What Ven. Anālayo gets wrong about samādhi: a review of “A Brief History of Buddhist Absorption”

What is that right view?

In general i do not believe in buddhist attainments. All attainment are just the workings of nature. Nibbana is not buddhist, jhana is not buddhist etc. It is just nature. Also stream entry is not buddhist.
Purifying mind is also not buddhist. Mind is not buddhist. Pure mind is not buddhist, etc.

My feeling is that the right way to be concentrated is that one knows and sees that the noble Path is not really about making, conditioning, producing. Because anything that arises or is produced, will also cease.

The whole usual wordly stream in us can be seen as: the will, the effort to bring forth, make, produce temporary states and things and seek happiness, refuge, protection in that. I feel that is a wrong way to be concentrated.

Nibbana cannot be arrived at this way. It is not made, not produced. Nibbana can only be arrived at by letting go of that same will, that same effort to make, produce, temporary states and things.
That same love for temporary things. Let go of that ignoble search. See the limits of this and see that this way we will never find what our heart longs for: be at ease, peace of heart, Nibbana.

I will

I personally tend to see it this way that jhana will never really reveal the truth but at best one will get a strong impression of a very unburdened mental stream, which, i feel, is very different from the hearts domain. I feel, jhana is more of the head and not of the heart. The heart can be defiled but in jhana one can still experience some degree of relief, of peace. A pleasant abiding despite of being defiled to the bone.

Jhana does not represent purity but it represents a state of surpression of defilements and Buddha was not satisfied with that.

If Buddha as a child entered jhana, what view did he have at that moment? Did he had a view of anatta?

This sounds contrary to what I read in the suttas & unconvincing. Since the suttas describe Right View as the cause of jhana, how can right jhana be attained before stream-entry?

In this context, right view comes first. And how does right view come first? Right view gives rise to right thought. Right thought gives rise to right speech. Right speech gives rise to right action. Right action gives rise to right livelihood. Right livelihood gives rise to right effort. Right effort gives rise to right mindfulness. Right mindfulness gives rise to right immersion.

MN 117

Did your essay contradict itself by claiming sammāsamādhi needs to be supported by right view and the other path factors; yet jhana can occur before stream-entry?

I think the suttas i read disagree with this. Examples are MN 14 (But when they do achieve that rapture and bliss, or something more peaceful than that, they do not return to sensual pleasures) and AN 3.86 (Take another case of a mendicant who has fulfilled their ethics and immersion, but has limited wisdom… With the ending of the five lower fetters they’re reborn spontaneously. They are extinguished there, and are not liable to return from that world).

This sounds untrue to me & disillusioning towards the Sangha. Why do bhikkhus allow bhikkhus to engage in such speech? Should not a bhikkhu be brought before the Sangha and admonished for such speech? The suttas literally desribe sammasamadhi as the four jhanas.

Did not Ven. Anālayo and like-minded bhikkhus with similar non-faith once attempt to dismiss MN 117 as fake?

This sutta does not read as it is about jhana. It reads it is about the emergence of the divine eye.

Are there any sutta references to support this idea of surpression? Do these paragraphs read like “surpression” of defilements? Giving Up the Hindrances

Giving up covetousness for the world, they meditate with a heart rid of covetousness, cleansing the mind of covetousness. Covetousness (abhijjha) has been curbed by sense restraint, and now is fully abandoned.Giving up ill will and malevolence, they meditate with a mind rid of ill will, full of compassion for all living beings, cleansing the mind of ill will. Likewise ill will (byāpādapadosa), which was called domanassa in the formula for sense restraint.Giving up dullness and drowsiness, they meditate with a mind rid of dullness and drowsiness, perceiving light, mindful and aware, cleansing the mind of dullness and drowsiness. “Mindfulness and situational awareness” has a prominent role in abandoning dullness.Giving up restlessness and remorse, they meditate without restlessness, their mind peaceful inside, cleansing the mind of restlessness and remorse. Restlessness hankers for the future and is countered by contentment. Remorse digs up the past and is countered by ethical purity.Giving up doubt, they meditate having gone beyond doubt, not undecided about skillful qualities, cleansing the mind of doubt. The meditator set out on their path after gaining faith in the Buddha.

