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THE FIVE JHĀNIC FACTORS

1
Scriptural formula for jhanas

SN45.8 on first jhāna: “And what, monks, is right


concentration? There is the case where a monk
— quite withdrawn from sensory [pursuits],
withdrawn from unskillful [mental] qualities —
enters & remains in the first jhana: rapture &
bliss born from withdrawal, accompanied by
directed thought & evaluations.”

2
Scriptural formula for jhanas

To summarize, first jhāna: “rapture & bliss born from


withdrawal [from unskillful states], accompanied by
directed thought & evaluations.”

Explain this from a practical perspective

Traditionally, listed with having 1. directed thought; 2.


evaluative thought; 3. rapture; 4. bliss; and [in many other
scriptural descriptions] 5. equanimity or unification of
mind (this one only occurs in less than a few in the Pali
canon)
3
Scriptural formula for jhanas

SN45.8 on second jhāna: “With the stilling of


directed thought & evaluative thought, he enters
& remains in the second jhana: rapture & bliss
born of concentration, unification of awareness
free from directed thought & evaluative thought
— internal assurance.”

Explain this from a practical perspective

4
Scriptural formula for jhanas

To summarize, second jhāna: “rapture & bliss


born of concentration…free from directed
thought & evaluative thought”
Traditionally, listed with having 1. directed
thought; 2. evaluative thought; 3. rapture; 4.
bliss; and [in many other scriptural descriptions]
5. equanimity or unification of mind

5
Scriptural formula for jhanas

SN45.8 on third jhāna: “With the fading of


rapture, he remains in equanimity, is mindful &
alert, and senses bliss with the body. He enters &
remains in the third jhana, of which the Noble
Ones declare, ‘Equanimous & mindful, he has a
pleasurable abiding.’”

Explain this in practical terms

6
Scriptural formula for jhanas

To summarize, third jhāna: “pleasurable abiding


with the fading of rapture”
Traditionally, listed with having 1. directed
thought; 2. evaluative thought; 3. rapture; 4.
bliss; and [in many other scriptural descriptions]
5. equanimity or unification of mind

7
Scriptural formula for jhanas

SN45.8 on fourth jhāna: “With the abandoning of


pleasure & pain — as with the earlier
disappearance of elation & distress — he enters
& remains in the fourth jhana: pure mindfulness
born of equanimity, neither pleasure nor pain.
This, monks, is called right concentration.”

Explain this in practical terms

8
Scriptural formula for jhanas

To summarize, fourth jhāna: “purified


mindfulness born of equanimity”
Traditionally, listed with having 1. directed
thought; 2. evaluative thought; 3. rapture; 4.
bliss; 5. equanimity or unification of mind

9
Scriptural formula for jhanas

As you can see, the progression of the stages


from the first to the fourth jhānas involves the
successive dropping of “jhānic components,”
until there are only (or predominantly)
equanimity and mindfulness

10
The Five Jhānic Factors

First jhāna: vitakka, Vicāra, joy, Bliss/Pleasure, Singleness of


mind/unification of mind/equanimity

Second jhāna: vitakka, Vicāra, joy, Bliss/Pleasure, Singleness of


mind/unification of mind/equanimity

Third jhāna: vitakka, Vicāra, joy, Bliss/Pleasure, Singleness of


mind/unification of mind/equanimity

Fourth jhāna: vitakka, Vicāra, joy, Bliss/Pleasure, Singleness of


mind/unification of mind/equanimity

11
Possible meanings of vitakka and vicāra

First possible meaning: as “applied attention” and


“sustained attention,” respectively (the
Visuddhimagga; Brahmavamso; Pa Auk; Ānalayo…)

Also translated as the “initial application of the


mind” and the “sustained application of the mind,”
respectively…

12
as “applied attention” and “sustained attention”…

The Visuddhimagga and its inspired traditions


understand jhāna to be fixed concentration. And so
the first two factors have to read as being about the
way the attention is applied and fastened to a
stationary object

13
as “applied attention” and “sustained attention”…

Vism. IV: “[As for] applied thought, hitting upon is


what is meant. It has the characteristic of directing
the mind onto an object. It is manifested as the
leading of the mind onto an object. [As for]
sustained thought, continued sustainment is what is
meant. It has the characteristic of continued pressure
on the object. It is manifested as keeping
consciousness anchored on that object.”

14
as “applied attention” and “sustained attention”…

Vism. IV: “…applied thought is the first compact


[sic: contact] of the mind in the sense that it is both
gross and inceptive, like the striking of a bell.
Sustained thought is the act of keeping the mind
anchored, in the sense that it is subtle with the
individual essence of continued pressure, like the
ringing of the bell.”

15
as “applied attention” and “sustained attention”…

But there are several problems with this interpretation…

For one thing: The suttas assert that in the second jhāna and
above, there’s no vitakka and vicāra. If vitakka and vicāra
mean “applied and sustained attention,” does it mean that all
those states (second jhāna and above) can happen without
“directed and sustained attention”?
But in Buddhist psychology, any instance of attention
involves “directing the mind to an object” and “continued
sustainment of attention.”

16
as “applied attention” and “sustained attention”…

Also, expressions like “manasi karoti” (paying attention)


(SN47.10), and “cetaso abhiniropanā” (directing of mind)
(MN 117) already mean applied attention…
To put vitakka and vicara as meaning generically paying
attention seems redundant and unnecessary

17
as “applied attention” and “sustained attention”…

The other problem is that the Visuddhimagga


definition simply does not fit the suttas’ descriptions.

We’ll see why this is the case in a moment…

18
Possible meanings of vitakka and vicāra

Second possible meaning:


2a. Vitakka as mental imagery; Vicāra as
verbalization (interpretations and internal talk about
the mental imagery)--Dhammarato Bhikkhu
2b. intellection and imagination, respectively
(Buswell, “Chinuls Systematization of Chinese
Meditative Techniques in Korean Sŏn Buddhism,” p.
220)

19
Possible meanings of vitakka and vicāra

third possible meaning: directed thought and


evaluative thought; directed thought and reflection;
contemplation and reflection (Barnes 1981, p. 257;
Bucknell 1993, p. 397; Kalupahana 1994, p. 35;
Stuart-Fox 1989, p. 94; Tilmann Vetter, 1988)

20
Possible meanings of vitakka and vicāra

This third set of meaning is: 1. the closest to the


etymology of the words vitakka and vicāra (which
are always said to be linked to “verbalization”); 2.
the closest to the suttas’ descriptions of them

But one of the reasons that many traditions opted for


the more stretched and twisted meanings (e.g.
applied and sustained attention) because “thought”
and “evaluation” in the first jhāna doesn’t sit well
with their commentarial notion of fixed absorption

21
Presence of thought in first jhana?

Presence of thought in first jhana?


AN4.35: “He thinks any thought he wants to
think, and doesn’t think any thought he
doesn’t want to think. He wills any resolve he
wants to will, and doesn’t will any resolve he
doesn’t want to will. He has attained mastery
of the mind with regard to the pathways of
thought.”

