9 Stages of Meditation



Description of Level
Obstacles or Faults
Antidotes or Opponents to Obstacles 
LEVEL 1:  Placing or Setting the MindCittasthapana or
sems ‘jog pa
FORCIBLE ENGAGEMENT: You are barely able to hold onto the meditation object or image before losing it. You can begin to set the mind on the object or image of meditation but cannot hold it there. You will have to seek and find the object again and again and take hold of it. Conceptuality or discursiveness is being identified so that it may appear that there is more conceptuality than usual. Other types of conceptualization appear more frequently than the object or image of meditation. At this stage you recognize and experience the many disturbing thoughts as they arise. Attained by power of hearing instructions. 1-Laziness of neutral activities like sleep, procrastination, talking, sewing, etc.
1-Laziness of inadequacy (discouragement)
1-Laziness of attachment to negative activities
1-Faith of conviction in meditation by contemplating its benefits.(a)
2-Aspiration in seeking those benefits.
3-Joyous effort or exertion in trying to achieve those benefits.
4-Mental suppleness or pliancy of body and mind which is the fruit of effort.
2-Forgetfulness where you lose the object of meditation and are unable to remember the instructions on how to meditate. 5-Mindfulness where you make a determination to maintain unbroken concentration throughout the session.
LEVEL 2:  Continuous Placement or Setting the MindSamsthapana or
rgyun du ‘jog pa
FORCIBLE ENGAGEMENT: You are able to remain focused on an object or image for at least five minutes. Conceptuality is beginning to lessen and some of the mental disturbances are pacified and others appear to slow down a little and become exhausted. Attained by power of reflection on instructions. Same as Level 1 only less so. Same as Level 1.
LEVEL 3:  Replacement or Resetting the MindAvasthapanaor
Slan te ‘jog pa
INTERRUPTED ENGAGEMENT: You are familiar with the object of concentration to the point where you can re-establish your hold on the object immediately after losing it and you no longer need to seek it.  You are still bothered by distractions, only you can quickly return to the meditation object. Same as Level 1 only even less so. Same as Level 1, using strong mindfulness(b).
LEVEL 4:  Close Placement or Setting the MindUpasthapanaor
nye bar ‘jog pa
INTERRUPTED ENGAGEMENT: The point is reached through the force of intense mindfulness where you can hold onto the meditation object or image to the end of the session without ever breaking the continuity of your concentration. The object of observation or image will not be lost at this level. At this state the mind may begin to be withdrawn through the power of mindfulness. The power of mindfulness is now complete.  You can begin to apply the power of discriminating alertness.  During both levels 3 and 4 you are easily moved by states of attachment and have difficulty remaining focused. You will not have very long meditation sessions at this level because gross sinking or inattentiveness and excitement will still occur.(c) 4-Pliancy
5-Mindfulness as noted in Level 1.
6-Discriminating alertness (e)
3A-Gross mental excitement.   Mind moves to an object of attachment and cannot remain focused. 7-Application:  When you recognize that your concentration is about to degenerate, intensify your mindfulness BEFORE this takes place by reflecting on the faults and disadvantages of samsara(f).  Alternatively, practice breathing meditation until mind is calm and gross distractions have subsided.
3B-Gross mental sinking or inattentiveness(d) can happen either through sleepiness or lethargy or when mind is excessively drawn within. Gross form occurs when single-pointed concentration is strong but its clarity and intensity diminish greatly.4-Non-application of the antidotes. 7-Application: Try to refresh or uplift the mind by either focusing on the details of the object or image on concentration or visualizing a bright or shiny object. You should reflect on the benefits of meditation even, if necessary, abandoning the object of meditation temporarily(g).
LEVEL 5:  Controlled or Disciplined MindDamana or
dul bar byed pa
INTERRUPTED ENGAGEMENT:  At this level, it is necessary to revivify or heighten the mind to overcome subtle sinking or inattentiveness.  You generate the power of introspection and through your own power know the good qualities of meditation. 3B-Subtle mental sinking or inattentiveness may result from excessive mindfulness.  This occurs when concentration and clarity are both strong but intensity has relaxed slightly because of withdrawal.  This can be very difficult to detect and can be mistaken for a deep state of concentration. 4-Pliancy
6-Discriminating alertness
7-Application:  You must tighten the intensity of your concentration being careful not to cause subtle forms of excitement by increasing the intensity too much.
LEVEL 6:  Pacified MindSamana or
zhi bar byed pa
 INTERRUPTED ENGAGEMENT:  Meditation is improved through knowledge of the faults of various obstacles.  Due to the heightened awareness there is danger of subtle excitement.  Power of discriminating alertness complete. 3A-Subtle excitement from overly heightening of the mind to offset subtle sinking or inattentiveness.  Subtle form occurs when only part of the mind is distracted and the object of meditation is not completely lost. 4-Pliancy
6-Discriminating alertness
7-Application:  Since you are holding onto the object of meditation too tightly, you must relax the grip of the mind slightly and then continue to meditate.
LEVEL 7:  Complete PacificationVyupasamanaor nye bar zhi bar byed pa INTERRUPTED ENGAGEMENT:  Powers of mindfulness and discriminating alertness are now complete and your balance cannot be upset by subtle sinking or inattentiveness or by subtle excitement.  Attained by the power of effort. 3A-Very slight subtle excitement
3B-Very slight subtle mental sinking or inattentiveness
7- Very gentle application as noted in Levels 5 and 6 above, keeping a careful balance.
LEVEL 8:  Single PointednessEkotikaranaor  rtse gcig tu byed pa UNINTERRUPTED ENGAGENENT:  Very little effort is required to remain focused upon the meditation object for the entire session without experiencing even the slightest interruption to concentration.  Attained by the power of effort. 5-Unnecessary application or continuing to apply antidotes after you are free from sinking or inattentiveness and excitement. 4-Pliancy
8-Desisting from application
LEVEL 9:  Balanced Placement or Setting in EquipoiseSamadhanaor mnyam par jog pa SPONTANEOUS OR ONE-POINTED ENGAGEMENT:  Ability to place the mind on the object of concentration with equanimity.  Without effort you are able to maintain faultless concentration 5-Unnecessary application 4-Pliancy
8-Desisting from application or balanced equanimity.



