Can We Hear Sound in Jhāna?

Discussion of Samatha bhavana and Jhana bhavana.

Re: Can We Hear Sound in Jhāna?

Postby Kumara » Tue May 06, 2014 2:24 am

daverupa wrote:
Kumara wrote:The lack of clarity is well clarified in Tapussa Sutta, in which we find details of how the Ascetic Gotama progressed through the jhānas. It's among the suttas that the Vism's understanding can't fit in.


That sutta describes the four jhanas and the other five attainments as sequential, but this is at odds with other suttas that describe only the four jhanas without equanimity being a problem, at odds with suttas that described the jhanas as unique to the Buddha's rose-apple experience & the Dhamma, at odds with an early Nikayic weltenschaung which sees these other attainments as among the common sramana stock, two methods of which the Buddha explicitly rejected...

There are numerous problems here, so using this sutta on its own doesn't generate much confidence in strong conclusions, for me.

I've trouble understanding. Can you be clearer?
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Re: Can We Hear Sound in Jhāna?

Postby Kumara » Tue May 06, 2014 2:38 am

santa100 wrote:Could you provide the Vism. passage that specifically states that (more specifically, the first jhana)? Matter of fact, Vism X.19 even agrees with the Sutta:

I get your point, and agree. Let me be clearer by inserting here what I've written in an appendix of my (almost completed) book:

This in fact agrees with the Suttas and at odds with present-day Theravāda. So, where then does the cut-off-from-the-five-senses jhāna come from?

Earlier in the same book, we find this:
79. At this point, “Quite secluded from sense desires, secluded from unprofitable things he enters upon and dwells in the first jhāna, which is accompanied by applied and sustained thought with happiness and bliss born of seclusion” (Vibh 245)….
80. Herein, quite secluded from sense desires means having secluded himself from, having become without, having gone away from, sense desires….
83. But this term “sense desires” should be regarded as including all kinds, that is to say, sense desires as object as given in the Niddesa in the passage beginning, “What are sense desires as object? They are agreeable visible objects…” (Nidd I 1), and the sense desires as defilement given there too and in the Vibhaṅga thus: “Zeal as sense desire (kāma), greed as sense desire, zeal and greed as sense desire, thinking as sense desire, greed as sense desire, thinking and greed as sense desire” 24 (Nidd I 2; Vibh 256). That being so, the words “quite secluded from sense desires” properly mean “quite secluded from sense desires as object,”….
~ Path Of Purification Part 2: Concentration (Samādhi), Chapter IV: The Earth Kasina

So while kāmā means sense desires, here the Visuddhi­magga, injecting an idea again, says it should mean “sense desires as object” (vatthukāmā), citing the Niddesa—a commentary which the Theravāda tradition attributes to Āyasmā Sariputta.

Notice that it is equating two distinctively different things. The distinction is clarified in Nibbedhika Sutta (AN6.63):
“There are these five strings of sensuality. Which five? Forms cognizable via the eye — agreeable, pleasing, charming, endearing, fostering desire, enticing; sounds cognizable via the ear… aromas cognizable via the nose… flavors cognizable via the tongue… tactile sensations cognizable via the body — agreeable, pleasing, charming, endearing, fostering desire, enticing. But these are not sensuality. They are called strings of sensuality in the discipline of the noble ones.”
The passion for his resolves is a man’s sensuality,
not the beautiful sensual pleasures
found in the world.
The passion for his resolves is a man’s sensuality.
The beauties remain as they are in the world,
while the wise, in this regard,
subdue their desire.1

Anyway, the Niddesa in defining “sense desires as object” includes as examples carpets, female & male slaves, goats & sheep, land, gold, villages, royal cities, kingdom, treasury; in short “any enticing object”.

Taking this literally, this suggests that the Visuddhi­magga is saying physical seclusion from agreeable or enticing objects only. However, the subsequent paragraph in the Niddesa goes further. Besides past, future and present sense desire; internal, external, and internal and external sense desire; etc., even hellish sense desire (?), it includes all things of the sensual realm, form realm and formless realm. This effectively covers everything in saṁsāra.

