by Ajahn Brahmali
When reading the (1) Suttas of the Pali Canon it is difficult not to be struck by the central importance of samādhi and jhāna on the Buddhist path, (2) Samādhi and jhāna appear in Sutta after Sutta, often as the pivotal condition that allows deep insight into the nature of existence. In spite of this, there appears to have been an historical tendency to underestimate the importance of these states.(3) Perhaps the most potent of the many factors that have lead to such underestimation was the early post-Nikāya rise of the Abhidhamma concept of 'lokuttarajjhāna'. In this paper I wish to examine this concept, to investigate whether it has any counterpart in the Suttas, to discuss the implications of using it to interpret the Suttas, and finally to look more closely at the Abhidhamma's treatment of lokuttarajjhāna. I will argue that the common Commentarial practice of using lokuttarajjhāna to define jhāna is misleading.
2. The Concept of Lokuttarajjhāna
The very name 'lokuttarajjhāna' suggests a connection to jhāna and by implication to sammāsamādhi and samādhi in general. However, whereas jhāna and samādhi are important doctrinal terms of the Pali Suttas, lokuttarajjhāna first appears in the Abhidhamma. To avoid any confusion between these various terms it is necessary to look more closely at the Abhidhamma's definition.(4)
According to Abhidhamma theory each stage of Enlightenment is experienced through two types of consciousness, known as magga (path) and phala (fruit). The first type of consciousness, the magga, which lasts only one mind moment, has the function of cutting off mental fetters. The second type, the phala, is the experience of bliss that results from the cutting off of the fetters by the magga consciousness.(5) Again according to the Abhidhamma, these two types of consciousness are experienced together with a particular set of jhāna factors that correspond to each of the four jhānas respectively.(6) Thus they are called 'lokuttarajjhānas', 'transcendent jhānas',(7) because they combine the jhāna factors with an Enlightenment experience.
From this it emerges that the Abhidhamma term lokuttarajhāna is a name for the particular moment one attains one of the various stages of Enlightenment. The Suttas have their own terminology for describing these attainments, terminology that does not refer to momentary experiences and that never explicitly relates to samādhi or jhāna.(8) Consequently, it seems from the outset that lokuttarajjhāna and jhāna/samādhi refer to very different types of experience.(9)
3. Ariyo Sammāsamādhi
In spite of the above, it has been argued that lokuttarajjhāna, in its momentary Abhidhamma sense, is implicitly referred to in the Suttas but using different terminology. Of all the Sutta terminology it is perhaps 'ariyo sammāsamādhi', 'noble right samādhi', which is most often identified as lokuttarajjhāna.(10) It appears it is the qualifier 'ariya' which has made this identification common. 'Ariya', 'noble', is a Sutta term usually referring to the persons who have attained one of the stages of Enlightenment. Therefore, when it is used as a qualifier, it is likely to signify some connection to the stages of Enlightenment. To discover what this connection is we need to look at how this phrase is used in the Suttas.
Ariyo sammāsamādhi is only found on five separate occasions in the Suttas.(11) Two of these occasions are simply the same bare definitions:
This is not enough to give a precise idea of the phrase, but at least it makes it clear that only a person practicing the Noble Eightfold Path can have this kind of samādhi.
