The Wings to Awakening

by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Part III: The Basic Factors

E. Right Concentration

[ Jump down to passages §§148-164 ]


The passages in this section deal with right concentration in terms of three questions that deserve appropriate attention:

To answer the first question: Passage §148 defines concentration as singleness of mind, but not every instance of mental singleness counts as right concentration. Passage §102 identifies right concentration with the four levels of jhana -- meditative absorption -- and §152 makes the point that jhana can be considered right concentration only if it is devoid of unskillful qualities such as the hindrances. Absorption in sensual passion, for instance, even though it may be very single-minded, does not count as part of the path. Thus the definition for the first level of jhana specifies that it counts as a path factor only when the mind is secluded from sensuality and unskillful mental qualities.

The singleness of jhana means not only that awareness is focused on a single object, but also that the object is reduced to a single quality that fills the entirety of one's awareness, at the same time that one's awareness broadens to suffuse the entire object. This mutual pervasion of awareness and object in a state of expansion is what is meant by absorption. The similes used to illustrate the various levels of jhana repeatedly make mention of "expansion," "suffusing," "stretching," and "filling" [§150; also M.121; MFU, pp. 82-85], culminating in the fourth jhana where one's body is filled with a bright sense of awareness. This sense of expansion and making-single is also indicated in passages that teach specific meditation techniques. The directions for keeping the breath in mind, for instance, state that one should be sensitive to the entire body while breathing in and out. This accounts for the term "mahaggata" -- enlarged or expanded -- used to describe the mind in the state of jhana.

There are two basic types of jhana, which the commentaries term "form jhana" (rupa jhana) and "formless jhana" (arupa jhana). Each type has several levels. In the case of form jhana, different passages in the Canon list the levels in different ways. The differences revolve around two different senses of the word "form." In one sense, "form" denotes the body, and form jhana is a state of mental absorption in the form of one's own physical body, as sensed from within. Jhana focused on this type of form comes in four levels, identical with the four levels mentioned in the definition of the faculty of concentration [§72] and of right concentration under the noble eightfold path [§102]. In another sense, "form" can also denote the visible forms and light that some meditators can see in the mind's eye in the course of their meditation. This type of form jhana is analyzed into two patterns, one with two levels [§164], the other with three [§163]. Both patterns end with the perception of the "beautiful," which in terms of its function is equivalent to the sense of radiance filling the body on the fourth level of "body form" jhana.

For a person practicing form jhana in either sense of the term, the equanimity experienced with the sense of beautiful radiance can then act as the basis for the formless levels of jhana, which the Canon terms the four "formlessnesses beyond form." These are invariably defined as progressive absorption in the perceptions of "infinite space," "infinite consciousness," and "there is nothing," leading to a fourth state of neither perception nor non-perception.

As for the second question, on how to master right concentration: Passage §154 notes that the ability to attain the first level of jhana -- however one experiences the "form" acting as its focus -- depends on the abandoning of the hindrances, because the feeling of freedom that comes with their abandoning provides the sense of joy and pleasure that lets the mind settle skillfully in the present moment. How to master this process is best shown by following the Buddha's most detailed set of meditation instructions -- the sixteen steps in the practice of keeping the breath in mind [§151] -- and comparing them with the standard description of the four stages of jhana [§§149-150]. Before we analyze these maps of the practice, however, we must make a few comments on how to use them skillfully.

To begin with, internal obstacles to the practice of jhana do not end with the preliminary ground-clearing of the hindrances discussed in the preceding section. More refined levels of unskillful mental states can get in the way [§§160-61]. Lapses in mindfulness and alertness can leave openings for the hindrances to return. Thus, although the maps of the various stages of concentration proceed in a smooth, seemingly inevitable progression, the actual experience of the practice does not. For this reason, the Buddha gives specific instructions on how to deal with these obstacles as they arise in the course of the practice. Passage §159 lists five basic approaches, the first two of which we have already covered in the preceding section. The remaining three are: 1) One ignores the obstacles. This works on the principle that paying attention to the distraction feeds the distraction, just as paying attention to a crazy person -- even if one is simply trying to drive him away -- encourages him to stay. 2) One notices that the act of thinking a distracting thought actually takes more energy than not thinking the thought, and one consciously relaxes whatever tension or energy happens to accompany it. This approach works best when one is sensitive enough to bodily sensations to see the pattern of physical tension that appears in conjunction with the thought, and can intentionally relax it. 3) The approach of last resort is simply to exert force on the mind to drive out the distracting thought. This is a temporary stopgap measure that works only as long as mindfulness is firm and determination strong. It is useful in cases where discernment is not yet sharp enough to make the other approaches work, but once discernment is up to the task, the other approaches are more effective in the long run.

Another point to keep in mind in understanding the maps of the practice is that they list the steps of meditation, not in the order in which they will be experienced, but in the order in which they can be mastered. There are cases, for instance, where one will feel rapture in the course of the practice (step 5 in the practice of breath meditation) before one is able to breath in and out sensitive to the entire body (step 3). In such cases, it is important not to jump to any conclusions as to one's level of attainment, or to feel that one has bypassed the need to master an earlier step. Instead -- when several different experiences arise together in a jumble, as they often do -- one should use the maps to tell which experience to focus on first for the sake of developing one's meditation as a skill.

