natural awareness

relaxed presence, unfabricated, flowing, just as it is

38 Objects of Meditation in the Theravada Tradition

drawn from the Vimutti-magga (The Path of Freedom) by Upatissa (1st century Sri Lanka)


element of earth

Look at the ground (or a circle drawn on the ground) until you can recollect and see the image even with eyes closed. Expand the image of earth to fill a larger and larger area, until it fills all of space.

When mastered, move on to space as an object.




element of water

Look at flowing water or water in a bowl until you can see the image of water even where there is none.




element of fire

Look at fire until you can see the image of fire even where there is none.




element of air

See and feel air moving until you can steadily grasp the perception of air whenever it touches your body.




determining of the four elements

Discern the four elements that comprise your own form: solidity; fluidity, heat, and motion until you realize that your body is nothing but these four.

Benefits include overcoming fear, worldly pleasure and discontent; and wisdom, clarity, and perfect action.

Who should practice: a walker in intelligence, or a walker in infatuation.




the color blue-green

Look at blue objects or a prepared blue triangle or square until the after-image can be grasped anytime.




the color yellow

Look at yellow objects or a prepared yellow triangle or square until the after-image of yellow can be grasped anytime.




the color red

Look at red objects or a red triangle or square until the after-image of red can be grasped anytime.




the color white

Look at white objects or a prepared white triangle or square until the after-image of white can be grasped anytime. One can also use natural or prepared light.

Benefits include overcoming rigidity and torpor.

Who should practice the meditations on colors: a walker in hate.




sphere of space

Seeing earth as coarse, look at space (a window, the space between objects, etc). Dwell on space, regarding it as an infinite object, until you are freed from perception of sight, sound, smell, flavor, and touch.

When mastered, move on to the sphere of consciousness as an object.




sphere of consciousness

Seeing space as coarse, dwell on infinite consciousness as calm, spreading infinitely though and beyond space.

When mastered, move on to the sphere of nothingness.




sphere of nothingness

Seeing consciousness as coarse, dwell on nothingness, thinking "there is nothing whatsoever," without consciousness, empty, holding to nothing.

Then move on to the sphere of neither perception nor non-perception.




sphere of neither perception nor non-perception

Seeing nothingness as coarse, one dwells in calm, beyond consciousness or nothingness.




decomposition of a corpse

Observe the stages of decomposition of the body: bloated, discolored, festering, dismembered, gnawed, cut and dismembered, fissured, blood-stained, wormy, bony.

Who should practice: a walker in passion, because it overcomes lust. Not to be practiced by a walker in hate, because it generates resentment.




foulness of food

Attend to the loathsomeness of food and drink, the work of preparing it, the processes of eating, chewing, licking, digesting, and elimination.

Benefits include realizing the suffering of beings that food entails, the nature of food and the interior of the body, and understanding lust and impurity.

Who should practice: a walker in passion, because it overcomes lust, and by a walker in intelligence.




recollection of the Buddha

Recollect the faculties, and power of one who understands the noble truths and is free.

This meditation increases confidence, mindfulness, reverence, virtue, wisdom, joy, ability to endure hardship, fearlessness, and happiness.




recollection of the Dharma

Recollect nibbana (the abandonment of craving and defilements) and the practices by which one attains nibbana: the four foundations of mindfulness, four right efforts, five powers, seven factors of enlightenment, eightfold path (see list to the right).


the 37 factors of enlightenment

four foundations of mindfulness
objects (aka phenomena or experience)

four efforts
avoiding the unwholesome
overcoming the unwholesome
developing the wholesome
maintaining the wholesome

four bases of power

five powers

five faculties


seven factors

eightfold path
view (aka understanding)
resolve (aka intention)
attention (aka concentration)


recollection of the Sangha

Recollect the virtues of the sangha's activities and conduct: virtue, concentration, wisdom, and freedom.



recollection of virtue

Recollect the nature of ethical conduct, and one's own virtuous deeds.

The result is fearlessness and realizing benefits and happiness of virtuous conduct.



recollection of generosity

Recollect the benefits of giving to others in order that they be benefited, and one's own generous deeds.

The benefits include bliss, noncovetousness, not fearing others' company, becoming dear to others, compassion, and faring well.



recollection of deities

Recollect the benefits of the rebirths (or mind-states) that are the result of virtue (of practice, of karma).

The benefits of the six recollections (of Buddha, Dharma, Sangha, virtue, generosity, and deities) include the confidence which leads to an undisturbed mind which can destroy the hindrances to meditation.

Who should practice the six recollections: a walker in faith.



mindfulness of death

Consider the fragility of life, certainty of death, the uncertainty of its timing, its many causes, until your mind is undisturbed by the thought of death.

The benefits include diligence in virtue, not hoarding possessions, realizing impermanence, suffering, and non-self, and not being bewildered at the time of death.

Who should practice: a walker in intelligence or a walker in infatuation.



mindfulness of body

Investigate the 32 parts of the body, their characteristics, and their impurity.

Benefits include being able to face fear, bear discomfort, realize impermanence and not-self, and concentration.

Who should practice: a walker in passion, because it helps overcome lust.




mindfulness of breathing

Recollecting the breath, breathing naturally, fixing mindfulness at the tip of the nose or lip, knowing its qualities, experiencing the whole body.

Benefits include joy, peace, bliss, calm, mindfulness, realizing impermanence, the seven factors, and freedom.

Who should practice: a walker in discursive thought.




recollection of peace

Practice stilling the movements of the mind and body until you see, hear, and act through the recollection of peace.

Benefits include happiness, calm, confidence, pleasantness, modesty, and the ability to fulfil one's aspirations.

Who should practice: a walker in intelligence.





Reflect on the disadvantages of anger and arouse thoughts of kindness towards all.

Benefits include sleeping well, being dear to others, protection from harm, concentration, etc.





Consider the sufferings of others and develop thoughts of compassion for all beings.

The benefits are equal to those of lovingkindness.




appreciative joy

When others display virtue, peace, or joy, wish that their good fortune will continue. The extend the joy to all beings.

Benefits include removing unhappiness, not arousing impure affection, not speaking untruth, and lack of resentment and derisive action.





First cultivate the other three Abodes of the Gods (Brahma-viharas) -- lovingkindness, compassion, and joy. See the elation that comes with those, and the tendency to liking and disliking. Then practice regarding all beings equally, without attachment or preference.

Who should practice the four immeasurables: a walker in hate, because it helps overcome hate. Not to be practiced by a walker in passion, because it is like too-rich food.