Mahāsatipatthāna Sutta: The Great Discourse on the Establishing of Awareness

Just back from Spain, were I enjoyed 12 days of nice warm weather, had a couple of nice days in Barcelona and Gerona and did a Vipassana meditation course.

Vipassana meditation:
Since I first heart of this technique some 3 years ago it stayed on my mind as something I wanted to checkout myself. Only last year I found the opportunity and did my first 10 day course as thought by S.N. Goenka. I got hooked up immediately.
Here was a technique; that came without a doctrine I had to believe before it would work, that was practical, that made a lot of abstract theories about life that I have been studying the last couple of years tangible, that gave me a daily routine to work on my understanding, that made me more balanced, happier and that was on top offered to me for free.

The technique is rooted in Buddhism but no need to be Buddhist or believe in the teachings. The technique will teach you to observe your own bodily sensations in a particular manner and gain your own wisdom from this. No Buddha telling you what to believe, no Goenka. Just gain your own wisdom and trust on that.

After a couple of courses I found it time to delve deeper into the theoretical site of the technique. Deepening my understanding and thus gaining more out of my daily practices. I preparation for this course I made a summary of the theory that would be the topic of the discourse; The Mahāsatipatthāna Sutta. I discovered how important it is to have a “good” translation as a basis. During the course I, therefore made a new summary focusing on the framework. I added some aid as how to apply the framework. This summary is meant as an aid only. You will find it at the bottom of this article. Use it! I strongly advise you to follow the course that comes along with it to gain all the benefits.

Some background on the Mahāsatipatthāna Sutta course:
Some 2500 years ago Gautema the Buddha, found enlightenment. He handled down this knowledge. He gave discourses and thought people the techniques that would also help them to grow in wisdom. Live happier lives and advance on the path towards enlightenment.
The discourses have reached us in the Pali Language and are found in the Tipitaka; three baskets. One of these baskets contains the Sutta’s or discourses mostly given by Gautema. One of these Sutta’s is the Mahāsatipatthāna Sutta. It is this particular Sutta that gives a written description of the technique of Vipassana.
The Vipassana technique has also reached us through a long linage of mediators that practiced instead of theorized the technique. S.N. Goenka in the lineage of Sayagyi U Ba Khin has been my teacher.
We are now in the opportunity to compare practice and theory for our self and that is what this (Mahā) Satipatthāna Sutta course is all about; deepening your understanding by comparing both for yourself.

Background links:
+ Buddha: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddha
+ Gautama: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gautama_Buddha
+ The origin of the sutta’s: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pali_Canon
+ An organization that publishes the sutta’s: http://www.tipitaka.org/
+ The English translation that I used in the course and that served as the basis for the summary http://www.tipitaka.org/english-docs
+ The lineage of my teacher: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ba_Khin
+ My teacher: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S._N._Goenka
+ The organization were I follow my courses: http://www.dhamma.org/

Summary

Mahāsatipatthāna Sutta
The Great Discourse on the Establishing of Awareness

1. Introduction

This is the one and only way, Meditators, for the purification of beings, for the overcoming of sorrow and lamentation, for the extinguishing of suffering and grief, for walking on the path of truth, for the realization of nibbāna: that is to say, the fourfold establishing of awareness.
Which four? Here, Meditators, a Meditator dwells ardent with awareness and constant thorough understanding of impermanence, observing XX, having removed craving and aversion towards the world [of mind and matter];

XX:
1. body in body
2. sensations in sensations,
3. mind in mind,
4. mental contents in mental contents.

2. The 6 Observation of Body (A-F)

A. Respiration
And how, Meditators, does a Meditator dwell observing body in body?
Here a Meditator, having gone into the forest, or to the foot of a tree, or to an empty room, sits down cross-legged, keeps his body upright and fixes his awareness in the area around the mouth. With this awareness, he breathes in/out.
Breathing in/out a deep/shallow breath, he understands properly: “I am breathing in/out a deep/shallow breath.”
In this way he trains himself: “Feeling the whole body, I shall breathe in.” “Feeling the whole body, I shall breathe out,” thus he trains himself. “With the bodily activities calmed, I shall breathe in,” thus he trains himself. “With the bodily activities calmed, I shall breathe out,” thus he trains himself.

