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Following are the stages Ajahn Brahm mentions in his book Mindfulness, Bliss and Beyond, to enter in to Jhana.

  1. Present moment awareness
  2. Silent present moment awareness
  3. Silent present moment awareness on the breath
  4. Fully sustained awareness on the breath
  5. Fully sustained attention on beautiful breath
  6. Experiencing the beautiful Nimmita
  7. Jhana

I am looking for sutta reference for the same.

Additional question- do progression through all these stages compulsary to experiencing the Jhana? Specifically Pitisukha and Nimmitta. Can one dodge the stages and enter the meditative absorption of Jhana?

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The step before getting Nimitta can be dodged depending on the practitioner's abilities. Actually, it is not hard for the high abilities practitioner to do step by step or dodge.

Notice: I use the associated Suttas. And most of what I refer to is in the same sutta. I don't connect Sutta by my idea. I do it on the context. And there are many people from the difference schools tell me the same "bright light" from hard working on the concentration meditation, such as PaAuk-Burma, Thai Kasina Practitioner, Thai Catudhātuvavatthana practitoner. They all get bright light after meditation.

DN 22 MahāsatipaṭṭhānaSutta but actually it is KāyagatāsatiSutta because MahāsatipaṭṭhānaSutta is insight meditation and KāyagatāsatiSutta is concentration meditation. However, the translation in DN 22 MahāsatipaṭṭhānaSutta is better for Ānāpānassati:

Present moment awareness, Silent present moment awareness

Bhikkhus, how does the bhikkhu keep his mind steadfastly on the body?

Bhikkhus, the bhikkhu following the practice of my Teaching, having gone to the forest, or to the foot of a tree or to an empty, solitary place, sits down cross-legged, keeping his body erect, and sets up mindfulness, orienting it.

Silent present moment awareness on the breath

Then with entire mindfulness he breathes in and with entire mindfulness he breathes out.

Breathing in a long inhalation, he is conscious of breathing in a long inhalation, or breathing out a long exhalation, he is conscious of breathing out a long exhalation.

Breathing in a short inhalation, he is conscious of breathing in a short inhalation, or breathing out a short exhalation, he is conscious of breathing out a short exhalation.

He trains himself to be clearly conscious of the whole stretch of the in-coming breath at its beginning, its middle, and at its end. He trains himself to be clearly conscious of the whole stretch of the out-going breath at its beginning, its middle, and at its end.

Fully sustained awareness on the breath

[By being fully conscious of the inhalation] he trains himself to calm down the strong inhalation as he breathes in. [By being fully conscious of the exhalation] he trains himself to calm down the strong exhalation as he breathes out.

Fully sustained attention on beautiful breath

DN 10 SubhaSutta (I recommend this sutta to be the reference of Jhana because it is long enough and step by step. Notice, some part of this sutta is same as KāyagatāsatiSutta which I refer to Ānāpānassati above):

‘And what, Ānanda, is this so noble body of doctrine regarding self-concentration (Samādhi) in praise of which the Venerable Gotama was wont to speak; to which he used to incite the folk, in which he established them, and made them firm?’ Restraint of the Sense Faculties

“And how, young Brahman, does the bhikkhu guard the doors of his sense faculties? Herein, young Brahman, having seen a form with the eye, the bhikkhu does not grasp at the sign or the details. Since, if he were to dwell without restraint over the faculty of the eye, evil unwholesome states such as covetousness and grief might assail him, he practises restraint, guards the faculty of the eye, and achieves restraint over the faculty of the eye.

...

DN 10 SubhaSutta for Experiencing the beautiful Nimmita.