The third occasion is found at M117 where 'ariyo sammāsamādhi' is initially explained in the same way as above, but then expanded on considerably. Of particular importance here is that the factor of sammāditthi, one of the seven 'equipments' mentioned above, can be either the Noble Right View of the Sotāpanna or it can be ordinary right view possessed by the person who is not yet a Sotāpanna.(13) Thus it seems that it is possible to possess ariyo sammāsamādhi without yet having attained to Sotāpatti. If this is correct, it is impossible that this samādhi is the 'lokuttarajjhāna' of the Abhidhamma.(14)
The fourth occurrence of ariyo sammāsamādhi does not add anything of interest but the fifth occurrence is important: it is a statement of what this samādhi consists of.(15) Not surprisingly it is said to consist of the four jhānas and also "the reviewing sign which is well-grasped, well-attended to, well-considered, and well-penetrated by wisdom".(16) Note that there is nothing here about attaining any of the stages of Enlightenment, just the standard passage on the four jhānas together with the usual similes. If there ever was a time for clearly defining 'lokuttarajjhāna', if that were what is meant by ariya sammāsamādhi, this would seem to be the ideal opportunity. Each time an obvious opportunity for an explicit definition is missed, any claim that lokuttarajjhāna is what is meant is severely undermined. Even the Commentary does not seem to define ariyo sammāsamādhi here as anything but 'ordinary' jhāna.(17) In conclusion, there is no evidence in the Suttas that ariyo sammāsamādhi refers to lokuttarajjhāna, but the evidence to the contrary is sufficient to throw serious doubts on this interpretation.(18)
It thus appears that even the most promising candidate-term from the Suttas has nothing to do with the Abhidhamma's lokuttarajjhāna. If this is correct, then it is unlikely that there is any terminology at all in the Suttas that is equivalent to lokuttarajjhāna. If the most promising terminology fails to hit the mark, then any other terminology is even less likely to do so.
However, it is still necessary to investigate whether the terms 'jhāna' or 'samādhi' in themselves, as they occur in the Suttas, have a twofold meaning, sometimes refering to ordinary jhāna but at other times referring to lokuttarajjhāna.(19) This takes us to the Commentaries, which often assert that particular instances of jhāna or samādhi in the Suttas actually refer to lokuttarajjhāna.
4. Commentarial Interpretations
An important aspect of the Commentaries' method is the use of later concepts, especially from the Abhidhamma, to explain the Suttas. In practice this means that when jhāna or samādhi occur in the Suttas, the Commentaries decide whether 'ordinary' jhāna is meant or lokuttarajjhāna.(20) The result is that the Commentaries back-read a later concept into the Suttas themselves. To find out whether this is reasonable, it is instructive to investigate a few examples of such Commentarial interpretations.
4.1 Samanamandika Sutta, M78 (21)
This Sutta contains a, for our purposes, interesting discussion on the ending of intentions. The Sutta states that all unwholesome intentions cease without remainder in the first jhāna and that all wholesome intentions cease without remainder in the second jhāna.(22) The Commentary then goes on to define both instances of jhāna here as lokuttarajjhāna: the first being equivalent to the state of Anāgāmī and the second that of Arahant.(23)
There are several issues here. Firstly, one might ask why the Sutta speaks of jhāna when in fact, according to the Commentary, it means the attainment of Anāgāmī and Arahant respectively. There are several standard ways in which the Suttas describe the attainments of Anāgāmī and Arahant, but 'jhāna' is not one of them. One may then wonder why this Sutta does not apply one of these standard ways of describing such attainments rather than use a term, i.e. jhāna, which ordinarily has a completely different meaning. According to the Suttas the "brahmacariya is endowed with all aspects, fulfilled in all aspects, not deficient, with nothing superfluous, well-proclaimed, fully complete, well-expounded",(24) but if the Commentary is right, then one could rightfully question whether this Sutta is indeed "well-proclaimed". The fact is that using jhāna in this context while meaning the attainments of Anāgāmī and Arahant would obscure the passage considerably and one would be totally dependent on outside expertise, i.e. the Commentaries, to unravel the meaning.(25) The Buddha never said that one needed to depend on outside expertise to understand his teachings, quite the contrary according to the above quote.(26)
Even more problematic for the Commentary's interpretation is the differentiation in the present Sutta between the use of the first jhāna to describe the ending of unwholesome intentions and the second jhāna to describe the ending of wholesome intentions. If indeed, as the Commentary holds, this refers to the attainments of Anāgāmī and Arahant respectively, then the level of jhāna is in fact completely irrelevant as far as the ending of the corresponding intentions is concerned. Again, one can only wonder whether such a presentation could be considered "well-proclaimed".
