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46. Majjh. 53, Samyutt., 35.120.
47. Majjh.. 77.


stand them on a more relative plane, as a kind of transfiguration and liberation of faculties that are already pervaded by the element of bodhi, whence the expression bojjhanga. It must be realized that we are not dealing with a simple schematic enu­meration, but rather with a series in which the meditation whereby they are appre­hended should pursue an intimate causal linking of the single terms so that we are naturally led on from one to the next, and so that in the one we see the integration and resolution of its predecessors. Thus, we must first achieve nondistracted medita­tion: then we must awaken the state of "mindfulness," fix it in the mind, develop it, master it, and see how this state leads to the second awakening and passes into "investigation," which may find support in some element of the doctrine; this inves­tigation, when developed, fixed, extended, and mastered must lead on to the awak­ening of "inflexible energy," whose perfect conquest should herald a state of spe­cial, purified "enthusiasm," of purified joy. By further developing the meditation, we should realize that this enthusiasm, this joy, awakened and perfectly developed in a body that is becoming calm, in a mind that is becoming calm, will become resolved and liberated in the next awakening, which is that of "calm." When calm has been developed, extended, fixed, and mastered, "concentration" awakens; this, in its turn, when completely developed, becomes established and shines forth in the "equanim­ity" that is the seventh awakening.48 These form a series of landmarks in meditation that is concerned with realization and they are connected by an inherent continuity. Through these, one is led in another way to the confirmation of what was already becoming established in the satipatthāna, the fourfold contemplation of detachment, that is to say, one is led to that impassibility that is qualified as "pure, clear, ductile, flexible, resplendent," but which has nothing to do-it should be noted-with the indifference of a blunt mind, with the indifference "of a fool, of an ignorant man, of an inexpert common man."49 For our part, we think it opportune to add that the state in question must on no account be confused with apathy or atony, and that it develops together with a feeling of purified intellectualized and heroic joy, although this may at first seem difficult to understand. The Bhagavadgītā says: "When the mind, lamed by ascesis, becomes quiet; when [the ascetic], seeing the self in the self, rejoices in himself, knows that boundless joy which, transcending the senses, can only be ap­prehended by the intellect and, when fixed in it, does not stir from the truth ... he knows that this detachment from union with pain is called yoga."50 At the same time, Buddhism speaks of a pleasure that is "like dung" when compared to that based on detachment, calm, and illumination.51 Furthermore, such sequences as these are

4S. Ibid., 118. 49. Ibid.. 137.

50. Bhagavadgīta, 6.20-23.


frequent: "In the ascetic joy arises; this joy makes him blissful; being blissful, his body becomes calm: with the body calmed, serenity arises; in this serenity the mind comes to rest, becomes concentrated"; this is a preparation for the four jhāna.52 This is another sequence that has the character of a connected series, developing in an upward sense, not unlike that which, through the twelve nidana, led us downward to samsāric existence (cf. p. 57). The point of departure of this new series is, in fact, the state of suffering, of agitation, of contingency, which corresponds to the last nidāna of the descending path. Beyond it, there is the state of confidence; this leads to puri­fied joy pāmujja; then follows serenity, which gives place to bliss, passing on to equanimity-the term used here literally means also to vanish, to cease being in a place: it is a question of detached equilibrium, and for this reason pāmujja also some-times figures as the antecedent of extinction." In this text the supreme realization has behind it a linked series in which special states of liberated joy play a particular part: a kind of joy that Plato contrasted with all 'nixed and conditioned forms of joy or of pleasure. Let us quote another text that represents the state at which we may reckon to have arrived at this point of our exposition: "Concentration which knows neither increase nor decrease, which is not based on wearisome subjugation, which, because of its detached nature is constant, because of its constancy is full of bliss, because of its bliss cannot be destroyed-such concentration has supreme wisdom as its result."54

This should destroy the idea that the path of awakening is arid and desolate, that it kills all joy, that it offers only renunciation and destruction. That everyone whose furthest horizon is still within the effective, samsarically conditioned world should have this idea is quite natural but is of very little account. A text reminds us that only an Awakened One can comprehend the Awakened One. An expressive simile dem­onstrates this: two companions leave a city together and reach a rock that one of them climbs. He says to the other: "I see from up here a wonderful view of gardens, woods, fields, and lakes," but the other retorts: "It is impossible, it is inadmissible, friend, that from up there you can see all that." Then the companion standing on the

  1. Angutt., 8.86; cf. 2.7.1-5, where two kinds of joy are considered and contrasted. the one bound to life in the world, to mania, to enjoyment, the other to ascesis or to ultramundane states of detachment and of freedom from mania; and it is said that the second is the higher joy. "Extinction-it is sad (Majjh., 75)-is the greatest joy." With reference to the state of the first jhana (cf. p. 148-49). it is said that. were the idea of lust to arise in the ascetic, he would feel it "as sickness (abadha), as suffering like pain which torments a healthy man" (Angutt., 4.114). It is in order to possess a higher joy that those who find pleasure in the burning of desire are not envied (Majjh.. 75); it is through finding that a joy beyond theirs-"heroic joy"-is better, that craving and aversion are abandoned (Majjh., 14). Joy. in many Buddhist sequences. comes, in fact, after "energy."

  2. Digha, 2.75.

  3. Samyutt., 12.23.

  4. Angutt., 9.37.


rock conies down, takes the other by the arm, makes him climb up on the rock and. after he has recovered his breath, asks him: "What do you then see, friend, standing on the rock?" The other replies: "I see a wonderful view of gardens, woods, fields, and lakes." "And your previous opinion?" "While I was obstructed by this great rock, I could not see what is now visible." It concludes: it is impossible that what is know-able, discernible, capable of achievement, capable of realization through detach­ment. can be known, discerned, achieved, realized by one who lives among desires and who is consumed by desires." Quite apart from the higher "sidereal" principle. the Buddhist also knows the kind of joy that is contentedness, rejoicing, jubilation, enthusiasm, exultation, transport of the spirit and that, among others, is considered as "a factor of the great awakening"---pīti-sambojjhango.56

55. Majjh., 125.

56. Dhamrna-sangani, 285. Countering those who believe that the Buddhist road is one of desolation and aridity. L. de la Vallee-Poussin (Nrrvāna [Paris, 19251. p. 62i most opportunely writes: "We must, rather, recognise that India is difficult when it conies to being and bliss; that as she puts being beyond existence. so she puts bliss beyond sensation."



The Four Jhāna:

The "Irradiant Contemplations"

We have so far dealt with the two sections of the whole system of disciplines called sila and samadhi. This last term has, in original Buddhism, a different meaning from that which it has in the general Indo-Aryan tradition, where it usually designates actual states of enlightening contemplation; in Buddhism samdhi refers, instead, to the cultivation of consolidation, catharsis, and preliminary liberation, all of which are integrated by the results of "right conduct." of sila. There are, however, some texts in which the four jhāna, the contemplations of which we are about to speak, are included in the "samādhi" section.' The fact is that these contemplations can he apprehended and performed with varying intensity and in a varying spirit. On a lower level they continue the action of purification. When they are carried out with greater vehemence they lead to supersensible states, to the limit of individual conscious­ness, since they are equivalent in their results to the four "it-radiant contemplations" that determine the possibility of a state of union with the theistic god.

In any case, by passing into the realm of the jhāna, as we shall now do, we find that ascetic realization removes those horizons that limit the Stoical doctrines as well as all "superman" theories. Let us briefly discuss this point. The limit of Stoical ascesis is apatheia, the destruction of any possibility of disturbance of the spirit through passions or outside contingencies. A well-known symbol is the rock that remains firm and still while stormy waves break against it.2 To this is added tranquility of mind based on consciousness of one's own rectitude and a certain amor fati, that is to say, a confidence in cosmic order. From this standpoint, the irrelevancy of all that is

1. Cf, e.g., Digha, 10.2.1-20.

2. This simile is found in Marcus Aurelius. 4.49, and it is entirely similar to that of .Angutt.. 6.6.55 (Dharmmapada. 81), which speaks of a mountain rock, uncracked. all of one piece, which does not shake nor tremble nor move as a result of the storms and tempests that strike it from all directions.


purely individual and terrestrial is considered and experienced. As for the doctrines of the "superman," they are based on the reinforcement of the vital energies and of the "I" such as will produce invincibility and superiority to all tragedy, to all misfor­tune, to all human weakness, a pure force that, though it may be bent, cannot he broken, a will to power that defies men and gods.

In the sphere of the Buddhist jhāna, both of these forms of ascesis are surpassed since the human condition in general tends to disappear. Only if the discipline of the Ariya were to stop at .sīla and samadhi could its achievements he likened to that of the most enlightened Stoicism. But Buddhism-like all initiations-has higher and freer realizations, and so, instead of the rock against which stormy waves uselessly break, the simile of air that one may try in vain to capture in a net or cut with a sword is far more appropriate. Imperturbability and calm fixedness (samatha) equivalent to the Stoical apatheia, along the path of awakening is, in fact, considered at a cer­tain point as a bond from which one frees oneself in order to approach the domain of "nonexistence.' At the same time, the "sidereal" element here encourages such detachment as will induce Olympian quality in all higher states of consciousness and destroys in that detachment any residue of hybris, of pride or of will for power at­tached to the "person." To "life"-even at its summits-Buddhism opposes that which is "more than life." The term superman uttamapurisa---also figures in Buddhism as an epithet of the Ariya ascetics. But this ideal is here transfigured, it is carried effectively onto a supersensible plane in which the dark tragedy that is always hid-den in the "titan" and the "superman" is completely resolved. We shall sec almost at once that in order to achieve such an ideal a special enlightened use of sentiments such as love and compassion is even employed: a technique that carries us far be­yond the plane of the contradictions against which fought without hope, for example, the soul of Nietzsche and Dostoyevsky. We mentioned this in dealing with the two ways of overcoming fear (cf. p. 116).

The term jhāna is translated by some as "deepening self-examination" (Selbstvertiefung), a rendering that should be remembered: indeed, in the disciplines of which we shall speak, we shall be dealing with a descent through successive purifications and simplifications into the deeper layers of one's own being, where, in the common man, we find the kingdom of the subconscious. We then tread the very same path that is marked by the hermetic and alchemic maxim: Visita interiora terrae, rectificando invienies occultum lapidem, veram medicinam.5 Less happy,

  1. Majjh.. 105. Cf. Malik, 106, where it is said that by loving and esteeming indifference, by letting consciousness rest there and become attached to it, the supreme aim of the ascesis is not achieved

  2. Cf, e.g., Samyutt., 22.57; Dhammapada, 97.

5, Cf. our work, The Hermetic Tradition.


however, is the translation of jhāna as Versenkungen ("sinking below") and still worse as "trances" or "raptures" since the normal meaning of these terms is just the opposite of what we are dealing with here. The term, "trance," makes us think at once of the state of a "medium,"6 a passive state of subconsciousness, of subpersonality and of obsession, whereas the Aryan ascesis is hallmarked by superconsciousness, by full activity and self-awareness. Equally, the term "rapture" implies an idea of ecstatic passivity and has a mystico-religious flavor, neither of which has much to do with the states in question. It is, therefore, preferable to retain the Pali term jhāna (Skt.: dhyāna) after we have become quite certain of its connotations. States of "trance," of confused thinking or of "possession" can only occur in one who has been unable to resist the challenge offered by such experiences.

It happens that in the texts the jhāna are given immediately after the four con­templations which are designed to create self-awareness and the girdle of isolation from internal and external experience.' This being so, their meaning can be ex­plained as follows. With the disciplines we have already discussed, contained in the samādhi section, one isolates oneself, one cuts oneself off, one detaches oneself. Even the "seven awakenings" refer to the appearance, after this, of a positive force from within, which is related to the states achieved in the jhāna. These states radiate from the now isolated center and proceed to reoccupy, in a manner of speaking, the abandoned zones, so that contingent elements are there reduced and these areas are reclaimed from the dominion of samsāra. It is, in fact, prescribed that these states, after they have been perfectly achieved by the mind, should be transmitted to the whole of one's being, even to the bodily structure itself. For this reason, it is said that "death" finds access to one who does not practice the jhāna and penetrates him as a heavy stone ball thrown on a mass of moist clay; "death" finds the way barred, on the other hand, by one who has achieved the jhāna, and his attempts are likened to a light clew of thread hurled at a planed block of hard wood.'

The first jhāna is defined by this fixed formula: "The ascetic, far from desires, far from any disturbing state of mind, maintaining feeling and thought, in a state of serenity born of detachment and pervaded with fervor and bliss, reaches the first contemplation (jhāna)." This has the same significance as: "to dwell in the body watching the body, without thinking any thought connected with the body; to dwell in the feelings watching the feelings, without thinking any thought connected with the feelings; to dwell in the mind watching the mind, without thinking any thought con­nected with the mind; to dwell in the mental states (dhamma) watching the mental

6. [These terms in English in the original.-Trans.]

7. Majjh., 119.

8. Ibid.


states, without thinking any thought connected with the mental states."9 This, in a manner of speaking, is a summary of all that has been achieved in the preceding phases. All the waves are calmed. Serenity pervades the entire being and unifies it, while there is clarity, detachment, and silence in every sensation that may arise or image that may present itself. In the first jhāna consciousness is still resting on feel­ing and thinking, on perception and representation-vita and vicāra.

These two elements have to disappear in the next jhana, either in a single simpli­fication process or else in two phases: in the second case sensory impressions are first silenced and then representations or mental images. (Under these circumstances, there are sometimes considered to be five rather than four jhāna, with the one we are now discussing counted as two.) The fixed canonical formula is: "After having achieved feeling and thinking, the ascetic attains serene inward calm, intellectual simplicity arises which is free from perceptions and images, born of concentration, pervaded with fervour and bliss, he reaches the second contemplation." By "having achieved feeling and thinking," we must understand a state of perfect equilibrium of these faculties so that they can, in a manner of speaking, be left to themselves and can eventually be overcome and abandoned. The term we have given as "intellectual simplicity" is ekodibhāva. Some have translated it by: "the mind emerges alone and simple," others "the mind grows calm and sure, dwelling on high," whose corresponding state is said to be "self-evolved": yet others use the expression "single-mindedness" or "one-pointedness";10' finally, some authorities speak of spiritual unity-Einheit des Geistes. It seems to us that our expression "intellectual simplicity" is nearest to the sense of the state in question; at the same time, it recalls equivalent terms figuring in ancient West-ern asceticism, particularly in Plotinus, Iamblichus. Proclus, and in the hermetic texts. It is a manifestation of the mind as a unique and simple essence no longer dependent upon psychical functions, sensations, or formed images and thoughts. This achieve­ment results from the power and intensity of self-concentration that has been devel­oped to a point where, as in the episode referred to by a text, not even the noise pro­duced by a large number of wagons is in any way noticed." It is, in fact, much more a kind of "growing" of awakening than any form of direct "emptying" action that in many cases, to use two similes of Zen Buddhism, is like trying to drown an echo by raising the voice or trying to chase away one's shadow by running after it: we can thus see the error of certain modem theosophical trends with their ideas of "making a vacuum" in a purely mental sense. Furthermore, we must emphasize that to be able to dismiss the

