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Anapanasati Retreat 2003 Notes - Introduction to Feeling Tetrad - 5th and 6th - Piti and Sukha

by Viveka


Read the 5th and 6th instructions
Through the contemplations we are putting in place a process of cause and effect or
conditioned co-production (paticca-samuppada) where all five jhana factors are
encouraged thereby building samatha:
From the first tetrad arises a sense of ease and well-being in the breath, body and
If we engage with the breath and body moment by moment, our interest in being
with what’s actually happening is building and the pull to habitual hankerings is
Then an internal sense of well-being, not dependent on external stimulation or
affirmation arises
This process is the focus of the 5th and 6th contemplations
The 5th and 6th contemplations focus on the “warm” jhana factors
Satisfaction, rapture (Pali, piti; Sanskrit priti;)
Piti is a feeling of delight, pleasure, energy freely moving in the body (the main
manifestation) but also in the mind and emotions.
It arises when we breakthrough restricted blocked energy (mostly psychic but also
Buddhadasa describes it as the excited happiness (pleasant vedana) that arises
when one is successful in something
o So piti arises as our willingness to experience the breath and body, as they
are, begins to bear fruit. We see that the practice works
o A gladness as the breath, body and mind begin to calm and our experience
starts to transform
Traditionally piti is of 5 degrees
1. Lesser – raises hairs on the body
2. Momentary – like repeated flashes of lightning
3. Flooding – like waves breaking on the shore
4. All pervading – in the whole body, like a full bladder (or a fully inflated
balloon) or a mountain cavern pouring forth a mighty flood of water
5. Transporting – lifts the body (even levitates it)
The manifestations are not limited to these 5 but you get the idea. Energy release
in the body (can start as the smallest tingle, I get a shiver down the back).
o It can be very subtle or more dramatic
o Some people can feel strange because they feel orgasmic in a meditation.
This is piti. If we understand it we can relax into and not doubt or fear
what's happening (or cling to it for that matter which we'll see in a
The intensity of piti is not really an indicator of a more effective or less effective practice.
o I think using the word piti is better than using the translation rapture which
doesn’t account for the spectrum from subtle to more intense along which
this fruit of meditation may appear. The translation satisfaction has quite a
different connotation to it than rapture does.
o Piti may be more prevalent or more or less intense at different times in our
o Meditation can be seen as a process of coming into contact with more and
more of our minds in a series of what appear as plateaus and
breakthroughs. Actually, if we are consistent in our practice there is
constant creative change and learning happen and it just appears as
plateaus (as if not much is happening) and seemingly inexplicable
breakthroughs (in that all of a sudden things change more dramatically)
o There was a study done of the learning of dabblers versus those committed
to a topic and the learning curve of the committed student was one of
plateaus and breakthroughs with an overall trajectory of deepening
experience where as the dabblers curve had peak experiences that quickly
dropped out and cancelled out so that there was no augmentative progress.
o Anyway, at times of breakthroughs we may experience more dramatic piti.
o Ayya Khema emphasizes that piti is always there. This has been my
experience. It’s always there but we don’t know to look for it or we
haven’t learned how to find it yet. It might be very, very subtle or just
somewhere we’re not usually aware of – an ear lobe, the sides of the torso,
in the armpits!
The important thing in the 5th instruction is to recognize piti and to purposefully cultivate
it and by doing so strengthen samatha.
Here in the sutra we simply turn our attention to be sensitive to rapture.
This “sensitive to” is patismvedin (Pali) which means experiencing, feeling,
enjoying or suffering whatever the case may be. It comes from the verb
patisamvedeti which means to feel, experience, undergo, perceive
So with the 5th contemplation we study piti, we experience and perceive and enjoy
It may be that piti has already arisen by the time the 5th instruction comes or even before
Even before being aware of the whole body, if we’re really drinking the breath,
absorbed in it then piti may arise
o Sometimes the breath is spoken of as the samboghakaya for those of you
familiar with that terminology. The body of delight and pleasure.
Sometimes it’s right there the moment we sit down if we’re come to the practice
with an attitude of real delight at being able to just be with what is
Whenever piti arises we can make it the object of our attention, letting the breath
drop to the background
o Can notice the location, duration and qualities of piti and how piti affects
our experience of body and mind
When the piti fades we can abide still sensitive to the piti or if it feels that there’s
more work to do in establishing stability and calm in the body, return to the work
we were doing before with the breath or body in the 1st tetrad.
It may be that piti has not yet arisen when we come to the 5th instruction
Then we can be sensitive to it in its seedling forms. It may be just a subtle
pleasure in the body, energy in the body. Recognizing the fruits of the practice, the
sense of the breath or body or mind calming even if just subtly and being satisfied
with that
We can also build the conditions for piti by more unwaveringly paying attention to
the breath and body. This will have the effect of withdrawing hankering after other
experiences and help give rise to piti which grows out being present and interested
in what’s happening in the meditation, right now
Once we touch into piti we can allow it to strengthen and mature
Elsewhere in the Pali Canon, as taught in Ayya Khema’s book Who is My Self
(which is excellent on working with the jhana factors), the Buddha speaks of
suffusing, drenching, filling and irradiating your body so that there is no spot in
your entire body that is untouched by piti.
o This is like that idea of drinking the experience to really taste the flavor of
So we can allow the piti, unclamp on the body, let go of controlling experience
and let it spread (much like allowing the breath to be as long as it wants)
After a while we can familiarize ourselves with piti such that we can voluntarily
touch into it. It's an energy that's just there below the surface all the time if we can
come into the present moment and things as they are with kindness and attention.
Sometimes when piti arises we get excited and try to grab on to it to make it last.
But, if we try to cling on to it we only fossilize the fluidity in our just liberated
energies and eradicate the conditions upon which piti arose.
Enjoy the piti while it's there and let it go in its own time.
Piti while initially enjoyable can also become wearing or course or tiring after a while.
That breakthrough isn't always pleasant, it can be jarring even violent sometimes.
And it's just like with any pleasant sensation we don't want it constantly. Who
wants really to have sex 24 hours a day or to eat chocolate cake constantly? After
a while you get fatigued by it.
Buddhadasa talks about how piti is stimulating and causes the mind to tremor and
In the progression of conditions, piti will to tend to quiet to bliss or sukha through a
process called passaddhi (pali) prasrabdhi (Sanskrit), likened to how the sound of a gong
Passadhi is tension release, tranquility, serenity.
The energy of piti is absorbed
From piti, through this process of passadhi the jhana factor of sukha arises.
Bliss or contentment (Pali, sukha) (note, translated in Rosenberg book as pleasure but this
is sukha specifically as one of the five jhana factors so better translated as bliss)
Literally, “easy to bear”
Tranquil, soothing pleasant vedana
Sukha results from piti
In this context I prefer bliss as a translation. Sangharakshita defines bliss as, "the
apparently causeless feeling of intense happiness which wells up from the depths. Of his
being when, the physical innervations associated with piti have subsided, the meditator is
no longer aware of the physical body." This is not from denying the body but really
establishing the foundation of the body. It grows out of the work we did in the body
When we come to the instruction on being sensitive to bliss it may already have arisen or
may not be present yet
Again we can become sensitive to the seed forms of bliss bringing an attitude of
peace and contentment to whatever is happening. Calming resistance to our
experience and letting things be. Letting what's happening in the meditation be
A sense of settling in to the practice
Being sensitive to bliss, whenever it arises we can make it the object of our attention,
letting the breath drop to the background
Can notice the location, duration and qualities of sukha and how sukha affects our
experience of body and mind
Suffusing, drenching, ...

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