chapter nine

Right Concentration

Right concentration is the third concentration path-factor, and the final factor of the path as a whole. As MN 117 (§48) notes, all the other path-factors serve as its supports and requisites—although, as we will see, right concentration supports the other factors as well.

The suttas’ definitions of concentration focus on two words: cittassa ek’aggatā, singleness of mind, and jhāna, absorption. However, not every case of singleness or jhāna counts as right concentration. As §290 points out, it’s possible to be absorbed in sensual desire or ill will, but that sort of absorption would be wrong concentration. To count as right, concentration has to be secluded from two things: sensuality—which here, as under right resolve, means passion for sensual resolves (§147); and unskillful dhammas, which correspond to the wrong path-factors, from wrong view up through wrong mindfulness (§288). The word “secluded” here means that these dhammas are not necessarily uprooted from the mind, but they do not intrude on the state of concentration.

Singleness of mind. The Pāli term for singleness—ek’aggatā—is a compound of two words—eka, one, and agga, summit, meeting place—plus the suffix –tā, which would correspond to –ness in English. Because agga can also mean “tip” or “top-most point,” this term has sometimes been translated as “one-pointedness.” This translation, in turn, has lead to the interpretation that the mind in right concentration has to be reduced to a single point of awareness, in which thinking is impossible and there is no awareness of the five senses or even of the body. However, there are four reasons for assuming that agga here means “meeting place,” in which case “singleness” would simply mean that the mind is gathered around one object, and does not have to be reduced to a single point. The reasons are these:

1) In §287, the Buddha lists five qualities that enable a person, when listening to the True Dhamma, to “alight on assuredness, on the rightness of skillful dhammas.” Two of the qualities are:

“One listens to the Dhamma with an unscattered mind, an ek’agga mind.

“One attends appropriately.”

Because appropriate attention means contemplating experiences in terms of the four noble truths (see §229), this passage shows that when the mind is ek’agga, it’s not only able to hear. It can also think at the same time. If it couldn’t hear or think, it couldn’t make sense of the Dhamma talk. So even if we translate ek’agga as “one-pointed,” the one-pointed mind is not so pointy that it can’t think or hear sounds. This would defeat the purpose of listening to the Dhamma and would get in the way of “alighting on assuredness.”

2) The similes that the suttas use to describe the fourth and highest jhāna, which we will discuss below, speak of awareness filling the body. If the purpose of jhāna were to blot out awareness of the body, the simile would have been misleading and the Buddha wouldn’t have chosen to use it at all. Some writers have suggested that the word “body” in that simile means, not the physical body, but a mental body. However, §286 presents the simile in the context of its discussion of mindfulness of the body, and because “body” throughout the rest of that discussion means the physical body, it must have the same meaning here.

3) The suttas do discuss states of concentration that, when attained in a pure form, remove the meditator from all contact with the five senses. However, only the formless attainments—and never the four jhānas—are said to have this feature. So we have to conclude that a meditator doesn’t necessarily lose contact with the five senses when in the four jhānas.

4) As we will see in the discussion of how jhāna is used to develop discernment, an important feature of the four jhānas is that they can be analyzed, in terms of appropriate attention, while you are still in jhāna. In fact, this is one of the primary routes to awakening. If the mind were reduced to a point so small that it couldn’t think, that would close off this route to awakening.

So the evidence from the Canon indicates that cittassa ek’aggatā, singleness of mind, should be interpreted as a mind gathered around a single object with a full-body awareness and the ability to exercise appropriate attention—alighting on the Dhamma in the same way as a person who brings these qualities of mind to a Dhamma talk.

Jhāna. The standard formula for right concentration in SN 45:8 (§46) describes it as four jhānas.

“There is the case where a monk—quite secluded from sensuality, secluded from unskillful dhammas—enters & remains in the first jhāna: rapture & pleasure born of seclusion, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation.

“With the stilling of directed thoughts & evaluations, he enters & remains in the second jhāna: rapture & pleasure born of concentration, unification of awareness free from directed thought & evaluation—internal assurance.

“With the fading of rapture, he remains equanimous, mindful, & alert, and senses pleasure with the body. He enters & remains in the third jhāna, of which the noble ones declare, ‘Equanimous & mindful, he has a pleasant abiding.’

“With the abandoning of pleasure & pain—as with the earlier disappearance of elation & distress—he enters & remains in the fourth jhāna: purity of equanimity & mindfulness, neither pleasure nor pain.”

Other descriptions of jhāna in the suttas—as in AN 8:63 (§254)—mention an intermediate stage between the first and second jhāna, in which there is no directed thought but there is still a modicum of evaluation. None of the suttas explain this discrepancy, but apparently it simply reflects the fact that the mind can settle down in a variety of ways.

The jhāna formula describes the mental activities involved in each of the jhānas, but it doesn’t tell you how to get into the first jhāna, nor does it even mention the object—or “theme,” nimitta—on which the mind is focused. However, as §283 points out, the themes of right concentration are the four establishings of mindfulness, so the best place in the suttas to look for directions on how to enter the first jhāna would be in the directions for establishing mindfulness of the body (§258; §286), or the instructions for mindfulness of breathing (§257). AN 8:63 (§163) shows that the four brahma-vihāras can serve the same purpose.

MN 125 (§255) indicates one way in which the establishing of mindfulness can lead to the first jhāna. Once you’ve established mindfulness, say, on the body for a long enough period of time, and with enough skill, to the point where your “distraction, fatigue, & fever” over leaving sensual memories and resolves has subsided, you then remain focused on any of the establishings of mindfulness but do not think any thoughts about your frame of reference. This, it says, brings you to the second jhāna—which indicates that, prior to that point, you were in the first jhāna. This means that the first jhāna is reached while you are skillfully settling down in any of the establishings of mindfulness.

SN 47:10 (§253) indicates another way of entering the second jhāna, which we mentioned in the preceding chapter: If the mind feels a “fever” associated with any of the four frames of reference, it can use an alternative inspiring theme—such as recollection of the Buddha—to induce a state of gladness and concentration. Once concentration is attained, you can drop that theme, and—because you are no longer engaging in directed thought and evaluation—you enter a state of concentration equivalent to the second jhāna.

Once the mind has settled down with any of these themes to the point where it resembles the description of the first or second jhāna, you can use the remaining descriptions in the jhāna formula as directions for how to deepen your concentration.

The discussions of concentration in AN 8:63 and the discussion of mindfulness of breathing in MN 118 indicate that—if jhāna is attained based on the four frames of reference or the four brahma-vihāras—there is no need to change the mind’s object when moving from one jhāna to the next. What changes is simply the mind’s relationship to its object and the amount of activity needed to keep the mind focused. The higher the jhāna, the less the activity and the more peaceful the concentration.

Other suttas make this point by defining the jhānas in terms of the mental activities that are present in each, with the number of activities decreasing with each higher jhāna. MN 43 (§289) defines the first jhāna in terms of five factors: directed thought, evaluation, rapture, pleasure, & singleness of mind. As we noted in Chapter 4, the directed thought and evaluation in the first jhāna are identical with noble right resolve. This shows how a certain amount of discernment is needed in order to get into the first jhāna and to stay there. MN 111 (§313) notes that directed thought and evaluation are dropped in the second jhāna; rapture is dropped in the third, while pleasure turns to equanimity-pleasure; and in the fourth jhāna, equanimity-pleasure is replaced by a feeling of equanimity and an “unconcern due to calm.” In other words, the mind at that level is so calm that it feels no need to concern itself with anything at all.

MN 111 also lists other mental activities that are present in all four jhānas, although it also notes that you would need exceptional discernment—on a par with Ven. Sāriputta’s—to ferret them all out. Those activities are: singleness of mind, contact, feeling, perception, intention, consciousness, desire, decision, persistence, mindfulness, equanimity, & attention. The sutta doesn’t say how the equanimity in this list differs from the feeling of equanimity of the fourth jhāna, but apparently it denotes equanimity not as a feeling, but as a balanced, observant state of mind.

The suttas show that there are only two external physical correlates to the different jhānas: You can’t be in the first jhāna while speaking (§315); and when you enter the fourth jhāna, in-and-out breathing grows still (footnote to §257; §315; AN 10:72).

In every case where the suttas describe the mind’s progress from one level of jhāna to another, it’s the result of a deliberate choice. After being established in one of the jhānas for a while, you begin to notice that it contains an element of disturbance, and that the mind’s stillness would be greater if you could drop a factor of that jhāna that’s relatively gross. On doing so, you enter the next higher jhāna. This doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to progress through the jhānas without being clearly aware of what you’ve done. It simply means that, for the purpose of gaining the discernment leading to awakening, it’s best to be alert to what you’re doing, for it’s through this sort of alertness that you gain insight into the processes of fabrication.

It also means that, when moving from one jhāna to another, it’s possible to engage in a moment of evaluation, however brief, to effect the move, even when moving among levels of jhāna that, in themselves, are free of directed thought and evaluation.

Similes. MN 119 (§286)—along with several other suttas, such as DN 2 and AN 5:28 (§296)—provides a series of similes for the four jhānas that are very helpful in getting an idea of what each jhāna entails.

The first jhāna: “Just as if a dexterous bathman or bathman’s apprentice would pour bath powder into a brass basin and knead it together, sprinkling it again & again with water, so that his ball of bath powder—saturated, moisture-laden, permeated within & without—would nevertheless not drip; in the same way, the monk permeates & pervades, suffuses & fills this very body with the rapture & pleasure born of seclusion. There is nothing of his entire body unpervaded by rapture & pleasure born of seclusion.”

The second jhāna: “Just like a lake with spring-water welling up from within, having no inflow from the east, west, north, or south, and with the skies supplying abundant showers time & again, so that the cool fount of water welling up from within the lake would permeate & pervade, suffuse & fill it with cool waters, there being no part of the lake unpervaded by the cool waters; in the same way, the monk permeates & pervades, suffuses & fills this very body with the rapture & pleasure born of concentration. There is nothing of his entire body unpervaded by rapture & pleasure born of concentration.”

The third jhāna: “Just as in a lotus pond, some of the lotuses, born & growing in the water, stay immersed in the water and flourish without standing up out of the water, so that they are permeated & pervaded, suffused & filled with cool water from their roots to their tips, and nothing of those lotuses would be unpervaded with cool water; in the same way, the monk permeates & pervades, suffuses & fills this very body with the pleasure divested of rapture. There is nothing of his entire body unpervaded with pleasure divested of rapture.”

The fourth jhāna: “Just as if a man were sitting covered from head to foot with a white cloth so that there would be no part of his body to which the white cloth did not extend; in the same way, the monk sits, permeating the body with a pure, bright awareness. There is nothing of his entire body unpervaded by pure, bright awareness.”

In all of these similes, water represents pleasure; and movement, rapture. Thus the amount of water in the second and third similes, as compared to the amount in the first, indicates that the pleasure in these two jhānas is much stronger and more pervasive than the pleasure in the first. The stillness of the lotuses in the third simile, and of the sitting man in the fourth, indicate that although rapture may be refreshing on the earlier levels of jhāna, its absence—after it has done its work—is very peaceful and calm.

