A Swift Pair of Messengers

I’ve just finished revising and publishing my first book, A Swift Pair of Messengers. You can find it online here. At the moment it’s just in html format; in the next few days I’ll be supplying print-on-demand, pdf, and scribd versions.

I originally wrote this while staying at Sukhavana in Ipoh, Malaysia. At that time, there was a lot of questioning going on in the community about these issues, since the Mahasi school had been the predominant force in early Malaysian meditation centers. In the early 90’s, only Ven Dhammavuddho had stood up for a more sutta-based samatha practice. Later, Ajahn Brahm, and then Pa Auk Sayadaw appeared on the scene, so there is more balance these days.

I myself started meditation in Mahasi-style school, at Wat Ram Poeng in Chieng Mai. I had an amazing, transformative experience there, and just wanted to continue with the practice.

I remember when I finished my first retreat, I asked what books I should read – up until that time I had only read one Dhamma book, Buddhadasa’s Handbook for Mankind. They suggested a few books – What the Buddha Taught, Seeing the Way, some books on Mahasi technique – but I was not really satisfied, so I asked what were these ‘suttas’ that I had heard about. I noticed a little reluctance, but anyway they showed me the majjhima Nikaya, and i was hooked.

I remember my confusion, as in the Majjhima Nikaya I could find no mention of the noting technique, the vipassana ñāṇas, and all the other aspects of the technique I had been taught. Instead, there was constant talk of these things called ‘jhanas’. When I asked about them, i was told that this was how the Buddha had practiced, but not what he recommended for followers. I was a bit skeptical of this, but didn’t know enough to say anything.

Later on, when I went to Wat Nanachat, I kept on doing the Mahasi technique. I took a serious interest in the approach, and read all i could from Mahasi, U Pandita, Nyanaponika, U Silananda, and other exponents of that approach. On my first monastic retreat, as an anagaraka with the monks in the jungles of Dao Dum, I memorized the Mahasatipatthana Sutta in English, taking as my study guide U Silananda’s commentary. In fact, it was in this reading that I really learned about Mahasi technique, as at Wat Ram Poeng they didn’t really teach very much about the meditation, just gave instructions on how to meditate.

In my naiveté, at the time I couldn’t understand how anyone would actually practice samatha – didn’t they know that it was unnecessary and dangerous because you could get attached to the bliss? There is, of course, a wonderful conceit that comes from practicing the ‘One Way’…

Nevertheless, I gradually started experimenting with various samatha practices. This was under the influence of both the Suttas and also the meditation as taught in the forest tradition. of course, the forest tradition is very non-dogmatic about meditation, and will encourage any technique. But Ajahn Pasanno, who was my teacher at the time, while rejecting the samatha/vipassana divide, in fact mainly taught anapanasati. Then i discovered the metta practice of Ajahn Mahachatchai, which became my main practice from then until today.

After doing samatha, studying the suttas, and being exposed to a variety of views, my own idea were evolving. I now accepted that samatha was a good and useful practice. I was still not convinced of one of the basic problems, though: was jhana actually necessary for stream entry?

Then I went to stay with Ajahn Brahm for three years. Obviously there was a strong samatha emphasis, and my own practice progressed well there. There was discussion in the community about these points, and there was no agreement about this basic problem. i was still unsure, especially since when I arrived at Bodhinyana i had a strong attachment to the traditional Theravadin commentarial viewpoint. Only after it became obvious that in important areas the commentaries had clearly got it wrong did I let go of this attachment.

The critical question was the description of the path, whether that could be considered as a ‘mind moment’ as claimed in the commentaries. The sutta passages that contradict this are simply too numerous and too explicit to be discounted. If the commentaries could get something so important so badly wrong, what else was at stake?

Then I left Bodhinyana and ended up at Ipoh, still undecided as to whether jhanas were really necessary. The question came up, and I did more research, especially studying in detail the classic Satipatthana Vipassana Meditation: Criticisms and Replies. Around that time, there were articles published by contemporary Malaysian monks, such as this one by Visuddhacara, arguing that there was a near-consensus that jhanas were not necessary.

I considered all these things very carefully: I really wanted to know. For me the issue was not about getting embroiled in a controversy, but because these different teachers, all of who i respected, were saying quite different things. I wanted to really understand the issues so that i could be clear in my own practice, and also give accurate advice to others.

I went through the arguments against samatha practice one by one, taking what was said by the vipassana masters and comparing it closely with the suttas. Time after time, I saw that what they were saying was not supported by the sutta passages they were quoting; and that the further i went into the suttas, the more essential samatha seemed to become.

The essential insight that decided the issue for me was a simple one: when I was reading the passages quoted by the Mahasi school in support of their ‘dry-insight’ approach, I found myself trying to interpret all these obscure, one-off little passages here and there in the suttas, while the central passages on practice always seemed to be ignored. I reflected on a piece of advice that wa given by Ven Nyanaponika to Ajahn Brahm: that central teachings should never be explained away by minor and secondary passages, especially ones of doubtful interpretation. It became more and more clear to me that in order tio sustain their argument, the vipassana school had to systematically explain away all the major teachings on practice, using the complicated Abhidhamma framework, which I had earlier come to realize was not at all in accord with the Suttas.

This is, of course, not obvious on the surface, as when the vipassana technique is taught the underlying theory is usually left aside. But it becomes very apparenet when you get down to the nitty-gritty, as in Satipatthana Vipassana Meditation: Criticisms and Replies.

Eventually, I decided to note down a few of these observations in the essay that was to become A Swift Pair. The book was written by hand, and typed up by some supporters in Ipoh.

The original draft had a chapter where I went through the claims by the Mahasi writers and refuted them point by point by comparison with the Suttas. I later took that chapter out, as i felt it was too confrontational. Much of the material found its way elsewhere in the book. I regret that, as it would make it clearer to know exactly what someone is arguing against. But I’ve lost the references now.

The final book, after much polishing, was published by Inward Path in Penang. 2000 books were printed; and it has been available on the web also.

I wanted to revise the book, mainly for stylistic reasons: the original was far too formal and uptight. I was so immersed in the world of the suttas that I had kinda forgotten that for most of the people who might be interested to read it this would be their first excursion in the suttas. In revising it, i have tried to make it a little more accessible. Much more could be done, but this is all I can manage at the moment. Due to my pressure for time, I decided when beginning my revision that I would not update the research, only the prose. So the new edition contains essentially the same content as the first edition, leaving out a few complications, and adding some more explanations.

