"Sutta" and "Visuddhimagga" jhanas

Thanks Bhante. Unfortunately the thread wandered off rather from my original point that Ajahn Brahm, you, and others teach a much deeper jhana than what Leigh Brasington and others describes as “sutta style jhanas” http://www.leighb.com/jhanantp.htm

Perhaps Sylvester’s post sums it up well:

Best Wishes.


Thanks again Mike but, again, I can only suggest to provide exact quotes from the suttas that might possibly describe 'light jhanas" (rather than general interpretations of Brasington or Polak).

As I previously suggested, the arising & experience of rapture is not always the fruition of jhana because both momentary & neighbourhood concentrations can result in rapture, as described in MN 118 (which does not mention jhana & the cessation of breathing in the 4th jhana, as described in SN 36.11).

Also, what is described in MN 119 (regardless of how the word ‘kaya’: ‘this body’ is interpreted) does not necessarily mean the meditator is aware of the rapture within the nervous system of the physical body. Further, MN 119 mentions a mark of jhana, namely, the abandonment of sensuality i.e., resolves of the household life. I think it is questionable that one can regularly experience ‘jhana’ & still be attracted to or engage in sensuality after emerging from jhana.

Regards :palm_tree:

For one who has attained the fourth jhana, in-breathing and out-breathing have ceased… have subsided…have been tranquillized… SN 36.11

…in the case of a monk who has attained the cessation of perception & feeling, his ‘kaya sankhara’ (in & out breathing) has ceased & subsided, his verbal fabrications … his mental fabrications have ceased & subsided, his vitality is not exhausted, his heat has not subsided & his (five sense) faculties are exceptionally clear. MN 43

Furthermore, quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful mental qualities, he enters & remains in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed mind & evaluation. He permeates & pervades, suffuses & fills this very body (kāyaṃ) with the rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal. Just as if a skilled bathman or bathman’s apprentice would pour bath powder into a brass basin and knead it together, sprinkling it again & again with water, so that his ball of bath powder — saturated, moisture-laden, permeated within & without — would nevertheless not drip; even so, the monk permeates… this very body with the rapture & pleasure born of withdrawal. There is nothing of his entire body unpervaded by rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal. And as he remains thus heedful, ardent & resolute, any memories & resolves related to the household life are abandoned, and with their abandoning his mind gathers & settles inwardly, grows unified (ekodi) & centered (samādhiyati). MN 119

This thread began as a simple observation that different teachers have different definitions of jhana. I’ve no interest in analysing, defending, or debunking the rather long list of teachers listed on Brasington’s web page. If you, or anyone else, is interested in such analysis, Brasington gives links to the teachings of each of them.


Thanks Mike. I was expressing the very same in my requests of you to make your posts more specific. Regards. :koala:

Sorry if I came across as too heavy, as you may have noticed I find the topic somewhat frustrating! :relaxed:


A bhikkhu I once knew told me how he got going in meditation.
Apparently at first he found it very hard to meditate at all. Being quite an intellectual
type his mind was always full of thoughts. He would sit, an hour at a
time, struggling desperately with the thoughts and trying to
concentrate on the breathing, but the thoughts just kept on coming.
On one occasion he had sat out the hour in the same ineffectual
battle, but was quite worn out with the struggle. He got up and
flopped into an easy chair to relax at last, and suddenly, quite out
of the blue, a great overwhelming joy welled up in him, like nothing
he had experienced before. He just sat there, basking in it, and
seeing that the thoughts just didn’t really matter - just the joy. He
said, he never had a problem with meditation again. He just sat down,
and relaxed into it, and the same joy and peace always came. He was
convinced this was when he really got going in meditation, the first
stage of real meditation. Before, he was just TRYING to meditate. He
always insisted meditation is much more about relaxation than

Pītimanassa kāyo passambhati. Passaddhakāyo sukhaṁ viharati. Sukhino cittaṁ
samādhiyati. Dii.313

When the mind experiences joy, the body relaxes, and when the body is
relaxed one finds satisfaction, and in satisfaction the mind becomes

Another, simpler description of the first level of jhana, surely.

Perhaps Buddhaghosa was more interested in concentration.


[quote=“mikenz66, post:1, topic:3317”]
I find this a little confusing, since there are a number of people who swear by the Early Buddhist Texts who interpret the jhana passages in the suttas as indicating a highly absorbed state (E.g. Vens. Brahm, Sujato, Bramali, Analayo).[/quote]

You can remove the Ven. Analayo from that list, because he wrote this:

An important term for meditative absorption is samadhi. We often translate that as concentration, but that can suggest a certain stiffness. Perhaps unification is a better rendition, as samadhi means to bring together. Deep samadhi isn’t at all stiff. It’s a process of letting go of other things and coming to a unified experience.

