What is the difference between jhāna and samādhi?

In Sutta pitaka we find two Suttas namely Jhana sutta and Samadhi sutta.
What is the difference?



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An interesting idea came from the similar post in stack exchange.
Accordingly, Jhana is like the measuring unit and the Samadhi is the object subject to measurement.
eg: Say, first Jahana means one measure of Samadhi.

It seems to me that AN 9.36 is basically discussing how, with any sort of meditation, the point is to regard

…whatever phenomena there that are connected with form, feeling, perception, fabrications, & consciousness, as inconstant, stressful, a disease, a cancer, an arrow, painful, an affliction, alien, a disintegration, an emptiness, not-self. He turns his mind away from those phenomena, and having done so, inclines his mind to the property of deathlessness: ‘This is peace, this is exquisite — the resolution of all fabrications; the relinquishment of all acquisitions; the ending of craving; dispassion; cessation; Unbinding.’

The effort to ‘turn the mind away from those phenomena’ applies to every single meditation method: the set of qualities are signposts for which one is present, but this is (completely?) irrelevant since the correct mental orientation is the same in every case.

This specific way of turning the mind towards the Deathless seems to me to be the Buddhist innovation to the basic samana-bahmana contemplative toolsets. The jhanas are otherwise, in and of themselves, ‘merely’ for a pleasant abiding, e.g. the first development of samadhi at AN 4.41.

The second development is odd. Compare MN 4:

There are, brahmin, some recluses and brahmins who perceive day when it is night and night when it is day. I say that on their part this is an abiding in delusion.

with AN 7.61:

But if by doing this you don’t shake off your drowsiness, then attend to the perception of light, resolve on the perception of daytime, [dwelling] by night as by day, and by day as by night.

…yeah, this second development of samadhi is a wacky mess.

The third development of samadhi is exactly the practice of sati-sampajanna: SN 47.35.

The fourth development is the meditation on arising-&-falling aggregates, which is common throughout the Nikayas. At SN 22.122 this development of samadhi is said to result in the ending of the effluents, a pleasant abiding, and mindfulness & alertness. Interestingly, these last two are also the results of the first & third developments of samadhi.

The first, third, and fourth developments of samadhi seem to have a tight, complicated relationship, but AN 4.41 & AN 9.36 both describe the idea of using the aggregates, with two different sorts of phrasing (based on contextual motivation, perhaps).

The second development is just awkward…


Why this is not applied for two dimensions, the attainment of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception & the attainment of the cessation of feeling & perception ?

(Similarly with the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness and the dimension of nothingness.)

“Thus, as far as the perception-attainments go, that is as far as gnosis-penetration goes. As for these two dimensions — the attainment of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception & the attainment of the cessation of feeling & perception — I tell you that they are to be rightly explained by those monks who are meditators, skilled in attaining, skilled in attaining & emerging, who have attained & emerged in dependence on them.”>


It seems to me that they lack the aggregates (i.e. they are unconscious) and are thus unsuitable platforms for gnosis-penetration.

Imagine a flag pole with 8 flags. If the pole was samadhi, the flags a jhana. The bottom of the pole has no flags i.e. there isn’t enough samadhi there to give rise to a jhana. However with the build up of samadhi jhanas start arising one after the other. There has to be sufficient strength of samadhi for this to take place and doesn’t happen right away. Otherwise jhana wouldn’t be a superior human ability (uttarimanussadhamma) and everyone would be in jhana all the time! So not every mental state has samadhi. Concentrating on work etc isn’t samadhi.

Sati (mindfulness) is the cause of samadhi (as per the 5 faculties indriya). Depending on how mindfulness is wielded, different end results are produced. This is what the 4 types of samadhi show us. One can use the breath, Kasina, and many others to develop into jhana. To overcome sloth and torpor the light object is used. Focusing on the five aggregates and their arising and passing away stream entry to arahanthood (ending of fermentations) can be achieved.

