4th wheel, 4th wheel buddhism, absorption, articles on ecstatic meditation, bliss, catutthayana, di.t.thadhammasukhavihaaraa, ecstatic buddhism, ecstasy, ecstatic, ecstatic case histories, ecstatic contemplative, ecstatic meditation, ecstatic poetry, field meditation, fragrance of enlightenment, fruits of the contemplative life, fourth wheel, great western vehicle, gwv, gwv pali dictionary project, jeff brooks, jeffrey s. brooks, jhana, jhana archive, jhana resource guide, jhana support group, jhanananda, jhanananda's journal, jhananda, jhana-nimitta, joy, joy of meditation, joyful home of the way, jsg, kriya, kriyas, kundalini, kundaliniheat, language of ecstasy, language of gnosis, mahaparacakkayana, mahasatipatthana, maha-satipatthana, manomaya, meet the needs of the people, meditation, meditation case histories, meditation induced neurosis, meditation induced physical ailment, meditation induced psychosis, meditation induced tinnitus, meditative absorption, meditation teacher, mind-made body, mystic, mysticism, nikayan buddhism, nimitta, oob, oobe, ordination program, out-of-body experience, pali, pali & buddhist studies, pali canon, pali dictionary project, pali language resource guide, past life, past lifetimes, patanjali, peer-level support, personal case histories, personal case histories with meditative absorption, phala, phala nikaya, phenomena of absorption, piiti, pleasure not of the senses, psychology of buddhism, psychology of ecstasy, psychology of kundalini, psychology of yoga, recognizing the absorption states, e'letter, remaining conscious during sleep, retreat, retreats, right livelihood, right meditation, saint vitus' dance, samadhi, sama-samadhi, satipatthana, shaman, shamanic, shamanism, solo wilderness retreat, sotapanna, southwest insight e'letter, spiritual awakening, spontaneous movement, stone worn to sand, stream winner, succor, sukha, three year retreat, tinnitus, tipitaka, translator bias, understanding meditation states, understanding meditative absorption, unifying theory of gnosis, western buddhism, western buddhist teachers, western vehicle, wholesome states, wilderness, wilderness retreat, yoga psychology, yoga sutras of patanjali, advaita, advaita vedanta, anagami, anapanasati, arahant, arahanta, arahat, astral projection, aura, bodhichitta, boundless states, brahma viharas, buddha, buddhism, buddhism as a religion, buddhist, buddhist criticism, buddhist philosophy, buddhist psychology, buddhist tradition, burying the shaman, chakra, characteristic manifestations of absorption, characteristics of absorption, charism, charisma, charismatic, charismatic movement, charismatic buddhism, christian contemplative, christian meditation, christian mystic, christian mysticism, clairaudience, clairvoyance, compassion, concentration, contemplation, contemplative, contemplative arts, contemplative poetry, cultivating wholesome states, dark night of the soul, dependent origination, descent into hell, dhamma, dhamma teacher, dharma, dhyana, discourses of the buddha, divine abodes, divine ear, dzikr, dzogchen, ecumenical, ecumenical buddhism, eighth fold path, engaged, enlightened, enlightenment, enlightenment in this lifetime, equanimity, ethics, ethics in buddhism, fana, former lives, forms of buddhism, four noble truths, gnosis, gnostic, hollow reed, houses of god, insight, kabbalah, karuna, kasina, kayagata-sati, loving kindness, lucid, lucid dreaming, mahamudra, meditation object, meditative, metta, mind of buddha, monastic, mudita, nama-rupa, nibbana, nirvana, non-returner, once returner, psycho-soma, rapture, reincarnation, revelation, rigpa, sakadagami, salmon-boy, sanskrit, sanskrit & vedic studies, seven factors of enlightenment, shunyata, siddhartha gotama, siddhi, signless, signlessness, sufi, sufism, supernatural powers, supranormal powers, sutra, sutra pitaka, sutta, sutta pitaka, sympathetic joy, trance, tranquility, tripitaka, tucson dharma news, two-worlds, upekkha, vedanta, vertigo, vipassana, yoga, yoga sutras,

