Was there a conflict between scholars and meditators?

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Well, these terms are used in a somewhat flexible way, and a rather lengthy treatise would be required to sort it all out. But generally speaking the kāyasakkhī is defined by their experience of the various attainments. According to AN 3.21 they may be a once-returner, a non-returner, or on the path to arahantship. AN 9.43 seems to say they may even be an arahant. In any case, it is not the level of attainment, but the emphasis on samatha that defines them.

But you’re right, when speaking of arahants, the paññāvimutta is typically juxtaposed with the ubhatobhāgavimutta. I’m not sure that there’s a problem here: one emphasizes samatha, one vipassana.

I can’t recall, but you may be right. I think there is some discussion of this in the Kathavatthu.

You’ll have to be a bit more specific!


I would love to quote this source. Do you know where I can find it? Thank you!

Are there any English sources on that? I’d like to reference that too. Thanks!

I also noticed that some of the monks I have met in Ajahn Chah’s tradition are anti-jhāna. And having looked through Chah’s teachings, it seems to me that he actually was teaching advanced practitioners jhāna, BUT, I noticed one place where he said something like ‘let’s not say jhāna, don’t need to use special terms…’ - not exactly that but something roughly along those lines, which made me assume that he was trying to avoid a controversial topic because people have a bad view of jhāna but he was still teaching it. And that made me think that maybe it is because he had that kind of attitude, like basically teaching it no the quiet, that monks in his organisation now often seem to think he didn’t even teach it, and that it should be avoided, even though he actually did teach it and seems to have found it to be very important!

I would also like to point out that it seems that the entire Mahāyāna tradition abandoned jhāna long long ago, and I find that very interesting. Perhaps the movement away from jhāna was Buddhism-wide to some extent. I wonder if this may have happened to some extent while Buddhism was still in India. Even if it was continued by a few, such as the samatha lineages in Burma, which so I have heard are old traditions, unlike the vipassana tradition which is about 120 years old, right?


I remember reading that the Weza (basically wizards) of Burma used/adapted “samatha practices” for their works.


Is that really true? I have a book somewhere on the stages of meditational awareness in Tibetan Buddhism, and it doesn’t seem all that different from the eight jhanas and formless attainments scheme of early Buddhism.


You know, I don’t recall just now where I got this from, so I’ll stay with Theravada on this one.

I was thinking about Samaneri (now Ven.?) Dhammadinna and her research on the Brahmaviharas. As I remember, her primary motivation in those papers was to re-evaluate traditional views and to argue for giving more of a place to Brahmaviharas (and, by extension, other cetovimutti practices) on the path to nibbana; that is to say that the Brahmaviharas–when coupled with the bojjhanga–can carry one all the way. It’s been a while but that’s how I remember it.

But, Bhante, this is precisely my point: AN 9.43 pretty much directly states that the kayasakkhi is an arahat, that the fruit of arahatship is attainable through a samatha practice, namely, cessation attainment. Doesn’t this fly in the face of orthodoxy? Sort of.
Perhaps I should just cut to the chase and explain my view: that samatha/cetovimutti practices are, in and of themselves, soteriologically valuable, even without what Paul Griffiths called “the last minute injection of wisdom/vipassana” into many of the pericopes dealing with liberation. These little anomalies regarding kayasakkhi and nirodha we find all throughout the suttas despite the (looking very much superimposed) orthodox stance that wisdom (by which panna cultivated through vipassana practices seems to be implied) is the only way to nibbana is, well, anomalous! And it obsesses me like an ingrown nosehair.

