The Liberative Role of Jhanic Joy (Piti) and Pleasure (Sukha) in the Early Buddhist Path to Awakening


  • Keren Arbel Tel Aviv University



early Buddhism, Buddhist meditation, jhànas, satipaññhànas, samatha, vipassana, liberation, Theravàda


This paper challenges the traditional Buddhist positioning of the four jhànas under the category of `concentration meditation' and the premise regarding their secondary and superfluous role in the path of liberation. It seeks to show that the common interpretation of the jhànas as absorption-concentration, attainments that have no liberative value, is incompatible with the teachings of the Pàli Nikàyas. The paper argues few things: First, that one attains the jhànas, not by fixating the mind or being absorbed into a meditation object, but by releasing and letting go of the foothold of the unwholesome mind. Second and related, that the entrance into the first jhàna is the actualization and embodiment of insight practice. Third, that jhànic joy (piti) and pleasure (sukha) has significant liberative importance in the path of liberation; they allow the mind to let go of a rooted and basic tendency that causes suffering: the tendency to desire sensual pleasures (kàma).

Author Biography

Keren Arbel, Tel Aviv University

Lecturer, Department of East Asian Studies, Tel Aviv University


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How to Cite

Arbel, K. (2016). The Liberative Role of Jhanic Joy (Piti) and Pleasure (Sukha) in the Early Buddhist Path to Awakening. Buddhist Studies Review, 32(2), 179–206.