Losing the direction re vitakka/vitarka



  1. articulation can fail from drinking alcohol (e.g., slurred speech and loss of fine motor control)
  2. formulation can fail due to intense physical exertion (although fully aware, I could not summon or work with the names of forms)
  3. conceptualization can fail due to mental stress (e.g., public speaking anxiety)

I doubt that #1 qualifies for the verbal process cessation mentioned in MN44, especially since we don’t usually talk while meditating. However, #2 and #3 are certainly candidates if the same effect can be produced in meditation without the stress noted above


Quite close. Cetayamāna is the present participle for ceteti (more on this verb later), which can be rendered as “thinks” or “intends”. Ceteti will help us understand the gradations of intention, using another schema.

Why not all 4? :heart_eyes:

Leaving aside the vacīsaṅkhāra in SN 47.10 and in the 1st Jhana pericopes, I think the MN 44 scheme can actually accommodate all degrees as suggested. Take a reciter - he/she probably only needs to stop at conceptualisation. A teacher, on the other hand, may need to include formulation (and depending on how sloppy or diligent the teacher is, formulation may need to include constructing the ideas logically, not just syntactically).

And this is where ceteti comes in handy in understanding the different degrees of intention before articulation. Take a look at SN 12.39’s treatment of saṅkhārā in the link to consciousness in the standard DO scheme -

Yañca, bhikkhave, ceteti yañca pakappeti yañca anuseti, ārammaṇametaṃ hoti viññāṇassa ṭhitiyā.
No ce, bhikkhave, ceteti no ce pakappeti, atha ce anuseti, ārammaṇametaṃ hoti viññāṇassa ṭhitiyā.
Yato ca kho, bhikkhave, no ceva ceteti no ca pakappeti no ca anuseti, ārammaṇametaṃ na hoti viññāṇassa ṭhitiyā.
Bhikkhus, what one intends, and what one plans, and whatever one has a tendency towards: this becomes a basis for the maintenance of consciousness.
If, bhikkhus, one does not intend, and one does not plan, but one still has a tendency towards something, this becomes a basis for the maintenance of consciousness.
But, bhikkhus, when one does not intend, and one does not plan, and one does not have a tendency towards anything, no basis exists for the maintenance of consciousness.
(per Bhikkhu Bodhi)

Ceteti is supplemented by its synonym pakappeti, suggesting to me that these are relatively “intentional” or “deliberate” acts of intention/mental kamma of which one is conscious. By contrast, the subtlest form of saṅkhāra is attributed here to the anusayas anuseti-ing. The sense that I get from the suttas is that the anusayas are not even within our conscious experience, unless one were a meditator who’s at least reached the MN 148 stage of sense restraint.

Given that (i) this sutta places ceteti squarely within volitional formations (saṅkhārā), and (ii) saṅkhārā covers the unconscious “intentions” as well, this was the reason I suggested treating the vacīsaṅkhāra as being mere nati (inclination of the mind) in the context of jhana. Saṅkhāra , being the umbrella phenomenon that drives reactions and rebirth (SN 22.79), captures the whole range of “intentions”, from the unconscious ones associated with the anusayas and inclinations of the mind, up to the conscious ones that appear to begin with ceteti. DN 9 addresses the pitfall of cetayamāna in any of the attainments, but this leaves just enough room for unconscious intentions or saṅkhāras to be available in the attainments not to disturb it.

If you think about it, saṅkhārā do persist in the jhanas (MN 64), and they must in fact persist. Without them, there would be, eg. no pleasure born of seclusion. Equally important, what about the reaction of rapture to the pleasure? All these things are the saṅkhata stuff abhisaṅkharonti-ed (fashioned) by the saṅkhārā.

But normal experience should tell you that while you are conscious of your emotions (joy or grief), you can never be conscious of the saṅkhārā that generate them. Grief is generated by the latent tendency to aversion anuseti-ing, but one can be never conscious of such an anusaya, except through inference from the presence of grief.

This is why I feel that DN 9, if read literally by reference to its injunction of ceteti, can allow for much subtler intentions/volitional formations such as the vacīsaṅkhāra to persist. In fact, if you continue reading the passage you cited, what was translated as “choose” is abhisaṅkharoti , also found in SN 22.79, which explains it as follows -

Saṅkhatamabhisaṅkharontīti kho, bhikkhave, tasmā ‘saṅkhārā’ti vuccati.
They construct the conditioned,’ bhikkhus, therefore they are called volitional formations.

It is only by allowing the involuntary and unconscious saṅkhārā to cease without residue that feelings and emotions cease to be generated, giving rise to Cessation. For without feelings, can consciousness stand?


