Unpleasant pain in Jhana?

Frankk, this is amazing that at last someone with achiements in the field of Jhana is prepared to share it with so much fascinating details.
What you describe resonates well with my own little Jhana achievement.

What about “coming out” on the impact of your Jhana practice to progress on the four stages to awakening?

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frankk 2017-06-22 18:05:41 UTC #19
Much of what you describe is individually conditioned expression, description; not to question it’s authenticity, but rather to point out that it can be risky to claim that’s one’s own version can be generalized – i.e. that everyone experiences it in exactly the same terms. To put it another way, “not an exact science” in terms of external observation and description (which is what modern science attempts), but there is, on the other hand, an exactitude, internally and “subjectively”, if you will, to any individual’s experience.

Others may report that the switch-flipping experience of the transition between access concentration and any jhanic absorption is more distinctive, unmistakable, than the differences between stages 1-4 after absorption. Or that the difference between 1 and 2 can be simply that the attending-and-holding (vitakka & vicara) becomes so effective that it becomes automatic, not necessary to be consciously exercised. Similar to practicing techniques or particular passages in music performance – fingering, phrasing, etc. becoming automatic, built-in skills. (Using the idea from Thanissaro Bhikkhu that meditative functions, including concentration, are skills to develop, often much in the way other skills are gained.)

Alternative descriptions, alternatives could be similarly offered to many of your observations, but that could descend into quibbling. One aspect that, IMO, can be quite significant in practicing towards mastery, is gaining precision in reflecting, after exiting absorption, on jhanic states and more clearly seeing and knowing the qualitative distinctions. A classical exposition is the technique (MN 111), in the Buddha’s words, of how Sariputta developed his path through jhana meditation. Some will dispute whether that qualifies as genuine “EBT”
or not, but the importance of using jhana experience as an object of subsequent vipassana
analysis is found to be emphasized in a wide range of authentic interpretations of Theravada tradition, and a range of respected modern monastic masters – including some (for instance, Thanissaro B.) who otherwise insist on going by the sutta-s alone and discourage reliance on the commentarial traditions, the Visuddhimagga, etc.

Tightly coupling samadhi and vipassana practices in this way has become a frequent theme in modern scholarship to show how the Buddha’s method built upon Vedic samadhi practices but infused them with mindfulness and insight pursuits to shape quite a new and different path – and one attainable in this very life.

Apparently, seeing and knowing how the relatively dukkha-free experience of how jhana works in the mind can lead to deeper insight into how to develop the mind towards ultimate freedom from dukkha altogether. I think this may relate to the notion that appears in several places throughout the sutta-s, that the 4th jhana (free from all reactivity to vedana) can be a sort of gateway to liberation. (This could be interpreted as pertaining more to Samathayanika personality-types, as distinct from Vipassanayanika types – to use Mahasi Sayadaw’s terms – but that might also be a direction of discussion more prone to quibbling.)

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SN 48.40 is problematic. One of the jhana threads within the past year, someone referenced an article where a scholar compared the SN 48.40 to its agama parallels. I believe there were 2 parallels compared. They were significantly different from Theravada Pali’s SN 48.40 . I don’t remember the details, but if if look on the old threads you can find a link to that study, but I just came away with the impression that one of the agama parallels had a much more reasonable interpretation than SN 48.40, but IMO the whole exercise of what SN 48.40 is trying to do is contrived and futile. They’re trying to take the 5 types of vedana divided in terms of mental and physical aspects, and trying to map a single one to a particular samadhi attainment where that vedana ceases. In SN 48.40, the sukha indriya ceasing in 3rd jhāna is just patently ridiculous and wrong.

A few of the other factors are also questionable. The first one, the dukkha indriya that you quoted, can be interpreted in a sensible way that matches real meditator experience with jhāna. Take leg pain for example. For someone whose base level of samadhi “normal” is 3rd or 4th jhana, they could probably sit 2 or 3 hours in first jhana with no leg pain or discomfort, but at some point their jhana could be interrupted by leg pain. Someone whose base level of samadhi is 1st jhana, with no ability to do 2nd or 3rd jhana, perhaps they could sit 20 or 30 minutes before leg pain interrupted their first jhana. The SN 48.40 quote you provided above would match up with that. But as I said, since the sutta as a whole is corrupt and inconsistent with the parallels, I wouldn’t put too much weight behind this sutta to support any position.

That’s why I recommended you study the standard fourth jhana pali very carefully. When you see the terms sukha, dukkha, domanassa, somanasssa, and adukkham-asukkham in the standard 4th jhana carefully, you can safely infer sukha and dukkha are referring to vedana in jhana. Then you back up to 3rd jhana, you notice the Buddha is going out of his way to point out sukha is experienced with the body. Sukha vedana includes both sukha indriya (physical pleasure) and somnasssa indriya (mentally derived pleasure). So the safest interpretation for 3rd jhana sukha is that it includes both a physical and mental component. This is Ven. T’s (Thanissaro) interpretation of sukha in 3rd jhāna as well.

