Four Elements meditation

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Four Elements meditation

Postby Babadhari » Thu Dec 19, 2013 2:19 pm

As taught at Pa-Auk Meditation Centre, discern in the whole body:
1. Earth-element: hardness, roughness, heaviness, softness, smoothness, lightness.
2. Water-element: flowing, cohesion.
3. Fire-element: heat, coldness.
4. Air-element: supporting, pushing.

from 'Mindfulness of Breathing and Four Elements Meditation' by Venerable Pa-Auk Sayadaw.

i would like to know if anyone here has experience with this type of meditation with Pa Auk Sayadaw or any other tradition?

i was under the impression that this was a Vipassana meditation but from reading it appears to be a concentration exercise :shrug:
Aflame with the fire of passion, the fire of aversion, the fire of delusion.
Aflame, with birth, aging & death, with sorrows, lamentations, pains, distresses, & despairs ......

Seeing thus, the disciple of the Noble One grows disenchanted. SN 35.28
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Re: Four Elements meditation

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Thu Dec 19, 2013 2:36 pm

According to the Visuddhimagga, the contemplation of the four elements brings only Access Concentration and not full absorption, so it would be the wrong choice if you wanted to gain full absorption, though it is also a concentration exercise.
Vism.111 wrote:2 As to which bring access only and which absorption: the eight recollections — excepting mindfulness occupied with the body and mindfulness of breathing — the perception of repulsiveness in nutriment, and the defining of the four elements, are ten meditation subjects that bring access only. The others bring absorption. This is “as to which bring access only and which absorption.”
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Re: Four Elements meditation

Postby Babadhari » Thu Dec 19, 2013 3:15 pm

thanks,

i have aversion to 'hot', so would this practice be benificial in developing equanimity to heat, by being aware of coolness. or is equanimity only possible through observing the impermenance of the sensation of heat?
Aflame with the fire of passion, the fire of aversion, the fire of delusion.
Aflame, with birth, aging & death, with sorrows, lamentations, pains, distresses, & despairs ......

Seeing thus, the disciple of the Noble One grows disenchanted. SN 35.28
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Re: Four Elements meditation

Postby Sanjay PS » Thu Dec 19, 2013 3:58 pm

kitztack wrote:thanks,

i have aversion to 'hot', so would this practice be benificial in developing equanimity to heat, by being aware of coolness. or is equanimity only possible through observing the impermenance of the sensation of heat?


To my knowledge and understanding its a choiceless observation Kitztack. One gradually builds up on this .

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Re: Four Elements meditation

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Dec 19, 2013 6:28 pm

Here's a link to the text mentioned in the OP: www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/fourelements.pdf

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Re: Four Elements meditation

Postby Babadhari » Fri Dec 20, 2013 7:03 pm

this is from The Role of the Elements in Vipassana Meditation by Sopako Bodhi Bhikkhu
The four elements are the path of concentration only. .....................................
the Abhidhamma [Buddhist metaphysics] talks about eighteen elements, not just four..........
The eighteen elements include the six sense organs: eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind, and the sense-impressions: color, sound, smell, touch, flavor, and mental objects.
the eighteen elements can be the path of insight.
With the eighteen elements we can have nama [mind] to see the object [i.e., we can be aware of the mind as it knows the object]

http://www.vipassanadhura.com/elements.html

this is dealt with in detail in 'Knowing and Seeing ' by Pa Auk Tawya Sayadaw http://www.dhammatalks.net/Books13/Pa-A ... d-2010.pdf

i find it to be beyond the full scope of my limited intellect at the moment

i am interested as to whether anyone here has any experience of this form of Insight Meditation .

:namaste:
Aflame with the fire of passion, the fire of aversion, the fire of delusion.
Aflame, with birth, aging & death, with sorrows, lamentations, pains, distresses, & despairs ......

Seeing thus, the disciple of the Noble One grows disenchanted. SN 35.28
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Re: Four Elements meditation

Postby Mkoll » Fri Dec 20, 2013 7:14 pm

Hi kitztack,

I have no experience with this meditation but from a canonical perspective we have this advice from Buddha to Rāhula his son.

"Rahula, {any form whatsoever that is past, future, or present; internal or external; blatant or subtle; common or sublime; far or near: every form is to be seen as it actually is with right discernment as: 'This is not mine. This is not my self. This is not what I am.' There are these five properties, Rahula. Which five? The earth property, the water property, the fire property, the wind property, & the space property.

"And what is the earth property? The earth property can be either internal or external. What is the internal earth property?}[3] 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 water property? The water property may be either internal or external. What is the internal water property? Anything internal, belonging to oneself, that's water, 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 water, watery, & sustained: This is called the internal water property. Now both the internal water property & the external water property are simply water 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 water property and makes the water 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, chewed, & savored 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.

"And what is the space property? The space property may be either internal or external. What is the internal space property? Anything internal, belonging to oneself, that's space, spatial, & sustained: the holes of the ears, the nostrils, the mouth, the [passage] whereby what is eaten, drunk, consumed, & tasted gets swallowed, and where it collects, and whereby it is excreted from below, or anything else internal, within oneself, that's space, spatial, & sustained: This is called the internal space property. Now both the internal space property & the external space property are simply space 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 space property and makes the space property fade from the mind.
-MN 62
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Re: Four Elements meditation

Postby Babadhari » Fri Dec 20, 2013 7:46 pm

thanks Mkoll

the insight aspect with the four elements seems to be Vishuddimagga based from what i can gather. i guess its not meant to be intellectually understood, rather understood as its experienced through meditation with a teacher.

im curious as to whether its only bhikku's in certain traditions practice this. is it too in-depth and difficult for lay practitioners to give the required time and effort to ? :shrug:
Aflame with the fire of passion, the fire of aversion, the fire of delusion.
Aflame, with birth, aging & death, with sorrows, lamentations, pains, distresses, & despairs ......

Seeing thus, the disciple of the Noble One grows disenchanted. SN 35.28
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Re: Four Elements meditation

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Fri Dec 20, 2013 8:18 pm

kitztack wrote:I'm curious as to whether its only bhikku's in certain traditions practice this. is it too in-depth and difficult for lay practitioners to give the required time and effort to ? :shrug:

Not only bhikkhus, but millions of lay people have practised this method in one or another of over 300 Mahāsi meditation centres in Burma. The retreat centres are set up for intensive practice — the usual retreat period is for six weeks, but many lay people also attend for practice during the Burmese New Year period, for just a week or two, or for a few days in the case of the children.

A Tour of the Mahāsi Meditation Centre (the main centre in Rangoon).

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Re: Four Elements meditation

Postby binocular » Fri Dec 20, 2013 8:47 pm

kitztack wrote: i have aversion to 'hot', so would this practice be benificial in developing equanimity to heat, by being aware of coolness. or is equanimity only possible through observing the impermenance of the sensation of heat?

I too have an aversion to "hot." As in "hot weather," and then the problem of working in hot weather.
My solution has been to rethink my attitude to work, and to try to make that more wholesome. With that, "hot" and "cold" have become less of a problem.
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Re: Four Elements meditation

Postby Babadhari » Fri Dec 20, 2013 10:55 pm

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:
kitztack wrote:I'm curious as to whether its only bhikku's in certain traditions practice this. is it too in-depth and difficult for lay practitioners to give the required time and effort to ? :shrug:

Not only bhikkhus, but millions of lay people have practised this method in one or another of over 300 Mahāsi meditation centres in Burma. The retreat centres are set up for intensive practice — the usual retreat period is for six weeks, but many lay people also attend for practice during the Burmese New Year period, for just a week or two, or for a few days in the case of the children.


thank you Bhante,
i have recently applied to Pa Auk Monastery for a sponsorship letter to practice Samatha there, which is why i'm inquiring about the insight meditation techniques practiced. the intention is to stay as long as is possible.

binocular wrote:
kitztack wrote: i have aversion to 'hot', so would this practice be benificial in developing equanimity to heat, by being aware of coolness. or is equanimity only possible through observing the impermenance of the sensation of heat?

I too have an aversion to "hot." As in "hot weather," and then the problem of working in hot weather.
My solution has been to rethink my attitude to work, and to try to make that more wholesome. With that, "hot" and "cold" have become less of a problem.


i shall have plenty of experience with 'hot' in Burma from March onwards, it will be a learning experience

:namaste:
Aflame with the fire of passion, the fire of aversion, the fire of delusion.
Aflame, with birth, aging & death, with sorrows, lamentations, pains, distresses, & despairs ......

Seeing thus, the disciple of the Noble One grows disenchanted. SN 35.28
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Re: Four Elements meditation

Postby mettafuture » Sun Dec 22, 2013 8:05 am

This dhamma talk by Shaila Catherine may be of interest.
Four Elements Meditation—Instructional Talk and Guided Meditation
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Re: Four Elements meditation

Postby Babadhari » Sun Dec 22, 2013 12:55 pm

hi mettafuture

thanks for that, it was interesting especially as she's studied with the venerable Pa Auk Sayadaw. the guided meditation was definitely easier to follow and comprehend than recalling the written format.

in practice it feels very similar to the Goenke technique of body scanning which may or may not be helpful for me as i may be liable to confuse the techniques. anyway, i'll stick with anapanasati for now .

metta :smile:
:namaste:

kitzt
Aflame with the fire of passion, the fire of aversion, the fire of delusion.
Aflame, with birth, aging & death, with sorrows, lamentations, pains, distresses, & despairs ......

Seeing thus, the disciple of the Noble One grows disenchanted. SN 35.28
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Re: Four Elements meditation

Postby mettafuture » Tue Dec 24, 2013 3:15 am

You're welcome, kitzt. It's really unfortunately more resources on elements meditation aren't available in the West. It's a very powerful technique, especially for developing intuition in regards to anatta and dependent origination.
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Re: Four Elements meditation

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Jan 02, 2014 9:11 pm

Patrick Kearney (who teaches in a Mahasi-based style) gives nice introductions to the elements in his retreat talks. They are an important part of the Mahasi approach...

Recordings of Patrick's retreat talks are available at:
http://www.dharmasalon.net/Audio/audio.html
the older ones drop off from time to time, but they are generally similar.

I've just been listening to the particular recording here:
http://www.dharmasalon.net/Audio/bmimc_ ... r2013.html
03 (AM) Tracking elements
We tend to relate to our concept of our body rather than the actual direct experience of body. This morning we look at how the Buddha conceptualised our experience of the body as the four great appearances (mahābhūta) of the elements of earth (pathavī dhātu), air (vayo dhātu), fire (tejo dhātu) and water (āpo dhātu).

This consists of some guided meditation and some discussion with the retreat participants. It covers similar ground to Shaila Catherine's talk referenced above.

Most teachers talk about elements somewhat. Here are some talks by Joseph Goldstein: http://dharmaseed.org/teacher/96/?search=elements
and here are a number of talks that mention them:
http://dharmaseed.org/talks/?search=fou ... e_items=10
http://audiodharma.org/talks/?search=four+elements

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Re: Four Elements meditation

Postby Babadhari » Thu Jan 02, 2014 10:01 pm

hi mike

thanks very much for the links

:namaste:
Aflame with the fire of passion, the fire of aversion, the fire of delusion.
Aflame, with birth, aging & death, with sorrows, lamentations, pains, distresses, & despairs ......

Seeing thus, the disciple of the Noble One grows disenchanted. SN 35.28
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Re: Four Elements meditation

Postby Babadhari » Thu Jan 02, 2014 10:32 pm

mikenz66 wrote:

I've just been listening to the particular recording here:
http://www.dharmasalon.net/Audio/bmimc_ ... r2013.html
03 (AM) Tracking elements

:anjali:
Mike

kitztack wrote:

i was under the impression that this was a Vipassana meditation but from reading it appears to be a concentration exercise :shrug:


listening to this talk confusion is once again arising. at 20 minute mark this teacher talks about the annica aspect of the elements also,similar to the
Goenka method of vipassana upon sensation.
Aflame with the fire of passion, the fire of aversion, the fire of delusion.
Aflame, with birth, aging & death, with sorrows, lamentations, pains, distresses, & despairs ......

Seeing thus, the disciple of the Noble One grows disenchanted. SN 35.28
Babadhari
 
Posts: 459
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Location: lalita ghat

Re: Four Elements meditation

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Jan 02, 2014 11:25 pm

kitztack wrote:listening to this talk confusion is once again arising. at 20 minute mark this teacher talks about the annica aspect of the elements also,similar to the
Goenka method of vipassana upon sensation.

Is this a continuation of your question about whether focussing on the elements are concentration or insight practices? I think that's a bit of a false dichotomy. Approaches based on Mahasi's (and many other approaches, such as Thanissaro's for that matter) are designed to develop calm and insight in tandem.

Note that in the Classical analysis of meditation subjects, element meditation is said to only lead to access concentration [E.g. see the Visuddhimagga, or this brief summary: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kamma%E1%B9%AD%E1%B9%ADh%C4%81na#Meditation_subjects_and_jhanas] not to jhana. [Or at least, not to the highly-absorbed definition of jhana giving in the classical commentaries, or by some modern teachers.]

Certainly, in the Visuddhimagga and other classical sources, the elements appear in the concentration section. That's how the text is constructed. However, analysis into the elements also appears in the insight section.
e.g.
Visuddhimagga XX wrote:64. Herein, in the lifting up [of the foot when walking] two elements, the earth element and the water element,
are subordinate and sluggish while the other two are predominant and strong.
Likewise in the shifting forward and shifting sideways. In the lowering down two
elements, the fire element and the air element, are subordinate and sluggish
while the other two are predominant and strong. Likewise in the placing down
and fixing down.
He attributes the three characteristics to materiality according to
“disappearance of what grows old in each stage” by means of these six parts
into which he has thus divided it.
http://www.bps.lk/library_books.php BP207H The Path of Purification

It's this sort of analysis that Patrick Kearney is pointing towards in that talk.

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Re: Four Elements meditation

Postby khlawng » Tue Jan 14, 2014 4:16 am

There is one other thing I found interesting with 4 element meditation, and that is that it has some healing properties when you have minor body discomfort due to some sickness.
I found it useful e.g. after a bulk of food poisoning to sit in samadhi, bring attention down to the intestinal area (which was hurting) and spending 5 to 10mins on each element.
It does ease the discomfort quite noticeably.
For each element e.g. earth element, just think in your mind "may the earth element in the [affected area] align itself" and just let each element work itself out.
Aside from that, 4 element meditation for me results in:

1. Earth-element: very distinctive heaviness
2. Water-element: flowing like liquid sloshing around the entire body
3. Fire-element: heat but very slight only
4. Air-element: supporting and lightness
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Re: Four Elements meditation

Postby Mkoll » Tue Jan 14, 2014 5:16 am

Thanks for the tips, khlawng. I'll have to try that.

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