[Great Western Vehicle] [Events] [Supporting the GWV]

[Pali & Buddhist Studies] [Tipitaka Index]  [Buddhist Timeline] [Pali-English Dictionary] [Sanskrit & Vedic Studies] [Ecstatic Meditation Archive]

Concentration leads to Absorption, which leads to Enlightenment

May 9, 2004

By the contemplative recluse monk Sotapanna Jhanananda (Jeffrey S, Brooks)

(copyright 2004 all rights reserved)

It has been widely accepted that a dedicated contemplative practice can bring one to enlightenment.  However there are many contemplative traditions, and they teach many concentration techniques.  How does one choose which practice to conduct to produce the desired result, enlightenment?

We may first examine what is meant by 'enlightenment.'  Every religion seems to have a concept of enlightenment.  And, some religions define enlightenment very specifically.  Buddhism seems to have defined enlightenment in the narrowest and most articulated form in the Pali canon.  There you will see that enlightenment is defined in terms of a subjective absorption, which is brought about primarily through the practice of meditation (sati). 

The historic Buddha articulated his path to freedom from suffering, and enlightenment (nibbana), through a subjective "purification" process he called the Noble Eight Fold Path.  This path is said to be a "middle path" that leads through three basic components wisdom (panna), ethics (sila) and absorption (samadhi).

Noble Eightfold Path:



right view (understanding)
2 samma-sankappa right thought
3 samma-vaca right speech
4 samma-kammanta right action
5 samma-ajiva right livelihood


right effort
7 samma-sati right awareness (mindfulness)
8 samma-samadhi right absorption

Wisdom, or discernment (panna), brings us to right view.  Right view or understanding is understood as following reasoning, study and reflection to its logical conclusion that enlightenment is in deed possible in this very lifetime, and that there is in deed a path of effort, or a practice regimen (sati), that one can engage in that will bring one to enlightenment (nibbana). 

Ethics (sila) are revealed and illuminated in Right Thought, Speech and Action.  Sila is the avoidance of harmful thoughts, words and action, and the cultivation of beneficial thoughts, words and action.  Beneficial thoughts are cultivated by meditating upon 4 desirable abstract qualities.  These desirable qualities, or states of mind, are called the Four Divine Abodes (Brahma Viharas or Bodhichitta).

The Four Houses of God (Brahma Viharas)

Boundless States, Divine Abodes, Bodhichitta (the Buddha mind):

1 Metta Loving Kindness


Karuna Compassion
3 Mudita Sympathetic Joy
4 Upekkha Equanimity

Right livelihood is any subsistence strategy that sustains one without interfering with one's journey to enlightenment (nibbana) and it must be ethical.  Traditionally in Buddhism Right Livelihood was viewed as monasticism.  However, there are now a wide range of ethical subsistence strategies available in our culture.  Some of these strategies or careers are: healing work, counseling, meditation and yoga instruction, etc.  But, there are actually many, many such subsistence strategies.  One need only keep in mind that one's subsistence strategy must not only pay the bills, but also leave sufficient time to engage in all of the aspects of the Noble Eight Fold Path: which includes time to study, through various books and materials; time to reflect upon what you have studied; then sufficient time to engage in the actual practice.  Since Buddhism is a contemplative tradition, then engaging in the practice, constitutes meditation practice (sati).  And, finally all of this must fall under ethical conduct and the cultivation of the four positive states of mind (Brahma Viharas).

Right mindfulness is articulated in the three suttas (chapters) on mindfulness (Sati) in the Pali canon.  Right mindfulness (samma-sati) is cultivated through the practice of concentration.  Mindfulness (Sati) practice is defined in the Sati suttas as attentive awareness of the breath, body, senses and mind.  These are known as the four cornerstones of mindfulness (Sati).