With metta


The way I see it, Jhana does not cover the whole spectrum of Samadhi.
Jhana is something you accomplish on your way to the highest Samadhi.
The way I understand when we say Jhana, which means Samatha. (first two items of Samadhi sutta)
When we say Vipassana which inlude last two items of Samadhi sutta.
Hence Samadi include Jhana and Vipassana.
I may be wrong.

This is correct. Overcoming the hindrances is relevant to both samatha and vipassana. Therefore perception of light is a useful preparation for both (if someone is mildly drowsy).

Samma samadhi is defined as the four jhanas, I think more referring to the degree of samadhi denoted by the Four jhanas rather than the attainment itself as otherwise the 3 immaterial attainments are left out of that definition doesn’t make sense as clearly it is possible to attain Nibbana from those states according to AN9.36. I’ve heard that the 4th jhana level of samadhi is what is found in the immaterial (arupa) attainments as well, which would make sense and resolve the above issue.

With metta

But the way I understand Jhana does not inlcude Vipassana.


There is no meditative concentration for him who lacks insight, and no insight for him who lacks meditative concentration. He in whom are found both meditative concentration and insight, indeed, is close to Nibbana.


Then how Buddha’s teachers did not have Vipassana but they had Jhana?

Because wisdom and stillness are two sides of the same hand.

When you deeply set your mind to a teaching like the anattalakhana Sutta SN22.59 you can reach a profound level of stillness.

Similarly if you establish enough stillness that desire and aversion is suspended (free from desire, free from unwholesome states) you see insight into the nature of the self and the will, conditionally etc.


I think they had formless attainments, which it seems, is possible to reach without having to go via the (form rupa) jhana, as well.

True. This is talking about samma samadhi. Samadhi and Vipassana are developed in tandem, in the Buddha’s path. See AN4.170 Yuganadda sutta.

To confuse the picture even more Vipassana and Samatha both give rise to samadhi.

Satipatthana must contain both Samatha (breath) and Vipassana (5 aggregates) to give rise to samma samadhi.

Vipassana+Samatha will eventually lead to Samma samadhi, which of a jhanic level of intensity.

Samatha on its own can lead to jhanas but not samma samadhi.

Vipassana on its own may eventually develop samatha due to prolonged mindfulness practice and can lead to samma samadhi, but its progress is slowed due to lack of Samatha jhana).

If this is all too much just do samatha and vipassana!

With metta

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Practice Bhāvanā

Also, remember that the anapannasati sutta states that anapannasati practice fulfills Satipatthana.

This deligniation between samatha and vipassana is a commentarial one AFIK

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I like to get back to the topic again.
The question is the difference between Jhana and Samadhi.


That’s a common idea:

"Monks, these four types of individuals are to be found existing in the world. Which four?
"There is the case of the individual who has attained internal tranquillity of awareness (Samatha), but not insight into phenomena through heightened discernment (Vipassana). Then there is the case of the individual who has attained insight into phenomena through heightened discernment, but not internal tranquillity of awareness. Then there is the case of the individual who has attained neither internal tranquillity of awareness nor insight into phenomena through heightened discernment. And then there is the case of the individual who has attained both internal tranquillity of awareness & insight into phenomena through heightened discernment. AN4.94

They can be developed individually- if one is deficient in one or the other of these attributes, they can approach a person who is skilled in the alternate one:

"The individual who has attained internal tranquillity of awareness, but not insight into phenomena through heightened discernment, should approach an individual who has attained insight into phenomena through heightened discernment and ask him: ‘How should fabrications be regarded? How should they be investigated? How should they be seen with insight?’ The other will answer in line with what he has seen & experienced: ‘Fabrications should be regarded in this way. Fabrications should be investigated in this way. Fabrications should be seen in this way with insight.’ Then eventually he [the first] will become one who has attained both internal tranquillity of awareness & insight into phenomena through heightened discernment. AN4.94

with metta


I didn’t read most of the msgs’s in this thread, apologies if my answer is redundant.

