Meditation Before the Buddha

Meditation was not in­vented by the Buddha. The Buddhist texts al­ways as­sume that med­i­ta­tion was a wide­spread and well-known prac­tice. Given this, it is per­haps sur­pris­ing to find that the ex­tant pre-Buddhist sources do not have all that much to say about med­i­ta­tion.

Early Brahmanical Sources

The ear­li­est ev­i­dence for med­i­ta­tive cul­ture any­where in the world is from the Indus val­ley civ­i­liza­tion. This was a vast, so­phis­ti­cated, and well-organized so­ci­ety which, at its peak in 2500–3000 BCE, stretched from what is now Pakistan to the Ganges val­ley. The evo­lu­tion of this civ­i­liza­tion can be traced as far back as 7000 BCE in Afghanistan, with a se­ries of vil­lages that be­came towns, and then towns that be­came cities. It was there­fore an in­dige­nous Indian cul­ture. There is a strong con­ti­nu­ity with later Indian cul­ture, al­though we are not quite sure who these peo­ple were. The iconog­ra­phy sug­gests that they were the ‘nose­less’ and ‘black’ peo­ples (Dravidians?) whose de­struc­tion at the hands of the Aryans is still dimly re­mem­bered in the Ṛg Veda. Perhaps the most in­trigu­ing rem­nants of their bril­liant world are the thou­sands of ex­quis­itely carved seals, lit­tle clay tablets that were prob­a­bly worn by the cit­i­zens as a religious/family/occupational icon, and, of course, as a magic totem. These seals con­tain some of the world’s old­est writ­ings, which are as yet un­de­ci­phered.

The most in­ter­est­ing for our cur­rent pur­pose are a few seals that de­pict a god as a yogi sit­ting in med­i­ta­tion. These are as­ton­ish­ingly sim­i­lar to the amulets that are still widely pop­u­lar in Buddhist coun­tries to­day. The yogi is usu­ally iden­ti­fied on the ba­sis of iconog­ra­phy as a ‘proto-Śiva’. He sits, not in the ‘lo­tus pos­ture’ of the Buddha, but in ei­ther sid­dhāsana (with legs crossed at the an­kles) or mūla­band­hāsana (with soles of the feet pressed to­gether). Both of these pos­tures are as­so­ci­ated with psy­chic pow­ers. One of the im­ages de­picts snakes ris­ing be­side him, a star­tling im­age fa­mil­iar from Eden to the Pali canon. The im­age of the Buddha with a ser­pent ris­ing over him is still pop­u­lar to­day, taken from the Mucalinda Sutta of the Udāna. It is, of course, most fa­mous as the sym­bol of the ‘kun­dalini’ of the Hindus. But whereas the ser­pent rises over the Buddha, sig­ni­fy­ing tran­scen­dence, in the proto-Śiva im­age the ser­pent rises only to the fore­head. In later the­ory this place, the jñāṇa­cakra, was as­so­ci­ated with lights, sub­tle forms, and psy­chic pow­ers, and would there­fore seem to be equiv­a­lent to the Buddhist form jhā­nas. These pos­si­bil­i­ties are too ten­u­ous to make much of. However, it is cer­tain that here is an as­cetic who has, as the Buddhist texts say, ‘gone to the for­est, to the root of a tree, or to an empty hut, sat down cross-legged, and set his body erect…’. Has he taken the next step in this med­i­ta­tive train­ing: ‘es­tab­lish­ing mind­ful­ness’?

Sati in Buddhism is func­tion­ally de­scribed in terms of ei­ther sara ‘mem­ory’, or anu­pas­sanā ‘ob­ser­va­tion’. The re­la­tion be­tween these two ideas is, to our mind, strange, and is best ex­plained as a his­tor­i­cal, lin­guis­tic de­vel­op­ment. Sara is from the same root as sati, and is the his­tor­i­cal mean­ing. Sati came to mean, in the Brahmanical tra­di­tion gen­er­ally, ‘re­ceived tra­di­tion, mem­o­rized texts.’ This mean­ing is at­tested in the early Suttas, where it is treated iden­ti­cally in Buddhist and Brahmanical con­texts: one ‘re­mem­bers what was said and done long ago’.

Sati is ap­par­ently used since the Ṛg Veda (per­haps a thou­sand years be­fore the Buddha) in two senses: to ‘re­mem­ber’ or ‘rec­ol­lect’, and to ‘bear in mind’. The sig­nif­i­cance of this should not be over­looked. Sati is not just a word one uses to re­fer to some texts one re­mem­bers; it is prob­a­ble that the de­vel­op­ment of the cul­ture of mem­o­riz­ing texts lead to the dis­cov­ery, in­ves­ti­ga­tion, and de­vel­op­ment of what ‘mem­ory’ is. That is to say, those who mem­o­rized the Vedic mantras were en­gaged in an early form of men­tal cul­ture, a men­tal cul­ture where ‘mem­ory’ was a vi­tal qual­ity. This men­tal cul­ture was one of the strands that be­came wo­ven into what we know to­day as ‘med­i­ta­tion’.

In the Chāndogya Upaniṣad a fa­ther asks his son to fast for 15 days, then tests him on his mem­ory of the Vedic texts. He fails dis­mally; but af­ter eat­ing again he can re­mem­ber eas­ily. His fa­ther ex­plains:

If, from a great blaz­ing fire, there is only one coal left glow­ing, it can eas­ily be made to blaze up again by putting grass on it. Even so, my dear son, there was [due to fast­ing] but one part in six­teen left to you and that, lighted up with food, blazed up and by it you re­mem­ber now the Vedas.’ After that he un­der­stood what his fa­ther meant when he said: ‘Mind, my dear son, comes from food, breath from wa­ter, speech from fire.’165

The Buddha was once asked by a Brahman why the (Vedic) mantras are some­times easy to re­mem­ber and some­times not.166 Typically, he an­swers that when the five hin­drances are present the mantras are not clear; when the five hin­drances are ab­sent the mantras are clear. This is a straight­for­ward ex­am­ple of how the sci­ence of mem­o­riz­ing texts would lead nat­u­rally to in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the men­tal qual­i­ties nec­es­sary for suc­cess in such an am­bi­tious ven­ture. We still use the 4000 year old word ‘mantra’, which orig­i­nally re­ferred to the Vedic texts, as a term for a med­i­ta­tion word, a sound or phrase tra­di­tion­ally taken from the an­cient texts that one re­peats over and again as a sup­port for med­i­ta­tion. The re­la­tion be­tween rec­ol­lec­tion and med­i­ta­tion is strong even to­day in Buddhism. For ex­am­ple, most Buddhists are fa­mil­iar with the ba­sic pas­sages for ‘rec­ol­lec­tion’ (anus­sati) of the Triple Gem. These form the ba­sis for both the reg­u­lar chant­ing at Buddhist cer­e­monies, and also the med­i­ta­tion on the Triple Gem.

In a sim­i­lar fash­ion, the verses of the Vedas had a highly nu­mi­nous, mys­ti­cal sig­nif­i­cance for the an­cient Brahman priests, and it would have been nat­ural for the more con­tem­pla­tive among them to in­duce ex­alted states of con­scious­ness through the ec­sta­tic rec­ol­lec­tion of the sa­cred words. In or­der to mem­o­rize long texts it is, of course, nec­es­sary to re­peat pas­sages over and over again. If one does this me­chan­i­cally, with­out in­ter­est, the mem­o­riz­ing will not suc­ceed. One must bring in­spi­ra­tion, joy, at­ten­tion, and un­der­stand­ing to the task. One must learn to ‘stay with’ the present moment​—​and here we are cross­ing over to the fa­mil­iar Buddhist idea of ‘mind­ful­ness’.

This psy­chol­ogy also emerges in the us­age of the word dhī, fa­mil­iar as the root of the Buddhist term ‘jhāna’. Dhī is used early on in the sense of ‘thought’, and has a spe­cial con­nec­tion with the ‘vi­sion­ing’ of the Vedic po­etry: dhī is the in­tu­itive aware­ness as the poet/priest ‘sees’ the verses. This ‘thought’ (dhī) or ‘mind’ (manas) is dis­ci­plined (yoga) by the re­citers.

The priests of him the di­vine Savitr well-skilled in hymns
Harness their mind, yea, har­ness their holy thoughts.167

But jhāna did not de­velop its mean­ing of ‘deep ab­sorp­tion’ un­til the Buddha. In the Bṛhadāraṇyaka, jhāna is con­trasted with the still­ness of the True Self.

Which is the Self?

That per­son here made of cog­ni­tion among the senses [breaths], the light within the heart. He, re­main­ing the same, wan­ders about the two worlds as if think­ing (dhyāy­ati), as if play­ing (lelāy­ati).’168

The Upaniṣads con­stantly re­mind us to pre­serve the cor­rect men­tal at­ti­tude; to per­form the rit­u­als with one’s whole be­ing, con­tem­plat­ing the sig­nif­i­cance of each as­pect as one car­ries it out. Even the ear­lier Brahmanas al­low that if a rit­ual can­not be car­ried out phys­i­cally it may be per­formed by ‘faith’, i.e. as a purely men­tal act.169 In this im­mer­sion of aware­ness in one’s ac­tions we can dis­cern a pre­cur­sor to the Buddhist em­pha­sis on mind­ful­ness through all one’s ac­tiv­i­ties.

