Mr. Surahman (S.Ag), Assistant Principal & Lecturer in Abhidhamma, Smaratungga Buddhist College, Central Java, Indonesia

Reasons for Choosing This Title

Jhâna is a technical term in Buddhism which refers to a strong absorption (appanâ samâdhi) on one of the objects (kamaííhâna). The chosen kamaííhâna has a distinguished characteristic and is in accordance with the temperament of the meditator (caritta). The absorption will yield a state which is established very far from sensuous desires. (M.i.36-38) The Vibhaṇga describes Jhāna as a state that is apart from sensuous desire which is not useful for the attainment of deep concentration (Vbh.245) .

Rûpa Jhâna is a specific part of Jhâna as delicate material concentration (rûpa acaro samâdhi) or a deep meditation experience in absorbing rûpa kamaííhâna deeply. The absorption of the material element (rûpa) is backed by one-pointedness (cittass'ekaggata) as the harmony of consciousness (viññâúa) and the state that arises along with it (cetasika) toward the single object (A.i.70; Vism.85).

Analyzing Rûpa jhâna can be done from various points of view. Rûpa Jhâna in the Sutta and in the Abhidhamma that is analyzed at different levels can confuse the understanding at the academic level. The Sutta uses a lot of conventional languages (vohâra sacca), but the Abhidhamma uses the language of the highest reality analysis (paramattha sacca) to analyze Jhâna at its smallest basic elements, with the analytical, systematic, detailed and thorough methods.

The difference between Rûpa Jhâna concepts in the Sutta and the Abhidhamma if not properly and critically understood at a point will give rise to controversy in the understanding of the truth of the Buddha's teachings. Buddhist scholars who do not understand the reason for the differences between the concepts will see the Tipiíaka as a teaching that is illogical and not valid because there is controversy between its books. At this level the authenticity of the Tipiíaka can be questioned. Critical challenges coming from the Buddhist society towards the texts of the Teaching will result in the fading away of the values of the understanding of the religion, and the Dhamma will be even more easily forgotten.

The researcher is interested to examine Rûpa Jhâna in the light of methodological thinking.

Research Method

The research method used by the writer in the examination is library research. Library research is a chain of activities that deals with the method of collection of library data, reading, and noting as well as processing the research material (Zed, 2004:3); the activity of understanding, identifying the existing knowledge to find out what has been there and what is not there yet (Arikunto, 2000:75); and emphasizing the scientific analysis of hypothesis with the data (Azwar, 2001:5).

The Steps of Research

The researcher chooses the four steps of research as mentioned by Zed (2004:17), that is, preparing the necessary tools, preparing the working bibliography, organizing time as well as reading, and noting down the research material.

Data analysis technique

Data analysis is a process of organizing and putting data in order in a pattern and category so that a theme can be found and working hypothesis formulized as suggested by the data (Moleong, 2004:280). Upon the collection of the data the writer identifies and organizes the collected data, synthesizing among one statement and the others and the result is presented in the form of pattern, theme and description. (Sholeh, 1993:68-69).

The Difference of Rûpa Jhâna in Sutta and Abhidhamma

Character Difference Analytical System

Sutta is defined as a noun with the meaning of narrating or narration (Davids and Stade, 1992:718). Based on the analytical system Sutta uses a contextual style the form of a series of narration. Rûpa Jhâna in the Sutta Piíaka is generally analyzed in the language style with usage method (sappariyâya desanâ) as a conventional language (vohâra sacca). The usage of language style is influenced by various historic contextual conditions of the appearance of the Sutta (Ñâúamoli and Bodhi, 2004:39).

The analytical method of the Sutta shapes Rûpa Jhâna in four groups of different levels (D.i.76;D.iii.210;S.iv.301) based on the Jhânaàga. This division refers to the analysis of vitakka and vicâra that can be overcome at the same time at the second Jhâna (Vism.156). Preceded by vitakka absorbs strongly (appento) situation in connection with the object. Therefore vitakka as the first Jhânaàga is described as absorption absorbs (appanâ vyapana) (M.iii.73), Jhânaàga is then continued up to the attainment of the first to the fourth level of Jhâna (D.iii.219).

