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Why "Quite secluded from sensual pleasures"

“Quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states”

What is the significance of the word ‘quite’ in the criteria for first Jhana?

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Well, I wouldn’t get too hung up on the particulars of one word in an English translation. Here is the Pali:

So kho ahaṁ, brāhmaṇa, vivicceva kāmehi…

I suppose [EDIT: incorrectly] that “Quite” is translating “So kho” which is indeed a bit emphatic, though in the Pāḷi it doesn’t seem to be only modifying “secluded from sensual pleasures” but rather seems to be more akin to a resolute “Therefore!” to me (though happy to be corrected by those more knowledgeable than I!) [EDIT: I was indeed corrected below: “-eva” is the “Quite”]

Bhante Suddhaso, for example, just skipped the emphasis entirely in his translation, simply having:

Brahmin, isolated from sensuality…, I…

Hope that helps?

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This has been answered by Orthodox Theravada (Vibhajjavada), as in Visuddhimagga, the chapter of Jhana description.

The emphasis is to denote the difference between pleasurable feelings of the flesh and not of the flesh, the condition of the second foundation of mindfulness:

"And what is pleasure of the flesh? There are these five strings of sensuality. Which five? Forms cognizable via the eye — agreeable, pleasing, charming, endearing, fostering desire, enticing. Sounds cognizable via the ear… Aromas cognizable via the nose… Flavors cognizable via the tongue… Tactile sensations cognizable via the body — agreeable, pleasing, charming, endearing, fostering desire, enticing. Now whatever pleasure arises in dependence on these five strands of sensuality, that is called pleasure of the flesh.

“And what is pleasure not of the flesh? There is the case where a monk — quite withdrawn from sensual pleasures, withdrawn from unskillful qualities — enters & remains in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation.”—SN 36.31

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Thank you.

How is piti experienced in the form Jhana different from tactile sensations cognizable via the body in the sensual realm?

Why is piti not a form of sensual pleasure?

Differentiating between feelings of the flesh and feelings not of the flesh is the task of the second foundation of mindfulness, so is something that has to be worked at and cultivated according to the second tetrad, and through individual insight. Feeling is an independent thread in the foundations of mindfulness and in the complete path. The reason the Buddha-to-be achieved awakening is not through discovering jhana, but differentiating pleasurable feelings that were not based on sensuality:

“I thought: ‘So why am I afraid of that pleasure that has nothing to do with sensuality, nothing to do with unskillful mental qualities?’ I thought: 'I am no longer afraid of that pleasure that has nothing to do with sensuality, nothing to do with unskillful mental qualities,”—MN 36

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Thank you.

I imagine piti and sukkha can be experienced by both skillful and unskillful thoughts. When the underlying thoughts are without lust, then they are considered blameless. They should even be encouraged as they motivate the mind to stay wholesome with lesser effort progressively.

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I heard Buddhaghosa (the influential Theravandan commentator) explains the emphasis in “VERY (quite) secluded from sense pleasures” to be an extra indicator that this means not just ordinary seclusion from sensual experience, like being in a cave, but secluded from the five senses in total, so that there is only mental experience in the jhanas. I suppose that reference comes from the Visuddhimagga, but I’m not sure.

To some extent I can agree with Buddhaghosa, although Ven. Khemarato has it right that such emphasis in Pali generally adds little meaning.

It is not “so kho”, though, that is translated as “quite”, but “eva” in “vivicceva (= vivicca eva)”, which does emphasize the vivicca (secluded), and not the whole sentence. It’s interesting why this “eva” is not repeated for the seclusion from the five hindrances. It may indicate Buddhaghosa had it right.

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:man_facepalming: Thanks for the correction, Venerable! :pray: :sweat_smile:

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Further information:

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Thank you for the very insightful article. When food arises, body arises 食集则身集 as told in the agama.

One rely on unworldly joy and happiness to let go of worldly one’s. Finally one can be released even from the unworldly with the realization of “more unworldly than unworldly” joy, happiness, and equanimity.

A very insightful Dhamma talk on withdrawal from sensuality.