The Great Jhana Debate

Discussion of Samatha bhavana and Jhana bhavana.

Re: The Great Jhana Debate

Postby ignobleone » Sat May 05, 2012 4:15 pm

According to Buddha, there are two kinds of truth: conventional truth and absolute truth. Conventional truth is relative truth, anyone can argue. No one can argue with absolute truth, and no matter how ignorant one in denying it, absolute truth will always be true.
And the Buddha taught two ways to validate truth, i.e. logical inference and factual reasoning. No one can argue with any claim which is backed by these two. Why don't we use them for the measure to end jhana debate? By using it, we can agree with something which is unequivocally definitive that would bring the debate to an end.

tiltbillings wrote:
ignobleone wrote:That is one fundamental. It's related to saddha, to be more precise, confidence in the Dhamma, which means in this case we want to arrive at the certainty of the Teaching. Because you don't want to be "an uninstructed run-of-the-mill person who hasn't arrived at the certainty of the True Dhamma." The best we can get certainty is from the main suttas.
And that is your opinion.

- You didn't solve anything by saying so.
- I can say the exactly same sentence to your previous comment, but it won't do any good.
- Btw what's the matter with opinion? How about if the opinion is backed by logical inference and factual reasoning? I haven't explained the basis of my opinion. I'll write it below.

tiltbillings wrote:
Practice and practice, a very common view. Are you sure you don't waste your time by doing the practice? What jhana practice, what kind of teacher - are the questions you need to investigate first. I suppose your teacher was from Theravada tradition. Do you know that Theravada these days can be equalized to commentaries? And commentaries are unreliable.
You are being arrogant and presumptive here.

Isn't it too early to say who's being arrogant and presumptive? I haven't written my explanation. I expected your question (below) because my explanation will also be my answer. We shall see who's been arrogant.

Why should I take your reading of the suttas as being any more reliable than the commentators or any Theravadin teacher?

As I said to you once before:

dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=33&t=5761&start=180#p174179

Tracking back the source of the Teaching from the origin, we have the following order:
1. The Buddha, the origin of the Teaching
2. Direct disciples of the Buddha (Ananda, Sariputa, etc)
3.a) Main Suttas (from the 1st Buddhist council)
b) direct disciples of #2
4.a) generations below #3.b
b) Sutta Commentaries
5. Monks/teachers these days

By using logical inference:
- The closer to the origin, the more reliable. Commentary = sutta commentary, which means it exists after the sutta.
- Regarding your concern on the language problem/barrier (from the link you gave), commentators can also easily mislead because of the language problem. Why should I believe commentators translated/interpreted better? (you get a similar question here)
By using factual reasoning:
- Most of the Pali words already have clear meaning. They're much larger in number compared to the number of ambiguous Pali words. Otherwise, Thanissaro Bhikkhu or Bhikkhu Bodhi couldn't have translated a lot of suttas. Regarding any unclear/ambiguous Pali words, it's a limitation we cannot solve totally unless there's a native Pali speaker who's also fluent in English(or any other modern language) alive and can be asked to be a living dictionary. But there's a possible workaround for the limitation, i.e. like I've said before, by finding consistency of usage in more than one sutta, so that we can deduce the meaning from the context where it's used.
- Jhana bifurcation is an enough fact that commentators didn't translate/interpret quite well, compared with reading from suttas (Pali version or someone's translation).
- In a job interview, interviewer will skip any candidate which only have even one single mistake, because companies want least risk from choosing candidates. In the same way, it's reasonable to disqualify commentary.

Let's see what's the basis of your claims.
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Re: The Great Jhana Debate

Postby ignobleone » Sat May 05, 2012 4:18 pm

reflection wrote:The problem is, it is also very easy to misinterpret written words. Probably more so in a language like pali which has certain meanings for words or certain constructs that aren't common in other languages.

I have given my opinion regarding the language barrier in my comment to Tilt above.

So yes, suttas can tell us something, but they are not the holy book of all answers.

It seems that you still don't understand the importance of proper instructions.

We should also look at them in the light of our experiences, instead of only the other way around.
......
but to use is as a feedback for our interpretation of the instructions.