The thinking method of the Sutta refers to the stories of the Buddha and his disciples with certain backgrounds that influence the pattern of the content of the Jhâna description. The example of the influence of backgrounds towards the content of the teaching is proven in the Buddha's dialogue with Ambatha who is educated in Veda philosophy has made the composition of Rûpa Jhâna description is filled with the sophisticated idioms (D.i.76).

The analytical method of Rûpa Jhâna in the Sutta points a lot to practice paradigm in the form of the collection of Buddha's proposal to realize. Direct practice to exercise with practical instructions has made Rûpa Jhâna as a goal material not a mere philosophy. The proven example of how the Buddha emphasized the prioritized realization can be found in the explanation of the detailed comparison between the benefit of having Rûpa Jhâna with the loss or not having it which leads to the development of five mental hindrances nivâraúa (M.i.275-276; S.v.305)

Abhidhamma is the third part of the Tipiíaka in which citta, cetasika, rûpa, and nibbâna are analyzed philosophically. The main character in the Abhidhamma system is analyzing the various fundamentals of dhamma including Rûpa Jhâna through grouping, detailed description, in order along with its descriptive table (Nyanaponika, 1976:11). Rûpa Jhâna analysis approach is done scientifically without metaphysic and mythology (Nyanaponika, 1976:12)

The analytical method of Rûpa Jhâna in the Abhidhamma is different from the the Sutta system because it is more direct and denotative without any reference to the historical background of the teaching. The emphasis is based on the philosophy criticality without the use of conventional language (vohâra) regarding work concept referring to "person", "a person" who realized Rûpa Jhâna.

The Dhammasaàgaúî contains Jhâna factors as the research object (Jhânaàga) (Dhs.7-11) which are explained systematically in detail. The analysis of Jhâna factors not preceded by the explanation about individuals who has attained it but directly to the deep explanation is one of the examples of the Abhidhamma system.

Based on the Abhidhamma composition, the four levels of Rûpa Jhâna in the Sutta is analyzed in detail through the division of the fourth and the fifth stages of the gradually ascending Jhâna (Vbh.257).

The analysis of the four levels to the five levels uses the gradual division between vitakka and vicâra (Dhs.167-175; Vbh.267). The second Jhâna in the Sutta Piíaka eliminates vitakka and vicâra at the same time while the Abhidhamma analysis merely leaves vicâra as Jhâna factor.

The Dhammasaàgaúî aííhakathâ has two considerations regarding the difference of analysis. The first is that the Abhidhamma refers to the explanation of puggalajjhasaya which divides beings into those that are spiritually intelligent and spiritually less intelligent. This first reason is backed by the historical reality of the Abhidhamma teaching held for the first time in the deva realm for various deities, some had the mental capacity to see vitakka in the rough form while vicâra, pîti, sukha, and ekaggata are seen as delicate (Dhs.A.223). The second way of thinking refers to desanâvilâsa which has the goal of perfection and effectiveness of the Buddha's lecture with the Buddha as the world teacher who has the skillfulness in knowledge of a teacher, who has a high level of ability in teaching, is able to analyze the teaching, adding as well as improving the teaching system as the factors appear so that they choose the right method. The learning process which is done based on the adjustment toward the mental capacity of the audience results in different thesis of one theme (Dhs.A.224).

The difference in the process, analysis, levels and scopes of Rûpa Jhâna attainment.

The Sutta analytical method regarding the four levels of Rûpa Jhâna refers to the overcoming of vitakka and vicâra that can be done at the same time at the second Jhâna (D.i.76; D.iii.210; S.iv.301; Vism.156). The four levels of Rûpa Jhâna begin with leaving pañca nîvaraúa, attains and dwells at the first Jhâna which is followed by vitakka, vicâra, pîti, sukha which arise from tranquility (viveka) (M.i.179-183).

Another example can be found in Sâriputta Thera's experience overcoming nîvaraúa and developing Jhâna factors (M.i.294-295). Generally, the attainment of the first Jhâna is through the perfection of morality (M.i.181), after placing oneself at quiet and tranquility places to meditate (M.i.174), followed by the mastering of nimitta.

The attainment of the first Jhâna is followed by the elimination of vitakka, vicâra, then entering the second Jhâna by having pîti and sukha surface because of tranquility (viveka) and faith as well as one-pointedness (cetaso ekodibhava). The condition of the attainment of the second Jhâna in the Sutta is influenced by the division of Samâdhi into concentration which is attained along with the attainment of vitakka and vicâra (savitakko savicâro samâdhi) as the first Jhâna, as well as concentration without vitakka or vicâra (avitakko avicâro samâdhi) colours the second, third, and fourth levels (A.iv.301). The development of mental quality is followed by the elimination of pîti, having the mental balance (upekkhâ) along with the full attention (sampajana) and sukha as the condition of the third Jhâna. The third Jhâna can be developed by leaving happiness (sukha) and suffering (dukkha), happy and unhappy thoughts; reaching and dwelling at the fourth Jhâna, unwavering sati and upekkha is formed (M.i.70).

The analysis of the fourth level and the fifth level in the Abhidhamma system uses gradual division between vitakka and vicâra as Jhâna factor (Dhs.167-175; Vbh.267). The first Jhâna in the Sutta and the Abhidhamma refers to similar characteristic as a reference. The Cûlasîhanada Suttanta contains the Buddha's explanation regarding the superiority of the monastic system since it can result in settling negative mental factors, with the development of vitakka, vicâra, pîti and sukha as a result of the tranquility of the first Jhâna (M.i.64-65). The Vibhaàga defines the first Jhâna as having the characteristic of the appearance of vitakka, vicâra, pîti, sukha and ekaggata (Vbh.264-267).

The second Jhâna shows the difference from the Sutta analysis system because the Abhidhamma says this Jhâna factor consists of vicâra, pîti, sukha and ekaggata, the third level overcomes vicâra and vitakka , the fourth level is associated with sukha and ekaggata, the last Jhâna consists of the mental factors upekkhâ and ekaggata (upekkh'ekaggata sahitaù pañcamajjhânakusalacittaù) (Vbh.264-267).

The process of the appearance of Rûpa Jhâna in the Abhidhamma is completely explained in detail regarding its various factors. The realization of the first Jhâna in Dhammasaàgaúî analysis is grouped as a good mental condition (kusala) which points to the strong absorption of the material object (rûpa) (rûpâvacara kusala citta) (Dhs.160). The Vibhanga explains kusala as the result of thought management, the settlement of sensual desires and bad thought (vivicc'eva kamehi, vivicca akusalehi dhammehi) (Vbh.245).

The attainment process of Rûpa Jhâna in the Abhidhamma is influenced by the level of spiritual intelligence (Kaharudin, 2004:65). Individuals with high spiritual intelligence (tikha puggala) attain Jhâna sooner than beings with minimal intelligence (manda puggala).

Beings with minimal intelligence (dull wisdom or manda puggala) have the characteristic of slowness in managing nimitta towards the Jhâna realization. Gradually the thinking process of Jhâna realization can be described in appanâ vîthi diagram AB- BC-BP-MA-PAR-UPA-ANU-GOT-JHA-B. (AB: Atîtabhavaàga or past moment of the life continuum; BC: Bhavaàga Calana or vibration of the continuum; BP: Bhavanga Upaccheda or arrest of the passive stream of consciousness; MA: Manodvâra or the mind door; PAR: Parikamma or preliminary work ; UPA: upacara or access; ANU: Anuloma or conformity; GOT: Gotrabhû or change of lineage; JHA: Jhâna; B: Bhavaàga or life continuum).

When the patibhaga nimitta of kasina appears at the mind door, the life continuum vibrates twice and become arrested (BC-BP). Then the mind door (MA) adverts the consciousness stream towards the patibhaga nimitta, observes and decides the sense of object whether good or bad. Then one of the two mahâkusala citta somanassa sahagatam ñâúa sampayuttam asankhârikaù or somanassa sahagatam ñâúa sampayuttaù sasankhârikaù performs the upacara samâdhi javana function four times in the persons of slow intelligence or manda puggala, under the name of preparation of Jhâna, proximity of Jhâna and adaptation or connection between parikamma and Jhâna; it acts as a bridge harmonizing the lower consciousness with the higher consciousness. Then consciousness cuts the kama-lineage (desire) to form the mahaggata lineage. These four consciousness are known as upacara samâdhi javana.

