Merely inferential?

yes, I think you are right, although also we should take it in company of remembering the arising of cohesion is a necessity instead a first conceptual fabrication. Cohesion arise because temperature, softness and pressure. Its arising will be so unavoidable like happens with the arising of time or space in dependence of their related objects.
Cohesion could be understood like a name for a summarized event. There is no touching of water but the fast experience of its related properties.

Don’t believe me each word. Water is slippery. Maybe Robert or other people can help more and correct me if I’m wrong :grimacing:

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Apo-dhatu is not experienced through the body door , however it can be known through the mind-door.

So while the other great elements are experienced through both the body door and mind door apo is only known through one door. This does not mean it is entirely inferential or “outside of the all”.

It is wonderful how precise the ancients were in showing such fineness of classification- all of which can be known.
From Nina van Gorkom:> N: Only three elements are tangible object. Even as one does not touch

visible object, in the same way one does not touch fluidity or the element
of water. Someone who believes that he can touch water is only thinking of a
concept. We should verify this in touching water without thinking about it.

At the end of this Tiika text (English below):
Sesanti yathaavutta.m ruupaadisattavidha.m ruupa.m .thapetvaa avasi.t.tha.m
ekaviisatividha.m ruupa.m.
As is said, he declares visible object and so on as sevenfold *, and the
remaining materiality are twentyone kinds of materiality.

Vi~n~naa.nassevaati manovi~n~naa.nasseva.
As to the expression, (they are the objective field ) of consciousness only,
this means, only of mind-consciousness **.

Avadhaara.nena ruupaayatanaadiinampi manovi~n~naa.navi~n~neyyatte
niyamaabhaavato na vi~n~naataruupataati sa"nkaraabhaava.m dasseti.
By stressing this, although colour etc. are to be known by
mind-consciousness too, he keeps the rupas that are not experienced
exclusively through the mind-door separate (not mixing them with the

This is a useful recording of some points where people wonder about similar matters:

half way through: SUJIN BORIHARNWANAKET: The teachings are not to read and doubt;
but to read and understand.
Otherwise always doubt: ‘why this and why that’


@Ceisiwr is correct:

The Abhidhamma holds that unlike the other three great
essentials, the water element cannot be physically sensed but must be
known inferentially from the cohesion of observed matter.
-Comprehensive Manual of Abhidhamma, Bodhi, pages 237-238

âpo is the element of cohesion. Unlike pañhavi it is
-Narada Thera, A Manual of Abhidhamma, p 319-320

another clarifying explanation about the inference with cohesion:

“The element of water or cohesion cannot be experienced through the bodysense, only through the mind-door. When we touch what we call water, it is only solidity, temperature or motion which can be experienced through the bodysense, not cohesion. Cohesion has to arise together with whatever kind of materiality arises. It makes the other rupas it accompanies cohere so that they do not become scattered.
We should remember that the element of water or cohesion cannot be experienced through the bodysense, only through the mind-door, and that the elements of earth, fire and wind can be directly experienced through the bodysense. The element of earth appears as hardness or softness, the element of fire as heat or cold and the element of wind as motion or pressure. Time and again rupas such as hardness or heat impinge on the bodysense but we are forgetful of what things really are.”

The Buddhist Teaching on Physical Phenomena. by Nina van Gorkom

is common sense the cohesion arise in us like an idea, arising after feeling and knowing third aspects in the experience. There is no feeling of “cohesion” but about related aspects able to build that idea.

I’m not sure about the explanation of B.Bodhi: “it must be known inferentially from the cohesion of observed matter”. I’m not sure if cohesion can arise at seeing. Sure an idea of cohesion can arise in example when seeing a phantom or an hologram. Although perhaps this couldn’t be the same inference of cohesion as happens at touching.

I wonder if the inference of cohesion when seeing the hologram is not born from the direct experience of the object qualities as happens at touching. Here the seeing could cause an inference from our previous ideas and images about what the thing should be.

@RobertK Good call on splitting this off, it is way off topic from the original discussion about Ajnana. Thank you :pray:

Ven. Bodhi is trying to show that apo dhatu is different from the other 3 elements in that it is not experienced through the body door.
However his choice of “inferential” is not based on the text and in fact it can be known directly through the mind-door.
If we followed his “inferential” then only a handful of elements that are know directly through the respective sense bases would qualify as directly known, with all others being “inferential”.

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Thanks, what, then, does Venerable Narada Thera mean when he says:

âpo is the element of cohesion. Unlike pañhavi it is
-A Manual of Abhidhamma, page 319

“intangible” - not experienced through bodysense.
A rare case where Narada’s old translation proves better then Bodhi’s .

