“one in such a state” while walking

The Pali phrase evaṁbhūta is one of those little details that is easy to take for granted, but which seems to have more to it than meets the eye.

The grammatical basics are clear enough. Evaṁ means “such”, bhūta means “come to be”. Such past participle are often used in an adjectival sense that in a personal context may be translated “one who” (eg. sujāto means “one who is well born”). So it means “one who has come to be such”, or “one in such a state”.

While the sense of the word is then very general, there is a marked tendency for it to be used in the context of posture.

In Ja 340:4.3, the formerly wealthy donor has been reduced to penury, ultimately collapsing on the ground. Sakka urges him to give up giving, but he refuses, saying,

evaṁbhūtāpi dassāma
Even in such a state (/posture) I shall give

You can see that it refers to both a physical posture as well as a way of being, i.e. bereft of wealth and prosperity.

Likewise, in Ja 371:1.1, Dīghāyu comes across his enemy the king of Varanasi in the forest, lying on his side. He says,

“Evaṁbhūtassa te rāja,
āgatassa vase mama;

Having come across you in such a state (/posture), king,
you are in my power

In Ja 534:9.4 it describes a bird stuck in a trap, so again it refers to both his “state” of being trapped as well as the physical “state”.

In each of these cases, which we may take as representative of ordinary language rather than doctrinal contexts, evaṁbhūta means “one who is in such a state”, but with the more specific implication, “one who is in such a posture”. The posture itself is part of a narrative of being; what a person (or animal) has become is represented in their physical posture.

What, then, of the suttas? It occurs in pair of passages that are in adjacent suttas. These are repeated in AN 4.11 and AN 4.12; as well as Iti 110 and Iti 111. These deal with practicing in the four postures.

In AN 4.11, a mendicant has an unwholesome thought while walking, but does not dispel it. Even while walking (carampi), a mendicant in such a state is said to be lazy.

carampi, bhikkhave, bhikkhu evaṁbhūto ‘anātāpī anottāpī satataṁ samitaṁ kusīto hīnavīriyo’ti vuccati

AN 4.12 is similar, except it starts with the positive side, and focuses on the full development of the process leading to samādhi.

Suppose a mendicant has got rid of desire and ill will while walking, and has given up dullness and drowsiness, restlessness and remorse, and doubt. Their energy is roused up and unflagging, their mindfulness is established and lucid, their body is tranquil and undisturbed, and their mind is immersed in samādhi. A mendicant in such a state is said to be ‘keen and prudent, always energetic and determined’ when walking.

But the operative phrase with evaṁbhūta at the end is the same. That means there’s really one one phrase to consider, in two similar contexts.

Finally, it occurs in a related by distinct phrase in AN 3.63. The Buddha speaks of entering all four jhanas in turn. Following this, he says:

So ce ahaṁ, brāhmaṇa, evaṁbhūto caṅkamāmi, dibbo me eso tasmiṁ samaye caṅkamo hoti.
Brahmin, if I walk in such a state, my walking at that time is heavenly.

Briefly looking afield, it is a technical term in Jainism in at least two senses.

In Jain logic it is one of the seven logical methods:

That which determines or ascertains an object as it is in its present state or mode is called the specific viewpoint (evaṃbhūta naya)

This is a similar meaning in a different context. As well as logic, it’s also used to describe the suffering experienced by different kinds of beings in the different realms of rebirth, i.e. in “such a state”. This is said to be a doctrine of non-Jains, but still correct.

Given that it occurs rarely in Pali, it’s perhaps not surprising that I can’t locate it in early Brahmanical Sanskrit. Investigating later Sanskrit would be a pleasant diversion that must wait for another time.

