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Passaddhi is a Pali noun used in the Theravada tradition that has been translated as "calmness," "tranquillity," "repose" and "serenity."[1] The associated verb is passambhati (to calm down, to be quiet).[2]

In the Theravada Buddhist tradition, passaddhi refers to tranquillity of the body, speech, thoughts and consciousness on the path to enlightenment. As part of cultivated mental factors, passaddhi is preceded by rapture (pīti) and precedes concentration (samādhi).

Passaddhi is identified as a wholesome factor in the following canonical contexts:

Canonical references

In various Buddhist canonical schema, the calming of the body, speech and various mental factors is associated with gladness (pāmojja, pāmujja), rapture (pīti), and pleasure (sukhaṃ) and leads to the concentration needed for release from suffering.

Meditative calming

Calming (passambhayaṃ) bodily and mental formations is the culmination of each of the first two tetrads of meditation instructions in the Pali Canon's famed Anapanasati Sutta:

[1] Breathing in long, he discerns, 'I am breathing in long'.... Dīghaṃ vā assasanto dīghaṃ assasāmīti pajānāti....
[2] Or breathing in short, he discerns, 'I am breathing in short'.... Rassaṃ vā assasanto rassaṃ assasāmīti pajānāti....
[3] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to the entire body....' Sabbakāyapaṭisaṃvedī assasissāmīti sikkhati....
[4] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in calming bodily fabrication....' Passambhayaṃ kāyasaṅkhāraṃ assasissāmīti sikkhati....
He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to rapture....'
Pītipaṭisaṃvedī assasissāmīti sikkhati....
[6] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to pleasure....' Sukhapaṭisaṃvedī assasissāmīti sikkhati....
[7] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to mental fabrication....' Cittasaṅkhārapaṭisaṃvedī assasissāmīti sikkhati....
[8] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in calming mental fabrication....'[3] Passambhayaṃ cittasaṅkhāraṃ assasissāmīti sikkhati....[4]

Sati, pāmojja, pīti, passaddhi, sukho

As indicated in the prior and future sections and highlighted here, a number of discourses identify the concurrent arising of the following wholesome mental states with the development of mindfulness (sati):

  • pāmojja or pāmujja ("gladness" or "joy")
  • pīti ("rapture" or "joy")
  • passaddhi ("tranquility" or "serenity" or "calm")
  • sukho ("happiness" or "pleasure").

By establishing mindfulness, one overcomes the Five Hindrances (pañca nīvaraṇi), gives rise to gladness, rapture, pleasure and tranquillizes the body (kāyo passambhati); such bodily tranquillity (passaddhakāyo) leads to higher states of concentration (samādhi) as indicated in this Pali-recorded discourse ascribed to the Buddha:

Seeing that [these five hindrances] have been abandoned
within him, he becomes glad.
Glad, he becomes enraptured.
Enraptured, his body grows tranquil.
His body tranquil, he is sensitive to pleasure.
Feeling pleasure, his mind becomes concentrated.[5]
Tassime pañca nīvaraṇe pahīṇe
attani samanupassato pāmojjaṃ jāyati.
Pamuditassa pīti jāyati.
Pītimanassa kāyo passambhati.
Passaddhakāyo sukhaṃ vedeti.
Sukhino cittaṃ samādhiyati.

Similarly, with the realization of wisdom (or, as below, "discernment") (paññā) these wholesome states arise:

When defiling mental qualities are abandoned and bright mental qualities have grown, and one enters & remains in the culmination & abundance of discernment, having known & realized it for oneself in the here & now, there is joy, rapture, serenity, mindfulness, alertness, and a pleasant/happy abiding.[7] Saṅkilesikā ceva dhammā pahīyissanti. Vodāniyā dhammā abhivaḍḍhissanti. Paññāpāripūriṃ vepullattañca diṭṭheva dhamme sayaṃ abhiññā sacchikatvā upasampajja viharissanti. Pāmujjañceva bhavissati pīti ca passaddhi ca sati ca sampajaññañca sukho ca vihāro.[8]

Enlightenment factor

Passaddhi is the fifth of seven factors of enlightenment (sambojjhanga) that lead to deliverance from suffering. Among the factors of enlightenment, serenity (passadhi) is preceded by rapture (pīti) and leads to concentration (samādhi) as further described by the Buddha in the Anapanasati Sutta:

"For one enraptured at heart, the body grows calm and the mind grows calm. When the body & mind of a monk enraptured at heart grow calm, then serenity as a factor for awakening becomes aroused. He develops it, and for him it goes to the culmination of its development.
"For one who is at ease — his body calmed — the mind becomes concentrated. When the mind of one who is at ease — his body calmed — becomes concentrated, then concentration as a factor for awakening becomes aroused. He develops it, and for him it goes to the culmination of its development."[9]

Jhanic attainment

In describing one's progressive steps through the absorptions (jhanani), the Buddha identifies six sequential "calmings" (passaddhis):

  1. With the first jhana, speech (vācā) is calmed.
  2. With the second jhana, applied and sustained thought (vitakka-vicārā) is calmed.
  3. With the third jhana, rapture (pīti) is calmed.
  4. With the fourth jhana, in-and-out breathing (assāsa-passāsā) is calmed.
  5. With the cessation of perception and feeling, perception and feeling (saññā-vedanā) are calmed.
  6. With the ending of mental fermentations (āsava), lust, hatred and delusion (rāga-dosa-moha) are calmed.[10]

