I have some questions about the dhamma where I am confused.
1.: The fourth jhana is described as adukkhamasukha/neither pleasure nor pain. But many people when describing that jhana say it is more bliss than the jhanas before, so why is bliss then not a factor of this jhana and why is it described as neutral.
2.: Many people believe Nibbana after Arahants death is simply nothing, that nothing remains there. That would mean that also there is no more bliss in Nibbana, but the buddha said it is the highest happiness, so what is true here?
I also have a question to Venerable @Brahmali Is it your view, that all experience or awareness ceases in Parinibbana? That not even something ineffable remains? Is it the same nothing that atheists mean when talking about what happens after death? Complete absence? If so, when it is considered pleasurable, does that mean that every experience is only dukkha with no happiness in the experience and “nothing” is simply tha absence of suffering and considering it pleasurable does not mean there is pleasure but simply that it is not suffering? I am very much confused and would appreciate the help.
Please answer with either EBTs or your own explanations.
Let go a little, you get a little bit of happiness. Let go a lot, you get a lot of happiness. Let go completely, complete happiness… to paraphrase Ajahn Chah.
For most of us, these things will remain theory for a long time to come. Maybe even lifetimes! For me, I accept that I only have a certain capacity to understand these profound teachings. As time goes on, hopefully I can understand more. Enjoy the ride. When we find the samsara ejector button, hopefully we can muster the courage to press it!
Recently, I remember reading about this Japanese scholar who devoted his time to being an expert in Western ballet without having ever danced in his life. What a silly thing to do!
I am finally getting to this! I hope you don’t mind my late response.
(1) Yes, the fourth jhāna is said to be a higher pleasure than the previous jhānas. Hard as it may be to understand, what this means is that neutral feeling is preferable to blissful feeling. This is part of what makes the Dhamma so profoundly mysterious and marvellous.
(2) Nibbāna is the highest happiness because nothing is felt whatsoever. The end of all feeling is preferable to feeling.
Yes, all experience ceases when the arahant dies.
I don’t find the term “ineffable” very useful. It’s a word that tends to obscure rather than illuminate. The Buddha was able to describe all the “mystical” states of meditation.
All experiences can in some way be related to other experiences, regardless of how rarefied they are. This is so because there is a continuum of experience: you gradually achieve the more refined states. You can always express the next experience as a development of the previous one. In fact, this is exactly what you see in the sequence of jhānas and immaterial attainments.
Sort of. But the atheists don’t usually understand that it is a highly desirable thing.
Nothing is better than something. Not feeling anything is superior to feeling, even the highest bliss. It is more peaceful and refined. You can understand this partially by knowing that blissful feeling cannot be sustained, and so they will always let you down. But in a deeper sense, the ending of things is just superior. To see this you just have to gradually develop your meditation. Have a look at MN 59, which shows the hierarchy of happiness.
Not exactly. Nibbāna is the extinguishment of defilements in this very life, that is , the state of being an arahant. In other words, it is just the ordinary waking experience of a fully awakened person. Parinibbāna is what happens when the arahant dies.
Saññāvedayitanirodha is different from both of these. Saññāvedayitanirodha and parinibbāna are the same in that everything comes to an end, but whereas the former is temporary, the latter is final.
So Saññāvedayitanirodha is a jhanic state beyond the 4th arupa jhana?
Also, it’s interesting that viññana is not included in this. Would you say the cessation of consciousness in the suttas always refers to parinibbāna – or is the Buddha teaching about a state in which viñnñana utterly ceases temporarily even while one is still alive?
I agree with what you wrote. My question to Ven. Brahmali is to clarify when he said " Saññāvedayitanirodha and parinibbānaare the same in that everything comes to an end, but whereas the former is temporary, the latter is final."
Since viññana is said to cease in parinibbana, and if Saññāvedayitanirodha and parinibbāna are the same in that everything comes to an end…then it follows that viññana also ends in former state. Hence the question…hoping to clarify this.
That’s why the question was asked if Saññāvedayitanirodha was a state beyong the 4th arupa.
you can say that. 4 rupa jhana, 4 arupa jhana, the 1 Saññāvedayitanirodha, which is considered the crown jewel for Buddhist yogis.
viññana is said to cease in parinibbana because parinibbana is a total death with body, viññana is an aggregate that depends on the rupa aggregate, when rupa is over, viññana is over.
when ajahn Brahmali says Saññāvedayitanirodha is a temporary end of everything, i think he means the feeling stops at that time, so you will feel nothing, it’s like everything disappears. we can wait for ajahn Brahmali to confirm this.