Really? My understanding is that pannavimutta emphasizes vipassana, while ubhatobhagavimutta represents a balanced approach. If we were looking to emphasize vipassana on the one hand while emphasizing samatha on the other, I would think pannavimutta and kayasakkhi would be more appropriate. But I’ve never seen this juxtaposition anywhere–except in your post yesterday.
(Actually, I feel cetovimutta and pannavimutta would make the most sense as a juxtaposition, especially seeing how cetovimutti-pannavimutti actually exists as part of the most common pericope describing liberation, but, as we know, insight and tranquility are not equally esteemed in today’s world.)
I know this is really a long and involved issue which may even require starting a new thread, Bhante; but I wonder if you could help me make sense of these discrepancies?



That’s my impression as well:
Dhyāna in Buddhism - Wikipedia

There is an interesting quote there from Alan Wallace…


There are Tibetan texts where they talk of the jhānas. But I have only seen one text where any Tibetan has recommended anyone to do jhāna practice. And even in that case I saw no evidence that the advice was followed. Furthermore, I have asked a number of khenpos and lamas and no-one has any report of anyone doing jhāna.

Some seem shy - one khenpo I asked, very specifically if there were native Tibetan Buddhists he knew who practiced jhāna - he told me yes, of course, many do. I asked him has he direct knowledge of this. He was cagey. I asked him even he does not need to tell me any names - just tell me, has he ever met anyone who has told him they do jhāna practice, or taught that people should do it?

Well, he did not answer in the affirmative.
Perhaps there was shame there. Or perhaps he felt like he would be getting into a trap if he said no.

Then another lama, high lama, I asked him. He said yes, the Tibetan masters do do jhāna, of course. Then I heard him say some things that were not true, on other topics. And even heard him encouraging people to release non-native species…

He is a good lama I think, but very much emotion based. I find discrepency between his statements and the truth.

His brother is also a high lama, and very straightforward, and very scholarly, as well as acomplished. he told me straightforwardly, no, no Tibetans do any jhāna practice. He explained me about it, and also encouraged me about it, saying they are good to practice, the bodhisattvas and arahants practiced them.

Basically the view was that the samādhi that Tibetans have surpasses the jhānas. (But that is not to say that they are the same as the jhānas). And he thinks that jhāna is beneficial but not necessary for enlightenment. And he also said that he thinks there are so few great masters like Dilgo Phyentse Rinpoche and Dudjom Rinpoche and Khamtrul Rinpoche now, because of the lack of samathā.

And extract from my notes:

​Regarding the question: “​
is it that innovations after the Buddha, such as Dzogchen, found an alternative path to enlightenment which do not require dhyana?”

Rinpoche’s view: ​don’t think of Dzogchen etc as something new or different. The dhyanas are included in and surpassed by (the states?) in (vajrayana?).
So I asked, but the dhyanas seem to have certain characteristics such as no hearing. He answered that you should not define a medicine by its side effects - otherwise all dead people would be (in state of) dhyana. So he was saying/explaining that the (positive aspect) of dhyana is included (in Dzogchen or etc.) but not the (negative) i.e. the side effect such as no hearing.

And I spoke to Matthieu Ricard about it. From my notes:

why would want to do dhyana? Form realm! Not out of samsara. Mentioned I think form gods maybe. I asked about any samadhi in which no hearing. Seems he felt it was opposite to what want, and mentioned about (shravakayana?) wanting to STOP phenomena. And vajrayana not wanting that. Always Shamata and vipassana together. And he mentioned something, perhaps about primordial purity or something?
Also gave a story about Gampopa, someone asked him what is the difference between impure relative (truth? Or existence?) and pure relative… . He then went to a pillar and hit it with his hand, and said that is impure…, and then hit it and his hand went through and said that is pure …

So I think that shows the Tibetan view pretty clearly. Really I have only encountered these three - a kind of fake PR wall where they insist they do do it, with no evidence and no individuals they can mention with any honest story (so far as I have experienced at least); or honestly saying they don’t do it, none of them, and it’s ok to do; or that it is stupid to do and no-one should even want to do it! (I have read that in texts also, in a Gelugpa texts saying they were bad to do, famous 19th centyru Geshe).

