Only stream-enterers can attain jhana?

I am creating a new thread since this is getting off-topic in its original thread, but I think it merits some discussion nonetheless.

So let me start here

Page 15 of Font-Clos in particular makes a relatively convincing argument that stream-entry, in terms of a hierarchy of the progressive difficulty of attainments, would come before the first jhana.

I assume you are referring to this passage:

when a disciple abandons the three fetters and, afterwards, enters in the first jhana, were he or she to die at that moment the result would be non-return (A 3.94, i242). Therefore, even the first jhana alone implies freedom from the five lower fetters, never less than that.

which in turn refers to this passage:

AN 3.94
yato ariyasāvakassa virajaṃ vītamalaṃ dhammacakkhuṃ uppajjati, saha dassanuppādā, bhikkhave, ariyasāvakassa tīṇi saṃyojanāni pahīyanti — sakkāyadiṭṭhi, vicikicchā, sīlabbataparāmāso.

when the stainless, immaculate vision of the teaching arises in a noble
disciple, three fetters are given up: identity view, doubt, and misapprehension of precepts and
observances.

“athāparaṃ dvīhi dhammehi niyyāti abhijjhāya ca byāpādena ca. so vivicceva kāmehi vivicca akusalehi dhammehi savitakkaṃ savicāraṃ vivekajaṃ pītisukhaṃ paṭhamaṃ jhānaṃ upasampajja viharati. tasmiṃ ce, bhikkhave, samaye ariyasāvako kālaṃ kareyya, natthi taṃ saṃyojanaṃ yena saṃyojanena saṃyutto ariyasāvako puna imaṃ lokaṃ āgaccheyyā”ti.

Afterwards they get rid of two things: desire and aversion. Quite secluded from sensual
pleasures, secluded from unskillful qualities, they enter and remain in the first absorption,
which has the rapture and bliss born of seclusion, while placing the mind and keeping it
connected. If that noble disciple passed away at that time, they’re bound by no fetter that
might return them to this world.”

The sutta absolutely doesn’t say what Mr FontClos says it does. It says that if a stream enterer dies while in first jhana, he becomes a non-returner. Nowhere whatsoever does it say that the first jhana can’t be achieved by one who is not a stream-enterer.

I think Mr FontClos should think twice before writing such articles that create such confusion, and people like Tricycle should think twice before publishing him.

In a passage which is almost comical, so that one would wonder if this is not a parody of on-the-nose sophistry, he admits that his theory is explicitly refuted in a sutta:

Despite all this, one text in the Majjhima nikaya places stream-entry after attainment of jhana in an ascending enumeration (M 6, i 34). Besides this one exception, it is quite clear that the relationship of stream-entry with states of concentration is that it leads to them; their actual consummation already corresponds to higher stages.

Here is the passage from MN 6:

“ākaṅkheyya ce, bhikkhave, bhikkhu — ‘tiṇṇaṃ saṃyojanānaṃ parikkhayā sotāpanno assaṃ avinipātadhammo niyato sambodhiparāyaṇo’ti, sīlesvevassa paripūrakārī ajjhattaṃ cetosamathamanuyutto anirākatajjhāno vipassanāya samannāgato brūhetā suññāgārānaṃ.

A mendicant might wish: ‘May I, with the ending of three fetters, become a stream-enterer, not
liable to be reborn in the underworld, bound for awakening.’ So let them fulfill their precepts, be committed to inner serenity of the heart, not neglect absorption, be endowed with discernment, and frequent empty huts.

Here we can also see that to attain stream-entry, the sutta says that one should practice samatha (“serenity”), jhāna (arguably part of “Concentration”), and vipassanā (Insight).

Despite that, Mr Font Cos has the audacity of printing:

Stream-entry is nowhere an attainment that results from either concentration or insight practices. In fact, the lowest fruit of satipatthana practice is thedestruction of the five lower fetters (M 10.46, i 63; S 54.5, v 314).

So my advice would be to stay away from the writings of Mr Font Clos because he seems to be quite confused and to export his confusion in other people’s minds.

How his writings pass for high level Buddhist studies and how he gets to be printed in a major Buddhist outlet is beyond me.

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When child Gotama spontaneously entered into the 1st jhana under the rose-apple tree (MN 36), obviously youthful Gotama was not a stream-enterer.

AN 3.94 does not say the above to me because it is not about emerging from jhana. When emerging from the 1st jhana, the lower fetters may arise again, such as desire towards food.

Mmm… as a big fan of the start of the MN 64, my inclination is to regard MN 64 as fake if it seems to suggest, like in the AN, the asava/defilements can be ended in the 1st jhana. I personally would consider young puthujjana Gotama entering jhana under a rose-apple tree far more probable than a Noble practitioner ending the asava in the 1st jhana.

In MN 6, the above is stock phrase. For example:

A mendicant might wish: ‘May I receive robes, almsfood, lodgings, and medicines and supplies for the sick.’ So let them fulfill their precepts, be committed to inner serenity of the heart, not neglect absorption, be endowed with discernment, and frequent empty huts.

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One would think so…

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Unless I’m misunderstanding something, is this really up for debate? There’s suttas that say puthujjanas who attain jhanas become Brahmas and then later are reborn in hell.

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I created this thread because it was put up for debate in another one (you can follow the link in the OP), where it was getting off-topic

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AN 4.123 … :face_with_spiral_eyes:

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Maybe the statement should change to.

Only stream enterer or an Ariya can attain Samma Samadhi. Samma samadhi does refer to Jhana (1st, 2nd,3rd, and 4th).

This statement is better and accurate per Sutta.

I don’t think a puthujjana can attain Samma samadhi, most probably just a micha samadhi. This is why only lead to another life in Brahma world (if they maintain till end of human life) and back to lower realm after that.

For this below statement, i don’t see any issue because only a non returner and an arahant have perfected samadhi, hence they maintain samadhi till end of life. You can find this statement in AN 3.86.

So, A stream enterer wouldn’t be able to maintain sati/samadhi in daily life, because the wisdom is not there. Also see MN 14 which show Mahanama, a stream enterer, hasn’t fully understood the pro and cons of 5 senses.

Then Mahānāma the Sakyan went up to the Buddha, bowed, sat down to one side, and said to him, “For a long time, sir, I have understood your teaching like this: ‘Greed, hate, and delusion are corruptions of the mind.’ Despite understanding this, sometimes my mind is occupied by thoughts of greed, hate, and delusion. I wonder what qualities remain in me that I have such thoughts?”

“Mahānāma, there is a quality that remains in you that makes you have such thoughts. For if you had given up that quality you would not still be living at home and enjoying sensual pleasures. But because you haven’t given up that quality you are still living at home and enjoying sensual pleasures.

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sometimes i believe that Gotama was born that way. Would a sammasambuddha not have realised some fruit in a former life? I was also thinking about his period with his teachers. Why was he not content with their Dhamma and fruits? Doesn’t that show that he had allready some understanding that “anything that is subject to arising is also subject to ceasing” (Dhamma-eye). Did he at that time not have allready some idea of the ignoble and the noble search? Some idea of the goal? Nibbana, the unconditioned? Did he not search a home for himself and did he not already realise that anything conditioned cannot be stable, reliable, refuge?

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Just to be precise to the text, once the good vibes brought up by the jhanas and which bring about progressively more blissful sorts of rebirths ceases/expires, then and only then, they may go to hell or the animal realm or the ghost realm.

The way you and @Thito put it, at least to me, sounds like if a puthujjanas who attain jhana are doomed to be reborn in hell only. That is not the case.