So, if the Visuddhi­magga meant to include this paragraph (and it doesn’t indicate otherwise), then it’s implying here that the first jhāna entails not only the non-perception of the five senses, but everything.
This explains why some people regard jhāna as being in a state of oblivion. Nothing can be known, even the mental state itself, until one emerges from it. This sounds the same as one of the two kinds of jhāna Ajahn Thate was referring to: “a blank sort of stillness, devoid of self-awareness like the state of deep sleep”.

As we can see, the Visuddhi­magga is inconsistent about what “jhāna” means. So technically there is a range of mental states that can be called “Visuddhi­magga jhāna”: from one where the five sense perceptions is possible to one where the meditator is oblivious to everything.

Nonetheless, present-day orthodox Theravāda generally regards that in ‘jhāna’ the meditator is at least oblivious to the sight, sound, smell and taste. It leaves some room for various sub-interpretations of ‘jhāna’. Teachers of this kind of jhāna agree in one point though: Jhāna is attained by getting absorbed into a nimitta—as it means in the Visuddhi­magga.
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Re: Can We Hear Sound in Jhāna?

Postby mikenz66 » Tue May 06, 2014 3:44 am

Interesting stuff, Bhante. Surely, even in the passage you quote, the statement "quite secluded..." does not necessarily imply oblivion. I imagine a careful reading of the Pali might be necessary, which is beyond my abilities.

On the other hand, as we have seen, some do argue that the suttas support "Visuddhimagga-strength jhana". Ajahn Brahm and Sylvester, for a start... For that reason, I dislike the "VM" label. It seems to be a case of what "depth" one considers to qualify as jhana.

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Re: Can We Hear Sound in Jhāna?

Postby Mkoll » Tue May 06, 2014 4:50 am

Kumara wrote:
Mkoll wrote:
Kumara wrote:“Sound is a thorn (i.e., bother, source of discomfort) to the first jhāna.” (paṭhamassa jhānassa saddo kaṇṭako)

The question is whether sound is a bother to getting into the jhana or whether it's a bother while in the jhana. The second obviously implies sound impinging on oneself while in jhana.

I would say both.

Good point, I forgot that option. :smile:
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Re: Can We Hear Sound in Jhāna?

Postby robertk » Tue May 06, 2014 5:56 am

how could sound be experienced in jhana when there is total absorption in the object of the jhana.

The Tipitika (let alone Visuddhimagga ) specifically says that sound cannot be experienced while in Jhana .
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Re: Can We Hear Sound in Jhāna?

Postby Kumara » Tue May 06, 2014 7:00 am

mikenz66 wrote:Interesting stuff, Bhante. Surely, even in the passage you quote, the statement "quite secluded..." does not necessarily imply oblivion. I imagine a careful reading of the Pali might be necessary, which is beyond my abilities.

The English translation is okay. Take note that what one is "quite secluded" from is sense desires or sensuality (as Aj Thanissaro prefers, and I second it), and not from sense objects. This is made explicit in Nibbedhika Sutta quoted above.
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Re: Can We Hear Sound in Jhāna?

Postby Kumara » Tue May 06, 2014 7:01 am

robertk wrote:how could sound be experienced in jhana when there is total absorption in the object of the jhana.

The Tipitika (let alone Visuddhimagga ) specifically says that sound cannot be experienced while in Jhana .

Please offer the reference.
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Re: Can We Hear Sound in Jhāna?

Postby Kumara » Tue May 06, 2014 7:21 am

Kumara wrote:“Sound is a thorn (i.e., bother, source of discomfort) to the first jhāna.” (paṭhamassa jhānassa saddo kaṇṭako)

I'd like to add though that B.Bodhi rendered saddo as "noise". It might be a better translation going by context.

Should we take it as sound, the "thorn" should not imply prevention. Otherwise, to achieve even first jhana, we would need a sound-proof room!
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Re: Can We Hear Sound in Jhāna?