There’s an American guy, Allan Wallace, he is a Tibetan Buddhist, traditionally qualified, and did samathā training the traditional Gelug way I believe, and then later Dzogchen with a Nyingmapa I believe. He teaches both, and eally emphasises samatha - for a few years he was offering … was is 3 month or 6 moth retreats, in a place in Thailand. Anyway he says the Tibetan view is to only take concentration up to what Theravādins call access concentration. For example the typical samathā painting, with the path, the mouse on the elephant - those… 9 I think stages, the peak of that is access concentration - before jhāna.

Oh and Alan Wallace portrays himself as non-sectarian, and says Sufis and Daoists and so on can experience rigpa too. But definitely not arahants! They can’t. So, this is the kind of view that we find.

So in a way they are very similar to the widespread vipassanā movement, rejecting jhāna and only aiming for access concentration, the rest of the attention then being diverted to vipassanā. And that is why I wonder if this originated back in India…

Also Zen, ironically enough, seemed to have given up deep concentration practice many centuries ago - a Patriarch redefined the term chan, to mean something like the state you can have while you are doing activities. Perhaps equivelent to the Tibetan idea of being in the nature of mind, rigpa etc? I do not know if the concentration they were up until that poiont called chan was actually jhāna, or just access concentration, but it owuld be interesing to know. But still, even if it was jhāna, that could mean that there were some coming from India, or more interestingly in India, who were doing jhāna, but perhaps they were in the minority? Perhaps most had been taken over by the infleunce of the non-meditating scholars to downgrade the status of jhāna and jhāna monks, and somehow make doctrines that made that look ok? (Because they wanted to both retain their laziness in not wanting to train their minds, as well as their status as scholar monks).


I think the one that Achaan Naeb had in mind is probably that in Buddhaghosa’s commentary to the Cūḷavagga’s account of the Mahāpajāpati episode: Vin-a. vi. 1291.

“Vassasahassan” ti cetaṃ paṭisambhidāpabhedappattakhīṇāsavavaseneva vuttaṃ. Tato pana uttarimpi sukkhavipassakakhīṇāsavavasena vassasahassaṃ, anāgāmivasena vassasahassaṃ, sakadāgāmivasena vassasahassaṃ, sotāpannavasena vassasahassanti evaṃ pañcavassasahassāni paṭivedhasaddhammo ṭhassati.

Other commentaries, however, give other predictions.

Dīgha Atthakathā:
Paṭisambhidāpattehi vassasahassaṃ aṭṭhāsi. Chaḷabhiññehi vassasahassaṃ. Tevijjehi vassasahassaṃ. Sukkhavipassakehi vassasahassaṃ. Pātimokkhehi vassasahassaṃ aṭṭhāsi. Pacchimakassa pana saccappaṭivedhato pacchimakassa sīlabhedato paṭṭhāya sāsanaṃ osakkitaṃ nāma hoti. Tato paṭṭhāya aññassa buddhassa uppatti na nivāritā.
(DA. iii. 899)

Saṃyutta Atthakathā:
“Atha saddhammassa antaradhānaṃ hotī” ti adhigamasaddhammassa paṭipattisaddhammassa pariyattisaddhammassāti tividhassāpi saddhammassa antaradhānaṃ hoti. Paṭhamabodhiyañhi bhikkhū paṭisambhidappattā ahesuṃ. Atha kāle gacchante paṭisambhidā pāpuṇituṃ na sakkhiṃsu, chaḷabhiññā ahesuṃ. Tato cha abhiññā pāpuṇituṃ asakkontā tisso vijjā pāpuṇiṃsu. Idāni kāle gacchante tisso vijjā pāpuṇituṃ asakkontā āsavakkhayamattaṃ pāpuṇissanti. Tampi asakkontā anāgāmiphalaṃ, tampi asakkontā sakadāgāmiphalaṃ, tampi asakkontā sotāpattiphalaṃ. Gacchante kāle sotāpattiphalampi pattuṃ na sakkhissanti. Atha nesaṃ yadā vipassanā imehi upakkilesehi upakkiliṭṭhā āraddhamattāva ṭhassati, tadā adhigamasaddhammo antarahito nāma bhavissati.

