Reading Charles Johnstones The Noble Teachings of Lord
Buddha: States of Consciousness I was struck by the fact
that he does not mention anything beyond the 7th jhana: the
sphere of nothingness. I recalled reading the translation of
the Potthapada Sutta on the Access to Insight website which
finishes with reference to 'neither perception nor non
perception'. This prompted me to look back at older
translations (Walshe and Rhys Davids) to find that there
also no mention is made of a further jhana; instead the 7th
Jahna is a "summit of consciousness" which results in
cessation of further thought. Also the Buddha seems to be
saying that the 5th and 6th jhanas are also "summits of
here the author only lists 7 jhanas but immediately
thereafter says "Perhaps the seven or eight jhanas..." and
then "At this stage one transcends thinking altogether, the
coarse perceptions cease and one achieves the complete
annihilation of consciousness." (my emphasis) It seems to me
that here we have the not unfamiliar nihilism of latter day
Theravada because in no sense can this be inferred from the
sutta itself in my opinion. Instead what we have here is the
same state of consciousness aimed at by Neti Neti meditation
where only contentless awareness is present; what
Padmasambhava calls 'The clear light of primal or intrinsic
There are eight in total—four rupa, then four arupa—after
which, if one does not cling to the last, one may become
“totally unbound” (see Aneñja
Perhaps Nicholas can verify if this "totally unbound" is the
same as the 9th jhana?
Absolute concentration in Râja-Yoga; the process of
development by which perfect indifference (Sams)
is reached (apatti).
This state is the last stage of development before the
possibility of entering into Samâdhi is reached.—Theosophical
Samapatti (Sanskrit) Samāpatti [from sam-ā-pad to
progress to perfect fulfillment from the verbal root pad to
go, progress] In Buddhism, a subdivision of the fourth stage
of abstract meditation (there being eight samapattis);
“perfect concentration” in the raja yoga system of occult
training, a state of intellectual, spiritual, and psychic
unfolding in which meditation becomes vision, and there
ensues perfect indifference to things of this world. Said to
be the final degree of development, upon reaching which the
possibility of entering into samadhi is
attained.—Encyclopedic Theosophical Glossary
Keith, this is a great observation. Glad you went back to
look at some of the old translations. I wonder what happened
to make the move from 7 to 8 or 9 in the translations and
About your questions/observations:
Perhaps there is the same relation between the 7 and 9
jhanas as there is between the 7 and 9 principles (in Man or
Cosmos) in theosophical teachings. There we may look at the
seven as composed of 4 and 3 (4 rupa, 3 arupa), thus the
seven principles in Man, or seven globes, etc. (see SD
So the seventh is, from this perspective, a "summit of
consciousness". But "above" the 7 there is the unmanifest
triangle, composed of a base with two corners and a summit.
The two corners are the 8th and 9th (or chokhma and binah).
Or, alternatively, the base can be looked at as representing
the 8th and 9th (the line having an "unmanifest" side and a
"manifest" side, or a top and a bottom). So above the
"summit of consciousness" we have two more "states", above
which there is an ultimate summit (kether, or, as a state,
nirvana, the tenth—the summit of the triangle at the top of
the diagram on SD 1:200), or so goes my interpretation.
In the Buddhist suttas, it does seem that there is very
little (if any) difference between the 8th and "9th" jhanas
(to me, the 9th sounds more like the result of accomplishing
the 8th, as opposed to a whole new jhana, but like Nicholas,
I'm no expert). Perhaps the 8th and 9th are "two sides of
the same coin", much as chokhma and binah are?
Just one possible way of approaching the numbering...
