'Tayo samādhī' and 'aparepi tayo samādhī' (DN33/DN34)

I’ve been studying DN33 a lot and things are slowly seeping in. DN33 is Sariputta’s most excellent summary of the Bhudda’s teachings. Learning it provides a really great overview for investigating individual suttas.

But every now and then my ears hit a speed bump:

Three kinds of immersion.
Tayo samādhī—
Another three kinds of immersion:
Aparepi tayo samādhī—

Almost everywhere else, Sariputta details what he numbers. But in this case we just have “three immersions.” How very mysterious. This is not four jhanas. This is three kinds of immersions.

But what on earth are the three kinds of immersion?
Not only that, but what are the other three kinds of immersion?
Sariputta wants us to recite them in concert, but…how?
I can babble the words till I’m blue but I would not be able to explain them to anyone, let alone myself.



Maybe the three immersions mentioned in SN43.4?

“And what is the path that leads to the unconditioned?
“Katamo ca, bhikkhave, asaṅkhatagāmimaggo?
Emptiness immersion; signless immersion; undirected immersion. …”
Suññato samādhi, animitto samādhi, appaṇihito samādhi—ayaṃ vuccati, bhikkhave, asaṅkhatagāmimaggo … pe ….

The full set, listing six kinds of samadhi as the path that leads to the unconditioned is found in SN43.12:

“And what is the path that leads to the unconditioned?
Katamo ca, bhikkhave, asaṅkhatagāmimaggo?
Immersion with placing the mind and keeping it connected. …
Savitakko savicāro samādhi.
Ayaṃ vuccati, bhikkhave, asaṅkhatagāmimaggo … pe …
katamo ca, bhikkhave, asaṅkhatagāmimaggo?
Immersion without placing the mind, but just keeping it connected. …
Avitakko vicāramatto samādhi.
Ayaṃ vuccati, bhikkhave, asaṅkhatagāmimaggo … pe …
katamo ca, bhikkhave, asaṅkhatagāmimaggo?
Immersion without placing the mind or keeping it connected. …
Avitakko avicāro samādhi. Ayaṃ vuccati, bhikkhave, asaṅkhatagāmimaggo …
Katamo ca, bhikkhave, asaṅkhatagāmimaggo?
Emptiness immersion. …
Suññato samādhi.
Ayaṃ vuccati, bhikkhave, asaṅkhatagāmimaggo … pe …
katamo ca, bhikkhave, asaṅkhatagāmimaggo?
Signless immersion. …
Animitto samādhi.
Ayaṃ vuccati, bhikkhave, asaṅkhatagāmimaggo … pe …
katamo ca, bhikkhave, asaṅkhatagāmimaggo?
Undirected immersion. …
Appaṇihito samādhi. Ayaṃ vuccati, bhikkhave, asaṅkhatagāmimaggo



That’s strange, maybe @sujato could explain the difference to the Wisdom pub edition. There we find:

(50) 'Three kinds of concentration: with thinking and pondering, with pondering without thinking, with neither (savitakko savicaro samadhi, avitakko vicara-matto samadhi, avitakko avicaro samadhi).

(51) 'Three more kinds of concentration: on emptiness, the “signless”, desireless (sunnato samadhi, animitto samadhi, appanihito samadhi).

In the translation of the Chinese DA we find only one triple-samadhi which corresponds to the second Pali set

(23) Again there is another triple doctrine that explains three kinds of concentration: the concentration on the emptiness of the self and things attributed to it, the concentration on the objectless or goal-free state of existence, and the concentration on signlessness or the non-differentiation of things.


Ahh, thanks for the heads up. It seems it is a bug in the Pootle export. The correct text is in Pootle, but has been lost on its way out. I can’t see any mistakes in the source code, so it is a mystery to me. @blake can you take a look at this?

Here is the relevant PO code:

#. </p><p>
#. <a class="sc" id="sc96"></a>
msgctxt "dn33:1.10.120"
msgid "Tayo samādhī—"
msgstr "Three kinds of immersion."

msgctxt "dn33:1.10.121"
msgid ""
"savitakkasavicāro samādhi, avitakkavicāramatto samādhi, avitakkaavicāro "
"samādhi. (50)"
msgstr ""
"Immersion with placing the mind and keeping it connected. Immersion without "
"placing the mind, but just keeping it connected. Immersion without placing "
"the mind or keeping it connected."

