Nirodha Samāpatti, Phala Samāpatti, Jhāna, and Jhāna Samāpatti

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Nirodha Samāpatti, Phala Samāpatti, Jhāna, and Jhāna Samāpatti

February 13, 2018; revised July 3, 2022; October 9, 2022; November 14, 2022 (#7, #11, #13); December 14, 2022; June 12, 2024

Nirodha samāpatti and various phala samāpatti are related to Nibbānā. Jhāna and jhāna samāpatti belong to “this world.”


1. Nirodha samāpatti and various phala samāpatti are different, and they are very different from jhāna and jhānā samāpatti.

The first two are related to Nibbāna.

Jhānā belong to “this world.” Jhānā are the mindsets that rūpāvacara and arūpāvacara Brahmā enjoy.

2. Before starting the discussion, I would like to emphasize the following. The concepts we deal with in this post and that of Nibbāna (Arahanthood, in particular) are virtually impossible to imagine for most people. However, a few people could have studied these concepts in detail and may have some “nagging questions.” Hopefully, this information will be helpful.

These concepts are contrary to ideas that normal humans are familiar with. Normal humans crave things in the material world so much that it is almost impossible to rationalize why one would want to stop rebirth (i.e., to attain Arahanthood). Therefore, it is a waste of time to spend too much time thinking about such abstract concepts until one reaches the Sotāpanna stage; these concepts start making sense only when one gets closer to the Anāgāmi stage.

In the same way, it is hard for an average human to imagine how nirodha samāpatti (where all thoughts are stopped) can provide happiness. This is why I have explained in the “Nibbāna” subsection that Nibbānic bliss is NOT a feeling of pleasure (that would involve the vedanā cetasika and thus would belong to this world). It is more like the relief one would feel when a long-lasting migraine headache goes away.

With that out of the way, let us start the discussion.

Life Maintained by Kammic Energy

3. Humans have four types of “kāya”: kammaja, cittaja, utuja, and karaja (or āhāraja) kāya. That last one is our physical body. Such a physical body is absent in rūpāvacara and arūpāvacara realms.

It is essential to remember that life is maintained by kammic energy, not via citta vīthi. Therefore, kammaja kāya is present at ALL TIMES. Kammaja (“kamma” +”ja”) means “created by kamma (vipāka).”

The kammaja kāya (hadaya vatthu plus a set of pasāda rūpa) is created at the cuti-paṭisandhi moment.

When kammaja kāya for the present bhava runs out of kammic energy, a new kammaja kāya matching the next bhava is initiated by kammic energy for the new bhava, at the cuti-paṭisandhi moment.

4. Therefore, each of us has had a kammaja kāya corresponding to most of the realms in this world from a time that cannot be traced to a beginning!

Kammaja kāya in human or animal realms is also called gandhabba kāya or simply gandhabba.

The blueprint for the human physical body is in the kammaja kāya (gandhabba.) Thus, the physical body grows according to the kammaja kāya (gandhabba).

Cittaja Kāya Is Present Only With Active Citta Vīthi

5. Cittaja kāya means the flow of citta vīthi. Remember that kāya is a “collection.” Citta arise in the hadaya vatthu in the kammaja kāya.

Cittā always run in “series” or vīthi. Each pañcadvāra (arising due to the five physical senses) citta vīthi ALWAYS has 17 cittā.

A manodvāra (arising directly in mind) citta vīthi typically has 10-12 cittā. However, as discussed below, when in a samāpatti, manodvāra citta vīthi can run continuously.

6. While the kammaja kāya is active AT ALL TIMES, there can be gaps in the cittaja kāya.

In the absence of citta vīthi (i.e., active citta flow), the mind is in a bhavaṅga state.

While the mind is in a bhavaṅga state, cittaja kāya is absent.

Citta Absent in the Asaññā Realm

7. In the asaññā realm, there is no cittaja kāya or even a bhavaṅga state. One does not even know that one is alive. There is a fine physical body that is kept alive by kammic energy. So, the kammaja kāya is there.

This is why the Buddha said it is a waste of time to be born in the asaññā realm by cultivating asaññā meditation techniques. One will live in the asaññā realm for 500 mahā kappa (that is trillions of years) and comes back to the human realm and start all over.

In a previous post, I provided evidence that viññāṇa cannot exist without a rūpakkhandha; see #10 of “Gandhabba State – Evidence from Tipiṭaka.” However, rūpakkhandha can exist without viññāṇa.

If we become unconscious for some reason, that is like living in the asaññā realm during that time.

Bhavaṅga State – Not a Citta

8. Bhavaṅga is a “state of mind” (other than bhavaṅga citta that sometimes appears inside a citta vīthi); see, “Bhava and Bhavaṅga – Simply Explained!

When in a bhavaṅga state, there are no citta vīthi running, so not even universal cetasika present. One only knows that one is living, but there is no thought object (ārammaṇa). No citta vīthi run inside a bhavaṅga state.

A crude analogy of the bhavaṅga state is a TV set that is not tuned to a station. We can see the flickering white dots on the screen and hear a background “hum.” But there is no picture. So, the mind is “on” but has no thought object.

When an ārammaṇa comes to the mind, the mind captures that sound, picture, smell, etc., with the help of citta vīthi. It is like that TV being tuned to a station, and one can see the picture.

Now that we have covered the basics, let us discuss jhāna and samāpatti.

What Is a Jhāna?

9. When a mind transcends the kāma loka, it gets to the mindset of rūpāvacara Brahmas. Those are the jhānic states. Lower Brahma realms have lower jhānic states and higher Brahma realms have higher jhānic states.

But when a human enters a jhāna (especially without much practice), the mind does not stay continuously in the jhāna citta stream. It alternates between jhānic citta vīthi and pañcadvāra citta vīthi belonging to the kāma loka. Thus, the yogi may see and hear while in a jhānic state.

Initially, only 2-3 jhānā citta vīthi flow before a pañcadvāra citta vīthi comes in. As one cultivates the jhānā, less pañcadvāra citta vīthi will come in between successive jhānā citta vīthi.

What Is a Jhāna Samāpatti?

10. With practice, one could be experiencing jhānā citta vīthi continuously for many minutes. That means the yogi will not be aware of any sensory inputs through the five physical senses; thus, he will not see, hear, etc. During that time, the yogi is in a jhāna samāpatti.

With more practice, the yogi can lengthen the time in the samāpatti to many hours.

Difference Between Samāpatti and Jhānā

11. Therefore, the main difference between any samāpatti and jhāna is that jhāna citta do not run continuously. When one is in a jhāna, jhāna citta vīthi are interrupted by pañcadvāra citta vīthi running in between. Pañcadvāra citta vīthi are those coming through the five physical senses. Therefore, when one is in jhāna, one can see, hear, etc.

But when one is in any samāpatti, corresponding manodvāra citta vīthi runs continuously. Therefore, there is no set upper limit to the number of manodvāra citta running continuously in a samāpatti. Also, there is no opportunity for pañcadvāra citta vīthi to run; thus, one in a samāpatti is unaware of the external environment

There are only four jhānic states (rūpāvacara jhāna.) Today, many English texts incorrectly label the “higher arūpāvacara samāpatti” as the fifth through the eighth jhāna. In the Tipiṭaka, they are labeled as ākāsānañcāyatana, viññāṇañcāyatana,  ākiñcaññāyatana, and nevasaññānāsaññāyatana samāpatti. There are no arūpāvacara jhānic states.

Phala Samāpatti

12. Of course, only those who have attained magga phala (Sotāpanna, Sakadāgāmi, Anāgāmi, Arahant) can get into phala samāpatti.

When in a phala samāpatti, that phala citta runs continuously. Again, one will not see or hear during that samāpatti since only manodvara cittas flow continuously.