About the difficulty of the "summits" and the "complete
annihilation of consciousness" or "thought" above the
seventh... perhaps this can be unraveled by referring to SD
1:293, where we read that "the
six Hierarchies of Dhyan Chohans synthesized by their
Primary, the seventh, ... personify the Fifth Principle of
Cosmic Nature." That "fifth cosmic principle" would be
Mahat, or the Universal Mind. Thus the seven powers (and so
also the seven principles or planes or states) represent, in
their synthesis, the totality of cosmic thought. Beyond the
seven, then, is to move beyond "thought", or any
consciousness restrained by the "cosmic mind principle". The
8th, 9th, and nirvana, then (if this count is right) would
represent states beyond Mind, or, perhaps we could say a
"maha-buddhic" thought (?) cosmically, or a buddhic in Man
Anyway, maybe there's something in these ideas that can help
unlock the strangeness of the 7, 8 and 9.
How anyone could accept the Anupada Sutta as authentic is
beyond my understanding.
First I found posts on yahoo discussion groups discussing
the inauthenticity of this sutta eg
Mrs Rhys Davids also considered it inauthentic and her
arguments are sound - there are no other suttas with these
If some Brahmin enemy of Buddhism wished to write a parody
this would be it:
"Whatever qualities there are in the dimension of nothingness — the perception of the dimension of nothingness, singleness of mind, contact,feeling, perception, intention, consciousness, desire, decision, persistence, mindfulness, equanimity, & attention — he ferreted them out one after another."
How can there be qualities in nothingness?
in Dhyana in Buddhism From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
"Although the "Dimension of Nothingness" and the "Dimension of Neither Perception nor NonPerception" are included in the list of nine Jhanas taught by the Buddha, they are not included in the Noble Eightfold Path. Noble Path number eight is "Samma Samadhi" (Right Concentration), and only the first four Jhanas are considered "Right Concentration". If he takes a disciple through all the Jhanas, the emphasis is on the "Cessation of Feelings and Perceptions" rather than stopping short at the "Dimension of Neither Perception nor NonPerception".
As for nirodhasamapatti
to paraphrase Charles Johnstone: this is giving us a
nihilism so complete that it could
never have brought hope or light to the most miserable
wretch that breathed, and from
which even its expounders should turn away repelled.
The 8th Jhana
"Furthermore, with the complete transcending of the dimension of neither perception nor nonperception, Sariputta entered & remained in the cessation of feeling &
perception. Seeing with discernment,"
How can there be seeing when there is no perception?
So my conclusion:
The 8th Jhana is also not authentic because it is a
redundancy. In the sphere of Nothingness how can there be
any thing to perceive? It is simply the last
thought/fabrication to be abandoned to achieve cessation of
thinking. Similarly the spheres of infinite
space/consciousness are implicit with no-thing, with no next
or further thought so if abandoned can lead to cessation of
thinking (but not sentience) and hence can be summits of
consciousness. In fact the 3 formless Jhanas are special
because they are intimately related and lead into each other
naturally and effortlessly:
'Again, by passing entirely beyond the Sphere of Infinite
that there is no thing, hereaches
and remains in the Sphere of No-Thingness,Walshe
and can lead effortlessly to a 'petering out' where thinking
is replaced by what Padmasambhava calls "The clear light of
primal or intrinsic awareness".
"Were someone to say, 'I will describe a coming, a going, a
passing away, an arising, a growth, an increase, or a
proliferation of consciousness apart from form, from
feeling, from perception, from fabrications,' that would be
impossible. Upaya Sutta
"'Consciousness without surface, endless, radiant all
There is that dimension ..nor dimension of the infinitude of
consciousness..without support (mental object).This, just
this, is the end of stress.Nibbana
As a corollary the 3 arupa Jhanas all have the additional
characteristic of facilitating the free flow of cosmic
the 5th Jhana occurs in the form of 'expansion-contraction'
meditation in Ki Aikido master Koichi Tohei's teaching on
Ki. Perhaps this is not a trivial thing given that mind and
fohat/Ki are so intimately related. Whatever the so called
8th and 9th jhanas are devoid of this quality.
you will recall that I started with doubts about the
original words of the Buddha. So: any non dubious suttas
generally accepted as the words of the Buddha? Preferably
translated before shall we say 1950? by western scholars
(who may not always have the true knowledge but have the
virtue of being more unbiased.)
fit the bill. By this time revisionism was already rampant
in Buddhism: need I mention Mahayana let alone schismatics
in the hinayana;
Keith, you seem to have made up your mind on the subject of
revisionism, but as to the original query re: the jhanas,
the quotes I shared are from indisputably genuine Buddhist
texts and cover the teaching of the 8 (or 9) jhanas.
