Samādhi is both a gathering and a fire

from AN 4.41 samadhi-bhavana sutta (b.bodhi trans.)

(3) “And what is the development of concentration that leads to
mindfulness and clear comprehension? Here, a bhikkhu knows feelings as
they arise, as they remain present, as they disappear; he knows
perceptions as they arise, as they remain present, as they disappear; he
knows thoughts as they arise, as they remain present, as they
disappear.720 This is the development of concentration that leads to mindfulness and clear comprehension.

this is similar to MN 111 anupada (one after another sutta) where sariputta is doing that while IN first jhana, second, third jhana, etc. and the smoking gun is that it’s only in the attainment of the na-sanna-na-asanna-ayatana (neither perception nor non perception dimension) and sanna-vedita-nirodha attainment that one has to emerge from that attainment to be able to reflect and examine what happened during the attainment

the same “sato and sampajanno” is part of the standard 3rd jhana formula.

also in AN 9.36 jhana sutta, one can do the same contemplations on the 5 aggregates and attain nibbana while IN jhana.

in the cook sutta SN 47.8 (a few posts above i quote pali/english and give detailed comments) satipatthana and samadhi are happening at the same time.

in MN 78, we have a detailed process of samadhi development, with a noticable omission of 1st jhana and skipping directly to 2nd jhana, but if you look carefully and make appropriate inferences, it’s making the same point as the goldsmith simile sutta (AN 3.102 ) regarding what kind of skillful thinking is happening while IN first jhana (basically vitakka synonymous with the 3 kinds of samma sankappo )

one of samma sankappo is abyapada, which any of the 4 brahmaviharas qualify under. the standard 4BV formula all include "vipulena, mahaggatena, a-byapajjena.

so it’s pretty safe to infer from this sutta MN 78 at the very least first jhana can be done at the same time as a brahma vihara

and in AN 8.63
all 4 brahmaviharas are explicitly referred to as types of samadhi.
same with 4 satipatthanas.

and here all of those 8 samadhis can be done with (b.bodhi trans.)" with thought and examination; you should develop it without thought but
with examination only; you should develop it without thought and
examination. You should develop it with rapture; you should develop it
without rapture; you should develop it accompanied by comfort; and you
should develop it accompanied by equanimity.

somewhere in sambojjhanga samyutta and in other places, 4 brahmaviharas are linked to 4 formless attainments.

i have no problem with the statement that in meditation contexts samadhi is always equivalent with jhana, but that’s because i understand jhana in a broader sense than ajahn brahm, using the occams razor straightforward reading of the suttas where vitakka and vicara mean thinking and evaluation, kaya means anatomical body.

so in third jhana standard formula, “sukhanca kayena patisamvediti”, sukha is experienced in anatomical body simultaneously while one is contemplating cause, rise, fall of the 5 aggregates with the "sato sampajanno part of standrd 3rd jhana formula) described in AN 4.41.

i don’t believe the goldsmith simile sutta (AN 3.100 ) is a one off situation saying something unusual from the 99% of the suttas. in the standard definition of first jhana and second jhana, it is only in second jhana where the specialized terms “ekodi-bhavan, samadhi-jam piti-sukham” first appear. standard first jhana formula is described as “vivekajam, piti-sukham”, effectively making the same point as AN 3.100 in a concise way: that is, first jhana is weak, the buddha won’t even deign to call it “samadhi”, you have to wait till vitakka and vicara to drop out in second jhana before its worthy of being called samadhi.

ajahn brahm’s definition of first jhana is that you can’t hear sounds, your body has disappeared, you can’t think until after you’ve emerged from that samadhi, contrary to AN 9.36 and MN 111 (and one or 2 more suttas) where only the 8th and 9th samadhi attainments requires emerging from.

I agree, it needs to be clearer. Let me see …

here’s another sutta that agrees with the AN 3.100 gold smith sutta about first jhana being weak:,

notice after 5 hindrances, there’s satipatthana practice, and then it skips directly to 2nd jhana, which means 1st jhana IS (or at least it can overlap if one has sufficient passadhi-bojjhanga) the satipatthana supressing the 5 hindrances.

