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SN 14:11 Seven Properties

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  • SN 14:11 Seven Properties

    Dear Venerable,

    The Buddha mentions “Seven Properties” in Samyutta Nikaya 14:11. The seven are 1. Light, 2. Beauty, 3. The infinitude of space, 4. The infinitude of consciousness, 5. The dimension of nothingness, 6. Neither perception nor non perception, 7. The ending of feeling and perception.

    In his notes, Thanissaro says that the property of beauty refers to a meditative attainment, and in Sn 14:11 it is described as a second stage of concentration practice that does not quite ‘map' into the 4 jhanas, although it might be roughly equivalent to the 4h jhana.’ He further states that in DN 15 and MN 137, beauty is described as the 3rd stage of concentration practice.

    Q 1: What exactly are these ‘stages of concentration?’

    Q 2: Thanissaro seems to infer that these light and beauty attainments are an alternative map. Is he referring to an alternative to the VM jhana descriptions?

    Q 3: If light and beauty are in fact the precursors to the formless attainments, would this indicate Ajahn Brahm’s descriptions of the beautiful breath and the nimitta are really 4th jhana?

    This would have serious implications regarding the standard practice of jhana factors as spelled out in the VM. For example, if one attains a nimitta, and believes that the first jhana factors must be the next to arise, ie., joy/bliss, he or she might completely miss the infinitude of space coming up thinking it is not relevant.

    The meditator may have experienced the jhana factors before the nimitta came up and now would try to go backwards to re-experience them.

    Q 4: This question revolves around the formless attainments - jhanas 5 through 8 plus the ‘ending of feeling and perception’ - and how these formless attainments are approached. Does SN 14:11 indicate that the formless attainments are a progression that unfolds naturally after 4th jhana, which would be in opposition to the idea (VM) that one has to make a conscious determination after 4th jhana to pursue either the powers, or the formless attainments?

    Q 5: Where does light and beauty fit into the VM description of jhanas?

    Metta, eddie

  • #2
    Hi Ed,

    Q1: If they are before the formless meditations, they are most likely the jhanas. But don't try to reinterpret all the suttas because one is a bit different. This sutta is basically just a list without much information. I would not give it much weight.

    Q2: I do not know what Venerable Thanissaro's interpretations are. If you have questions about his notes you will be better off contacting him.

    Q3: No. "Light" and "beauty" are very non-descriptive labels. It does not say anything about nimmita or breath in this sutta, so "beauty" might as well refer to the jhanas. But I can say that if you are trying to 'steer' your mind onto specific factors and such, jhanas will not happen. The mind is still too active.

    Q4: You can't make a conscious determination in the jhanas. The formless meditations will happen automatically if conditions are right.

    Q5: I am not very familiar with the VM. But just to reemphasize that it's better to place your attention on the standard description of the jhanas, which happens hundreds of times, instead of this vague and hard to interpret sutta.

    With metta,



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