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Stages of Mindfulness and Absorption

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Path Of Concentration Leading To Absorption

Presented By ...the Wanderling

E. Nirodha (cessation, extinction)

Complete cessation of all psychomental activity; complete suppression of all samsaric conditionality; complete tranquillity "on the edge of the world" without, however, "going over" to Nirvana.

Can last several days. Nirodha is attained after passing through the four formless absorptions, but only an Arahant can achieve Nirodha.

D. Jhana Or Dhyana Without Form (arupa jhana): absorption without form, leading to increasing rarefaction or incorporeality (similar to Patanjali's asamprajnata samadhi.

Asamprajnata-samadhi is sometimes known in Vedanta circles as nirvikalpa-samadhi).

Asamprajnata-samadhi is generally considered to incorporate the following four Jhanas within its scope:

            8) Eighth Jhana: jhana beyond perception and nonperception (nevasannanasanna) Saijojo.
            7) Seventh Jhana: jhana of pure emptiness (akinci, lit. "nothingness") Ken-Chu-Shi.
            6) Sixth Jhana: jhana of pure expansive consciousness (vinnana).
            5) Fifth Jhana: jhana of boundless space (anantakasa).

Arupa-jhana not overcome is arupa-raga, number seven of The Ten Fetters of Buddhism

C. Jhana Or Dhyana With Form (rupa-jhana): absorption in supporting content (similar to Patanjali's samprajnata samadhi).

Samprajnata-samadhi is generally considered to incorporate the following four Jhanas within its scope:

            4) Fourth Jhana: delete sense of well-being, leaving absorbed equanimity.
            3) Third Jhana: delete joy, leaving equanimity and sense of well-being.
            2) Second Jhana: delete mental activity, leaving joy and sense of well-being.
            1) First Jhana: mental activity, joy, and sense of well-being.

See also: The Five Varieties of Zen.

Rupa-jhana not overcome is rupa-raga, number six of The Ten Fetters of Buddhism

B. Access Concentration (upacara samadhi): powerful, unwavering attention on the focal object.

Traditionally, when the Five Hindrances are overcome it is called Upacara Samadhi, also known as neighborhood concentration or neighborhood samadhi, where you are right next to jhanas but not fully in them.

Access Concentration And Absorption Concentration

Access Concentration and Absorption Concentration are developed on the path to jhana by fixing the mind one-pointedly on a single meditation object.

Such meditations include visualization of fixed forms or colors, or concentrating the mind on one particular feeling like loving-kindness.

When Access and Absorption Concentration are developed, bliss and tranquility arise.

The meditator becomes fully absorbed in the object and no hindrances can disturb him.

This provisional eradication of defilement's state free from desire, aversion and confusion lasts only as long as the mediator keeps the mind on the meditation object.

As soon as the mind leaves its absorption in the object, bliss disappears and the mind is again beset by the flow of defilement's.

There is additionally a danger of this fixed concentration.

Since it does not generate wisdom it can lead to clinging to bliss or even misuse of the powers of concentration, thereby actually increasing defilement's.(source)

The difference between Access Concentration and Absorption Concentration is not in the absence of the hindrances, which is common to both, but in the relative strength of the jhana factors.

In Access Concentration the factors are weak so the concentration is fragile.

In Absorption Concentration the jhana factors are strong and well developed so that the mind can remain continuously in concentration (Vism.126; PP.131).

A. Tranquility (samatha or shamatha): the practice of one-pointed mental attention.

It is said that the path of tranquility-concentration-absorption can lead to super-normal powers (e.g., extrasensory perception, knowledge of previous lives).

All of the attainments of this path, however, are considered samsaric. Buddhism holds that absorption by itself cannot lead to Nirvana. It is, rather Mindfulness Leading To Insight that is said to end in Nirvana.

The mastery of "Access Concentration," however, is said to be an effective means to more stable mindfulness, and the mastery of the higher absorptive states is said to be an effective means to deeper insight.

In a similar vein, please compare the above with: Siddhi.

NOTE: In Buddhism, the meditative stages of samatha (or shamatha: tranquillity), Samadhi (specifically, access concentration: upacara samadhi), and jhana Pali or dhyana Sanskrit (absorption) correspond roughly to Patanjali's dharana, dhyana, Samadhi, respectively.

NOTE: In Buddhism, it is usually 'jhana' or 'dhyana', but sometimes also 'samadhi', that is used for absorption.

Samadhi, understood as means of access to absorption, is usually considered a precondition of absorption (jhana/dhyana).


Just prior to the threshold of Tranquility, and sometimes in an overlap of early stages and sometimes indistinguishable is a preliminary or early stage called 'Laya'.

Laya is a mental state of quietude easily slipped into that occurs usually in the course of spiritual practice.

The experience is temporary as the arrest of thoughts return the moment the pressure is released.

The stillness comes and goes.

The experience is pleasant and can be sought about by `deep concentration' and/or breath regulation.

It happens, therefore, with one's own volition.

It can be repeated by the practitioner and it can also equally be dropped if it is considerd unnecessary or obstructive to further progress.

'Entering into Laya can be a clear sign of one's progress --- the danger lies in mistaking it for the final goal of spiritual practice and being thus deceived.