Vitakka vicāra (Jhana-factors)

Thanks for that dear Ajahn Bramhali.
Look at the topics of discussions on discourse. It’s mostly about meditation.
I can’t wait to hear how dedicated practitioners eradicate their fears, aversions, desires and delusions.

Look at the Sutta Pitaka. It is as well mostly about meditation - or at least how to get ready for meditation ! :wink:

I think it is worth acknowledging that it is at the factors of sati (mindfulness) and samadhi (stillness/concentration) that people’s experience of the cultivation of the path narrows down enough for meaningful conversations around the practice to take place.

Although clearly put by the Buddha in the suttas the earlier factors of right thought, speech, action and livelihood are not necessarily to be cultivated in the same way by different people.

Pick the case of a bhikkhu or bhikkhuni nowadays, he/she has practical challenges that probably were just unimaginable in the times of the early sangha.

What to say about us lay disciples? How close is my cultivation to the one of a pre-historic Indian villager? Even when I travel to Thailand’s countryside and interact with other lay disciples there I find almost impossible to communicate the practical challenges I find myself with in carrying on with my job, family life, etc.

While it is crucial to keep in mind that one should not ever grow hopeful of progress in terms of “meditation” without having checked all boxes in terms of previous factors of the path, it is not realistic as well to expect people to engage in meaningful conversations around how they take up the challenge of dealing with things like right speech, action and livelihood in their own uniquely conditioned individual existence.

The only space in which there could be hope for such a thing to occur would be in a monastery, amidst the bhikkhu or bhikkhuni sangha!

This is for at least in those places people are (hopefully) genuinely interested in make their existences less about their own personal narrative of self and more about making happen a community of individuals fully engaged in pursuing the highest of the targets: the noble task of realizing by themselves of the end of suffering.

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thanks for the explanation Bhante.

it will take me some time to evaluate everything you said in the post regarding sound and thorns, but we are on the same page as far as wanting to adopt an interpretation of jhana, samadhi, vitakka, vicara that is true to EBT.

i’m open minded and i’ll change my position 180 degrees in 5 minutes if i can see compelling evidence.

i’m aware of some of the suttas you cited such as AN 7.40 where it’s supportive of the type of jhana ajahn brahm advocates.

AN 7.40 (9) Mastery (1) ( b.bodhi translation)

183“Bhikkhus, possessing seven qualities, a bhikkhu exercises mastery over his mind and is not a servant of his mind. What seven? Here, (1) a bhikkhu is skilled in concentration, (2) skilled in the attainment of concentration, (3) skilled in the duration of concentration, (4) skilled in emergence from concentration, (5) skilled in fitness for concentration, (6) skilled in the area of concentration, and (7) skilled in resolution regarding concentration.1499"" Possessing these seven qualities, a bhikkhu exercises mastery over his mind, and is not a servant of his mind.”

here in pali, with some key words in bold

:diamonds: 40. “sattahi, bhikkhave, dhammehi samannāgato bhikkhu cittaṃ vase VAR vatteti, no ca bhikkhu cittassa vasena vattati. katamehi sattahi? idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhu samādhi-kusalo hoti, samādhissa samāpattikusalo hoti, samādhissa ṭhitikusalo hoti, samādhissa vuṭṭhāna-kusalo hoti, samādhissa kalyāṇakusalo hoti, samādhissa gocarakusalo hoti, samādhissa abhinīhārakusalo hoti. imehi kho, bhikkhave, sattahi dhammehi samannāgato bhikkhu cittaṃ vase vatteti, no ca bhikkhu cittassa vasena vattatī”ti. navamaṃ.

so “vase” = mastery, kusala = “skilled in it”, vuthhana-kusalo = “skilled in emergence” .

i never said that EBT doesn’t support the type of samadhi ajahn brahm teaches, what i’ve tried to show is that the formless attainments, and 4th jhana, being imperturbable, is where it fits in more naturally with EBT, and extending mastery to the default prerequisite requirement for 1st jhana is unwarranted.

in AN 7.40 quoted above, it talks about it as “mastery” of samadhi. no mention of first jhana. certainly one who can do formless attainments and 4th jhana with mastery, can do first jhana with mastery as well. but from the point of view of a new disciple who is working through the stages of taming the mind, replacing incessant thinking with thinking that’s only pertaining to the dhamma is a big step, a big deal. to learn how to calm both the body and mind to the point of experiencing a momentary spike of piti sukha from first jhana is a big deal and a big milestone.

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But are these superhuman states, worthy of the noble ones (i.e of a stream-winner or above)?

From MN31:

“Good, good, Anuruddha. But while you abide thus diligent, ardent, and resolute, have you attained any superhuman state, a distinction in knowledge and vision worthy of the noble ones, a comfortable abiding?”

“Why not, venerable sir? Here, venerable sir, whenever we want, quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states, we enter upon and abide in the first jhāna, which is accompanied by applied and sustained thought, with rapture and pleasure born of seclusion. Venerable sir, this is a superhuman state, a distinction in knowledge and vision worthy of the noble ones, a comfortable abiding, which we have attained while abiding diligent, ardent, and resolute.”

Here is a sutta which tells us how to think about jhanas: they’re superhuman states, worthy of stream-winners and above :slight_smile:

Edit: And from one of my favorite suttas, AN9.34:

"Now there is the case where a monk — quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful qualities — enters & remains in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation.

If, as he remains there, he is beset with attention to perceptions dealing with sensuality, that is an affliction for him.

Just as pain arises as an affliction in a healthy person for his affliction, even so the attention to perceptions dealing with sensuality that beset the monk is an affliction for him.

So, attention to perceptions of sensuality, is like pain is to a healthy person, from the standpoint of a first jhana. This may shed some light on the thorn analogy as well :slight_smile:

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hi Eric,
that’s a fair point, but looking at all of the EBT, such as AN 3.100 goldsmith simile where first jhana is described as a weak concentration, the cook simile in the satipatthana samyutta (SN 47.8 i think, or near there) where right effort, satipatthana, and ekaggata citta and samadhi (the hallmark keywords of 2nd jhana are used), MN 125 where first jhana clearly would involve an ordinary understnading of vitakka vicara, MN 78 again where first jhana would have ordinary thinking and evaluation, with the qualification that they are connected to thoughts of the dhamma, not the 5 hindrances, etc…

i’m not dismissing your point, but to be more convincing i’d have to examine what “superhuman” means in more detail. if you look at the general population of meditators, to think thoughts not connected with the 5 hindrances, and only thoughts connected to the dhamma and meditation practice, then that is superhuman, not an ordinary human thing and takes quite a bit of training.

and let’s not overlook perhaps the most EBT of all EBT in samadhi contexts, the standard formula for first and second jhana. it is only in 2nd jhana that the Buddha first proclaims it as "ekodi-bhavan… samadhi-jam ". the first jhana is simply “vivekajam piti-sukham”, rapture and pleasure based on seclusion, which supports the AN 3.100 goldsmith simile that describes first jhana as weak quality of samadhi.

now there are a couple of places where the pali suttas (i don’t know if it’s EBT) states ekaggata is a factor of first jhana, but if i recall correctly those 2 rare instances are spoken by Sariputta, who happens to be the poster boy for abhidhamma. i don’t think the pali suttas actually have the Buddha claiming that ekaggata is a factor of first jhana. in any case, the vast majority of jhana passages, you would only have vitakka and vicara instead of ekaggata as the factors in first jhana.

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AN 3.100

"When he is rid of them, there remain only thoughts of the Dhamma. His concentration is neither calm nor refined, it has not yet attained serenity or unity, and is kept in place by the fabrication of forceful restraint. But there comes a time when his mind grows steady inwardly, settles down, grows unified & concentrated. His concentration is calm & refined, has attained serenity & unity, and is no longer kept in place by the fabrication of forceful restraint.

This seems to say that when there are only thoughts of Dhamma, then you don’t have any good samadhi (not calm, refined, no serenity or unity)?

SN 47.8:
This sutta seems to be about noticing when satipatthana practice works for you and when it doesn’t - which makes sense because right mindfulness is supposed to take you into right samadhi. Can you explain your thinking here?

MN125:
Here you have morality, sense-restraint, moderation in eating, vigilance, mindfulness and clear comprehension, overcoming the five hindrances and sattipatthana practice coming before jhana. Isn’t this a little excessive for a weak state that most people can achieve?

Edit: Also like in the gradual training (MN 27), why do all the gradual training? Wouldn’t it make sense to start doing jhanas earlier if they’re more accessible?

MN78:

"And what are unskillful resolves? Being resolved on sensuality, on ill will, on harmfulness. These are called unskillful resolves. What is the cause of unskillful resolves? Their cause, too, has been stated, and they are said to be perception-caused. Which perception? — for perception has many modes & permutations. Any sensuality-perception, ill will-perception or harmfulness-perception: That is the cause of unskillful resolves. Now where do unskillful resolves cease without trace? [in the first Jhana].

If any sensuality/ill will/harmfullness-perception is the cause for unskillful resolves - and unskillful resolves don’t exist in a first jhana - this must mean the cause does not exist in the first jhana*.

If you don’t have any sensuality-perception in a first jhana, that would lend credit to the idea that you cannot feel the body, hear sounds etc. in first jhana.

For second jhana, the renunciation/metta/compassion-perceptions must go. Following the same line of reasoning - well there’s not a lot of perception left. I’m not sure how this bodes for the interpretation :slight_smile:

*I’m basing this on the English, this might not be accurate based on a thorough analysis of the Pali.

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hi Erik,
i’ll have to defer the discussion for now. i do plan to collect my notes sometime in 2017 on vitakka and vicara in the context of first jhana, and present a detailed pali+english walk through so you can see the reasoning in full detail.

i (try) to only allocate 1 hour per day to participating on dhamma discussion…

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excerpt from AN 10.72 thorns (b.bodhi)

“Good, good, bhikkhus! Those great disciples spoke rightly when they said that I have called noise a thorn to the jhānas.
There are, bhikkhus, these ten thorns. What ten?
(1) Delight in company is a thorn to one who delights in solitude.
(2) Pursuit of an attractive object is a thorn to one intent on meditation on the mark of the unattractive.
(3) An unsuitable show is a thorn to one guarding the doors of the sense faculties.
(4) Keeping company with women is a thorn to the celibate life. [135]
(5) Noise is a thorn to the first jhāna.
(6) Thought and examination are a thorn to the second jhāna.
(7) Rapture is a thorn to the third jhāna.
(8) In-and-out breathing is a thorn to the fourth jhāna.
(9) Perception and feeling are a thorn to the attainment of the cessation of perception and feeling.
(10) Lust is a thorn, hatred is a thorn, and delusion is a thorn.
Dwell thornless, bhikkhus! Dwell without thorns! The arahants are thornless. The arahants are without thorns. The arahants are thornless and without thorns.”

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a response to Ajahn Brahamali’s post to me:

i’ve read Bhante’s post several times and mulled it over the past few days. i quote the relevant passage of the 10 thorns in the post immediately above this one for reference.

#6, #7, #9, are the 3 items from 10 thorns that stand out to me as the insuperable obstacles according to frequent EBT passages.
(i have no idea why SC is using super big font bold for above sentence)

the other 7 out of 10 would be a majority where ven. Thanissaro’s more permissive definition of thorn fits better.

also consider that the first 4 items are right on the border of the types of thoughts one trying to enter or stabilize first jhana might encounter. they’re on the border of being included under the 5 hindrances, but are just momentary blips of sankharas and perception that haven’t fully formed into thoughts and evaluations.

unless there are other EBT passages on sound in jhana that strongly indicate one way or the other, personally i favor an interpretation that is more conservative, meaning not a narrow interpretation that excludes other possibilities. ven. Thanissaro’s interpretation is more conservative by that definition.

also we should note that once we invoke the “the buddha was pragmatic” line of reasoning, it can be used to support many positions, not just the one we favor.

i’m completely sympathetic to preventing an overly relaxed interpretation of jhana that is so watered down as to make enlightenment impossible. i just don’t think ajahn brahm’s way is the only way or best way to accomplish that.

You entered # symbol followed by a number. Add a space in between or refer to these things in a different way (e.g. “items X,Y and Z above”)

Hi Frank,
I think you make a good point. Here are some others that I think are relevant (apologies if they have already been mentioned):

"A monk endowed with these five qualities is incapable of entering & remaining in right concentration. Which five? He cannot withstand [the impact of] sights, he cannot withstand sounds… aromas… tastes… tactile sensations. A monk endowed with these five qualities is not capable of entering & remaining in right concentration.
“A monk endowed with these five qualities is capable of entering & remaining in right concentration. Which five? He can withstand [the impact of] sights… sounds… aromas… tastes… tactile sensations. A monk endowed with these five qualities is capable of entering & remaining in right concentration.”

— AN 5.113

If the five senses are shut down in the jhanas then there would be no reason to talk about withstanding sights, sounds, etc. to remain in jhana.

"And how is a monk resilient to sounds? There is the case where a monk, on hearing a sound with the ear, feels no passion for a sound that incites passion and can center his mind. This is how a monk is resilient to sounds. - AN 5.139

This sutta – though not specifically mentioning jhana - picks up a very similar theme as the thorns sutta you mentioned and also AN 5.113 above.

"A monk who has not abandoned these six qualities is incapable of entering & remaining in the first jhana. Which six? Sensual desire, ill will, sloth & drowsiness, restlessness & anxiety, uncertainty, and not seeing well with right discernment, as they actually are present, the drawbacks of sensual pleasures…
“A monk who has not abandoned these six qualities is incapable of entering & remaining in the first jhana. Which six? Thoughts of sensuality, thoughts of ill will, thoughts of harmfulness, perceptions of sensuality, perceptions of ill will, perceptions of harmfulness.”
— AN 6.73-74

Sensual desire is not the senses. Further more, thoughts in general are not ruled out. If there could be no thoughts at all then why would the Buddha specify only certain types of thoughts as preventing one from entering and remaining in jhana?

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thanks Charlie, those are good passages.

it would be for the group to collect all such passages related to sound in jhana. even if we get our conclusions wrong, at least we leave a valuable set of clear notes and exact sutta referernces for future generations to audit.

here’s another passage:
from vin parajika 4

:diamonds: pārājikapāḷi
:diamonds: 1. pārājikakaṇḍaṃ
:diamonds: 4. catutthapārājikaṃ
:diamonds: 232. atha kho āyasmā mahāmoggallāno bhikkhū āmantesi — “idhāhaṃ, āvuso, sappinikāya nadiyā tīre āneñjaṃ samādhiṃ samāpanno nāgānaṃ ogayha uttarantānaṃ koñcaṃ karontānaṃ saddaṃ assosin”ti. bhikkhū ujjhāyanti khiyyanti vipācenti — “kathañhi nāma āyasmā mahāmoggallāno āneñjaṃ samādhiṃ samāpanno saddaṃ sossati! uttarimanussadhammaṃ āyasmā mahāmoggallāno ullapatī”ti. bhagavato etamatthaṃ ārocesuṃ. “attheso, bhikkhave, samādhi so ca kho aparisuddho. saccaṃ, bhikkhave, moggallāno āha. anāpatti, bhikkhave, moggallānassā”ti.

Then the Venerable Mahāmoggallāna addressed the monks: “Friends, after attaining an imperturbable samādhi on the banks of the river Sappinikā, I heard the noise of elephants plunging in, emerging and trumpeting.”

The monks criticised and denounced him: “How can Venerable Mahāmoggallāna say such a thing. He is claiming a super-human achievement.” They informed the Master.

“Monks, there is such a samādhi, but it is not wholly purified. Moggallāna spoke truly. There is no offence for Moggallāna.”

from other sutta references, the imperturbable samadhi refers to 4th jhana or formless attainments. so the important point to take away here is even with an imperturbable samadhi being impure, the buddha only said it was impure, not that it doesn’t qualify as being called imperturbable, just as in the SN 40 moggallana (first 8 suttas) is practicing impure versions of the the 4 jhanas and formless attainments.

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Isn’t this (AN 5.113) just referring to the sense restraint (which is a necessary precursor to jhana) though? I mean, there’s no reason to talk about withstanding sights if you have your eyes closed. Or to withstand taste if you’re not eating.

From DN 9:

“Quite withdrawn from sensual pleasures, withdrawn from unskillful mental qualities, the monk enters & remains in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. His earlier perception of sensuality ceases, and on that occasion there is a perception of a refined truth of rapture & pleasure born of seclusion. On that occasion he is one who is percipient of a refined truth of rapture & pleasure born of seclusion. And thus it is that with training one perception arises and with training another perception ceases.

Like in AN 6.73-74, it’s the perception of sensuality that ceases and a new perception that arises.

A bit further down in DN 9:

“Now, when the monk is percipient of himself here, then from there to there, step by step, he touches the peak of perception. As he remains at the peak of perception, the thought occurs to him, ‘Thinking is bad for me. Not thinking is better for me. If I were to think and will, this perception of mine would cease, and a grosser perception would appear. What if I were neither to think nor to will?’ So he neither thinks nor wills, and as he is neither thinking nor willing, that perception ceases and another, grosser perception does not appear. He touches cessation. This, Potthapada, is how there is the alert step-by step attainment of the ultimate cessation of perception.

In each jhana (as described in DN 9) a grosser perception is replaced by a finer one. The method to achieve this is described in the quote above: not thinking and not willing.

If one were to think and will a “grosser perception would appear.”

So if you were to think in a first jhana, the perception of a “refined truth of rapture & pleasure born of seclusion” would disappear, and the perception of sensuality would appear again. That’s how I interpret it anyway :slight_smile:

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That’s a good one, Erik, but it would be considerably clearer if we just chuck Ven Thanissaro’s translation of kāmā in this pericope and go straight to the CPD.

Instead of translating the word as the singular “sensuality”, we should just accept that kāmā is plural as follows -

kāma, m. [ts., cf. BHSD, SWTF, Encyclop. of Bud-
dhism VI, 1 1996 s.v.; Hôb. s.v. ai], 1. (mostly in sg.)
wish, desire, pleasure; 2. (in pl.) the objects of sensual
> pleasure viz. rūpa, sadda, gandha, rasa, phoṭṭhabba,
cf. kāmaguṇa,

See especially how MN 75 distinguishes the “cords of sensual pleasure” (kāmaguṇā) from plain old kāmā.

It’s only in Ven Thanissaro’s translation of the First Jhana pericope that the meaning of being secluded from the objects of the 5 senses is completely obscured by his rendering kāmā as singular, when it is plainly plural.

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Hi Frank

I consider AN 9.37 to be conclusive on this matter, if one is not persuaded by the lexical analysis of kāmā as used in the First Jhana pericope. But whose translation of AN 9.37 should one refer to?

First, the uncontentious bits. There are 2 narratives in that sutta, one setting out Ven Ananda’s hiatus at Ghosita’s monastery and his conversation with Ven Udayin and company. Nestled within that narrative, Ven Ananda recounts a narrative setting out his earlier encounter with Jatila Bhagika in the Black Forest.

Secondly, the uncontentious doctrinal subject discussed in both narratives. Both narratives discuss the loci and contents of this situation -

where the eye will be, and forms, and yet one will not be sensitive to that dimension; where the ear will be, and sounds… where the nose will be, and aromas… where the tongue will be, and flavors… where the body will be, and tactile sensations, and yet one will not be sensitive to that dimension

per Ven T : https://suttacentral.net/en/an9.37

In the Ghosita monastery narrative, the loci where one is percipient and yet not sensitive to the objects of the 5 senses are clearly the formless attainments.

In the Black Forest monastery narrative, the locus where one is percipient and yet not sensitive to the objects of the 5 senses are described as follows -

samādhi na cābhinato na cāpanato na ca sasaṅ­khā­ra­nig­gay­ha­vārita­gato, vimuttattā ṭhito, ṭhitattā santusito, santusitattā no paritassati.

One could nit-pick on the differences between Ven T’s and Bhikkhu Bodhi’s translations of the above, but I do not propose to be detained by these for now. Using BB’s translation, we have -

the concentra­tion that does not lean forward and does not bend back, and
that is not reined in and checked by forcefully suppressing [the
defilements]—by being liberated, it is steady; by being steady,
it is content; by being content, one is not agitated.

What is also uncontentious is Ven Ananda’s assertion that in this samādhi, one does not experience the objects of the 5 senses.

We now come to the really contentious part about Ven T’s translation of this part that follows the above -

yāyaṃ, bhante ānanda, samādhi na cābhinato na cāpanato na ca sasaṅ­khā­ra­nig­gay­ha­vārita­gato, vimuttattā ṭhito, ṭhitattā santusito, santusitattā no paritassati. Ayaṃ, bhante ānanda, samādhi kiṃphalo vutto bhagavatā’ti?

The concentration whereby—neither pressed down nor forced back, nor with fabrication kept blocked or suppressed—still as a result of release, contented as a result of standing still, and as a result of contentment one is not agitated: This concentration is said by the Blessed One to be the fruit of what?’

I’ll leave it to you chaps to read BB’s analysis of the bolded compound (fn 1930 & 1931). Ven T has rendered it as a genitive tappurisa, while BB offers his reasons as to why it should be a bāhubbīhi compound. One can also refer to Cone’s entry for ka, and see how it is used in compounds and whether or not kiṃphalo is more probably a tappurisa or bāhubbīhi. In any event, BB reads it as a bāhubbīhi, giving -

Bhante Ananda, the concentration that does not lean forward
and does not bend back and that is not reined in and checked
by forcefully suppressing [the defilements]—by being liber­ated, it is steady;
by being steady, it is content; by being content,
one is not agitated.1929 Bhante Ananda, what did the Blessed One
say this concentration has as its fruit?'1930
(9) “When she asked me this, I replied: 'Sister, the concentra­tion that does not
lean forward and does not bend back, and
that is not reined in and checked by forcefully suppressing [the
defilements]—by being liberated, it is steady; by being steady,
it is content; by being content, one is not agitated. The Blessed
One said this concentration has final knowledge as its fruit.'1931
When one is thus percipient too, friend, one does not experi­ence that base.”

Now, leaving aside the linguistic analysis for why the bāhubbīhi is preferable, there is also the doctrinal reading to suggest why the tappurisa reading is nonsensical. Taking Ven T’s translation -

‘The concentration whereby—neither pressed down nor forced back, nor with fabrication kept blocked or suppressed—still as a result of release, contented as a result of standing still, and as a result of contentment one is not agitated: This concentration is said by the Blessed One to be the fruit of what?’

“I said to her, ‘Sister, the concentration whereby—neither pressed down nor forced back, nor with fabrication kept blocked or suppressed—still as a result of release, contented as a result of standing still, and as a result of contentment one is not agitated: This concentration is said by the Blessed One to be the fruit of gnosis.’ This is another way of being percipient when not sensitive to that dimension.”

On Ven T’s translation, it would appear that each time an arahant (implied by the aññāphala) accesses this samādhi, he/she will then have to go through the entire sequence leading up to non-agitation. That is plainly ridiculous, as the arahant is beyond the clinging that gives rise to agitation in the first place.

The 2nd doctrinal analysis looks at the predicate of this samādhi being na sasaṅ­khā­ra­nig­gay­ha­vārita­gata. Where else do we find such a state? In AN 3.101, we find that -

"But, bhikkhus, there comes a time when his mind becomes internally steady, composed, unified, and concentrated… That concentration is peaceful and sublime, gained by full tranquilization, and attained to unification; it is not reined in and checked by forcefully suppressing [the defilements] (na sasaṅ­khā­ra­nig­gay­ha­vārita­gata ).561.Then, there being a suitable basis, he is capable of realizing any state realizable by direct knowledge toward which he might incline his mind.

Doesn’t this passage militate against reading that word in AN 9.37 as a tappurisa? This is placed right smack in the nexus between what appears to be the supernormal powers and mental development, which is the place occupied by the jhanas.

Thirdly, we have DN 34 saying point blank that sammāsamādhi is, inter alia, na sasaṅ­khā­ra­nig­gay­ha­vārita­gata -

Katame pañca dhammā uppādetabbā? Pañca ñāṇiko sammāsamādhi: ‘ayaṃ samādhi ­pac­cup­pan­na­su­kho ceva āyatiñca sukhavipāko’ti paccattaṃyeva ñāṇaṃ uppajjati. ‘Ayaṃ samādhi ariyo nirāmiso’ti paccattaññeva ñāṇaṃ uppajjati. ‘Ayaṃ samādhi akāpuri­sa­sevito’ti paccattaṃyeva ñāṇaṃ uppajjati. ‘Ayaṃ samādhi santo paṇīto paṭippas­sad­dha­laddho eko­dibhā­vā­dhi­gato, na sasaṅ­khā­ra­nig­gay­ha­vārita­gato’ti paccattaṃyeva ñāṇaṃ uppajjati. ‘So kho panāhaṃ imaṃ samādhiṃ satova samāpajjāmi sato vuṭṭhahāmī’ti paccattaṃyeva ñāṇaṃ uppajjati. Ime pañca dhammā uppādetabbā.

Given the weight of this evidence, AN 9.37 is about as equivocal as one can get for an EBT assertion that one is not percipient of the objects of the 5 senses in the jhanas.

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Hi Erik,

It specifically speaks of entering and remaining so it doesn’t seem so. Did Buddha instruct monks to close their eyes? I don’t know. As far as taste goes – maybe they didn’t brush their teeth? :slight_smile:

With regard to DN 9, I think you have to keep in mind the statement that Buddha makes that precedes this discussion:

“In this regard, Potthapada, those brahmans & contemplatives who say that a person’s perception arises & ceases without cause, without reason, are wrong from the very start. Why is that? Because a person’s perception arises & ceases with a cause, with a reason. With training, one perception arises and with training another perception ceases. And what is that training?”

His talk is all about how perception is not random. He sets out to show how each stage of the path – starting with virtue – unfolds as a result of effort made at the preceding stage. At each stage, the perception that ceases is that of the previous stage (for example 1st jhana) and the perception that arises (for example 2nd jhana). It is no different than if I am looking at the table and I turn my head to look out the window, the perception of the table ceases and the perception of the window arises. So the perception of sensuality here refers to the hindrances ceasing and the arising of seclusion from sensuality – but I think this refers to passion for the senses not the senses themselves.

I think you will find that he only makes that statement in the 7th jhana (and he is thinking!). Basically, thought has been present all the way up through the 7th jhana and it is only at this point that he reflects on the possibility of ceasing thought and will.

AN 9.35 is similar.

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Good question! Worth starting a topic?!

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The translation in English is readable, but it does not quite convey the fact that in the Pali, the construct -

Pañcahi, bhikkhave, dhammehi samannāgato bhikkhu abhabbo sammāsamādhiṃ upasampajja viharituṃ

is what is known as a periphrastic construction, where the “remaining” is merely an auxillary verb to the governing verb upasampajja/having entered. It does not function as an independent verb as such, as this periphrasis is intended to bring out a durative aspect. The same periphrasis is seen in the Jhana pericopes, eg -

Idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhu vivicceva kāmehi vivicca akusalehi dhammehi savitakkaṃ savicāraṃ vivekajaṃ pītisukhaṃ paṭhamaṃ jhānaṃ upasampajja viharati

That’s the problem in reading too much into the English translation for something that is not in the Pali. I agree with @Erik_ODonnell that that sutta is concerned with sense restraint. There are 3 other suttas in AN 5 that deal with this business of “intolerance” and the most explicit one in its definition of the 5 intolerances is AN 5.139. That suttas also gives the causal link for each intolerance to the inability to attaining concentration. It explicitly identifies intolerance with passion for the 5 sense objects. This is standard fodder for sense restraint, no?

Again, this is going to be a lexical problem that exists only in Ven Thanissaro’s translations. What he renders as “sensuality” is kāmā, a plural verb, not singular. He’s employing Abhidhamma terminology; see my earlier post about the CPD entry for this word. If you look further down the CPD entry for the meanings in the different piṭakas, it is only in the Abhidhamma that kāmā lost its EBT meaning and acquired the meaning that Ven T now gives in his translations. There is only one sutta in the Pali Canon which uses kāmā to mean “sensual desires”, but the prose version is contradicted by the verse which makes a clear distinction between kāma (= saṅkapparāga/lustful intention), kāmā (= the diverse 5 sense objects) and kāmaguṇā (= 5 cords of sensual pleasure) - AN 6.63

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i’m no pali expert, so please explain further.

standard first jhana formula uses “vivicceva kāmehi”, instrumental case plural or ablative plural, not “kāmā” the plural nominative.

for instrumental, why wouldn’t Ven. Thanissaro’s interpretation of sensual desire with regard to those 5 cords make more sense?

is there consensus among pali experts on this point, and ven. Thanissaro is expressing an outlier view with no grammatical support?

as i recall, even visuddhimagga interpreted the pali from first jhana’s viviceva kamei vivicca akusalehi as supression of 5 hindrances.

Hi Sylvester,

Well, I think I understand your position and it may be best to just agree to disagree on some of these points.

I am of a similar view as Frank when he wrote:

“i’m completely sympathetic to preventing an overly relaxed interpretation of jhana that is so watered down as to make enlightenment impossible. i just don’t think ajahn brahm’s way is the only way or best way to accomplish that.”

I think there are some other issues going on behind much of this debate that tends to complicate things but that is best presented in a separate thread.

On a different topic you wrote:

“On Ven T’s translation, it would appear that each time an arahant (implied by the aññāphala) accesses this samādhi, he/she will then have to go through the entire sequence leading up to non-agitation. That is plainly ridiculous, as the arahant is beyond the clinging that gives rise to agitation in the first place.”

There are at least a couple suttas that say that the arahant should continue to practice jhana ‘for a calm abiding in the here and now’ - implying that without doing so things might not be so calm. One of these (SN 22.122) states that the arahant still experiences the clinging aggregates. I was surprised to find this – there is a close parallel in the agamas as well.

“Then which things should an arahant attend to in an appropriate way?”
“An arahant should attend in an appropriate way to these five clinging-aggregates as inconstant, stressful, a disease, a cancer, an arrow, painful, an affliction, alien, a dissolution, an emptiness, not-self. Although, for an arahant, there is nothing further to do, and nothing to add to what has been done, still these things — when developed & pursued — lead both to a pleasant abiding in the here-&-now and to mindfulness & alertness.”

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