Superhuman states of the word analysis to Parajika 4

Ten superhuman states (uttarimanussadhammo) are listed in the word analysis: jhānaṃ vimokkho samādhi samāpatti ñāṇadassanaṃ maggabhāvanā phalasacchikiriyā kilesappahānaṃ vinīvaraṇatā cittassa suññāgāre abhirati (Vin.3.91-2). This is how are they described in the suttas:

Jhana (jhānaṃ)

Jhana in the suttas always means the four jhanas, all of them physically blissful experiences (D.1.74-76). Only the fourth jhana is considered ‘stable’ (aniñjita or āneñja) (M.1.454-5). So the fourth jhana can be used to develop the special knowledges (cha abhiññā) (D.1.76). The other jhanas can lead to arahantship or non-returnership if they are supported by contemplative meditations (A.5.344; M.1.349).

Jhana is achieved by abandoning the five hindrances (pañca nīvaraṇe pahīṇe) and by arousing, in order, gladness (pāmojjaṃ), mental rapture (pītimanassa), bodily tranquillity (passaddhakāyo), bliss (sukhaṃ) and a concentrated mind (cittaṃ samādhiyati) (D.1.74; S.5.398).

Jhana is highly praised by the Buddha. He says the pleasure of jhana should be cultivated, not feared (M.1.454) and says that in achieving jhana one has “blinded Mara” and “become invisible to the Evil One” (M.1.174). The attainment of jhana is strongly associated with non-returners, because non-returners have perfected samadhi (samādhismiṃ paripūrakārī; A.4.379-381). Those with lower spiritual attainments – once-returners and stream-enterers –  have “a degree of samadhi” (samādhismiṃ mattasokārī).

The four jhanas each have particular irritants:

  • to first jhana, sound is a “thorn” (paṭhamassa jhānassa saddo kaṇṭako), and so are sensual thoughts (kāmasahagatā saññāmanasikārā) (S.4.263)
  • to second jhana, thoughts and reflections are thorns (dutiyassa jhānassa vitakkavicārā kaṇṭako)
  • to third jhana, rapture is a thorn (tatiyassa jhānassa pīti kaṇṭako)
  • to fourth jhana, breathing is a thorn (catutthassa jhānassa assāsapassāsā kaṇṭako) (A.5.134).

Therefore, developing jhana involves the progressive ending of these irritants.

  • In first jhana, perceptions of sensuality have ceased (kāmasaññā niruddhā hoti);
  • in second jhana thoughts and reflections have ceased (vitakkavicārā niruddhā honti);
  • in third jhana rapture has ceased (pīti niruddhā hoti);
  • in fourth jhana, breathing has ceased (assāsapassāsā niruddhā honti) (A.4.409).

Vitakka vicāra’ of first jhana are here translated as ‘thoughts and reflections’. The PED says these two words are “semantically synonymous” and were originally used “to denote one and the same thing: just thought, thinking. One has to take them as one expression without being able to state their difference. With the advance in the Sangha of intensive study of terminology they became distinguished mutually. Vitakka became the inception of mind, or attending, and was no longer applied, as in the suttas, to thinking in general” (PEDp620). However, there must be some difference in meaning, because first jhana is sometimes described as twofold: one type with reflections and thoughts (savitakkampi savicāraṃ samādhiṃ) and one type with reflections but no thoughts (avitakkampi vicāramattaṃ samādhiṃ) (M.3.162).

The purpose of jhanas is questioned in the Sallekha Sutta. Monks cultivating jhana apparently thought they were thereby purifying themselves (sallekhena viharāmīti). But the jhanas are not ‘purifications’ in the noble one’s discipline (ariyassa vinaye sallekhā vuccanti): they are ‘pleasant abidings in this lifetime’ (diṭṭhadhammasukhavihārā ete ariyassa vinaye vuccanti). Purification is achieved, says the Sallekha Sutta, by thinking such thoughts as: “Others will be aggressive (vihiṃsakā); we will be not aggressive (avihiṃsakā)” and so on. (M.1.40-1).

Deliverance (vimokkho)

Vimokkha sometimes means the attainment of Nibbana: “This is the Deathless, namely the deliverance of the mind (cittassa vimokkho) through not clinging” (M.2.265). More usually, however, ‘deliverance’ means the eight deliverances (aṭṭha vimokkhā), which are as follows:

  • “Possessed of form, one sees forms”(rūpī rūpāni passati). ‘Possession of form’ suggests the attainment of the four jhanas, in which blissful bodily experience (i.e. form) is prominent (D.1.74-76).
  • “Not percipient of form internally, one sees forms externally” (ajjhattaṃ arūpasaññī bahiddhā rūpāni passati). "Form externally" suggests the attainment of the four jhanas. But “not percipient of form internally” is hard to explain.
  • “One is intent only on the Beautiful” (subhanteva adhimutto hoti). The meditation associated with the Beautiful is the liberation of mind through goodwill (mettācetovimutti) (S.5.119). That the ‘Beautiful’ is a synonym for fourth jhana can be seen from the suttas. In metta practice, ones mind is “abundant, exalted and measureless”, and this metta practice is said to culminate in the Beautiful (S.5.115). But abiding with a mind that is “abundant, exalted and measureless” is said at M.2.262 to culminate in the Stable (āneñjaṃ) which means fourth jhana. Therefore fourth jhana and the Beautiful seem synonymous.
  • sphere of infinite space ākāsānañcāyatanaṃ, discussed below.
  • sphere of infinite consciousness viññāṇañcāyatanaṃ, discussed below.
  • sphere of nothingness  ākiñcaññāyatanaṃ, discussed below.
  • sphere of neither perception nor non-perception nevasaññānāsaññāyatanaṃ , discussed below.
  • ending of perception and sensation saññāvedayitanirodhaṃ, discussed below. (D.2.70-1)

Formless spheres and the ending of perception and sensation

In the suttas, the four formless spheres are usually called "deliverances that are peaceful and formless, transcending forms" (santā vimokkhā atikkamma rūpe āruppā) (M.1.34). Their shorter name is the ‘four formless spheres’ (cattāro āruppaṃ) (D.3.224). The first of these spheres, the sphere of infinite space, is attained by completely transcending the perceptions of forms (sabbaso rūpasaññānaṃ samatikkamā). By then transcending each sphere, one attains the next sphere.

