Satipatthana

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37
DHAMMĀ of
ENLIGHTENMENT
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satipaṭṭhāna
 
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Efforts
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Factors
  
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Translations of
Satipaṭṭhāna
Pali सतिपट्ठान (satipaṭṭhāna)
Sanskrit स्मृत्युपस्थान (smṛtyupasthāna)
Chinese 念處
Japanese 念処 (nenjo)
Glossary of Buddhism

Satipaṭṭhāna is the establishment or arousing of mindfulness, as part of the Buddhist practices leading to detachment and liberation.

Traditionally, mindfulness is thought to be applied to four domains, "constantly watching sensory experience in order to prevent the arising of cravings which would power future experience into rebirths,"[1] namely mindfulness of the body, feelings/sensations, mind/consciousness, and dhammās.[2]

According to Polak, this is a misinterpretation of the oldest teachings, in which the four foundations refer to the six sense-bases, contemplation on the vedanās, which arise with the contact between the senses and their objects (vedanānupassanā), the altered states of mind to which this practice leads (cittānupassanā), and the development from the five hindrances to the seven factors of enlightenment (dhammānupassanā) as the result of this practice.

The modern Theravadan Buddhism and the Vipassana or Insight Meditation Movement promote satipatthana as key techniques for achieving mindfulness, promoting "mindfulness" as meaning careful attention instead of the recollection of the dhamma.

Etymology[edit]

Satipaṭṭhāna is a compound term that has been parsed (and thus translated) in two ways, namely Sati-paṭṭhāna and Sati-upaṭṭhāna. The separate terms can be translated as follows:

  • Sati - Pali; Sanskrit smṛti. Smṛti originally meant "to remember," "to recollect," "to bear in mind," as in the Vedic tradition of remembering the sacred texts. The term sati also means "to remember." In the Satipațțhāna-sutta the term sati means to remember the wholesome dharmas, whereby the true nature of phenomena can be seen,[3] such as the five faculties, the five powers, the seven awakening-factors, the Noble Eightfold Path, and the attainment of insight.[4]
  • Upaṭṭhāna (Sanskrit: upassana) - "attendance, waiting on, looking after, service, care, ministering"[web 1]
  • Paṭṭhāna - "setting forth, putting forward;" in later Buddhist literature also "origin," "starting point," "cause."[web 2]

The compound terms have been translated as follows:

  • Sati-upaṭṭhāna - "presence of mindfulness" or "establishment of mindfulness" or "arousing of mindfulness," underscoring the mental qualities co-existent with or antecedent to mindfulness.
  • Sati-paṭṭhāna - "foundation of mindfulness," underscoring the object used to gain mindfulness.

While the latter parsing and translation is more traditional, the former has been given etymological and contextual authority by contemporary Buddhist scholars such as Bhikkhu Analayo and Bhikkhu Bodhi.[note 1]

Anālayo argues from an etymological standpoint that, while "foundation [paṭṭhāna] of mindfulness" is supported by the Pāli commentary, the term paṭṭhāna (foundation) was otherwise unused in the Pāli nikayas and is only first used in the Abhidhamma. In contrast, the term upaṭṭhāna (presence or establishment) can in fact be found throughout the nikayas and is readily visible in the Sanskrit equivalents of the compound Pāli phrase satipaṭṭhāna (Skt., smṛtyupasthāna or smṛti-upasthāna). Thus Anālayo states that "presence of mindfulness" (as opposed to "foundation of mindfulness") is more likely to be etymologically correct.[5]

Like Anālayo, Bodhi assesses that "establishment [upaṭṭhāna] of mindfulness" is the preferred translation. However, Bodhi's analysis is more contextual than Anālayo's. According to Bodhi, while "establishment of mindfulness" is normally supported by the textual context, there are exceptions to this rule, such as with SN 47.42[note 2] where a translation of "foundation of mindfulness" is best supported.[6] Soma uses both "foundations of mindfulness" and "arousing of mindfulness."[7]

Four domains or aspects[edit]

Traditionally, mindfulness is thought to be applied to four domains, "constantly watching sensory experience in order to prevent the arising of cravings which would power future experience into rebirths."[1] The four domains are:[2]

According to Grzegorz Polak, the four upassanā have been misunderstood by the developing Buddhist tradition, including Theravada, to refer to four different foundations. According to Polak, the four upassanā do not refer to four different foundations, but to the awareness of four different aspects of raising mindfulness:[12]

  • the six sense-bases which one needs to be aware of (kāyānupassanā);
  • contemplation on vedanās, which arise with the contact between the senses and their objects (vedanānupassanā);
  • the altered states of mind to which this practice leads (cittānupassanā);
  • the development from the five hindrances to the seven factors of enlightenment (dhammānupassanā).