Other details in the similes also make important points about the differences and relationships among the jhānas. For example, the activity of the bathman in the simile for the first jhāna symbolizes the activity of directed thought and evaluation, which figures out how to spread the sense of pleasure and rapture throughout the body. This is unlike the movement of the spring water in the simile for the second jhāna, which involves no conscious effort. Also unlike the movement of the spring water, which is totally immersed in the water of the lake, the bathman is not totally immersed in the water that he is kneading into the bath powder. This symbolizes the fact that the mind is not totally immersed and surrounded by pleasure in the first jhāna, but stands somewhat apart from it. Only in the second jhāna is the mind totally immersed in a sense of oneness with its object, which is apparently the meaning of the phrase, “unification of awareness” (cetaso ekodi-bhāva) in the description of the second jhāna.

At the same time, however, without the efforts of the bathman, the water would not get thoroughly worked into the ball of bath powder, and there would be no body-filling pleasure into which the mind could get immersed in the second jhāna. So the work of directed thought and evaluation, instead of being a mere instability in the first jhāna, actually accomplishes a necessary task in preparing the way for the mind to enter the higher jhānas. And as MN 117 notes, in doing this work, directed thought and evaluation are performing the work of noble right resolve (§48). In this way, the simile of the bathman—who has to be sensitive to the right combination of water and bath powder—conveys a message similar to the simile of the cook in §256, who has to be sensitive to the needs and tastes of his employer. Both similes portray the work of discernment in preparing the mind to enter and remain in concentration. And, because evaluation can play a role in moving from one jhāna to a higher one, both similes can also be applied to the work of discernment in being sensitive to what needs to be done to refine one’s mastery of concentration as well.

Formless attainments. Many suttas, when discussing the levels of right concentration, list not only four jhānas but also five additional attainments that the suttas call the “formlessnesses beyond forms,” and that modern discussions call the “formless jhānas.” Because some suttas show how the discernment that leads to awakening can be gained based on any of these formless attainments, they count as right concentration, too. MN 140 (§317) explains that these attainments are simply applications of the equanimity found in the fourth jhāna to formless themes. Other passages in the Canon indicate that it’s possible to attain these formless attainments without having gone through the four jhānas (§311; SN 14:11), but here we will limit our discussion to the cases in which they build on the fourth jhāna.

The standard description of these five levels is this:

“With the complete transcending of perceptions of (physical) form, with the disappearance of perceptions of resistance, and not attending to perceptions of multiplicity, (perceiving,) ‘Infinite space,’ he enters and remains in the dimension of the infinitude of space.

“With the complete transcending of the dimension of the infinitude of space, (perceiving,) ‘Infinite consciousness,’ he enters and remains in the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness.

“With the complete transcending of the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness, (perceiving,) ‘There is nothing,’ he enters and remains in the dimension of nothingness.

“With the complete transcending of the dimension of nothingness, he enters and remains in the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception.

“With the complete transcending of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception, he enters and remains in the cessation of perception and feeling.” — AN 9:32

Some suttas—such as MN 121 (§316) and SN 40:9—mention another stage of concentration, called the themeless concentration of awareness (animitta-ceto-samādhi), that can also be used as a basis for awakening:

“The monk—not attending to the perception of the dimension of nothingness, not attending to the perception of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception—attends to the singleness based on the themeless concentration of awareness.” — MN 121

Because this themeless concentration of awareness, like the cessation of perception and feeling, follows on the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception, there is the question as to whether the two stages are identical. MN 44 (§314) suggests that they’re not, saying that “themeless contact” is one of the first contacts that a meditator experiences on emerging from the cessation of perception and feeling. This suggests that the themeless concentration lies on the threshold of the cessation of perception and feeling, but is not identical with it.

The description of the first of these formless attainments—the dimension of the infinitude of space—suggests that it builds on the fourth jhāna as follows: When in-and-out breathing grows still in the fourth jhāna, it doesn’t fabricate a sense of the presence of the body. At that point, the only connection to the sense of the body is the mind’s label or perception of “body” or “form.” When that perception is dropped, there is nothing in your awareness to indicate the boundary between body and space, so what remains is a perception of “space” with no clear sense of boundary.

As §316 explains, progress through the remaining formless states follows the same pattern as progress through the four jhānas: You note an element of disturbance in the mode of perception holding you in that state and you drop it in favor of a more peaceful mode of perception.

The main difference between the four jhānas and the formless attainments is that, in the case of the four jhānas, the object remains the same while the mind’s relationship to the object changes, whereas in the formless attainments, the object changes as well. As for the relationship to the object, the first two formless attainments, like all the jhānas beginning with the second, are characterized by a quality of oneness. AN 10:29 notes, however, that the oneness of consciousness is the highest state of oneness (§335). To advance to the dimension of nothingness, that sense of oneness has to be dropped. And as for the attainments beyond that, the suttas hardly describe them at all, aside from noting that, unlike all the states up through the dimension of nothingness, they are not perception attainments (§312). To understand how to reach these attainments, they recommend, find someone who is well-practiced in them and ask how that person has experienced them.

Another difference between the four jhānas and the formless attainments, which we mentioned above, is that when you are in the formless attainments in their pure form, you have no sense of input from the five senses. However, a story from the explanations to Pārājika 4 (§308) indicates that it is possible to experience the formless attainments in an impure form, in which input from the senses, and even perceptions about that input, can be experienced at the same time. Because this impure form is attributed to Ven. Moggallāna, an arahant who was the Buddha’s foremost disciple in terms of psychic powers, it ranks as a legitimate form of right concentration.

Wrong concentration. We have already noted one type of wrong concentration: absorption in unskillful mind-states such as sensual desire or ill will. Another type of concentration that is apparently wrong is the state of non-perception, mentioned in DN 1 and DN 15. This is an intense concentration in which the mind has blotted out all perceptions. Nowhere in the suttas is it portrayed as a basis for discernment, and DN 1 states that it can lead to a post-mortem state in which mindfulness is impossible—suggesting why it is never listed as a form of right concentration.

The uses of concentration. AN 4:41 (§291) lists four “developments” of concentration:

“There is the development of concentration that, when developed & pursued, leads to a pleasant abiding in the here & now. There is the development of concentration that… leads to the attainment of knowledge & vision. There is the development of concentration that… leads to mindfulness & alertness. There is the development of concentration that, when developed & pursued, leads to the ending of effluents.”

At first glance, it might seem that the developments mentioned here are four different types of concentration, but when we look at the various passages in other suttas that describe how concentration can lead to these results, we find that they all, implicitly or explicitly, are based on the four jhānas. The difference lies in the uses to which the stillness and clarity of jhāna are applied.

A pleasant abiding. This is the most immediate and visceral use for concentration: to provide a pleasure not-of-the-flesh (§261; §§292–294). This pleasure is inherent in the jhānas, and as §22 and §295 note, it’s not a simple matter of pure indulgence. Without this pleasure, the mind will have no other escape from pain than through sensuality. In addition, if the mind has no access to the non-sensual pleasure of the jhānas, then no matter how much it may have contemplated the drawbacks of sensuality, it won’t be able to release itself from sensual craving and clinging. In this way, the pleasure of jhāna acts as an aid to the discernment factors of the path. At the same time—given that sensuality is one of the major causes inducing people to break the precepts—access to a non-sensual pleasure strengthens your ability to follow the virtue factors of the path as well.

This means that the pleasure of jhāna plays an important role in developing all the factors of the path. In terms of the similes of the fortress in AN 7:63 (§219; §240; §293), this pleasure is the food that strengthens the gatekeeper of right mindfulness and the soldiers of right effort so that, in line with their function as described in MN 117, they can perform their duties in protecting the fortress from enemy invaders.

The drawback of this kind of pleasure is, as §309 notes, that you may find yourself so satisfied with it that you don’t feel moved to put an end to any self-identity you build around it. As a result, you won’t make the effort to attain true release. Much has been written about this drawback, to the point where some people are afraid even to attempt jhāna, but it’s important to remember that this attachment is far less dangerous than its alternative: attachment to sensuality. It’s also easier to overcome. If you keep in mind the principles of right view—that all states of concentration are fabricated, and that the only true happiness is unfabricated—you can develop concentration in the direction of the ending of the effluents, as explained below, and leave this attachment behind.

Knowledge & vision. This phrase means the attainment of psychic powers, such as the ability to read minds, to know one’s past lifetimes, and to see how beings die and are reborn in line with their kamma. Of the various uses of concentration, this is the only one that is not absolutely necessary for awakening. SN 12:70, for instance, describes a number of arahants who gained full release without attaining any of these powers. As §296 notes, these powers arise, based on the practice of jhāna, “whenever there is an opening,” meaning that if your kamma is such that you will attain these powers, the opening will appear, allowing you to develop them. If the opening doesn’t appear, it’s a sign that you have no kamma in that direction.

Even though these powers are an unnecessary part of the path, they still have their uses: It’s possible, by contemplating them wisely, to use them—especially those associated with rebirth and past lifetimes—to develop a strong sense of saṁvega. Seeing the long, long course of saṁsāra portrayed graphically can be a strong incentive to desire an end to the process (§§89–90).

Still, it’s important to note that the Canon, when discussing cases where monks exercise any of these powers, tends to treat the events in a humorous way, showing the drawbacks that can come from exercising these powers unwisely. In this way, it discourages undue fascination with these powers so that they don’t pull you off the path.

Mindfulness & alertness. When the mind is still and clear, it’s in a position to see the arising and passing away of feelings, perceptions, and thoughts with great precision and clarity. This is particularly the case when directed thought and evaluation are settling the mind into the first jhāna or moving it from one jhāna to the next. This aid to alertness then functions as an aid to mindfulness, allowing it to direct ardency more quickly and accurately in its work of fulfilling the duties of right view to deal with whatever is appearing in the mind. Ultimately, the equanimity of the fourth jhāna provides such a stable and balanced foundation for mindfulness that, as the standard formula for right concentration says, the fourth jhāna is where mindfulness becomes pure.

When mindfulness and alertness are strengthened through concentration in this way, they help to keep you focused on analyzing your state of mind in terms of the four frames of reference. This helps to prevent some of the subtle defilements that can develop around concentration if you let your frame of reference shift back to the world. MN 113 (§310) points to a particular problem that can occur as you master any of the concentration attainments: the tendency to exalt yourself over people who haven’t reached that attainment. As it points out, once you build suppositions around your concentration, it turns into something else. But if you are mindful to view your attainment in terms of the four frames of reference, you can avoid fashioning a sense of self around it. Through non-fashioning—i.e., not supposing yourself in any way—you are in a position to attain the deathless.

The ending of effluents. This use of concentration builds on the concentration that aids mindfulness and alertness, and refers specifically to the work of discernment in using concentration to attain total release.

