In the state known as neither perception nor non-perception, it seems impossible to cognize the relative particulates that allow it to occur as an event, but one can emerge mindfully from its attainment, as is stated in the Anupada Sutta. Hence, there is a beginning and an end to the event. In this way, I can only define it by what is absent rather than what is present - similar to exiting a noisy nightclub and resting in the dead of the night, then entering the nightclub again, taking with me only the memory of the still night.

Sariputta entered & remained in the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception. He emerged mindfully from that attainment.

Anupada Sutta

This leaves a trace-memory of the event that can be recalled, but even that itself is tenuous for two reasons, 1) by its very definition (neither perception nor non-perception) - from beginning to end - its particulates are so subtle, so indistinct that one can not confidently declare "I am emerged in neither perception nor non-percpetion". 2. The recall itself poses some accuracy issues, that since it is now in the memory, it is open to all sorts of interpretations including how I have chosen to define it here.

In the instance of neither perception nor non-perception, it seems the ability to discern and cognize are nimittas that are absent. Please correct me?

Is it sufficient for the mind to have experienced the presence of neither perception nor non-perception or must it be investigated further?


I wouldn't dismiss the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception too casually.

The dimension of neither perception nor non-perception separates the dimension of nothingness from the cessation of perception of feeling. Perception originates from contact, so the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception is the subtlest dimension for understanding that origination. The Buddha's instruction to Moggallāna underscores the importance of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception. Moggallāna declares:

SN40.8:1.7: While I was in that meditation, perceptions and attentions accompanied by the dimension of nothingness beset me. Then the Buddha came up to me with his psychic power and said,
SN40.8:2.2: ‘Moggallāna, Moggallāna!
Don’t neglect the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception, brahmin! Settle your mind in the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception; unify your mind and immerse it in the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception.’


I'd argue that its largely irrelevant. The content of meditative experience really has no bearing on ones practice. The insight that is attained when one emerges from those states is what matters. The only value of truly deep meditative absorption is that it allows for equally deep vipassana.

  • Seeing the suffering caused by attachment to the body is the insight right there, but one can only tread that ground so many times. Can you add anything more? – NeuroMax Jan 31 at 16:44
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    Well, when you come out of the perception/non perception, what do you experience? Any answer anyone can give you is essentially worthless compared to that. – user20010 Jan 31 at 18:33
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    And for the record, practically speaking, attachment to the body pretty much evaporates even after the first jhana. I'd go so far as to say that it can't even be accessed while feelings of self preservation exist. – user20010 Jan 31 at 18:41
  • Thank you. I downvoted your answer because of its dismissive tone and the narrow, dried and dessicated suggestion of 'doing vipassana'. – NeuroMax Jan 31 at 19:20
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    Samatha practice is only a prelude to vipassana practice. This was the Buddha's distinguishing discovery. It's what separates him from his first two teachers. I'm not trying to be a jerk, but unless you are applying a purified mind to some kind of object - a koan, a defilement, the morning star, whatever - you are wasting your samatha work. – user20010 Jan 31 at 21:09

I would also say that it is largely irrelevant, given the keywords you’ve listed as constraints for your requested answer. However, I would like to make a correction to the phrasing of your question in that it is not “the ability to discern and cognize... that are absent” but discernment and cognition that are absent, i.e., the faculty is there, but quiescent. It isn’t a meaningless difference, and is important in tantrayana practices.

In practice, this is a state in which there is just spaciousness. No thought of a meditator meditating, or of accomplishment, enlightenment, wisdom, perfection, nor anything else. No thoughts arise. Sensations are no longer attended to, not because one stops attending to them, but because that discriminating response is simply no longer functioning. If you turn your mind toward such a sensation, it will be actively apperceived as a sensation of a particular type, so the mind must rest as it is: spaciousness—but not just empty dead space. Instead, one reaches a stage where there is just clear lucidity, in the sense of reflexive knowing that we can also call clarity. This means our normal perspective evaporates. Time no longer passes. There is not even a need for the concept of "now." Just illumination without limit. Beyond this, there can be only poetry.

As Jigme Lingpa, ending with a quote from the “Perfected Skill of the Lion” tantra, puts it:

Thus, according to the tradition of this vehicle, the nature of the mind is—from the very beginning—great natural liberation. Recognizing that is called “awareness.” By maintaining this continuity, the state of Buddhahood will be directly realized, which is why this path is more expeditious than any other. In this way [practitioners] will gain inspiration.

In addition, [the instructions] on clarifying doubt and subduing hinderances are as follows. While maintaining the continuity of the great, indwelling fundamental nature, if one thinks that the nature of this awareness is empty, the one ascribing emptiness to this is the intellect, which has a focal point. The way the meditative concentration with a focal point does not produce Buddhahood is as stated in the “Perfected Skill of the Lion” tantra:

“The meaning of the nature of phenomena cannot be seen through meditation with concentration. The samādhi of one’s own appearances eludes the direction of concentration. Free from elaboration, the nature of phenomena is equal to the limits of space. All mental considerations are devoid of conceptual fixation with objects. The dharmakāya Buddha free from the four extremes, such as existing or not, is one's own awareness” (“The Yeshe Lama,” page 5)

  • This is very helpful. I'm familiar with the expansion of space such that it no longer interests my mind, but there is not even any sense of spaciousness - its dimensionless but with a pristine and unassuming, ordinary clarity. It's neither here nor there nor here and there nor nowhere. I've been dropping into this for about 12 months. Perhaps I'm barking up the wrong tree with the labeling of neither perception nor non-perception. – NeuroMax Jan 31 at 14:31
  • There is a pattern: after exiting these things, my mind becomes turbulent and upset and all sorts of emotional difficulties arise until such time I am able to manage them. When things have calmed down I can enter into these events again and the whole thing performs the same cycle. – NeuroMax Jan 31 at 14:42
  • You should be directing your mind to the factors that give rise to these difficulties. All you are doing in samatha is suppressing them temporarily. This is important - it allows you to effectively examine them - but unless you examine them, they will continue to arise. – user20010 Jan 31 at 21:11
  • @user20010 - For sure! Satipatthana throughout the day informs me of the conditions from which they occur. Just meditating is pointless if one cannot bring those meditative qualities into everyday life. The question was targeted and does not represent the entirety of my practice. I hope that helps. Kind regards. – NeuroMax Feb 2 at 19:03

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