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Vitakka and Vicara

Thinking in Jhāna

In AN 6.56] The Buddha describes six situations in which hearing Dhamma before dying can produce either non-returning or arahantship.

There is a Bhikkhu of some influence out there that has made two statements which are brought into question by this sutta (and by many others which I have mentioned here and there). The two statements are that there is no attaining Arahantship without the four jhānas, and that there is no thinking in jhāna.

Here in this sutta it is clearly stated that thinking and pondering over Dhamma prior to death by one who has previously broken the five yokes to the lower rebirths can produce Arahantship (no mention of jhāna).

In this case either there is attaining Arahantship without jhāna, or there is thinking in the first jhāna and Arahantship is attainable from the first 'jhāna'.

I have previously stated that I believe the whole debate as to whether or not Arahantship is attainable with or without jhāna, is a matter of the name 'jhāna' having been sometimes put on stages in the end process of letting go and sometimes not.

If the case is, in fact, that the process is described here and there without the name 'jhāna,' then it is not correct to say that the jhānas are required even though the process when described without that name, is identical with the jhānas.

There is another reason this issue is important to clarify: today there is no way outside comparing one's experience with the literal definitions of the jhānas in the suttas to verify with certainty their attainment.

This leaves either accepting the literal definitions of the jhānas or forgetting about them as precise stages and just judging progress by way of what one can see one has let go.

One needs to have confidence that one or the other of these two ways of viewing the situation will not lead one off-track or bring one to harm. This is done by comparing what is said by teachers with what is said in the suttas.

Without the Buddha present to confirm as true the statement of some person that he is an Arahant, there is no trusting an individual's statement that he is such nor is there any basis for trusting such a one's statement that one has attained such and such a jhāna, or that such and such is or is not a characteristic of jhāna, or arahantship.

Comparing one's experience against the literal rendering of the Dhamma, one can at least trust that in so far as one trusts Dhamma at all, one has attained, or has yet to attain what is described. When one's experience matches what is described in the sutta, one can then judge for one's self it's fruit or usefulness towards attaining the goal as one understands it.

Conversely for one who has faith in the Dhamma the statements that are being made by individuals concerning what is stated in the Suttas must be examined and if found to be in contradiction with the suttas, must be clearly understood to be so to overcome doubt and/or to avoid being mislead.




See: SN 4.40.1
Discussion of SN 4.40.1
SN 4.40 (the entire Samyutta)

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