formless realms

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formless realms

Postby deff » Thu Jun 30, 2011 10:56 pm

hey i have a question about the formless realms... it seems to me that it might be very easy to mistake a formless state with enlightenment, and i was wondering how can one ensure they don't fall into this trap and accidently get reborn in formless realms. what are the major differences between the formless states, particularly neither perception nor non-perception, and enlightenment (which the diamond sutra says neiter 'is' nor 'is not') - these two seem quite similar. is it that there's still a subtle self identifcation with the formless state whereas with a realized being there's no identification?

thanks! :thumbsup:
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Re: formless realms

Postby Indrajala » Fri Jul 01, 2011 12:40 am

deff wrote:hey i have a question about the formless realms... it seems to me that it might be very easy to mistake a formless state with enlightenment, and i was wondering how can one ensure they don't fall into this trap and accidently get reborn in formless realms. what are the major differences between the formless states, particularly neither perception nor non-perception, and enlightenment (which the diamond sutra says neiter 'is' nor 'is not') - these two seem quite similar. is it that there's still a subtle self identifcation with the formless state whereas with a realized being there's no identification?

thanks! :thumbsup:


As I understand it there is only perception of a certain state in the formless realms (such as nothingness or neither-perception-nor-non-perception), which means there is also no sense of an "I" passing through time there. It is not liberation because it is conditioned, impermanent and one takes rebirth eventually. Basically, it is a temporary state while realization of emptiness of self and impermanence is permanent.

One is reborn in formless realms as a result of accomplishing jhāna/dhyāna. However, if one's will is directed with Mahāyāna aspirations then I imagine one can avoid this.

A good outline of the cosmology is here:

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/ptf/dham ... /loka.html
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Re: formless realms

Postby ronnewmexico » Fri Jul 01, 2011 12:45 am

I once witnessed a lama being asked that question(or some close variant) by a student. The type of smile that preceeded the answer to that, stated to my opinion..mostly very very few have to worry about that thing.

Regardless that it is faulted, it speaks of a great great level of meditational accomplishment.
The highest only of those who meditate would have to worry about such a thing.

The crux of the fault to my opinion and I have heard, lies in the lack of compassionate aspect. Hard to say and opinions may vary I'd suppose, but self as singular notion is not totally dissolved. The results of such is in that place of no form.

Surpressive meditations in which one squashes the senses and all else to attain a place of pleasure may account in the resultant state. So that may be the means. The issue is lack of compassion and residual self conception, which really spells in essence...continued attachment.

I suppose a scholor could get into the various aspects of each place in the formless realm(there are seemingly several) and the tendency of the beings in each. I expect it could get very involved. But basically I read it that way. Which as the poster states is really a residual self conception as prime mover.

How not to go down that path....I'd say don't entertain surpressive meditations, excluding thoughts by forcefull means continually, shutting out all the senses by meditative means as a only engaged meditation. Such may have their place and time but after a time such must be utilized only for the purpose of advancing in a thing and not as end goal.
The indicators of such would be a forgetfull result of meditations. One is always hazy buzzy and halfawake.
So if one is a steady meditator and that is the result I would be carefull one is not on a wrong path that leads away.
Occasionally it is Ok to engage such things. As a steady diet I'd say no.
One could perhaps just find a meditative experience very pleasent and be always attempting to replicate that experience. The self
it is that experiences then becoming more important than the realization of what really is.
But really most I'd say have to little fear such a thing. Years and years decades of such meditations and I'd suspect that may be a real threat.
For most of us I'd say we may be a bit hazy at times but stopped it would go right away.

That is the personal opinion of this uneducated layperson.
Such beings so destined..they say they bypass the bardo and go straight there. So it is not something that just happens by minor fault or error. A entire bent of mindstream must have occured.