Attaining the formless spheres is rare, even for arahants. The Buddha was once in a group of five hundred arahants, and said that only sixty of them had attained the formless spheres (S.1.191). Such arahants are given the special title of 'one released both ways' (ubhatobhāgavimutto). The topmost of these arahants can attain all of the deliverances, including the formless spheres, in forward and reverse order, at will (D.2.70-71). If a monk who is not an arahant attains any of the formless spheres, he too has a special title: 'one who is a bodily witness' (kāyasakkhī) (M.1.477-9).

Each of the formless spheres, just like the jhanas, can be used as a path to enlightenment if used with wise reflection: the perception of impermanence, for instance (M.1.432-7; A.4.421). In these situations where there is a samadhi together with perception, one can achieve what is called “penetration through knowledge” (yāvatā saññāsamāpatti tāvatā aññāpaṭivedho).

However, the sphere of neither perception nor non-perception, and the ending of sensation and perception are states apparently too refined for “penetration through knowledge”, and one needs to withdraw from them for them to be ‘properly made known’ (samakkhātabbānīti) (A.4.423-6). This is what Venerable Sariputta had to do (M.3.28). This seems like a strange weak-point in the attainment of the sphere of neither perception nor non-perception. But there is nothing weak about the ending of sensation and perception. Entering it inevitably, in all sutta descriptions of it, leads to the destruction of the asavas through seeing with wisdom (paññāyaṃ vassa disvā āsavā parikkhīṇā honti) (e.g. A.4.414). It seems abstruse, but wisdom in this case seems to operate without perception. It seems also strange that one has to then withdraw from it for it to be ‘properly made known’. Why would one want to make it properly made known if one’s asavas are already destroyed?

Although the sphere of neither perception nor non-perception seems a pure and admirable attainment, and of all attachments, it is considered the best (upādānaseṭṭhaṃ) (M.2.265), it is still within the range of Selfhood (yāvatā sakkāyo) (M.2.265) and can therefore be a source of arrogance: “I have attained this; others have not” (M.3.44). It is no surprise, therefore, that in his search for enlightenment, the Buddha realised that attaining it would not, by itself, lead to Nibbana, but only to reappearing, at death, in the sphere of neither perception nor non-perception (M.1.166).

In contradistinction, the cessation of perception and feeling is beyond the range of Selfhood, so it is not seen as a personal attainment by those entering it (M.3.45). Of all abidings, it is the most peaceful (M.1.209). The Buddha described it as the highest of pleasures, even though perception and sensation have ceased, because he describes as pleasant “any kind of pleasure wherever and in whatever way it is found” (M.1.400). No one emerges from it not-an-arahant, and some arahants, like Venerable Anuruddha, can re-enter it at will (M.1.209). Because the formula describing its attainment always includes the phrase about 'the asavas being destroyed by seeing with wisdom', it gives the curious impression that arahants re-entering it get re-enlightened.

Freedom from the hindrances (vinīvaraṇatā cittassa)

In the suttas, the term ‘nīvaraṇa’usually means the five hindrances (pañcanīvaraṇā); though can mean misconduct of body and speech (M.1.361-363). Freeing one’s mind of the hindrances is intrinsic to spiritual progress. All arahant Buddhas in the past attained supreme enlightenment by first abandoning the five hindrances, then establishing the four foundations of mindfulness and seven factors of enlightenment (D.3.101).

Freeing the mind of the hindrances is intrinsic to the arising of samadhi (A.3.16-17; S.5.92; D.1.73). Once they are removed, other factors arise: gladness, rapture, body tranquillity, bliss (pāmujjaṃ, pīti, kāyo passambhati, sukhaṃ) and finally samadhi (D.1.73).

Because they are “weakeners of wisdom” (paññāya dubbalīkaraṇā) (S.5.94-5), the Buddha did not teach the four noble truths to a newcomer until the person’s mind was free of hindrances (vinivaraṇacittaṃ).

Although arahants have obliterated the five hindrances permanently, Path-attainers (sekhā) have not (S.5.327), and so are still subject to all of them, including vicikicchā. Unlike ordinary people, though, they are not ‘obsessed’ (pariyuṭṭhito) with them (M.1.321-5).

Sensual desire (kāmacchando)

Sensual desire is aroused by carelessly applying oneself to (ayoniso manasikārabahulīkāro) beautiful aspects (subhanimittaṃ) and dispelled by carefully applying oneself to foul aspects (asubhanimittaṃ) (S.5.64; S.5.105). Sometimes this hindrance is called kāmarāga, sensual passion (M.1.323).

Ill will (vyāpādo)

Ill will is aroused by carelessly applying oneself to objectionable aspects (paṭighanimittaṃ) and dispelled by carefully applying oneself to liberation of mind through goodwill (mettācetovimutti) (S.5.64; S.5.105).

Sloth and torpor (thīnamiddhaṃ)

Sloth and torpor are aroused by carelessly applying oneself to mental states of disinterest, weariness, laziness, drowsiness after meals, mental dullness (arati tandi vijambhikā bhattasammado cetaso līnattaṃ) and dispelled by carefully applying oneself to the elements of arousal, endeavour, exertion (ārambhadhātu nikkhammadhātu parakkamadhātu).

Uddhacca: perturbation

Uddhacca is part of the fourth hindrance (uddhaccakukkuccaṃ). It is also the ninth fetter, and so is not completely abandoned until arahantship. I call it ‘perturbation’, a word which implies a “deep disturbance of mind and emotions” (Webster). Because the suttas say uddhacca has various causes, it must be therefore a collection of different states. Some of these uddhacca-states are abandoned before arahantship.