It is a cu­ri­ous thing that when we look at the sources most likely to be con­tem­po­rary with the Buddha​—​namely the Bṛhadāraṇyaka and the Chāndogya​—​we find that these well-known med­i­ta­tive terms are used less fre­quently, and a word ap­par­ently for­eign to Buddhist med­i­ta­tion is found far more of­ten. This word is up­āsana. Edward Crangle, fol­low­ing Velkar, has stud­ied this term in de­tail, and lists the fre­quency of oc­cur­rence. In the Bṛhadāraṇyaka, up­āsana oc­curs 63 times, jhāna thrice, and yoga twice. In the Chāndogya, up­āsana oc­curs 115 times, jhāna twelve times, and yoga again twice.170 Upāsana is a key term in con­sid­er­ing the emer­gence of med­i­ta­tive psy­chol­ogy in Indian tra­di­tion. It is trans­lated some­times as ‘wor­ship’ and some­times as ‘med­i­ta­tion’, and em­bod­ies the shift from an ex­ter­nal wor­ship and rit­ual to­wards in­ner con­tem­pla­tion. Crangle says up­āsana is ‘a con­tem­pla­tive process wherein the ob­ject of wor­ship is an ob­ject of con­cen­tra­tion.’171 The fol­low­ing con­veys the mys­ti­cal tone of up­āsana:

Next, of this breath, wa­ter is the body. Its light-form is that moon. As far as the breath ex­tends so far ex­tends wa­ter and that moon. These are all alike, all end­less. Verily, he who meditates/worships (up­āsana) them as fi­nite wins a fi­nite world. But he who meditates/worships them as in­fi­nite wins an in­fi­nite world.’172

Upāsana en­com­passes a wide spec­trum of spir­i­tual con­scious­ness. Velkar says it is med­i­ta­tive, em­blem­atic (in­volv­ing elab­o­rate sym­bol­ism), and an­a­lytic (in mak­ing philo­soph­i­cal dis­tinc­tions). It takes a large va­ri­ety of ob­jects, con­crete and ab­stract: God, ‘om’, sun, moon, light­ning, wind, space, fire, wa­ter, breath, ‘That as Great’, ‘That as Mind’, etc.

Crangle makes the in­trigu­ing sug­ges­tion that up­āsana is re­lated to the Buddhist term sati­paṭṭhāna, es­pe­cially the last el­e­ment of this com­pound, up­aṭṭhāna.173 This is sup­ported on a num­ber of grounds. The sound of the words is al­most iden­ti­cal, es­pe­cially in Sanskrit (up­asthāna and up­āsana). Though they are from dif­fer­ent roots, the con­struc­tion and ba­sic mean­ings are sim­i­lar: upa + ās means to ‘sit near’; upa + sthā means to ‘stand near’. From there they both de­vel­oped the sense of ‘wait upon, serve, at­tend’, and then to ‘pray, wor­ship’. In a specif­i­cally med­i­ta­tive con­text they are both used in the sense of the ini­tial ground­ing on the med­i­ta­tion ob­ject, rather than the re­sult­ing state of ab­sorp­tion. Some of the med­i­ta­tion ob­jects for up­āsana are also found in sati­paṭṭhāna: the breath, wa­ter, fire, space, bliss, mind, etc. So Crangle’s sug­ges­tion can be ac­cepted. The ma­jor con­tem­pla­tive prac­tice of the pre-Buddhist pe­riod is up­āsana, and this prac­tice finds its clos­est Buddhist con­nec­tion, sur­pris­ingly enough, not with jhāna or samādhi, but with sati­paṭṭhāna.

Investigation of pre-Buddhist med­i­ta­tion ter­mi­nol­ogy is ham­pered by the fact that the Vedas have lit­tle or noth­ing on med­i­ta­tion and the early Upaniṣads have noth­ing clear. The ear­li­est clear de­scrip­tions of med­i­ta­tion out­side of Buddhism are in later texts of the Upaniṣads and the Jains. These are later than the Suttas, how­ever, there is no rea­son why even late texts should not pre­serve old tra­di­tions.

In re­cent years some schol­ars have doubted the ac­cepted wis­dom that the early Upaniṣads were pre-Buddhist. The Suttas do not men­tion the Upaniṣads in their stan­dard list of Brahmanical texts. But one pas­sage in the Tevijja Sutta, dis­cussing con­tem­po­rary con­tro­ver­sies among the Brahmans, refers to Brahmanical schools teach­ing dif­fer­ent paths.174 These have been equated by Jayatilleke with sev­eral of the Brahmanas (which in­clude the Upaniṣads) as fol­lows.

Table 10.1: Brahmanical texts in the Tevijja Sutta
Schools in the Tevijja Sutta Brahmanical schools Brahmanical Text
1. Including the Bṛhadāraṇyaka.
Addhariyā Yajur Veda Addhariya Śatapatha Brahmaṇa1
Tittiriyā Yajur Veda Tittirya Taittirīya Brahmaṇa
Chandokā Sāman Veda Chandoga Chāndogya Brahmaṇa
Bavharijā Ṛg Veda Bavharija Bahvrvas Brahmaṇa

This sug­gests that the Upaniṣadic schools were in ex­is­tence, but their tenets were still in fer­ment. Perhaps the Upaniṣads that we have to­day de­rive from the later set­tled tenets of each of these strands of Brahmanical thought.175 But whether or not the Upaniṣads in their cur­rent form ex­isted at the Buddha’s time, there is no doubt that ideas we can call ‘Upaniṣadic’ were promi­nent. In the sphere of meta­physics we can cite the Buddha’s cri­tique of such ideas as that the self is in­fi­nite (anan­tavā attā), or that the self is iden­ti­cal with the world (so attā so loko), or that ‘I am He’ (eso’hamasmi); or in­deed the Buddha’s con­dem­na­tion of the sug­ges­tion by a cer­tain Brahman cos­mol­o­gist that ‘All is one­ness’ (sab­baṁ ekat­taṁ). It is only nat­ural to con­nect such meta­physics with samādhi at­tain­ments, as im­plied by the Brahmajāla Sutta.

The early Upaniṣads, es­pe­cially the Bṛhadāraṇyaka, usu­ally re­garded as the ear­li­est and most im­por­tant, are a very mixed bag. The Bṛhadāraṇyaka has pas­sages of lyri­cal beauty, so­phis­ti­cated phi­los­o­phy, ex­alted meta­physics, and witty di­a­logue. It is closely con­cerned with ideas like the mind, the breath, and one­ness, which are sug­ges­tive of a med­i­ta­tive cul­ture. It dis­tin­guishes be­tween mere per­cep­tion (saññā) and lib­er­at­ing un­der­stand­ing (paññā), and em­pha­sizes aware­ness (viññāṇa) in con­trast with the more dy­namic con­cep­tual and emo­tive as­pects of mind (mano). Therefore it in­sists on per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence rather than mere book learn­ing. It fre­quently up­sets preconceptions​—​women have strong sup­port­ing roles, and some­times Brahmans are de­picted as hav­ing to learn about Brahmā from the Kṣatriyas.

But the Bṛhadāraṇyaka also re­tains much that is ba­nal and even bru­tal. It en­dorses the sac­ri­fice. It is un­abashedly ma­te­ri­al­is­tic. It is full of thau­maturgy and hocus-pocus. It con­tains black magic​—​a curse to place on one’s ri­val in love. It in­cludes crude sex magic. If one’s woman is re­luc­tant to par­tic­i­pate she should first be bribed with presents; ‘and if she still does not grant him his de­sire, he should beat her with a stick or his hand and over­come her’.176 Such abuse is quite in­com­pat­i­ble with any gen­uine mind cul­ture. The text is a tes­ta­ment to the di­ver­sity of ideas that the an­cient Brahmans could re­gard as ‘spir­i­tual’, and to the elas­tic­ity of the com­pil­ers of the text we have to­day.

Let us look at some of the pas­sages most sug­ges­tive of med­i­ta­tion. From the Bṛhadāraṇyaka:

Let a man per­form one ob­ser­vance only, let him breath up and let him breath down, that the evil death might not reach him.’177

The un­seen seer, the un­heard hearer, the un­thought thinker, the unc­og­nized cog­nizer… There is no other seer but he, no other hearer, no other thinker, no other cog­nizer. This is thy self, the in­ner con­troller, the im­mor­tal…’ 178

Therefore, know­ing this, be­ing calm, tamed, quiet, en­dur­ing, con­cen­trated, one sees the soul in one­self.’ 179

By them­selves such pas­sages are too vague for any clear con­clu­sion re­gard­ing med­i­ta­tive prac­tices. And even the last pas­sage, which is the most sug­ges­tive, has ‘faith­ful’ as a vari­ant read­ing for ‘con­cen­trated’. The Chāndogya has a slightly more ex­plicit pas­sage.

As a bird when tied by a string flies in every di­rec­tion and, find­ing no rest any­where, set­tles down at last on the very place where it is fas­tened; ex­actly so, my son, that mind, af­ter fly­ing around in every di­rec­tion and find­ing no rest any­where, set­tles down on breath; for in­deed, my son, mind is fas­tened to breath.’180

For clear teach­ings on med­i­ta­tion we must go to the (prob­a­bly post-Buddhist) Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad.

By mak­ing his body the under-wood and the syl­la­ble “Om” the upper-wood, man, af­ter re­peat­ing the drill of med­i­ta­tion, will per­ceive the bright god, like the spark hid­den in the wood.’181

If the wise man holds his body with the three up­right parts even, and turns his senses with his mind to­wards the heart, he will then in the boat of Brahman cross over all the fear­ful streams.’182

Compressing his breath, let him, who has sub­dued all mo­tions, breath forth through the nose with gen­tle breath. Let the wise one, be­ing heed­ful, keep hold of his mind, that char­iot yoked with wild horses.’183

When yoga is be­ing per­formed, the forms that come first, pro­duc­ing ap­pari­tions in Brahman, are those of misty smoke, sun, fire, wind, fire-flies, light­nings, and a crys­tal moon.’184

These are fairly straight­for­ward ref­er­ences to med­i­ta­tion, and they will not sound un­fa­mil­iar to any­one versed in Buddhist med­i­ta­tion. The sim­ile of med­i­ta­tion like two fire-sticks is well known in the Buddhist texts.185 Notice the close con­nec­tion in SU 2.9 be­tween ‘heed­ful­ness’ (ap­pamāda) and ‘keep­ing hold’ (dhāraṇa), a term se­man­ti­cally equiv­a­lent to sati. The ear­li­est Brahmanical med­i­ta­tion sub­jects were the breath and the con­tem­pla­tion of the mys­ti­cal syl­la­ble ‘Om’. Of course, the ‘breath’ and the ‘word’ are closely re­lated and are mys­ti­cally iden­ti­fied in the Upaniṣads; the yo­gis may have re­cited ‘Om’ to­gether with the breath. The Upaniṣads are full of pas­sages that as­sert the su­premacy of the breath over the sense fac­ul­ties and mind (‘mind’ here mean­ing thoughts and emo­tions). These can be un­der­stood as an al­le­gor­i­cal de­scrip­tion of the evo­lu­tion of aware­ness from the di­ver­sity of ex­ter­nals to­wards a unity with the breath.