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I explain this in my abhidhamma book on the chapter “Can Water be Felt”

I had someone draw this for me , but it does not show up on the pdf it seems.
In any case… here is the original… from ironically named university of waterloo .
Even more funny (if i remember correctly from the 90’s) was rend386 came from this university and that got me started with a taste for computers.
Picture is a remote image… just find the url and put on its own line.


is a good explanation, specially good to accommodate the modern view on Reality conditioned by Science. I think is a very useful reading for people thinking in scientific terms and wishing to approach to Abhdihamma :pray:

Despite some Western Buddhists seems to be obsessed to avoid the momentariness, its existence is a philosophical necessity. And when we look to the development of Buddhism in the West I think we cannot find any special effort to deny the momentariness as happens in the recent years.

Probably, in the previous decades the scholars and western people who were interested in Dhamma, they were able to apply some contemption in front the complexity of this issue. While this is not available to our common experience perceived like a continuum, philosophically the momentariness is a necessity. Also there are some traces in the sources about the speed of the moment of consciousness.

in fact, the modern quantum review inside the Science seems to be an historical rescue of the Ether, which has been attacked and censored in the past 120 years:

the existence of the ether, which seems to be a direct equivalent of the akasa, not only can have impact in the necessity of momentariness but also to reconsider those Buddha words about the Earths is surrounded “by Water”:

Dhamma is an stable, coherent and closed system. This situation force oneself to be free of the conditionants of our culture including the present Science theories. Science is still evolving with its own holes and problems.

The coarse offensive against the momentariness in the recent years could be explained by the lack of contemption in a lower general level in the western scholar production. Also together with the influence of the pop-science like a substitute of the Religion for the masses.

Another benefit of Dhamma is acquiring a better perspective to observe the Scientific news. :slightly_smiling_face:

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It gets a little mind boggling. Aj Sujato created a manual of EBT which is very dangerous because it unifies the group into a doctrine of what to reject, and this rejects momentariness. Before it was like few individual smoking weed, doing research, and then tweeting about it. Then they would argue. They have momentum now, and it is less funny than that.

In any case, I’m glad you liked the book. There is a message of momentariness or breaking up compactness, and that the dhammas do not mix. That is it. However, I take that knowledge and explain how jhaana works. I don’t think many people have explained jhaana like this before and I think they should. It also settles the disputes with sound or no sound and how non-deaf-jhaana can still be useful.

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yes, it is a good reading, pedagogical and accesible :slightly_smiling_face: :pray:

We are lucky to still have some bhikkkhus well aligned with Dhamma in these times.

Sometimes I wonder how is possible seeing learned people who is not aware about there is not logical alternative to momentariness.

Even without necessity of Dhamma, also in the western thought we know from Plato and Aristotle the Time is linked with motion. Any common person can be aware of this fact: if we propose a continuum without moments, quickly we fall in the absurdity of not being able to conceive any continuity. Because the same notion of a continuum implies a succession of moments, and in that way then we are able to say: “it continues”.

It is not very obvious?. Even an illiterate person can understand this. If we deny the momentariness we are claiming a motionless.

The only alternative to momentariness is motionless. Opposing the momentariness to a continuum is a non sense When we deny the motion in the conditional reality, we are falling in Eternalism, rejected in the Brahmajāla Sutta:

“Eternal are self and world, barren, motionless like a mountain peak, steadfast like a pillar.”


A post was split to a new topic: Wind Element as Motion

Nāma Pannatis (Name concepts) are 6 fold.

  1. Vijjamāna Pannatti: Concepts about real (eg: pathavi, āpo )
  2. Avijjamāna Pannatti: Concepts about unreal (eg: person, atta)

Therefore āpo, vāyo etc. are “Concepts about real” while time, space etc. are “Concepts about unreal”.

The name-concept “āpo” has a corresponding reality (paramattha) that it refers to. Therefore āpo is not an imagined dhatu.

I heard ven. Maggavihari describing āpo as cohesion or attraction or liquidity. Further he said that there are inner-kalapa cohesion and inter-kalapa cohesion.


what you says is a good summary to manage the issue. Apo, tevija, akasa and the rest are dhatus, diferent of Time and Space which are produced at the mind door level, in dependence of the grasping of the perceived things with our common atta knowledge.

Sometimes we experience situations in where the Time is revealed like a suspicious experience as soon we lose the phenomena working like its references. In example, after sleeping for a while, when we ignore if we have been sleeping 10 minutes or 3 hours. At that moment of uncertainty, one can be aware about the tricky fabrication of Time like an added product.

I think in the case of Space is a similar issue because our common perception of the atta phenomema like substantial things. However, in the case of Space there is the dhatu of akasa to explain the separation of dhammas and the final plurality of Reality. Akasa cannot be the same space than we perceive in our common experience, arising in dependence of the grasping of phenomena. In example, we know the space existing between a tree and a house. However, this space contains some colors and probably other objects. This is not a “pure” space but we are knowing a “tricky” space according the atta experience of the tree, the house, and the ambit between both: the fake space.

that’s really deep and difficult to discern :pray: