A Survey of Paramattha Dhammas

by Sujin Boriharnwanaket | 129,875 words

A Survey of Paramattha Dhammas is a guide to the development of the Buddha's path of wisdom, covering all aspects of human life and human behaviour, good and bad. This study explains that right understanding is indispensable for mental development, the development of calm as well as the development of insight The author describes in detail all ment...

Chapter 5 - The Three Attainments

There are three attainments or samāpattis [1] : attainment of jhāna, jhāna-samāpatti, fruition attainment, phala-samāpatti, and attainment of extinction, nirodha-samāpatti.

An ordinary person who is not an Aryan, may attain jhāna and acquire the skills, vasīs, in jhāna, such as attaining jhāna and emerging from it in the order of the successive stages of jhāna. Someone who is proficient in jhāna [2] can have jhāna-samāpatti, that is, jhānacittas arising in succession in a mind-door process without bhavanga-cittas in between, for a period lasting as long as he has determined. During that time he is free from pain and unhappiness. This is because he is free from the sense objects and experiences only the meditation subject of jhāna which conditions the happiness of true calm.

The Aryan who is "mind-freed", ceto-vimutta, can attain fruition-attainment, phala-samāpatti. He has developed samatha to the degree of jhāna and attained enlightenment with lokuttara jhānacittas. In the process of attaining enlightenment, the magga-citta and the succeeding phala-cittas experienced nibbāna. For him there can be later on other processes where phalacittas accompanied by jhānafactors of the first, second, third, fourth or fifth stage of jhāna experience nibbāna again. When there is fruition-attainment, phala-samāpatti, phala-cittas can arise in succession without bhavanga-cittas in between, for a period lasting as long as he has determined. It depends on the stage of enlightenment a person has attained what type of phala-citta arises accompanied by jhānafactors of one of the stages of jhāna.

In the mind-door process of cittas with fruition-attainment, there are no parikamma, preparatory consciousness and upacāra, access, as is the case in the magga-vīthi where the magga-citta arises and defilements are eradicated. Before fruition-attainment, phala-samāpatti, there are three moments of adaptation or conformity, anuloma, because these cittas adapt or conform to the phala-citta which is lokuttara jhānacitta and which arises again, experiencing nibbāna again for a period lasting as long as he has determined.

The Anagami and the arahat who have attained the fourth arupa-jhana, the stage of neither-perception-nor-non-perception [3] , can attain cessation, nirodha-samāpatti. This is the attainment of the temporary cessation of citta and cetasikas. They do not arise anymore, but this stage cannot last longer than seven days. The reason is that food which has been taken cannot support the body longer than seven days. The temporary cessation of citta and cetasika is conditioned by two powers: by samatha and by vipassanā which are fully developed and which have great strength. The anāgāmī and the arahat who have not attained calm to the degree of the fourth arupa-jhāna cannot attain cessation. Neither can the sotāpanna and the Sakadagami attain cessation, even if they have reached the fourth stage of arupa-jhāna [4].

Those who are able to attain cessation should first attain successively all the stages of rupa-jhāna. They should emerge from each stage and then investigate with insight saṅkhāra Dhammas, conditioned Dhammas, as impermanent, dukkha and anattā, before they attain the following stage of jhāna. When they have emerged from the third stage of arupa-jhana, the sphere of nothingness, however, they should first advert to a fourfold preparatory task (Visuddhimagga Ch XXIII, 34):

  • non-damage to others’ property
  • the community’s waiting
  • the Master’s summons
  • the limit of duration

As regards non-damage to others’ property, this refers to what the Bhikkhu uses or keeps, and what is not his personal property but the property of others, such as bowl, robes, bed and dwelling. He should resolve that such property will not be damaged, that it will not be destroyed by fire, water, wind, thieves and so on within the period of cessation-attainment which lasts no longer than seven days. He does not have to make a specific resolution with regard to his personal property such as his inner robes and outer robes, or his seat. These are protected from damage or loss by the attainment of cessation itself.
As regards the Master’s summons, he should resolve to emerge from cessation when the Buddha requires his presence.

As regards the limit of duration, he should know whether his life will last longer than seven days or not. During the period of cessation the dying-consciousness cannot arise. Thus, when his lifespan is not due to end within seven days he can enter cessation.

When the Bhikkhu has done the fourfold preparatory task he can attain the fourth stage of arupa-jhāna. After two moments of arupa-jhānacittas of that stage which arise in that process, he achieves cessation of citta and cetasika. They do not arise anymore and this state can last for seven days. When he emerges from cessation, one moment of phala-citta arises, to be followed by bhavanga-cittas. The attainment of cessation can occur only in the planes where there are five khandhas. It cannot occur in the arupa-brahma planes where rupa-jhānacitta does not arise [5] .

Footnotes and references:


Samāpajjati means to enter upon.


In Pali: jhāna-lābhī. Lābha means gain or acquisition, and lābhī means the person who has gain.


See the section on Samatha. At this stage there are still citta and cetasikas, but they are very subtle, they are present in a residual way.


Both the power of samatha and the power of vipassanā are necessary. The sotāpanna and the Sakadagami, even if they have attained the highest stage of arupa-jhāna, do not have the same degree of paññā as the Anagami and the arahat; thus, in their case paññā is not powerful enough to be able to condition cessation.


As we have seen, the person who will attain cessation has to attain all stages of rupa-jhāna and arupa-jhāna. In the arupa-brahma planes there are no conditions for rupa-jhāna. Birth in those planes is the result of arupa-jhāna.

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