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Samadhi as absorption-factor in the 1st jhana

Preliminary remarks:

  • Here I will limit my argument only to one specific point.

First, I will quote the standard description of the first and second jhana, here taken from the Mental Absorption Sutta, AN4.123, https://suttacentral.net/en/an4.123/2-3.216:

“There is the case where an individual, withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful qualities, enters & remains in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal (vivekajaṁ), accompanied by directed thought & evaluation…

Again, there is the case where an individual, with the stilling of directed thoughts & evaluations, enters & remains in the second jhana: rapture & pleasure born of composure (samādhijaṁ), unification of awareness free from directed thought & evaluation—internal assurance.”

My argument is build on the bolded text.

I am born of my mother. Logically my mother is a necessary prerequisite for my birth as well as that temporally she must be before I become. When I apply this to the jhana, I come up with this:

  1. first there is withdrawal/seclusion (viveka) and then (born of) there is the first absorption. The seclusion is still outside of the first absorption.

  2. first there is composure/concentration (Samadhi) and then (born of) there is the second absorption.

I do not find it convincing that ‘born of composure’ and the arising of composure as a jhana-factor should occur simultaneously at the threshold of the second absorption. I argue, that samadhi is a jhana-factor of the first absorption and functions as the basis for the development of rapture and pleasure, that is to say ‘born of composure’.

Let me know what you think.

Not sure about this exact argument, it strikes me as being overly literal. “Born of” and so on are idioms, and we shouldn’t press them too far. The Buddha didn’t hide his important teachings in syntactic nuances. He stated them plainly.

By seeking an understanding of a critical path factor from such an inference, we imply that it is not stated plainly. But this is not the case. In the suttas it is taken for granted throughout that the first jhana is samadhi, and hence has ekaggata. This is assumed or stated outright in dozens of contexts. Whenever samadhi is defined in a significant doctrinal context, it is always the four jhanas. Most of these I put in my first book, A Swift Pair of Messengers.

Whether jhana and samadhi are equivalents is not an interesting problem. A more interesting question is what we mean by saying that samadhi or ekaggata is a “factor”. I would suggest it’s not a factor in the Abhidhamma sense of a discrete kind of mental quality. Rather, it is a term for the coming together and unification of all other factors.

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