One qualification here is that it is not necessary to master all the levels of concentration in order to gain Awakening. The relationship of concentration to discernment is a controversial issue, which we will cover in the following section, but here we may simply note that many texts [§§173-74] point out that the experience of the first jhana can be a sufficient basis for the discernment leading to Awakening. The same holds true for the first four steps in breath meditation, which constitute one of the alternative ways of developing the body in and of itself as a frame of reference [§30]. In this case, one's practice of breath meditation would jump from a mastery of step 4 straight to step 13, skipping the intervening steps. In fact, beginning with step 4, it is possible to jump directly to 13 from any of the steps, and from there to progress all the way to Awakening.

The fact that the higher stages are unnecessary in some cases, however, does not mean that they are superfluous. Many people, as they develop the skill of their meditation, will find that their minds naturally go to deeper levels of stillness with no liberating insight arising. For them, the maps are valuable aids for a number of reasons. To begin with, the maps can help indicate what does and does not count as Awakening. When one arrives at a new, more refined level of awareness in one's practice, it is easy to assume that one has attained the goal. Comparing one's experience to the maps, however, can show that the experience is simply a higher level of concentration. Furthermore, awareness of the distinct levels can help one review them after attaining them, so that in the course of trying to master them, moving from one level to another, one can begin to gain insight into the element of will and fabrication that goes into them. This insight can then provide an understanding into the pattern of cause and effect in the mind and, as passage §182 shows, can lead to a sense of dispassion and ultimately to Awakening.

However, the maps should not be used to plan one's practice in advance. This is the message of §162, which makes the point that one should not try to use one's knowledge of the various levels of the practice to force one's way through them. In other words, one should not try to concoct a particular state of jhana based on ideas picked up from the maps. On reaching a particular level, one should not be in a hurry to go to the next. Instead, one should familiarize oneself with that level of mind, perfecting one's mastery; eventually that state of concentration will ripen naturally into the next level. To continue the image of the passage, one will find that there is no need to jump to another pasture to taste different grass and water, for the new grass and water will develop right in one's own pasture.

Finally, although the maps to the various stages of concentration seem exhaustive and complete, bear in mind that they list only the stages of right concentration, and not the varieties of wrong. In addition to the types of wrong concentration mentioned in §152, there are states of mind that may be very quiet but lack the mindfulness that would make them right. One of these stages is a blurred state -- essentially a concentration of delusion -- half-way between waking and sleep, in which one's object becomes hazy and ill-defined. On leaving it, one is hard put to say where the mind was focused, or whether it was awake or asleep. Another type of wrong concentration is one that a modern practice tradition calls a state of non-perception (asaññi). In this state, which is essentially a concentration of subtle aversion -- the result of a strongly focused determination not to stay with any one object -- everything seems to cease: the mind blanks out, with no perception of sights or sounds, or of one's own body or thoughts. There is just barely enough mindfulness to know that one hasn't fainted or fallen asleep. One can stay there for long periods of time, and yet the experience will seem momentary. One can even determine beforehand when one will leave the state; but on emerging from it, one will feel somewhat dazed or drugged, a reaction caused by the intense aversive force of the concentration that induced the state to begin with. There are other forms of wrong concentration, but a general test is that right concentration is a mindful, fully alert state. Any state of stillness without clear mindfulness and alertness is wrong.

With these points in mind we can now turn to the maps to see their answer to the question of how breath meditation leads to the mastery of jhana. As noted above, the practice of keeping the breath in mind is the meditation method that the Canon teaches in most detail. There are two possible reasons for this, one historical and the other more theoretical. From the historical point of view, the breath was the focal point that the Buddha himself used on the night of his own Awakening. From the theoretical perspective, a state of concentration focused on the breath is the meeting place of all the elements of the factor of "fabrication" (sankhara) in the formula for dependent co-arising [§§218, 223]. This factor, as experienced in the present, consists of bodily fabrication (the breath itself), verbal fabrication (the factors of directed thought and evaluation applied to the breath in the first jhana), and mental fabrication (feeling and perception, in this case the feelings of pleasure and equanimity experienced in the four jhanas, plus the mental label of "breath" or "form" that act as the basis for the state of jhana). Because transcendent discernment must deal directly with these three types of fabrication if it is to eliminate the ignorance that underlies them, the practice of jhana based on the breath is an ideal point to focus on all three at once.

The first two steps of breath meditation [§151] involve simple tasks of directed thought and evaluation: directing one's thoughts and attention to the breath in and of itself, in the present, at the same time evaluating it as one begins to discern variations in the length of the breath. Some modern teachers maintain that the factor of evaluation here also includes taking one's observations of short and long breathing as a basis for adjusting the rhythm of the breath to make it as comfortable as possible. Because the first level of jhana must be based on a sense of pleasure [§238], this advice is very practical.

The remaining steps are willed or determined: One "trains oneself," first by manipulating one's sense of conscious awareness, making it sensitive to the body as a whole. Then one can begin manipulating the bodily sensations of which one is aware, reducing them to a single sensation of calm by letting "bodily fabrication" -- the breath -- grow calm so as to create an easeful sense of rapture and pleasure. A comparison between the stages of breath meditation and the graphic analogies for jhana [§150] indicates that the fifth and sixth steps -- being sensitive to rapture and pleasure -- involve making these feelings "single" as well, by letting them suffuse the entire body, just as the bathman kneads the moisture throughout his ball of bath powder. With bodily fabrications stilled, mental fabrications -- feelings and perceptions -- become clearly apparent as they occur, just as when a radio is precisely tuned to a certain frequency, static is eliminated and the message sent by the radio station broadcasting at that frequency becomes clear. These mental fabrications, too, are calmed, a step symbolized in the analogies for jhana by the still waters in the simile for the third level, in contrast to the spring waters welling up in the second. What remains is simply a sense of the mind itself, corresponding to the level of fourth jhana, in which the body is filled from head to toe with a single sense of bright, radiant awareness. This completes the first level of frames-of-reference practice [II/B].

