Elements

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Elements

Postby Reductor » Sat Oct 02, 2010 8:07 am

Pardon, I'm not sure where this inquire is best placed.

Earth, wind, fire, water! What the heck are these terms referring too? I would be especially interested their historical indian context, esp in relation to the old style 'physics' of way back then. Of course I would welcome any information you might have, but the historical might be the most illuminating.

:thanks:
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To his own ruin the fool gains knowledge, for it cleaves his head and destroys his innate goodness. -- Dhp 72

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Re: Elements

Postby Kim OHara » Sat Oct 02, 2010 8:30 am

Those four elements pop up all over the place in older systems of philosophy and science, sometimes accompanied by a fifth. Wikipedia's page is pretty basic but does at least give you most of them in one place. Start here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classical_element
... and don't believe everything you read. :tongue:
:namaste:
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Re: Elements

Postby cooran » Sat Oct 02, 2010 8:36 am

Hello Elements,

This might be of assistance:

Dhātu: 'elements', are the ultimate constituents of a whole.

The 4 physical elements dhātu or mahā-bhūta popularly called earth, water, fire and wind, are to be understood as the primary qualities of matter.
They are named in Pāli: pathavī-dhātu, āpo-dhātu, tejo-dhātu, and vāyo-dhātu In Vis.M XI, 2 the four elements are defined thus:,

Whatever is characterized by hardness thaddha-lakkkhana is the earth or solid-element;
by cohesion ābandhana or fluidity, the water-element;
by heating paripācana the fire or heat-element;
by strengthening or supporting vitthambhana the wind or motion-element.

All four are present in every material object, though in varying degrees of strength.
If, for instance, the earth element predominates, the material object is called 'solid', etc. - For the analysis of the 4 elements, see: dhātu-vavatthāna
http://what-buddha-said.net/library/Bud ... 3_d.htm#dhātu

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Re: Elements

Postby rowyourboat » Sat Oct 02, 2010 11:18 am

If we stick solely to the suttas they seem to refer to different states that matter can exist- solid, liquid, air and plasma. This idea of hardness, cohesion etc seems to be a later development.

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Re: Elements

Postby Individual » Sat Oct 02, 2010 2:05 pm

How would each of the following be classified under the four elements, or how would they be described as specific interactions of elements?
  • Corrosion or acids & bases
  • Salts and sugars
  • Gelatin
  • Alcohol
  • Explosive compounds, such as dynamite and plastic explosives
  • Glass
  • Liquid crystals
  • Electricity
  • Plasma
  • Nervous impulses
  • Frostbite
  • Digestive enzymes (i.e. the chemical break-up of food, which occurs primarily because of enzymes rather than acids, as is commonly misunderstood)
  • Meiosis and Mitosis
  • Radiation
  • The four fundamental forces of physics: magnetism, strong nuclear force, weak nuclear force, and gravity
Last edited by Individual on Sat Oct 02, 2010 2:07 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Elements

Postby Spiny O'Norman » Sat Oct 02, 2010 2:06 pm

rowyourboat wrote:If we stick solely to the suttas they seem to refer to different states that matter can exist- solid, liquid, air and plasma. This idea of hardness, cohesion etc seems to be a later development.

with metta


In one of the MN suttas there is a description of 6 elements, the usual 4 plus space and consciousness.
The general impression I have is that the elements are discussed in the suttas primarily as a teaching about anatta, ie to emphasize that everything is compounded, just a collection of parts.

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Re: Elements

Postby Spiny O'Norman » Sat Oct 02, 2010 2:08 pm

Individual wrote:If we try to describe all things in terms of solidity, fluidity, temperature, and motion, we come to many ambiguous cases which show the limitations of the classification system. This undercuts the validity of Abhidhamma, though, which some people hold dear.


I'm inclined to agree. I don't view the classification of elements as being a comprehensive or scientific description - see my previous post.

