A Manual of Abhidhamma

by Nārada Thera | 80,494 words | ISBN-13: 9789380336510

In the Abhidhammattha Sangaha there is a brief exposition of the Law of Dependent Origination, followed by a descriptive account of the Causal Relations that finds no parallel in any other philosophy. Edited in the original Pali Text with English Translation and Explanatory Notes by Narada Maha Thera....

Compendium of Calm

§ 2.

Tattha samathasangahe tāva dasakasināni, dasa asubhā, dasa anussatiyo, catasso appamaññayo, ekā saññā, ekam vavatthānam, cattāro āruppā c'āti sattavidhena samathakammatthānasangaho

Rāgacaritā, dosacaritā, mohacaritā, saddhācaritā, buddhicaritā, vitakkacaritā, c'āti chabbhidhena caritasangaho.

Parikammabhāvanā, upacārabhāvanā, appanābhāvanā c'āti tisso bhāvanā.
Parikammanimittam, uggahanimittam, patibhāganimittam c'ati tīni nimittāni ca veditabbāni.


Pathavikasinam, āpokasinam, tejokasinam, vāyokasinam, nīlakasinam, pītakasinam, lohitakasinam, odātakasinam, ākāsakasinam, ālokakasinam c'āti imāni dasa kasināni nāma.
Uddhumātakam, vinīlakam, vipubbakam, vicchiddakam, vikkhāyitakam, vikkhittakam, hatavikkhittakam, lohitakam, pulavakam, atthikam c'āti ime dasa asubhā nāma. Buddhānussati, Dhammanussati, Sanghānussati, Sīlānussati, Cāgānussati, Devatānussati, Upasamānussati, Maranānussati, Kāyagatāsati, ānāpānasati c'āti imā dasa anussatiyo nāma.
Mettā, Karunā, Muditā, Upekkhā c'āti imā catasso appamaññāyo nāma, Brahmavihāro'ti pavuccati.
Āhāre patikkulasañña ekā saññā nāma.
Catudhātuvavatthānam ekam vavatthānam nāma.
Ākāsānañcayatanādayo cattāro āruppā nāmā'ti sabbathā pi samathaniddese cattālīsa kammatthānāni bhavanti.



§ 2.

Of the two, in the Compendium of Calm, to with, the objects of mental culture are sevenfold:

  1. the ten Kasinas,
  2. the ten Impurities,
  3. The ten Reflections,
  4. the four Illimitables,
  5. the one Perception,
  6. the one Analysis,
  7. the four arūpa-jhānas.

The six kinds of temperaments (4):

  1. the lustful,
  2. the hateful,
  3. the unintelligent, or ignorant,
  4. the devout, or faithful,
  5. the intellectual, or wise,
  6. the discursive.

The three stages of Mental Culture:

  1. the preliminary (5),
  2. the proximate,
  3. the concentrative.

The three signs (6):

  1. the preliminary,
  2. the abstract,
  3. the conceptualized.

How ?

  1. The ten kasinas (7) are;
    1. earth,
    2. water,
    3. fire,
    4. air,
    5. blue,
    6. yellow,
    7. red,
    8. white,
    9. space,
    10. and light
  2. The ten Impurities (8) are:
    1. a bloated (corpse),
    2. a discoloured (corpse),
    3. a festering, (corpse),
    4. a dissected (corpse),
    5. an eaten (corpse),
    6. a scattered-in-pieces (corpse),
    7. a mutilated and scattered-in-pieces (corpse),
    8. a bloody (corpse),
    9. a worm-infested (corpse),
    10. and a skeleton
  3. The ten Reflections (9) are:
    1. The Reflection on the Buddha,
    2. The Reflection on the Doctrine,
    3. The Reflection on the order,
    4. The Reflection on morality,
    5. The Reflection on generosity,
    6. The Reflection on deities,
    7. The Reflection on peace,
    8. The Reflection on death,
    9. Mindfulness regarding the body,
    10. Mindfulness regarding breathing (10)
  4. The four Illimitables, also called Sublime States, (11), are:
    1. loving-kindness,
    2. compassion,
    3. appreciative joy,
    4. and equanimity
  5. The one Perception is the feeling of loathsomeness about food (12)
  6. The one Analysis is the analysis of the four elements (13)
  7. The four arūpa-jhānas are the 'Infinity of Space' (14) and so forth. In the exposition of 'Calm' there are altogether forty (15) subjects of meditation




4. Carita - signifies the intrinsic nature of a person, which is revealed when one is in a normal state without being preoccupied with anything. The temperaments of people differ owing to the diversity of their actions or Kammas. Habitual actions tend to form particular temperaments.