Lastly, the Sutta is perfectly well explainable in terms of 'ordinary' jhāna without having to bring in an explanation from the Abhidhamma. The first jhāna is throughout the Suttas qualified as "secluded from unwholesome states",(27) which would include unwholesome intentions. In the second jhāna the vitakka and vicāra aspects of first jhāna cease. In the first jhāna these aspects are the movement of the mind onto the object and the holding on to the object respectively. It is easy to see how this could be regarded as the last vestige of intention, the mind intending towards the wholesome object of the first jhāna. In the second jhāna the mind is perfectly concentrated,(28) all movement has been abandoned, and therefore all intention, wholesome and unwholesome, has "ceased without remainder".(29)
This Sutta is of particular importance because it gives a sequence of conditions without which a given effect cannot occur. The most interesting relationship for the purposes of this paper is the one between "sammāsamādhi" (i.e. jhāna) and "the abandoning of the fetters", where the latter is said to be impossible ("thānam n'etam vijjati") without the former. This is clearly an important statement as it gives a fixed sequence of how the Buddhist path must be developed.
It is therefore highly significant when the Commentary to this passage states that what is meant here by sammāsamādhi is in fact lokuttarajjhāna.(31) It is not difficult to see how this Commentarial interpretation undermines the vital necessity of jhāna on the path and potentially has a significant impact on our understanding of the Suttas. It is therefore necessary to investigate whether there are any grounds for the Commentary's assertion.
The first thing to note is that if sammāsamādhi here really is a reference to lokuttarajjhāna, this passage in effect says that the necessary condition for lokuttarajjhāna (i.e. "the abandoning of the fetters", which in Abhidhamma terminology is a lokuttarajjhāna mind moment) is lokuttarajjhāna itself. Thus the whole purpose of the causal sequence is defeated.(32) Moreover, as the sammāsamādhi here is defined by the Commentary as including both path and fruit, whereas "the abandoning of the fetters" is just a path moment, one ends up with a situation where the effect precedes the cause.(33) This clearly makes no sense.
At this point it seems worthwhile to quote a larger portion of the passage we are concerned with:
Of interest here is that sammāditthi must be fulfilled before sammāsamādhi can be fulfilled. In Sutta usage the fulfilment of sammāditthi is equivalent to the attainment of Sotāpatti. The attainment of Sotāpatti in turn is a lokuttarajjhāna moment according to Abhidhamma terminology. Thus, once again, if one is to follow the Commentarial interpretation, one arrives at a situation where lokuttarajjhāna (i.e. sammāditthi) is the cause for lokuttarajjhāna (i.e. sammāsamādhi). Thus the conditional relationship expressed in the Sutta is apparently reduced to something quite trivial. To summarise, both "the abandoning of the fetters" and "the fulfillment of right view" are redundant if sammāsamādhi (as lokuttarajjhāna) encompasses both of them.
The final question we need to answer is whether reading sammāsamādhi in the present passage as 'ordinary' jhāna is confirmed or negated by other Suttas. It is well known that jhāna and sammāsamādhi occur very frequently in the Suttas as part of the training leading to the attainment of Arahantship. Perhaps the most significant of these occurrences is the listing of the four jhānas in the gradual training immediately prior to the attainment of the three higher knowledges (tevijjā). This sequence is found countless times throughout the Suttas.(35) However, this does not establish that attaining Arahantship is impossible without 'ordinary' jhāna, as the So Vata Sutta seems to imply. To find such a passage we need to turn to M64:
Note that this passage is very clear that it is impossible to become an Anāgāmī without having attained at least the first jhāna. Also significant is that the Commentary does not define jhāna here as lokuttarajjhāna, and thus one has to assume that also the Commentary regards this as 'ordinary' jhāna.(37)
Again, given this evidence from the Suttas, one can only conclude that there is no evidence to support the Commentarial assertion that what is meant by sammāsamādhi in the So Vata Sutta is in fact lokuttarajjhāna. Quite the contrary, the standard Sutta explanation of sammāsamādhi, as referring to the (ordinary) four jhānas, fits the situation perfectly.