#. </p><p>
#. <a class="sc" id="sc97"></a>
msgctxt "dn33:1.10.122"
msgid "Aparepi tayo samādhī—"
msgstr "Another three kinds of immersion:"

msgctxt "dn33:1.10.123"
msgid "suññato samādhi, animitto samādhi, appaṇihito samādhi. (51)"
msgstr "emptiness, signless, and undirected."

Wow. That was totally unexpected. But I now see that there are two missing segment numbers 1.10.121 and 1.10.123.

Ah! That would very much fit with the later “signless release of the heart” in sixes. It’s almost like the two threes become one six.


The 3 ways of samadhi, are only mentioned by name in most of the EBT. AN 8.63 is the only sutta that I’m aware of that talks about it in more useful detail.

And you want to study a proper translation of that sutta AN 8.63 as above. If you follow B. Sujato’s translation of V&V, then those 3 samadhis are just gibberish, another one of the series of infinite ducks in his incoherent samadhi system.

SN 47.10 talks about 2 of the 3 ways of samadhi, which are clearly 2 of the 3 of “tayo samadhi”, just not called by that full set of 3.

This article includes a link to the full SN 47.10 correct translation, with an explanation of why B. Sujato’s “placing the mind and keeping it connected” for V&V fails to work.

karl, you have a typo in your thread title. DN only contains 34 suttas, not 44.


@frankk Please be more respectful of Bhante Sujato. Your disrespect alienates those of us who would learn from your own translations. I am deeply grateful to all of Bhante Sujato’s work in translating the suttas. I also appreciate and have learned from your own efforts. To have you aim unkind words at Bhante is distressing to me.

mettacittena vakkhāmi no dosantarenāti.

Oops. Thank you. Corrected.


If you can quote and point out where I’m being disrespectful, I’ll rephrase my writing.
I am so very appreciative of all the phenomenal work, time and energy Bhante Sujato and the team behind suttacentral have put into making a free translation available to the world. The merit from that is enormous.

But it’s important to deliver an accurate and correct translation. Now much of translation is up for debate, and IMO the majority we do not have criteria for coming to an objective conclusion of “correctness.” But as far as V&V (vitakka & vicāra) of first jhāna goes, it has been shown beyond a shadow of a doubt that B. Sujato’s translation is incorrect. There is a detailed pali + english audit trail, and you don’t have to know pali to see and follow the reasoning.

It’s better to be clear and honest than polite. And when it comes to Dhamma, all that matters is the truth. When people start prioritizing politeness, respect, and harmony, over truth, then you can almost guarantee the Dhamma is going to go the way of corruption. Just look at the changes undergone over time in the EBT through Theravada and Sarvastivada.

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Well, the phrase “infinite ducks in his incoherent samadhi system” is a bit out of bounds and wanders into total contempt lacking all respect as I read it. It also is not true for all even though you have implied such. I myself DO find Bhante Sujato’s samadhi system coherent. It is difficult but consistent and coherent. You could have said “I find his samadhi system incoherent” and that would be true.

I really want to learn from everybody here. Taking sides is pointless.


Dear Frank, one can be clear, honest, AND polite :smiley: These things are not mutually exclusive.


Indeed, the Buddha’s teachings on right speech are all about saying the truth and saying it in a way that promotes harmony, not disharmony.


That would be preferable. But there are times when they aren’t compatible. And if one insists on politeness and gentle speech at all times, then it comes at the cost of clarity.

In the case of V&V, this issue is of vital importance and grave errors need to be clearly expressed, including the degree of severity. If one is too worried about being polite in how that is expressed, then it obfuscates the severity of the problem and the nature of the problem.

The Buddha Dhamma comes down to just seeing Dukkha clearly, and abandoning it. You can only see Dukkha clearly to the degree that Samadhi is powerful enough.
If you can’t see it clearly, you won’t abandon it, won’t want to abandon it, don’t realize you would be better off abandoning it.
That’s why Samadhi is so important.
The Buddha promised a gradual training, including Samadhi.
When you teach V&V (vitakka & vicara) of first jhana monumentally wrong, you’ve killed the gradual training.
Without first jhana, people think they “don’t have enough merit and/or wisdom” and need to wait lifetime(s) before they can practice seriously.
This is not conjecture, this is what happened when the VRJ (vism. redefinition of jhana) became the dominant/popular understanding in Theravada.

