Translating Classical Buddhism to Modern English

The Medium Discourses

Chapter 14: Mind

176. Dhyāna Practitioners

1. Thus I have heard: One time, the Buddha traveled to the country of Śrāvastī and stayed at Anāthapiṇḍada’s Park in Jeta’s Grove.

2. It was then that the Bhagavān told the monks, “The world in truth has four kinds of dhyāna practitioner. What are the four? Some dhyāna practitioners are waxing but say that they are waning. Some dhyāna practitioners are waning but say that they are waxing. Some dhyāna practitioners are waning, and they truly know that they are waning. Some dhyāna practitioners are waxing, and they truly know that they are waxing.

The Practitioner Who Is Waxing but Says They Are Waning

3. “How does a dhyāna practitioner wax but say they are waning? That dhyāna practitioner is secluded from desire and secluded from bad and unskillful things. With perception and contemplation, this seclusion produces joy and happiness, and they attain accomplishment of the first dhyāna.

4. “Cultivating right thought in their mind, they then move from the first dhyāna toward the second dhyāna, which is a greater tranquility. That dhyāna practitioner then thinks, ‘My mind has parted with the primary signs [of this samādhi]. It will move toward another abode, lose the first dhyāna, and its samādhi will cease.’ That dhyāna practitioner doesn’t truly know, ‘My mind is cultivating right thought and delighting in tranquility. It’ll move from the first dhyāna toward the second dhyāna, which is a greater tranquility.’ Not truly knowing that, their mind retreats in this way and loses its samādhi. Thus, the dhyāna practitioner is waxing but says that they are waning.

5. “Furthermore, once perception and contemplation are calmed, the dhyāna practitioner has an inner stillness and unified mind. Without perception or contemplation, this samādhi produces joy and happiness, and they attain the accomplishment of the second dhyāna.

6. “Cultivating right thought in their mind, they then move from the second dhyāna toward the third dhyāna, which is a greater tranquility. That dhyāna practitioner then thinks, ‘My mind has parted with the primary signs [of this samādhi]. It will move to another abode, lose the second dhyāna, and its samādhi will cease.’ That dhyāna practitioner doesn’t truly know, ‘My mind is cultivating right thought and delighting in tranquility. It’ll move from the second dhyāna toward the third dhyāna, which is a greater tranquility.’ Not truly knowing that, their mind retreats in this way and loses its samādhi. Thus, the dhyāna practitioner is waxing but says that they are waning.

7. “Furthermore, the dhyāna practitioner parts with joy and desire, and they arrive at equanimity and pursue nothing. With right mindfulness and right knowledge, they personally experience the happiness which is described by noble people as the noble equanimity, mindfulness, happy abiding, and emptiness. They attain accomplishment of the third dhyāna.

8. “Cultivating right thought in their mind, they then move from the third dhyāna toward the fourth dhyāna, which is a greater tranquility. That dhyāna practitioner then thinks, ‘My mind has parted with the primary signs [of this samādhi]. It will move to another abode, lose the third dhyāna, and its samādhi will cease.’ That dhyāna practitioner doesn’t truly know, ‘My mind is cultivating right thought and delighting in tranquility. It’ll move from the third dhyāna toward the fourth dhyāna, which is a greater tranquility.’ Not truly knowing that, their mind retreats in this way and loses its samādhi. Thus, the dhyāna practitioner is waxing but says that they are waning.

9. “Furthermore, the dhyāna practitioner’s pleasure ceases and their pain ceases. The basis of joy and sorrow having ceased, they’re neither discomforted nor delighted. Equanimous, mindful, and pure, they attain accomplishment of the fourth dhyāna.

10. “Cultivating right thought in their mind, they then move from the fourth dhyāna toward the abode of measureless emptiness, which is a greater tranquility. That dhyāna practitioner then thinks, ‘My mind has parted with the primary signs [of this samādhi]. It will move to another abode, lose the fourth dhyāna, and its samādhi will cease.’ That dhyāna practitioner doesn’t truly know, ‘My mind is cultivating right thought and delighting in tranquility. It’ll move from the fourth dhyāna toward the abode of measureless emptiness, which is a greater tranquility.’ Not truly knowing that, their mind retreats in this way and loses its samādhi. Thus, the dhyāna practitioner is waxing but says that they are waning.

11. “Furthermore, the dhyāna practitioner crosses over the perception of all forms, ceases the perception of resistance, and doesn’t attend to diverse perceptions to [reach] measureless emptiness, and they accomplish the abode of measureless emptiness.

12. “Cultivating right thought in their mind, they then move from the abode of measureless emptiness toward the abode of measureless consciousness, which is a greater tranquility. That dhyāna practitioner then thinks, ‘My mind has parted with the primary signs [of this samādhi]. It will move to another abode, lose the abode of measureless emptiness, and its samādhi will cease.’ That dhyāna practitioner doesn’t truly know, ‘My mind is cultivating right thought and delighting in tranquility. It’ll move from the abode of measureless emptiness to the abode of measureless consciousness, which is a greater tranquility.’ Not truly knowing that, their mind retreats in this way and loses its samādhi. Thus, the dhyāna practitioner is waxing but says that they are waning.

13. “Furthermore, the dhyāna practitioner crosses over all the abode of measureless emptiness to measureless consciousness, and they accomplish the abode of measureless consciousness.

14. “Cultivating right thought in their mind, they then move from the abode of measureless consciousness toward the abode of nothingness, which is a greater tranquility. That dhyāna practitioner then thinks, ‘My mind has parted with the primary signs [of this samādhi]. It will move to another abode, lose the abode of measureless consciousness, and its samādhi will cease.’ That dhyāna practitioner doesn’t truly know, ‘My mind is cultivating right thought and delighting in tranquility. It’ll move from the abode of measureless consciousness to the abode of nothingness, which is a greater tranquility.’ Not truly knowing that, their mind retreats in this way and loses its samādhi. Thus, the dhyāna practitioner is waxing but says that they are waning.

15. “Furthermore, the dhyāna practitioner crosses over all the abode of measureless consciousness to nothingness, and they accomplish the abode of nothingness.

16. “Cultivating right thought in their mind, they then move from the abode of nothingness toward the abode that’s neither with nor without perception, which is a greater tranquility. That dhyāna practitioner then thinks, ‘My mind has parted with the primary signs [of this samādhi]. It will move to another abode, lose the abode of nothingness, and its samādhi will cease.’ That dhyāna practitioner doesn’t truly know, ‘My mind is cultivating right thought and delighting in tranquility. It’ll move from the abode of nothingness to the abode that’s neither with nor without perception, which is a greater tranquility.’ Not truly knowing that, their mind retreats in this way and loses its samādhi. Thus, the dhyāna practitioner is waxing but says that they are waning.

The Practitioner Who Is Waning but Says They Are Waxing

17. “How does a dhyāna practitioner wane but say they are waxing? That dhyāna practitioner is secluded from desire and secluded from bad and unskillful things. With perception and contemplation, this seclusion produces joy and happiness, and they attain accomplishment of the first dhyāna.

18. “Thinking of another lesser perception, they cultivate the way to the second dhyāna. That dhyāna practitioner then thinks, ‘My mind is cultivating right thought and delighting in tranquility. It’ll move from the first dhyāna to the second dhyāna, which is a greater tranquility.’ That dhyāna practitioner doesn’t truly know, ‘I’d better consider tiring of perceptions that are associated with entry to the first dhyāna. I shouldn’t think of another lesser perception to enter the second dhyāna.’ Not truly knowing that, they aren’t aware of their mind, and it loses that samādhi. Thus, the dhyāna practitioner is waning but says that they are waxing.

19. “Furthermore, once perception and contemplation are calmed, the dhyāna practitioner has an inner stillness and unified mind. Without perception or contemplation, this concentration produces joy and happiness, and they attain the accomplishment of the second dhyāna.