“Having abandoned covetousness for the world, he dwells with a mind free from covetousness; he purifies his mind from covetousness. Having abandoned ill will and hatred, he dwells with a benevolent mind, sympathetic for the welfare of all living beings; he purifies his mind from ill will and hatred. Having abandoned dullness and drowsiness, he dwells perceiving light, mindful and clearly comprehending; he purifies his mind from dullness and drowsiness. Having abandoned restlessness and worry, he dwells at ease within himself, with a peaceful mind; he purifies his mind from restlessness and worry. Having abandoned doubt, he dwells as one who has passed beyond doubt, unperplexed about wholesome states; he purifies his mind from doubt.

Remember someone may say this light is sunlight and try to refer sutta or commentary. Don't trust him because this is normal for the concentration meditation practitioner who practice hard enough only. They sit 12+ hours everyday for many months or years to get this light which can shine in their mind trough the dark night. It is shining breathe or meditation's object, not sunlight. Today, many of them have not been laying on a bed for 20 years. I know at lease 1 person.

Why this light is important?

DN 10 SubhaSutta (again):

Quite secluded from sense pleasures (escape from object), secluded from unwholesome states (escape from object's unwholesome recognition), he enters and dwells in the first jhāna, which is accompanied by applied and sustained thought and filled with the rapture and happiness born of seclusion. He drenches, steeps, saturates, and suffuses his body with this rapture and happiness born of seclusion, so that there is no part of his entire body which is not suffused by this rapture and happiness.

There are only 3 objects: sense pleasures (5 strings and associate), non sense pleasures, and illusion.

Sense pleasures person can't know non sense pleasure object and it's illusion until he can attain it.

What is non sense pleasure object and it's illusion?

Non sense pleasure object: Rūpa-jhāna/Bhava, Arūpa-jhāna/Bhava, Nibbāna and 8 Super-mundane paths.

it's illusion: It's concept and name, such Rūpa-jhāna person and "Rūpa-jhāna person" word which refer to the real Rūpa-jhāna (we can know Rūpa-jhāna person and word but we can't refer it to the real Rūpa-jhāna).

So, the only left way to get "Quite secluded from sense pleasures (escape from object)" is developing sense pleasures illusion to be non sense pleasures illusion of RūpaJhāna (bright light) by meditate mind's quality. Better minds is lighter light. The lighter light can overwhelm below in DN 10 SubhaSutta (again) (the practitioner practice below in moral discipline but it turn into professional/master by the light, patibhāga-nimitta because this light overwhelm "the sign or the details"):

‘And what, Ānanda, is this so noble body of doctrine regarding self-concentration (Samādhi) in praise of which the Venerable Gotama was wont to speak; to which he used to incite the folk, in which he established them, and made them firm?’

“And how, young Brahman, does the bhikkhu guard the doors of his sense faculties? Herein, young Brahman, having seen a form with the eye, the bhikkhu does not grasp at the sign or the details. Since, if he were to dwell without restraint over the faculty of the eye, evil unwholesome states such as covetousness and grief might assail him, he practises restraint, guards the faculty of the eye, and achieves restraint over the faculty of the eye.

Another, important of this light

DN 10 SubhaSutta (again):

“Further, young Brahman, with the abandoning of pleasure and pain, and with the previous passing away of joy and grief, the bhikkhu enters and dwells in the fourth jhāna, which is neither pleasant nor painful and contains mindfulness fully purified by equanimity. He sits suffusing his body with a pure bright mind, so that there is no part of his entire body not suffused by a pure bright (pari-odāta) mind.

This mind is bright because it's own power. The mind is not shining because mind has no color. However, this mind power create bright object and bright location base, hadaya-vatthu. It also turn the practitioner body bright as well, good health (depending on how strong of unwholesome karma in the past).

This bright light is for 8 Vijjā

DN 10 SubhaSutta (again):

Again, this is not a bright color mind. Mind has no color. This is a mind which has bright object and bright location base.

“When his mind is thus concentrated, pure and bright (pari-odāta), unblemished, free from defects, malleable, wieldy, steady and attained to imperturbability, he directs and inclines it to knowledge and vision. He understands thus: ‘This is my body, having material form, composed of the four primary elements, originating from father and mother, built up out of rice and gruel, impermanent, subject to rubbing and pressing, to dissolution and dispersion. And this is my consciousness, supported by it and bound up with it.’

