In the jhana meditation book I'm reading, Critical Analysis Of The Jhanas, it is stated that to suppress the Hindrance, you first focus your mind on a jhana meditation object. Once you mature you will be able to see the object clearly, it will become a visual object in your mind. So is (uggahanimitta) a visual representation of my breath? Where I can see my breath flowing?

Also they stated that this stage will mature the 5 jhana factors. That once you reached uggahanimitta, the 5 jhana factors start to mature and become stronger? I thought that to supress the hindrances you must change your life and incorporate the 5 factors. Sorry I'm just so lost.

3 Answers 3


Buddhism is a lived experience. Whatever is read, should be put into practise. If it works, you verify it & cultivate it. If it does not work, you discard it & find another method.

The ideas of a 'uggahanimitta' ('learning sign') & 'suppression' are found in the Visuddhimagga, which written in the 5th Century in Sri Lanka & contains lots of unusual ideas.

However, even the Visuddhimagga states to develop the uggahanimitta that:

...he should review the dangers in sense desires in the way beginning, “Sense desires give little enjoyment” (M I 91) and arouse longing for the escape from sense desires, for the renunciation that is the means to the surmounting of all suffering. He should next arouse joy of happiness by recollecting the special qualities of the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Sangha; then awe by thinking, “Now, this is the way of renunciation entered upon by all Buddhas, Paccekabuddhas and noble disciples”; and then eagerness by thinking, “In this way I shall surely come to know the taste of the bliss of seclusion.” After that he should open his eyes moderately, apprehend the sign, and so proceed to develop it. (page 119 bottom).

Rapture can certainly arise from suppressing hindrances but it will not be jhana (even though many practitioners mistake it to be jhana).


The Pali term nimitta, means a “sign," i.e., the idea or image conceived, or an object perceived. The keeping in mind of a nimitta, and maining it is a sign of concentration. When you develop an anapanasati nimitta (i.e., that of the breath), and practice it further, then you need a good knowledge of teachings (suttas) for you to overcome obstacles that you face. The ‘nimitta’ is your main object of focus. When the hindrances are being overpowered by the jhana factors inwardly, on the side of the nimitta too certain changes are taking place. The original object of concentration, i.e., in the mindfulness of breathing the touch sensation of the breath, with the strengthening of concentration the breath gives rise to another object called the "learning sign" (uggaha-nimitta).

For the breath it will be a reflex image arisen from the touch sensation of the air currents moving around the nostrils. When the uggaha-nimitta appears, the meditator leaves the breath nimitta and fixes his attention on this new object. In due time still another object will emerge out of the uggaha-nimitta. This is called the "counterpart sign" (patibhaga-nimitta). It is a purified mental image many times brighter and clearer than the uggaha-nimitta.

These nimittas can be either beneficial or harmful, true or false, so we shouldn't place trust in them. That is why before getting into meditation, one should be very clear of the purpose for the meditation. It should be solely for the aim of attaining Nibbhana. Then you will not give into these distractions. When meditating alpha brainwave is produced in you when your body calms down and your mind is completely relaxed. Your brain's thinking is slower, your mind is clear and you may even feel slightly drowsy. If you are not firmly grounded on Anicca, Dukkha, Anatta you tend to cling in to these without contemplating the impermanency of these. If we're thoroughly mindful and alert, they can be beneficial, as you are firmly grounded on Anicca, Dukkha, Anatta. But if our powers of reference are weak or if we lack strength of mind, we're likely to follow the drift of whatever images appear, sometimes losing our bearings to the point where we latch on to the images as being real.

The uggaha-nimitta can be experienced in some peoples normal life too. The worldly knowledge is of two types – one that comes from studying books or ones that comes from thinking things through. This second kind of knowledge arises within the mind itself. People who are trained in the theoretical sciences work with their thinking. They think to the point where an idea appears as a picture in the mind, like an uggaha-nimitta (spontaneous image). When the picture appears in the mind, they may sketch it down on paper, and then experiment with physical objects to see if it works. If it doesn't work, they make adjustments, creating a new idea from their old idea — keeping at it until they find what works in line with their aims.

  1. 'Mental reflex-image', obtained in meditation. In full clarity, it will appear in the mind by successful practice of certain concentration-exercises and will then appear as vividly as if seen by the eye. The object perceived at the very beginning of concentration is called the preparatory image parikamma-nimitta The still unsteady and unclear image, which arises when the mind has reached a weak degree of concentration, is called the acquired image uggaha-nimitta An entirely clear and immovable image arising at a higher degree of concentration is the counter-image patibhāga-nimitta As soon as this image arises, the stage of neighbourhood or access concentration upacāra-samādhi is reached. For further details, see: kasina, samādhi.


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