4.3 Other Suttas
The above examples are only two among a large number where the Commentaries claim that jhāna or samādhi in the Suttas actually refer to lokuttarajjhāna. It would be an enormous amount of work to investigate each one of these occurrences to evaluate whether the Commentarial interpretations are reasonable. In many instances it would in fact be impossible to come to any satisfactory conclusion because of a lack of revealing contextual evidence. In these circumstances one is left with the Commentarial interpretation without any way of validating the Commentary's assertions. This is surely not satisfactory, particularly when there is no convincing evidence from the Suttas that jhāna or samādhi ever refers to the attainment of the stages of Enlightenment.(38) There appears to be only one possible solution to this problem and that is to assume that jhāna and samādhi in the Suttas always refer to 'ordinary' jhāna and samādhi even if this goes directly against the Commentarial view.(39)
5. The Danger in Reduced Respect for samādhi and jhāna
If the analysis so far, on the whole, is accepted, it might reasonably be asked why the Commentaries would mistakenly reinterpret the jhāna/samādhi of central Sutta passages in terms of the later Abhidhamma concept of lokuttarajjhāna and thereby significantly distort the message of the former. There are in fact several Sutta passages that relate to this question. These passages concern the future of the Dhamma and, in particular, they mention how a reduced respect for samādhi is a condition for the decline of the Buddha's teaching as a whole. Consider the following:
Thus it appears that over time there is a natural tendency for the Dhamma to get distorted, that the distorters are members of the Sangha itself, and finally that one of the factors that lead to the gradual confusion and disappearance of the Dhamma is a lack of reverence and deference for samādhi.(41) It is easy to see why the Triple Gem and the training as a whole are mentioned here, because lack of respect for any of these is tantamount to a repudiation of the entire Dhamma. But it is quite remarkable that samādhi is the one aspect of the training that is singled out here, not wisdom, not the four satipatthānas or any other aspect of the path. And this is only one among many instances where samādhi is singled out in this way.(42) This is surely highly significant and says much about the central importance of samādhi in the Dhamma.
So it seems that it is to be expected that the important role of samādhi is undermined over time, and therefore one should perhaps not be surprised that this is exactly what seems to happen in the Pali Commentaries.(43) Maybe this is because samādhi can appear so difficult to achieve. But this is obviously not a sufficient reason to downgrade its importance. Samādhi is an integral part of the Buddhist path and any attempt to reduce its importance because it is hard to achieve, will only result in the exact opposite, making the true goal of the path, Enlightenment, even more difficult to achieve. By overlooking the absolutely central importance of samādhi one is in grave danger of making the supreme goal of the Buddhist practice unattainable.
6. Abhidhamma-bhājaniya & Suttanta-bhājaniya
In light of the above, it may prove useful to take a closer look at the Abhidhamma.(44) The first thing to notice about the Abhidhamma's treatment is that it is divided into two separate categories, the Sutta-exposition (Suttanta-bhājaniya) and the Abhidhamma-exposition (Abhidhamma-bhājaniya).(45) This is of great importance for this study because it suggests that the Suttas and the Abhidhamma must be kept strictly apart and, more particularly, that the Abhidhamma analysis is not applicable to the Suttas.
This conclusion is reinforced by a closer comparison of the Sutta-exposition with the Abhidhamma-exposition. The Suttanta-bhājaniya is a list of factors, together with definitions, of some of the most important doctrinal sets found in the Suttas.(46) The exposition is largely identical to that of the Suttas, as one would expect. In the Suttas these sets are concerned with the pragmatic problem of how to arrive at Enlightenment, and the various factors listed refer to qualities of mind that have to be developed for Enlightenment to be possible.(47) The Abhidhamma-bhājaniya, however, is a significant departure from the Sutta-exposition. It discusses the same sets, but the definitions of the individual factors are here quite different from those found in the Suttas. The emphasis is now on how these factors, when they are fully developed, take part in the experiences of the stages of Enlightenment.(48) The Abhidhamma's purpose, therefore, is to describe the contents of specific states of mind rather than the path by which one arrives at those states.(49) In other words, where the Suttas and the Abhidhamma speak of what appears to be the same sets, they are actually speaking of quite different things. It now becomes clear why the Sutta-exposition has to be kept apart from the Abhidhamma-exposition.(50)
The above can now be related to jhāna/samādhi and lokuttarajjhāna. Samādhi and jhāna are terms used in the Suttanta-bhājaniya and thus they refer to Sutta usage. In particular, as they are closely related to the above mentioned sets that constitute the path to Enlightenment, they are factors of that same path. Lokuttarajjhāna, on the other hand, belongs to the Abhidhamma-bhājaniya and is a term for the constellation of mental factors present at the moments of Enlightenment. Being a term peculiar to the Abhidhamma-bhājaniya, it only relates to the Abhidhamma and can therefore not be used to explain samādhi or jhāna as it appears in the Suttas. If this is correct, it follows that the Commentaries make a dangerous blunder when they explain jhāna and samādhi with Abhidhamma terminology that was never capable of being used in this way.