In the time since the original publication, samatha has enjoyed somewhat of a comeback, and is apparently quite trendy now. This brings a new generation of problems, of course, which lie beyond the scope of this book.

39 thoughts on “A Swift Pair of Messengers

  1. Dear Venerable:

    Over the years I found much contradictory ‘advice’ in books about Buddhism – even from monks that I admired. Then, when I started reading the Nikayas, I noted that quite a bit of what these monks said was in direct contradiction to the suttas. Quite a bit of it in fact.

    The Tathagata states that there are several types of enlightened persons – not all of whom have mastered the jhananas. In the Majihima Nikaha (and I believe the Samutta Nikaya) these are explained in various passages by the Sugaro. The “dry insight arahant” is one of those types of enlightened personages.

    However, YES – the Nikayas definately emphasize the jhanas – at least – not the way I read it at any rate. It’s pretty plainly stated, actually in the suttas…

    If you want cites – I’ll have to look them up and post them in another day – I don’t have a photographic memory for this sort of thing unlike Bhikku Bodhi who can quote and cite the verses in Pali and English by memory and from whom a few of us are very priviliged to undertake sutta study. One can also attend this class on-line, live – it’s web-cast or I-cast or whatever they call it.

    Respectfully,

    Vepacitta

    NB: There is so much that is said about Buddhism that is, in my opinion, not accurate, and not Buddhism. I despite when the Dhamma is misrepresented and get pretty furious actually… not terribly “Buddhist”, huh?

    • Dear Veppacitta,

      Thanks for your comment. But in fact there is no sutta where the Buddha speaks of a ‘dry insight’ arahant. This is a concept found only in the commentaries. As i have shown with countless references in A Swift Pair, the Buddha clearly and consistently stated that all ariyas, not to mention all arahants, have the eightfold path, including the four jhanas as right samadhi.

    • Dear Bhante

      I suppose that among those suttas, you were probably thinking of SN 55.5 which records the conversation between Ven Sariputta and Ven Ananda on “The Stream, the stream…”?

    • Bhante, read the above e-book. In the spirit of Kalama Sutta, this part of 31 planes of existence sutta, has reference of Jhanas as shown:-

      The realms of existence are customarily divided into three distinct “worlds” (loka), listed here in descending order of refinement:

      The Immaterial World (arupa-loka). Consists of four realms that are accessible to those who pass away while meditating in the formless jhanas.

      The Fine-Material World (rupa-loka). Consists of sixteen realms whose inhabitants (the devas) experience extremely refined degrees of mental pleasure. These realms are accessible to those who have attained at least some level of jhana and who have thereby managed to (temporarily) suppress hatred and ill-will. They are said to possess extremely refined bodies of pure light.
      The highest of these realms, the Pure Abodes, are accessible only to those who have attained to “non-returning,” the third stage of Awakening.

      The Fine-Material World and the Immaterial World together constitute the “heavens” (sagga).

      From the above, it looks like dwelling in Jhanas will bring us to Immaterial and fine-material worlds but cannot end rebirth. The Pure Abodes are for non-returners (not sure how to get there).

      So, what type of meditation must we do to end rebirth or end craving as craving is the root cause of our rebirth, besides attaining to Arahant (no more rebirth), since Samadhi doesn’t do the job.Any other effective meditation method to end craving? Just curious to find out.

    • Dear Lee-Ann,

      There are various sutta class audio that can help to explain various suttas so that you can understand it more easily.

      http://www.dhammaloka.org.au/downloads/itemlist/category/21-sutta-study.html

      Lee- Ann wrote: “From the above, it looks like dwelling in Jhanas will bring us to Immaterial and fine-material worlds but cannot end rebirth.”
      As pointed out earlier, one doesn’t just enter jhana and that is it. After emerging one need to reflects on various things to eradicate desires and other defilements:

      “Established in it he reflects all things that matter, all feelings, all perceptive things, all intentions, all conscious signs are impermanent, unpleasant, an illness, an abscess, an arrow, a misfortune, an ailment, foreign, destined for destruction, is void, and devoid of a self. “- Malunkyaputta Sutta

      If people just practice and enter 1st jhana without reflecting on these things to penetrate its true nature then they would be reborn in the Brahma realm if they attained 1st Jhana, other fine material sphere if they attained 2nd-4th Jhana, and so on.

      Lee-Ann wrote: “The Pure Abodes are for non-returners (not sure how to get there).”
      In the Pure Abode, a non-returner can become an Arahant to end rebirth from there without returning to any lower realms . To become a Non-returner, one need to overcome the five lower bonds of the sensual world. In the Maha Malunkyaputta Sutta, the Buddha taught Malunkyaputta how :

      “Ananda, what is the path and method, to dispel the lower bonds of the sensual world? Ananda, the bhikkhu secluding the mind thoroughly, by dispelling things of demerit, removes all bodily transgressions that bring remorse. Then secluding the mind, from sensual thoughts and thoughts of demerit, with thoughts and discursive thoughts and with joy and pleasantness born of seclusion ABIDES IN THE FIRST JHANA. Established in it he reflects all things that matter, all feelings, all perceptive things, all intentions, all conscious signs are impermanent, unpleasant, an illness, an abscess, an arrow, a misfortune, an ailment, foreign, destined for destruction, is void, and devoid of a self. 
      Then he turns the mind to the deathless element: This is peaceful, this is exalted, such as the appeasement of all determinations, the giving up of all endearments, the destruction of craving, detachment, cessation and extinction (* 1). With that mind he comes to the destruction of desires. If he does not destroy desires on account of greed and interest for those same things. He arises spontaneously, with the destruction of the five lower bonds, of the sensual world, not to proceed. Ananda, this too is a method for overcoming the five lower bonds of the sensual world..”

      Lee- Ann wrote: ” So, what type of meditation must we do to end rebirth or end craving as craving is the root cause of our rebirth, besides attaining to Arahant (no more rebirth), since Samadhi doesn’t do the job.Any other effective meditation method to end craving? Just curious to find out.”