22
Presence of thought in first jhana?

AN3.100: “…there are these gross impurities in a monk intent on


heightened mind: misconduct in body, speech, & mind. These the
monk…wipes out of existence. When he is rid of them, there remain
in him the moderate impurities: thoughts of sensuality, ill will, &
harmfulness. These he…wipes out of existence. When he is rid of
them there remain in him the fine impurities: thoughts of his caste…
home district, thoughts related to not wanting to be despised. These
he ...wipes out of existence. When he is rid of them, there remain only
thoughts of the Dhamma. His concentration is neither calm nor
refined…and is kept in place by the fabrication of forceful restraint.
But there comes a time when his mind grows steady inwardly, settles
down, grows unified & concentrated. His concentration is…no longer
kept in place by the fabrication of forceful restraint.”

23
Presence of thought in first jhana?

Notice several implications of this passage:


1. It’s not just thought vs no-thought. It’s being
selective about thoughts—thoughts are not
created equal.
2. Vitakka has the nature of guiding and framing
mental activities (hence “kept in place by…
restraint”)
3. “Vitakka” is clearly something with content that
the mind ruminates over

24
Presence of thought in first jhana?

SN47.10: “While [a bhikkhu] is contemplating the body in


the body, there arises in him, based on the body, either a
bodily fever or mental sluggishness, or the mind is distracted
outwardly. That bhikkhu should then direct his mind towards
some uplifting theme. When the mind is directed to some
uplifting theme...happiness is born...The mind of one who is
happy becomes concentrated. He contemplates: ‘The purpose
for which I directed my mind has been served. Let me now
withdraw it [from that uplifting theme]’...He understands:
‘Without directed intention and evaluation, internally
mindful, I am happy.’” (i.e. “I am in second jhana”).

25
Presence of thought in first jhana?

Notice that in this sutta passage:


1. The monk is practicing the Satipaṭṭhāna as the way to enter
into the jhānas
2. The ceasing of the practice of “directing the mind to an
inspiring theme” coincides with the entry into the second
jhānas, meaning that this practice is an example of vitakka
and vicāra

26
Presence of thought in first jhana?

SN21.1 makes it clear that vitakka and vicara are about


“thinking thought”: https://legacy.suttacentral.net/en/sn21.1

27
Presence of thought in first jhana?

“Thought” should not be treated as a categorical taboo in Buddhist


meditation; a provisional tool that can be picked up or dropped
depending on the occasion (the state of mind that can be brought
about by the presence or absence of certain thoughts is much more
important)

The myth of meditation as categorical “no thought” or “anti-thought”


is sustained by the popularity of Zen and other forms of meditation

Thought and other mental processes are used as an aid (“raft”) in


Buddhist meditation, whose “gratification, dangers/limitations/stress,
and escape” are to be understood as one progresses in one’s practice

28
Presence of thought in first jhana?

There’s a difference between “directed thought” on


the one hand, and “agitation/restlessness” and
“discursive thought” on the other hand

29
Presence of thought in first jhana?

SN46.3: “anuvitakketi” and “pavicarati.”


The context makes it clear that they refer to thinking
and evaluation: https://suttacentral.net/en/sn46.3

Snp5.13: “With vitakka, the world is examined.”

30
Vitakka as thinking

Nian jing 念經 (MĀ 102 at T26. 589a) and MN19


define skillful vitakka as characterized by
“renunciation,” “non-ill will,” and “non-
cruelty/harmlessness”

MN19: unskillful vitakka are “sensual desires,” “ill-


will,” and “harmful intention,” which “obstruct
discernment” and “promote vexation” (note that the
three are expectedly the opposites of the three
mentioned in MN19
31
Vitakka as thinking

“Directing thought” or vitakka as the first jhānic factor:


By picking up a theme, or thinking certain thoughts, or
directing the mind in such a way (away from sensuality,
ill-will, and harmfulness and into renunciation, non-ill-
will, and non-harmfulness) so that happiness and
pleasure are born (first jhāna: “happiness and pleasure
born of seclusion from unskillful qualities of the mind”)

Let’s see how a sutta explains vitakka in precisely such


a way:

32
Vitakka as thinking

MN78: “And what are unskillful resolves? Being resolved on sensuality,


on ill will, on harmfulness. These are called unskillful resolves. What is
the cause of unskillful resolves? Their cause, too, has been stated, and
they are said to be perception-caused. Which perception? — for
perception has many modes & permutations. Any sensuality-perception,
ill will-perception or harmfulness-perception: That is the cause of
unskillful resolves. Now where do unskillful resolves cease without trace?
Their cessation, too, has been stated: There is the case where a monk,
quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful mental
qualities, enters & remains in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from
withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. This is where
unskillful resolves cease without trace.” (continued)

33
Vitakka as thinking

(continued) “And what sort of practice is the practice leading


to the cessation of unskillful resolves? There is the case
where a monk generates desire...for the sake of the non-
arising of evil, unskillful qualities that have not yet
arisen...for the sake of the abandoning of evil, unskillful
qualities that have arisen...for the sake of the arising of
skillful qualities that have not yet arisen...(and) for
the...development & culmination of skillful qualities that
have arisen. This sort of practice is the practice leading to the
cessation of unskillful resolves.” (continued)

34
Vitakka as thinking

(continued) “And what are skillful resolves? Being resolved on


renunciation (freedom from sensuality), on non-ill will, on
harmlessness…Now where do skillful resolves cease without trace?
Their cessation, too, has been stated: There is the case where a
monk, with the stilling of directed thoughts & evaluations, enters &
remains in the second jhana: rapture & pleasure born of composure,
unification of awareness free from directed thought & evaluation
— internal assurance. This is where skillful resolves cease without
trace.”

35
Vitakka as thinking

Remember what we said about what is vitakka?—“By picking up a


theme, or thinking certain thoughts, or directing the mind in such a
way (away from sensuality, ill-will, and harmfulness and into
renunciation, non-ill-will, and non-harmfulness) so that happiness
and pleasure are born”
According to this sutta, vitakka involves 1. generating perceptions
and picking up a theme that are in sync with Right Resolve; 2.
generating desires to move the mind away from sensuality, ill-will,
and harmfulness and into renunciation, non-ill-will, and non-
harmfulness

36
Vitakka as thinking

More evidence: MN 78 tells us that “skillful


resolves” (kusalā saṅkappā)—resolve of
renunciation (nekkhamma- saṅkappa), the
resolve of non-aversion (abyāpādasaṅkappa),
and the resolve of harmlessness
(avihiṃsāsaṅkappa)—don’t cease until the
second jhāna

37
Vitakka as thinking

AN5.28: second jhāna is “happiness and pleasure born of


concentration; What concentration? SN21.1: second jhāna is “noble
silence,” the ceasing of “thought and evaluation”

In light of this understanding of vitakka and vicāra, “concentration”


in the second jhāna does not mean fixed absorption. It means
satipaṭṭhāna done to the point where one no longer engages in the
relatively stressful activities of inner dialogue evaluative thinking,
and, as a result of which, experiences joy and pleasure while in that
process

As we have established, jhāna is entered through satipaṭṭhāna


practice, and it’d be inconceivable that any kind of satipaṭṭhāna can
be done without “applied attention” and “sustained attention”

38
Vitakka as thinking

MN18: “Eye consciousness arises dependent on the eye and sights.


