Unified perception of the Brahmas

Hello friends,

Today during the dhamma talk Ajahn Punnadhammo mentioned a “technical point” about how Brahma beings are unified in perception. Does anyone here know the technical point?

I would love to know more about this, in both Brahma’s host & subhakinnā cases, when the body is unified as well. Here’s the dhamma talk for reference:

It is in regard to the perception of form and the formless, where perception of the latter is dependent on contrast with the former. So in practice development of equanimity to form is first necessary, and beginning the process is described in Majhima Nikaya 20. The formless realms are characterised by non-diversity:

""And what is equanimity coming from multiplicity, dependent on multiplicity? There is equanimity with regard to forms, equanimity with regard to sounds…smells…tastes…tactile sensations [& ideas: this word appears in one of the recensions]. This is equanimity coming from multiplicity, dependent on multiplicity.

“And what is equanimity coming from singleness, dependent on singleness? There is equanimity dependent on the dimension of the infinitude of space, equanimity dependent on the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness… dependent on the dimension of nothingness… dependent on the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception. This is equanimity coming from singleness, dependent on singleness.”—Majhima Nikaya 137

Apparently it comes from DN 15

You can check this article from a former user of this forum

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it is also at AN9.24 and AN7.44

One explanation might be that 1st jhana is a “unitary” perception, that is first jhana might feel “just one way” regardless of who is experiencing/perceiving it, whereas “sensual” pleasures/perceptions would be diverse, with one person enjoying legs and another hair, and another something else, wheras first jhana is a sort of “pure” pleasure/joy, and therefore the same perception for all beings experiencing it.

Consequently the gods born into Brahma’s host might all be unified in that they are all perceiving a pure joy that is non-sensual and the same for all.

Metta.

Perception of diversity is considered one of the drawbacks to forms, contemplating the drawback is required for giving up one’s current state and moving onto the next, like entering the formless ayatana of infinite space (aka 5th jhana) as shown in AN 9.41 and MN 128

So, understanding that ‘doubt is a defilement of the mind,’ I abandoned the doubt defilement of the mind. Understanding that ‘inattention is a defilement of the mind’… ‘sloth-&-drowsiness is a defilement of the mind’… ‘panic is a defilement of the mind’… ‘excitement is a defilement of the mind’… ‘boredom is a defilement of the mind’… ‘excess persistence is a defilement of the mind’… ‘slack persistence is a defilement of the mind’… ‘a perception of diversity is a defilement of the mind’… ‘excessive absorption in forms is a defilement of the mind,’ I abandoned the excessive-absorption-in-forms defilement of the mind.

  • MN 128

Then I thought, ‘Why don’t I, going totally beyond perceptions of form, with the ending of perceptions of impingement, not focusing on perceptions of diversity, aware that “space is infinite”, enter and remain in the dimension of infinite space?’

  • AN 9.41

For the definition see SN 14.7

Mendicants, diversity of elements gives rise to diversity of perceptions. Diversity of perceptions gives rise to diversity of thoughts. Diversity of thoughts gives rise to diversity of desires. Diversity of desires gives rise to diversity of passions. Diversity of passions gives rise to diversity of searches.

The sight element gives rise to the perception of sights. The perception of sights gives rise to thoughts about sights. Thoughts about sights give rise to the desire for sights. The desire for sights gives rise to the passion for sights. The passion for sights gives rise to searching for sights.

That means jhana 1-4 still have a diversity of perceptions, it’s just that they don’t result in unwholesome thoughts, so the chain is broken at “thoughts about sights”. Whereas jhanas 5+ don’t even have a diversity of elements (sights, sounds, etc.)