Question for Pali-knowers re: Kumāra Bhikkhu's translations

From our FAQ

This rule has been applicable since the inception of this forum for different reasons, the main one being none of these claims are verifiable over an internet browser and can cause unnecessary confusion and conflict.

As you can see, many are having this conversation about meditation without divulging any personal details, and can still be inspired. So it can be done.

If you do wish to discuss meditative attainments/experiences, please feel free to have a private PM conversation.

3 Likes

You cannot understand EBTs just by reading and discussing them.

There are many ways of coming to understand things, I agree.
But that doesn’t alter the Forum rules as they are stated.

In this thread here we have people who are clearly claiming to have personal knowledge of the jhanas, even if not explicitly. Is this allowed or not?
What an absurd game.

The thing is, the people most ready to tell you about their jhana experience are usually the least likely to have actually experienced jhana :joy:

The delusion of spiritual attainments is a common problem amongst meditation circles, especially in online communities or ones divorced from a larger tradition, or where there is no-one checking individuals practice.

So it becomes a very unhelpful thing to have people who falsely believe they have jhana experience telling others what it is. Many meditation teachers have had interactions with people who think they’ve experienced jhana but have only had a little amount of piti sukha come up, but they are convinced it is jhana anyway…

It’s not that this forum wants to shut down conversations about what people’s experience is, it’s just that a public forum of mostly anonymous “jhana experts” can cause more harm than good. It simply isnt the right context, and only leads to doubt and confusion.

As Gillian says, there are other places to discuss meditation, including other forums but I would also counsel caution, as there are many internet arahants, ill-informed idealists and spiritual materialists who, even with the best intentions, lead others astray. The best thing to do is to meet with a teacher in real life who can guide us. I understand that is not possible for everyone but if practicing jhana is that important to someone, then they will put it at the centre of their life, not merely on the list of weekend activities!

7 Likes

Hey, thanks for replying. Good point. :ok_hand: I don’t disagree with this per se. In a way being attached to things will lead to volitions towards those things.

However, I take it that “consciousness follows after that rapture and bliss” essentially describes the fetter of rūparāgo, i.e. the desire for experiencing the jhana states. It reads to me more like a general tendency, one that comes back after emerging from jhanas. I don’t think it describes a specific thing we do while in jhana.

To me it’s a bit awkward to read the jhanas in this sutta as a literal temperal sequence. (That is, entering first jhana, then “consciousness follows after that rapture and bliss [of fist jhana]”, then second jhana, then “consciousness follows after that rapture and bliss [of second jhana]”, then third jhana, etc.) Reason I find that awkward is that after “consciousness follows after that rapture and bliss [of second jhana]” the sutta still continues with the third jhana. It doesn’t make much sense that if the mind “follows” (or “is stuck to”) the rapture and bliss of the second jhana while in the second jhana, it then lets go of the rapture and enters the third jhana. Same idea with the following jhanas. So the sutta instead seems to describe the general attachments that should be overcome. So that the jhanas and these attachment are not sequential but more general.

And that is how in my opinion it works in many suttas: what is described after the jhana doesn’t necessarily occur while you’re in it. (Although admittedly in some suttas it’s less clear than others.) There’s one example in MN122 where after fourth jhana the practitioner is said to be thinking and walking. But everybody agrees that thinking (however we interpret vitakka) ceases in second jhana, so this passage is easier interpreted with the thinking (and walking) happening after jhana. (As explained here by Ven. Brahmali.)

Gramatically I belief that also works fine, but I won’t go into details of that now, even though that linguistics is what ASearcher actually asked about… :face_with_peeking_eye: (I hope this will do for now.)

2 Likes

I interpret it as the meditator got ‘stuck’ in one of the four if there is attachment to the experience found in that particular Jhana.

For example, if consciousness follows after that rapture and bliss born of seclusion, tied, attached, and fettered to gratification in that rapture and bliss born of seclusion, it will be stuck in the first Jhana and will not progress further.

1 Like

This is only found in the Theravādin texts, yes?

So this phrase “truly withdrawn (vivicc’eva) from sense experiences (kāmehi)” is actually quite significant.

Does truly withdrawn from the kāmaguṇāna mean shut off from all sensory experience (bar the mind)? True, the Buddha was without the hindrances and true when in a forest the kāmaguṇāna are no longer around but it doesn’t necessarily follow that according to a non-absorbed view of Jhāna he was then constantly in Jhāna, since Jhāna also requires directing the mind such as towards the body.

