What are the attainments not to be claimed by a monk?

I was recently talking with a monk about recollection of past lives, and at one point he became very careful not to speak personally about his experience. I realized that I don’t actually know the complete list of the attainments a monk cannot acknowledge having to a lay person. Also I wonder if it is the same list that a monk must not falsely claim without violating the 4th training rule.


I believe the spirit of this rule is to prevent the lay supporters giving alms selectively to monks with attainments over newly ordained monks and others without attainments. There’s nothing inherently wrong with speaking about one’s experiences and attainments if not for the tendency of the lay supporters to be biased in terms of giving alms. I would think that disclosing anything like attainment of jhana, path-fruits, and supernatural powers would fall into this category.


I believe this covers everything from Jhana on up, as these are considered spiritual attainments.

knowing and listening to Bhante Gunaratana now for over half a decade, I’ve seen him speak many times, and I’ve heard him been asked if he was a (insert level of awakening)__ a few dozen times. He flat out does not give answers to such questions.

When he speaks of Jhanas, he speaks in a way that you can tell comes from his own experience(as opposed to if I spoke about Jhanas I’d have only what the suttas and scholars have to say about it for the most part), but he won’t say " that one time when I was in Jhana".


What about, for instance, the “stages of insight”?

There are two rules on this, the Parajika related to lieing about an attainment, and a pacittiya for telling a lay person your attainment, even if true.

do you mean as in vipassana practice? those as far as I can tell do not exist in the EBTs, so they are not mentioned specifically in any vinaya rules that I’ve read. I actually never heard that term in near a decade of practice until watching Bhante vimalaramsi video last year when he was speaking about his time in Burma.

From the BMC Pac # 8 :

Should any bhikkhu report (his own) superior human state, when
it is factual, to an unordained person, it is to be confessed.
The factors for the full offense here are two:
 1) Effort: One reports one’s actual attainment of a superior human state
 2) Object: to an unordained person, i.e., any human being who is not a
bhikkhu or bhikkhun .
The commentaries add an extra factor here — result — but this is based on the
same misunderstanding that led them to add the same factor to Pr 4. See the
explanation under “Understanding,” below.
Effort is the only factor requiring explanation here.
The meaning of superior human state is discussed at length under Pr 4. In brief, it
covers (a) jhāna, (b) the cognitive powers that can arise as its result, and © the
transcendent attainments.


There is some skill there, I would think, in presenting knowledge in the most helpful way, without accidentally affirming projections or supporting unskillful admiration.

Actually, one time when I was living at the Bhavana Society there was a lay person going around drilling everyone on whether they had Jhana and what level, and I had a hard time with it. I told her I thought it was unskillful to discuss it in that way even for lay people, and she immediately demanded to know why. She was very goal-oriented and wanted to find the people who knew the goals, had attained them, and could tell her exactly how. I had this sense it was not a healthy way for us to be discussing things, but didn’t have the experience to really explain why.


I’ve found this to be quite common, most especially around Jhana(the yearly Jhana retreat hear brings quite an… interesting… crowd), people really get attached to getting it, let alone being in the attainment.


Check this:


from the Book of the Discipline on # 8 :

“Whatever monk should speak of a condition of further-men
to one who is not ordained—if it is a fact,¹ there is an offence of
Bu-Pc 8.2.1 Whatever means: … is monk to be understood in this case.
Not ordained means: setting aside monk and nun, the rest are
called not ordained.
Condition of further-men² means: musing, freedom, concentration,
attainment, knowledge and insight, making the Way to become,
realisation of the fruits, destruction of the corruptions, delight
in solitude for the mind devoid of the hindrances.


I believe that the most skillful way would be to describe the stages of insight incorporating one’s own experiences into the description without explicitly stating “I have attained such and such a stage”.


True! Thank you. So as far as making sure I am not asking a monk something that he has to avoid saying from the standpoint of the Vinaya, that is the list. Attainments that may have been taught later than the EBTs do not count as far as the rule, but are probably still unwise to discuss in that way. What is the BMC?

And what are the “cognitive powers that can arise from Jhana”?

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Thank you. When all else fails (not that it has), read the directions. :blush:

From the “Definitions” section:

A super-human quality: absorption, release, stillness, attainment, knowledge and vision, development of the path, realization of the fruits, abandoning the defilements, a mind without hindrances, delighting in empty dwellings.

Why “delighting in empty dwellings”? Or is that the equivalent of saying Jhana?


I trust Bhante @Brahmali would be the best one to dive deep into these definitions. Further below this passage you have some other interesting definitions and an extensive list of all permutations and their respective offenses. There you may have a preliminary answer to your question:

##Definitions (for the permutations)

Absorption: the first absorption, the second absorption, the third absorption, the fourth absorption.

Release: emptiness release, signless release, desireless release.

Stillness: emptiness stillness, signless stillness, desireless stillness.

Attainment: emptiness attainment, signless attainment, desireless attainment.

Knowledge and vision: the three true insights.

Development of the path: the four applications of mindfulness, the four right efforts, the four bases of supernormal power, the five spiritual faculties, the five spiritual powers, the seven factors of awakening, the noble eightfold path.

Realization of the fruits: realization of the fruit of stream-entry, realization of the fruit of once-returning, realization of the fruit of non-returning, realization of perfection.

Abandoning the defilements: the abandoning of sensual desire, the abandoning of ill-will, the abandoning of confusion.

A mind without hindrances: a mind without sensual desire, a mind without ill-will, a mind without confusion.

Delighting in empty dwellings: because of the first absorption, there is delight in empty dwellings; because of the second absorption, there is delight in empty dwellings; because of the third absorption, there is delight in empty dwellings; because of the fourth absorption, there is delight in empty dwellings.

