jhana, kundalini, kriya, 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, kriyas, kundaliniheat, language of ecstasy, language of gnosis, absorption, articles on ecstatic meditation, bliss, di.t.thadhammasukhavihaaraa, ecstatic buddhism, ecstasy, ecstatic, ecstatic case histories, ecstatic contemplative, ecstatic meditation, field meditation, fragrance of enlightenment, fruits of the contemplative life, fourth wheel, great western vehicle, gwv,  jeff brooks, jeffrey s. brooks, mahaparacakkayana, mahasatipatthana, maha-satipatthana, manomaya, meditation, meditation case histories, meditation induced neurosis, meditation induced physical ailment, meditation induced psychosis, meditation induced tinnitus, meditative absorption,  mind-made body, mystic, mysticism,  nimitta, oob, oobe,  out-of-body experience, past life, past lifetimes,  phala, phala nikaya, phenomena of absorption, piiti, pleasure not of the senses, psychology of ecstasy, recognizing the absorption states, remaining conscious during sleep, right meditation, saint vitus' dance, samadhi, sama-samadhi, satipatthana, shaman, shamanic, shamanism, spiritual awakening, spontaneous movement, succor, sukha, tinnitus, understanding meditation states, understanding meditative absorption, unifying theory of gnosis, wholesome states, advaita, advaita vedanta, anapanasati, arahant, arahanta, arahat, astral projection, aura, boundless states, brahma viharas, buddhist criticism, chakra, characteristic manifestations of absorption, characteristics of absorption, charism, charisma, charismatic, charismatic movement, charismatic buddhism, christian mystic, christian mysticism, clairaudience, clairvoyance, contemplative, contemplative arts,  dark night of the soul, divine abodes, divine ear, dzikr, equanimity, fana, former lives, gnosis, gnostic, houses of god, insight, kabbalah, kasina, kayagata-sati, lucid, lucid dreaming, meditation object, rapture, reincarnation, revelation, rigpa, seven factors of enlightenment, shunyata, siddhi, signless, signlessness, supernatural powers, supranormal powers, trance, tranquility, upekkha, vedanta, vertigo, vipassana,

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

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

The Language of Gnosis and Ecstasy

By Bhikkhu Jhanananda (Jeffrey S. Brooks):

Updated 03-09-06

(copyright 2005, 2006 all rights reserved)

I am often asked why I use the terms "bliss, charism, charismatic, ecstasy and St. Vitus's Dance" in my descriptions of the various manifestations that are commonly called now by Sanskrit terms, like Samadhi, Kundalini, Kriya, and the Pali term Jhana.  Some scholars have argued that the Asian languages, Pali and Sanskrit, are far more sophisticated than English with respect to the language of gnosis and cognition.  While I am sure those languages are very sophisticated, it seems our scholars are not, because if they were I am sure more contemplatives would find less to disagree with in the translations than we have available to us.

Many people also do not realize that some of the Sanskrit terms of gnosis are not as old as is often believed.  For instance the Sanskrit term 'Kundalini' appears to be relatively new to the Sanskrit language, and the Greek iconography of the caduceus seems to be the origin of the Indian kundalini iconography.  It is also worth pointing out that the Greek term 'khoreia,' means a "choral dance" is very possibly the source of the Sanskrit term "kriya."

The English term 'charismatic' is used for a range of religions concepts, however it is also used to represent any of the phenomena of meditative absorption (jhana). This would include spontaneous movements (kriyas), ecstasies (kundalini) and meditative absorptions (jhana/samadhi).

The central object behind the uses of the terms charism, charisma and charismatic is the experience of gnosis.  Thus someone who considers him or herself a charismatic is one who believes that charisma can be felt and that charisma that can be felt is a charism.

The charism that is being felt is gnosis.  Gnosis is the direct experience of the sacred.  The experience of gnosis is the feeling of currents and centers of energy that are called by many names, but kundalini and chakra are some of those terms.  Gnosis is also ecstasy in the religious language of the European people.