On a separate note when we read descriptions of Jhāna from the likes of Kumārajīva, the experience is exactly the same as what the Visuddhimagga describes just before what it considers to be Jhāna proper. Mental happiness and bodily bliss, one-pointedness, nimittas. The only difference that I can see is that for the Visuddhimagga, and those who propose something similar, one absorbs into the nimitta whilst for Kumārajīva and those who follow a similar practice they do not. For those who accept a non-absorbed view of Jhāna, those who practice according to the Visuddhimagga or something similar are actually also attaining Jhāna. As to those who accept an absorbed view of Jhāna, if they also accept access concentration then the non-absorbed practitioners are experiencing that (which is still pretty good, if you accept that concept). To those who do not accept access concentration, their meditation then is a little weaker but on the right track it seems to me.

2 Likes

@already-perfect.life

Since you have been deep into your investigation. Have you heard about Late Bhante Punnaji?

Maybe this video of his explanation about jhana may help.

Note: his explanation is unorthodox, but I find it is inline with Buddha discourses (sutta)

As you have done your previous investigation, please investigate his explanation with your own experience & whatever it is written in Sutta.

Or maybe Ven. Kumara can help from his understanding as well.

1 Like

And even in the Theravāda there are variant readings

Thank you for the link.

Unification is defined as citta and mano coming together, the opposite of vicikiccha. It makes sense. Is there any sutta that support this explanation?

Not explicitly. But if you read MN 43, especially look at the pali, you might get some understanding of this. Only at 4th jhana Manovinnana is free of 5 senses. These 5 senses lead to Mano as describe in this Sutta.

Problem is citta (emotional mind) is formed from citta sankhara which is vedana (feeling) and sanna (sensation:color/sound or “perception” in regular translation).

When one is in samadhi, the citta is unified with mano. That means, there is no feeling born from 5 senses. Then, one can experience subjective feeling of happiness (piti).

Also, look at how one can entered a jhana (samadhi). The formula is:

Quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unskillful qualities, they enter and remain in the first jhana

Also look at sn 48.42, why one needs to develop Sati (introspection to within on 4 objects, then one can be free from these 5 senses). Development of sati lead to freedom and then nibbana.

Quote is below:

“Brahmin, these five faculties have different scopes and different ranges, and don’t experience each others’ scope and range. What five? The faculties of the eye, ear, nose, tongue, and body. These five faculties, with their different scopes and ranges, have recourse to the mind. And the mind experiences their scopes and ranges.”

“But Master Gotama, what does the mind (mano) have recourse to?”

“The mind has recourse to mindfulness.(sati)”

“But what does mindfulness have recourse to?”

“Mindfulness has recourse to freedom. (Vimutti)”

“But what does freedom have recourse to?”

“Freedom has recourse to extinguishment. (Nibbana)”

“But what does extinguishment have recourse to?”

“This question goes too far, brahmin! You weren’t able to grasp the limit of questioning. For extinguishment is the culmination, destination, and end of the spiritual life.”

That is how I understand it.

Samma vayama, samma sati & samma Samadhi can’t be separated. One also needs a foundation of right view and right conducts to be able to train those 3.

Then, also look at how the Dependent of Origination can be understood from these. One can understand the whole teaching of Buddha.

1 Like

Hm, I watched the video but Bhante Punnaji seems to contradict himself. At first he says jhana is not about focusing, it is about having mental equilibrium. But then near the end he says the opposite, that your mind must be pointed in one direction only, so it can be unified, and then at the very end he says that at 4th jhana your mind is “completely focused on one thing.” So I’m not clear exactly on what is the controversial main point he’s trying to make.

On the other hand, from “one’s experience” (not allowed to say “my” experience due to forum rules), “one” would say that jhanic absorptions require a relaxed but intense focus, which does seem like a contradiction. The more you focus on your breath, the more you need to relax. When the nimitta shows itself, the beauty of it is so extraordinarily powerful that it is frightening, and even the beauty of the breath can be overwhelming. Ajahn Brahm talks about this also in his book (not sure if I broke the rules just now by mentioning that…). If you aren’t able to be super equanimous, you’ll get spooked back into ordinary consciousness and have to start all over, which happened to “one” multiple times.

Anyway, I don’t think people should be focusing on absorption states. They are often not obtainable and this can be discouraging, and if they are easily obtainable then they can be addictive. Ajahn Brahm says they can’t possibly be addictive because they are letting go, and letting go leads to nibbana. But in “one’s” experience, they are way better than any drug “one” has ever tried, way better than sex (Brahm agrees with this point), and so “one” feels that many people could indeed get addicted to these states if they came easily.

