The Two Themes of Meditation

1. Samatha-kammaṭṭhāna : tranquility meditation—techniques for stilling the mind;

2. Vipassanā-kammaṭṭhāna : insight meditation—techniques for developing discernment.

The objects of tranquility meditation, according to the authors of the various commentaries, number up to forty. But although they are many, they all fall into one of two classes—

a. Rūpa-kammaṭṭhāna : exercises dealing with physical phenomena;

b. Arūpa-kammaṭṭhāna : exercises dealing with non-physical phenomena.

“Physical phenomena” refers primarily to those phenomena that appear in one’s own body and in the bodies of others, i.e., the four basic properties of earth, water, fire, and wind, which taken together make up the physical body. Anything, though, that appears to the eye is made up of these four properties, and so belongs in this class as well.

“Non-physical phenomena” refers to those things that are sensed via the heart and do not appear to the eye, i.e., the four types of mental events (nāma-dhamma): vedanā—the experiencing of feelings pleasant, painful, or neutral; saññā—the act of labeling or identifying forms, sounds, smells, tastes, tactile sensations, good and evil; saṅkhāra—mental fabrication, the forming of thoughts that are good, bad or neutral; viññāṇa—consciousness of what appears to the senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch, and ideation.

So, simply speaking, we have (a) the body and (b) the mind, or—as they are called in Pali—form and name (rūpa-dhamma, nāma-dhamma).