What is written in this text by the Ledi Sayadaw might almost read like a fairy tale, something far away from what is held to be possible and true in our present society.
Yet what is told here is true and most definitely is part of the possibilities of the human mind. But it doesn’t just come to you, you have to work hard for it. Every day.
If you, as a human being, would like to enter the path the Ledi Sayadaw describes then there are firm conditions attached to it, which have to be constantly developed.
Just to name a few: you will need unshakable faith in the Buddha and his teaching, your body and mind must be healthy, your morality must be self-evident, you must consider the development of your mind the primary focus of your life and constantly engage in the practice of meditation, calming and strengthening your mind to the point that you can observe the arising and passing away of mental and physical phenomena based on your own experience.
We encourage all readers to try, every day, to reach this goal. Practice with patience and you too will develop your mind to a point you might not even consider possible at the moment.
With that said, we hope this text will bring you lots of inspiration and motivation on your journey. Good luck.
– buddho.org Editors
Table of Contents
- Preface to the Manual of the Path to Higher Knowledge
- Editor’s Foreword to the Manual of the Path to Higher Knowledge
- Vijjāmagga Dīpanī: Manual of the Path to Higher Knowledge
- Five Kinds of Higher Knowledge
- The Auspicious Period of the Sāsana
- Who Can Attain Higher Knowledge
- The Matrix
- First Item of the Matrix
- The Four Great Primaries
- Genuine Earth Element in the Ultimate Sense
- The Potency of the Earth Element
- Evidence Supported by Characteristics
- Characterics of Hardness in Light, etc.
- Genuine Water Element in the Ultimate Sense
- Comprehending the Fire Element
- The Wind Element in the Ultimate Sense
- Interdependence Between Each of the Four Great Primaries
- Beyond the Range of Speculative Thinking
- Second Item of the Matrix
- The Six Mirror-Like Elements
- Two Kinds of Door
- The Space Door
- Simultaneity in the Occurrence of Events
- Contemplation of Impact on the Eye and Mind Bases
- Contemplation of Impact on the Ear and Mind Bases
- Contemplation of Impact on the Other Bases
- Contemplation of Impact on the Sensitive Body Organ
- The Mirror-Like Element of the Mind-Base
- Third Item of the Matrix
- Fourth Item of the Matrix
- Fifth Item of the Matrix
- The Process of Primary Origination
- The Consuming Nature of the Fire Element
- The Difficulty in Maintaining the Body-Mind Process
- The Principle of Changed Origination
- The Similes of the Snake Venom and the Gunpowder-Packed Rocket
- Fear and Worries due to Change
- The Simile of the Lump of Wax
- The Higher Knowledge of the Truth of Impermanence
- Sixth Item of the Matrix
- Seventh Item of the Matrix
- Eight Item of the Matrix
- Ninth Item of the Matrix
- Tenth Item of the Matrix
- A Short Biography of Ledi Sayadaw
Preface to the Manual of the Path to Higher Knowledge
There are nuances of meaning of Pāli words according to the context in which they are found. Thus the word nāma may mean either a “name,”” or a “mental phenomenon,”” and the word rūpa may mean either a visual-object, or a “physical phenomenon.” Much havoc was wrought when some Western Pāli scholars rendered into English the Pāli term, nāma-rūpa as “name and form,”1 instead of “mind and matter.” This grievous error persists in many later translations that are “descendants” of the aforesaid pioneering ones of the nineteenth century. Aside from the nuances of meaning such as those described above, every Pāli word used in Buddhism has two characters, i.e., the character shown in relative or conventional truth (sammutisacca) and the one shown in absolute truth or ultimate reality (paramattha-sacca).
Experienced writers are well aware of the difficulties they are up against, and of the failure of their predecessors, to convey Buddhist ideas through the medium of a language that has no exact equivalent for the words required by Buddhist philosophy. This perhaps accounts for the fact that there are scores of translations of famous Buddhist texts such as the Maṅgala Sutta and the Dhammapada and no two of them are exactly alike in the choice of words, aptness of expression, style, or rhythm.
Now, being alive to these dangers, Dr. Edward Conze, a scholar of Pāli , Sanskrit and Tibetan languages, has prefaced his book Buddhist Texts Through the Ages (Oxford 1954), with the remarks that ““the English equivalent adopted here can be considered as a makeshift only.” It is he says, ““impossible to find one English term that contains and can convey the whole wealth of meaning of a term like “moha.” Such difficulties, he admits, “are inherent in any translations.”
To minimize such difficulties and to obviate the necessity of referring the reader to a glossary of technical terms provided at the end of the book, or to footnotes at the end of each page with the aid of asterisk marks, I have provided the original Pāli terms in italics immediately after its English equivalent. In this work, no Pāli term (except Buddha, Nibbāna, and Sāsana) has been left untranslated and it is hoped that the reader will approve of this method. An index has been provided as an appendix, which may also serve as a glossary of technical terms.
Every attempt has been made to render as true a translation as possible. I have paid special attention to the differences in the construction of sentences between English and Burmese, and, as another translator puts it, to the Venerable Sayādaw’s penchant for using extremely long sentences. Many of the sub-headings and sub-titles are not in the original text, neither are the amplified versions such as the eight Attainments (samāpatti), the ten stages of insight-knowledge (vipassanā–ñāṇa), and the fire of decay (jarā) and death (maraṇa). They have been introduced here to assist the English reader.
– U Pu, Burma
Editor’s Foreword to the Manual of the Path to Higher Knowledge
I considered it a great privilege that when I first met U Pu in Rangoon, in 1981–82, at the home of my then host and hostess U Tha Win and Daw Khin Ma Ma, that he so kindly and readily undertook to translate into English Ledi Sayādaw’s Vijjāmagga Dīpanī (A Manual of the Path to Higher Knowledge), after the work was suggested to him.
When I again met U Pu on a return visit to Burma at the end of 1984, he was in a very poor state of health, and it was with very much regret that after my return to England in early 1985 I learnt that he had died sometime towards the end of 1985 or early 1986. Due to his poor state of health prior to his death, I had been unable to consult him on several matters that might have been further clarified.
My sincere thanks, however, are due to the Venerable Sayādaw U Ñāṇika for his helpful suggestions and comments on several of the points concerned that I discussed with him.
U Pu’s request that I should attempt to polish and refine the English of his translation, wherever I thought necessary, took much longer than I had originally envisaged. No doubt there is still room for much improvement, but this will now have to await the outcome of a revised edition or perhaps an entirely new edition at some future date.
– S. S. Davidson, Southsea, 1996
Vijjāmagga Dīpanī: Manual of the Path to Higher Knowledge
Namo Tassa Bhagavato Arahato Sammā Sambuddhassa
Veneration to the Exalted One, the Worthy One, the Supremely Enlightened One
Five Kinds of Higher Knowledge
Higher knowledge is of five kinds:
- Mastery in the Brahmanical lore (veda-vijjā)
- Mastery in the art of incantations and spells (manta-vijjā)
- Mastery in executing various feats of supranormal character (gandhārī-vijjā)
- Mastery in mundane psychic powers (lokiya-vijjā)
- Mastery in supramundane knowledge of the Four NobleTruths (ariya-vijjā)
(1) Mastery in the Brahmanical lore means being endowed with the knowledge of the four Vedas, namely:
- Knowledge of the sacred Brahmanical songs, devotion, worship, and propitiation (Sāma-veda)
- Knowledge of the sacrificial formula (Yaju-veda)
- Knowledge of the mystic and occult powers (Iru-veda)
- Knowledge of the Code of Magic, marvels and miracles, etc. (Athabbaṇa-veda)
(2) Mastery in the art of incantations and spells means, being endowed with the knowledge of the following arts and sciences:
- Palmistry or chiromancy
- Divining by means of omens and signs
- Predicting events by watching the movement of heavenly bodies
- Charms, incantations and spells
- Medical practice and pharmacology
- Determining nutritional and other values
- All other knowledge and faculties developed in the present-day world
The two higher knowledges, described above, are referred to in the “Knowledge” chapter of the Book of Analysis (Ñāṇavibhaṅga) of the Higher Doctrine (Abhidhamma).
(3) Mastery in executing various feats of supranormal character means being endowed with the following knowledge and powers:
- making riches (dhana-siddhi)
- diving into the earth and rising again just as if in the water (paṭhavī-siddhi)
- walking on water without sinking just as if on earth (udaka-siddhi)
- floating through the air cross-legged just as a winged bird (ākāsa-siddhi)
- extending life beyond the normal life-span (āyu-siddhi)
- exercising supranormal powers of will (cintāmaya-siddhi)
These higher knowledges (vijjā) and powers (siddhi) are mentioned in ancient books dealing with sorcerers (vijjādhara), who are of the following kinds:
- The sorcerer with the higher knowledge of medicine
- The sorcerer with the higher knowledge of diagrams and numerology
- The sorcerer with the higher knowledge of the metallurgic art of transmuting mercury into the philosopher’s stone” or “elixir”
- The sorcerer with the higher knowledge of the metallurgic art of transmuting base iron into gold or other precious metals
These occult powers correspond to the supranormal powers of celestial beings and also to the higher spiritual powers (abhiññā). In the Pāli text, The Path of Discrimination (Paṭisambhidāmagga), the following passage is found:
Of these ten kinds of psychic power, what is the psychic power called “supranormal powers of will” (cintāmayaiddhi)? By the term “supranormal powers of will” is meant the phenomena which the sorcerer by reciting spells can make manifest in the illimitable space of the sky, such as a troop of war-elephants rumbling past, a troop of mounted cavalry galloping by, a troop of war-charioteers rolling away and a troop of armed soldiers marching along. The sorcerer can also create and exhibit in the illimitable space of the sky, the massing of a variety of armed troopers or of a whole army. This, indeed, is what is meant by the term “supranormal powers of the will.”
(This simile in the Pāli texts concerning the term, cintāmayaiddhi, applies with equal force to other kinds of psychic powers such as mastery in the art of extending life beyond the normal lifespan (āyu-siddhi, of floating through the air cross-legged like a bird (ākāsa-siddhi) of walking on water without sinking just as if on earth (udaka-siddhi) of diving into the earth and rising again just as if in water (paṭhavī-siddhi), and so on.)
In modern times, an aspirant to sorcererhood with mastery in supranormal feats (gandhārī-vijjā) should infuse himself always with the sublime virtues of the Three Priceless Jewels, namely, (1) the Enlightened One (2) the Law of Deliverance discovered, realized and proclaimed by him and (3) the Community of Holy Disciples and those who live in accordance with the Law. They should seek the goodwill and affection of such powerful deities as:
- Forest deities
- Hill deities
- Tree deities (rukkhattha-devatā)
- Earth deities (bhūmattha-devatā)
- Mountain deities (pabbattha-devatā)
- Deities in charge of charms, spells, magical diagrams, andnumerology (vijjā-devatā)
- Deities in charge of medicinal herbs, stones, and gemswith healing powers (osadhi-devatā)
A sorcerer with mastery of supranormal feats excels even the supranormal faculties of deities arising from the results of their past meritorious deeds (kamma-vipākajā iddhi). This is liable to arouse jealousies that may endanger life or the efficacy of medicinal herbs.
(4) Mastery in mundane psychic powers means the powers attained by such hermits (isis, rishis) as Sarabhaṅga, Sunettha, and Araka, outside the period of a Buddha’s Sāsana after a mastery of mental absorptions through the utmost perfection in the practice of the kasiṇa concentration exercises. These psychic powers are the following magical powers (iddhi-vidhā-abhiññā):
- The divine eye (dibba-cakkhu)
- The divine ear (dibba-sota)
- Penetration of the minds of others (cetopariya)
- Remembrance of manifold former existences (pubbe-nivāsa)
- Knowledge of specific retribution (yathā-kamm’upaga)
- Knowledge of future events (or prevision) (anāgataabhiññā)
(The stories of sorcerers who exercised these psychic powers are made prominent in many Birth Stories (jātaka) and Collected Discourses (nipāta).)
The exercise of these mundane psychic powers (lokiyaabhiññā-vijjā) is also associated with the Self-Enlightened Buddhas (sammā-sambuddha), the Silent Buddhas (pacceka-buddha), and the Noble Disciples (ariya-sāvaka). These psychic powers are embraced within the threefold higher knowledge (te-vijjā) and also within the eightfold higher knowledge attainable by the Self-Enlightened Buddhas, the Silent Buddhas, and the Noble Disciples:
- Insight-knowledge (vipassanā-ñāṇa)
- Knowledge pertaining to supranormal powers of will (cintāmaya-siddhi)
- Knowledge pertaining to psychic powers (abhiññā)
- Knowledge pertaining to the divine ear (dibba-sota)
- Knowledge pertaining to penetration of the minds of others (ceto-pariya-ñāṇa)
- Knowledge pertaining to remembrance of former existences (pubbe-nivāsa-ñāṇa)
- Knowledge pertaining to vanishing and reappearing ofbeings (dibba-cakkhu)
- Knowledge pertaining to extinction of all taints (āsavakkhaya-ñāṇa)
(5) Mastery in supramundane knowledge of the Four Noble Truths means being endowed with the:
- Higher knowledge of the truth of impermanence (aniccavijjā)
- Higher knowledge of the truth of suffering (dukkha-vijjā)
- Higher knowledge of the truth of impersonality and conditionality (anatta-vijjā)
- Higher knowledge of the truth of the path leading to the extinction of suffering (magga-vijjā)
- Higher knowledge of fruition of “path-result” (phala-vijjā)
They can also be called “higher knowledge of the Four Noble Truths.”
This “higher knowledge of the Four Noble Truths” can be attained only during the period of the Buddha’s Sāsana. Outside that period, i.e., during the “dark ages,” no one among human beings, deities or the celestial beings of the Brahma world, except the Silent Buddhas (pacceka-buddha), are able to make a successful attempt at gaining this higher knowledge.
The Auspicious Period of the Sāsana
Gotama Buddha’s Sāsana, which has been prophesied to last for five thousand years, is an auspicious period during which a successful attempt can be made to win the higher knowledge of the Noble Ones, i.e., the higher knowledge of the Four Noble Truths (ariya-vijjā).
Only a person who has made a successful attempt and won this higher knowledge can be deemed to be one who has had the supreme good fortune to come across and pay homage to a Buddha or one who has had the supreme good luck to have encountered a Buddha’s Sāsana in the course of eternity.
In the Itivuttaka the Buddha declared:
“Monks, even if a monk should take hold of the edge of my outer cloak and should walk close behind me, step-for-step, yet if he is ignorant of the Doctrine of the Four Noble Truths, then he is far from me, and I am far from him. But, monks, if a monk should be staying even a hundred yojanas (each yojana is about seven miles distant) away, yet if he comprehends the Doctrine of the Four Noble Truths, then he is near me and I am near him. Why is this? Monks, that monk sees the Doctrine (Dhamma) seeing the Doctrine, he sees me.” (It 92)
From this discourse it may be inferred that one who has not come across nor seen the Enlightened One (Buddha), nor the Law (Dhamma) discovered and proclaimed by him, that person cannot be deemed to have come across and seen the Community of Holy Disciples (Saṅgha).
Who Can Attain Higher Knowledge
What type of person can make a successful attempt and win the higher knowledge of the noble ones during the period of the present Buddha Sāsana?
The Buddha has declared that a person who is endowed with the following attributes can make a successful attempt and win the higher knowledge of the Noble Ones:
- Having absolute confidence in the Enlightened One
- Being strong and healthy in both wind and limb of the body
- Having a generous and straight forward nature
- Being endowed with a keen and steadfast energy and
- Being possessed of knowledge with the power of penetration into the process of arising and dissolution of the mental and physical phenomena of the five aggregates (khandha)
This declaration is recorded in such scriptures as the Aṅguttara Nikāya (AN 5:135) and others.
The discourse explaining the above statement is as follows:
The First Attribute
Saddho hoti saddahati tathāgatassa bodhiṃ.
“One who is endowed with a deep sense of confidence. One who has absolute confidence in the wisdom and omniscience of the Buddha.”
Here ends the description of the first attribute.
The Second Attribute
Appābādho hoti appātaṅko samavepākiniyā gahaṇiyā samannāgato nātisītāya nāccuṇhāya majjhimāya padhānakkhamāya.
“One who is free from ailments. One who is free from diseases. One who is endowed with such digestive (gastric) heat that is neither too hot nor too cold, but has the capacity of dissolving uniformly any morsel of food, thus enabling one to practice meditation with zest and vigor either for mental tranquility or insight.”
In the present age of moral and spiritual decline (vipattikāla), endowment with this second quality is extremely rare.
The combustion of the digestive (gastric) fire in a normal human being of the present times is just like the combustion of a straw-fire, hay-fire, or dried-leaf fire. These fires leap up into flames with great ferocity as soon as igniting conditions become favorable. They set ablaze all inflammable objects in the neighborhood in a short space of time. But these fires are evanescent things (having none of the determination of wood or charcoal combustion). When conditions favorable for their dying-out arise, such fires die out abruptly and completely. Continuing with the same analogy, the digestive (gastric) fires of people today are prone to flare up abruptly and die out abruptly. They are thus prone to fall sick easily, to get old and infirm easily, or to die easily. People nowadays also have to reckon with the conditions peculiar to the locality in which they have to reside, the food they eat, the water they drink, the rigors of weather or climate they have to brave, and the degree of effort they have to make to protect themselves from those dangers. Because of the malfunctioning of the digestive or gastric fire, the physical body looks gloomy and lacking in energy and due to the gloomy and lethargic state of the physical body, the mental and intellectual faculties become dull and sluggish. The turbulence in quickly igniting and quickly dying-out of straw-fires, hay-fires, and dried leaf-fires, as described in the above example, is due to the fact that these inflammable materials are without a core or substance.
In the case of a person who is endowed with a system of well balanced digestive (gastric) fires, as explained in the canonical texts referred to above, there is no particular need to make a choice between one locality and another between one kind of food and another or between one climatic condition or another, be it of water, wind, earth or any other condition. There can be no turbulence of any strength or weakness of digestive (gastric) fires enough to produce the slightest indisposition or any other kind of illness. And so this element of digestive fire maintains at all times a state of equilibrium in guarding and protecting the physical body, which is thereby always kept bright and alert. In former ages of moral and spiritual ascendancy (kāla-sampatti), even animals of the lower world were endowed with such well-balanced digestive (gastric) fires. In the present age of moral and spiritual decadence, however, only men who are exceptionally gifted (purisa-visesa) and who are supported by a strong force of good kamma from the past are entitled to be endowed with this kind of digestive fire. People of the present age who are not supported in this way by a strong force of good kamma from the past cannot hope for such a blessing as this. They can, however, improve their lot by resorting to elixirs, tonics, or medicines of high efficacy.
