Understanding the "jhana wars"

Anupubbanirodhā (nine progressive cessations) is also listed in DN33 and DN34

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Ooh thanks for that your right, I missed those.

Not necessarily. Someone might be professional for the whole life but never seen/know the path.

There can be a wise one who practice less than 7 days who can reach arahant. For someone who is not wise, 7 years or less is probably a doable goal. For a householder, a non returner is doable in less than 7 years.

  1. Someone who has made substantial positive contributions to the field, and is not just an opinion-monger banging on about their own theories.

Not necessarily. How do you know whether it is positive or not? It might be positive for wordly view. :sweat_smile:

  1. Someone who has healthy and constructive relationships with colleagues in the field.

Not necessarily again. Everyone is going to wrong direction (aka wordly view). While the path is transcendental, shouldn’t it be against the common practice. :grin:

  1. Someone who readily admits when they are wrong.

Who can judge what is wrong or not. Can a puthujjana judge? I doubt it. :sweat_smile:

  1. Someone whose point of view you do not always agree with.

Could be, but again see above.

A Buddha or arahant has rūpasaññā but not kāmasaññā.

Non returner also has rupasanna.

But Buddha, arahant, and non returner can also have ayatana sanna or Nibbana as the dhamma. For non returner, if they have developed them so depend on their mind development and wisdom.

Should be easy to move up once a person develop and maintain at least 1st jhana (samma samadhi). It is just let go more until cessation of perception and feeling.

In conclusion, if one can reach samma samadhi/jhana and maintain it in daily life. He/she should be at non returner or above level. Can’t be less than that according to Sutta and my understanding.

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Yes, but don’t forget that there is also a mental body (nāmakāya). Even with Theravāda the nimitta is still connected to the physical body, or physicality in general, since it’s a mental representation of an aspect of it.

I would also just point out that taking the suttas too literally is almost always the downfall of good sense, for example, there are not “5 senses” but probably somewhere north of 35 in humans that we know about, and the idea that for example you could take a rusty hacksaw and slowly cut off someone’s hand at the wrist while they where in 1st jhana and they simply wouldn’t notice is almost certainly as ridiculous as it sounds.

I don’t know. The universe can be a strange place at times.


As I understood the whole story the Buddha spoke about his painful practises before he understood that those practises would not lead to anywhere meaningful, and then stopped this practise, replaced them by another type (remembering that he had had a better one as a child by chance) and this allowed the process to fully awakening. So - two different practices, I wouldn’t believe, that the same technical name had been used for them over the course of teachings after the awakening. And I’m not surprised that a not-lining-up occurs when different practices are compared by a contemporary reader.

  1. You do not need jhana to attain Sotapanna/Sakadagami stage
  2. You need jhana to attain higher stages to get rid of asavas (unless point 4)
  3. It’s okay to attain jhana at any time of the Path and cultivating Path through jhana
  4. In rare occasion you may be liberated just by understanding Dhamma through right view like Bahiya, Blind Arahant and other Arahants, but I would not bet too much on this example.

That’s it

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You are right assāsapassāsā niruddhā honti; is not stoppage of breathing but stoppage of unwholesome states

The Bahiya passage is likely commentary.

It’s just for example, most people will anyway need to go the regular route

I understand what you’re intent is here and like the direction you’re going. However, I can think of at least three western lay meditation teachers who are clearly out in left field when it comes to jhana and they can tick at least four of the five boxes (depending on who is defining “positive” contributions :rofl:)

Please take some time to consider this: do you really know what people need to become enlightend? Based on what? Studying the texts? Come on.

Just a gentle reminder.


Very interesting, thanks.

Nimittas, although most often experienced as mental lights, can take many forms. A physical representation, a sort of mental reflection of “a blob” or “body”, is not too uncommon. “Sounds” also happen. I think lights are the most common because it is the most prominent sense for most people. Also because they are most encouraged and generally easier to see the “quality” of.

The physical nimittas are like shapes without shapes. It’s hard to describe. It might well be what those texts are referring to. The nimitta doesn’t continue in the jhana, though.

(To not derail this general thread too much in one direction: This is all the traditional Theravadin understanding of jhana, not the “bodily” ones.)

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This seems to be what those other sources are talking about. I think it’s key to remember that nimittas take many shapes and forms because they are essentially just the way the mind makes sense of such a sublime state. As it’s so subjective, it strands to reason IMO that the experience of Jhana can be quite subjective too. What’s key is if there are no hindrances present, there is rapture and pleasure born of seclusion and vitakka and vicara. If those dhammas truly aren’t there/are there then it’s Jhana it seems to me, be it with lights or a bodily sensation of light shooting from the body or whatever.

Very interesting, thanks.

You’re most welcome Bhante.

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The term is such an oxymoron I can’t help but find it funny.

People getting competitive over how still a still mind is.

My guess would be that the people having that argument are people who are not calming their minds deeply on a regular basis.

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It is. The thing that I think modern people don’t understand is the degree to which Buddhism and other liberation religions like early Christianity deprecated the body as the thing that traps a person in this world is suffering. It didn’t make sense to them that the culmination of a liberative experience would involve physical sensation. That’s what they were trying to escape. Thus, we see these interpretations in Buddhist commentaries that kaya isn’t physical but mental or spiritual.

Jhana was also equated with the happiness experienced in the Brahma world in Sarvastivada Abhidharma, and this is what the similes about the body being filled with happiness are describing, IMO. They are saying the meditator experiences the same thing as a Brahma god does while in this earthly existence. To me, it makes sense to consider it a way they understood an actual ecstatic religious experience. It would explain why the Sarvastivadins separated that experience from proper Buddhist jhana practice, since they reasoned that would lead to birth in the form realm rather than to liberation.

By contrast, today we have the somatic meditation movement that emphasizes physical awareness, which I think may drive this modern attempt to interpret kaya literally. The whole thing is a curiosity to me, and it gets pretty convoluted when I try to disentangle these layers of historical thought.