Two Kinds of Jhana?

I really hope this doesn’t cause an unhelpful debate. I’m really just concerned with textual source/basis here.

In a recent class/discussion (in a Mahasi group), the topic of jhanas came up, as the topic is wont to do it seems. The concept of there being two types of jhana was introduced. These being arammanupanijjhana and lakkhanupani jhana.
Arammanupanijjhana - examines a meditation object
Lakkhanupanijjhana- examines the Three Characteristics (Anicca, Dukkha, Anatta).
This is my very general summary.

The only source explaining these in English seems to be here:

Now, I understand the differences conceptually, however I do not know of the Buddha ever speaking of two kinds of jhana. Where the Buddha – at least as it seems to me – speaks of one, this then speaks of two.

Note: I’m not one to outright reject Abhidhamma or Commentaries, but I wholeheartedly think they should be read quite critically.

Is this something that can be supported from the Suttas? Is this something we sort of, “worked backgwards” from? I.e., such and such a practice is known to lead to awakening, so there MUST be two jhanas? Was this conceptually taken from the Suttas, and these terms coined/applied to it? Do we even know?

I do no seek to say anything is wrong, simply that I do not have the context to appreciate or fully understand WHERE this idea comes from.

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No, there is only one type of jhana, but within that is always the ability to exercise discernment (insight) into the jhana itself. Each stage has characteristics, and through seeing them as impermanent, the mind is thrust to the next level.

"And furthermore, the monk has his theme of reflection well in hand, well attended to, well-considered, well-tuned[1] by means of discernment.

“Just as if one person were to reflect on another, or a standing person were to reflect on a sitting person, or a sitting person were to reflect on a person lying down; even so, monks, the monk has his theme of reflection well in hand, well attended to, well-pondered, well-tuned by means of discernment. This is the fifth development of the five-factored noble right concentration.”—AN 9:36

This is a fundamental strategy and is seen for example in MN 121, where the imperfection (“modicum of disturbance”) of the current level is identified through insight:

"He discerns that ‘Whatever disturbances that would exist based on the perception of village are not present. Whatever disturbances that would exist based on the perception of human being are not present. There is only this modicum of disturbance: the singleness based on the perception of wilderness.’


You may be interested in Bhante Yutadhammo’s responses in these threads on Buddhism StackExchange:

About the different types of Jhana in the Mahasi tradition (differing in name but possibly not content?)

More about the Mahasi view on the necessity of Jhana, for context

The Buddha doesn’t make these distinctions in the suttas. It is generally accepted outside of the Mahasi tradition that when the Buddha talks about Jhanas, he’s talking about very specific states of absorption, and not anything else. That’s the view that is easily supported by the suttas.

The Mahasi perspective therefore differs in the assertion that the word Jhana doesn’t only mean the states of absorption (4 rupa jhanas + 4 arupa jhanas). So their definition of Jhana is broader than what is strictly evident from the suttas alone. This seems to be based on Visuddhimagga, for the most part. Mahasi Sayadaw makes a case for the dry insight path, so there is no emphasis on attaining any of the material or immaterial Jhanas. Apples and oranges, basically.


Sometimes the stages of jhana are simply described (i.e. the factors of the various stages are enumerated), and sometimes it’s pointed out that the meditator can use jhana as a basis for insight. So the terms you’ve shared (which are new to me) reflect two different approaches to jhana — essentially treating it as either a samatha practice or a vipassana practice. It’s the same jhanas, just related to differently.

For a scriptural citation, see MN 52:

Householder, it’s when a mendicant, 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. Then they reflect: ‘Even this first absorption is produced by choices and intentions.’ They understand: ‘But whatever is produced by choices and intentions is impermanent and liable to cessation.’ 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 one thing that has been rightly explained by the Blessed One—who knows and sees, the perfected one, the fully awakened Buddha—practicing which a diligent, keen, and resolute mendicant’s mind is freed, their defilements are ended, and they arrive at the supreme sanctuary.

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It was actually in Bhante Yuttadhammo‘s class that this came up! Lol

I just know he‘s addressed the jhanas ad naseum, so I thought I would bring it up here.
I will take a look at those links and get further context.


He also has a number of talks online about it, such as this one and this one

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Thank you, Bhante. As always, Bhante Yuttadhammo does an wonderful job clarifying these things.

That said, what I was more concerned with was the two terms themselves. In looking into various Suttas and discussions on this, I see that these have been brought up before in another group. I found this discussion here (I don’t really get the organization, but I just used the search function and entered “lakkha” and it brought me to the relevant portion:

Anyway, what I’ve come to see is that while these terms are not in the Suttas themselves, they are indeed as @Bodhipaksa said, two ways of relating to jhana. Which is what Bhante Yuttadhammo said as well. My goal was to see if the terms themselves were Sutta-based, or if they were applied or invented to describe these two functions or approaches- which seems to be the case.
I’ve heard and read that distinguishing between the two types of jhana in the various Suttas is quite difficult, so I’ve taken to reading the various suttas that relate to the subject.
One in particular stood out to me as being the “Vipassana jhana” type, or as above, the lakkhanupanijjhana, and that is the Anupada Sutta (MN 111). The way the process is presented, reminds me a lot of the instructions we’re given in the Mahasi style.
Contrast this with the Moggallana Samyutta’s description of jhanas, and it does seem different. That said, the Sariputta Samyutta seems to fall in line with the Moggallana Samyutta, so these would both seem to be the aramanupanijjhana. Still reading, of course- these are just my initial impressions based on my reading.