How Many Jhānas Are There?

There is a Great deal of misinformation about the Jhānas floating around in the Buddhist world today. My personal research has turned up no less than 25 different states that are identified by the word Jhāna in ancient Pali literature:

Those who are fans of the Visuddhimagga states roll all these 25 different states into the 8 states matching the descriptions given in the Visuddhimagga of the Jhānas (plus the Abhidhamma Jhāna 1.5). Of course there is a precedent for doing so - the Visuddhimagga makes the same incorrect assumption. But a careful reading of the suttas, the Abhidhamma, and the Visuddhimagga clearly indicates that these are 25 different states.

Additionally there are other more modern descriptions of states that go by the name Jhāna:

This gives a total of 38 different states that are called by some form of the name Jhāna. The table below shows some of the groupings found in the various literature as well as some of the more modern usages of the term:

1. This is the classification scheme used by Thanissaro (personal communication), Bucknell, Shankman, Brasington.

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