The lack of a human rebirth as possible destination is in my view an indication that the reaction of a putthujana to the realization that those sublime rebirth states are to end must be of such attachment, anger or desperation that they die with quite a strong negative kammic momentum, and therefore have these three inferior destinations as possible landing.

:anjal:

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Well it is a possible destination of course. It’s just not emphasized here. This is another example where we can see that we have to be careful when making inferences from the suttas:

AN 1.357–359
“… the sentient beings who die as gods and are reborn as humans are few, while those who die as gods and are reborn in hell, or the animal realm, or the ghost realm are many.”

Not saying you actually made that inference but given the kind of “creative” inferences we deal with in the work referenced in the OP, this might be appropriate

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The main point was that it’s not possible for Ariyans to go to hell, which would imply that non-ariyans can attain jhanas, since if they were Ariyans the sutta wouldn’t say they could go to hell.

In regards to devas and brahmas going to hell, I remember reading in a sutta that it’s very easy for a deva to die when they get angry, but it’s been a long time since I read that sutta so I may be misremembering it.

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@Bernat is also a longtime member of the forum. Maybe he would like to clarify.

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Thank you @Danny for tagging me here, otherwise I would’ve been unaware of these discussions.

In my thesis I analysed all the appearances of stream-entry in the nikāyas and found that by and large stream-entry is not presented as the outcome of jhāna or even satipaṭṭhāna practice, for the reasons I outlined and @silence has cited, relating to the 3 lower fetters and the outcome of satipaṭṭhāna, for example. My focus was not whether puthujjanas can attain jhāna, as seems to be the debate in some of these threads, but I see that some of my statements could point into that direction. Instead, my question was whether jhāna is a pre-requisite to stream-entry. I noted that there is one exception to this.

Good scholarship involves pointing out what does not support one’s claim, rather than hiding it, and then justifying why you think your claim still stands. Data needs to be interpreted. In my case that’s quite simple, it’s a quantitative argument: there is one single occurrence that pairs stream-entry with jhāna, which I mentioned, and to me it does not win against all the other depictions of stream-entry. (I’m not even sure the commentaries see stream-enterers as necessarily having attained jhāna, but I have no time to check at the moment.)

Many more instances present stream-entry as a previous step to higher meditative states and support my argument. One example is the case of Mahānāma, which @Joe.C has already mentioned in this thread. The other is AN 3.94 as @silence cited from my thesis, where attaining stream-entry comes first and attaining jhāna follows. Therefore, jhāna is not a pre-requisite to stream-entry.

The suttas often present several possibilities and paths, with one usually being the normative but not the only one. So I’m not saying that it can never be the case that someone attains jhāna and then later stream-entry, only that jhāna is not a requirement for stream-entry. If it were a requirement, Mahānāma could not be a stream-enterer (for he has not experienced jhāna yet), nor Sarakāni the drunk. AN 3.94 would need some interpretation as not describing a sequence but something simultaneous, and even then it would not support that jhāna must happen before stream-entry is attained.

For a bit of context: that is my Master’s thesis, a work I wrote while being a MA student 5 years ago now in 2017 (just submitted at the beginning of 2018). I’d be the first one shocked if there was nothing I would change now. No one, including myself, has claimed it to be “high level Buddhist studies”. The connection to a non-academic piece on Tricycle this year is unwarranted, and however much you disagreed with my theological points on Tricycle we can still discuss facts about the Pali canon without making sweeping personal attacks.

May you be well :pray:

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Thanks for the response, Bernat.

If anyone is interested, I argued the opposite in A Swift Pair of Messengers, where I pointed out that a stream-enterer has, well, entered the “stream”, where the stream is the eightfold path including jhana; that are are said to possess the five faculties, the threefold training, etc., etc., all of which requite jhana. The suttas work in a shorthand: they define things in one place, then you’re supposed to understand them elsewhere. Since the “stream” is in fact the “path”, this means that literally every time the word stream-enterer is mentioned, we are meant to understand that they have developed the factors of the path, including jhana.

