Jhanacittas - Different stages of rupa-jhana

As we have seen in the preceding chapter, the person who wants to cultivate samatha so as to be able to attain jhāna, has to develop the five jhāna- factors, which can inhibit the hindrances, namely: applied thinking (vitakka), sustained thinking (vicāra), rapture (pīti), happy feeling (sukha), concentration (samādhi).


Jhāna is developed in stages, with each succeeding stage being more refined

than the preceding one. There are five stages of rūpa-jhāna in all. For the

first stage of rūpa-jhāna it is still necessary that all five jhāna-factors arise

with the jhānacitta, but at each higher stage, when one has become more

advanced, jhāna-factors are successively abandoned. When one attains to the

rūpa-jhāna of the second stage, one does not need the jhāna-factor which is

'applied thinking' (vitakka). At this point the jhānacitta can experience the

meditation subject without vitakka (which has the characteristic of directing

the mind unto an object and the function of 'touching' the object). The other

jhāna-factors still arise with the jhānacitta of the second stage.


At the third stage of jhāna 'sustained thinking' (vicāra) is abandoned. At this

stage one does not need vitakka or vicāra any longer in order to become

absorbed in the meditation subject. Now there are three factors remaining:

rapture (pīti), happy feeling (sukha) and concentration (samādhi). At the

fourth stage rapture (pīti) is abandoned. There is still happy feeling

accompanying the jhāna-citta, but piti does not arise. Without pīti, the

jhānacitta is more quiet, more refined. At the fifth stage happy feeling

(sukha) too is abandoned and there is neutral feeling (upekkhā vedanā)

accompanying the jhānacitta instead of happy feeling. At this stage one is no

longer attached to happy feeling. The jhāna-factor which is concentration

(samādhi) remains.


Some people can, at the second stage of jhāna, abandon both 'applied

thinking' and 'sustained thinking' (vitakka and vicāra). Consequently, they

can, in the third stage, abandon rapture (pīti) and in the fourth stage happy

feeling (sukha). Thus for them there are only four stages of jhāna instead

of five. That is the reason why rūpa-jhānas can be counted as four stages or

as five stages (the fourfold system or the fivefold system). When we

read in the suttas about four stages of jhāna, the fourfold system is referred



Topic 195