Wednesday, July 8, 2015

What is the "water" element in Buddhism?

Ven. Nyanatiloka Thera (Buddhist Dictionary) edited by Dhr. Seven, Wisdom Quarterly
It should be noted that in Buddhist psychology as in Buddhist physics, the process-of-consciousess is spoken of in terms of ultimate units called cittas or "mind moments," whereas materiality is also a composite, aggregation, or heap of kalapas (particles).

It is not possible to touch fluidity (apo).
The "elements" (dhātu) are the ultimate constituents of a whole.
(1) The Four Elements (dhātu or mahā-bhūta) are popularly referred to as:
  1. earth (pathavī-dhātu)
  2. water (āpo-dhātu)
  3. fire (tejo-dhātu)
  4. air (vāyo-dhātu)
They are to be understood as CHARACTERISTICS or qualities of matter or corporealtiy not as independent objects. They can be directly known for oneself through insight meditation (vipassana) founded on the first four meditative absorptions (jhana).

They are classified and explained in detail in terms of Buddhist physics (just as consciousness is broken down and explained in Buddhist psychology) in The Higher Teachings (Abhidharma).
    SEE INSIDE: Four Elements instruction manual
  • NOTE: Much like Western physics, these facts about the true nature of reality are not for debating or pondering, which is a low and foolish use of preliminary knowledge. They are for DIRECT EXPERIENCE and personal verification. This is possible in meditation as explained by Ven. Pa Auk Sayadaw in Four Elements Meditation ( To argue about this Dharma, the Buddha's vision of ultimate reality, and use it for debate instead of realization and liberation is like a drunk using a lamp post for leaning on rather than illumination.
In The Path of Purification (Vis.M. XI, 2) the Four Elements are defined as characteristics of ultimate matieriality: "Whatever is characterized:
  • by hardness (thaddha-lakkkhana) is called the earth or solid-element;
  • by cohesion (ābandhana) or fluidity, the water-element;
  • by temperature or heating (paripācana), the fire or heat-element;
  • by supporting or strengthening (vitthambhana), the air, wind, or motion-element.

Four Elements Meditation gives one a realization of what "water" (apo) really is as an inherent property or characteristic, such as cohesion, of ultimate materiality. There are three other "elements" (properties).
All four are present in every material object, though in varying degrees. If, for instance, the earth element is dominant, the material object is called a "solid," if the fluid element, "water," and so on. For the analysis of the Four Elements, see dhātu-vavatthāna.
(II) The 18 physical and mental elements (ayatanas) that constitute the conditions or foundations of the process of perception are:
  1. visual organ (eye)
  2. auditory organ (ear)
  3. olfactory organ (nose)
  4. gustatory organ (tongue)
  5. tactile organ (body)
  6. visible object (sight)
  7. sound or audible object
  8. fragrance or odor or olfactory object
  9. savor or taste or gustatory object
  10. body-impression (tactile sensation, pressure)
  11. eye-consciousness
  12. ear-consciousness
  13. nose-consciousness
  14. tongue-consciousness
  15. body-consciousness
  16. mind-element
  17. mind-object (mano-dhātu) (dhamma-dhātu)
  18. mind-consciousness-element (mano-viññāna-dhātu
What are the four ultimate qualities of materiality? Earth, fire, water, air.
One through ten are physical; 11-16 and 18 are mental; 17 may be either physical or mental. 
Sixteen performs the function of advertence (āvajjana) or "turning toward" the object at the inception of a process of sensual consciousness; it further performs the function of receiving (sampaticchana) the sensual object. 

Eighteen performs for example the function of investigation (santīrana), determining (votthapana), and registering (tadārammana). For its other functions, see Table I). 
For the 14 functions of consciousness, see viññāna-kicca. Compare at M. 115; S. XIV and especially Vibh. II (Guide Through the Abhidhamma Pitaka by Ven. Nyanatiloka, 3rd ed., 1971,, p. 28f), and The Path of Purification (Vis.M. XV, 17ff).

Of the many further groupings of elements (enumerated in M.115), the best known is that of the three world-elements or spheres of existence (containing 31 Planes of Existence and countless worlds):
  • the sensuous world (kāma-dhātu),
  • the fine-material world (rūpa-dhātu),
  • the immaterial world (arūpa-dhātu);
A further the six-fold group is defined as:
  • solid (pathavī)
  • liquid (āpo)
  • heat (tejo)
  • motion (vāyo)
  • space (ākāsa) [that demarcates solid bodies]
  • consciousness (viññāna, see above I), described in M.140; see also M.112.

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