Postby mikenz66 » Tue May 06, 2014 7:56 am

Kumara wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:Interesting stuff, Bhante. Surely, even in the passage you quote, the statement "quite secluded..." does not necessarily imply oblivion. I imagine a careful reading of the Pali might be necessary, which is beyond my abilities.

The English translation is okay. Take note that what one is "quite secluded" from is sense desires or sensuality (as Aj Thanissaro prefers, and I second it), and not from sense objects. This is made explicit in Nibbedhika Sutta quoted above.

Sorry, I'm not quite sure about your meaning. Are you agreeing that the VM passage doesn't necessarily have to be interpreted as not being able to hear, etc? As I said, just reading the English translation, it's not at all clear to me that it is saying that. But I may be missing something.

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Re: Can We Hear Sound in Jhāna?

Postby robertk » Tue May 06, 2014 7:58 am

Kumara wrote:
robertk wrote:how could sound be experienced in jhana when there is total absorption in the object of the jhana.

The Tipitika (let alone Visuddhimagga ) specifically says that sound cannot be experienced while in Jhana .

Please offer the reference.


Katthavatthu PTS translation by Aung and Davids pages 331-332.the seventh book of the ABhiddhamma (and part of the Tipitika)


It is stated that a heretical sect thought sound could be heard in jhana. This gives the Commentary explanation below
XV1118 Of Hearing in Jhana
From the commentary [by Buddhaghosa] Controverted point - That one who has attained jhana hears sound."The opinion is held by some - the Pubbaseilyans , for instance- that because the Exalted one called sound a thorn to first jhana, and if sound if not heard cannot be thorn in the flesh of one who had attained that state, it was inferable that such a one was able to hear.

It takes over a page for the Theravada to show why this is wrong
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Re: Can We Hear Sound in Jhāna?

Postby Spiny Norman » Tue May 06, 2014 9:20 am

Zom wrote:Suttas say thay 5 senses are absent only in the arupa-spheres. So, as it seems, sound can be heard in 1-4 jhanas.
8. "It may be that, with the entire transcending of perceptions of corporeality,[13] with the disappearance of perceptions of sense-response,'[14] with non-attention to perceptions of variety,[15] thinking: 'Space is infinite,' some monk enters upon and abides in the sphere of infinite space;


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Re: Can We Hear Sound in Jhāna?

Postby Kumara » Tue May 06, 2014 9:31 am

mikenz66 wrote:
Kumara wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:Interesting stuff, Bhante. Surely, even in the passage you quote, the statement "quite secluded..." does not necessarily imply oblivion. I imagine a careful reading of the Pali might be necessary, which is beyond my abilities.

The English translation is okay. Take note that what one is "quite secluded" from is sense desires or sensuality (as Aj Thanissaro prefers, and I second it), and not from sense objects. This is made explicit in Nibbedhika Sutta quoted above.

Sorry, I'm not quite sure about your meaning. Are you agreeing that the VM passage doesn't necessarily have to be interpreted as not being able to hear, etc? As I said, just reading the English translation, it's not at all clear to me that it is saying that. But I may be missing something.

I guess the point you're missing is that the part “Quite secluded from sense desires, secluded from unprofitable things he enters upon and dwells in the first jhāna, which is accompanied by applied and sustained thought with happiness and bliss born of seclusion” is an extract (translated of course) of the standard phrase for the first jhana as commonly found in the Suttas.
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Re: Can We Hear Sound in Jhāna?

Postby mikenz66 » Tue May 06, 2014 9:42 am

Yes, I get that. And I presume you are saying that that statement does not necessarily imply that one cannot hear (etc) in jhana. And I would agree.

What I don't get is why the VM text you quoted implies that one can't hear in jhana. It seems like a rather obscure argument if I just read the English.

Sorry, I am probably missing something obvious...

Of course, Robert's quotation from the Abhidhamma is quite clear about the Classical Theravada interpretation.

