Bare Insight

Hi Azita, All

In this morning’s Zoom discussion you quoted the following passage from a footnote to para 14 of Ch XV of The Path of Purification (a translation of the Visuddhimagga):

“7. There are eighty-one mundane sorts of consciousness; and since there is no path or fruition without jhāna, when the four paths and four fruitions are multiplied by the five jhānas, there are forty kinds of supramundane consciousness: 81+40 = 121.”

As regards the words “there is no path or fruition without jhāna”, I believe this is explained by the following passage from Ch 1 of A Comprehensive Manual of Abhidhamma (a translation of the Abhidhammattha-saṅgaha, emphasis added by me):

Guide to §§30-31

All meditators reach the supramundane paths and fruits through the development of wisdom (paññā)—insight into the three characteristics of impermanence, suffering, and non-self.

However, they differ among themselves in the degree of their development of concentration (samādhi): • Those who develop insight without a basis of jhana are called practitioners of bare insight (sukkhavipassaka). When they reach the path and fruit, their path and fruition cittas occur at a level corresponding to the first jhāna. • Those who develop insight on the basis of jhāna attain a path and fruit which corresponds to the level of jhāna they had attained before reaching the path. …

[F]or bare insight meditator and jhāna meditator alike, all path and fruition cittas are considered types of jhāna consciousness. They are so considered because they occur in the mode of closely contemplating their object with full absorption, like the mundane jhānas, and because they possess the jhāna factors with an intensity corresponding to their counterparts in the mundane jhānas.

So those words are not a reference to the (mistaken) notion that mundane jhāna is a prerequisite for enlightenment.

As regards the mention of ‘eighty-one mundane sorts of consciousness’, this refers to the familiar 89 cittas less the 8 lokuttara cittas (4 path and 4 fruition), because those 8 lokuttara citta are in this instance counted as 40 (i.e., 8 for each of the 5 levels of jhāna).


Written on June 1, 2023