Every one of our physical senses can have charismatic phenomena, such as: charismatic hearing is a chirping or ringing that is commonly reported by contemplatives, charismatic vision is also called clairvoyance and typically manifests as non-physical luminance; tactile charismatic sensations typically manifest the feeling of chakras, aura, stigmata, etc; mystics have even reported charismatic smell and taste; The charismatic manifestation of the kinesthetic sense is the OOB.

Because meditative absorption, which is also known as "ecstasy," or "trance," is the experience of the sacred, it is thus a charismatic experience.  The experience of ecstasy is made up of various pleasurable sensations.  Pleasurable sensations in a religious or spiritual context is called 'bliss.' Thus bliss is a pleasure that originates from meditative absorption, thus it is also charismatic.  OOBs are also known as rapture, which is a charismatic phenomena, because it can be induced in the 5th stage of meditative absorption and is often reported by people who experience meditative absorption. 

One of the charismatic manifestation is spontaneous movement. Mystics from every religion have manifested spontaneous movement. Spontaneous movement is called a "kriya" in Sanskrit.  The early Christian mystic, Saint Vitus, had such severe spontaneous movements during his religious ecstasies that the neurological disorder, Saint Vitus's dance, was named after him,

The term 'charismatic' has been used by apostolic Christians to define the manifestations that occur during their religious ceremonies, which are more effusive in nature and less contemplative in origin.  And, it is also true that many of the dictionary definitions for the English terms of gnosis are defined with a distinctly Christian context, however we must understand that people who write dictionaries are probably not contemplatives, so we cannot expect them to understand the issues that are pertinent to the contemplative.  Therefore it is up to us, the contemplatives, to redefine these terms in the broader context of the religious beliefs of the world today.

Many people misunderstand the term 'ecstasy."  It is very often confused with an effusive state that one would feel from an emotional religious ritual or football game.  For centuries English-speaking contemplatives have used the term 'ecstasy' to describe their religious experiences. The term 'ecstasy' was also used by the 16th century Spanish mystics, Teresa of Avila and her student, John of the Cross.

The historic Buddha described eight meditative absorption states that he called 'samadhi' and 'jhana.' Teresa of Avila described 7 levels of religious attainment that she called 'ecstasy.' Her description of these states parallels the Buddha's description of meditative absorption states (jhana/samadhi).  As you will see from the quotes below, his description seems to represent levels of ecstasy that Teresa of Avila wrote about.  Therefore I believe it is reasonable to assume that the English term 'ecstasy' is a valid translation for the Pali term 'jhana'. 

Bahuvedaniya Sutta (MN 59)
"The pleasure (piti) and joy (sukha) that arise dependent upon the five sense cords (senses)... are called sense pleasure....There is another kind of pleasure here, Ananda, (when one is) secluded from the sense pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states, a bhikkhu enters upon and abides in the first ecstasy (jhana), which is accompanied by applied and sustained attention (vitakka and vicára) with joy (sukha) and pleasure (piti) born of seclusion.  This is that other kind of pleasure loftier and more sublime than the previous pleasure."
a translation from the Pali by
Bhikkhus Nanamoli and Bodhi, Wisdom Publications, Boston 1995

This other kind of pleasure that comes from a contemplative life has been historically called "bliss."