The best English translation for Jhāna is “meditation”. By best, I mean it will fit every context the word is used in the EBT. Ven. T (Thanissasaro) leaves jhāna untranslated most of the time, and sometimes uses “absorption”. B.Bodhi also leaves jhāna untranslated most of the time, and when jhāna is not in a context of sammā samādhi, he often translates it as “meditation”.

advantages of leaving “jhāna” untranslated

  1. it implies a mystical air that signifies something much deeper beyond ordinary discursive thinking meditation.

disadvantage of leaving “jhāna” untranslated

  1. it implies a mystical air that signifies something much deeper beyond ordinary discursive thinking meditation. For higher samādhi attainments, 4th, 3rd, even 2nd jhāna, this is not problematic, but for first jhāna, due to the pernicious influence of VRJ (vism. redefinition of Jhāna), people have trouble wrapping their head around the idea that first jhāna is fiarly easily attainable and not so far away from an ordinary person’s samādhi.

If you look at examples where jhāna is used in a context not associated with 8aam and samma samadhi, it becomes clear why “meditation” works very well

MN 36 austerity of holding the breath “jhāna”
wrong jhāna, paj-jhāyanti nij-jhāyanti avaj-jhāyanti
    AN 6.46 dhamma teachers disparaging meditation experts
    AN 11.9 simile of horse who only thinks about eating
    MN 108 praisworthy jhāna and un-worthy
    MN 50 insult monk’s jhāna by comparing to animals hunting

an animal hunting for food is certainly using all the samadhi at their disposal, “absorbed” or doing “jhāna” meditation with a singular unified mind, undistractable. If not, they starve.

There is also nij-jhāna used in a positive way, in these passages.
view (based on) jhāna insight

AN 3.65 takka, vitakka, ākāra-pari-vitakkena
AN 3.66, AN 4.193 has same passage
MN 95
MN 101, same as MN 95's 5 types
MN 102 same as MN 95's 5 types
SN 12.68
SN 35.136
MN 70, dhamma-nij-jhāna leads to arahantship

for the animal hunting with “jhana”, “absorption” would be a better fit. But when nij-jhana is used in a positive way for awakening, its proximity to takketi, thinking, reasoned cogitation, absorption maybe sounds too much like a 4th jhana rather than something closer to a thinking type of meditation.

So “meditation” works across those 3 classes of usage .First, second, third, fourth “meditation”, those 4 prefixes refer to specific standard four jhana definitions that separate them from thinking meditation (aside from first jhana).

And in the earliest of the EBT, like in the Sutta Nipata, Udana, ittivuttaka, four jhānas are never mentioned, just unqualified “jhāna”, such as noble ones being constantly in jhana, or disciples are practice samadhi in all 4 postures, disciples who are in jhana while walking on almsround. Udana #1, 2, 3, Buddha is a jhana-meditator jhayato brahmanassa, right after nirvana, contemplating the 12ps.

samadhi means making the mind singular (ekagga citta), bringing the mind to undistractable lucidity.

samadhi = undistractable-lucidity
samma samadhi = righteous undistractable-lucidity, which sees dukkha as it truly is, leading to the righteous destruction of suffering.

four jhanas are a quality assurance test, four quality standards of meditation, to make sure samadhi is up to snuff, powerful enough to get the job done, for arahantship.

doing jhana, one is also doing samadhi.
doing samadhi, one is also doing jhana.

samadaham cittam (verb form of samadhi) = making the mind undistractable and lucid.

But we never say first Smadhi, second Smmadhi etc.
Are we?

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In MN 43, developing any of the samadhi khandha factors (right effort, right mindfulness, right samadhi) is called “samadhi bhavana”.

“doing” samadhi sounds a lot like samadhi bhavana (devleopment) to me. The point is, in the EBT, satipatthana, doing samadhi, doing jhana, they overlap a great deal.

See the suttas on “not neglecting jhana” and “here is a foot of a tree… jhayatha! (meditate)!”. They cover almost all of what you might think of as a satipathana topic or a jhana topic.

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AN 4.94 seems to describe samadhi in terms of samatha and vipassana: