Jhana Wars! Pt. 8 The Immaterial Attainments

Here is the complete jhana series on this blog:

The four jhanas are enough meditative umph to gain , it is also possible to take the meditation even deeper into states knows as the immaterial attainments. The jhanas are also knows as the material attainments, and the immaterial attainments are also sometimes called the 8th jhanas. Instead of numbers, in the suttas they are given colorful labels:

  1. The attainment of infinite space.
  2. The attainment of infinite consciousness.
  3. The attainment of nothingness.
  4. The attainment of neither perception nor non-perception.

The four immaterial attainments lie beyond the four jhanas and cannot be experienced until the four jhanas have been experienced. Every source agrees that they are damn hard to explain! Pretty much everything is in the name. Ok, but what does it mean to perceive “neither perception nor non-perception”?

It is possible that the 8th jhana is what the Buddha means by residing in Emptiness. Once when the Buddha was asked what he did when he meditated after his enlightenment, he said that he abided in Emptiness. Of course, the concept of Emptiness (pali sunyata) becomes a very big deal in Mahayana Buddhism. Likewise after his enlightenment, Sariputta told the Buddha that he usually resided in Emptiness when he meditated.

It is possible that the 8th jhana is what the Buddha means by residing in Emptiness. Once when the Buddha was asked what he did when he meditated after his enlightenment, he said that he abided in Emptiness. Of course, the concept of Emptiness (pali sunyata) becomes a very big deal in Mahayana Buddhism. Likewise after his enlightenment, Sariputta told the Buddha that he usually resided in Emptiness when he meditated.

See more on jhana-style meditation here and here.

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