DISPASSION

Dispassion

§ 1.1 I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was staying in Gayā, at Gayā Head, with 1,000 monks. There he addressed the monks:

“Monks, the All is aflame. What All is aflame? The eye is aflame. Forms are aflame. Consciousness at the eye is aflame. Contact at the eye is aflame. And whatever there is that arises in dependence on contact at the eye—experienced as pleasure, pain or neither-pleasure-nor-pain—that too is aflame. Aflame with what? Aflame with the fire of passion, the fire of aversion, the fire of delusion. Aflame, I tell you, with birth, aging & death, with sorrows, lamentations, pains, distresses, & despairs.

“The ear is aflame. Sounds are aflame….

“The nose is aflame. Aromas are aflame….

“The tongue is aflame. flavors are aflame….

“The body is aflame. Tactile sensations are aflame….

“The intellect is aflame. Ideas are aflame. Consciousness at the intellect is aflame. Contact at the intellect is aflame. And whatever there is that arises in dependence on contact at the intellect—experienced as pleasure, pain or neither-pleasure-nor-pain—that too is aflame. Aflame with what? Aflame with the fire of passion, the fire of aversion, the fire of delusion. Aflame, I say, with birth, aging & death, with sorrows, lamentations, pains, distresses, & despairs.

“Seeing thus, the instructed disciple of the noble ones grows disenchanted with the eye, disenchanted with forms, disenchanted with consciousness at the eye, disenchanted with contact at the eye. And whatever there is that arises in dependence on contact at the eye, experienced as pleasure, pain or neither-pleasure-nor-pain: With that, too, he grows disenchanted.

“He grows disenchanted with the ear….

“He grows disenchanted with the nose….

“He grows disenchanted with the tongue….

“He grows disenchanted with the body….

“He grows disenchanted with the intellect, disenchanted with ideas, disenchanted with consciousness at the intellect, disenchanted with contact at the intellect. And whatever there is that arises in dependence on contact at the intellect, experienced as pleasure, pain or neither-pleasure-nor-pain: He grows disenchanted with that too. Disenchanted, he becomes dispassionate. Through dispassion, he is released. With full release, there is the knowledge, ‘Released.’ He discerns that ‘Birth is depleted, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.’”

That is what the Blessed One said. Gratified, the monks delighted at his words. And while this explanation was being given, the hearts of the 1,000 monks, through no clinging/not being sustained, were fully released from effluents [āsava]. — SN 35:28

§ 1.2 “And how does a monk guard the doors of his senses? On seeing a form with the eye, he does not grasp at any theme or details by which—if he were to dwell without restraint over the faculty of the eye—evil, unskillful qualities such as greed or distress might assail him. On hearing a sound with the ear … On smelling an odor with the nose… On tasting a flavor with the tongue… On touching a tactile sensation with the body… On cognizing an idea with the intellect, he does not grasp at any theme or details by which—if he were to dwell without restraint over the faculty of the intellect—evil, unskillful qualities such as greed or distress might assail him. Endowed with this noble restraint over the sense faculties, he is inwardly sensitive to the pleasure of being blameless. This is how a monk guards the doors of his senses.” — DN 2

§ 1.3 “Suppose a dog, overcome with weakness & hunger, were to come across a slaughterhouse, and there a dexterous butcher or butcher’s apprentice were to fling him a chain of bones—thoroughly scraped, without any flesh, smeared with blood. What do you think: Would the dog, gnawing on that chain of bones—thoroughly scraped, without any flesh, smeared with blood—appease its weakness & hunger?”

“No, lord. And why is that? Because the chain of bones is thoroughly scraped, without any flesh, & smeared with blood. The dog would get nothing but its share of weariness & vexation.”

“In the same way, householder, a disciple of the noble ones considers this point: ‘The Blessed One has compared sensuality to a chain of bones, of much stress, much despair, & greater drawbacks.’ Seeing this with right discernment, as it has come to be, then avoiding the equanimity coming from multiplicity, dependent on multiplicity, he develops the equanimity coming from singleness, dependent on singleness,1 where sustenance/ clinging for the baits of the world ceases without trace.

