DN 15 includes the utterance of the "seven stations of consciousness", where the later six equate with the six of the eight jhanas, namely:

1. There are sentient beings that are diverse in body (kāyā) and diverse in perception (saññino), such as human beings, some gods (devā) and some beings in the underworld.

2. There are sentient beings that are diverse in body and unified in perception, such as the gods reborn (ābhinibbattā) in Brahmā’s Group (brahmakāyikā) through the first absorption

3. There are sentient beings that are unified in body and diverse in perception, such as the gods of streaming radiance (ābhassarā).

4. There are sentient beings that are unified in body and unified in perception, such as the gods replete with glory (subhakiṇhā).

5. There are sentient beings that have gone totally beyond perceptions of form (rūpa). With the ending of perceptions of impingement, not focusing on perceptions of diversity, aware that ‘space is infinite’, they have been reborn (upagā) in the dimension of infinite space.

6. There are sentient beings that have gone totally beyond the dimension of infinite space. Aware that ‘consciousness is infinite’, they have been reborn (upagā) in the dimension of infinite consciousness.

7. There are sentient beings that have gone totally beyond the dimension of infinite consciousness. Aware that ‘there is nothing at all’, they have been reborn (upagā) in the dimension of nothingness.

The deva (godly) abodes attained with each rupa jhana are listed in AN 4.123, namely, brahmakāyikā, ābhassarā, subhakiṇhā & vehapphalānaṃ.

Now, the above utterance in DN 15 omits the 4th jhana or gods of abundant fruit (vehapphalānaṃ).

My question is what are the "seven stations of consciousness" supposed to mean (for example, why do the permutations of 'diversity' and 'unity' exist in the various jhana & states of being) and why, in particular, does this utterance omit the 4th jhana?


Piya Tan's analysis of DN 15 (on pages 160 through 163, i.e. page 16 through 19 of the PDF) explains that,

According to Brahma,jāla S (D 1) and Pāṭika S (D 24), this is not a “station for consciousness” because no consciousness is found in the beings there. All cognitive activities are suspended here. As soon consciousness arises in a being there, he vanishes from that world

It cites many references including e.g. DN 1 to begin with ...

There are gods named ‘non-percipient beings’.
Santi, bhikkhave, asaññasattā nāma devā.

When perception arises they pass away from that group of gods.
Saññuppādā ca pana te devā tamhā kāyā cavanti.

A STUDY OF VIÑÑĀṆA IN ABHIDHAMMA (by Ho Thi Lien) includes a description of what is meant by "unified in body" etc. (see pages 30 through 32 i.e. pages 42 through 44 of the PDF). It appears to be paraphrasing the DN commentary, for example:

‘Viññāṇaṭṭhiti’ means ‘abodes or supports of consciousness’, ‘the stages of sentient beings’. In the Dīghanikāya and its commentaries,86 the stations of consciousness are classified into seven kinds as follows:

2) Nānattakāya-ekattasaññī = Beings who have different bodies but the same perception are Brahmās of the first jhāna plane who are born first in the Brahmā abode. Although their bodies and life spans are different, they have the same rebirth linking consciousness, which is the first jhāna. According to the Dīghanikāya Mahāvagga commentary, beings in the four apāyas are also included in this category because they possess different bodies but the same type of rebirth-linking consciousness, which is ahetuka akusalavipāka santīraṇa.

3) Ekattakāya-nānattasaññī = Beings who have similar bodies but different perceptions are those living in the second Brahmā abode. They have similar bodies but different perceptions. While in the first jhāna their minds are associated with both vitakka and vicāra, in the second jhāna, the minds are associated with vicāraonly but not vitakka; and in the third jhāna, both vitakka and vicāraare forsaken (according to the pañcaka method).

The footnote says,

86 D. II, 58, DA. II, 99 -102, DṬī, 114 -116 (CSCD).

I presume the "eight liberations", which immediately follow in DN 15, also refer to these stages.

Piya Tan's analysis quotes the Paṭisambhidāmagga to say that the first few liberations are associated with meditations using internal and external kasinas (perhaps you'll disagree with that -- so far as I remember, perhaps I'm misquoting you however, you associate the jhanas with making "letting go" as the "object").

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  • Thanks for your effort Chris. I scored to answer up. But the answer provides no insight.. Particularly, the 4th jhana is not non-percipient . The Buddha taught to practise yoniso manasikara when hearing the teachings rather than rote learning, copy & paste and blind faith. Personally, I will think about my question when i have time, later today. – Dhammadhatu Oct 5 '18 at 22:30

"...what does it mean to be unified in perception?"

It is important to understand the stations of consciousness in order to understand those places where consciousness should be let go.

In this case it is important to think of consciousness as 'identified-with consciousness' or consciousness of named forms or the consciousness of an existing being, understanding the meaning of 'existing being' in accordance with the way it is described in DN 15.

