different kinds of cittas arising in our daily life experience objects through the five
sense-doors and through the mind-door. We see, hear, receive impressions through the other
doors and think about these objects. Both in the sense-door process and in the mind-door
process of cittas there are javana-cittas which are in the case of the non-arahat either
kusala cittas or akusala cittas. The javana-cittas are most of the time akusala cittas
because we cling to all the objects which are experienced through the sense-doors and
through the mind-door. We cling to visible object and seeing, to sound and hearing, to all
the objects we experience. We cling to life we want to go on living and receiving
sense-impressions. We may not notice when there is clinging after the seeing or hearing,
especially when we do not feel particularly glad about what was seen or heard. But there
may be lobha-mula-cittas with indifferent feeling. There are likely to be many moments of
clinging which pass unnoticed, both in the sense-door processes and in the mind-door
processes. Time and again an object is experienced through a sense-door and then through
the mind-door and there are also mind-door processes of cittas which think of concepts
such as people, animals or things. Clinging to concepts is likely to arise very often and
thus we think most of the time with akusala citta. When we do not apply ourselves to dana,
sila or bhavana, thinking is done with akusala citta. Even when we perform good deeds
there are bound to be akusala cittas shortly after the kusala cittas since there is seeing
and hearing time and again and after the seeing or hearing attachment or aversion on
account of what we experience may arise. The kusala cittas and akusala cittas, all the
cittas which arise in our daily life are of the 'sensuous plane of consciousness' or
Cittas which experience sense-impressions are bound up
with defilements and therefore wise people, even those who lived before the Buddha's time,
who saw the disadvantages of sense-impressions, developed jhana in order to be temporarily
freed from sense-impressions. Jhanacittas are not kamavacara cittas, they are of another
plane of consciousness; these cittas experience with absorption a meditation subject
through the mind-door. At the moment of jhana one is freed from sense-impressions and from
the defilements which are bound up with them. Jhanacittas comprise rupavacara cittas
(rupa-jhanacittas) and arupavacara cittas (arupa-jhanacittas). Arupa-jhana is more refined
than rupa-jhana, since the meditation subjects of a rupa- jhana are no longer dependent on
materiality. Later on I will deal with their differences.
Apart from the planes of citta which are kamavacara
cittas, rupavacara cittas and arupavacara cittas, there is still another plane of citta:
the lokuttara cittas (translated as supramundane cittas) which have nibbana as their
object. Those who attain enlightenment have lokuttara cittas, experiencing nibbana.
As regards jhanacitta, jhanacittas do not have as their
object, visible object, sound, or any other sense- impression. Jhanacittas arise in a
process of cittas experiencing a meditation subject through the mind-door. In this process
there are first kamavacara cittas which experience the meditation subject and then, in
that same process, the jhanacitta arises. The process is as follows:
parikamma or preparatory consciousness
upacara, which means: proximatory or access
anuloma or adaptation
gotrabhu, which means: that which overcomes the sense-sphere, or 'change of
||appana or absorption (the moment of cittawhich
For some, 'parikamma' (preparatory
consciousness) is not necessary, and in this case there are, after the
mind-door-adverting-consciousness, only three kamavacara cittas arising, instead of four,
before the jhanacitta arises. Gotrabhu (which 'overcomes' the sense-sphere) is the last
citta in that process which is kamavacara citta.
In the 'Visuddhimagga' (IV, 74) we can read about the
process of cittas in which jhana occurs for the first time. The 'Visuddhimagga' (IV, 78)
states that only one single moment of jhanacitta arises, which is then succeeded by the
bhavanga-citta (life-continuum). After that there is a process of kamavacara cittas,
reviewing, through the mind-door, the jhana which has just occurred. Further on (IV, 123
ff. ) we read that absorption can 'last' only when it is absolutely purified of states
which obstruct concentration. One must first completely suppress lust by reviewing the
dangers of sense desires and also suppress the other 'hindrances'.
Jhanacittas are kusala kamma of a high degree. When jhana
has been attained the hindrances of sensuous desire, ill-will, sloth and torpor,
restlessness and worry, and doubt are temporarily eliminated. Thus one is truly calm, at
least at that moment.