It is sometimes claimed that the Abhidhamma is simply a natural extension of the Suttas, and that its ideas flow without conflict straight out of concepts already established in the Suttas. This may be largely correct, but there is always a problem of unforeseen consequences when one elaborates on a body of texts of such fundamental importance for Buddhism as the original Suttas. I hope I have been able to show one such instance of unforeseen consequences, and an important one at that, in which the Suttas are effectively rewritten in line with later concepts and terminology.(51) It shows that one has to be careful about uncritically accepting the Commentaries' interpretations of the Suttas. This is particularly so when established Sutta concepts are redefined by the Commentaries in accordance with ideas that arose after the Suttas were composed.
As for the term lokuttarajjhāna, I suggest that it was never meant to be used apart from the Abhidhamma itself. The idea of lokuttarajjhāna may very well be a reasonable description of attainments on the Buddhist path, but this does not mean that it has any direct counterpart in the Suttas: in fact it seems clear that it does not. Because lokuttarajjhāna concerns the goal of the path, and not the path itself, the Commentaries' redefinition of jhāna/samādhi in terms of lokuttarajjhāna has the effect of shifting the reality of jhāna from being a factor of the path to becoming a result of the practice of the path. Thus the Suttas' insistence on the centrality of jhāna/samādhi as a path factor is undermined, an undermining which only serves to seriously distort the timeless message of the Buddha.
Perth, April 2005
References: All references are to volume number, page number, and line number of the Pali texts published by the Pali Text Society.
Vinaya Pitaka; D: Dīgha Nikāya; M: Majjhima Nikāya; S:
Samyutta Nikāya; A: Anguttara Nikāya; Dhs: Dhammasangani;
Vibh: Vibhanga; DA: Dīgha Nikāya Commentary; MA: Majjhima
Nikāya Commentary; AA: Anguttara Nikāya Commentary.
The term 'Sutta' in this paper generally refers to the four main Nikāyas
of the Sutta Pitaka: the Dīgha Nikāya, the Majjhima Nikāya,
the Samyutta Nikāya, and the Anguttara Nikāya.
By samādhi I generally understand the four jhānas, sometimes a
slightly broader concept.
By historical tendency I primarily mean the shift in focus from the Nikāyas
to the Commentaries. Where the Nikāyas put great emphasis on samādhi
and jhāna, even saying that full Enlightenment is impossible without
jhāna (see "So Vata Sutta", section 4.2), the Commentaries shift the
emphasis towards pure vipassanā practice and in the process invent new
terminology such as "sukkhavipassaka" (one who practises dry insight) and
"suddhavipassanā" (pure insight). This shift in emphasis has been very
influential to the present day. vipassanā meditation with little emphasis
on samādhi, and often no emphasis on jhānas, has been by far the
most influential "meditation system" of the Theravada tradition worldwide in the
second half of the 20th century.
It should be noted that, although the term lokuttarajjhāna first appears
in the Canonical Abhidhamma, it is precisely defined only in the Abhidhamma
Commentaries. Whether the Abhidhamma Commentaries understand lokuttarajjhāna
in the same way as the Canonical Abhidhamma is a moot point. However, because my
main critique in this paper is aimed at the Sutta Commentaries, which presuppose
both the Canonical Abhidhamma as well as its Commentaries, I have made no
distinction between the two.
According to the Abhidhamma Commentaries the fruit consciousness lasts two or
three mind moments (see "A Comprehensive Manual of Abhidhamma" by Bhikkhu Bodhi,
And also to a fivefold classification of jhāna adopted by the Abhidhamma
(cf. Dhs. 167-174) but which is only rarely mentioned in the Suttas (cf.
Lit. 'jhānas beyond the world'.
The Suttas, in contrast with the Abhidhamma, never focus exclusively on the
precise moments that the stages of Enlightenment are attained. Rather, the
Suttas seem to speak of these stages as "ongoing realities". Typical terminology
used in the Suttas include: "dhammacakkhum udapādi", "the eye of the
Dhamma arose", (e.g. Vin.I.11,34); "sammāditthiyā uppadāya", "the arising
of right view", (M.I.294,1); "sotāpattiphalam pi sacchikaronti,
sakadāgāmīphalam pi sacchikaronti, anāgāmīphalam pi sacchikaronti,
arahattam pi sacchikaronti", "they realised the fruit of streamentry, they
realised the fruit of once-returner, they realised the fruit of non-returner,
they realised the fruit of Arahantship", (D.I.229,4); "anupadāya
āsavehi cittāni vimuccimsu", "(their) minds were freed from the outflowings
without grasping", (e.g. Vin.I.14,35); "āsavānam khayam pāpunāti", "he
attained the destruction of the outflowings", (M.I.436,4). Each of these refers
to enduring realities.
For the sake of completeness, it should be mentioned that the Suttas on a few
occasions mention types of samādhi that possibly are directly related to
the attainment of the four stages of Enlightenment. The most important example
would seem to be animittasamādhi, see (A.IV.78,18-30). However, even
these samādhis do not appear to be momentary in the sense that
lokuttarajjhāna is said to be.
This is how the Commentaries tend to understand this term, e.g.
(MA.IV.130,22-24): "Tattha ariyan ti niddosam. Lokuttaram niddosam hi ariyan
ti vuccati. sammāsamādhin ti maggasamādhim" - "Therein ariya means
undefiled. For ariya is called the undefiled which is supramundane.
Sammāsamādhi means path-samādhi [i.e. lokuttarajjhāna]";
(AA.IV.28,19): "samādhiparikkhārā ti maggasamādhissa sambhārā" -
"Requisite of samādhi means a constituent of path-samādhi". See
also Rupert Gethin's "The Buddhist Path to Awakening", p.218, line 19-22:
"Secondly there is the attainment of right view etc. as noble, without āsavas,
lokuttara, a factor of the path. It is precisely this second stage that must be
understood as ariyo sammāsamādhi sa-upaniso sa-parikkhāro."
It should be noted that only 5 occurrences in the four main Nikāyas makes
the phrase a rare one. There are also two occurrences of a samādhi (as
opposed to sammāsamādhi) which is said to be 'ariya' (D.III.278,27 &
(12) (S.V.21,13-17) & (A.IV.40,23-27) -
(13) (M.III.72,4-28) -
Unfortunately it is not perfectly clear in the Sutta whether the twofold right
view refers to two separate ways in which sammāditthi acts as a requisite
to ariya sammāsamādhi or whether both aspects of the twofold
sammāditthi are part of the same sammāditthi which is a requisite to
ariya sammāsamādhi. But even if the latter is the case it is not
necessary to bring in lokuttarajjhāna as an explanation. I would propose,
instead, that in this case ariya should be understood as a direct
reference to the person practising ariya sammāsamādhi, i.e. that
he is at least a Sotāpanna. Ariya sammāsamādhi would then
simply be sammāsamādhi attained by the ariyas. This fits well with
the fact that ariyas are said to be endowed with the Noble Eightfold Path
(S.V.348,3-4), i.e. ariya sammāsamādhi together with its seven
The fourth occurrence is found at (D.II.216,31 - 217,4) and the fifth at
(16) (A.III.27,13) -
paccavekkhanānimittam does not occur anywhere else in the Suttas and one has
to look to the Vibhanga of the Abhidhamma to find a definition. At (Vibh.