...

When his mind is thus concentrated, pure and bright, unblemished, free from defects, malleable, wieldy, steady, and attained to imperturbability, he directs and inclines it to creating a mind-made body. From this body he creates another body having material form, mind-made, complete in all its parts, not lacking any faculties.

...

When his mind is thus concentrated, pure and bright, unblemished, free from defects, malleable, wieldy, steady, and attained to imperturbability, he directs and inclines it to the modes of supernormal power. He exercises the various modes of supernormal power: having been one, he becomes many and having been many, he becomes one; he appears and vanishes; he goes unimpeded through walls, ramparts, and mountains as if through space; he dives in and out of the earth as if it were water; he walks on water without sinking as if it were earth; sitting cross-legged he travels through space like a winged bird; with his hand he touches and strokes the sun and the moon, so mighty and powerful; he exercises mastery over the body as far as the Brahma-world.

...

“When his mind is thus concentrated, pure and bright, unblemished, free from defects, malleable, wieldy, steady, and attained to imperturbability, he directs and inclines it to the divine ear-element. With the divine ear-element, which is purified and surpasses the human, he hears both kinds of sound, the divine and the human, those which are distant and those which are near.

...

“When his mind is thus concentrated, pure and bright, unblemished, free from defects, malleable, wieldy, steady, and attained to imperturbability, he directs and inclines it to the knowledge of encompassing the minds (of others). He understands the minds of other beings and persons, having encompassed them with his own mind. He understands a mind with lust as a mind with lust and a mind without lust as a mind without lust; he understands a mind with hatred as a mind with hatred and a mind without hatred as a mind without hatred; he understands a mind with delusion as a mind with delusion and a mind without delusion as a mind without delusion; he understands a contracted mind as a contracted mind and a distracted mind as a distracted mind; he understands an exalted mind as an exalted mind and an unexalted mind as an unexalted mind; he understands a surpassable mind as a surpassable mind and an unsurpassable mind as an unsurpassable mind; he understands a concentrated mind as a concentrated mind and an unconcentrated mind as an unconcentrated mind; he understands a liberated mind as a liberated mind and an unliberated mind as an unliberated mind.

...

“When his mind is thus concentrated, pure and bright, unblemished, free from defects, malleable, wieldy, steady, and attained to imperturbability, he directs and inclines it to the knowledge of recollecting past lives. He recollects his numerous past lives, that is, one birth, two births, three, four, or five births; ten, twenty, thirty, forty, or fifty births; a hundred births, a thousand births, a hundred thousand births; many aeons of world contraction, many aeons of world expansion, many aeons of world contraction and expansion, (recollecting): ‘There I had such a name, belonged to such a clan, had such an appearance; such was my food, such my experience of pleasure and pain, such my span of life. Passing away from that state, I re-arose there. There too I had such a name, belonged to such a clan, had such an appearance; such was my food, such my experience of pleasure and pain, such my span of life. Passing away from that state I re-arose here.’ Thus he recollects his numerous past lives in their modes and their details.

...

When his mind is thus concentrated, pure and bright, unblemished, free from defects, malleable, wieldy, steady, and attained to imperturbability, he directs and inclines it to the knowledge of the passing away and reappearance of beings. With the divine eye, which is purified and surpasses the human, he sees beings passing away and reappearing—inferior and superior, beautiful and ugly, fortunate and unfortunate—and he understands how beings fare according to their kamma, thus: ‘These beings—who were endowed with bad conduct of body, speech, and mind, who reviled the noble ones, held wrong views, and undertook actions governed by wrong views—with the breakup of the body, after death, have reappeared in the plane of misery, the bad destinations, the lower realms, in hell. But these beings—who were endowed with good conduct of body, speech, and mind, who did not revile the noble ones, held right views, and undertook actions governed by right views—with the breakup of the body, after death, have reappeared in the good destinations, in the heavenly world.’ Thus with the divine eye, which is purified and surpasses the human, he sees beings passing away and reappearing—inferior and superior, beautiful and ugly, fortunate and unfortunate—and he understands how beings fare in accordance with their kamma.