The following paragraph “P” is 21 times repeated by the Buddha in the Mahāsatipatthāna Sutta. With that it is the most important Paragraph describing the common steps/stages all Vipassana Meditators must pass on their path. No matter if one is observing body, sensations, mind or mental content one must perceive its fundamental characteristic of arising and passing away This understanding of impermanence then leads directly to the total detachment from the world of mind&matter which takes us to nibbāna.
This principle of detachment is explained and practiced in many different forms with different outcomes. To name a few, now a day popular; “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle, “Katie’s Tao” by Byron Katie, “A Course In Miracles” by Jerry Sears, “I am that” by Nisargadatta Maharaj.

Paragraph “P” for the body:
Thus he dwells observing body in body internally, or he dwells observing body in body externally, or he dwells observing body in body both internally and externally*. Thus he dwells observing the phenomenon of arising in the body, thus he dwells observing the phenomenon of passing away in the body, thus he dwells observing the phenomenon of arising and passing away in the body. Now his awareness is established: “This is body”** Thus he develops his awareness to such an extent that there is mere understanding along with mere awareness. In this way he dwells detached, without clinging towards anything in the world [of mind and matter]. This is how, Meditators, a Meditator dwells observing body in body.
*) Bahidda = externally => “Outer things” or “Observing another’s body” or “feeling sensations of others”. This is possible but only in high stage of development. Therefore more practically external is explained as the surface of the body (the skin).
**) A Meditator understands experientially, at the level of sensations “body in its true nature: Anicca arising/passing; No identifications, No classifications; he/she, young/old, ugly/model. Just body!

Frame
1. Internally
2. Externally
3. Internally&Externally
4. Arising
5. Passing
6. Arising&Passing
7. Awareness (this is mere understanding along with mere awareness)
8. Detached (without clinging or graving)

B. Postures
Again, Meditators, a Meditator while he is XX, understands properly: “I am XX”;
XX:
1. Walking
2. Standing
3. Sitting
4. Lying
Followed by “P”

C. Constant Thorough Understanding of Impermanence

Again, Meditators, a Meditator, while XX, he does so with constant thorough understanding of impermanence.
XX:
1. going forward or backward
2. looking straight ahead or sideways,
3. bending or stretching,
4. wearing his robes or carrying his bowl,
5. eating, drinking, chewing or savoring,
6. attending to the calls of nature,
7. walking, standing, sitting, sleeping or waking, speaking or in silence.

Followed by “P”

D. Reflections on Repulsiveness

Again, Meditators, a Meditator reflects on this very body, that is covered with skin and full of impurities of all kinds from the soles of the feet upwards and from the hair of the head downwards, considering thus: “In this body, there are hairs of the head, hairs of the skin, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, sinews, bones, marrow, kidney, heart, liver, pleura, spleen, lungs, intestines, mesentery, stomach with its contents, faeces, bile, phlegm, pus, blood, sweat, fat, tears, grease, saliva, nasal mucus, synovial fluid and urine.”
Example: double-mouthed provision bag.

Followed by “P”

E. Reflections on the Material Elements
Again, Meditators, a Meditator reflects on this very body, however it is placed or disposed, considering it according to the characteristic of each element: “In this body, there is:
1. the earth-element,
2. the water-element,
3. the fire-element,
4. the air-element.”
Example: cow-butcher.
Followed by “P”