Once this stage is reached, steps 10-12 indicate that one can now turn one's attention to consolidating one's mastery of concentration. One does this by reviewing the various levels of jhana, focusing not so much on the breath as on the mind as it relates to the breath. This allows a perception of the different ways in which the mind can be satisfied and steadied, and the different factors from which it can be released by taking it through the different levels of jhana -- for example, releasing it from rapture by taking it from the second level to the third, and so forth [§175]. One comes to see that, although the breath feels different on the different levels of jhana, the cause is not so much the breath as it is the way the mind relates to the breath, shedding the various mental activities surrounding its single preoccupation. As one ascends through the various levels, directed thought and evaluation are stilled, rapture fades, and pleasure is abandoned. Another way of consolidating one's skills in the course of these steps is to examine the subtle defilements that interfere with full mastery of concentration. The fact that one's focus is now on the mind makes it possible to see these defilements clearly, and then to steady the mind even further by releasing it from them. Passage §161, although aimed specifically at the problems faced by those who have visions in their meditation, gives a useful checklist of subtle mental defilements that can hamper the concentration of any meditator. The image of grasping the quail neither too loosely nor too tight has become a standard one in Buddhist meditation manuals.

The mastery of concentration developed in steps 9-12 provides an excellent chance to develop discernment into the pattern of cause and effect in the process of concentrating the mind, in that one must master the causal factors before one can gain the desired results in terms of satisfaction, steadiness, and release. Here we see at work the basic pattern of skillfulness mentioned in several earlier sections: that discernment is sharpened and strengthened by employing it in developing the skills of concentration. This would correspond to the second level of frames-of-reference meditation -- focusing on the phenomenon of origination and passing away -- mentioned in II/B.

Another development that can happen during these steps -- although this takes one outside of the practice of breath meditation per se -- is the discovery of how the equanimity developed in the fourth jhana can be applied to other refined objects of the mind. These are the four formless jhanas: the sphere of the infinitude of space, the sphere of the infinitude of consciousness, the sphere of nothingness, and the sphere of neither perception nor non-perception. These states may sound impossibly abstract, but in actual practice they grow directly from the way the mind relates to the still sense of the body in the fourth jhana. The first stage comes when the mind consciously ignores its perception (mental label) of the form of the body, attending instead to the remaining sense of space that surrounds and pervades that form; the second stage comes when the mind sheds its perception of "space," leaving a limitless sense of awareness; the third, when it lets go of its perception or mental label of "awareness," leaving a perception of inactivity; and the fourth, when it sheds the perception of that lack of activity. What is left is a state where perception is so refined that it can hardly be called perception at all, even though it is still there. As one masters these steps, one sees that whereas the first four levels of jhana differ in the type of activity the mind focuses on its one object, the four formless jhanas differ in their objects, as one level of mental labeling falls away to be replaced by a more subtle one.

Passages §162 and §164 list one more meditative attainment beyond the sphere of neither perception nor non-perception -- the cessation of feeling and perception -- but this is qualitatively different from the others, in that a meditator cannot attain it without at the same time awakening to the level of at least non-returning. The reason behind this is related, once more, to the factor of "fabrication" (sankhara) in dependent co-arising [§218]. In the course of mastering the levels of jhana, verbal fabrication grows still as one enters the second jhana; bodily fabrication, as one enters the fourth; and mental fabrication, as one enters this last stage. For all three types of fabrication to stop, however, ignorance -- the condition for fabrication -- must stop as well, and this can happen only with the insight that leads to Awakening.

We have come to the end of the list of the stages of mastery in meditative attainment, but four steps in breath meditation remain unexplained. This is because, aside from the ninth level of attainment, the stages of mastery can all be attained without developing the discernment that constitutes Awakening, while the last four steps in breath meditation deal specifically with giving rise to that discernment. This brings us to the third question that was broached at the beginning of this introduction: how right concentration can be put to use.

Passage §149 lists four possible uses for concentration:

The first use is the simple enjoyment of the experience of jhana; the second relates to the first five supranormal powers [II/D]. The third relates to the development of the frames of reference [II/B]; and the fourth, to the discernment that constitutes Awakening. We have already discussed the second and third uses of concentration in the passages just cited in brackets. This leaves us with the first and fourth.

The Canon [M.138; MFU, pp. 114-15] notes that meditators can become "chained and fettered" to the attractions of the pleasure to be found in jhana. As a result, many meditators are afraid to let their minds settle into blissfully still states, for fear of becoming stuck. The Canon, however, never once states that stream-entry can be attained without at least some experience in jhana; and it states explicitly [A.III.88; MFU, p. 103] that the attainment of non-returning requires a mastery of concentration. M.36 relates that the turning point in the Buddha's own practice -- when he abandoned the path of self-affliction and turned to the middle way -- hinged on his realization that there is nothing blameworthy in the pleasure to be found in jhana. Thus, there is nothing to fear.

