The Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Levels of Concentration
These levels describe a certain psychological progress. The meditating monk starts from a rather normal conscious state made up of the usual stream of images, thoughts, perceptions, needs, feelings and emotions. On the first level of concentration, desires and unethical ideas are eliminated, on the second level thought processes disappear, then joy, and then feelings of pain and pleasure. When he enters the fifth level, he is neutral, i e free from needs and feelings, and begins to deal with his images and ideas: he tries to eliminate all details and differentiations; as a means to this end he tries to visualize the endless space. But this is still something external, and on the sixth level, it is replaced by something internal: the empty consciousness itself is visualized as endless. But this is still a visualization, an idea, however formless and vague, and the goal is not attained until even this is transcended. Two intermediary levels are needed in order to attai~ this: on the seventh level nothingness is visualized, freedom even from consciousness. But this is still an idea, the thinnest, vaguest, emptiest. It is on the verge of disappearing on the eighth level, and, if successful, the monk then finally enters into the final level, sannlivedayitanirodha, "the cessation of ideation and feeling". This is not a state of unconsciousness as is often maintained, neither of trance, but a state of absolute stillness and clarity, of undifferentiated holistic alertness. It is still not nirvana, only a means to atta1n nirvana.