Pasadika Sutta (DN 29) The Delightful Discourse
24.2 "There are, Cunda, these four kinds of life devoted to pleasure which are conducive to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to tranquillity, to realization, to enlightenment, to Nibbana. What are they? First a monk detached from sense-desires, detached from unwholesome mental states, enters and remains in the first jhana..." through the fourth jhana.
a translation from the Pali by
Maurice Walshe, Wisdom Publications, Boston 1987, 1995
Anapanasati Sutta (MN 118) Awareness of In-&-Out Breathing
[6] "One trains oneself to breathe in sensitive to joy (sukha), and to breathe out sensitive to pleasure (piiti)."
Maha-satipatthana Sutta (DN 22)
"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 absorption (jhana): joy and pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by applied and sustained attention (vitakka and vicára). With the stilling of applied and sustained attention (vitakka and vicára), one enters and remains in the second jhana: joy & pleasure born of tranquility, unification of awareness free from directed applied and sustained attention (vitakka and vicára) -- internal assurance. With the fading of exuberance one remains in equanimity, mindful and alert, physically sensitive of ecstasy. One enters & remains in the third jhana, of which the Noble Ones declare, 'Equanimous and mindful, one has a pleasurable abiding.' With the abandoning of pleasure (sukha) and pain (dukkha)-- as with the earlier disappearance of pleasure (sukha) and pain (dukkha)-- one enters and remains in the fourth jhana: purity of equanimity and awareness, neither pleasure (sukha) nor pain (dukkha). This is called right absorption."

In conclusion within the context of Eastern and Western Contemplative traditions, the term 'charismatic' is used in much the same way people today often use the Sanskrit term 'kundalini' to represent any of many manifestations that people experience who are going through the spiritual or kundalini awakening.

I believe we cannot hope to have a functional translation of Asian contemplative literature until the English language of gnosis is understood by the translator of Asian literature.  We cannot hope for the armchair scholars to understand any language of gnosis.  It therefore behooves us to find scholars-contemplative who understand both the experience of gnosis and the language of gnosis.