“When someone dies, their physical, verbal, and mental processes have ceased and stilled; their vitality is spent; their warmth is dissipated; and their faculties have disintegrated. When a mendicant has attained the cessation of perception and feeling, their physical, verbal, and mental processes have ceased and stilled. But their vitality is not spent; their warmth is not dissipated; and their faculties are very clear. That’s the difference between someone who has passed away and a mendicant who has attained the cessation of perception and feeling.”
According to Theravada Abhidhamma understanding, consciousness stops/ceases in the cessation of perception and feelings absorption.
I suppose it’s because we cannot understand that how blissful is that neutral state is. I would like to put here one assumption(made up by me to understand jhanas).
Happiness - Any ‘feeling’ is called happiness when, while we are experiencing it, we don’t want to leave that feeling at the expense of other lesser ‘feelings’ that we experience usually.
take for example you want to go to some place which is more beautiful than the one you are living in. So when you will first time see that place of more happiness, then you will want to continue living there instead of the older place. In the same way as you go high progressively in jhanas the lower jhana is ‘less happiness’ than the higher jhana. In simple terms, when you will enter higher one, you would’t want to leave ‘that experience’ for lower one.
Jhanas are like pure states of mind which are hard to comprehend by our conceptual minds, for most of us.
You won’t leave ‘any happiness’ until and unless you have found something which gives you ‘more happiness’ than the former one. Jhanas are reached by disintegrating(expanding)(progressive unbinding) our mind step by step, at every step all the jhanas are experienced, so as you disintegrate your mind more, you will experience more n more happiness which is devoid of the characteristics of former stages, and which is attained by unbinding from former states so when you will disintegrate your mind completely, that is nibbana.
Now simple answer to this would be…
Because Bliss won’t be the thing your mind will want to continue experiencing at that time, as you will have something far more better than bliss.
In other words, see way to progress in jhanas is letting go of things you are feeling right now. It’s like trying to fall upwards(not below). You have to make your mind smaller, or to be more precise, you have to actually expand your mind.
Here is another assumptive term made up by me for understanding’s sake…
Passive craving - it is not craving something, rather it is condition when even though you are not searching for happiness, you will accept it whole heartedly if someone gave it to you. One example of passive craving would be, when you are sitting and doing some usual neutral task in a day, and suddenly you hear a very pleasant sound(music), then you like that music, and you want to continue to listen that sound. You did not wish to listen to something like that in the first place, but in spite of that you loved it when you heard it. And now you prefer listening that sound continuosly instead of silently doing your usual neutral task. So we can say you were passively craving for that sound. So we are actually passively craving sensual pleasures usually.
Even in first jhana, you reach there only when you leave sphere of 5 senses. Meaning is that, you enter first jhana, only when you stop preferring sense sphere, you stop giving sh*t about senses. It’s not like closing senses but transcending them. So when you actually stop innate passive craving(defined above) for sensual pleasure, that is the moment you enter first jhana, and it is same when you go higher. So while in 3rd jhana, when we stop passive craving for ‘bliss’(the thing we are experiencing in 3rd jhana), then we enter 4th jhana. I think it should be understood in a same way as about entering 1st jhana.
Now definition of nothing…
Nothing - we call anything ‘nothing’ because it is in not our experience.
So we both agree that 1st jhana is “rapture and pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought and evaluation”, according to sutras. But as we are discussing it, it is ‘nothing’ for us. But when we will enter it(successfully), do you think it will still remain ‘nothing’ for us as before? Answer to this is that when we enter it(the first jhana), that ‘nothing’ will become ‘something in our experience’ which is not ‘nothing’ anymore for us, because now we are experiencing it! So in the same way you can understand that for the person in 3rd jhana, 4th jhana is actually ‘nothing’, because it is defined as ‘absense of pleasure as well as pain’(neither pleasure nor pain), but it is not in experience hence it is ‘nothing’ for the person in 3rd jhana. So in the same way it is said that ‘nothing’ remains in nirvana. Now this ‘nothing’(about nirvana) is that which we cannot define easily, nor we can understand it easily, but according to above definition of ‘nothing’, we can certainly say that it is more blissful(using it because I can’t find another word for it) or ‘highest happiness’ than everything else(including jhanas and all). Compared to nibbana everything is actually ‘lower happiness’.