The meeting of the three is contact. Contact is a condition for
feeling. What you feel, you perceive. What you perceive, you think
about (vitakketi). What you think about, you proliferate.”

39
Vitakka as thinking

AN3.60: “Someone [either] declare [the state of mind] on the basis


of a mark, or by hearing the sound of people, spirits, or deities
[speaking]…[or] he hears the sound of the diffusion of thought
(Vitakkavipphārasaddaṃ sutvā) as one is thinking and examining
[some matter] and then declares: ‘Your thought is thus, such is
what you are thinking, your mind is in such and such a state.’ And
even if he makes many declarations, they are exactly so and not
otherwise.”

40
Vicāra as [evaluative] thinking

Mahācattārīsaka Sutta (MN117) and the Shengdao jing


聖道經 (MĀ 189 at T26, 736a): Right view is that
which distinguishes right intention from wrong intention
(remember: we have shown that the suttas treat
right/wrong intention as synonymous with right/wrong
vitakka). Right effort involves the abandoning of wrong
intention and the entry into and maintenance of right
intention. Right mindfulness is that which remembers to
keep at such an endeavor
This basically describes what one does in the first jhāna

41
Vicāra as [evaluative] thinking

Even among the “early of the early suttas,” this is clearly


the case
For example, Snp5.13 (this belongs to the “old section”
of the Parayanavagga):
“With directed thought, the world is examined.”

42
Vicāra as [evaluative] thinking

The “cara” in vicara: “Carati” is roaming about, walking,


exploring, wandering around, traveling...
Frank Kuan: “Cankamena is walking meditation. Vicara
is the mental equivalent of that, exploring a topic
selected by vitakka (thinking). But in VRJ (vism.
redefined jhana)…vicara takes on the opposite meaning!
Instead of exploring and evaluating, it’s sticking like
glue trying to not move and become completely still!”

43
Vicāra as [evaluative] thinking

The power of thinking; thinking as a catalyst for going


into jhanas: https://legacy.suttacentral.net/en/sn46.3

44
The earliest detailed word commentary on the standard
jhāna formula

The earliest commentaries are much closer to the suttas in


vitakka and vicāra’s definition. Peṭakopadesa 7.72:
“Here, for fulfilling non-passion he is secluded from sensual
pleasures. Here, for fulfilling non-aggression and fulfilling
non-delusion he is secluded from unskillful phenomena. And
so he enters and remains in the first jhāna, which includes
directed thought and evaluation, as well as joy and pleasure
born of seclusion.
Directed thought: There are three kinds of directed thought,
namely the thought of renunciation, the thought of non-
aversion, and the thought of harmlessness.” (continued)

45
The earliest detailed word commentary on the standard
jhāna formula

(continued) “Here, directed thought is the first instance while


evaluation is the evaluation of what is thereby received. Just
as when a man sees someone approaching in the distance he
does not yet know whether it is a woman or a man, but when
he has received [the apperception] that “it is a woman” or “it
is a man” or that “it is of such color” or that “it is one of such
shape,” then when he has thought this he further scrutinizes,
“How then, is he ethical or unethical, rich or poor?” This is
examination. With directed thought he fixes. With
examination he moves about and turns over [what has been
thought].” (this “fixes” and “turning over” have been
reinterpreted in the Vsm.)
46
The earliest detailed word commentary on the standard
jhāna formula

Geoff Shatz: “Sarvāstivāda, Sautrāntika, and Yogācāra


ābhidharmikas consistently define vitakka & vicāra as two
types of ‘mental discourse’ (manojalpa, lit: ‘mind-talk’). For
example, Vasubandhu defines vitakka as ‘mental discourse
which investigates’ (paryeṣako manojalpa) and vicāra as
‘mental discourse which reflects’ (pratyavekṣako manojalpa).
Vitakka is considered to be coarse (cittsyaudārikatā) and
vicāra comparatively more subtle (cittsyasūkṣmatā). Compare
with the Theravāda Peṭakopadesa, which gives a detailed
word analysis of these terms in the context of the jhāna
formula”: (continued)

47
The earliest detailed word commentary on the standard
jhāna formula

“Vitakka is like a text-reciter who does his recitation silently.


Vicāra is like him simply contemplating it (anupassati).
Vitakka is like non-comprehension (apariññā). Vicāra is like
full comprehension (pariññā). Vitakka is the analytical
understanding of language and the analytical understanding
of knowledge. Vicāra is the analytical understanding of
dhamma and the analytical understanding of meaning.
Vitakka is the mind's skill in pleasantness. Vicāra is the
mind's skill in endeavor. Vitakka is about this being skillful,
this unskillful, about this to be developed, this to be
abandoned, this to be verified. Vicāra is like the abandoning,
the development, the verification.”
48
Still another commentary

Yogācārabhūmi (T1579. 302b) tells us that vitakka


and vicāra are connected with volition (cetanā) and
discernment (prajñā), respectively; These are in turn
connected with “directed thought” and “evaluation,”
respectively, rather than with “applied and sustained
attention”

49
Still another commentary

Mahaprajnaparamita-sastra (T25n1509) tells us that


vitakka and vicāra are coarse thinking (cu-nian) and
subtle thinking (xi-nian), respectively

50
Speech as a frame for action

Evidence of toddlers using “repetition of what was said”


as a way of guiding their own actions

51
Speech as a frame for action

AN5.26: “Here, bhikkhus, the Teacher or a fellow monk in the


position of a teacher teaches the Dhamma to a bhikkhu. In
whatever way the Teacher or that fellow monk in the position of a
teacher teaches the Dhamma to the bhikkhu, in just that way he
experiences inspiration in the meaning and inspiration in the
Dhamma. As he does so, joy arises in him. When he is joyful,
rapture arises. For one with a rapturous mind, the body becomes
tranquil. One tranquil in body feels pleasure. For one feeling
pleasure, the mind becomes concentrated. This is the first basis of
liberation, by means of which, if a bhikkhu dwells heedful,
ardent, and resolute, his unliberated mind is liberated, his
undestroyed taints are utterly destroyed, and he reaches the as-
yet-unreached unsurpassed security from bondage.”
52
Speech as a frame for action

AN5.26 continues: “Again, neither the Teacher nor a fellow monk in


the position of a teacher teaches the Dhamma to a bhikkhu, but he
himself teaches the Dhamma to others in detail as he has heard it and
learned it…
“he recites the Dhamma in detail as he has heard it and learned it…”
“the bhikkhu ponders, examines, and mentally inspects the
Dhamma…”
“in just that way he experiences inspiration in the meaning and
inspiration in the Dhamma. As he does so, joy arises in him. When
he is joyful, rapture arises. For one with a rapturous mind, the body
becomes tranquil. One tranquil in body feels pleasure. For one
feeling pleasure, the mind becomes concentrated...”

