Pīti in Pali (Sanskrit: Prīti) is a Mental factor (Pali:Cetasika, Sanskrit: Caitasika) associated with the concentrative absorption (Sanskrit: Dhyana; Pali: Jhana) of Buddhist meditation. Piti is a very specific joy associated with a state of deep tranquillity. It is often translated with the English words "joy" or "rapture" and is distinguished from the longer-lasting meditative "pleasure" or "happiness" (Pali, Sanskrit: Sukha) that arises along with pīti.
In Buddhist meditation, the development of concentrative absorption (Sanskrit: Dhyāna; Pali: Jhāna) is canonically described in terms of the following five factors:
- applied thought (Vitakka)
- sustained thought (Vicāra)
- joy/rapture/happiness (pīti)
- happiness/pleasure/bliss (Sukha)
- equanimity (upekkhā)
Both pīti and Sukha are born of bodily seclusion and mental quietude. The 5th c. CE Visuddhimagga distinguishes between pīti and Sukha in the following experiential manner:
- And wherever the two are associated, happiness [here, Ñāṇamoli's translation of pīti) is the contentedness at getting a desirable object, and bliss (sukha( is the actual experiencing of it when got. Where there is happiness (pīti) there is bliss (pleasure) (sukha); but where there is bliss (sukha) there is not necessarily happiness (pīti). Happiness is included in the formations aggregate; bliss is included in the feeling aggregate. If a man exhausted in a desert saw or heard about a pond on the edge of a wood, he would have happiness; if he went into the wood's shade and used the water, he would have bliss....
As the meditator experiences tranquillity (Samatha), one of five kinds of joy (piti) will arise. These are:
- Weak rapture only causes piloerection.
- Short rapture evocates some thunder "from time to time".
- Going down rapture explodes inside the body, like waves.
- Exalting rapture "makes the body jump to the sky".
- Fulfilling rapture seems to be a huge flood of a mountain stream.
Note only the last two are considered specifically piti. The first four are just a preparation for the last one, which is the jhanic factor.