Both of your sentences still mean the same thing as your previous comment: "the only way to come to some sort of a conclusion about jhana is by own experience."
Rather than repeating what you have said over and over again, why don't you give (at least) an actual example to make what you mean becomes clearer?
Because what I got from what you said is something like this, I can only explain in analogy:
Suppose you want to cook a special food (for someone who knows the food), but you don't know the recipe completely nor you have it with you. Instead of finding the recipe, you go to the kitchen to prepare the food. You know some of the instructions and ingredients in the recipe. You try to fill the missing link with your experience in the kitchen (such as by adding an ingredient and/or applying another cooking method, etc) where at some point after you taste it, it tastes "good". You don't realize that it's good relative to you. For example, it tastes rather sour since you added some vinegar and you think it's good, then you think it must be the same food from the recipe. There's a probability you made it exactly the same as in the recipe, but the probability is very small. Then it turns out that the food shouldn't have any sour taste, and the recipe doesn't have anything which can make any sour taste. In other words, it's not the expected food.
Does what you mean match that analogy?
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Re: The Great Jhana Debate

Postby tiltbillings » Sat May 05, 2012 4:30 pm

ignobleone wrote:Isn't it too early to say who's being arrogant and presumptive? .
Nope.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: The Great Jhana Debate

Postby ignobleone » Sat May 05, 2012 4:39 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
ignobleone wrote:Isn't it too early to say who's being arrogant and presumptive? .
Nope.

It seems as if you don't have anything more to say. If that's the case, I'd say you cannot defend your opinion anymore. Insisting on something without strong basis can also means being arrogant.

Good luck in your practice.
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Re: The Great Jhana Debate

Postby reflection » Sat May 05, 2012 4:57 pm

ignobleone wrote:
reflection wrote:The problem is, it is also very easy to misinterpret written words. Probably more so in a language like pali which has certain meanings for words or certain constructs that aren't common in other languages.

I have given my opinion regarding the language barrier in my comment to Tilt above.

Rather than repeating what you have said over and over again, why don't you give (at least) an actual example to make what you mean becomes clearer?

To use your analogy: There are a lot of people who read a cookbook, don't make the recipe, but think they know what it will taste like anyway. There are even some people who try to eat the book and think that will get rid of their urge for chocolate cake.. Other people read it, give the actual cooking a try, but where the book says "add a bit of salt and pepper", they throw in two hands full instead of a pinch. Once they taste it, some may think it tastes good enough and settle with it. But there are also those who think it can be better and can retry until they find out what is meant with "add a bit of salt and pepper".

Trying not to eat the recipe is even more important for meditation experiences, of which the ingredients are impossible to accurately describe in words. And there will never be agreement on what is jhana, because some people will insist on eating the book, or insist on adding 2 hands of salt. Which is fine if it works for them, but that's at least something we can debate about. But it's not like a chocolate cake you can let others taste to convince them eating the book wasn't as good as this. The only thing you can do is tell them how you think it should be made.
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Re: The Great Jhana Debate

Postby tiltbillings » Sat May 05, 2012 5:25 pm

ignobleone wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
ignobleone wrote:Isn't it too early to say who's being arrogant and presumptive? .
Nope.

It seems as if you don't have anything more to say. If that's the case, I'd say you cannot defend your opinion anymore. Insisting on something without strong basis can also means being arrogant.

Good luck in your practice.
I don't need to defend my opinions. But what I do not need to do here is waste time plowing over already turned up soil. I have seen nothing in what you have written to date that would place you here as the sole arbiter of all things jhana and sutta and how these things are to be understood.

Practice and practice, a very common view. Are you sure you don't waste your time by doing the practice? What jhana practice, what kind of teacher - are the questions you need to investigate first. I suppose your teacher was from Theravada tradition. Do you know that Theravada these days can be equalized to commentaries? And commentaries are unreliable.
An arrogant statement. The commentaries are unreliable in your opinion. Of the massive amount of commentarial material that there is, very, very little of it has been translated into English. Some of it is good and some of it is not so good, but without really knowing the full extent of the commentarial literature, without having carefully studied it, to claim that it is unreliable is to argue from ignorance, which is arrogant. As for my teachers, you have not a clue as to what their opinion are about jhana, the commentaries and the suttas. And I have not seen that you really know enough about the Theravadin tradition to be as dismissive as you are coming across.

Are you sure you don't waste your time by doing the practice?
And you are the one who is going to tell me that I am wasting my time? Based upon what?

Life is way too short to get into these sorts of absolutist arguments about what is the supposed truly true way to understand things. Pity all those earlier Buddhists who just did not have a clue and thank gawd for those new guys who all by themselves figured it out and are here to tell us.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: The Great Jhana Debate

Postby daverupa » Sat May 05, 2012 6:23 pm

ignobleone wrote:According to Buddha, there are two kinds of truth: conventional truth and absolute truth.