For example, if one is in the Arahant phala samāpatti, one has the Arahant phala citta running continuously.

Not everyone with a magga phala can get into phala samāpatti automatically. Just like jhāna, they require a lot of practice unless one has cultivated jhāna in recent lives.

Nirodha Samāpatti Versus Asaññā Realm

13. In nirodha samāpatti, there is no citta vīthi or a bhavaṅga state. It is sort of like in the asaññā realm.

But of course, there is a vast difference between nirodha samāpatti and being in the asaññā realm. One who can get to nirodha samāpatti has removed ALL DEFILEMENTS (and thus avijjā), but one in the asaññā realm has not. So, at the end of the life in the asaññā realm, that person would come back to the human realm and can be reborn even in the apāyā in later rebirths.

This point explains why it is so peaceful not to have any citta running through the mind. That is the closest explanation that can be given to an average human as to how having no citta can be so peaceful. But this is hard even to imagine for an average human, as I mentioned initially. Those who cultivate jhāna and get to higher rūpāvacara jhānic and arūpāvacara samāpatti states can start seeing that this is true. That is why they cultivate arūpāvacara samāpatti up to neva saññā nā saññā state.

Nirodha Samāpatti

14. Nirodha samāpatti is succinctly described in a verse in the WebLink: suttacentral: Mahāvedalla Sutta (MN 43), where the difference between a dead body and the body of one in nirodha samāpatti is described: “Yvāyaṁ, āvuso, mato kālaṅkato tassa kāyasaṅkhārā niruddhā paṭippassaddhā, vacīsaṅkhārā niruddhā paṭippassaddhā, cittasaṅkhārā niruddhā paṭippassaddhā, āyu parikkhīṇo, usmā vūpasantā, indriyāni paribhinnāni. Yo cāyaṁ bhikkhu saññāvedayitanirodhaṁ samāpanno tassapi kāyasaṅkhārā niruddhā paṭippassaddhā, vacīsaṅkhārā niruddhā paṭippassaddhā, cittasaṅkhārā niruddhā paṭippassaddhā, āyu na parikkhīṇo, usmā avūpasantā, indriyāni vippasannāni. Yvāyaṁ, āvuso, mato kālaṅkato, yo cāyaṁ bhikkhu saññāvedayitanirodhaṁ samāpanno—idaṁ nesaṁ nānākaraṇanti.

Translated:āvuso, a dead body does not generate any kāya saṅkhārā, vacī saṅkhārā, or citta saṅkhārā; its lifetime expired, and it does not breathe, and the body gets cold with all sense organs dead. But that bhikkhu in saññāvedayita-nirodha samāpatti, even though his kāya saṅkhārā, vacī saṅkhārā, and citta saṅkhārā all have ceased, and does not breathe, his body does not get cold, and all sense organs are kept alive. This āvuso, is the difference between a dead body and that bhikkhu in nirodha samāpatti.”

Here, saññāvedayitanirodha (saññā avedayita nirodha) means “both saññā and vedanā cease.” Without saññā and vedanā there are not even citta saṅkhāra.

Thus, there are no cittās arising when in saññāvedayita nirodha samāpatti.

Getting into Nirodha Samāpatti

15. Not all Arahants can get into nirodha samāpatti (only Ubhatovimutti Arahants can.) Access to nirodha samāpatti is NOT by taking Nibbāna as the thought object but via the arūpāvacara samāpatti. As one gets to higher jhāna, the number of cetasika in a citta gets smaller, i.e., cittā become less and less “burdened.”

An Arahant has to go through the following sequence to get to nirodha samāpatti. Cultivate all the jhānā, get to the fourth jhāna samāpatti, and access all arūpāvacara samāpatti up to the neva saññā nā saññā. The neva saññā nā saññā state is just a step away from stopping the rising of any citta.

From there, the Arahant can determine how long to stay in nirodha samāpatti and make the transition from the neva saññā nā saññā state to nirodha samāpatti.