      In the Bhayabherava Sutta , the Buddha spoke about how he used Samadhi ( jhana) to end craving and rebirth:

      22. “Tireless energy was aroused in me and unremitting mindfulness was established, my body was tranquil and untroubled, my mind concentrated and unified.
      23. “Quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states, I entered upon and abided in the first jhāna, which is accompanied by applied and sustained thought, with rapture and pleasure born of seclusion.
      24. “With the stilling of applied and sustained thought, I entered upon and abided in the second jhāna, which has self-confidence and singleness of mind without applied and sustained thought, with rapture and pleasure born of concentration.
      25. “With the fading away as well of rapture, I abided in equanimity, and mindful and fully aware, still feeling pleasure with the body, I entered upon and abided in the third jhāna, one account of which noble ones announce: ‘He has a pleasant abiding who has equanimity and is mindful.’
      26. “With the abandoning of pleasure and pain, and with the previous disappearance of joy and grief, I entered upon and abided in the fourth jhāna, which has neither-pain-nor-pleasure and purity of mindfulness due to equanimity………….”
      31. “When my concentrated mind was thus purified, bright, unblemished, rid of imperfection, malleable, wieldy, steady, and attained to imperturbability, I directed it to knowledge of the destruction of the taints. I directly knew as it actually is: ‘This is suffering’; I directly knew as it actually is: ‘This is the origin of suffering’; I directly knew as it actually is: ‘This is the cessation of suffering’; I directly knew as it actually is: ‘This is the way leading to the cessation of suffering.’ I directly knew as it actually is: ‘These are the taints’; I directly knew as it actually is: ‘This is the origin of the taints’; I directly knew as it actually is: ‘This is the cessation of the taints’; I directly knew as it actually is: ‘This is the way leading to the cessation of the taints.’

      32. “When I knew and saw thus, my mind was liberated from the taint of sensual desire, from the taint of being, and from the taint of ignorance. When it was liberated, there came the knowledge: ‘It is liberated.’ I directly knew: ‘Birth is destroyed, the holy life has been lived, what had to be done has been done, there is no more coming to any state of being.’

      http://www.yellowrobe.com/component/content/article/120-majjhima-nikaya/265-bhayabherava-sutta-fear-and-dread.html

  2. Bhante

    Thanks for the revised version. I’ll be giving it careful attention while you are on the rains retreat. I was about to read Ajahn Brahm’s book on meditation and this appears to go well with that. See you on Friday

    cheers

    Geoff

  3. Dear Bhante

    For those who might want to be acquainted with the 1966 Debate between the Mahasi school and the Lankan theras outlined in the book Satipatthana Vipassana Meditation : Criticisms and Replies, they might find this online record useful –

    http://www.mahasi.org.mm/discourse/E24/E24cont.htm

    I’ve not read the book, but I think its contents should not differ that much from this online archive of the Debate.

  4. interesting post bhante. I loved A Swift Pair.

    However the “noting” process seems pretty explicit in the suttas to me. For example the Anapanasati sutta:

    “breathing in long he understands: “I breath in long”, breathing out long he understands: “I breaths out long”……breathing in he experiences bliss breathing out he exsperiences bliss….”

    If we are supposed to know/ remember (sati) each breath how exactly do we do that? As the descriptions of jhannic stages progress and the breath becomes very difficult to discern it seems we are supposed to simply note each change in experience. from practice as well Ive seen that this technique of “noting” is very effective, so wether or not it was in the suttas I would still use it.

    The Buddhas many more general descriptions of jhannic stages seem to imply there is something tangible being done in the early stages of jhanna because it points out that the first jhanna is accompanied by applied and sustained thought, which seems to imply quite a bit more going on than simply being aware of the tactile sensation of the breath.

    Metta,

    Lars

    • Hi Lars,

      The reflexive idiom you quote would indeed seem to be the source of the Mahasi noting technique. However, it is is a mistaken interpretation. The suttas apply this kind of idiom in all kinds of cases, including formless attainments, realization of Nibbana, and so on, where it cannot possibly be meant in a literal ‘noting’ sense. It is an idiom of Pali to indicate a reflexive awareness, comparable to the modern practice of putting ironic or doubtful phrases in quotes. Actually, the Indic idiom ‘iti’, which we translate as a quote, literally means ‘thus’, and so the reflexive, distancing meaning is primary, and the use to mark direct speech is derived from this.

      This is part of a general tendency of the later traditions to lose touch with the Pali as a living language and to treat it in sometimes absurdly literal ways.

      Once again, I don’t mean to criticize the noting technique as such: I use it and teach it for some contexts. Not only have meditators found it useful, empirical studies show that it does indeed calm the mind.

      Vitakka/vicara in the context of jhana do not mean ‘thought’. This is discussed in A Swift Pair, Appendix A.

    • Hmmm, i think I see what your saying. So if one were to try to discern the method of meditation taught by the Buddha himself, based solely on the most reliable suttas, what would it be?

      Im not implying that im going to dogmatically reject everything the Buddha didn’t teach. Simply that it seems like it would be a safe central area to refer to, from which one could explore meditation in all its forms.

    • There are a number of good suttas which describe the meditations taught by the buddha. For example DN 22 (available on access to insight), the mahasatiphatthana sutta.

      In my own opinion, these suttas are extremely good, they contain powerful instructions and the descriptions and analogies are evocative.

      The problem is that the english translations don’t necessarily capture the simplicity and elegance of the pali (and in some cases, fails to capture the meaning). People then make interpretations of the rather obtuse english translation and we’ve come far from the original teachings of the Buddha.
      Ajahn Brahm says that these translations cause people no end of confusion in their meditation.
      This being so, the english translations – even of reputable suttas – should probably be considered an inadequate guide to the meditation method taught by the Buddha.

      To give an example of what I’m talking about, take the phrase
      “(a bhikkhu) abides contemplating the body as a body”
      or “(a monk) dwells contemplating the body in the body”
      or “(a monk) remains focused on the body in & of itself”
      or “abiding reflecting the body in the body”

      This of course refers to one of the four ‘foundations’ of mindfulness – when you read the suttas this leaps out as a central meditative practice praised extremely highly by the Buddha and the Arahants. But just what on earth do the above sentences actually mean? What does it mean to “contemplate the body in the body”? Ajahn Brahm says these translations have confused people to no end, they try to watch some ‘little body’ in the ‘big body’ or ‘the body of the breath in the body’, or an emotional body in the physical body, or many other interpretations – but always it’s an interpretation of the translation, not the pali.

      Here’s where you have to look at the pali text itself.

      The pali is “(bhikkhu) kāye kāyānupassī (viharati)”
      viharati simply meaning dwelling or abiding, where you stay for a period of time). kāya means body, anupassī means looking into, observing, contemplating or a kind of intrigued watching (like a person watching a TV show they are really into).