As we noted under the discussion of the third and fourth tetrads of mindfulness of breathing, release happens in several stages. First, you apply the vipassanā investigation recommended in §116 to discern which factors in body and mind are preventing the mind from getting into concentration in the first place, and then focus on weighing their allure and their drawbacks so as to release the mind from those factors and replace them with more skillful ones. This is in line with the principle stated in §298, that insight is needed to get the mind into jhāna.

Once the mind is firmly in concentration, the next step is to detect which factors might arise to pull it out of concentration, and to use the same sort of strategies to undercut them. At the same time, you have to be mindful to detect and foster the qualities that keep the mind in steady concentration. Then the following step is to detect which factors in the lower jhānas are getting in the way of reaching the higher jhānas, and to release the mind from those as well.

Although the release on these levels is not total, the fact that you are engaged in mastering the various ways that the different jhānas are fabricated from your sense of the body, or form, along with feelings, perceptions, fabrications, and consciousness, gives you a very precise and practical experience of how these fabrications shape your experience of the present moment. This practical experience is what puts you in a position, when your concentration is solid enough, to start investigating these fabrications in terms of the vipassanā framework provided by §116—to see how they originate and pass away, their allure, their drawbacks, and finally the escape from them through dispassion. This is in line with the principle paired with the above principle in §298, that jhāna is needed to develop insight.

The suttas discuss two ways in which the escape from the fabrications of jhāna can be found: either by contemplating a state of jhāna while you are in it, or by contemplating the passing away and arising of fabrications as you go between the different levels of jhāna. In both approaches, you see how jhāna, no matter how refined, is a type of becoming, and you induce dispassion for that becoming without slipping into the mistake of wishing for the jhāna not to become. Your analysis of the jhāna in terms of its building blocks simply as they have come to be, before you fashion them into another becoming (§129), is what allows you to escape the dangers of craving for becoming and craving for non-becoming. In that way, the total release can occur.

The first approach—analyzing the jhāna while you are in it—is symbolized in §296 by the man who, sitting down, observes a man who is lying down, or a man standing observing a man who is sitting. In other words, you step slightly out of the jhāna—this is especially necessary in the jhānas and formless attainments where directed thought and evaluation are absent—to observe the jhāna in terms of the aggregates. As §313 notes, you can do this sort of contemplation without totally leaving the jhāna in any of the levels of right concentration up through the dimension of nothingness.

AN 9:36 (§312) supplies more detail as to how this can be done. You analyze the jhāna to see how it is fabricated of aggregates: all five aggregates in the case of the four jhānas, and the four mental aggregates of feeling, perception, fabrications, and consciousness in the case of the formless attainments. Then you apply perceptions to those aggregates that induce dispassion for them. As this dispassion grows sufficiently strong, you incline the mind to a higher happiness, the happiness of the unfabricated. Standing right there, and—through the final level of right view and right effort—allowing that inclination to fall away, you can reach the ending of the effluents.

However, if you take delight or passion in the discernment of the deathless, you reach one of the lower noble attainments. To take delight or passion in this way is to cling, which in turn creates a subtle level of becoming, with a subtle level of self. This is why, to counteract it, the Buddha teaches that the perception of not-self—unlike the perceptions of inconstancy and stress—must be applied not just to fabrications, but to all phenomena, fabricated or not (§§121–122). That way, everything can be abandoned: not just the jhāna you have been contemplating, but also the discernment, fostered by the final level of right view, that opened the way to the deathless (§138). Even the perception of not-self—because it’s one of the aggregates—has to be abandoned as well. Only by completely letting go in this way can release be complete.

SN 36:11 (§315) suggests how the second approach—analyzing the fabrications that go into the jhānas while moving between them—can be done. You notice, as you go from the lower levels of jhāna to the higher ones, that the three types of fabrication fall away, in the same way that when you place a piece of rock in a smelter, the different metals in the rock—tin, lead, zinc, silver, and gold—melt out separately when their separate melting points are reached. Verbal fabrications grow still in the second jhāna, bodily fabrications grow still in the fourth, and mental fabrications grow still in the cessation of perception and feeling. Alternatively, you can watch these fabrications reactivate as you leave the higher levels of concentration and return to the lower ones (§314). In either sequence, you can then apply the same sort of contemplation to these fabrications as you would when analyzing them within a particular jhāna, and—when dispassion is strong enough—attain release.

MN 121 (§316) provides an alternative way of understanding this second approach. As you enter a particular level of concentration, you note that it’s empty of some of the disturbances present in the preceding level, but that it still has a modicum of disturbance based on the perception and other concentration factors on which your current level is based. When you try to lessen the disturbance, you enter the next higher level. As you keep repeating this process, you finally reach a stage empty not only of the disturbances of concentration, but also of the disturbance of the effluents, when awakening occurs.

This process of entry into emptiness bears many similarities with the reflection on actions that the Buddha recommends to Rāhula in §45, with “harm” on that level of investigation being replaced by “disturbance” on this. This similarity underlines the wisdom of viewing concentration as a type of action, rather than as contact with a metaphysical principle.

The tendency to mistake the equanimity or non-duality of concentration for a metaphysical absolute can happen on any of the levels from the second jhāna on up, but it’s especially seductive on the formless levels, such as the non-duality of the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness, or the equanimity of the dimensions of nothingness or neither perception nor non-perception (§§335–336). If you can be mindful instead to regard these attainments as the result of actions—and therefore fabricated—you’ll have the tools for understanding how to transcend them.

Lessons from & for discernment. All four of these uses of concentration illustrate clearly the reciprocal relationship between the discernment path-factors on the one hand, and right concentration on the other.

When you develop concentration for the purpose of a pleasant abiding here and now, right view provides insight into fabrication that enables you to enter right concentration, while noble right resolve—in its role as directed thought and evaluation—helps you to adjust the mind and its object so that they can stay snugly together, using the resulting pleasure to saturate the body. At the same time, the discernment factors—as long as you keep them in mind—warn you not to mistake the pleasure of concentration for the higher well-being of unbinding.

If you develop concentration for the purpose of knowledge and vision, discernment reminds you to regard those powers with a detached sense of humor, so that you don’t develop undue pride around them or waste time playing with them and neglecting the goal.

Similarly, when you develop concentration for the purpose of mindfulness and alertness, right view keeps you focused on seeing events as events, in terms of the four frames of reference, and prevents you from diverting your frame of reference to the world and ruining your concentration attainments by developing pride around them. Right view also provides you with a vocabulary to distinguish different kinds of events, so that you can pinpoint exactly where craving has created a location around which becoming has coalesced.

When you develop concentration for the purpose of ending the effluents, right view and right resolve help you to refine your concentration to higher and higher levels by pointing out the ways in which the various levels are fabricated. Then, once you have mastered concentration, you can then use this same knowledge to develop dispassion for concentration on all levels—seeing it in terms of the five aggregates or the three types of fabrication—and so gain total release.

In return, each of these uses of concentration strengthens the discernment factors of the path, helping them to reach their final levels on the verge of awakening.

The pleasure that comes from the first use of concentration allows you to use your discernment effectively in overcoming attachment to sensuality.

The sense of saṁvega that can come from using psychic powers wisely can strengthen your right resolve to find a way beyond suffering.

The improved mindfulness and sharpened alertness that come from the third use of concentration can make you more sensitive to the processes of fabrication as they are happening, both so that you can clearly recognize when skillful or unskillful states are arising, and so that—as the path develops—you don’t mistake a fabricated state of mind for the unfabricated.

Finally, when using concentration to put an end to the effluents, you refine your sense of what constitutes happiness, at the same time discerning the limits of how far fabrication can go. This insight inclines the mind to be willing to abandon everything it has gained from even the most skillful fabrications, in exchange for an unfabricated happiness. At the same time, it enables you to recognize the unfabricated as unfabricated when you encounter it.

Readings

§ 283. Visākha: “Now, what is concentration, what dhammas are its themes, what dhammas are its requisites, and what is its development?”

Sister Dhammadinnā: “Singleness [ek’aggatā] of mind is concentration; the four establishings of mindfulness are its themes; the four right exertions are its requisites; and any cultivation, development, & pursuit of these dhammas is its development.” — MN 44

§ 284. The Blessed One said: “Now what, monks, is noble right concentration with its supports & requisite conditions? Any singleness of mind equipped with these seven factors—right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, & right mindfulness—is called noble right concentration with its supports & requisite conditions.” — MN 117

§ 285. “And what is the faculty of concentration? There is the case where a monk, a disciple of the noble ones, making it his object to let go, attains concentration, attains singleness of mind. Quite secluded from sensuality, secluded from unskillful dhammas—enters & remains in the first jhāna: rapture & pleasure born of seclusion, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. With the stilling of directed thoughts & evaluations, he enters & remains in the second jhāna: rapture & pleasure born of concentration, unification of awareness free from directed thought & evaluation—internal assurance. With the fading of rapture, he remains equanimous, mindful, & alert, and senses pleasure with the body. He enters & remains in the third jhāna, of which the noble ones declare, ‘Equanimous & mindful, he has a pleasant abiding.’ With the abandoning of pleasure & pain—as with the earlier disappearance of joy & distress—he enters & remains in the fourth jhāna: purity of equanimity & mindfulness, neither pleasure nor pain. This is called the faculty of concentration.” — SN 48:10

§ 286. “Breathing in long, he [the monk] discerns, ‘I am breathing in long’; or breathing out long, he discerns, ‘I am breathing out long.’ Or breathing in short, he discerns, ‘I am breathing in short’; or breathing out short, he discerns, ‘I am breathing out short.’ He trains himself, ‘I will breathe in sensitive to the entire body.’ He trains himself, ‘I will breathe out sensitive to the entire body.’ He trains himself, ‘I will breathe in calming bodily fabrication.’ He trains himself, ‘I will breathe out calming bodily fabrication.’ And as he remains thus heedful, ardent, & resolute, any memories & resolves related to the household life are abandoned, and with their abandoning his mind gathers & settles inwardly, grows unified & concentrated. This is how a monk develops mindfulness immersed in the body.…

“And further, quite secluded from sensuality, secluded from unskillful dhammas, he enters & remains in the first jhāna: rapture & pleasure born of seclusion, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. He permeates & pervades, suffuses & fills this very body with the rapture & pleasure born of seclusion. Just as if a dexterous bathman or bathman’s apprentice would pour bath powder into a brass basin and knead it together, sprinkling it again & again with water, so that his ball of bath powder—saturated, moisture-laden, permeated within & without—would nevertheless not drip; even so, the monk permeates… this very body with the rapture & pleasure born of seclusion. There is nothing of his entire body unpervaded by rapture & pleasure born of seclusion. And as he remains thus heedful, ardent, & resolute, any memories & resolves related to the household life are abandoned, and with their abandoning his mind gathers & settles inwardly, grows unified & concentrated. This is how a monk develops mindfulness immersed in the body.