I guess another interesting question (at least for me!) is whether the argument from the "deep sutta jhana" people (Ajahn Brahm, Sylvester, etc) is the same argument as in the Commentary.

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Re: Can We Hear Sound in Jhāna?

Postby daverupa » Tue May 06, 2014 9:52 am

Kumara wrote:
daverupa wrote:
Kumara wrote:The lack of clarity is well clarified in Tapussa Sutta, in which we find details of how the Ascetic Gotama progressed through the jhānas. It's among the suttas that the Vism's understanding can't fit in.


That sutta describes the four jhanas and the other five attainments as sequential, but this is at odds with other suttas that describe only the four jhanas without equanimity being a problem, at odds with suttas that described the jhanas as unique to the Buddha's rose-apple experience & the Dhamma, at odds with an early Nikayic weltenschaung which sees these other attainments as among the common sramana stock, two methods of which the Buddha explicitly rejected...

There are numerous problems here, so using this sutta on its own doesn't generate much confidence in strong conclusions, for me.

I've trouble understanding. Can you be clearer?


Suttas that people use to understand jhana, but which incorporate the formless attainments, are suttas I suspect of being late & rather massaged.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Can We Hear Sound in Jhāna?

Postby Kumara » Tue May 06, 2014 10:06 am

robertk wrote:
Kumara wrote:
robertk wrote:how could sound be experienced in jhana when there is total absorption in the object of the jhana.

The Tipitika (let alone Visuddhimagga ) specifically says that sound cannot be experienced while in Jhana .

Please offer the reference.


Katthavatthu PTS translation by Aung and Davids pages 331-332.the seventh book of the ABhiddhamma (and part of the Tipitika)


It is stated that a heretical sect thought sound could be heard in jhana. This gives the Commentary explanation below
XV1118 Of Hearing in Jhana
From the commentary [by Buddhaghosa] Controverted point - That one who has attained jhana hears sound."The opinion is held by some - the Pubbaseilyans , for instance- that because the Exalted one called sound a thorn to first jhana, and if sound if not heard cannot be thorn in the flesh of one who had attained that state, it was inferable that such a one was able to hear.

It takes over a page for the Theravada to show why this is wrong

Oh, wow! I'm not the first to make such an argument. :-)

Thanks, Robert. Since you're referring to Katthavatthu, I've to concede that it's part of the Theravada Tipitaka. Nonetheless, bear in mind that this book supposedly came about during the time of King Asoka, when the meaning of the word "jhana" (along with many other concepts) has become controversial among different sanghas. We can say Ven Moggaliputta Tissa is correct to assert that sound can't be heard in first jhana. He's simply referring to the type of jhana accepted by his sangha.

Anyway, if you're open to this, I suggest reading Moggallanasamyutta, SN40.1-8. That may clarify the matter for you. You can also refer to Tapussa Sutta (AN9.41) and Nibbānasukha Sutta (AN9.34) where you'll find something similar. The basic idea is that jhanas of the Suttas don't have well defined lines between them. E.g, "... I entered and dwelled in the second jhana.... While I was dwelling in this state, perception and attention accompanied by thought occurred in me and I felt it as an afflic­tion." (CDB p1311-2)
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Re: Can We Hear Sound in Jhāna?

Postby Kumara » Tue May 06, 2014 10:12 am

mikenz66 wrote:What I don't get is why the VM text you quoted implies that one can't hear in jhana. It seems like a rather obscure argument if I just read the English.

Sorry, I am probably missing something obvious...

It's okay. I doubt you'd need it for your awakening. :-) I did include that only as an appendix in my book for a reason: It's only for the 'komplikated' type of people. So, you're spared!

I guess another interesting question (at least for me!) is whether the argument from the "deep sutta jhana" people (Ajahn Brahm, Sylvester, etc) is the same argument as in the Commentary.

You'll have to ask them. :-)
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Re: Can We Hear Sound in Jhāna?

Postby Kumara » Tue May 06, 2014 10:24 am

daverupa wrote:
Kumara wrote:I've trouble understanding. Can you be clearer?