      The literal translation of kāye kāyānupassī is “Bodywatching Body”, in exactly the same manner as “Birdwatching birds” or “stargazing (at the) stars”. In English it sounds odds to say “Birdwatching birds”, because what else are you going to birdwatch other than birds? But in Pali speech it’s common to “potwash pots” or “wallplaster walls”, the repetition simply serves to add emphasis (perhaps reminding you not to read a book while birdwatching) or is redundant.

      So what we have is something along the lines of “a bhikkhu sustains attention on/in the body”.

      Unfortunately it’s not possible to get ‘good’ english translations, it’s not the inadequacy of the translators – they deserve much credit. It’s just hard to be concise and complete while neither adding nor taking away from the meaning.

      Short of learning pali yourself, I recommend the sutta studies by experienced monks such as Ajahn Brahm – who will clarify the tangly passages by going back to the pali.

    • Thank you, I have a copy of “Mindfulness Bliss and Beyond” ill have to delve into it more closely.

    • Dear Blake

      Thank you for this. In the last few months I’ve started to teach myself Pali, and the suttas become simpler and at the same time richer in their implication than the translation which, paradoxically, often has more words but fewer dimensions.

      This is really helpful.

      Thanks again

      David

  5. Hello Dejkun,
    I do hold Samatha in high regard. However, it is also quite obvious that just mindfulness or Insight Meditation without deep samatha practice has been very beneficial to large numbers of people. You yourself mentioned a transformative experience through your practice at Wat Ram Poeng. Would you agree that non-Samatha practice has its value?

    • Yes of course the Mahasi system has its value. As I stressed, I myself got a lot our of it, so I am by no means opposed to it as a practice. On a personal level, if people ask me what to practice, I will always tell them to do whatever meditation they find valuable, unless there is a good reason to change.

      The point here, as I explained more fully in A History of Mindfulness, is the doctrine that surrounds the Mahasi technique. This doctrine, which I call vipassanavada, is bit incorrect and harmful. So while it is true that Mahasi method, like all meditation methods, can be useful in some cases, it is the one-sided insistence that this is the ‘one and only way’ which is a problem.

  6. Dear Bhante,

    I look forward very much to reading the revised edition of this book.

    As someone who came to Theravada from a background in the Tibetan tradition I have found the conflicting meditation techniques, especially in the modern, IMSS-derived hybrid teaching style, to be the one big area of muddle in what is otherwise a remarkably clear body of teachings.

    Your book, ” A History of Mindfulness,” has been of incalculable value in helping me understand why and how the conflicting Mahasi, Goenka, Thai Forest and Sri Lankan traditions (not to mention secularized “mindfulness” a la Jon Kabat Zinn) have strayed so far from the rather simple and obvious path laid out by the Buddha in the suttas – namely the practice of samatha and metta leading to insight. In my opinion a thorough reading of that text ought to be a prerequisite for anyone offering meditation instruction in the Theravada or modern Westernized vipassana traditions.

    Also helpful to me has been doing retreat with, and reading the works of, B. Alan Wallace (especially his book, “The Attention Revolution,” which focuses on samatha). As you probably know teaching, as well as scientific research into, samatha, is a major specialty of his. The Indo -Tibetan tradition is quite unified in its approach to these issues, knowing that sati means to keep one’s mind on the meditation object (and that there is no phrase or practice for “nonjudgmental open awareness of the present moment”).

    From the perspective of the Tibetan traditions, which have preserved and practiced samatha as it was taught in ancient India, it seems to me very clear that so-called vipassana meditation as invented by Mahasi Sayadaw and promulgated by he and Goenka is, to put it bluntly, a lineage-less 20th century invention, that really has to be viewed an aberration when seen against the broad historical context of Buddhist meditation techniques. What a shame that these practices, which have their roots in dry commentarial literature rather than the words of the Buddha or the practice of twenty-five centuries of yogis, are now presented as “what the Buddha taught, ” while the jhanas and proper practice of samatha can only be learned through a handful of teachers who are generally regarded as being well outside the mainstream.

    The fundamentalist-style vehemence about these techniques being the only way so consistently exhibited by Goenka as well as many die-hard Mahasi practitioners is something I have not encountered in any other Buddhist traditions. As a case in point, a good friend of mine who has trained under an excellent Sri Lankan teacher for years was recently refused entry to a Goenka retreat because she was unwilling to renounce practicing mindfulness meditation in favor of so-called vipassana meditation!

  7. Venerable,
    Isn’t it possible that while highly useful, jhanas are not possible to all arahants until they achieve arahanthood? I guess this would shift it from path to result. But, I am thinking of, wasn’t there a monk who became an arahant only at the time of his death, due to his excellent virtue despite no previous attainments (path or jhana)? I remember hearing something about this maybe from a sutta or from Bhikkhu Bodhi’s talk… no reference, sorry.
    Thanks,
    Zack

    • Hi Zack
      There were cases of monks attaining Arahant only at the time of their death. The name of that monk is Vakkhali, his story is narrated in Samyutta nikaya. However, Jhana is not impossible for practitioners who have not reach Arahantship. The Bodhisattva, before his attainment of Arahant (& Buddha-hood) had reached the bliss of Jhana for sometimes. Another case is in Dhatuvibhange Sutta (M. 140) here: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.140.than.html
      And yet, another case is with Ven Bahiya; to him the Buddha gave a famous instruction on Vipassana and he attained Arahantship while listening to the Buddha words and died shortly after that.

    • This is the full story on Bahiya, written by Bhante Brahm some years ago:

      ” Bahiya was not a monk. The sutta does not record him giving dana, or taking refuge in the triple gem, or keeping any precepts. Moreover, the sutta has no mention at all of Bahiya ever meditating, let alone reaching a jhana. Yet, after receiving a very brief teaching from the Buddha, Bahiya became fully enlightened—an arahant—within seconds!

      This episode is very well known in Buddhist circles, because it seems to make enlightenment so easy. It appears that you don’t need to be a monk, that you can be miserly and not give dana, that you’re not required to take refuge and precepts are unnecessary—even meditating can be avoided! What a relief! All you need is intelligence, and everyone thinks they are intelligent. (You think you are intelligent, don’t you?) This makes Bahiya’s teaching both attractive and notorious.