As we have seen in the preceding chapter, the person who
wants to cultivate samatha so as to be able to attain jhana, has to develop the five
jhana-factors, which can inhibit the hindrances, namely: applied thinking (vitakka),
sustained thinking (vicara), rapture (piti), happy feeling (sukha), concentration
Jhana is developed in stages, with each succeeding stage
being more refined than the preceding one. There are five stages of rupa-jhana in all. For
the first stage of rupa-jhana it is still necessary that all five jhana- factors arise
with the jhanacitta, but at each higher stage, when one has become more advanced, jhana-
factors are successively abandoned. When one attains to the rupa-jhana of the second
stage, one does not need the jhana-factor which is 'applied thinking' (vitakka). At this
point the jhanacitta can experience the meditation subject without vitakka (which has the
characteristic of directing the mind unto an object and the function of 'touching' the
object). The other jhana-factors still arise with the jhanacitta of the second stage.
At the third stage of jhana 'sustained thinking' (vicara)
is abandoned. At this stage one does not need vitakka or vicara any longer in order to
become absorbed in the meditation subject. Now there are three factors remaining: rapture
(piti), happy feeling (sukha) and concentration (samadhi). At the fourth stage rapture
(piti) is abandoned. There is still happy feeling accompanying the jhana-citta, but piti
does not arise. Without piti, the jhanacitta is more quiet, more refined. At the fifth
stage happy feeling (sukha) too is abandoned and there is neutral feeling (upekkha vedana)
accompanying the jhanacitta instead of happy feeling. At this stage one is no longer
attached to happy feeling. The jhana-factor which is concentration (samadhi) remains.
Some people can, at the second stage of jhana, abandon
both 'applied thinking' and 'sustained thinking' (vitakka and vicara). Consequently, they
can, in the third stage, abandon rapture (piti) and in the fourth stage happy feeling
(sukha). Thus for them there are only four stages of jhana instead of five. That is the
reason why rupa-jhanas can be counted as four stages or as five stages (the fourfold
system or the fivefold system). When we read in the suttas about four stages of jhana, the
fourfold system is referred to.
There can be up to five stages of rupa-jhana in all and
thus there are five types of rupavacara kusala cittas (rupa-jhana kusala cittas).
Jhanacitta is kusala kamma of a high degree and thus its result is kusala vipaka of a high
degree. Jhanacittas do not produce vipaka in the same lifespan: their result is rebirth in
higher planes of existence: rebirth in rupa-brahma planes. If rupavacara kusala citta is
to produce the next rebirth, there are rupavacara kusala cittas arising shortly before the
dying-consciousness. The patisandhi-citta of the next life is rupavacara vipakacitta which
arises in the appropriate rupa-brahma plane. It experiences the same meditation subject as
the rupavacara kusala cittas arising shortly before the dying-consciousness of the
preceding life. The five types of rupavacara kusala cittas produce five types of
Rupavacara vipakacitta can only perform the function of
patisandhi, bhavanga and cuti.
There are five types of rupavacara kiriyacittas which are
the cittas of the arahats who attain rupa-jhana. They do not have kusala cittas but
kiriyacittas instead. Thus there are fifteen rupavacara cittas in all. Summarizing them,
5 rupavacara kusala cittas
5 rupavacara vipakacittas
5 rupavacara kiriyacittas
Those who have attained to the highest stage of rupa-jhana
and see the disadvantages of rupa-jhana which is still dependent on materiality, might
want to cultivate arupa-jhana or 'immaterial jhana'. There are four stages of arupa-jhana.
The first stage of arupa-jhana is the 'Sphere of Boundless Space' (akasanancayatana). In
order to attain this stage of arupa-jhana one has to attain first the highest stage of
rupa-jhana in any one of the kasina meditations (The kasina meditations are among the
meditation subjects of rupa-jhana. They are, for example, coloured disks or a piece of
earth.) excepting the 'kasina of limited space' and achieve mastery in it. We read in the
'Visuddhimagga' (X, 6):
When he has seen the danger in that [fine-material fourth
jhana (The fourth rupa-jhana. Here the counting is according to the 'fourfold system.')]
in this way and has ended his attachment to it, he gives attention to the 'Base consisting
of Boundless Space' as peaceful. Then, when he has spread out the kasina to the limit of
the world-sphere, or as far as he likes, he removes the kasina (materiality) by giving his
attention to the space touched by it, (regarding that) as 'space' or 'boundless space'.
As regards the 'Sphere of Boundless Space', the
'Visuddhimagga' (X, 6) explains the 'removing' of the kasina:
And when the kasina is being removed, it does not roll up
or roll away. It is simply that it is called 'removed' on account of his non-attention to
it, his attention being given to 'space, space'. This is conceptualized as the mere space
left by the removal of the kasina (materiality) ...