Suttas that people use to understand jhana, but which incorporate the formless attainments, are suttas I suspect of being late & rather massaged.

OIC. They could be later additions/editions. I've wondered about them too. Why speak of these states since they aren't necessary for liberation, huh? Anyway, for practical purposes, I don't bother about them.

Let me thrown in something else for you to suspect further (but not for further discussions here, okay?) What if the Katthavatthu sort of jhanas are actually formless attainments? hmm...
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Re: Can We Hear Sound in Jhāna?

Postby Zom » Tue May 06, 2014 10:43 am

That sutta describes the four jhanas and the other five attainments as sequential, but this is at odds with other suttas that describe only the four jhanas without equanimity being a problem, at odds with suttas that described the jhanas as unique to the Buddha's rose-apple experience & the Dhamma, at odds with an early Nikayic weltenschaung which sees these other attainments as among the common sramana stock, two methods of which the Buddha explicitly rejected...

There are numerous problems here, so using this sutta on its own doesn't generate much confidence in strong conclusions, for me.


There are no problems here at all. The picture is: young prince Siddhattha spontaneously entered 1st jhana sitting under the tree. That was quite vivid experience that he remembered (however, it seems, he didn't get any jhana practice knowledge at this moment!). Later on he went to Alara & Uddaka. They tought him how to develop these jhanas, so even to reach 4th arupa-sphere. He mastered that quickly. However, he was not satisfied with this goal of spiritual life, because he saw that these attainments still lead to rebirth and are not permanent. What is more, it seems, he was not satisfied with the path too, because of the jhanic bliss that he feared (feared probably because the mainstream samana idea of that time was the "harsh asceticism", but not "pleasure asceticism"). So, not satisfied and still in doubts, he left those teachers and went to other teachers and samanas who practised harsh asceticism, "self-mortification". He mastered all that, spending several years on different harsh practices. Still, he was not satisfied again, he didn't reach anything, though did it very well. So he was in confusion and searched for a hint. And this hint poped up in his mind - his first jhanic experience. Sutta says: "Why do I fear this pleasure that has nothing to do with unwholesome?" This sentence is important. We see, that he knew two things already: "there is a bliss in jhana" and "this bliss is not connected with unwholesome things". He couldn't have got this insight if he didn't practise this long enough, but he did, because he did practise 1st-2nd-3rd-4th jhanas under Alara & Uddaka. So this sentence "Why do I fear this pleasure that has nothing to do with unwholesome?" refers to his jhana practice under those teachers, not to his sudden experience when he was a boy. From here he realised that he was on the right track from the very beginning, and so decided to go this path again. Suttas say even about his additional knowledge about jhanas: He knew they cannot be reached with weak body. Again, he must have gotten this knowledge under constant practice with Alara & Uddaka. Later, when he gained enlightenment, Alara & Uddaka were the first two persons whom he wished to teach. Again, this is very important. Why? Because this shows that those two were very near nibbana, they too were on the right track. More to that, in some sutta (AN 10.29) Buddha says, that those, who realized themselves and teach others how to reach 4th arupa-sphere, got the highest spiritual purity outside buddha-dhamma. Again, Buddha refers to such teachers as Alara & Uddaka here.

So, everything is quite perfect with that his remembrance and his training under first two teachers 8-)
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Re: Can We Hear Sound in Jhāna?

Postby robertk » Tue May 06, 2014 10:56 am

Kumara wrote:Anyway, if you're open to this, I suggest reading Moggallanasamyutta, SN40.1-8. That may clarify the matter for you. You can also refer to Tapussa Sutta (AN9.41) and Nibbānasukha Sutta (AN9.34) where you'll find something similar. The basic idea is that jhanas of the Suttas don't have well defined lines between them. E.g, "... I entered and dwelled in the second jhana.... While I was dwelling in this state, perception and attention accompanied by thought occurred in me and I felt it as an afflic­tion." (CDB p1311-2)

Dear Ven Kumara
this is showing that in the lower jhanas certain mental factors are present. In the higher jhanas these mental factors get dropped off and so each successive jhana is more refined than the last.
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Re: Can We Hear Sound in Jhāna?