Maha-satipatthana Sutta (DN 22.21).
"And what is right mindfulness (samma-sati)? There is the case where an aspirant remains focused on the physical body -- ardent, alert, and aware -- putting aside greed and unhappiness (dukkha) with reference to the world. one remains focused on sensations... the mind... mental states and mind objects -- ardent, alert, and aware -- putting aside greed and unhappiness (dukkha) with reference to the world. This is called right mindfulness (samma-sati).

Mindfulness is the common translation of the Pali term 'Sati.'  However, I prefer to use the word 'awareness' for a translation of the Pali term 'Sati,' because that is what we are doing when we are practicing Satipatthana, developing awareness.  The word 'mindfulness' refers to the mind, which is a rather vague term in the English language.  It can also mean the processes of cognition.  It is some of these processes of cognition, (perception, thinking, reasoning and memory) that we are attempting to bring to cessation, while maintaining only the awareness component of cognition for enlightenment (nibbana) to arise.

Awareness (Sati) is separated out from the aggregates of cognition and developed through the practice of concentration.  The cultivation of awareness is revealed in the three Sati suttas.  The Sati suttas are a series of concentration exercises that lead to the development of awareness (Sati), which leads to absorption (jhana), which leads to cessation (nibbana).

The Noble Eight Fold Path requires Right Meditation (sama-samadhi), which is the cultivation of absorption states (jhanas) through the development of awareness (Sati) by practicing the concentration techniques that are revealed in the three Sati suttas.  Right Meditation (sama-samadhi) is defined in terms of absorption (jhana) in the Maha-satipatthana Sutta (DN 22.21).

Maha-satipatthana Sutta (DN 22.21).
"And what is right {meditation (sama-samadhi)}? There is the case where an aspirant -- quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful (mental) qualities -- enters and remains in the first jhana: joy and ecstasy born from withdrawal, accompanied by applied and sustained {concentration (vitakka and vicára)}. With the stilling of applied and sustained {concentration (vitakka and vicára)}, one enters and remains in the second jhana: joy and ecstasy born of tranquillity, unification of awareness free from directed applied and sustained {concentration (vitakka and vicára)} -- internal assurance. With the fading of joy one remains in equanimity, (aware) and alert, physically sensitive of ecstasy. One enters and remains in the third jhana, of which the Noble Ones declare, 'Equanimous and (aware), one has a pleasurable abiding.' With the abandoning of (grasping and aversion for) pleasure and pain -- as with the earlier disappearance of pleasure and pain -- one enters and remains in the fourth jhana: purity of equanimity and awareness, neither pleasure nor pain. This is called right meditation ."

If you are intent upon enlightenment (nibbana) in this very lifetime, then cultivating absorption (jhana) should be the most important thing on your mind.  That however does not mean that you have to renounce all of your material possessions and relationships to arrive at a "pleasant abiding in the here and now" (jhana).  All you need do is follow the Noble Eight Fold Path, which requires that one develop right awareness (samma-sati) which leads to right meditation (samma-samadhi), which leads to cessation (nibbana).

If you have not read the Buddha's three discourses on meditation (Sati), I have recently rendered a few improvements in their translation and they are available online at the following URLs:

Anapanasati Sutta (MN 118), Mindfulness of the breath

Kayagata-sati Sutta, MN 119 “Mindfulness of the Body

Satipatthana Sutta (MN 10), the Four Cornerstones of Mindfulness

Maha-satipatthana Sutta (DN 22), the Great Discourse on the Four Cornerstones of Mindfulness


May you become enlightened in this very lifetime,

Jhanananda (Jeffrey S. Brooks)

This article may be retrieved at this URL:


[Great Western Vehicle] [Events] [Supporting the GWV]

[Pali & Buddhist Studies] [Tipitaka Index]  [Buddhist Timeline] [Pali-English Dictionary] [Sanskrit & Vedic Studies] [Ecstatic Meditation Archive]