53
Speech as a frame for action

Householders “thinking” about his act of generosity, and


using that as a catalyst for going into jhanas:
https://legacy.suttacentral.net/en/an5.176
Thinking eight kinds of thoughts to go into jhanas:
https://legacy.suttacentral.net/en/an8.30

54
Speech as a frame for action

Going into jhanas is mostly not a matter of concentrating


one-pointedly:
AN 6.73 tells us that, without seeing danger in sensual
pleasures with skillful view (su-ditthi), one can not enter
and remain in first jhana
AN 6.74 tells us that without correcting for the 3 wrong
thoughts (vitakka) and the 3 wrong perceptions, one can
not enter and remain in first jhana

55
Speech as a frame for action

Ud5.3: “aiming at Suppabuddha the leper, [the Buddha] gave a


step-by-step talk, i.e., he proclaimed a talk on generosity, on
virtue, on heaven; he declared the drawbacks, degradation, &
corruption of sensuality, and the rewards of renunciation. Then
when the Blessed One knew that Suppabuddha the leper’s mind
was ready, malleable, free from hindrances, elevated, & clear
(note: jhanic), he then gave the Dhamma-talk peculiar to
Awakened Ones, i.e., stress, origination, cessation, & path. And
just as a clean cloth, free of stains, would properly absorb a dye,
in the same way, as Suppabuddha the leper was sitting in that
very seat, the dustless, stainless Dhamma eye arose within him,
‘Whatever is subject to origination is all subject to cessation.’”

56
Presence of thought in first jhana?

The suttas reserve the special terms samadhi and


ekodibhavam for the second jhana definition, all the more
showing that, with the presence of vitakka and vicara as
thinking, first jhana was not traditionally conceived as being
very “still.”

57
Presence of thought in first jhana?

Frank Kuan (in a personal correspondence): “In the vast majority of


cases - over 100 suttas, the first jhana is described as having only the 4
factors. However the Abhidhamma and the Commentaries do speak of 5
factors for the first jhana - they add ekaggata (one-pointedness).
Ekaggata isn’t mentioned in the suttas because it is not and cannot be
part of the formula. In the first place, vitakka and vicara always and only
mean ‘thinking’ and ‘examining’ in the suttas - there is no place where
they can be interpreted to mean ‘initial and sustained attention’ or any
such thing. It is even explicit in the canon that vitakka and vicara refer to
thinking in the context of the first jhana - see for example SN 21:1.
There ‘Noble Silence’ is defined as the 2nd Jhana because vitakka and
vicara are now absent. It is simply not possible to have one-pointedness
and thinking at the same time, so experiencing ekaggata in the same
jhana as vitakka and vicara makes no sense whatsoever.” (continued)

58
Presence of thought in first jhana?

“Furthermore in the 2nd Jhana, vitakka and vicara are replaced with
‘vupasama, ajjhattam sampasadanam’ and ‘ekodi-bhavam’ – ‘inner
tranquility’ and ‘unification of mind.’ If there was ekaggata in 1st Jhana,
there would be no need to specify the gaining of ‘ekodi-bhavam’ to replace
vitakka and vicara in the 2nd Jhana.”
“Now there are 2 suttas where 5 factors are given for the first jhana and a
3rd sutta where unification of mind is mentioned in regard to the 1st Jhana:
1.M I 294 - MN 43; 2.M III 25-29 - MN 111; 3.S IV 263 - SN 40.1 (not
ekaggata, but ekodim; the context makes it a real stretch to consider this a
5th factor!)
But all of these appear to be ‘late’ suttas - written at the close of the sutta era
and the beginning of the abhidhamma era. Sutta MN 111 is actually
internally contradictory: it first gives the standard 1st jhana formula with
vitakka and vicara and then says Sariputta examined the factors of the 1st
jhana and found ekaggata.”
59
Presence of thought in first jhana?

MN122: “If, while he is dwelling by means of this dwelling


[jhana], his mind inclines to thinking, he resolves that ‘I will
not think thoughts that are base, vulgar, common, ignoble,
unbeneficial, that do not lead to disenchantment, dispassion,
cessation, calm, direct knowledge, self-awakening, or
Unbinding — i.e., thoughts of sensuality, thoughts of ill will,
thoughts of harmfulness.’ In this way he is comprehending
there.’ But, [he resolves,] ‘I will think thoughts that are noble,
onward-leading, that lead to the right ending of stress for the
person who acts on them — i.e., thoughts of renunciation,
thoughts of no ill will, thoughts of harmlessness.’ In this way
he is comprehending there.”
60
Jhānas & the Satipaṭṭhāna

 The stages of jhānas as a progression of


increasingly less fabricated (“gradual
pacification of fabrications/formations”) and
more immediate way of knowing one’s
experience—in other words, more direct way
of practicing the Satipaṭṭhāna
 (continued)

61
Jhānas & the Satipaṭṭhāna

This means that:


Freeing the mind from the hindrances—i.e. first jhāna—is a
more effective way to do Satipaṭṭhāna than when the mind is
burdened by them (this is why the hindrances are described as
“that which weakens discernment”)

Not having to direct one’s intention/thought or perform


evaluation—i.e. second jhāna—is a still more effective way
to do Satipaṭṭhāna
(continued)

62
Jhānas & the Satipaṭṭhāna

(continued)
Not having to deal with the agitation of happiness—i.e. third
jhāna—is an even more effective way to do Satipaṭṭhāna than
otherwise

The optimal way to do Satipaṭṭhāna is when the mind, freed


from pleasure and pain, and endowed with purified
mindfulness due to equanimity, abides in the fourth jhāna.
This is the epitome of Right Concentration & Satipaṭṭhāna
(this is why the Seven Awakening Factors start with
Mindfulness and ends with Equanimity)

63
Jhānas & the Satipaṭṭhāna

This is why the meditator has a chance of attaining


Awakening and liberation in any of the jhānas. Since they are
satipaṭṭhāna done at varying degrees of
effectiveness/directness:

AN9.36: “I tell you, the ending of the mental fermentations


depends on the first jhana... the second jhana... the third... the
fourth...”

64
Are jhānas uniquely Buddhist?

 Some say No: pan-Indian, pre-Buddhist yogic technique;


non-liberative in their own rights. This view is typically
upheld by those who understand jhānas as a strictly
śamatha training
 Example: Walpola Rāhula: “…all these mystic states,
according to the Buddha have nothing to do with Reality,
Truth, Nirvana.” Rāhula Walpola, What the Buddha
Taught
 (I would further argue that the Dhamma has nothing to do
with Reality with a capital R)

65
Are jhānas uniquely Buddhist?

Some say Yes: “the term jhāna … is only a borrowed


term and not a borrowed technique from non-
Buddhist traditions.” “the jhānas are uniquely
Buddhist, since they embody a distinct Buddhist
understanding of the path of awakening.”--Keren Arbel,
2008. Paper presented in “Buddhism in Asia”: A Day Seminar with Prof. Jan
Nattier and Prof. John McRae, Tel Aviv University

66
Are jhānas uniquely Buddhist?

If jhānas were just yogic attentional training, then


it is not uniquely Buddhist. But since, as we’ve
seen, jhānas is not just about “calm” training, but
is integrally a part of the satipaṭṭhāna practice and
Seven Awakening Factors and so forth, they are
uniquely Buddhist (no other Indian tradition
understands jhāna as the integration of “calm”
and “insight,” for example)

67
68
what is pīti-sukha?

Pīti, variously translated as: rapture, happiness, joy…

Sukha, variously translated as: pleasure, comfort,


bliss…

69
what is pīti-sukha?