Okay, so let’s return to the suttas, where the sense is quite remarkably consistent. In each case, evaṁbhūta refers to both the physical posture as well as the mental condition of one in that posture. The point of interest is that both AN 3.63 as well as AN 4.12 appear to refer to a practitioner who is walking while in samādhi. I noted this in my A Swift Pair of Messengers in relation to AN 4.12:

One passage speaks of a monk establishing the ‘mind one-pointed in samādhi’ while in all four postures, including walking. This would seem to be difficult to square with the usual understanding of jhāna, although it would not necessarily directly contradict anything in the suttas. Everything else in this sutta, though, is quite standard—virtue, abandoning the hindrances, energy, mindfulness, bodily tranquillity (which strikes me as slightly odd in the context of walking), and samādhi, with a verse extolling both samatha and vipassanā. Perhaps we might suspect some slightly clumsy editing; and we should not forget the many times when the meditator sits down cross-legged before entering samādhi.

It looks like I didn’t mention AN 3.63, which is an oversight on my part. Ven Bodhi, however, notes the following:

Mp [the commentary to AN] says that his walking back and forth is celestial when, having entered the four jhanas, he walks back and forth … The seems to imply that walking can occur even with the mind in jhana. This, however, is contradicted by the dominant understanding that jhana is uninterrupted absorption in an object, in which case intentional movements like walking would not be possible. Mp-ṭ [the subcommentary] explains … to mean that he walks back and forth immediately after emerging from the jhana. …

So his position appears that the commentary understands the text as meaning the mendicant is still in the jhana when walking, but he implies the explanation is not fully explicit. So either the subcommentary has a different opinion or the meaning of the commentary is not so definitive.

I’m sure there will be other discussions of this matter, but that’s what I’ve got for now. Oh, one more detail, none of the Pali suttas have parallels. This generally speaking would make us question their authenticity, but it should be remembered that many Anguttara suttas lack parallels, which has to do with the texts available in Chinese. So we can’t really infer much from this, except to say that, so far as I know, they lack the positive support of a parallel.

When I translated these passages, it seemed to me at the time that evaṁbhūta had a more general sense, leaning on the past participle, something like “as a person who has been in such a state”, or “one who is practicing in this way”. Thus it would refer more generally to the fact that someone of such a state of samadhi would live in a heavenly way, rather than meaning strictly while in that posture.

Ven @Sunyo has discussed this point in more detail.

But this more detailed review is giving me pause on that. The two aspects seem closely linked, the general “state” one is in and the “posture” that state is associated with go together.

Let me go back to my comment in A Swift Pair of Messengers and see if it holds up.

Perhaps we might suspect some slightly clumsy editing

This is, I think, supportable in AN 4.12, because there the sutta expands on the previous sutta. So it seems plausible that the phrase was copied over, and so I think this holds up. It’s not so easy in the case of AN 3.63, which can’t be explained in the same way.

bodily tranquillity (which strikes me as slightly odd in the context of walking)

“Bodily tranquility” normally refers to the extremely subtle energies in the quieted breath, which when seated become so subtle as to virtually disappear. This happens long before jhana. In fourth jhana—which is specifically referred to—the breath is said to disappear completely, which seems impossible to reconcile with maintaining a walking posture. It’s a bit hard to say, though. I’m always reluctant to push meanings too far. I wouldn’t say this is definitive, but it does seem unlikely to me.

we should not forget the many times when the meditator sits down cross-legged before entering samādhi

As always, we should not let one or two passages of dubious meaning affect the interpretation of the many clear and central passages. These three small suttas are meant to illustrate a certain point. AN 4.11 and AN 4.12 are meant to illustrate that it is important to practice in any posture. AN 3.63 is meant to point to the happiness of the Buddha’s meditation. None of them are meant to overturn our understanding of meditation.

So there are a few issues here; let me sum up.

  • The phrase does, unless I have my Pali wrong, seem to indicate that the different postures are undertaken by someone in such a state of samadhi.
  • There are no parallels.
  • Editorial slippage is plausible in AN 4.12.
  • Almost every time meditation is spoken of it is in a sitting posture.
  • Bodily tranquility may be inconsistent with walking.

One further point that I have not considered so far. Ven Bodhi refers to “intentional movements like walking”. But is walking necessarily intentional? Normally, of course, it is, but then, so is sitting. Without an active application of will, one will normally slouch and slump.

I had one time when I was super-tired, walking meditation in the early morning at Wat Nanachat. I was walking meditation back and forth at the back of the sala. Then I came to, and I was now walking along the side of the sala. Not my proudest moment! We all know, of course, that sleepwalking is possible. It seems to me that there’s no intrinsic reason why one shouldn’t be able to continue to walk on autopilot. And it was this that I was referring to (IIRC) when I said, “it would not necessarily directly contradict anything in the suttas”.

Perhaps one reading of this is that in rare cases it is possible to enter jhana while walking, and during that state the posture is regulated on autopilot, just as normally the breathing and the sitting posture would be. I don’t know. This doesn’t really solve the problem of bodily tranquillity, however.

My personal opinion, on review of all these contexts, is that the overall thrust of the suttas is clear that meditation takes place while sitting, and these are minor suttas whose purpose is really about something quite unrelated. In a big corpus, there will always be difficulties of interpretation. So I don’t think this is sufficient to change a fundamental understanding, but they are an interesting point of contrast.


Walking outside, listening to DN33, counting breaths, awareness lets slip the coarse, holding on to that fine connected thread. And then the foot passes smoothly onto a spiked seed, that quiet world wafts away and a sole in pain emerges. evaṁbhūta

Thank you for your essay, Bhante.


I actually find it more believable while walking than sitting. Walking only barely increases your metabolic requirements but part of the adaptation of mammals (or therapsids) in general is that our walking motion tends to facilitate rather than inhibit gas exchange in the lungs. This is much less true of humans than other mammals (because of upright bipedalism - we don’t have dorsal expansion and contraction of our torso to the extent of e.g. a cheetah), but our psoas and diaphragm are literally physically connected. So if one’s breathing had stopped (meaning no muscles were moving for that purpose) but one was walking, I think you’d get more airflow and gas exchange than if you were sitting, and that might offset the slight increase in cellular respiration.

Obviously, that’s all just speculation. I don’t think these phenomena have ever been scientifically observed. But I hope it’s speculation worth sharing.

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Oh, that’s really interesting, I hadn’t thought of that.

There’s definitely something to the idea that the walking posture is inherently calming. I think our ancestors would walk a lot, and there would be a very acute sense of mindfulness and awareness of surroundings. It’s just such a peaceful and soothing rhythm.

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Sorry, but this is not physiologically possible.
I know this is a side point but —
Air cannot move into the lungs without a negative pressure being created in the thorax by the downward movement of the diaphragm.
Nor can air be exhaled without the relaxation-movement of the diaphragm (which is a thin muscle).

During the 4th jhana, while sitting, breathing is said to stop – which of course is different than saying that one can walk and breath without any, even subtle, muscle movements.

Just saying…

Namo Byddhaya!

Thank you for teaching the pali Bhante.

There is an analog

There is the case where you recollect the Tathagata: ‘Indeed, the Blessed One is worthy and rightly self-awakened, consummate in knowledge & conduct, well-gone, an expert with regard to the world, unexcelled as a trainer for those people fit to be tamed, the Teacher of divine & human beings, awakened, blessed.’ At any time when a disciple of the noble ones is recollecting the Tathagata, his mind is not overcome with passion, not overcome with aversion, not overcome with delusion. His mind heads straight, based on the Tathagata. And when the mind is headed straight, the disciple of the noble ones gains a sense of the goal, gains a sense of the Dhamma, gains joy connected with the Dhamma. In one who is joyful, rapture arises. In one who is rapturous, the body grows calm. One whose body is calmed experiences ease. In one at ease, the mind becomes concentrated.

"Mahanama, you should develop this recollection of the Buddha while you are walking, while you are standing, while you are sitting, while you are lying down, while you are busy at work, while you are resting in your home crowded with children. Mahanama Sutta: To Mahanama (2)

As to this controversy,

Commentary aside, in studying the theravadin canon, kathavatthu in particular, the controverted point about jhana is odd to me.