Mindfulness of dhammas[edit]

"Dhammā" is often translated as "mental objects". According to Anālayo[13] translating dhamma as "mental object" is problematic for multiple reasons. The three prior satipatthāna (body, sensations, mind) can become mental objects in themselves, and those objects, such as the hindrances, aggregates and sense bases, identified under the term dhamma are far from an exhaustive list of all possible mental objects. Anālayo translates dhammā as "mental factors and categories," "classificatory schemes," and "frameworks or points of reference to be applied during contemplation".[14]

Anālayo[15] quotes Gyori[16] as stating that contemplation of these dhammā "are specifically intended to invest the mind with a soteriological orientation." He further quotes Gombrich[17] as writing that contemplating these dhammā teaches one "to see the world through Buddhist spectacles."

Within Buddhist teachings[edit]

In the Satipațțhāna-sutta the term sati means to remember the dharmas, whereby the true nature of phenomena can be seen.[3] According to Paul Williams, referring to Erich Frauwallner, mindfulness provided the way to liberation, "constantly watching sensory experience in order to prevent the arising of cravings which would power future experience into rebirths."[1][note 3] According to Vetter, dhyāna may have been the original core practice of the Buddha, which aided the maintenance of mindfulness.[18]

The four foundations of mindfulness are one of the seven sets of "states conducive to enlightenment" (Pāli bodhipakkhiyādhammā) identified in many schools of Buddhism as means for progressing toward bodhi (awakening). In the Noble Eightfold Path, they are included in sammā-sati and, less directly, sammā-samādhi. Sati is recommended as a "one-way path" for the purification from unwholesome factors, and the realization of Nibbana.[note 4]

In the Pāli Canon, this framework for systematically cultivating mindful awareness can be found in the Mahasatipatthana Sutta ("Greater Discourse on the Foundation of Mindfulness," DN 22); the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta ("Discourse on the Foundations of Mindfulness," MN 10), and throughout the Satipaṭṭhāna-samyutta (SN, Chapter 47). The Satipaṭṭhāna-samyutta itself contains 104 of the Buddha's discourses on the satipaṭṭhānas[20] including two popular discourses delivered to the townspeople of Sedaka, "the Acrobat"[web 4] and "the Beauty Queen".[web 5]

The Sutta Pitaka contains texts in which The Buddha is said to refer to the fourfold establishment of mindfulness as a "direct" or "one-way path" for purification and the realisation of nirvana.[note 5]

Contemporary exegesis[edit]

The four establishments of mindfulness are regarded as fundamental in modern Theravadan Buddhism and the Vipassana or Insight Meditation Movement. In this approach the emphasis is on mindfulness itself, as bare attention, instead of on the objects, mental states to be guarded, and the teachings to be remembered. The four establishments (Satipaṭṭhāna) meditation practices gradually develop the mental factors of samatha ("calm") and vipassana ("insight"). Thanissaro Bhikkhu notes that "satipatthana practice is often said to be separate from the practice of jhana," but argues that mindfulness is also an aid in the development of concentration.[21]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ For the traditional use of the translation, "foundations [paṭṭhānā] of mindfulness," see, e.g., Gunaratana (2012) and U Silananda (2002). For appraisals supporting the parsing of the suffix as upaṭṭhāna, see, e.g., Anālayo (2006), pp. 29-30; and, Bodhi (2000), p. 1504.
  2. ^ pp. 1660, 1928 n. 180
  3. ^ Frauwallner, E. (1973), History of Indian Philosophy, trans. V.M. Bedekar, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. Two volumes., pp.150 ff
  4. ^ "Bhikkhus, this is the one-way path for the purification of beings,
    for the overcoming of sorrow and lamentation,
    for the passing away of pain and displeasure,
    for the achievement of the method,[subnote 1]
    for the realization of Nibbāna,
    that is, the four establishments of mindfulness.[subnote 2] The wholesome establishments of mindfulness are contrasted with the unwholesome qualities of the five strands of sensuality, namely pleasant sensations from the eye, the ear, the tongue and the body.[19]
  5. ^ See the Satipatthana sutta (MN 10; DN 22); as well as SN 47.1, 47.18 and 47.43. These five discourses are the only canonical sources for the phrase, "ekāyano ... maggo" (with this specific declension).

