This sutta is very very similar to the pali parallel SN 36.11.
There are a few very interesting differences though, especially that beginning in SA 474:
Venerable Ānanda was alone in a solitary place, contemplating in dhyāna, and thinking, “The Bhagavān has spoken of three types of sensations: sensations of pleasure, sensations of pain, and sensations of neither pleasure nor pain. Moreover, all of these sensations are spoken of as suffering. What does this mean?”
After thinking this, he arose from dhyāna and went to the place of the Bhagavān.
Another interesting slight difference, I’d appreciate some comment from Chinese sutra readers here, is what are the words used for vitakka and vicara here, compared to the “thinking and contemplation” while Ananda was in jhāna at the beginning?
“ When in the First Dhyāna, words and speech are extinguished.
 When in the Second Dhyāna, vitarka and vicāra are extinguished.
 When in the Third Dhyāna, mental joy is extinguished.
 When in the Fourth Dhyāna, inhalation and exhalation are extinguished.
 When in the realm of infinite space, the appearance of form is
I suspect that in such contexts, 禪思 is general term for “meditation”, rather than specifically dhyāna as used in the EBTs. Obviously these days it is just chan = zen = “meditation, contemplation”, so the question is what it meant to this translator. The broadening of the scope of dhyāna was well underway in the Indian tradition by this time.
Bhante, could you explain what you mean in more detail? It sounds like either you’re saying SA 474 is a corrupted not genuine EBT, or simply, like in the Pali EBT, the word jhana (as meditation, meditator, or meditating (verb)) appears often and its exact meaning is not made explicitly clear in those passages and subject to some translator bias.
For example, in KN Udana #1, the night of buddha’s awakening, he just spent 7 days enjoying the bliss of vimutti-sukha, then “emerges from samadhi” to formulate/contemplate 12ps (links o dependent origination), and in the verse, the unqualified “jhana” is used in this way:
Thanks, I remember that thread. As I’m making my way through Analayo’s MA translation, I seem to remember in the first 20 sutras, 4 jhānas are mentioned 3 times already. I think 4 jhānas standard formula may appear more often in the agamas than it first appears, due to the way they ellide their texts (I don’t know for sure). But I do think samadhi-indriya, and the other definitions for samma samadhi often get overlooked.
My interpretation of samma samadhi is that the 4 jhanas are a samadhi quality assurance test. That doing the jhanas in pleasant abiding mode, with maximum samatha, is the easiest way to sharpen and examine if the sword of samadhi is sharp enough to cut through the roots of the defilements. But if you don’t use the sword, if you only do the “pleasant abiding” portion of samadhi samadhi, it’s like someone who polishes and sharpens their sword all day but never learns how to fight and cut through things. It don’t mean a thing, if it ain’t got that swing!
So someone with first jhana capability has as sword of samadhi +1,
2nd jhana = Sword of samadhi + 2,
3rd jhana = SoS + 3,
4th jhana = Sos + 4.
If you have an SoS + 4, but you don’t know how to fight against the defilments, it’s worthless to you and it doesn’t matter how much you sharpen it.
If you’re in the midst of battle against the defilements, swinging that blade, making it sing and making the defilements wail, is it proper to say you’re not in jhāna or not in samādhi? Not IMO. It’s in fact your ability to Swing that truly earns the +4 in the SoS + 4. Someone with only SoS + 1 but is as much better fighter is arguably more spiritually advanced than someone with SoS+4 but can’t fight to save their life.
I don’t mean a thing, if it ain’t got that swing!
(E-kagg-ata E-kagg-ata E-ko-dhi-bhavaaa!)
Indeed, AN 1.394 to AN 1.574 provide numerous examples of the word jhana being used in a very loose sense. I think, as Bhante suggested, that caution is the way to go here: we’d need to know what the word ‘dhyana’ meant exactly to the Chinese translator before coming to any conclusion.
I apologize if I wasn’t clear enough. Here’s what I mean.
Generally the word jhāna (I’ll use the Pali form for convenience) can be used for “meditation, contemplation, rumination” and so on. Before the Buddha it was, it seems, a fairly minor and non-specific term. But in the EBTs there are two major changes:
The term is promoted to being one of the, if not the, most important terms for deep contemplative practice.
Its usage becomes highly constrained and specific, being almost always used in a specific technical sense, and extremely rarely in any broader sense.
In later literature, starting with the Abhidhamma, this usage began to change. What happened was that the central importance of jhana in talking about meditation was retained; but the usage was extended to cover a wider and wider range of cases. In a sense, this is simply reverting to the more vague sense of the word before the EBTs. This wider application of the word is very prominent in the Mahayana (eg. the Amitāyurdhyāna Sūtra), and is found in later forms of Theravada as well, where jhana becomes a term for “mystical invocation”.
Now, the Chinese translations of EBTs were mostly done around 400 CE. By this time, jhana in an extended sense was widely used, and would have been regarded as a normal part of Buddhist vocabulary. Thus it would have seemed of little consequence to use jhana as a term simply meaning “meditation”. We know that this is the case in later Chinese Buddhism, and it may be the case in the EBT translations as well. Note that I don’t know if this is correct, merely raising the possibility.
So when I saw this usage in this sutta, it seemed to me that there are three possibilities:
The usage is genuine, and sheds an interesting light on the usage of jhana in the EBTs.
The usage may be a later interpolation in the Indic text of sutta; probably the least likely, but still worth considering.
The Chinese translator was not directly rendering Indic jhana, but was simply using the term as a general word for meditation.
Anyway, I’m not really sure of this point, but in any case, it is any interesting passage.