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Dhatu as expounded by Gautama Buddha

 

Dhatu

Gautama Buddha explained Dhatu as a phenomena that comes in to being due to Causal effect. This is the term or the word,the Gautama Buddha uses to explain the natures such as Patavi, Apo, Thejo, Vayo which is somewhat easy for us to understand to subtle natures such as Vinnana and Avijja. An exception is Nirvana, which is an Asankata Dhatu. All other Dhatu are classified as Sankata Dhatu by Gautama Buddha.When Gautama Buddha categorized the so called Earthy, Watery, Firey and Airy (Patavi,Apo,Thejo, Vayo) elements as Dhatu, he had categorized all the elements that is to be found in the universe to have Causal effect. However one should bear in mind that "Relics" of Buddha and Arhats are also being called as Dhatu in the present day.

So by whatever names the scientists call today for some hundred odd Elements such as Fe, Mg, Cu, Au ,Cl, Ar etc. they all inherits the Dhatu nature the Buddha elaborated 2600 years ago. The basic elements or Dhatu, the Gautama Buddha has used to explain the Four Elements (Patavi,Apo,Thejo, Vayo) as well as Dhamma matters, are not permanent elements but phenomena of causal affects.

Dhatu nature, or the Dhatu quality or the Dhatu characteristic can be stated as that something which appears or gets created due to a cause and that disappears or ceases to exist once the cause is removed or no more present.

The concept of the nature of Dhatu is of utmost importance in Lord Buddha’s teachings. The meanings of the word Dhatu of present day and the meaning Gautama Buddha has meant in his discourses are quite different. We should try to understand the meaning of that single word Dhatu as appearing in the sermons of the Gautama Buddha. We always should try to use the word Dhatu without going for a synonym when we think or talk about and when we mention it; the meaning of it in many words should come to the mind. Though the pronunciations might be difficult, it hardly matters since you know what you are talking about. It is the meaning or what it stands for is the important matter one needs to learn.

The nature of Sankata and Asankata is of importance when understanding the Dhatu nature.

 

In Samyutta Nikaya, Khandha Samyutta, it is stated for rupa, vedana, sanna, sankhara and vinnana that

uppado paññayati,vayo paññayati, thitassa aññathattam paññayati.

or

(1) Arising can be recognised or observed.

(2) Dissappearance can be recognised or observed.

(3) The changinging taking place during the period of standing can be recognised or observed.

Rupa, Vedana, Sanna, Sankhara and Vinnana has the above three distinguished characteristics and is called Sankata Dhatu.

 

Asankata has three distinguished characteristics. They are

(1) Arising cannot be recognised or observed.

(2) Dissappearance cannot be recognised or observed.

(3) A changinging taking place during the period of standing can not be recognised or observed.

 

Nibbana or Nirvana that has the above three distinguished characteristics is called an Asankata Dhatu.

 

 


"It is the Causal effect caused by an entity that produces an effect and disappears with absence of the entity"


An entity is that which is perceived or known or inferred to have its own distinct existence (living or nonliving)

 

( from the TheFreeDictionary )



So when you think of the word Dhatu, you should realize that it belongs to the nature of evolving due to a cause and cessation due to the absence of the cause.More specifically stating, Dhatu are not permanent entities.

If one thinks in depth of the meaning we get on the nature of Dhatu, it is evident that the Buddha is explaining something very unique here that only a Buddha can self realize and explain to others about it. Here we see that the nature of Dhatu is not of a permanent nature but is a link in an ever changing process. There is no solid substance in it even in the sense of a miniscule magnitude. It is almost like an action happening at the moment. An action cannot be attributed to a permanency. It is ever changing and an ongoing process. Here we need to grasp that idea of a substance that inherits a character of a changing nature due to some cause. Here the appropriate keyword for Dhatu is the causality.



causality
[kôsal'ite]

(in research) a relationship between one phenomenon or event (A) and another (B) in which A precedes and causes B. The direction of influence and the nature of the effect are predictable and reproducible and may be empirically observed. Causality is difficult to prove. Some social scientists contend that it is impossible to prove a causal relationship.

Mosby's Medical Dictionary, 8th edition. © 2009, Elsevier.



Getting into the terms of nature of Dhatu, we now proceeds to the types of Dhatu, Lord Buddha first explained in the Sutta.