Suppose a man who has gotten into debt were to apply himself to work, The happiness of meditation is hard to understand without practicing, so the Buddha gives a series of five similes to illustrate in terms Ajātasattu would understand.and his efforts proved successful. He would pay off the original loan and have enough left over to support his partner. Thinking about this, he’d be filled with joy and happiness.

Suppose there was a person who was sick, suffering, gravely ill. They’d lose their appetite and get physically weak. But after some time they’d recover from that illness, and regain their appetite and their strength. Thinking about this, they’d be filled with joy and happiness.

Suppose a person was imprisoned in a jail. But after some time they were released from jail, safe and sound, with no loss of wealth. Thinking about this, they’d be filled with joy and happiness.

Suppose a person was a bondservant. They would not be their own master, but indentured to another, unable to go where they wish. But after some time they’d be freed from servitude. They would be their own master, not indentured to another, an emancipated individual able to go where they wish. Thinking about this, they’d be filled with joy and happiness.

Suppose there was a person with wealth and property who was traveling along a desert road, which was perilous, with nothing to eat. But after some time they crossed over the desert safely, arriving within a village, a sanctuary free of peril. Thinking about this, they’d be filled with joy and happiness.

In the same way, as long as these five hindrances are not given up inside themselves, a mendicant regards them thus as a debt, a disease, a prison, slavery, and a desert crossing. The five hindrances remain a pillar of meditation teaching. The root sense means to “obstruct” but also to “obscure, darken, veil”.

But when these five hindrances are given up inside themselves, a mendicant regards this as freedom from debt, good health, release from prison, emancipation, and a place of sanctuary at last. Each simile illustrates not the happiness of acquisition, but of letting go.

Seeing that the hindrances have been given up in them, joy springs up. Being joyful, rapture springs up. When the mind is full of rapture, the body becomes tranquil. When the body is tranquil, they feel bliss. And when blissful, the mind becomes immersed. The Buddha did not emphasize technical details of technique, but the emotional wholeness and joy that leads to deep meditation.

DN 2

What i mean is: When one comes out of jhana then it shows that defilements were only temporary surpressed in jhana due to the combined forces of will and one-pointed concentration. It is very normal that when one connects with lower chakra’s again these defilements show up again. In that way they were only temporary surpressed in jhana.

This does not read like jhana.

This reads like a gross generalisation. The sutta describe a once-returner as significantly reducing the defilements and a non-returner as having removed certain defilements. Obviously the experience of jhana reduces certain defilements.

Suppose the universe, not long after the big bang, doesn’t have any planets yet let alone meditative attainments.

At some point planets form.

At some point sun & moon

At some point humans & animals

At some point world first neither perception nor non perception attainment.

At some point world first removal of taints by the seeing with wisdom associated with sannavedaniyanirodha.

What do you call the person who got the world first sannavedaniyanirodha and removal achievement?

A Buddha of course.

This attainment is what makes a Buddha and it is only taught by them.

Therefore it is exclusively a buddhist attainment and there are no true ascetics outside of a Buddha’s dispensation.

Other sects don’t even know what it is let alone having attained it.

Right view (sammādiṭṭhi) is knowledge (ñāṇaṃ) of suffering (dukkha), knowledge of the arising of suffering, knowledge of the ceasing of suffering, and knowledge of way leading to the ceasing of suffering.

Right view in SN/SA suttas also refers to fully knowing (jānāti) and seeing (passati) phenomena (the five aggregates or sense objects) as:

(1) impermanence (anicca), suffering (dukkha), not-self (anatta) (or anicca, dukkha, suñña ‘empty’, anatta)

(2) the middle way (P. majjhima-paṭipadŒ, Skt. madhyama-pratipad).

It is empty of two extremes: existence (eternalism) and non-existence (nihilism), or the happiness of sense-pleasures and the suffering of self-mortification.

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Hi there Dunlop,

Well the sutta’s really say that jhana is volitionally produced. In practice too. One must apply the mind in a certain way, intentionally, willed. That is the entree to jhana.

Mn52: He considers this and understands it thus: ‘This first jhana is conditioned and volitionally produced. But whatever is conditioned and volitionally produced is impermanent, subject to cessation.’ Standing upon that, he attains the destruction of the taints.

I believe jhana is like a situation in which one is temporary in a state cut of from the inner vulcano, from the passions, drifts, fermentation, from the raw energy of life, as it were.
But when one comes out of jhana, one again connects with the vulcano. Then it proofs that there are still many eruptions.

The experience of jhana an sich does not reduce nor remove any defilements. This is only possible by seeing with wisdom and not some natural effect of abiding in jhana. I believe that the Buddha teaches that no state an sich can remove defilements. The disclaimer is always: …“and his taints are destroyed by his seeing with wisdom”. (MN70 and many others).

I believe the sutta do not teach that abiding in a certain state an sich destroyes defilements. This is because one can always, again, be subject to conceiving. And starting to delight in that state, or starting to conceive it as me, mine, my self (MN1). Then again one does not see with wisdom and one defilements grow even more now. Ones conceit becomes as large as Mount Meru. In this light MN1 is very important, i feel (disclaimer :blush:)

Jhana is also not the same as real peace of heart, Nibbana. Because when one comes out of it, peace of heart is still easily lost. But not for someone who has really attained Nibbana.

Nibbana is a situation in which one is not cut of from the inner vulcano, but has managed to transform it, tame it, and purify it. The symbol for this is the lotus who is rooted in the mud but grows to the light and comes above the surface. To work with the mud is the practice. The mud gives the oppertunity to grow in wisdom and love. The inner mud, the defilement are precious, like manure for love, compassion and wisdom.

Yes, but not a buddhist ofcourse. Buddha was not a buddhist.

That i do not know. I think it is unlikely. Probably there are other ascetics to, maybe those called prateyaka buddha’s, who on their own also can enter this state or arrive at Nibbana.
But i also do not exclude Jesus knew this state or other persons in other religions.

I do not think so. I feel it is more like this: What makes a sammasambuddha is his limitless heart qualities, his love, compassion, wisdom, his openess and his orientation to the welfare of all beings. A sign of love and goodness.

My Buddha had a carreer of goodness in many lives. His beauty. I honour this. His selfless mentallity in endless lives. His devotion to goodness which is not really different from Jesus devotion to goodness i feel. Bodhicitta is what the Buddha always felt in endless lives. The wish to do good. To serve the wellbeing of others, even at cost of his own life. His devotion to goodness, to truth, to purity did not start in his last life but he showed this in many lives. This is buddhism in a non-sectarian way, i feel. And if you see people devoted to goodness, to truth, to purity, i feel, they are buddhist even when they call themselves christians, muslim etc.

The heart that is devoted to purity, truth, goodness, I believe THAT is the one and only supra mundane noble Path. Nothing else. And this not something sectarian nor buddhist.

Yes, i do not really believe that the Dhamma is even able to get lost. But i think it can happen that we become less and less devoted to goodness, to purity, to Truth. It is like we do not feel anymore the calling of the heart. I think the world can evolve in that way but it is not possible that the Dhamma can really vanish.

Maybe we can discuss this in a seperate thread, if you like?

I suggest a different forum if we are not going to discuss EBT but your theories & feelings.

My understanding of Dhamma is not independend of the EBT @Notez . If you like, you can read DN30 about what great deeds of goodness the Buddha did in former lifes:

Monks, in whatever former life, former existence or dwelling-place the Tathagata, being born a human being, undertook mighty deeds to good purpose, unwavering in good conduct of bgdy, speech and thought, in generosity, self- discipline, observance of the fast-day, in honouring parents, ascetics and Brahmins and the head of the clan, and in other highly meritorious act

There are also parts of the Canon that describe all this in detail.

For me, He was really a Great Person devoted to goodness, Truth, Purity. By the way, a synonym for asankhata is Truth (SN43).

In the course of time i have grown in the faith and understanding that buddhism is really about the heart. For me the Buddha represents the universal search for peace of heart that many people seek when they awaken to the injustice of life, the cruelty, the conflicts, the intoxication, the madness, the suffering. One can hardly tolerate life with eyes open, like the Buddha also could not. But the heart longs for peace.

That is where i can relate to. I feel this is not wrong. Dhamma is a Path to Peace that is what EBT teach. Nibbana is in EBT called the sublime state of supreme peace. A Peace that does not rely on any intoxication, belief, view, grasping, etc.

I see the sutta’s as Buddha’s testimony about his search for this supreme peace and his arrival at peace of heart, Nibbana. This is also really expressed in the sutta’s. I have shared them many times so i am not gonna do this here.

Yes, i say things like i feel, i believe because i do not want to make any claim on pure Dhamma. I only express what is Dhamma for-me. And really…i read the sutta’s and i rely also on the sutta’s.
But it is part of my daily dhamma practice that i try to be constant aware that my understanding, drive, interpretation is subjective. I try not to sell as something different.

I have no real heartfelt connection with ending an endless samsara i must escape. I cannot practice that way because that is not authentic for me. Buddha sought peace and i can relate to that. I do not see this as the peace of a last death. I see this as the peace of being fully openhearted as the result of uprooting all defilements.

I am at peace with this :blush:. The only thing that really counts for me, is the heart, purifying the heart, and try to be devoted to the heart-knowledge of truth, goodness, purity. For me it feels that a life devoted to truth, to goodness, to purity that cannot go wrong. Even if such a life comes with challenges, difficulties, suffering, i certainly encounter, i prefer that above something else.

I see in the EBT a Buddha devoted to Truth, Purity, Goodness.

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I’d like to add a reference to MN44 for this.
Here we see that an additional step is necessary for insight, starting with the part

“Should these underlying tendencies be given up regarding all instances of these feelings?”
“No, not in all instances.

We find after this that the use of skill to enter the first jhana is not classified as greed, but as skilful activity.
We then find that the sadness due to longing for the “supreme liberation” does not classify as repulsing and is seen as skilful activity.
We last find that giving up current happiness and pain, as well as ending former happiness and sadness, results in the fourth absorption. It is only based on these conditions that the fourth absorption is achieved. It’s essentially giving up present and past feelings and there is no ignorance in this (in other words, this is knowledge).

I get the impression, but might be overextending, that this part should be read in reference to the cessation mentioned above, since cessation if I remember correctly leads to non-return when not viewed with wisdom. After reaching cessation the monk should use absorption (jhana) to the purpose of investigation of the cessation experience, where the cessation experience is (might be) wrongly viewed as the (permanent) mental state of the arahant (seeking seclusion).
So one uses first the skills trained to enter the first jhana, then uses the sadness coming from longing for the seclusion as tool to enter the fourth jhana, which can then be used to investigate the experience: “Pleasant feeling is pleasant when it remains and painful when it perishes.”, indicating that the pleasure of cessation is painful when it perishes (subject to change, stressful, non-self).

The reason samādhi is critical for deep insight is that it gives the mind the stability and power to see things that are otherwise impossible to see.

I have a slightly different understanding, being that jhana is the only toolset which allows for the skilful use of giving up (first jhana), then the use of skilful desire (for cessation/nibbana, to enter the fourth jhana) to achieve a neutral mental state which is the toolset to investigate how pleasant experiences turn painful and how unpleasant experiences turn to pleasure (assuming feeling is the focus of investigation).
It’s not, but I might be overextending again, the “stability and power” of the absorption which allows for this, far more the undisturbed state of mind in which whatever disturbance rises is directly known as it is. (without moving towards repulsion or ignoring it as it occurs).
And when in these circumstances a disturbance occurs the search for “that which causes annoyance because of the disturbance” becomes the target of investigation.

And with that I’ll share my perhaps most controversial understanding: many people consider jhana as something which becomes more and more quiet, while the suttas indicate that’s it’s a very active engagement with specific activities with whatever is at hand, and that the result of this engagement leads to understanding, and with that the meditation deepens based on the understanding.
While gross impressions disappear, the subtle impressions will be screaming in the relative silence until fully understood. It’s in the fourth jhana that the tendency to “seclusion” is set aside, allowing for investigation of what’s present instead of trying to suppress or ignore it.
Right stillness is not the mind which is silent, it’s the mind which does not move along with the raging world, while being fully aware of the rage.