The following has been declared in Nettipakaraṇa (Nett 23):
Sakkateva jarāya paṭikammaṃ kātuṃ.
“It is, indeed, possible to arrest the natural process of ageing and decay of the physical body.”
This passage in the Pāli text, which suggests the possibility of arresting the natural process of ageing and decay, bears with it the implication that it is also possible to prevent sickness or disease. The great Sub-Commentary to The Path of Purification (Visuddhimaggamahāṭīkā) says:
Rasāyana bhesajjaṃ pana suciraṃ pi kālaṃ jīvitaṃ pavattetuṃ sakkoti yeva.
“There is a sovereign remedy for disease called rasāyana, which possesses the power and efficacy to prolong life beyond the normal span of only a hundred years to more than five hundred or a thousand years.”
The significance of the term rasāyana is comprehensively explained as follows:
Rasā āyanti vaḍḍhanti etenāti rasāyanaṃ.
Meaning: “It is called the powerful tonic or `elixir’ because the blood cells and molecules that draw sustenance from it become charged with nutritive values enduring for more than thousands or tens of thousands of days, months, or years and are kept in this developed state in perpetuity.” It means, also, that even though a person is supported by a weak force of good kamma accumulated in the past, he can still manage to prolong his life to more than a thousand or ten thousand years in an era or age in which the normal life-span is a hundred years. This can only be done by means of outstanding ingenuity and relentless effort in order to produce this kind of elixir with which to transform the features of his physical body.
For the purpose of prolonging one’s life, one would also have to take a regular dose of the longevity-promoting medicine prescribed by the Exalted Buddha as follows:
Abhivādanasīlissa niccaṃ vaḍḍhāpacāyino cattāro dhammā vaḍḍhanti āyu vaṇṇo sukhaṃ balaṃ.
To him who habitually pays homage and respect to those who are his superiors in age and virtue, these blessings increase, namely: longevity, beauty, happiness, and strength.
Some preachers hold the view that a preoccupation with prolonging life is tantamount to craving, which entails clinging to the mind-body complex (khandhā). This, such preachers contend, is contrary to the teaching of the Buddha, which says: “Indulgence should not be given to life and to the mind-body complex (khandha).” In pursuance of such contentions they practiced severe austerities or self-mortification by denying themselves food, clothing, or shelter from the ravages of weather such as sun, wind, rain, frost, etc. Such practices afford only a temporary means of dispelling such clinging (upādāna) and not a means of overcoming forever the fetter of clinging (upādāna-saṃyojana). They are just like the effort made during the current year in cutting down trees and clearing a plot of land of weeds and jungle bush. This effort, however, helps to promote a new and luxuriant growth of trees and jungle-bushes on the same plot next year. Such austerity practices that we have mentioned above would, therefore, be helping in much the same way to promote a new and luxuriant growth of the fetter of clingingin the next existence.
The best way of overcoming forever this fetter of clinging is, metaphorically speaking, to use a hewing-axe whose edge is as sharp as that of a razor-blade. This hewing-axe is called “insight-knowledge” (vipassanā-ñāṇa) with which one should dig up and chop away the elements of one’s mind-body complex whether belonging to the present and to the future, till they are all, as it were, broken up into pieces and crushed up into the finest dust or powder. Being strong and healthy is one of the factors for a successful hewing-up and chopping-away of the fetter of clinging to the mind-body complex. This constitutes the second attribute for winning the higher knowledge of the Noble Ones. Therefore, anyone who makes the effort to attain the higher knowledge of the Noble Ones should strive hard to fulfil this requirement to be healthy and strong until one reaches the goal of one’s endeavors.
Here ends the description of the second attribute.
The Third Attribute
With regard to the third attribute, the Buddha has made the following declaration in the Aṅguttara Nikāya:
Asaṭho hoti amāyāvī yathābhūtaṃ attānaṃ āvikattā satthari vā viññūsu vā sabrahmacārīsu.
Meaning: “He is not sly or cunning. He is forthright and candid in dealing either with me (the Buddha) or his fellow disciples who are his superiors in wisdom.” In the wider sense, it means that an aspirant to the higher knowledge of the Noble Ones should make manifest, without reserve or concealment, all those behaviors, plans, thoughts, ideas, and mental tendencies that are discreditable. He should also be open, without reserve or concealment, possessing all those behaviors, plans, thoughts, ideas, and mental tendencies that are admirable. He should not, in the very least, be sly and cunning by:
- Pretending to know what he does not actually know
- Pretending to have seen what he has not actually seen
- Pretending to know more while he actually knows less
- Pretending to be sharp-witted while he is actually dullwitted
All that is herein meant is that he must have a heart that is honest, upright, and pure.
Here ends the description of the third attribute.
The Fourth Attribute
With regard to the fourth attribute, the Buddha has declared as follows:
Āraddhaviriyo viharati akusalānaṃ dhammānaṃ pahānāya kusalānaṃ dhammānaṃ upasampadāya thāmavā dalhaparakkamo anikkhittadhuro kusalesu dhammesu.
Meaning: “He dwells always devoting his energy to dispelling evil and unwholesome characteristics and developing pure and wholesome characteristics. He is possessed of vigor and makes strong effort. He never relinquishes his responsibility to uphold the four kinds of virtue or wholesome characteristics.’
He is endowed with such extraordinary keenness of mind, body, and energy as would enable him to (1) dispel forever almost overnight, in this very life-time, all unwholesome characteristics such as ignorance of the Four Noble Truths (avijjā) and craving (taṇhā), and (2) acquire and attain the wholesome characteristics that would lead him to (a) rebirth in blissful sensuous planes (kāma-kusala) (b) rebirth in fine-material spheres (mahaggata-kusala) and (c) attain the Supermundane Path and Fruition (lokuttarakusala).
A person who, due to a snake bite and the spread of snake venom all over his body, has fallen into a swoon and deep coma that puts a stop to all the faculties of seeing and breathing, cannot be regarded to have passed the danger, or to being completely saved:
- When he starts to breathe falteringly again as the first reaction to antivenom treatment administered to him
- When next he rolls feebly from side to side
- When next he recovers his eyesight
- When next the snake venom recedes from the head down tot he mid-regions
- When next the snake venom recedes from the mid-section of the body to the lower regions
- When next the snake venom recedes from the knees down to the lower limbs.
He can only be deemed to have passed the danger, or to have become completely safe, when the snake venom has been completely emitted out of the opening caused by the original snake bite.
Just as the victim of snake bite in the above simile cannot be regarded as having passed the danger, or as completely safe, from the mere fact that he has recovered his breathing faculty, the first reaction to anti-venom treatment administered to him, even so, a person who, as a layman, is overwhelmed with the venom of sensual delights (kāma-guṇa) and the venom of hindrances (nīvaraṇa), cannot yet be regarded as safe by the mere fact that he is established in the purity of morality (sīla-visuddhi). Nor can he yet be regarded as safe just because, by renouncing the world and becoming a hermit or monk, he has practiced austerities and established himself in the thirteen ascetic means of purification (dhutaṅga). He would be just like the aforesaid victim of snake-bite who is at the stage of rolling feebly from side to side.
When such a person becomes firmly established in morality and austerity practices, he approaches respectfully and waits upon a competent teacher of insight-practice (vipassanā) from whom he takes practical lessons as a devout pupil. This he does by going to a place of solitude and quietude and assiduously applying himself to the practice of insight meditation. By means of sustained and arduous practice, he would realize, with clear comprehension, all groups of physical and mental phenomena and the process of their arising and passing away in his mind-body complex (khandhā). At this stage he resembles the victim of snake bite who has recovered from the state of delirium and regained his eyesight. The mere regaining of eyesight should not be regarded as having recovered from the lethal effect of the snake venom. In the present age, there are quite a number of people resorting to jungle fastnesses and solitude in both Upper and Lower Burma and who are entering upon insight-practice in real earnest. They have not even reached the stage similar to that of regaining eyesight by the snake-bitten person. When the insight-knowledge (vipassanā-ñāṇa) becomes highly developed and the stage of a Stream-Winner (sotāpanna) is reached, the insight-trainee (yogī) resembles the victim of the snake bite in whom the snake venom has receded from the head.
When one reaches the stage of a once-returner (sakadāgāmī), one resembles the victim of the snake bite in whom the lethal effect of the snake venom had receded from the mid-section of the body downward.
When one reaches the stage of a non-returner (anāgāmī), one resembles the victim of the snake bite in whom the lethal effect of the snake bite has disappeared from above the knees.
When one reaches the stage of Arahantship (arahatta), one resembles the victim of the snake bite from whom the whole mass of snake venom has been totally emitted from the whole system of the body through the opening caused by the original snake bite, leaving such a victim completely cured of all kinds of diseases and ailments due to the lethal effect of the snake bite.
So, until such a stage of complete recovery and cure from the lethal effect of snake venom and all its consequent diseases and ailments is reached, it is appropriate for the victim of a snake bite to ignore all pressing problems other than the vital problem of curing the lethal effect of snake venom. His worries, his anxieties, and his energies should be devoted day and night to none other than curing the lethal effects of snake bite.
In like manner, people who are overwhelmed with the deadly venom known as the fifteen hundred defilements (kilesā) that bind them to the sphere of death should never rest but make unrelenting effort. They should continue doing so until they are completely purged of such deadly defilements through the attainment of the Path (magga) and Fruition (phala), even though they may have already reached and acquired the eight attainments (samāpatti)2 and the ten stages of insight-knowledge (vipassanā-ñāṇa).3
Such people should consider themselves as being endowed with supreme good fortune in finding in this present lifetime a super physician in the person of the Buddha and the wonder remedies and sovereign medicines prescribed by him in the form of insightwisdom (vipassanā-paññā) and path-wisdom (maggapaññā).
Here ends the description of the fourth attribute.
The Fifth Attribute
Paññavā hoti udayatthagāminiyā paññāya samannāgato ariyāya nibbedhikāya sammā dukkhakkhaya-gāminiyā.
A wise man is he who is endowed with such outstanding insight with power, which is:
- Capable of overtaking, or catching up with the uninterrupted process of arising and dissolution (at a tremendously high rate of frequency of about a thousand million cycles in a split second) of the physical and mental phenomena of one’s own person or the person of others
- Too noble and sacred to be attributed to just ordinary human beings or deities
- Capable of destroying the erroneous view of the compactness of physical and mental phenomena (mind-body complex) just as the thunder-bolt weapon (vajira) shatters and smashes into fragments and finest powder both the summit and the whole mass of a massive mountain
- Capable of guiding suffering sentient beings unerringly along a path that has no bends, curves, or impediments, straight to the summum bonum, which is the place where ends all recurring sorrows and sufferings (vaṭṭa-dukkha).
This fifth attribute is inherent only in an individual whose rebirth-consciousness is conditioned by the three noble-roots, i.e., non-greed, non-aversion, and non-delusion (ti-hetuka-puggala). The individuals who are born without root-conditions (ahetukapuggala) and those who are born with only two noble-rootconditions, i.e., non-greed and non-aversion (dvi-hetuka-puggala) cannot be endowed with this fifth attribute. The person who is endowed with this attribute knows definitely that he is a “three root-conditioned individual.”
As we said earlier, the Buddha has declared that a person who is endowed with these Attributes is capable of making a successful attempt and winning the higher knowledge of the Noble Ones in the present life-time.
Here ends the description of the fifth attribute.
The Attributes of Supreme Effort
The effort made with unflinching determination characterized by the following affirmations is called the supreme effort (padhāna):
- Gladly would I be reduced to bones
- Gladly would I be reduced to sinews
- Gladly would I be reduced to skin
- Let my body’s flesh and blood dry up if there came to be a vortex of energy so that I might win what has not yet been won by human strength, by human energy, by human striving. The person who makes this affirmation, which is followed by an effort that matches it, is designated as padhāniya.
These five qualities, which are worthily attributable to such a person, are called the five attributes of supreme effort (padhāniyaṅga).
Here ends the brief exposition on the five kinds of higher knowledge and the five attributes of a person who can win them.
Three Kinds of Higher Knowledge of Noble Ones
We propose now, for the benefit of insight-trainees who aspire to make a successful attempt at winning the higher knowledge of the Noble Ones (ariya-vijjā) from amongst the five kinds of higher knowledge, to describe briefly the method of attaining the following three branches of higher knowledge of the Noble Ones:
- Higher knowledge of the truth of impermanence (anicca-vijjā)
- Higher knowledge of the truth of suffering (dukkha-vijjā)
- Higher knowledge of the truth of impersonality and conditionality (anatta-vijjā)
- This physical body has as its fundamental basis the four great primaries (“ayaṃ kāyo cātum-mahābhūtiko”)
- Its whole interior is decorated with six kinds of clear and bright mirror-like elements (“ayaṃ kāyo chappasādamaṇḍo”)
- It is a product of ten kinds of thermal conditions or temperature (“ayaṃ kāyo utūnaṃ udayo”)
- It is perpetually supported by ten kinds of nutriment (“ayaṃ kāyo āhārehi thambhito”)
- It has the characteristics of origination in an uninterrupted process (“ayaṃ kāyo jātidhammo”)
- It has the characteristics of decaying momentarily in a process (“ayaṃ kāyo jarādhammo”)
- It has the characteristic of momentarily dying in a process (“ayaṃ kāyo maraṇadhammo”)
- It has no enduring quality (“ayaṃ kāyo anicco”)
- It is a sheer mass of suffering, unaccompanied by bliss (“ayaṃ kāyo dukkho”)
- It is void of a self (“ayaṃ kāyo anattā”)
This is the matrix (“iti ayaṃ mātikā”)
First Item of the Matrix
The Four Great Primaries
The four great primaries (mahābhūtā) referred to in the abovementioned matrix are: (1) earth element (paṭhavī-dhātu) (2) water element (āpo-dhātu) (3) fire element (tejo-dhātu) and (4) wind element (vāyo-dhātu). Of these four:
- The characteristic of hardness (kakkhala-bhāva), or of softness (mudu-bhāvo), is indeed the genuine earth element in the ultimate sense
- The characteristic of cohesiveness (ābandhana), or of liquidity (paggharaṇa) is indeed the genuine water element in the ultimate sense
- The characteristic of heat (uṇha-bhāva), or of coldness (sītabhāvo) is indeed the genuine fire element in the ultimate sense
- The characteristic of support or tension (vitthambhana), or of motion (samudīraṇa), is indeed the wind element in the ultimate sense
(These are aphorisms that should be thoroughly studied and learnt by heart.)
We shall now expound the four great primaries, i.e., the elements of earth, water, wind, and fire, in such a way that each of them may be comprehended with higher knowledge (vijjā-ñāṇa).
Genuine Earth Element in the Ultimate Sense
A genuine earth element in the ultimate sense (paramattha) means the mere characteristic, quality, or function (kiriyā) of hardness, which has neither a core, substance, nor mass of the size even of a hundred thousandth part of an atom. This quality of hardness in the ultimate sense is, however, present in all parts of things and objects including:
- The clear, transparent waters of rivers, streams, springs, fountains, water-holes, etc.
- Sun-rays, moon-beams, star-light, fire-light, or the bright radiance of a ruby
- The sound of bells or rotating brass gongs that floats near or afar
- The gentle breeze, the soft wind, the gale or storm and the fragrant or foul smells that pervade the air far or near.
The Potency of the Earth Element
As mentioned above, all things and objects such as water, light, sound, etc., are replete with the earth element. This finding is supported by the fact that
- The four great primaries are inseparable and are complementary to one another (avinibbhoga-vutti)
- The Buddha has declared:
“Ekaṃ mahā-bhūtaṃ paṭicca tayo mahā-bhūtā, tayo mahā-bhūte paṭicca ekaṃ mahā-bhūtaṃ, dve mahā-bhūte paṭicca dve mahā-bhūtā.“
“One great primary is the conditioning factor of the other three great primaries; the other three great primaries are the conditioning factors of one great primary; any two great primaries are the conditioning factors of the other two great primaries.” (Paṭṭhāna I § 53)
- The commentaries say: the earth element has the function ofreceiving, or supporting (sampaṭicchana-rasā) the water element, wind element, and fire element
- The characteristics of water, fire, and wind are such thatthey cannot come into existence without the earth element as their support
This is evidence supported by scriptural authority.
Evidence Supported by Characteristics
It is evident that in a mass of water or in a mass of wind, the lower layers, in succession, support the upper ones. This state of support is not the characteristic of the water element because cohesiveness is the only characteristic of the water element. This state of support is also not the characteristic of the fire element because heat or cold is the only characteristic of the fire element. This state of support, therefore, concerns the characteristics of the earth element and the wind element because this state is possible only by a combination of hardness with support or tension. Of these two, hardness is called the earth element in the ultimate sense, and support or tension is called the wind element in the ultimate sense. Again, of these two, support or tension, which is called the wind element, has to depend on hardness, which is called the earth element, without which the wind element, by itself, cannot exist. You should try to see the difference between the characteristic of hardness and that of support or tension. In this way you should understand with clear comprehension that the earth element, in the ultimate sense, is in both water and wind elements. This can be achieved by observing the characteristic of hardness (kakkhala-lakkhaṇa) in both wind and water in their respective strengths.
Characterics of Hardness in Light, etc.
Although the characteristics of hardness exist in light such as sun-rays, etc. in sounds, such as the sound of a bell, etc. and in smells, such as fragrant smells, these objects, according to their nature, are very weak in the characteristic of hardness, and as such, proof of its existence by characteristics alone is impossible. Evidence of its presence can be produced in the form of scriptural authority only. The examples of transparent water, wind, moon-beams, sounds, and smells are given here just to make the following clear:
- The mere quality or characteristic of hardness is the genuine earth element in the ultimate sense
- The genuine earth element has neither a core, substance nor mass with the size even of a hundred thousandth part of an atom
This earth element, which is without a core, substance, or mass, is merely a quality or characteristic of hardness. It is said to be hard if the strength of hardness is excessive, and soft if the strength of hardness is weak.
One should understand the gradual escalation of the degree of hardness or softness of this earth element, and the difference between hardness in the highest strength, as that of the diamond (vajira) at one extreme, and the hardness of the weakest strength as that of a component material unit of the moon-beam at the other extreme. The quality or characteristic of hardness in this earth element should be contemplated in terms of ultimate realities (paramattha-dhamma) and not in terms of common-sense perceptions. In the latter case, the element of hardness will not be detected in such rays of light as the moon-beam.
When hundreds of thousands of millions and tens of thousands of millions in units of earth element in the ultimate sense, which in reality is a mere characteristic of hardness, are bonded together in one mass by the element of cohesiveness, called āpo-dhātu, a thing or object with shape and mass, which is called an “atom” (anu-myū) comes into existence. When hundreds of thousands of millions and tens of thousands of millions in units of such atoms are again bonded together, a speck of organic matter called “flea” or “bug” develops. Thus it should be realized by a series of multiplications how:
- In the world of beings, the massive body of the King of theTitans (asurinda) measuring four thousand eight hundred yojanas (a yojana is a distance of about seven miles) is built up
- In the case of visible external objects with form (bahiddhā saṇṭhāna such as the massive mass of Mount Meru, which measures twice eighty-four thousand yojanas in height, or of the great earth, which measures two hundred and forty thousand yojanas in depth, are built up.
So, this quality or characteristic of hardness, which is called the earth element, forms the fundamental basis of all things animate or inanimate, beginning with the minutest objects such as a flea or an atom. There is no element other than the earth element from which material things could be derived. The elements of water, fire, and wind have to depend on it for their existence. Thus the greatness in importance of the function of the earth element should be understood.
If you desire to contemplate the earth element only in its ultimate sense, you should isolate the mere quality or characteristic of hardness, having neither form nor mass with a size even as small as that of an atom. You will then perceive the quality or characteristic of hardness just as if it were an image reflected in a mirror or on the surface of placid water. If, however, during insight contemplation on the great primary elements, an idea of long or short, big or small, solid or compact creeps into your mental vision, it is but an indication that the object of contemplation is not the genuine earth element in the ultimate sense. In such a case, the contemplation should be regarded as being fouled or mixed up with the concept of forms (saṇṭhāna-paññatti) or of material substances with dimensions. When the earth element in the ultimate sense is confused with the concept of forms or mass, a clear comprehension of the process of arising and dissolution (of mental and physical phenomena) will not be possible in the next (advanced) stage of contemplation.
[It should he noted that in giving instructions in the practice of contemplation of the four great primaries to the Venerable Ānanda, the Venerable Puṇṇa Mahāthera gave this example of a reflex image in the mirror. This example of a reflex image in the mirror was instrumental in the Venerable Ānanda’s becoming a Stream-Winner (sotāpanna).]
If a person can clearly comprehend the quality or characteristic of hardness called the earth element in the ultimate sense, without mixing it with the vision of any substance even as small as an atom during his exercise of contemplation on any objects, both animate and inanimate, it will be easy for him to clearly comprehend the earth element in all lesser animate and inanimate objects. The images of forests, trees or mountains reflected in a mirror or a sheet of placid water may appear as big as Mount Meru, but when conditions favorable for their disappearance or destruction arise, they are bound to disappear or become destroyed more than a hundred times within the period occupied by a wink or a flash of lightning. The reason is that they are devoid of a core or substance even as small as an atom. In the same way he will be able to see the signs and characteristics of a similar disappearance or destruction of the earth element (paṭhavī-dhātu) in the ultimate sense, which pervades the entire mass of, and is as big as, Mount Meru, as it also is devoid of a core or substance even as small as an atom.
When a person contemplates the genuine earth element within his own body for the sake of Enlightenment, he should contemplate his body part by part so that the circumscribed area of his investigation may be commensurate with his power of concentration and contemplation. When he contemplates a part, for instance, his head, he should contemplate it right through without making a distinction between the interior and the exterior.
During such contemplation, the element of color might intervene and lead him astray. The idea of shapes, forms or mass (pictorial ideas) (saṇṭhāna-paññatti) is also likely to intervene and lead him astray. In such instances, he should persistently stir his mind back to full awareness. In applying mindfulness to the lower portion of his body down to the soles of his feet, a person should also contemplate his body part by part so that each circumscribed area of his investigation may be commensurate with his power of concentration and contemplation. When the whole body is fully covered by this exercise, the contemplation of the genuine earth element in the head will make him realize simultaneously the same element in all other parts of the body down to the soles of his feet. If a person is successful in realizing the genuine earth element in regard to his own body, it is as good as realizing the same element in regard to the bodies of all other beings in the infinite universe and world systems. A successful realization of the genuine earth element will make it much more easy to realize with deep penetration all other elements in the internal (ajjhattika) sphere such as the water element, the fire element, the wind element, the eye element, the ear element, etc., and also the elements of the external (bahiddhā) sphere such as the visible object (rūpa-dhātu), the sound element (sadda-dhātu), etc.
Here ends the brief exposition of the method of contemplating the earth element, called paṭhavī-dhātu, with successful penetration.
Genuine Water Element in the Ultimate Sense
In the ultimate sense, “water element” means the quality of cohesiveness. When this quality assumes a position of strength and vigor, it becomes the water element (āpo-dhātu) having the quality of wetness or liquidity (paggharaṇa). This water element in the ultimate sense, which is the mere quality of cohesiveness (ābandhana-kiriyā), is devoid of a core or substance with not the size or dimensions even of a hundred thousandth part of an atom. This water element binds together the other elements, namely, earth element, wind element, and fire element, which co-exist with it in the same material unit (kalāpa).These elements are interdependent, coexistent and mutually supporting. So, when the water element disappears, those other elements also disappear instantaneously.
[The above treatise explains the important contribution made by the water element, called āpo-dhātu, in the formation of a material unit.]
Just on account of this water element, the material groups can exist in this world in various forms, shapes, and solid masses with either big or small sizes ranging from an electrical particle (paramāṇu-myū) to:
- The massive body of the King of the Titans (asurinda) in the world of beings and
- Mount Meru, the circumjacent mountains (Mount Cakkavāla) or the great earth in the physical universe.4
Apart from this water element, there is no other element that can hold the elements together as particles or solid objects. If the quality of cohesiveness in Mount Meru, which measures twice eighty four thousand yojanas in height, were destroyed, that Mount Meru itself will disappear instantaneously. If the quality of cohesiveness in the circumjacent mountains, which measure twice eighty two thousand yojanas in height, be destroyed, the circumjacent mountains themselves will disappear instantaneously. If the quality of cohesiveness in the great earth be destroyed, the great earth itself will disappear instantaneously, leaving only an open space in its place.
Why? Because in the absence of the quality of cohesiveness, or binding force, the whole mass of the earth element, the fire element, and the wind element, which underlie or manifest themselves as the massive Mount Meru, circumjacent mountains, or the great earth will be deprived of mutually supporting co-existence and interdependence and thus disintegrate instantaneously. With the exception of Nibbāna (unoriginated and uncreated), all the other ultimate realities (paramattha-dhamma) having the signs and characteristics of being formed or conditioned (saṅkhata-lakkhaṇa), cannot remain even for a period occupied by the wink of an eye or a flash of lightning if they are without such support or help.
If one desires to exercise contemplation on the water element underlying Mount Meru, circumjacent mountains, and the great earth in the ultimate sense, one should contemplate the quality of cohesiveness only, without confusing it with the quality of hardness that is inherent only in the earth element. During such contemplation the element of color and pictorial ideas are prone to stand in the way.
If the determining knowledge of phenomena (dhamma-vavatthāna-ñāṇa) is obstructed by color and pictorial ideas, a clear comprehension of the process of arising and dissolution (of mental and physical phenomena) will not be possible in the next higher stage of contemplation. A realization of the three characteristics of existence, i.e., (1) impermanence (anicca), (2) suffering (dukkha) and (3) impersonality and conditionality (anattā) in their truest sense is possible only when the ultimate realities (paramattha-dhamma) are fully grasped with clear comprehension.
As in the case of the earth element, a person who understands with a clear comprehension that the water element is a mere quality or characteristic of cohesiveness will also understand with clear comprehension that there is neither a core nor substance whatsoever even in Mount Meru and the great earth, just as there is neither a core nor substance in the images of rain, clouds, sun, moon or trees reflected in the mirror or on the surface of placid waters. When the water element in Mount Meru and the great earth is fully comprehended, the comprehension of the same element with insight in all earthly and heavenly beings will become very easy. What matters most is to realize the water element in its ultimate sense in all sentient beings. We introduce such massive objects as Mount Meru and the great earth in our explanation in order to pave the way for readily understanding the water element as a mere quality of cohesiveness in the formation of living beings. One should first realize this element with respect to one’s own person from the top of one’s head to the soles of one’s feet and then only contemplate the water element in respect to other beings.
Here ends the brief exposition of the method of contemplating the water element, called āpo-dhātu, which leads to penetrative insight.
Comprehending the Fire Element
The quality of heat or cold is that which provides incubating warmth to promote the growth, energy, and strength of the other three great primary elements with which it is co-existent in the same material unit (kalāpa). The twin-energy of heat and cold have in each the incubating warmth that promotes the growth, energy and strength of the other great primary elements with which it is co-existent in the same material unit. In the case of eggs laid by a hen placed in a nest, they can grow in strength and energy in gradual stages and hatch into chickens only if the mother-hen constantly sits and imparts her bodily warmth to them. If the mother-hen does not sit to impart her bodily warmth, such eggs will not be able to develop into chickens. Instead, those eggs will become rotten as soon as the bodily warmth received during the incubation period in the mother’s womb becomes exhausted.
In this simile the fire element resembles the mother-hen and the other three co-existing elements of earth, wind, and water resemble the yolk of an egg. Only in combination with the fire element can hardness (earth element) come into effective existence; only in combination with the fire element can cohesion (water element) come into effective existence; and only in combination with the fire element, can vibration (wind element) come into effective existence. They cannot come into effective existence without the fire element.
Water in the great ocean, water in the seas, water that supports this great earth are dependent on (cold) fire element. They have to continue their existence subject to its control. Mount Meru, Mountain of the Universe and the great earth are also dependent on the (cold) fire element. In contemplating the fire element only, without mixing it up with the other elements, one should contemplate only the quality of coldness in the cold objects and only the quality of heat in hot objects. The idea of shapes, form, or mass (pictorial ideas) should not be allowed to intervene and lead one astray. The fact that the fire element in its ultimate sense is devoid of a core, essence, or substance the size of even an atom is quite obvious. For this reason, when the fire element is comprehended with a purity of understanding and clarity of vision, one will realize that there is neither a core nor substance of any size or dimension in that element, just as the images of the sun, moon, clouds and rain that are reflected in a mirror or on the surface of placid water do not contain any substance although they appear to be massive in one’s perception. In contemplating the fire element in one’s own body, one should do so part by part so that each area may be contained within the range of one’s contemplative capacity.
If one is capable of clearly comprehending the fire element in one’s own body, one becomes capable of clearly comprehending the fire element in all other beings of the infinite universe.
Here ends the brief exposition of the method of contemplating the fire element with penetration.
The Wind Element in the Ultimate Sense
A volume of flame or smoke contains within it the wind element, which, by virtue of the fire element, is the propagating agency for the perpetuation of the fire element itself. On account of that wind element the propagation of fire element becomes evident in various forms such as:
- The spread of fire
- The radiation of heat
- The radiation of light
- The upward spread of lively flames
- The emission of smoke and
- The spread of new fires in succession
By the same token, this wind element is what causes the vibration of the fire element, which, in the ultimate sense, is the mere quality of heat or cold. By virtue of this factor, any spark of fire placed together with an inflammable object is liable to spread throughout the whole area of that object. If, due to weakness of that vibrating factor, the fire does not spread, an external help is rendered to it by producing the vibrating factor in the form of a current of air by fanning or propelling air through a funnel or tube.
Where there is the quality or characteristic of heat, there are bound to be elements of heat-vibration and heat-energy. Likewise the quality of coldness is accompanied always by the elements of cold-vibration and cold-energy. It should be remembered that the quality of heat or cold is one characteristic and its vibration and energy are different characteristics. The quality of heat or cold is the fire element in the ultimate sense, while vibration or energy is the wind element in the ultimate sense. This quality of vibration or energy is deemed to be a sinew of strength of the earth element, the water element, and the fire element, which are co-existent with it in the same material unit (kalāpa). These co-existing great primary elements have to accompany the vibration or energy of the wind element wherever it goes. When the strength of this vibration or energy grows to excess, it develops into a storm. As this energy has the quality or characteristic of support or resistance, such as may be observed in air-mattresses or air-pillows, the scriptural texts have described it as having the characteristic of support(vitthambhanalakkhaṇa). The coldness quality of the fire element (sīta-tejo-dhātu), which is inherent in the massive Mount Meru, the circumjacent mountains,and the great earth, is capable of developing, from moment to moment, until the final destruction or cataclysm of this great earth. You are hereby urged to contemplate until this element is fully comprehended.
There are such processes of evolution as the growth and spread throughout the whole body of mind-produced material units (cittaja-rūpa-kalāpa) and of temperature produced material units (utuja-rūpa-kalāpa), occasioned by the arising on the physical heart base of a certain unit of consciousness. There are such processes of evolution as the growth and spread throughout the whole body of nutriment when material food reaches the stomach. There are such processes of evolution as the steady growth and propagation of the physical body of living beings, each beginning with its nucleic (kalala) fluid. There are also such processes of evolution as the growth and propagation of trees, plants, creepers, shrubs and grasses, beginning with sprouts and shoots. All of these processes are due to the generating function of the wind element.
You should contemplate this wind element in the massive Mount Meru, in the circumjacent mountains and in the great earth and in all things animate and inanimate untill you observe with clear comprehension that the whole mass of these objects is filled with a seething mass of microscopic eruptions and combustions. You should begin by observing the state of motion and unrest subjectively with regard to your own body, and then observe the similar state in all other objects, both animate and inanimate. With regard to your own body, contemplation should cover the wholeof it from the top of your head to the soles of your feet. You will find that this element is, as we have said earlier, devoid of a core or substance of a size even as small as that of an atom and as such you should comprehend it merely as an image such as that of a man reflected on the surface of placid water or in a mirror. During the exercise of contemplation, the pictorial idea or the familiar concepts of shapes, form or mass are likely to intervene and lead you astray from the right path. You should, in such cases, seek the aid of wisdom (paññā) and do away with this concept (paññatti-dhamma), which is a nonentity in the ultimate sense.
Here ends the brief exposition of the method of contemplating the wind element with successful penetration.
Interdependence Between Each of the Four Great Primaries
Hardness, cohesiveness, incubating warmth, and vibrating energy—each of these four great qualities or attributes is prominent by itself through its own feature or characteristic. They are coexistent as a single unit, based on the element of hardness, and so arise together, dissolve together and exist together.
If hardness or earth element is destroyed, the other three elements are also bound to be destroyed as they would be deprived of a basis for their existence.
Likewise, if cohesiveness or water element is destroyed, all the other elements are also bound to be destroyed as they would be deprived of the binding force and mutual support.
If fire element with its attribute of incubating warmth and vitalizing energy is destroyed, the other three elements are also bound to become destroyed and vanish, as they cannot exist in full complement by themselves.
If vibration/compression or wind element is destroyed, the remaining elements are also bound to be destroyed as they would be deprived of their strength.
The fire element, with its attributes of heat or cold, can exist only in combination with the wind element with its attributes of generating energy or motion. If the wind element is absent, the fire element would be deprived of strength, and vanish instantaneously.
Likewise, if the wind element, with its attribute of compression that supports the quality of hardness of the earth element, is destroyed, the earth element would be deprived of its strength and thus be bound to die out.
Likewise, if the wind element, with its attribute of compression that supports the quality of cohesiveness of the water element is absent, the water element will be deprived of its strength and thus be bound to die out.
This is the explanation about the interdependence between each of the four great primaries and of the fact that the disappearance of one of them means the total disappearance of the others.
Beyond the Range of Speculative Thinking
The part played by the four great primaries in all things, animate or inanimate, is so great and wonderful as to be inconceivable (acinteyya), i.e., something beyond the range of speculative thinking or reasoning. Likewise psychic powers and forces involved in these elements are so tremendous as to be beyond the range of speculative thinking also.
If one investigates and follows the method proclaimed by the Buddha, with penetrative insight and utmost striving, one can make a successful break-through and win the supermundane knowledge of the Noble Ones (lokuttara-ariya-vijjā). If, on the other hand, one investigates and follows the method adopted by sorcerers (vijjā), one can make a successful break-through and win the mundane occult and magical powers with tremendous possibilities (lokiya-gandhāri-vijjā).
If a successful break-through can be made by following a mediocre method, one can still achieve a higher knowledge in (a) medical science (medicine), (b) chemical science (chemistry), or (c) mechanical science (engineering).
Of these four great primaries, the fire element is predominant and plays the leading role. The whole universe comprising the great earth, with its constituents of land and water, with all things of color and form, either animate or inanimate are all the products of the fire element. The powers and forces of this element and their potentialities are within the range only of the supreme-knowledge or omniscience (sabbaññuta-ñāṇa) of the Supremely Enlightened Buddhas.
Here ends the amplified meaning of the term cātummahābhūtiko expressed in the first item of the matrix.
Second Item of the Matrix
The Six Mirror-Like Elements
In the second item of the matrix the following description has been given: “Its (the body’s) whole interior is decorated with six kinds of clear and bright mirror-like elements (chappasāda-maṇḍo).” It may be pointed out in this connection that according to the rules of grammar and etymology three Pāli words, pasādo, maṇḍo, and accho convey the same meaning, i.e., “mirror-like clearness.”
Of the three the word maṇḍa is absorbed into the Burmese language as phan (crystal) and mand (glass) of which the present day Burmese expression hman (glass or mirror) is a derivative.
This glass element (chappasāda-maṇḍo) is of two kinds, namely: (1) the temperature-produced glass element (utujamaṇḍa-dhātu), and (2) the volition (kamma) produced glass element (kammaja-maṇḍa-dhātu). Of these two, the glassware that is fashioned at the glass industrial quarters of Rangoon and Mandalay, i.e., optical glasses, also microscope and telescope lenses, fall within the category of temperature-produced glass elements. However, the glass element, formed within the bodies of sentient beings, falls within the category of volition (kamma) produced glass elements. In the latter category there are six kinds of glass elements as follows:
- The mirror-like element, called the eye (cakkhu-pasāda)
- The mirror-like element, called the ear (sota-pasāda)
- The mirror-like element, called the nose (ghāṇa-pasāda)
- The mirror-like element, called the tongue (jivhā-pasāda)
- The mirror-like element, called the body (kāya-pasāda)
- The mirror-like element, called the mind-base (manāyatana)
As to the place of their location:
- The mirror-like element of the eye lies within the eye-organ
- The mirror-like element of the ear lies within the ear-organ
- The mirror-like element of the nose lies within the nose-organ
- The mirror-like element of the tongue lies in the surface ofthe tongue-organ
- The mirror-like element of the body lies throughout the body
- The mirror-like element of the mind lies within the heart.
To the insight-trainee (yogī) who clearly comprehends the six mirror-like elements, this body of five aggregates very much resembles an exceedingly bright and clear mass or pillar of crystal or glass.
In the synopsis of “door” (dvāra-saṅgaha) in the Comprehensive Manual of Abhidhamma (Abhidhammatthasaṅgaha) the six glassy-bright elements are also called “doors” (dvāra).
Two Kinds of Door
The term dvāra means “door” or “opening,” which is of two kinds, namely: (1) space-opening (ākāsa-dvāra) and (2) glass-door opening (maṇḍa-dvāra). In the houses of persons of affluence there are two kinds of door. The first kind comprises doors fixed at openings for the entry or exit of people, and doors fixed at openings for the entry or exit of air. The second kind of door has no opening, but is fitted with plate-glass and is called “door of transparency,” or “door of light.”
In the case of the doors that are fitted with plate-glass, the images of things and objects that are far or near, such as the sun, moon, stars, heavenly bodies, clouds, blue-sky, land-masses, water-collections, forests, mountains, trees, houses and housing sites, monasteries, reservoirs, pagodas, shrines, etc., are reflected in their original shapes, forms and colors in such plate-glass. The inmates of the house, even when staying inside it, can see all the images of the sun, moon, sunlight, moonlight, etc., in their entirety, as reflected in the plate-glass. When looking from the outside into the house through such a plate-glass door, they can also see the objects inside the house in their entirety. All sunlight, moonlight, and lamplight, indeed, are associates of the plate-glass of such doors. Just as the big house mentioned in the above simile has two kinds of door all over the place, even so the body of each man, deity, bullock, buffalo, elephant, horse, fowl, or bird has also two kinds of door, namely: (1) space-door and (2) glass-door.
The Space Door
The space-door comprises (1) the group known as the “nine openings including the mouth opening, the throat orifice, the aperture of the nose through which nasal discharges are expelled, the eye-openings through which tears are discharged, etc., and (2) the group known as the ninety-nine thousand minute orifices or pores of the skin.
The aforesaid volition-produced mirror-like elements of the interior (ajjhatta-kammaja-dhātu-maṇḍa) arecalled:
- The mirror-like element of the sensitive eye-organ
- The mirror-like element of the sensitive ear-organ
- The mirror-like element of the sensitive nose-organ
- The mirror-like element of the sensitive tongue-organ
- The mirror-like element of the sensitive body-organ
- The mirror-like element of the mind-base
These are, however, not doors with space openings. They are mere mirror-like glazed doors admitting light and reflecting images. The functions of these six volition-produced mirror-like elements may be illustrated as follows. Supposedly there is a manor-house with its roof, walling, and window fittings replete with crystal and plate-glass. In the middle of that manor-house there is also an incomparable and exceedingly clear and transparent crystal ball. The images of cloud-banks and cloud-drifts, and images of the sun, moon and stars and of heavenly bodies, and images of the birds flying past in the sky above come through the transparent glass-roofing and are reflected on the crystal ball inside that manor-house. The images of the sun and of the moon are reflected simultaneously on the glass-roofing and on the crystal ball. Likewise, the images of all objects in the sky above are reflected both on the glass-roofing and on the crystal ball inside the manor-house all at once.
In the same way the images of the objects on the east side of the manor-house are reflected both on the plate-glass of the windows on the east side and on the crystal ball in the middle of the manor-house simultaneously. The images of objects on the west, south and north sides are similarly reflected. The images of objects below that manor-house are also reflected both on the transparent glass-flooring and in the crystal ball in the middle of the building.
Corresponding to the crystal ball inside the manor-house of the above simile, there exists within the heart inside this physical body a great crystal ball, called the mind-base (mano). In the Book of Ones in the Aṅguttara Nikāya, the Buddha has declared: “This consciousness, O monks, sparkles aglow with brilliance” (pabhassaram-idaṃ bhikkhave cittaṃ). The mirror-like element of mind-base, which is called mano, therefore sparkles aglow with brilliancy.
Even in the case of consciousness without root-conditions (ahetuka-citta), a mental picture of past events reflects in that mirror-like element of one’s mind-base whenever any particular experience of one’s past life-time is adverted to.
In such cases, the clearness of reflection on the mirror-like mind-base without root-conditions is surpassed by the clearness of reflection on the mind-base with two (noble) root-conditions (dvihetuka), namely: non-greed and non-hate. Similarly, the clearness of reflection on the mind-base with two (noble) rootconditions is surpassed by the clearness of reflection on the mind base with three (noble) root-conditions (tihetuka), namely: non-greed, non-hate and non-delusion.
In terms of planes of existence (bhūmi), the clearness of reflection on the mind-base in the human-world with three (noble) root-conditions, is surpassed by the clearness of reflection on the mind-base of the earth deities. The clearness of reflection on the mind-base of the earth deities is in turn surpassed by that of the deities of the Tāvatiṃsa heaven, which, in turn, is surpassed by that of the deities of the Yāmā heaven, and so on and so forth till the highest plane of existence (bhavagga) is reached.
In terms of individuals (puggala), the clearness of reflection on the mind-base of worldlings (puthujjana) is surpassed by the clearness of reflection on the mind-base of ordinary enlightened Noble Disciples (pakati-sāvaka-bodhi), which is surpassed in succession by clearness of reflection on the mind-bases, respectively of the great enlightened Noble Disciples (mahā-sāvaka-bodhi), of the Individual or Silent Buddhas (pacceka-bodhi), and of the Supremely Enlightened or Omniscient Buddhas (sabbaññuta-bodhi). Of these, the mind-base of the Supremely Enlightened Buddhas has reached the summit, beyond which there is no room for further progress.
In such infinities (ananta) such as universes, world systems, sentient beings, formations or conditioned things (saṅkhāra), designations or concepts (paññatti-dhamma) and the single element of unconditioned Nibbāna (nibbāna-eka), there is none that does not reflect on the mind-base of the Supremely Enlightened One, the Omniscient One. All objects must reflect on that mind-base, which may be likened to the crystal ball inside the aforesaid manor-house. The five physical sense-organs of “sensitive materiality” (pasāda-rūpa) comprising:
the sensitive eye-organ (cakkhu-pasāda), the sensitive ear-organ (sota-pasāda), the sensitive nose-organ (ghāṇa-pasāda), the sensitive tongue-organ (jivhā-pasāda), the sensitive body-organ (kāya-pasāda), are just like the plate glass fitted on the six sides (east, west, north, south, above and below) of the manor-house allegorized above.
All visible objects with shape and form are bound to arrive at their twin destinations, namely sensitive eye-organ and mind-base (manāyatana). All sounds are bound to arrive at their twin destinations, namely: sensitive ear-organ, and mind-base. All smells or odours are bound to arrive at their twin destinations, namely: sensitive nose-organ, and mind-base. All tastes are bound to arrive at their twin destinations, namely: sensitive tongue-organ, and mind-base. All sense of touch involving the elements of heat or cold, hardness or softness, is bound to arrive at its twin destinations, namely: sensitive body-organ that is spread all over the body and the mind-base. All other mental-objects (dhammārammaṇa) are bound to arrive at their single destination, namely: the mind-base.
Thus, when one looks up in the sky with one’s eyes, the image of the moon, which is shining aglow with radiance and splendor, is reflected in the sensitive eye-organ while another image with the same attributes is simultaneously reflected in the mind-base, which is within the heart (hadaya-vatthu). The two images have therefore to appear at the two different places with neither one preceding or succeeding the other.
Simultaneity in the Occurrence of Events
The example of two events occurring at the same time with neither one preceding or succeeding the other may be observed in the act of a bird alighting on the bough of a tree, wherein both the bird and its shadow come in contact with the bough of the tree and its shadow simultaneously. It may also be observed in the act of a man, and of his image in the mirror, both smiling at the same time with neither one of them preceding or succeeding the other. It may also be observed in the aforesaid simile of the manor-house that is fitted with plate-glass windows on all sides and a huge crystal ball in the middle of it. The huge image of the sun that rises in the east comes in through the plate-glass window on the eastern wall of the manor-house and reflects its shining splendor on the crystal ball in the middle of that manor-house. By merely looking at this crystal ball without the necessity of looking eastward, any one can still see the huge image of the sun.
On the same analogy, when one looks up at the sky to see the moon with one’s eyes, the image of the radiant moon comes in through the volition-produced mirror-like element (kammajamaṇḍa-dhātu), which is called the eye-organ, and reflects on the volition-produced mirror-like element called the mind-base (manāyatana), which is located within the heart. Both reflections of the moon-image on the mirror-like elements of the eye-organ and mind-base take place simultaneously.
In the case of fading out or disappearance of moon-images, however, there is a difference. The moon-image that is reflected on the mirror-like element of the eye-organ may have faded out, but the moon-image that is reflected on the heart-base may not have done so and still lingers on. This fact is important and should be carefully observed till it is realized with penetrative insight.
If one thoroughly grasps this point, one will be able to realize with penetrative insight the same phenomenon in respect of all six sense bases.
Contemplation of Impact on the Eye and Mind Bases
The reflection of that moon-image on the mirror-like elements of the eye-organ and heart-base makes an impact that is as tremendous as the striking of a thunderbolt. Likewise when one looks up at the sun in the sky, one image of the sun is reflected on the sensitive eye-organ and another similar image is also reflected on the mirror-like element of the mind-base. Both of these events occur simultaneously with neither one preceding nor succeeding the other. The same holds true when one looks at a tree. One image of the tree reflects on the sensitive eye-organ and another similar image reflects on the mirror-like element of the mind-base. Both of these events occur at the same time.
In the case of seeing a person, one image of that person is reflected on the eye-base while another similar image is reflected on the mind-base at the same time. Such reflection makes an impact similar in tremendousness to that of the striking of a thunderbolt. It should be understood that the same is true of the reflecting of images of all visual-objects on the eye-base and mind-base. [Just as the conjunction of storm-clouds produces flashes of lightning. Just as a meteor hurtling through the air produces a shooting star.] Just as sound is produced by the clash of one hard object against another hard object and just as sparks of fire are produced by a flint being struck with steel, even so the element of eye-consciousness arises in a boiling-up process of the sensitive eye-organ as an after-effect of the impact of an image of such a visual object as that of the moon on the sensitive eye-organ, which is likened to the tremendous impact of a striking thunderbolt. It is called “eye-consciousness element” (cakkhu-viññāṇa-dhātu) because the impact takes place on the sensitive eye-organ. When the force of such impact wears away, that element of eye-consciousness also dies out just like a spark of fire dying out. Due to the force of its impact on the mirror-like element of the mind-base the process of thought moments (vīthi-citta) cognizing the visual-object of the aforesaid moon arises in a boiling-up process. It is just like the material units (kalāpa) of a reverberant sound that arises when a bell or rotating brass gong is struck with a hammer or mallet. When the force of impact of the blow wears away, the reverberant sound also dies out. On the same analogy the process of eye-consciousness dies out when the force of impact, occasioned by the reflection of the image of the aforesaid moon, wears away. It should be understood that the same is true of image-reflections of all other visual-objects on the eye-base.
Here ends the exposition on the method of contemplating the point of conjunction of the three elements, namely: (1) the sensitive eye-organ, (2) visual-object, and (3) eye-consciousness that would lead to attainment of insight-wisdom at one stroke.
Contemplation of Impact on the Ear and Mind Bases
The audible sound of rain, the sound of falling water, the sound of a drum, the sound of a bell, the voice of a man, the barking of a dog, the crowing of a cock, or the chirping of a bird, reflects with an impact both on the mirror-like element called “sensitive ear-organ” and the mirror-like element of the mind-base, which is located within the heart. Both events occur at the same time with neither one preceding or succeeding the other. The force of such impact is as tremendous as the striking of a thunderbolt. Due to the force of impact of that audible sound on the mirror-like element of the sensitive ear-organ, a process of thought called “ear-consciousness” arises in a boiling-up manner. This consciousness is called “ear-consciousness element” (sota-viññāṇa-dhātu) because the impact takes place on the sensitive ear-organ. When that sound ceases, such ear-consciousness also dies out and vanishes. Due to the force of impact on the mirror-like element of the mind-base, the process of thought moments (vīthi-citta), cognizing such sound, arises in a boiling-up process. As in the case of the sound of the bell in the example given above, that process of ear-consciousness dies out and vanishes when the force of impact of that sound wears away. It should be understood that the same is true of all kinds of sounds heard by the ear-organ.
Here ends the exposition on the method of contemplating the point of conjunction of the three elements, namely: (1) the sensitive ear-organ, (2) sound, and (3) ear-consciousness that would lead to attainment of insight-wisdom at one stroke.
Contemplation of Impact on the Other Bases
Withregard to the following two triads, namely:
- The mirror-like element at the sensitive nose-organ, calledghāṇa-pasāda
- Various odours or smells, called gandhārammaṇa
- Nose-consciousness element, called ghāṇa-viññāṇa-dhātu.
- The mirror-like element at the sensitive tongue-organ, called jivhā-pasāda
- Various tastes such as sweetness or sourness, called rasārammaṇa
- Tongue-consciousness element, called jivhā-viññāṇa-dhātu.
The point of conjunction of each triad, together with the process of their arising and dissolution, should be contemplated as in the case of the sensitive eye-organ and the sensitive ear-organ, as explained above, till penetrative insight is fully attained.
Contemplation of Impact on the Sensitive Body Organ
The sensitive body-organ (kāya-pasāda) is spread in all flesh and blood tissues throughout the whole body-system from the top of the head to the soles of the feet. Any part of the body that senses pain when pricked with a sharp-pointed needle is impregnated with the sensitive body-organ. All kinds of sensation of hardness or softness belonging to the earth element group, of heat or cold belonging to the fire element group, or of the force of wind, whether strong or feeble, belonging to the wind element group, are bound to arrive at their destination of impact on the sensitive body-organ.
There is that part of the soles of the feet that experiences a sensation of heat when exposed to a furnace, or of coldness when bathed with water. Such sensations experienced by that part of the body are simultaneously reflected with a force of impact (1) on the sensitive body-organs located on the soles of the feet, and (2) on the mirror-like element of the mind-base located within the heart. The force of such impact is as tremendous as that of a striking thunderbolt. As an after-effect of this force, the element of body-consciousness (kāya-viññāṇa-dhātu) arises all over the surface of the soles of the feet. At the same time the process of thought moments (vīthi-citta) of awareness of these sensations of heat or cold arise like a flowing current or stream. When such sensations of heat or cold disappears from the field of touch, the element of consciousness and the process of thought moments also disappear and die out.
It should be understood that the same is true of all parts of the body where the sensations of heat, cold, pain, shock, ache, weariness, numbness, congestion of internal organs, throbbing or pulsation are felt.
Here ends the exposition on the method of contemplating the point of conjunction of the three elements, namely: (1) the sensitive body-organ, (2) bodily-impression (phoṭṭhabbārammaṇa) and (3) body-consciousness, till penetrating insight is fully attained.
The Mirror-Like Element of the Mind-Base
The ceaseless arising of the subconscious “life-continuum” (bhavaṅga-citta), which, like a mountain spring, always sparkles with a glitter of brilliant light within the heart, is called the mirrorlike element of the mind-base. This mirror-like element of the mind-base, or bhavaṅga-citta, [when not interrupted by a thought process (vīthi-citta)]adverts to the mind-object (dhammārammaṇa) pertaining to a former birth [remembered there at the moment before death]. Such adverting is, however, not a definite function (like that of a working consciousness) but only an indefinite one, and the object of this subconsciousness is not reflected in the consciousness of that individual. For, there can be no such notion as, “I was subconsciously conscious of a certain mind-object during the dreamless period of my sleep throughout the whole night.” When the mirror-like element of the mind-base is flowing like the current of a river (without interruption by a process of thought or dream) the person concerned is as if in a state akin to death.
In cases where the image of a sense-object such as that of the sun or moon, enters the range of vision, it acts on the sensitive eye-organ (cakkhu-pasāda), which is one of the five sense organs, and causes thereby a violent quivering in the subconscious stream (bhavaṅga-sota), just like the quivering occasioned when a snake or earth-worm is disturbed with a staff or spear. However, as soon, as the subconscious stream is broken, the functional mind-element, grasping the object, breaks through this subconscious stream and performs the function of cognizing the object in a process of conscious moments (vīthi-citta) arising like a series of flashes of a meteor or shooting-stars in the sky.
In cases where the process of inner-consciousness, or mind-consciousness takes place exclusively in the mind-base, that is, without the participation of the five physical sense consciousnesses of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and bodily-contact, the subconscious stream (bhavaṅga-sota) is broken off with a violent quivering in the same way as described above. Then follow advertance (āvajjana) and impulsion (javana), which arise to perform their respective functions within the process of consciousness. When the force of impact of the sense-object on the mind-element ceases, these functions of advertence and impulsion also die out and vanish just as the series of flashes of a meteor or shooting star fade out and vanish.
Here ends the exposition on the method of contemplating the point of conjunction of the three elements, namely: (1) the mirror like element of mind-base, called “subconsciousness” (bhavaṅga), (2) mind-object (dhammārammaṇa), and (3) mind-consciousness element (mano-viññāṇa-dhātu) till penetrating-insight is fully realized.
Here also ends the meaning of the description given in the second item of the matrix (mātikā) as: Its (i.e., the body’s) whole interior is decorated with six kinds of clear and bright mirror-like elements (chappasāda-maṇḍo).
Third Item of the Matrix
Thermal Conditions or Temperature
The third item is described as follows: “It (i.e., this body) is a product of ten kinds of thermal conditions or temperature (ayaṃ kāyo utūnaṃ udayo).’
The interpretation given in the scriptures of this term (utu) is: “Arati pavattatīti utu.,” meaning: “It has the characteristic of occurring endlessly.’
The improvised interpretation of this term (utu) is: “Udati pasavatīti utu. Udanti pasavanti etena okāsa-satta-saṅkhāra-lokāti utu,” meaning: “It is called temperature (utu).It is capable of generating growth and evolution. Due to this element an infinity of worlds classified as (a) the world of sentient beings (satta-loka), (b) the world of formations (or conditioned things) (saṅkhāraloka), and (c) the physical universe (or world of space) (okāsa-loka) have been evolving in endless succession throughout the course of eternity.”
The term utu in fact implies the element of fire, which is called tejo-dhātu as described earlier. It is this fire element that generates the growth and evolution in endless succession of world systems throughout the course of eternity. It is this fire element that creates countless (trillions of universes, or galaxies, each comprising countless billions of) world systems. According to our theory, the great earth with its layers of rocks and dust (silā-paṃsu), measuring 240,000 yojanas in depth, rests on a mass of water measuring 480,000 yojanas in depth, which in turn rests on a mass of air measuring 960,000 yojanas in depth. The great earth in turn supports Mount Meru, the circumjacent mountains, the Himalaya mountains, the seven great lakes, the four great Oceans, the seven successive ranges of mountains round Mount Meru intervened by seven successive oceans of intense cold, the four great islands and the two thousand smaller ones. All these masses of land and water including all masses of woodland and mountains and all planes of existence comprising the four lower worlds, the human world, the six heavenly abodes of deities, the twenty abodes of Brahmas rising up to the highest Akaniṭṭhā plane in the realms of form, whether belonging to a physical universe or to a world of space, are all the creative work of the fire element or element of heat and cold (tejo-dhātu).
(The powers and potentialities of the element of heat and cold may be judged by a study of the Satta Suriyopama Sutta and Aggañña Sutta of Dīgha-Nikāya, with the commentaries thereto, which give an account in detail of the destruction of an old world cycle and the evolution of a new one.)
Of the three cardinal elements of destruction i.e., fire, water and wind, the fire element means the element of heat, which is termed uṇha-tejo. When it is said that the great earth is destroyed by water, it does not mean that the destruction is wrought by water itself. It implies that the fire element as coldness (sīta-tejo), which is associated or synonymous with the water element (āpo-dhātu), is the actual destroyer. So, the destruction wrought by the element of coldness should be regarded as being wrought by water. In the case of a world-cycle destroyed by the wind element, it should be remembered that the element of heat (uṇha-tejo) isthe principal generator of that wind element. So the main author of that great deluge or cataclysm is the fire element (tejo-dhātu). Asan element that manifests, brings forth, generates what is ungenerated, develops that which is generated, the fire element is also the builder or creator of the universe.
Here ends the exposition on the building up of the physical universe, or the world of space (okāsa-loka).
The World of Sentient Beings
In the case of the world of sentient beings (satta-loka), one should judge the extent of the powers and potentialities of the fire element by making a study of the process of origination and the development of physical bodies of various sizes ranging from that of the minutest creature, which is normally invisible to the eye, to that of the gargantuan body of the great Brahmā in the highest plane of existence of the realm of form, called Akaniṭṭhā.
A study of the subject will reveal the fact that the primordial material units (rūpa-kalāpa) of sentient beings in the realm of form at the initial development phase (ṭhiti), the moment of their conception in a mother’s womb, are conditioned by the volitional actions (kamma) performed by them during their past existences. It is the function of the fire element (tejo-dhātu) to promote in due order, the origination, continuity, growth and development of the material units from that initial development phase (ṭhiti) of the first moment of conception and to build up various physical organs of the body. The kamma-produced materiality (kammaja-rūpa), the mind-produced materiality (cittaja-rūpa) and the food-produced materiality (āhāraja-rūpa) arise in order of sequence following the development of physical organs of the body generated by the fire element. It is just like a lotus growth spreading out to all parts of a lake as far as the width of its surface permits.
The duration of life-spans in the animal world, in the world of human beings, and of deities in the heavenly realms is also influenced and determined by this fire element. There are various grades of stability of the fire (heat or cold) element and various grades of subtlety of the physical bodies that form the physical base of this element. Long life-spans are also on a graduated scale corresponding to these grades of stability and subtlety. And furthermore, there are various grades of instability of the fire element and grossness of the bodies that form the physical base of this element. Short life-spans are on a graduated scale corresponding also to these same grades of instability and grossness.
In the case of womb-born sentient beings (gabbha-seyyakasatta) the element of heat called “utu,” which is produced by the fertilization of an egg by sperm during sexual reproduction by both parents, is contributed as a hereditary factor of both father and mother. As the germinator of all material phenomena, the element of heat (utu) isthe cosmic material generator of the birth (jātiniyāma-rūpa) of sentient beings, just as it is the cosmic material germinator (bīja-niyāma-rūpa) of the vegetable kingdom, embracing plants, trees, etc. As a fixed (natural) order, the offspring inherits characteristics such as forms and features from its mother’s or father’s side. In the case of cross-breeding, such as between a serpent-king and a human-being or between a nymph and a human-being, it may be assumed that the acquired characteristics are inherited from the maternal or paternal side with a stronger nutritive essence in the physical body (karaja-rūpa-ojā).
Here ends the exposition on the building up of the world of sentient beings (satta-loka).
The World of Conditioned Things
The world of conditioned things in general (saṅkhāra-loka) embracing plants, trees, creepers, bushes, shrubs, etc., is solely a product of the element of heat. This fire element creates all kinds of plants, trees, creepers, bushes, and shrubs, together with all kinds of tubers, all kinds of sprouts, all kinds of shoots, all kinds of stems, all kinds of branches and twigs, all kinds of leaves, flowers, foliage and fruits bearing various kinds of tastes, and sustains this generating and creating function till the end of the world. The creative work of the fire element is so marvelous that the world of fine arts has to shower praises on the sculptors who carve out figures, and the artists who paint pictures of exact likeness to the picturesque leaves, fruits, and flowers created by the fire element. Just as sentient beings are governed by the cosmic law of birth (jāti-niyāma), conditioned things are governed by the cosmic law of germination (bīja-niyāma). All structural bodies of the universe such as the sun, the moon, and heavenly bodies such as the constellations and asteroids, and all treasures such as gold, silver, pearls and rubies and all metals and chemicals such as iron, brass, copper, and mercury are the products of the fire element.
Here ends the exposition on the building up of the world of conditioned things (saṅkhāra-loka).
The Kinds of Fire Element
According to the declaration: udanti pasavanti etena okāsa satta saṅkhāra lokāti utu this fire element is called utu because it is the cause of arising and propagation of the three worlds, namely:
- The physical universe
- The world of sentient beings
- The world of conditioned things, and because it is the builderand creator of the three worlds of material phenomena.
This fire element is of two kinds, namely:
- Internal fire element (ajjhatta-tejo-dhātu)
- External fire element (bahiddhā-tejo-dhātu)
The former is divided into:
- Kamma (volition) produced materiality (kammaja-rūpa)
- Mind-produced materiality (cittaja-rūpa)
- Materiality produced by temperature (utuja-rūpa)
- Food-produced materiality (āhāraja-rūpa).
In point of caste or class, grossness or subtleness, this fire element is of infinitely various kinds ranging from the bodily-form of a denizen of the lowest purgatory (avīci) to that of the great Brahmā in the highest (akaniṭṭhā) plane of existence. The external fire element is briefly divided into:
- Cold fire element (sīta-tejo–dhātu)
- Hot fire element (uṇha-tejo-dhātu).
Byway of caloric order (utu-niyāma) this fire element determines the ordered succession of the three seasons:
- Hot season fire element (gimha-tejo-dhātu)
- Rainy season fire element (vassāna-tejo-dhātu)
- Cold season fire element (hemanta-tejo-dhātu).
By the same token what are called the “six yatus”5 are, in fact, the six fire elements. Similarly, what are known as the twelve sub-seasons (rāsī) are but the twelve fire elements. Likewise, what are known as the one hundred and eight “mystic number nine” actually represent the one hundred and eight kinds of fire elements. Such entities as are known as the “eight planets” or “nine planets”—whose divinities are called Sunday Planet, Monday Planet etc., are supposed to be riding on symbolic animals and occupying such cardinal points as North-East, East, etc.—are also variations of the fire element. The ramifications of this element are so widely spread as to be found also in the terminology and nomenclature used in such branches of mundane arts and sciences as the Vedic scriptures (veda), pharmacology, metallurgic chemistry, astrology and the cult of signs and omens.
In point of class or caste, and of grossness or subtleness, this external fire element is of infinitely various kinds. The ten kinds of thermal conditions or temperature, as referred to in the third item of the matrix, is worked out as follows. When the four internal thermal conditions or fire elements, referred to above, are multiplied by the two elements of coldness (sīta-tejo) and heat (uṇha-tejo), we get a resultant figure of eight internal fire elements. The external fire element is of two kinds only, namely, the cold external fire element and the hot external element. When the two groups are added together they make a total of ten kinds of fire element.
Burning and Vanishing
All kinds of material phenomena, whether animate or inanimate, consist merely of groups or collections of fire element. This element of heat and cold is in a state of perpetual burning, or combustion, and as such the groups and collections of material phenomena are forever blazing away into radiation in a seething turmoil. You should contemplate with clear comprehension and penetrating insight these phenomena occurring in your brain-cells, eye-balls and other regions of your body right down to the soles of your feet. Within the framework of such combustion in a seething turmoil, there is an uninterrupted process of building up of new material units in all parts of your body. This building up is momentarily followed by a breaking down process of burning up and vanishing. This arising and dissolution process in the body appears, to those who feel it, as a series of minute eruptions or vibrations.
In the realm of ultimate realities (paramattha-dhamma), there is no phenomenon of motion or shakiness that is visible to the physical eye. With the phenomena of arising of new entities in a series intertwined with the phenomena of dissolution in a series of old entities, there is bound to be created in an observer the common-sense idea of movement of the same (identical) thing. They give rise to such notions as “rising,” “getting-up,” “falling-down,” “going” and “coming.” Only an observer who, with penetrative insight, dissects and discerns these phenomena, can dispel such false notions. When such insight-knowledge is in the early stage of development, the aforesaid common-sense ideas are likely to obstruct and interfere with realizing the truth that is hidden behind appearances. When such notions interfere with the practice of insight-contemplation of the elements of the body in the ultimate sense, penetration into ultimate realities is likely to be retarded through the intervention of pictorial ideas or concepts of collectivity and form (samūha-saṇṭhāna-paññatti) and the concept of continuity (santati-paññatti).
Samūha-saṇṭhāna-paññatti is a term implying shape and mass. When a contemplative knowledge is interfered with by the concept of shape and mass it cannot gain penetration into ultimate realities.
The Concept of Continuity
Except Nibbāna, there is no other phenomenon in the realm of ultimate reality (paramattha-dhamma) that can abide even for a period occupied by the wink of an eye. All of them are mere processes of arising and dissolution. When two different phenomena—one of dissolution and another of arising—are mixed up in a series of rapid succession, the old (preceding) phenomenon that has become dissolved and the newly arisen (succeeding) phenomenon have the appearance of being one and the same phenomenon. This delusive appearance to the mind (of common-sense thinking) is called the concept of continuity (santati-paññatti). When this concept interferes with insight knowledge, the mind is deluded into thinking that one and the same (identical) thing has “happened like this,” “happened like that,” “reached here,” “reached there,” “has moved,” “has arisen,” “has stood-up,” etc. One should, therefore, contemplate with penetrative insight and discernment [the difference] between the concept of collectivity (samūha-paññatti), the concept of the form of things (saṇṭhāna-paññatti) and the concept of the continuity of things on the one hand, and the ultimate realities on the other hand. These are the groups of words describing the deceptions practised by concepts with regard to such appearances as shaking, quaking, quivering, and trembling. In the section dealing with the element of the fire element we have, to some extent, described the powers and potentialities of this fire element that is referred to in various texts as “temperature” or “heat” (utu). If what has been described in that section, in conjunction with what has been briefly described above, is fully grasped, one will be able to realize with penetrative insight the tremendous and marvellous omnipotence of this fire element, and its predominance in all three worlds described above, which are but mere products of the fire element.
Here ends the exposition of the meaning of the expression “This body is a product of ten kinds of thermal conditions or temperature,” made in the third item of the matrix.
Fourth Item of the Matrix
The Ten Kins of Nutriment
In the fourth item occurs this passage: “This physical body is perpetually supported by the ten kinds of nutriment (ayaṃ kāyo thambhito āhārehi).” What has been referred to above and in other texts as nutrient essence (ojā) or nutriment (āhāra) means the ultimate physical essence, which is also called “essence element.” In two interpretations in the texts, it is called nutrient essence and nutriment (āhāra) as follows: “It is called nutrient essence because it produces material phenomena in the immediately following instant udayānantaraṃ rūpaṃ janetīti ojā).” It is called nutriment (āhāra) because it greatly supports and produces the eightfold material phenomena having nutrient essence as its eighth factor (i.e., the solid, liquid, heat, motion, color, odor, the taste-able and the nutrient essence) (ojaṭṭhamakaṃ rūpaṃ āhāratīti āhāro).
The Two Kinds of Essence
The essence element is of two kinds namely:
- Interior essence element
- Exterior essence element.
As the fire element (tejo-dhātu) is often kinds, comprising eight internal and two external, the corresponding essence element is also of ten kinds. The functions of this essence element include causing the arising of food-produced material units (āhāraja-rūpa-kalāpa) and supporting the four causes for the arising of the material phenomena of sentient beings of the sensuous world (catu-rūpa-samuṭṭhānika). By the expression, “the function of causing the arising of food-produced material units,” is meant the production of two kinds of substances, namely fat (medo) and skin-grease (vasā). The material phenomena of sentient beings of the sensuous world cannot subsist even for a period occupied by the wink of an eye without material food (āhāra). For this reason the question of earning a living is a problem of the greatest magnitude in the world. If one can see the land creatures and water denizens everywhere in the world that are incessantly toiling and struggling to eke out a living, day and night, throughout their whole life-time, one will be able to judge the magnitude of the problem of earning a living. If one can see the extent and magnitude of the problem of earning a living, one will be able to size up the problem of acquiring food. If one can size up the problem of acquiring food, one will be able to appreciate the magnitude of the function of support carried out by the essence element and the inability of the internal material phenomena to survive even for a period occupied by the wink of an eye without the support of the external essence element.
The Simile of the Rainbow
The following example may be given to illustrate the point. In this physical body there are four constituent elements, namely:
- The quality of hardness or softness called the earth element (paṭhavī-dhātu)
- The quality of cohesiveness or liquidity, called the waterelement (āpo-dhātu)
- The quality of heat or cold, called the fire element (tejo-dhātu)
- The quality of strong support or weak support, called thewind element (vāyo-dhātu).
We would ask you to remember what we have said before, that they are like the image of a man reflected in a mirror or those of the sun, moon, clouds or the sky above, reflected on the surface of placid waters and to keep this in your mind. There is in the sky that which is called by various names such as “rainbow,” “the colossal wedge,” “the plough-handle” or “god-king’s loin-cloth.” This rainbow shows up just outside the rain clouds in the western sky if the rays of the sun coming from the eastern sky reflect on the moisture-saturated atmosphere. If the sun’s rays come from the west and the rain clouds are occupying the eastern sky, the rainbow shows up on the outside of rain clouds on the east. As the sun is the originating factor of a rainbow, the disappearance of the sun means the disappearance of the rainbow also. As it has to depend on the rain clouds also for its arising, the disappearance of the rain clouds also means the disappearance of the rainbow. The sun constitutes a contributory factor by causing the form of the rainbow to arise, while the rain clouds constitute another contributory factor by supporting such a formation with a basis. In whatever portion of the sky the sun’s rays are absent, in that portion the rainbow also disappears or shows its form partly cut out. If the sun’s rays totally disappear, the rainbow also totally disappears. In whatever part of the sky the rain clouds are absent, in that part also the rainbow disappears or shows its form partly cut out. Whenever the rain clouds are thin, the rainbow shows up with a faint appearance. When the rain clouds with their supporting basis disappear, the rainbow also disappears instantaneously even though the sun’s rays are present on that spot.
In this simile the moral and immoral actions committed in previous existences (kamma) resemble the sun in the sky, while the volition-produced fire element (kammaja-tejo-dhātu) and its associates, the mind-produced fire element (cittaja-tejo-dhātu), the temperature-produced fire element (utuja-tejo-dhātu) and the food-produced fire element (āhāraja-tejo-dhātu) resemble the rays of the sun. The essence element, which is steeped in all parts of the body, resembles the mass of the rain cloud. The four great primary elements (mahā-bhūta) of the body resemble the great form of the rainbow. When it is said that the essence element resembles the rain cloud, it means resemblance in the function of giving support. When the result of past kamma and the volition-produced fire element become spent, the four great primary elements (mahā-bhūta) of the body also become destroyed and lost although the essence element is still subsisting. Even when the result of the past kamma is still persisting, if the external essence element becomes totally spent due to lack of food, the internal essence element will be devoid of strength and the mass of the four great primary elements (mahā-bhūta) is bound to perish. Let the example of the rainbow cited above be fully applied to this case and studied in conjunction for better understanding.
In the item dealing with the four great primary elements we have given the example of the images reflected in a mirror or on the surface of placid waters. In that simile, the moral and immoral actions performed in previous existences (kamma) and the group of fire elements (tejo-dhātu) resemble the man’s face, sun, moon and clouds. The essence element group resembles the mirror and the surface of the waters. The four great primary elements of the body resemble the image of the man’s face, and the images of the sun, moon, and the great cloud-bank. In this example also, the resemblance is in respect only of the function of support or bracing-up. With these examples we have shown how this body of ours, which is composed of the four great primary elements and the six sense bases, is subsisting with the support and bracing-up of the external essence element, and how, without such support and bracing-up, it is bound to perish.
The Oil Essence Element
We now propose to deal with the manner of support or bracing-up. In this world it is an obvious fact that oil and fire are complementary to each other. All kinds of oil are developed only by association with fire, and fire is developed and made to subsist only by association with oil. All kinds of oil, including crude oil and kerosene oil, which are called “earth oil,” and sesame oil, linseed oil, groundnut oil, and oil produced by animals such as butter or ghee, tend to produce fire that thrives on such oils. These are statements of obvious facts in regard to oils that are evident. The material essence, called “nutrient-essence” is inherent in all kinds of material units. Even various objects are endowed with oil-essence element. In the case of the burning of a loin-cloth, hay, dried leaves, firewood or wood-stuff, it is in fact the oil-essence element that is the food actually consumed by the fire. As fire develops in proportion to the volume of available oil-essence, it burns up and consumes all material phenomena with which the oil-essence element is coexistent. This fact should be carefully observed till it is fully realized.
The Earth-Oil Simile
In medieval Burma, dramatic shows were acted not on a stage but on the ground in an open space surrounding a Rose-apple (Eugenia) tree. For night performances the place was lit up with a flaming torch on a pole or pillar, planted in the middle of the open space. The torch, in the middle, was a huge pot fitted with a wick. Earth oil was fed into that pot and the wick was ignited. The life of the flame thus produced depended on the earth oil fed into that pot. If the volume of the earth oil thus fed was big, the strength of the flame grew big. If the quantity of earth oil fed into the pot was small, the strength of the flame grew weak. When that fuel oil was used up, the flame disappeared. In this simile the three great primary elements, namely, the earth element, the water element, and the wind element, together with the six sense bases, resemble the flaming torch on the pillar. The internal oil-essence element, which is steeped in all parts of the body, resembles the earth oil already existing in the (oil-container of the) flaming torch pillar. The fire element in all parts of the body resembles the flames burning both inside and outside the flaming-torch-pillar. The external oil-essence element (nutriment-essence) contained in the food consumed daily by sentient beings, resembles the earth oil that has to be fed into the flaming torch intermittently and without end. In the former, we have given the example of a rainbow in the sky in order to stress the magnitude of the taskof supplying the oil-essence element. In the present section we have cited the example of a flaming-torch-pillar to illustrate the function of the oil-essence in giving rise to physical units and maintaining them with supplies and support.
