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The Role of the Elements in Vipassana Meditation

A Dhamma Talk and Student Interview

By Sopako Bodhi Bhikkhu

Edmonton Talk #6. This discourse was given by Sopako Bodhi Bhikkhu in Edmonton, Canada,
1988, during an intensive meditation retreat. The names of the students have been changed. The
comments in brackets are the editor's.

Dhamma Talk

[Note: this article makes frequent use of two Pali terms: "rupa" and "nama." "Rupa" has several
meanings: 1) Matter; 2) material form as perceived by us, such as color, sound, scent, flavor and
tactile impressions; 3) any object of the mind, as opposed to the knower. Rupa has no awareness.

"Nama" means mind. Broadly speaking, it includes consciousness and all other mental
phenomena such as feeling, intention, desire, mindfulness, and so forth. It is nama, mind, that is
aware of all the things we experience.]

Student: What is the reason for listening to a Dhamma talk during a meditation retreat?

Ven. Sopako: To generate more confidence. Sometimes confidence is weak. Listening to a


dhamma talk makes your confidence strong enough to balance with mindfulness and
concentration. If you don't hear any dhamma talks, confidence will sometimes be weak and your
energy down. Listening to a dhamma talk makes confidence go up and then your energy tries to
balance with it. That's the purpose of giving a talk once a day so confidence and energy will
balance with mindfulness and concentration.

Tonight I'll start by talking about the four physical elements.1 We have to understand what the
body is. What is the body? Who can answer? No one?

The four elements are the air, earth, fire, and water. They harmonize together. The body is made
up of these elements. That's what we mean when we talk about the body. Just these four
elements: Earth, air, fire, and water nothing else. They form the body. Everyone has those
elements already. But the ratios are different in different people one element is greater than
another. Men and women have different proportions of the four elements.

What is the earth element? What is the heat element? What is the air element? What is the water
element in the body? The earth element shows as the sensation of touch. When we touch
something, it feels hard or soft. The fire element means hot or cold. Usually we just think of fire
as heat. But coolness is a manifestation of the fire element, too. The feeling of cold when you
touch ice is the fire element. The fire element refers to something we can know by a sensation of
heat or cold.

The air element can be known by moving and stopping. The hand moves and stops. Moving is an
expression of the air element. Stopping is a result of the air element, too. When you're moving
you're not stopping. When you stop you're not moving. And the water element it's very hard to
understand. We experience it mixed with the other elements. It means cohesion. All things have
the water element to make them stick together. The three elements earth, fire and air are held
together by water.

We cannot touch the water element the way an image can contact the eye, or a sound contact the
ear, or a smell contact the nose. We can only contact three elements directly: earth, fire, and air.
We cannot feel or contact the water element directly.

Some elements are good friends and some are enemies. Earth and water are friends. Air and fire
are friends. When fire burns, wind blows, which is the air element. But fire and water, for
example, are enemies. Water puts out fire.

It's the same in the body. Why do we have more than one posture? Why do we have to change
posture? Why do we have to have sitting, standing, walking, and lying down? Because the
elements fight over which one will be in charge. [A different element is in charge for each of the
four postures]

The elements want to take turns being the president of the body. When you sit, the earth element
is in charge. It becomes president. Maybe each term is an hour long. Then two terms are enough!
[laughter]. If you sit more than two terms, you feel terrible. You cannot keep sitting. The earth
element can't be president anymore. That's because air and fire are fighting with earth. They want
to be president, too.

That's why staying too long in one position creates pain, numbness, or makes you fall asleep.
The air tells the earth, "Move, move, move. Go go go. I want to be president." It makes the body
feel it has to move. When you change posture, you feel okay. But then when you walk too long,
the fire element says you have to stand. It wants to lead, to be in charge, to be president. So you
have to stand.

When you move the body, the air element is in charge. When you stand, fire is in charge. When
you walk, air in charge. When you lie down, water is in charge. If you don't give all the elements
a turn, the body can get sick because it's unbalanced.
That's why you have to let all the elements take a turn: to balance. You have to let the enemy
element substitute for the present one. It's like when you're too hot and you take a shower to cool
off. Likewise, if you change posture things will come back into balance. That's why even the
physical elements, even rupa [matter; "rupa" can also mean an object of the mind], are
impermanent they change by themselves. [Because comfort changes to physical discomfort
when you sit too long, for example.] The nature of rupa, too, is impermanent, suffering and
nonself. Does everybody understand? Good.

But the Abhidhamma [Buddhist metaphysics] talks about eighteen elements,2 not just four. I
began to talk about this in Calgary. 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.

There is a lens in the eye. It is rupa, matter. And then there is color, which is rupa, too. Usually
we say the eye is seeing, but that's not correct. That's wrong view. The eye is just matter. Rupa
cannot see. One object cannot know another object. [Matter can only function as an object, not a
knower] But what sees? Who can tell me?

Student: Nama [i.e., mind].

Ven. Sopako: Right. What kind of nama sees? Eye-consciousness. Eye-consciousness sees an
image. Can eye-consciousness hear a sound?

Student: No.

Ven. Sopako: No, right? Why not?

Student: It needs a different rupa.

Ven. Sopako: Because one [unit of] consciousness can only have one object, then it passes away.
Each type of consciousness only has one duty. Eye-consciousness has the duty to see, not to hear.
That's why you have to have ear-consciousness to hear sound. It has a different duty. It isn't true
that one type of consciousness can see and hear both. No. That's impossible.

That's why there's not just one type of consciousness [because there are many different objects].
There are many, many types of consciousness, depending on what the object of attention is. The
Abhidhamma lists 89 types of consciousness in all [or 121, depending on how they are
classified].

The different planes of existence3 have different types of objects, so there have to be different
kinds of consciousness to know them. That's why there are 89 or 121 types of consciousness. It
all depends on the object.

Also, lokiya [mundane or worldly] consciousness can't see Nibbana. To see Nibbana you have to
have lokuttara [supramundane, i.e., beyond the world] consciousness. During meditation practice
[until the moments of enlightenment] you just use worldly consciousness to get an object in the
present moment, but you don't have Nibbana as an object yet.

Student: is the Nibbana object nama?

Ven. Sopako: It is nama, but not nama like ordinary consciousness. It's different from the nama
we experience here in the world, because it's outside of the five khandhas [The five groups or
aggregates that comprise a "person": body, feeling, perception, mental formations, and
consciousness. The Buddhist Dictionary by Nyanatiloka states, "These are the five aspects in
which the Buddha has summed up all the physical and mental phenomena of existence, and
which appear to the ignorant man as his ego, or personality"].

Nibbana is not in the five khandhas. No condition or mental formation makes Nibbana. It does
not depend on anything making it. It doesn't belong to mental formations. And there's no arising
and passing away. Nibbana is khandha vimmut [free of the five khandhas], and visankhara
without condition. It is not conditioned by anything. There is no cause and effect in Nibbana.
And it is amatta. That means without birth or death: permanent. But it's outside of the world.

The four elements are the path of concentration only. But 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]. In Calgary I talked about the eighteen elements
because I talked about the vipassana bhumis, which are the grounds for establishing insight [the
eighteen elements are one of the groups comprising the vipassana bhumis].

"Bhumi" means ground or land or field. A vipassana bhumi is [metaphorically] a field, the land
for growing the seeds of mindfulness. It's a field used for planting mindfulness, because when
planted here, mindfulness can grow and the result will be wisdom. It's like the land used for
planting vegetables or flowers or fruit. You have to have land to plant seeds in, or they won't
grow. Same thing. In the dhamma we have the vipassana bhumis.

[The act of] seeing an image is [carried out by] nama. Hearing sound is [done by] nama; It is
nama, mind, that smells, tastes, feels and thinks. But color, sound, smell, taste, tactile objects,
and mental objects are rupa. Now, when you have rupa and nama [mind and object] together you
have the "vipassana bhumis," the land that mindfulness can grow on.