“Now suppose a vulture, a kite, or a hawk, seizing a lump of flesh, were to take off, and other vultures, kites, or hawks—following right after it—were to tear at it with their beaks & pull at it with their claws. What do you think: If that vulture, kite, or hawk were not quickly to drop that lump of flesh, would it meet with death from that cause, or with death-like pain?”

“Yes, lord.”

“In the same way, householder, a disciple of the noble ones considers this point: ‘The Blessed One has compared sensuality to a lump of flesh, of much stress, much despair, & greater drawbacks.’ Seeing this with right discernment, as it has come to be, then avoiding the equanimity coming from multiplicity, dependent on multiplicity, he develops the equanimity coming from singleness, dependent on singleness, where sustenance/ clinging for the baits of the world ceases without trace.

“Now suppose a man were to come against the wind, carrying a burning grass torch. What do you think: If he were not quickly to drop that grass torch, would he burn his hand or his arm or some other part of his body, so that he would meet with death from that cause, or with death-like pain?”

“Yes, lord.”

“In the same way, householder, a disciple of the noble ones considers this point: ‘The Blessed One has compared sensuality to a grass torch, of much stress, much despair, & greater drawbacks.’ Seeing this with right discernment, as it has come to be, then avoiding the equanimity coming from multiplicity, dependent on multiplicity, he develops the equanimity coming from singleness, dependent on singleness, where sustenance/ clinging for the baits of the world ceases without trace.

“Now suppose there were a pit of glowing embers, deeper than a man’s height, full of embers that were neither flaming nor smoking, and a man were to come along—loving life, hating death, loving pleasure, abhorring pain—and two strong men, grabbing him with their arms, were to drag him to the pit of embers. What do you think: Wouldn’t the man twist his body this way & that?”

“Yes, lord. And why is that? Because he would realize, ‘If I fall into this pit of glowing embers, I will meet with death from that cause, or with death-like pain.’”

“In the same way, householder, a disciple of the noble ones considers this point: ‘The Blessed One has compared sensuality to a pit of glowing embers, of much stress, much despair, & greater drawbacks.’ Seeing this with right discernment, as it has come to be, then avoiding the equanimity coming from multiplicity, dependent on multiplicity, he develops the equanimity coming from singleness, dependent on singleness, where sustenance/clinging for the baits of the world ceases without trace.

“Now suppose a man, when dreaming, were to see delightful parks, delightful forests, delightful stretches of land, & delightful lakes, and on awakening were to see nothing. In the same way, householder, a disciple of the noble ones considers this point: ‘The Blessed One has compared sensuality to a dream, of much stress, much despair, & greater drawbacks.’ Seeing this with right discernment, as it has come to be, then avoiding the equanimity coming from multiplicity, dependent on multiplicity, he develops the equanimity coming from singleness, dependent on singleness, where sustenance/ clinging for the baits of the world ceases without trace.

“Now suppose a man having borrowed some goods—a manly carriage, fine jewels, & ear ornaments—were to go into the market preceded & surrounded by his borrowed goods, and people seeing him would say, ‘How wealthy this man is, for this is how the wealthy enjoy their possessions,’ but the actual owners, wherever they might see him, would strip him then & there of what is theirs. What do you think: Would the man justifiably be upset?”

“No, lord. And why is that? Because the owners are stripping him of what is theirs.”

“In the same way, householder, a disciple of the noble ones considers this point: ‘The Blessed One has compared sensuality to borrowed goods, of much stress, much despair, & greater drawbacks.’ Seeing this with right discernment, as it has come to be, then avoiding the equanimity coming from multiplicity, dependent on multiplicity, he develops the equanimity coming from singleness, dependent on singleness, where sustenance/ clinging for the baits of the world ceases without trace.

“Now suppose that, not far from a village or town, there were a dense forest grove, and there in the grove was a tree with delicious fruit, abundant fruit, but with no fruit fallen to the ground. A man would come along, desiring fruit, looking for fruit, searching for fruit. Plunging into the forest grove, he would see the tree… and the thought would occur to him, ‘This is a tree with delicious fruit, abundant fruit, and there is no fruit fallen to the ground, but I know how to climb a tree. Why don’t I climb the tree, eat what I like, and fill my clothes with the fruit?’ So, having climbed the tree, he would eat what he liked and fill his clothes with the fruit. Then a second man would come along, desiring fruit, looking for fruit, searching for fruit and carrying a sharp ax. Plunging into the forest grove, he would see the tree… and the thought would occur to him, ‘This is a tree with delicious fruit, abundant fruit, and there is no fruit fallen to the ground, and I don’t know how to climb a tree. Why don’t I chop down this tree at the root, eat what I like, and fill my clothes with the fruit?’ So he would chop the tree at the root. What do you think: If the first man who climbed the tree didn’t quickly come down, wouldn’t the falling tree crush his hand or foot or some other part of his body, so that he would meet with death from that cause, or with death-like pain?”

“Yes, lord.”

“In the same way, householder, a disciple of the noble ones considers this point: ‘The Blessed One has compared sensuality to the fruits of a tree, of much stress, much despair, & greater drawbacks.’ Seeing this with right discernment, as it has come to be, then avoiding the equanimity coming from multiplicity, dependent on multiplicity, he develops the equanimity coming from singleness, dependent on singleness, where sustenance/clinging for the baits of the world ceases without trace.”

NOTE: 1. MN 137 identifies “equanimity based on multiplicity” as equanimity with regard to sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and tactile sensations. It identifies “equanimity based on singleness” as the four formless attainments. In the context of this sutta, however, the Commentary defines equanimity based on singleness as the fourth jhāna, and this interpretation seems correct. Toward the end of this passage, the equanimity based on singleness functions as the basis for the three knowledges, a function that is normally filled by the fourth jhāna.

— MN 54

§ 1.4 “There are in the Himalayas, the king of mountains, difficult, uneven areas where neither monkeys nor human beings wander. There are difficult, uneven areas where monkeys wander, but not human beings. There are level stretches of land, delightful, where both monkeys and human beings wander. In such spots hunters set a tar trap in the monkeys’ tracks, in order to catch some monkeys. Those monkeys who are not foolish or careless by nature, when they see the tar trap, will keep their distance. But any monkey who is foolish & careless by nature comes up to the tar trap and grabs it with its paw, which then gets stuck there. Thinking, ‘I’ll free my paw,’ he grabs it with his other paw. That too gets stuck. Thinking, ‘I’ll free both of my paws,’ he grabs it with his foot. That too gets stuck. Thinking, ‘I’ll free both of my paws and my foot,’ he grabs it with his other foot. That too gets stuck. Thinking, ‘I’ll free both of my paws and my feet as well,’ he grabs it with his mouth. That too gets stuck. So the monkey, snared in five ways, lies there whimpering, having fallen on misfortune, fallen on ruin, prey to whatever the hunter wants to do with him. Then the hunter, without releasing the monkey, skewers him right there, picks him up, and goes off as he likes.

“This is what happens to anyone who wanders into what is not his proper range and is the territory of others.

“For this reason, you should not wander into what is not your proper range and is the territory of others. In one who wanders into what is not his proper range and is the territory of others, Māra gains an opening, Māra gains a foothold. And what, for a monk, is not his proper range and is the territory of others? The five strings of sensuality. Which five? Forms cognizable by the eye—agreeable, pleasing, charming, endearing, fostering desire, enticing. Sounds cognizable by the ear… Aromas cognizable by the nose… flavors cognizable by the tongue… Tactile sensations cognizable by the body—agreeable, pleasing, charming, endearing, fostering desire, enticing. These, for a monk, are not his proper range and are the territory of others.