...

When his mind is thus concentrated, pure and bright, unblemished, free from defects, malleable, wieldy, steady, and attained to imperturbability, he directs and inclines it to the knowledge of the destruction of the cankers. He understands as it really is: ‘This is suffering.’ He understands as it really is: ‘This is the origin of suffering.’ He understands as it really is: ‘This is the cessation of suffering.’ He understands as it really is: ‘This is the way leading to the cessation of suffering.’ He understands as it really is: ‘These are the cankers.’ He understands as it really is: ‘This is the origin of the cankers.’ He understands as it really is: ‘This is the cessation of the cankers.’ He understands as it really is: ‘This is the way leading to the cessation of the cankers.’

...

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In the Sutta it is made quite obvious that jhana are not only the type of Jhana that Ajahn Brahm talks about;

Having folded my legs crosswise and straightened my body, I establish mindfulness in front of me. Then, secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states, I enter and dwell in the first jhāna, which consists of rapture and pleasure born of seclusion, accompanied by thought and examination. With the subsiding of thought and examination, I enter and dwell in the second jhāna, which has internal placidity and unification of mind and consists of rapture and pleasure born of concentration, without thought and examination. With the fading away as well of rapture, I dwell equanimous and, mindful and clearly comprehending, I experience pleasure with the body; I enter and dwell in the third jhāna of which the noble ones declare: ‘He is equanimous, mindful, one who dwells happily.’ With the abandoning of pleasure and pain, and with the previous passing away of joy and dejection, I enter and dwell in the fourth jhāna, neither painful nor pleasant, which has purification of mindfulness by equanimity. “Then, brahmin, when I am in such a state, if I walk back and forth, on that occasion my walking back and forth is celestial. If I am standing, on that occasion my standing is celestial. If I am sitting, on that occasion my sitting is celestial. If I lie down, on that occasion this is my celestial high and luxurious bed. https://suttacentral.net/an3.63/en/bodhi

"He is absorbed dependent on earth... liquid... fire... wind... the sphere of the infinitude of space... the sphere of the infinitude of consciousness... the sphere of nothingness... the sphere of neither perception nor non-perception... this world... the next world... whatever is seen, heard, sensed, cognized, attained, sought after, pondered by the intellect. https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an11/an11.010.than.html

"Bhikkhus, if for just the time of a finger snap a bhikkhu pursues a mind of loving-kindness, he is called a bhikkhu who is not devoid of jhāna. who acts upon the teaching of the Teacher, who responds to his advice, and who does not eat the country's alms food in vain. how much more, then, those who cultivate it!" — AN 1.53

Id post more Sutta as you requested but there isn't much to post as the stock formulae is well-known & there is little deviation.

I think the Abhidhamma method does a very good job explaining the above passages so if you are interested in the traditional Theravadin interpretation and my commentary you can read on.

There are many states classified as jhana, if you become absorbed based on the air element it's going to be perceived differently to being absorbed based on light or a color kasina.

Ie one person observing the breath may become percepient of light which gets progressively clearer until the perception of the body fades from the mind altogether; for another perception of the body fades from the mind and there remains only the perception of wind, this person sees not light.

In either case with the fading of that perception of light or the perception of wind there will remain only the perception of infinite space.

The sutta are always broad in the description of jhana and describe what is applied to all states classified as jhana.

