I recall it being said by the Buddha that the formless - jhana perhaps - is better than the formed. in which sutta does this say this? I remember reading that, but I can no longer find the text


3 Answers 3


The quote you are thinking of, I think, is from the Santatarasutta, located in Chapter 3 of the "Book of Threes" (Tikanipāta) of the Itivuttaka (Iti 73). From the translation of John D. Ireland:

“Rūpehi, bhikkhave, arūpā santatarā, arūpehi nirodho santataro”ti. “Bhikkhus, the formless is more peaceful than the form realm, and cessation is more peaceful than the formless.”

  • that's the one :)
    – blue_ego
    Dec 13, 2021 at 12:25

The escape from form is listed in several suttas:

iti72:2.3: Renunciation is the escape from sensual pleasures. Formlessness is the escape from form. Cessation is the escape from whatever is created, conditioned, and dependently originated.

In addition, meditations deepen through the four jhanas, progressing into the subtler formless meditations:

AN9.41:11.2: ‘Why don’t I, going totally beyond perceptions of form, with the ending of perceptions of impingement, not focusing on perceptions of diversity, aware that “space is infinite”, enter and remain in the dimension of infinite space?’

Furthermore, understanding that form is necessarily limited simply because it serves to distinguish between that which is the form and that which is not the form, we may also find the following relevant:

SN41.7:6.2: Greed, hate, and delusion are makers of limits.

Lastly, "better" may not be quite the word to use in comparing the form and formless. In MN121, the Buddha discusses the meditation on emptiness, which teaches that meditation towards emptiness is less stressful but some stress related to form is necessary for living itself. Indeed, even the formless here is perceived as "stressful."

MN121:10.3: They understand:
MN121:10.4: ‘Here there is no stress due to the perception of the dimension of nothingness or the perception of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception.
MN121:10.5: There is only this modicum of stress, namely that associated with the six sense fields dependent on this body and conditioned by life.’

  • Nice but not the one I recall
    – blue_ego
    Dec 9, 2021 at 8:44
  • the word 'better' was in the text. i can't find it :(
    – blue_ego
    Dec 9, 2021 at 11:20
  • 1
    Ah. OK. There is indeed a "better" one: > AN2.76:1.5: The better of these two kinds of happiness is happiness that relies on the formless.” Generally speaking, you may find it helpful to search the suttas using voice.suttacentral.net with the phrase "better formless"
    – OyaMist
    Dec 9, 2021 at 14:03

*Rupa-states/mindless ones" (asaññasatta) isn't at all desired, yet often common. If good householder asks about the four jhanas via the four-perceptions (arupa-jhana)... the four Jhanas, at least the first, is required for insight (leaving, world, home, sense sphere). While arupa-perceptions can be reached even without virtue, in this area the first step, compression of form, can not be archived as well as Dhamma not understood. Lacking the four Jhanas, useless. As for livelihood (to maintain some happiness) the third Jhana is praised.

Good to mind minds in tune, since right (t)here, in the Dhamma-Vinaya, is the best place and freaks outside are mostly lost.

First: leaving home, making the hometask. Done, going up the mountains, where ever. But if not having left home, even if going up a mountain, aside of hardly finding space to do, bond to always return, not able to go beyond. The arupa-Jhanas are equal other awareness releases, like by metta, yet can be also and are often, maintained without having made the hometask, gained right view, considering the Dhamma. 1. Jhana is quite good and sufficient for the path.


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