I have not rejected your references - but I am going to
check them and continue to look for other references that
might be the original words of the Buddha. I don't reject
evidence from the shastras either (carita, visuddhimaga) but
I consider them as ancillary proof. I remind you that there
are valid reasons for my scepticism when even confirmed
Buddhists share them.
“And the Blessed One entered the first jhana. Rising from
the first jhana, he entered the second jhana. Rising from
the second jhana, he entered the third jhana. Rising from
the third jhana, he entered the fourth jhana. And rising out
of the fourth jhana, he entered the sphere of infinite
space. Rising from the attainment of the sphere of infinite
space, he entered the sphere of infinite consciousness.
Rising from the attainment of the sphere of infinite
consciousness, he entered the sphere of nothingness. Rising
from the attainment of the sphere of nothingness, he entered
the sphere of neither-perception-nor-non-perception. And
rising out of the attainment of the sphere of
neither-perception-nor-non-perception, he attained to the
cessation of perception and feeling.
“Then the Blessed One, rising from the cessation of
perception and feeling, entered the sphere of
neither-perception-nor-non-perception. Rising from the
attainment of the sphere of
neither-perception-nor-non-perception, he entered the sphere
of nothingness. Rising from the attainment of the sphere of
nothingness, he entered the sphere of infinite
consciousness. Rising from the attainment of the sphere of
infinite consciousness, he entered the sphere of infinite
space. Rising from the attainment of the sphere of infinite
space, he entered the fourth jhana. Rising from the fourth
jhana, he entered the third jhana. Rising from the third
jhana, he entered the second jhana. Rising from the second
jhana, he entered the first jhana.
“Rising from the first jhana, he entered the second jhana.
Rising from the second jhana, he entered the third jhana.
Rising from the third jhana, he entered the fourth jhana.
And, rising from the fourth jhana, the Blessed One
immediately passed away.”
“[The Buddha] entered the samadhi of
the first trance and the nine concentrations in
due order. He followed the concentrations in reverse order,
and again entered the first trance. He again rose from the
first trance and he entered the fourth trance. As he left
concentration and his thoughts had nowhere to resort to,
[the Buddha] immediately entered nirvana.”—Buddhacarita
I can confirm that 8th and 9th states are indeed referred to in the
MAHA-NIDANA-SUTTANTA and Maha Parinibbana Suttanta RHYS DAVIDS DIALOGUES
OF THE BUDDHA VOL 2
but with inconsistencies, contradictions and different terminology.
Definitive conclusions require further investigation. I have more
promising avenues of research into truth so I have decided to curtail my
investigation on grounds that it will not lead to any worthwhile fruit.
This is based on inconclusive but not ungrounded reasons:
-the possibility that the 8th and 9th states are not of much value
-that I will not find any worthwhile information regarding them
The 5th, 6th and 7th are from the Buddhas non-buddhist gurus.
"The Buddha also rediscovered an attainment beyond the dimension of neither perception nor non perception, NirodhaSamapatti, the "cessation of feelings and perceptions".
This is sometimes called the "ninth jhāna" in commentarial and scholarly literature"
Wikipedia Dyhana in Buddhism
I suspect that there are no explanations by the Buddha himself and my
reading of Buddhaghosa's uninspired attempt in the Visuddimaga leads me
to the conclusion that he had never experienced them himself. And this
applies to translators - witness their imprecise use of terminology.
