Vipassana Meditation Course

by Chanmyay Sayadaw | 28,857 words

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Part 3 - The Six Elements Explained

In accordance with the Buddhas philosophy this so called person is composed of six elements: the four material elements and the one mental element. Of the four physical, material elements the first one is the element of hardness and softness. We call it pathavi dhatu. The second is the element of fluidity and coalition. We call it apo dhatu in Pali. The third is the element of heat and cold, temperature. We call it tejo dhatu. The fourth is the element of motion, movement, vibration, expansion and contraction. This is called vayo dhatu in Pali.

These four primary material elements constitute the so called bodily process. When you feel your body then you may have a sensation of hardness or softness. That is pathavi dhatu. You may feel heat or cold. Thats tejo dhatu. You feel the nature of fluidity or coalition. Thats apo dhatu. You may feel motion, movement, vibration, supporting. This is vayo dhatu, one element.

These four primary elements together with the other minor elements are composed as a material unit called the indestructible unit - kalapa. These eight elements cannot be divided, cannot be destroyed even with the atomic bomb. You can divide the atom into say nucleus and proton and neutron and so on. But the tiniest detail of the atom consists of these four primary elements. So you cant divide it. You cant destroy it so it is called the unit of indestructibility - Avinibhoga rupa in Pali. So when the innumerable number of these material units are composed then they become a body: a finger, a nail, a hair, and so on.

So, in between these units theres a space. That space is known as akasa dhatu. This is one of the six elements which constitutes the so called bodily process.

Then the sixth one is the mental element. That is, mind, consciousness, mental processes, emotional processes. All these are called vinyana dhatu, the mental element or mind element.

Normally we are not able to penetrate into these elements and realise them in their true nature. Thats why we take these compounded elements for a personal being, an I or a you, because we cant divide. Our intellectual knowledge is not enough to penetrate into these elements, and realise them in their true nature. So we think this is a body, this is a mind, this a man, this is a woman, this is a leg, this is a nose, this a hair. If we have penetrating insight knowledge through our vipassana meditation, insight meditation, then we can penetrate into these primary elements and know them and their nature and also their appearance and disappearance, and the nature of transitoriness of these elements.

So here when you practise walking meditation you feel that you are walking on a boat which is floating on the waves of the sea, or as though you were walking on the air, or as though you are walking on a heap of cotton. You are realising the specific nature or specific characteristic of the wind element vayo dhatu. Vayo dhatu, the wind element has movement, motion, supporting, vibrating as its specific characteristics, or individual characteristics.

Normally we do not realise it. But when we watch the movement of the foot while we are walking very closely, attentively and precisely, then our concentration becomes deeper and deeper. Then, because of deep concentration the insight knowledge or experiential knowing becomes penetrating and sharp. So that penetrating insight realises the process of movement and its specific characteristics of movement, motion, vibrating and supporting. So we feel we are walking on the air, or we are standing on the boat, or on the waves of the sea. Because the waves of the sea are always moving.

Then, gradually our concentration becomes deeper. You will feel the specific characteristics of the wind element in that way. At that time you very often feel you are not yourself. Here you are not yourself` means you are not mad. You are not aware of your body. You are not aware of yourself. What you are here realising is just movement. A great deal of movement which is going on of its own accord. So in this way you have destroyed the idea of a personal being, a self or a soul by means of the walking meditation.

But here you should be careful not to expect any unusual experiences when you are walking. When you expect anything, the expectation disturbs your concentration. Then the concentration becomes weak. Then you cant experience anything new. So you mustnt expect anything. But what I have explained to you is that your noting of the movement of the foot has such and such a benefit you can experience.

So what you should do is just be mindful of what is happening to your body and mind, thats all. Except for mindfulness you mustnt do anything else. You mustnt expect anything, you mustnt be curious or inquisitive about anything. But what you should do is be mindful of whats happening. If you have expectation, that expectation must be aware of expecting. If you have curiosity, curiosity must be aware of curiosity, and so on until it has disappeared. You mustnt allow them to disturb your concentration and mindfulness. So what you should do is just be mindful while you are walking, while you are sitting, while you are lined up, while you are eating, while you are dressing, while you are showering, whatever you are doing. What you should do is just be mindful of it as it is, thats all.

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