Nibbana is not too far away. The Buddha described Nibbana. He said in the Suttas that Nibbana
is not the air, earth, fire, water, or the khandhas, or ayatana [the six sense-organs and six sense-
impressions].4 Instead it's the end of the elements, the end of the khandhas, the end of world. The
Buddha described this so people wouldn't make a mistake about where Nibbana is, so they
wouldn't think they could find Nibbana in the five khandhas.

Nibbana and the ordinary world are like the palm and the back of the hand. They are not too far
from each other. But you can't see both at the same time. When you turn your hand this way you
can see the palm. When you turn it the other way you see the back.
Same thing. Nibbana is not too far from here. Not too far from the khandhas. But it's not the
khandhas. Just like the palm is not the back of the hand, right? When you turn it like this, you
can see palm. When you move it this way you can see the back of the hand. It's the opposite side.
Nibbana and the khandhas are opposite. The end of the khandhas is Nibbana; the end of suffering
is Nibbana.

But you cannot really say Nibbana is happiness. Because if you have happiness you have to have
suffering also. If you talk about light you have to have dark. Everything that comes from a cause
is part of a duality. If you have man, you have woman. If you have day, you have night. If you
have dark, you have light.

The eighteen elements are very important in order to keep practicing the Middle Way. Some
arahants [fully enlightened beings whose minds are entirely purified of unwholesome mental
factors] became enlightened by practicing with the eighteen elements. Other arahants practiced
the Four Foundations of Mindfulness. These two methods come down to the same thing; they're
just different ways to develop vipassana or mindfulness.

As I said, the eighteen elements include twelve elements having to do with the senses: the six
sense organs and six sense-objects: Eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind; and color, sound,
fragrance, flavor, touches, and mental objects. These are the sense doors and sense objects. To
practice with the sense doors and sense objects correctly is to follow the Middle Way.

How can you follow the Middle Way? When you see an image, there are several things involved.
There is the lens of the eye, which is rupa [material]. There is an image, which is rupa, too. Now,
what sees? Consciousness sees. When you focus on "seeing, seeing" you are walking on the
Middle Way between the eye and the image. If you focus on the eye, that's not correct. If you
attach with the image, that's not correct, either. For example what is the name of the river we
went to this morning?

Student: The North Saskatchewan.

Ven. Sopako: The North Saskatchewan River, right? The far bank of the river is color, sound,
smell, taste, touch and mind-objects. That's one bank of the river. But eye, ear, nose, tongue,
body and mind are the near bank. Where is the middle of the river? Where the water is. The
stream of the water is in the middle between both banks.

If a log comes down the river from the north, it will flow along with the water, right? If it doesn't
get stuck on the near or far bank, and doesn't sink to the bottom of the river, where will the log
go? To the ocean. It will stay in the middle between the banks until reaching the ocean.

Same thing. The Middle Way means that you focus on nama [mind] when you are seeing or
hearing. Then you will stay in the middle. You're not stuck on the near bank meaning, you're not
focusing on the eye, ear, nose, tongue, body or mind [focusing on "mind" here is different from
focusing on nama. In the last sentence, focusing on mind means clinging to the mind as a self].
You're not stuck on the far bank, focusing on color, sound, smell, touch, flavor, and mental
objects.
Student: You mean the organ of the eye? Not focusing on the eye organ?

Ven. Sopako: Yes, on the eye organ. If you cling to the idea that it's the eye seeing, that means
focusing on the eye.

Student: And not focusing on the object?

Ven. Sopako: Right, not focusing on the object. You have to focus on seeing. Where do you see?
When do you see? If you do that, you'll be staying in the present moment.

For example, this is the eye [pointing to a match]; this is color or an image [pointing to the
friction strip on a match box]. Or this is the ear, and this is sound, okay? They make fire arise.
Hearing is like fire. Where do you hear? When do you hear? In the middle between the match
and the friction strip. When the two things make contact, fire appears. That's the middle. When
fire arises. At that moment vinnana (ear-consciousness) arises. Seeing or hearing arises. The
moment that eye- or ear-consciousness happens is the Middle Way. But after the fire burns, it's
not the middle anymore, because there is attachment there. There is memory to immediately say
[for example, when you're seeing something] "Oh, that's a Buddha statue." That's not the middle
because you cling to the image.

Student: Achan, if I understand correctly, you can develop vipassana by looking at, say, feeling,
and seeing it arise and fall, but you can also look at rupa. The object can be rupa to; the object
of mindfulness can be rupa or can be feeling.

Ven. Sopako: Yes, but the objects from the eye, ear, nose, tongue, or body are only rupa, matter.

Student: You were talking about having mindfulness in the Middle Way with respect to the object.
My understanding of what you're saying is that you're being mindful of sound before it becomes
a memory is that correct? Is that what you mean by the Middle Way? When you're just hearing
it, you should be mindful of just hearing, before there's a mental object accompanying it?

Ven. Sopako: Yes, before the mind describes the object. For example, before the mind asks,
"What is the sound? What did you see?" until you remember what the sound is. That's not the
Middle Way. In other words, what is attachment? Attachment with what? If you cling to the idea
the eye is seeing, you are focusing on nama. If you cling to the object, thinking, "that's a good
smell, or good sound," and so on, that's attachment with rupa. When seeing, everybody thinks, "I
am seeing." That means you attach with nama because you think, "I am." I am seeing, I am
hearing, smelling, tasting, touching.

Student Interviews

Ven. Sopako: How is your practice going today?


Student 1: In Calgary, walking and sitting and standing were balanced. The walking, the sitting,
were all the same. The only problem was I liked it and now I'm suffering again because it's not
that way again.

Ven. Sopako: If you feel liking, don't cling to the liking. Let the liking go on until the end. When
you feel suffering, don't worry about the suffering. Don't resist the suffering feeling. Suffering
has to go on until the end of suffering. Then you'll have something different. When you finish
suffering you have to have new food, right? You have to have happiness. But at the end of
happiness you have to have suffering. How can you cling? The end of day is the beginning of
night. When night reaches the end, that's day.

It's the same with good or bad, suffering or happiness. It's the same with the changing of the
object. Don't cling, don't resist, don't care about that. Just let everything go on by the nature of
the truth. Just keep knowing and focusing, and forget it. Do it lightly. Don't force yourself or use
too much energy. Don't concentrate too much, as I told Anne. Sometimes you won't feel you are
practicing. You'll just sit. That will be good. Then maybe it will be clear. It won't be very hard
because you won't be worried about losing mindfulness or something like that. But sometimes
you want to keep going. It's not quite clear or uncomfortable or too heavy. That's very hard. You
have to figure out how to adjust or balance. It's not easy to get equanimity, all right? You have to
be smart and use skillful means.

Student 2: I've been working with the touch points sort of like Linda was doing... so I'm just
saying "sitting" in between the breath. Sometimes a gap happens on the in-breath sometimes on
the out-breath. [The student is adding "sitting" in between the rising and falling movements
because he perceives a gap between the two motions. See How to Meditate for an explanation of
the exercises.]

Ven. Sopako: That's all right. You don't have to add another object every time there's a gap.
When you have a gap, you still have mindfulness knowing there's a gap. Knowing there's no
object now. Mindfulness just stays there. That's all right. You can wait until the next actor shows.
For example, when you see a play, an actor appears onstage. But when you first go into the
theater you have to have a gap. There's nobody onstage yet. They will come soon.

If you keep knowing, if you maintain your duty to know whatever's going on, then even if there's
a gap, mindfulness will still be continuous. It won't be too long until another actor shows, until
another object comes to you. You don't have to look for an object when you have a gap. You can
let the objects come to you. The actors will come because it's their duty. When you maintain your
duty, when you keep watching, seeing and knowing what's going on, the actors will have to come
sooner or later. When you walk into the theater and the play hasn't started yet, you don't leave
your seat to look for the actors, right? You stay in your seat, waiting for the play to start. It's the
same way during meditation. If you look for objects too much you will lose your continuity of
mindfulness.

Student 3: In the past in meditation, my object of meditation has been the body in terms of
breathing. It's been the end of the nose, and in walking it's been the foot touching. So it's taking a
little bit of time to focus on the movement as opposed to the body. First of all I don't usually do
the meditation of the abdomen and I tend to lose it.

Ven. Sopako: What do you usually do?

Student 3: Normally I work with the nose [i.e., observing the feeling of air touching the nostrils].

Ven. Sopako: What do you observe when breathing in and breathing out? Touching or sensation?

Student 3: Touching.

Ven. Sopako: Touching, right? The touching point.

Student 3: Is that okay?

Ven. Sopako: If you observe the touching point, that's okay. If you observe sensation, it's not
okay. Because if you observe sensation your mind is going to an object from the past. You are
not in the present moment anymore.

Student 3: The movement of the air...

Ven. Sopako: When you observe touching you're knowing the air element. The body feels
contact. And there is knowing there. When you are aware of knowing touching, you're aware of
nama [the mind, not just the object alone]. You're aware of the moment of contact between the
mind and the object in that experience of touching, all right?

Student 3: My concentration is a little weak. My mind does wander. I do keep bringing it back. It
takes various amounts of time to do that.

Ven. Sopako: Don't bring it back. Just be aware it's wandering. Let it go. But at the same time,
just stay with the principal meditation object from moment to moment, according to your duty.
Don't bring the mind back. Don't worry about it going out. When it reaches the end it will come
back by itself.

Student 3: Last night we discussed that I get headaches when I meditate and that it's due to not
enough concentration and too much energy. Do I balance that by labeling more? How do I bring
them into balance?

Ven. Sopako: Yes, if concentration is down you have to label the object.

Student 3: If I find it's a consistent problem over a long period of time, would it be valuable to
try and establish a higher degree of concentration?

Ven. Sopako: Concentration in insight does not mean tranquility [samatha]. You don't need the
kind of concentration that comes from focusing for a long time on one object. Just develop
momentary concentration by labeling the object in the present moment. Labeling will make
momentary concentration strong enough to stay with objects from moment to moment.

Student 3: In the past I have done a lot of labeling but I kept finding I was in the past with the
labeling. I found I was thinking too much trying to find an appropriate label for every thought
and every movement.

Ven. Sopako: That's not correct. That's the reason... usually some teachers or meditators believe
that whenever you're thinking you should focus on and label the thinking, then go back to rising-
falling. Or whenever you have emotion, you should focus on the emotion, labeling the name of
it, then go back to rising-falling. When sleepy, you should label sleepiness and return to rising-
falling. That's not the correct way to practice.

The correct way is to keep staying in the moment to moment with the principal object whenever
you can. If wandering mind happens, as long as it's not strong, don't care about it. You know it,
but you just try to continue with the principal object. If emotion arises, as long as it's not strong,
don't care about it, don't note it. Don't label the emotion at all. If a sound comes up but it's not
strong and does not make defilements arise, you shouldn't care about that object.

But if the object makes defilements arise, you have to stop observing the principal object and
switch your focus to that [secondary] object. But as long as the secondary object does not make
defilements arise, as long as it's not strong, just keep going with your duty just keep observing
the principal object.

If you practice this way, momentary concentration will get strong enough or have experience
enough with one object. If you jump from here to there all the time, momentary concentration
may not get strong enough. It won't be strong because you won't stay on one object from moment
to moment long enough. That's why you should keep observing the principal object as long as
you can. You don't have to worry about other objects unless they make defilements arise or they
are so strong that you have to stop observing the main object.

Student 4: Practice is going reasonably well. Usually I have a great aversion to walking. Now
it's not too bad. Once I'm up it's okay. The mindfulness is good.

Ven. Sopako: How about sitting?

Student 4: With sitting I'm much less restless than I was in past retreats. Everything's okay.

Ven. Sopako: Like I said before, don't switch objects often. Stay with one object as long as you
can. For example, if you're observing rising-falling, then when the mind wanders, don't care
about the wandering if it's not strong. When emotion arises, don't be interested at all. Just be
aware and forget it. Just stay here with the rising-falling. At first, just continue more and more
with labeling from moment to moment on one spot for a longer time. That will make the object
more clear, and make mindfulness and concentration stronger. After that it will be easy to focus
on wandering mind or emotion. For now, try to stay with one object so that concentration and
mindfulness will be balanced and strong enough.
Student 4: I've been careful to not to over do it. In the past I've felt burned out.

Ven. Sopako: It's like starting a fire with dry bamboo. If you move the sticks too fast you get
tired and it's easy to give up. That's why you should take it easy. Good. No problem.

Student 5: I'm taking it easy.

Ven. Sopako: Okay. Good! How easy is it to stay in the present moment?

Student 5: Stay in the moment? It's better today. I was sleepy yesterday but today I'm awake.

Ven. Sopako: That's good. There's no rush, no hurry. Meditation is not very hard but it takes time.
Everything takes time until you can understand correctly, exactly. From that time on everything
will be smooth and it will be easy to continue. But for now, practice is up and down. That's all
right. Sometimes it's good, sometimes bad. That's all right. But you should keep trying to
develop energy from moment to moment, more and more. Don't worry about how often you lose
mindfulness. Don't worry about how long there's a space or you fall asleep or you have
wandering mind. How long or how much doesn't matter. Just keep observing from moment to
moment, all right?

Student 6: I'm just floating along nicely. Just taking it easy. And no big highs, no lows. Just...

Ven. Sopako: Middle Way, right?

Student 6: Middle way! [laugher]. I feel really good with the sitting. I'm just doing rising-falling.
It seems to me a lot of times I'm not really wanting to be here.

Ven. Sopako: Why? Worried about David?

Student 6: No, I'm not worried about David, so I feel good about that. A little bit of restlessness I
guess. But once I sit down and I get in my little place it's just fine. And my walking I was
finding I was really irritated with walking. Angry.

Ven. Sopako: Angry with walking? Angry about what?

Student 6: Well, I didn't want to do it and I just didn't do it. And so then I... I don't know how he
knew, but Tim said "how many steps are you doing in walking?" And I said "I'm doing six." And
he said to do three. So I did three and I was just happy walking along and it just all went very
nicely. So everything's hunky-dory [laughter].

Ven. Sopako: You have to take time also. You've only been practicing a few days. Even though
you had some experience with meditation before, we have to take time until it's correct and
balanced. Sometimes meditators are very smart to do the practice correctly but they still have to
take time to adjust until it is complete or balanced.
Then even when it's balanced, you have to wait for some factors of dhamma [i.e., factors of
enlightenment] to harmonize, too. It's not easy to get enlightened, all right? Even if you have
correct understanding and everything is balanced, it takes time. You have to wait for paramita
[merit or perfections from wholesome actions performed in the past and present] or background,
for many wholesome factors to harmonize until the thirty-seven factors of enlightenment
[bodhipakkhiya dhamma]5 are complete. At that time, when they harmonize, everything will be
fine. Now it's not fine. [Laughter]. Now everything isn't fine yet. All right?

Okay, how about Matthew [the student teacher]? Maybe I don't need to interview him because he
already came to ask me a question when he had some problem. But I just want him to tell the
group what's happening or what he experienced from practicing and helping the group and the
teacher.

Student [Matthew]: It's a little like clear comprehension, except that momentary concentration
has to be quite good. You can't stick too long on one object because you miss what's necessary.
So in a way it doesn't matter if I'm sitting or walking or standing or whatever. Labeling occurs
for me just like every once in awhile. In the morning it's very difficult because I'm really sleepy.
Low energy. But then it's interesting to see how my mindfulness follows things. Like last night I
was about ready to fall on my face with tiredness until Achan started talking. Then mindfulness
had an object of interest. So I didn't go to sleep until about 12:30. I just maintained some of what
he said as thoughts. It's different than sitting. Sometimes you have to look for objects for
mindfulness. I don't have a problem right now. It's different because there's activity rather than
being in one place. It's the same in terms of mindfulness and concentration. The only difference
is in concentration, and the good lesson I've learned from it, both from Calgary and here, is that
more isn't better. Less is better as far as concentration is concerned, for me. It's much easier to
do, as Laura said, and take a holiday. That doesn't mean that you don't see moment to moment if
you're not concentrating. But it doesn't have to be deep, deep, deep; it can be light, light, light,
and you still know, know, know. And as far as being with the teacher goes, well I thank everyone
for that opportunity.

Ven. Sopako: I want to give my knowledge or experience to meditators so they can be


representatives for me, to teach or help people here. That's why I try to let him translate or help
or interview some people, too. That's why now, you [talking to Matthew] understand more about
the difference between tranquility and insight how they are different and how we can follow
the correct the path and know which one is which.

If you have two things you can compare them. You can know enough to teach. But if you have
one thing like this [pointing at a tape recorder] you cannot tell if it's big or small, right? But if
you have another thing to compare it with, you can say how big or small it is. If it's bigger you
can tell it's bigger. If smaller you can tell it's smaller.

There are two kinds of meditation [i.e., tranquility (samatha) and insight (vipassana)], but when
you don't know in what way they are similar or different, how can you teach meditators? The
point is, how can you know in what way they are the same and in what way different? Which one
is big, which one small? Sometimes we make a mistake about concentration and think it's
vipassana. Even if you know it's concentration, do you know how strong or deep it is? Someone
thinks they have to go too deep with concentration, as you do in tranquility meditation.
Concentration in vipassana doesn't mean that at all. It just means that momentary concentration
is balanced with energy. You have to understand that. When you understand, you can compare
and tell how the two types of meditation are different or how they are the same. When you
understand, you can help people a lot, can help people find the correct path easily because you
can understand both ways.

Teaching people to become wise or have insight knowledge is very hard. On the other hand,
teaching tranquility meditation is not too hard. You just give the students instruction and let them
do it, let them practice. But teaching insight meditation for correctly understanding the right path
is very hard. You have to know both kinds of meditation and understand what is right and what is
wrong.

Notes

1. The Buddhist Dictionary by Nyanatiloka states: "The 4 physical elements (dhatu), popularly
called earth, water, fire and wind, are to be understood as the primary qualities of matter... 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 (abandhana) or fluidity, the water-
element; by heating (paripacana), 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.'"

2. The Buddhist Dictionary by Nyanatiloka states: "(II) The 18 physical and mental elements that
constitute the conditions or foundations of the process of perception are: 1. visual organ (eye); 2.
auditory organ (ear); 3. olfactory organ (nose); 4. gustatory organ (tongue); 5. tactile organ
(body); 6. visible object; 7. sound or audible object; 8. odor or olfactive object; 9. gustative
object; 10. body-impression; 11. eye-consciousness; 12. ear-consciousness; 13. nose-
consciousness; 14. tongue-consciousness; 15. body-consciousness; 16. mind-element; 17. mind-
object; and 18. mind-consciousness-element. 1-10 are physical; 11-16 and 18 are mental; 17 may
be either physical or mental."

3. The Buddhist teachings describe thirty-one planes of existence.

4. The mind is considered the sixth "base" and mind-objects the sixth type of sense-impression.

5. The Buddhist Dictionary by Nyanatiloka says of the Bodhipakkhiya-dhamma: "The 37 'Things


pertaining to Enlightenment', or 'requisites of enlightenment' comprise the entire doctrines of the
Buddha. They are: the 4 Foundations of Mindfulness (Satipatthana, q.v.), the 4 Right Efforts (s.
padhana), the 4 Roads to Power (iddhi-pada, q.v.), the 5 Spiritual Faculties (indriya; s. bala), the
5 Spiritual Powers (bala, q.v.), the 7 Factors of Enlightenment (bojjha?ga, q.v.), the Noble 8-fold
Path (s. magga)."
Edited by Cynthia Thatcher

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