Certainly I cede to scholors opinion on this thing...mine added just from a uneducated to this thing perspective perhaps it still has some use in the saying.
"This order considers that progress can be achieved more rapidly during a single month of self-transformation through terrifying conditions in rough terrain and in "the abode of harmful forces" than through meditating for a period of three years in towns and monasteries"....Takpo Tashi Namgyal.
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Re: formless realms

Postby deff » Fri Jul 01, 2011 1:10 am

thanks for the replies guys! this is pretty much in keeping with what i figured... it's interesting (and good to note) that you mention compassion can stop one from going down that path... so i think strengthening one's bodhicitta is a good defense. my real confusion lay with the neither-perception-nor-nonperception formless realm, as this state seems like it might appear similar to enlightenment to one who is in it. it's interesting that you mention there's still conditioned perception, as this state is neither perception nor non-perception, so hmm... interesting. what you say ron makes a lot of sense, that unless one was doing a *lot* of these formless concentration meditations then they shouldn't have to worry... that sounds good! :thanks:
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Re: formless realms

Postby Indrajala » Fri Jul 01, 2011 1:17 am

deff wrote:thanks for the replies guys! this is pretty much in keeping with what i figured... it's interesting (and good to note) that you mention compassion can stop one from going down that path... so i think strengthening one's bodhicitta is a good defense. my real confusion lay with the neither-perception-nor-nonperception formless realm, as this state seems like it might appear similar to enlightenment to one who is in it. it's interesting that you mention there's still conditioned perception, as this state is neither perception nor non-perception, so hmm... interesting. what you say ron makes a lot of sense, that unless one was doing a *lot* of these formless concentration meditations then they shouldn't have to worry... that sounds good! :thanks:


I think you have to be a very advanced yogi to accomplish such states.

Keep in mind they are mundane and non-Buddhist yogis can achieve them as well. They might think they are liberation, when they are impermanent. Buddhism understands these states to be impermanent.

In the Buddhist model jhāna/dhyāna is the mental training which cultivates the appropriate mental stamina which enables one to realize liberating truths. A means to an end.
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Re: formless realms

Postby ronnewmexico » Fri Jul 01, 2011 1:39 am

As hopefully a compliment to that last statement..

Over the years and years ago I have had exposure to and perfomed meditations from other beliefs.
Most memorable to me was one of the Taoist variety. I forget all the specifics of it, it was quite involved, as can be certain Tibetan Buddhist meditations.
But the tone of it was differing. At the closeur or end, one had to be very careful to end the meditation and meditational state with a definitive form of closeur. So one would not remain in a meditative state and thusly be subject to harm by spirits or others.
Whereas in a tibetan buddhist meditation the end or closeur is always invariably followed with a dedication of any merit garnished by the meditational practice to others. And perhaps at some level the continuance of a meditative state is rather encouraged.

So.... :smile: the taosist variety I could see could be thought of leading to a thought of real place, exclusion of others, that way of thinking, would be a exclusive meditation. Shaministic meditations seem to lead that way as well in their nature.
The buddhist meditation due to compliment of dedication of merit and perhaps continuance of state, would be a inclusive meditation.

So I would suggest for one to enter a formless realm considering the perameters of buddhist meditations, would be almost impossible if those are done in the customary fashion. One would have to deviate not only with intention but with actual practice.
Other mediations of the mundane fashion..to my opinion would lead directly there.
UNfortunately for those deluded ones so practicing if they continue in that fashion.

Such peoples would exhibit great powers of cognition and such things as mind reading and forecasting, and then mistakeingly think, while in this realm but headed to another...well it is sure I am enlightened. They are not. As H points out even the formless realm eventually ends.
HOw sad.
"This order considers that progress can be achieved more rapidly during a single month of self-transformation through terrifying conditions in rough terrain and in "the abode of harmful forces" than through meditating for a period of three years in towns and monasteries"....Takpo Tashi Namgyal.
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Re: formless realms

Postby Indrajala » Fri Jul 01, 2011 1:52 am

ronnewmexico wrote:Such peoples would exhibit great powers of cognition and such things as mind reading and forecasting, and then mistakeingly think, while in this realm but headed to another...well it is sure I am enlightened. They are not. As H points out even the formless realm eventually ends.
HOw sad.



Adding to this, you need to experience these states to cultivate true compassion (karuna) because otherwise you have no point of reference to understand the suffering these realms entail, subtle as it is. Without that point of reference you cannot truly understand the suffering that is the formless realms. Likewise to know the suffering of the gods beyond mere intellectual speculation and sympathy one has to achieve the corresponding state of mind.
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Re: formless realms

Postby Jinzang » Fri Jul 01, 2011 1:58 am

One falls into the formless realms by clinging to the corresponding level of dhyana as desirable. That is, you repeatedly cultivate those states because you find them so pleasant. To prevent this, look at these states as only a means to a goal and/or understand that they are impermanent and empty (not-self). I really doubt this is a problem anyone here needs to worry about.
Lamrim, lojong, and mahamudra are the unmistaken path.
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Re: formless realms

