Sandha is encouraged not to pracice jhana with worldly objectives. He is then instructed as to how to practice such that his jhana is not dependent on earth, etc. (as in #7) and yet he does have jhana. In this sutta such independent objects of jhana are made 'un-being' (vibhuta) (not existent in the sense of not being identified with the existence of an individual).
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From the Olds Translation Introduction
This translation is obviously an experiment in an effort to find a word which fits the ancient understanding of the term jhāna. A higher order 'knowing' than our 'knowing'. 'Gnosis' fits well, both etymologically and in the sense that it is a knowing of a higher sort. It has the disadvantage of being long out of popular use. Bhk. Bodhi has opted for the popular understanding by using 'meditation'. The problem with that is that jhāna is not just the act of pondering in mind, but is also the state of seeing things without the interference of inferential thinking ... without, even, in one sense, mind itself.
This is not just 'perceiving, perceiving, perceiving' when it comes to fodder. It is because the mind of the ill-bred horse is occupied with the delights of his fodder, that he does not see that the food he is given comes with strings attached. The well-bred horse sees the whole situation as it is.
The second thing about this sutta, and it is the most important thing, is the explanation made by the Buddha of how it can be that the well-trained practitioner of jhāna can, in perceiving things, not have things as the object of his perception, and yet there is still perceiving.
To understand this, it is necessary to understand the nature of existence as it is dealt with in the Pali (see DN 15 §22). It must be understood that there is, in the Pali, consciousness, perception and experience that is not identified with, is not 'consciousness in contact with named form', and is therefor not considered to exist and that for a thing to be considered as existing it must be 'consciousness in contact with named form' or stated another way, 'identified-with consciousness', 'experience' versus 'sense-experience' and 'perception' versus 'sense-perception'. It is only then that we can see that what is being said here in this sutta is: "It is because he has destroyed his identified-with conscious perception and experience through the senses of earth, that there is, without earth as its direct object, perception of earth." There is experience of extra-sensory perception of earth without the idea 'I am perceiving earth.' This perception, consciousness, experience is free. It has freedom from identified-with perception, identified-with consciousness and sense-experience of existence as its object. That is its food. And not existing, not having become, not having a changeable thing as its object, it is not subject to change and ending.
I am not unaware that this could/should be taken as a bombshell by just about every Buddhist school and scholar out there. So be it. It comes down to seeing what is in front of our eyes. It amounts to seeing the insanity of the position that there being no self this thing just comes to an end and yet is somehow to be considered salvation. How people can maintain this position and deny that they are annihilationists is beyond me.
Once finally understood, this idea of an extra-existent-consciousness, (or what now could really be called an extra-sensory experience) is to be found all over the suttas. There is use of each of the terms 'saññā', 'vedāna', and 'viṇṇṇāṇa' for the arahant and/or Nibbāna.
The difference between the position I am putting forth here and that of Bhk. Thanissaro is that the way he puts it, this extra-existent-consciousness is an on-going thing that is to be reached, in other words identical to the Bhodi mind. I am suggesting, and it should be clear from this sutta that it is the case, that this extra-existent state is conditioned (paccaya, nidana; not saŋkhara, own-made) by following the Magga; that it arises fresh as a separate instance as the result of not doing mistaken views, mistaken principles, mistaken speech, mistaken works, mistaken lifestyle, mistaken self-control, mistaken mind, mistaken serenity, mistaken vision, and mistaken detachment. Because it is not a matter of 'doing' but a matter of 'not-doing' it has not been 'own-made' and because of that it has no object other than freedom from having an object, and because of that detachment from the changeable and ending, does not itself come to an end.
MN 38 and especially Bhk. Thanissaro's translation of this sutta, footnote 1
MN 49 and again Bhk. Thanissaro's translation, footnote 9.
DN 15 Olds §22
AN 11.7 and following suttas.
Is Nibbāna Conditioned, essay in the Forum