bliss of jhāna. This is my point of view. Please don’t mention sleeping! :woozy_face:

Personally for me I will not lower down any jhāna as partial blindness, because it’s clear that even the first jhāna is superhuman. I will tend to find another explanation.

Why do you need to be aware of the physical breathing right then? Do you need to be aware of breathing to breath? Try to suddenly stop breathing a couple of second, do you need to be aware before you’re breathing to stop breathing? When you dip in water, do you need to intentionally stop breathing or does it happen automatically right before you fully enter the water? Do you need to be aware of your heart for it to pump blood? When a person get a heart attack, do they need to be aware of the blood pumping before it’s clogging and stop pumping?

The idea is bodily functions, which includes breath, will go on even though you aren’t aware of them, unless you are dead. It’s just processes that empty of a self. That’s the main reason we can’t control them and shouldn’t state this is my body, it’s anatta. The breathing stops because of cause and effect, no one controls it. When there is a ‘me’ that’s controlling, there is atta. So the idea you need to be aware before the breath stops is beyond me.

In fourth jhāna the breathing is gone and it happens automatically. Why? Because the mind has been previously developed to let go, even before entering the first jhāna. Breathing is definitely a thorn there. Letting go of breathing is a big step! It is as if you are dead. Basically the description of fourth jhāna is quite similar to death. This lump of meat is totally equanimous to everything, that’s… dead body for me. The fact that after coming out of fourth jhāna and observing the four noble truths, either you’ll be an anāgāmi or arahat, means a huge letting go power is needed.

The idea of anatta for me is the letting go of all aggregates. If we can’t let go the most coarse one, the body with its senses, how could we let go of the underlying tendency to self, to me, to I? How could we eliminate sakkāyadiṭṭhi while clinging on the senses?

Here is the mention of how the process goes MN44.

“A mendicant who is entering such an attainment does not think: ‘I will enter the cessation of perception and feeling’ or ‘I am entering the cessation of perception and feeling’ or ‘I have entered the cessation of perception and feeling.’ Rather, their mind has been previously developed so as to lead to such a state.”

Of course this pertains to the idea that even in first jhāna no thought can happen. I definitely agree with this one, because thought in jhāna? How worldly that is. But this is another whole topic :rofl:


Uhhhh. Placing the mind and keeping it connected require volition, intent, perception and feeling. I regard that as being in the realm of thought. It is a mental process. What ceases in first jhana is speech. Verbal processes cease first.

MN44:17.2: “Verbal processes cease first, then physical, then mental.”

SN36.15:1.23: For someone who has attained the first absorption, speech has been tranquilized.

I’ve experienced speech cessation during climbing, but there was definitely still mental process going on since I was climbing. With speech cessation, one cannot speak–only mumbles come out.

NOTE: This is not a claim for any jhana. It is a climbing experience.


Good points there.

I suppose in the suttas there’s both an internal version of Mara and an external version. There is Mara’s bait, Mara’s domain etc. Different things are referred to in these references: five aggregates, five cords of sensual pleasure, sensuality, sense bases. Often Mara seems to represent the allure of samsara or samsara itself. There are also plenty of references to Mara as a being all through the Nikayas also (a few weeks back I read through the Mara samyutta in the SN). There are conversations/interactions elsewhere between Mara and the Buddha. So, yes, invisibility or tracelessness of the arahant cannot be taken too literally. However, I’d say the same for using the six sense bases Mara definition to prove that it is the actual senses that are being blinded. Mara has many facets in the suttas. It might be sensuality or the clinging to the senses rather than the senses themselves that might be referred to here (again that’s a perennial debate regarding the jhana). I think the idea of blinding Mara crops up elsewhere, e.g. MN25 with a metaphor of Mara as a hunter.

On “no thought”, I suppose everyone agrees on there being noble silence in the mind from jhana two upwards. However, there is still at least perception (sanna) and feeling (most of the way anyway). Sanna is often translated as recognition (cognition too). IMO it’s likelier the various properties of the jhanas are there so that the meditator can recognize them personally. It would be strange if only an outside observer could later tell the meditator that he had stopped breathing and was in fourth jhana. Same for the thorns sutta (all of the other thorns are things the meditator is aware of).

Your MN44 reference seems to me to be talking about the cessation of feeling and perception specifically. I’m not sure it is a general jhana point. That (and the state of neither-perception-nor-non-perception) seem to be where sanna may actually be quiescent or absent, so somewhat different to earlier jhana.