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 consciousness".

Searching the web I find a discussion of this at: http://palisuttas.com/2014/12/20/potthapada­sutta/

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 awareness'

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The Anupada Sutta is a good source for the 8 jhanas: http://tipitaka.wikia.com/wiki/Anupada_Sutta

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 Sappaya Sutta). Perhaps Nicholas can verify if this "totally unbound" is the same as the 9th jhana?

There's also "The Jhanas in Theravada Buddhist Meditation" by Henepola Gunaratana.

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Yes, could be.

There's a good summary of the jhanas (all 9) here as well: Dhyāna in Buddhism

There the "ninth jhana" is referred to as "Nirodha Samapatti".

http://www.palikanon.com/english/wtb/n_r/nirodha_samaapatti.htm

Samâpatti (Sk.). 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 Glossary (HPB)

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

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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 commentaries....

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 1:200).

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.

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Thanks to all - will check these references out (I'm wonder if there is 'revisionism' in buddhism tho)

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Wondering the same here as well.

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Buddhist Revisionism - Jahnas beyond the 7th

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
https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/dhammastudygroup/conversations/...
Mrs Rhys Davids also considered it inauthentic and her arguments are sound - there are no other suttas with these 'teachings'.
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 Consciousness, seeing that there is no thing, he reaches 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 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 Sutta

As a corollary the 3 arupa Jhanas all have the additional characteristic of facilitating the free flow of cosmic prana/fohat:
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.

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Nicholas

Can you point me to older translations other than recent ones (which I consider suspect)?

and why did Charles Johnstone seem to be unaware of them?

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Nicholas

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.)

Visuddhimagga doesn't fit the bill. By this time revisionism was already rampant in Buddhism: need I mention Mahayana let alone schismatics in the hinayana; 

The Vibhajyavāda branch gave rise to a number of schools such as:[3](p. 61)

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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.

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John

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.

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“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.”

—Maha-paranibbana sutta

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“[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

The "nine concentrations" here are the jhanas.

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Permalink Reply by KEITH JACKSON on January 12, 2015 at 5:39am
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I can confirm that 8th and 9th states are indeed referred to in the original suttas:
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 Ph. D.

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 off'

More fruitfull was the results of my research into the unreliability of Buddhist scriptures; 
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 Muller says it all:


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 subject:
' 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.'

Revisiting Dhyana in Buddhism, Wikipedia yesterday 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:
8th state:

"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 self."

and 9th:
"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"

8th:
"In the same dialogue in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, Yajnavalkya draws the conclusions that the self that is neither perceptive nor non­perceptive is a state of consciousness without object. The early Buddhist evidence suggests much the same thing for the state of"neither 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)'
9th:
 "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."

8th:

"Dimension of Neither Perception nor Non­Perception No qualities to be "ferreted out" are being mentioned for this dimension."

again see my previous conclusions where I express precisely the same!

8th and 9th 'Jahnas' revisited

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 the Connected Discourses with Moggallana in Bhikku BodhisConnected_Discourses_of_the_Buddha(Samyutta_Nikaya).Vol.II 
http://lirs.ru/lib/sutra/Connected_Discourses_of_the_Buddha(Samyutta_Nikaya).Vol.II.pdf
has shed some light on this subject:
Moggalanas 'bases' may be the key: 
from 5 The Base of the Infinity of Space the 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 space. While I dwelt therein perception and attention accompanied by forms assailed me.
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 therein perception and attention accompanied by the base of the 'somethingness' assailed me.
eg "Then, friends, by completely transcending the base of nothingness, I entered and dwelt in the base of neither-perception-nor-nonperception. While I dwelt therein perception and attention accompanied by the base of nothingness assailed me.
I would suggest this could be changed to "While I dwelt therein perception and attention assailed me" ie attention the base of 'neither-perception-nor-nonperception' itself


9 The Signless
This is a very illuminating designation:
"Then, friends, it occurred to me: 'Here, [269] by nonattention to all signs, a bhikkhu enters and dwells in the signless concentration 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:

Then, on a later occasion, by nonattention to all signs, I entered and dwelt
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 Sutta


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:

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn25/sn25.003.than.html

"Monks, eye-consciousness is inconstant, changeable, alterable. Ear-consciousness... Nose-consciousness... Tongue-consciousness... Body-consciousness... Intellect-consciousness is inconstant, changeable, alterable.
"One who has conviction & belief that these phenomena 
ie the 9th acheivement is contentless awareness - Ajahn Martyns 'knowingness'


cf Wikipedia on Vijñāna:

Consciousness as aggregate:
"In SN 22.79, the Buddha distinguishes consciousness in the following manner:"
"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 called consciousness."

and 


"the aggregate of 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. 


and Nous:


"It has been suggested that the basic meaning is something like "awareness""