False premise.
    "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: The Great Jhana Debate

Postby tiltbillings » Sat May 05, 2012 6:29 pm

daverupa wrote:
ignobleone wrote:According to Buddha, there are two kinds of truth: conventional truth and absolute truth.


False premise.
It should be: "According to the commentaries that I, ignobleone, reject: there are two kinds of truth: conventional truth and absolute truth."

According to Buddha, there are two kinds of truth: conventional truth and absolute truth. Conventional truth is relative truth, anyone can argue. No one can argue with absolute truth, and no matter how ignorant one in denying it, absolute truth will always be true.
And the Buddha taught two ways to validate truth, i.e. logical inference and factual reasoning. No one can argue with any claim which is backed by these two. Why don't we use them for the measure to end jhana debate? By using it, we can agree with something which is unequivocally definitive that would bring the debate to an end.
This a rather big point to have messed up.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: The Great Jhana Debate

Postby daverupa » Sat May 05, 2012 8:02 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
daverupa wrote:
ignobleone wrote:According to Buddha, there are two kinds of truth: conventional truth and absolute truth.


False premise.

It should be: "According to the commentaries...


Correct, although you seem to miss the fact that no concurrent claim respecting commentarial accuracy need be made. They are simply not likely to be the historical Buddha's words, which makes "Buddha said" a factual inaccuracy.
    "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: The Great Jhana Debate

Postby tiltbillings » Sat May 05, 2012 8:44 pm

daverupa wrote:Correct, although you seem to miss the fact that no concurrent claim respecting commentarial accuracy need be made. They are simply not likely to be the historical Buddha's words, which makes "Buddha said" a factual inaccuracy.
No fact missed. No need to state.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: The Great Jhana Debate

Postby TroyAsher » Sun May 20, 2012 4:43 am

Greetings to all,

I have some questions I am hoping you might be able to help with. I was reading about the Arupa Jhanas in a book by Dean Hayson and then I did a search on Jhana and found Dhamma Wheel. I have read through all 17 pages here (no small feat :0) incase you had already discussed these points but i don't think so. Please pardon me if you have.

Reading about the progression of the jhanas, the different levels of absorption, in AN 9.35, i have the impression that there is (referring to Samatha Jhana practice) the cessation of concepts/conceptual thinking in the 2nd Jhana and then in the 8th Jhana the awareness of perceptions seems to be fading out "neither perception nor non-perception" and then in the 9th Jhana there is the cessation of percepts/perception.

My initial questions are about whether i have understood AN 9.35 and these jhana experiences correctly:
Is the 8th Jhana a twilight of perception where the meditator finds it hard to tell whether he/she is perceiving?
Is the 9th Jhana's cessation of perception a mind without conscious activity aka blank?

Regards,
Troy Asher
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Re: The Great Jhana Debate

Postby Rui Sousa » Thu May 24, 2012 11:28 pm

TroyAsher wrote:Greetings to all,

I have some questions I am hoping you might be able to help with. I was reading about the Arupa Jhanas in a book by Dean Hayson and then I did a search on Jhana and found Dhamma Wheel. I have read through all 17 pages here (no small feat :0) incase you had already discussed these points but i don't think so. Please pardon me if you have.

Reading about the progression of the jhanas, the different levels of absorption, in AN 9.35, i have the impression that there is (referring to Samatha Jhana practice) the cessation of concepts/conceptual thinking in the 2nd Jhana and then in the 8th Jhana the awareness of perceptions seems to be fading out "neither perception nor non-perception" and then in the 9th Jhana there is the cessation of percepts/perception.

My initial questions are about whether i have understood AN 9.35 and these jhana experiences correctly:
Is the 8th Jhana a twilight of perception where the meditator finds it hard to tell whether he/she is perceiving?
Is the 9th Jhana's cessation of perception a mind without conscious activity aka blank?

Regards,
Troy Asher



Hi Troy, Welcome to Dhamma Wheel.

As I understand it, the 8th Jhana is a state of mind were the mind cannot tell if it is perceiving information from the senses or not.