This pleasure plays an important function in the practice. To begin with, it enables the mind to stay comfortably in the present moment, helping it attain the stability it needs for gaining insight. This can be compared to a scientific experiment, in which the measuring equipment needs to be absolutely steady in order to give reliable readings. Secondly, because a great deal of sensitivity is required to "tune" the mind to the refined pleasure of jhana, the practice serves to increase one's sensitivity, making one more acutely aware of even the most refined levels of stress as well. Thirdly, because the pleasure and equanimity of jhana are more exquisite than sensory pleasures, and because they exist independently of the five senses, they can enable the mind to become less involved in sensory pleasures and less inclined to search for emotional satisfaction from them. In this sense, the skillful pleasures of jhana can act as a fulcrum for prying loose one's attachments to the less skillful pleasures of sensuality. The fact that fully mature mastery of jhana brings about the attainment of non-returning, the preliminary level of Awakening where sensual passion is abandoned, shows the necessary role that jhana plays in letting go of this particular defilement. Finally, the pleasure of jhana provides a place of rest and rehabilitation along the path when the mind's powers of discernment become dulled or it must be coaxed into the proper mood to accept some of the harsher lessons that it needs to learn in order to abandon its cravings. Just as a person who is well-fed and rested is more open to receiving criticism than when he is tired and hungry, the mind is often more willing to admit its own foolishness and lack of skill when it is nourished by the pleasure of jhana than when it is not.

Thus, although the pleasure of jhana can become an obstacle if treated as an end in itself, there are phases of the practice where the pursuit of this form of pleasure is a useful strategy toward the fourth use of concentration: the ending of the mental effluents. This fourth use is the topic of the next section, but here we can simply note that it is related to the fifth factor of noble right concentration mentioned in §150. As the simile illustrating it suggests -- with the standing person reflecting on the person sitting down -- this factor is a pulling back or a lifting of the mind above the object of its absorption, without at the same time disturbing the absorption. This factor corresponds to steps 9 through 12 in the guide to breath meditation, in that one is able to focus on the way the mind relates to its object at the same time that the mind is actually in a state of concentration. Passage §172 shows that this factor can be applied to any level of jhana except for the states of neither perception nor non-perception and the cessation of perception and feeling. As for those two states, one can reflect on their component factors only after leaving them. With the other states, one stays with the object, but one's prime focus is on the mind. One sees the various mental events that go into maintaining that state of concentration, and as one contemplates these events, one becomes struck by how inconstant they are, how fabricated and willed. This provides insight into how the present aspect of kamma -- one's present intentions -- shape one's present experience. It also gives insight into the general pattern of cause and effect in the mind.

Focusing on the inconstancy and unreliability of the factors in this pattern gives rise to the realization that they are also stressful and not-self: neither "me" nor "mine," but simply instances of the first noble truth [III/H/i]. When this realization goes straight to the heart, there comes a sense of dispassion for any craving directed at them (the second noble truth) and an experience of their fading and cessation (the third). Finally, one relinquishes attachment not only to these events, but also to the discernment that sees through to their true nature (the fourth). This completes steps 13 through 16 in the guide to breath meditation, at the same time bringing the seven factors of Awakening to completion in a state "dependent on seclusion...dispassion...cessation, resulting in letting go [§93]," where "letting go" would appear to be equivalent to the "relinquishment" in step 16. When one can simply experience the act of relinquishment, without feeling that one is "doing" the relinquishing, one passes through the third stage of frames-of-reference meditation to the state of non-fashioning [§§179, 183], which forms the threshold to release.

Even after attaining release, the Arahant continues to practice meditation, although now that the effluents are ended, the concentration is not needed to put them to an end. M.107 mentions that Arahants practice concentration both for the sake of a pleasant abiding in the here and now, and for mindfulness and alertness. A number of passages in the Canon mention the Buddha and his Arahant disciples exercising their supranormal powers, which shows that they were practicing concentration for the sake of attaining knowledge and vision as well, to use in instructing those around them. The description of the Buddha's passing away tells that he entered total nibbana after exercising his mastery in the full range of jhanic attainments. Thus the practice of concentration is useful all the way to the point where one gains total release from the round of death and rebirth.


Passages from the Pali Canon [go to top]


§ 148. Visakha: Now what is concentration, what qualities are its themes, what qualities are its requisites, and what is its development?

Sister Dhammadinna: Singleness of mind is concentration; the four frames of reference are its themes; the four right exertions are its requisites; and any cultivation, development, & pursuit of these qualities is its development.

-- M.44


§ 149. These are the 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 the 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 -- quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful qualities -- enters & remains in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. With the stilling of directed thought & evaluation, he enters & remains in the second jhana: rapture & pleasure born of composure, unification of awareness free from directed thought & evaluation -- internal assurance. With the fading of rapture he remains in equanimity, mindful & alert, and physically sensitive to pleasure. He enters & remains in the third jhana, of which the Noble Ones declare, 'Equanimous & mindful, he has a pleasurable abiding.' With the abandoning of pleasure & pain -- as with the earlier disappearance of elation & distress -- he enters & remains in the fourth jhana: purity of equanimity & mindfulness, neither pleasure nor pain. 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 [for him] 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. [§§64; 66]

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. [§30]

And what is the development of concentration that...leads to the ending of the effluents? There is the case where a monk remains focused on arising & falling away with reference to the five aggregates for sustenance/clinging: '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 the effluents. [§173]

These are the four developments of concentration.

-- A.IV.41


§ 150. Noble Right Concentration. Now what, monks, is five-factored noble right concentration? There is the case where a monk -- quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful qualities -- enters & remains in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. He permeates & pervades, suffuses & fills this very body with the rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal. There is nothing of his entire body unpervaded by rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal.

Just as if a skilled 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 withdrawal. There is nothing of his entire body unpervaded by rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal. This is the first development of the five-factored noble right concentration.

Furthermore, with the stilling of directed thought & evaluation, he enters & remains in the second jhana: rapture & pleasure born of composure, unification of awareness free from directed thought & evaluation -- internal assurance. He permeates & pervades, suffuses & fills this very body with the rapture & pleasure born of composure. There is nothing of his entire body unpervaded by rapture & pleasure born of composure.

Just like a lake with spring-water welling up from within, having no inflow from east, west, north, or south, and with the skies periodically supplying abundant showers, 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 composure. There is nothing of his entire body unpervaded by rapture & pleasure born of composure. This is the second development of the five-factored noble right concentration.

And furthermore, with the fading of rapture, he remains in equanimity, mindful & alert, and physically sensitive to pleasure. He enters & remains in the third jhana, of which the Noble Ones declare, 'Equanimous & mindful, he has a pleasurable abiding.' He permeates & pervades, suffuses & fills this very body with the pleasure divested of rapture, so that there is nothing of his entire body unpervaded with pleasure divested of rapture.

Just as in a blue-, white-, or red-lotus pond, there may be some of the blue, white, or red lotuses which, 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 blue, white, or red 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. This is the third development of the five-factored noble right concentration.

And furthermore, with the abandoning of pleasure & stress -- as with the earlier disappearance of elation & distress -- he enters & remains in the fourth jhana: purity of equanimity & 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; even so, 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 furthermore, 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; even so, monks, the monk has his theme of reflection well in hand, well attended to, well pondered, well tuned by means of discernment. This is the fifth development of the five-factored noble right concentration.

When a monk has developed & pursued the five-factored noble right concentration in this way, 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. [§64]

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 & pursued the five-factored noble right concentration in this way, 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.

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...

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 & back, to whatever place and by whichever road he liked; in the same way, when a monk has developed & pursued the five-factored noble right concentration in this way, 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.

-- A.V.28


§ 151. Breath Meditation. Now how is mindfulness of in-&-out breathing developed & pursued so that it bears great fruit & great benefits?

There is the case where a monk, having gone to the wilderness, to the shade of a tree, or to an empty building, sits down folding his legs crosswise, holding his body erect, and setting mindfulness to the fore. Always mindful, he breathes in; mindful he breathes out.

[1] Breathing in long, he discerns that he is breathing in long; or breathing out long, he discerns that he is breathing out long. [2] Or breathing in short, he discerns that he is breathing in short; or breathing out short, he discerns that he is breathing out short. [3] He trains himself to breathe in sensitive to the entire body, and to breathe out sensitive to the entire body. [4] He trains himself to breathe in calming bodily fabrication, and to breathe out calming bodily fabrication.

[5] He trains himself to breathe in sensitive to rapture, and to breathe out sensitive to rapture. [6] He trains himself to breathe in sensitive to pleasure, and to breathe out sensitive to pleasure. [7] He trains himself to breathe in sensitive to mental fabrications, and to breathe out sensitive to mental fabrications. [8] He trains himself to breathe in calming mental fabrication, and to breathe out calming mental fabrication.

[9] He trains himself to breathe in sensitive to the mind, and to breathe out sensitive to the mind. [10] He trains himself to breathe in satisfying the mind, and to breathe out satisfying the mind. [11] He trains himself to breathe in steadying the mind, and to breathe out steadying the mind. [12] He trains himself to breathe in releasing the mind, and to breathe out releasing the mind.

[13] He trains himself to breathe in focusing on inconstancy, and to breathe out focusing on inconstancy. [14] He trains himself to breathe in focusing on dispassion (literally, fading), and to breathe out focusing on dispassion. [15] He trains himself to breathe in focusing on cessation, and to breathe out focusing on cessation. [16] He trains himself to breathe in focusing on relinquishment, and to breathe out focusing on relinquishment.

This is how mindfulness of in-&-out breathing is developed & pursued so as to bear great fruit & great benefits.

-- S.LIV.1


§ 152. Vassakara: Once, Ven. Ananda, Ven. Gotama was living at Vesali in the Hall with the peaked roof in the Great Forest. I went to where he was staying in the Great Forest...and there he spoke in a variety of ways on jhana. Ven. Gotama was both endowed with jhana and made jhana his habit. In fact, he praised all sorts of jhana.

Ananda: It was not the case that the Blessed One praised all sorts of jhana, nor did he criticize all sorts of jhana. And what sort of jhana did he not praise? There is the case where a certain person dwells with his awareness overcome by sensual passion, obsessed with sensual passion. He does not 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...sloth & drowsiness... restlessness & anxiety...uncertainty, obsessed with uncertainty. He does not 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 jhana that the Blessed One did not praise.

And what sort of jhana did he praise? There is the case where a monk -- quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful qualities -- enters & remains in the first jhana...the second jhana...the third jhana...the fourth jhana: purity of equanimity & mindfulness, neither pleasure nor pain. This is the sort of jhana that the Blessed One praised.

Vassakara: It would seem, Ven. Ananda, that the Ven. Gotama criticized the jhana that deserves criticism, and praised that which deserves praise.

-- M.108


§ 153. A monk endowed with these five qualities 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 qualities is not capable of entering & remaining in right concentration.

A monk endowed with these five qualities 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 qualities is capable of entering & remaining in right concentration.

-- A.V.113


§ 154. A monk who has not abandoned these six qualities is incapable of entering & remaining in the first jhana. Which six? Sensual desire, ill will, sloth & drowsiness, restlessness & anxiety, uncertainty, and not seeing well with right discernment, as they actually are present, the drawbacks of sensual pleasures...

A monk who has not abandoned these six qualities is incapable of entering & remaining in the first jhana. Which six? Thoughts of sensuality, thoughts of ill will, thoughts of harmfulness, perceptions of sensuality, perceptions of ill will, perceptions of harmfulness.

-- A.VI.73-74


§ 155. A monk endowed with these six qualities 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 qualities is capable of mastering strength in concentration.

-- A.VI.72


§ 156. A monk endowed with these six qualities could break through the Himalayas, king of mountains, to say nothing of miserable ignorance. 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, in the [mind's] preparedness for concentration, in the range of concentration, & in the application of concentration.

A monk endowed with these six qualities could break through the Himalayas, king of mountains, to say nothing of miserable ignorance.

-- A.VI.24


§ 157. Imagine a great pool of water to which there comes a great bull elephant, seven or seven and a half cubits tall. The thought occurs to him, 'What if I were to plunge into this pool of water, to amuse myself by squirting water into my ears and along my back, and then to bathe & drink & come back out & go off as I please.' So he plunges into the pool of water, amuses himself by squirting water into his ears and along his back, and then bathes & drinks & comes back out & goes off as he pleases. Why is that? Because his large body finds a footing in the depth.

Now suppose a rabbit or a cat were to come along & think, 'What's the difference between me & a bull elephant? What if I were to plunge into this pool of water, to amuse myself by squirting water into my ears and along my back, and then to bathe & drink & come back out & go off as I please.' So he plunges rashly into the pool of water without reflecting, and of him it can be expected that he will either sink to the bottom or float away on the surface. Why is that? Because his small body doesn't find a footing in the depth.

In the same way, whoever says, 'Without having attained concentration, I will go live in solitude, in isolated wilderness places,' of him it can be expected that he will either sink to the bottom or float away on the surface.

-- A.X.99


§ 158. These are the five rewards for one who practices walking meditation. Which five? He can endure traveling by foot; he can endure exertion; he becomes free from disease; whatever he has eaten & drunk, chewed & savored, becomes well-digested; the concentration he wins while doing walking meditation lasts for a long time.

-- A.V.29


§ 159. Distracting Thoughts. When a monk is intent on the heightened mind, there are five themes he should attend to at the appropriate times. Which five?

There is the case where evil, unskillful thoughts -- connected with desire, aversion, or delusion -- arise in a monk while he is referring to & attending to a particular theme. He should attend to another theme, apart from that one, connected with what is skillful. When he is attending to this other theme...those evil, unskillful thoughts...are abandoned & subside. With their abandoning, he steadies his mind right within, settles it, unifies it, & concentrates it. Just as a skilled carpenter or his apprentice would use a small peg to knock out, drive out, & pull out a large one; in the same way...he steadies his mind right within, settles it, unifies it, & concentrates it.

If evil, unskillful thoughts -- connected with desire, aversion, or delusion -- still arise in the monk while he is attending to this other theme, connected with what is skillful, he should scrutinize the drawbacks of those thoughts: 'Truly, these thoughts of mine are unskillful...blameworthy...these thoughts of mine result in stress.' As he is scrutinizing their drawbacks...those evil, unskillful thoughts...are abandoned & subside. With their abandoning, he steadies his mind right within, settles it, unifies it, & concentrates it. Just as a young woman -- or man -- fond of adornment, would be horrified, humiliated, & disgusted if the carcass of a snake or a dog or a human being were hung from her neck; in the same way...the monk steadies his mind right within, settles it, unifies it, & concentrates it.

If evil, unskillful thoughts -- connected with desire, aversion or delusion -- still arise in the monk while he is scrutinizing the drawbacks of those thoughts, he should pay no mind & pay no attention to those thoughts. As he is paying no mind & paying no attention to them...those evil, unskillful thoughts are abandoned & subside. With their abandoning, he steadies his mind right within, settles it, unifies it, & concentrates it. Just as a man with good eyes, not wanting to see forms that had come into range, would close his eyes or look away; in the same way...the monk steadies his mind right within, settles it, unifies it, & concentrates it.

If evil, unskillful thoughts -- connected with desire, aversion or delusion -- still arise in the monk while he is paying no mind & paying no attention to those thoughts, he should attend to the relaxing of thought-fabrication with regard to those thoughts. As he is attending to the relaxing of thought-fabrication with regard to those thoughts...those evil, unskillful thoughts are abandoned & subside. With their abandoning, he steadies his mind right within, settles it, unifies it, & concentrates it. Just as the thought would occur to a man walking quickly, 'Why am I walking quickly? Why don't I walk slowly?' So he walks slowly. The thought occurs to him, 'Why am I walking slowly? Why don't I stand?' So he stands. The thought occurs to him, 'Why am I standing? Why don't I sit down?' So he sits down. The thought occurs to him, 'Why am I sitting? Why don't I lie down?' So he lies down. In this way, giving up the grosser posture, he takes up the more refined one. In the same way...the monk steadies his mind right within, settles it, unifies it, & concentrates it.

