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

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?


I really do not have much to add to what has already been said, and I was certainly not trying to put you off or anything like that. I just know that people sometimes need to be encouraged to relax around monastics.

I suppose one interesting point is whether the word uttari­manus­sa­dhamma (“super-human quality” or “attainment”) is used consistently in the vinaya. What I am referring to is that the vinaya is a product of evolution, probably across several centuries. It is clear that the pātimokkha rules belong to the earliest part of the vinaya, whereas all the material commenting on these rules is later. It follows that the original meaning of a word in the rules may not be properly reflected in the explanatory material.

The word uttari­manus­sa­dhamma is possibly a case in point. The pātimokkha rules belong roughly to the same historical stratum as the suttas. In the suttas uttari­manus­sa­dhamma consistently refers to the four jhānas and the four stages of awakening, sometimes also including the four immaterial attainments. I therefore think it is likely that this would have been the earliest intended meaning also in bhikkhu pārājika 4 and bhikkhu pācittiya 8. The definitions found in the vinaya - which have been well explained above by others - are likely to be the outcome of later evolution. But it could be argued that this later explanation mostly just boils down to the definition found in the suttas.


Not sure if that would satisfy but we could get some help by those with some knowledge of Chinese to check whether a similar definition is found in the parallel Bhikkhu Vibhanga texts hosted in SC.

@Coemgenu, would be able to do so? The parallel texts of interest are:

They may not be sufficiently early for the label EBT but may provide us a reference point for how early the linkage of jhanas with empty dwelling is.

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Yes, that’s correct in that context. I don’t think “empty dwelling” is used in the sense of higher attainments in the Suttas. If I recall correctly, it was purely based on the exploits of some bad monks in the Vinaya who were figuring out creative ways to drop hints.


[quote=“gnlaera, post:22, topic:4863”]
@Coemgenu, would be able to do so? The parallel texts of interest are:
[/quote]Thank you for your vote of confidence in my ability to relevantly participate in this discussion. Unfortunately I wouldn’t really know how to begin to answer given that I don’t really have any idea of the context of this passage, given that I am not overly familiar with the Bhikkhu Vibhanga, or the Vinaya at all generally, even in English let alone Pāli or Chinese! :flushed:

I’ll definitely give it a look to see if I think I can see anything relevant, but don’t hold your breath. I’ve never really read a whole section of Vinaya text before, in any language, so that makes me especially unsuited to dealing with it in Chinese.

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I agree @sjayasinghe that this is probably quite true. But I think there’s another side to this also.

Anyone that goes around saying, I have this attainment, or I have that attainment, might well be coming from a very strong sense of self. Surely, such attainments are very close to, if not, exactly within, the deepest realisation of non-self that is possible. Surely such people would be little inclined to speak much, do much or even think much. I can’t see someone like this casually speaking about their attainments without a reason born of wise compassion and within the bounds of their sila, which I imagine, would become a natural part of “who” and “what” they are.

So perhaps another reason for this rule is that it protects monastics from developing massive egos that are based in their spirtual attainments; because surely such a thing would simply corrupt any perceived or real attainments. And of course, it would safeguard them from the act of talking about something that they later find out they were, in fact, mistaken about.


Of course. An acceptable context for talk of such attainment would be when inspiring others to practice. Some novices might consider these attainments to be so far out of their reach that they don’t put the necessary practice into realizing them in this lifetime. If they have knowledge that others in their community have actually experienced these things they might be much more likely to put forth the necessary effort.

I wonder if there is a similar restriction for monks talking about their attainments with other monks? If there is no such restriction I think we can be quite confident that a rule specific to laypeople is intended to guarantee fair distribution of alms.


The little I have learned about how things go about within the Bhikkhu Sangha tells me that nothing stops bhikkhus from helping each other in terms of better shaping their cultivation of the path towards fruition.

In Thailand it is not uncommon for monks to travel great distances to visit other monks just to get practical questions answered. And sometimes, as once Ajahn Brahm mentioned in a talk, getting questions cleared by the mere presence of attained masters.

What we have to acknowledge as the odd minority of laity interested in such things is that whenever a bhikkhu opens up too much about his practice with us there always is the risk of opportunistic merit-seekers taking it as a hint of who is who within the Sangha and the sad situation depicted in the Parajika 4’s origin story repeating again.

A better way for us to go around this obstacle is to develop a long term relationship with bhikkhus which we trust are genuinely invested in the path and patiently learn through their instructions how to put together the causes and conditions for the fruition they maybe have already achieved.

Another much better option is always to get brave and consider the path of renunciation ourselves. As a bonus, with time and once the new livelihood is established, we may be able to talk openly about such things with other attained bhikkhus or bhikkhunis.