I have asked a similar question about the 9th Jhana a few years ago in e-shanga, and I remember Ven. Dhammanando answering me in a way I was satisfied with, but since that forum is down I can't really know the exact words he used. According to my memory he explained that the 9th Jhanna is a special achievement some meditators can reach.
With Metta
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Re: The Great Jhana Debate

Postby reflection » Thu May 24, 2012 11:58 pm

TroyAsher wrote:Greetings to all,

I have some questions I am hoping you might be able to help with. I was reading about the Arupa Jhanas in a book by Dean Hayson and then I did a search on Jhana and found Dhamma Wheel. I have read through all 17 pages here (no small feat :0) incase you had already discussed these points but i don't think so. Please pardon me if you have.

Reading about the progression of the jhanas, the different levels of absorption, in AN 9.35, i have the impression that there is (referring to Samatha Jhana practice) the cessation of concepts/conceptual thinking in the 2nd Jhana and then in the 8th Jhana the awareness of perceptions seems to be fading out "neither perception nor non-perception" and then in the 9th Jhana there is the cessation of percepts/perception.

My initial questions are about whether i have understood AN 9.35 and these jhana experiences correctly:
Is the 8th Jhana a twilight of perception where the meditator finds it hard to tell whether he/she is perceiving?
Is the 9th Jhana's cessation of perception a mind without conscious activity aka blank?

Regards,
Troy Asher

Just on a sidenote, the suttas only speak about jhana 1-4. The four immaterial attainments are not called jhana. That is something from the commentaries. Doesn't really change anything, I guess, but thought it may be interesting and possibly opening a new view for you.
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The Great Jhana Debate

Postby TroyAsher » Mon Jun 11, 2012 5:21 am

Thank you Rui Sousa and reflection, your responses are appreciated. I take note of reflection’s comment that the use of the term Jhana for the four immaterial attainments appears in the later commentaries. I continue to use the term purely for ease rather than accuracy.

I have another question if you don’t mind. This is in regards to how people perceive the 6th Jhana. In Leigh Brasington’s article “Sharpening Manjushri’s Sword” he makes a point of noting that “The Base of Infinite Consciousness has been mistaken for achieving oneness with all consciousness.” Leigh goes onto explain that the 6th Jhana is entered by “realizing that in order to gaze at an infinite spaciousness (5th Jhana) you must have an infinite consciousness, and then shifting your attention to that consciousness.” I get the point. This “realization” is a logical deduction and leads the meditator to the 6th Jhana.

However, I have found that in my personal, subjective, experience, my perception and feeling of the 6th Jhana is that of “oneness with all consciousness.” I’d describe it as “the perception of interconnectedness with all”. I also like this latter term as it lacks the supernormal abilities sometimes associated with the word “oneness”. There is no ability to communicate with or control all things, just a feeling of being interconnected with all.

For those that have worked through the arupas, what has been your experience ?

Regards,

Troy
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Re: Tha jhana debate

Postby Son » Mon Jul 16, 2012 4:29 am

Kenshou wrote:Deduction from experience is not very relevant when the discussion comes down to the question of what exactly the suttas are saying. Some people are interested in taking a critical look at the texts. Not to the exclusion of real life practice, of course.

If you think a disembodied samadhi is great, then great, but saying that doesn't have any weight when the question is about what the content of the texts is.



It helps to actually know from experience, what textual terms are referring to, when you're trying to discern meaning out of that text. If you're confused, or worse incorrect, about the experiences referred to in the text, then it may be difficult to "critically understand exactly what the suttas are saying." On the other hand, if you know from your experience what the sutta is referring to, in all likelihood it will be simple to arrive at exactly what the suttas are critically saying. So direct experience or experience of understanding is crucial in my perspective and I agree with him.
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It's cold and alone, hopeless.
Until it blooms above.
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Re: Buddhism cult

Postby ignobleone » Sun Nov 04, 2012 2:26 am

My anonymous cult warner seems to stop responding since I demanded sutta references which support his points/claims.
He said: 1)Sotapanna is an enlightened being. 2)Jhanas can only be reached by Sakadagami and above.
As far as I can remember, I know only Arahat does have something to do with jhana. So far I couldn't find any sutta which contains the relationship between Sakadagami/Anagami and jhanas. Maybe anyone can help?
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Re: Buddhism cult

Postby David N. Snyder » Sun Nov 04, 2012 2:59 am

ignobleone wrote:My anonymous cult warner seems to stop responding since I demanded sutta references which support his points/claims.
He said: 1)Sotapanna is an enlightened being. 2)Jhanas can only be reached by Sakadagami and above.
As far as I can remember, I know only Arahat does have something to do with jhana. So far I couldn't find any sutta which contains the relationship between Sakadagami/Anagami and jhanas. Maybe anyone can help?