If evil, unskillful thoughts -- connected with desire, aversion or delusion -- still arise in the monk while he is attending to the relaxing of thought-fabrication with regard to those thoughts, then -- with his teeth clenched & his tongue pressed against the roof of his mouth -- he should beat down, constrain, & crush his mind with his awareness. As -- with his teeth clenched & his tongue pressed against the roof of his mouth -- he is beating down, constraining, & crushing his mind with his awareness...those evil, unskillful thoughts are abandoned & subside. With their abandoning, he steadies his mind right within, settles it, unifies it, & concentrates it. Just as a strong man, seizing a weaker man by the head or the throat or the shoulders, would beat him down, constrain, & crush him; in the same way...the monk steadies his mind right within, settles it, unifies it, & concentrates it.

Now when a monk...attending to another theme...scrutinizing the drawbacks of those thoughts...paying no mind & paying no attention to those thoughts...attending to the relaxing of thought-fabrication with regard to those thoughts...beating down, constraining & crushing his mind with his awareness... steadies his mind right within, settles it, unifies it, & concentrates it: He is then called a monk with mastery over the ways of thought sequences. He thinks whatever thought he wants to, and doesn't think whatever thought he doesn't. He has severed craving, thrown off the fetters, and -- through the right penetration of conceit -- has made an end of suffering & stress.

-- M.20


§ 160. There are these gross impurities in gold: dirty sand, gravel, & grit. The dirt-washer or his 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 his 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 his 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 his 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 calm nor refined, it has not yet attained serenity or 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 calm & refined, has attained serenity & 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... [§64; 182]

-- A.III.100


§ 161. Ven. Anuruddha: It has happened that, as we were remaining heedful, ardent, & resolute, we perceived light & the vision of forms. But soon after that the light disappeared, together with the vision of forms, and we can't become attuned to that theme.

The Buddha: You should become attuned to that theme. Before my Awakening, while I was still only an unawakened Bodhisatta, I too perceived light & the vision of forms, and soon after that the light disappeared, together with the vision of forms. The thought occurred to me, 'What is the cause, what is the reason, why the light disappeared, together with the vision of forms?' Then it occurred to me, 'Uncertainty arose in me, and because of the uncertainty my concentration fell away; when my concentration fell away, the light disappeared together with the vision of forms. I will act in such a way that uncertainty will not arise in me again.'

As I was remaining heedful, ardent, & resolute, I perceived light & the vision of forms. But soon after that the light disappeared, together with the vision of forms. The thought occurred to me, 'What is the cause, what is the reason, why the light disappeared, together with the vision of forms?' Then it occurred to me, 'Inattention...sloth & drowsiness...fear...elation...inertia arose in me, and because of the inattention...inertia my concentration fell away; when my concentration fell away, the light disappeared together with the vision of forms. I will act in such a way that uncertainty, inattention, sloth & drowsiness, fear, elation, & inertia will not arise in me again.'

As I was remaining heedful, ardent, & resolute...it occurred to me, 'Excessive persistence [§66] arose in me, and because of the excessive persistence my concentration fell away; when my concentration fell away, the light disappeared together with the vision of forms. Just as if a man might hold a quail tightly with both hands; it would die then & there. In the same way, excessive persistence arose in me...I will act in such a way that uncertainty...& excessive persistence will not arise in me again.'

As I was remaining heedful, ardent, & resolute...it occurred to me, 'Sluggish persistence [§66] arose in me, and because of the sluggish persistence my concentration fell away; when my concentration fell away, the light disappeared together with the vision of forms. Just as if a man might hold a quail loosely; it would fly out of his hand. In the same way, sluggish persistence arose in me...I will act in such a way that uncertainty...excessive & sluggish persistence will not arise in me again.'

As I was remaining heedful, ardent, & resolute...it occurred to me, 'Longing...the perception of multiplicity...excessive absorption in forms arose in me, and because of the excessive absorption in forms my concentration fell away; when my concentration fell away, the light disappeared together with the vision of forms...I will act in such a way that uncertainty...longing, the perception of multiplicity, excessive absorption in forms will not arise in me again.'

When I knew, 'Uncertainty is a defilement of the mind,' I abandoned the uncertainty that was a defilement of the mind. (Similarly with inattention, sloth & drowsiness, fear, elation, inertia, excessive persistence, sluggish persistence, longing, the perception of multiplicity, & excessive absorption in forms.)

As I was remaining heedful, ardent, & resolute, I perceived light without seeing forms, or saw forms without perceiving light for a whole day, a whole night, a whole day & night. The thought occurred to me, 'What is the cause, what is the reason...?' Then it occurred to me, 'When I attend to the theme of light without attending to the theme of forms, I perceive light without seeing forms. When I attend to the theme of forms without attending to the theme of light, I see forms without seeing light for a whole day, a whole night, a whole day & night.'

As I was remaining heedful, ardent, & resolute, I perceived limited light & saw limited forms; I perceived unlimited light & saw unlimited forms for a whole day, a whole night, a whole day & night. The thought occurred to me, 'What is the cause, what is the reason...?' Then it occurred to me, 'When my concentration is limited, my sense of [inner] vision is limited. When my concentration is unlimited, my sense of [inner] vision is unlimited. With an unlimited sense of vision I perceive unlimited light & see unlimited forms for a whole day, a whole night, a whole day & night'...