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Re: Elements

Postby Stephen K » Sat Oct 02, 2010 2:10 pm

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

"And what is the earth property? The earth property can be either internal or external. What is the internal earth property? Anything internal, within oneself, that's hard, solid, & sustained [by craving]: head hairs, body hairs, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, tendons, bones, bone marrow, kidneys, heart, liver, membranes, spleen, lungs, large intestines, small intestines, contents of the stomach, feces, or anything else internal, within oneself, that's hard, solid, and sustained: This is called the internal earth property. Now both the internal earth property & the external earth property are simply earth property. And that should be seen as it actually is present with right discernment: 'This is not mine, this is not me, this is not my self.' When one sees it thus as it actually is present with right discernment, one becomes disenchanted with the earth property and makes the earth property fade from the mind.

"And what is the liquid property? The liquid property may be either internal or external. What is the internal liquid property? Anything internal, belonging to oneself, that's liquid, watery, & sustained: bile, phlegm, pus, blood, sweat, fat, tears, oil, saliva, mucus, oil-of-the-joints, urine, or anything else internal, within oneself, that's liquid, watery, & sustained: This is called the internal liquid property. Now both the internal liquid property & the external liquid property are simply liquid property. And that should be seen as it actually is present with right discernment: 'This is not mine, this is not me, this is not my self.' When one sees it thus as it actually is present with right discernment, one becomes disenchanted with the liquid property and makes the liquid property fade from the mind.

"And what is the fire property? The fire property may be either internal or external. What is the internal fire property? Anything internal, belonging to oneself, that's fire, fiery, & sustained: that by which [the body] is warmed, aged, & consumed with fever; and that by which what is eaten, drunk, consumed & tasted gets properly digested; or anything else internal, within oneself, that's fire, fiery, & sustained: This is called the internal fire property. Now both the internal fire property & the external fire property are simply fire property. And that should be seen as it actually is present with right discernment: 'This is not mine, this is not me, this is not my self.' When one sees it thus as it actually is present with right discernment, one becomes disenchanted with the fire property and makes the fire property fade from the mind.

"And what is the wind property? The wind property may be either internal or external. What is the internal wind property? Anything internal, belonging to oneself, that's wind, windy, & sustained: up-going winds, down-going winds, winds in the stomach, winds in the intestines, winds that course through the body, in-and-out breathing, or anything else internal, within oneself, that's wind, windy, & sustained: This is called the internal wind property. Now both the internal wind property & the external wind property are simply wind property. And that should be seen as it actually is present with right discernment: 'This is not mine, this is not me, this is not my self.' When one sees it thus as it actually is present with right discernment, one becomes disenchanted with the wind property and makes the wind property fade from the mind.
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Re: Elements

Postby Individual » Sat Oct 02, 2010 3:43 pm

Spiny O'Norman wrote:
Individual wrote:If we try to describe all things in terms of solidity, fluidity, temperature, and motion, we come to many ambiguous cases which show the limitations of the classification system. This undercuts the validity of Abhidhamma, though, which some people hold dear.


I'm inclined to agree. I don't view the classification of elements as being a comprehensive or scientific description - see my previous post.

Spiny

I edited that out. I don't want to be contentious and I honestly never fully investigated Abhidhamma enough to put forth a competent criticism... only enough investigation to see that further investigation probably wasn't useful. So, maybe my judgment is wrong and if there are ways of addressing my questions thoughtfully, that'd be great.

Let's examine corrosion. To simplify things, as our example we can start with something that's pretty obvious "earth", a chunk of granite, and then ask what happens when it's put into a really strong acid.

It could be:
  • Fire breaking up earth -- solid objects losing their solidity due to temperature changes
  • Water breaking up earth -- solid objects losing their solidity due to changes in liquidity
  • Wind breaking up earth -- solid objects losing their solidity due to changes in movement (the particles of dirt move away from eachother)

Or it could be some combination of the above factors, the breaking up of earth due to changes in temperature and\or liquidity and\or movement.

