Where in the EBT is sammā samādhi defined as 4 jhānas?

I thought about how the translation of ‘samma’ as right or correct automatically makes us go “I want to be correct - what’s the definition” while if we understand ‘samma’ as ‘wholesome’ we would in our mind not automatically go for a matrix-map.

another possible indication in that direction:
old meanings for samma are ‘togther’, while miccha meant ‘separate’ - not only ‘right’ and ‘wrong’


At least the formula “Āsavasamudayā avijjāsamudayo” appears only here in MN 9

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see the quoted passage for SN 48.9 in msg. 12

that goes both ways. and that’s why there’s a discussion and uncertainty. the context sometimes is clearly referring to samadhi and 4 jhanas that culminates in nirvana, without “samma” being explicitly mentioned, but in many passages 4j is not enough to lead to nirvana.

that’s exactly what I believe now. That SN 45.8, where 8aam for 8 “right” factors are defined, titled “vibhanga sutta” (disecting, explaining), and pretty much all suttas with that title (there are many) are early abhidhamma, meaning not composed by the Buddha, but his disciples who were trying to be helpful and give concise definitions, collate, synthesize smaller pieces of the dhamma into coherent larger pieces.

Just to be clear, Early strata EBT abhidhamma, which does not contradict EBT, IMO is very valuable and a good thing. Later abhidhamma, especially Vism., the parts that contradict EBT, I consider to be dark abhidhamma, a pernicious doctrine that should be segregated and quarantined like the dangerous entity that it is.

What would be even better, is if bright abhidhamma (the early strata EBT abhidhamma which doesn’t contradict EBT in any way) was clearly identified as a work not originally composed by the Buddha, so unintentional errors or misunderstandings like we’re having about samma samadhi could be easy to trace and understand.

In my vision of a reformed theravada, bright abhidhamma (which consists of the EBT sutta portion) would still be considered canonical, and labeled as “not authored by the Buddha”, and segregated into the ‘bright abhidhamma’ pitaka. Dark abhidhamma, the current abhidhamma pitaka in Theravada, would lose canonical status and banished to the basement of the library with restricted access, no access for most people. I’m sure this will never happen, but I can dream.

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How about AN10.61

With metta

But then the sutta could have mentioned that it was one of the disciple that gave this explanation of the 8 factors of the path, like in other suttas where this is the case… why would they stipulate that it is the Buddha that gives this explanation if it was Sariputta or one of the other disciple?

The Buddha said that it gave some teachings in short and in details, for me it is not that surprising to find a detailed explanation of the Noble Eightfold Path given by the Buddha himself, it is even expected knowing the importance of that teaching.

Maybe the fault is ours, when we try to gather all the different teachings in one giant structure and assuming that some definitions and explanations are exhaustive in their content. Let’s assume the Buddha did give this explanation of right concentration in SN45.8. Maybe he never intended to have an exhaustive list of all the right types of concentrations (such as the base of infinite space etc), but just wanted to highlight the importance of the 4th jhana. And then other teachings show us that other attainments are also suitable for liberation (1st, 2nd, 3rd jhana, base of infinite space etc) while other suttas shows us that other types of concentrations are not.

But whatever personal conclusions each one of us reach, it is indeed interesting to challenge all the teachings and suttas, even the ones we assume are straightforward! Looking forward to more discussions like this :anjal:


I can relate to what you wrote. When in the past I would often think “Why don’t we have more exact definitions?” now I often think that the Buddha was not interested in exhaustive definitions. I mean he was defining all the time (“three things”, “five things”… …) but it was at that spot, for that specific situation and not meant for eternity and out of context. A definition can be true and purposeful and overlapping with other definitions made at another time.


I don’t think the Buddha was writing a book when he spoke- he was involved in the immediate issue of projecting the meaning of his words, into the mind of the listener. The necessarily did not involve definitions but the immediacy would have required using well worn terms. Having said that he asked some discourses to be memorized for posterity and those (ie all that we have) do have some definitions. I think problems began when redactors or later lost access to meanings and started playing word games with the Dhamma.

with metta


Thanks, that’s a more detailed analysis.

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Both what you said in


could not be truer.

I don’t have the suttas in mind right here.
And note also that I usually refer only to suttas that have parallels in the SA. I think this is sufficient to have the gist of EBT Buddhism. So what I say below has to do with suttas with // in SA.

Often, the Buddha seems to play on words in the same sutta. That is to say to give different possible meanings for a word within a sutta, or even within a sentence.
And samma seems to be the case.
What goes into the container that is the word samma is so ecclectic.
Sama speech might be translated as “appropriateness of language”. While sama view, might be translated as “correct regard on dhamma”. While again, samma samādhi, might just mean “(right would be redundant) meditative concentration towards oneneness”.

Samādhi has much to do with eka.

Please read the notes here https://justpaste.it/1970m
Particularly the end of the additional note.

As you say, samma in this context means ‘in one’ (opposite of miccha = ‘separate’).
It is ekatta vs. puthutta (ekatva vs. pṛthutva).
It is “one” vs. “many” (manifoldness).

See also https://justpaste.it/zcue

It’s just about saṃ & vi.

However “oneness” does not mean “together” in Buddhism. It means getting rid of one thing, to enter a new one.
There is the problem of saṃ & vi - of sam & micha - of ekatta & puthutta - And there is the solution of eka.

Eka is about choosing one among two (or several) things.
It is making an end of something to get into something else (higher).

As in “making an end of” vitakka and vicāra to enter the second jhāna (absorption), with its ajjhatta sampasādana, cetaso ekodibhāva.
Or making and
Again, jhāna means absorption, as well as “making an end of” something.
E.g. to enter the third jhāna (absorption), you must “make an end of” delight/pīti - you must “jhāna” delight/pīti. You must “jhāna” pīti to be upekkhako (equanimous), sato (mindful), sampajāno (clearly discerning) and having sukhañca kāyena (pleasure with the body). You must terminate something, to get into something else.
It is not like in late Vedism, where eka = saṃ. Viz. making one out of the manifoldness.

This is transcendence (samatikkamma) in echt Buddhism: https://justpaste.it/1c78w

By the way, why not translate the common 2nd jhāna extract - where samādhi first appears) :
vitakkavicārānaṃ vūpasamā ajjhattaṃ sampasādanaṃ cetaso ekodibhāvaṃ avitakkaṃ avicāraṃ samādhijaṃ pītisukhaṃ dutiyaṃ jhānaṃ upasampajja viharāti.
with the stilling of abstract and concrete thoughts - with a citta manifested as transcended (ekodibhāvaṃ), without abstract thought (avitakkaṃ), without concrete [(diffused, rambling and doubtful)] thought (avicāraṃ), produced by a meditative concentration towards oneneness (samādhijaṃ), and with delight and pleasure (pītisukhaṃ), (a bhikku) enters upon and abides in the second jhana.

See vitakka vicāra here https://justpaste.it/11k7o


What I’m saying is that when the Buddha discusses the development of samādhi, he isn’t talking about miccha-samādhi or samādhi as the basic function of the mind. Also, it is very probable that ‘sammā’ is solely to distinguish from miccha-samādhi or used when the Eightfold Path is discussed.

So, if there is to be a comprehensive study of what sammā-samādhi is, it would inevitably require also looking at the passages where samādhi is defined.

So far, the only conclusions that one can infer from counting and comparing Suttas (which isn’t inherently conclusive) is that:

  • A few Suttas define sammā-samādhi as jhānas.
  • A small number of Suttas define sammā-samādhi as something else other than jhāna.
  • A small number of Suttas define samādhi as something else other than jhāna.
  • A large number of Suttas define samādhi as jhāna.

Clearly, it seems that sammā-samādhi is not solely jhāna. However, the insistence and contant repetition of sammā-samādhi and samādhi being the 4 jhānas (and also jhāna being a requirement for Nibbāna and Non-Returning) points to jhāna being highly important.


I’m going to go out on a limb to ask a silly question - where do the texts actually say that Right Concentration is the 4 Jhanas?

I know there’s the oft-cited SN 45.8, where after the list of the 4 Jhanas, we have the proposition -

ayaṃ vuccati sammāsamādhī

I wonder if any of our Pali-philes have noticed similar constructs, eg MN 9 -

saṃkhittena pañcu­pādā­nak­khan­dhā dukkhā —idaṃ vuccatāvuso, dukkhaṃ

Both propositions use the deictic pronouns “this” (ayaṃ and idaṃ) to refer back to the listings.

It appears to me that in Pali syntax, what we have here is a predicative nominal proposition, ie “A is B”. We can certainly infer that every instance of A is definitely B. However, can we necessarily infer that B is limited only to A, ie the proposition “B is A” is necessarily true?

If one asserts that one can infer a priori that Right Concentration consists only of the 4 Jhanas from the predicative nominal statement in SN 45.8, that would be falsified by the other attested usages of the predicative nominal in other passages.

Taking another passage from MN 9, look at the section dealing with “unwholesomeness”. Some examples are given, and the predicative nominal statement is made that they are all called “unwholesomeness”. Clearly, nobody would on the basis of this infer that the list of unwholesomeness is limited to that list, given the articulation of other forms of bad kamma elsewhere.

Ditto for the proposition “pañcu­pādā­nak­khan­dhā dukkhā”, another predicative nominal proposition that is misinterpreted to mean that only the 5 Clinging Aggregates constitute Suffering.

Just saying…


@samseva had been exploring this recently:

I suspect you could make a clarificatory contribution there. For example, I’m looking at SN 56.11’s phrase:

Now this, bhikkhus, is the noble truth of suffering: birth is suffering, aging is suffering, illness is suffering, death is suffering; union with what is displeasing is suffering; separation from what is pleasing is suffering; not to get what one wants is suffering; in brief, the five aggregates subject to clinging are suffering.

This “in brief” seems to suggest that, of all the various sorts of suffering here, they are all included in the idea “the five aggregates subject to clinging” - all varieties of suffering are rooted in that clinging there.

Using that same structure, it seems to me that there are all sorts of samadhi on offer, but the ones that come together under the banner of “samma-” are all of them undergirded by jhana, in the same way that all suffering is undergirded by clinging.

You seem to suggest that this is incorrect; how so?


nice work on that!
This quote is one of many examples where “directed-thought & evaluation” fits perfectly, where as “coarse and subtle thinking” doesn’t fit so well, and “mind glued to a white kasina” doesn’t work at all.

“The world is tightly fettered by delight;
Thought is its means of investigating (making concrete representation?*).
Craving is what one must forsake
In order to say, ‘Nibbāna.’”
“Nandīsaṃyojano loko,
vitakkassa vicāraṇaṃ;
Taṇhāya vippahānena,
nibbānaṃ iti vuccatī”ti.

@frankk started off with this, and I just added the last one:
mn 10, dn 22, mn 141, sn 45.8, AN 5.28

see posts #1, 2, 4

So I can’t follow the following assessment, or it would be nice to see it backed up by the actual suttas:

@Sylvester, you have a very good point here:

We are so used to different definitions of concepts - so why are we inflexible with samma-samadhi? I think it’s the pedestal that we put the 8NP on. My mindset at least is “Maybe the Buddha had ‘creative’ definitions with minor concepts, but surely there was a fixed set about the fundamentals of the dhamma!”

So I’d expect him to be fix on the 4NT, the 8NP, the paticcas. - That I had this dogmatic assumption is interesting

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Sammasamadhi leads to liberation:

“Bhikkhus, (1) for an immoral person, for one deficient in virtuous behavior, (2) right concentration lacks its proximate cause. When there is no right concentration, for one deficient in right concentration, (3) the knowledge and vision of things as they really are lacks its proximate cause. When there is no knowledge and vision of things as they really are, for one deficient in the knowledge and vision of things as they really are, (4) disenchantment and dispassion lack their proximate cause. When there is no disenchantment and dispassion, for one deficient in disenchantment and dispassion, (5) the knowledge and vision of liberation lacks its proximate cause. AN5.24

The samadhi that leads to liberation can be defined differently, other than the jhanas: AN4.41

Samadhi seeing sense bases (and not jhana)- knowledge and vision of things as they really are: SN35.99
Samadhi seeing the three kinds of feelings (and not jhana) can lead to liberation:SN36.1

therefore A=C.

with metta


Hi Dave

It’s a problem of language that leads us to draw false logical equivalences.

Taking the MN 9 example, we have -

pañcu­pādā­nak­khan­dhā dukkhā —idaṃ vuccatāvuso, dukkhaṃ

The thing to note here is that dukkha has been declined into its nominative case dukkhaṃ. In my view, this is a nominative of label, which turns it into a proper name, ie “Suffering” in capital S.

It is not a mere substantive noun any longer. As the name for an abstraction, it can be as large or as small as what the texts populates it with.

So, the question would be, does the adverb saṃkhittena (in brief) say that every form of Suffering is included in the pañcu­pādā­nak­khan­dhā? In my view, clearly not.

We have a clear proposition -

yaṃ kiñci vedayitaṃ taṃ dukkhasmin’ti.
“Whatever is felt is included in Suffering”

eg SN 36.11

Given that feelings are dependently arisen on contact, regardless of whether one is an arahant or a worldling, they are still included in Suffering. Even if an arahant does not take up the feeling, it is still Suffering on account of the feeling’s impermanence.

That’s my understanding of how predicative nominal propositions in Pali should be understood. We simply cannot assert logical equivalence from such predicative nominal propositions.

My sense of all these expositions on the constituents/composition of each of the samma factors is that they were intended to encourage practitioners to pursue and develop those factors. I don’t think any of the analyses were motivated by a desire to give a map of reality. If the Buddha says “The Jhanas is* Right Concentration”, our task is not to waste time wondering what else makes up Right Concentration; the tool has already been identified and we’re invited to use it.

  • pardon the singular copula. Just can’t expel the singular deictic pronoun of the Pali.

PS - SN 56.11 is probably unique as a text in which a saṅkhittena pronouncement is not followed up by a vitthārena exposition. It’s just the nature of these texts - economy of narrative. But judging from some of the parallels we studied in Bhante Sujato’s class, the First Discourse probably took place over several days, and what has survived of the teachings is just the gist.


Unless you’re a proponent of dry insight samadhi that can attain arahantship without jhāna quality of the four jhanas, the samadhi of SN 36.1 is the samadhi of someone in one of the 4 jhanas. See AN 9.36 for another prominent example of someoe, while in jhana, using that samadhi to attain arahantship.

SN 36.1 samādhi-suttaṃ

SN 36.1 samādhi-suttaṃ
SN 36.1 concentration-discourse
♦ 249. “tisso imā, bhikkhave, vedanā.
(there are) Three (of) these, *********, feelings.
katamā tisso?
Which three?
sukhā vedanā,
Pleasant feeling,
dukkhā vedanā,
unpleasant feeling,
a-dukkham-a-sukhā vedanā —
neither-unpleasant-nor-pleasant feeling
imā kho, bhikkhave, tisso vedanāti.
these are, *********, (the) three feelings.
♦ “samāhito sampajāno,
Concentrated, comprehending,
sato buddhassa sāvako.
mindful, (a) Buddha's disciple.
♦ vedanā ca pajānāti,
feelings (he) ** understands,
vedanānañ-ca sambhavaṃ.
and-feelings' origin,
♦ “yattha cetā nirujjhanti,
where **** (they) cease,
maggañ-ca khaya-gāminaṃ.
and-(the)-path (that) {leads}-(to their)-destruction.
♦ vedanānaṃ khayā bhikkhu,
(with) feelings' destruction, (a) monk,
nic-chāto pari-nibbuto”ti.
hunger-less (and) completely-cool."

No I’m not. People are so used to thinking in binary samatha OR vipassana terms. The Suttas are always about AND- BOTH samatha and vipassana are required.

It isnt appropriate to take one sutta and draw a final conclusion based just on that. It has to be placed in the broader dhamma(-vinaya). So I think a samadhi of 1-4 jhanic intensity must arise even if the 4 jhanas are not developed on their own. It some situations stream entry has been arrived at by people who would not have had the ability to develop jhanas due to various reasons. But they are said to posses the stream which is the noble eightfold path. This means they must have Sammasamadhi to a 1-4 jhanic degree, but entwined with insight.

with metta


I’m a bit confused about the topic. Like I touched on, I don’t understand why only sammā-samādhi is being looked over, when passages discussing samādhi should be as well.

Furthermore, what is the purpose of the topic? Is it to find if sammā-samādhi is not soley jhāna, but comprises some other types of samādhi as well? Or is it to incorrectly reduce the importance of jhāna by quantifying Suttas that describe sammā-samādhi?

If it is the former, the following by Bhikkhu Anālayo, from his work From Grasping to Emptiness — Excursions into the Thought-world of the Pāli Discourses II [PDF] (pp. 132-133), might clarify things:

Another definition of right concentration, found in a few discourses, does not mention the absorptions (see DN II 217; MN III 71; SN V 21 and AN IV 40). One of these discourses is the Mahācattārīsaka-sutta, a discourse which defines right concentration as unification of the mind (cittassekaggatā) developed in interdependence with the other seven path-factors (MN III 71). This definition highlights the fact that in order for concentration to become ‘right’ concentration, it needs to be developed as part of the noble eightfold path.

Judging from other discourses, the expression ‘unification of the mind’ is not confined to absorption concentration, since the same expression occurs in relation to walking and standing (AN II 14) or to listening to the Dhamma (AN III 175), activities which would not be compatible with absorption attainment. This suggests that this second definition of ‘right concentration’ would also include levels of samādhi that have not yet reached the depth of absorption concentration. In fact, the formulation of this second definition makes it clear that the decisive factor qualifying concentration as ‘right’ is not merely the depth of concentration achieved, but the purpose for which concentration is employed.

A similar nuance underlies the qualification sammā, ‘right’, which literally means “togetherness”, or to be “connected in one”. This thus indicates that the criterion for describing concentration as sammā, as ‘right’, is whether it is developed ‘together’ with the other factors of the noble eightfold path. Of central importance here is the presence of right view, as the forerunner of the whole path, without whose implementation concentration can never be reckoned sammā.