“Then, with the stilling of directed thoughts & evaluations, he enters & remains in the second jhāna: rapture & pleasure born of concentration, unification of awareness free from directed thought & evaluation—internal assurance. He permeates & pervades, suffuses & fills this very body with the rapture & pleasure born of concentration. Just like a lake with spring-water welling up from within, having no inflow from the east, west, north, or south, and with the skies supplying abundant showers time & again,[1] so that the cool fount of water welling up from within the lake would permeate & pervade, suffuse & fill it with cool waters, there being no part of the lake unpervaded by the cool waters; even so, the monk permeates… this very body with the rapture & pleasure born of concentration. There is nothing of his entire body unpervaded by rapture & pleasure born of concentration. And as he remains thus heedful, ardent, & resolute, any memories & resolves related to the household life are abandoned, and with their abandoning his mind gathers & settles inwardly, grows unified & concentrated. This is how a monk develops mindfulness immersed in the body.

“Then, with the fading of rapture, he remains equanimous, mindful, & alert, and senses pleasure with the body. He enters & remains in the third jhāna, of which the noble ones declare, ‘Equanimous & mindful, he has a pleasant abiding.’ He permeates & pervades, suffuses & fills this very body with the pleasure divested of rapture. Just as in a lotus pond, some of the lotuses, born & growing in the water, stay immersed in the water and flourish without standing up out of the water, so that they are permeated & pervaded, suffused & filled with cool water from their roots to their tips, and nothing of those lotuses would be unpervaded with cool water; even so, the monk permeates… this very body with the pleasure divested of rapture. There is nothing of his entire body unpervaded with pleasure divested of rapture. And as he remains thus heedful, ardent, & resolute, any memories & resolves related to the household life are abandoned, and with their abandoning his mind gathers & settles inwardly, grows unified & concentrated. This is how a monk develops mindfulness immersed in the body.

“Then, with the abandoning of pleasure & pain—as with the earlier disappearance of joys & distresses—he enters & remains in the fourth jhāna: purity of equanimity & mindfulness, neither-pleasure-nor-pain. He sits, permeating the body with a pure, bright awareness. Just as if a man were sitting covered from head to foot with a white cloth so that there would be no part of his body to which the white cloth did not extend; even so, the monk sits, permeating the body with a pure, bright awareness. There is nothing of his entire body unpervaded by pure, bright awareness. And as he remains thus heedful, ardent, & resolute, any memories & resolves related to the household life are abandoned, and with their abandoning his mind gathers & settles inwardly, grows unified & concentrated. This is how a monk develops mindfulness immersed in the body.” — MN 119

Note

1. Reading, Devo ca kālena kālaṁ sammādhāraṁ anuppaveccheyya, with the Thai edition.

What is singleness?

§ 287. “Monks, endowed with five dhammas, even though listening to the True Dhamma, one is incapable of alighting on the orderliness, on the rightness of skillful dhammas. Which five?

”One holds the talk in contempt.

“One holds the speaker in contempt.

“One holds oneself in contempt.

“One listens to the Dhamma with a scattered mind, a mind not gathered into one [anek’agga-citto].

“One attends inappropriately.”

“Endowed with these five dhammas, even though listening to the True Dhamma, one is incapable of alighting on the orderliness, on the rightness of skillful dhammas.

“Endowed with (the) five (opposite) dhammas when listening to the True Dhamma, one is capable of alighting on the orderliness, on the rightness of skillful dhammas. Which five?

“One doesn’t hold the talk in contempt.

“One doesn’t hold the speaker in contempt.

“One doesn’t hold oneself in contempt.

“One listens to the Dhamma with an unscattered mind, a mind gathered into one [ek’agga-citto].

“One attends appropriately.”

“Endowed with these five dhammas when listening to the True Dhamma, one is capable of alighting on the orderliness, on the rightness of skillful dhammas.” — AN 5:151

What is sensuality?

§147 (see above).

§ 288. “And what, monks, are unskillful dhammas? Wrong view, wrong resolve, wrong speech, wrong action, wrong livelihood, wrong effort, wrong mindfulness, wrong concentration.” — SN 45:22

§ 289. Ven. Sāriputta: “Five factors are abandoned in the first jhāna, and with five is it endowed. There is the case where, in a monk who has attained the first jhāna, sensual desire is abandoned, ill will is abandoned, sloth & drowsiness is abandoned, restlessness & anxiety is abandoned, uncertainty is abandoned. And there occur directed thought, evaluation, rapture, pleasure, & singleness of mind.” — MN 43

§ 290. Vassakāra the brahman: “Once, Ven. Ānanda, Master Gotama was staying near Vesālī in the Peaked Roofed Pavilion in the Great Wood. I went to him at the Peaked Roofed Pavilion in the Great Wood, and there he spoke in a variety of ways on mental absorption [jhāna]. Master Gotama was both endowed with mental absorption & made mental absorption his habit. In fact, he praised mental absorption of every sort.”

Ven. Ānanda: “It wasn’t the case, brahman, that the Blessed One praised mental absorption of every sort, nor did he criticize mental absorption of every sort. And what sort of mental absorption did he not praise? There is the case where a certain person dwells with his awareness overcome by sensual passion, seized with sensual passion. He doesn’t discern the escape, as it actually is present, from sensual passion once it has arisen. Making that sensual passion the focal point, he absorbs himself with it, besorbs, resorbs, & supersorbs himself with it.

“He dwells with his awareness overcome by ill will…

“He dwells with his awareness overcome by sloth & drowsiness…

“He dwells with his awareness overcome by restlessness & anxiety…

“He dwells with his awareness overcome by uncertainty, seized with uncertainty. He doesn’t discern the escape, as it actually is present, from uncertainty once it has arisen. Making that uncertainty the focal point, he absorbs himself with it, besorbs, resorbs, & supersorbs himself with it. This is the sort of mental absorption that the Blessed One did not praise.” — MN 108

§ 291. “There are these four developments of concentration. Which four? There is the development of concentration that, when developed & pursued, leads to a pleasant abiding in the here-&-now. There is the development of concentration that… leads to the attainment of knowledge & vision. There is the development of concentration that… leads to mindfulness & alertness. There is the development of concentration that, when developed & pursued, leads to the ending of effluents.

“And what is the development of concentration that, when developed & pursued, leads to a pleasant abiding in the here-&-now? There is the case where a monk [enters and remains in the four jhānas]. This is the development of concentration that… leads to a pleasant abiding in the here-&-now.

“And what is the development of concentration that… leads to the attainment of knowledge & vision? There is the case where a monk attends to the perception of light and is resolved on the perception of daytime [at any hour of the day]. Day is the same as night, night is the same as day. By means of an awareness open & unhampered, he develops a brightened mind. This is the development of concentration that… leads to the attainment of knowledge & vision.

“And what is the development of concentration that… leads to mindfulness & alertness? There is the case where feelings are known to the monk as they arise, known as they persist, known as they subside. Perceptions are known to him as they arise, known as they persist, known as they subside. Thoughts are known to him as they arise, known as they persist, known as they subside. This is the development of concentration that… leads to mindfulness & alertness.

“And what is the development of concentration that… leads to the ending of effluents? There is the case where a monk remains focused on arising & falling away with reference to the five clinging-aggregates: ‘Such is form, such its origination, such its disappearance. Such is feeling… Such is perception… Such are fabrications… Such is consciousness, such its origination, such its disappearance.’ This is the development of concentration that… leads to the ending of effluents.

“These are the four developments of concentration.” — AN 4:41

§ 292. “When elephants & cow-elephants & calf-elephants & baby elephants go ahead of a wilderness tusker foraging for food and break off the tips of the grasses, the wilderness tusker feels irritated, upset, & disgusted. When elephants & cow-elephants & calf-elephants & baby elephants devour the wilderness tusker’s bunches of branches, he feels irritated, upset, & disgusted. When elephants & cow-elephants & calf-elephants & baby elephants go ahead of the wilderness tusker on his way down to his bath and stir up the mud in the water with their trunks, he feels irritated, upset, & disgusted. When cow-elephants go along as the wilderness tusker is bathing and bang up against his body, he feels irritated, upset, & disgusted.

“Then the thought occurs to the wilderness tusker, ‘I now live hemmed in by elephants & cow-elephants & calf-elephants & baby elephants. I feed off grass with broken-off tips. My bunches of branches are devoured. I drink muddied water. Even when I bathe, cow-elephants go along and bang up against my body. What if I were to live alone, apart from the crowd?’

“So at a later time he lives alone, apart from the crowd. He feeds off grass with unbroken tips. His bunches of branches are undevoured. He drinks unmuddied water. When he bathes, cow-elephants don’t go along and bang up against his body. The thought occurs to him, ‘Before, I lived hemmed in by elephants & cow-elephants & calf-elephants & baby elephants. I fed off grass with broken-off tips. My bunches of branches were devoured. I drank muddied water. Even when I bathed, cow-elephants would go along and bang up against my body. But now I live alone, apart from the crowd. I feed off grass with unbroken tips. My bunches of branches are undevoured. I drink unmuddied water. When I bathe, cow-elephants don’t go along and bang up against my body.’ Breaking off a branch with his trunk and scratching his body with it, gratified, he allays his itch.

In the same way, when a monk lives hemmed in with monks, nuns, male & female lay followers, kings, royal ministers, sectarians, & their disciples, the thought occurs to him, ‘I now live hemmed in by monks, nuns, male & female lay followers, kings, royal ministers, sectarians, & their disciples. What if I were to live alone, apart from the crowd?’

“So he seeks out a secluded dwelling: a wilderness, the shade of a tree, a mountain, a glen, a hillside cave, a charnel ground, a forest grove, the open air, a heap of straw. After his meal, returning from his alms round, he sits down, crosses his legs, holds his body erect, and brings mindfulness to the fore.… Quite secluded from sensuality, secluded from unskillful dhammas, he enters & remains in the first jhāna: rapture & pleasure born of seclusion, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. Gratified, he allays his itch. [And similarly with the remaining levels of concentration.]” — AN 9:40

§ 293. “Just as a royal frontier fortress has large stores of grass, timber & water for the delight, convenience, & comfort of those within, and to ward off those without; in the same way the disciple of the noble ones, quite secluded from sensuality, secluded from unskillful dhammas, enters & remains in the first jhāna for his own delight, convenience, & comfort, and to alight on unbinding.

“Just as a royal frontier fortress has large stores of rice & barley for the delight, convenience, & comfort of those within, and to ward off those without; in the same way the disciple of the noble ones… enters & remains in the second jhāna for his own delight, convenience, & comfort, and to alight on unbinding.

“Just as a royal frontier fortress has large stores of sesame, green gram, & other beans for the delight, convenience, & comfort of those within, and to ward off those without; in the same way the disciple of the noble ones… enters & remains in the third jhāna… for his own delight, convenience, & comfort, and to alight on unbinding.

“Just as a royal frontier fortress has large stores of tonics—ghee, fresh butter, oil, honey, molasses, & salt—for the delight, convenience, & comfort of those within, and to ward off those without; in the same way the disciple of the noble ones… enters & remains in the fourth jhāna for his own delight, convenience, & comfort, and to alight on unbinding.” — AN 7:63

§ 294. “When a disciple of the noble ones enters & remains in seclusion & rapture, there are five possibilities that do not exist at that time: The pain & distress dependent on sensuality do not exist at that time. The pleasure & joy dependent on sensuality do not exist at that time. The pain & distress dependent on what is unskillful do not exist at that time. The pleasure & joy dependent on what is unskillful do not exist at that time. The pain & distress dependent on what is skillful do not exist at that time. [See §204.] When a disciple of the noble ones enters & remains in seclusion & rapture, these five possibilities do not exist at that time.” — AN 5:176

Concentration & Insight

§ 295. “Even though a disciple of the noble ones has clearly seen with right discernment as it has come to be that sensuality is of much stress, much despair, & greater drawbacks, still—if he has not attained a rapture & pleasure apart from sensuality, apart from unskillful dhammas, or something more peaceful than that—he can be tempted by sensuality. But when he has clearly seen with right discernment as it has come to be that sensuality is of much stress, much despair, & greater drawbacks, and he has attained a rapture & pleasure apart from sensuality, apart from unskillful dhammas, or something more peaceful than that, he cannot be tempted by sensuality.” — MN 14

§ 296. “Now what, monks, is five-factored noble right concentration? There is the case where a monk—quite secluded from sensuality, secluded from unskillful dhammas—enters and remains in the first jhāna… the second jhāna… the third jhāna… the fourth jhāna: purity of equanimity and mindfulness, neither-pleasure-nor-pain. He sits, permeating the body with a pure, bright awareness, so that there is nothing of his entire body unpervaded by pure, bright awareness.

“Just as if a man were sitting wrapped from head to foot with a white cloth so that there would be no part of his body to which the white cloth did not extend; in the same way, the monk sits, permeating his body with a pure, bright awareness. There is nothing of his entire body unpervaded by pure, bright awareness. This is the fourth development of the five-factored noble right concentration.

“And further, the monk has his theme of reflection well in hand, well attended to, well-pondered, well-tuned [well-penetrated] by means of discernment.

“Just as if one person were to reflect on another, or a standing person were to reflect on a sitting person, or a sitting person were to reflect on a person lying down; in the same way, monks, the monk has his theme of reflection well in hand, well attended to, well-pondered, well-tuned [well-penetrated] by means of discernment. This is the fifth development of the five-factored noble right concentration.

“When a monk has developed and pursued the five-factored noble right concentration in this way, then whichever of the six higher knowledges he turns his mind to know and realize, he can witness them for himself whenever there is an opening.

“Suppose that there were a water jar, set on a stand, brimful of water so that a crow could drink from it. If a strong man were to tip it in any way at all, would water spill out?”

“Yes, lord.”

“In the same way, when a monk has developed and pursued the five-factored noble right concentration in this way, then whichever of the six higher knowledges he turns his mind to know and realize, he can witness them for himself whenever there is an opening.

“Suppose there were a rectangular water tank—set on level ground, bounded by dikes—brimful of water so that a crow could drink from it. If a strong man were to loosen the dikes anywhere at all, would water spill out?”

“Yes, lord.”

“In the same way, when a monk has developed and pursued the five-factored noble right concentration in this way, then whichever of the six higher knowledges he turns his mind to know and realize, he can witness them for himself whenever there is an opening.

“Suppose there were a chariot on level ground at four crossroads, harnessed to thoroughbreds, waiting with whips lying ready, so that a skilled driver, a trainer of tamable horses, might mount and—taking the reins with his left hand and the whip with his right—drive out and back, to whatever place and by whichever road he liked; in the same way, when a monk has developed and pursued the five-factored noble right concentration in this way, then whichever of the six higher knowledges he turns his mind to know and realize, he can witness them for himself whenever there is an opening.

“If he wants, he wields manifold supranormal powers. Having been one he becomes many; having been many he becomes one. He appears. He vanishes. He goes unimpeded through walls, ramparts, and mountains as if through space. He dives in and out of the earth as if it were water. He walks on water without sinking as if it were dry land. Sitting cross-legged he flies through the air like a winged bird. With his hand he touches and strokes even the sun and moon, so mighty and powerful. He exercises influence with his body even as far as the Brahmā worlds. He can witness this for himself whenever there is an opening.

“If he wants, he hears—by means of the divine ear-element, purified and surpassing the human—both kinds of sounds: divine and human, whether near or far. He can witness this for himself whenever there is an opening.

“If he wants, he knows the awareness of other beings, other individuals, having encompassed it with his own awareness. He discerns a mind with passion as a mind with passion, and a mind without passion as a mind without passion. He discerns a mind with aversion as a mind with aversion, and a mind without aversion as a mind without aversion. He discerns a mind with delusion as a mind with delusion, and a mind without delusion as a mind without delusion. He discerns a restricted mind as a restricted mind, and a scattered mind as a scattered mind. He discerns an enlarged mind as an enlarged mind, and an unenlarged mind as an unenlarged mind. He discerns an excelled mind [one that is not at the most excellent level] as an excelled mind, and an unexcelled mind as an unexcelled mind. He discerns a concentrated mind as a concentrated mind, and an unconcentrated mind as an unconcentrated mind. He discerns a released mind as a released mind, and an unreleased mind as an unreleased mind. He can witness this for himself whenever there is an opening.

“If he wants, he recollects his manifold past lives, i.e., one birth, two births, three births, four, five, ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, one hundred, one thousand, one hundred thousand, many eons of cosmic contraction, many eons of cosmic expansion, many eons of cosmic contraction and expansion, (recollecting,) ‘There I had such a name, belonged to such a clan, had such an appearance. Such was my food, such my experience of pleasure and pain, such the end of my life. Passing away from that state, I re-arose there. There too I had such a name, belonged to such a clan, had such an appearance. Such was my food, such my experience of pleasure and pain, such the end of my life. Passing away from that state, I re-arose here.’ Thus he remembers his manifold past lives in their modes and details. He can witness this for himself whenever there is an opening.

“If he wants, he sees—by means of the divine eye, purified and surpassing the human—beings passing away and re-appearing, and he discerns how they are inferior and superior, beautiful and ugly, fortunate and unfortunate in accordance with their kamma: ‘These beings—who were endowed with bad conduct of body, speech, and mind, who reviled the noble ones, held wrong views and undertook actions under the influence of wrong views—with the break-up of the body, after death, have re-appeared in a plane of deprivation, a bad destination, a lower realm, hell. But these beings—who were endowed with good conduct of body, speech, and mind, who did not revile the noble ones, who held right views and undertook actions under the influence of right views—with the break-up of the body, after death, have re-appeared in a good destination, a heavenly world.’ Thus—by means of the divine eye, purified and surpassing the human—he sees beings passing away and re-appearing, and he discerns how they are inferior and superior, beautiful and ugly, fortunate and unfortunate in accordance with their kamma. He can witness this for himself whenever there is an opening.

“If he wants, then with the ending of effluents, he enters & remains in the effluent-free awareness-release & discernment-release, having directly known & realized them for himself right in the here-&-now. He can witness this for himself whenever there is an opening.”

That is what the Blessed One said. Gratified, the monks delighted in the Blessed One’s words. — AN 5:28

§ 297. “These two dhammas have a share in clear knowing. Which two? Tranquility [samatha] & insight [vipassanā].

“When tranquility is developed, what purpose does it serve? The mind is developed. And when the mind is developed, what purpose does it serve? Passion is abandoned.

“When insight is developed, what purpose does it serve? Discernment is developed. And when discernment is developed, what purpose does it serve? Ignorance is abandoned.”

“Defiled by passion, the mind is not released. Defiled by ignorance, discernment does not develop. Thus from the dispassioning [fading] of passion is there awareness-release. From the dispassioning of ignorance is there discernment-release.” — AN 2:29–30

§ 298. “If a monk would wish, ‘May I attain—whenever I want, without strain, without difficulty—the four jhānas that are heightened mental states, pleasant abidings in the here-&-now,’ then he should be one who brings the precepts to perfection, who is committed to inner tranquility of awareness, who doesn’t neglect jhāna, who is endowed with insight, and who frequents empty dwellings.

“If a monk would wish, ‘May I—with the ending of effluents—remain in the effluent-free awareness-release & discernment-release, having directly known & realized them for myself right in the here-&-now,’ then he should be one who brings the precepts to perfection, who is committed to inner tranquility of awareness, who doesn’t neglect jhāna, who is endowed with insight, and who frequents empty dwellings.” — AN 10:71

§ 299. “The individual who has attained internal tranquility of awareness, but not insight into phenomena through heightened discernment, should approach an individual who has attained insight into phenomena through heightened discernment and ask him: ‘How should fabrications be regarded? How should they be investigated? How should they be seen with insight?’ The other will answer in line with what he has seen & experienced: ‘Fabrications should be regarded in this way. Fabrications should be investigated in this way. Fabrications should be seen in this way with insight.’ Then eventually he [the first] will become one who has attained both internal tranquility of awareness & insight into phenomena through heightened discernment.

“As for the individual who has attained insight into phenomena through heightened discernment, but not internal tranquility of awareness, he should approach an individual who has attained internal tranquility of awareness… and ask him, ‘How should the mind be steadied? How should it be made to settle down? How should it be unified? How should it be concentrated?’ The other will answer in line with what he has seen & experienced: ‘The mind should be steadied in this way. The mind should be made to settle down in this way. The mind should be unified in this way. The mind should be concentrated in this way.’ Then eventually he [the first] will become one who has attained both internal tranquility of awareness & insight into phenomena through heightened discernment.

“As for the individual who has attained both internal tranquility of awareness & insight into phenomena through heightened discernment, his duty is to make an effort in establishing [‘tuning’] those very same skillful dhammas to a higher degree for the ending of effluents.” — AN 4:94

§ 300. “A monk endowed with these five dhammas is incapable of entering & remaining in right concentration. Which five? He cannot withstand [the impact of] sights, he cannot withstand sounds… aromas… tastes… tactile sensations. A monk endowed with these five dhammas is not capable of entering & remaining in right concentration.

“A monk endowed with these five dhammas is capable of entering & remaining in right concentration. Which five? He can withstand [the impact of] sights… sounds… aromas… tastes… tactile sensations. A monk endowed with these five dhammas is capable of entering & remaining in right concentration.” —AN 5:113

§ 301. “A monk who has not abandoned these six dhammas is incapable of entering & remaining in the first jhāna. Which six? Sensual desire, ill will, sloth & drowsiness, restlessness & anxiety, uncertainty, and not seeing well with right discernment, as they have come to be, the drawbacks of sensual pleasures.…

“A monk who has not abandoned these six dhammas is incapable of entering & remaining in the first jhāna. Which six? Thoughts of sensuality, thoughts of ill will, thoughts of harmfulness, perceptions of sensuality, perceptions of ill will, perceptions of harmfulness.” — AN 6:73–74

§ 302. “A monk endowed with these six dhammas is capable of mastering strength in concentration. Which six?