Bhante Sujato’s V&V translation follows the VRJ model of redefined Jhana (and V&V). There is no support for that anywhere in the EBT.

He needs to be held accountable for that. He needs to revise his translation to follow his own excellent two guiding principles for a translation: (my simplified paraphrasing of it)

  1. principle of least meaning
  2. ockham’s razor is usually correct

Until he fixes his error or can prove his case, I will keep pointing it out. As politely as I can, but not at the cost of being clear and honest.


I can imagine your attitude comes off harsher than intended. Eh, the internet… I fall into that ditch periodically. It’s another meta-topic to reflect I guess: How to deal with a Buddhist discourse that is established by prominent figures and leads to very different interpretations of the Dhamma.

That’s just how it is. Monumental works as by B.Bodhi, B.Sujato, B.Thanissaro or Ajahn Brahm influence the interpretation of what Buddhism is (in the West) for generations to come. Sometimes they change their minds, often not. Personally, I came to the same conclusion regarding V&V as you did, and in that meaning I discuss it with the people I’m in contact with. I wouldn’t hope for any major voice to change their mind, and at the same time why not to keep advocating a different understanding - pockets of alternative dhamma…


Occam’s razor isn’t always correct! :wink: Personally, I mostly buy Frank’s arguments (though am not completely convinced or feel the evidence is solid on all aspects and I’ve previously argued with him to that effect :slight_smile: ). It’s going to convince more people if that’s done politely; I don’t see why truth and politeness have to conflict here.

And at times I wonder if the suttas are totally consistent. Going a little off topic: for example, this morning I happened to read AN3.101. Take this bit:

When they’ve been given up and eliminated, there are fine corruptions: thoughts of family, country, and being looked up to. A sincere, capable mendicant gives these up, gets rid of, eliminates, and obliterates them. When they’ve been given up and eliminated, only thoughts about the teaching are left. That immersion is not peaceful or sublime or tranquil or unified, but is held in place by forceful suppression. But there comes a time when that mind is stilled internally; it settles, unifies, and becomes immersed in samādhi. That immersion is peaceful and sublime and tranquil and unified, not held in place by forceful suppression. They become capable of realizing anything that can be realized by insight to which they extend the mind, in each and every case.

It almost sounds like a samadhi state where just thoughts of Dhamma are left is not quite the real deal (the sutta later describes various psychic powers able to be wielded from the purer samadhi and, of course, more importantly, the ending of the defilements; the implication being that’s not possible from the earlier “thoughts of Dhamma” stage?). Of course, I’m sure this passage can be construed and interpreted in various ways. Still…


I wonder if we should move to an existent jhana thread (e.g. YARVVI Chronicles: V&V, Vitakka = directed-thoughts, Vicāra=Evaluation (of said Vitakka))?

To me the wording of ‘samma-samadhi’ as 8th limb-of-the-path is in a way unfortunate because that group-title appears as an item as well. But okay, a few suttas allow nibbana after the first jhana so technically probably also the first jhana fulfills the purpose to be a last stepping-stone to liberation. Yet, within the four jhana formulas the term ‘samadhi’ appears only in the second jhana.

When I apply this to meditation practice it’s really a game-changer. Investigating dhamma-thoughts or saññās is still something that we kind of know how to do (1st jhana). But to navigate the mind without these tools is mysterious. So to me, this is what your passage refers to @suaimhneas. That “immersion in samadhi” would be equivalent to the second jhana - even though what comes before is not the usually positively described first jhana. It just sounds like an unskillful state of mind.

And why not? Who studies the suttas doesn’t expect total coherence any more. Sometimes the first jhana is described positively, sometimes all jhanas seem to be underemphasized. It always depends on where that particular teacher wanted to push his particular students to.


I am completely taking off my moderator ‘hat’ for this :slight_smile:

Sometimes I get frustrated by only looking at the intellectual side of practice. While this is a site that focuses on EBT’s, in this case I think that a practice perspective becomes really important, in that it brings balance to just an intellectual analytical debate. Obviously, one must look to attained Masters for this practice perspective, ie those who have seen the Dhamma for themselves, as otherwise it may just be a conditioned mundane perspective.