  1. Ibid., 125.

  2. The second, fourth. and fifth phrases are in English in the original.-Trans.]

  3. According to Buddhaghosa's commentary, the concentration of the second, jhāna is identical with that citt' ekaggatā, which produces the arrest of the mental flux and with the collection of the mind in a single point, which is dealt with in yoga (quoted by T. W. Rhys Davids. The Yogavacara's Manual. p. xxvii).


supports of consciousness, namely, sensations and representations (vitakka and vicāra), without passing into the subconscious or into sleep, and by participating, instead, in the miracle of the separation and manifestation of the pure intellectual substance, comes only as the result of a very special inward strength. Unity of the mind-unity that is almost organically felt-is necessary, as well as effort nourished by sīla, by "right con-duet." Therefore, it is said that, just as it is not possible to gain mastery over the sphere of transcendental knowledge (pannā) without having first mastered the sphere of con­centration, so it is not possible to master the sphere of concentration without having first gained mastery over the sphere of right life (sila), without which right concentra­tion has no foundation.12 One must possess power-simply a "mental" power-of self-mastery and of cairn practiced in detachment, confirmed by inward simplification and consolidated by the disidentifying contemplations, in order to furnish within oneself a support for consciousness and self-awareness when the "silence" is absolute and sen­sations or images no longer present themselves. Thus the term ekodibhāva has not unjustly been compared with "simplicity of the will without thoughts." The "intellec­tual simplicity" that is the center of the second jhāna is not a simple mental state, but rather the point in which a pure will power concentrates and frees itself, an inwardly directed willpower having itself both as its object and as its base.

In the third jhāna: "The ascetic, dwelling even-minded, clearly conscious, con-trolled, having eliminated fervor and bliss, feels arising in his body the felicity of which the Ariya say: 'The even-minded wise one lives in felicity.' Thus he reaches the third contemplation." As in the second jhāna feeling and thought having been brought to a state of perfect transparency and equilibrium by the first jhāna, were left behind, so here we leave behind the element of "fervor and bliss," which in the second jhāna comes to be felt as an impurity, as a disturbance, as something "com­pounded" and conditioned. It is not a contradiction that as a result of this further simplification there yet arises something that might almost seem to be a feeling. We can take it that there occurs in the third jhāna the removal of the general bodily sensation and its substitution by the "intellectual felicity" of which we have spoken. This appears to be the transformation that takes place when the pure intellectual consciousness, aroused in the second jhāna and now still further purified, comes into contact, almost as a "reagent," with "coenesthesia," or the general sensitivity of the body. We can connect this state-at least in some measure-with the "perfect se­renity which, when it ascends from this body and arrives at the supreme light, ap­pears in its true aspect," with that light that exists within the body, a glimpse of which may he known to have been gained when, upon making contact with the body heat is

  1. Angutt.. 5.22, 24.

  2. Chandogya Upanisad, 8.3.4; 3.13.7-8.


felt in it-a state referred to by the Upanisads.13 Special strength is required for this realization too; in order to prevent what is to be absorbed and transfigured from itself absorbing and submerging the sidereal element, in which case the experience would resolve itself in organic sensations, and one would fall into a state of trance or sleep. 11 should, in fact, he maintained that the first three jhāna are developed in an internal zone that, in the life of an ordinary man, would correspond to periods of fantasy, reverie, or sleep. This is shown by the fact that in the following phase, the fourth jhāna, there may occur, according to the texts, the suspension not only of discursive thought (of "words"), feelings, images, and emotive states themselves, however pu­rified they may be, but also of the rhythm of the vital force, that is to say, of the breath, whose movement is now become an impurity and a disturbance:" this is a state that outwardly resembles death. We shall have more to say on this subject since this and similar phenomena really appear on the scene in the later phase of the contemplations that are without form, and they only occur in the jhāna when these are realized and experienced with special intensity.

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