To further elucidate: the food that is swallowed down into the stomach is composed of eight units only, having nutrient-essence as its eighth factor. So, every unit contains the oil-essence element that supports the four great primaries. It should, therefore, be said, figuratively, that if the edible food measures a cubic-foot, the constituent nutrient-essence also measures a cubic-foot. Just as strong pillars and posts prop up and buttress an old house built on piles that are rotting away in the ground, the nutrient-essence, contained in the newly swallowed food, gives strength and vitality to the internal material units of the whole body as soon as the food reaches the stomach. Just as weak props and weak buttresses make an old house shake and sway, because the collapse of such props and buttresses leads to the collapse of the old house, even so, the six-hour-old material units, together with their internal constituent essence element, gradually disintegrate and totally vanish. It is because the newly consumed food remains fresh as an energy supplier for just six or seven hours, beyond which it begins to decompose and disintegrate. When the life-term of the latest food in the stomach expires, all energy-supplying elements in the body become dissolved leaving only the temperature-produced group of gross elements called “waste products,” or “carcas” (mata-kalevara).
The Weakening of Bodily Strength
Meals are taken once or twice a day in advance before the lastly consumed food in the stomach becomes completely exhausted. People know well that their strength weakens when hunger sets in. They are pathetically ignorant of the fact that from the moment the food supply in the stomach begins to drain off, the internal material groups, element groups, unitary groups, vitality groups, and energy groups are gradually wearing out and dissolving away. Just as the rainbow, in the simile mentioned above, dissolves when its support basis, the rain cloud, dissolves, there is a gradual wearing away and disintegration in the whole body of the great mass, called the quality of hardness (paṭhavī-dhātu), the quality of cohesiveness called the water element, the quality of heat or coldness called the fire element, the quality of stiffness or tension called the wind element. In the same instance there is also a gradual wearing away and dissolution of the sensitive eye-organ (cakkhu-pasāda), the sensitive ear-organ, the sensitive nose-organ, the sensitive tongue-organ, the sensitive body-organ, the mind-base or consciousness (manāyatana) and the clusters of subtle elements and material units inside the head, inside the chest, inside the abdomen, inside the hips, inside the thighs, inside the legs and inside the soles of the feet. They are just like mass dissolutions of water bubbles of huge froths and foams in a series of ceaseless turmoil. These processes of dissolution should be carefully observed and contemplated till they are vividly seen with the eye of wisdom. Just as the weakening of props and buttresses means the swaying and collapsing of the dilapidated house built on piles in the ground, even so the clusters of subtle material units and elements inside the body will be swaying and collapsing if the energy-supplying food inside the stomach is exhausted. This fact also should be carefully observed and contemplated till it is fully realized.
When it is said that bodily strength is weakened due to hunger, it means the collapse and disintegration of lumps of material units and elements called “energy,” just like falling snowflakes. A person oppressed with hunger is conspicuous by the depressed and worn-out look of his face and eyes. By seeing the depressed look of the exterior, it can be inferred that the lumps of internal materiality, elements, and units have been collapsing and disintegrating so heavily that the remaining elements are greatly reduced in strength. The change in gradual stages of the quality of hardness means the dissolution of the earth elementingradual stages and in terms of ultimate realities (paramattha-dhamma). Insuch terms, the change in gradual stages of the quality of cohesiveness means the gradual dissolution of the water element. Thesame is true of the dissolution of the other two elements (tejo and vāyo).
Here ends the exposition on the exhaustion and dissolution of elements.
How the Oil-Essence Element is Supplied to the Whole Body
When exhaustion begins, new food has to be swallowed before the old supply of food is completely exhausted. As soon as the swallowed food reposes in the stomach, the four great primary elements become revitalized instantaneously, just as a leaning structure is levelled and propped up with posts and pillars, masses of strength, energy, and vitality then become fully restored. The fact is made evident by external looks and appearances. If the interior organs are given a penetrating look (with insight), one may be able to see them filling instantaneously with material units, just as heavy rain makes hollows, depressions, lake-beds, stream-beds, and drains fill with water.
The main intestine (stomach), which is called the receptacle for new food, resembles a very loose and coarse loin-cloth, canvas or sack-cloth. Under this receptacle a cooking apparatus or fire-box (pācaka) is located. The converging point of tendons, which is commonly known (in Burmese) as “takyee,” is called the cooking fire-box. In this fire-box is located the kamma (volition)-produced (kammaja) fire element, called “cooking” (pācaka) fire. Another kamma-produced fire element, called “the original bodily-warmth” (usmā) that protects and vitalizes the whole body is also a product of the “cooking-fire” element. This element performs the task of cooking the newly eaten food that reaches the stomach. It is just like cooking cow’s milk or goat’s milk in manufacturing butter or ghee. In this cooking process four kinds of product are turned out. They are fine and coarse solids and fine and coarse liquids. The coarse solids and liquids, which are deficient in nutrient-essence (ojā), gravitate downward, while the nutrient-rich essence and oils rise upward. This way of cooking newly eaten food, and separating it into fine or coarse qualities of solids and liquids, is called “the process of cooking by stomach (gastric) fire.”
The coarse solids turn out into faeces or excreta and gravitate into the receptacle for “old-food” (i.e., the intestines). The coarse liquids turn out into urine and gravitate into the urinary bladder,. All nutrient oil-essence boiled by the “cooking-fire” element and by the “bodily-warmth” element (usmā) boils over and spreads throughout the whole body along the one thousand “taste-conductor nerves’(rasa-haraṇī). During the circulation process the nutrient oil-essence comes in contact with the fire element located in all parts of the body. When this happens, the oil element tends in this world to promote growth and development of the nutrient-essence, whether heated by fire or not. And when it becomes associated with bodily-warmth fire elements, it multiplies the growth of material units (rūpa-kalāpa). In addition, it promotes the growth of fat and skin-grease. When associated with the oil-essence element, the fire element throughout the whole body tends to flare up and develop just as ordinary fires flare up when fed with oil or fat. In the world of trade or manufacture, oil or essence is extracted from various objects by the process of heating with fire. In such undertakings, if the strength of fire (heat) is weak, less essence and more waste matter is produced. Similarly, if the stomach-fire, which is called digestive (cooking) fire (pācaka-tejo) is weak, all the food that is eaten and swallowed into the stomach will be reduced more into waste products, such as feces, urine, wind and phlegm, and less into oil-essence, which is referred to in nutritional science books as “taste element” (rasa-dhātu).
If, on the other hand, the heat of the digestive fire is excessive, the entire food that is eaten and swallowed down into the stomach is generally burnt up leaving only a small quantity of oil-essence element as residue. If the fire element is enmeshed or overlaid with wind and phlegm, the smothered heat will be so weak and unbalanced that the food will not be properly digested. When nutrition is thus impaired, the power of resistance will be weakened and the physical body will be susceptible to all forms of diseases. Ordinary food, by itself, is not fully endowed with nutrient-essence (ojā) and, as already described in the section relating to the second attribute of a person making the supreme effort (padhāniyaṅga), people of the present time are prone to fall sick easily and also to die easily. This is due to the turbulent and unbalanced state of the two fires known as the digestive-fire and the bodily-warmth fire. We have also described that it was possible for some people to secure for themselves immunity from the danger of diseases and extend their life-terms beyond the normal life-span of a century, to two hundred, three hundred, four hundred, five hundred, nay, a thousand years. It was achieved by imbibing the tonics or elixirs that were prepared by transmuting an essence-element, bearing metals such as iron or mercury, into other forms. Because such tonics or elixirs blend well and are compatible with the delicate internal elements, those twin-fires are rendered docile. Thus marvelous results as described above are produced.
Here ends the interpretation of the expression: “This physical body is perpetually supported by the ten kinds of nutriment” contained in the fourth item (mātikā).
Fifth Item of the Matrix
The Process of Primary Origination
We shall now explain the significance of the expression: “This body has the characteristic of origination in an uninterrupted process (ayaṃ kāyo jātidhammo).” Earlier we have given the example of images reflected in a mirror and the example of a rainbow in the sky. We have also described the function of the digesting-fire element in the process of preparing oil-essence element together with the various problems involved therein. If all the facts and events so described are carefully observed and studied, it will become evident with regard to the body that there is no respite, even for the period occupied by the wink of an eye or a flash of lightning, in the process of arising in succession of new phenomena, nor in the process of dissolution in succession of old phenomena. It will also become evident that just on account of the fire element and the oil-essence element, there is a continuous bustle and confusion of arisings and dissolvings just like the seething turmoil of churning waters in a boiling cauldron. The quality of hardness or earth element (paṭhavī-dhātu) arises in all parts of the body. It is conditioned by the four factors namely:
- wholesome or unwholesome actions of the past (kamma)
- consciousness (citta)
- temperature (utu)
- nutriment (āhāra)
This element is devoid of any substance even to the extent of an atom, and is merely a quality or characteristic. This hardness is, therefore, momentarily destroyed due to the energy of the fire element, because it cannot remain alive to exist even for a period occupied by the wink of an eye. When it is so destroyed its coexistent elements of cohesiveness, heat or coldness, and stiffness or tension have also to join in this total dissolution. Likewise, the six sensitive organs depending on that earth element have also to join in. This fact should be observed in all parts of the body.
All places vacated by the dissolved elements are also filled by replacements of the same kind. In this manner, there is an uninterrupted change of coming into being and passing away with a frequency of more than a hundred or a thousand times within a period occupied by a wink of an eye or a flash of lightning. These arisings and dissolvings are not visible to the eye. They can be seen only with the eye of wisdom by drawing inferences from the observable phenomena. All manifestations of shaking or trembling imply the dissolution of the old and its replacement by the arising of new phenomena. To the observing eye, however, it has the appearance of one and the same (identical) visual object, shaking or moving. When conventional sense perception is regarded as truth or reality, a penetrative insight into ultimate realities (paramattha-dhamma) becomes an impossible proposition. One should ponder this point well and exercise the utmost care.
The Consuming Nature of the Fire Element
We have said a while ago that such ultimate realities as earth element and water element, which are conditioned by the four factors (kamma, citta, utu and āhāra), are momentarily destroyed by the co-existent fire element. We should like to explain in this respect that fires, by nature, have the trait of burning up the objects that are the basis of their origination. In accordance with this nature, the fire element of the ultimate sphere burns up into nothingness and in a succession of moments, as do the other three co-existent elements called “hardness,” “cohesiveness” and “tenseness,” together with the six sense bases. The fire that originates from waste matter eats up all waste matter in a short moment. The fire that originates from oil similarly eats up all oil. The fire that originates from earth oil eats up all earth oil in a short moment. The fire that originates in a particular kind of fat or grease eats up all such fat or grease in a short moment.
Likewise, the fire element that is ever burning in all parts of each body of sentient beings eats up all co-existent elements in a succession of moments. In particular, all oil elements are completely eaten up in a short moment.
Such being the case, all kinds of elements, such as earth element or water element belonging to the ultimate sphere, cannot exist or remain alive even for the period occupied by the wink of an eye or a flash of lightning. They all vanish completely inside the whole body with a frequency of more than a hundred or a thousand times during the time occupied by the wink of an eye. In spite of the speed of such an evanescent process, there is so large a number of conditioning factors and all elements that have vanished are so fully replaced and renewed that persons of a young age are able to grow up and develop (in strength) from moment to moment. One should contemplate the process of dissolution that is going on without respite all over one’s own body until it is fully realized. If one can grasp the process of dissolution in shorter phases of minute detail, one will be able to grasp the process of replacements and renewals going on all over one’s own body that are taking place in events of origination in similarly shorter phases of minute detail. A fire that originates in a barrel of kerosene oil will keep on burning briskly till the whole quantity is exhausted. But if someone keeps on replenishing the diminished oil, neither the quantity of kerosene oil nor the light of the fire will appear to have diminished. Contrary to such appearance, the fact remains that both kerosene oil and the fire element are dissolving away in momentary phases.
The Difficulty in Maintaining the Body-Mind Process
Were there no dissolution process, there would be no necessity for replenishing with new oil. If fifty barrels of kerosene oil were used in repeatedly replenishing throughout the whole night, it is evident that fifty barrels of kerosene oil were consumed by the fire. By intently watching and carefully studying this, it will be seen that both the kerosene oil and the corresponding fire are dissolving away from moment to moment. The gradual diminishing in quantity of kerosene oil and fire can also be observed. People also know that a large quantity of kerosene oil is consumed in lighting up for one night. One should calculate just how many hours one’s body can remain in full zest and vigor after partaking of a meal. One should take notice that in proportion to the reduction of food, one’s body is reduced in strength and vigor. One should therefore, deduce that one’s body will exist no more if the stomach is empty. Because the rate of frequency of dissolution of component elements of this body is tremendous, the rate of frequency of replacements and replenishings is also tremendous. And because the pace of maintaining the continuity of this breaking-down-and-building-up process is so tremendous, earning of a living in this world is a task of the greatest magnitude, utmost difficulty, supreme inescapability and an absolute necessity.
If one can imagine the massive quantity of food crops, such as paddy, beans, maize, millet and all kinds of cereals, pulses, legumes and nuts, grown and harvested each year throughout the whole island continent of rose-apple trees (jambudīpa), and the yearly, monthly or daily rate of consumption of these foodstuffs, one would appreciate the magnitude of the task of renewal and the on-going concern of the maintenance and continuance of these five aggregates. If the extent of the magnitude and difficulty of the never-ending task of renewal and maintenance of these five aggregates, i.e., of earning a living is realized, the tremendous rate of speed at which the mental and physical phenomena are dissolving and vanishing in succession will also be appreciated. If one can investigate fully from its source the animated scene of all sentient beings, including water denizens and land-creatures, outstripping each other in fetching, carrying, transporting, coming, going, discussing, negotiating, planning, exercising restless care, ceaselessly striving, keeping up worries and anxieties, watching, tending, arguing, and quarrelling, for the sake of a livelihood, of food and of economic necessities, one will realize that it is all due to the difficulty of ensuring continuity by bridging the immediately preceding body and life with the immediately succeeding body and life.
If the difficulty of ensuring continuity by renewal and replacement is envisaged, the tremendous speed with which the old phenomena are dissolving and vanishing, and the fact that they are devoid of a core or essence, will be realized. By all these expressions we mean to drive home the point that infinite worries and anxieties are arising in this world just because of the tremendous rate at which the component elements, big or small, of the mind-body complex are arising and vanishing in an uninterrupted process. These are the pointers to primary origination (pakati-jāti).
Because of attachment to these five aggregates (khandha), there arises the aspiration to live a longer life-term of say a hundred or a thousand years. To achieve this purpose, continuity is devised by bridging the succession of new, momentarily-arising originations by means of earning a living, which is called “maintenance.” By such means, an uninterrupted process of arisings or new originations is maintained. If one clearly comprehends the process of primary origination, one will also clearly comprehend the process of changing origination (vikati-jāti).
The Principle of Changed Origination
“Changing origination” (vikati-jāti) means the arising of various sores, the arising of various diseases, the arising of various dangers, the arising of various enmities, the arising of various punishments and the arising of various accidents. Because there is an ever recurring process of origination, which links and joins up the old with the new without a break or interruption in continuity or flow, the change-over from pleasantness to unpleasantness can take place in a fleeting moment. Also because the process of dissolution is running at a tremendous rate of frequency, the change-over from pleasantness to unpleasantness, or from happiness to misery, can take place in a fleeting moment. There is no fleeting moment at which the origination of unpleasantness or misery cannot take place.
The Similes of the Snake Venom and the Gunpowder-Packed Rocket
The Pāli term “jāti” means “arising,” “origination” or “genesis.” In the expression, “eye-sore arises,” and “ear-ache arises,” the word “arises” signifies origination or genesis. Both internally and externally, the factors for the origination of unpleasantness and misery are infinitely numerous. Hence the Blessed One has allegorized the quality of hardness or earth element, which is the main basis of these five aggregates (khandha), as a snake of the kaṭṭhamukha species. If a person is bitten by such a snake at the tip of his toe, the snake venom speedily spreads right up to his head and he falls into a fainting fit. The whole body changes both in color and composition. The original material units of the whole body vanish and a new materiality group resembling a body electrocuted by a lightning-strike becomes instantaneously established. Nothing, not even to the extent of an atom, of the original body remains, and the whole body is entirely filled with new material units resembling the components of a body electrocuted by a lightning-stroke.
For example, suppose that there is a rocket fully charged with fifty barrels of highly explosive gun-powder. If a spark of fire were to gain access into the gun-powder chamber of that rocket through a fuse-conduit hole, the whole fifty barrel weight of gun-powder would catch fire all at once.
You might like to know how the whole body of the snake-bitten person in the above mentioned simile is transformed into a new body and how the original body disappeared. It is to be explained in this way. As everyone knows the original body standing firmly on the soles of the feet (before the snake-bite) is a materiality group in perfect harmony and pleasantness. When bitten by the snake, however, the snake venom spreads all over the body reaching up to the head. This causes unhappiness and disharmony due to feelings and sensations of inflammation, acute pain, constriction, cramp, of being prodded or sand-bagged, sluggishness, stiffness, and strained tensions, all of which were originally absent, but which become manifest only now, giving rise to disharmony and unpleasantness. If asked, they will surely reply that there occurred in that moment a transformation. In giving such a reply they would be pathetically ignorant of the truth in the ultimate sense, in that it is in fact a newly originated body composed entirely of new material units and elements.
What is commonly believed to be the self-same or identical body, undergoing such and such vicissitudes and being afflicted by such and such a disease or ailment, is indeed a succession of new originations, new materialities, new elements, new units, and new ultimate realities. When one feels hot in a certain part, or throughout the whole of one’s body, one should know that it is a new origination that has taken place in this moment. When a new body arises, the old body is bound to disappear. When one feels with discernment that his body is now growing hot, one understands that the old materiality group, element group and material-unit group have disappeared. The change is so momentary that it is impossible to notice it.
Whenever one experiences such disagreeable feelings as cold, pain, numbness, ache, stress, stiffness, tenseness, stricture, cramp, itch, strain or heat, one should bear in mind that in the part of the body where such feelings arise the old materiality has disappeared and a new origination with new materiality has been substituted. During attacks of fever characterized by shivering cold, the rising or subsiding of cold or heat, as the case may be, are clear indications of substitution or replacement of the old materiality with an entirely new one. There are infinite varieties of disagreeable experiences sustained by this body, such as a sudden onset of illness due to partaking food to which one is allergic, or bathing at the wrong time or being drenched by rain. These are the words with which the various kinds of changing origination (vikati-jāti) are described.
Fear and Worries due to Change
Due to the obvious existence of this principle of changing origination, people are in constant dread, fear, and fright. They are tormented by worries and anxieties over all kinds of possible dangers, enmities, punishments, and accidents, both internal and external to the body. They have to exercise restraint in their staying, going, coming, doing and in behaving just as they wish. They have to lead restricted and circumscribed lives by living in organized communities of villages or towns and in houses with compounds and protective barriers, in order to avoid such dangers. If such narrow and difficult ways of living are observed, one would be able to see the principle of changing-origination as the reason for such restricted ways of living.
Here ends the exposition on the tremendous rate of frequency at which the quality of hardness, or earth element, which is the fundamental basis of the whole and which is allegorized by the Buddha as a snake of the kaṭṭhamukha species, arises and vanishes in a process. As an aid to that exposition the examples of a snake-bitten person and a gun-powder-packed rocket have been given.
The Simile of the Lump of Wax
Let us take the case of a very hard lump of sealing-wax or candle-wax or fat of the size of a man, which is heated by fire, whose radiation reaches both the outside and inside of the lump. You should watch and carefully note the fact that when it is affected by the heat of fire, the quality of hardness disintegrates by gradual stages and that the quality of softness increases by gradual stages. When the fire is withdrawn and kept away from the wax, you should also note carefully that the quality of softness disintegrates by gradual stages and that the quality of hardness increases by gradual stages. In the Discourses of the Sutta Piṭaka, and in the Higher Teaching (Abhidhamma Piṭaka), the expression “disintegration by gradual stages” is represented in different terms such as “extinction” (nirodha), “passing-away” (bhaṅga), “dissolution” (khaya), “vanishing” (vaya), “disappearance” (attha), “death” (maraṇa), and “impermanence” (anicca).
The Higher Knowledge of the Truth of Impermanence
Insight-trainees (vipassanā-yogī) are bound to contemplate such phenomena till an objective knowledge of “impermanence” is attained. Such knowledge is called, “the higher knowledge of the truth of impermanence” (anicca-vijjā-ñāṇa). If the origination of the earth element, which has been allegorized as a snake of the kaṭṭhamukha species, is fully comprehended, the disintegration and arising ever anew in a continuous process of the other co-existing primary elements, namely:
- the water element, which has been allegorized as a snake of the pūtimukha species
- the fire element, which has been allegorized as a snake of aggimukha species
- the wind element, which has been allegorized as a snake of sattamukha species, will also be comprehended.
The increase or disintegration, by gradual stages of the quality of cohesiveness in the water element is, indeed, a gradual extinction, passing-away, dissolution, vanishing, disappearance, death and impermanence.
The increase or disintegration by gradual stages of the quality of heat in the fire element is, indeed, a gradual extinction, passing-away, dissolution, vanishing, disappearance, death, and impermanence.
The increase or disintegration by gradual stages of the quality of tension or stiffness in the wind element is, indeed, a gradual extinction, passing-away, dissolution, vanishing, disappearance, death, and impermanence.
Only this kind of comprehension of “impermanence” qualifies as genuine insight knowledge (vipassanā-ñāṇa). The mere intellectual knowledge or contemplation of the idea of (anthropomorphic) death of individuals in the course of time as a necessary consequence of the process of living is definitely not an insight knowledge. Worldlings of all classes, castes, and races know this (anthropomorphic) kind of death. The same remarks apply equally to the idea of old-age and disintegration.
If the sign of impermanence (aniccā-lakkhaṇa) in the arising and dissolving process of the four great primaries is observed with insight, no special effort needs to be made to comprehend the six sense bases together with the fire element and nutrient-essence (oil) element. Such comprehension is bound to be achieved automatically.
Here ends the interpretation of the expression: This body has the characteristic of origination in an uninterrupted process, contained in the fifth item of the matrix.
Sixth Item of the Matrix
The Process of Momentary Decay
We shall now explain the significance of the expression: “This body has the characteristics of decaying momentarily in a process (ayaṃ kāyo jarādhammo)” contained in the sixth item of the matrix.
If one has comprehended all that we have said with regard to origination (jāti), and particularly to the saying that there is no phenomenon even to the extent of an atom that can endure for a period occupied by the wink of an eye or a flash of lightning, one will be able to comprehend the idea of decay also. In this world there is no case of dissolution that is not preceded by decay and disintegration. All objects tending to become dissolved have to move from a state of cheerful brightness and newness to one of decrease and decay.
(It is a matter of intelligent observation that in the sphere of ultimate realities, dissolutions are always preceded by decrease and decay, becoming worn-out, putrid or rotten. This fact should be quite obvious.)
Here ends the exposition on the phenomenon of decay.
Seventh Item of the Matrix
The Process of Momentary Death
We propose next to explain the significance of the expression: “This physical body has the characteristic of momentarily dying in a process (ayaṃ kāyo maraṇadhammo).” In previous chapters we have mentioned the following terms: extinction (nirodha), dissolution (bhaṅga), passing-away (khaya), vanishing (vaya), disappearance (attha), death (maraṇa), and impermanence (anicca). They all bear the same connotation as the term “death,” in so far as ultimate realities (paramattha-dhamma) are concerned. The term “death” means momentary dissolutions and vanishings because of the disaster of being consumed by the fires of the primary-elements and of decay. For, as we have said earlier, the constituents of the body are without an essence or core and are incapable of abiding even for a period occupied by the wink of an eye or a flash of lightning.
“Death” (in this context) means the dissolution and vanishing of the whole body, complete and entire, in a disastrous process occurring at the rate of more than a hundred times during the period occupied by the wink of an eye or by a flash of lightning. For example, let us imagine that a very fresh and sprightly lotus is plucked away from its water habitat in a pond and placed on the land, high and dry. This lotus is assailed by three adversities, namely:
- Perceptible decay (sanṭati-jarā),
- Decay in momentary phases (khaṇika-jarā)
- Death in momentary phases (khaṇika-maraṇa),
It therefore withers and perishes. In this instance, the conspicuous “perceptible decay,” arises due to the following contributory factors:
- Being deprived of the support of water that is its life-principle,
- Being subjected to the onset of the element of heat generatedby the sun’s rays,
- By the scorched earth
- By the heated water.
‘Perceptible decay” means the decrease, depreciation, shrinkage and withering-away that is obvious to the eye. The fact is plain through mere sight. The final dissolution on coming to an end is also perceptible to the eye. When perceptible decay is seen with the eye, “decay” in momentary phases and “death” in momentary phases will become clearly perceptible to the eye of wisdom. Of course, these two latter phenomena are invisible to the eye of flesh.
The possibility that they may be seen with the eye of wisdom, can be explained thus: When the lotus of the above mentioned simile is pulled out of the water, the quality of energy-packed hardness of earth element instantaneously collapses into the sphere of weakness in momentary phases. Strength and energy deteriorate in momentary phases while weakness deficiency arises in corresponding momentary phases in the form of changed origination (vikati-jāti). The energy-packed water element, the cold and refreshing fire element, and the tensely bracing wind element disintegrate in momentary phases. The elements of color (vaṇṇa), smell (gandha), taste (rasa), and nutrient-essence (ojā) also disintegrate in momentary phases. If they are contemplated with concentration and wisdom, they would appear to be just like myriads of snowflakes dropping and dissolving away.
The Tremendous Speed of the Arising and Dissolution Process
The rate of change in the process of dissolution of the old and their replacement with new material units of the same kind in momentary phases is so fast that it is beyond description even by drawing comparisons with such rates of change. It is also impossible to discern and differentiate between the preceding phenomenon and the succeeding one. It is not within the province of worldlings (puthujjana) to grasp these phenomena just with their mere intellect. They would have to contemplate the arising and dissolving process in longer momentary phases or intervals, at which rate they would be able to keep up. In all cases where the tremendous speed of the arising and dissolving process is beyond the capacity of the observer to keep up with, a differentiation of discernment will not be possible and the phenomena will appear to be one and the same (static) thing. You are advised to contemplate the sign or characteristic of the tremendous speed and frequency of change with which the process of arising and dissolution is going on in your body, as far as your observation is able to keep up with it.
(If there is no process of dissolving and arising in momentary phases, there cannot also be any withering-away or drying-up process in progressive momentary phases. So, let your knowledge of insight be acute, subtle, and refined.)
Seeing Innumerable Changes Innumerable Times
As shown in the example of the lotus flower there are innumerable kinds of changes going on in this body. One experiences such changes innumerable times. One sees them innumerable times. One comprehends them with knowledge and wisdom innumerable times. “Experiencing by oneself innumerable times” means the feelings associated with such exclamations as: “Oh! Something is happening inside by head. My eye, my face, my nose, my ear, the corner inside the mouth under my cheek, my lip, my mouth, my tongue, the inside of my chest, or the inside of my abdomen, are all being afflicted with this or that kind of pain or ailment.” If one can contemplate the phenomena of origination, decay, and deathwith insight, wisdom will come within easy reach.
Knowledge, however, can hardly keep pace with the speed in the process of momentary dissolutions in primary originations (pakati-jāti). The point we are making is that there is not a fraction of a moment wherein a radical change in the whole of this body is not taking place by way of internal or external causes whenever conditions favourable for such change arise. The external dangers may arise from fleas, bugs, mosquitoes, vicious flies, snakes, scorpions, or from the cudgel, sword, or from calamities such as devastating fires or floods. There is no fraction of a moment wherein a radical change in the whole of the body cannot be brought about through destruction or decay. There is no fraction of a moment wherein an unpleasant origination (aniṭṭha-jāti) cannot take place. There is no fraction of a moment wherein destruction or ruin cannot take place. This mind-body complex or the five aggregates (khandha) is endowed forever with the characteristics of momentary origination, decay, and death. Such clearly perceptible changes, destruction, and transformations can take place at the very moment of the onset of danger with a force corresponding to such an onset. Hence the expression, “This body has the characteristics of originating, decaying, and dying,” contained in the seventh item of the matrix.
Here ends the exposition on the characteristic of death (maraṇa) inherent in this mind-body complex.
Eight Item of the Matrix
The Danger of Impermanence
We have already explained many times that the constituents of this body cannot endure even for a period occupied by the wink of an eye or a flash of lightning. If, on the other hand, it can endure for such a period it should remain unchanged even if it were struck by lightning or a thunder bolt during such a period. The fact that it remains unchanged or unimpaired should be perceptible because the period occupied by the wink of an eye or a flash of lightning is still long enough for an event to be perceived. Such is, however, not the case. When struck by a blow with great force, this body instantaneously transforms and changes. All such transformations and changes mean a total vanishing of the old phenomena and their being substituted by entirely new ones.
In this world, all water denizens and land creatures are incessantly toiling, struggling, striving, worrying and tiring themselves out throughout every day and every hour. If the reason for this universal unrest is investigated, one will trace it to impermanence or transitoriness (anicca) as the greatest single factor. One will see that impermanence or transitoriness is the cause of all troubles and sufferings (dukkha).Then one will realize the stupendous enormity of the danger arising from impermanence or transitoriness. Were all things permanent and eternal (nicca), there would not be the slightest cause for striving or worrying in this world. The unavoidable performance of meritorious deeds (puñña-kiriya) such as alms-giving (dāna) and the practice of morality (sīla) etc., is ascribable also to impermanence or transitoriness. This practice of virtue is also a form of suffering (dukkha) entailing troubles and worries just on account of impermanence. Were all things in the world permanent and not impermanent, there would be no worry or anxiety for the future.
The characteristic of impermanence (anicca-lakkhaṇa) means continuous momentary death (khaṇika-maraṇa) and momentary passing away (khaṇika-bhaṅga). Because these momentary deaths and passing away are inherent in this mind-body complex, all sentient beings are beset by the danger of infinite troubles and worries with respect to earning a living in the present life and by the infinite troubles and anxieties for the interminable round of future rebirths (saṃsāra). You should, therefore, make profound your understanding and realization of this paramount problem by studying these points in conjunction with what we have said earlier about the enormity and difficulty of the task of perpetuating the life-continuum, earning a living, and making investments for renewed births.
Here ends the brief exposition on the characteristics of impermanence inherent in this mind-body complex.
Ninth Item of the Matrix
The Sheer Mass of Suffering
With regard to the expression, “This physical body is a sheer mass of misery, trouble and suffering (ayaṃ kāyo dukkho),” contained in the ninth item of the matrix, we should like to say that there are three kinds of suffering, namely:
- Suffering within suffering (dukkha-dukkha)
- Suffering associated with conditioning activities (saṅkhāra-dukkha)6
- Suffering associated with radical change (vipariṇāma-dukkha)7
(1) “Suffering within suffering” (dukkha-dukkha) comprises:
- Danger from internal sources such as the ninety-eight kinds of diseases entailing feelings of internal heat, pain, ache, strain, etc.
- Danger from external sources such as those arising from disastrous fires and floods, from weapons such as the sword or spear, from bites of poisonous snakes or scorpions, entailing pain and distress
- The harrowing and distressing pain endured by denizens of the lower worlds of this kind of suffering
Even the sentient beings of the animal kingdom are fully aware of this kind of suffering, for, when they sense approaching danger, they become seized with dread, fear, and fright. On such occasions, they either scamper for cover or turn round to offer resistance, if they see fit.
Any person who has a morbid sore or ulcer on his body has reason to be afraid of the smell of burning earth-oil, or edible-oil, or the smell of onion or garlic fried in oil. The fear in this case is not directed to the smell itself. Instead it is directed mainly to the possible aggravation of his bodily complaint. A person who has no morbid sore on his body has nothing to fear from a frying smell. In this analogy, this mind-body complex (khandha) isa veritable hotbed of morbid sores and ulcers due to which it is boiling hot and in a seething turmoil. It is ever ready to be convulsed with morbid pains whenever internal and external dangers arise, which we have allegorized as “frying smell.” If one has the ingenuity to investigate the source of all troubles in the shape of worries and anxieties, or dread and fear, one would trace it to this mind-body complex. It would be evident to one’s intellectual knowledge that the infinite troubles and difficulties of all sentient beings are ascribable to the omnipresence of this suffering within ordinary suffering.
Here ends the brief exposition on suffering within suffering.
(2) “Suffering associated with conditioning activities” (saṅkhāra-dukkha) means:
- The preliminary suffering involved in striving with worry and anxiety to achieve the object of desire that has not yet been achieved
- The preliminary suffering involved in striving with worry and anxiety to acquire the object of desire that has not yet been acquired
- The preliminary suffering involved in striving with worry and anxiety to cause the arrival of the object of desire that has not yet arrived
All such masses of suffering are called “Suffering associated with conditioning activities.”
(3) “Suffering associated with radical change” (vipariṇāma-dukkha) means:
- The suffering involved in striving with worry and anxiety so that the object of one’s desire, which has already been achieved after much slaving and toiling with worry and fretfulness, may not become destroyed, may not disappear, may not dwindle, may not change for the worse, may not die, may not be set upon by danger, punishment or enmity
- The bodily suffering (kāyika-dukkha) and mental suffering (cetasika-dukkha) sustained by one when, in spite of one’s striving with worry and anxiety to prevent such destruction, disappearance, dwindling or decline, etc., dwindling, decline, disappearance or loss comes to pass as conditions favorable for such accidents and misfortunes arise
For a clear understanding we shall give the following simile: the three kinds of suffering are inherent in the cooked rice we eat daily. That rice burdens a person who cannot dissociate from or dispense with it in three ways. Firstly, it burdens the consumer with pre-achievement-suffering (saṅkhāra-dukkha). This involves continuous striving with worry and anxiety during the whole period between the first stage of strenuous endeavors to procure seed grains many years ahead and the last stage many years thereafter of cooking the rice for final eating. Whoever cannot dispense with eating rice is always, during this indispensable period, beset with pre-achievement-suffering. When, however, the eating of rice is dispensed with, one becomes liberated from such suffering. It is because rice is truly a conditioned phenomenon (saṅkhāra-dhamma) whose production requires an ordeal, years ahead, that there is striving with worry and anxiety to solve a formidable array of all the vexing problems involved. This is how rice burdens those who cannot give it up with suffering associated with conditioning activities.
[The conditioning-activities (saṅkhāra) described above are mere activities belonging to the concept of continuity (santati-saṅkhāra). As regards momentary-conditioning-activities (khaṇika-saṅkhāra) they should be considered with reference to the Law of Causal Relations, the Paṭṭhāna.]
The Burden of Eating
It will now be explained how rice burdens those who cannot give up eating it with suffering associated with radical change (vipariṇāma-dukkha). It is a long period that intervenes between the first stage of strenuous endeavors to secure seed grains many years ahead and the final stage of solving vexing problems connected with the evacuation of waste products from the bowels after rice-eating. All striving with worry and anxiety during that intervening period in order to avert or circumvent possible work stoppages, declines, and disasters in the production of rice, is called suffering associated with radical change in relation to rice. A person who cannot dispense with eating rice is permanently beset with suffering associated with radical change in relation to rice. When rice-eating is dispensed with, he becomes liberated from such suffering. This is because all objects, which are the factors of producing rice, have the characteristic of destructibility and radical change whenever conditions favorable for such destruction or change arise. Here ends the description of the burdens imposed by rice on those who cannot give up eating it in the form of Suffering associated with radical change.
All bodily and mental sufferings that arise in the course of striving with worry and anxiety, in pre-achievement and post-achievement undertakings associated with producing rice for consumption are called suffering within ordinary suffering. Therefore, rice imposes on such persons the burden of suffering within ordinary suffering forever. Whenever conditions favorable for the destruction or loss in rice production arise, such undertakings are bound to meet with such disasters. All grief and lamentations associated with such destruction or loss constitute suffering associated with radical change, because rice has not reached the state of being cooked in an efficient process. The following misfortunes are called suffering associated with radical change because they arise only after the rice has been efficiently and successfully produced and consumed:
- Suffering arising out of a fatal case of indigestion
- Suffering arising out of various diseases (due to being allergic to certain foods)
- Suffering arising out of evacuation of waste products of thebowels even though the food has been properly digested.
There is a general saying and belief that the dissolution and destruction of the dependent materiality (upādā-rūpa) such as color, form (rūpa), smell (gandha), and taste (rasa) caused by the process of chewing or masticating inside the mouth, constitute radical change (vipariṇāma). All expressions used so far with respect to the Pāli word “vipariṇāma” are strictly in terms of the concept of continuity (sanṭati-paññatti).
Radical Change in Momentary Phases
In terms of momentariness (khaṇika), however, the ultimate realities (paramattha-dhamma) such as the earth element, water element, etc., which manifest themselves in shape or form through various originating factors (uppāda), cannot endure in their originally new and fresh state even for a period occupied by the wink of an eye. They cannot remain the same for two consecutive moments. Consumed by the fire of decay8 (jarā), they are decaying and deteriorating in momentary phases. Being consumed by the fire of death9 (maraṇa), they are dissolving and dying-out in momentary phases.