“There is the case where a monk is skilled in the attaining of concentration, in the maintenance of concentration, & in the exit from concentration. He is deliberate in doing it, persevering in doing it, and amenable to doing it.

“A monk endowed with these six dhammas is capable of mastering strength in concentration.” — AN 6:72

§ 303. “There are these gross impurities in gold: dirty sand, gravel, & grit. The dirt-washer or dirt-washer’s apprentice, having placed [the gold] in a vat, washes it again & again until he has washed them away.

“When he is rid of them, there remain the moderate impurities in the gold: coarse sand & fine grit. He washes the gold again & again until he has washed them away.

“When he is rid of them, there remain the fine impurities in the gold: fine sand & black dust. The dirt-washer or dirt-washer’s apprentice washes the gold again & again until he has washed them away.

“When he is rid of them, there remains just the gold dust. The goldsmith or goldsmith’s apprentice, having placed it in a crucible, blows on it again & again to blow away the dross. The gold, as long as it has not been blown on again & again to the point where the impurities are blown away, as long as it is not refined & free from dross, is not pliant, malleable, or luminous. It is brittle and not ready to be worked. But there comes a time when the goldsmith or goldsmith’s apprentice has blown on the gold again & again until the dross is blown away. The gold… is then refined, free from dross, plaint, malleable, & luminous. It is not brittle, and is ready to be worked. Then whatever sort of ornament he has in mind—whether a belt, an earring, a necklace, or a gold chain—the gold would serve his purpose.

“In the same way, there are these gross impurities in a monk intent on heightened mind: misconduct in body, speech, & mind. These the monk—aware & able by nature—abandons, destroys, dispels, 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, thoughts of his 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 peaceful nor refined, it has not yet gained calm or attained unity, 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 peaceful & refined, has gained calm & attained unity, and is no longer kept in place by the fabrication of forceful restraint. Then whichever of the six higher knowledges he turns his mind to know & realize, he can witness them for himself whenever there is an opening.” — AN 3:102

§ 304. “Just as if a goldsmith or goldsmith’s apprentice were to set up a smelter. Having set up the smelter, he would fire the receptacle. Having fired the receptacle, he would take hold of some gold with his tongs and place it in the receptacle. Periodically he would blow on it, periodically sprinkle it with water, periodically examine it closely. If he were solely to blow on it, it is possible that the gold would burn up. If he were solely to sprinkle it with water, it is possible that the gold would grow cold. If he were solely to examine it closely, it is possible that the gold would not come to full perfection. But when he periodically blows on it, periodically sprinkles it with water, periodically examines it closely, the gold becomes pliant, malleable, & luminous. It is not brittle, and is ready to be worked. Then whatever sort of ornament he has in mind—whether a belt, an earring, a necklace, or a gold chain—the gold would serve his purpose.

“In the same way, a monk intent on heightened mind should attend periodically to three themes: he should attend periodically to the theme of concentration; he should attend periodically to the theme of uplifted energy; he should attend periodically to the theme of equanimity. If the monk intent on heightened mind were to attend solely to the theme of concentration, it is possible that his mind would tend to laziness. If he were to attend solely to the theme of uplifted energy, it is possible that his mind would tend to restlessness. If he were to attend solely to the theme of equanimity, it is possible that his mind would not be rightly concentrated for the ending of effluents. But when he attends periodically to the theme of concentration, attends periodically to the theme of uplifted energy, attends periodically to the theme of equanimity, his mind is pliant, malleable, luminous, and not brittle. It is rightly concentrated for the ending of effluents.” — AN 3:103

§ 305. “Suppose there was a mountain cow—foolish, incompetent, unfamiliar with her pasture, unskilled in roaming on rugged mountains—and she were to think, ‘What if I were to go in a direction I have never gone before, to eat grass I have never eaten before, to drink water I have never drunk before!’ She would lift her hind hoof without having placed her front hoof firmly and (as a result) would not get to go in a direction she had never gone before, to eat grass she had never eaten before, or to drink water she had never drunk before. And as for the place where she was standing when the thought occurred to her, ‘What if I were to go where I have never been before… to drink water I have never drunk before,’ she would not return there safely. Why is that? Because she is a foolish, incompetent mountain cow, unfamiliar with her pasture, unskilled in roaming on rugged mountains.

“In the same way, there are cases where a monk—foolish, incompetent, unfamiliar with his pasture, unskilled in… entering & remaining in the first jhāna: rapture & pleasure born of seclusion, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation—doesn’t stick with that theme, doesn’t develop it, pursue it, or establish himself firmly in it. The thought occurs to him, ‘What if I, with the stilling of directed thoughts & evaluations, were to enter & remain in the second jhāna: rapture & pleasure born of concentration, unification of awareness free from directed thought & evaluation—internal assurance.’ He is not able… to enter & remain in the second jhāna.… The thought occurs to him, ‘What if I… were to enter & remain in the first jhāna.… He is not able… to enter & remain in the first jhāna. This is called a monk who has slipped & fallen from both sides, like the mountain cow, foolish, incompetent, unfamiliar with her pasture, unskilled in roaming on rugged mountains.

“But suppose there was a mountain cow—wise, competent, familiar with her pasture, skilled in roaming on rugged mountains—and she were to think, ‘What if I were to go in a direction I have never gone before, to eat grass I have never eaten before, to drink water I have never drunk before!’ She would lift her hind hoof only after having placed her front hoof firmly and (as a result) would get to go in a direction she had never gone before… to drink water she had never drunk before. And as for the place where she was standing when the thought occurred to her, ‘What if I were to go in a direction I have never gone before… to drink water I have never drunk before,’ she would return there safely. Why is that? Because she is a wise, competent mountain cow, familiar with her pasture, skilled in roaming on rugged mountains.

“In the same way, there are some cases where a monk—wise, competent, familiar with his pasture, skilled in… entering & remaining in the first jhāna… sticks with that theme, develops it, pursues it, & establishes himself firmly in it. The thought occurs to him, ‘What if I… were to enter & remain in the second jhāna.…’ Without jumping at the second jhāna, he—with the stilling of directed thoughts & evaluations—enters & remains in the second jhāna. He sticks with that theme, develops it, pursues it, & establishes himself firmly in it. The thought occurs to him, ‘What if I… were to enter & remain in the third jhāna’.… Without jumping at the third jhāna, he… enters & remains in the third jhāna. He sticks with that theme, develops it, pursues it, & establishes himself firmly in it. The thought occurs to him, ‘What if I… were to enter & remain in the fourth jhāna’.… Without jumping at the fourth jhāna, he… enters & remains in the fourth jhāna. He sticks with that theme, develops it, pursues it, & establishes himself firmly in it.

“The thought occurs to him, ‘What if I, with the complete transcending of perceptions of (physical) form, with the disappearance of perceptions of resistance, and not attending to perceptions of multiplicity, (perceiving,) “Infinite space,” were to enter & remain in the dimension of the infinitude of space.’ Without jumping at the sphere of the infinitude of space, he… enters & remains in the dimension of the infinitude of space. He sticks with that theme, develops it, pursues it, & establishes himself firmly in it.

“The thought occurs to him, ‘What if I, with the complete transcending of the dimension of the infinitude of space, (perceiving,) “Infinite consciousness,” were to enter & remain in the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness.’ Without jumping at the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness, he… enters & remains in the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness. He sticks with that theme, develops it, pursues it, & establishes himself firmly in it.

“The thought occurs to him, ‘What if I, with the complete transcending of the sphere of the infinitude of consciousness, (perceiving,) “There is nothing,” were to enter & remain in the dimension of nothingness.’ Without jumping at the dimension of nothingness, he… enters & remains in the dimension of nothingness. He sticks with that theme, develops it, pursues, it & establishes himself firmly in it.

“The thought occurs to him, ‘What if I, with the complete transcending of the dimension of nothingness, were to enter & remain in the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception.’ Without jumping at the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception, he… enters & remains in the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception. He sticks with that theme, develops it, pursues it, & establishes himself firmly in it.

“The thought occurs to him, ‘What if I, with the complete transcending of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception, were to enter & remain in the cessation of perception & feeling.’ Without jumping at the cessation of perception & feeling, he… enters & remains in the cessation of perception & feeling.

“When a monk enters & emerges from that very attainment, his mind is pliant & malleable. With his pliant, malleable mind, limitless concentration is well developed. With his well developed, limitless concentration, then whichever of the six higher knowledges he turns his mind to know & realize, he can witness them for himself whenever there is an opening.” — AN 9:35

§ 306. Ven. Mahā Koṭṭhita: “Discernment & consciousness, friend: What is the difference between these dhammas that are conjoined, not disjoined?”

Ven. Sāriputta: “Discernment & consciousness, friend: Of these dhammas that are conjoined, not disjoined, discernment is to be developed, consciousness is to be fully comprehended.” …

Ven. Mahā Koṭṭhita: “Friend, what can be known with the purified intellect-consciousness divorced from the five (sense) faculties?”

Ven. Sāriputta: “Friend, with the purified intellect-consciousness divorced from the five faculties, the dimension of the infinitude of space can be known (as) ‘infinite space,’ the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness can be known (as) ‘infinite consciousness,’ the dimension of nothingness can be known (as) ‘There is nothing.’

Ven. Mahā Koṭṭhita: “With what does one know a dhamma that can be known?”

Ven. Sāriputta: “One knows a dhamma that can be known with the eye of discernment.”

Ven. Mahā Koṭṭhita: “And what is the purpose of discernment?”

Ven. Sāriputta: “The purpose of discernment is direct knowledge, its purpose is full comprehension, its purpose is abandoning.” — MN 43

§ 307. Ven. Ānanda said, “It’s amazing, friends, it’s astounding, how the Blessed One who knows and sees, the worthy one, rightly self-awakened, has attained and recognized an opening in a confined place for the purification of beings, for the overcoming of sorrow and lamentation, for the disappearance of pain and distress, for the attainment of the right method, and for the realization of unbinding, where the eye will be, and those forms, and yet one will not be sensitive to that dimension; where the ear will be, and those sounds… where the nose will be, and those aromas… where the tongue will be, and those flavors… where the body will be, and those tactile sensations, and yet one will not be sensitive to that dimension.”

When this was said, Ven. Udāyin said to Ven. Ānanda, “Is one percipient when not sensitive to that dimension, my friend, or unpercipient?”

“One is percipient when not sensitive to that dimension, my friend, not unpercipient.”

“When not sensitive to that dimension, my friend, one is percipient of what?”

“There is the case where, with the complete transcending of perceptions of form, with the disappearance of perceptions of resistance, and not attending to perceptions of multiplicity, (perceiving,) ‘Infinite space,’ one enters and remains in the dimension of the infinitude of space. Percipient in this way, one is not sensitive to that dimension [i.e., the dimensions of the five physical senses].

“And further, with the complete transcending of the dimension of the infinitude of space, (perceiving,) ‘Infinite consciousness,’ one enters and remains in the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness. Percipient in this way, too, one is not sensitive to that dimension.

“And further, with the complete transcending of the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness, (perceiving,) ‘There is nothing,’ one enters and remains in the dimension of nothingness. Percipient in this way, too, one is not sensitive to that dimension.

“Once, friend, when I was staying in Sāketa at the Game Refuge in the Black Forest, the nun Jaṭila-Bhāgikā went to where I was staying, and on arrival—having bowed to me—stood to one side. As she was standing there, she said to me: ‘The concentration whereby—neither pressed down nor forced back, nor with fabrication kept blocked or suppressed—still as a result of release, contented as a result of standing still, and as a result of contentment one is not agitated: This concentration is said by the Blessed One to be the fruit of what?’

“I said to her, ‘Sister, the concentration whereby—neither pressed down nor forced back, nor kept in place by the fabrications of forceful restraint—still as a result of release, contented as a result of standing still, and as a result of contentment one is not agitated: This concentration is said by the Blessed One to be the fruit of gnosis [arahantship].’ Percipient in this way, too, one is not sensitive to that dimension.” — AN 9:37

§ 308. Then Ven. Mahā Moggallāna addressed the monks: “Just now, friends, having attained the imperturbable concentration on the bank of the Sappinikā River, I heard the sound of elephants plunging in, crossing over, & making a trumpeting call.”

The monks were offended and annoyed and spread it about, “Now, how can Ven. Moggallāna say, ‘Just now, friends, having attained the imperturbable concentration on the bank of the Sappinikā River, I heard the sound of elephants plunging in, crossing over, & making a trumpeting call’? He’s claiming a superior-human state.” They reported this matter to the Blessed One, (who said,) “There is that concentration, monks, but it is not purified. Moggallāna spoke truly, monks. There is no offense for him.” — Pr 4

§ 309. “Just as if a man were to grasp a branch with his hand smeared with resin, his hand would stick to it, grip it, adhere to it; in the same way, the monk enters & remains in a certain peaceful awareness-release. He attends to the cessation of self-identification, but as he is attending to the cessation of self-identification his mind doesn’t leap up, grow confident, steadfast, or firm in the cessation of self-identification. For him the cessation of self-identification is not to be expected.…

“Just as if a man were to grasp a branch with a clean hand, his hand would not stick to it, grip it, or adhere to it; in the same way, the monk enters & remains in a certain peaceful awareness-release. He attends to the cessation of self-identification, and as he is attending to the cessation of self-identification his mind leaps up, grows confident, steadfast, & firm in the cessation of self-identification. For him the cessation of self-identification is to be expected.

“Just as if there were a waste-water pool that had stood for countless years, where a man were to block all the inlets and open all the outlets, and the sky were to not rain down in good streams of rain: The breaching of the waste-water pool’s embankment would not be expected; in the same way, the monk enters & remains in a certain peaceful awareness-release. He attends to the breaching of ignorance, but as he is attending to the breaching of ignorance his mind doesn’t leap up, grow confident, steadfast, or firm in the breaching of ignorance. For him the breaching of ignorance is not to be expected.

“Just as if there were a waste-water pool that had stood for countless years, where a man were to open all the inlets and block all the outlets, and the sky were to rain down in good streams of rain: The breaching of the waste-water pool’s embankment would be expected; in the same way, the monk enters & remains in a certain peaceful awareness-release. He attends to the breaching of ignorance, and as he is attending to the breaching of ignorance his mind leaps up, grows confident, steadfast, & firm in the breaching of ignorance. For him the breaching of ignorance is to be expected.” — AN 4:178

§ 310. “A person of no integrity… enters & remains in the first jhāna. He notices, ‘I have gained the attainment of the first jhāna, but these other monks have not gained the attainment of the first jhāna.’ He exalts himself for the attainment of the first jhāna and disparages others. This is the dhamma of a person of no integrity.

“A person of integrity notices, ‘The Blessed One has spoken of non-fashioning [atammayatā] even with regard to the attainment of the first jhāna, for by whatever means they suppose it, it becomes otherwise from that.’ So, making non-fashioning his focal point, he neither exalts himself for the attainment of the first jhāna nor disparages others. This is the dhamma of a person of integrity.

[Similarly with the other levels of jhāna up through the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception.]

“A person of integrity, completely transcending the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception, enters & remains in the cessation of perception & feeling. When he sees with discernment, his effluents are ended. This is a monk who doesn’t suppose anything, doesn’t suppose anywhere, doesn’t suppose in any way.” — MN 113

§ 311. “And further, Ānanda, the disciple of the noble ones, having gone into the wilderness, to the root of a tree, or into an empty dwelling, considers this: ‘This is empty of self or of anything pertaining to self.’ Practicing & frequently abiding in this way, his mind acquires confidence in that dimension. There being full confidence, he either attains the dimension of nothingness now or else is committed to discernment. With the break-up of the body, after death, it’s possible that this leading-on consciousness of his will go to the dimension of nothingness.…

“There is the case, Ānanda, where a monk, having practiced in this way—(thinking,) ‘It should not be and it should not occur to me; it will not be; it will not occur to me. What is, what has come to be, that I abandon’—obtains equanimity. He relishes that equanimity, welcomes it, remains fastened to it. As he relishes that equanimity, welcomes it, remains fastened to it, his consciousness is dependent on it, clings to it. With clinging, Ānanda, a monk is not totally unbound.”

“In clinging, where does that monk cling?”

“The dimension of neither perception nor non-perception.”

“Then, indeed, in clinging, he clings to the supreme clinging.”

“In clinging, Ānanda, he does cling to the supreme clinging; for this—the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception—is the supreme clinging. There is (however,) the case where a monk, having practiced in this way—‘It should not be and it should not occur to me; it will not be; it will not occur to me. What is, what has come to be, that I abandon’—obtains equanimity. He doesn’t relish that equanimity, doesn’t welcome it, doesn’t remain fastened to it. As he doesn’t relish that equanimity, doesn’t welcome it, doesn’t remain fastened to it, his consciousness is not dependent on it, doesn’t cling to/is not sustained by it. Without clinging/sustenance, Ānanda, a monk is totally unbound.”

“It’s amazing, lord. It’s astounding. For truly, the Blessed One has declared to us the way to cross over the flood by going from one support to the next. But what is the noble liberation?”

“There is the case, Ānanda, where a disciple of the noble ones considers this: ‘Sensuality here-&-now; sensuality in lives to come; sensual perceptions here-&-now; sensual perceptions in lives to come; forms here-&-now; forms in lives to come; form-perceptions here-&-now; form-perceptions in lives to come; perceptions of the imperturbable; perceptions of the dimension of nothingness; perceptions of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception: That is an identity, to the extent that there is an identity. This is deathless: the liberation of the mind through lack of clinging/sustenance.’” — MN 106

§ 312. “Suppose that an archer or archer’s apprentice were to practice on a straw man or mound of clay, so that after a while he would become able to shoot long distances, to fire accurate shots in rapid succession, and to pierce great masses. In the same way, there is the case where a monk… enters & remains in the first jhāna: rapture & pleasure born of seclusion, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. He regards whatever phenomena there that are connected with form, feeling, perception, fabrications, & consciousness, as inconstant, stressful, a disease, a cancer, an arrow, painful, an affliction, alien, a disintegration, an emptiness, not-self. He turns his mind away from those phenomena, and having done so, inclines his mind to the property of deathlessness: ‘This is peace, this is exquisite—the pacification of all fabrications; the relinquishing of all acquisitions; the ending of craving; dispassion; cessation; unbinding.’

“Staying right there, he reaches the ending of effluents. Or, if not, then—through this very Dhamma-passion, this Dhamma-delight, and from the total wasting away of the five lower fetters [self-identity views, uncertainty, grasping at habits & practices, sensual passion, and irritation]—he is due to arise spontaneously [in the Pure Abodes], there to be totally unbound, never again to return from that world.… [Similarly with the second, third, and fourth jhāna.]

“.… Suppose that an archer or archer's apprentice were to practice on a straw man or mound of clay, so that after a while he would become able to shoot long distances, to fire accurate shots in rapid succession, and to pierce great masses. In the same way, there is the case where a monk… enters & remains in the dimension of the infinitude of space. He regards whatever phenomena there that are connected with feeling, perception, fabrications, & consciousness, as inconstant, stressful, a disease, a cancer, an arrow, painful, an affliction, alien, a disintegration, an emptiness, not-self. He turns his mind away from those phenomena, and having done so, inclines his mind to the property of deathlessness: ‘This is peace, this is exquisite — the pacification of all fabrications; the relinquishing of all acquisitions; the ending of craving; dispassion; cessation; unbinding.’

“Staying right there, he reaches the ending of effluents. Or, if not, then—through this very Dhamma-passion, this very Dhamma-delight, and from the total wasting away of the five lower fetters—he is due to arise spontaneously [in the Pure Abodes], there to be totally unbound, never again to return from that world.… [Similarly with the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness and the dimension of nothingness.]

“Thus, as far as the perception-attainments go, that is as far as gnosis-penetration goes. As for these two dimensions—the attainment of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception & the attainment of the cessation of perception & feeling—I tell you that they are to be rightly explained by those monks who are meditators, skilled at attainment, skilled at attainment-emergence, who have attained & emerged in dependence on them.” — AN 9:36

§ 313. “Monks, Sāriputta is wise, of great discernment, deep discernment, wide… joyous… rapid… quick… penetrating discernment. For half a month, Sāriputta clearly saw insight [vipassanaṁ vipassi] into dhammas one after another. This is what occurred to Sāriputta through insight into dhammas one after another:

“There was the case where Sāriputta—quite secluded from sensuality, secluded from unskillful dhammas—entered & remained in the first jhāna: rapture & pleasure born of seclusion, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. Whatever dhammas there are in the first jhāna—directed thought, evaluation, rapture, pleasure, 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 became established, known to him they subsided. He discerned, ‘So this is how these dhammas, not having been, come into play. Having been, they vanish.’ He remained unattracted & unrepelled with regard to those dhammas, independent, detached, released, dissociated, with an awareness rid of barriers. He discerned that ‘There is a further escape,’ and pursuing it, he confirmed that ‘There is.’ [Similarly with the remaining concentration attainments up through the dimension of nothingness, although with the second jhāna, directed thought & evaluation are dropped from the list; with the third jhāna, rapture drops out and pleasure becomes equanimity-pleasure; with the fourth jhāna, equanimity-pleasure becomes a feeling of equanimity and an unconcern due to calmness; with each of the formless dimensions, the feeling of equanimity and unconcern due to calmness is replaced with the relevant dimension, although equanimity remains toward the end of the list in each case.]

“And further, with the complete transcending of the dimension of nothingness, Sāriputta entered & remained in the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception. He emerged mindfully from that attainment. On emerging mindfully from that attainment, he regarded the past dhammas that had ceased & changed: ‘So this is how these dhammas, not having been, come into play. Having been, they vanish.’ He remained unattracted & unrepelled with regard to those dhammas, independent, detached, released, dissociated, with an awareness rid of barriers. He discerned that ‘There is a further escape,’ and pursuing it, he confirmed that ‘There is.’

“And further, with the complete transcending of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception, Sāriputta entered & remained in the cessation of feeling & perception. And when he saw with discernment, his fermentations were totally ended. He emerged mindfully from that attainment. On emerging mindfully from that attainment, he regarded the past dhammas that had ceased & changed: ‘So this is how these dhammas, not having been, come into play. Having been, they vanish.’ He remained unattracted & unrepelled with regard to those dhammas, independent, detached, released, dissociated, with an awareness rid of barriers. He discerned that ‘There is no further escape,’ and pursuing it, he confirmed that ‘There isn’t.’” — MN 111

§ 314. Visākha: “But when a monk is attaining the cessation of perception & feeling, which things cease first: bodily fabrications, verbal fabrications, or mental fabrications?”

Sister Dhammadinnā: “When a monk is attaining the cessation of perception & feeling, friend Visākha, verbal fabrications cease first, then bodily fabrications, then mental fabrications.” …

Visākha: “But when a monk is emerging from the cessation of perception & feeling, which things arise first: bodily fabrications, verbal fabrications, or mental fabrications?”

Sister Dhammadinnā: “When a monk is emerging from the cessation of perception & feeling, friend Visākha, mental fabrications arise first, then bodily fabrications, then verbal fabrications.”

Visākha: “When a monk has emerged from the cessation of perception & feeling, lady, how many contacts make contact?”

Sister Dhammadinnā: “When a monk has emerged from the cessation of perception & feeling, friend Visākha, three contacts make contact: contact with emptiness, contact with the themeless, & contact with the undirected.” — MN 44

§ 315. “And I have also taught the step-by-step cessation of fabrications. When one has attained the first jhāna, speech has ceased. When one has attained the second jhāna, directed thoughts & evaluations [verbal fabrications] have ceased. When one has attained the third jhāna, rapture has ceased. When one has attained the fourth jhāna, in-and-out breathing [bodily fabrication] has ceased. When one has attained the dimension of the infinitude of space, the perception of forms has ceased. When one has attained the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness, the perception of the dimension of the infinitude of space has ceased. When one has attained the dimension of nothingness, the perception of the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness has ceased. When one has attained the dimension of neither-perception nor non-perception, the perception of the dimension of nothingness has ceased. When one has attained the cessation of perception & feeling, perception & feeling [mental fabrications] have ceased. When a monk’s effluents have ended, passion has ceased, aversion has ceased, delusion has ceased.” — SN 36:11

§ 316. “Just as this palace of Migāra’s mother is empty of elephants, cattle, & mares, empty of gold & silver, empty of assemblies of women & men, and there is only this non-emptiness—the singleness based on the Saṅgha of monks; even so, Ānanda, a monk—not attending to the perception [mental note] of village, not attending to the perception of human being—attends to the singleness based on the perception of wilderness. His mind takes pleasure, finds satisfaction, settles, & indulges in its perception of wilderness.

“He discerns that ‘Whatever disturbances that would exist based on the perception of village are not present. Whatever disturbances that would exist based on the perception of human being are not present. There is only this modicum of disturbance: the singleness based on the perception of wilderness.’ He discerns that ‘This mode of perception is empty of the perception of village. This mode of perception is empty of the perception of human being. There is only this non-emptiness: the singleness based on the perception of wilderness.’ Thus he regards it as empty of whatever is not there. Whatever remains, he discerns as present: ‘There is this.’ And so this, his entry into emptiness, accords with actuality, is undistorted in meaning, & pure.

“Further, Ānanda, the monk—not attending to the perception of human being, not attending to the perception of wilderness—attends to the singleness based on the perception of earth. His mind takes pleasure, finds satisfaction, settles, & indulges in its perception of earth. Just as a bull’s hide is stretched free from wrinkles with a hundred stakes, even so—without attending to all the ridges & hollows, the river ravines, the tracts of stumps & thorns, the craggy irregularities of this earth—he attends to the singleness based on the perception of earth. His mind takes pleasure, finds satisfaction, settles, & indulges in its perception of earth.

“He discerns that ‘Whatever disturbances that would exist based on the perception of human being are not present. Whatever disturbances that would exist based on the perception of wilderness are not present. There is only this modicum of disturbance: the singleness based on the perception of earth.’ He discerns that ‘This mode of perception is empty of the perception of human being. This mode of perception is empty of the perception of wilderness. There is only this non-emptiness: the singleness based on the perception of earth.’ Thus he regards it as empty of whatever is not there. Whatever remains, he discerns as present: ‘There is this.’ And so this, his entry into emptiness, accords with actuality, is undistorted in meaning, & pure.

“Further, Ānanda, the monk—not attending to the perception of wilderness, not attending to the perception of earth—attends to the singleness based on the perception of the dimension of the infinitude of space… to the singleness based on the perception of the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness… to the singleness based on the perception of the dimension of nothingness…to the singleness based on the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception… to the singleness based on the themeless concentration of awareness. His mind takes pleasure, finds satisfaction, settles, & indulges in its themeless concentration of awareness.

“He discerns that ‘Whatever disturbances that would exist based on the perception of the dimension of nothingness are not present. Whatever disturbances that would exist based on the perception of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception, are not present. And there is only this modicum of disturbance: that connected with the six sensory spheres, dependent on this very body with life as its condition.’ He discerns that ‘This mode of perception is empty of the perception of the dimension of nothingness. This mode of perception is empty of the perception of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception. There is only this non-emptiness: that connected with the six sensory spheres, dependent on this very body with life as its condition.’ Thus he regards it as empty of whatever is not there. Whatever remains, he discerns as present: ‘There is this.’ And so this, his entry into emptiness, accords with actuality, is undistorted in meaning, & pure.

“Further, Ānanda, the monk—not attending to the perception of the dimension of nothingness, not attending to the perception of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception—attends to the singleness based on the themeless concentration of awareness. His mind takes pleasure, finds satisfaction, settles, & indulges in its themeless concentration of awareness.

“He discerns that ‘This themeless concentration of awareness is fabricated & mentally fashioned.’ And he discerns that ‘Whatever is fabricated & mentally fashioned is inconstant & subject to cessation.’ Thus knowing, thus seeing, his heart is released from the effluent of sensuality, the effluent of becoming, the effluent of ignorance. With release, there is the knowledge, ‘Released.’ He discerns that ‘Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.’

“He discerns that ‘Whatever disturbances would exist based on the effluent of sensuality…the effluent of becoming…the effluent of ignorance, are not present. And there is only this modicum of disturbance: that connected with the six sensory spheres, dependent on this very body with life as its condition.’ He discerns that ‘This mode of perception is empty of the effluent of sensuality…becoming…ignorance. And there is just this non-emptiness: that connected with the six sensory spheres, dependent on this very body with life as its condition.’ Thus he regards it as empty of whatever is not there. Whatever remains, he discerns as present: ‘There is this.’ And so this, his entry into emptiness, accords with actuality, is undistorted in meaning, pure—superior & unsurpassed.

“Ānanda, whatever contemplatives and brahmans who in the past entered & remained in an emptiness that was pure, superior, & unsurpassed, they all entered & remained in this very same emptiness that is pure, superior, & unsurpassed. Whatever contemplatives and brahmans who in the future will enter & remain in an emptiness that will be pure, superior, & unsurpassed, they all will enter & remain in this very same emptiness that is pure, superior, & unsurpassed. Whatever contemplatives and brahmans who at present enter & remain in an emptiness that is pure, superior, & unsurpassed, they all enter & remain in this very same emptiness that is pure, superior, & unsurpassed.

“Therefore, Ānanda, you should train yourselves: ‘We will enter & remain in the emptiness that is pure, superior, & unsurpassed.’”

That is what the Blessed One said. Gratified, Ven. Ānanda delighted in the Blessed One’s words. — MN 121

§ 317. “There remains only equanimity: pure & bright, pliant, malleable, & luminous. Just as if a dexterous goldsmith or goldsmith’s apprentice were to prepare a furnace, heat up a crucible, and, taking gold with a pair of tongs, place it in the crucible: He would blow on it time & again, sprinkle water on it time & again, examine it time & again, so that the gold would become refined, well-refined, thoroughly refined, flawless, free from dross, pliant, malleable, & luminous. Then whatever sort of ornament he had in mind—whether a belt, an earring, a necklace, or a gold chain—it would serve his purpose. In the same way, there remains only equanimity: pure & bright, pliant, malleable, & luminous. One discerns that ‘If I were to direct equanimity as pure & bright as this toward the dimension of the infinitude of space, I would develop the mind along those lines, and thus this equanimity of mine—thus supported, thus sustained—would last for a long time. One discerns that ‘If I were to direct equanimity as pure and bright as this toward the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness… the dimension of nothingness… the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception, I would develop the mind along those lines, and thus this equanimity of mine—thus supported, thus sustained—would last for a long time.’

“One discerns that ‘If I were to direct equanimity as pure & bright as this toward the dimension of the infinitude of space and to develop the mind along those lines, that would be fabricated. One discerns that ‘If I were to direct equanimity as pure and bright as this toward the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness… the dimension of nothingness… the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception and to develop the mind along those lines, that would be fabricated.’ One neither fabricates nor mentally fashions for the sake of becoming or un-becoming. This being the case, one doesn’t cling to anything in the world. Not clinging, one is not agitated. Unagitated, one is totally unbound right within. One discerns that ‘Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.’

“Sensing a feeling of pleasure, one discerns that it is fleeting, not grasped at, not relished. Sensing a feeling of pain.… Sensing a feeling of neither pleasure nor pain, one discerns that it is fleeting, not grasped at, not relished. Sensing a feeling of pleasure, one senses it disjoined from it. Sensing a feeling of pain.… Sensing a feeling of neither pleasure nor pain, one senses it disjoined from it. When sensing a feeling limited to the body, one discerns that ‘I am sensing a feeling limited to the body.’ When sensing a feeling limited to life, one discerns that ‘I am sensing a feeling limited to life.’ One discerns that ‘With the break-up of the body, after the termination of life, all that is experienced, not being relished, will grow cold right here.’

“Just as an oil lamp burns in dependence on oil & wick; and from the termination of the oil & wick—and from not being provided any other sustenance—it goes out unnourished; in the same way, when sensing a feeling limited to the body, one discerns that ‘I am sensing a feeling limited to the body.’ When sensing a feeling limited to life, one discerns that ‘I am sensing a feeling limited to life.’ One discerns that ‘With the break-up of the body, after the termination of life, all that is sensed, not being relished, will grow cold right here.’

“Thus a monk so endowed is endowed with the highest determination for discernment, for this—the knowledge of the passing away of all suffering & stress—is the highest noble discernment.

“His release, being founded on truth, does not fluctuate, for whatever is deceptive is false; unbinding—the undeceptive—is true. Thus a monk so endowed is endowed with the highest determination for truth, for this—unbinding, the undeceptive—is the highest noble truth.” — MN 140