? I don’t think this is relevant. In fact all of us agree with Ven Analayo here, and avoid the use of “concentration” in the context of samadhi. Samadhi is indeed a “unified experience”, and in a unified experience you cannot have the presence of external senses.


Thanks Bhante. That’s also my understanding. The translation of samadhi and jhana is a separate issue fro whether external senses are operational in jhana, and Ven Analayo’s lectures http://agamaresearch.ddbc.edu.tw/teaching seem to me to clearly place him on the list that I gave (as opposed to other Venerables such as Thanissaro, Vimalaramsi, who have different interpretations).

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a yogic word for concentration is dharana, but samadhi they also have, so at least in the yogic context samadhi must mean something else

in the chapter Samadhi-pada of his ‘Yoga sutras’ Patanjali speaks of the state of yoga, that is unification

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I don’t know about the yogic systems, but it’s clear that samadhi sometimes involves jhana in the suttas, and sometimes doesn’t. See AN 4.41.


A Hindu Monk talking about lights.

From the Wiki article:
Vivekananda published a summary of Raja Yoga from Kurma Purana. In the summary, he defined the meaning, purpose and procedure of meditation. The procedures of meditation—[28]

Sit straight, and concentrate on the divine light(true form of God) between the eyebrows that’s what he meant by Samprkeshy Nasikagram (ie place between your eyebrows, not your nose tip).This whole process of divine meditation can only be initiated by an enlightened master who himself have seen God and can make you see that right at the time of Deeksha.Later on, we have to concentrate our mind on that divine light. And after daily practicing, you can attain the oneness with God.You need not to facade your appearance of humble man/woman as all the characteristics of dharma will originate from within

I don’t know much about Hinduism, but I find it striking compared to what the Buddha taught about the “meaning, purpose and procedure of meditation.” I don’t see much value in “attaining oneness with God”.

How did Vivekananda define ‘God’?

From the earliest times that I can remember, I used to see a marvelous point of light between my eyebrows as soon as I shut my eyes to go to sleep, and I used to watch its various changes with great attention. That marvelous point of light would change colors and get bigger until it took the form of a ball; finally it would burst and cover my body from head to foot with white liquid light. As soon as that happened, I would lose outer consciousness and fall asleep. I used to believe that that was the way everybody went to sleep. Then, when I grew older and began to practice meditation, that point of light would appear to me as soon as I closed my eyes, and I would concentrate upon that.

This sounds eerily similar to the Visuddhimagga Jhanas about losing bodily consciousness.

Various kinds of lights manifest during meditation owing to concentration. In the beginning, a bright white light, the size of a pin’s point will appear in the forehead in the Trikuti, the space between the two eyebrows, which corresponds tentatively to the Ajna-Chakra of the astral body. You will notice, when the eyes are closed, different coloured lights, white, yellow, red, smoky, blue, green, mixed lights, flashes like lightning, like fire, burning char-coal, fire-flies, moon, sun, stars. These lights appear in the mental space, Chidakasa. These are all Tanmatric lights. Each Tanmatra has its own specific colour. Prithvi (earth) Tanmatra has a yellow-coloured light; Apas (water) Tanmatra has a white-coloured light; Agni (fire) Tanmatra has a red-coloured light; Vayu (wind) Tanmatra has a smoky light; Akasa (sky) Tanmatra has a blue light. Yellow and white lights are very commonly seen. Red and blue lights are rarely noticeable. Frequently there is a combination of white and yellow lights. In the beginning, small balls of white light float about before the mind’s eye. When you first observe this, be assured that the mind is becoming more steady and that you are progressing in concentration. After some months, the size of the light will increase and you will see a full blaze of white light, bigger than the sun. In the beginning, these lights are not steady. They come and disappear immediately. They flash out from above the forehead and from the sides. They cause peculiar sensations of extreme joy and happiness and there is an intense desire for a vision of these lights. When you have steady and systematic practice of two or three hours in the morning, and two to three hours at night, these lights appear more frequently and remain steadily for a long time. The vision of the lights is a great encouragement in Sadhana. It impels you to stick steadily to meditation. It gives you strong faith also in superphysical matters. The appearance of the light denotes that you are transcending the physical consciousness. You are in a semi-conscious state when the light appears. You are between two planes. You must not shake the body when these lights manifest. You must be perfectly steady in the Asana. You must breathe very, very slowly.

This is also from another Hindu article of meditation.

My question is why do we need to focus on the lights when we are in a good concentrated state already ?