Paṭhamabodhiyañhi bhikkhū catunnaṃ paṭisambhidānaṃ anucchavikaṃ paṭipattiṃ pūrayiṃsu. Gacchante kāle taṃ asakkontā channaṃ abhiññānaṃ, tampi asakkontā tissannaṃ vijjānaṃ, tampi asakkontā arahattaphalamattassa. Gacchante pana kāle arahattassa anucchavikaṃ paṭipattiṃ pūretuṃ asakkontā anāgāmiphalassa anucchavikaṃ paṭipattiṃ pūressanti, tampi asakkontā sakadāgāmiphalassa, tampi asakkontā sotāpattiphalassa. Yadā pana sotāpattiphalassapi anucchavikaṃ paṭipadaṃ pūretuṃ asakkontā sīlapārisuddhimatteva ṭhassanti, tadā paṭipattisaddhammo antarahito nāma bhavissati.
(SA. ii. 202-3)

Aṅguttara Atthakathā:
Yaṃ panetaṃ sabbasuttānaṃ pariyosāne tecimaṃ saddhammaṃ antaradhāpentī ti vuttaṃ, tattha pañca antaradhānāni nāma adhigamaantaradhānaṃ, paṭipattiantaradhānaṃ, pariyattiantaradhānaṃ, liṅgaantaradhānaṃ, dhātuantaradhānanti. Tattha adhigamo ti cattāro maggā, cattāri phalāni, catasso paṭisambhidā, tisso vijjā, cha abhiññāti. So parihāyamāno paṭisambhidāto paṭṭhāya parihāyati. Buddhānaṃ hi parinibbānato vassasahassameva paṭisambhidā nibbattetuṃ sakkonti, tato paraṃ cha abhiññā, tato tāpi nibbattetuṃ asakkontā tisso vijjā nibbattenti. Gacchante gacchante kāle tāpi nibbattetuṃ asakkontā sukkhavipassakā honti. Eteneva upāyena anāgāmino sakadāgāmino sotāpannāti. Tesu dharantesu adhigamo anantarahito nāma na hoti. Pacchimakassa pana sotāpannassa jīvitakkhayena adhigamo antarahito nāma hoti. Idaṃ adhigamaantaradhānaṃ nāma.

Paṭipattiantaradhānaṃ nāma jhānavipassanāmaggaphalāni nibbattetuṃ asakkontā catupārisuddhisīlamattaṃ rakkhanti. Gacchante gacchante kāle ‘‘sīlaṃ paripuṇṇaṃ katvā rakkhāma, padhānañca anuyuñjāma, na ca maggaṃ vā phalaṃ vā sacchikātuṃ sakkoma, natthi idāni ariyadhammapaṭivedho’’ti vosānaṃ āpajjitvā kosajjabahulā aññamaññaṃ na codenti na sārenti akukkuccakā honti, tato paṭṭhāya khuddānukhuddakāni maddanti. Gacchante gacchante kāle pācittiyathullaccayāni āpajjanti, tato garukāpattiṃ. Pārājikamattameva tiṭṭhati. Cattāri pārājikāni rakkhantānaṃ bhikkhūnaṃ satepi sahassepi dharamāne paṭipatti anantarahitā nāma na hoti. Pacchimakassa pana bhikkhuno PTS I. 88 sīlabhedena vā jīvitakkhayena vā antarahitā hotīti idaṃ paṭipattiantaradhānaṃ nāma.
(AA. i. 87-8)

Sāriputta in his Vinaya sub-commentary, the Sāratthadīpanī-ṭīkā, maintains that these contradictions arose from their being merely the personal opinions of different groups of bhāṇakas; that is they weren’t part of the ur-commentary that was [believed by the Mahāvihāra theras to have been] recited at the First Council.