In this way he can surmount the materiality of the kasina
and attain the first arupa-jhana, the Sphere of Boundless Space'. The second stage of
arupa-jhana is: the 'Sphere of Boundless Consciousness' (vinnanancayatana). The meditation
subject of this stage of arupa-jhana is the consciousness which is the first arupa-jhana.
The person who wants to attain this stage of arupa-jhana should first achieve 'mastery' in
the 'Sphere of Boundless Space'; he should see the disadvantages of this stage and end his
attachment to it. We read in the 'Visuddhimagga' (X, 25):
...So having ended his attachment to that, he should give
his attention to the base consisting of boundless consciousness as peaceful, adverting
again and again as 'Consciousness, consciousness', to the consciousness that occurred
pervading that space (as its object)...
The third stage of arupa-jhana is the 'Sphere of
Nothingness' (akincannayatana). We read in the 'Visuddhimagga' (X, 32) that the person who
wants to attain this stage should give his attention to the present non-existence of the
past consciousness which pervaded the 'boundless space' and which was the object of the
second stage of arupa-jhana, the 'Sphere of Boundless Consciousness'. We read (X, 33):
Without giving further attention to that consciousness, he
should (now) advert again and again in this way 'There is not, there is not', or 'Void,
void', or 'Secluded, secluded', and give his attention to it, review it, and strike at it
with thought and applied thought.
Further on (X, 35) we read:
...he dwells seeing only its non-existence, in other words
its departedness when this consciousness has arisen in absorption.
The fourth arupa-jhana is the 'Sphere of Neither
Perception Nor Non-Perception' (n'eva-sanna-n'asannayatana). The object of this jhana is
the third stage of arupa-jhana. We read in the 'Visuddhimagga' (X, 49):
The word meaning here is this: that jhana with its
associated states neither has perception nor has no perception because of the absence of
gross perception and presence of subtle perception, thus it is 'neither perception nor
Further on (X, 50) we read:
...Or alternatively: the perception here is neither
perception, since it is incapable of performing the decisive function of perception, nor
yet non-perception, since it is present in a subtle state as a residual formation, thus it
It is also explained that the feeling arising with this
jhana-citta is 'neither-feeling-nor-non-feeling' (since it is present in a subtle state as
a residual formation); the same applies to consciousness, contact (phassa) and the other
cetasikas arising with the jhanacitta.
Since there are four stages of arupa-jhana, there are four
types of arupavacara kusala cittas. They produce vipaka in the form of rebirth in the
happy planes of existence which are the arupa-brahma planes. The four types of arupavacara
kusala cittas produce four types of arupavacara vipakacittas. Arupavacara vipakacitta can
only perform the functions of patisandhi, bhavanga and cuti.
There are four types of arupavacara kiriyacittas which are
the cittas of the arahats who attain arupa-jhana. Thus, there are twelve arupavacara
cittas in all. Summarizing them, they are:
4 arupavacara kusalacittas
4 arupavacara vipakacittas
4 arupavacara kiriyacittas
Those who have cultivated jhana can develop the various
types of 'direct knowledge' (abhinna; Also translated as 'supernormal powers' or 'higher
intellectual powers'.). They should attain the highest stage of rupa-jhana (the fourth or
the fifth, according as to whether they follow the fourfold system or the fivefold system)
in the kasina meditations, and they should exercise 'complete mind-control in fourteen
ways'; for example, the attainment of the jhana stages in the different kasina meditations
in order and in reverse order. In developing the 'kinds of direct knowledge' or
'supernormal powers', one's concentration will become more advanced. The 'supernormal
powers' (abhinna) are the following:
1. Magical powers such as passing through walls, walking
on water, travelling through the air.
2. Divine Ear, by which one hears sounds both heavenly and human,far and near.
3. Knowledge of the minds of other people.
4. Divine Eye, by which one sees the deceasing and rebirth of beings.
5. Remembrance of one's former lives.
These are the five 'mundane supernormal powers'. However,
there is a sixth power, which is a Iokuttara citta, namely, the eradication of all
defilements, when arahatship is attained. The sixth power is the greatest and in order to
attain it insight has to be fully developed.
