Two Methods of Calm (Samatha)
I have already explained two methods for making the mind calm and stable. There is mindfulness of breathing, which centres the mind in one-pointedness through awareness set on the in-and-out breaths; and mindfulness of the body (kayagata-sati) which uses examination of the various bodily components to penetrate to their impure nature.
The Elements (Dhatu-kammathana)
Another method is the examination of the elements. 'Element' (dhatu) here
refers to having similar characteristics rather than to coming from the same
root. Thus those body parts that are hard are referred to as the earth element
(pathavi-dhatu); those parts that are fluid are referred to as the water element
(apo-dhatu); those that are warming are the fire element (tejo-dhatu); and those
that are in motion, the wind element (vayo-dhatu).
We previously analysed the body into thirty-one or thirty-two internal and external components, whereas for the elements we analyse them in the following manner:
1. The earth element is the head hair, body hair, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, sinews, bones, bone marrow, kidneys, heart, liver, membranes, spleen, lungs, large gut, small gut, undigested food and excrement.
All of these and any other bodily parts that are hard are designated as the earth element.
2. The water element is the bile, phlegm, pus, blood, sweat, fat, tears, skin grease, spittle, mucous, oil of the joints and urine. Any other component parts that are fluid can be designated as the water element.
3. The fire element is that heat which warms the body (yena santappati); the heat which causes the body to decline and deteriorate (yena jiriyati); the heat which makes the body feverish (yena paridayhati); and digestive-heat for whatever we eat, drink, chew or taste (yena asitapitakhayitasayitam sammaparinamam gacchati). Any thing else in the body that has a heating characteristic is designated as the fire element.
4. The wind element is the upward-blowing wind (uddhangama vata); the downward-blowing wind (adhogama vata); the wind in the abdomen (kucchisaya vata); the wind in the bowels (kotthasaya vata); the wind that courses through all the limbs (angamanganusarino vata) and the in-and-out breathing (assasopassaso). Any other part which has a moving or blowing quality is designated the wind element.
5. The space element. In other discourses the space element (akasa dhatu) is presented as the fifth element, this being the empty spaces and cavities of the body: the ear canals (kannacchiddam); the sinuses (nasacchiddam); the mouth orifice (mukhadvaram); the gullet (yena ca asitapitakhayitasayitam ajjhoharati); the space where the food remains (i.e. the stomach) (yattha ca... ...santitthiti); the orifice from where the food is expelled (i.e. the rectum) (yena ca ....adhobhaga nikkhamati). Any other empty space or cavity in this body is also designated as the space element.
Separating-out One's Elements
It is quite normal for each one of us to be attached to his or her body,
thinking of it as myself. Now we must examine it in terms of elements, separating
all the hard parts out as earth element, the fluid parts as water element, the
warm parts as the fire element, the airy parts as the wind element and the empty
spaces as the space element. That which we adhered to as me and mine will then
be seen as elements.
Analyse your body and take out each element --one at a time. Take out all the hard parts, leaving the other elements together. Now remove the water and then the fire element, and you are left with the wind element. And when that is taken out then all that remains is empty space.
Methods of Separating the Elements
One can examine the elements following the Lord Buddha's Way (as above)
or one might use a modern scientific analysis reducing everything to molecules
and atoms. After removing each of the elements one finally finds that of that
which one was attached to and thought of as me and mine the only thing which
remains is the space element. Just empty space with no me and mine or self.
This analysis of elements is one strategy to use in curbing attachment to this body which manifests as me and mine, and as myself. The situation is just the same with external things where other people and other things have the same nature and properties. One can then release one's attachment for people and things and abandon one's thinking in terms of self. The mind then calms and is firmly settled.
This is one method in the practice of calm. However, both mindfulness of the body (which we have already dealt with) and this analysis of elements is calm mixed with insight. This insight will arise, without any pretension, out of the analysis when the elements are clearly seen for what they really are --no creature, no person, no myself or their self. The mind previously absorbed and suffering in its me-ness and mine-ness will allow everything to come to calm. This is the factor leading to a calm and cool mind.
