Wisdom and Samadhi

There is no jhana for one who lacks wisdom,
No wisdom for one without jhana.
But for one with both wisdom and jhana,
He, truly is near Nibbana.

Natthi jhanam apannassa
panna natthi ajhayato
yamhi jhananca panna ca
sa ve nibbanasantike.

Dhp 372

Hello all,

I wanted to get the group’s insight into the dichotomy of wisdom-samadhi. This false dichotomy has convinced large numbers of Western practitioners that samadhi is superfluous (and unattainable). And given the importance of jhana on the Path, this aberration in the teaching has likely led to a significant vulnerability.

Furthermore, it appears that mindfulness (sati) is often conflated with wisdom (vipassana) which also seems inaccurate. Sati as an enlightenment factor contributes as much to the development of samadhi as it allows investigation of dhammas. Vipassana is the culmination of inner knowledge that comes when the 8 fold path is mature (of which sati is just one component).

It can take one years to unravel these incorrect teachings. Secular Buddhist teachers are a significant force that teaches in this manner.

In Asia, there is an exhortation to develop samadhi. However, there is sometimes the idea that wisdom comes only later. The Buddha seems to say that at least a modicum of wisdom is necessary even for samadhi. This is part of right view and also helpful in setting aside hindrances. Most senior Thai masters do teach that blended growth is the right approach.

What is the viewpoint of senior Western monastics?

We have a long way to go to re-educate the “mindfulness masses”!


“Though right concentration claims the last place among the factors of the Noble Eightfold Path, concentration itself does not mark the path’s culmination. The attainment of concentration makes the mind still and steady, unifies its concomitants, opens vast vistas of bliss, serenity, and power. But by itself it does not suffice to reach the highest accomplishment, release from the bonds of suffering. To reach the end of suffering demands that the Eightfold Path be turned into an instrument of discovery, that it be used to generate the insights unveiling the ultimate truth of things. This requires the combined contributions of all eight factors, and thus a new mobilization of right view and right intention. Up to the present point these first two path factors have performed only a preliminary function. Now they have to be taken up again and raised to a higher level. Right view is to become a direct seeing into the real nature of phenomena, previously grasped only conceptually; right intention, to become a true renunciation of defilements born out of deep understanding.”—Bikkhu Bodhi

The relation between calm and insight is a circular one of dynamics. The seven factors of awakening are divided into two groups of three, one active the other passive (SN 46.53) and there is a causal sequence between them initiated by investigation.


Very well said, paul1. Are Bhikkhu Bodhi’s words from one of his books or is it from an essay?
Thank you.

They are from his book “The Noble Eightfold Path.” That quote is a reminder there are two themes to wisdom, the mental and the physical.

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