“Wander, monks, in your proper range, your own ancestral territory. In one who wanders in his proper range, his own ancestral territory, Māra gains no opening, Māra gains no foothold. And what, for a monk, is his proper range, his own ancestral territory? The four establishings of mindfulness. Which four? There is the case where a monk remains focused on the body in & of itself—ardent, alert, & mindful—putting aside greed & distress with reference to the world. He remains focused on feelings in & of themselves… mind in & of itself… mental qualities in & of themselves—ardent, alert, & mindful—putting aside greed & distress with reference to the world. This, for a monk, is his proper range, his own ancestral territory.” — SN 47:7

§ 1.5 Sister Nandā:

“Sick, putrid, unclean:

look, Nanda, at this physical heap.

Through contemplation of the foul,

develop your mind,

make it one, well-centered.

As this [your body], so that.

As that, so this.

It gives off a foul stench,

the delight of fools.”

Considering it thus,

untiring, both day & night,

I, with my own discernment

dissecting it,

saw.

And as I, heedful,

examined it aptly,

this body—as it actually is—

was seen inside & out.

Then was I disenchanted with the body

& dispassionate within:

Heedful, detached,

calmed was I.

Unbound. — Thig 5:4

§ 1.6 As Subhā the nun was going through Jīvaka’s delightful mango grove, a libertine [a goldsmith’s son] blocked her path, so she said to him:

‘What wrong have I done you

that you stand in my way?

It’s not proper, my friend,

that a man should touch

a woman gone forth.

I respect the Master’s message,

the training pointed out by the one well-gone.

I am pure, without blemish:

Why do you stand in my way?

You—your mind agitated, impassioned;

I—unagitated, unimpassioned,

with a mind entirely freed:

Why do you stand in my way?’

‘You are young & not bad-looking,

what need do you have for going forth?

Throw off your ochre robe—

Come, let’s delight in the flowering grove.

A sweetness they exude everywhere,

the towering trees with their pollen.

The beginning of spring is a pleasant season—

Come, let’s delight in the flowering grove.

The trees with their blossoming tips

moan, as it were, in the breeze:

What delight will you have

if you plunge into the grove alone?

Frequented by herds of wild beasts,

disturbed by elephants rutting & aroused:

you want to go

unaccompanied

into the great, lonely, frightening grove?

Like a doll made of gold, you will go about,

like a goddess in the gardens of heaven.

With delicate, smooth Kāsi fabrics,

you will shine, O beauty without compare.

I would gladly do your every bidding

if we were to dwell in the glade.

For there is no creature dearer to me

than you, O nymph with the languid regard.

If you do as I ask, happy, come live in my house.

Dwelling in the calm of a palace,

have women wait on you,

wear delicate Kasi fabrics,

adorn yourself with garlands & creams.

I will make you many & varied ornaments

of gold, jewels, & pearls.

Climb onto a costly bed,

scented with sandalwood carvings,

with a well-washed coverlet, beautiful,

spread with a woolen quilt, brand new.

Like a blue lotus rising from the water

where there dwell non-human beings,

you will go to old age with your limbs unseen,

if you stay as you are in the holy life.’

‘What do you assume of any essence,

here in this cemetery grower, filled with corpses,

this body destined to break up?

What do you see when you look at me,

you who are out of your mind?’

‘Your eyes

are like those of a fawn,

like those of a sprite in the mountains.

Seeing your eyes, my sensual delight

grows all the more.

Like tips they are, of blue lotuses,

in your golden face

—spotless:

Seeing your eyes, my sensual delight

grows all the more.

Even if you should go far away,

I will think only of your pure,

long-lashed gaze,

for there is nothing dearer to me

than your eyes, O nymph with the languid regard.’

‘You want to stray from the road,

you want the moon as a plaything,

you want to jump over Mount Sineru,

you who have designs on one born of the Buddha.

For there is nothing anywhere at all

in the cosmos with its gods,

that would be an object of passion for me.

I don’t even know what that passion would be,

for it’s been killed, root & all, by the path.

Like embers from a pit—scattered,

like a bowl of poison—evaporated,

I don’t even see what that passion would be,

for it’s been killed, root & all, by the path.

Try to seduce one who hasn’t reflected on this,

or who has not followed the Master’s teaching.

But try it with this one who knows

and you suffer.

For in the midst of praise & blame,

pleasure & pain,

my mindfulness stands firm.

Knowing the unattractiveness

of things compounded,

my mind cleaves to nothing at all.

I am a follower of the one well-gone,

riding the vehicle of the eightfold way:

My arrow removed, effluent-free,

I delight, having gone to an empty dwelling.

For I have seen well-painted puppets,

hitched up with sticks & strings,

made to dance in various ways.

When the sticks & strings are removed,

thrown away, scattered, shredded,

smashed into pieces, not to be found,

in what will the mind there make its home?

This body of mine, which is just like that,

when devoid of dhammas doesn’t function.

When, devoid of dhammas, it doesn’t function,

in what will the mind there make its home?

Like a mural you’ve seen, painted on a wall,

smeared with yellow orpiment,

there your vision has been distorted,

meaningless your human perception.

Like an evaporated mirage,

like a tree of gold in a dream,

like a magic show in the midst of a crowd—

you run blind after what is unreal.

Resembling a ball of sealing wax,

set in a hollow,

with a bubble in the middle

and bathed with tears,

eye secretions are born there too:

The parts of the eye

are rolled all together

in various ways.’

Plucking out her lovely eye,

with mind unattached

she felt no regret.

‘Here, take this eye. It’s yours.’

Straightaway she gave it to him.

Straightaway his passion faded right there,

and he begged her forgiveness.

‘Be well, follower of the holy life.

This sort of thing

won’t happen again.

Harming a person like you

is like embracing a blazing fire.

It’s as if I have seized a poisonous snake.

So may you be well. Forgive me.’

And released from there, the nun

went to the excellent Buddha’s presence.

When she saw the mark of his excellent merit,

her eye became

as it was before. — Thig 14

§ 1.7 Now at that time Ven. Anuruddha, going through the Kosalan countryside on his way to Sāvatthī, arrived in the evening at a certain village. And at that time a rest house had been set up by a woman in that village. So Ven. Anuruddha went to the woman and, on arrival, said to her, “If it is no inconvenience for you, sister, I will stay for one night in the rest house.”

“You are welcome to stay, venerable sir.”

Then other travelers went to that woman and, on arrival, said, “If it is no inconvenience for you, lady, we will stay for one night in the rest house.”

“This master has arrived first. If he gives his permission, you may stay.”

So the travelers went to Ven. Anuruddha and on arrival said to him, “If it is no inconvenience for you, venerable sir, we will stay for one night in the rest house.”

“You are welcome to stay, friends.”

Now it so happened that the woman had fallen in love with Ven. Anuruddha at first sight, so she went to him and said, “The master will not be comfortable, crowded with these people. It would be good if I were to prepare a bed inside for the master.”

Ven. Anuruddha consented by remaining silent.

Then the woman, having herself prepared a bed inside for Ven. Anuruddha, having put on her jewelry and scented herself with perfumes, went to him and said, “Master, you are beautiful, good-looking, and appealing. I, too, am beautiful, good-looking, & appealing. It would be good if I were to be your wife.”

When this was said, Ven. Anuruddha remained silent. So a second time… A third time she said to him, “Master, you are beautiful, good-looking, & appealing. I too am beautiful, good-looking, & appealing. Please take me together with all my wealth.”

A third time, Ven. Anuruddha remained silent. So the woman, having slipped off her upper cloak, paraded up & down in front of him, stood, sat down, & then lay down right in front of him. But Ven. Anuruddha, keeping control of his faculties, didn’t as much as glance at her or say even a word.

Then the thought occurred to her: “Isn’t it amazing! Isn’t it astounding! Many men send for me at a price of 100 or even 1,000 (a night), but this contemplative, even when I myself beg him, doesn’t want to take me together with all of my wealth!” So, putting her upper cloak back on and bowing her head at his feet, she said to him: “Venerable sir, a transgression has overcome me in that I was so foolish, so muddle-headed, & so unskillful as to act in such a way. Please accept this confession of my transgression as such, so that I may restrain myself in the future.”

“Yes, sister, a transgression overcame you in that you were so foolish, so muddle-headed, & so unskillful as to act in such a way. But because you see your transgression as such and make amends in accordance with the Dhamma, we accept your confession. For it is a cause of growth in the Dhamma & Vinaya of the noble ones when, seeing a transgression as such, one makes amends in accordance with the Dhamma and exercises restraint in the future.”

Then, when the night had passed, the woman, with her own hand, served & satisfied Ven. Anuruddha with excellent staple and non-staple food. When Ven. Anuruddha had eaten & removed his hand from his bowl, she sat to one side. As she was sitting there, Ven. Anuruddha instructed, urged, roused, & encouraged her with a talk on Dhamma. Then the woman, having been instructed, urged, roused, & encouraged by Ven. Anuruddha with a talk on Dhamma, said to him, “Magnificent, venerable sir! Magnificent! Just as if he were to place upright what had been overturned, were to reveal what was hidden, were to show the way to one who was lost, or were to hold up a lamp in the dark so that those with eyes could see shapes, in the same way Ven. Anuruddha has—through many lines of reasoning—made the Dhamma clear. I go to the Blessed One for refuge, to the Dhamma, and to the Community of monks. May the master remember me as a lay follower who has gone for refuge from this day forward for life.” — Pācittiya 6

§ 1.8 “Quite secluded from sensuality, secluded from unskillful qualities, he enters and remains in the first jhāna: rapture and pleasure born of seclusion, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. He permeates and pervades, suffuses and fills this very body with the rapture & pleasure born from seclusion. Just as if a skilled bathman or bathman’s apprentice would pour bath powder into a brass basin and knead it together, sprinkling it again and again with water, so that his ball of bath powder—saturated, moisture-laden, permeated within and without—would nevertheless not drip; even so, the monk permeates… this very body with the rapture & pleasure born of seclusion. There is nothing of his entire body unpervaded by rapture & pleasure born of seclusion. This is a fruit of the contemplative life, visible here and now, more excellent than the previous ones and more sublime.

“Furthermore, with the stilling of directed thoughts and evaluations, he enters and remains in the second jhāna: rapture and pleasure born of concentration, singleness of awareness free from directed thought & evaluation—internal assurance. He permeates and pervades, suffuses and fills this very body with the rapture & pleasure born of concentration. Just like a lake with spring-water welling up from within, having no inflow from the east, west, north, or south, and with the skies supplying abundant showers time and again, so that the cool fount of water welling up from within the lake would permeate and pervade, suffuse and fill it with cool waters, there being no part of the lake unpervaded by the cool waters; even so, the monk permeates… this very body with the rapture & pleasure born of concentration. There is nothing of his entire body unpervaded by rapture & pleasure born of concentration. This, too, is a fruit of the contemplative life, visible here and now, more excellent than the previous ones and more sublime.

“And furthermore, with the fading of rapture, he remains equanimous, mindful, & alert, and senses pleasure with the body. He enters and remains in the third jhāna, of which the noble ones declare, ‘Equanimous & mindful, he has a pleasant abiding.’ He permeates and pervades, suffuses and fills this very body with the pleasure divested of rapture. Just as in a lotus pond, some of the lotuses, born and growing in the water, stay immersed in the water and flourish without standing up out of the water, so that they are permeated and pervaded, suffused and filled with cool water from their roots to their tips, and nothing of those lotuses would be unpervaded with cool water; even so, the monk permeates… this very body with the pleasure divested of rapture. There is nothing of his entire body unpervaded with pleasure divested of rapture. This, too, is a fruit of the contemplative life, visible here and now, more excellent than the previous ones and more sublime.