  • Excessive exertion: if a meditator exerts himself excessively, it leads to perturbation (ekantaṃ paggahanimittaññeva manasikareyya, ṭhānaṃ taṃ cittaṃ uddhaccāya saṃvatteyya). The suttas say it is like a goldsmith who, if he blows too much on molten gold will simply burn it up. For both meditator and goldsmith, it is better if they apply effort from time to time (kālena kālaṃ paggahanimittaṃ manasikātabbaṃ).
  • No samadhi: Just as the goldsmith should sprinkle gold with water to keep it cool, the meditator should, from time to time, cultivate samadhi (kālena kālaṃ samādhinimittaṃ manasikātabbaṃ) (A.1.256) or inner stillness (cetaso vūpasamo) (S.5.106) because this removes agitation (uddhaccassa pahānāya samatho bhāvetabbo) (A.3.449). But though non-returners have perfect samadhi (samādhismiṃ paripūrakārī hoti) (A.1.232) they are not completely free of perturbation. This is because clinging is involved, as we will see below.
  • Pride and embarrassment: if a monk is proud, then if he goes on almsround and receives no food, he feels embarrassed. This leads to perturbation (maṅkubhūtassa uddhaccaṃ) (A.4.87).
  • Provocative speech (viggāhikakathaṃ): this leads to talkativeness (kathābāhullaṃ). With talkativeness comes perturbation (kathābāhulle sati uddhaccaṃ) (A.4.87).

Apart from uddhacca itself, the suttas mention other perturbed states: trembling, agitation and fear. These uddhacca-like states come from clinging, grasping and dependency. All are abandoned at arahantship:

  • Trembling (calitaṃ): “For the dependent there is trembling” (nissitassa calitaṃ) (Ud 81).
  • Agitation and fear (utrāsin and ubbigga):
    A deity asked:
    Always frightened (utrastaṃ) is this mind
    And always agitated (ubbiggaṃ)
    About arisen and unarisen problems
    If there is freedom from fear (anutrastaṃ)
    Please tell me about it”.

    The Buddha replied:
    Not apart from enlightenment and austerity (bojjhā tapasā)
    Not apart from restraint of the sense faculties (indriyasaṃvarā)
    Not apart from relinquishing all (sabbanissaggā)
    Do I see any safety (sotthiṃ) for living beings(S.1.53-4)”

Saṃvegaṃ and dhammuddhacca: skilful types of perturbation

Not all perturbation is unskilful. Perturbation that is skilful is called either saṃvega or dhammuddhacca (rightful perturbation). This type of perturbation is praised in the suttas, because it leads to proper effort: “A monk should be perturbed at situations that are perturbing (saṃvejanīyesu ṭhānesu saṃvejanena), and being perturbed, should make a proper effort (saṃviggassa ca yoniso padhānena)” (It.30).

‘Perturbing situations’ include realising the truth about

  • the four elements, which the Buddha said were like four deadly vipers.
  • the five khandhas which are like five murderous enemies;
  • enjoyment and devotion (nandirāga) which are like a murderer with drawn sword;
  • the six external sense bases which are like village-attacking dacoits;
  • identity (sakkāya) which is like the near shore of a fearful and dangerousflood.

A man wanting to live, not to die, wanting happiness, not suffering, would naturally be terrified (bhīto) of all these and would want to cross the flood to the safety of the far shore, Nibbana, by means of a raft,. the eightfold path (S.4.173-5).

Arousing saṃvega in lazy monks was sometimes encouraged by the Buddha, who, for this reason, once asked Venerable Mahamoggallana to shake a dwelling place by means of psychic power to perturb lazy monks living there (S.5.270). On another occasion, Venerable Mahamoggallana shook Sakka’s palace, for the same reason (M.1.253).

Deities hoping arouse saṃvega in negligent monks, do it by lightly scolding them, for instance by telling them “Don’t let sensual thoughts drag you down!” or “Get up, monk! Why do you sleep?” (S.1.197-205).

Meditation topics that lead to saṃvega (mahato saṃvegāya saṃvattati) are listed at S.5.130-134:

  • the perception of a skeleton (aṭṭhikasaññā)
  • the perception of a worm-infested corpse (puḷavakasaññā)...
  • the perception of a livid corpse (vinīlakasaññā)
  • the perception of a fissured corpse (vicchiddakasaññā)
  • the perception of bloated corpse (uddhumātakasaññā)
  • goodwill (mettā)
  • tenderness (karuṇā)
  • appreciative joy (muditā)
  • equanimity/ non-attachment (upekkhā)
  • mindfulness of breathing (ānāpānassati)
  • the perception of foulness (asubhasaññā)
  • the perception of death (maraṇasaññā)
  • the perception of the repulsiveness of food (āhāre paṭikūlasaññā)
  • the perception of nondelight in the entire world (sabbaloke anabhiratisaññā)
  • the perception of impermanence (aniccasaññā)
  • the perception of suffering in impermanence (anicce dukkhasaññā)
  • the perception of nonself in suffering (dukkhe anattasaññā)
  • the perception of abandoning (pahānasaññā)
  • the perception of fading away (virāgasaññā)
  • the perception of ending (nirodhasaññā) (S.5.130-134).

It is easy to see why these meditations might lead to saṃvega, but it is surprising to see that goodwill, tenderness, appreciative joy, equanimity, and anapanasati are arousers of saṃvega.

Saṃvega can be aroused by visiting the four places of pilgrimage (saṃvejanīyāni ṭhānāni). This is because one thinks to oneself: “Here the Tathagata was born”. “Here he attained supreme enlightenment”. “Here he set in motion the Wheel of Dhamma”. “Here he attained fianl Nibbana” (D.2.140).