Absorptions states do not lead into nibbana in any kind of direct way at all. But to “one” they were a serious confirmation of the teachings of the Buddha, which led to further investigation.

Ah… ok. No problem. I thought it would help.

Where did you find this statement in Sutta?

Hm… really? But anapanasati is not really only focusing on the breath. Do you know that? Also can’t find any nimitta in the description of jhana. Can you point me to one or any sutta about this?

Interesting. Because my understanding of jhana is very subtle happiness. Not hyper stimulated. :sweat_smile:

I agreed. Good luck.

Hopefully, you keep studying the sutta. Hear more of them. The first step is right view.

IMO, One who has reached ariya jhana and maintain the jhana in daily life should be a non returner or Arahant.

The talk is not ended yet. There are further elaboration in the next part:

I don’t know. :confused: Looking at the AN it seems there are no parallels in languages other than Pali. But to be 100% sure you might have to skim through all parallels of DN33, because the passage is found there too. A closely related statement is found in AN9.34, which has no parallels mentioned. I also wouldn’t be surprised if something similar was mentioned in Chinese suttas which have no Pali parallel.

Thanks Bhante, :slight_smile: I forgot about that. Variants have āmisasaññā, ‘perceptions “of the flesh”’, which I would argue means perceptions of the body. Just like in English we can use ‘the flesh’ to refer to the whole body. (“Flesh: the human body and its physical needs and desires, especially as contrasted with the mind or the soul.” - Oxford Languages for Google)

This variant reading may actually be a bit clearer as to the meaning, because in other contexts kāmasaññā seems to refers to sensual thoughts rather than perceptions in the sense of awareness. Also, jhanas are called nir-āmisa, ‘not of the flesh’, so that fits.

With that non-absorbed view I suppose it wouldn’t necessarily follow. But just looking at the suttas, they don’t mention this “directing the mind towards the body” in the jhana entry formula. It just mentions two prerequisites: you have to be “truly withdrawn from kāma, and withdrawn from unskillful qualities [the hindrances]”. Given that arahants already fulfilled the latter prerequisite I think it makes sense (both pragmatically and textually) that what they need to do to enter jhana is to be found in the first.

I’d like to know how else ‘withdrawn from kāma’ is understood, by those who don’t think it means the five senses. I mean, what is abandoned for entering each jhana and arupa are very specific things or qualities (however we interpret them). Taking kāma to refer to the five senses does a similar thing: it is something specific. If it’s just general ‘sensualities’, I don’t know how that would work, or how that would be interpreted.

I like how you bring people together. :smiling_face_with_three_hearts: And in general I agree.

I wonder to what extent discussions such as this are actually helpful in informing people in their practice. Just to be clear, I don’t intend to convince others to practice differently. I just want to clarify what I think the suttas say. :slight_smile:

2 Likes

Sorry i don’t have the ability to reply to all your points, i am just replying on email. There are many contradictory suttas about jhana and so I could point you to the stuff Ajahn Brahm points to or you could read other stuff.
Ultimately everyone will believe whatever they want. I wish you luck on your path to no self.
:blush:

The Pali shows: Paṭhamaṃ jhānaṃ samāpannassa kāmasaññā niruddhā hoti. B.Bodhi translates it as “For one who has attained the first jhana, sensual per­ception has ceased.” Looks perfect to me.

We need to understand 2 things here:

  1. In the Suttas, saññā never means “perception” as in “the process, act, or faculty of perceiving.” It refers to another meaning of “perception”, that is “recognition and interpretation of sensory stimuli based chiefly on memory.” (Definitions from AHD.)
  2. In the Suttas, kāma does not refer to “sense”, but “sensuality” or “sensual”, not as in “relating to or affecting any of the senses or a sense organ; sensory”, but as in “of, relating to, given to, or providing gratification of the physical and especially the sexual appetites.” (Definitions from AHD.)
1 Like

Hello Venerable :pray:
Just to be clear, I’m not against your point of view, however I’m curious how you would interpret this passage from DN 9 that seems to imply intention is only left behind in order move from the dimension of neither perception-nor-non-perception and enter cessation:

“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.

The “thinking” we can interpret non-literally as everybody agrees thinking is left behind in the 2nd Jhana, however I’m a bit confused regarding intention as the passage seems to suggest that some form of willful movement of the mind, however subtle, is still there until cessation.

Thank you for any elucidations :pray:

Yes, in the description of Buddha’s awakening it is also said that in the fourth jhana the Buddha directs his mind:
-“… to knowledge of the recollection of past lives.
-"… it to knowledge of the passing away and reappearance of beings

  • "…it to knowledge of the destruction of the taints.

(MN27, for example)