Immediately after gotrabhû, rûpâvacara first Jhâna citta arises just once as appanâ javana. After the dissolution of the first Jhâna citta, bhavaàga stream flows as usual.

The second rûpâvacara appanâ vîthi arises as above allowing rûpâvacara kusala second Jhâna citta to function as appanâ javana just once. The third rûpâvacara appanâ vîthi also arises as in the first, allowing rûpâvacara kusala third Jhâna citta function as appanâ javana just once. The fourth rûpâvacara appanâ vîthi again arises as in the first, allowing rûpâvacara fourth Jhâna citta to function as appanâ javana just once. The fifth rûpâvacara appanâ vîthi arises as in the first but instead of one of the two somanassa sahagataù ñâúasampayuttaù mahâkusala cittaù, one of the two upekkhasahagataù ñâúasampayuttaù mahâkusala cittaù performs the upacara samâdhi javana function four or three times and rûpâvacara kusala fifth Jhâna citta arises just once to function as appanâ javana. When one enters the meditative absorption, the upacara samâdhi javanas and the Jhâna javana must agree in vedanâ. Since the first four Jhâna are accompanied by sukha (pleasant feeling) they are regarded as somanassa cittas. So, in these cases the upacara Samâdhi javana must be somanassa sahagataù. In the case of the fifth Jhâna it is upekkha sahagataù, so the upacara Samâdhi javanas must be also upekkha sahagatam.

Rûpa Jhâna analysis in the Abhidhamma is also defined by adding description regarding type of thought that causes it. Very good quality consciousness, associated with knowledge and accompanied by joy, is the one that produces Rûpa Jhâna (somanassasahagataù ñâúasampayuttaù mahâkusala cittaù) (Mon, 1992:160).

Intelligent beings' Jhâna attainment process is faster and the only difference lies at the level overcoming the four types of javana citta. Parikkamma level has been overcome by the meditator so that from manodvâra it goes straight to upacara and is followed up to the appearance of the first Jhâna. Gradually the thinking process of Jhâna realization can be described in appana vithi diagram: AB- BC-BP-MA-PAR-UPA-ANU-GOT-JHA-B. (AB: Atîtabhavaàga or past moment of the life continuum; BC: Bhavaàga Calana or vibration of the continuum; BP: Bhavaàga Upaccheda or arrest of the passive stream of consciousness; MA: Manodvâra or the mind door; UPA: upacara or access; ANU: Anuloma or conformity; GOT: Gotrabhû or change of lineage; JHA: Jhâna; B: Bhavaàga or life continuum).

Intelligent beings' attainment of the second, third, fourth and fifth Jhâna is the same as the first level in that it starts from the stream of bhavaàga citta (Mon, 1995:165). The fifth Jhâna as a good mental condition points towards the strong absorption of material object (rûpâvacara kusala citta) (Dhs.175), it has the mental factors upekkha and ekaggata (Vbh.264). The condition can be attained by eliminating sukha and dukkha that disturb the tranquility of mind (Vbh.270-271). The mental factor at the fifth Jhâna has specific values in comparison with the level that preceded it. The elimination of happiness and sorrow (adukkhamasukha) produces the balanced feeling (upekkhavedanâ, majjhattatâ citassa) (Vbh.271). The fifth Jhâna also has a different point from the others in the form of the type of thought that works on the four mental reactions (javana citta) that is parikamma, upacara, anuloma and gotrabhu along with the ceasing of somanassa mahakusala citta activity. The type of mindfulness that surfaced in javana citta as the substitute of somanassa mahâkusala citta is spontaneous thought or prompted accompanied by indifference and associated with knowledge.

List of Abbreviations Used

A. = The Aàguttara Nikâya

D. = The Dîgha Nikâya

Dhs. = The Dhammasaúgaúî

Dhs.A . = The Dhammasangani Aííhakathâ

M. = The Majjhima Nikâya

S. = The Samyutta Nikâya

Vbh. = The Vibhaàga

VbhA. = The Vibhaàga Aííhakathâ

Vism The Visuddhimagga.

[1] Presented at The International Conference of All Theravâda Buddhist Universities held at The International Theravâda Buddhist Missionary University, Yangon, & at Woodlands Hotel, Popa Mountain Resort, Bagan, Myanmar, 9-12th March 2007