This last bit could be what you are after.


I think so. They are found everywhere in the suttas - the five aggregates, dependent origination, three characteristics, dispassion, revulsion, cessation, for example here: SN 22.59

With metta

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I don’t think you may find in non-abhidhammic EBTs anything about stages of insight (ñanas)

In his book The Progress of Insight: (Visuddhiñana-katha) Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw proposed the following list of ñanas or “knowledges” to be experienced in order.

Analytical Knowledge of Body and Mind (nama-rupa-pariccheda-ñana) (corresponds to 1st jhana)
Knowledge by Discerning Conditionality (paccaya-pariggaha-ñana)
Knowledge by Comprehension (sammasana-ñana)
Knowledge of Arising and Passing Away (udayabbaya-ñana) (corresponds to 2nd jhana)
Knowledge of Dissolution (bhanga-ñana) (corresponds to 3rd jhana)
Awareness of Fearfulness (bhayatupatthana-ñana)
Knowledge of Misery (adinava-ñana)
Knowledge of Disgust (nibbida-ñana)
Knowledge of Desire for Deliverance (muncitu-kamyata-ñana)
Knowledge of Re-observation (patisankhanupassana-ñana)
Knowledge of Equanimity about Formations (sankhar’upekkha-ñana) (corresponds to 4th jhana)
Insight Leading to emergence (vutthanagamini-vipassana-ñana)
Knowledge of Adaptation (anuloma-ñana) (one-time event)
Maturity Knowledge (gotrabhu-ñana) (one-time event)
Path Knowledge (magga-ñana) (one-time event)
Fruition Knowledge (phala-ñana) (corresponds to Nibbāna)
Knowledge of Reviewing (paccavekkhana-ñana)

The experience of each (of these ñanas) may be brief or may last for years and the subjective intensity of each is variable. Each ñana could also be considered a jhāna although many are not stable and the mind has no way to remain embedded in the experience. Experiencing all the ñanas will lead to the first of the Four stages of enlightenment then the cycle will start over at a subtler level.

Ven Mahasi was repeating what is found in Visudhimagga in regards to the topic of Vipassanā-ñāṇa.

These are very akin to the concepts of bhumi usually found in Mahayana textual traditions.


You are doing very well. There is not much to add.

It’s certainly very considerate of you to try to avoid asking potentially awkward questions. But you don’t need to be too concerned. It is the responsibility of the monastics to draw the line. Most lay people have no idea of what monastics are allowed to say and what not, and so we quickly get used to dealing with this sort of thing.


Thank you for taking the time to respond Ajahn /:anjal:

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As per @gnlaera’s response, this is defined as meaning jhana. However, the point of it is that one should not even hint in a roundabout way. For example, I like living here on Qimei, in my empty house. But that just means I like being by myself, not that I have any meditation attainments! Contextually, one would have to be deliberately making a hint that you expect your audience to understand in a certain way.


Defined as jhana by who? Theravada Vinaya commentary? Are there any EBT suttas that define it that way?

In AN 10.48, the 10 dhammas that should be frequently recollected, I always took empty dwellings at face value, as a frequent check list item to make sure one is enjoying solitude not only internally but externally, not as a claim for jhana. I’m guessing the “jhana” code phrase (in a vinaya violation sense) arose later.

I would hate to see people forego frequently recollecting #9 in the 10 dhammas (empty dwellings) because they’re worried about bragging of jhana. I always found in my personal practice the empty dwelling check not only is evaluating whether I’m enjoying seclusion, but also whether I’ve totally renounced all material possessions. I don’t have a firm timeline set yet, but at some point I’m going to get rid of my laptop, the internet, go off grid and disappear.

no. 8 of the 10 dhammas in AN 10.48 is one of my favorites along with 9 and 10.

(8. Am I spending time wisely?)
‘kathaṃ-bhūtassa me rattin-divā
’what-becomes (of) me (as) nights-(and)-days
[thai: vītipatantīti] vītivattantī’ti
fly past?
pabbajitena abhiṇhaṃ pacc-avekkhitabbaṃ;
[a monk]-gone-forth frequently {should}-reflect-on (this).

(9. Do I enjoy empty dwellings?)
‘kacci nu kho ahaṃ
Do {I} not indeed ****,
suññ-āgāre abhi-ramāmī’ti
(in) empty-dwellings, exceedingly-enjoy (them)?
pabbajitena abhiṇhaṃ pacc-avekkhitabbaṃ;
[a monk]-gone-forth frequently {should}-reflect-on (this).

(10. Do I have something to show for this life?)
‘atthi nu kho me
’Is (there) not indeed (in) me,
uttari manussa-dhammo
(a) superior human-state,
(a) truly-noble-knowledge-(and)-vision-distinction
adhigato, yen-āhaṃ
attainment, on-account-of-which,-I,
pacchime kāle
(in my) final moments [of life],
(when my)-companions-in-the-holy-life
na maṅku bhavissāmī’ti
{I will not become} -confused,-ashamed,-despondent.'
pabbajitena abhiṇhaṃ pacc-avekkhitabbaṃ;
[a monk]-gone-forth frequently {should}-reflect-on (this).

ime kho, bhikkhave,
these, indeed, monks,
dasa dhammā
(are) ten things
pabbajitena abhiṇhaṃ pacc-avekkhitabbā”ti.
[a monk]-gone-forth frequently {should}-reflect-on.

Well it’s nice to be polite when you know how. But mostly it is just an interesting question: What were the attainments in the EBTs, and if there have been any added later, how are they treated now?