Such kinds of momentary decays and dissolutions, due to the onslaught of the dangers of jarā and maraṇa, are called “radical change in momentary phases” (khaṇika-vipariṇāma). The ultimate realities (paramattha-dhamma) such as the earth element and water element that are perpetually subjected to this law of radical change in momentary phases are, indeed, the veritable burning-materials, or “food,” fed to the fires of decay and death. They are not, by any means, “feasts of pleasantness.” Because they are perpetually subject to the violent onslaught of decay and death, they have the characteristic of meeting horrible deaths and dissolutions and are, therefore called “the groups of suffering associated with radical change.”
The Simile of the King’s Dungeon with Blazing Infernos
When observed with wisdom or discernment, each of these skin overlaid bodies, big or small, resembles a king’s dungeon with blazing infernos. All mental and material phenomena of the body, comprising such elements as the earth element, water element, etc., are like condemned prisoners who, by the king’s orders, are to be thrown into flaming dungeons. The fires of decay and the fires of death are like the immense and highly combustible powder-kegs and flaming jet devices that could blast away the whole dungeon-load of prisoners in a single blast, leaving nothing as residue.
The mode of resemblance may be explained as follows. The four great factors of life namely:
- Volition (kamma)
- Mind or consciousness (citta)
- Temperature or thermal conditions (utu)
- Nutriment (āhāra)
Which are forever building and creating a succession of new mental and material phenomena throughout the whole of this mind-body complex without a moment’s interruption, and which are also destroying them instantaneously in the same process, are like four prison warders who are flinging the condemned prisoners down into the dungeon of raging fires without a moment’s pause.
In the Canonical Scriptures, however, the Blessed One has, in a beautiful simile, compared the nutriment of mental volition (mano-sañcetana-āhāra), which is synonymous with the wholesome and unwholesome volitional actions (kusala-akusala-kamma), to the two formidable men of great strength who are catching hold of all comers and flinging them into the pit of flames. The mental and material phenomena, which are forever arising in all parts of this mind-body complex in an uninterrupted process of momentariness, are being instantaneously blasted away by the fires of decay and the fires of death in a similar process into nothingness, i.e., leaving not even ashes as residue with each successive blast. This process of psycho-physical combustion bears a resemblance, as far as complete and total dissolution is concerned, to the burning-up of condemned prisoners by the immense and highly combustible fire-emitting powder-kegs and flaming jet-devices of the infernal dungeons, allegorized above, which leaves nothing, not even ashes, as residue after each successive blast.
Here ends the exposition on the significance of the term “radical change with momentariness.”
The Troubles and Vexations of Meritorious Activities, etc.
We now propose to compare the resemblance of the conditioning activities (santati-saṅkhāra) with respect to rice production—as allegorized above in terms of the concept of continuity or “perceptible change” (santati-paññatti) within this mind-body complex, the five aggregates (khandha). Now, let all of you imagine your mind-body complexes, big or small, which are overlaid with a skin, as a pot of rice already well-cooked.
In order that you may perpetuate your mind-body complex, (which is but a succession of newly arising mental and material phenomena in an uninterrupted process from the moment of conception in a mother’s womb to this moment now), you have had to undergo, during your past existences, enormous and endless trials, tribulations and worries to earn a living, combined with doing merit. Earning a living includes such vocational activities as agriculture and trade. Meritorious deeds include alms-giving and the practice of morality, etc. For this purpose you have had to earn the means, accumulated with trouble. In the present existence also you have to undergo enormous and endless trials, tribulations and worries to earn a living, combined with doing merit. Your perpetual worry and main preoccupation is to prolong, if possible, your life-term to a hundred years counting from the moment of conception to the final indignity of death (cuti) of kamma-produced-materiality (kammaja-rūpa). All these troubles and vexations are called the mass of suffering associated with conditioning activities (saṅkhāra-dukkha) or with the establishment and maintenance of these five aggregates (khandha). If the immensity of the never-ending task of earning a living, confronting all water denizens and land creatures at all times of the day and night, is fully realized, the immensity of the trouble of establishing and maintaining these five aggregates will also be fully realized.
In the present life-time, one can see for oneself how much trouble is involved in giving alms or doing charity in an organized manner. The harrowing task of collecting the wherewithal to practice charity, greeting and entertaining the receivers of alms, and discharging ancillary obligations is obvious to everybody. By judging these known facts one can form an idea as to the troubles one had taken in one’s former existences as advance payment (investment) for the future well-being of these five aggregates (khandha). From the moment of conception in a mother’s womb to the final moment of death, there are the intervening years of a human life-span. If these periods of life-span are reduced to smaller divisions of time, there would be an infinite number of years, fortnights, days, hours and moments. Now, in the course of these infinities, there is not a single moment wherein destruction cannot take place, if conditions favorable for such destruction arise. Likewise, there is not a single moment in the course of those infinities wherein a change or death cannot take place if conditions favorable for such a change or death arise, as the case may be.
As change and death are omnipresent in this world, sentient beings are making efforts with great fear, dread, fright and anxiety to avert and circumvent possible destruction, change or death. All these troubles and vexations of life fall within the definition of suffering, associated with the radical change of that mind-body complex.
In spite of all efforts and strivings to avert and circumvent the dangers of approaching change or death, multifarious changes and upsets come to pass in the form of disruptions, sickness, pains, strain, aches etc. In spite of such possibilities, sentient beings have to risk those dangers and troubles for the sake of the necessities of life. Apart from these, there are also troubles arising out of greed, hate, conceit and holding wrong views (micchā-diṭṭhi), involving, amongst other things, the practice of self-mortification by immersing in cold water during winter and subjecting one’s body to the heat of fire during summer. There are also troubles and inconveniences in such spiritual pursuits as learning the Dhamma or practising the Dhamma. All these troubles come within the definition of suffering, associated with radical change of this mindbody complex. In the earlier sections, we have already dealt with the exposition on suffering, associated with momentary change(khaṇika-vipariṇāma-dukkha).
Condensed or summarized, the above exposition in essence means: In order that a rebirth or new origination that fits in well with one’s own desire may be brought about in the future, a person performs the following meritorious or demeritorious actions an hour in advance, a month in advance, a year in advance, a life-term in advance or world-cycles in advance:
- practising morality
- practising mind-development
- practising good conduct
- practising evil conduct
- becoming a monk
- becoming a hermit
- earning a good livelihood
- earning a bad livelihood
All troubles, vexations, trials and tribulations involved in all these undertakings come within the definition of suffering associated with conditioning activities (saṅkhāra-dukkha). The Blessed One is referring to these troubles, etc., when he proclaims (in verse no. 278 of the Dhammapada), “All conditioned things involve suffering” (sabbe saṅkhārā dukkhā).
As a consequence of conditioning activities performed in the past, rebirth or new origination takes place subsequently. This origination again calls for new effort and striving, with worry and anxiety, for its perpetuation and furtherance. This trouble falls within the definition of suffering associated with conditioning activities. Preparations have also been made with a view to averting and circumventing possible disruptions or breakdowns in a process of pleasurable origin (iṭṭha-jāti) or its being displaced by a process of unpleasurable origin (aniṭṭha-jāti). All these troubles taken in anticipation of the approaching danger of radical change fall within the definition of suffering, associated with radical change of that mind-body complex.
Here ends the brief exposition of the characteristics and signs of suffering arising out of this mind-body complex.
Tenth Item of the Matrix
This Body is Void of an Ego
We shall now explain the significance of the expression, “This body (the five aggregates) is void of an ego” (ayaṃ kāyo anattā) contained in the tenth item of the matrix. The word “body” (“ko” in Burmese rendering) used with reference to the Pāli term anattā, does not bear the same meaning as the words, “physical body” represented by the Pāli terms, kāya, sarīra, deha, tanu, vapu, gatta and bondi. The word “self,” which is synonymous with the word “I,” is used in everyday language to differentiate between a self as an internal entity and others as external entities. The following expressions are given as similes:
- “In desperation, a mother will hardly regard her son as a sonof her own self”
- “No-one else is loved with more attachment than one’s own self” (atta-sama-pemā natthi)”
- “The son of one’s own self. His son”
- “The wife of one’s own self. His wife”
In the earlier chapters we have explained comprehensively the laws of nature in the ultimate sense (dhamma-sabhāva) in so far as they relate to the nine previous summaries or matrices. If one can realize with penetration and objective knowledge the ultimate realities referred to in the present, as well as in the earlier summaries, the idea of a “self,” “ego-entity,” “sentient-being,” “core” or “substance,” will vanish forever and a successful breakthrough to win the higher knowledge of the truth of impersonality and conditionality (anatta-vijjā) will be achieved. If the veil is lifted and the four great primaries, the six sense bases (salāyatana) and the six consciousness elements (viññāṇa-dhātu) are seen through with penetrating insight, the ego-illusion (atta-diṭṭhi) will vanish forever. When the characteristics of impermanence (anicca-lakkhaṇa) and of suffering (dukkha-lakkhaṇa) in these elements are seen through with penetrating insight, the idea of “mine,” “my belongings” or “things pertaining to a self” (attaniya) willvanish forever and one reaches the goal, i.e., the end of the path leading to the higher knowledge of the noble ones (ariya-vijjā). By reaching this goal, one becomes delivered from the state of being a mere insight-trainee (yogī) and is transformed into one who is endowed with the threefold knowledge (tevijjā) comprising:
- Knowledge of former births (pubbe-nivāsa-ñāṇa)
- Knowledge of the divine eye (dibba-cakkhu-ñāṇa)
- Knowledge of the extinction of all taints (āsavakkhaya-ñāṇa).
Here, the concise Vijjāmagga Dīpanī or the Manual of the Path to Higher Knowledge comes to a close. It was compiled at the request of a preacher-hermit who resides within the precincts of the Kusināra Pagoda, situated on a hill near Bilin (in Thaton District) where I, a jungle recluse of the Ledi monastery near Monywa, arrived on the 4th waxing day of Nattaw in the year 1260 B.E., on a pilgrimage to pay homage. In making the request the preacher-hermit expressed the desire to know the method of overcoming the clinging to ego-belief (attavādupādāna), which is synonymous with personality-belief (sakkāya-diṭṭhi). This new treatise, which shows the method of winning the higher knowledge of insight (vipassanā-vijjā) that militates against the ego-belief, was finished on the 12th waxing day of Pyatho in the year 1260 B.E. (1898 C.E.).
Here ends the Manual of the Path Leading to the Attainment of Higher knowledge.
May this meritorious act be to me the cause of attaining Deliverance (nibbāna paccayo hotu).
A Short Biography of Ledi Sayadaw
Known to scholars of many countries, the Venerable Ledi Sayādaw, Aggamahāpaṇḍita, D. Litt.,was perhaps the outstanding Buddhist figure of this age. With the increase in interest in Buddhism in Western lands, there is a great demand for his Buddhist discourses and writings.
Bhikkhu Ñāṇa who was later known as Ledi Sayādaw was born on Tuesday, the 13th Waxing of Nattaw, 1208 Burmese Era (1846 C.E.) at Saing-pyin Village, Dipeyin Township, Shwebo District. His parents were U Tun Tha and Daw Kyone. Early in life he was accepted into the Sangha as a sāmaṇera and at the age of 20 as a bhikkhu, under the patronage of Salin Sayādaw U Paṇḍicca. He received his monastic education under various teachers and later was trained in Buddhist literature by the Venerable Sankyaung Sayādaw, Sudassana-dhaja-atulādhipati-sīripavaramahādhamma-rājādhi-rāja-guru of Mandalay.
He was a bright student. It was said of him: “About 2000 students attended the lectures delivered daily by the Venerable Sankyaung Sayādaw. One day the Venerable Sayādaw set in Pāli twenty questions on pāramī (perfections) and asked all the students to answer them. None of them, except Bhikkhu Ñāṇa, could answer those questions satisfactorily.” He collected all these answers and when he attained 14 rains retreats (vassa) and while he was still in San-kyaung Monastery, he published his first book—the Pārami Dīpanī (Manual of Perfections).
During the reign of King Theebaw he became a Pāli lecturer at Mahā Jotikārāma Monastery in Mandalay. A year after the capture of King Theebaw, i.e., in 1887 C.E., he moved to a place to the north of Monywa Town, where he established a monastery under the name of Ledi-tawya Monastery. He accepted many bhikkhu-students fromvarious parts ofBurma and imparted Buddhist education to them. In 1897 C.E., he wrote the Paramattha Dīpanī (Manual of Ultimate Truths) in Pāli.
Later, he toured many parts of Burma for the purpose of propagating the Buddha Dhamma. In the towns and villages he visited, he delivered various discourses on the Dhamma and established Abhidhamma classes and Meditation Centres. He composed Abhidhamma rhymes or abhidhamma-saṅkhitta and taught them in his Abhidhamma classes. In some of the principle towns he spent a vassa, rains-retreat, imparting Abhidhamma and Vinaya education to lay devotees. There are still monasteries in Burma, such as Kyaikkasan Ledi Meditation Centre in Rangoon and Leditawya Monastery, which was established by Ledi Sayādaw himself near Monywa, where his teachings and expositions are preserved and continue to be studied.
During his travels he wrote many essays, letters, poems, and manuals in Burmese. He has written more than seventy manuals (see bibliography below), of which seven have been translated into English and published in The Light of the Dhamma journal. The Vipassanā Dīpanī (Manual of Insight) was translated by his disciple Sayādaw U Ñāṇa,10 Paṭhamagyaw. The Paṭṭhānuddesa Dīpanī (A Concise Exposition of the Buddhist Philosophy of Relations) was originally written in Pāli by the late Ledi Sayādaw and translated by Sayādaw U Ñāṇa. The Niyāma Dīpanī (Manual of Cosmic Order) was translated by U Ñāṇa and Dr Barua and edited by Mrs Rhys Davids. The Sammādiṭṭhi Dīpanī (Manual of Right Understanding) and the Catusacca Dīpanī (Manual of the Four Noble Truths) and the Alin Kyan (An Exposition of Five Kinds of Light), translated in part only, were all translated by the editors of The Light of the Dhamma. Bodhipakkhiya Dīpanī (Manual of the Factors Leading to Enlightenment) was translated by U Sein Nyo Tun, I.C.S. (Retd.), and the Maggaṅga Dīpanī (Manual of the Constituents of the Noble Path) was translated by U Saw Tun Teik, B.A., B.L., and revised and edited by the English Editorial Board of the Union Buddha Sāsana Council.
In the year 1910, while residing at the Masoyain Monastery in Mandalay, the Venerable Ledi Sayādaw, together with the Abhidhaja-mahāraṭṭhaguru Masoyain Sayādaw of Mandalay (President of the Sixth great Buddhist Council), the Venerable Sayādaw U Ñāṇa and U Shwe Zan Aung B.A., founded the Burma Buddhist Foreign Mission. This project was carried on by the Masoyain Sayādaw of Mandalay until the death of his Englisheducated colleague in this undertaking, the Sayādaw U Ñāṇa, who died about 1936.
Ledi Sayadaw was awarded the title of Aggamahāpaṇḍita by the Government of India in 1911 C.E. Later, the University of Rangoon conferred on him the degree of D. Litt. (Honoris Causa). In his last years he settled down at Pyinmana where he died in 1923 C.E. at the ripe old age of 77.
It is well known that in 1856 King Mindon (1852–1877) conceived the meritorious idea of having the Pāli Tipiṭaka carved on 729 marble slabs in Maṇḍalay in order that the Teaching might be preserved. The work took place from 1860 to 1868. It is not so well known outside Burma, however, that a similar mark of respect for the works of Venerable Ledi Sayādaw was made by his supporters in Monywa in Upper Burma after his death. This recognition and treatment of a Buddhist monk’s works is unique and it gives some indication of the immense importance attached to his writings.
The reputation of Ledi Sayādaw still lives on in Burma and in the Buddhist world. He was a bhikkhu of great learning and a prolific writer with a unique style of exposition. He was an austere bhikkhu, yet a very humane one, who would often write a whole treatise or a long letter in reply to a question asked by a student or listener.
- But see Bhikkhu Ñāṇamoli’s assessment of this term “name and form” (nāma-rūpa) at Appendix I, p.330 Minor Readings & Illustrator (Khuddakapāṭha) P.T.S.
- The eight attainments (samāpatti) are:
- The first mental absorption (paṭhama-jhāna)
- The second mental absorption (dutiya-jhāna)
- The third mental absorption (tatiya-jhāna)
- The fourth mental absorption (catuttha-jhāna)
- The sphere of unbounded space (ākāsānañcāyatana)
- The sphere of unbounded consciousness (viññāṇañcāyatana)
- The sphere of nothingness (ākiñcaññāyatana)
- The sphere of neither-perception-nor-non-perception (nevasaññānāsaññāyatana).
- The ten stages of insight-knowledge are:
- Insight into the three characteristics of existence (sammasana-ñāṇa)
- Insight into the process of arising and dissolution of phenomena (udayabbaya-ñāṇa)
- Insight into the process of dissolution of phenomena (bhaṅga-ñāṇa)
- Insight into the fearful condition of phenomena (bhaya-ñāṇa)
- Insight into the fault-riddenness of phenomena (ādīnava-ñāṇa)
- Insight arising from the wearisome condition of phenomena (nibbidā-ñāṇa)
- Insight arising from a yearning for escape (muccitu-kamy-atā-ñāṇa)
- Insight arising from reflective contemplation (paṭisaṅkhā-ñāṇa)
- Insight arising from equanimity (saṅkhār’upekkhā-ñāṇa)
- Insight-knowledge of adaptation (anuloma-ñāṇa)
- An idiom based on Indian and Burmese Buddhist mythology which the Ledi Sayādaw often uses to indicate the symbolically most important physical phenomena in this world. Mount Meru is the highest mountain and the center of Jambudīpa and the universe The 4 rivers including the Ganges flow from its 4 sides, which are occupied by the four regent gods. Mount Cakkavāla, or the “circumjacent mountains,” is a mythical range of mountains encircling the earth and is the limit of light and darkness. The Great Earth is the wide world, the earth. (BPS editor)
- The six seasons according to ancient Indian notions are: hemanta, sisira, vasanta, gimha, vassāna and sarada approximately equivalent to December and January, February and March, April and May, June and July, August and September, and October and November.
- U Pu (or Stanley Davidson) rendered this term here as “pre-achievement suffering,” which does not sufficiently convey the meaning of this important Pali term, therefore it has been changed to the more appropriate translation that U Pu used in later sections of this chapter. (BPS editor)
- The translation here was “post-achievement suffering,” which has been changed to the better rendering used in later sections. (BPS Editor)
- See Preface, last paragraph.
- See Preface, last paragraph.
- Published under the title The Buddhist Philosophy of Relations (Wheel 331/333) by the B.P.S., Kandy.
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