MN 125 excerpt, b.bodhi trans.:

“Having thus abandoned these five hindrances, imperfections of the
mind that weaken wisdom, he abides contemplating the body as a body,
ardent, fully aware, and mindful, having put away covetousness and grief
for the world. He abides contemplating feelings as feelings…mind as
mind…mind-objects as mind-objects, ardent, fully aware, and mindful,
having put away covetousness and grief for the world.1176
as, Aggivessana, the elephant tamer plants a large post in the earth
and binds the forest elephant to it by the neck in order to subdue his
forest habits…and to inculcate in him habits congenial to human beings,
so these four foundations of mindfulness are the bindings for the mind
of the noble disciple in order to subdue his habits based on the
household life, to subdue his memories and intentions based on the
household life, to subdue his distress, fatigue, and fever based on the
household life, and in order that he may attain the true way and realise
the Tathāgata disciplines him further: ‘Come, bhikkhu, abide
contemplating the body as a body, but do not think thoughts of sensual
desire. Abide contemplating feelings as feelings…mind as
mind…mind-objects as mind-objects, but do not think thoughts of sensual
the stilling of applied and sustained thought, he enters upon and
abides in the second jhāna…the third jhāna…the fourth jhāna.


so along with AN 3.100, MN 78, MN 125,
there’s also the standard samma sati formula with the refrain that appears 4 times, once for each satipatthana:
“vineyya loke abhijja domanassam” / having abandoned (or one must abandon? grammar ambiguous) covetousness and grief regarding the world.

so that refrain is not just right effort doing its job, you’ve supressed covetousness and grief, and your thoughts are connected with dhamma you’re in the first jhana, or right at the entrance. all you have to do is just passambhayam kaya and citta sufficiently and you’re in first jhana.

and it makes it very clear what vitakka and vicara are doing in first jhana as it overlaps with 4 satipatthana.

In SA 197 the text speaks of the Buddha “entering fire-samādhi” (入火三昧). Googling “fire samādhi” reveals a host of various meditative practises and seemingly parahistorical references to this practise, ranging from vajrayāna esoteric visualization to tales of a supernormal ability to alter the body temperature, and even spontaneously combust.

I wonder if there is any relation. Is “fire samādhi” here a later addition? Is there any other EBT substantiation of something called fire-samādhi?

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Russian scientists studied the “tummo” practice of Tibetan yogis and found the physical mechanism behind the trick, nothing superhuman. If I remember correctly it’s just hyperoxygenation and a diet aimed at activating brown fat (adipose tissue). Wim Hof now teaches his own method which is also just hyperoxygenation. No mantras, no visualizations, no initiation, no deities.

Some of the accounts of fire samādhi were reasonable. Some involved the generation of physical flames out of the body, like in the miracle described in SA 197.



I’ve heard that the jayati/jhana sense relating to fire can be understood in terms of the slow, steady burn of, say, an oil lamp, rather than the flaming / blazing sense.

Frankly, that makes a lot of sense, empirically.

Well, yes, jhāyati is used a few times in the sense of an oil-lamp burning, where it is implied as a metaphor for meditation. But the root of the idea, I believe, stems back to the Vedas, specifically the Gayatri Mantra, where dhī refers to the rising sun which propels the mind towards awakening.


The image of the rising sun also has a sense of dawning steadiness and intensity that would make sense as a metaphor for entering absorption.

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samādhi, the fire that dispels the darkness of ignorance.

Great explanation

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“Homage to the straightforward ones” :pray::innocent:

I love it! Thanks Bhante :slightly_smiling_face:


I like it @sujato, as always when the abstract is made more alive and concrete. But I think the two “samadhis” of ‘kindling’ and ‘bringing together’ are not that different that we could say they are different concepts/roots.