'I have abandoned those defilements of the mind. Let me develop concentration in three ways.' So [1] I developed concentration with directed thought & evaluation. I developed concentration without directed thought but with a modicum of evaluation. I developed concentration without directed thought or evaluation. [2] I developed concentration with rapture... without rapture... [3] I developed concentration accompanied by enjoyment...accompanied by equanimity.

When my concentration with directed thought & evaluation was developed, when my concentration without directed thought but with a modicum of evaluation...without directed thought or evaluation...with rapture...without rapture...accompanied by enjoyment...accompanied by equanimity was developed, then the knowledge & vision arose in me: 'My release is unprovoked. This is my last birth. There is no further becoming.'

That was what the Blessed One said. Satisfied, Ven. Anuruddha delighted in the Blessed One's words.

-- M.128


§ 162. Skill in concentration. Suppose there was a mountain cow -- foolish, inexperienced, 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, inexperienced mountain cow, unfamiliar with her pasture, unskilled in roaming on rugged mountains.

In the same way, there are cases where a monk -- foolish, inexperienced, unfamiliar with his pasture, unskilled in...entering & remaining in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal, 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 thought & evaluation, were to enter & remain in the second jhana: rapture & pleasure born of composure, unification of awareness free from directed thought & evaluation -- internal assurance.' He is not able...to enter & remain in the second jhana...The thought occurs to him, 'What if I...were to enter & remain in the first jhana...He is not able...to enter & remain in the first jhana. This is called a monk who has slipped & fallen from both sides, like the mountain cow, foolish, inexperienced, unfamiliar with her pasture, unskilled in roaming on rugged mountains.

But suppose there was a mountain cow -- wise, experienced, 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, experienced mountain cow, familiar with her pasture, skilled in roaming on rugged mountains.

In the same way, there are some cases where a monk -- wise, experienced, familiar with his pasture, skilled in...entering & remaining in the first jhana...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 jhana...' Without jumping at the second jhana, he -- with the stilling of directed thought & evaluation -- enters & remains in the second jhana. 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 jhana'...Without jumping at the third jhana, he...enters & remains in the third jhana. 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 jhana'...Without jumping at the fourth jhana, he...enters & remains in the fourth jhana. 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 heeding perceptions of diversity, thinking, "Infinite space," were to enter & remain in the sphere of the infinitude of space.' Without jumping at the sphere of the infinitude of space, he...enters & remains in sphere 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 sphere of the infinitude of space, thinking, "Infinite consciousness," were to enter & remain in the sphere of the infinitude of consciousness.' Without jumping at the sphere of the infinitude of consciousness, he...enters & remains in sphere 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, thinking, "There is nothing," were to enter & remain in the sphere of nothingness.' Without jumping at the sphere of nothingness, he...enters & remains in sphere 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 sphere of nothingness, were to enter & remain in the sphere of neither perception nor non-perception.' Without jumping at the sphere of neither perception nor non-perception, he...enters & remains in the sphere 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 sphere 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.

-- A.IX.35


§ 163. Guided by the elephant trainer, the elephant to be tamed goes only in one direction: east, west, north, or south...Guided by the Tathagata...the person to be tamed goes in eight directions. Possessed of form, he sees forms. This is the first direction. Not percipient of form internally, he sees forms externally. This is the second direction. He is intent only on the beautiful. This is the third direction. With the complete transcending of perceptions of [physical] form, with the disappearance of perceptions of resistance, and not heeding perceptions of diversity, thinking, 'Infinite space,' he enters & remains in the sphere of the infinitude of space. This is the fourth direction. With the complete transcending of the sphere of the infinitude of space, thinking, 'Infinite consciousness,' he enters & remains in the sphere of the infinitude of consciousness. This is the fifth direction. He...enters & remains in the sphere of nothingness. This is the sixth direction. He...enters & remains in the sphere of neither perception nor non-perception. This is the seventh direction. With the complete transcending of the sphere of neither perception nor non-perception, he enters & remains in the cessation of perception & feeling. This is the eighth direction.

-- M.137


§ 164. 'There are these seven properties. Which seven? The property of light, the property of beauty, the property of the sphere of the infinitude of space, the property of the sphere of the infinitude of consciousness, the property of the sphere of nothingness, the property of the sphere of neither perception nor non-perception, the property of the sphere of the cessation of feeling & perception. These are the seven properties.'

When this was said, a certain monk addressed the Blessed One: '...In dependence on what are these properties discerned?'

'The property of light is discerned in dependence on darkness. The property of beauty is discerned in dependence on the unattractive. The property of the sphere of the infinitude of space is discerned in dependence on form. The property of the sphere of the infinitude of consciousness is discerned in dependence on the sphere of the infinitude of space. The property of the sphere of nothingness is discerned in dependence on the sphere of the infinitude of consciousness. The property of the sphere of neither perception nor non-perception is discerned in dependence on the sphere of nothingness. The property of the sphere of the cessation of feeling & perception is discerned in dependence on cessation.'

'...And how, lord, is the attainment of these properties to be reached?'

'The property of light, the property of beauty, the property of the sphere of the infinitude of space, the property of the sphere of the infinitude of consciousness, the property of the sphere of nothingness: These properties are to be reached as perception attainments. The property of the sphere of neither perception nor non-perception is to be reached as a what-remains-of fabrications attainment. The property of the sphere of the cessation of feeling & perception is to be reached as a cessation attainment.'

-- S.XIII.11

The Wings to Awakening

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