      So what was this teaching? Here is my own translation:

      Bahiya, you should train yourself thus: in the seen will be merely what is seen; in the heard will be merely what is heard; in the sensed1 will be merely what is sensed; in the cognized will be merely what is cognized. Practicing in this way, Bahiya, you will not be “because of that.” When you are not “because of that,” you will not be “in that.” And when you are not “in that,” then you will be neither here nor beyond nor in between the two. Just this is the end of suffering.

      And then Bahiya became fully enlightened. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? You have just read the same teaching. Did you achieve full enlightenment? No! Why not?

      As usual, there is more to the story than is recorded in the sutta. It is often the case that the suttas record only the highlights of a long episode. Just as wedding photos do not record the first meeting, the dating, and the arguments, so many suttas do not record all that occurred before the finale. So what is the full story of Bahiya? How can we put the finale, captured for posterity in the Udana, into its full context? Fortunately, the whole story is recorded in the Apadana (a biographical work containing the stories of the Buddha and his arahant disciples) and in the commentaries.

      In his previous life, Bahiya was a monk under the Buddha Kassapa. He and six other monks climbed a steep mountain and threw the ladder away, determined to remain on top of that rock until they became enlightened or died. One of the seven monks became an arahant, another became an anagami (non-returner), and the other five died on the mountain. Bahiya was one of the five who died.

      In Bahiya’s final life, he was a sailor who successfully crossed the ocean seven times. On the eighth voyage, he was shipwrecked but managed to survive by floating ashore on a plank of wood. Having lost all his clothes, he made temporary garments out of bark and went begging for food in the town of Supparaka. The townspeople were impressed with his appearance and offered him food, respect, and even a costly set of clothes. When Bahiya refused the new clothes, the people esteemed him even more. Bahiya had gained a comfortable living and so did not return to sea. The people regarded Bahiya as an arahant. Soon, Bahiya thought he was an arahant too!

      At that point, a deva discerned the wrong thought of Bahiya and, out of compassion, reprimanded him. That deva was none other than his former fellow monk who had become an anagami. The anagama-deva informed Bahiya about a true arahant, the Buddha, living at that time on the other side of India, at Savatthi. Bahiya immediately left Supparaka (present day Sopara, just north of Mumbai) and reached Savatthi in only one night.

      Bahiya met the Buddha while he was on alms round and asked for a teaching. The Buddha at first refused, for it was an inappropriate time. But on being asked a third time, the Buddha interrupted his alms gathering and gave the famous teaching presented above. Within seconds of hearing that dhamma, Bahiya was fully enlightened. A few minutes later, the arahant Bahiya was killed by a cow with calf.

      So, Bahiya’s background was exceptional. He had been a monk under the previous Buddha, Kassapa. His powers of determination were so strong that he went to meditate on the mountain with the resolve to become enlightened or die. In this life, he could hear devas speak to him and he could travel more than halfway across India, some 1,300 kilometers, as the levitator flies, in only one night. If you had such a background from your previous life, and had such psychic powers already in this life, then perhaps you, too, would have been enlightened when you read Bahiya’s teaching a few minutes ago!

      It is usually the case that one requires very deep samadhi – jhanas – to achieve such psychic powers. Certainly Bahiya would have had a predisposition for meditation, taking into account his previous life. Also, both the psychic power of the “divine ear” that enabled him to hear the deva, and the other psychic power that enabled him to travel so fast, suggest that he was practicing jhana before he heard the deva. Perhaps this was another reason why he considered himself an arahant. But there is more evidence to suggest that Bahiya had already been practicing jhanas, though it was not mentioned in the texts.

      Few people are aware that the very same teaching, which here I call Bahiya’s teaching, was also given by the Buddha to the old monk Malunkyaputta (Samyutta Nikaya 35.95). Malunkyaputta appears several times in the suttas. In particular, in sutta 64 of the Majjhima Nikaya (MN), occurring certainly before the occasion when Malunkyaputta was given Bahiya’s teaching, the Buddha first disparages Malunkyaputta for his wrong view and then teaches the necessity of attaining at least one of the jhanas in order to destroy the five lower fetters 2 (and thereby attain the level just below full enlightenment called non-returning). The Buddha said in front of Venerable Malunkyaputta that it was impossible to achieve non-returning (let alone full enlightenment) without a jhana, just as it was impossible to reach the heartwood of a tree without first going through its bark and sapwood. Think about it.

      So, Venerable Malunkyaputta was first taught the necessity of jhana, and then later he was given Bahiya’s teaching. After hearing Bahiya’s teaching, “dwelling alone, withdrawn, diligent, ardent, and resolute,” Malunkyaputta soon became an arahant. It is therefore certain that Malunkyaputta achieved jhana before Bahiya’s teaching could be effective, or else the Buddha would be blatantly inconsistent. It also adds weight to the inference that Bahiya also had experience of jhana before he heard the same teaching – otherwise he would have reached the heartwood of the tree without going through its bark and sapwood!”

    • Dear I-meditation,
      Thank you for your elaborate story of Bahiya. This fellow, according to Commentary, had practiced as an ascetic & relying on alms-food for more than 30 years in this life time before he was urged to come to see the Buddha. It is very likely that that he had attained to certain kind of Jhana in his practice. In short, his spiritual development had matured when he met the Buddha. He was not the only case to attain Arahantship in a very brief time. A nun, formally a queen of Magandha kingdom also attained Arahantship while listening to the Buddha’talk. Her name is Bhikkhuni Khema.

    • Dear Ayya,

      From what I learned, the commentaries say that when the Buddha had finished with the scenerio he created through psychic power and stanza she became an Arahant. But according to the Apadana, she only became a Stream-enterer, and the King consented her to entered the order and became an Arahant later on.

      She was born during the time of many previous Buddhas in many of her past lives. For example, Padumuttara Buddha, Vipassi Buddha, Kakusandha Buddha ( she mad a great park for the sangha), Koṇāgamana ( same) Buddha, Kassapa Buddha (lived a pious life and gave a cell to the sangha). When Vipassi was the Buddha, she renounced the world and was a learned preacher to others.