So, which would it be?
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Re: Elements

Postby Sobeh » Sat Oct 02, 2010 6:19 pm

The mistake is trying to get the dhatus to explain ontological reality; they don't. They simply explain the experiential reality humans share whereby all experiences of the external sense bases can be classed as one or another of the dhatus: earth, water, fire, air. It's similar to the five aggregates of form, feeling, perception, sankhara, vinnana - it isn't that we need to find out which of those five categories includes neurotransmitters, it's that any human experience will involve those five. So, too, any human experience of the external sense bases involves one or more of the dhatus.

As to the objective world that exists without human beings, the Dhamma has nothing to say. It isn't ontology, it's epistemology. Being clear on this point clarifies questions such as this.
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Re: Elements

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Oct 02, 2010 6:24 pm

Sobeh wrote:
As to the objective world that exists without human beings, the Dhamma has nothing to say. It isn't ontology, it's epistemology. Being clear on this point clarifies questions such as this.


Yep.


Recall that from the perspective of the Buddha’s teachings in the Pali, the ‘All’ {SN IV 15} is composed entirely of phassa, contact between sense base and sense object. We can only directly know phenomena within this ‘world of experience’, so from the Theravadin perspective, we cannot know whether there really exists a ‘brain’ or a ‘body’ apart from moments of intellectual consciousness, of seeing (the image of a brain), and so on. The discourses of the Pali describe an individual world of experience as composed of various mental and physical factors, nama and rupa. These two are not the separate, independent worlds that Rene Descartes envisioned.

"…the Buddha spoke of the human person as a psychophysical personality (namarupa). Yet the psychic and the physical were never discussed in isolation, nor were they viewed as self-subsistent entities. For him, there was neither a ‘material-stuff’ nor a ‘mental-stuff’, because both are results of reductive analyses that go beyond experience."53

The physical and mental aspects of human experience are continually arising together, intimately dependent on one another.

53 Kalupahana 1976: 73, refers to D.15{II,62}, where the Buddha speaks of both
physicality and mentality mutually dependent forms of contact (phassa).
Physicality is described as contact with resistance (pat.ighasamphassa),
mentality as contact with concepts (adhivacanasamphassa).


STRONG ROOTS by Jake Davis, page 190-1. http://www.dharma.org/bcbs/Pages/docume ... gRoots.pdf
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: Elements

Postby rowyourboat » Sat Oct 02, 2010 8:10 pm

It is an experiential classification - something which far more powerful in personal transformation (if used in the right way) than a scientific explanation ever could do.

Also the 4 elements describe matter. The other two are space and consciousness. It does not contradict.

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Re: Elements

Postby Individual » Sat Oct 02, 2010 9:31 pm

Sobeh wrote:The mistake is trying to get the dhatus to explain ontological reality; they don't. They simply explain the experiential reality humans share whereby all experiences of the external sense bases can be classed as one or another of the dhatus: earth, water, fire, air. It's similar to the five aggregates of form, feeling, perception, sankhara, vinnana - it isn't that we need to find out which of those five categories includes neurotransmitters, it's that any human experience will involve those five. So, too, any human experience of the external sense bases involves one or more of the dhatus.

As to the objective world that exists without human beings, the Dhamma has nothing to say. It isn't ontology, it's epistemology. Being clear on this point clarifies questions such as this.

I've heard this before, but experience is based on knowledge. If the dhatus are not based on knowledge, where did they come from?

What you are saying is that all of experience can be reduced to the four properties mentioned: solidity, fluidity, temperature, and motion. But that's not true. In my experience, I see nuances that make various instances of solidity, fluidity, temperature, and motion distinct from one another, and things which seem to not fit in any of those four labels.

Completely ignore my words, ignore all words and look at your own experience. Do you not see the wind, magnetism, and gravity as being distinct forms of motion, or do you merely see them all as "motion"? Do they truly appear unified or do they appear distinct? To me, they appear distinct and you might think, "You are wrong," but then this doesn't make any sense, because if what you're saying isn't ontology, on what basis do you have to say that my experience is wrong? It's merely an experience!

tiltbillings wrote:
Sobeh wrote:
As to the objective world that exists without human beings, the Dhamma has nothing to say. It isn't ontology, it's epistemology. Being clear on this point clarifies questions such as this.


Yep.