Sometimes three kinds of knowledge are mentioned, namely:
1. Remembrance of former lives.
2. Heavenly Eye.
3. Destruction of the the Asavas.
Those who have cultivated the right conditions, can
achieve 'marvels'. In the 'Gradual Sayings' (Book of the Threes, Ch. VI, par. 60, III,
Sangarava) we read about the greatest 'marvel'. The Budda asked the brahmin Sangarava
about the topic of conversation of the royal party, when they were together in the palace.
The brahmin Sangarava answered that they were talking about the fact that in former times
the monks were fewer in number, but those possessed of supernormal powers were more
numerous, and that now it was just the opposite. The Buddha said to him:
'Now as to that, brahmin, there are these three marvels.
The marvel of more-power, the marvel of thought- reading,
the marvel of teaching. And what, brahmin, is the marvel of more-power?
In this case a certain one enjoys sorts of more-power in
divers ways. From being one he becomes many, from being many he becomes one; manifest or
invisible he goes unhindered through a wall, through a rampart, through a mountain, as if
through the air; he plunges into the earth and shoots up again as if in water; he walks
upon the water without parting it as if on solid ground; he travels through the air
sitting cross-legged, like a bird upon the wing; even this moon and sun, though of such
mighty power and majesty,-- he handles them and strokes them with his hand; even as far as
the Brahma world he has power with his body. This, brahmin, is called 'the marvel of
And what, brahmin, is the marvel of thought-reading? In
this case a certain one can declare by means of a sign 'Thus is your mind. Such and such
is your mind. Thus is your consciousness...'
And what, brahmin, is the marvel of teaching? In this case
a certain one teaches thus: 'Reason thus, not thus. Apply your mind thus, not thus.
Abandon this state, acquire that state and abide therein.' This, brahmin, is called 'the
marvel of teaching'. So these are the three marvels. Now of these three marvels, which
appeals to you as the more wonderful and excellent?'
'Of these marvels, master Gotama, the marvel of
more-power...seems to me to be of the nature of an illusion. Then again as to the marvel
of thought- reading... this also, master Gotama, seems to me of the nature of an illusion.
But as to the marvel of teaching... of these three marvels this one appeals to me as the
more wonderful and excellent.'
Sangarava then asked the Buddha whether he possessed all
three marvels and the Buddha told him that he did. Sangarava also asked whether any other
monk possessed them and the Buddha answered:
'Yes, indeed, brahmin. The monks possessed of these three
marvellous powers are not just one or two or three, four, or five hundred, but much more
than that in number.'
Sangarava then expressed his confidence in taking refuge
in the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha, and he asked to be accepted as a lay-follower.
In the Buddha's time many monks had cultivated conditions
for 'marvellous powers'. The greatest 'marvel' of these, however, is the 'marvel of
teaching' since it can lead to the eradication of all defilements, to the end of all
For those who have accumulations for jhana there are many
benefits since jhana is kusala kamma of a high degree. One of the benefits is a happy
rebirth, even for those who can attain only "access-concentration' or upacara
samadhi. However, even rebirth in a happy plane of existence is dukkha, since life in a
happy plane may be followed by rebirth in an unhappy plane. Therefore, no birth at all is
to be preferred to any kind of rebirth. This can be realized only by developing the wisdom
which eradicates defilements.
Jhana is called in the teachings an 'abiding in ease,
here, now' (for example, 'Discourse on Expunging', Middle Length Sayings I, No. 8). Those
who are advanced in the development of calm can have many jhanacittas in succession, since
they have cultivated conditions for this. They truly are 'abiding in ease, here, now'.
However, the Buddha would point out that 'abiding in ease' is not the same as 'expunging'
We read in the 'Discourse on Expunging' that the Buddha
said to Cunda in regard to the monk who could attain rupa-jhana:
...It may occur to him: 'I fare along by expunging'. But
these, Cunda, are not called expungings in the discipline for an ariyan. These are called
'abidings in ease, here, now' in the discipline for an ariyan.
With regard to the monk who could attain arupa-jhuna, the
...It may occur to him: 'I fare along by expunging'. But
these, Cunda, are not called 'expungings' in the discipline for an ariyan; these are
called 'abidings that are peaceful' in the discipline for an ariyan...
Those who have accumulated skill for jhana and have
developed vipassana can attain enlightenment with absorption. Instead of a meditation
subject of samatha, nibbana is the object which is experienced with absorption. Lokuttara
cittas can be accompanied by jhana-factors of different stages of jhana according to one's
accumulations. In the process during which enlightenment is attained the magga-citta is
immediately followed by the phala-citta (result of magga-citta). When the phalacittas have
fallen away the process of cittas is over. The magga-citta of that stage of enlightenment
cannot arise again, but the phala-citta can arise again, even many times in life, and it
experiences nibbana with absorption.