Because when you’re kindling a fire you bring together a fire source (like a coal) into a bunch of grass or whatever. And then you bring that burning grass together with the wood, another kind of kindling.

I was reminded of this thread when reading (= stumbling across) Chandogya 6.7.5 which uses upasamādhāya in exactly this sense. I don’t know Sanskrit well, but it seems a form of samādhi. Upa- denoting probably direction. Bringing together from above (upa-), i.e. “covering”.

So I think ‘bringing together’ is the basic meaning of samādhi, just applied to the specific case of starting a fire, where it got a slightly more technical (but not really different) meaning. And this meaning is indeed played with in the context of meditation, which is interesting. But I think meditation samadhi originally was derived just from the primary meaning. (Also because that makes more sense pragmatically.)

Side note: In Dutch I don’t think there’s an equivalent to “kindling”. The closest I can think of is “aanmaken” = “on-making”, i.e. to ignite. Just shows how language-dependent it all is. English is a very rich language compared to some others, so sometimes maybe it’s tempting to think certain ideas are distinct which in other languages/cultures are seen as more connected. (Which is part of Sujato’s point, I suppose.) Anyway I’m starting to ramble now.

Bye! metta to all SC-goers.

Edut: Oops replied to linda. Didn’t intend to do that.

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Interesting point. Also it seems the English word “kindle” enjoys a similar semantic spectrum: it is derived from or at least influenced by the word “kind” in the sense of “sort, type”, i.e. “kin”, which in a causative sense gives “beget”, “have children”, “produce”, i.e. “kindle”.


Well I will give my own intuitive understanding of the word “Samadhi”. I am guessing many places in north east India use the word ‘samadhi’ in funeral cards, when somebody in family dies. I have seen it in Bengal.

The root word ‘sam’ means, even, equal, coherent, together, balanced, all pervading, complete, unbiased etc. ‘a’ means above and ‘dhi’ means intellect as in ‘Buddhi’ (fem) or Buddho (mas). I pondered why ‘jhana’, ‘dyana’ would be compared with the metaphor of ‘death’?

Well ‘jhana’ is a withdrawal and gradual turning of senses and mind (intellect) inward and going beyond the five even six sensory physical 3D world to develop insight and awaken intelligence into the nature of Mind, Self and Reality. I do not know if anyone sees it this way. But I am putting it out there anyway.

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Hello Bhante :pray:t4:,

As I read them, these statements are (potentially) a bit misleading. I’d like to clarify:

As you note, in Pali the present form dahati is ambiguous insofar as it can be connected with the verbs ‘to burn’ and ‘to put’. In Sanskrit however, the same present forms are easily distinguishable, cf. dáhati ‘she burns’ and dádhāti ‘she places’. The corresponding PIE roots are *dheguh- ‘to burn’ and *dheH- ‘to place’. [please excuse lack of superscript].

Formally, samādhi can only be connected with the verbal base ‘to put’.

Thanks for the clarification. :pray:

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There are some passages like this in all four of the agamas, including both Samyukta Agamas, and quite a few other texts. Some examples:


It seems to me that there is also an association between samadhi and heat in the Sarvastivada dhyana tradition, through the stage of prayoga. Of the four nirvedhabhagiyas of prayoga, the first is usmagata (heat). Vasubandhu describes this as a fire that burns defilements.

Daoists also connected “samadhi” with “fire”, in the context of internal alchemy. But they instead used the terminology “true fire of samadhi” (三昧真火), or “spirit-fire of samadhi” (三昧神火). The older form of the character 真 was 眞, with connotations of alchemy and immortality. The character 眞 in turn includes 鼎 which is an early type of bronze cauldron used for rituals. In the context of internal alchemy and meditation, the cauldron became the body. An early form of 鼎 in the bronze script:


The Daoist phrase “true fire of samadhi” (三昧真火) also made its way into Journey to the West. It’s now kind of in the “pop culture” far beyond the people who are just interested in ancient religions and such. Apparently it’s even the name of some barbecue restaurants.