I can’t remember the source, but I have been reading some of the Thai forest tradition masters recently, Ajahns Mun, Maha Boowa, Pannavaddho. The thing that I really appreciate is the heavy emphasis on practice, as opposed to words. One takes the words and applies them to see the results. The results are what matters, the words are the tool.
One must experiment and adapt to see what works - what yields the results. The results being deep insight, and seeing for oneself. This is the aim of the Dhamma. I can’t quote a sutta to specifically support this, but it is part of the forth Noble truth , pointing the way to the cessation of suffering.

Personally I had a lot of trouble matching my experiences with the descriptions of samadhi and jhana that I had come across. After a brief discussion with one of the teachers mentioned by @Gabriel above, I was told to just keep doing what I was doing… ie the ‘outcome’ showed that it was the correct path, that it was yielding good results. This took away all my anxiety and worry that I wasn’t doing it ‘correctly’ - and practice proceeded a-pace. Words and descriptions are extremely clumsy tools! They have to pass so many filters, so many conditions and memory before they are uttered, and then heard!

In my case, before I had this discussion, I didn’t have the confidence to adopt this attitude, and was using the words as an instruction manual. I can honestly say, that this hindered my practice for several years. Now I have the attitude, that the words are one individuals experience or interpretation of the steps and states described. These are just conditioned things to point us in the direction of seeing the Dhamma for ourselves. It’s relatively easy to apply this to current teachers, but what about the words of the Buddha. As far as the EBT’s go, they are now just an approximation of the Buddhas own words… pointing in the direction, filtered through the minds and speech of countless other beings. This is why I believe that practice experience, experimentation and adaptation in practice, is so essential to really penetrating the Dhamma.

I think the grasping of the words of the EBT’s is a very common issue in the west, where the emphasis is placed on the intellectual understanding and endless debate about miniscule details, and the emphasis on exploration and adaptation within practice is minimised. Although some teachers do still emphasise this.

@frankk I can feel both your frustration and your dedication to clarify the situation. I respect the dedication you demonstrate in trying to share and illuminate the path :slight_smile: I feel that all one can do is to offer a point of view and perspective, and it is up to other beings to either pick it up or not. It is not a ‘personal’ issue :slight_smile: Thus one can only work towards letting the frustration, of wanting an uncontrollable outcome, go.

I realise that this is bending the focus from the original OP, but this issue has been discussed from many perspectives on the forum for quite a long time :-)I think it stems from a love of the true Dhamma, and the wish to aid all beings to be free of suffering…
So dear @moderators please feel free to ‘moderate’ this in any way you see fit.

I am a little embarrassed, by my outpouring, but it is driven by compassion for all of us, with our delusions and suffering and the desire to follow the path to liberation for all beings. To this end, the hesitation born of ego retreats a little, and I share my views and opinions.

Metta :dharmawheel::anjal::dharmawheel:


Don’t be embarrassed… I find your reply beautiful… I am sure the others would too… Thank you. :pray:t4:


I just created another topic for these kinds of ‘shifts’ in one’s practice-biography. E.g. for the things we feel we have wasted time on due to a misleading interpretation or being too concept-driven etc. I don’t know if this can become the sort of collection I have in mind, but I’d invite eg @frankk and @Viveka to briefly present their findings/experiences.

I guess repeating old points in detail is not necessary, we can easily refer to other posts per hyperlinks to not make it lengthy.


IMO nothing to be embarrassed by. That was a very nice and beautiful (and probably fairly necessary :slight_smile: ) practice-inspired counterpoint to all the earlier dry analytical hairsplitting! :anjal:


For the record, I have a personal practice bio a bit similar to @Viveka’s which might belong in the new thread, but hopping over there to write about it wouldn’t allow me to articulate the question that formed in my mind as I read through the discussion in this thread ie:
* How can we skilfully relate close textual study of the Suttas to our personal practice?

Maybe this question has beem thoroughly chewed over before I came onto the scene? In which case my apologies (I’ll do a search tomorrow). I can feel it germinating a lot of sub-questions. Perhaps I should shift it to a new discussion thread, @moderators?