We don’t want to know this (ignorance), try to entertain the mind in different ways (greed) and avoid the painful feelings (repulsion). Jhana offers a set of tools to address these problems.

This is my limited understanding on the role of jhana in liberation: it’s essential.

I think it’s certainly true that, upacaravasena supatthita Sati is the launching pad for Appanavasena supatthita Sati.

I have no doubt that Ven Ajahn Brahmali is ‘right on the True Dhamma’, here! So, I offer the following to express my agreement with Ajahn’s stated position.
We could easily look at the Suttas to find out what the Lord Buddha had to say on this. Buddha has clearly:
• Defined the Right Immersion /Stillness (Sammāsamādhi) in SN 45:8 (please see below for brief details)
• Stated that the Only Path to giving up the Five Lower Fetters is through the Jhanas, i.e. Sammāsamādhi (please see the relevant sections from MN 64, below) and
• Explained how NOT to get stuck in Jhana states or any of the first 4 Arupa States, (please see the relevant sections from MN 64 & AN 9:36 & MN 138)
Definition of (Sammāsamādhi):
Here is the definition of right immersion /stillness (Sammāsamādhi) from Vibhaṅga Sutta SN 45:8, in the Magga Samyuktha: –
“And what is the right immersion? It’s when a mendicant, quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unskillful qualities, enters and remains in the first absorption, which has the rapture and bliss born of seclusion, while placing the mind and keeping it connected.” …
Only Path to giving up the Five Lower Fetters
Here are some of the relevant sections from Mahāmālukya Sutta MN 64:
“There is a path and a practice for giving up the five lower fetters. It’s not possible to know or see or give up the five lower fetters without relying on that path and that practice.”
“And what, Ānanda, is the path and the practice for giving up the five lower fetters?”
“It’s when a mendicant—due to the seclusion from attachments, the giving up of unskilful qualities, and the complete settling of physical discomforts—quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unskilful qualities, enters and remains in the first absorption, which has the rapture and bliss born of seclusion, while placing the mind and keeping it connected.”
How NOT to get stuck in any Jhana State:
Lord Buddha has very clearly taught us the way to use the Jhana States or any of the first 4 Arupa States to escape from Samsara. Here are some such teachings from a few Suttas:

  1. Here is a section from Mahāmālukya sutta MN 64, as to how to use the Jhana, appropriately, for the giving up of fetters:
    “They contemplate the phenomena there—included in form, feeling, perception, choices, and consciousness—as impermanent, as suffering, as diseased, as a boil, as a dart, as misery, as an affliction, as alien, as empty, as not-self. This shows the development of insight based directly on the absorption. They turn their mind away from those things, and apply it to the element free of death: ‘This is peaceful; this is sublime—that is, the stilling of all activities, the letting go of all attachments, the ending of craving, fading away, cessation, extinguishment.” …

  2. Here is another similar section from Jhāna Sutta AN 9:36:

‘The first absorption is a basis for ending the defilements.’ That’s what I said, but why did I say it? Take a mendicant who, quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unskillful qualities, enters and remains in the first absorption. They contemplate the phenomena there—included in form, feeling, perception, choices, and consciousness—as impermanent, as suffering, as diseased, as a boil, as a dart, as misery, as an affliction, as alien, as falling apart, as empty, as not-self. They turn their mind away from those things, and apply it to freedom from death: ‘This is peaceful; this is sublime—that is, the stilling of all activities, the letting go of all attachments, the ending of craving, fading away, cessation, extinguishment.’ Abiding in that they attain the ending of defilements. If they don’t attain the ending of defilements, with the ending of the five lower fetters they’re reborn spontaneously, because of their passion and love for that meditation. They are extinguished there and are not liable to return from that world.