The breath is a prime ex­er­cise in sati­paṭṭhāna body con­tem­pla­tion, and other as­pects sug­ges­tive of sati­paṭṭhāna can also be dis­cerned in the Upaniṣadic tra­di­tion. Just as in the Satipaṭṭhāna Saṁyutta, the de­pen­dence of the breath (body) on food is stressed.186 The el­e­ments ap­pear com­monly in the an­cient world, and were wor­shipped as deities. For ex­am­ple Agni (Fire) was a ma­jor de­ity in the Vedas, and un­doubt­edly in­spired ec­sta­tic con­tem­pla­tion. Vāyu (air) was also wor­shipped in the Vedas. The Earth (Mother), whose sym­bols per­vade the iconog­ra­phy of Buddhism, was also widely revered, and was as­so­ci­ated with the Indus Valley re­li­gion. The parts of the body are wor­shipped in the Chāndogya Upaniṣad: hair, skin, flesh, bone, mar­row.187 All of these ap­pear in the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta list of body parts, and in the same or­der. Charnel grounds have long been a favourite haunt­ing ground of a cer­tain type of as­cetic. The later Maitrī Upaniṣad opens with body con­tem­pla­tions for in­duc­ing dis­pas­sion (virāga), but this is prob­a­bly un­der Buddhist in­flu­ence.188

The other satipaṭṭhānas​—​feelings, mind, and dhammas​—​might even be com­pared with the fa­mous Brahmanical three­some: mind, be­ing, bliss (cit, sat, ānanda). Mind and bliss are ob­vi­ous enough. As for be­ing, this is a fun­da­men­tal philo­soph­i­cal term for the Upaniṣads, just as dhamma is the fun­da­men­tal term for Buddhism. The dhamma the­ory was clearly de­vel­oped to pro­vide an ex­pla­na­tion for phe­nom­e­nal re­al­ity op­posed to the Brahmanical con­cep­tion of an ab­solute un­der­ly­ing ground of be­ing. And in­deed the con­tem­pla­tion of dham­mas promi­nently fea­tures the same term for be­ing, sat, that was so im­por­tant for the Brahmans; yet here it is treated, as al­ways, in a thor­oughly em­pir­i­cal, anti-metaphysical way: the ‘pres­ence’ or ‘ab­sence’ of good or bad men­tal fac­tors ac­cord­ing to con­di­tions. Another list also re­minds us of the sati­paṭṭhā­nas: food, breath (= body), mind (or thought, manas), cog­ni­tion (vi­jñāna = mind, citta), bliss (= feel­ings).189 Whether or not there is any real his­tor­i­cal link be­tween these spe­cific sets, both tra­di­tions used sim­ple lists of phys­i­cal and men­tal phe­nom­ena as a guide to spir­i­tual prac­tice.

Towards the end of this study we’ll see that some of the later Buddhist the­o­rists posited a re­la­tion­ship be­tween the evo­lu­tion of the stages of un­der­stand­ing in med­i­ta­tion and the stages of un­der­stand­ing in the philo­soph­i­cal out­look of the var­i­ous schools. It is not so far-fetched to see a sim­i­lar progress here; the Upaniṣads them­selves seem to be aware on some level of this evo­lu­tion. We can analyse the stages of Indian re­li­gion in terms of the four sati­paṭṭhā­nas. The ear­li­est stages were wholly physical​—​rituals, chants, the breath, sacrifices​—​pursued with the goal of fer­til­ity and pros­per­ity. This de­vel­oped into the prac­tice of self-torment, which while still phys­i­cal was pred­i­cated on the abil­ity to en­dure painful feel­ings. The next stage was the em­pha­sis on re­fined states of con­scious­ness iden­ti­fied as the cos­mic self. Finally, the Buddhist cri­tique of meta­phys­i­cal ab­so­lutism, the analy­sis of dham­mas as con­di­tioned and not-self.

Thus some of the facets of sati­paṭṭhāna have their prece­dents in the Brahmanical tra­di­tions. The dif­fer­ence is in what is left out (hocus-pocus, rit­u­als, de­ity wor­ship, meta­physics, etc.), and in the man­ner of treat­ment. The prac­tice is cool, ra­tio­nal, and sen­si­ble. The ter­mi­nol­ogy has been sub­sumed into the Buddhist sys­tem. The pre­sen­ta­tion is purely in terms of dis­cern­able em­pir­i­cal phe­nom­ena with­out any meta­phys­i­cal over­tones. It is not try­ing to per­suade you of a the­ory but to point you to­wards your own ex­pe­ri­ence.

The Buddhist Sources

Given the paucity of ref­er­ences to med­i­ta­tion in pre-Buddhist texts we are thrown back on the Buddhist texts as our ear­li­est source. There are a num­ber of prob­lems with this. The com­pil­ers of the Suttas may not have had much knowl­edge of non-Buddhist prac­tices, and may have suc­cumbed to the temp­ta­tion to put their op­po­si­tion in a bad light. In ad­di­tion, they quite likely de­scribed the prac­tices of other schools in ter­mi­nol­ogy they were fa­mil­iar with, but which was not au­then­tic to the other schools. Nevertheless, both the Buddhist and the non-Buddhist sources agree in broad terms in their de­scrip­tion of pre-Buddhist med­i­ta­tion. There are two such streams, rep­re­sented by the two styles of prac­tice un­der­taken by the Bodhisatta be­fore his en­light­en­ment. These are the samādhi prac­ti­tion­ers of the Upaniṣads and the self-tormenters of the Jains.

The best-known pas­sage re­fer­ring to such ‘Upaniṣadic’ yo­gis is the tale of the Bodhisatta’s ap­pren­tice­ship.190 I wish to first note why I con­sider the sig­nif­i­cance of this pas­sage to be se­ri­ously over­rated. According to the GIST, the Buddha’s main teach­ings are found in the ba­sic doc­tri­nal state­ments (sut­tas) to­gether with the in­ter­rog­a­tive dis­cus­sions of these state­ments (vyākaraṇa). This ma­te­r­ial does not in­clude much bi­og­ra­phy, be­yond stat­ing that it was through un­der­stand­ing the four no­ble truths, etc., or through prac­tic­ing the eight­fold path, etc., that the Buddha re­al­ized en­light­en­ment. Biography as such is one of the later aṅ­gas, avadāna. However, af­ter the Buddha’s pass­ing away the com­mu­nity found that the Buddha’s life story gave the teach­ings that ‘per­sonal touch’ so es­sen­tial for the de­vel­op­ment of Buddhism into a pop­u­lar mass re­li­gion. From that time un­til the present day the Buddha’s life, rather than be­ing oc­ca­sion­ally used to il­lus­trate a doc­tri­nal point, be­came the main fo­cus of at­ten­tion. The events that are in­cluded in the Buddha’s life story are known to all Buddhists, and as a re­sult some­times mi­nor in­ci­dents have been blown up out of all pro­por­tion to their orig­i­nal sig­nif­i­cance. One ob­vi­ous ex­am­ple of this is the Buddha’s last meal, an ob­scure in­ci­dent of du­bi­ous in­ter­pre­ta­tion, ab­sent in some ver­sions, which has be­come the main bat­tle ground in the con­tro­versy re­gard­ing the Buddhist po­si­tion on veg­e­tar­i­an­ism, with the re­sult that the sev­eral straight­for­ward dis­courses di­rectly ad­dress­ing the is­sue, as well as the fre­quent men­tion of meat-eating in the Vinaya, are vir­tu­ally ig­nored. Another case is the touch­ing story of the dif­fi­cult at­tempts by the Buddha’s foster-mother Mahā Pajāpati to se­cure women’s or­di­na­tion. This story is known to all and is reg­u­larly in­voked to deny women the op­por­tu­nity for full par­tic­i­pa­tion in the re­nun­ci­ate life, while ig­nor­ing the fre­quent men­tion of the ‘four­fold as­sem­bly’ (in­clud­ing nuns) that the Buddha re­garded as the sign of a com­plete, suc­cess­ful, and long-lasting re­li­gion. Taking note of this prin­ci­ple does not in and of it­self mean that these pas­sages are in­au­then­tic, nor that they should not be taken ac­count of, nor does it sug­gest tak­ing any spe­cific stand on such con­tro­ver­sies; but it does sug­gest that we should be more care­ful in how we weigh and eval­u­ate the ev­i­dence in the early texts.