At least four interpretations:


 1. Pīti as pleasant sensations and sukha as happiness (a gratified
mental state)—the difference is in physical vs. mental (e.g.
Leigh Brasington)
 2. The former is psychological (gratified mental state:
happiness), and the latter is physical (pleasure/comfort)—the
reversal of 1
 3. Pīti as localized pleasantness, sukha as the even pervading of
that pleasantness—the difference is in degree of pervasiveness
 4. Rapture/joy and happiness; the former is more exciting, and
the latter is more steady—the difference is in texture and degree
of agitation
70
what is pīti-sukha?

Of the four interpretations, which has the most


scriptural support?

71
what is pīti-sukha?

SN35.97, like many other suttas: “When one is


gladdened, joy is born. When the mind is uplifted by
joy, the body becomes tranquil. With a tranquil body,
one abides with pleasure. A pleasurable mind
becomes concentrated. When the mind is
concentrated, phenomena become apparent.”

This means that point 1 should be eliminated

72
what is pīti-sukha?

 Pītimanassa, as referring to something physical:


an6.10, an11.11, an11.12,
mn118,
sn35.97, sn42.13, sn46.3, sn47.10, sn54.13, sn55.40.
 Pītimano, in snp4.1 & sn7.18
 While sukha is referenced in relation to the citta (something
mental) in what are probably the later Nikayas: cittasukhaṃ
dn33; cetosukhampi mn149; cittekaggatāsukhaṃmn122

Again, this means that point 1 should be eliminated

73
what is pīti-sukha?

Also, in the standard description of the Seven Factors


of Awakening, which, as we have shown, corresponds
to the progression of jhānas, [mental] “joy” as a factor
precedes [physical] “ease” as a factor in the sequence

Again, point 1 should be eliminated

74
what is pīti-sukha?

SĀ474 tells us that the progression of jhānas involves


the “systemic and gradual tranquilization of
fabrications (i.e. activities)” (zhuxing jianci zhixi).
This means that sukha, compared to pīti, has to be
less coarse, less agitating, and more gratifying

This means point 4 has some merit (and possibly


point 3)

75
what is pīti-sukha?

About interpretation 3:
Localized pīti; involuntary movements of the body
sometimes accompanying visions; theory about
unobstructed circulation and more evenly
pervading kind of pleasure

76
what is pīti-sukha?

As we will see, points 2, 3, & 4 all have merits

77
What is pīti-sukha? A contemporary take

“The overall quality of the experience is a heightening or


intensification of awareness with a pleasurable feeling. Ease
(sukha) occurs when, using the previous analogy, one has
drunk the water. Ease is a pleasurable feeling…whereas
rapture is an energised, but unsteady, activity…The
unsteadiness, like the uplift, has an emotive resonance; the
uplift is joyful, the unsteadiness is a mixture of excitement
and nervousness. It may unsettle the attention and cause it
move or drift away from the breath into associated imagery or
moods.”—Ajahn Sucitto

78
Some interesting features of pīti-sukha

SN48.40 states that the capacity for pain


(dukkhindriya) disappears completely in the first
jhāna; the capacity for unhappiness
(domanassindriya), in the second jhāna

79
“full blown ecstasy”?

 Commentarial descriptions of jhanic joy verge on


the hyperbolic
 “electrifying joy,” “animating joy,” “pervading
joy,” “levitating joy”
 the Paṭisambhidāmagga (and the
Dhammasaṅgaṇī) offers the following synonyms
for pīti: gladness (pāmojja), delight (āmodanā),
joyfulness (pamodanā), shining mirth (bhāsa
pabhāsa), felicity (vitti), elation (odagya),
satisfaction (attamantā), and mental uplift
(cittassa)
80
“full blown ecstasy”?

Some contemporary teachers describe it as some


kind of mind-blowing ecstasy (e.g. Brahmavamso,
Leigh Brasington)

81
“full blown ecstasy”?

 Such descriptions often sets up unrealistic


expectations and hinders the natural development of
happiness and comfort
 In my opinion, it’s best to approach pīti as meaning
something like “refreshing-ness,” “energizing-ness,”
or some other subjectively readily accessible quality.
Important: these qualities are further developable
 Immersing the mind in such qualities has the potential
of turning them into something more gratifying
(happiness/joy are all sankharas, meaning that they
can be conditioned and de-conditioned like muscles)

82
“full blown ecstasy”?

 Examples of scriptural piti:


 That of hearing of Dhamma
 That of an expansive mind of metta
 That of “being in the open door,” away from the
“dusty path” of householders’ concerns; i.e.
seclusion
 That of not being “weighed down” by the
hindrances (showing how much bodily agitation
and stress are caused by mental obstructions)

83
pīti/sukha wrongly treated as a taboo

 Most traditions treat pīti/sukha as a dangerous


distraction as opposed to objects of
development and immersion
 This is in spite of the fact that the suttas
oftentimes talk about how “experiencing
pleasure in the body…is what is sought of by
the noble disciples,” and that jhanic joy is the
“entertainment” that satipatthana practitioners
should “enjoy” (e.g. EA12.1)
84
pīti/sukha wrongly treated as a taboo

 DN29: “These are the four modes of being addicted and


devoted to pleasure, Cunda, which conduce absolutely to
unworldliness, to passionlessness, to cessation, to peace,
to higher knowledge, to enlightenment, to Nibbāna.”
 “What are the four? [The four jhanas]”
 “If then it happen, Cunda, that wanderers teaching other
doctrines should declare: ‘The Sākyan recluses live
addicted and devoted to these four modes of pleasure, to
them ye should answer: ‘Yea.’ Rightly would they be
speaking of you, nor would they be misrepresenting you
by what is not fact, by what does not exist.‘”

85
pīti/sukha wrongly treated as a taboo

 Without the “pleasant abiding here and now,”


one’s spiritual motivation is reduced to sheer
will power

86
pīti/sukha wrongly treated as a taboo

In the commentarial traditions, many of the


pīti/sukha-related symptoms were described as
the “imperfections” or “corruptions” of insights
(Vism. xx105 ff.):
“The imperfection of insight usually arises in one
who has acquired serenity and insight. Because
the defilements suppressed by the attainments do
not manifest themselves[,] he thinks ‘I am an
arahant’…” (continued)
87
pīti/sukha wrongly treated as a taboo

(continued)
Vism. xx 125:
“He wavers [at the experience of] illumination…
rapturous happiness…the bliss…whereby his
mind becomes confused.”

88
pīti/sukha wrongly treated as a taboo

This leads to repeated and often hyperbolic


cautions about the potential dangers of pīti/sukha,
and a culture of meditation practice that’s devoid
of affective and hedonic elements (“Just be
mindful!”)
But such trends are quite distinct from the suttas’
instructions on happiness and pleasure and so
forth…

89
pīti/sukha wrongly treated as a taboo

MN 66 tells us that jhanic pleasure is “not to be feared … and


should be developed … cultivated … pursued.”

Numerous Thag. and Thig. verses extoll the virtue of


meditation happiness, seclusion happiness, and higher
pleasures that can help wean the mind from the coarser
[sensual] desires

90
pīti/sukha wrongly treated as a taboo

MN118 instructs meditators to develop sensitivity towards


happiness and pleasure. The sutta also takes
gladdening/gratifying the mind as an important skill

MN101 maintains that a monk “does not reject” the “pleasure


that accords with the Dhamma”

91
pīti/sukha wrongly treated as a taboo

MN36, the Buddha recounting his childhood experience: “I


recall once, when my father the Sakyan was working, and I
was sitting in the cool shade of a rose-apple tree, then —
quite secluded from sensuality, secluded from unskillful
mental qualities — I entered & remained in the first jhana:
rapture & pleasure born from seclusion, accompanied by
directed thought & evaluation. [I thought: ‘C]ould that be the
path to Awakening?’ Then following on that memory came
the realization: ‘That is the path to Awakening.’ I thought: ‘So
why am I afraid of that pleasure that has nothing to do with
sensuality, nothing to do with unskillful mental qualities?’”

92
pīti/sukha wrongly treated as a taboo

Iti2.19: “So, always delighting in jhana,


centered, ardent, seeing the stopping, the
ending of birth, conquering Mara, along with his
host, monks, be gone-beyond aging & death.”

93
pīti/sukha wrongly treated as a taboo

Most commentarial traditions treat jhanic pleasure as side


effects or necessarily the results of concentration

See the following example of a contemporary teacher’s take


of pleasure in exactly those two ways

94
pīti/sukha intensity are conditioned

“Three factors strongly affect the [piti-sukha]. The


first of these is the degree to which the hindrances
that oppose them have been suppressed, which in
turn is a reflection of the ‘perfection of virtue’ of the
meditator. The second is the fear of losing control or
of the loss of ego. There is a lot of variation in these
two factors from one meditator to the next, so there
is likewise a lot of variation in the intensity and
duration of the period before piti and sukha have
fully arisen and stabilized…” (continued)

95
pīti/sukha intensity are conditioned

(continued) “The third factor is simply that the


‘bling-bling’ are so unique, unusual and exciting that
they draw the attention, and then the degree of one-
pointedness necessary for their continuation is lost.
When the hindrances have been fully suppressed
(not eliminated or overcome, just suppressed), and
when the meditator has learned to let the bling-
bling be rather than being distracted into a loss of
focus, then piti and sukha manifest fully. This is such
a dramatic, exciting, and out-of-the-ordinary
experience that many, very many meditators may
think they are now Enlightened, that this is IT. I
admit that I thought so.”—Culadasa
96
pīti/sukha wrongly treated as a taboo

But the suttas don’t just take jhanic pleasure to be a


side effect or an automatic result of concentration;
Pleasure is actually something to be actively
developed!

Pleasure not just as something that happens to you,


but as a muscle that can be developed or atrophied
(in fact, pleasure is one kind of “fabrications”)

SN9.11: Train yourself in wholesome joy and


pleasure, “then, saturated with joy, you will put an
end to suffering & stress.”
97
pīti/sukha wrongly treated as a taboo

In the suttas, allowing the mind to develop, refine, and find


nourishment in increasingly more satisfying forms of pleasure
is absolutely essential
The Buddha’s critiques were never directed directly at
pleasures themselves. Pleasure is taken to be intrinsically
worthy (SN42.12). The criticisms were instead directed at:
--the possible side effects (e.g. certain pleasures undermine
long-term pleasure…)
--at how certain pleasures are so flimsy and unsatisfying yet
full of troubles (i.e. expensive pursuits or unsound investment
in mental resources); at the stress involved in pursuing them…

98
pīti/sukha wrongly treated as a taboo

The formation of similar taboos, in my opinion, has


had much to do with how the Visuddhimagga model
dominated people’s understanding of what is jhāna.
If jhāna is indeed fixed absorptions, then there might
be good reasons to be wary of them as potentially
distractions and perhaps even inimical to insight
practice
The Colonial context of the so-called vipassanāvāda

99
pīti/sukha wrongly treated as a taboo

Famous teacher often rejecting jhanas altogether:


“There are also states of concentration that encourage the practitioner to escape
from the complexities of suffering and existence, rather than face them directly in
order to transform them. These can be called “wrong concentration.” The Four
Form Jhānas and the Four Formless Jhānas are states of meditational
concentration which the Buddha practiced with teachers such as Alara Kalama
and Uddaka Ramaputta, and he rejected them as not leading to liberation from
suffering. These states of concentration probably found their way back into the
sutras around two hundred years after the Buddha passed into mahaparinirvana.
The results of these concentrations are to hide reality from the practitioner, so we
can assume that they should not be considered Right Concentration. To dwell in
these concentrations for a duration of time for the sake of healing may be one
thing, but to escape in them for a long time isn’t what the Buddha
recommended.”--Thích Nhất Hạnh and Annabel Laity, Transformation &
Healing: The Sutra on the Four Establishments of Mindfulness (Berkeley, Calif.:
Parallax Press, 1990), 23
100
A personal anecdote on “form” and pīti/sukha

Due to the influence of the Visuddhimagga teachers I


encountered, I initially refused to understand “form” simply
as body (the most straightforward and suttanta meaning of the
word). My assumption was that form=nimitta-fixity;

My other assumption was: one-pointednessrapture

101
A personal anecdote on “form” and pīti/sukha

Leigh Brasington’s trick on inducing pīti/sukha from a small


spot (a technique I am leery of after much experimentation)

I was also confused/conflicted about the “experiencing the


whole-body” in MN118, which per some Visuddhimagga
teachers means “the whole duration of the breath” (i.e. body
here to them means the whole entity of the breath in order to
fit this passage into their model)

102
A personal anecdote on “form” and pīti/sukha

The path took a turn:


When I experimented with “whole body” simply as the felt
sense of the whole body
Breathing through “the whole body”: overcoming the
presumption of a stiff body;
overcoming the presumption that body is just a pile of coarse
matter, instead of the shimmering activities in the nervous
system, malleable by and responsive to mental fabrications

103
A personal anecdote on “form” and pīti/sukha

I experimented with the sutta’s suggestion on


happinesseasecomposure (the reversal of the
Visuddhimagga sequence)
I also came across the following sutra (preserved only in
Chinese; relatively early—roughly the time when
paracanonical literature was composed). The sutra explains
clearly what exactly is “body” and “form” in the context of
whole-body breathing (see next slide)

104
A personal anecdote on “form” and pīti/sukha

Zuochan sanmei jing (the Dhyāna-Samādhi Sūtra) T15.614: “One


is mindfully aware of various breaths suffusing the whole body, as
one attends to the exhalation and inhalation of the breath. As one
pervasively observes the various kinds of inhalation and exhalation
inside the body, one becomes aware and comprehends what is
happening throughout the body, up to and including one’s toes and
pores—[awareness] pervades as if water seeps into sands. In the
same way, with [each] out-breath, awareness and understanding
pervade—from the toes to the hairs, permeating all the pores—as if
water seeps into sands. Just like a sack that is completely filled
from its bottom to its opening, so too should one experience the
body being saturated this way with [each] in-breath coming in from
mouth [and/or] nose.” (continued)

105
A personal anecdote on “form” and pīti/sukha

(continued) “One should perceive that throughout the body,


where ‘wind’ traverses, it is as if it traverses through the holes
of a lotus root; it is as if it traverses through the eyes of a fish
net. Furthermore, one should not just perceive the breath as
going in and out of one’s mouth [and/or] nose; one should
also see that the breath comes in and out from all the pores
and from the nine orifices of the body. For this reason, one
should understand that the breath pervades throughout the
body.”