      When she encountered Shakyamuni Buddha :

      ” the Master, by mystic potency, conjured up a woman like a celestial nymph, who stood fanning him with a palmyra leaf. And Khemā, seeing her, thought: ‘Verily the Exalted One has around him women as lovely as goddesses. I am not fit even to wait upon such. I am undone by my base and mistaken notions!’ Then, as she looked, that woman, through the steadfast will of the Master, passed from youth to middle age and old age, till, with broken teeth, grey hair, and wrinkled skin, she fell to earth with her palm-leaf. Then Khemā, because of her ancient resolve, thought: ‘Has such a body come to be a wreck like that? Then so will my body also!’ And the Master, knowing her thoughts, said:

      ‘They who are slaves to lust drift down the stream,
          Like to a spider gliding down the web
          He of himself has wrought. But the released,
          Who all their bonds have snapt in twain,
          With thoughts elsewhere intent, forsake the world,
          And all delight in sense put far away.’
      – Therigatha

        

    • Hi Ayya again, please bear with me and my still ignorance, in my quest to quench my doubts in discovering the right meditation method for me.
      I now agree with Ayya on this- Ayya said:
      “However, Jhana is not impossible for practitioners who have not reach Arahantship.”

      To substantiate my agreement, I had attended a non-Buddhist meditation class (more Hindu-inclined, with peaceful music & essential oil as fragrance, like in delusion world) that focus and concentrate on candle flame (i.e one pointedness) and I believe now, that method is to attain deep concentration and be one with consciousness and one with Brahma, as Hindu belief, the soul will be in oneness with Brahma (Brahma God). Many Hindu yogis practised this method.

      I think this is the type of Jhana (deluded absorption) that Buddha discouraged. In many suttas I read so far, Buddha emphasized mostly on the 5 aggregates and Buddha’s method of meditation is for us to see Anicca, Dukkha, Anatta in our 5 aggregates, and to eradicate Greed,Hatred,Delusion to combat ignorance, craving, Kamma (the culprits for our existence in Samsara as in Dep. Orig.)

      So it makes sense now to me, to see the 3 characteristics of reality to liberate from Samsara through the Right Samadhi and not deep absorption like in Jhanas #5to#8 in Sallekha Sutta because there is no awareness and mindfulness and purity of mindfulness there as in the first 4 Jhanas, because imo, without awareness and mindfulness how can we see the 3 characteristics and have understanding and Buddha also go up to 4th Jhana ( equanimity NOT tranquility to get enlightened).

      It is mentioned in 31 planes -formless jhana’s lead us to formless loka (Brahma world), no mentioned of liberation from Samasara.

      I understand Buddha’s core Teaching is to want us to end rebirth and get the hell out of the 31 planes of existence, not to dwell in deep peaceful states and still stuck in the 31 planes(deluded) as it is still subject to change, as what Buddha said “Subject to change are all conditioned things. Strive on with diligence”-last words of Buddha to us.

      Most of us lay people have jumbled up our right understanding with these words Jhana,Arahant,Nibbana,enlightened, Enlightenment, Full-Enlightened, Realization, Bliss etc.as there are all kinds of teachings out there in Buddhism.

      I think all Buddhists including me, need to read and learn the Suttas first as the Suttas are very clear and precise, and Buddha put it so clearly and systematically with a lot of paraphrasing to avoid misinterpretation with no mistakes at all, BUT one has to be very patient to read it repeatedly at snail speed attentively (not casually) with clarity of mind to really understand it (every one is precious).

      Ayya, I think 1/4 of my doubts on meditation method are cleared now. No wonder Buddha asked us to take the Dhamma-Vinaya (the Suttas) as the Teacher. Not forgetting, we also need the Sangha to propagate and teach the Dhamma to us and to prolong the Buddha-Sassana. Without the Sangha, there will be no Dhamma-Vinaya. SADHU to you, Ayya, and Bhante for this blog with sincere gratitude.

    • Ayya, this is a very beautiful Sutta for those who want to end rebirth or become Arahant. I have a glimpse of how to handle craving now with mindful reflection of this Sutta. If it is not too inconvenience, hope Ayya could point which Sutta that Buddha had given us 5 methods to crush our cravings or bad thoughts with our mind eg switch focus,know the danger and cause,crush it with teeth? Thank you.

    • Dear Lee-Ann,
      There are many beautiful Suttas in the 3 Baskets containing the Buddha’s words and his great disciples interpretations on the Teacher’s words. Here is the Sutta you asked for: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.020.soma.html
      As i said sometime ago, jhana or samadhi is not excluded for Buddhists. These methods were practiced before the Buddha appeared in this world, and before his enlightenment, he had learnt, practiced and mastered up to 8th Jhana levels, still, he was not satisfied ….
      There are right concentration (samma samadhi) and wrong concentration (Miccha samadhi). Of cause, the Buddha recommended only the right one. Ref. this: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.117.than.html

  8. Dear Bhante,

    In Chapter 8 of your book you refer to MN138, which is often interpreted as a warning against jhāna. But as you rightly point out, this sutta is not a warning against jhāna but against craving for jhāna: “consciousness follows after the rapture and bliss born of seclusion, is tied, shackled, and fettered by the fetter of gratification in the rapture and bliss born of seclusion”.

    It seems obvious enough that craving for jhāna is going to be a hindrance in attaining it. Samādhi requires full present moment awareness, and thus contentment – the opposite of craving – is paramount for attaining these states. I would therefore propose that what this sutta is saying is that one must put aside craving, even craving for the bliss if jhāna, if one is going to achieve jhāna. The sutta is not a warning against jhāna, but a warning against what will stop one from attaining jhāna.

    According to Ven. Anālayo’s still unpublished “Comparative Study of the Majjhima Nikāya”, the Chinese version of this sutta does not call this problem of craving “stuck internally”, as the Pali does, but rather “not settled internally”. “Not settled internally” seems to be related to the Pali word santiṭṭhati, which is one of the standard words for the mind “settling” in samādhi. Thus the Chinese, quite literally, is saying that if one craves for the happiness of jhāna then the mind will not settle internally, that is, one will not attain samādhi or jhāna. This makes it quite clear, to my mind, that what we are seeing in this sutta is a warning against a specific obstacle to jhāna.

    • Dear Bhante

      I hope it will not be too much of me to ask this during your Vassa.

      How should one balance one’s determination for Jhana against craving for Jhana? Should the desire for Jhana be restricted to the Panna and Sila group, and then abandoned when we undertake the Samadhi group of factors?

      Secondly, do you think that the nekkhamma domanassa recommended in MN 137 is the yearning for Jhana? If so, just when and how does it fall away so as not to be an impediment to the arising of Jhana?