The Mission Accomplished A historical analysis of the Mahaparinibbana
Sutta of theDigha Nikaya of the Pali Canon. by Ven. Pategama Gnanarama
nirodhasamapatti: there may be value in the 9th state of non
consciousness if one considers the claim in one of the upanishads
regarding the possibility and value of being fully aware in the sleep
state. The 8th to me is just a transition state to the 9th. Neither have
any intrinsic relation to the 3 arupa Jhanas and indeed cannot be
considered formless. I feel that this his is why they are not mentioned
in any translation of the Pottapadha where the 3 arupa are the ony
'summmits of consciousness' from which cessation of thinking but not
sentience/awareness (which is the case with the 8th and 9th) can 'take
More fruitfull was the results of my research into the unreliability of
in addition to those references quoted in my previous post:
from translator bias:
A Critique of the Abhidhamma and Visuddhimagga
By Jhanananda (Jeffrey S. Brooks)
Exposing translator bias in the Translation of the Pali Canon and other Asian literature
A comparative analysis of 23 translations of Dhammapada Verse 372
By the contemplative recluse monk Sotapanna Jhanananda (Jeffrey S, Brooks)
to just ill considered terminology (most later translators) a result I
believe which arises from the unquestioning and doctinaire 'faith' of
most Buddhists. cf
"Alexander Wynne further explains that the dhyana
scheme is poorly understood. According to
Wynne, words expressing the inculcation of awareness, such as sati, sampajāno, and upekkhā, are mistranslated or understood as particular factors of meditative states,whereas they refer to a particular way of perceiving the sense objects"
These problems have a very long history; this quote which I discovered
yesterday from Sacred
books of the Buddhists Vol 1 Max Mullersays
It was at that Council that the great schism took place, and that the
ancient Canon was rearranged or disarranged. Among the books thus
tampered with is mentioned the Gataka, which therefore must be
considered as having existed, and formed part of the old Canon before
the Council of Vesali. This is what the Dipavamsa (V, 32) says on the
' The Bhikkhus of the Great Council settled a doctrine contrary (to the
true Faith). Altering the original text they made another text. They
transposed Suttas which belonged to one place (of the collection) to
another place; they destroyed the true meaning of the Faith, in the
Vinaya and in the five collections (of the Suttas). . . . Rejecting
single passages of the Suttas and of the proposed Vinaya, they composed
other Suttas and another Vinaya which had (only) the appearance (of the
genuine ones). Rejecting the following texts, viz, the Parivara, which
is the abstract of the contents (of the Vinaya), the six sections of the
Abhidhamma, the Pa/isambhida, the Niddesa, and some portions of
the Gataka, they composed new ones.'
in Buddhism, Wikipediayesterday
I find I could have saved myself a lot of work had I perused it more
carefully: there is more material relating to this subject here than
I've amassed above:
"Alex Wynne suggests that Uddaka Ramaputta belonged to the pre
Buddhist tradition portrayed by the
Buddhist and Brahmanic sources, in which the philosophical formulations of the early Upanishads were
accepted and the meditative state of "neither perception nor non-perception" was equated with the
"Evidence in the Chandogya Upanishad and the Taittiriya Upanishad
suggests that a different early Brahminic philosophical tradition held
the view that the unmanifest state of Brahman was a form of non
existence. According to Wynne it thus seems likely that both element and
formless meditation was learned by the Buddha from his two teachers and
adapted by him to his own system"
"In the same dialogue in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, Yajnavalkya draws
the conclusions that the self that isneither
perceptive nor nonperceptive is a state of consciousness without object.