“And furthermore, with the abandoning of pleasure and pain—as with the earlier disappearance of joys and distresses—he enters and remains in the fourth jhāna: purity of equanimity & mindfulness, neither-pleasure-nor-pain. He sits, permeating the body with a pure, bright awareness. Just as if a man were sitting covered from head to foot with a white cloth so that there would be no part of his body to which the white cloth did not extend; even so, the monk sits, permeating the body with a pure, bright awareness. There is nothing of his entire body unpervaded by pure, bright awareness. This, too, great king, is a fruit of the contemplative life, visible here and now, more excellent than the previous ones and more sublime.” — DN 2

§ 1.9 “‘I tell you, the ending of the effluents depends on the first jhāna.’ Thus it has been said. In reference to what was it said?… Suppose that an archer or archer’s apprentice were to practice on a straw man or mound of clay, so that after a while he would become able to shoot long distances, to fire accurate shots in rapid succession, and to pierce great masses. In the same way, there is the case where a monk… enters & remains in the first jhāna: rapture & pleasure born of seclusion, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. He regards whatever phenomena there that are connected with form, feeling, perception, fabrications, & consciousness, as inconstant, stressful, a disease, a cancer, an arrow, painful, an affliction, alien, a disintegration, an emptiness, not-self. He turns his mind away from those phenomena, and having done so, inclines his mind to the property of deathlessness: ‘This is peace, this is exquisite—the pacification of all fabrications; the relinquishing of all acquisitions; the ending of craving; dispassion; cessation; Unbinding.’

“Staying right there, he reaches the ending of the effluents. Or, if not, then through this very Dhamma-passion, this Dhamma-delight, and through the total wasting away of the five lower fetters [see § 2.1]—he is due to be reborn (in the Pure Abodes), there to be totally unbound, never again to return from that world.

“‘I tell you, the ending of the effluents depends on the first jhāna.’ Thus it was said, and in reference to this was it said.

[Similarly with the other levels of jhāna up through the sphere of nothingness.]

“Thus, as far as the perception-attainments go, that is as far as gnosis-penetration goes. As for these two spheres—the attainment of the sphere of neither perception nor non-perception & the attainment of the cessation of feeling & perception—I tell you that they are to be rightly explained by those monks who are meditators, skilled in attaining, skilled in attaining & emerging, who have attained & emerged in dependence on them.” — AN 9:36

§ 1.10 “[On attaining the fourth level of jhāna] there remains only equanimity: pure & bright, pliant, malleable & luminous. Just as if a skilled goldsmith or goldsmith’s apprentice were to prepare a furnace, heat up a crucible, and, taking gold with a pair of tongs, place it in the crucible. He would blow on it periodically, sprinkle water on it periodically, examine it periodically, so that the gold would become refined, well-refined, thoroughly refined, flawless, free from dross, pliant, malleable & luminous. Then whatever sort of ornament he had in mind—whether a belt, an earring, a necklace, or a gold chain—it would serve his purpose. In the same way, there remains only equanimity: pure & bright, pliant, malleable & luminous. He [the meditator] discerns that ‘If I were to direct equanimity as pure & bright as this toward the dimension of the infinitude of space, I would develop the mind along those lines, and thus this equanimity of mine—thus supported, thus sustained—would last for a long time. [Similarly with the remaining formless states.]’

“He discerns that ‘If I were to direct equanimity as pure & bright as this toward the dimension of the infinitude of space and to develop the mind along those lines, that would be fabricated.’ [Similarly with the remaining formless states.] He neither fabricates nor wills for the sake of becoming or un-becoming. This being the case, he is not sustained by anything in the world/does not cling to anything in the world. Unsustained, he is not agitated. Unagitated, he is totally unbound right within. He discerns that ‘Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.’” — MN 140