20. “Thinking of another lesser perception, they cultivate the way to the third dhyāna. That dhyāna practitioner then thinks, ‘My mind is cultivating right thought and delighting in tranquility. It’ll move from the second dhyāna to the third dhyāna, which is a greater tranquility.’ That dhyāna practitioner doesn’t truly know, ‘I’d better consider tiring of perceptions that are associated with entry to the second dhyāna. I shouldn’t think of another lesser perception to enter the third dhyāna.’ Not truly knowing that, they aren’t aware of their mind, and it loses that samādhi. Thus, the dhyāna practitioner is waning but says that they are waxing.

21. “The dhyāna practitioner parts with joy and desire, and they arrive at equanimity and pursue nothing. With right mindfulness and right knowledge, they personally experience the happiness which is described by noble people as the noble equanimity, mindfulness, happy abiding, and emptiness. They attain accomplishment of the third dhyāna.

22. “Thinking of another lesser perception, they cultivate the way to fourth dhyāna. That dhyāna practitioner then thinks, ‘My mind is cultivating right thought and delighting in tranquility. It’ll move from the third dhyāna to the fourth dhyāna, which is a greater tranquility.’ That dhyāna practitioner doesn’t truly know, ‘I’d better consider tiring of perceptions that are associated with entry to the third dhyāna. I shouldn’t think of another lesser perception to enter the fourth dhyāna.’ Not truly knowing that, they aren’t aware of their mind, and it loses that samādhi. Thus, the dhyāna practitioner is waning but says that they are waxing.

23. “Furthermore, the dhyāna practitioner’s pleasure ceases and their pain ceases. The basis of joy and sorrow having ceased, they’re neither discomforted nor delighted. Equanimous, mindful, and pure, they attain accomplishment of the fourth dhyāna.

24. “Thinking of another lesser perception, they cultivate the way to the abode of measureless emptiness. That dhyāna practitioner then thinks, ‘My mind is cultivating right thought and delighting in tranquility. It’ll move from the fourth dhyāna to the abode of measureless emptiness, which is a greater tranquility.’ That dhyāna practitioner doesn’t truly know, ‘I’d better consider tiring of perceptions that are associated with entry to the fourth dhyāna. I shouldn’t think of another lesser perception to enter the abode of measureless emptiness.’ Not truly knowing that, they aren’t aware of their mind, and it loses that samādhi. Thus, the dhyāna practitioner is waning but says that they are waxing.

25. “Furthermore, the dhyāna practitioner crosses over the perception of all forms, ceases perception of resistance, and doesn’t attend to diverse perceptions to [reach] measureless emptiness, and they accomplish the abode of measureless emptiness.

26. “Thinking of another lesser perception, they cultivate the way to the abode of measureless consciousness. That dhyāna practitioner then thinks, ‘My mind is cultivating right thought and delighting in tranquility. It’ll move from the abode of measureless emptiness to the abode of measureless consciousness, which is a greater tranquility.’ That dhyāna practitioner doesn’t truly know, ‘I’d better consider tiring of perceptions that are associated with entry the abode of measureless emptiness. I shouldn’t think of another lesser perception to enter the abode of measureless consciousness.’ Not truly knowing that, they aren’t aware of their mind, and it loses that samādhi. Thus, the dhyāna practitioner is waning but says that they are waxing.

27. “Furthermore, the dhyāna practitioner crosses over all the abode of measureless emptiness to measureless consciousness, and they accomplish the abode of measureless consciousness.

28. “Thinking of another lesser perception, they cultivate the way to the abode of nothingness. That dhyāna practitioner then thinks, ‘My mind is cultivating right thought and delighting in tranquility. It’ll move from the abode of measureless consciousness to the abode of nothingness, which is a greater tranquility.’ That dhyāna practitioner doesn’t truly know, ‘I’d better consider tiring of perceptions that are associated with entry to the abode of measureless consciousness. I shouldn’t think of another lesser perception to enter the abode of nothingness.’ Not truly knowing that, they aren’t aware of their mind, and it loses that samādhi. Thus, the dhyāna practitioner is waning but says that they are waxing.

29. “Furthermore, the dhyāna practitioner crosses over all the abode of measureless consciousness to nothingness, and they accomplish the abode of nothingness.

30. “Thinking of another lesser perception, they cultivate the way to the abode that’s neither with nor without perception. That dhyāna practitioner then thinks, ‘My mind is cultivating right thought and delighting in tranquility. It’ll move from the abode of nothingness to the abode that’s neither with nor without perception, which is a greater tranquility.’ That dhyāna practitioner doesn’t truly know, ‘I’d better consider tiring of perceptions that are associated with entry to the abode of nothingness. I shouldn’t think of another lesser perception to enter the abode that’s neither with nor without perception.’ Not truly knowing that, they aren’t aware of their mind, and it loses that samādhi. Thus, the dhyāna practitioner is waning but says that they are waxing.

The Practitioner Who Is Waning and Knows It

31. “How does a dhyāna practitioner wane and truly know they are waning? That dhyāna practitioner’s practice, signs, and indications cross over all the abode of nothingness to having neither perception nor no perception, and they accomplish the abode that’s neither with nor without perception.

32. “They don’t accept this practice and don’t attend to these signs and indications. They only practice the requisite attention to perceptions related to past reversals to the abode of nothingness. That dhyāna practitioner thinks, ‘My mind has parted with the primary signs [of this samādhi]. It will move to another abode, lose the abode that’s neither with nor without perception, and its samādhi will cease.’ Having truly known this, they don’t retreat in this way, and their mind doesn’t lose its samādhi. Thus, the dhyāna practitioner is waning and truly knows that they are waning.

33. “Furthermore, the dhyāna practitioner’s practice, signs, and indications cross over all the abode of measureless consciousness to nothingness, and they accomplish the abode of nothingness.

34. “They don’t accept this practice and don’t attend to these signs and indications. They only practice the requisite attention to perceptions related to past reversals to the abode of measureless consciousness. That dhyāna practitioner thinks, ‘My mind has parted with the primary signs [of this samādhi]. It will move to another abode, lose the abode nothingness, and its samādhi will cease.’ Having truly known this, they don’t retreat in this way, and their mind doesn’t lose its samādhi. Thus, the dhyāna practitioner is waning and truly knows that they are waning.

35. “Furthermore, the dhyāna practitioner’s practice, signs, and indications cross over all the abode of measureless emptiness to measureless consciousness, and they accomplish the abode of measureless consciousness.

36. “They don’t accept this practice and don’t attend to these signs and indications. They only practice the requisite attention to perceptions related to past reversals to the abode of measureless emptiness. That dhyāna practitioner thinks, ‘My mind has parted with the primary signs [of this samādhi]. It will move to another abode, lose the abode measureless consciousness, and its samādhi will cease.’ Having truly known this, they don’t retreat in this way, and their mind doesn’t lose its samādhi. Thus, the dhyāna practitioner is waning and truly knows that they are waning.

37. “Furthermore, the dhyāna practitioner’s practice, signs, and indications cross over the perception of all forms, ceases perception of resistance, and doesn’t attend to diverse perceptions to [reach] measureless emptiness, and they accomplish the abode of measureless emptiness.

38. “They don’t accept this practice and don’t attend to these signs and indications. They only practice the requisite attention to perceptions related to past reversals to the pleasures of form. That dhyāna practitioner thinks, ‘My mind has parted with the primary signs [of this samādhi]. It will move to another abode, lose the abode of measureless emptiness, and its samādhi will cease.’ Having truly known this, they don’t retreat in this way, and their mind doesn’t lose its samādhi. Thus, the dhyāna practitioner is waning and truly knows that they are waning.

39. “Furthermore, the dhyāna practitioner’s practice, signs, and indications cease their pleasure and cease their pain. The basis of joy and sorrow having ceased, they are neither discomforted nor delighted. Equanimous, mindful, and pure, they attain accomplishment of the fourth dhyāna.