This sutra uses imageries that are close to those of DN1.74


and other suttas

106
A personal anecdote on “form” and pīti/sukha

Jhanas described as “enlarged/expansive mind” rather than


anything resembling a narrow focus: AN10.29

107
A personal anecdote on “form” and pīti/sukha

The sutta jhanas as widely accessible, even to


householders (AN5.176) and children (MN36).

In contrast, the Visuddhimagga (XII.8 ) states that only


one in 1,000,000 has any hope of attaining the first
jhana: “[T]he kasina preliminary work is difficult for a
beginner and only one in a hundred or a thousand can do
it. The arousing of the sign is difficult for one who has
done the preliminary work and only one in a hundred or
a thousand can do it. To extend the sign when it has
arisen and to reach absorption is difficult and only one in
a hundred or a thousand can do it.”

108
A personal anecdote on “form” and pīti/sukha

Instead of trying to focus at a small point and


“squeeze out” little pīti/sukha therefrom, I try to
experience the “inner body/rupic body” as if it’s an
electrical field or an energized net, then one should
be able to easily generate all-enveloping pīti/sukha.
Then: A shocking positive change in my experience
with regards to pīti/sukha! As I was practicing this
way, I came across Ajaan Lee and Thanissaro
Bhikkhu’s teachings, which reaffirms my confidence
in this approach

109
A personal anecdote on “form” and pīti/sukha

That inner energy field can be savored from many facets


and fabricated in different ways as to lead to ever more
refined states…
e.g. evening out the “creases” in that energy field…
energizing or tranquilizing that energy field with
different perceptions of breath and mental movements…
kneading and massaging body parts with breath energy
spreading and pervading all corners of the body with
that energy field
Such methods fit very well with the suttanta metaphors
for the jhāna
110
A personal anecdote on “form” and pīti/sukha

 AN5.28: “There is the case where a monk …enters and


remains in the first jhana…
 “Just as if a skilled bathman or bathman’s apprentice would
pour bath powder into a brass basin and knead it together,
sprinkling it again and again with water, so that his ball of
bath powder — saturated, moisture-laden, permeated
within and without — would nevertheless not drip; even so,
the monk permeates, suffuses and fills this very body with
the rapture and pleasure born of withdrawal. There is
nothing of his entire body unpervaded by rapture and
pleasure born from withdrawal. This is the first development
of the five-factored noble right concentration.”

111
Whole body

“Now let’s return to the Satipatthana Sutta. The opening


instructions on the awareness of breath clearly describe a
progression of sensitivity that begins with a first stage of
locating and observing breath ‘at the front of the body’ which
has mostly been translated into practice as focusing entirely
on the touch of the breath as it enters and exits the nostrils or
on the subtle rising and falling motion that can be felt on the
front belly wall…The problem I observe, however, is that the
majority of Buddhist schools not only begin with this
instruction; they end there as well and go nowhere near the
ensuing instructions that direct us to deepen our awareness of
breath and become ever more sensitive to its subtle nuances
and shadings.”—Will Johnson (continued)

112
Whole body

(continued) “To do this, we have to take a literal step


backward into… the body as that’s where the action of breath
primarily occurs. And finally, the Buddha suggests, in a
culminating--and altogether remarkable--statement on the
awareness of breath, that this ever increasing sensitivity to
how breath interacts with body naturally leads to the
proposition that ‘as you breathe in, breathe in through the
whole body; as you breathe out, breathe out through the
whole body’…First, you need to be able to feel the entire
body as vibratory, literally sensation/al, presence (for how
could you possibly breathe through the whole body if you
can’t even feel it?). [But this is not] taught in concert in any
of the traditional forms of practice I have ever come across...”

113
114
The fifth meditative factor

Cittassekaggatā, variously translated as: “one-ness of mind,”


mental “one-pointedness,” “unification of mind,” “mental
collectedness,” “single-minded preoccupation/singleness in
preoccupation”…

“Unification of mind” “singleness in preoccupation”--as in


unifying all the positive, relevant mental qualities; as in being
immersed in a task rather than zooming into a spot

Basically, “one-ness of mind” and mental “one-pointedness” are


synonymous. So we are left with two main, divergent meanings of
this term:

“one-pointedness of mind” (and similar expressions) vs.


“unification of mind/single preoccupation”
115
The fifth meditative factor—the first
interpretation
As you can imagine, the Visuddhimagga-inspired
traditions prefer the “one-pointedness of mind”
interpretation in general. This is because that
expression can mean absorption in a single point

Implications of this interpretation: no insight; fixed


concentration; not Satipaṭṭhāna-compatible

116
Contemporary example of the Visuddhimagga
interpretation
“Think of a flashlight that can be adjusted to a wider
or narrower beam of light. When the beam of light is
narrowed to the visual width of a pencil and the
functioning of a laser—this would be analogous to
ekaggatā in jhāna practice.”—Stephen Snyder and
Tina Rasmussen (2008) (of the Pa Auk school)

117
Contemporary example of the Visuddhimagga
interpretation
 In The Jhānas, Brahmavamso describes
singleness of mind as follows:
 “One-pointedness describes the mindfulness
that is so sharply focused on a minute area of
existence. It is one-pointed in space because
it only sees the point source of bliss, together
with a small area surrounding the bliss caused
by the first jhāna wobble.”

118
The fifth meditative factor—the second
interpretation
 “unification of mind” “single preoccupation”?
 It can mean: all the good mental qualities
(mindfulness, comprehension, energy, ease…)
synthesized as a whole to perform a single task
 It can mean: the mind becomes steadied and “unified”
at the task at hand
 Implications: insight is possible; awareness of a range
of phenomena; the mind is aware of changing objects
but remains unwaveringly clear, comprehending,
mindful, and consistent

119
The fifth meditative factor—the second
interpretation
 “unification of mind”/ “single preoccupation”?
 Iti2.20: “A monk should be wakeful: mindful,
alert, centered, sensitive, clear, & calm. And
there he should, at the appropriate times, see
clearly into skillful mental qualities.”

120
The meaning of “unification of mind”

“Some traditions maintain that ekaggatā means being aware of


only one point…The term one-pointedness suggests a stable
focus on a single-object, in which no other awareness arises
besides the meditation subject. One-pointedness is single-
minded concentration, the ability of the mind to remain,
without distraction, unwavering and steady on the fixed object
of its attention.” But when the same term is translated or
interpreted as “unification of mind,” he explains, it can
“suggest another connotation”: “Rather than a mind fixed on
one object, in which the experience of changing phenomena is
lost, in this state the mind itself is unmoving, not the objects
of experience, as all mental faculties come together, are
unified and synthesized into an integrated whole. Even while
the experience of objects is ever-changing, the mind itself
remains still, present, and clear.”—Richard Shankman (2008)
121
Contemporary interpretation of “unification of mind”

“With strong equanimity firmly established,


mindfulness is said to be purified. The mind is
detached, in the sense of not being pulled into or
away from experiences, but is not disconnected
or disassociated. Because the mind is not
reactive, it is naturally clear and awake, able to
be more present and mindful, unmoving and
unperturbed by any experience.”—Richard
Shankman (2008)

122
“unification of mind” is the more consistent definition

Think about it: some suttas list “equanimity”


instead of “ekkagata” as the fifth factor…
If you understand ekkagata as “one-pointedness,”
then the suttas are inconsistent on what is the
fifth; but if you understand ekkagata as
“unification of the mind,” which is quite similar
to equanimity, then there’s hardly any
discrepancy in the suttas in this regard!

