The term KAMMATTHANA means “the basis of work”. The work in this place is important and differs from the work that is normally understood by the world. It means the work of uprooting existences, Kilesa, Tanha and Avijja out of the Heart. To be far away from Dukkha, namely birth, decay, disease, and death, which is the bridge that connects the cycle of Vatta and which all worldly beings find difficult to go beyond. The result from this work, even for those who have not arrived at the final destination, is happiness both in the present and in future lives. Therefore, the Bhikkhu who is interested in practicing this kind of Dhamma is known as a Kammatthana Bhikkhu, an honorary title given sincerely by fellow Buddhists to those who are interested in this work.
The Kammatthana, which is taught by the Upajjhaya (Preceptor) at the time of going forth, consists of five objects, and has been a necessary Dhamma since the lord Buddha’s time. Thy are: Kesa – hair of the head; Loma - hair of the body; Nakha – nails; Danta – teeth; and Taco – skin; given in both forward (Anuloma) and reverse (Patiloma) order. IT is for the one who has gone forth to use these as objects of investigation which he should develop by repeatedly investigating them, again and again, until expertise and a thorough understanding of any one or all five objects is acquired. These five objects are important parts of all men and women.
However, the Kammatthana, the Arammana (objects) of the Citta, are many. Forty such objects are listed in the books, and for those interested in any of these objects they can be easily consulted. The main point or importance in listing all these different kinds of Kammatthana is to allow those who are interested in the practice to choose the one(s) that suit their character, since each character differs. This is similar to disease; they are of many kinds and so likewise are the medicines to suit them.
The way of practice is to take this object and mentally recite, by Parikamma Bhavana, in any bodily pasture that is suitable or appropriate. For example, repeating, Kesa…Kesa…Kesa…Kesa…; or Loma…Loma…Loma…; having Sati controlling constantly without letting the Heart wander to other objects. One should maintain the awareness with the particular Dhamma object that is being recited without changing that Dhamma object too often for this is the habit of the unearnestness. One should try to practice with the same object until either truly experiencing the results or truly knowing that that object does not suit one’s character, before changing to a new object.
The one who knows truly that the object suits his character, should use that Dhamma as the Heart’s anchor and continue relentlessly practicing, until successively experiencing the results and rising progressively up to the level of Dhamma where the Dhamma object should be changed due to necessity. The practitioner must know this for himself. The results from practicing with these or the other kinds of Dhamma that suit one’s character are a successive happiness and calm within the Heart. For one who has had no previous experience, the calmness will begin from a low level at first, just a moment of calm, then calm for a moderate duration, and finally for as long as one wishes. That is, on can set up the duration of rest, before withdrawing from that state. The calmness also differs in its subtlety.
When the Citta is calm, it is possible to release those disturbing objects. All that remains is ‘knowingness’ and brightness which are the innate quality of the Heart, and happiness that arises out of each respective level of calmness of Heart. There is no duality during that time because the Citta is without any Arammana. It is all alone by itself, and even if there is within it the subtle kind of Kilesa, it is not manifested. It is comparable to still and clear water without any dust particles. If there are any solid particles they all settle to the bottom leaving the water clear and suitable for drinking and other uses.
The longer the Heart is without any Arammana, peacefully alone by itself, the more happiness and marvel will be there, showing how important and worthwhile the Heart really is. Both the marvel and importance will never be forgotten. The nature of the Hart is mysterious and marvelous. When it is made clean, even for just an instant, it immediately shows its marvel. If this state of the Citta is allowed to deteriorate due to negligence in not maintaining or developing further the practice, it can be a great loss and disappointment, Caused by the longing for that marvelous experience. It is probably for this reason that during the lord Buddha’s time, there were cases of some Savaka whose Hearts progressed and deteriorated six times, causing great disappointment due to the longing for what had been lost. But finally they managed to attain and become Arahant. This is due to exertion and diligent effort which is the bridge that connects and makes possible the attainment of the Amata (undying) Dhamma the land of bliss having the Kammatthana as the means thereto.
All of the countless Buddhas and Arahants attained to Enlightenment by the various kinds of Kammatthana, having the five Kammatthana as the example. There was not a single one of them that realized Dhamma without the Kammatthana.
