⊗ 4 Essential Elements
The great essentials are called elements (dhatu) in the sense that they bear their own intrinsic natures.
- Earth element (patavi dhatu):
The earth element is so called because, like the earth, it serves as a support or foundation for the coexisting material phenomena. The earth element has the characteristic of hardness, the function of acting as a foundation, and manifestation as receiving. Its proximate cause is the other three great essentials. Both hardness and softness are modes in which the earth element is experienced by the sense of touch.
- Water element (Apodhatu):
The water element, or fluidity, is the material factor that makes different particles of matter cohere, thereby preventing them from being scattered about. Its characteristic is trickling or oozing, its function is to intensify the coexisting material states, and it is manifested as the holding together or cohesion of material phenomena. Its proximate cause is the other three great essentials. The Abhidhamma holds that unlike the other three great essentials, the wa- ter element cannot be physically sensed but must be known inferentially from the cohesion of observed matter.
- Fire element (tejodhãtu):
The fiire element has the characteristic of heat, its function is to mature or ripen other material phenomena, and it is manifested as a continuous supply of softness. Both heat and cold are modes in which the fire element is experienced.
- Air Element (vãyodãtu)
The air element is the principle of motion and pressure. Its characteristic is distension (vitthambana), its function is to cause motion in the other material phenomena, and it is manifested as conveyance to other places. Its proximate cause is the other three great essentials. It is experienced as tangible pressure.
Taken together, the four great essentials are founded upon the earth element, held together by the water element, maintained by the fire element, and distended by the air element.
⊗ Sensitive material phenomena (pasãdarüpa)
There are five types of matter located in each of the five sense organs.The sensitivity is to be distinguished from the gross sense organ which functions as its support.
- What is conventionally called the eye is spoken of in the Abhidhamma as the composite eye (sasambhãra-cakkhu), a compound of various material phenomena. Among these is eye-sensitivity (cakkhu-pasãda), the sensitive substance in the retina that registers light and colour and serves as a physical base and door for eye-consciousness.
- Ear-sensitivity (sota-pasãda) is to be found inside the ear-hole, “in the place shaped like a finger-stall and surrounded by fine brown hairs”; it is the sensitive substance that registers sounds and serves as a physical base and door for ear-consciousness.
- Nose-sensitivity (ghãna-pasãda) is to be found inside the nasal orifice, as the substance that registers smells.
- Tongue-sensitivity (jivh±-pas±da) is to be found diffused over the tongue, serving to register tastes.
- Body-sensitivity (k±ya-pas±da) extends all over the organic body “like a liquid that soaks a layer of cotton,” and serves to register tactile sensations.
The eye’s characteristic is sensitivity of the primary elements that is ready for the impact of visible data; or its characteristic is sensitivity of the primary elements springing from a desire to see. Its function is to pick up a visible datum as object. It is manifested as the foundation of eye-consciousness. Its proximate cause is the primary elements born of kamma springing from a desire to see. Each of the other sensitive material phenomena—the ear, the nose, the tongue, and the body—should be similarly understood, with appropriate substitutions.
⊗ Objective material phenomena (gocararûpa)
These are the five sense fields which serve as the objective supports for the corresponding types of sense consciousness. It should be noted that the tangible object is constituted by three of the great essentials: the earth element, experienced as hardness or softness; the fire element, experienced as heat or cold; and the air element, experienced as pressure. The water element, being the principle of cohesion, is not, according to the Abhidhamma, included in the tangible datum. The other four sense objects—visible forms, etc.—are types of derived matter.
Collectively, objective material phenomena have the characteristic of impinging on the sense bases. Their function is to be the objects of sense consciousness. They are manifested as the resort of the respective sense consciousness. Their proximate cause is the four great essentials.
⊗ Material phenomena of sex (bhãvarûpa)
These are the two faculties of femininity and masculinity. These faculties have, respectively, the characteristic of the female sex and of the male sex. Their function is to show femininity and masculinity. They are manifested as the reason for the mark, sign, work, and ways of the female and of the male; that is, for the sexual structure of the body, for its feminine or masculine fea- tures, for the typical feminine or masculine occupations, and for the typical feminine or masculine deportment.
⊗ Material phenomenon of the heart (hadayarûpa)
The heart-base has the characteristic of being the material support for the mind element and the mind-consciousness element. Its function is to uphold them. It is manifested as the carrying of these elements. It is to be found in dependence on the blood inside the heart, and is assisted by the four great essentials and maintained by the life faculty.
⊗ Life faculty (jívitindriya)
Life Faculty is the material counterpart of the mental life faculty, one of the seven universal cetasikas. Life, or vitality, is called a faculty because it has a dominating influence over its adjuncts. The life faculty has the characteristic of maintaining the coexistent kinds of matter at the moment of their presence. Its function is to make them occur. It is manifested as the establishment of their pres- ence. Its proximate cause is the four great essentials that are to be maintained.
⊗ Edible food (kabalikãrhãra)
This has the characteristic of nutritive essence (ojã), that is, the nutritional substance contained in gross edible food. Its function is to sustain the physical body. It is manifested as the fortifying of the body. Its proximate cause is gross edible food, which is the base of nutritive essence.
These eighteen kinds of material phenomena: The eighteen mate- rial phenomena just enumerated are grouped together as matter possessing intrinsic nature (sabhãvarûpa) because each type has a distinct objective nature such as hardness in the case of the earth element, etc.; as matter possessing real characteristics (salakkhaoarûpa) because they are marked by the three general characteristics of impermanence, suffering, and nonself; as concretely produced matter (nippanappa) because they are directly produced by conditions such as kamma, etc.; as material matter (rûparûpa) because they possess matter’s essential characteristic of undergoing deformation; and as matter to be comprehended by insight (sammasanarûpa) because they are to be made the objects of insight contemplation by way of the three characteristics.