334,1-8) one finds the following: "Tattha katamā sammāsamādhi? ...
Tamhā tamhā samādhimhā vutthitassa paccavekkhanā˝ānam paccavekkhanānimittam."
- "Therein what is the five-factored right samādhi? ... The reviewing
knowledge, the reviewing sign of one who has come out of this or that samādhi
(is the five-factored right samādhi)."
(17) (AA.III.232,11-12) -
"Abandoning due to
suppression", "vikkhambhanavasena pahinehi", is a Commentarial reference
to suppression due to jhāna. Thus it appears that the term 'ariya'
here is related to (ordinary) jhāna and not to the stages of
This still does not answer the question of why the name "ariyo sammāsamādhi"
is used. I would suggest that because this samādhi is defined as the
eighth factor of the Noble Eightfold Path, supported by the other seven factors,
one is in effect developing the entire Noble Eightfold Path when developing this
samādhi. It would therefore seem that the qualifier "ariya" is
taken directly from the name of the Noble (ariya) Eightfold Path.
I argued above that the Sutta terminology for the experiences of Enlightenment
never refers to samādhi and jhāna. However, since the Abhidhamma's
lokuttarajjhāna is not directly equivalent to this Sutta terminology, it
is still necessary to investigate whether it might relate to jhāna or
The Commentaries use various terminology, such as maggasamādhi and
phalasamādhi, which is equivalent to lokuttarajjhāna.
See (M.II.27,31 - 28,2) & (M.II.28,20-23) respectively.
(23) (MA.III.270,14) -
(24) (D.III.126-7) -
Moreover, the use of 'jhāna' does not appear to add anything that would
be lost if the passage simply spoke of the attainments of Anāgāmī and
Of course, a single Sutta may not be fully self-explanatory. But all the Suttas
taken together should give one a comprehensive and complete understanding of the
"Vivicca akusalehi dhammehi"; e.g. (D.I.73,23-24).
The standard description of the second jhāna says: "avitakkam avicāram
samādhijam pītisukham", "without vitakka without vicāra with
rapture and happiness born of samādhi"; e.g. (D.I.74,15).
One might think that the expression "ceased without remainder", "aparisesā
nirujjhanti", is more likely to be connected with the stages of
Enlightenment where defilements are completely uprooted than with jhāna
where the defilements are only temporarily suppressed. However, in the Suttas
this term is also used with reference to the jhānas (e.g. M.II.263ff).
(A.III.422,25 - 423,18), the title is taken from the summary (the uddāna)
at the end of the chapter (vagga).
(31) (AA.III.410,21) -
It could perhaps be argued that sammāsamādhi here refers to the
lokuttarajjhāna of the first three stages of Enlightenment but not to the
fourth. But this would be an additional complication which would lead one even
further away from the most straightforward meaning of the passage.
"The abandoning of the fetters" is the path (magga) consciousness
relating to the attainment of Arahantship. Sammāsamādhi is here
defined in the Commentary in such a way that it appears to include the fruition
(phala) consciousness relating to Arahantship. The fruition
consciousness comes after the path consciousness.
(34) (A.III.423,2 - 423,7) -
See for example the Sāma˝˝aphala Sutta (D2). The Commentary does not
explain the jhāna of the gradual training as lokuttarajjhāna (but
it also does not exclude it), see (DA.I.217,14-18).
(36) (M.I.434,25-31 + 435,26-436,17) -
In fact it would seem impossible that the jhānas of M64 refer to
lokuttarajjhāna. In this Sutta the jhānas themselves are viewed as
dukkha, anicca, and anattā for the purpose of going beyond
them and attaining at least to Anāgāmī. This could therefore not refer to
lokuttarajjhāna because that attainment is nothing but Nibbāna
itself and consequently cannot be considered as dukkha.
