Indriyasaṁvara is part of sīlakkhandha. there you see this

Idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhu cakkhunā rūpaṃ disvā na-nimittaggāhī hoti nānubyañjanaggāhī.

whereas animitta cetosamādhi is part of highest samadhi. Thats why it is after th 8th Jhana.

sabbanimittānañca amanasikāro, animittāya ca dhātuyā manasikāro.

so with this background, and for the sake of proper practice, Can someone help in knowing what is the difference between not grasping nimitta (na nimittaggāhī) and signless(animitaa) ?

2 Answers 2


Not grasping the signs is the continuation of the beginner's practice of guarding the doors of the senses by skilfully directing attention away from the harmful experiences. So, for example, when a male practitioner looks at a female body he makes an effort to avoid the habitual interpretation of her feminine signs such as the curves and so on. That's the not-grasping of signs.

"Grasper" and "the grasped" (Sanskt. 'grahaka'/'grahya') are the ancient terms for the subject and object of experience. So you can think of grasping in this context as objectifying the signified in relation to self, i.e."these curves make her look sexy and would be so enjoyable" and so on. That is the meaning of "grasping".

The not-grasping is usually practiced through generation of antidotes, e.g. imagining the woman's inner anatomy such as the skeleton and the content of her bowels etc. until her outer signs no longer automatically translate into lustful ideas. For a practitioner well-established in this practice such deliberate effort of applying an antidote is no longer necessary as their mind abandons the habit of grasping and simply sees the woman as-is, without objectifying her. That is the meaning of "not-grasping". It applies in a similar way to other objects and topics.

Whereas signless concentration is the culmination of the formless jhana progression when the meditator has gone beyond all semiosis and the interpretation of any and all signs is completely suspended. It's a very advanced state, a glimpse of Emptiness on the verge of Nirvana.

As you can imagine, the signless concentration is not a functional state for it is not possible to function as a sentient being without interpreting the signs. The signless concentration is not meant as something one would abide in permanently, but rather as an illustration of the limits of Samsara, and a stepping stone to the non-abiding Nirvana.

  • In MN 122 shows animitta samadhi not necessarily formless. Buddha is in that attainment while conversing with people.
    – frankk
    Jun 14, 2023 at 11:40
  • I think you read that into the sutta. MN 122 describes Buddha dwelling in the internal emptiness, disinclined to have long conversations with the visitors. It does not say he is literally in animitta samadhi while speaking :)
    – Andriy Volkov
    Jun 14, 2023 at 14:15
  • perhaps. but other than SN 40 placing animitta samadhi as the 9th attainment in place of nirodha of sañña and vedana, I see no good reason to assume animitta is a disembodied experience. Elsewhere in SN, Buddha uses animitta to escape pain from leg injury, which suggests he's still carrying on, just selectively using animitta as a pain killler.
    – frankk
    Jun 15, 2023 at 10:21
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    blueego: see MN 148 for example. 6 types of consciousness are raw sensory data. what happens after phassa contact, with vedana, sañña (perception), sankhara, are more things added on top of raw sensory data. Nimitta is going to refer to something at a perception level, not at the raw sensory data consciousness level
    – frankk
    Jun 16, 2023 at 10:16
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    Frankk, that is correct - but I still stand by my statement that one cannot function (walk, talk, eat, understand, recognize) while in animitta samadhi - raw sensory data is not enough for these. Selectivelty ignoring some signs but not others is not animitta samadhi.
    – Andriy Volkov
    Jun 16, 2023 at 10:38

Consciousness is habit of thought, beneath consciousness is awareness. Consciousness grasps, awareness observes, but in most people these two are fused, so in observing they grasp.

The Buddha invented a simple meditation technique, one that grows in the practitioner, called Vipassana and not dissimilar to Zen. Vipassana directly applies awareness to a subject, and this separates awareness from consciousness, little by little breaking the bonds until one day the practitioner can observe without grasping, and then they are perfectly within the moment, and to be that way they experience the true nature of being human, which for a better word is happiness.

I don't think terminology helps, it is better to consider matters in simple terms.

It is possible to look at a painting without judging it to be good or bad, without thinking any thoughts about the painting, without discussing the painting with a friend, to just look at the painting, know you are looking at it, but not thinking, 'I am looking at it.' This would be not grasping. However, this is a skill that can be achieved early on the road to enlightenment; deep inside will be an expectation or hope that you will become enlightened through your practise and so you will not experience Nirvana, so I guess you could say that you are signless. Keep at it, the ego is dissolved by persistence, not by understanding nor by merit.

  • r u saying ppl with ADHD are signless?
    – blue_ego
    Jun 15, 2023 at 17:31
  • No, definitely did not write that, I was talking about the experiences a person would have as they practice Vipassana and develop mindfulness. Jun 15, 2023 at 17:47

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