The Vibbhajavadin Abhidhammas of Theravada & Sarvastivada differentiate the jhanas which are "good states pertaining to sensuous realm" and jhanas "pertaining to heaves of form" also called rapt meditations. Here are excerpts from the Theravadin Dhammasanghani;

Good in Relation to the Sensuous Universe;

  • Type 1 thought accompanied by happiness and associated with knowledge; The Path is Fivefold; the Jhāna is fivefold; the skandhas of feeling, perception, syntheses, intellect
  • Type 2 thought arisen by the prompting of a conscious motive, accompanied by pleasure, associated with knowledge;
  • Type 3 a good thought accompanied by pleasure, disconnected with knowledge; the path is fourfold
  • Type 4 a good thought arisen by the prompting of a conscious motive, accompanied by happiness, disconnected with knowledge
  • Type 5 a good thought accompanied by disinterestedness [The mental [condition] neither pleasant nor unpleasant], associated with knowledge; Jhana is Fourfold
  • Type 6 a good thought accompanied by disinterestedness, associated with knowledge, prompted by a conscious motive; Jhana is Fourfold
  • Type 7 a good thought accompanied by disinterestedness, disconnected with knowledge
  • Type 8 a good thought accompanied by disinterestedness, disconnected with knowledge, prompted by a conscious motive https://suttacentral.net/ds2.1.1/en/caf_rhysdavids

Rapt meditations ;

  • When, that he may attain to the heavens of Form, he cultivates the way thereto, aloof from sensuous appetites, aloof from evil ideas, and so, by earth-wholeness, enters into and abides in the First Jhāna (the first rapt meditation), wherein conception works and thought discursive, which is born of solitude, and full of joy and ease.

Therein Jhana is Fivefold; Conception, Thought Discursive, Joy, Ease, Self-Collectedness.

  • When, that he may attain to the heavens of Form, he cultivates the way thereto, and so, by earth-wholeness, enters into and abides in a good state of Rapt Meditation, wherein is no working of conception, but only of thought discursive—which is born of concentration, and is full of joy and ease—then the contact, the feeling, the perception, the thinking, the thought, the discursive inquiry, the joy, the ease, the self-collectedness, etc….

Jhana is Fourfold; Thought Discursive, Joy, Ease, Self-Collectedness

  • When, that he may attain to the heavens of Form, he cultivates the way thereto, suppressing the working of conception and of thought discursive, and so, by earth-wholeness, enters into and abides in the Second Jhāna (the second rapt meditation), which is self-evolved, born of concentration, full of joy and ease, in that, set free from the working of conception and of thought discursive, the mind grows calm and sure dwelling on high—then the contact, the feeling, the perception, the thinking, the thought, the joy, the ease, the self-collectedness.

Jhana is Threefold; Joy, Ease, Self-Collectedness

  • When, that he may attain to the heavens of Form, he cultivates the way thereto, and further, through the waning of all passion for joy, holds himself unbiassed, the while, mindful and self-possessed, he experiences in his sense-consciousness that ease whereof the Noble Ones declare: “He that is unbiassed and watchful dwelleth at ease”— and so, by earth-wholeness, enters into and abides in the Third Jhāna.

Then the Jhana is Twofold; Ease, Self-Collectedness

  • When, that he may attain to the heavens of Form, he cultivates the way thereto, and, by the putting away of ease and by the putting away of ill, by the passing away of the happiness and of the misery he was wont to feel, he thus, by earth-wholeness, enters into and abides in the Fourth Jhāna (the fourth rapt meditation) of that utter purity of mindfulness which comes of disinterestedness, where no ease is felt nor any ill

Then the Jhana is Twofold; Equanimity, Self-Collectedness https://suttacentral.net/ds2.1.2/en/caf_rhysdavids

As i see it, the rapt meditations are absorbtions based on light and vision of form [rupa], which include the various kasina and is what some people nowadays call hard jhanas whereas those good states pertaining to sensuous universe are states wherein thought is a factor, these are sometimes loosely called soft jhana or vipassana-jhana. Commentary explains;

a good thought deserves to be distinguished [as a good state] on three grounds;

  • For it fabricates a good state; from the maturity of the faculties it involves; and from the remoteness of mental and moral infirmity which it implies.