See when when you and me are talking here, we are not experiencing jhanas! Right!? So jhana is ‘nothing’ for you and me while we are discussing about it. So in a same way, for people like you and me belonging to sense sphere, 1st jhana is ‘nothing’ till we experience it. For person in 2nd jhana, 3rd one is nothing, for person in 3rd jhana, 4th one is ‘nothing’.
Simple answer to this would be that both are true.
It is nothing because it is not characterized by all the things upto highest jhana and bliss is the characteristic of higher jhana.
As higher happinesses of jhanas are attained by progressive unbinding, the complete unbinding will give us highest happiness, hence buddha called it highest happiness.
Because for a person who knows only bliss as highest happiness, nibbana is ‘nothing’ as it is beyond and above and devoid of this ‘bliss’. Hence it is said that there is no more bliss in nibbana.
As we go higher and higher in jhanas/brahma realms we experience higher happiness compared to lower ones, and out of all these happinesses greatest happiness is nibbana!
And hence many people say that nibbana(after death of arhant) is ‘nothing’, which is actually ‘something which is not in our experience’ for us… unlike for those who are arhants!
We can conclude that theoretically and experientially as well, even first jhana is ‘nothing’ for us, what to say about nibbana! Nibbana is actually ‘greatest nothing’ with ‘highest happiness’ for us.
I just wanted to quote something here, about definition of nirvana, which I have read somewhere while trying to understand it. I am copying & pasting it. I don’t know where I read it, but it might help…
Vàna, meaning “dense forests,” + nir, meaning “to get rid of” = “to be permanently rid of the dense forest of the five aggregates (panca skandha),” or the “three roots of greed, hate, and delusion (lobha, dosa, moha)”.
Any being(arhat) who has reached nirvana is not blotted out or extinguished: Instead there is the extinction of the impermanent and suffering-prone “worldly self” or ego (comprised of the five changeful skandhas).
The attributes of Nirvana are eightfold. What are these eight? Cessation [nirodha], loveliness/ wholesomeness [shubha], Truth [satya], Reality [tattva], eternity [nitya], bliss [sukha], absence of the Self [anatta], and complete purity [parisuddhi]: that is Nirvana.
To be precise, there are only four jhānas. The next four states in the hierarchy of samatha are called “immaterial attainments”. This distinction matters, for only the four jhānas are part of the noble eightfold path.
Saññāvedayitanirodha is really a different kind of attainment altogether. Whereas the other eight attainments are part of samsaric existence, saññāvedayitanirodha is beyond the whole cycle of birth and death. If you have this attainment, you are on the way out.
Viññāṇa is not mentioned, but it is included. Perception is the quality of mind that allows you to recognise things. If there is no perception, it is impossible to recognise anything, including consciousness itself. Without perception you cannot know consciousness. What this means is that consciousness cannot exist without perception. And the suttas do say as much:
"Feeling, perception, and consciousness—these things are mixed, not separate. And you can never completely dissect them so as to describe the difference between them. For you perceive what you feel, and you cognize what you perceive. That’s why these things are mixed, not separate. And you can never completely dissect them so as to describe the difference between them.” (MN 43)
So saññāvedayitanirodha is a state where consciousness ceases completely while you are still “alive”. And according to MN 59 this is the highest form of happiness!
Yes, and why would the Buddha say this is the highest happiness if there is no experience or knowledge of any kind of happiness in that state, and everything has ceased?
I think that this ceasing must in some way be experienced as the end of all suffering and all burden.
And i feel it illustrates that wherever there is a subjective or personal perspective in the mind, such as in jhana, there is still a burden.
I think Maha Boowa talks about this situation of cessation of the khandha’s as citta. There is no vinnana and dfilements at that moment but still citta, non-dual knowing. Jhana’s are different because there is still dual knowing, a personal or subjective perspective in the citta which knows or experiences the happiness. Subject-Object. That is the main characteristic of samsara and like Maha Boowa says it is caused by fundamental avijja. But cessation is not a progression of jhana but a total break with samsara, with dual knowing. There is nothing to support a sense of self or personal perspective.
What do you think of this?