It seems to me bizarre to imagine that someone can be “on the path” without actually practicing the path. It’s like a Christian arguing that you don’t really need God to get to heaven. I mean, I assume there are Christians who would argue that, but it took a long time to get there!

I honestly think that such a position can only have arisen after hundreds, if not thousands of years of doctrinal evolution, and would never have occurred to people in the time of the Buddha. Historically, it only became a prominent position in the 20th century, where it is, of course, the underlying default of the vipassana movements. But for them, the crucial missing link is supplied by Abhidhamma. Stream-enterers do have jhana, it’s just that it’s the momentary jhana of the path and fruit. This vipassanavada is a coherent position, it just requires believing in the authority of the Abhidhamma. Reject that, as I do, and there’s only dust and wishes.

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Stream enterer has seen/known the complete path (N8FP), but they have not (fully) developed the path especially sati/samadhi. Stream enterer will lack of sati/samadhi.

If stream enterer has fully developed/maintain the samma samadhi (jhana), then one has become at the very least Non returner (if not arahant).

A stream enterer will comeback to this world (human) because lack of Samma Samadhi. A non returner will not return to human world because one maintains Samma Samadhi through out the daily life.

So stream enterer is just at the cakkhu udapadi (dhamma cakkhu - dhamma eye). Still need to developed the complete path step by step.

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Hi Mr Font Clos,
When I wrote the above I did not think we would get to have a direct conversation. It is good that you can come here and discuss these points.

I am sorry that you feel attacked, but some things can be a bit difficult to sugarcoat, especially for someone who has only very limited wisdom like me. Please consider the following:

  1. You are not just a random dude on an internet forum, you have made yourself a public figure by getting your writings printed in a major Buddhist outlet, and you have given that public figure an aura of academia. This means that your writings are taken as word of authority by many people who read them (as evidenced here on this very forum). This in turn means that the responsibility that befalls you when you write something which is then read, believed, taken to heart, and made a basis for understanding the Dhamma by potentially thousand of others, is much higher than if the same words were written (and debated) on some internet forum by some random dude. It is then only natural that what you have thus published officially gets much stricter scrutiny than a random forum post.

  2. Again, as evidenced here on this very forum, intentionally or not, your writings have the consequence of strongly discouraging (potentially many) people from trying to achieve jhana. In Theravada Buddhism, such behavior is considered extremely dangerous, especially for the person actively discouraging others from practicing the Buddha’s teaching correctly. See for example the quote below:

AN 1.130-139
those … who explain what is not the teaching as the teaching … what is the teaching as not the teaching … what was prescribed by the Realized One as not prescribed by the Realized One are acting for the hurt and unhappiness of many people, for the harm, hurt, and suffering of gods and humans. They make much bad karma and make the true teaching disappear.

  1. Since we have to do our best to undo the damage and disengage people from the wrong views they have acquired while reading your works, and since the reason why your works are taken as word of authority is that you have created an aura of trustworthiness around your public image, I haven’t seen any other way than breaking that aura of trustworthiness. That probably feels like a “sweeping personal attack”, but the fact that your person is the basis for an influential public persona gives important context to understand the motives behind using these few unfavorable words.

If you said

I would agree.

But here are these two statements:

One quote says something, the other says its very opposite, and that creates confusion, as we have seen on the thread referenced in the OP.

If you now think that what you have written in your paper is wrong, you may consider either unpublishing it or amending it, that would be for your own safety (as you are responsible for the views people take up based on your writings) as well as that of your potential readers.

Thank you, and likewise.

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This is my understanding as well, not to mention the Buddha says in MN 64 it’s not possible to give up the fetters without jhana. He also says it in AN 6.68

Mendicants, it’s totally impossible that a mendicant who enjoys company and groups, who loves them and likes to enjoy them, should take pleasure in being alone in seclusion. Without taking pleasure in being alone in seclusion, it’s impossible to learn the patterns of the mind. Without learning the patterns of the mind, it’s impossible to fulfill right view. Without fulfilling right view, it’s impossible to fulfill right immersion. Without fulfilling right immersion, it’s impossible to give up the fetters. Without giving up the fetters, it’s impossible to realize extinguishment.