(a) You should contemplate the merit in attaining an enlightened mind and freedom from the sufferings of samsara.  You can also consider that through meditation it is possible to achieve heightened states of consciousness or supernormal powers or supersensible cognition that can enable you to truly help others.  Telepathy is needed, for example, to gain a clear perception of the total situation so that you can offer appropriate assistance.  Having a pure motivation is not enough.  The most well meaning of intentions may inadvertently bring harm to others.

(b) If you are not able to proceed beyond this point you may need to reflect on your situation and/or seek help from your teacher.   You may have to work on other aspects of cultivation before proceeding with concentration.  Are the eight winds (gain, loss, honor, disgrace, praise, ridicule, pleasure or suffering) or emotions (anger, hatred, desire, etc) a problem?   Are there problems stemming from any of the delusions like anger, hate, lust, greed, pride, jealousy, ignorance, etc.?  See antidotes for each delusion.  Are there physical illnesses that interfere with your concentration?  You will need to heal the emotional or physical distress before proceeding.  Apply introspection to understand the situation and once the affliction is reduced, it is best to wait and rest for a while before continuing to cultivate concentration.

(c)  Excitement and mental sinking or inattentiveness are also prevalent at earlier levels; only laziness and forgetfulness are the more pervasive problems and must be dealt with first.  When laziness and forgetfulness are no longer problems you are at Level 4.

(d)  Inattentiveness or mental sinking (sometimes referred to as fading, numbness, listlessness or laxity) is not the same thing as foggy-mindedness or drowsiness.  The latter is the cause of the former and is manifested in heaviness of body and mind leading to sleep and is a facet of delusion or ignorance.

(e) Discriminating alertness or discernment is a form of analytical wisdom where the main portion of your mind remains focused upon the object of meditation while a corner of your mind is checking to see if any of the obstacles have arisen.  It must not be used too much or it will interrupt the flow of concentration.

(f) You must constantly give rise to a state of mind bent on leaving the cycle of reincarnation; bear in mind the impermanence of all conditioned things; ponder the suffering involved in descending into one of the three lower realms of existence; and the need for your three karmas to correspond with the teachings of the Master.

(g)  A forceful and very effective technique for energizing the mind and overcoming gross mental sinking involves visualizing the mind situated at the heart in the form of intense white light.  Then forcefully recite the syllable “PEI” while seeing this light rise quickly up through the body and out the crown of the head.  The mind, in the form of this light, flies high up into space and becomes inseparable from it.  Another technique is to visualize a thousand suns or look at an actual sunny location.


Amang Nopu Pamu, Dharma That Every Buddhist Must Follow,translated by Bodi Wentu Rinpoche, 2001.

Gampopa, The Jewel Ornament of Liberation, translated by Herbert V. Guenther, 1959.

Kalu Rinpoche, The Gem Ornament of Manifold Oral Instructions which Benefits Each and Everyone Appropriately, 1986.

Shantideva, Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life (Bodhicaryavatara)

Tsong-kha-pa, LamRim Chen Mo—The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment, Volume Three,  translated by the Lamrim Chenmo Translation Committee, 2002.