    The Pāli phrase "ekāyano ... maggo'" has been translated as:
    • "direct path" (Bodhi & Gunaratana, 2012, p. 12; Nanamoli & Bodhi, 1995; Thanissaro, 2008)
    • "one-way path"(Bodhi, 2000, pp. 1627-8, 1647-8, 1661)
    • "the only way" (Nyanasatta, 2004; Soma, 1941/2003)
    • "the one and only way" (Vipassana Research Institute, 1996, pp. 2, 3)
Subnotes
  1. ^ Bodhi (2000, SN 47 n. 123, Kindle Loc. 35147) notes: "Spk [the commentary to the Samyutta Nikaya] explains the 'method' (ñāya) as the Noble Eightfold Path...."
  2. ^ SN 47.1 (Bodhi, 2000, p. 1627). Also see DN 22, MN 10, SN 47.18 and SN 47.43.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Williams 2000, p. 46.
  2. ^ a b Kuan 2008, p. i, 9, 81.
  3. ^ a b Sharf 2014, p. 942.
  4. ^ Sharf 2014, p. 942-943.
  5. ^ Anālayo (2006), pp. 29-30
  6. ^ Bodhi (2000), p. 1504
  7. ^ Soma (1941/2003)
  8. ^ (Pāli: kāya-sati, kāyagatā-sati; Skt. kāya-smṛti)
  9. ^ (Pāli vedanā-sati; Skt. vedanā-smṛti)
  10. ^ (Pāli citta-sati; Skt. citta-smṛti)
  11. ^ (Pāli dhammā-sati; Skt. dharma-smṛti)
  12. ^ Polak 2011.
  13. ^ Anālayo 2006, pp. 182-86
  14. ^ Anālayo 2006 p. 183
  15. ^ Anālayo 2006 p. 183, nn. 2, 3
  16. ^ Gyori 1996, p. 24
  17. ^ Gombrich 1996, p. 36
  18. ^ Vetter 1988.
  19. ^ SN 47.6 (Thanissaro, 1997) and SN 47.7 (Olendzki, 2005).
  20. ^ Samyutta Nikaya, Ch. 47. See Bodhi (2000), pp. 1627ff.
  21. ^ " Maha-satipatthana Sutta: The Great Frames of Reference" (DN 22), translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight (Legacy Edition), 30 November 2013, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/dn/dn.22.0.than.html .

Sources[edit]

Printed sources[edit]

  • Gombrich, Richard F. (1996). How Buddhism Began: The Conditioned Genesis of the Early Teachings. Cited in Anālayo (2006). London: Athlone Press. ISBN 0-415-37123-6.
  • Gyori, Thomas I. (1996). The Foundations of Mindfulness (Satipatthāna) as a Microcosm of the Theravāda Buddhist World View (M.A. dissertation). Cited in Anālayo (2006). Washington: American University.
  • Kuan, Tse-fu (2008), Mindfulness in Early Buddhism: New Approaches through Psychology and Textual Analysis of Pāli, Chinese and Sanskrit Sources, Routledge, ISBN 0-415-43737-7 
  • Polak, Grzegorz (2011), Reexamining Jhana: Towards a Critical Reconstruction of Early Buddhist Soteriology, UMCS 
  • Sharf, Robert (2014), "Mindfulness and Mindlessness in Early Chan" (PDF), Philosophy Est & West, Volume 64, Number4, October 2014, pp. 933-964 
  • Williams, Paul; Tribe, Anthony (2000), Buddhist Thought, Routledge 
  • Vetter, Tilmann (1988), The Ideas and Meditative Practices of Early Buddhism, BRILL 

Web-sources[edit]

Further reading[edit]

Theravada

External links[edit]