Points of Controversy

18.6. Of the Transition from One jhāna to Another

Controverted Point: That we pass from one jhāna to another immediately.

Theravādin: Does this imply that one can pass over from First to Third, from Second to Fourth jhāna? You deny setting an arbitrary limit… .

Or take only a passing over from First jhāna attainment to that of Second—which you affirm to be possible—you are implying that the mental process—adverting, reflecting, co-ordinating, attending, willing, wishing, aiming—called up for First jhāna is the same as that required for Second jhāna. But you dissent. Do you mean that no preliminary mental process of adverting, etc., is required for Second jhāna? On the contrary, you agree that Second jhāna arises after a certain mental process—adverting, etc. Therefore one does not pass over directly from First jhāna to the next.

Again, take the objects and characteristics of First jhāna. The First Stage, you admit, may come to pass while one is considering the harmfulness of sense-desires; moreover, it is accompanied by application and sustentation of thought. But neither that object nor these characteristics, you must admit, belong to the Second Stage. Yet your proposition really commits you to asserting identity between First and Second jhāna.

The same argument applies to transition from Second to Third jhāna.

Again, take the specific objects and characteristics of the Second Stage: the Second Stage, you admit, may come to pass while one is considering the harmfulness of application and sustentation of thought; moreover, it is accompanied by zest. But neither that object nor these characteristics, you must admit, belong to the Third Stage. Yet your proposition really commits you to an assertion of identity between Second and Third Thana.

The same argument applies to transition from Third to Fourth jhāna.

Again, take the specific objects and characteristics of the Third Stage: the Third Stage, you admit, may come to pass while one is considering the harmfulness of zest; moreover, it is accompanied by happiness. But neither that object nor these characteristics, you must admit, belong to the Fourth Stage. Yet your proposition really commits you to an assertion of identity between Third and Fourth jhāna.

Mahīsāsakas and Andhakas: But was it not said by the Exalted One:

“Here, bhikkhus, when a bhikkhu, aloof from sense-desires, etc. attains to and abides in First… Fourth jhāna.”

According to that formula one does pass over immediately from jhāna to jhāna.