The 'cult warner' is incorrect, again. The jhanas can be accessed by anyone of noble level or lower. The Jhana Sutta (AN 4.123) outlines proficiencies in all of the jhanas and how each level tends to correspond to a different deva realm, not necessarily requiring noble attainments.
See: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

Even the fourth jhana proficiency need not be an arahant:

"Again, there is the case where an individual, with the abandoning of pleasure & stress — as with the earlier disappearance of elation & distress — enters & remains in the fourth jhana: purity of equanimity & mindfulness, neither-pleasure-nor-pain. He savors that, longs for that, finds satisfaction through that. Staying there — fixed on that, dwelling there often, not falling away from that — then when he dies he reappears in conjunction with the Vehapphala devas."

He/she becomes a Vehapphala deva, i.e., not enlightened.
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Re: Buddhism cult

Postby JhanaStream » Sun Nov 04, 2012 3:40 am

David N. Snyder wrote:The jhanas can be accessed by anyone of noble level or lower. The Jhana Sutta (AN 4.123) outlines proficiencies in all of the jhanas and how each level tends to correspond to a different deva realm, not necessarily requiring noble attainments.

Hello David

The four levels of Nobles do actually correspond with a reduction in defilments, just as jhanas correspond with a reduction in defilements. The once-returner has significantly lessened sensual desire & ill-will, just as the conscious absence of sensual desire & ill-will is a prerequisite for jhana. The non-returner has fully eradicated sensual desire & ill-will, which is a guarrantee for jhana. The arahant has overcome lust for jhana, which requires the experience of actual jhana to occur.

Bhikkhu Bodhi has written a rather convincing essay alienating the stream-enterer from jhana, here: http://www.buddhanet.net/budsas/ebud/ebdha267.htm. Are you able to refute it?

It is possible for non-Buddhists to reach a heavenly (jhanic) state & then later come to experience not-self (anatta), thus breaking the 1st fetter. But, generally in the Buddhist scriptures, stream-entry comes first (example: Sariputta & Mogallana) and then jhana comes later. For those such as Pukkusati (in MN 140) and possibly Bahiya, were they declared stream-enterers when breaking through to the Dhamma despite reportedly reaching jhana already? No. Because Pukkusati had already reached the 4th jhana, non-return was declared of him (despite his sloppy mindfulness, resulting in him being killed by a cow in his lust for obtaining robes & bowl).

:sage:
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Re: Buddhism cult

Postby David N. Snyder » Sun Nov 04, 2012 3:49 am

I believe you may be analyzing it the other way around. Bhikkhu Bodhi states:

Recently, however, several articulate teachers of meditation have argued down the validity of the dry insight approach, insisting that the jhānas are necessary for the successful development of insight at every stage. Their arguments usually begin by making a distinction between the standpoints of the Pāli Canon and the Commentaries. On this basis, they maintain that from the perspective of the Canon jhāna is needed to attain even stream-entry. The Nikāyas themselves do not address this problem in clear and unambiguous terms, and it is difficult to derive from them any direct pronouncement on its resolution.


Jhanas may be necessary for successful development of insight, but one need not be at such a high level just because jhana has occurred. Alara Kalama was not a Buddhist and attained the jhanas up to the third formless realm. Udaka Ramaputta was not a Buddhist and attained the jhanas up to the fourth formless realm.
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Re: Buddhism cult

Postby JhanaStream » Sun Nov 04, 2012 3:57 am

David N. Snyder wrote:I believe you may be analyzing it the other way around.

Yes, I am. I am pointing out the different ways of analyzing it.

I think as Buddha has already pointed out the path, it is wiser to pursue stream-entry rather than pursue a Deva Realm and hope to proceed from there.

Metta

Since the Nikāyas order the process of awakening into four stages -- stream-entry, once-returning, non-returning, and arahantship -- it is possible that the jhānas come to assume an essential role at a later stage in the unfolding of the path, and not at the first stages. Thus it may be that the insight required for the earlier stages does not presuppose prior attainment of the jhānas, while the jhānas become indispensable in making the transition from one of the intermediate stages to a more advanced stage. I myself believe there is strong evidence in the Nikāyas that the jhānas become an essential factor for those intent on advancing from the stage of once-returning to that of non-returner.

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