Lord Buddha in his discourse ‘Bahu Dhatuka Sutta’ [Sermon on Different Types of Dhatu ] explains on Forty one (41) Dhatu and we will try to understand them as the way Buddha has explained them in his sermons. In this discourse, Venerable Ananda asked Lord Buddha, how one can be said to be a ‘Learned One’. In that instance Lord Buddha explained that fathoming the nature of Dhatu, is one way to ascribe a person a ‘Learned One’ or a ‘Wise One’ or a ‘Pundit’.

First he named eighteen Dhatus. The names of the eighteen Dhatu and an explanation on each will be subsequently stated.


Chakku Dhatu, Rupa Dhatu, Chakku Vinnana Dhatu,
Sotha Dhatu, Shabda Dhatu, Sotha Vinnana Dhatu
Ghana Dhatu, Gandha Dhatu, Ghana Vinnana Dhatu
Jivha Dhatu, Rasa Dhatu, Jivha Vinnana Dhatu
Kaya Dhatu, Pottabba Dhatu, Kaya Vinnana Dhatu
Mano Dhatu, Dhamma Dhatu, Mano Vinnana Dhatu

 


Chakku Dhatu

Chakku means the Eye. Here it is the physiological eye of a human Lord Buddha is mentioning. What is the idea we get or just come in to mind when we hear the word eye? Most often it is the shape, colour and the seeing facility that comes into the mind. All that seeing phenomena taking place is of a very complex nature. The eye as we normally consider is just the organ we recognize from outside of ourselves or others but there is an unseen inside structure we are not aware of but belonging to the organ or the faculty.


Rupa Dhatu

Rupa Dhatu is the shapes and forms of colour that can be identified by the eye faculty as an optical image. Even if there are different forms and shapes, without light, the eyes will be unable to see it. All these factors that needs to form an image in the eye is considered as Rupa Dhatu. When thinking of Rupa, one needs to understand that we are thinking on a thing with a Dhatu nature.


Sotha Dhatu

Sota means the Ear. Here it is the physiological Ear of a human Lord Buddha is mentioning. What is the idea we get or just come in to mind when we hear the word ear? Most often it is the shape and the form and the hearing facility that comes into the mind. All that hearing phenomena taking place is of a very complex nature and the ear as we normally consider is just the organ we recognize of ourselves or others from outside but there is an unseen inside structure we are not aware of but belonging to the organ or the faculty.

Shabda Dhatu

The sound that can be heard through the ears are called Shabda. All the different sounds that we discern through the ears are of a nature of Dhatu.

Ghana Dhatu


Ghana means the Nose. Here it is the physiological nose of a human Lord Buddha is mentioning. What is the idea we get or just come in to mind when we hear the word nose? Most often it is the shape, colour and the smelling facility that comes into the mind. The nose as we normally consider is just a part belonging to the process of smelling. All that smell cognition phenomena taking place is of a very complex nature and the nose we normally consider is just the organ we recognize of ourselves or others from outside but there is an unseen inside structure we are not aware of but belonging to the organ or the faculty.


Ghandha Dhatu

The nose of ours is a faculty for us to identify all those different types of smells. Lord Buddha says that all these smells belongs to the nature of Dhatu.


Jivha Dhatu

Jivha means the Tongue. Here it is the physiological tongue of a human Lord Buddha is mentioning. What is the idea we get or just come in to mind when we hear the word tongue? Most often it is the shape, colour and the tasting facility that comes into the mind. The tongue as we normally consider is just a part belonging to the process of tasting. All that taste cognition phenomena taking place is of a very complex nature and the tongue we normally consider is just the organ we recognize of ourselves or others from outside but there is an unseen inside structure we are not aware of but belonging to the organ or the faculty.

Rasa Dhatu

Our tongue can taste so many different types of tastes but all of them are of the nature of Dhatu. Different tastes are due to different types of ingredients or different causes.


Kaya Dhatu

Kaya means the Body. Here it is the physiological Body of a human except the above mentioned faculties of eyes,ears, nose and tongue, Lord Buddha is mentioning. What is the idea we get or just come in to mind when we hear the word Body? Most often it is the shape or form, colour and the feeling facilities that comes into the mind. The body as we normally consider is just a part belonging to the phenomena of body contact or tactile or sense of touch. All that cognition of touch taking place is of a very complex nature and the body we normally consider is just the organ we recognize of ourselves or others from outside but there is an unseen inside structure we are not aware of but belonging to the organ or the faculty.


Pottabba Dhatu

This is the feeling sensation discerned by the body [outer body and skin, shall we say] Sensations can be vastly different and can be caused by touch of any of the four elements of Patavi, Apo, Thejo and Vayo and any combination of the earlier mentioned elements of a living or non living being or object.

Mano Dhatu

Mano means the Mind. Unlike other faculties described before, understanding the placement of mind is a complex challenge. Here we seek the teachings of the Buddha to shed light on this matter from his sermons. He stated that the mind can be said have taken the refuge of the body as the cave to dwell in. It literally says that the mind can be active in the whole body. Lord Buddha considered a human as a entity with six faculties or ‘Ayatana’ or sense medias, where as the sixth is the Mind. Buddha further stated that like the eyes, ears, nose, tongue and the body, it is a faculty or an organ. The other faculties can be identified by seeing or feeling [in a broad manner, shall we say] but there is no way to fathom mind’s placement or shape or form. In Lord Buddha’s discourses there are many details given to understand the nature of the mind so learning them will make us more literate to have a better idea of the mind.
Just as the eyes are for seeing things, ears are for listening to sound, nose for discernment of smell, tongue for discernment of taste, body for discernment of touch sensation, the mind is for getting to know the thoughts or thinking. In other words, mind is the faculty to deal with mental factors. The six sense bases comprises of Nama Rupa.The Mind organ also is made up of the four Dhatu of Patavi, Apo, Thejo and Vayo as well as five more factors belonging to ‘Nama’. Though the Mind is not tangible, it also comprises of Nama Rupa.

Buddha considered the mind as a faculty belonging to the nature of Dhatu.


Dhamma Dhatu

Dhamma Dhatu can be considered as the thoughts or the mental activity of thinking that is cognizable by the mind. Just as the eyes can deal with Rupa Dhatu, the mind or Mano Dhatu can deal with thoughts or thinking or cogitation which is considered as the Dhamma Dhatu.

 

 

Buddha's Dhatu  explanation  image-3-Dhatu- Inner sense organ Dhatu

 

Buddha's Dhatu  explanation  image-4-Dhatu-Outer sence  organ dhatu

 

More on Vinnana

Gautama Buddha teaches that Vinnana can occur only in the six inner sense bases. Each inner sense base needs its corresponding outer sense base as well as the manasikara or the Minds effort for a vinnana to occur in a particular inner sense base.

Buddha described the meaning of vinnana as ‘getting to know specially’.

Getting to know specially about different colours of persons or things (optical objects or forms),

Getting to know specially about different sounds of pleasant or unpleasant natures,

Getting to know specially about different nature of smells of pleasant or otherwise,

Getting to know specially about different tastes such as sweetness,bitterness,sourness

Getting to know specially about different feeling sensations of warmness, coldness, roughness, smoothness, pleasantness and painfulness,

Getting to know specially about different thoughts or ideas of sensualness, kindness, averseness, forgiveness, friendliness etc.

 

All belongs to the vinnana originated at the six inner sense bases or the six inner faculties of a person.

 

Chakku Vinnana Dhatu

The Eye sense base needs its corresponding outer sense base of Form as well as the manasikara or the Minds effort for the Chakku Vinnana Dhatu to occur due to the eye sense base.

 

Sotha Vinnana Dhatu

The Ear sense base needs its corresponding outer sense base of Sound as well as the manasikara or the Minds effort for the Chakku Vinnana Dhatu to occur due to the ear sense base.

Ghana Vinnana Dhatu

The Nose sense base needs its corresponding outer sense base of Smell as well as the manasikara or the Minds effort for the Ghana Vinnana Dhatu to occur due to the nose sense base.

 

Jivha Vinnana Dhatu

The Tongue sense base needs its corresponding outer sense base of Taste as well as the manasikara or the Minds effort for the Jivha Vinnana Dhatu to occur due to the tongue sense base.

 

Kaya Vinnana Dhatu

The Body sense base needs its corresponding outer sense base of Touch as well as the manasikara or the Minds effort for the Kaya Vinnana Dhatu to occur due to the body sense base.

 

Mano Vinnana Dhatu

The Mind sense base needs its corresponding outer sense base of Thoughts as well as the manasikara or the Minds effort for the Mano Vinnana Dhatu to occur due to the mind sense base.

 

Buddha's Dhatu  explanation  image-5-ence base vinnana dhatu

 

With above stated explanations that the Gautama Buddha disclosed, how are we to make these information being practical to our lives?

 

 

 


nature

The essential qualities or characteristics by which something is recognized


 

 

  Times CSX+ font was used to display Pali Sutta passages in English