With the possible exception of animittasamādhi, see note 9 above. It is
difficult, however, to draw any authoritative conclusions on the precise nature
of animittasamādhi based on the Suttas alone. In the Suttas, it remains a
marginal form of samādhi compared to the jhānas (see note 1 above)
and as such its relevance is limited. Other types of samādhi that may or
may not relate directly to the stages of Enlightenment, such as
su˝˝atasamādhi, appanihitasamādhi, and even a˝˝āphalasamādhi
(A.IV.428), are even more marginal. In any case, if the present discussion is
limited to the jhānas (and thus sammāsamādhi) the situation is
quite clear cut.
This may seem more radical than it really is. As do most Buddhist monks, I agree
that it is important to respect the Commentaries and all post-Nikāya Pali
works. After all, these works are the opinions of (presumably) highly respected
Buddhist monks. One is obliged to be extremely careful not to overestimate one's
own understanding above that of a strong and respected tradition. If there is
any doubt, and one does not have direct experience of the Dhamma oneself, one
should always defer to the tradition.
(40) (S.II.224,14-21 + 224,25-225,4) -
All this seems to be a natural process. I think it highly unlikely that members
of the Sangha would intentionally distort the Dhamma.
A similar passage is found at (A.IV.84,9-19). There are also a number of
passages that mention the same list of five things as being respected by various
persons. For example at (A.IV.27,21 - 31,10) there are four Suttas mentioning
seven qualities that lead to non-decline, the five factors common to all these
Suttas being the Triple Gem, the training, and samādhi. Another such set
of seven occurs at (A.IV.120,4 - 125,9). Finally, at (S.V.234,26-31) an
Arahant is said to conduct himself with supreme honour towards the
Tathāgata and the Dhamma by being reverential and deferential to the same
basic set of five.
Note the correspondence here between the Buddha warning that it is "senseless
people" in the Sangha itself that cause the Dhamma to disappear and the fact
that the Commentaries (written by the Sangha) seem to be distorting the Dhamma.
(Again, this distortion seems to be natural and unavoidable. If it had not been
for the Sangha's efforts in preserving the Dhamma, it would almost certainlty
have disappeared long ago.)
It is the second book of the Abhidhamma, the Vibhanga, which is of interest
This division is one of the main organising principles of the Vibhanga. However,
it should be noted that many scholars consider the Vibhanga to be the earliest
part of the Abhidhamma. It thus seems likely that in the rest of the Abhidhamma
this division is implied, even if rarely explicitly stated.
I.e. the indriyas, the satipatthānas, the bojjhangas, etc.
These sets are collectively known as the Bodhipakkiyadhammas and they are
very prominent in the Suttas, see in particular volume V of the Samyutta
Nikāya. (It should be noted that the Vibhanga includes other sets as well -
i.e. apart from the Bodhipakkiyadhammas - but these sets are generally
not concerned with lokuttarajjhāna and are therefore not relevant to this
study.) It is significant that when these sets are spoken of in the Suttas they
are always spoken of in terms of "development" or "cultivation", i.e. "bhāvanā".
This seems to be a clear indication that they form part of the path of
practice and not the result of practicing the path. This is in sharp
contrast to the Sutta terminology used to describe the attainments of the stages
of Enlightenment (i.e. the results of practice), terminology such as:
"realization" (sacchikiriyā); "attainment" (anuppatta);
"liberation" (vimutta); etc. This distinction seems to be very consistent
in the Suttas, the former being the path, the latter the results.
This is so for all the sets that make up the Bodhipakkhiyadhammas apart
from the 5 indriyas; for the indriyas only an Abhidhamma
exposition is given.
This is not surprising because one of the main purposes of the Abhidhamma is
precisely to analyze existence into its component parts.
This does not mean that the Abhidhamma analysis necessarily is wrong, rather
that it is not directly comparable to the Sutta usage. It could be argued that
the Abhidhamma-exposition describes the culmination of the path as described by
the Sutta-exposition (see "The Buddhist Path to Awakening" by Rupert Gethin).
Although the two expositions may thus be compatible, they are still concerned
with two very different aspects of Buddhist practice, i.e. the result of
practicing the path and the path itself respectively.
(51) Rewritten, that is, for those who rely exclusively on the Commentaries to explain the Suttas.
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