The suttas repeatedly say that saṃvega leads to skilful effort. Two examples of this:

  • A monk hears that someone is afflicted or dead. He is stirred and feels agitation (saṃvijjati saṃvegaṃ āpajjati). Thus agitated he carefully applies himself (yoniso padahati) and realises supreme truth (paramasaccaṃ sacchikaroti) (A.2.113).
  • A monk living in the wilderness reminds himself: “While I am now living here alone, a snake might bite me, or a scorpion sting me from which I might die; or, stumbling, I might fall; or my food might upset me; I might meet a tiger or bear. I might meet young criminals, or vicious non-human beings who might take my life. This would obstruct my practice. So let me make an effort to realise the unrealised”. These dangers are enough, when considered, for the monk to make an effort to realise the unrealised (A.3.100).

Saṃvega is one of the four recognised paths to arahantship. As such, it is called ‘righteous perturbation’ (dhammuddhacca). The first three paths are:

  • insight preceded by tranquillity
  • tranquillity preceded by insight
  • tranquillity together with insight

For the fourth path, a monk’s mind is “seized by righteous perturbation” (dhammuddhaccaviggahītaṃ mānaṃ hoti). But eventually his mind settles down and becomes concentrated. In him the path is born (maggo sañjāyati). As he follows the path, his fetters are abandoned, and tendencies destroyed (A.2.156). This implies that dhammuddhacca/samvega is abandoned at stream-entry when the 'path is born'.

Kukkucca: fretting and remorse

When Venerable Anuruddha complained that for all his meditation skill, his mind was still not released from the asavas. Venerable Sariputta called this kukkucca (A.1.281). This is fretting. Venerable Vakkali had the same problem (kukkuccaṃ) when, through sickness, he was unable to visit the Buddha. The Buddha lighlty scolded him: “Why do you want to see this foul body? One who sees Dhamma sees me” (S.3.120).

Kukkucca is also what monks feel when they break their precepts (S.3.120). This is not fretting, but remorse, which is linked with both vippaṭisāro (regret) and attā sīlato upavadat’ī’ti (reproaching oneself in regard to virtue). This kukkucca is allayed by the training in virtue. So, virtue leads to samadhi (samādhisaṃvattanikāni) by the allaying of kukkucca.

The two aspects of kukkucca, fretting and remorse, are seen in this quotation:

"In two people the asavas increase. Which two?
He who frets about about what he should not fret.
He who does not have remorse about what he should have remorse"
Dvinnaṃ bhikkhave āsavā vaḍḍhanti. Katamesaṃ dvinnaṃ
yo ca na kukkuccāyitabbaṃ kukkuccāyati
yo ca kukkuccāyitabbaṃ na kukkuccāyati (A.1.85).

Perturbation and fretting (uddhaccakukkuccaṃ) are aroused by carelessly considering (yoniso manasikārabahulīkāro) inner turbulence (cetaso avūpasamo) and dispelled by carefully considering inner stillness (cetaso vūpasamo) (S.5.106) and by abandoning clinging. Remorse, however, is allayed through cultivating virtuousness.

Vicikicchā: perplexity

Vicikicchā, the hindrance, perplexity, is abandoned at arahantship (S.5.327) because the final escape from the ‘sting of perplexity and bewilderment’ (vicikicchā kathaṃkathāsallaṃ) comes with the uprooting the presumption of a ‘me’ (asmī’ti mānassa samugghāto) (D.3.249-250) which happens at arahantship. Therefore vicikicchā, the hindrance is different from vicikicchā, the fetter, uncertainty, which is abandoned at stream-entry (M.1.34).

Vicikicchā, the hindrance, is 'perplexity' because it arises when one is uncertain (kaṅkhāto) about things, thus:

  • Has this come to be? bhūtamidaṃ nossūti
  • Does its rise occur with that as nutriment? tadāhārasambhavaṃ nossūti
  • With the end of that nutriment, is what has come to be subject to ending? (tadāhāranirodhā yaṃ bhūtaṃ taṃ nirodhadhammaṃ nossūti) (M.1.260).

Perplexity is abandoned in one who sees things with proper wisdom:

  • This has come to be bhūtamidanti
  • Its rise occurs with that as nutriment tadāhārasambhavanti
  • With the end of that nutriment, what has come to be is subject to ending tadāhāranirodhā yaṃ bhūtaṃ taṃ nirodhadhammanti (M.1.260).

Nothing so powerfully causes the arising of perplexity, if not already arisen, or, if arisen, to cause its more-becoming and increase, as careless consideration (ayoniso bhikkhave manasi karoto anuppannā ceva vicikicchā uppajjati uppannā ca vicikicchā bhiyyobhāvāya vepullāya saṃvattatīti). Nothing so powerfully prevents the arising of perplexity, if not already arisen, or if arisen, to cause its abandonment, as careful consideration (nāhaṃ bhikkhave aññaṃ ekadhammampi samanupassāmi yena anuppannā vā vicikicchā nuppajjati uppannā vā vicikicchā pahīyati yathayidaṃ bhikkhave yoniso manasikāro (A.1.3-5).

Perplexity is dispelled by carefully considering (yoniso manasikāra) wholesome and unwholesome states (kusalākusalā dhammā), blameable and blameless states (sāvajjānavajjā dhammā), inferior and superior states (hīnappaṇītā dhammā), dark and bright states (kaṇhasukkasappaṭibhāgā dhammā) (S.5.64; S.5.106).

Though arahants are free of perplexity, they are not free of doubt. For instance, when Venerable Kappina was meditating in seclusion, he wondered (cetaso parivitakko udapādi) “Should I go to the Observance or not? Should I go to Sanghakamma or not?” (Vin.1.105). Similarly, when asked, Venerable Sariputta did not immediately know how Path-attainers (sekhā) conducted themselves, because, as he later admitted, he had never previously contemplated the question (S.2.47; S.2.54).

Samadhi: mental composure

Of samma-samadhi’s two definitions, the definition as the four jhanas (M.3.252) is the more unsatisfactory. Firstly it suggests that states that are more concentrated, or less concentrated, than the four jhanas are not samadhi. Secondly, it suggests that practising jhana is necessarily samma-samadhi. In fact samma-samadhi only arises with the appearance of a Tathagata (S.5.14). So jhana without the other factors of the eightfold path is not samma-samadhi at all.

Samadhi’s better definition is ‘non-distractedness of mind’ (cittassa ekaggatā) together with the other factors of the path (M.3.71; M.1.301; S.5.197; A.1.36; S.5.21; S.5.198). Non-distractedness of mind includes a broad range of meditation states, not just jhana, so ‘samadhi’ can be a convenient way of referring to jhanas plus formless states (for example at A.5.202-9). I call cittassa ekaggatā ‘non-distractedness of mind’ because the mind is free of certain distractions, which I will outline below.

Because sound is a ‘thorn’ to first jhana (A.5.134), jhana is usually attained in solitude; and is usually attained in the sitting posture (D.1.71; A.1.181; A.4.344). Samadhi, however, can be attained even when walking (A.3.29-30), or speaking Dhamma or chanting it (D.3.242).

The achievement of non-distractedness of mind involves freeing the mind of distractions, the most prominent of which are the five hindrances (called nīvaraṇā or upakkilesā) (A.3.16-17; S.5.92). Once these mental distractions are removed, other factors arise: gladness, rapture, body tranquillity, bliss (pāmujjaṃ, pīti, kāyo passambhati, sukhaṃ) and finally samadhi (D.1.73). From this list it is obvious that cittassa ekaggatā cannot, in itself, be called samadhi: it precedes samadhi. And we see that if samadhi is not always jhana, it nonetheless always has the factors of jhana, particularly the rapture (pīti) and bliss (sukha: M.1.295-6).

Apart from the five hindrances, other factors can lead to distractedness of mind, and thus prevent cittassa ekaggatā:

  • thinking and reflecting for too long tires the body (kāyo kilameyya). When the body is tired, the mind is disturbed (cittaṃ ūhaññeyya) and a disturbed mind is far from samadhi (ārā cittaṃ samādhimhāti) (M.1.116).
  • inattention (amanasikāro), panic (chambhitattaṃ), elation (ubbillaṃ), overexertion (accāraddhaviriyaṃ), underexertion, excessive meditation upon forms (atinijjhāyitattaṃ rūpānaṃ) (M.3.162).
  • lack of gladness: when there is no gladness (pāmujje), there is no rapture (pīti) or tranquillity (passaddhi) and one dwells in suffering (dukkhaṃ viharati). Because of this, the mind does not become concentrated (dukkhino cittaṃ na samādhiyati) (S.5.398).
  • taking delight in company and society (saṅgaṇikārāmo; gaṇārāmo) makes it impossible to realise either the liberation of mind that is temporary and delectable (sāmayikaṃ vā kantaṃ cetovimuttiṃ), or the liberation of mind that is perpetual and unshakeable (asāmayikaṃ vā akuppanti) (M.3.110).

Ekodibhāvā and cittassa ekaggatā

Although cittassa ekaggatā is usually associated with first jhana (M.1.295-6) and ekodibhāvā with second jhana (M.1.174), the two factors are nonetheless practically synonymous. For instance, although the factors of first jhana are vitakko, vicāro, pīti, sukhañca, cittekaggatā (M.1.295-6), the Buddha told Venerable Mahamoggallana to unify his mind (cittaṃ ekodiṃ karohi) in first jhana (S.4.263-269). And although second jhana usually involves unification of mind (cetaso ekodibhāvaṃ) (M.1.174) sometimes non-distractedness (cittekaggatā) is mentioned instead (M.3.26). And although samadhi is usually equated to cittassa ekaggatā, in other references, it is synonymous with cittaṃ ekodi hoti (e.g. M.1.118-122, A.2.156, M.1.116).

Varieties of samadhi

Various types of samadhi are mentioned in the suttas, the exact meaning of which is often unclear; one is left to speculate.

  • suññato samādhi: presumably similar to suññatā cetovimutti (liberation of mind through perception of devoidness) in which a monk reflects “This is devoid of a Self and of connection to a Self” (“suññamidaṃ attena vā attaniyena vā”) (M.1.297-8).
  • animitto samādhi is part of a family of animitto states which are themselves part of a group of related esoteric meditations, having their own vocabulary, and their own peculiar contradictions. They are outside the scope of this work.
  • appaṇihito samādhi: PED (under paṇihita) suggests this might mean ‘meditation on freedom from all longings’.
  • chandasamādhi: if a monk gains samadhi, gains mental non-distractedness based upon aspiration, this is called samadhi due to aspiration (chandaṃ ce bhikkhave bhikkhu nissāya labhati samādhiṃ labhati cittassekaggataṃ ayaṃ vuccati chandasamādhi) (S.5.268). This can perhaps be illustrated as follows, reading ākaṅkhati instead of chandaṃ: “Here a monk wields mastery over his mind; he does not let the mind wield mastery over him. In the morning, at midday, and in the evening he abides in whatever abiding or attainment he wants (ākaṅkhati).” (M.1.214-5).
  • viriyasamādhi: if a monk gains samadhi, gains mental non-distractedness based upon effort, this is called samadhi due to effort (viriyañce bhikkhave bhikkhu nissāya labhati samādhiṃ labhati cittassekaggataṃ ayaṃ vuccati viriyasamādhi). This can perhaps be illustrated by the concentration gained from walking meditation, which lasts for a long time (caṅkamādhigato samādhi ciraṭṭhitiko hoti) (A.3.29-30). Or by the stilling of unwholesome thoughts by examining the danger in them, their unwholesomeness; and beating them down, crushing the mind with the mind. Thus, those unwholesome thoughts are abandoned, and one’s mental state reaches one-pointedness, and becomes concentrated” (ekodi hoti samādhiyati) (M.1.118-122) These are examples of meditation where energy is prominent.
  • cittasamādhi: if a monk gains samadhi, gains mental non-distractedness, based upon mind, this is called samadhi due to mind (cittasamādhi). This can perhaps be illustrated by the monk whose mind is seized by righteous perturbation (dhammuddhaccaviggahītaṃ mānaṃ hoti). There comes a time when his mental state becomes steady inwardly, settles down, and becomes one-pointed and concentrated (santiṭṭhati sannisīdati ekodi hoti samādhiyati).In him the path is born (A.2.156). In this case, the mind becomes concentrated in its own time. So in this samadhi the mind is the prominent factor.
  • vīmaṃsāsamādhi: if a monk gains samadhi, gains mental non-distractedness based upon investigation, this is called samadhi due to investigation (vīmaṃsañce bhikkhave bhikkhu nissāya labhati samādhiṃ labhati cittassekaggataṃ ayaṃ vuccati vīmaṃsāsamādhi) (S.5.268). This can perhaps be illustrated by the meditations at A.2.155-6 on unloveliness of the body, repulsiveness of food, distaste for all the world, and impermanence.

Attainment (samāpatti)

Samāpatti means ‘attainment’; its verb-form is samāpajjati. The word has a variety of miscellaneous applications:

  • attainment of unwholesome and wholesome states (akusalānaṃ . . . kusalānaṃ dhammānaṃ samāpattiyā) (S.5.1)
  • attainment of vision (catasso dassanasamāpattiyo) in which a monk reflects on (paccavekkhati) the bones covered in skin, flesh and blood; after that, he knows (pajānāti) the unbroken stream of human consciousness established in this world and the next (ca viññāṇasotaṃ pajānāti ubhayato abbocchinnaṃ idha loke patiṭṭhitaṃ ca paraloke patiṭṭhitaṃ ca); after that, he knows the unbroken stream of human consciousness that is unestablished in this world and the next (viññāṇasotaṃ pajānāti ubhayato abbocchinnaṃ idha loke appatiṭṭhitañca paraloke appatiṭṭhitañca)(D.3.104-5).
  • attainment of the path to arahantship (arahattamaggaṃ samāpannā) (D.1.144).
  • attainment of the Dhamma-stream (dhammasotaṃ samāpanno) i.e. stream-entry (S.2.58).
  • the superhuman attainment of the condition of heat (tejodhātuṃ samāpajjitvā) by the light of which, a monk assigned lodgings at night (Vin.3.159).
  • The rule elaboration reduces the scope of samāpatti to three states: suññatā samāpatti, animittā samāpatti, and appaṇihitā samāpatti (Vin.3.93).
  • The cycle of permutations expands the scope to include the three knowledges (tisso vijjā samāpanno), the four fruits (sotāpattiphalaṃ . . . arahattaṃ samāpanno) and the thirty-seven bodhipakkiyadhammas (cattāro satipaṭṭhāne . . . ariyaṃ aṭṭhaṅgikaṃ maggaṃ samāpanno) (Vin.3.93-100).

In the suttas, however, the most important application of samāpatti is to the nine step-by-step dwelling-attainments (nava anupubbavihārasamāpattiyo) (A.4.409; D.2.156) and the attainment of the eight deliverances (aṭṭha vimokkhe samāpajjati) (D.2.70-71). These are synonymous expressions, meaning the jhanas, the formless deliverances (āruppā vimokkhā) and the ending of perception and sensation (saññāvedayitanirodhaṃ).

Knowledge and vision (ñāṇadassanaṃ)

‘Knowledge and vision’ (ñāṇadassanaṃ) sometimes means arahantship (“the knowledge and vision arose in me – ñāṇañca pana me dassanaṃ udapādi: ‘My liberation is unshakeable; this is my last birth; now there is no more renewal of being’”: M.1.162). So the Buddha could say “it is for the sake of knowledge and vision that the holy life is lived under the Blessed One” (S.5.28).

Sometimes, however, ‘knowledge and vision’ means lesser stages of the path. For instance, in the Relay Chariots Sutta (M24) knowledge and vision is threefold:

  • knowledge and vision of what is the path and what is not (maggāmaggañāṇadassanaṃ);
  • knowledge and vision of the practice (paṭipadāñāṇadassanaṃ);
  • knowledge and vision (ñāṇadassanaṃ) (M.1.149-150).

Thus the Buddha, apparently contradicting his earlier statement, said that knowledge and vision is not the goal of the holy life (M.1.205). The Relay Chariots Sutta confirms this, saying that the holy life is lived for the sake of final Nibbana without clinging.

Knowledge and vision is also a technical term for a specific meditation, in which a meditator, having achieved mental concentration, insightfully knows (pajānāti) that the body is composed of the four primary elements, born of mother and father, nourished with rice and porridge, and is subject to dissolution; and that one’s consciousness is supported by it, and bound up with it (D.1.77).

Ñāṇadassanaṃ is also used to mean any kind of special knowledge, as part of the phrase “uttarimanussadhammā alamariyañāṇadassanaviseso”. For example, the ten powers of the Tathagata (dasa tathāgatabalāni) are called this (M.1.69-71). Or, for example, the question monks are supposed to frequently ask themselves ‘Have I attained any superhuman state of knowledge and vision that is truly noble (uttarimanussadhammā alamariyañāṇadassana viseso) such that, when my fellows in the holy life ask me about it in my last days, I won’t feel embarrassed?’ (A.5.88).

The word analysis to Parajika Four treats ñāṇadassanaṃ by dividing it into ñāṇa and dassanaṃ, and saying ñāṇa means the three knowledges (tisso vijjā); and dassanaṃ equals ñāṇa (therefore dassanaṃ means the three knowledges, too). The PED warns us that this definition of ñāṇa as the three knowledges does not seem “genuine” (under vijjā, p.617). The rule elaboration adopts the view of the word analysis, saying that ñāṇadassanaṃ (the undivided word) means the three knowledges.

The solution to the problem

The solution to the problem can be found in the rule wording itself, where knowledge and vision (ñāṇadassanaṃ) is part of the phrase uttarimanussadhammaṃ alamariyañāṇadassanaṃ. This is presumably synonymous with uttarimanussadhammā alamariyañāṇadassana viseso, mentioned above, and so likewise means any kind of noble superhuman state. It means, according to the rule, any superhuman state that one can claim to ‘know’ and ‘see’ (iti jānāmi iti passāmī’ti). It does not mean any particular superhuman state, so it should not be defined as tisso vijjā. Nor can one hope to understand it by defining its separate components: the phrase is an inseparable whole. Sometimes, in Vinaya, including Pacittiya Eight (Vin.4.25-6), the long phrase is reduced to uttarimanussadhammaṃ (“If a monk announces a factual superhuman attainment (uttarimanussadhammaṃ bhūtasmiṃ) to a layperson, it is a pacittiya offence”: (Vin.4.25). Accordingly, it seems suitable to consolidate the phrase with an ‘of’; rather than a comma, as most translators have done i.e. “a superhuman state of knowledge and vision” not “a superhuman state, knowledge and vision”.

Cultivation of the path (maggabhāvanā)

PED says maggabhāvanā means “cultivation of the Path”. The word analysis says maggabhāvanā is a superhuman attainment. This is hard to follow. Even monks who are newly ordained (navā), not long gone forth (acirapabbajitā) are to be encouraged in the “development of the four bases of mindfulness” (catunnaṃ satipaṭṭhānānaṃ bhāvanāya: S.5.144-5). These monks obviously have no superhuman attainments, and yet here they are, cultivating the path. So, cultivating the path is not a superhuman attainment. Why is it described as such?

Horner translates maggabhāvanā as “making the Way to become”, but in a footnote (BD.1.159), says the phrase could mean “making the [four] ways [to arahantship] become” i.e. the four ways to sotāpattiphalaṃ, sakadāgāmiphalaṃ, anāgāmiphalaṃ and arahattaphalaṃ (S.5.25). By commentarial tradition these ways are called magga. But, with one exception, the suttas never use the word magga for these ways. Instead, they use long phrases to label the four practitioners of the ways (e.g. ‘those practising for the realisation of the fruit of stream-entry’: sotāpatti phalasacchikiriyāya paṭipanno etc etc. See A.4.203-4; S.5.201-2; D.1.144). So it seems unlikely that the word analysis would refer to a concept of magga that had not evolved at the time when the suttas and vinaya were composed.

That maggabhāvanā is a superhuman attainment may perhaps be explained as follows: To ‘truly cultivate’ the eightfold path, one must first ‘possess’ it; and possessing the path is sign of stream-entry: “One who possesses (samannāgato) this noble eightfold path is called a stream-enterer” (S.5.348). However, the saddhānusārī and dhammānusāri must also be included here, because they, too, have entered the way of rightness (okkanto sammattaniyāmaṃ) (S.3.225). And rightness (sammattaṃ) means the eightfold path (S.5.18).

The word analysis unfortunately says maggabhāvanā’ti means

  • the four bases of mindfulness
  • the four right kinds of striving
  • the four bases of spiritual power
  • the five spiritual faculties;
  • the five powers;
  • the seven factors of enlightenment

These six lists include factors that are not superhuman: for instance, even ordinary people, though not even stream-enterers, have some of the five powers (temporarily, of course) (A.4.11-13) and five faculties (the Bodhisatta’s teachers: M.1.164&5). This definition of maggabhāvanā, therefore, is indeed hard to accept.

The signs that indicate one ‘possesses the path’ can be derived from the suttas. For instance, right view is defined as ‘knowledge of suffering’ (dukkhe ñāṇaṃ) etc (S.5.8). The stream-enterer has abandoned uncertainty about suffering (dukkhe’pissa kaṅkhā pahīnā hoti) (S.3.203). Abandoning uncertainty about suffering is therefore a sign that one ‘possesses the path.

Secondly, although right conduct and speech mean refraining from wrong conduct and speech, nonetheless, stream-enterers may still commit offences (M.1.324; Sn 232). However, the stream-enterer is incapable of committing the six great crimes (cha ābhiṭhānāni: matricide etc) (A.1.27 and A.3.434-8; discussed at PEDp64). If he commits a minor, trifling transgression (khuddānukhuddakāni sikkhāpadāni) he is incapable of hiding it (Sn 230-232) and at once confesses it to his companions in the holy life for the sake of future retraint, like an infant might withdraw its hand or foot if it touched a live coal (M.1.321-5). The saddhānusārī dhammānusāri, likewise, are incapable of doing any deed (or speaking any word) for which they might be reborn in hell, the animal realm, or the sphere of ghosts (S.3.225-228). Whether they are capable of hiding transgressions is uncertain. Nonetheless, these factors indicate that one possesses the path.

To conclude, maggabhāvanā can be called a superhuman state if it is translated as “true cultivation of the path”. This true cultivation of the path is only possible for those who possess it, stream-enterers, saddhānusārī and dhammānusāri. Therefore maggabhāvanā seems to mean “the cultivation of the path by those who possess it”.

Realisation of fruits (phalasacchikiriyā)

In the suttas, the fruits that one realises (phalasacchikiriyā) are:

  • sotāpattiphala (A.4.203-4)
  • sakadāgāmiphala (A.4.203-4)
  • anāgāmi phala (A.4.203-4)
  • arahattaphala (S.5.202).

Those who realise these fruits are called:

  • sotāpanno
  • sakadāgāmī
  • anāgāmī
  • arahā (A.4.203-4).

The Samaññaphala Sutta (D.1.61-86) names thirteen fruits of the contemplative life (sāmaññaphalaṃ) that are attainable in one’s lifetime (diṭṭheva dhamme sandiṭṭhikaṃ), including jhana and magical abilities. But these fruits are not said to be “realised” (sacchikiriyā), so are not what is meant here.

Abandoning of the imperfections (kilesappahānaṃ)

Abandoning imperfections (kilesappahānaṃ) is a superhuman state, whether it is temporary, as in in states of samadhi, or permanent, as a stage of sainthood.

PED says the occurrence of the word kilesā in the pitakas is “rare”. Its meaning can be judged from a list of synonyms at Sn.347: “ties” (ganthā), “ways of delusion” (mohamaggā), “whatever is associated with ignorance” (aññāṇapakkhā), “whatever is the basis of bewilderment” (vicikicchaṭṭhānā). These are dispersed by the Tathagata, says Sn.348: “For if no man were ever to disperse imperfections (kilese), as the wind disperses a mass of clouds, the whole world, enveloped, would be darkness indeed. Even illustrious men would not shine forth” (tr: closely follows Norman’s). From this passage we can see that ‘kilesa’ can be broadly defined as ‘creator/s of spiritual darkness’.

In the scriptures, the place of ‘kilesa’ is usually taken by saṃkilesā, upakkilesā, and nīvaraṇaṃ, and by an abundance of other more specific terms dealt with in the discussion of vinīvaraṇatā cittassa, of the ten saṃyojanāni, and of ‘distractedness of mind’ and samādhi. These kilesa-like states are said to be realised (abhiññāya), fully understood (pariññāya), utterly destroyed (parikkhayāya), and abandoned (pahānāya) by cultivating the eightfold path (ariyaṃ aṭṭhaṅgikaṃ maggaṃ bhāveti) (e.g. see S.5.54-62). Therefore, because cultivating the path is a superhuman state, as we saw in the discussion under maggabhāvanā, abandoning any of the kilesa-like states (kilesappahānaṃ) is also a superhuman state.

The rule elaboration unfortunately defines kilesappahānan’ti as the abandonment of passion, hatred and delusion (rāgassa pahānaṃ dosassa pahānaṃ mohassa pahānaṃ), perhaps meaning the permanent destruction of these states. But, as I have shown, the term ‘kilesa’ includes more states than just passion, hatred and delusion. And ‘abandonment of kilesas’ is not necessarily permanent. For instance, in first jhana, five imperfections are temporarily abandoned (pañcaṅgavippahīnaṃ), namely, the five hindrances (M.1.295-6).

Enjoying solitude (suññāgāre abhirati)

The exact meaning of ‘enjoying solitude’ is not certain. The rule elaboration says it means practising jhana. But the khandhakas say: “When a monk is ordained he should not wrongfully claim a superhuman state (uttarimanussadhammo na ullapitabbo), even wrongfully claiming ‘I enjoy solitude’” (antamaso suññāgāre abhiramāmī’ti) (Vin.1.97) as if ‘enjoying solitude’ was the least of superhuman states, even less than jhana. The Dasadhamma Sutta says a monk should frequently ask himself not only “Have I attained any superhuman state of knowledge and vision that is truly noble” but also “Do I enjoy solitude” as if enjoying solitude was not a superhuman state at all (A.5.88).

When Venerable Upali (A.5.201-9) told the Buddha he wanted to live in solitary forest lodgings (araññe vanapatthāni pantāni senāsanāni paṭisevitunti) the Buddha told him that solitary forest lodgings are hard to bear (durabhisambhavāni); that it is hard to live in seclusion (dukkaraṃ pavivekaṃ) and to enjoy living alone (durabhiramaṃ ekatte). He said that forests (vanāni) seem to carry away the minds (haranti mano) of monks who have not attained samādhi (samādhiṃ alabhamānassa bhikkhuno). By samadhi, he meant jhana, as the sutta later makes clear. A monk who has not attained jhana, if he goes to live in solitary forest lodgings, would either “founder or float about”, like a hare or a cat in a pond.

The Buddha told Venerable Upali that when monks are developed in virtue and sense restraint, they then go to practise jhana in solitude, which they do after the meal (D.1.71). If they are successful in this, they are then ready to live in solitary forest lodgings. Venerable Upali was presumably unable to attain jhana, because the Buddha advised him to dwell in the Order (saṅghe viharāhi), saying it would be pleasant for him (phāsu bhavissatī ti). The Buddha surely did not mean that Venerable Upali should avoid meditating in solitude after the meal, which was one of his most frequent injunctions: “There are these tree-roots, these solitary places (suññāgārāni). Meditate, monks (jhāyatha bhikkhave). Do not be negligent. Do not later regret it”(M.1.118).

Even if monks seemed incapable of samadhi, the Buddha praised their sitting in solitude, even if just for the sake of mental undistractedness (ekattaṃ): “When I see a forest dwelling monk seated nodding in a forest, I think “When this reverend sir has got rid of this sleepiness, this lethargy, he will surely contemplate the perception of forest, free of mental distraction” (araññasaññaṃ yeva manasikarissati ekattan’ti). So I am pleased by that monk’s forest abiding (araññavihārena). (A.4.344).

By ‘meditation’ (“jhāyatha bhikkhave”) the Buddha sometimes meant jhana (e.g. M.2.266); but sometimes not. At times he even discourages jhana in favour of more contemplative meditations. For example, in the Sallekha Sutta, the Buddha says that jhanas are ‘peaceful abidings’, but, unlike contemplative meditations, were not ‘purifications’. So he encouraged monks to meditate on the Sallekha Sutta in solitude (etāni cunda rukkhamūlāni etāni suññāgārāni. Jhāyatha cunda mā pamādattha) by thinking such thoughts as: “Others will be aggressive (vihiṃsakā); we will be not aggressive (avihiṃsakā)” and so on. (M.1.40-46). This type of meditation perhaps leads to a type of samadhi associated with Dhamma reflection: “When there remain only thoughts of Dhamma (dhammavitakkā), his samadhi is neither calm nor refined (na ceva santo na ca paṇīto)” (A.1.253). This samadhi, though unrefined, could truthfully be described as “enjoyment of solitude” and, being samadhi, it is a superhuman state.

In conclusion, ‘enjoying solitude’ seems to be a euphemism that means all forms of ‘samadhi’, including unrefined types of samadhi.

Other superhuman states

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