The Noble Eightfold Path is the Jhāna Path!

On another thread (found here) @Senryu made the following comment:

Also - regarding the ‘10-fold path’ - I remember in the suttas somewhere, simply the 8fold path plus the 2 fruits. It’s funny because some people, anti-jhāna people, go on and on about jhāna not being the ‘goal’. Well, yes, that’s true, but the Noble Eightfold Path is the jhāna path! And no-one seems to be vehemently warning everyone away from the Noble Eightfold path because it’s not the goal !

which I found extremely intriguing–specifically, the categorical claim that “the Noble Eightfold Path is the jhāna path.”

So, to anyone who may similarly feel this a statement worthy of further exploration, please feel free to contribute to this thread.


I am for Jhana people, and I would find no issue in saying that Jhana is not the final goal. It’s footsteps towards the final goal, like in the elephant footprint sutta where the Buddha says seeing footprints, one may infer that the elephant is ahead, but cannot be 100% certain until the fruits are attained.

Jhanas are some of the footprints in the sutta.

For noble 8fold path is the Jhana path, indeed, the 8th factor of right stillness requires the other 7 to be present to be considered “right”. As well as many Jhana instructions giving importance on virtue and having right views, right thoughts as in the attitudes, right sati is required for all meditation, and right effort to devote the time to sit and do nothing (let go of everything).

I think the anti Jhana people just doesn’t want to recognize that the 8th path factor means Jhana. Or they think it’s merely Jhana lite.


I’m less interested in fan-camps, but a textual solution for the following problem:

  • If the Buddha’s path to liberation is the 8fold path
  • and the 8fold path culminates in the 4th jhana
    … then the 4th jhana should be, or should without any other doing lead to, liberation

Which of the two premises is wrong?
Or can it be shown in the texts that indeed the 4th jhana automatically (without any further intention, insight, wisdon) lead to nibbana?


I would guess arguments for and against would hinge on:

  1. Is samādhi equivalent to dhyāna?
  2. Is dhyāna a requirement for liberation?
  3. Are we basing our answers on one EBT canon or looking for overall patterns?

But my very first question would be: Why does the eightfold path say “right samādhi” instead of “right dhyāna”?


Splendid questions, which we could work through…

Here we could already find some complications. If we look only at the SN there is only one sutta which defines sammasamadhi as the four jhanas, namely SN 45.8.

In contrast there are numerous suttas (1) which say

“right concentration, which is based upon seclusion (viveka), dispassion (virāga), and cessation (nirodha), maturing in release (vossagga).” (Bodhi)
“right immersion, which rely on seclusion, fading away, and cessation, and ripen as letting go.” (Sujato)

And while viveka is part of the classic jhana-formula, viraga and nirodha are not. So, if samadhi relies on nirodha then indeed it makes sense to say that it represents the end of the path.

(1) SN 3.18, SN 43.12, SN 45.2, SN 45.9, SN 45.49, SN 45.55, SN 45.63-69, SN 45.77-83, SN 45.91-96, SN 45.127-132, SN 45.139, SN 45.148-162, SN 45.170, SN 45.180

Now, this distribution is also not very satisfying, having basically only the transmitter of SN 45 as the source of this alternative ‘definition’.
The samadhi-soteriology of the Anguttara needs another examination…


In the SA, I don’t see anything saying that correct samadhi is defined as the Four Dhyanas. This seems notable in and of itself, as any major definition should be expected in both SA and SN. Instead, it seems that describing the qualities of correct samadhi is more common.

However, it looks like MA 189 does have a definition in terms of the Four Dhyanas:


What is correct samādhi? A bhikṣu, separated from desires, separated from evil and unskillful dharmas… up to fully roaming in the Fourth Dhyāna, this is called correct samādhi.


It’s not believed that jhanas are needed for enlightenment in the Thai forest tradition, at least not for reaching sotapanna. So my teacher and the other prominent forest monks don’t stress the jhanas in their teachings. I think he also doesn’t stress them because people become fixated on attaining them, and then feel discouraged after failing to do so, despite years of practice. Keep in mind this is coming from a practice tradition, where there isn’t much to do besides meditate. Many of these forest master are believed to have attained different levels of jhana themselves. So it isn’t as if they don’t understand meditation.

I remember one nun asked my teacher how to go from the first to the second jhana. Of course she didn’t ask if she had attained the first jhana, but that was implied by her question. So my teacher answered her, and she left. A monk who was present for the question asked my teacher afterwards if she had reached the first jhana. He said no. This sort of thing happened a few times. My teacher has said very few people these days are capable of reaching even the first jhana. I’m under the impression that people often mistake what is really only some strengthened sati and a wee bit of samadhi for jhana.

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AFAIK Samma Samadhi is the culmination of the N8FP which is the gradual process of letting go. The path begins with Samma Ditthi for a reason. That is to say that Samma Ditthi is the realization that existence is nothing but suffering which continues due to craving on account of a self that does not exist in reality.

When anyone comes to this stage of understanding, the N8FP becomes their rational alternative. But, as the culmination of the path Samma Samadhi is not liberation. Whether it is Dhayana or jhana is immaterial. IMO what Samma Samadhi does is stilling of formations sankhara because existence is sankhara. It appears that some mistakenly embrace Samadhi thinking perhaps it is the liberation but this again is craving. This is why the Buddha used the simile of the raft to illustrate that everything needs to be let go. Everything includes Samadhi, the teaching and everything else.

Samadhi as stilling of sankhara enables the disciple to keep his mind free from all engagements and enjoy the freedom from craving. It gives him the knowledge that the mind is free from all defilements and the ability to face death with equanimity so that they are free from rebirth.
With Metta


This discourse from DN can too help answer the above questions:

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Thank you for all the kind responses: I am reading them with great interest, and they are providing much food for thought. I am learning quite a lot, and I am very grateful. I am sorry that I don’t have much to contribute other than questions, but below I have included some thoughts based on what I have read so far:

In the thread on the Ten-fold Path , @Gabriel , you brought up Rod Bucknell’s paper on the variety of paths, where you cite him as maintaining that

Right Knowledge and Right Liberation are not automatic developments on the path and have to be practiced.

I have not finished the article, but so far he seems undecided. Nevertheless, you asked the question:

I think we should separate intention from insight and/or wisdom here: the first is volitional, the latter two are not necessarily. Perhaps it would be more effective to try and find evidence demonstrating that actual volitional effort is required for attaining anything subsequent to Right Concentration, and then to assume, if no evidence were to be found, that whatever is attained is an automatic result.

Really great questions here, Charles! Additionally, assuming the answer to question 1 were “no” (which seems to be the direction things are going), I would add one more:

2.5 Is samādhi a requirement for liberation?

While I think the general consensus here would be that EBTs are probably the final authority, I for one think there is may be value in citing (“later”) patterns: my limited knowledge of the Mahāyāna and Chinese Buddhism has led me to believe that trends found in those corpuses (corpi?) do often shed light on EBT doctrine (sort of breaking us out of Theravādin thought patterns). I’d be interested if you had some personal insight to add in this regard.

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4th jhana alone cannot lead to liberation. See DN 1 for people who has abilities to see past lives and divine eye, but with their wrong views, they don’t attain to right knowledge. So right views of directing sati towards the 3 universal characteristics is an essential part of the path, to get the right in right stillness.

All parts of the path works together.


I am on the middle-way. I do not belong to ‘The Anti-Jhana Movement’ neither ‘The Jhana Movement*’. Just kidding :blush:

To what I know achieving Jhana is not to immerse ourself in Jhana but just to know and to realize the Bliss of Jhana. Not to enjoy the Jhana that we encounter. But to overcome the feeling that emerge upon entering the Jhana.

Jhana is Jhana. It is real but not to attach. The non-attachment to the feeling that emerge whether you feel joy or happy is what is important. It is not for enjoyment but it is to know, aware or realize.

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Just out of curiosity, do the EBT’s define samadhi as the stilling of formations (sankhara), or is that from another source outside the EBT’s? Any citations or other materials would be of interest.