As i remembered it, the Theravadin says that jhana factors are essentially mental whereas the five bodily senses are not mental and so the mental & non-mental couldn’t possibly co-occur.

I find this very odd. Because whenever we delineate the eye contact, the mind is implicated therein, and so how can one draw this hard materiality/mentality distinction & separation in regards to one’s experience of feeling states with form?

Furthermore doesn’t vibhanga say that form is generated by mind?

It’s very odd and I don’t understand the point being made there. It sounds disagreeable to me.

I think this controverted point alone is what amounts to canonical substantiation for the visudhimagga jhana methods.

Id be interested to know when exactly kathavathu was recognized as canonical.

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Right, this is another interesting case. Normally the recommendation is to be mindful and aware when doing the day’s activities. But here the Buddha is recommending, in a lay context, maintaining the six recollections. Since it’s talking about while you’re home surrounded by kids, it’s clearly not implying that you’re in a deep state during the recollection, rather, that you’re still keeping it in mind.

Are you referring to this chapter?


I think the main argument there is that the samadhi itself is a state of mental consciousness, and hearing is a separate kind of consciousness, so if you were to hear (or have other sense consciousness) in jhana, there would be two kinds of consciousness present at the same time. Since that’s impossible (certainly according to the Abhidhamma) then you can’t hear while in jhana.

One might add to that that if a moment of hearing was not simultaneous, but interrupted the samadhi, then there is still no hearing “in” jhana.

In fact I think this is the context of the second point discussed, about sound being a “thorn” for jhana. It’s a thorn because (especially when the jhana is weak or fading) sound “poke in” to the state of consciousness, which technically at that moment is no longer a jhana. A bit like a ragged cloth fraying at the edges.


I find this interpretation to be strange.

You must also allow that he enters Jhāna enjoying auditory consciousness. You deny, for you agree that concentration arises in one who is enjoying mental objects as such?

For this to be a point, we must assert that auditory consciousness is not a mental object. But why does one call it a type of consciousness then?

Furthermore i think this expression is close to doctrine about mind-moments, one moment of eye-consciousness, with a beginning-middle-end, another mind moment of mind-consciousness.

I know there is some commentary which makes it explicit that whenever one delineates contact at any ayatana one will also delineate contact at the mind base too. Unfortunately i forgot where i read it but i like how the author phrased it.

It’s logical because when the internal & external ayatanas meet then vinnana is always in between. And so any contact can be analyzed as mind base contact.

The sense consciousness is not the “object”; it is the awareness of the object. So of course part of the experience of hearing is the mental aspect, i.e. the consciousness, but part is also physical, i.e. the sound. So the argument is not that auditory consciousness has no mental dimension, it is that it has some physical dimension.

That’s true. I don’t know if this theory was fully articulated at the time, but it certainly seems close to it.

Vibhanga makes it explicit that any consciousness can be treated as mind-base

Mind base by way of sixfold division: Eye consciousness; ear consciousness; nose consciousness; tongue consciousness; body consciousness; mind consciousness. Thus is mind base by way of sixfold division.

Mind base by way of sevenfold division: Eye consciousness; ear consciousness; nose consciousness; tongue consciousness; body consciousness; mind element; mind-consciousness-element. Thus is mind base by way of sevenfold division.


Right, in this case the mind “base” is the consciousness itself, not the object of consciousness.

Think of it in terms of phassa: the eye, the sight, the eye consciousness. Two out of three are material, only the consciousness itself is mental.

They seem to draw a matriality mentality distinction which boils down to vision of form being of two kinds

  1. Material
  2. Immaterial

I have not seen this distinction anywhere else in the canon.

As far as i can tell sutta make no distinction in whether one sees a star with the eye or imagines it, both are reckoned as form-feeling states, merely a different type of conception accompanied by form.
Whereas the Kathavatthu suggests that there is a further distinction between the material and the immaterial where one type can not be associated with jhana.

Controverted Point: That one who has attained Jhāna hears sound.