Nevertheless, even though the story of the Bodhisatta’s ap­pren­tice­ship al­ready suf­fers from too many dis­cus­sions, here’s one more. Virtually all dis­cus­sions have ig­nored the ob­vi­ous point that the Ariyapariyesana Sutta men­tions three stages of this ap­pren­tice­ship. Firstly, learn­ing and lip-reciting of the texts.191 This is a hint that these are as­cetics in the main­stream Vedic tra­di­tion; the na­ture of the texts is not spec­i­fied here, but else­where the Buddha re­calls that Uddaka Rāmaputta claimed to be a vedagū, a mas­ter of the Vedas.192 Anyway, as we noted above, the Vedas are the only texts that are known to the early Suttas.193 Secondly the path, here de­scribed as faith, en­ergy, mind­ful­ness, samādhi, and wis­dom.194 Thirdly, the goal​—​formless at­tain­ments. These three stages cor­re­spond with the clas­sic three as­pects of Buddhism​—​study, prac­tice, and re­al­iza­tion. The five fac­tors of the path are the Buddhist five spir­i­tual faculties​—​a fact that is comve­niently over­looked by those who wish to in­ter­pret this pas­sage as im­ply­ing the ‘non-Buddhist’ na­ture of samādhi in gen­eral, or of form­less at­tain­ments in par­tic­u­lar. We can­not know how these qual­i­ties were un­der­stood in de­tail in this con­text; but terms such as pra­jñā, etc., oc­cur com­monly in the Upaniṣads. If it is true that the five spir­i­tual fac­ul­ties were gen­uinely as­so­ci­ated with the Vedic/Upaniṣadic tra­di­tion, it may be no co­in­ci­dence that it is in the spir­i­tual fac­ul­ties that we most fre­quently meet sati treated as ‘mem­ory’.195

The Bodhisatta did not re­ject the form­less at­tain­ments in & of them­selves. It is not the case that he prac­ticed samādhi med­i­ta­tion but not mind­ful­ness med­i­ta­tion. Rather, he prac­ticed mind­ful­ness med­i­ta­tion to get into samādhi. Samādhi is em­pha­sized in this ac­count be­cause it was the high­est, the most ex­alted qual­ity ac­knowl­edged in those sys­tems, and be­cause of its sub­lime peace­ful­ness it was mis­tak­enly taken to be the fi­nal end of the spir­i­tual path. The Bodhisatta be­came dis­il­lu­sioned with ‘that Dhamma’, i.e. with the teach­ing taken as a whole, be­cause it led only to re­birth in the form­less realm, and was there­fore ‘in­suf­fi­cient’ to reach the ‘ex­cel­lent state of peace’, the end­ing of birth, ag­ing, and death.

This is in per­fect ac­cord with the main stream of the Suttas. Elsewhere it is said that or­di­nary peo­ple at­tain samādhi (here the four jhā­nas196 and the four di­vine abid­ings197), are re­born in the Brahmā realms, and af­ter a long pe­riod of bliss fall back into lower realms. But no­ble dis­ci­ples, af­ter reach­ing the Brahmā realms, at­tain Nibbana from there. The dif­fer­ence is not in the states of samādhi as such​—​these are just the mind at peace. The dif­fer­ence is in the views and in­ter­pre­ta­tions, the con­cep­tual wrap­ping that the ex­pe­ri­ence in bun­dled up in. The path must be taken as a whole. If one starts out with wrong view, one’s med­i­ta­tion ex­pe­ri­ences will sim­ply re­in­force one’s pre­con­cep­tions. If one prac­tices samādhi with the view that one’s soul will be­come im­mersed in some ex­alted state of be­ing, well, one will get what one wishes for.

This is the most im­por­tant fea­ture dis­tin­guish­ing this episode from the later oc­ca­sion (quoted be­low) when the Bodhisatta rec­ol­lected his for­mer ex­pe­ri­ence of first jhāna. This oc­curred as a child, seated in the cool shade of a rose-apple tree. When the Bodhisatta re­mem­bered this ex­pe­ri­ence he re­al­ized that: ‘That in­deed is the path to en­light­en­ment’. As a child, his mind was un­clut­tered with views; he had no meta­phys­i­cal agenda. The peace of the mind was just the peace of the mind; and so he re­al­ized that al­though such states were not the fi­nal goal he had been yearn­ing for, they were in­deed the path to that goal. This ac­count is found in the Mahā Saccaka Sutta (MN 36), the Mahāvastu (of the Mahāsaṅghika Vinaya), the Saṅghabhedavastu (from the Mūlasarvāstivāda Vinaya), and the Dharmaguptaka Vinaya. Accounts in the Ekottara (EA 31.8) and the Lalitavistara at­tribute all four jhā­nas to the Bodhisatta as child; while the Mūlasarvāstivāda Vinaya and an in­di­vid­ual Chinese trans­la­tion (T № 757) place the at­tain­ment of jhāna soon af­ter the go­ing forth. Thus this is clearly re­garded by all the schools as a cru­cial event in the Bodhisatta’s path to­wards awak­en­ing.

One of the most in­ter­est­ing sources for un­der­stand­ing the med­i­ta­tion prac­tices of Brahman as­cetics is the Pārāyana Vagga of the Sutta Nipāta. This text, one of the ear­li­est texts in the Pali canon, con­sists of a se­ries of ques­tions and an­swers be­tween the Buddha and a group of six­teen Brahman med­i­ta­tors. There are sev­eral con­nec­tions be­tween this text and the Upaniṣad-style tra­di­tions we have been con­sid­er­ing; in fact the close­ness of some par­al­lel phrases sug­gests di­rect lit­er­ary in­flu­ence of one sort or an­other,198 al­though there are also di­rect con­nec­tions be­tween some of these verses and Jain texts. The list of Brahmanical texts given is sub­stan­tially shorter than that in the Bṛhadāraṇyaka, sug­gest­ing that it is ear­lier. It has a satir­i­cal ref­er­ence to an evil Brahman who threat­ens to ‘split heads’; the same threat oc­curs sev­eral times in the Bṛhadāraṇyaka, the dif­fer­ence be­ing that there someone’s head ac­tu­ally does get split!199 The Buddha of course dis­misses the ef­fi­cacy of Vedic knowl­edge, rit­ual, sac­ri­fice, and meta­phys­i­cal con­cep­tions of ‘Self’. We meet again the phrase ‘seen, heard, thought, cog­nised’ that we have en­coun­tered in the Bṛhadāraṇyaka, and also fre­quent ref­er­ence to the pair­ing of cog­ni­tion with name & form, an­other Upaniṣadic idea.

The faith and de­vo­tion of these yo­gis is very mov­ing, and stands in de­cided con­trast with the some­times strained re­la­tion­ship be­tween the Buddha and the scholas­tic and rit­u­al­is­tic Brahmans. In this friendly at­mos­phere the Buddha would have, wher­ever pos­si­ble, kept his nor­mal pol­icy of en­cour­ag­ing his dis­ci­ples to con­tinue de­vel­op­ing what­ever spir­i­tual prac­tices were most in­spir­ing and use­ful. The in­tro­duc­tory verses, which are some­what later, re­fer in­di­rectly to the five spir­i­tual fac­ul­ties,200 and say the six­teen Brahmans are prac­ti­tion­ers of jhāna.201 The teach­ings are brief and non-technical, but there is rec­og­niz­able ref­er­ence to the fourth jhāna202 and to the sphere of noth­ing­ness.203 And time and time again, the Buddha ex­horts these yo­gis to be ‘ever mind­ful’. This con­firms the as­so­ci­a­tion of mind­ful­ness with Brahmanic cul­ture; the Buddha would hardly have used the term if he did not ex­pect his au­di­ence to un­der­stand it.

Three dis­courses in the Bojjhaṅga-saṁyutta present the claims of non­Bud­dhist wan­der­ers to de­velop Buddhist-style med­i­ta­tion. They say they ex­hort their dis­ci­ples to aban­don the five hin­drances and to de­velop, in two cases, the seven awakening-factors,204 and in a third case the four di­vine abid­ings.205 Elsewhere too the di­vine abid­ings are at­trib­uted to great sages of the past, no­tably the Buddha in past lives.206 However, al­though these are found in the later Brahmanical tra­di­tion, they are not at­tested in any pre-Buddhist texts. The awakening-factors in­clude mind­ful­ness and in­ves­ti­ga­tion of dham­mas, which is equiv­a­lent to vipas­sanā, as well as samādhi. The wan­der­ers ask, then, what is the dif­fer­ence be­tween their teach­ing and the Buddha’s? The Buddha re­sponds, not by re­fer­ring to, say, the four no­ble truths, not-self, or de­pen­dent orig­i­na­tion, but by claim­ing that the wan­der­ers do not fully un­der­stand samādhi prac­tice in all de­tails. This is what the Buddha was re­fer­ring to when he claimed to have ‘awak­ened to jhāna’ (jhā­naṁ abu­jjhi);207 not that he was the first to prac­tice jhāna, but that he was the first to fully com­pre­hend both the ben­e­fits and the lim­i­ta­tions of such ex­pe­ri­ences.

The Brahmajāla Sutta is a clas­sic source for non-Buddhist med­i­ta­tion. It presents a be­wil­der­ing ar­ray of 62 doc­tri­nal views, many of which were de­rived from or re­in­forced by mis­in­ter­pre­ta­tion of samādhi ex­pe­ri­ences, in­clud­ing both form jhāna and form­less at­tain­ments. Yogis in­clude both the main­stream Vedic/Upaniṣadic ‘Brahmans’ as well as the rad­i­cal non­con­formist ‘samanas’. Five terms de­scribe the path to samādhi: ar­dency (ātappa), striv­ing (pad­hāna), com­mit­ment (anuyoga), heed­ful­ness (ap­pamāda), and right at­ten­tion (sammā man­asikāra). All of these terms are com­monly found in Buddhist con­texts; ātappa oc­curs in the sati­paṭṭhāna for­mula. ‘Heedfulness’, which we en­coun­tered above in the Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad, lies close in mean­ing to ‘mind­ful­ness’. ‘Attention’ is the ba­sis for wis­dom, and is closely as­so­ci­ated with in­sight. So here wis­dom ap­pears as a fore­run­ner for samādhi.

But the Suttas typ­i­cally present the con­tem­po­rary Brahmans as hav­ing fallen away from their glo­ri­ous past. This is im­por­tant: the Suttas do not see the fact that pre-Buddhists prac­ticed jhāna as a rea­son for den­i­grat­ing samādhi. Rather, they praise for the sages of old, who are a role model for em­u­la­tion and in­spi­ra­tion. Here is an ex­am­ple, spo­ken by Venerable Mahā Kaccāna to some rude and abu­sive Brahman youths.

