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Water Element

From Tibetan Buddhist Encyclopedia
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Water: is about clarity, flow, fluidity, emotions, adapting. Too strong and it feels like a threat, a wave or current that will carry you away. Too weak, and there is no sense of connection or flow: things are frozen. In reaction, water is evasive, wishy-washy, difficult to pin down. In response, water is clear and transparent.

The Water Element

We will start the details of the Vajra Family with the Water Element. These elemental energies provide the underlying energy behind the other aspects of each family. That is why they are important.

The Water Element represents the "Cohesive", "Connecting" and "Penetrating" energy of the Vajra Family. Our expression and tendency to Analyze, Investigate, and Organize is our expression of the energy behind the Water element.

The water that we now witness in our day to day lives is the outward and physical manifestation of that energy. It is said that, in the Hot Hells, water is seen as molten lava. In the Cold Hells, it is ice. In the Hungry Ghost Realm water is seen as mud and quicksand. For fish, water is like air. For beings of the sense heavens, water is said to be like nectar. It is also said that in the higher realms, water is like a river of diamonds, or stars (much the way that we see the milky way).

In Theravadin Buddhism there is a practice called the 10 Kasina practices. In this practice, one focuses on each of the 5 elements and 5 colours until one gains insight into the nature of these elements. If we are doing the Kasina practice for the Water Element, we would use a bowl of water as our focus object for meditation.

While focussing on the water in the bowl, we can repeat "water, water", or we focus generally on the qualities of water while looking at or towards water in a bowl and being mindful of the breath and the arising and passing away of thoughts, feelings, and sensations. As we are doing this, various ideas and feelings about the qualities of water will arise in our minds from time to time. This is how we develop insight into the water element.

Outside of meditatione can make observations from being mindful of all aspects of our interactions with the Water Element in our day-to-day lives.

When we think about the internal water element, we reflect on the liquid parts of our body. We pay attention to the various activities that affect our internal liquids. Most of the nutrients we consume are digested by mixing with saliva. Then the food is further digested through stomach acid. Then in the bowels, bile, and other juices are added to the mix. Finally the nutrients are extracted as liquid and are transmitted to all parts of the body via the blood. Then the blood transports toxins and waste products to the liver, and kidneys which use their own liquid chemicals to help break down and neutralize these toxins. Then these are passed out of the body via feces and urine. Mucous and pus are also created by the body as it tries to evict viruses and bacteria and protect our bodies. Tears help maintain eye moisture and remove dirt. Sweat helps to remove toxins and cool our bodies down. These are all internal operations that function via the internal Water Element. Our bodies are made up of mostly water.

In the external world, there are rivers, lakes, seas, and oceans. Our planet, just like our bodies, is made up mostly of water (two-thirds). From these bodies of water, water vapour enters the air and is transported onto land to fall as rain and nourish plants, animals, and ourselves.

We not only ingest water via rivers, wells, and reservoirs, we also ingest water in the plants and animals that we eat. We replenish our internal water element through the ingesting of the external water element. We also use water to clean dirt from our bodies. Water content in the air affects our health and mood.

So during this practice we pay particular attention to the operation of the Water element in our day to day activities and we watch our interaction with the water element as we go about our business during the day. We watch and look for all the qualities and influences of the Water Element in our lives.

We pay special attention when we drink anything. We pay attention to the workings of saliva when we are eating. We even pay attention to moistening our lips. We pay attention to the moistening of our eyes and our perspiration and urination. We pay attention to the feel of water when we are showering or bathing. We pay special attention when we are around bodies of water of any kind.

We may notice the clarity and purity of water. We may notice that water is very mobile and smooth. We may notice that water takes on the shape of whatever container it is placed in. It penetrates every nook and cranny. We may notice that there is a strong attraction of humans to water. Water can make us feel calm and connected to nature. Even plants have a tendency to grow towards water sources.

It can also wear away very strong forms as can be seen in the erosion of rocks by the ocean. We can maybe see that water can reduce form (in dissolving things for instance). The power of water can be deceptive as can be seen in floods and fast flowing rivers. Water and liquids can act as transportation of everything from humans to viruses and diseases. The moon influencing the tides and our emotions is supposed to be the result of the gravitational pull of the moon on the water on the earth and in our bodies.

We may notice that the other elements also exist in water. There is a solidity to water, which is the earth element within water. There is also warmth or coldness which is the fire element within water. Water also has movement which is the wind element. Science tells us that there is lots of space between the molecules in a body of water. Also, it is the space element that allows water to take the shape of its container or allows us to put our hand in water and the water adjusts accordingly.

By paying attention to the water element, we can easily gain insight into the workings of Vajra energy on a very basic level. The clarity, penetration and connecting qualities of water and those same qualities in our connection to the outside world operate in the same way. This insight can help us deal more skillfully with the other aspects of Vajra energy, such as the neuroses, wisdoms, and perfections. This marks the beginning of our understanding of Vajra Family Energy.


Self Element

The Heavenly Stem of the Day pillar is the element that represents you. If the heavenly stem of your day pillar is of Water (regardless of Yang Water or Yin Water), then you are consider a Water person.

For example:


A Water person is generally witty yet fickle.

Below is a list of items associated with Water. If Water is favourable to you (whether Water is your day element or not), you can try to apply or introduce them to your daily life:

Representing Direction

Water is associated with the direction North.

Representing Numbers

1 is associated with Water. When combined, 1 and 6 represents a Water Combination (although 6 is a Metal number).

Representing Years

Years ending with the number 2 and 3, for example 1992, 2002, 2022 etc.

Representing Animals (Chinese Horoscope)

Rat and Pig.

Representing Colours

Water colours include shades of Blue, Black and Grey.

Representing Characteristic

Among the five elements, Water is associated with Wittiness.

Representing Industry/Careers

Shipping, Transport, Tourism, Aquatic Products, Refrigeration, Toys, Sports, Medical, Cleaning, Fishing Equipment, Nursing, Sound Engineering, Fishing/Sailing Equipment, Magic, Acrobats, Private Investigator, Fire Extinguishing Equipment, Reporters etc.

Representing Season

Water is associated with Winter. In Winter, Water is strong.

Representing Trigram

In the Later Heaven Trigram, Kan (Kan22.gif) is associated with Water.

Representing Body Parts/Organs

Kidney, Urinary Bladder, Reproductive Organs, Bones, Ears etc.