  1. Here is the Relevant Section from Uddesavibhaṅga sutta MN 138:
    “And how is their consciousness not stuck internally? It’s when a mendicant, quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unskillful qualities, enters and remains in the first absorption, which has the rapture and bliss born of seclusion, while placing the mind and keeping it connected. Their consciousness doesn’t follow after that rapture and bliss born of seclusion, and is not tied, attached, and fettered to gratification in that rapture and bliss born of seclusion. So their mind is said to be not stuck internally.” …
    With Metta,
    strong text
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Hello Bhante — warm wishes to you and everyone else enjoying this thread. Venerable Anālayo has asked me to publish his reply to your post:


The venerable Ajahn Brahmāli has invited me to read and possibly reply to online comments posted by him on suttacentral regarding my article on “a brief history of Buddhist absorption.” I am just coming out of a five-month retreat, with lots of emails etc. to attend to, so I will try to keep things short.

Potential Drawbacks of Absorption

I agree. In my article (p. 577), I indeed highlighted that the problem is “being glued with attachment” and “developing conceit around attainments.” My intention was not to convey that concentration as such is problematic or to discourage its practice. That would be absurd. Instead, the point is just that, as there are potential drawbacks, “one needs to deal with it in a skilful way.”

Comparative Study and Right Concentration

A basic principle in comparative studies is that passages found similarly in parallels transmitted by different reciter traditions are probably early, as they seem to reflect material prior to the separation into different transmission lineages. A natural starting point for comparative research is then material found in the Pāli suttas, because this is the only complete set of discourse collections we have from one reciter lineage, and then compare relevant instances to their parallels. Those that are supported by similar presentations in the parallels can reasonably be considered earlier than those that are not supported.

My article on “a brief history …” was, as the title indicates, meant to provide a brief survey, which is why I referenced other publications of mine that offer more details. For the present question the relevant article I mentioned is 2019a, where I quote on p. 22 what is the only instance of which I am aware among Chinese Āgama discourses that defines right concentration by way of the four jhānas. This is MĀ 189 (parallel to MN 117), the relevant part of which is not supported by its Pāli and Tibetan parallels.

I agree with the first but beg to differ on the second suggestion. An example that comes to my mind is what traditionally is regarded as the Buddha’s first sermon (SN 56.11). After introducing the two extremes to be avoided, the sutta presents a definition of the middle path by listing the eight path factors. It would follow that the giving of a definition as such should be regarded as part of the Buddha’s teaching activity from its very outset.

Samādhi and Jhāna

This is indeed the case, but then the gradual path concerns arrival at the three higher knowledges and thus the realization arahant-ship, rather than the cultivation of the eightfold path by a stream-enterer.

Just for the record, the democratic principle that the majority overrules the minority does not readily hold for textual studies, which is the point behind lectio difficilior potior. In the present case, once there is clear evidence that samādhi does not invariably equal jhāna attainment, the burden of proof rests with those who wish to interpret any particular reference to samādhi as being equivalent to jhāna attainment; each such case needs to be established, rather than taking such equivalence for granted.

Jhāna and Satipaṭṭhāṇa

In my study of the sutta (2003), I examined the above-mentioned terminology, and that examination shows that these terms cannot be confined to jhāna attainment. In fact, unlike samādhi, the term jhāna is not mentioned explicitly in the Satipaṭṭhāna-sutta (MN 10). The term samādhi occurs in two ways: in the third satipaṭṭhāna as the samāhita citta and in the fourth satipaṭṭhāna as the awakening factor of samādhi. In relation to the first case, the “concentrated mind,” the satipaṭṭhāna task is to know when the mind is concentrated and when it is not concentrated. These two are alternatives, reflected in the use of , so that mindful recognition of not being concentrated would in principle be a way of cultivating the third satipaṭṭhāna, which of course would fall short of involving jhāna. The same holds for the “awakening factor of concentration,” in that mindful recognition of its absence would be a way of cultivating the fourth satipaṭṭhāna.

A task mentioned in the “refrain” part of the Satipaṭṭhāna-sutta then is to contemplate the nature of arising and passing away (and both), which would be relevant to the concentrated mind and to the awakening factor of concentration. On the understanding that the term jhāna refers to a deeply absorbed mental condition—a point on which the venerable Ajahn and I agree—it is difficult to imagine how such contemplation could be undertaken by someone who has attained jhāna. In other words, even satipaṭṭhāna contemplation of the “concentrated mind” or the “awakening factor of concentration” does not give me the impression that this refers only to jhāna attainment, unless one were to subscribe to the idea of ‘easy jhāna .’ Otherwise, contemplating the nature of arising and passing away could only happen when the mind is not yet or no longer absorbed.

In my article I had given reference to another article of mine, 2006a, in which I discuss differences between the parallel versions. In relation to the absence of the first jhāna in MN 125, my proposed reasoning (p. 18) is that such a loss could have occurred during oral recitation, since the preceding passage describes satipaṭṭhāna cultivated in the absence of vitakka. This could have misled a reciter to continue with the reference to the absence of vitakka mentioned in the standard formula of the second jhāna, thereby accidentally omitting to recite the first jhāna formula.

This reasoning is of course open to discussion, which is why I only stated that in my view comparative study “makes it fairly probable” that an error in textual transmission has occurred. The alternative to that would be to take MN 125 to offer an endorsement of ‘easy jhāna,’ which is the position taken by Arbel 2017: 73f, for example, in the sense that here the first jhāna stands for an only lightly collected state of mind in which contemplation of impermanence is possible.

Indeed, and perhaps for good reasons, as even the Satipaṭṭhāna-sutta fails to communicate this. The part of the sutta that explicitly tackles the purpose of the practice presents satipaṭṭhāna as the direct path to “the realization of Nibbāna,” preceded by a list of items that do not explicitly mention samādhi, let alone jhāna. This is not to deny that satipaṭṭhāna can lead to samādhi and jhāna; the point is only that the Satipaṭṭhāna-sutta does not explicitly present this as its main purpose.


I hope the above selected replies help to clarify a bit where I am coming from. I appreciate that the venerable Ajahn Brahmāli, whom I personally hold in high regard, has given me an opportunity to reconsider my presentation and check if it requires adjustment. As of now, I am under the impression that the textual evidence I marshalled supports my conclusions, which I presented in an updated form in a chapter in a book published more recently (2022). Alongside some differences on which the two of us will probably just have to agree to disagree, I take it that we concur on samādhi and the attainment of jhāna—which we both understand to refer to a deeply concentrated mental condition—being highly valued in the suttas as an important dimension of mental cultivation that should certainly be encouraged. Maybe the time has come now to get back to the cushion?


Thank you, @Christopher for facilitating Ven. Analayo’s clarifications. Thank you, Ven. Analayo for your gracious elucidation on your position. And thank you, Ven. Brahmali for bringing this discussion up.

I’ve learned a few things that I’ve been unclear about when it comes to Samadhi and Jhana and it’s opened up a few more questions for me.

Most of all, I appreciate a knowledgable, well supported approach delivered respectfully.

If Ven. Analayo has cleared up some of the misunderstandings, perhaps the title of this topic could be edited…

with metta


Indeed, may I second all of this!


Thanks so much @Christopher for conveying this kind and courteous reply on behalf of Ven. Anālayo. I appreciate the clarifications he makes, which certainly go some way towards bridging the gap between our positions. It seems to me, however, that there are areas where we still do not see eye to eye. In any case, after receiving such a nice reply, I feel it would be ungracious and insensitive to argue my points straight away. I wish to honour the good will extended by my friend Ven. Anālayo. In the end, this is not about winning an argument as such, but about gaining a deeper understanding of the suttas. When the time is right, I shall reply. In the meantime, @Adutiya, I will not edit the title of the OP.


I’m sorry I don’t really get your point. If people abandon the commentaries how will they support the idea that Vicara Vitakka is not plain and simple thinking, that you can’t walk while in jhana, that you’re supposed to see a bright light in your mind and get absorbed in it so that you’re more or less senseless and that this constitute jhana ? I mean, abandoning commentaries would be quite a blow to a lot of the modern day Theravada school ? Maybe I misunderstood you, sorry if it’s the case