Arahantship condition

Passaddhi is a "supporting condition" for the "destruction of the cankers" (āsava-khaye), that is, the achievement of Arahantship. More specifically, in describing a set of supporting conditions that move one from samsaric suffering (see Dependent Origination) to destruction of the cankers, the Buddha describes the following progression of conditions:

  1. suffering (dukkha)
  2. faith (saddhā)
  3. joy (pāmojja, pāmujja)
  4. rapture (pīti)
  5. tranquillity (passaddhi)
  6. happiness (sukha)
  7. concentration (samādhi)
  8. knowledge and vision of things as they are (yathābhūta-ñāna-dassana)
  9. disenchantment with worldly life (nibbidā)
  10. dispassion (virāga)
  11. freedom, release, emancipation, deliverance (vimutti)
  12. knowledge of destruction of the cankers (āsava-khaye-ñāna)[11]

In the Pali literature, this sequence that enables one to transcend worldly suffering is referred to as the "transcendental dependent arising" (lokuttara-paticcasamuppada).[12]

Abhidhammic wholesome state

In the Abhidhamma Pitaka's Dhammasangani, the first chapter identifies 56 states of material-world consciousness that are wholesome, including "lightness of sense and thought," upon which the text elaborates:

What on that occasion is repose of sense (kayāpassaddhi)?
The serenity, the composure which there is on that occasion, the calming, the tranquillizing, the tranquillity of the skandhas of feeling, perception and syntheses — this is the serenity of sense that there then is.
What on that occasion is serenity of thought (cittapassaddhi)?
The serenity, the composure which there is on that occasion, the calming, the tranquillizing, the tranquillity of the skandha of intellect — this is the serenity of thought that there then is.[13]

Post-canonical Pali texts

Passaddhi is referenced in the Visuddhimagga and other Pali commentarial (atthakatha) texts.

Tranquillity's nutriments

In the Visuddhimagga, the enlightenment factors (bojjhangas) are discussed in the context of skills for developing absorption (jhāna).[14] In particular, the Visuddhimagga recommends that in order to develop the skill of "restrain[ing] the mind on an occasion when it should be restrained" (such as when it is "agitated through over-energeticness, etc."), one should develop tranquillity (passaddhi), concentration (samādhi) and equanimity (upekkhā).[15] Towards this end, the Visuddhimagga identifies seven things from which bodily and mental tranquillity arise:

  1. "using superior food"
  2. "living in a good climate"
  3. "maintaining a pleasant posture"
  4. "keeping to the middle"
  5. "avoidance of violent persons"
  6. "cultivation of persons tranquil in body"
  7. "resoluteness upon that [tranquillity]."[16]

See also


  1. Rhys Davids & Stede (1921-25), p. 447, entry for "Passaddhi" (retrieved 9 Jul 2007).
  2. For instance, Rhys Davids & Stede (1921-25), p. 447, entries for "Passaddhi" (retrieved 9 Jul 2007) and "Passambhati" (retrieved 14 Jul 2007) etymologically derive both words from "pa+śrambh." The past participle of passambhati is passaddha and the present participle is passambhayaṃ.
  3. The Anapanasati Sutta (MN 118) in English (Thanissaro, 2006).
  4. The Anapanasati Sutta (MN 118) in Pali (SLTP, n.d.-a).
  5. The Samaññaphala Sutta (DN 2) in English (Thanissaro, 1997). The same verse is in the Potthapada Sutta (DN 9) (Thanissaro, 2003).
  6. Sāmaññaphalasuttaṃ (DN 2) in Pali (SLTP, n.d.-c), para. 61; and, Poṭṭhapādasuttaṃ (DN 9) in Pali (SLTP, n.d.-b), para. 33.
  7. The Potthapada Sutta (DN 9) (Thanissaro, 2003).
  8. Poṭṭhapādasuttaṃ (DN 9) in Pali (SLTP, n.d.-b), para. 33.
  9. MN 118 (Thanissaro, 2006).
  10. SN 36.11 (Thanissaro, 1998; Nyanaponika, 1983); and, similarly, AN 9.6.7, entitled "Passaddhisuttaṃ – Tranquillity [Sutta]" (Upalavanna, n.d.). In regards to the absence of the immaterial jhanas from this sequence, Nyanaponika (1983), n. 5, states:
    "In the section on 'being quietened' (patipassaddha), the four immaterial absorptions (arupajjhana) are not mentioned. According to [Commentary] they are implied in the 'cessation of perception and feelings' (for the attainment of which they are a condition)."
  11. SN 12.23 (Bodhi, 1980, 1995).
  12. Bodhi (1980, 1995) states that the paracanonical Nettipakarana provides this label for SN 12.23's secondary sequence.
  13. Rhys Davids (1900), pp. 1-4 (consciousness states xxxix and xl), 23, verses 40 and 41. Based on the second paragraph of this excerpt and the third excerpted paragraph's use of the word citta, it is evident that Rhys Davids uses the word "intellect" here for what is traditionally referred to in the khandha model as viññana.
  14. Buddhaghosa & Ñāṇamoli (1999), IV:42-66, pp. 127-134.
  15. Buddhaghosa & Ñāṇamoli (1999), p. 131.
  16. Buddhaghosa & Ñāṇamoli (1999), p. 132 (square brackets included in original text). According to Rhys Davids & Stede (1921-25), op. cit., similar information is found in the Vibhanga-Atthakatha 282.


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