Postby daverupa » Tue May 06, 2014 1:33 pm

Zom wrote:The picture is: young prince Siddhattha spontaneously entered 1st jhana sitting under the tree.


Okay.

That was quite vivid experience that he remembered (however, it seems, he didn't get any jhana practice knowledge at this moment!).


That's something of an unconjecturable, though his ability to assess the formless attainments ('This Dhamma leads not to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation...') tells me he maybe learned something after all. In any event, all he's ultimately going to need to do with this is recollect the factors of the experience as he later assesses various routes to awakening.

Later on he went to Alara & Uddaka. They tought him how to develop these jhanas, so even to reach 4th arupa-sphere.


This begs the question: the texts say those teachers taught certain formless attainments, but they do not mention the four jhanas at all.

He mastered that quickly. However, he was not satisfied with this goal of spiritual life, because he saw that these attainments still lead to rebirth and are not permanent. What is more, it seems, he was not satisfied with the path too, because of the jhanic bliss that he feared (feared probably because the mainstream samana idea of that time was the "harsh asceticism", but not "pleasure asceticism").


Yes, they only lead to a concomitant reappearance. In MN 36 the Bodhisatta recognizes that one must be withdrawn from sensuality in both body & mind, and this is what sets him on his ascetic journeys.

So he searches for a hint, as you say, but he's familiar with his jhanic experience and - as the other samanas would have agreed - such pleasure was off-target. But now it's been years doing formless meditations and then years of ascetic practices, and he wonders about other routes to awakening, and recalls rose-apple jhana.

It's now that he recognizes that there was a pleasure that wasn't connected with sensuality but which was based on seclusion from sensuality: this insight took years to form up, including the realization that physical and mental seclusion from sensuality was necessary & the recollection that jhana, while pleasurable, fit the bill - quite to the contrary of samana assumptions at this time. (This pleasure, we know, is precisely not to be feared, but to be cultivated.)

Anyway, he recollects the rose-apple experience, not any training in formless attainments.

---

That his first two teachers were first in his mind to instruct can be read a number of ways; that they would easily have understood doesn't mean anything about jhana, only about their ability to grasp sammaditthi as stream-enterers, which doesn't require jhana at all.

---

AN 10.29 wrote:(9) “Bhikkhus, there are some ascetics and brahmins who proclaim supreme purification. Of those who proclaim supreme purification, this is the foremost, namely, by completely surmounting the base of nothingness, one enters and dwells in the base of neither-perception-nor-non-perception. They teach their Dhamma for the direct knowledge and realization of this. There are beings who assert thus. But even for those who assert thus, there is alteration; there is change. Seeing this thus, the instructed noble disciple becomes disenchanted with it; being disenchanted, he becomes dispassionate toward the foremost, not to speak of what is inferior.

(10) “Bhikkhus, there are some ascetics and brahmins who proclaim supreme nibbāna in this very life. Of those who proclaim supreme nibbāna in this very life, this is the foremost, namely, emancipation through non-clinging after one has seen as they really are the origin and passing away, the gratification, danger, and escape in regard to the six bases for contact.


That sutta reads like a list of outsider practices; and the formless attainment is explicitly said to be so.

Jhanas aren't mentioned at all...?

---

So jhana is a state with rupa, but this rupa might just be those dhammas of dhamma-mano-vinnana, and in this sense would easily count as a colloquially 'formless' state.

Getting into first jhana while enduring certain sounds (or pain, & probably any intense sensual input) is thorny. Many are the stories of falling away from attaining jhana due to pain, for those who had not yet attained nibbana.

In this, while no sound-ear-vinnana would occur, since the ear & other senses have recourse to the mind, the dhammas there might have certain mental sound components, which I think muddies the phenomenological waters.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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