What are pīti and sukha born of seclusion vis-a-vis the first jhāna

Although basically every meditation guide that discusses jhāna implies that the pīti and sukha of the first jhāna arise from concentration, that standard phraseology for the first jhāna in the suttas says it arises from seclusion, which seems to me rather vague. So what really is the nature of this phenomenon? It’s clear from the text that the focus is seclusion from sensuality and unskillfulness, but again this seems unclear; after all, one can have strong sense restraint and sīla, but neither experience the arising of these qualities nor enter jhāna. What then distinguishes more general seclusion from seclusion leading to jhāna? What, if any, is the role of concentration on a meditation object in this process?

There is the case where a monk, quite secluded from sensuality, secluded from unskillful qualities, enters & remains in the first jhāna: rapture & pleasure born of seclusion, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation.

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Hi. Seclusion = seclusion from the five hindrances

The five hindrances include restlessness & remorse, which, even after sense restraint, can have remnant ‘vibrations’ stored in the body. Refer to the vibration metaphors in SN 46.55. Therefore, even though the mind may be relatively still & concentrated, if the vibration of restlessness is still felt within the breath & physical body, it seems jhana will not manifest. It seems the “calming” referred to in MN 118 (“passambhayaṁ”), MN 19 (“passaddho”) or MN 64 (“paṭippassaddhā”) must be quite profound for jhana to manifest.

All of the above falls seems to be part of “concentration” (“samadhi”). For example, MN 19 seems to clearly say the Buddha’s mind was concentrated prior to the 1st jhana:

My energy was roused up and unflagging, my mindfulness was established and lucid, my body was tranquil and undisturbed, and my mind was immersed in samādhi.

Āraddhaṁ kho pana me, bhikkhave, vīriyaṁ ahosi asallīnaṁ, upaṭṭhitā sati asammuṭṭhā, passaddho kāyo asāraddho, samāhitaṁ cittaṁ ekaggaṁ.

Quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unskillful qualities, I entered and remained in the first absorption…

MN 19

It seems the suttas emphasize “viveka” (“seclusion”) for the 1st jhana and “unification” (“ekodibhāvaṁ”) for the 2nd jhana. However, both seems to be merely degrees of “concentration”. As mentioned, if there is 100% concentration (non-distraction) towards the breathing but vibrations can still be felt in the breathing then this seems to suggest there remains underlying remnants of the five hindrances remaining stored within the body. :dizzy:


Very helpful answer! Thanks!

A follow-up: where do you find the distinction between the vibrations you discuss and the (relative) unstillness of mind due to vitakka and vicara?

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Piti can be experienced outside jhana, for example it’s the goal of basic skill development in the second tetrad of Anapanasati. It’s better to regard it in its broader function as part of the process described here, which includes tranquillity and insight:

“I myself, before my Awakening, when I was still an unawakened bodhisatta, saw as it actually was with right discernment that sensuality is of much stress, much despair, & greater drawbacks, but as long as I had not attained a rapture & pleasure apart from sensuality, apart from unskillful mental qualities, or something more peaceful than that, I did not claim that I could not be tempted by sensuality. But when I saw as it actually was with right discernment that sensuality is of much stress, much despair, & greater drawbacks, and I had attained a rapture & pleasure apart from sensuality, apart from unskillful mental qualities, or something more peaceful than that, that was when I claimed that I could not be tempted by sensuality.”—Majhima Nikaya 14

I think vitakka & vicara is something different.

When the stress vibrations of the hindrances fully dissolve, this seems to be the cause for rapture to arise. Then when rapture arises, the mind can be drawn towards the rapture. Thus the vitakka (movement) and vicara (exploration) towards the rapture is something different.

I doubt the movement of vitakka & vicara would be readily discernable as something significant until the second jhana is reached. I imagine the first jhana is extremely still, silent & ‘one’, which is why “ekaggata” is a factor of it. I imagine the common discussions & debates about vitakka & vicara are ‘overblown’. :dizzy:

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The vibrations you are talking about - are they not nervous tensions? I have noticed that with the letting go of mental obstacles - there are discharges of tension - accompanied by surges of dopamine (involuntary body movements) and waves of bliss appear. What do you think? :pray:t2: :sweat_smile:

I see similarities between ice showers and meditation in terms of - mechanism. It’s like when we don’t meditate we collect pain in the form of tensions in the body, and then when we meditate they are discharged and give pleasure. When there is less mental pain there is more bliss. (which is more like endocannabinoids in feeling).

Well the difference is that cold water inflicts pain, and then you have dopamine. And it is energizing rather than blissful. Pouring cold water is uncomfortable, but when you get out of the shower it’s cool/dopamine high.

Yes, I agree. The tensions are nervous/stress tensions. When they dissolve, bliss will appear. However, if these dissolutions/discharges of tension are short-term or ‘momentary’, the surges of bliss will also be short-term or ‘momentary’. It follows all experiences/surges of rapture/bliss will not necessarily constitute jhana. I recall the Commentary literature refers to ‘momentary rapture’. :dizzy:

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Vitakka and vicara relates rather to the site of consciousness, while these vibrations in the body relate rather to (unconscious) kammic resultants. One is the result of old kamma, the other is new kamma making. I have written various blog posts to elucidate a little bit the meaning of the Jhāna factors one is: http://highermindart.com/home/jhana-paccaya-condition-of-meditation/. In case any one has interest in it. I also made a small video animation for the same purpose:http://highermindart.com/home/the-factors-of-jhana/
You may check it out if you like…