So once you’ve established the physical body is part of the experience of the four jhānas, See AN 5.28 jhāna similes for conclusive evidence of that if the standard 3rd jhana formula is not enough to convince you, then it’s pretty clear leg pain, back pain, etc, is something that’s within your potential field of experience.

You can always cherry pick quotes to support various wrong interpretations of EBT jhāna, but if you diligently look at all the available evidence on EBT jhāna to see if a particular jhāna interpretations remains coherent through all the EBT jhāna passages, the vism. jhāna model (and Ajahn Brahm’s interpretation) is not going to hold up.


I don’t give much thought to the 4 stages of awakening. I’m a pragmatist, and I view things in terms of whether the āsavas have been destroyed or not, how quickly I’m aware of kilesas are arising and how quickly I subdue them. When the day comes I can’t find any kilesas, then I’d start to wonder and investigate if I may have attained anagami. Stream entry is not on my bucket list. My eyes are on the prize of complete destruction of āsavas, and if I should fall short and land in stream entry, fine, but it’s not the goal.


There is no access concentration in EBT samma samadhi and jhāna. That the Vism. introduces these concepts is a big clue that they’re redefining what jhāna is.

But even if one follows the Vism. model of “jhāna”, if they meditate long enough they’re going to run in to the same problem that the body is changing on you, the transitions get smoother, the benchmarks you use to judge which jhana you’re in is changing as your body and mind literally becomes softer, lighter, more refined, pliable, malleable, etc.

Leigh Brasington also indicates that sukha is physical in the 3rd jhana.

In the 1st two jhanas I thought piti was physical and sukha mental.

Are you saying sukha manifests itself differently within the 1st three jhanas or that sukha is always physical and piti mental?

What about the translation of piti as rapture which does not have clear meaning to me.

The āsavas and the fetters are two awakening models found in the Suttas.
To me the fetters model is much more detailed including components not found in the āsavas.
The association between fetters and stages of awakening is powerful and gives me a clear path, what to work on and in what order.
I have been very systematic in working the fetter model to great result.

In particular I do a monthly progress review thru a spreadsheet, incorporating what happened during the month, of where I am in regard to all the components of the dhamma and specially the fetters.

For example (there is much more in the spreadsheet) I have expended fetter 5 (ill-will/aversion) with some 80 flavours of that fetter (irritation, anger, rage, etc) allowing me to work on and eliminate those that are of concern to me (not all 80 are of concern to me!).
For this elimination job, I have developed and documented a method based on Modern Psychology and the Eightfold Path.

If anyone is interested having a direct contact to discuss further please email me (alainbernay@iinet.net.au)

That sounds really good. Would you consider posting the original spreadsheet without your scores?

With metta

Pīti in the jhānas is equivalent to pīti-sambojjhanga (awakening factor). If you study SN 46.2 and 46.3, it will give you a pretty good summary of what that’s about. If you do an exhaustive search of pīti in the EBT, you’ll find in the context of 7sb (awakening factors), it often is qualified as Pīti manassa (mental). And if you look at what the activity going on for the Pīti manassa, it’s usually something close to being happy that your’re purifying your mind, activities, that is blameless, leads to your own welfare, that of others, and you can practice day and night (that’s how it ties in the previous bojjhanga of viriya).

So primarily piti in jhana and sambojjhanga the Buddha is emphasizing the mental development, what you do that causes/triggers a kusala mental happiness. But in meditiative practice, just like smiling, the mental cause is going to instantaneously trigger a physical response. A smile loosens up the tissue around your chest and heart, you may feel a surge of warmth, goosebumps, pleasant tingling up and down your spine, etc.

So In short, Ven. Thanissaro just concludes that Pīti and sukha both have physical and mental components. But the more detailed answer is that piti sambojjhanga and piti as a jhana factor, primarily we’re training the mind to trigger mental happiness by reflecting on our virtuous progress. There are other kusala ways of triggering Pīti, in SN 46.2 the Buddha punts on that question and just says “there are many ways” without being specific, so that leaves the possibility one could use a physical trigger instead of a mental one to get the process started. But I’m not aware of an explicit instruction in the EBT. Whereas the mental trigger of reflecting on virtue is frequent.

I was just reading Vedana Samyutta last night to see if sukha vedana is primarily physical or mental, and several suttas in there indicate the physical is the primary default, when you see vedana in the 3fold classification. Under the 5 fold classification as I discussed in the previous post, somanassa and domanassa would be mental and the sukha and dukkha would be physical.

The Buddha goes out of his way for passaddhi and sukha in the jhanas to emphasize the physical part as well, just to be absolutely clear. But in actual meditation practice, you’ll find that sukha as a physical trigger is likely to induce a mental pleasant reaction immediately as well.

So for 3rd jhana when piti drops out, it’s like the emotional thrill aspect of 1st and 2nd jhana wears off and you don’t get excited by it anymore. the sukha in 3rd jhana is just a pleasant physical comfort, maybe a smooth mental comfort accompanies that as well. When that sukha of 3rd jhana wears off, in 4th jhana you know your body feels light, soft, comfortable, but you feel indfferent towards it, it’s just heat, water, air element, not uncomfortable, not comfortable.

“Rapture” was probably intended to mean the emotional thrill aspect of pīti. To use a crude and inappropriate simile, it’s like a supermodel was out of your league likes you and marries you, and for a few months you have the emotional thrill (rapture) that, “wow! how could this happen to me!” But after those few months you just get used to it and take it for granted. That’s piti dropping out, and sukha is the smoother happiness of still sort of appreciating your good luck.

A more appropriate simile, I think this comes from Vism. and does not appear in the EBT, but is actually a really accurate simile in terms of emphasizing the mental and physical aspects in the right spots, goes something like this:

You’re stuck in the desert dying of thirst. Then you see ahead of you an oasis with cool drinking water. The thrill of knowing you’re not going to die of thirst and are going to taste sweet water shortly, is pīti, the emotional thrill. When you get to the oasis, jump in there splash around and physically drink the water and taste and feel the cool refreshing feeling of that, that’s sukha.

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Anything in the EBT that helps you improve is worthwhile, and I’m glad you’re getting good results with it.

Dear Frankk this is a beautiful description of piti and sukha. Many thanks for that.


I’m happy to do that but don’t know how to.

As for getting my document on “my method”, I won’t post it as it has my personal stories, but I’m happy to send to individual so please send me an email.

Joy (pīti), which creates an interest in the object, giving the mind buoyancy

Cittas differ according to the feeling associated with them. Every citta has a concomitant feeling,
but the quality of this feeling differs from citta to citta. Some cittas are accompanied by a
pleasant feeling (sukhā vedanā), some by a painful feeling (dukkhā vedanā), some by an indifferent
feeling (upekkhā vedanā).

Relevant to the Abhidhamma, two other classifications of vedanā must be mentioned.
Five Kinds:

  1. bodily agreeable feeling—kāyikā sukhā vedanā (sukha)
  2. bodily disagreeable feeling—kāyikā dukkhā vedanā (dukkha)
  3. mentally agreeable feeling—cetasikā sukhā vedanā (somanassa)
  4. mentally disagreeable feeling—cetasikā dukkhā vedanā (domanassa)
  5. indifferent or neutral feeling—adukkham-asukhā vedanā (upekkhā)


I greatly appreciate you writing this up as well as some other posts you have made about your experience. I find much that I relate to.


A friend taught me how to upload files but an excel format is not permitted.
Here is a pdf conversion which is pretty bad but could give you an idea of what’s there.
If you want the spreadsheet please email me.
Progress on the Path.pdf (100.0 KB)


Thanks Alaber. Someone said (non-EBT) that there were 1200 defilements, which I doubt is true. I like your list.

With metta

Well said Frank, any chance of sharing what your object of meditation is and your approach?

I’ve tried lots of meditation techniques, and still use lots of them, and continue to experiment with variations and new approaches. The main reason for this is I want to verify for myself what the EBT says is true, since the passages can be terse and not explicit in regard to many practical details.

My favored technique is 16APS (anapanasati), but I do try a incorporate a lot of 4bv (metta, brahma viharas), 31asb (31 body parts asubha), 9 cemetary contemplations to get a complete well rounded diet everyday.

Ajahn Lee’s “keeping the breath in mind” method 2 corresponds perfectly with Udayi suttas AN 6.29 first meditation technique, the first 3 jhanas for dittha-dhamma-sukha-viharaya (pleasant abiding here and now). Ajahn Lee’s method 1 then takes you from AN 6.29’s perception of luminosity for knowledge and vision through 31 body parts and 9 cememtary contemplations to 4th jhana.

For metta practice to take you into jhana, Bhante Gunaratana’s jhana book, beyond mindfulness in plain english, (excerpt here)

gives a very good EBT compliant description.

Ven. T’s (Thanissaro) "with each and every breath"

Covers the same territory as Ajahn Lee’s Keeping the breath in mind for 16APS, minus the 6 abhinna and iddhipada type of stuff, and Ven. T.'s writing style is geared more towards western people and affluent western problems they encounter in their meditation.


Thanks for that, I have loaded the “each and every breath” audio, and will have a listen during the rains retreat this year. Although I am a bit thrown off by Ajahn Lee’s style of breath control, but won’t let that stop me.

Thank you for this helpful summary. You mention the oasis simile–I’ve been trying to find the specific sutta in which Buddha describes this. Would you happen to recall which one it might be in? I was hoping to quote the sutta. Thanks in advance for any help, Nalaka