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how much Jhāna is needed for destruction of Āsavas?

A friend gives his perspective

About your question on whether the first jhana is enough: Because I understand jhanas to be foundationally a satipatthana practice wherein the five hindrances are suppressed, therefore the sutta passage in AN9.36 makes sense to me (that the ending of fermentations would depend on at least the first jhana). How can the ending of fermentations (i.e. arahathood) not be dependent on some advanced practice of the Satipatthana?

On the other hand, no suttas explicitly talk about jhanas as necessary for the first path. In fact, many are said to have attained to the “Dhamma eye” simply by listening to a discourse.
But it is not far-fetched to assume to when listening to the Dhamma, these people attained at least the first jhana (SN46.38: “When, bhikkhus, a noble disciple listens to the Dhamma with eager ears, attending to it as a matter of vital concern, directing his whole mind to it, on that occasion the five hindrances are not present in him; on that occasion the seven factors of enlightenment go to fulfilment by development.")

Now, the Cula-dukkhakhanda sutta talks of how only with at least the first jhana is non-returnership possible, due to the vantage point from a sublime pleasure one can attain in jhanas over sensory desires.
There's a peculiar Chinese sutta (Xusheng daofa jing, the only one that makes the claim it does) that talks about "deliverance through wisdom" as denoting an arahat who has no jhanic attainment whatsoever. But I and my colleague W.Z. are both of the opinion that there is scribal error involved with that sutta (he wrote an article in Chinese on this scribal error). All other suttas in Pali and Chinese where the "7 categories" of higher fruitions are mentioned, "deliverance via wisdom" invariably means those non-returners and arahats who had only some jhanic attainment but not any formless attainment. See MN70 ( for a very clear definition on how this is the case.

In other words, there's no "dry insight path" in the suttas. The suttas allow for the possibility of arahathood without formless bases, but jhanas (at least first jhana) are indispensable.

Ajahn Brahm 

In "mindfulness, bliss, and beyond", page 129. Ajahn Brahm cites MN 139 as equating the "middle way" with pursuit of jhana. since that type of pleasure is the only path that avoids the extremes of asceticism and hedonism.