Those men of old who ex­celled in virtue,
Those Brahmans who re­called the an­cient rules;
Their sense doors guarded, well pro­tected
Dwelt hav­ing van­quished wrath within.
They took de­light in Dhamma and jhāna​—​
Those Brahmans who re­called the an­cient rules.

But these hav­ing fallen, claim­ing “We re­cite!”
Puffed up by clan, far­ing un­right­eously,
Overcome by anger, armed with di­verse weapons,
They mo­lest both frail and firm.

For one with sense doors un­guarded
All the vows he un­der­takes are in vain,
Just like the wealth a man gains in a dream.

Fasting and sleep­ing on the ground,
Bathing at dawn, [study of ] the three Vedas,
Rough hides, mat­ted locks, and dirt,
Hymns, rules and vows, aus­ter­i­ties,
Hypocrisy, bent staffs, ablu­tions:
These em­blems of the Brahmans
Are used to in­crease their worldly gains.

A mind that is well con­cen­trated,
Clear and free from blem­ish,
Tender to­wards all liv­ing beings​—​
This is the path for at­tain­ing Brahmā.’208

Understandably, the Brahman youths were not too pleased with this. So they went to their teacher, the Brahman Lohicca, and told him. He too was dis­pleased, but he re­flected that he should not con­demn on mere hearsay, so he vis­ited Venerable Mahā Kaccāna to dis­cuss the mat­ter. He asked what the mean­ing of ‘sense doors guarded’ was.

Here, Brahman, hav­ing seen a vis­i­ble form with the eye, one is not at­tracted to a pleas­ing vis­i­ble form and not re­pelled by a dis­pleas­ing vis­i­ble form. One abides hav­ing es­tab­lished mind­ful­ness of the body, with a mea­sure­less mind, and un­der­stands as it has be­come that heart-release, understanding-release, where those evil un­skil­ful qual­i­ties cease with­out re­main­der….’

Here again we see the con­nec­tion be­tween pre-Buddhist med­i­ta­tion and mind­ful­ness. The sequence​—​sense re­straint, mind­ful­ness, samādhi, un­der­stand­ing, release​—​allows Mahā Kaccāna to present the Buddhist ideal as the nat­ural ful­fil­ment of the prac­tices of the Brahmans of old, so he can skil­fully lead Lohicca on in a non-confrontational man­ner.

Later Brahmanical Sources

Since there are no con­tem­po­rary records to il­lu­mi­nate these ideas fur­ther, we take the risky path of com­par­ing them with later texts. The Mahābhārata post-dates the Nikāyas/Āgamas, and shows Buddhist in­flu­ence. However, the events are set in a semi-mythical time be­fore the Buddha, and it has un­doubtably pre­served some gen­uine old tra­di­tions. It men­tions the ‘four­fold jhā­nayoga’, but only the first jhāna is de­scribed in de­tail.

The mind that is wan­der­ing,
With no sup­port,
With five gates, wob­bling,
The stead­fast one should con­cen­trate in the first jhāna.’209

When the sage en­ters samādhi
Of the first jhāna in the be­gin­ning,
Sustained ap­pli­ca­tion (vicāra) and ini­tial ap­pli­ca­tion (vi­takka)
And seclu­sion (viveka) arise in him…’210

Conjoined with that bliss,
He will de­light in the prac­tice of jhāna.
Thus the yo­gis go to Nirvana that is free of dis­ease…’211

The Yoga Sūtra of Patañjali (300–500 CE?) is an early pre­sen­ta­tion of a fairly sys­tem­atic path of prac­tice from a non-Buddhist school. The Yoga school, re­garded as the prac­ti­cal wing of the Sāṁkhya phi­los­o­phy, be­came one of the six schools of clas­si­cal Hinduism, which were or­tho­dox in re­gard­ing the Vedic tra­di­tion as au­thor­i­ta­tive, al­though they dif­fered in in­ter­pre­ta­tion. The Yoga Sūtra is a fairly short work in four chap­ters, com­pris­ing a se­ries of brief apho­risms, or sū­tras, a style which, in­ci­den­tally, well il­lus­trates the mean­ing of sutta as dis­cussed in the GIST. The sū­tras are of­ten cryp­tic and as good as in­com­pre­hen­si­ble with­out a com­men­tary; the work as a whole may well be a col­lec­tion of say­ings that was as­sem­bled in the cur­rent form by the com­men­ta­tor.

Here we merely wish to in­ves­ti­gate the med­i­ta­tion ter­mi­nol­ogy in re­la­tion to Buddhist med­i­ta­tion, so we can af­ford to ig­nore many of the knotty ques­tions raised by the text and fo­cus mainly on those pas­sages clos­est to Buddhism. This method­ol­ogy will lead to a bi­ased view of the work as a whole, and it should be re­mem­bered that the Yoga Sūtra stays faith­ful to its own dis­tinc­tive phi­los­o­phy; it is not just a Buddhist rip-off. Doctrinally, it men­tions ideas fa­mil­iar to the Sāṁkhya/Yoga​—​the three ‘qual­i­ties’ (guṇas) of stim­u­la­tion (ra­jas, lit­er­ally ‘de­sire’), de­pres­sion (tamas, ‘dark­ness’), and vi­tal­ity (sattvas, ‘be­ing’) that make up our worldly state, the fun­da­men­tal ground of na­ture (prakṛti) from which these evolved, and the in­di­vid­ual soul (pu­ruṣa), whose pu­rity and clear dis­cern­ment lead to the state of con­sum­ma­tion (kaivalya). The main em­pha­sis is on the prac­ti­cal means, es­pe­cially med­i­ta­tion, for reach­ing this state. Occasionally it cri­tiques Buddhist phi­los­o­phy. Sūtras 4.16–18, for ex­am­ple, as­sert that it is im­pos­si­ble for a chang­ing ob­ject to be known by one mind-moment (as the āb­hid­ham­mikas claimed); the fluc­tu­a­tions of the mind are known due to the change­less­ness of the pu­ruṣa, the One Who Knows. Sometimes the text bears on the con­tro­ver­sies among the Buddhists, such as when it as­serts that ‘the past and the fu­ture ex­ist in their own form’,212 which is rem­i­nis­cent of the Sarvāstivādin doc­trine of time: ‘all ex­ists’.

The first chap­ter of the Yoga Sūtra deals with samādhi. It starts with a fa­mous de­f­i­n­i­tion: yoga is the ces­sa­tion of the fluc­tu­a­tions of the mind. The fluc­tu­a­tions, which are caused by ig­no­rance, are listed as valid knowl­edge (pramāṇa, de­fined in a way sim­i­lar to the Buddhist epis­te­mol­o­gists: di­rect ex­pe­ri­ence, in­fer­ence, and scrip­ture), er­ror, fan­tasy, sleep, and rec­ol­lec­tion (mind­ful­ness, sati). This list is odd; it is dif­fi­cult to see how, say, di­rect ex­pe­ri­ence (pratyakṣa) could be an ob­sta­cle to samādhi. The treat­ment of mind­ful­ness in a neg­a­tive sense is ob­vi­ously dif­fer­ent from the Buddhist ap­proach. For the Brahmanical schools, the word sati had the sense of ‘mem­o­rised tex­tual tra­di­tions’, so in med­i­ta­tion con­texts the mean­ing of ‘mem­ory’ was more promi­nent than ‘aware­ness’, hence the neg­a­tive slant. This sit­u­a­tion sug­gests two con­se­quences: first, that when sati is used in a pos­i­tive sense in the Yoga we should sus­pect a Buddhist in­flu­ence; and sec­ond, that the Yoga would need to de­velop an al­ter­na­tive ter­mi­nol­ogy to speak about mind­ful­ness within their own sys­tem. We shall find that the Yoga Sūtra sup­ports both of these the­ses. However, de­spite this dif­fer­ence, the Yoga Sūtra de­fines sati the same way as the Buddhist schools: the non-forgetting of an ex­pe­ri­enced ob­ject.

After em­pha­sis­ing the ne­ces­sity for sin­cere prac­tice and dis­pas­sion, the text goes on to speak of a form of samādhi (the word ‘samādhi’ is not used, but is plau­si­bly sup­plied by the com­men­tary) called sam­pra­jñāta, which it de­scribes as: ‘ac­com­pa­nied by ini­tial ap­pli­ca­tion, sus­tained ap­pli­ca­tion, bliss (ānanda), [the con­cept] “I am”, and form.’213 This is vir­tu­ally iden­ti­cal with the first of the four Buddhist ‘form jhā­nas’. The idea ‘I am’ clearly refers to a de­luded per­cep­tion that takes what is not the True Self, the pu­ruṣa, to be the True Self. The phrase is for­eign to the stan­dard jhāna for­mula, but is sim­i­lar to one of the de­luded forms of ‘Nibbana here & now’ de­scribed in the Brahmajāla Sutta:

When, sir, this self, quite se­cluded from sen­sual plea­sures, se­cluded from un­skil­ful qual­i­ties, en­ters and abides in the first jhāna, which has ini­tial & sus­tained ap­pli­ca­tion, and the rap­ture & hap­pi­ness born of seclu­sion, at that point the self at­tains Nibbana here & now….’ 214

