In some meditative traditions, there are absorption states called jhanas. Four of them are formless jhanas - jhanas without form - and four of them are jhanas with form. Is there a word corresponding to 'formless', but meaning 'with form'?

In the original Pali they're called rupa (with form) and arupa (formless) jhanas - would there be two English words corresponding to these?

EDIT: 'formless' here is a quality of the absorptive state. It basically means without physical form, e.g. in the 5th one (dimension of infinite space), the sensations of the body might drop away, and one is focused on the sensations of space in all directions, not the things within that space.

  • 4
    Possibly you might also consider corporeal, in its sense of "having a material form" or "tangible".
    – Robusto
    Jun 24 '11 at 14:08
  • Could you elaborate as to how formless is defined in this sense? Because the way I'm interpreting it is "without a specified shape or structure." Jun 24 '11 at 14:22
  • The 5th infinite dimension is never a good example. The 6th is much more interesting. For a start it's twice as big as all the rest put together.
    – user9682
    Jun 24 '11 at 22:53

I would say in your specific context synonyms for form are

Material, corporeal, physical

and opposites

Immaterial, incorporeal, non-physical?

  • ah yes, they are also called material and immaterial jhanas - i think that's what i was looking for. i also like corporeal.
    – Claudiu
    Jun 24 '11 at 15:17
  • 1
    Be careful though, immaterial also means unimportant or irrelevant. It's a nice word with an unfortunate double meaning for your example.
    – user9682
    Jun 24 '11 at 15:22

The antonyms for formless reported by the NOAD are shaped and definite.


Antonyms include: coherent, distinct, formed, organized, shaped, specific, definite, developed, grown, mature

Just a quick Thesarus search.

  • "formed jhana" isn't quite the right meaning, though. it's a jhana with form, not a jhana that is formed somehow (as they are all formed somehow).
    – Claudiu
    Jun 24 '11 at 15:11
  • See my comment to the OP. I'm unsure as to what definition of formless you're referring to. Jun 24 '11 at 15:13

Amorphous is a technical term referring to absence of definable form. Solids have a shape. Liquids take the shape of their container. Some powders, for instance, do neither. Such materials are known as amorphous materials.

In any case, morph is at the root of nearly all technical terms referring to form.


I would go with embodied.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.