Those who have attained the fourth stage of arupa-jhana,
the 'Sphere of Neither Perception Nor Non-Perception' and have also realized the stage of
enlightenment of the anagami or of the arahat, can attain 'cessation' (nirodha-samapatti)
which is the temporary ceasing of bodily and mental activities. The person who has
attained 'cessation' ('the stopping of perception and feeling') is different from a
corpse. We read in the 'Greater Discourse of the Miscellany' (Middle Length Sayings I, No.
43) that Maha-kotthita asked Sariputta a number of questions. He also asked questions
about the difference between the dead body and the monk who has attained cessation. We
read that Maha-kotthita asked:
'In regard to this body, Your reverence, when how many
things are got rid of, does this body lie cast away, flung aside like unto a senseless log
'In regard to this body, Your reverence, when three things
are got rid of: vitality, heat and consciousness, then does this body lie cast away, flung
aside like unto a senseless log of wood.'
'What is the difference, your reverence, between that dead
thing, passed away, and that monk who has attained to the stopping of perception and
'Your reverence, the bodily activities of that dead thing,
passed away, have been stopped, have subsided, the mental activities have been stopped,
have subsided, the vitality is entirely destroyed, the heat allayed, the sense-organs are
entirely broken asunder. But that monk who has attained to the stopping of perception and
feeling, although his bodily activities have been stopped, have subsided, although his
vocal activities have been stopped, have subsided, although his mental activities have
been stopped, have subsided, his vitality is not entirely destroyed, his heat is not
allayed, his sense- organs are purified. This, your reverence, is the difference between a
dead thing, passed away, and that monk who has attained to the stopping of perception and
For those who emerge from cessation, the first citta which
arises is a phala-citta (lokuttara vipakacitta), having nibbana as its object. In the case
of the anagami it is the phala-citta of the anagami and in the case of the arahat it is
the phala-citta of the arahat. The 'Visuddhimagga' (XXIII, 50) states that their minds
tend towards nibbana. We read:
Towards what does the mind of one who has emerged tend? It
tends towards nibbana. For this is said: 'When a bhikkhu has emerged from the attainment
of the cessation of perception and feeling, friend Visakha, his consciousness inclines to
seclusion, leans to seclusion, tends to seclusion.' (Middle Length Sayings 1,302).
In the 'Lesser Discourse in Gosiriga' (Middle Length
Sayings I, No. 31) we read that the Buddha came to see Anuruddha, Nandiya and Kimbila when
they were staying in the Gosinga sal-wood. The Buddha asked them about their life in the
forest. They could attain all stages of rupa-jhana and arupa-jhana and they could 'abide'
in them for as long as they liked. The Buddha said:
'It is good, Anuruddha , it is good. But did you,
Anuruddha , by passing quite beyond this abiding, by allaying this abiding, reach another
state of further-men, an excellent knowledge and vision befitting the ariyans, an abiding
'How could this not be, Lord? Here we, Lord, for as long
as we like, by passing quite beyond the plane of neither perception-nor-non-perception,
entering on the stopping of perception and feeling, abide in it, and having seen through
intuitive wisdom, our cankers come to be utterly destroyed. By passing quite beyond that
abiding, Lord, by allaying that abiding, another state of further-men, an excellent
knowledge and vision befitting the ariyans, an abiding in comfort is reached. But we,
Lord, do not behold another abiding in comfort that is higher or more excellent than this
abiding in comfort,'
'It is good, Anuruddha, it is good. There is no other
abiding in comfort that is higher or more excellent than this abiding in comfort.'
1. What is the advantage of arupa-jhana, compared to
2. What is the difference between the fourth stage of arupa-ihana, the 'Sphere of neither
perception-nor-non perception', and cessation'?
3. Can anybody who has developed the fourth stage of arupa-jhana attain cessation?
4. What is the purpose of the 'supernormal powers (abhinnas)?
5. When six abhinnas are mentioned, which of those is the greatest? Why?
6. What benefit is there for those who develop both jhana and vipassana and attain
7. What is the object of citta at the moment of jhana?
8. Through which door can the jhanacitta experience an object?
9. What is the object of the lokuttara citta?
10. What is the object of the lokuttara citta which is accompanied by jhana-factors?
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