You’ll have to forgive my butchering of Pali. I can use dictionaries and the side-by-side and lookup facilities on suttacentral, usually enough to identify the root word, but that’s about it! :blush: Am glad I continued on in the thread (was wondering if it might be better to leave sleeping “jhana” dogs lie in SC in general) and I find I often learn quite a lot from others in debate (plus it forces me to think things through and crystallize my arguments).

Yes, why not! Maybe it can have a range of meanings.

Some of the points you were making were a bit subtle. I think I’m only starting to fully understand your viewpoint now.

Given its premises, your view (if I’m understanding it correctly) seems quite logical. Your basic premise (based on DN9), I think, is that ceteti is left at the door when one enters any jhana. Of course, saṅkhārā cannot be gone completely for reasons you reasonably argue above. Nati (inclination) still, in this view, is left. Of course, saṅkhārā comes in three baskets: verbal, bodily and mental. So, presumably, you would also identify the body formation with bodily nati and the mental formation with mental nati.

However, your reading of DN9 doesn’t seem inevitable to me. The key passage quoted earlier comes right after a sequential stepping through of the rupa and arupa jhanas. However, this isn’t a rote listing of all the jhana states (your reading would IMO be much stronger if it was). Instead the listing stops at the sphere of nothingness. Presumably, this is the “peak of perception” the immediately subsequent passage then refers to; it is, after all, the most refined form of perception in the Buddhist jhana scheme (in the next stage, perception is becoming quiescent and in the cessation of feeling & perception, ceases entirely).

So it seems to me that the passage is likely referring to the sphere of nothingness from where it sounds like the practitioner then intends to push beyond intention entirely (perceives that going beyond perception would be an even more refined state) and head in the direction of the sphere of neither perception nor non-perception and cessation of feeling & perception.

“Poṭṭhapāda, from the time a mendicant here takes responsibility for their own perception, they proceed from one stage to the next, gradually reaching the peak of perception. Standing on the peak of perception they think: ‘Intentionality is bad for me, it’s better to be free of it. For if I were to intend and choose, these perceptions would cease in me, and other coarser perceptions would arise. Why don’t I neither make a choice nor form an intention?’ They neither make a choice nor form an intention. Those perceptions cease in them, and other coarser perceptions don’t arise. They touch cessation. And that, Poṭṭhapāda, is how the gradual cessation of perception is attained with awareness.

So I’d read this to indicate cetei is given up only at this point rather than at the very beginning. Of course, the sutta later says:

“Does the Buddha describe just one peak of perception, or many?” “I describe the peak of perception as both one and many.”

so perhaps my reading is not inevitable either. Anyway, your DN9-based cetei-free jhana premise doesn’t seem like a sure thing to me.


That’s a very interesting list of the different circumstances where the stages can fail. Yes, I’d guess everyone probably agrees actual articulation is a non-runner for jhana 1. Probably about the only thing people agree on! :slight_smile: Otherwise, in itself, the potential meaning of “no speech” is quite a moveable feast.


Hee hee. It is in DA 21.


Jeez. It would have to be wouldn’t it! :wink:


Notice also the plural “perceptions”, strengthened by the plural pronoun and verb in the Pali.


I’ve almost no Pali. There’s a third-person singular structure going on in this translated passage, which confuses things a bit more also. Which is the “plural pronoun and verb” if you don’t mind? What do you think the pluralized “perceptions” refer to? The perceptions associated with the various jhana states?


imā ca me saññā nirujjheyyuṃ

imā is the plural pronoun “these”
nirujjheyyuṃ is the optative plural verb “would cease”.


OK, thanks!

I still think, nevertheless, the interpretation of cetei being laid aside at the sphere of nothingness is the more natural one for DN9. However, you certainly do seem to have DA28 in your corner.

Sigh! No real resolution as usual in these jhana debates. We’re getting to the point that we may as well all go off and sing the “potahto” song: :slight_smile:

You like potato and I like potahto
You like DA28 and I like DN9
You like tomato and I like tomahto
Potato, potahto, tomato, tomahto
Let’s call the whole thing off

Apologies for that! :smile:




Wow. Now THAT is a long sutta. It also describes what might be “jhana zero or no-jhana”: :rofl:

When this self is furnished and supplied with the five strands of sense pleasures, revels in them; at this point the self attains nirvana here and now.’

And skipping ahead to the second jhana V&V we have:

When the self, suppressing both reasoning and investigation, enters into and abides in the second jhāna, the state of joy and ease, born of serenity, without reflection or investigation, a state of elevation of mind, internal calm of heart, at this point the self attains nirvana here and now.

And that does resonate along the lines of losing the direction “without placing the mind and keeping it connected”, although I’d tease the “losing” into “loosing”. :slight_smile:


My bad. It should be DA 28. Pls change the potato song lyrics.


Sure, have done. Whatever about DN9 or DA28, it would be a travesty to have the incorrect potato song lyrics! :smile: