Vitakka vicāra (Jhana-factors)

akusalehi dhammehi is a large umbrella and probably intended to cover any hindrance to samadhi besides the 5 common ones. but all that is beside the point. the point is, even if we go with your translation of first jhana formula, and say that kāmā refers to 5 senses, seclusion from that doesn’t have to involve shutting off the 5 senses completely. even an ordinary person working at the office with good ordinary concentration can for example hear noises in background, people talking, but he’s absorbed in his own work such that when questioned about it, he could tell you he heard talking but he doesn’t know what they were saying, just that he was aware there was noise in the background.

here’s a real meditative example. i’m in a burmese retreat center as a volunteer. there are lay people talking all day, and it’s so loud an ordinary person can’t concentrate in their sitting meditation let alone any kind of ordinary work concentration. but i’m committed to a long stay, and if i don’t figure out how to get good samatha practice in this noisy environment, i’m going to feel like i wasted a lot of time. so out of desperation, i can still get pretty decent samadhi in quiet sitting practice amidst the jungle of noisy laypeople, with bright white visual nimitta, sustained for 30min or one hour. but my sound faculty hasn’t shut off. i’m still aware there’s people talking really loud in the background, but 80% or 90% of my attention, what is most prominent in my field of awareness, is the white light…

both examples of the person at work and me in sitting meditation, i would say satisfies “secluded from …” in first jhana.

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even taking that as the interpretation, doesn’t that still make it seem pretty suspicious? in AN 5.27 it’s also linked with the term “appamana samadhi”, also other attributes which are not explicitly attributed to standard first jhana.

looking at the EBT as a whole, the Buddha, if he wanted to say that the 5 senses are completely shut off and the body disappears in first jhana, he simply could have defined first jhana more similarly to the construction of standard definition ākāsa-nancayatanam (space-infinity-dimension attainment).

That we would have to rely on a few suttas like AN 5.27 and DN 34 to make that point just doesn’t seem plausible. if that’s the case, i would say the buddha did quite a poor job of communicating what first jhana is.

Sylvester, what do you think of vimuttimagga’s interpretation of sensory shutoff in the formless attainments compared to first jhana, versus that of visuddhimagga? they interpret it quite differently if i read it correctly, but these texts are hard to read so i could be wrong.

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I find that improbable, on lexical grounds, since the CPD does a good job of decoding the meaning of kāmā in the suttas.

The translation offered by Ven T for kāmā reaches breaking point in MN 13 -

Kiñca, bhikkhave, kāmānaṃ nissaraṇaṃ? Yo kho, bhikkhave, kāmesu ­chanda­rāga­vinayo ­chanda­rāgap­pahānaṃ—idaṃ kāmānaṃ nissaraṇaṃ.

"And what, monks, is the escape from sensuality? The subduing of desire-passion for sensuality, the abandoning of desire-passion for sensuality: That is the escape from sensuality.

In EBT universe, chanda­rāga is directed towards the external sense bases. It is only in Ven T’s translation that we find this bizarre chanda­rāga for sensual desires. You really need to ask - why is he translating a plural noun (sensual objects) into the singular (sensuality)?


Could you explain why? Although if I had to hazard a guess, this might stem from your understanding of rūpa as meaning physical form?

If so, see MN 28’s exposition of the rūpa aggregate arising at mind-contact. Rūpa as "materiality " is a Sarvastivadin notion that eventually crept into the Pali Abhidhamma. I’ve written about this often on DW.


here’s b.bodhi’s translation of standard formula for “infinity of space”

Here, with the complete surmounting of perceptions of forms, with the passing away of perceptions of sensory impingement, with non-attention to perceptions of diversity, [perceiving] ‘space is infinite,’ a bhikkhu enters and dwells in the base of the infinity of space.

if the buddha wanted to make it clear that the body and sounds disappear in first jhana, he could phrased it more similarly to the above and preempt any jhana controversies.

i am interested to read what you wrote about rupa. can you provide me a link to a specific post?

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He did, in DN 9, when He spoke of the perception of kāmā ceasing in the First Jhana.

Sorry if I’m slothful and not hunt down those posts on DW. You can do some investigation here by looking at some Pali suttas on name-&-form and compare their definition to the Sarvastivadin definition as name = the 4 immaterial aggregates of consciousness, feeling, perception and volition. Offhand, I can recall SA 298 -


That’s why I would not rely on the Vimuttimagga, it being informed by Abhidhamma instead of suttanta.


from CPD

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

you have to ask Ven. Thanissaro, but my guess is that by using “sensuality” rather than 5 objects of sense pleasure, it keeps it more doctrinally bullet proof. consider the suttas where buddha is conversing with brahmans and ascetics of outside traditions. when they explain what it means to be liberated in their tradition, the buddha responds with answers such as, “in that case a new born baby… a blind and deaf person… would be liberated.”

translating with “sensuality” instead of “objects of 5 sense organs” keeps a clear distinction between buddhism and outsider beliefs.

how do you translate the first two lines of first jhana formula? “vivveva kamehi…”. Ven. Sujato, Thanissaro, B.Bodhi all use “sensual pleasures.”

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Hi frankk,

I don’t think this:

is the point here. My understanding of the deep version of jhana is that the seclusion from sense stimuli is not the result of “shutting the eyes and ears and ignoring stimuli”, etc, but that the unification/convergence/etc of mind in the jhana state is such that there is simply no room for the sense stimuli to register anymore.


[quote=“mikenz66, post:88, topic:2589”]
seclusion from sense stimuli is not the result of “shutting the eyes and ears and ignoring stimuli”, etc, but that the unification/convergence/etc of mind in the jhana state is such that there is simply no room for the sense stimuli to register anymore.[/quote]

My understanding is the term ‘seclusion’ refers to seclusion from unwholesome qualities, namely, the five hindrances.


While I tend to agree, there is certainly a lot of talk of “shallow versions of jhana” (apparently mislabelled as “sutta jhana”). See the thread I linked to and this one:

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Hey all,

Thought I’d somewhat tangentially post a slightly more readable version of the CPD entry in question that I’d been tweaking for myself the last few days while following the discussion closely.

CPD_kā (14.7 KB)

(In fact, I wonder whether we can just go ahead and integrate the entire dictionary somehow into SC…)


Also, if I may add, the Ajahn appears to be following a definition of sensuality that aligns with the one on where it’s listed as a mass noun without plural form.


I gave you a reference to a thread where this was discussed extensively. This website gives links to the writings of a number of different teachers. I’m not defending any of these teachers, I’m simply providing the information.

But whose doctrine? EBT? Abhidhamma? Or Ajahn Lee and Ajahn Fuang’s dispensation?

Now, presumably, you are thinking of doctrinal consistency with MN 64 (or MN 152?), when you reasoned -

If so, how is that sutta’s discussion of the infant’s anusayas relevant to the issue of the meaning of the seclusion from the kāmā ?

On the issue of doctrinal consistency, I still have not seen your rejoinder on the doctrinal inconsistency posed by Ven T’s translation of _kāmesu ­chanda­rāga_­ in MN 13 as meaning “desire-passion for sensuality”. I would be very keen to hear from you on this.

Might you be able to point me to the EBT evidence for what “outsider beliefs” you mean here?

vivicceva = vivicca+eva, where vivicca = having separated (absolutive of viviccati), and eva is emphatic
kāmehi = ablative of kāmā

In full - “Having been quite separated from sensual things”.

Of course, since I’m not as compassionate as Bhante Sujato, and I translate only for myself, you can rightly cringe at my Buddhist Hybrid English.

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Clearly some people, on this forum, and elsewhere, have a view that the description of jhana in the suttas is not so absorbed as to prevent hearing, and so on. Others, such as Sylvester, Bhante Sujato, etc, disagree. Since I’m not an expert, I appreciate hearing the detailed reasoning behind these different views.

Obviously you know all this, and so I’m not sure what you are trying to achieve by addressing questions about these various views at me, or making disparaging comments about some of those people.

I’d like to remind everyone that this forum is not for honing your skills in debate, whether of the civilised or uncivilised variety. It is not for point scoring of any form.

You are not getting any value, currency or any gain or indeed any points for your debate team. There is no recognition given based on a judgement about whether or not you’ve “refuted” someone.

If anything you lose value in the form of respect and an audience to read what you’ve written, if your tone or content is even remotely offensive. This is a factual statement based on comments provided by other users.

Going over this thread, I can understand why @mikenz66 has made this comment.

I’m not so much interested in who started this, or on what forum. But I would ask you both, @mikenz66 and @Deeele to use each other’s presence on this forum as an explicit reminder from the Buddha about his teaching on the Similie of the Saw.

@Deeele many of us value “straight talking” and a sort of style of speech that is “true to oneself”. This is perhaps how I could characterise your speech. But please remember the Buddha also talked about how speech has to be, among other things, beneficial and pleasing to the ear. Your comments are valued, but so is everyone else’s, sometimes we need to know when to let someone else’s comments just be.

We can hear all the persuasive arguements in the world, but at the end of the day, we view and perceive according to our conditioning. So let’s just focus on respect for the person by offering up a counter argument that may or may not be strong enough to provide some ‘counter conditioning’ and then just leaving it at that.


[quote=“Kay, post:98, topic:2589”]
You are not getting any value, currency or any gain or indeed any points for your debate team. There is no recognition given based on a judgement about whether or not you’ve “refuted” someone.[/quote]
Just to back this up with some science, in research on performance and innovation in groups, studies have shown that genuine dissent in groups cause the groups to preform better.

Even if you aren’t swayed by someone’s arguments, being confronted with an opposing view is actually a win for you, because it causes you to critically examine your own beliefs, giving you a better understanding of them.

BUT, there has to be a culture of respect for people sharing opposing views. A skillful means here might be - instead of seeing an opposing opinion as something to be refuted - see it as win for your own understanding. Science shows that even if that opposing view turns out to be “wrong”, you still gain understanding by allowing your mind to take that opposing view seriously.

Tl; dr: Science show that respecting those who disagree with you makes you smarter :slight_smile:

P.S. Only genuine dissent will make you smarter. So when you come accross someone who genuinely thinks differently than you, that is a huge win for both if you can debate each other with mutual respect.


Hi @Erik_ODonnell

Thanks so much for this. If it’s possible could you post some links or references for this research. It sounds very interesting and worthy of further investigation!

With metta

In my post I’m paraphrasing Adam Grant in his article called “How to build a culture of originality” in the Harvard business review.

I’m actually in the midst of writing a paper on organizational culture and its effect on the organization’s ability to innovate (graduate studies).

The main points relevant to suttacentral is basically that culture has real strong effects on the sort of knowledge/results a community can produce. So we all have a stake in the culture we create here through our actions and interactions :slight_smile:

It’s actually quite amazing how dissent and disagreement is a good thing if the foundation is mutual respect. It’s like you always win if you have a skillful intention at heart.

Edit: Relating this to the Dhamma: (AN 5.21)

“(1) Bhikkhus, when a bhikkhu is irreverent and undeferential, and his behavior is uncongenial to his fellow monks, it is impossible for him to fulfill the factor of proper conduct. (2) Without fulfilling the factor of proper conduct, it is impossible for him to fulfill the factor of a trainee. (3) Without fulfilling the factor of a trainee, it is impossible for him to fulfill virtuous behavior. (4) Without fulfilling virtuous behavior, it is impossible for him to fulfill right view. (5) Without fulfilling right view, it is impossible for him to fulfill right concentration.

“(1) But, bhikkhus, when a bhikkhu is reverential and deferential, and his behavior is congenial to his fellow monks, it is possible for him to fulfill the duty of proper conduct. (2) Having fulfilled the duty of proper conduct, it is possible for him to fulfill the duty of a trainee. (3) Having fulfilled the duty of a trainee, it is possible for him to fulfill virtuous behavior. (4) Having fulfilled virtuous behavior, it is possible for him to fulfill right view. (5) Having fulfilled right view, it is possible for him to fulfill right concentration.”

Basically, the way I see it, how we treat each other can make or break whether we can attain to stream-winning or not. So it’s really important from a Dhamma angle too! :slight_smile:


i’ll take a look at MN 13, but first could you spell out for me what i should be looking for? remember i’m not a pali expert. i’m not an expert on EBT either. i’ve only read Ajahns’ Brahmali and Sujato’s paper on the subject once.

thanks for sharing that, i’m only interested to know how you understand jhana with regard to vitakka, vicara, body and sound disappearance, not on how pretty the english translation is. my translations are totally guerrilla, and definitely mistake ridden from not being a pali expert.

outsider brahmans and ascetics who conversed with the buddha and their ideas of hindrances and liberation fell short of the buddha’s.

how do you understand kāma-āsavas? the objects of 5 sensory organs wouldn’t make sense here.