Not to my knowledge. What’s available in translation is mostly practical guides for Westerners going to practice at Achaan Naeb’s meditation centre in Pattaya. So the only reference I can give is the oral report of her disciples and some recorded talks by her that I’ve listened to.


Thanks @Dhammanando! It’s a pity we don’t have English translations!


You might find this thread interestingāna#p429473


I had a look on that page. The part which seemed relevant was this:

Statment: Mastering śamatha is a preliminary practice for Dzogchen.

Q: How high Jhana/Dhyana? Form or Formless? Or nirodha-samapatti?

A: Perfect śamatha = first dhyāna

Is that the part you wanted me to see? It seems interesting, but, it is totally devoid of sources. On what basis is that person making that claim? I assume it to be an incorrect statement. If I would be provided with evidence of it being a true claim, I would certainly consider it! But to my knowledge, it is not true.


Well, it’s Mahāyāna, so whether one considers it correct or not will depend on ones hermeneutics for reading Buddhadharma. But dhyāna is rather important in Mahāyāna Buddhism, as opposed to others here, who seem to know very little about it, who imply dhyāna isn’t practised in Mahāyāna.

Now Mahāyānikāh may well have utterly wrong conceptions of dhyāna, but they think they practise it, regardless.


I am more saying that I would need to see sources, rather than an internet forum claim with no references. He/she made a very specific claim that it was 1st jhāna. But anyone can claim anything, such as the moon being made of cheese.

Can you give me proof of Mahayana practitioners in the last few centuries and/or now, practicing any of the 4 jhānas? I would love to hear about that. And when I say proof, I mean at least for example texts specifically instructing Mahayana followers to do these practices, or cases of monasteries and teachers specifically teaching these practices, and the students actually practicing them.

This is why when asking so many people about exactly this, I have been very careful to specify that I am referring to any of the 4 jhānas (which are a standard set and generally they understand what these refer to), not some kind of other jhāna such as the many different named states the Mahayana came to write about.


They don’t come from a textual source. Most significant tantric dharma is oral in nature. He is a Great Perfection teacher. So that’s how that subsect treats dhyāna.

Dhyāna is incredibly important in Great Perfection, but they have occasionally different notions of it.

Unfortunately there are no references of the kind you would like that I am aware of that would not likely be restricted texts.


If there is no textual basis then that makes it very very hard to believe. And I am very surprised you say “Most significant tantric dharma is oral in nature” - do you have any evidence of that? There are a great many tantric texts, and plenty of traditional texts explaining the tantric views and practices.

I could say I’m a Great Perfection teacher and say that we have always practiced the 76th jhāna in Tibet, ever since the arrival of Padmasambhava. And that all the info is oral. Anyone could say anything, in fact, and it would all be equally valid on the basis that it’s oral so there are no sources except my word. I’m not buying it. Need evidence that it’s not just one dude’s view! Because I have plenty of qualified Dzoghenpas saying the opposite.

That’ s why I was so clear to specify. And the person on that thread also specified 1st jhāna, so that means we know what he is talking about. There is only one 1st jhāna, right? And that is not those other newer Mahayana dhyānas.

Are you aware of any which are in restricted texts? If so, please let me know. Basically, any evidence whatsoever of any Tibetans or any other Mahayanists actually practicing any of the 4 jhānas and any indication of that being normative within their traditions, from the last few centuries. I have yet to see any such evidence!


There was no textual basis for Buddhism at all until ~100BC-200AD. You just had “people” and what they said.

I would double-down and say that this is definitely true. Reading tantric texts is largely pointless without intruction, because they deliberately hide their most profound meanings. One simply can’t practice tantra at all via following written word. Their game their rules.

That is why authentic credentials are very important in such an environment.