40. “They don’t accept this practice and don’t attend to these signs and indications. They only practice the requisite attention to perceptions related to past reversals to the third dhyāna. That dhyāna practitioner thinks, ‘My mind has parted with the primary signs [of this samādhi]. It will move to another abode, lose the fourth dhyāna, and its samādhi will cease.’ Having truly known this, they don’t retreat in this way, and their mind doesn’t lose its samādhi. Thus, the dhyāna practitioner is waning and truly knows that they are waning.

41. “Furthermore, the dhyāna practitioner’s practice, signs, and indications part with joy and desire, and they arrive at equanimity and pursue nothing. With right mindfulness and right knowledge, they personally experience the happiness which is described by noble people as the noble equanimity, mindfulness, happy abiding, and emptiness. They attain accomplishment of the third dhyāna.

42. “They don’t accept this practice and don’t attend to these signs and indications. They only practice the requisite attention to perceptions related to past reversals to the second dhyāna. That dhyāna practitioner thinks, ‘My mind has parted with the primary signs [of this samādhi]. It will move to another abode, lose the third dhyāna, and its samādhi will cease.’ Having truly known this, they don’t retreat in this way, and their mind doesn’t lose its samādhi. Thus, the dhyāna practitioner is waning and truly knows that they are waning.

43. “Furthermore, the dhyāna practitioner’s practice, signs, and indications are that perception and contemplation are calmed, and the dhyāna practitioner has an inner stillness and unified mind. Without perception or contemplation, this concentration produces joy and happiness, and they attain the accomplishment of the second dhyāna.

44. “They don’t accept this practice and don’t attend to these signs and indications. They only practice the requisite attention to perceptions related to past reversals to the first dhyāna. That dhyāna practitioner thinks, ‘My mind has parted with the primary signs [of this samādhi]. It will move to another abode, lose the second dhyāna, and its samādhi will cease.’ Having truly known this, they don’t retreat in this way, and their mind doesn’t lose its samādhi. Thus, the dhyāna practitioner is waning and truly knows that they are waning.

45. “Furthermore, the dhyāna practitioner’s practice, signs, and indications are that they are secluded from desire and secluded from bad and unskillful things. With perception and contemplation, this seclusion produces joy and happiness, and they attain accomplishment of the first dhyāna.

46. “They don’t accept this practice and don’t attend to these signs and indications. They only practice the requisite attention to perceptions related to past reversals to the pleasure of desires. That dhyāna practitioner thinks, ‘My mind has parted with the primary signs [of this samādhi]. It will move to another abode, lose the first dhyāna, and its samādhi will cease.’ Having truly known this, they don’t retreat in this way, and their mind doesn’t lose its samādhi. Thus, the dhyāna practitioner is waning and truly knows that they are waning.

The Practitioner Who Is Waxing and Knows It

47. “How does a dhyāna practitioner wax and truly know they are waxing? That dhyāna practitioner is secluded from desire and secluded from bad and unskillful things. With perception and contemplation, this seclusion produces joy and happiness, and they attain accomplishment of the first dhyāna.

48. “Their mind cultivates right thought and delights in tranquility, then it moves from the first dhyāna toward the second dhyāna, which is a greater tranquility. That dhyāna practitioner thinks, ‘My mind is cultivating right thought and delighting in tranquility. It will move from the first dhyāna to the second dhyāna, which is a greater tranquility.’ Truly knowing this, they are aware of their mind, and it doesn’t lose its samādhi. Thus, the dhyāna practitioner is waxing and truly knows that they are waxing.

49. “Furthermore, once perception and contemplation are calmed, the dhyāna practitioner has an inner stillness and unified mind. Without perception or contemplation, this concentration produces joy and happiness, and they attain the accomplishment of the second dhyāna.

50. “Their mind cultivates right thought and delights in tranquility, then it moves from the second dhyāna toward the third dhyāna, which is a greater tranquility. That dhyāna practitioner thinks, ‘My mind is cultivating right thought and delighting in tranquility. It will move from the second dhyāna to the third dhyāna, which is a greater tranquility.’ Truly knowing this, they are aware of their mind, and it doesn’t lose its samādhi. Thus, the dhyāna practitioner is waxing and truly knows that they are waxing.

