'absorption' (meditation) refers chiefly to the
four meditative absorptions of the fine-material sphere (rūpa-jjhāna or
rūpāvacara-jjhāna; s. avacara).
They are achieved through the
attainment of full (or attainment -, or ecstatic) concentration (appanā, s.
samādhi), during which there is a complete, though temporary, suspension
of fivefold sense-activity and of the 5 hindrances (s.
state of consciousness, however, is one of full alertness and lucidity. This
high degree of concentration is generally developed by the practice of one of
the 40 subjects of tranquility meditation (samatha-kammatthāna; s.
Often also the 4 immaterial spheres (arūpāyatana) are called
absorptions of the immaterial sphere (arūpa-jjhāna or arūpāvacara-jjhāna).
The stereotype text, often met with in the Suttas, runs as follows:
(1) "Detached from sensual objects, o monks, detached
from disadvantageous consciousness, attached with thought-conception (vitakka) and
discursive thinking (vicāra), born of detachment (vivekaja) and
filled with rapture (pīti) and joy (sukha) he enters the first
(2) "After the subsiding of thought-conception and
discursive thinking, and by gaining inner tranquility and oneness of mind, he
enters into a state free from thought-conception and discursive thinking, the
second absorption, which is born of concentration (samādhi), and filled
with rapture (pīti) and joy (sukha).
(3) "After the fading away of rapture he dwells in
equanimity, mindful, clearly conscious; and he experiences in his person that
feeling of which the Noble Ones say, 'Happy lives the man of equanimity and
attentive mind'; thus he enters the 3rd absorption.
(4) "After having given up pleasure and pain, and
through the disappearance of previous joy and grief, he enters into a state
beyond pleasure and pain, into the 4th absorption, which is purified by
equanimity (upekkhā) and mindfulness.
(5) "Through the total overcoming of the perceptions of
matter, however, and through the vanishing of sense-reactions and the
non-attention to the perceptions of variety, with the idea, 'Boundless is
space', he reaches the sphere of boundless space (ākāsānañcāyatana) and
["By 'perceptions of matter' (rūpa-saññā) are
meant the absorptions of the fine-material sphere, as well as those objects
themselves . . . " (Vis.M. X.1).
"By 'perceptions of sense-reactions' (patigha-saññā)
are meant those perceptions that have arisen due to the impact of sense-organs
(eye, etc.) and the sense-objects (visible objects, etc.). They are a name for
the perception of visible objects, as it is said (Jhāna-Vibh.): 'What are
here the perceptions of sense-reactions? They are the perceptions of visible
objects, sounds, etc.' - Surely, they do no longer exist even for one who has
entered the 1st absorption, etc., for at such a time the five-sense
consciousness is no longer functioning. Nevertheless, this is to be understood
as having been said in praise of this immaterial absorption, in order to incite
the striving for it" (Vis.M. X.16).
"Perceptions of variety (ñānatta-saññā) are
the perceptions that arise in various fields, or the various perceptions" (ib.).
Hereby, according to Vis.M. X.20, are meant the multiform perceptions outside
(6) "Through the total overcoming of the sphere of
boundless space, and with the idea 'Boundless is consciousness', he reaches the
sphere of boundless consciousness (viññānañcāyatana) and abides
(7) "Through the total overcoming of the sphere of
boundless consciousness, and with the idea 'Nothing is there', he reaches the
sphere of nothingness (ākiñcaññāyatana) and abides therein.
(8) "Through the total overcoming of the sphere of
nothingness he reaches the sphere of neither-perception-nor-non-perception (nevasaññā-n'asaññāyatana)
and abides therein."
"Thus the 1st absorption is free from 5 things (i.e. the
nīvarana), and 5 things are present (i.e. the factors
of absorption; jhānanga). Whenever the monk enters the 1st absorption,
there have vanished sensuous desire, ill-will, sloth and torpor, restlessness
and scruples, doubts; and there are present: thought-conception (vitakka),
discursive thinking (vicāra) rapture (pīti), joy (sukha), and
concentration (samādhi). In the 2nd absorption there are present:
rapture, joy and concentration; in the 3rd: joy and concentration; in the 4th:
equanimity (upekkhā) and concentration" (Vis.M. IV).
The 4 absorptions of the immaterial sphere (s. above 5-8)
still belong, properly speaking, to the 4th absorption as they possess the same
two constituents. The 4th fine-material absorption is also the base or starting
point (pādaka-jhāna, q.v.) for the attaining of the higher spiritual
In the Abhidhamma, generally a fivefold instead of a fourfold
division of the fine-material absorptions is used: the 2nd absorption has still
the constituent 'discursive thinking' (but without thought-conception), while
the 3rd, 4th and 5th correspond to the 2nd, 3rd and 4th, respectively, of the
fourfold division (s. Tab.I. 9- 13) . This fivefold division is based on sutta
texts like A . VIII, 63 .
For the 8 absorptions as objects for the development of
insight (vipassanā), see samatha-vipassanā. - Full details in
Jhāna in its widest sense (e.g. as one of the 24 conditions;
s. paccaya 17), denotes any, even momentary or weak absorption of mind, when
directed on a single object.