      I’ve not found my balance and keep tipping over into too much chanda for Jhana.

      With metta _/|\_

    • Dear Sylvester,

      You are always welcome to ask, but sometimes it may take a while before I respond.

      The determination to achieve jhana – or indeed any kind of peace and contentment – is what drives one to meditate, particularly on retreats. But once you sit down on the cushion you have to abandon the desire and focus solely on the causes for success. As the meditation deepens you will notice that desire is continuously weakened, whereas the contentment becomes more profound. If you get to the stage of watching the breath, you will see that the process of deepening the contentment is an automatic function of watching the breath.

      The danger is that desire tends to interrupt as the meditation develops. You may find that you are attracted to the pleasure, and then desire arises. The best way to overcome such desire is simply to get used to that particular stage, and then you learn to be at peace with it. In this way, you go gradually deeper until one day … lo and behold!

      As for MN137, it seems that nekkhamma domanassa refers to the yearning for arahantship. The yearning is said to be for anuttara vimokkha, unsurpassed liberation, which most likely refers to full and final liberation. In any case, you would have to leave behind this domanassa to enter jhana. This will happen quite naturally as the meditation progresses. The Buddha specifically recommended anapanasati to overcome thinking. So part of the function of mindfulness of breathing is overcoming “grief” based on thinking and giving rise to joy.

    • Dear Bhante

      That was very, very helpful.

      And I hope I’ll be able to leave all that chanda behind in Singapore when I visit Perth in October. Pending of course my Visa approval, which seems to be held up by the Australian Immigration. Its records show that I’m still in Australia! I don’t think I left behind a mano manakaya…

      With deep gratitude and metta _/|\_

  9. Kevin Knox :

    The fundamentalist-style vehemence about these techniques being the only way so consistently exhibited by Goenka as well as many die-hard Mahasi practitioners is something I have not encountered in any other Buddhist traditions. As a case in point, a good friend of mine who has trained under an excellent Sri Lankan teacher for years was recently refused entry to a Goenka retreat because she was unwilling to renounce practicing mindfulness meditation in favor of so-called vipassana meditation!

    Hello Kevin,
    I do not practise in any of the Burmese styles, but I think it is fair to point out that the manner the Mahasi and Goenka centres operate is that they are set up specifically to teach their methods. Some of their representatives might discourage other methods but I think that represents more of a personal opinion (even if it is common opinion). However, if one were to attend a course at their centre, then I believe it is fair to expect a person to practise only the prescribed method during their stay. If a person refuses, then why come to that centre?. It’s like someone insisting on practising Tai Chi when attending a yoga course.

    • Hi guys, I am also like you guys trying to find the right meditation method. After much searching, I think there is no such thing like a “One Method for all and all for one” type of method. It also boils down to each of our temperamental eg if our temperamental is anger then, metta meditation is the first balm to apply, if desires, then contemplate 32parts meditation etc. before stepping on Samadhi.

      I think I find this 8fold NP helpful as guidelines for us to practice and as stated step by step in this orderly manner eg before Concentration, we have to conquer Mindfulness and before Mindfulness we have to perfect all those above Sila. I find this helpful in deciding which method to practice. Hope the below link is helpful to us all.The sad news is, there is no short-cut.

      http://www.arrowriver.ca/dhamma/eightfold.html

  10. Dear Bhante

    The first edition of your SPM, downloaded on my old computer, was lost. Now I’m glad to find back the book, even an new edition.
    You wrote “Then i discovered the metta practice of Ajahn Mahachatchai, which became my main practice from then until today.” I could not find anything (in english) of him. In my country (Netherlands) the book Sharon Salzberg, who ‘got’her method from Sayadaw U Pandita.

    I have a question: some vipassana teachers say they also do concentration meditation because they do “metta meditation”, most times at the end of a vipassana-session.
    My doubts is: is (this) metta-‘meditation’ a form of concentration-meditation? Is it in fact meditation? Saying again and again the short metta-phrases includes discursive thinking, and include other sentient beings.
    The result of my considerations now: metta-‘medition’n is in fact a kind of PRAYING, only it’s praying to nobody.
    Perhaps an on-orthodox view from a buddhist, but is it nonsense?

    I’m looking for your reaction

    Joop

  11. “Then I left Bodhinyana and ended up at Ipoh, still undecided as to whether jhanas were really necessary. The question came up, and I did more research, especially studying in detail the classic Satipatthana Vipassana Meditation: Criticisms and Replies. Around that time, there were articles published by contemporary Malaysian monks, such as this one by Visuddhacara, arguing that there was a near-consensus that jhanas were not necessary.” – Bhikkhu Sujato

    ***

    Dear Ven Sujato,

    It’s Visuddhacara here. How are you? Very well, I believe. You have been so prolific in your writings and actions, especially in behalf of the bhikkhunis, that I can only offer a big “Congratulation,” “Thank You” and a “Maha Sadhu”, for all the good work you have been doing for the Community. May I express my admiration and gratitude. And may the Bhikkhunis live long – thanks to the effort of your goodself, Ajahn Brahm and many others who seek the restoration of what is justly and long overdue to the womenfolk.

    As regards your comments on the controversial jhana issue which I quoted above, I must say my article about ‘What the Masters say’ and the Commentarial and Mahasi’s interpretation of the various forms of samadhi (khanika [momentary], upacara [access] and appana [absorption] was written quite some years ago, in the early nineties, maybe around 1992.

    Since then, so much water has flowed under the bridge, so to speak, and we have had the benefit of considering more points of views from many others, and re-studying and re-pondering over the texts of which I must confess I don’t do often enough. Perceptions, as you know, keep changing and modifying as we re-think, re-ponder, re-study and revise.

    Therefore I would like to state here that I have revised my earlier views and am inclined to postulate that the practice of the Four Satipatthanas itself leads to the natural development of the four jhanas. What do you think of this proposition though I wonder whether I should ask you this question since I remember you wrote some time ago that you don’t think that the Satipatthana Sutta is an authentic sutta spoken by the Buddha.

    I base my tentative conclusions, among other things, on the thesis by Ven Brahmali on “Satipatthana and Samadhi” (www.what-buddha-taught.net/Books6/Ajahn_Brahmali_Satipatthana_and_Samadhi.htm) where he posited that Satipatthana is a Samatha practice leading to the jhanas, quoting lots of sutta references to back his conclusions. In that article he also wrote about “post-samadhi satipatthana”, opining that satipatthana may be practised as a vipassana (insight) practice but only after samadhi (by which he meant jhanas) has been obtained.