It can correctly be said that the Kammatthana art h womb of the Exalted Ones. They all must depend on the Kammatthana as the cleansing agent as the device for the total eradication and uprooting of all kinds of views and becomings which are the basic constituents of the Citta that still falls under the influence of Vatta, before they can transform themselves from Puthujjana (worldling) to an Ariya, making their Hearts pure. Therefore all the Buddhas uphold the Kammatthana as an important and necessary Dhamma and praise them within the circle of the Sasana.
Even our Samana Gotama upheld the Kammatthana as a fixed example and tradition to be followed. His attainment to Buddhahood was due to the forty Kammatthana beginning with Anapanasati. This is His teaching for his followers right up to the present. For this is the bridge that connects worldlings to Nibbana for as long as it is within the ability of the worldling to do so.
For these reasons the term Kammatthana has always been a special Dhamma within the circle of the Sasana, and will always be so. The follower of the Buddha Sasana who has not yet cultivated and practiced the way of Kammatthana, yet is one who knows something of the mystery hidden within himself, both that which is good and bad, should not think that he is knowledgeable or intelligent. Even if one can remember correctly from the Ti-pitaka, it is only an account about the good and bad things and the nature that is within oneself. It has not yet been sorted out by practice, having the Kammatthana as a guide leading one to truth in accordance with the wish of the lord Buddha in teaching Dhamma to the world.
These forty objects of Kammatthana are rally the essence of the Ti-pitaka, the means for the destruction of lives and becomings; the device for the total annihilation of Cakka, the wheel that turns worldly beings around the cycle of births and deaths. Any mode of practice that is not supported by any of these Dhamma will certainly not be for the destruction of the Kilesa and Dukkha. But the practice that has theses Dhamma as support will surely be for the destruction of the heap of Dukkha.
For this reason one who practises for peace and happiness; for penetrative understanding of all the Dhamma; that one must depend on these Dhamma as the life-line, as the basis of practice all the way from the lowest to the highest level of Dhamma which is Nibbana and Vimutti. Regardless of whatever method of doing good one is practising, when it comes to the crux, to the essential, that is when one is stepping into the different levels of Dhamma and Citta, one must turn to any one of these Dhamma as one’s means before safely passing through each obstacle. This is because these Dhamma which are the means for the arising of all the Sacca-Dhamma, having Magga-Phala-Nibbana as the summit. All of these Dhamma are contained within the circle of the Buddha Sasana; the Buddha of each era teaching them by the very same pattern and they are thus successively transmitted.
Those who are still doubtful of the Buddhas who taught Dhamma in the various eras up to our present lord Buddha, should practise and investigate according to the teaching of the Kammatthana-Dhamma. Once one has truly proven with Panna and experienced the lord Buddha’s intended results, on will definitely know through true knowledge and experience based on one’s practice that the Teacher (Sasada) and Dhamma are not different but are one and the same thing. This is in accordance with the essence of Dhamma which is briefly summarized thus: “Who sees the Dhamma, sees the Tathagata” . this verse announces all the Tathagatas to us very clearly, and that the Tathagata is with Dhamma at all times. It does not depend on time and place. Although each Buddha has entered into Parinibbana following the understanding of Sammuti, the truth of the Tathagata is none other but only this Dhamma.
Those who have seen clearly and penetratively the Dhamma within the Heart have no doubt in the Tathagata, or as to where the Tathagata exists. The world, however, understands that once they have entered Nibbana, they all quietly disappear; that there is no more a teacher to compassionately teach. But the truth is that the Dhamma that has been taught is really the Teacher. If one is interested in having a teacher within the heart, one can have one at all times just as in the time when the lord Buddha was still living. The importance depends on one’s earnestness in respecting and believing in Dhamma which is the representative. Even if the lord Buddha was still alive, if one simply has no interest, it would just be impossible to be helped. One will remain the helpless type; no improvement can be made.
In order to prevent any hardship that might later arise and in ensuring security both in the present and the future, one should practise and cultivate oneself with the Dhamma which was given by the lord Buddha as the representative and inheritance. The result will be the same in all aspects just like when the lord Buddha was still living. Nothing has changed. One will then have Dhamma as the teacher in the Heart at all times.