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In Buddhism, kammaṭṭhāna is a Pali word (Sanskrit: karmasthana) which literally means the place of work. Figuratively it means the place within the mind where one goes in order to work on spiritual development. More concretely, it refers to the forty canonical objects of meditation (samatha kammaṭṭhāna), listed in the third chapter of the Visuddhimagga.[1]

The kammatthana collectively are not suitable for all persons at all times. Each kammatthana can be prescribed, especially by a teacher (kalyāṇa-mitta), to a given person at a given time, depending on the person's temperament and state of mind.

Forty meditation subjects

The first ten kammatthana are "wholes" (kasina objects, things which one can behold directly):

(1) earth, (2) water, (3) fire, (4) air, wind, (5) blue, green, (6) yellow, (7) red, (8) white, (9) enclosed space, (10) bright light.

The next ten are objects of repulsion (asubha):

(1) swollen corpse, (2) discolored, bluish, corpse, (3) festering corpse, (4) fissured corpse, (5) gnawed corpse, (6,7) dismembered, or hacked and scattered, corpse, (8) bleeding corpse, (9) worm-eaten corpse, (10) skeleton.

Ten are recollections (anussati):

First three recollections are of the virtues of the Three Jewels:
(1) Buddha
(2) Dharma
(3) Sangha
Next three are recollections of the virtues of:
(4) morality (sīla)
(5) liberality (cāga)
(6) the wholesome attributes of Devas
Recollections of:
(7) the body (kāya)
(8) death (see Upajjhatthana Sutta)
(9) the breath (prāna) or breathing (ānāpāna)
(10) peace (see Nibbana).

Four are stations of Brahma (Brahma-vihara):

(1) unconditional kindness (mettā)
(2) compassion (karuna)
(3) sympathetic joy over another's success (mudita)
(4) evenmindedness, equanimity (upekkha)

Four are formless states (four arūpajhānas):

(1) infinite space
(2) infinite consciousness
(3) infinite nothingness
(4) neither perception nor non-perception.

One is of perception of disgust of food (aharepatikulasanna).

The last is analysis of the four elements (catudhatuvavatthana): earth (pathavi), water (apo), fire (tejo), air (vayo).

Meditation subjects and jhanas

Template:JhanaFactors Of these, due to their complexity, the first eight recollections, the perception of disgust of food and the analysis of the four elements only lead to access concentration (upacara samadhi).

Absorption in the first jhana can be realized by mindfulness on the ten kinds of foulness and mindfulness of the body. However, these meditations cannot go beyond the first jhana due to their involving applied thought (vitaka) which is absent from the higher jhanas.

Absorption in the first three jhanas can be realized by contemplating the first three brahma-viharas. However, these meditations cannot aid in attaining the fourth jhana due to the pleasant feelings associated with them. Conversely, once the fourth jhana is induced, the fourth brahma-vihara (equanimity) arises.

Due to the simplicity of subject matter, all four jhanas can be induced through mindfulness of breathing and the ten kasinas.[2]

Meditation subjects and temperaments

All of the aforementioned meditation subjects can suppress the Five Hindrances, thus allowing one to fruitfully pursue wisdom. In addition, anyone can productively apply specific meditation subjects as antidotes, such as meditating on foulness to counteract lust or on the breath to abandon discursive thought.

The Pali commentaries further provide guidelines for suggesting meditation subjects based on ones general temperament:

  • Greedy: the ten foulness meditations; or, body contemplation.
  • Hating: the four brahma-viharas; or, the four color kasinas.
  • Deluded: mindfulness of breath.
  • Faithful: the first six recollections.
  • Intelligent: recollection of death or peace; the perception of disgust of food; or, the analysis of the four elements.
  • Speculative: mindfulness of breath.

The six non-color kasinas and the four formless states are suitable for all temperaments.[2]

See also

Notes

  1. Buddhaghosa & Nanamoli (1999), p. 90. In the Pali literature, prior to the post-canonical Pali commentaries, the term kammaṭṭhāna comes up in only a handful of discourses and then in the context of "work" or "trade." For instance, in the first three nikayas, the term is found only in the Subha Sutta (MN 99), although there it is found 22 times. In this discourse, it is contextualized, for instance, in this question to the Buddha by the brahmin Subha:
    "Master Gotama, the brahmins say this: 'Since the work of the household life [Pali: gharāvāsa-kammaṭṭhāna] involves a great deal of activity, great functions, great engagements, and great undertakings, it is of great fruit. Since the work of those gone forth [Pali: pabbajjā-kammaṭṭhāna] involves a small amount of activity, small functions, small engagements, and small undertakings, it is of small fruit.' What does Master Gotama say about this?" (Ñāṇamoli & Bodhi, 2001, p. 809; the square-bracketed Pali is from La Trobe University's searchable Tipitaka database at http://www.chaf.lib.latrobe.edu.au/dcd/tipitika.php?title=&record=3693.)
  2. 2.0 2.1 Gunaratana (1988).

Bibliography

  • Ñāṇamoli, Bhikkhu (trans.) & Bodhi, Bhikkhu (ed.) (2001). The Middle-Length Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Majjhima Nikāya. Boston: Wisdom Publications. ISBN 0-86171-072-X.

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