The Forty Meditation Themes

Ten recollections; ten foul objects; ten kasinas; four divine abidings; four formless absorptions; one resolution into elements; and one perception of the filthiness of food.

Ten recollections:
1. Buddhanussati: recollection of the virtues of the Buddha.
2. Dhammanussati: recollection of the virtues of the Dhamma.
3. Sanghanussati: recollection of the virtues of the Sangha.
4. Silanussati: recollection of one's own moral virtue.
5. Caganussati: recollection of one's generosity.
6. Devatanussati: recollection of the qualities that lead to rebirth as a heavenly being.
7. Kayagatasati: mindfulness immersed in the body.
8. Maranassati: mindfulness of death.
9. Anapanassati: mindfulness of breathing.
10. Upasamanussati: recollection of the virtues of nibbana -- ultimate pleasure; unexcelled ease, free from birth, aging, illness and death.

Ten foul objects:
1. Uddhumataka: a rotten, bloated corpse, its body all swollen and its features distended out of shape.
2. Vinilaka: a livid corpse, with patchy discoloration -- greenish, reddish, yellowish -- from the decomposition of the blood.
3. Vipubbaka: a festering corpse, oozing lymph and pus from its various orifices.
4. Vichiddaka: a corpse falling apart, the pieces scattered about, radiating their stench.
5. Vikkhayittaka: a corpse that various animals, such as dogs, are gnawing, or that vultures are picking at, or that crows are fighting over, pulling it apart in different directions.
6. Vikkhittaka: corpses scattered about, i.e., unclaimed bodies that have been thrown together in a pile -- face up, face down, old bones and new scattered all over the place.
7. Hatavikkhittaka: the corpse of a person violently murdered, slashed and stabbed with various weapons, covered with wounds -- short, long, shallow, deep -- some parts hacked so that they're almost detached.
8. Lohitaka: a corpse covered with blood, like the hands of a butcher, all red and raw-smelling.
9. Puluvaka: a corpse infested with worms: long worms, short worms, black, green, and yellow worms, squeezed into the ears, eyes, and mouth; squirming and squiggling about, filling the various parts of the body like a net full of fish that has fallen open.
10. Atthika: a skeleton, some of the joints already separated, others not yet, the bones -- whitish, yellowish, discolored -- scattered near and far all over the place.

Ten kasinas:
1. Pathavi kasina: staring at earth.
2. Apo kasina: staring at water.
3. Tejo kasina: staring at fire.
4. Vayo kasina: staring at wind.
5. Odata kasina: staring at white.
6. Pita kasina: staring at yellow.
7. Lohita kasina: staring at red.
8. Nila kasina: staring at blue (or green).
9. Akasa kasina: staring at the space in a hole or an opening.
10. Aloka kasina: staring at bright light.

Four divine abidings:
1. Metta: benevolence, friendliness, good will, love in the true sense.
2. Karuna: compassion, sympathy, pity, aspiring to find a way to be truly helpful.
3. Mudita: appreciation for the goodness of other people and for our own when we are able to help them.
4. Upekkha: equanimity. When our efforts to be of help don't succeed, we should make the mind neutral -- neither pleased nor upset by whatever it focuses on -- so that it enters the emptiness of jhana, centered and tranquil to the point where it can disregard acts of thinking and evaluating as well as feelings of rapture and ease, leaving only oneness and equanimity with regard to all objects and preoccupations.

Four formless absorptions:
1. Akasanancayatana: being absorbed in a sense of boundless emptiness and space as one's preoccupation.
2. Vi˝˝anancayatana: being absorbed in boundless consciousness as one's preoccupation, with no form or figure acting as the sign or focal point of one's concentration.
3. Aki˝ca˝˝ayatana: focusing exclusively on a fainter or more subtle sense of cognizance that has no limit and in which nothing appears or disappears, to the point where one almost understands it to be nibbana.
4. Nevasa˝˝a-nasa˝˝ayatana: being absorbed in a feeling that occurs in the mind, that isn't awareness exactly, but neither is it non-awareness; i.e., there is awareness, but with no thinking, no focusing of awareness on what it knows.
These four formless absorptions are merely resting places for the mind, because they are states that the mind enters, stays in, and leaves. They are by nature unstable and inconstant, so we shouldn't rest content simply at this level. We have to go back and forth through the various levels many times so as to realize that they're only stages of enforced tranquility.

One resolution into elements: i.e., regarding each part of the body simply in terms of physical properties or elements.

One perception of the filthiness of food: i.e., viewing food as something repugnant and unclean -- with regard to where it comes from, how it's prepared, how it's mixed together when it's chewed, and where it stays in the stomach and intestines.