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kammaṭṭhāna (Pali; Skt. karmasthana). Literally "working ground,"[1] or "place of work." This term refers a topic or object of meditation.[1] Its original meaning was someone's occupation (farming, trading, cattle-tending, etc.) but this was adopted to refer to various meditation exercises.[1]

In Burma, senior meditation practitioners are known as "kammatthanacariyas" (meditation masters). The Thai Forest Tradition names itself Kammaṭṭhāna Forest tradition in reference to their practice of meditating in the forests.

Forty meditation subjects

The Visuddhimagga lists forty meditation subjects.[1][2] In this sense "kammatthana" can be understood as "occupations" in the sense of "things to occupy the mind" or "workplaces" in the sense of "places to focus the mind on during the work of meditation".


The first ten subjects are the ten "visualization devices" (kasiṇa):

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

Next are the ten "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.

Next are the "ten 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 (Śīla)
(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).

Next are the four "abodes of Brahma" (brahmavihāra):

(1) loving-kindness or goodwill (mettā)
(2) compassion (karuna)
(3) sympathetic joy over another's success (mudita)
(4) equanimity (upekkha)

Next are the four "formless states" (arūpajhānas):

(1) sphere of infinite space (ākāśānantyāyatana)
(2) sphere of infinite consciousness (vijñānānantyāyatana)
(3) sphere of nothing whatsoever (ākiñcanyāyatana)
(4) sphere of neither perception nor non-perception (naivasaṃjñānāsaṃjñāyatana)

The remaining two subjects are:

perception of disgust of food (aharepatikulasanna).
analysis of the four great elements (catudhatu vavatthana).[1]

Meditation subjects and jhanas

According to Gunaratana, following Buddhaghosa, due to the simplicity of subject matter, all four jhanas can be induced through ānāpānasati (mindfulness of breathing) and the ten kasinas.[3]

Also, the following meditation subjects only lead to "access concentration" (upacara samadhi), due to their complexity: the recollection of the Buddha, dharma, sangha, morality, liberality, wholesome attributes of Devas, death, and peace; the perception of disgust of food; and the analysis of the four elements.[3]

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 (vitakka), which is absent from the higher jhanas.[3]

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.[3]

Meditation subjects and temperaments

All of the aforementioned meditation subjects can counteract 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.[3]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Buswell & Lopez 2014, s.v. kammaṭṭhāna.
  2. Throughout his translation of the Visuddhimagga, Nanamoli translates this term simply as "meditation subject". See: Buddhaghosa & Nanamoli (1999), pp. 90–91 (II, 27–28, "Development in Brief"), 110ff. (starting with III, 104, "enumeration"). It can also be found sprinkled earlier in this text as on p. 18 (I, 39, v. 2) and p. 39 (I, 107).
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Gunaratana (1988).


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