Both con­texts are crit­i­cis­ing the as­sump­tion of self in this state of samādhi; for the Buddhists, of course, there is no True Self, while in yoga the True Self is dis­cerned only with more sub­tle de­vel­op­ment of con­scious­ness. The Yoga Sūtra goes on to speak of an­other (higher) form of samādhi, which is called asam­pra­jñāta (al­though again the term is not sup­plied in the ex­tremely la­conic text it­self ). Sūtra 18 de­scribes this as ‘pre­ceded by prac­tice in re­nun­ci­a­tion, and hav­ing just a residue of ac­tiv­i­ties (saṁskāraśeṣa)’.215 Sūtra 19 is ob­scure: ‘For the bod­i­less, ab­sorbed in fun­da­men­tal Nature, [such an] ex­is­tence is con­di­tioned (bhavapratyayo vide­haprakṛtilāyanam)’. This seems to mean ei­ther that this state of con­scious­ness gen­er­ates a bod­i­less (videha = form­less, arūpa?) re­birth, or that for one with­out a body, such a state of con­scious­ness is a nat­ural con­di­tion, not some­thing that must be at­tained through spir­i­tual prac­tice. Sūtra 20 says that ‘for oth­ers’ (pre­sum­ably this means not the ‘bod­i­less’ ones re­ferred to in sū­tra 19), asam­pra­jñāta samādhi comes af­ter ‘faith, en­ergy, mind­ful­ness, samādhi, and wis­dom’.216 Here once more we meet the Buddhist five spir­i­tual fac­ul­ties, which are pre­sum­ably what is meant by the ‘prac­tice in re­nun­ci­a­tion’ men­tioned in sū­tra 18. Note that sati here is in pos­i­tive sense, as usual in Buddhism, and not in neg­a­tive sense, as ear­lier in the Yoga Sūtra; this sup­ports the ar­gu­ment of Bronkhorst that this chap­ter was com­posed from two sources, one ‘or­tho­dox’ and one Buddhist.217 The samādhi in this group of five, which pre­cedes asam­pra­jñāta samādhi, is pre­sum­ably the sam­pra­jñāta samādhi, i.e. form jhāna. The asam­pra­jñāta samādhi may there­fore be plau­si­bly iden­ti­fied with the Buddhist form­less at­tain­ments, which are also pre­ceded by form jhāna, are the out­come of a ‘grad­ual ces­sa­tion of ac­tiv­i­ties’, gen­er­ate a bod­i­less re­birth, and the high­est of which is called ‘an at­tain­ment with a residue of ac­tiv­i­ties’.218 It is very strik­ing that the way of at­tain­ing this asam­pra­jñāta samādhi​—​the five spir­i­tual faculties​—​is iden­ti­cal with the way of prac­tice taught by Āḷāra Kālāma and Uddaka Rāmaputta for at­tain­ing form­less samādhi, and is also men­tioned in the Pārāyana Vagga.

The text goes on to speak of var­i­ous ob­sta­cles to samādhi, sim­i­lar to the hin­drances, etc., in­clud­ing the term ‘scat­tered mind’ fa­mil­iar from the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta. These re­sult in bod­ily and men­tal dis­com­fort and un­steadi­ness of breath, and should be coun­tered by one-pointedness. Several med­i­ta­tions are rec­om­mended that lead to clar­ity of mind: these in­clude the Buddhist di­vine abid­ings of loving-kindness, com­pas­sion, ap­pre­ci­a­tion, and equa­nim­ity. Some of the other med­i­ta­tions, such as breath med­i­ta­tion and the mind free of lust, again re­mind us of the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta. Next the text speaks of at­tain­ments both with ini­tial ap­pli­ca­tion (vi­takka) and with­out; the lat­ter is as­so­ci­ated with pu­rity of mind­ful­ness, as in the Buddhist fourth jhāna. Attainments with and with­out sus­tained ap­pli­ca­tion (vicāra), which are said to be sub­tle con­di­tions, are also men­tioned; like the Buddhist sec­ond jhāna, ab­sence of sus­tained ap­pli­ca­tion comes with ‘in­ner clar­ity’ (ad­hyātma prasāda). The wis­dom of this brings truth. All these states are ‘samādhi with seed’; but when even these cease all ceases, and this is ‘samādhi with­out seed’.

While the first chap­ter of the Yoga Sūtra re­calls the Buddhist treat­ment of samādhi, the sec­ond chap­ter con­tains some Buddhist-style in­struc­tions on vipas­sanā:

Ignorance, “I-am-ness”, de­sire, aver­sion, and in­sis­tence (ab­hiniveśa) [are to be elim­i­nated by prac­tice]. Ignorance is the cause of the rest, whether they are dor­mant, weak, sup­pressed, or ag­gra­vated. Ignorance thinks of the per­ma­nent as im­per­ma­nent, of the pure as im­pure, of the painful as plea­sur­able, of the not-self as self…’219

The de­f­i­n­i­tion of ‘I-am-ness’ is ob­scure (‘tak­ing the two pow­ers of seer and seen as a sin­gle self’); ev­i­dently it is the er­ror of seek­ing a uni­fied self in the di­ver­sity of ex­pe­ri­ence. Desire and aver­sion are de­fined just as in Buddhism: the in­her­ent com­pul­sions (anusaya) re­gard­ing plea­sure and pain. All these ‘fluc­tu­a­tions’ are to be over­come with jhāna. The re­sult of ac­tion (karma) rooted in de­file­ment (kleśamūla) is ex­pe­ri­enced in pleas­ant or painful re­birth, ac­cord­ing to whether the causes are good or evil. But for the dis­cern­ing, all this is suf­fer­ing.

Halfway through the chap­ter is in­tro­duced the fa­mous ‘eight-factored yoga’, which is ob­vi­ously mod­elled af­ter the Buddhist eight­fold path. A sim­i­lar six­fold yoga is found in the Buddhist-influenced Maitrī Upaniṣad: breath con­trol, sense con­trol (pratyāhāra), jhāna, re­mem­ber­ing (dhāraṇa), rea­son (tarka), samādhi.220 This leaves out the pre­lim­i­nary three prac­tices of the eight­fold yoga and adds ‘rea­son’. The eight­fold scheme of the Yoga Sūtra, how­ever, was to be­come stan­dard. The first fac­tor, yama, is ba­sic ethics sim­i­lar to the five pre­cepts; the sec­ond fac­tor, niyama, con­cerns pu­rity, aus­ter­ity, con­tent­ment, chant­ing, and de­vo­tion to God. To counter thoughts of harm­ing, etc., that are rooted in greed, ha­tred, and delu­sion, it is rec­om­mended that one de­vel­ops the op­po­site thoughts as an­ti­dotes. This is iden­ti­cal with the Buddhist path-factor of right in­ten­tion. The same prin­ci­ple of op­po­sites is ap­plied not just to wrong thoughts but to wrong ac­tions as well: ‘When one is firm in not steal­ing, all trea­sures ap­pear’. The third fac­tor, pos­ture (āsana), is dealt with swiftly, in­volv­ing merely steadi­ness, com­fort, and re­lax­ation; no men­tion is made of the spe­cial pos­tures for phys­i­cal ex­er­cise that we iden­tify with the word ‘yoga’. Next fol­low breath con­trol and sense con­trol, com­plet­ing the ex­ter­nal prac­tices.

The next chap­ter in­tro­duces the ‘in­ter­nal’ prac­tices. First is dhāraṇa, de­fined as ‘fix­ing the mind on one place’.221 Dhāraṇa, like sati, means ‘re­mem­ber­ing, bear­ing in mind’, and the Abhidhamma lists dhāraṇa as a syn­onym of sati. Above we noted the close re­la­tion of dhāraṇa with ap­pamāda, mir­ror­ing the close con­nec­tion in the sut­tas be­tween sati and ap­pamāda. The change in ter­mi­nol­ogy from sati to dhāraṇa is be­cause of the dif­fer­ent con­no­ta­tions of the term sati in the two tra­di­tions, not be­cause of a dif­fer­ence in the mean­ing. Dhāraṇa is fol­lowed by dhyāna (jhāna), which is de­fined very ob­scurely and, for me, un­trans­lat­ably. It seems to mean a realm of men­tal uni­fi­ca­tion brought about by the prac­tice of dhāraṇa. So both the Yoga and the Buddhist tra­di­tion place ‘remembering/bearing in mind/mindfulness’ as the prac­tice on which jhāna is based.222

One dif­fer­ence be­tween the two sys­tems is that, while for the Suttas, jhāna and samādhi are usu­ally syn­ony­mous, the Yoga Sūtra places samādhi as the fi­nal step of the path, fol­low­ing jhāna. However, dhāraṇa, jhāna, and samādhi are to­gether said to make up ‘re­straint’ (saṁyama), so they are not thought of as to­tally sep­a­rate. The de­scrip­tion of samādhi is even more ob­scure than jhāna: ‘The shin­ing forth of just that mere ob­ject as if empty of its own form is samādhi’. Much of the rest of the Yoga Sūtra deals with Yoga/Sāṁkhya phi­los­o­phy and prac­tice, the at­tain­ment of var­i­ous psy­chic pow­ers, re­al­iza­tion of the True Self, and of the dis­en­tan­gle­ment of the Self from the world and its con­stituent qual­i­ties; the Upaniṣadic non-dual meta­physic is not ev­i­dent.

The above con­sid­er­a­tions lead me to con­clude the fol­low­ing. There is a thread of Indian med­i­ta­tive tra­di­tion re­ferred to in the Nikāyas/Āgamas, which stems from the pre-Buddhist pe­riod, finds philo­soph­i­cal ex­pres­sion in the Upaniṣads, and in the later Yoga texts is de­vel­oped into a prac­ti­cal method us­ing the so­phis­ti­cated psy­cho­log­i­cal ter­mi­nol­ogy de­vel­oped by the Buddhists. This tra­di­tion, through its com­mit­ment to mem­o­riz­ing an­cient texts (sati = sara), grad­u­ally evolved an ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the ben­e­fits of mind­ful aware­ness (sati = anu­pas­sanā). In meta­physics these yo­gis em­pha­sized the Self, some­times mys­ti­cally iden­ti­fied with the cos­mos. This meta­physic was pre-eminently re­al­ized in the prac­tice of samādhi, es­pe­cially form­less at­tain­ments. The chief way to de­velop these form­less at­tain­ments was to de­velop the five fac­ul­ties, es­pe­cially mind­ful­ness and form jhāna. The Buddha adopted the rel­e­vant prac­ti­cal as­pects of this tra­di­tion into his teach­ing, his chief in­no­va­tion be­ing to not in­ter­pret samādhi ex­pe­ri­ence in terms of a meta­phys­i­cal ‘self’.