F. The Nine Charnel-ground Observations

Again, Meditators, a Meditator, when he sees a dead body that has been thrown in a charnel-ground, XX, regarding his own body considers thus: “Indeed, this body is of the same nature, it will become like that and cannot escape it.”
XX:
1. dead for one, two or three days, swollen, blue and festering
Followed by “P”
2. being eaten by crows, being eaten by vultures, being eaten by falcons, being eaten by herons, being eaten by dogs, being eaten by tigers, being eaten by leopards, being eaten by jackals and being eaten by different kinds of creatures
Followed by “P”
3. reduced to a skeleton with some flesh and blood attached to it and held together by tendons
Followed by “P”
4. reduced to a skeleton without any flesh but smeared with blood and held together by tendons
Followed by “P”
5. reduced to a skeleton without any flesh or blood, held together by tendons
Followed by “P”
6. reduced to disconnected bones, scattered in all directions, here a bone of the hand, there a bone of the foot, here a bone of the ankle, there a bone of the knee, here a bone of the thigh and there a bone of the pelvis, here a bone of the spine, there a bone of the back, again there a bone of the shoulder, here a bone of the throat, there a bone of the chin, here a bone of the teeth and there a bone of the skull
Followed by “P”
7. reduced to bleached bones of conch-like color
Followed by “P”
8. of bones that are piled up in a heap more than a year old
Followed by “P”
9. the bones having rotted away to powder
Followed by “P”

3. The Observation of Sensations
How, Meditators, does a Meditator dwell, observing sensations in sensations?
Here, Meditators, a Meditator, while experiencing a XX, understands properly, “I am experiencing XX”;
XX:
1. pleasant sensation
2. unpleasant sensation
3. neither-unpleasant-nor-pleasant sensation
4. pleasant sensation with attachment
5. pleasant sensation without attachment
6. unpleasant sensation with attachment
7. unpleasant sensation without attachment
8. neither-unpleasant-nor-pleasant sensation with attachment
9. neither-unpleasant-nor-pleasant sensation without attachment
Followed by “P”

4. The Observation of Mind
Again, Meditators, how does a Meditator dwell, observing mind in mind?14
Here, Meditators, a Meditator understands properly mind with XX as mind with XX, he understands properly mind free from XX as mind free from XX.
XX:
1. Craving/Attachment
2. Aversion/Hatred
3. Delusion
4. Collected
5. Distracted
6. Scattered
7. Expanded
8. Unexpanded
9. Surpassable
10. Unsurpassable
11. Concentrated
12. Unconcentrated
13. Freed
14. Not freed
Followed by “P”

5. The 5 Observation of Mental Contents (A-E)

A. The five Hindrances
Again, Meditators, how does a Meditator dwell, observing mental contents in mental contents?
Here, Meditators, a Meditator dwells, observing mental contents in mental contents, as regards the five hindrances.
How, Meditators, does a Meditator dwell, observing mental contents in mental contents, as regards the five hindrances?
Here, Meditators, a Meditator, whenever XX is present in him, he understands properly that, “XX is present in me.” Whenever XX is absent from him, he understands properly that, “XX is absent from me.” He understands properly, how XX that has not yet arisen in him, comes to arise. He understands properly, how XX that has now arisen in him, gets eradicated. He understands properly, how XX that has now been eradicated, will in future no longer arise in him.
XX:
1. Sense desire
2. Aversion
3. Sloth & Torpor
4. Agitation & Remorse
5. Doubt
Followed by “P”

B. The five Aggregates
Again, Meditators, a Meditator dwells, observing mental contents in mental contents, as regards the five aggregates of clinging.20
How, Meditators, does a Meditator dwell, observing mental contents in mental contents, as regards the five aggregates of clinging?
The 5 aggregates of clinging consist of rupakkhanda (the material aggregate) connected with body and the four namakkahanda(aggreagtes of mind)
– Vinnanakkhanda : Conciousness
– Sannakkhanda : Perception
– Vedanakkhanda : Sensations on the body
– Sankorkkhanda : Reaction
Attachment to these five in two ways:
1) The basic object because we think these 5 make up the I.
2) The continual arising of the aggregates and the process of becoming.

Here, Meditators, a Meditator [understands properly]:
Such is XX.
Such is the arising of XX,
Such is the passing away(extinction) of XX;

XX
1. Matter
2. Sensations
3. Perceptions
4. Reactions
5. Consciousness

Followed by “P”

C. The Six Sense/Perception Spheres

Again, Meditators, a Meditator dwells, observing mental contents in mental contents, as regards the six internal and external sense spheres.
How, Meditators, does a Meditator dwell, observing mental contents in mental contents, as regards the six internal and external sense spheres?
Here, Meditators, a Meditator understands properly the XX, he understands properly YY and he understands properly the bondage that arises dependent on these two. He understands properly how the bondage that has not yet arisen, comes to arise. He understands properly how the bondage that has now arisen, gets eradicated. He understands properly how that bondage that has now been eradicated, will in future no longer arise.
XX YY
1. Eye The visible object
2. Ear Sound
3. Nose Smell
4. Tongue Taste
5. Body Touch
6. Mind Mental contents
Followed by “P”

D. The Seven Factors of Enlightenment
Again, Meditators, a Meditator dwells observing mental contents in mental contents, as regards the seven factors of enlightenment.
How, Meditators, does a Meditator dwell observing mental contents in mental contents, as regards the seven factors of enlightenment?
Here, Meditators, a Meditator understands properly that, when the factor of enlightenment, XX, is present within him, “The factor of enlightenment, XX, is present in me.” He understands properly that, when the factor of enlightenment, XX, is absent from him, “The factor of enlightenment, XX, is absent from me.” He understands properly, how the factor of enlightenment, XX, that has not yet arisen in him, comes to arise. He understands properly, how the factor of enlightenment, XX, that has now arisen, is developed and perfected.
XX:
1. Awareness
2. Investigation of Dhamma (Anicca at experience level)
3. Effort
4. Rapture (Bliss arising & passing)
5. Tranquility
6. Concentration
7. Equanimity
Followed by “P”

E. The four Noble Truths
Again, Meditators, a Meditator dwells observing mental contents in mental contents, as regards the four noble truths.
How, Meditators, does a Meditator dwell observing mental contents in mental contents, as regards the four noble truths?
Here, Meditators, a Meditator understands properly as it is, XX.

XX:
1. “This is suffering” A.;
2. “This is the arising of suffering” B.;
3. “This is the cessation of suffering” C.;
4. “This is the path leading to the cessation of suffering.” D.

A. Truth of Suffering

And what, Meditators, is the Noble Truth of Suffering?
Suffering is (XX):
1. Birth
2. old age
3. sickness
4. death
5. sorrow
6. lamentation
7. pain
8. grief
9. distress
10. the association with something that one does not like
11. the disassociation with something that one does like
12. not to get what one desires
 in short, the clinging to the five aggregates is suffering.

Followed by the explanation of what each suffering is.
In beings, Meditators, who are subject to XX the desire arises: “Oh, truly, that we were not subject to XX! Oh, truly, may we not be subject to XX!” But this cannot be obtained by mere desire; and not to get what one wants is suffering.
Meditators, in short, clinging to the five aggregates is suffering;
1. matter
2. sensation
3. perception
4. reaction
5. consciousness
This, Meditators, is the Noble Truth of Suffering.

B. Truth of the Arising of Suffering
And what, Meditators, is the Noble Truth of the Arising of Suffering?
It is this craving that occurs again and again and is bound up with pleasure and lust and finds delight now here, now there. That is, the craving for sensual pleasures, the craving for repeated rebirth and the craving for annihilation.
But where does this craving, Meditators, arise and where does it get established?
Wherever in the world [of mind and matter] there is something enticing and pleasurable, there this craving arises and gets established.
But what in the world [of mind and matter] is enticing and pleasurable?
The XX in the world [of mind and matter] is enticing and pleasurable; there this craving arises and gets established.
XX:
1. Eye, Ear, Nose, Tongue, Body and Mind
2. The objects of sight, material forms, The objects of hearing, sounds etc.
3. Eye consciousness, Ear consciousness etc.
4. Eye contact, Ear contact etc.
5. The sensation that is arising from the eye contact, etc.
6. The perception of sight objects, etc.
7. The mental reaction towards sight objects, etc.
8. The craving after sight objects, etc.
9. The thought conception of*
10. The rolling in thoughts of
*) first time a thought arises

This, Meditators, is the Noble Truth of the Arising of Suffering.