123
Contemporary interpretation of “unification of mind”

“One of the drawbacks of concentration that’s too one-


pointed is that you’re blocking out many areas of your
experience, which means that a lot of things can hide
away in the areas you’re blocking out...If you have only
one point that you’re totally focused on, then as soon as
you move from that one point, your concentration is
destroyed. But if you’ve got the whole body as your
framework and you’re constantly mindful of this
framework, events can come through and out, leaving
the framework undisturbed.”—Thanissaro Bhikkhu

124
Let’s see what the suttas say…

125
What the suttas say

AN 4.12:
“If while he is walking, standing, sitting, or reclining, a monk is
free from greed and ill will, from sloth and torpor, from
restlessness and worry, and has discarded uncertainties, then his
will has become strong and impregnable; his mindfulness is alert
and unclouded; his body is calm and unexcited; his mind is
centered and collected (samāhitaṃ cittaṃ ekaggaṃ).”

Notice: Fixed absorption would prevent one from being able to,
say, walk. And notice how that concentration is defined in terms
of freedom from the five hindrances, rather than on how fixed
the mind is on a stationary object
126
What the suttas say

SN47.4:
“Come, friends. Remain focused on the body…on feelings…on
the mind…on the Dhamma…in & of itself—being ardent, alert,
unified, clear-minded, concentrated, & single-minded (citta-
ekagga) for knowledge of the body…feelings…the mind…the
Dhamma as it has come to be.”

127
What the suttas say

AN 5.151:“One listens to the Dhamma with an unscattered


mind, an ek’agga mind.”

How can a literally one-pointed mind able to listen to Dhamma


and process the information?

128
What the suttas say

Iti 94:“A monk should investigate in such a way that — his


consciousness neither externally scattered & diffused, nor
internally fixated — he is, from lack of clinging/sustenance,
unagitated...”

129
What the suttas say

MN122: “There is the case where a monk…enters & remains


in the first jhana... the second jhana... the third jhana... the
fourth jhana…If, while the monk is dwelling by means of this
dwelling, his mind inclines to walking back & forth, he walks
back & forth [thinking,] ‘While I am walking thus, no
covetousness or sadness, no evil, unskillful qualities will take
possession of me.’ In this way he is alert there.
If, while he is dwelling by means of this dwelling, his mind
inclines to standing... to sitting... to lying down, he lies
down…” (continued)

130
What the sutta say

(continued) “If, while he is dwelling by means of this


dwelling, his mind inclines to speaking, he resolves that ‘I will
not engage in talk that is base, vulgar, common, ignoble,
unbeneficial, that does not lead to disenchantment, dispassion,
cessation, calm, direct knowledge, self-awakening, or
Unbinding…In this way he is alert there.’ But, [he resolves,] ‘I
will engage in talk that is scrupulous, conducive to release of
awareness, and leads exclusively to disenchantment,
dispassion, cessation, calm, direct knowledge, self-awakening,
& Unbinding…’ In this way he is alert there.
If, while he is dwelling by means of this dwelling, his mind
inclines to thinking...”
131
What the sutta say

MN117 “Now what, monks, is noble right concentration with its


supports and requisite conditions? Any unification of mind
equipped with these seven factors — right view, right resolve, right
speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, and right
mindfulness — is called noble right concentration with its supports
and requisite conditions.”

This sutta reaffirms what MN122 says, about “Right


Concentration” not mutually exclusive with Right Understanding
(as opposed to “no insight”), Right Action, Right Speech, Right
Resolves/Intention (as opposed to “no intention”), etc.

132
What the sutta say

In contrast to the view of “one point,” “laser point”…, MN127


describes the mind in jhāna as vast and expansive: the expansive
liberation of mind (mahaggatā cetovimutti), which is a synonym for
the mastery of jhāna

133
What the sutta say

MN137: “And what is equanimity coming from…dependent on


multiplicity? There is equanimity with regard to forms…
sounds...smells...tastes...tactile sensations [& ideas: this word
appears in one of the recensions].”
“And what is equanimity coming from…dependent on singleness?
There is equanimity dependent on the dimension of the infinitude
of space…on the dimension of neither perception nor non-
perception.”
Please note:
“Equanimity dependent on singleness” is formless attainments, not
jhānas! The latter is about “multiplicity”
Also, notice how senses continue to operate in jhanas…

134
What the sutta say

MN111: “…Sariputta entered & remained in the fourth jhana:


purity of equanimity & mindfulness…Whatever qualities there are
in the fourth jhana—a feeling of equanimity, neither pleasure nor
pain; an unconcern due to serenity of awareness; singleness of
mind, contact, feeling, perception, intention, consciousness, desire,
decision, persistence, mindfulness, equanimity, & attention—he
ferreted them out one after another. Known to him they arose,
known to him they remained, known to him they subsided. He
discerned, ‘So this is how these qualities, not having been, come
into play. Having been, they vanish.’ He remained unattracted &
unrepelled with regard to those qualities, independent, detached,
released, dissociated, with an awareness rid of barriers.”

135
What the sutta say

DA T1.14a: “How are they with a unified mind?...Putting aside


covetousness and worries in relation to the world…In this way,
when taking a step while walking, when going in or out, when
looking to the left or the right, when bending or extending [a limb],
when raising or lowering the head, when carrying the robes and
bowl, when receiving beverages and food, when defecating or
urinating, when falling asleep or waking up, when sitting or
standing, when speaking or being silent, at all such times monastics
are constantly mindful and with a unified mind, without losing their
deportment. This is being with a unified mind.”

136
What the sutta say

The fifth jhanic factor actually doesn’t appear in


most scriptural accounts of the first jhana. It’s
concerning the second jhana that it is said: “with the
stilling of applied thought and evaluation…in which
there is inner tranquility and oneness of
mind/unification of the mind…gladness and pleasure
born of concentration.”

137
One-pointedness?

Does any sutta passage suggest a method of


fixating the mind on a stationary spot as a way to
develop concentration?

138
One-pointedness?

AN11.12: “When he is gladdened, joy arises. In one who


is uplifted by joy, the body becomes calm. One whose
body is calmed experiences pleasure. In one
experiencing pleasure, the mind becomes composed.”
AN5.27: “This concentration is peaceful, exquisite, the
acquiring of serenity, the attainment of unity, not kept in
place by the fabrications of forceful restraint.”
AN9.37: This concentration is “neither pressed down nor
forced back, nor with mental fabrications kept blocked
or suppressed.”

139

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