Understanding that consciousness is empty in and of itself and needs an object in order to be consciousness of an existing thing or state, those existing things or states need to be recognized in one's progress towards freedom of consciousness: consciousness of freedom from the consciousness of named forms (or identified-with consciousness) that is downbound to the world.

"When that consciousness is unestablished, not coming to growth, non-generative, it is liberated."

That is from the Bija Sutta, a sutta which very clearly explains this dependent relationship of consciousness with its object:


Why then 'saññā'? (Note in the Bija Sutta the stand for consciousness is not restricted to perception. But 'perception' is a good all-encompassing way to describe any sort of platform for consciousness as the inseparability of the relationship between perception, sensation and consciousness is frequently described in the suttas.) Because consciousness in and of itself is uniform and empty-of-content characteristic, it becomes known in diverse ways only because of its diverse objects, that is, what is being perceived in various states.

As a matter of practical application this just means 'consciousness'.

"There are beings whose consciousness is diverse and whose bodies are diverse, such as human beings." We can see that. The beings here appear different from one another and hold different views of the world (see the same things in differing ways). I know, recognizing this stand for consciousness, that this is a realm or state which has not yet achieved freedom of consciousness. So I will move on.

Those who have the same perception of their world and appear the same (such as the Subhakinna devas, have as you suggest identically shaped bodies and they all perceive (and are nourished by) the same joy. Visiting that realm also one is able to see that consciousness has not yet shaken off its attachment to an object.

'Ekatta' here should be understood as 'uniformity' per the Mula-pariyaya Sutta. They are uniform in appearance, not that they have a single body though there are cases we know of where multiple minds occupy a single body (such as in the case of schizophrenics.)

So a break-down of those major places and means for identified-with consciousness to establish itself is very useful relative to the attempt to free consciousness from every object it may come across.


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  • 1
    This is only incidental to the answer, but by the way, contrary to popular belief/misconception, what's called "schizophrenia" is not associated with "multiple personalities" -- that condition is called "dissociative identity disorder". – ChrisW Feb 24 at 10:10

Thanks Chris,

Good to know, but we cannot see using that description either. We don't see it as a disorder at all. We are all very orderly and we avoid disrupting the world as much as possible. It isn't 'dissociative' (and if it were, we would see dissociation from identity as a positive!), it is associative. Once we'uns have established the Magga as our supreme court and have resolved to resolve contentions by reasoned decisions based on that, any one of us can take a case there. When we get along, its a matter of many minds are better than one! Best wishes, Mike Olds, olbegga ols, obo, p.p. (professor professor), and the King of New York

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Taking appropriate time to read the quote, it appears meaningless 'papanca' ('psychobabble') to me however I will attempt to answer the question:

  1. The word 'kaya' does not mean 'physical body' ('rupa'). The word 'kaya' means 'collection' or 'group' of aggregates (as I have posted many times before. For example, when suttas use the phrase "at the ending of the body", this means the ending of a certain collection of aggregates rather than the ending of life).

  2. 1st jhana is more refined than the previous state of being. It is diverse in its collection (kaya) because it includes sankhara aggregate (vitakka & vicara) and feelings (vedana aggregate) as the settling place of consciousness. It is unified in perception only in comparison to the previous state of being (human, etc) because it has one-pointedness (ekkagattacitta). However, this unity is only illusory, i.e., only due to its comparison with the previous diverse state of being.

  3. 2nd jhana is unified in kaya because consciousness settles on only one aggregate, namely, feeling aggregate. However, it is diverse in perception because it knows two feelings, namely, piti (rapture) and sukha (happiness).

  4. 3rd jhana is unified in both kaya and perception because there is only one feeling as the settling place of consciousness, namely, sukha (happiness).

However the above does not explain the 4th jhana, which still has a feeling as the settling place of consciousness; even though the feeling is that of equanimity. I guess the utterance is saying equanimity is so "neutral" that it is not a salient perception.

The above said, the utterance, like the remainder of DN 15, is meaningless ('papanca') and obviously never spoken by the Lord Buddha; the Saviour of those with little dust in the eyes.

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DN 15: 7 planes of existence, what does it mean to have unified body and unified perception?

pali+english excerpt here: https://notesonthedhamma.blogspot.com/2020/02/dn-15-7-planes-of-existence-what-does.html

I had a similar question to OP, so I ask in here instead of starting a new thread. I'm also curious as to how it corresponds to 4 jhanas and their rebirth in brahma kayika realm on up.

It seems like being "unified in body" would probably mean they all look like clones of each other? From some other source, perhaps commentary, they say in brahma realm there's no gender, and no breathing (as humans, animals, devas have).

But what does it mean to be unified in perception? For brahma kayika, it could mean they're only interested in 4 jhanas and 4 brahmaiharas (rather than the diversity in deva realms where they could have differences in liking various divine pleasures of music, sex, food, etc). But then why is the next realm above Brahma kayika have diversity of perception?

Also Brahma kayika beings, some could be Buddhists, some Hindu, etc, so that seems like quite a diversity of perception right there.

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