As to how one enters these states (abhidhamma method);

Herein a monk dwells restrained and controlled by the fundamental precepts, endowed with (proper) behaviour and a (suitable) alms resort, seeing peril in (his) slightest faults, observing (the precepts) he trains himself in the precepts, guarded as to the doors of the faculties (of the senses), in food knowing the right amount, in the first watch of the night and in the last watch of the night practising the practice of vigilance, with intense effort and penetration practising the practice of development of awakening dhammas; he, in approaching and in departing, acts with awareness; in looking ahead and in looking around he acts with awareness; in bending and in stretching he acts with awareness; in bearing the outer robe, the alms-bowl and the under robe, he acts with awareness; in eating, in drinking, in chewing, in tasting, he acts with awareness; in obeying the calls of nature he acts with awareness; in walking, in standing, in sitting, in sleeping, in waking, in talking, in being silent, he acts with awareness; he approaches a secluded abode, a forest, the foot of a tree, a mountain, a wadi, a hill cave, a cemetery, a remote forest, a desolate place, a heap of straw, (an abode) having little noise, having little tumult, free from the atmosphere of humans, secret from men, suitable for retirement; he, having gone to a forest or having gone to the foot of a tree or having gone to an empty place, sits folding (the legs) crosswise, holding the body erect, setting up mindfulness in front (of him); he, abandoning covetousness (for anything) in the world dwells with consciousness freed from covetousness; he cleanses his consciousness of covetousness. Abandoning ill-will and antipathy he dwells having consciousness without ill-will, compassionate for the welfare of all living beings; he cleanses his consciousness of ill-will and antipathy. Abandoning sloth and torpor he dwells freed from sloth and torpor, having bright perception, mindful and aware; he cleanses his consciousness of sloth and torpor. Abandoning distraction and remorse he dwells without distraction having internally quiet consciousness; he cleanses his consciousness of distraction and remorse. Abandoning doubt, doubt overcome, he dwells without uncertainty as to skilful dhammas; he cleanses his consciousness of doubt. Abandoning these five hindrances (that are) mental corruptions and attenuation of wisdom, he, aloof from sense pleasures, aloof from unskilful dhammas, attains and dwells in the first jhāna accompanied by initial application, accompanied by sustained application, with rapture and pleasure born of detachment; inhibiting initial application and sustained application he attains and dwells in the second jhāna with internal refinement, exalted development of mind, without initial application, without sustained application, with rapture and pleasure born of samādhi; he, desireless of rapture, dwells equable, mindful, aware, and he experiences pleasure by way of the body (of mental aggregates); this the Noble Ones declare, “The equable, mindful dweller in pleasure”; he attains and dwells in the third jhāna; by the abandoning of pleasure and by the abandoning of pain, then first terminating mental pleasure and mental pain he attains and dwells in the fourth jhāna (which is) neither-pain-nor-pleasure (but is) purity of mindfulness caused by equanimity; https://suttacentral.net/vb12/en/thittila

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  • I read through all the links you provided. Thankyou. It appears that Nimitta is not a prerequisite to attain first Jhaha. The Buddha seems to enter it at will. So as none of the other stages specifically mentioned. So sitting can lead to the Jhana. Am I right? – The White Cloud Jul 17 at 12:45
  • Baaically many states can be classified as the first jhana, what Ajahn Brahm teaches as i understand it is a type of Rapt Meditaton where there arises a vision of light. That method is quite popular but there is no guarantee that one will see the light when doing anapanasati, it depends on one's disposition. Some people get absorbed in dependence on the light, some get absprbed otherwise, some people never see the light lest they specifically train for it or see it sometimes. Some people see other visions than light, ie organs and others get absorbed in dependence on air itself. – deadmanposting Jul 17 at 13:27
  • For a state to be called a jhana it's factors have to confirm to the classification, that's all there is to it. – deadmanposting Jul 17 at 13:28

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