    My opinion is that Satipatthana is essentially a vipassana (insight) practice but along the way, samadhi including the jhanas, will inevitably be developed. I base this conclusion, among other things, on the following sutta statement from the Anguttara Nikaya (also quoted by Ven Brahmali in his article):

    ” ‘I will dwell contemplating the body in the body (feeling/mind/phenomena), ardent, clearly comprehending, mindful, having removed covetousness and grief with regard to the world.’ For thus, monk, you should train yourself. When, monk, this samādhi is thus developed and made much of, you should develop this samādhi with initial and sustained application, you should develop (it) without initial application but with a remainder of sustained application, you should develop (it) without initial and sustained application, you should develop (it) with rapture, you should develop (it) with pleasure, you should develop it with equanimity.” (A.IV.300.24.4).

    This passage, to my mind, makes it quite clear that Satipatthana leads to jhana, since the phrasing ‘with initial and sustained application’, etc, are code-terms for the four jhanas.

    Also in the Dantabhumi Sutta, Majjhima Nikaya Sutta No. 125, the Buddha, in reference to the Four Satipatthanas, said: “Then the Tathagata disciplines him further: ‘Come, bhikkhu, abide contemplating the body in the body but do not think thoughts connected with the body; abide contemplating feeling in the feeling but do not think thoughts connected with feeling; abide contemplating mind in the mind but do not think thoughts connected with the mind; abide contemplating phenomena in the phenomena but do not think thoughts connected with phenomena. With the stilling of applied and sustained thought, he enters upon and abides in the second jhana….the third jhana….the fourth jhana.”

    Again, this to my mind, makes it quite clear that the four jhanas are developed as we practise Satipatthana.

    Thus, the Commentarial assertion that one can only do Satipatthana with khanika (momentary) concentration is disputable. Following Sutta textual sources (ref. Brahmali’s article which provides copious textual sources) it would seem that the Buddha meant Satipatthana as both a jhana and insight producing practice.

    Thus, it would seem that there needn’t be any rigid separation or demarcation between samatha (calm/tranquility) and vipassana (insight). By this I mean that as one does Satipatthana (that is, Vipassana) one gains calm as one places the mind on the Satipatthana or Vipassana objects (body, feeling, mind, phenomena). As this calm develops, and the five hindrances are overcome, jhana is attained. With that jhanic concentration the yogi observes directly the phenomena even as they change from moment to moment. The practice of Satipatthana (which I equate with Vipassana) involves samadhi (concentration) and as one further develops the samadhi through repeated observation or placing of the mind on the vipassana objects, that samadhi (when the five hindrances are overcome) reaches jhanic strength.

    Of course, the question of what constitutes a jhana is another controversy. Say in Anapanasati (Mindfulness of Inbreath and Outbreath) some teachers including the Commentary say the yogi develops a mental image while some teachers say no, the Buddha did not mention anything about a mental image in the Anapanasati Sutta. [Though a nimitta is mentioned in other texts, it would seem that ‘nimitta’ means something like a sign or basis of concentration and need not be interpreted as a mental image (like a moon or a star or a pearl as in the Visuddhimaga].

    Can one hear sound while in a jhana? Is there any body awareness or is there not? The Commentary and some teachers say “no” to both questions while some teachers say “yes.” Does one come out of a jhana when doing vipassana or does one do it while in jhana? The Commentary says one emerges from jhana while in the Anupada Sutta (MN 111) it would seem that Sariputta did vipassana while in jhana.

    You may have read the recent book by Richard Shankman “The Experience of Samadhi: An indepth exploration of Buddhist Meditation” where he explores the differences between the Visuddhimagga and Sutta statements about the nature of a jhana. Interestingly, he interviewed eight contemporary Buddhist Meditation teachers who gave different opinions on what they understand as a jhana.

    Thus, it looks like there is no consensus and this scenario, I think, is likely to remain as it is human nature to form different opinions and interpretations. Still, it is good if more textual research is done to shed more light on the issue.

    Meanwhile, Bhikkhu Bodhi, following the Commentarial interpretation of the dispensability of jhana, has posited that there were many people (the Faith follower and the Dhamma follower) who became sotapannas (stream-enterers) and sakadagamis (once-returners) without apparently attaining any jhana. It seemed some attained while listening to the Buddha’s discourse without doing any formal meditation. However, he posited that for the attaining of the third (anagamihood) and fourth (arahathood) stage of awakening, it was likely that for most aspirants jhana would be required.

    I’m sure you would have read his thesis, “The Jhanas and The Lay Disciple” which has been on the internet for some years already.

    I would appreciate your response and views.

    Wishing you good health and good practice,

    With respects and metta,
    Visu

    ***

  12. Here are some descriptions from MN 52, how from calm the practitioner processes to insight and makes an end of suffering.
    “Venerable sir, is there a single quality declared by the Blessed One — the one who knows, the one who sees, worthy & rightly self-awakened — where the unreleased mind of a monk who dwells there heedful, ardent, & resolute becomes released, or his unended fermentations go to their total ending, or he attains the unexcelled security from the yoke that he had not attained before?”

    “Yes, householder, there is…”

    “And what is that one quality, venerable sir…?”

    “There is the case, householder, where a pratitioner, withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful qualities, enters & remains in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. He reflects on this and discerns, ‘This first jhana is conditioned & intended. Now whatever is conditioned & intended is impermanent & subject to cessation.’ Staying right there, he reaches the ending of the mental fermentations. Or, if not, then — through this very Dhamma-passion, this Dhamma-delight, and from the total wasting away of the first five Fetters[1] — he is due to be reborn [in the Pure Abodes], there to be totally unbound, never again to return from that world.”
    The same statement are applied to 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th Jhana attainments as a base for developing insight. In the same Sutta, the Four Brahma Vihari (Metta, Karuna, Mudita, Upekkha) are the subject of meditation that has the quality to unify and purify the mind, to make it a good tool for direct knowledge of realization & gain deliverance.
    In MN 64, a similar approach but different technique are used when process from Jhana to Vipassana. In both Suttas, the first Jhana is enough to make the practitioner’s mind a powerful tool for discernment. And in both Suttas, the first 3 Arupa Jhana also can serve a a good base for developing insight. You can read the whole Sutta here:

    http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.052.than.html

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