There’s also a few other similar suttas like this one as well.

Different suttas describe different areas of the path, like for example focusing more on sense restraint than samadhi so they may leave out information on samadhi, but it’s not a different path just because a sutta doesn’t mention samadhi, which some people take to believe. It will always be the noble eightfold path, which includes jhanas.

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These 2 suttas are for 5 lower fetters and all fetters. When one needs to fulfill samma samadhi.

Fulfilling means fully developed. This is for a non returner and an arahant level. Not for stream enterer level.

So, Don’t get confused with stream entry requirement. There are only 4 factors of stream enterer as described in SN 55.5.

Well based on my discussion with you, you said stream enterer don’t know jhana. So i guess you changes your position now?

You’re misremembering things, please check your post history. I said stream entry path doesn’t require jhana, but stream entry fruit requires jhana, even a short moment of a fingersnap is sufficient. My position has not changed since then.

I also recall in that earlier discussion, that you were arguing that jhana is required for stream entry path, so have you changed your position now?

These 2 suttas are for 5 lower fetters and all fetters. When one needs to fulfill samma samadhi.

The second sutta doesn’t mention “lower”, so I don’t agree with that inference. Furthermore, there are more suttas that talk about just the first 3 fetters, requiring samatha-nimitta and abyagga-nimitta which can only be achieved when one has attained jhana, since they correspond with the factors of jhana like abyagga = ekaggata

Nope, i haven’t changed.

So are you still referring MN 79 that sakuladayi has entered the stream with this verse? Did you see any sutta that Buddha mentioned he has entered the stream yet?

When he had spoken, Sakuludāyī said to the Buddha, “Excellent, sir! Excellent! As if he were righting the overturned, or revealing the hidden, or pointing out the path to the lost, or lighting a lamp in the dark so people with good eyes can see what’s there, the Buddha has made the teaching clear in many ways. I go for refuge to the Buddha, to the teaching, and to the mendicant Saṅgha.

Or is MN 56 the standard stream enterer formula?

Then the Buddha taught the householder Upāli step by step, with a talk on giving, ethical conduct, and heaven. He explained the drawbacks of sensual pleasures, so sordid and corrupt, and the benefit of renunciation. And when he knew that Upāli’s mind was ready, pliable, rid of hindrances, elated, and confident he explained the special teaching of the Buddhas: suffering, its origin, its cessation, and the path.

Just as a clean cloth rid of stains would properly absorb dye, in that very seat the stainless, immaculate vision of the Dhamma arose in Upāli: “Everything that has a beginning has an end.” Then Upāli saw, attained, understood, and fathomed the Dhamma. He went beyond doubt, got rid of indecision, and became self-assured and independent of others regarding the Teacher’s instructions.

If you check the pali, it is clearly said fulfilling samma samadhi, to give up fetters and then reach Nibbana. Can’t just give up some fetters and reach nibbana though. :sweat_smile:

Without fulfilling right view, it’s impossible to fulfill right samadhi.
‘Sammādiṭṭhiṁ aparipūretvā sammāsamādhiṁ paripūressatī’ti netaṁ ṭhānaṁ vijjati.

Without fulfilling right samadhi, it’s impossible to give up the fetters.
‘Sammāsamādhiṁ aparipūretvā saṁyojanāni pajahissatī’ti netaṁ ṭhānaṁ vijjati.

Without giving up the fetters, it’s impossible to realize extinguishment.
‘Saṁyojanāni appahāya nibbānaṁ sacchikarissatī’ti netaṁ ṭhānaṁ vijjati.

Which sutta are this? Can you quote?