Rāga (lust) is predominant in some, while dosa (anger, hatred or ill will), in others. Most people belong to these two categories. There are a few others who lack intelligence and are more or less ignorant (moha-carita). Akin to the ignorant are those whose minds oscillate, unable to focus their attention deliberately on one thing (vitakka-carita). By nature some are exceptionally devout (saddhā-carita), while others are exceptionally intelligent (buddhi-carita).

Thus, in brief, there are six kinds of temperaments. By combining them with one another, we get 63 types. With the inclusion of ditthi-carita (speculative temperament) there are 64.

5. The preliminary stages of mental development are termed parikamma-bhāvanā. Mental culture, from the moment one develops the conceptualized image and temporarily inhibits the Hindrances, until the gotrabhū thought-moment in the jhāna javana process, is termed upacāra-bhāvanā.

The thought-moment that immediately follows the gotrabhū thought-moment is called appanā, ecstatic concentration, because vitakka (initial application), the foremost jhāna constituent, persists as if firmly fixed upon the object of concentration.

Jhāna Thought-Process: manodvārāvajjana / parikamma, upacāra, anuloma, gotrabhū, appanā / bhavanga.

6. Any object, such as a kasina, used for preliminary mental culture is termed 'parikamma-nimitta'. The same object, when mentally perceived with closed eyes, is termed 'uggaha-nimitta'. The identical visualized image, freed from all kasina defects, is termed 'patibhāganimitta' when it serves as an object of upacāra and appanā bhāvanā.

7. Kasina- means 'whole, 'all, 'complete'. It is so called because the light issuing from the conceptualized image is extended everywhere without any limitation.

In the case of pathavi-kasina one makes a circle of about one span and four fingers in diameter and, covering it with dawn-coloured clay, smoothes it well. If there be not enough clay of dawn-coloured, he may put in some other kind of clay beneath. This prepared circle is known as kasina-mandala and is also called parikamma-nimitta. Now he places this object two and half cubits away from him and concentrates on it, saying mentally or inaudibly - pathavi, pathavi or earth, earth. The purpose is to gain one-pointedness of mind. When he does this for some time, perhaps weeks, or months, or years, he will be able to close his eyes and visualize the object. This visualized object is called 'uggaha-nimitta'. Then he concentrates on this visualized image until it develops into a conceptualized or counter-image free from original kasina faults. This is known as the 'patibhāganimitta'. As he continually concentrates on this abstract concept he is said to be in possession of proximate or neighborhood concentration (upacāra-samādhi). At this stage the innate five Hindrances are temporarily inhibited. Eventually he gains 'ecstatic concentration' (appanā samādhi).

For the water-kasina one may take a vessel full of colourless water, preferably rain water, and concentrate on it, saying - āpo, āpo, (water, water) until he gains one-pointedness of mind.

To develop the fire-kasina one may kindle a fire before him and concentrate on it through a hole, a span and four fingers in diameter, in a rush-mat, a piece of leather, or a piece of cloth, saying tejo, tejo, (fire, fire).

One who develops the air-kasina concentrates on the wind that enters through window space or a hole in the wall, saying, vāyo, vāyo (air, air).

To develop the colour-kasinas one may take a mandala of the prescribed size, and colour it blue, yellow, red, or white and concentrate on it, repeating the name of the colour as in the case of the other kasinas. One may even concentrate on blue, yellow, red, or white flowers.

Light kasina may be developed by concentrating on the moon, or on an unflickering lamplight, or on a circle of light cast on the ground, or on the wall by sunlight or moonlight entering through a wall-crevice or hole, saying - āloka, āloka (light, light).

Space-kasina can be developed by concentrating on a hole, a span and four fingers in diameter, in either a well-covered pavilion or a piece of leather, or a mat, saying, okāsa, okāsa (space, space).

It may be mentioned that light and space kasinas are not mentioned in the Texts.

8. Asubha - Those ten kinds of corpses were found in ancient Indian cemeteries and charnel places where dead bodies were not buried or cremated and where flesh-eating animals frequented. In modern days they are out of the question.

9. Anussati - literally, means repeated reflection or constant mindfulness.

  1. Buddhānussati is the reflection on the virtues of the Buddha as, for example: "Such indeed is that Exalted One, Worthy, Fully Enlightened, Endowed with Wisdom and Conduct, Well-farer, Knower of the Worlds, an Incomparable Charioteer for the training of individuals, Teacher of gods and men, Omniscient, and Holy".
  2. Dhammanussati is reflection on the virtues of the Doctrine as, for example: "Well-expounded is the doctrine by the Exalted One, to be realized by oneself, of immediate fruit, inviting investigation, leading to Nibbāna, to be understood by the wise, each one for himself"
  3. Sanghānussati is the reflection on the virtues of the pure members of the Noble Celibate Order as follows: "Of good conduct is the Order of the disciples of the Exalted One; of upright conduct is the Order of the disciples of the Exalted One; of wise conduct is the Order of the disciples of the Exalted One; of dutiful conduct is the Order of the disciples of the Exalted One. The four pairs of persons constitute eight individuals. This Order of the disciples of the Exalted One is worthy of offerings, is worthy of hospitality, is worthy of gifts, is worthy of reverential salutation, is an incomparable field of merit for the world".
  4. Sīlānussati is reflection on the one's own virtuous conduct
  5. Cāgānussati is reflection on one's own charitable nature
  6. Devatānussati - "Deities are born in such exalted states on account of their faith and other virtues. I too possess them." Thus when one reflects again and again on one's own faith and others' virtues, placing deities as witnesses, it is called Devatānussati
  7. Upasamānussati is reflection on the attributive qualities of Nibbāna, such as the cessation of suffering, etc.
  8. Maranānussati is reflection on the termination of psycho physical life. Contemplation on death enables one to comprehend the fleeting nature of life. When one understands that death is certain and life is uncertain one endeavors to make the best use of one's life by working for self-development and for the development of others, instead of wholly indulging in sensual pleasures. Constant meditation on death does not make one pessimistic and lethargic but, on the contrary, it makes one more active and energetic. Besides one can face death with serenity. While contemplating death, one may think that life is like a flame, or that all so-called beings are the outward temporary manifestations of the invisible Karmic energy, just as an electric light is the outward manifestation of the invisible electric energy. Choosing various similes, one may meditate on the uncertainty of life and on the certainty of death
  9. Kāyagatāsati is reflection on the 32 impure parts of the body such as hair, hair of the body, nails, teeth, skin, etc. This meditation on the loathsomeness of the body, leads to dispassion. Many Bhikkhus in the time of the Buddha attained Arahatship by meditating on these impurities. If one is not conversant with all the thirty-two parts, one may meditate on one part such as bones.

    Within this body is found a skeleton. It is full of flesh which is covered with a skin. Beauty is nothing but skin deep. When one reflects thus on the impure parts of the body passionate attachment to this body gradually disappears. This meditation may not appeal to those who are not sensual. They may meditate on the innate creative possibilities of this complex machinery of man.

    The thirty-two parts of the body are enumerated as follows: "Hair, hair of the body, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, sinew, bones, marrow, kidneys, heart, liver, diaphragm, spleen, lungs, bowels, mesentery, stomach, faeces, brain, bile, phlegm, pus, blood, sweat, lymph, tears, grease, saliva, nasal mucus, articular fluid, and urine".

  10. Ānāpānasati is mindfulness on respiration. āna means inhalation and apāna exhalation. In some books these two terms are explained in the reverse way. Concentration on the breathing process leads to one-pointedness of the mind, and ultimately to Insight which leads to Arahatship.

10. This is one of the best subjects of meditation, which appeals equally to all. The Buddha also practiced ānāpānasati before His Enlightenment. A detailed exposition of this meditation is found in the Satipatthāna Sutta and in the Visuddhi Magga. A few practical hints are given here for the benefit of the average reader.

Adopting a convenient posture, breathe out and close the mouth. Then breathe in through the nostrils calmly, without strain. Inhale first and count mentally one. Exhale and count two, concentrating on the breathing process. In this manner count up to ten, constantly focusing your attention on respiration. It is possible for the mind to wander before one counts up to ten. But one need not be discouraged. Try again until success is achieved. Gradually one can increase the number of series, say five series of ten. Later one can concentrate on the breathing process without counting. Some prefer counting as it aids concentration; while others prefer not to count. What is essential is concentration, and not counting, which is secondary. When one does this concentration exercise one feels light in body and mind and very peaceful. One might perhaps feel as if one were floating in the air. When one practices this concentration for a certain period, a day may come when one will realize that his so-called body is supported by mere breath, and that the body perishes when breathing ceases. Thus one fully realizes impermanence. Where there is change there cannot be a permanent entity or an immortal soul. Insight might then be developed to gain Arahatship.

It is now clear that the object of this concentration on respiration is not merely to gain one-pointedness but also to cultivate Insight in order to obtain Deliverance.

This simple method may be pursued by all without any harm. For more details readers are referred to the Visuddhi Magga. In some Suttas this simple method of respiration is explained as follows:

"Attentively he breathes in, attentively he breathes out.

  1. When making a long inhalation he knows, 'I make a long inhalation; when making a long exhalation, he knows, 'I make a long exhalation'.
  2. When making a short inhalation he knows, 'I make a short inhalation'; when making a short exhalation he knows, 'I make a short exhalation'.
  3. 'Clearly perceiving the entire (breath) body (sabbakāyapatisamvedi), I will inhale': thus he trains himself; 'clearly perceiving the entire (breath) body. I will exhale': thus he trains himself.
  4. 'Calming this breathing process (passam bhayam kāyasankhāram), I will inhale' thus he trains himself; 'calming this breathing process, I will exhale': thus he trains himself".

11. Brahmavihāra - Here Brahma means sublime, as in brahmacariya (sublime life). Vihāra means mode or 'state of conduct' or 'state of living'. They are also termed appamaññā (limitless, boundless) because these thoughts are radiated towards all beings, without limit or obstruction.

  1. Mettā (Sanskrit: Maitri) loving-kindness, benevolence, goodwill - is defined as that which softens one's heart. It is not carnal love or personal affection. The direct enemy of Mettā is hatred, ill will or aversion (kodha); its indirect enemy is personal affection (pema). Mettā embraces all beings without exception. The culmination of Mettā is the identification of oneself with all beings (sabbattatā). It is the wish for the good and happiness of all. Benevolent attitude is its chief characteristic. It discards ill will
  2. Karunā - compassion - is defined as that which makes the hearts of the good quiver when others are subject to suffering, or that which dissipates the sufferings of others. Its chief characteristic is the wish to remove the sufferings of others. Its direct enemy is wickedness (himsā) and its indirect enemy is passionate grief (domanassa) Compassion embraces sorrow-stricken beings, and it eliminates cruelty
  3. Muditā is not mere sympathy but sympathetic or appreciative joy. Its direct enemy is jealousy, and its indirect enemy is exhilaration (pahāsa). Its chief characteristic is happy acquiescence in others' prosperity and success (anumodanā). Muditā embraces prosperous beings. It eliminates dislike (arati) and is the congratulatory attitude of a person
  4. Upekkhā literally, means to view impartially, that is, with neither attachment nor aversion. It is not hedonic indifference but perfect equanimity or a well-balanced mind. It is the balanced state of mind amidst all vicissitudes of life such as praise and blame, pain and happiness gain and loss, repute and disrepute. Its direct enemy is attachment (rāga) and its indirect enemy is callousness. Upekkhā discards clinging and aversion. Impartial attitude is its chief characteristic

Here Upekkhā does not mean mere neutral feeling, but implies a sterling virtue. Equanimity, mental equilibrium, are its closest equivalents. Upekkhā embraces the good and the bad, the loved and the unloved, the pleasant and the unpleasant. See Chapter 2, note 4.

12. Āhāre patikkūlasaññā- i.e., the feeling of loathsomeness of food, in its search, eating, etc.

13. Catudhātuvavatthānam - i.e., the investigation of the four primary elements of extension, cohesion, heat, and motion, with regard to their characteristics, etc. 14.

14. Arūpajhānas - See Ch. 1. They are:

  1. 'The Realm of the Infinity of Space',
  2. 'The Realm of the Infinity of Consciousness',
  3. 'The Realm of Nothingness',
  4. and The 'Realm of neither Perception nor Non-perception'.

15. Thirty-eight objects when 'light' and 'space' are excluded.

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