While anāriya yogis can get to the neva saññā nā saññā state, they CAN NOT make the transition to saññāvedayita nirodha samāpatti. Only an Arahant who has cultivated arūpāvacara samāpatti can get into saññāvedayita nirodha samāpatti.

By the way, this process of getting to nirodha samāpatti is described in the “WebLink: suttacentral: Anupada Sutta (MN 111)” and in the “WebLink: suttacentral: Pañcakaṅga Sutta (SN 36.19).“

Nibbānic Bliss Is not a Cetasika Vedanā

16. The “WebLink: suttacentral: Pañcakaṅga Sutta (SN 36.19)” also clarifies another critical point. If there are no cittā (with saññā or vedanā) when one is in saññāvedayita nirodha samāpatti, how can one say that it is the ultimate happiness (Nibbanic bliss)?

Nibbānic bliss is not a cetasika vedanā, which would belong to this world. I have compared it to the relief one feels when a long-experienced migraine headache finally goes away; see “Nibbāna” subsection.

The above sutta, in the last verse, put it this way: “Ṭhānaṁ kho panetaṁ, ānanda, vijjati yaṁ aññatitthiyā paribbājakā evaṁ vadeyyuṁ: ‘saññāvedayitanirodhaṁ samaṇo gotamo āha, tañca sukhasmiṁ paññapeti. Tayidaṁ kiṁsu, tayidaṁ kathaṁsū’ti?

Evaṁvādino, ānanda, aññatitthiyā paribbājakā evamassu vacanīyā: ‘na kho, āvuso, bhagavā sukhaññeva vedanaṁ sandhāya sukhasmiṁ paññapeti. Yattha yattha, āvuso, sukhaṁ upalabbhati, yahiṁ yahiṁ taṁ taṁ tathāgato sukhasmiṁ paññapetī’”ti.”

Translated: “It may happen, Ānanda, that Wanderers of other sects will be saying this: ‘The recluse Gotama speaks of the saññāvedayita nirodha and describes it as pleasure. What is this pleasure and how is this a pleasure?

“Those who say so should be told: ‘The Blessed One describes as pleasure, not the feeling of pleasure. But a Tathāgata describes as Nibbānic pleasure absence of suffering.’ ”

Nirodha Samāpatti and Parinibbāna

17. No citta vīthi run in nirodha samāpatti, and bhavaṅga state is not present either. Life in the body is maintained with kammic energy. No vedanā, saññā, etc. The maximum time in nirodha samāpatti is seven days. The Arahant can determine, before getting into nirodha samāpatti, how long (up to 7 days) to stay in that state.

Parinibbāna state is just like nirodha samāpatti. The only difference is that there is no “coming back” to this world upon entering Parinibbāna.

Therefore, Arahants tend to get to nirodha samāpatti whenever possible to experience the “Nibbānic bliss” and to escape from the “burdensome worldly thoughts.” As I said, it is hard for normal humans to imagine this.

Nirodha Samāpatti and Arahant Phala Samāpatti

18. In other types of samāpatti (other than the nirodha samāpatti), manodvāra citta vīthi will flow continuously. There is no falling to bhavaṅga or taking an external object with a pañcadvāra citta vīthi. Thus, one cannot see, hear, etc. Usually, samāpatti will eventually break on its own, or (when one gets good at it) one can pre-set the time to be in samāpatti.

Arahant phala samāpatti is where an Arahant experiences the pabhassara citta, a pure citta with just the universal cetasika, where the saññā cetasika is not contaminated. Nibbāna is the thought object made contact with phassa cetasika, and vedanā and saññā are based on that (we have no idea about that). One does not hear or see anything there, just like in jhānā samāpatti.

When an Arahant is not in nirodha samāpatti or Arahant phala samāpatti, his/her citta gets only to the “mānasaṁ” state, in the sequence that usually ends up in the viññāṇakkhandha state for an average human; see #4 of “Pabhassara Citta, Radiant Mind, and Bhavaṅga.”