Recall that from the perspective of the Buddha’s teachings in the Pali, the ‘All’ {SN IV 15} [b]is composed entirely of phassa, contact between sense base and sense object. We can only directly know phenomena within this ‘world of experience’, so from the Theravadin perspective, we cannot know whether there really exists a ‘brain’ or a ‘body’ apart from moments of intellectual consciousness, of seeing (the image of a brain), and so on.

Radical skepticism? Whats the intention in doubting knowledge of reality, in the first place? Don't doubt reality or experience, and the "realism vs anti-realism" debate is avoided entirely.
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Re: Elements

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Oct 02, 2010 9:49 pm

Individual wrote:

Recall that from the perspective of the Buddha’s teachings in the Pali, the ‘All’ {SN IV 15} is composed entirely of phassa, contact between sense base and sense object. We can only directly know phenomena within this ‘world of experience’, so from the Theravadin perspective, we cannot know whether there really exists a ‘brain’ or a ‘body’ apart from moments of intellectual consciousness, of seeing (the image of a brain), and so on.

Radical skepticism? Whats the intention in doubting knowledge of reality, in the first place? Don't doubt reality or experience, and the "realism vs anti-realism" debate is avoided entirely.
The issue here is not ontology. It is, as has been neatly pointed out, epistemology. The Buddha did not concoct a description of an external reality. He gave us a way of freeing ourselves from dukkha:
The eye... The ear... The nose... The tongue... The body... The mind is that in the world by which one is a perceiver of the world, a conceiver of the world. That in the world by which one is a perceiver of the world, a conceiver of the world—this is called the world in the Noble One’s terms... (S IV 95).

“it is in this fathom-long body with its perceptions and thoughts that there is the world, the origin of the world, the cessation of the world, and the path leading to the cessation of the world.” (i.e. the four Noble Truths) (A II 48; S I 62).

"Monks, I will teach you the all. And what is the all? The eye and forms, the ear and sounds the nose and odors, the tongue and tastes, the body and touch, the mind and mental phenomena. This is called the all. If anyone, monks, should speak thus: ' Having rejected this all, I shall make known another all' - that would be a mere empty boast." SN IV 15.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: Elements

Postby Sobeh » Sat Oct 02, 2010 9:51 pm

Individual wrote:I've heard this before, but experience is based on knowledge.


This is incorrect. All human knowledge is based on the six sense bases. In other words, knowledge is based on experiencing. You've put the cart before the horse.
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Re: Elements

Postby Individual » Sun Oct 03, 2010 5:16 am

Sobeh wrote:
Individual wrote:I've heard this before, but experience is based on knowledge.


This is incorrect. All human knowledge is based on the six sense bases. In other words, knowledge is based on experiencing. You've put the cart before the horse.

They are interdependent, more or less depending on the context. We agree on that. I didn't mean everybody has precognition.

My contention is: if the Buddha's teaching is based on the subjective interpretation of experience, then you cannot invalidate the experiences of others.

Ontology is the bridge between experiences. Though we may have our own subjective delusions which distort experience, it's through the acknowledgment of shared experiences that facts are established. And when facts are established upon shared experience, it is only then that others' experiences can be invalidated.
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Re: Elements

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Oct 03, 2010 5:29 am

Individual wrote:Ontology is the bridge between experiences.
The Buddha certainly rejected the ontology of being and non-being, which is fundamental to the delusion of "self."
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Elements

Postby Shonin » Sun Oct 03, 2010 5:53 am

tiltbillings wrote:The Buddha certainly rejected the ontology of being and non-being, which is fundamental to the delusion of "self."


Thank you. Do you know where I can find a sutta reference that demonstrates this?
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Re: Elements

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Oct 03, 2010 6:37 am

Shonin wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:The Buddha certainly rejected the ontology of being and non-being, which is fundamental to the delusion of "self."


Thank you. Do you know where I can find a sutta reference that demonstrates this?
Every Mahayanist should know this sutta:

Kaccaayanagotto Sutta.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: Elements

Postby Shonin » Sun Oct 03, 2010 7:36 am

Oh yes, this is familiar, thank you.

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