Stillness and Peace --or Thinking
The examination of the bodily parts and elements does not bring one-pointedness of mind because it requires an active analysis and investigation. In mindfulness of breathing however, the aim is for one-pointedness, so one does not use investigation. Use whichever method seems most appropriate to you at the time. Sometimes your mind might be content with stillness and at other times it will want to think. When your mind tends to stillness, use mindfulness of breathing. However, if it likes to go out, thinking of this and that, then instead of giving it a free rein arrange a tour for it in your own body. Keep it within these bounds: From the soles of your feet up to the tips of the hair on your head, circumscribed within the skin. As it travels there, examine the bodily parts or the elements.
This Body as a Work Book
The study of calm and insight is in fact the study of this body. It's much like the student doctor with his big text book-- which is just this very body. All his studies are contained here. The practice of calm and insight is similar to this, but with the objective being a firmly established, calm mind together with a clear seeing and true insight. And a final letting-go.
19th August 2504 B.E. (1961)
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Concentrating on a Single Object
I have already explained about stabilizing the mind by way of calm using various techniques: mindfulness of breathing, mindfulness of the body and examination of the elements. The choice rests with the practitioner. When one decides to establish the wandering mind in one-pointedness, mindfulness of breathing can be used. Should the mind wish to go roaming, let it explore the body or elements. However, mindfulness should focus and remain with each object until it is clearly discerned. For example, moving one's concentration through the body, one examines the hair of the head and body, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, sinews or bones. One might take bones as a single object and through fixing one's mindfulness see them as one's own skeleton. This is centring the mind in one place.
Reflection on a Corpse
Previously, I have been referring to the scrutiny of the living body, but the lifeless body or corpse can also be examined. Compare this body with the corpse abandoned in the cemetery for one, two or three days --bloated and festering until only mouldering bones remain. One's contemplation of this will give rise to a weariness, a disenchantment and then bring calm to the mind. With practice one then becomes accustomed to corpses and unafraid of them. This is another method which uses reflection or examination.
Two Types of Samadhi
Briefly speaking, there are two types of concentration: threshold or neighbourhood concentration (upacara samadhi) and absorption concentration (appana samadhi). The type of samadhi where the mind explores and examines brings one only to the threshold because the mind is not yet one-pointed, whereas the type that centres in one-pointedness as absorption samadhi is firm and unwavering. Concentrating on the in-and-out breathing, even the establishing of mindfulness on one specific part in the body, can also lead to absorption samadhi.
The Instruments for Practice
The instruments for one's practice must include applied-thought (vitakka)
and sustained-thought (vicara). Applied-thought is the capability of applying
the mind to the meditation object of samadhi, while sustained-thought is the
sustaining and engaging of the mind together with the meditation object.
When concentrating on the breath, one must direct and apply the mind at the nostrils or upper lip, where the air enters and leaves. Sustained-thought is then used to keep the mind firmly engaged on that single point. Whenever one is careless in one's practice and mindfulness is lost, the mind will dash away. Applied-thought must then be used again to catch and return the mind to its former station, engaging and sustaining it there without allowing it to fall away to another object.
The Lord Buddha compared applied-thought with the sound of a bell when first struck, sustained-thought being likened to the reverberations of the bell. Both of these are always necessary in one's practice. Applied and sustained thought are essential because the mind is continually liable to slip away from the meditation object, requiring applied-thought to lift it back and sustained-thought to sustain and engage it there. When this is constantly practised, the mind becomes pacified and stationary so that the fruits of samadhi can start to appear: a pervading rapture (piti) and, even more than that, ease (sukha) arises throughout one's whole body and mind. With contentment of both body and mind the mind becomes unwaveringly centred on one single object: This is one-pointedness (ekaggata).
When one has yet to experience the rewards of rapture and happiness, then one's practice will tend to feel frustrating and tiresome. However, with the continued development of applied and sustained thought, rapture and happiness will arise and then the one-pointedness of samadhi will be born as the first fruits of one's samadhi practice. This by itself will give satisfaction in one's practice and enable it to develop and flourish.
The points to note in my talk today are as follows: Applied-thought lifts and directs the mind to the samadhi object. Sustained thought engages and sustains the mind together with the meditation object. Then rapture and ease of body and mind will arise followed by the one-pointedness of mind which is samadhi.
20th August 2504 B.E. (1961)