I’m aware of SN 36.11 from the Vedana Samyutta, and SN 41.6 from Kamabhu Bhikkhu. I’m also seeing AN 3.32, which is interesting and corroborates some of these ideas. From SN 41.6:

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.

SN 36.11 also says that in the Fourth Dhyana, breathing has ceased. In SN 41.6, inhalation and exhalation are considered to be physical formations.

MN.64 has the following. I am not sue if it is EBT or not.

“And what, Ānanda, is the path and the practice for giving up the five lower fetters? It’s when a mendicant—due to the seclusion from attachments, the giving up of unskillful qualities, and the complete settling of physical discomfort—quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unskillful qualities, enters and remains in the first absorption, which has the rapture and bliss born of seclusion, while placing the mind and keeping it connected. They contemplate the phenomena there—included in form, feeling, perception, choices, and consciousness—as impermanent, as suffering, as diseased, as an abscess, as a dart, as misery, as an affliction, as alien, as falling apart, as empty, as not-self. They turn their mind away from those things, and apply it to the deathless element: ‘This is peaceful; this is sublime—that is, the stilling of all activities, the letting go of all attachments, the ending of craving, cessation, extinguishment.’ Abiding in that they attain the ending of defilements. If they don’t attain the ending of defilements, with the ending of the five lower fetters they’re reborn spontaneously, because of their passion and love for that meditation. They are extinguished there, and are not liable to return from that world. This is the path and the practice for giving up the five lower fetters.”

With Metta


Thank you, @Nimal for bringing up this very important sutta reference. Whether or not this is EBT I cannot say, but the refrain

is certainly found throughout the suttas where it is all but expressly identified with the entirety of “the path.” My personal favorite is AN 3.32:

“Here, Ānanda, a bhikkhu thinks thus: ‘This is peaceful, this is sublime, that is, the stilling of all activities, the relinquishing of all acquisitions, the destruction of craving, dispassion, cessation, nibbāna.’ In this way, Ānanda, a bhikkhu could obtain such a state of concentration that he would have no I-making, mine-making, and underlying tendency to conceit in regard to this conscious body; he would have no I-making, mine-making, and underlying tendency to conceit in regard to all external objects; and he would enter and dwell in that liberation of mind, liberation by wisdom, through which there is no more I-making, mine-making, and underlying tendency to conceit for one who enters and dwells in it.”

I think the important question in the context of the present discussion is whether this practice is to be seen as part and parcel of samādhi/jhāna or as some additional non-jhānic, ostensibly wisdom- or insight-based affix to the path (i.e., Paul Griffith’s “last-minute injection of methods and goals appropriate to the analytical/intellectual mode into a context which is otherwise exclusively enstatic,” On Being Mindless, p. 23).

As the eighth factor, practising the four samādhi/jhāna is definitely a part and parcel of the noble path. Obviously it leads to wisdom because the fourth jhāna enables the disciple to personally experience what they have only heard from the Buddha. For example, it gives empirical evidence of rebirth. Even if they are not able to do that, they are surely able to see things as they really are yathābhūta which is the knowledge of the three characteristics - impermanence, suffering and not-self.

I am not familiar with Griffith’s writing and hence, I am not able to make any comments.
With Metta

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Thank you for your response.

Excuse me if I was unclear. I meant do we consider the “application of the mind to the deathless element” (the deathless element here being represented by the sentiment, “This is peaceful; this is sublime—that is, the stilling of all activities, the letting go of all attachments, the ending of craving, cessation, extinguishment.”) as part of the jhānic path, or would it qualify as something different (perhaps something more wisdom-related, for example)?

Hi Nimal ,

Do you mean is the fourth jhana ? Or all first to four jhana .


Sorry I misunderstood. I am certain it is part and parcel of the path. I would even say it is the culmination of the path and as such it is the wisdom. I do not think that wisdom is anything different or outside of the path because it is just the opposite of ignorance which the path has eliminated.

Thanks for the link.
With Metta

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I mean all four.
With Metta

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