The Jains

We turn now to the sec­ond thread of pre-Buddhist med­i­ta­tion. The clas­sic de­scrip­tion here is the ac­count of the Bodhisatta’s aus­ter­i­ties. His striv­ing was most ter­ri­ble: ‘crush­ing mind with mind’, do­ing the ‘breath­less jhāna’ un­til he felt as if his head was be­ing pierced with a sword or crushed with a leather strap. But he could not make any progress. Why?

My en­ergy was roused up and un­flag­ging, my mind­ful­ness was es­tab­lished and un­con­fused, but my body was af­flicted and not tran­quil be­cause I was ex­hausted by the painful striv­ing. But such painful feel­ing as arose in me did not in­vade my mind and re­main.’223

The Mūlasarvāstivāda ac­count avail­able in Sanskrit con­firms that the Bodhisatta prac­ticed mind­ful­ness dur­ing his pe­riod of striv­ing.224 Here, ‘mind­ful­ness’ is ob­vi­ously used in the sense of ‘present mo­ment aware­ness’ rather than ‘mem­ory’. This is con­firmed in the fol­low­ing pas­sage:

Such was my scrupu­lous­ness, Sāriputta, that I was al­ways mind­ful in step­ping for­wards and step­ping back­wards. I was full of pity even for [the be­ings in] a drop of wa­ter, think­ing: “Let me not hurt the tiny crea­tures in the crevices of the ground.” ’225

The Buddha ex­plained why he strug­gled on with such grim self-torture.

Prince, be­fore my en­light­en­ment, while I was still an un­en­light­ened Bodhisatta, I too thought thus: “Pleasure is not to be gained through plea­sure; plea­sure is to be gained through pain.” ’226

This is wrong view, be­ing one of the chief tenets of the Jains.227 Having tor­tured him­self near death be­cause of that view, he re­flected thus:

 “Whatever as­cetics or Brahmans, past…future…and present ex­pe­ri­ence painful, rack­ing, pierc­ing feel­ings due to ex­er­tion, this is the ut­most, there is noth­ing be­yond this. But by these rack­ing aus­ter­i­ties I have not at­tained any truly no­ble dis­tinc­tion of knowl­edge & vi­sion be­yond hu­man prin­ci­ples. Could there be an­other path to en­light­en­ment?”

I con­sid­ered: “I re­call that when my fa­ther the Śakyan was work­ing, while I was sit­ting in the cool shade of a rose-apple tree, quite se­cluded from sen­sual plea­sures, se­cluded from un­skil­ful qual­i­ties, I en­tered and abode in the first jhāna, with ini­tial & sus­tained ap­pli­ca­tion [of mind], and the rap­ture & hap­pi­ness born of seclu­sion. Could that be the path to en­light­en­ment?” Then, fol­low­ing on that mem­ory came the aware­ness: “That in­deed is the path to en­light­en­ment.”

I thought: “Why am I afraid of that plea­sure that has noth­ing to do with sen­sual plea­sures and un­skil­ful qual­i­ties?” I thought: “I am not afraid of that plea­sure, for it has noth­ing to do with sen­sual plea­sures and un­skil­ful qual­i­ties.” ’228

Here the friendly, re­laxed, rea­son­able feel stands in re­fresh­ing con­trast with the steely force of his ear­lier ef­forts. He then de­cided that he could not at­tain jhāna while so ema­ci­ated and must there­fore take some food; we have al­ready seen that the de­pen­dence of the mind on food, and hence the dele­te­ri­ous ef­fects of fast­ing on one’s mind-state, is an Upaniṣadic idea.229 Although the Bodhisatta never iden­ti­fies him­self in this pe­riod as fol­low­ing any teacher, his prac­tices and views are iden­ti­cal with the Jains. And when the group of five as­cetics aban­doned him they went to stay in the ‘Rishi’s Park’ in Benares, where even to­day there is a Jain tem­ple.

Such ideas were not ex­clu­sive to the Jains; they were com­mon in the Indian yo­gic tra­di­tion, and are met with fre­quently in the early Brahmanical scrip­tures as well, as Mahā Kaccāna’s verses above in­di­cate. In fact the Jains were re­formists, in that they re­jected forms of as­ceti­cism that might harm liv­ing be­ings, and they also laid stress on the proper men­tal at­ti­tude. Earlier, more prim­i­tive, ‘pro­fes­sors of self-torture’ had be­lieved in the ef­fi­cacy of the phys­i­cal tor­ture it­self, ir­re­spec­tive of any men­tal de­vel­op­ment. Also, their goal was typ­i­cally psy­chic pow­ers, whereas the Jains aimed at lib­er­a­tion of the soul. Thus the Bodhisatta’s aus­ter­i­ties are closer to the Jains than any other group we know of; the Jains them­selves pre­serve a tra­di­tion that the Buddha spent time as a Jain as­cetic.

The im­pli­ca­tion of this episode is that the Jain sys­tem em­pha­sized ef­fort and mind­ful­ness, but not un­til the Bodhisatta de­vel­oped the tran­quil­lity and bliss of samādhi was he able to see the truth. Elsewhere in the Suttas, Mahāvīra (the leader and re­former of the Jains, known in Pali as Nigaṇṭha Nātaputta) is de­picted as as­sert­ing the im­pos­si­bil­ity of stop­ping ini­tial & sus­tained ap­pli­ca­tion of mind.230 Thus he would not ad­mit any higher than the first jhāna at most. To me, the Jain teach­ings and prac­tice have a rough­ness that does not fit well with samādhi at­tain­ments. The Jain sources don’t help much. The ear­li­est Jain sū­tras em­pha­size eth­i­cal prac­tices, lifestyle, and ba­sic prin­ci­ples, and don’t men­tion med­i­ta­tion in any rec­og­niz­able form. Slightly later we find the fol­low­ing:

Then hav­ing pre­served his life, the re­main­der of his life be­ing but a short pe­riod, he stops ac­tiv­i­ties and en­ters dry jhāna,231 in which only sub­tle ac­tiv­ity re­mains and from which one does not fall back. He first stops the ac­tiv­ity of mind, then of speech and of body, then he puts an end to breath­ing…’232

In Buddhist con­text this pas­sage would im­ply the fourth jhāna; but we have no guar­an­tee that the ter­mi­nol­ogy is be­ing used in the same sense. The con­text is dif­fer­ent; here we have not just a med­i­ta­tor, but some­one who is cul­mi­nat­ing a spir­i­tual path by fast­ing to death. Later texts re­fer to fa­mil­iar ideas such as samādhi, one-pointedness, dis­crim­i­nat­ing in­sight, re­flec­tion on im­per­ma­nence (an­icca), change (vipar­iṇāma), and ug­li­ness (asubha).233 Dayal says that the Jains at­tached great im­por­tance to fu­neral con­tem­pla­tions.234 There are ap­par­ently ref­er­ences to mind­ful­ness as part of the Jain path, but I don’t know what pe­riod they be­long to. The later schools de­vel­oped a list of twelve ‘con­tem­pla­tions’. The term used here, anuprekṣā, is se­man­ti­cally iden­ti­cal with the term anu­pas­sanā that is so promi­nent in the Buddhist prac­tice of sati­paṭṭhāna. The list is as fol­lows.

1) Impermanence
2) No-refuge
3) Coursing on (in re­birth, saṁsāra)
4) Solitariness (ekatvā)
5) Difference (be­tween the soul and the body)
6) Uncleanness (of the body)
7) Influx (of pol­lu­tions, āsava)
8) Restraint (of kamma)
9) Wearing away (of kamma)
10) The world (as suf­fer­ing)
11) The dif­fi­culty of at­tain­ing en­light­en­ment
12) The well-expoundedness of the Dhamma

Some of these are sim­i­lar to Buddhist con­tem­pla­tions (1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 10, 11, 12), while some are specif­i­cally Jainist in na­ture (5, 7, 8, 9). They ap­pear to in­volve re­flect­ing on or think­ing over a theme rather than aware­ness med­i­ta­tions; and so most of them lie closer to vipas­sanā than samatha. The Jain sources also speak of sev­eral va­ri­eties of ‘jhāna’.

1) Depressive brood­ing jhāna
2) Ferocious jhāna
3) Dhamma jhāna (con­tem­pla­tion of scrip­tures; re­mov­ing af­flic­tions of one­self and oth­ers; kamma and re­sult; sam­sara and the pure soul)
4) Pure jhāna

Only this last might cor­re­spond with the Buddhist jhā­nas, al­though some of the other mean­ings, such as ‘brood­ing’, are con­nected with jhāna or re­lated terms in non-technical pas­sages. According to Prasad, ‘pure jhāna’ has four kinds:

[Manifold, with ini­tial & sus­tained ap­pli­ca­tion]: Absorption in med­i­ta­tion of the Self, un­con­sciously al­low­ing its dif­fer­ent at­trib­utes to re­place one an­other.

[Unified, with ini­tial but with­out sus­tained ap­pli­ca­tion]: Absorption in one as­pect of the Self, with chang­ing the par­tic­u­lar as­pect con­cen­trated upon.

The very fine vi­bra­tory move­ments in the Soul, even when it is deeply ab­sorbed in it­self, in a Kevali [con­sum­mate one].

Total ab­sorp­tion of the self in it­self, steady and undis­turbedly fixed with­out any mo­tion or vi­bra­tion what­so­ever.235

This is clearly de­scrib­ing states of deep con­cen­tra­tion. Whether they are equiv­a­lent to the Buddhist jhā­nas is im­pos­si­ble to say. What we can say with some cer­tainty, though, is that med­i­ta­tion, in the Buddhist sense of re­flec­tive con­tem­pla­tion, never played as ma­jor a role in Jainism as it did in Buddhism. The as­cetic prac­tices were cen­tral, and the Jain em­pha­sis on the phys­i­cal­ity of karma down­plays the sig­nif­i­cance of purely men­tal de­vel­op­ment. Moreover, any con­tem­pla­tive cul­ture that might have ex­isted had waned by me­dieval times, so that the men­tion of med­i­ta­tion states in an­cient texts came to be a mat­ter of merely scholas­tic in­ter­est.