The early Buddhist evidence suggests much the same thing for the state
perception nor nonperception". It is a state without an object of
awareness, that is not devoid of awareness."
compare my personal opinion in my previous conclusions:
'Similarly the spheres of infinite space/consciousness are implicit with
no-thing, with no next or further thought so if abandoned can lead to
cessation of thinking (but not sentience)'
"The state following it in the Buddhist scheme, the 'cessation of
perception and sensation', is devoid not only of objectivity, but of
subjectivity as well."
"Dimension of Neither Perception nor NonPerceptionNo
qualities to be "ferreted out" are being mentioned for this dimension."
again see my previous conclusions where I express precisely the same!
Thanks to Theoria Apophasis' claim that the Samyutta Nikaya is
the oldest sutta I am enjoying revisiting the Pali scriptures.
In a previous post I decided to abandon my interest in the
question of the eighth and ninth Jahnas for various reasons -
mainly the lack of knowledge by Buddhists, their ommission in
many scriptures etc.
Coming across theConnected
Discourses with Moggallanain
has shed some light on this subject:
Moggalanas 'bases' may be the key:
The Base of the Infinity of Spacethe
reference to Jahnas does not occur (I vaguely recall some
authority noting this also in my previous inquiries).
Firstly although the bases of infinite space, infinite mind and
nothingness are considered formless it seems to me that the
presence of form, thought and things can be considered to be
latent or implied:
"Then, friends, with the complete transcendence of perceptions
of forms ... I entered and dwelt in the base of the infinity of
I dwelt therein perception and attention accompanied by forms
and so on - although the text of 6 to 7 refers back to the
previous 'Jahna' I might suggest an alternative wording eg
"Then, friends, by completely transcending the base of the
infinity of consciousness, aware that 'there is nothing,' I
entered and dwelt in the base of nothingness. While I dwelt
therein perception and attentionaccompanied
by the base of the infinity of consciousness assailed me.
but it could equally be that
While I dwelt thereinperception
and attention accompanied by the base of the 'somethingness'
friends, by completely transcending the base of nothingness, I
entered and dwelt in the base of
neither-perception-nor-nonperception. While I dwelt thereinperception
and attention accompanied by the base of nothingness assailed
I would suggest this could be changed to "While I dwelt thereinperception
and attention assailed me" ie attention the base of
9 The Signless
This is a very illuminating designation:
"Then, friends, it occurred to me: 'Here, by
nonattention to all signs, a bhikkhu enters and dwells
of mind. This is called the signless concentration of mind.'
"Then, friends, by nonattention to all signs, I entered and
dwelt in the signless concentration of mind.While
I dwelt therein my consciousness followed along with signs."
Which he then transcends:
later occasion, by nonattention to all signs, I entered
in the signless concentration of mind.
Now recall Gautama:
"'Consciousness without surface, endless, radiant all
around,....There is that dimension ..nor dimension of the
infinitude of consciousness..without support (mental
object).This, just this, is the end of stress.Nibbana
So I suggest that the 9th 'Jahna' significance is what Theoria
Apophasis declares as the distinction between Citta and Viññana
; nous and psyche (which the english language does not
distinguish) see eg Viññana Sutta: Consciousness:
"Monks, eye-consciousness is inconstant, changeable, alterable.
Intellect-consciousness is inconstant, changeable, alterable.
"One who has conviction & belief that thesephenomena
ie the 9th acheivement is contentless awareness - Ajahn Martyns
cf Wikipedia on Vijñāna:
Consciousness as aggregate:
"In SN 22.79, the Buddha distinguishes consciousness in the
"And why do you call it 'consciousness'? Because it cognizes,
thus it is called consciousness. What does it cognize? It
cognizes what is sour, bitter, pungent, sweet, alkaline,
non-alkaline, salty, & unsalty. Because it cognizes, it is
perception (saññā) which the Buddha describes in the same
discourse as follows:""And
why do you call it 'perception'? Because it perceives, thus it
is called 'perception.' What does it perceive? It perceives
blue, it perceives yellow, it perceives red, it perceives white.
"It has been suggested that the basic meaning is something like