51. “Furthermore, the dhyāna practitioner parts with joy and desire, and they arrive at equanimity and pursue nothing. With right mindfulness and right knowledge, they personally experience the happiness which is described by noble people as the noble equanimity, mindfulness, happy abiding, and emptiness. They attain accomplishment of the third dhyāna.

52. “Their mind cultivates right thought and delights in tranquility, then it moves from the third dhyāna toward the fourth dhyāna, which is a greater tranquility. That dhyāna practitioner thinks, ‘My mind is cultivating right thought and delighting in tranquility. It will move from the third dhyāna to the fourth dhyāna, which is a greater tranquility.’ Truly knowing this, they are aware of their mind, and it doesn’t lose its samādhi. Thus, the dhyāna practitioner is waxing and truly knows that they are waxing.

53. “Furthermore, the dhyāna practitioner’s pleasure ceases and their pain ceases. The basis of joy and sorrow having ceased, they’re neither discomforted nor delighted. Equanimous, mindful, and pure, they attain accomplishment of the fourth dhyāna.

54. “Their mind cultivates right thought and delights in tranquility, then it moves from the fourth dhyāna toward the abode of measureless emptiness, which is a greater tranquility. That dhyāna practitioner thinks, ‘My mind is cultivating right thought and delighting in tranquility. It will move from the fourth dhyāna to the abode of measureless emptiness, which is a greater tranquility.’ Truly knowing this, they are aware of their mind, and it doesn’t lose its samādhi. Thus, the dhyāna practitioner is waxing and truly knows that they are waxing.

55. “Furthermore, the dhyāna practitioner crosses over the perception of all forms, ceases perception of resistance, and doesn’t attend to diverse perceptions to [reach] measureless emptiness, and they accomplish the abode of measureless emptiness.

56. “Their mind cultivates right thought and delights in tranquility, then it moves from the abode of measureless emptiness toward the abode of measureless consciousness, which is a greater tranquility. That dhyāna practitioner thinks, ‘My mind is cultivating right thought and delighting in tranquility. It will move from the abode of measureless emptiness to the abode of measureless consciousness, which is a greater tranquility.’ Truly knowing this, they are aware of their mind, and it doesn’t lose its samādhi. Thus, the dhyāna practitioner is waxing, and truly knows that they are waxing.

57. “Furthermore, the dhyāna practitioner crosses over all the abode of measureless emptiness to measureless consciousness, and they accomplish the abode of measureless consciousness.

58. “Their mind cultivates right thought and delights in tranquility, then it moves from the abode of measureless consciousness toward the abode of nothingness, which is a greater tranquility. That dhyāna practitioner thinks, ‘My mind is cultivating right thought and delighting in tranquility. It will move from the abode of measureless consciousness to the abode of nothingness, which is a greater tranquility.’ Truly knowing this, they are aware of their mind, and it doesn’t lose its samādhi. Thus, the dhyāna practitioner is waxing, and truly knows that they are waxing.

59. “Furthermore, the dhyāna practitioner crosses over all the abode of measureless consciousness to nothingness, and they accomplish the abode of nothingness.

60. “Their mind cultivates right thought and delights in tranquility, then it moves from the abode of nothingness to the abode that’s neither with nor without perception, which is a greater tranquility. That dhyāna practitioner thinks, ‘My mind is cultivating right thought and delighting in tranquility. It will move from the abode of nothingness to the abode that’s neither with nor without perception, which is a greater tranquility.’ Truly knowing this, they are aware of their mind, and it doesn’t lose its samādhi. Thus, the dhyāna practitioner is waxing, and truly knows that they are waxing.

61. “The world in truth has these four kinds of dhyāna practitioners, and that’s the reason I’ve explained it.”

62. Thus did the Buddha speak. Those monks who heard what the Buddha taught rejoiced and approved.


Translator: Charles Patton

Last Revised: 2 September 2021