Points of Controversy

18.8. On Hearing Sound in Jhāna

Controverted Point: That one who has attained jhāna hears sound.

Theravādin: If so, it must be equally allowed that he can also see, smell, taste and touch objects. This you deny… You must also allow that he enters .Jhana enjoying auditory consciousness. You deny, for you agree that samādhi arises in one who is enjoying mental objects as such? But if you admit that anyone who is actually enjoying sounds hears sounds, and that samādhi is the property of one who is actually enjoying mental objects as such, you should not affirm that one in the samādhi of jhāna hears sounds. If you insist that he does, you have here two parallel mental procedures going on at the same time… .

Pubbaseliyans: But was it not said by the Exalted One that sound is a thorn for First jhāna? Hence one in jhāna can surely hear sound.

Theravādin: You say that one in jhāna can hear sound, and quote the Word as to it being for First jhāna a “thorn.” Now it was further said that thought applied and sustained is a thorn for Second jhāna—does one in Second jhāna have applied and sustained thought?… Again, it was further said that the mental factor last eliminated is a thorn for the stage newly attained—zest for Third, respiration for Fourth jhāna, perception of visible objects for consciousness of space-infinity, this perception for that of consciousness as infinite, this perception for that of nothingness, perception and feeling for cessation of these in trance. Now is “the thorn “actually present on the winning of the stage whence it is pronounced to be a thorn? If not, then how can you say that the “thorn “of hearing sound is present to one in First jhāna?