Postby ronnewmexico » Fri Jul 01, 2011 2:12 am

I hadn't thought of this..."Adding to this, you need to experience these states to cultivate true compassion (karuna) because otherwise you have no point of reference to understand the suffering these realms entail, subtle as it is. Without that point of reference you cannot truly understand the suffering that is the formless realms. Likewise to know the suffering of the gods beyond mere intellectual speculation and sympathy one has to achieve the corresponding state of mind."it sounds entirely true. At that level I'd guess the temptation to one not compassionate would be to remain in the entertaining of it all.
Suchly we must firstly always be compassiate in every respect. Other not us being the aim of what may be called enlightenment.
A self serving thing it seems be always not possible to find that thing, I'd guess. The total compassionate intent providing the final push over that great abyss.

What great temptation...see futures see minds how we can help and benefit with such powers and states of being. Only to find them ending as all ends.
As a aside but it made me think of that. :smile: thanks.

As a very large aside, but it seems on point....I take(personally) a real apprehension of awareness as things really are to be, compassion/awareness are interchangeable or equilivences of a sort. So to my way of thinking as much as anything can be thought of as natural, are we compassionate, and found in awareness is always compassion and compassionate intention as result.
So....finding anything lesser, with this catch 22, without naturally present compassion infers...a lesser understanding. Not apprehending the whole, actually quite far from a total apprehension would anything be that does not understand that as true.
Seems quite far down the line or removed from a total apprehension to my opinion.
So regardless of observational powers accomplishements in meditation, and all that...really a dim dim fellow or mamma, would be the formless realm folks.
"This order considers that progress can be achieved more rapidly during a single month of self-transformation through terrifying conditions in rough terrain and in "the abode of harmful forces" than through meditating for a period of three years in towns and monasteries"....Takpo Tashi Namgyal.
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Re: formless realms

Postby ground » Fri Jul 01, 2011 3:34 am

deff wrote:...and i was wondering how can one ensure they don't fall into this trap and accidently get reborn in formless realms.


The mark is attachment. As soon as there is longing for and seeking such states you are in the trap. (This of course holds true for any other meditative states that may be experienced as blissfull)
If there is discernment in post-meditation "this is just conditioned and impermanent and therefore dukkha and therefore not fit to identify with 'i' and 'mine' " and dispassion or even disgust with the arising of attachment to such states then they may be applied as tools for liberation (among many other tools).

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Re: formless realms

Postby deff » Fri Jul 01, 2011 4:38 am

cool, thanks :twothumbsup:
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Re: formless realms

Postby ronnewmexico » Fri Jul 01, 2011 6:50 pm

It is not equilivent but the realization one is not enlightened reminded me of this song, how such a realization must be to one of great great accomplishment but with a fault :smile: .....

"This order considers that progress can be achieved more rapidly during a single month of self-transformation through terrifying conditions in rough terrain and in "the abode of harmful forces" than through meditating for a period of three years in towns and monasteries"....Takpo Tashi Namgyal.
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Re: formless realms

Postby kalden yungdrung » Sat Jul 02, 2011 9:04 am

deff wrote:hey i have a question about the formless realms... it seems to me that it might be very easy to mistake a formless state with enlightenment, and i was wondering how can one ensure they don't fall into this trap and accidently get reborn in formless realms. what are the major differences between the formless states, particularly neither perception nor non-perception, and enlightenment (which the diamond sutra says neiter 'is' nor 'is not') - these two seem quite similar. is it that there's still a subtle self identifcation with the formless state whereas with a realized being there's no identification?

thanks! :thumbsup:



Tashi delek,

When i am right informed, do the 4 formless realms belong to the 4 heavens of Brahma.
Once the Buddha Shakyamuni had 4 Yoga teachers and one of them teached the Indian Buddha Shakyamuni the technic to dwell in that formless realm.
The other Budhhas seem to have waken Him up, and told to the Indian Buddha Shakyamuni this is not the way to help sentient beings.
This because in those realms does exist only a very subtle entity. This means emptiness experienced in its most nihilistic form.

The 4 heavens of Brahma are also never destroyed by the cosmic winds and fire because it is not based on matter.
They form the top of the vertical cosmos known in Indian Budddhism and Dorje Thekpa, Hindhuism and Bon.

Best wishes
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