The Language of Ecstasy in English

Absorb tr.v.
1. To take (something) in through or as through pores or interstices.
2. To occupy the full attention, interest, or time of; engross. See Synonyms at monopolize.
3. Physics. To retain (radiation or sound, for example) wholly, without reflection or transmission.
4. To take in; assimilate: immigrants who were absorbed into the social mainstream.
5. To receive (an impulse) without echo or recoil: a fabric that absorbs sound; a bumper that absorbs impact.
6. To take over (a cost or costs).
7. To endure; accommodate: couldn't absorb the additional hardships. [Middle English, to swallow up, from Old French absorber, from Latin absorbre
Absorption n.
1. The act or process of absorbing or the condition of being absorbed.
2. A state of mental concentration.
Bliss n.
1. Extreme happiness; ecstasy.
2. The ecstasy of salvation; spiritual joy.
Charism n. Theology.
Charisma n., pl. charisma.
2. Theology. An extraordinary power, such as the ability to perform miracles, granted to a contemplative by the sacred. [Greek kharisma, divine favor, from kharizesthai, to favor, from kharis, favor. from Greek khairein, to rejoice, delight in. [Pokorny 1. [her- 440.]
Charismatic adj.
2. Theology. Of, relating to, or being a type of religion that emphasizes personal religious experience and divinely inspired powers, as of healing, prophecy, and the gift of tongues.
—charismatic n.
 Theology. A member of a charismatic religious group or movement.
cognition  n.
1. The mental process or faculty of knowing, including aspects such as awareness, perception, reasoning, and judgment.
2. That which comes to be known, as through perception, reasoning, or intuition; knowledge. [Middle English cognicioun, from Latin cognitia, cognitian-, from cognitus, past participle of cognoscere, to learn : co-, intensive pref.; see CO- + gnoscere, to know—cognitional adj.
concentration n.
1.a. The act or process of concentrating, especially the fixing of close, undivided attention. b. The condition of being concentrated.
2. Something that has been concentrated.
3. Chemistry. The amount of a specified substance in a unit amount of another substance.
chorea n.
Any of various disorders of the nervous system marked by uncontrollable and irregular muscle movements, especially of the arms, legs, and face. [New Latin chorea (Sancti Viti), (St. Vitus') dance, from Latin chorTa, from Greek khoreia, choral dance, from khoros. See CHORUS.]
Ecstasy  n., pl. ecstasies.
1. Intense joy or delight.
2. A state of emotion so intense that one is carried beyond rational thought and self-control.
3. The trance, frenzy, or rapture associated with mystic or prophetic exaltation. [Middle English extasie, from Old French, from Late Latin extasis
effusive  adj.
1. Unrestrained or excessive in emotional expression; gushy: an effusive manner.
2. Profuse; overflowing: effusive praise.
Eudemonism n.
A system of ethics that evaluates actions in terms of their capacity to produce happiness. — eudemonist n. — eudemonistic or eudemonistical adj. — Eudemony
eudemon also eudaemon n.
A good or benevolent spirit.
euphoria  n.
A feeling of great happiness or well-being. [New Latin, from Greek, from euphoros, healthy : eu-, eu- + pherein, to bear; see bher-1 below.]
exhilaration  n.
1. The act of exalting or the condition of being exalted.
2. A state or feeling of intense, often excessive exhilaration or wellbeing. See Synonyms at ecstasy.
3. A flight of larks. See Synonyms at flock1.
exuberant adj.
1. Full of unrestrained enthusiasm or joy.
2. Lavish; extravagant.
3. Extreme in degree, size, or extent.
4. Growing, producing, or produced abundantly; plentiful:
Note: because exhilaration exuberant have the quality of effusiveness, then I relegate them to the first jhana, which seems to be typified by a youthful and gushy kind of joy.
gnosis n.
The direct experience of the sacred, intuitive apprehension of spiritual truths, an esoteric form of knowledge sought by the Gnostics. [Greek gnosis, knowledge, from gignoskein, to know.
Rapture  n.
1. The state of being transported by a lofty emotion; ecstasy.
2. Often raptures. An expression of ecstatic feeling. See Synonyms at ecstasy.
3. The transporting of a person from one place to another, especially to heaven.
Note: Because 'rapture' has the quality of being transported then I take this to be the Contemplative Christian term for an out-of-body experience.  And, since the out-of-body experience typically leaves the subject in a cataleptic trance, then I am going to associate it with the supramundane absorption states
Saint Vitus' dance also Saint Vitus's dance n.
 See  Sydenham's chorea. [After Saint Vitus, third-century A.D. Christian martyr.]
Sydenham's chorea n.
A nervous disorder occurring chiefly in childhood or during pregnancy, closely associated with rheumatic fever, and characterized by rapid, jerky, involuntary movements of the body. Also called Saint Vitus' dance. [After Thomas Sydenham (1624-1689), English physician.]
Note: since Saint Vitus' dance was used as a term to describe a neurological disorder that was characterized by rapid, jerky, involuntary movements of the body, then we can assume Saint Vitus may have had kriyas.
trance (trans) n.
1. A hypnotic, cataleptic, or ecstatic state.
2. Detachment from one's physical surroundings, as in contemplation or daydreaming.
3. A semiconscious state, as between sleeping and waking; a daze.

Note: because the word 'trance' has the quality of "Detachment from one's physical surroundings in a cataleptic-like state, then I believe we should use this term for the nonmaterial absorption states (arupa jhanas).


The dictionary quotes are based upon definitions found in the American Heritage Dictionary, electronic addition.

Bahuvedaniya Sutta (MN 59) a translation from the Pali by Bhikkhus Nanamoli and Bodhi, Wisdom Publications, Boston, 1995

Pasadika Sutta (DN 29) "The Delightful Discourse"

a translation from the Pali by Maurice Walshe, Wisdom Publications, Boston 1987, 1995

Anapanasati Sutta (MN 118) "Awareness of In-&-Out Breathing"

Maha-satipatthana Sutta (DN 22)

From the Digha Nikaya Glossary

jhanas - Absorptions, DN 42, 1.3.21f., n.79, n.50, n.57, n.76f., 2.75ff., 4.33, n.168, 9.10ff., 16.6.8f., 17.2.3, n.583, n.611, 26.28, 29.24, 33.3.3(6), n.1118, n.1127, n.1143

a translation from the Pali by Maurice Walshe, Wisdom Publications, Boston 1987, 1995

May you become enlightened in this very lifetime,

Jhanananda (Jeffrey S. Brooks):

the Great Western Vehicle

This article updated (03-02-05) 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]