Satipaṭṭhāna is de­picted in the early texts as a dis­tinc­tively Buddhist prac­tice. While we have gone to some lengths to un­earth el­e­ments in com­mon with non-Buddhist sys­tems, in the fi­nal end this re-emphasizes how much was new, in both the ex­pres­sion and the mean­ing. The ra­tio­nal, pro­gres­sive ap­proach, the em­pir­i­cal and psy­cho­log­i­cal de­scrip­tion, the de­tails of the four satipaṭṭhānas​—​none of these can be found in a straight­for­ward way in any pre-Buddhist texts. Even the post-Buddhist texts, while show­ing Buddhist in­flu­ence in the med­i­ta­tion ter­mi­nol­ogy, did not adopt the sati­paṭṭhā­nas as they did the jhā­nas or the di­vine abid­ings.

The early Buddhists were ex­tra­or­di­nar­ily gen­er­ous in their as­sess­ment of the spir­i­tual at­tain­ments of out­siders. They were quite happy to at­tribute to them such cen­tral el­e­ments of the Buddhist med­i­ta­tion sys­tem as mind­ful­ness, jhā­nas, spir­i­tual fac­ul­ties, awakening-factors, di­vine abid­ings, and form­less at­tain­ments. In this com­plex weave, we can dis­cern threads of both samatha and vipas­sanā. Although it is im­pos­si­ble to fully un­tan­gle these threads, it is pos­si­ble to dis­cern dif­fer­ent em­phases in the med­i­ta­tive ap­proaches of the dif­fer­ent schools that cor­re­lates with their philo­soph­i­cal po­si­tions.

The Upaniṣadic tra­di­tion es­pouses a non-dual pan­the­ism. Brahman is the ul­ti­mate re­al­ity, which cre­ates the world, un­der­lies the il­lu­sion of di­ver­sity, and is im­ma­nent in all ex­is­tence. Thus ex­is­tence is in­her­ently good; we al­ready par­take of the di­vine essence, and our spir­i­tual prac­tices em­power us to re­al­ize this iden­tity fully. This tra­di­tion em­pha­sizes med­i­ta­tion prac­tices lead­ing to bliss­ful iden­ti­fi­ca­tion with the One; as later tra­di­tions summed it up: ‘mind, be­ing, bliss.’

The Jains, on the other hand, have a nat­u­ral­is­tic and non-theistic view of ex­is­tence. The world is not an il­lu­sion; it re­ally ex­ists ‘out there’, and the ul­ti­mate re­al­ity is not a pan-theistic non-dual ‘ground of be­ing’, but is the count­less ir­re­ducible atomic mon­ads or ‘souls’. Later Jain the­ory de­vel­oped this plu­ral­is­tic ap­proach into a vastly com­plex scheme for clas­si­fy­ing the var­i­ous el­e­men­tal phe­nom­ena, an Aristotelian project like those favoured by the Abhidhamma schools of Buddhism. Enlightenment con­sists, not in the mys­tic iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of the self with the uni­verse, but in the dis­en­tan­gle­ment of the in­di­vid­ual soul from the pol­lut­ing ef­fects of kamma. They there­fore em­pha­size, as part of their over­all strat­egy of forcibly stop­ping all ac­tiv­ity, con­tem­pla­tion of the im­per­ma­nence of the world, and the abil­ity to mind­fully en­dure painful feel­ings in or­der to get free from the de­fil­ing in­flu­ences.

The Brahmanical tra­di­tion leaned to the side of samatha, while the Jain tra­di­tion leaned to the side of vipas­sanā, each shap­ing its pre­sen­ta­tion and em­pha­sis in ac­cord with its meta­phys­i­cal predilec­tions. The ev­i­dence of the non-Buddhists them­selves, as far as it goes, tends to con­firm that the pic­ture painted by the early Suttas of the non-Buddhist tra­di­tions is gen­er­ally ac­cu­rate. In the ab­sence of any ev­i­dence to the con­trary, we can con­clude that the ear­li­est Buddhist tra­di­tions ac­cept that both the Brahmanical and the Jain con­tem­pla­tive tra­di­tions in­cluded the prac­tice of mind­ful­ness.

165 CU 6.8.5–6.

166 AN 5.193, SN 46.55.

167 Rv 5.81.1

168 BU 4.3.7.

169 Aitareya Brahmaṇa 5.5.27.

170 CRANGLE, pg. 71.

171 CRANGLE, pg. 74.

172 BU 1.5.14.

173 CRANGLE, pg. 198.

174 DN 13.10. The cog­nate DA 26 men­tions three paths: 自在欲道.自作道.梵天道 (T1, № 1, p. 105, b13). It is not clear to me how closely these might match with the Pali.

175 See ‘A Pali Reference to Brahmaṇa-Caraṇas’, in­cluded in WIJESEKERA.

176 BAU 6.4.9.

177 BAU 1.5.17.

178 BAU 3.7.23.

179 BAU 4.4.23.

180 CU 6.8.2.

181 SU 1.14.

182 SU 2.8. Cp. Sn 1034f.

183 SU 2.9.

184 SU 2.11.

185 E.g. MN 36.17ff.

186 E.g. BAU 5.12.

187 CU 1.19.

188 Maitrī 1.3, 3.4.

189 Taittirīya Upaniṣad 3.2–6.

190 MN 26/MA 204.

191 The Sanghabhedavastu of the Mūlasarvāstivāda Vinaya omits the men­tion of lip recital.

192 SN 35.103.

193 It is some­times said that these teach­ers be­long to the Sāṁkhya school, but this claim is based on the much later Buddhacarita of Aśvaghoṣa, and is anachro­nis­tic.

194 The Sarvāstivādin ver­sion (MA 204) men­tions only faith, en­ergy, and wis­dom here, but in­cludes mind­ful­ness just be­low. The Sanghabhedavastu (GNOLI pg. 97) and the Lalitavistara (239.2) men­tion all five spir­i­tual fac­ul­ties.

195 E.g. SN 48.9.

196 AN 4.123.

197 AN 4.125.

198 Compare the fol­low­ing verses. Muṇḍaka Upaniṣad 3.2.8: Yathā nadyas syan­damānās samudre/Astam gac­cha­nti nā­marūpe vi­hāya ( Just as rivers flow­ing into the ocean/Go to their end, hav­ing dropped name & form); Tathā vid­vān nā­marūpād vimuktaḥ/Parāt-param pu­ruṣam upaiti di­vyam. (Thus the re­al­ized [sage], freed from name & form/Beyond the be­yond is that Man he en­ters, di­vine). Sutta Nipāta 1080: Acci yathā vā­tave­g­ena khittaṁ/Atthaṁ paleti na up­eti saṅkhaṁ. ( Just as a flame tossed by a strong wind/Goes to the end, and does not en­ter reck­on­ing); Evaṁ muni nā­makāyā vimutto/Atthaṁ paleti na up­eti saṅkhaṁ. (Thus the sage, freed from the name-group [i.e. men­tal factors]/Goes to the end, and does not en­ter reck­on­ing).

199 BU 3.9.26

200 Sn 1026.

201 Sn 1009.

202 Sn 1107.

203 Sn 1070, Sn 1113ff. The sphere of noth­ing­ness is de­scribed in Sn 1070 as a ‘sup­port’ (āram­maṇa) for cross­ing over. This may be com­pared with the Mahābhārata pas­sage quoted above that de­scribes the un­con­cen­trated mind as ‘with­out sup­port’. The Jhāna Saṁyutta also speaks of de­vel­op­ing ‘skill in the sup­port’.

204 SN 46.52, SN 46.53.

205 SN 46.54.

206 E.g. MN 83/MA 67/EA 1/EA 50.4/T № 152.87/T № 211 Makhādeva; DN 19 Mahāgovinda also has the di­vine abid­ings, but not DA 3, T № 8, pp. 207c–210b, and Mv 3.197–224.

207 SN Sagāthāvagga verse 269, AN (4)449–51. This phrase was some­what mis­lead­ingly ren­dered by Bhikkhu BODHI in CDB as ‘dis­cov­ered jhāna’. Perhaps the ac­cusative here could be read as in­stru­men­tal (‘awak­ened by means of jhāna’).

208 SN 35.132.

209 MBh 12.188.9.

210 MBh 12.188.15. BRONKHORST (2000) pg. 71 notes that here, as well as in the Yoga Sūtra and in some Buddhist works, vi­takka and vicāra ‘are ap­par­ently looked upon as spe­cial fac­ul­ties in the first jhāna, not as mere thought re­main­ing from or­di­nary con­scious­ness’.

211 MBh 12.188.22.

212 YS 3.12.

213 YS 1.17. The word ‘form’, rūpa, does not oc­cur in all texts.

214 DN 1/DA 19.

215 YS 1.18.

216 YS 1.20.

217 BRONKHORST (2000), pp. 72ff.

218 SN 14.11.

219 YS 2.3–6.

220 Maitrī 6.18.

221 YS 3.1.

222 CRANGLE pp. 117–119 dis­cusses the sim­i­lar­ity be­tween Buddhist sati and yo­gic dhāraṇa, and their role as sup­port for jhāna.

223 MN 36.20, etc.

224 GNOLI, pg. 103.

225 MN 12.47.

226 MN 85.10/DA2 21/T № 1421.10.

227 MN 14.20.

228 MN 36.30–2, MN 85, MN 100.

229 CU 6.7.

230 SN 41.8.

231 Sukkajjhāna. Compare the com­men­tar­ial no­tion of sukkavipas­sanā.

232 Uttarajjhāyana 29.72/1174.

233 E.g. Ṭhānaṅga Sutta. See BRONKHORST (2000), pg. 38ff.

234 DAYAL, pg. 95.

235 PRASAD, pp. 167–168.

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