Theravādin: If so, it must be equally allowed that he can also see, smell, taste and touch objects.

It is not clear whether they would go as far as saying that one can’t feel the body in jhana, that in light of the texts saying that one suffuses the whole body with pleasure, nevermind the walking.

Okay, yes, rūpa can mean either a physical sight seen by the eye, or a vision seen only in the mind.

Right, they say that jhana is for one who enjoys mind objects.

But what are mind objects?

The vibhanga has this

The aggregate of material quality has no object. Four aggregates have objects.

The question is whether one will say that form is object of the other aggregates.

If one does then one should admit that one should be able to feel & enter the jhana from any one the six classes of consciousness.

I mean if i imagine lights that is a feeling with form, and if i see light with the eye that is a feeling with form. I don’t think there is any further difference other than there being 6 classes of these feeling states with form.

Hi Bhante,

Thanks for the analysis.

I’m not sure I agree, though. I haven’t checked the Jataka references myself, but the way you describe it here there seems to be an important difference between these texts and AN3.63. In the former evaṁbhūta comes after the mention of posture; in the latter it comes before. Evaṁbhūta seems to refer to the before, so in AN3.63 I find it difficult to read it as a reference to the posture. It seems to refer to the preceding statements only. In other words, first you are “in such a way/state” (whatever that exactly refers to) and then you also start walking. So I still think your former interpretation is more on point.

It is interesting, though, that so many references of evaṁbhūta are found in texts that also discuss posture. However, I’m not sure that is on purpose or it just happens to be that way.


That’s really what grabbed my eye. I thought it was just incidental, but then it seemed too close a match.

I’d really appreciate if you could check it closely, a second eye would be wonderful!

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Hi bhante,

I had a bit of a closer look. I have nothing particularly noteworthy to add, but here are some simple observations.

In each case it feels unnatural to me to take the word evaṃbhūta to refer to both a general state and a posture at the same time. It seems we have to choose one. In Ja340 it reads more like it refers to the state of being poor. In Ja371 as the posture, for sure. In Ja543 as the state of being trapped, but no particular posture is mentioned.

Combining AN4.11 and AN4.12, it seems to refer to the mental state, not the physical state. Because the bhikkhu who is “evaṃbhūto” is described differently in the two texts (once negatively, once positively) even when their postures are identical.

As to AN3.63, on rethinking, I am more inclined to the subcommentary’s interpretation you quoted. It either means ‘having been (bhuta as a past participle) like that’ or it means ‘being like that’ but refers to the post-jhana state when the hindrances are still gone. That is, evaṃbhuto may literally mean ‘being like that’, but the nature of jhana itself implies that the walking happens after exiting jhana. Assuming it to be an early text, people at the time could have inferred this from the nature of jhanas, even if evambhuto could be ambiguous.

For those reading along, there are many instances where exiting the jhanas is implied. Quite clear is MN113:

Furthermore, take an untrue person who, as the placing of the mind and keeping it connected are stilled, enters and remains in the second absorption … third absorption … fourth absorption. They reflect: ‘I have attained the fourth absorption, unlike these other mendicants.’

I think most of us agree you can’t think in the fourth jhana, so this reflection happens after exiting. I think it’s similar with the walking in AN3.63.

I can’t conceive how one would be walking back and forth in jhana. Interesting point, though, could it technically be possible? That the body walks back and forth automatically while the mind is in jhana? Seems unlikely to me, but even if it were possible, I don’t think that’s what the sutta was intended to tell us.


Does paṭisañcikkhati require V&V?

I would have said that, but in those Jataka stories it seems to be a literary device. They’re in a degraded posture, which reflects the state of life they’re in. I don’t think the usage there is particularly different to what you might say in English. You see someone drunk in a gutter, and say, “What brought them to such a state”, it’s not the posture or the position in life, it’s how their posture manifests a certain position in life.

Indeed, context matters, so a passing phrase like this reflects a pre-existing understanding.

I agree, I just thought it should be on the table as a possible reading.

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