Forty Meditations:
Who Should Use Which?


Karen M. Andrews
April 15, 1992


10 Kasinas (Devices): (pp. 139-165)   See Note

The ten Kasinas are simple physical phenomena upon which one can meditate. The first four are the traditional elements: earth, air, fire, and water. These can be used by people of all dispositions. The next four are on the four colors, blue, red, white, and yellow. These should be used by people with hateful natures. The last two are space and light. These can also be used by people of all dispositions.

10 Asubhas (Objects of Impurity):

The ten objects of impurity are various sorts of corpses. Meditating on corpses is useful is reducing lust. This practice should only be followed under the guidance of a master. Below is a list of the asubhas and who will find them useful.

Swollen Corpse: Those who lust after beauty of form.

Discolored Corpse: Those who lust after beauty of the skin and complexion.

Festering Corpse: Those who lust after a sweet-smelling body, using perfumes.

Fissured Corpse: Those who lust after the firmness and solidity of the body.

Mangled Corpse: Those who lust after fulness of the flesh, such as the breasts.

Dismembered Corpse: Those who lust after graceful movements of the body.

Cut & Dismembered Corpse: Those who lust after perfection of the  joints of the body.

Blood-stained Corpse: Those who lust after beauty produced by adornments.

Worm-infested Corpse: Those who are attached to the idea that the  body is "me" or "mine."

Skeleton: Those who lust after perfection of the teeth and nails. 


10 Anussatis (Recollections):

The first six anussatis (pp. 183-208) are meditations upon the Buddha, the dharma, the sangha, the devas, morality, and generosity. These meditations are most useful for those with devotional natures. These practices will gladden the mind when it is in distress and will increase faith and virtuous tendencies. The first three are particularly useful in reducing fear and dread.

The next anussati is concentration on breathing (pp. 227-258). It is a particularly useful meditation, being the only one the Buddha described which can lead to both mindfulness and insight. This is the only meditation which can lead a practitioner from beginning practice all the way to enlightenment. Concentration on breathing is especially recommended for those who are deluded or excitable.

The eighth anussati is meditation on death (pp. 209-215). This is useful for people who are intelligent. This meditation leads to a deep realization of impermanence.

The ninth anussati is mindfulness of the body (pp. 216-226). This is useful for those with lustful natures. (This is probably the only meditation of these forty which will be useful to Westerners in reducing lust, as the other meditations for reducing lust all require a decaying human corpse, and these are difficult to come by.)

The last anussati is meditation on tranquility (pp. 259-262). Not surprisingly, this leads to peace and tranquility. It is useful for those who are intelligent.

4 Brahma-Viharas (Excellent Qualities): (pp. 263-313)

The four brahma-viharas are metta (friendliness or loving-kindness), compassion, sympathetic joy, and even-mindedness. Meditation on these qualities leads to an increase of them, causing excellent conduct in interactions with the external world. They are "an essential preliminary to the whole training of the religious aspirant" (p. 263). Meditation on these qualities is especially useful for those with hateful natures.

Ahare patikkula sanna (Perception of the Loathsomeness of Food):  (pp. 314-317)

This meditation is designed to eliminate the greed and sensual excitement which is often caused by food. This practice is most suited to those who are intelligent.

Catudhatuvavat-thana (Analysis of the 4 Physical Elements):            (pp. 318-331)

"The main object of this meditation is to free the mind from the conception of individuality in regard to the physical body and to realize its elemental nature with no thought of personal distinction" (p. 318). The meditation consists of noticing how the body is merely a synthesis of physical elements, without entity. This practice is most suited to those who are intelligent.

4 Arupas (Formless Spheres): (pp. 332-340)

These are four formless stages which are developed in turn after all psychological impediments are removed. In order, they are the sphere of infinite space, the sphere of infinite consciousness, the sphere of nothingness, and the sphere of neither perception nor non-perception. The goal of these stages is complete self-possession, free from all thoughts of the world. This is not nirvana, but it is very close to nirvana. These formless spheres are suitable for people of all dispositions, after they have reached the fifth absorption level.

Note :
All page numbers refer to Paravahera Vajirana Mahathera, Buddhist
Meditation in Theory and Practice (Malaysia: Buddhist Missionary
Society, 1962).
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