I don’t think there is any reasons to think that a Mahāyāna “first dyāna” would be necessarily the same thing as a śravakayāna “first dhyāna”.


I haven’t read any restricted texts, mostly because they are essentially just occasionally-beautiful, occasionally-bizarre, occasionally-offensive poetry books to me, me not being especially engaged in that kind of Buddhism.

But certainly Mahāyānikāḥ think they practice these dhyānāni. They don’t form a significant part of later Mahāyāna practice.

For instance, a Nichiren Buddhist or a practitioner of Jōdo Shinshū will not practice dhyāna in any sort of direct way that would be recognized by a śrāvaka as being such without a great deal of perennial compensation.

This is not tantra, rather it is mainstream East Asian Mahāyāna, the Mahāprajñāpāramitōpadeśa, Chapter 32, on the three samādhayaḥ & the four dhyānāni:


You had communities of monks dedicated to the formulaic repetition of large collections of texts.

Nowadays Tibetans memorise usually a small handful of texts, so far as I am aware, and those texts are written down. I am aware of no large body of vajrayana works which are continuously transmitted only orally in the Tibetan tradition. Are you saying there is such a thing?

What we can presumably both agree is that there is a vast collection of written Vajrayana texts in the Tibetan tradition. And if we cannot find in any of those, any consistent doctrine that the first jhāna is required for dzogchen, then I fail to see how this could be a standard view in Tibetan Buddhism. So I would say that a total absence of textual evidence would most likely be a fatal flaw in the idea of this claim.

I am not saying that I know the claim is wrong. But I am saying that it is meaningless without evidence. And I am not holding the view that it seems that Tibetans simply do not teach jhāna practice (bar perhaps some rare exceptions, which if they exist I would be very interested to hear about) simply due to lack of textual evidence. I am holding this view because I have specifically questioned a number of highly trained Tibetan meditation masters about this, and have been told directly that jhāna is not practiced, and have even been told that it is specifically in a direction which would be wrong, in the Tibetan view.

If I can find actual evidence of a contrary view and practice, I would be very happy! So if you know the person who wrote that about Vajrayana, I would be grateful if you could ask them to reveal the basis of his claim. But until then, or some further information, I remain skeptical.

Reading the EBTs on jhāna is also not sufficient for practice, generally. But writing the word ‘jhāna’ and a brief definition, is quite easy.

And there are many Tibetan texts explaining Vajrayana practice and meditation manuals, far easier to gain instruction from than old Indian Vajrayana sadhana texts. Ones which speak quite plainly. Jamgön Kongtrul’s beautiful ‘bskyed rdzogs gnad bsdus’ (‘Creation and Completion’) for example.

If Tibetans are practicing jhāna, where are their jhāna texts? They have plenty on samatha; dzogchen; mahamudra; lojong, and so on.

What are the credentials of the person who made that claim? Who are they, and who is their teacher, and are we sure that his teacher specifically taught him this is referring to the 1st jhāna? And did their teacher teach them the 1st jhāna?

I was very careful to clarify this when asking my informants. The person on that thread to me seemed to be implying that they meant the first jhāna which the EBTs speak of. Do you have reason to believe otherwise? I also have to say that I have never heard of any other 1st jhāna, and I can also say that my own learned informants have been aware of the 4 jhānas. I also told them in Tibetan - they have plenty of texts talking about the 4 jhānas, as they do so many other ‘hīnayāna’ teachings, as they call them.

Apart from that person on that other forum, what other evidence do you know of of this?

I have never come across anyone from Nichiren-shū who things they practice jhāna. Have you? I would be interested to hear about that. Although to be honest I never considered Nichiren-shū to have any reasonable grasp of the Buddha’s teachings.

Yes, indeed they talk about jhāna in ancient Mahāyāna texts. But, I hope I don’t sound rude or too direct in saying this, but notice my original question:


Pseudo-Nagarjuna is too old to count?