C. Truth of the Cessation of Suffering

And what, Meditators, is the Noble Truth of the Cessation of Suffering?
It is the complete fading away and cessation of this very craving, forsaking it and giving it up; the liberation from it, leaving no place for it. But where may this craving, Meditators, be eradicated; where may it be extinguished? Wherever in the world [of mind and matter] there is something enticing and pleasurable: there this craving may be eradicated and extinguished.
But what in the world [of mind and matter] is enticing and pleasurable? The XX in the world [of mind and matter] is enticing and pleasurable; there this craving may be eradicated and extinguished.
XX:
1. Eye, Ear, Nose, Tongue, Body and Mind
2. The objects of sight, material forms, The objects of hearing, sounds etc.
3. Eye consciousness, Ear consciousness etc.
4. Eye contact, Ear contact etc.
5. The sensation that is arising from the eye contact, etc.
6. The perception of sight objects, etc.
7. The mental reaction towards sight objects, etc.
8. The craving after sight objects, etc.
9. The thought conception of*
10. The rolling in thoughts of
*) first time a thought arises

This, Meditators, is the Noble Truth of the Cessation of Suffering.

D. Truth of the eightfold Path

And what, Meditators, is the Noble Truth of the Path Leading to the Cessation of Suffering? It is this, the Noble Eightfold Path, namely:
1. right understanding,
2. right thought,
3. right speech,
4. right action,
5. right livelihood,
6. right effort,
7. right awareness,
8. right concentration.
And what, Meditators, is Right Understanding? It is this, Meditators: the knowledge of suffering, the knowledge of the arising of suffering, the knowledge of the cessation of suffering, the knowledge of the path leading to the cessation of suffering. This, Meditators, is called Right Understanding.
And what, Meditators, is Right Thought? Thoughts of renunciation, thoughts that are free from aversion and thoughts that are free from violence. This, Meditators, is called Right Thought.
And what, Meditators, is Right Speech? Abstaining from lying, abstaining from slander and backbiting, abstaining from harsh words and abstaining from frivolous talk. This, Meditators, is called Right Speech.
And what, Meditators, is Right Action? Abstaining from killing, abstaining from taking what has not been given and abstaining from sexual misconduct. This, Meditators, is called Right Action.
And what, Meditators, is Right Livelihood? Here, Meditators, a noble disciple having given up wrong ways of livelihood earns his livelihood by right means. This, Meditators, is called Right Livelihood.
And what, Meditators, is Right Effort? Here, Meditators, a Meditator generates the will to prevent the arising of unarisen evil unwholesome mental states; he makes strong effort, stirs up his energy, applies his mind to it and strives. To eradicate those evil unwholesome mental states that have arisen in him, he generates the will, makes strong effort, stirs up his energy, applies his mind to it and strives. To develop wholesome mental states that have not yet arisen in him, he generates will, makes strong effort, stirs up his energy, applies his mind to it and strives. To maintain wholesome mental states that have arisen in him, not to let them fade away, to multiply them and bring them to full maturity and to full development, he generates will, makes strong effort, stirs up his energy, applies his mind to it and strives. This, Meditators, is called Right Effort.
And what, Meditators, is Right Awareness? Here, Meditators, a Meditator dwells ardent with awareness and constant thorough understanding of impermanence, observing XX, having removed craving and aversion towards the world [of mind and matter];
XX:
1. body in body
2. sensations in sensations
3. mind in mind
4. mental contents in mental contents
And what, Meditators, is Right concentration? Here Meditators, a Meditator, detached from craving, detached from unwholesome mental states, enters into the first absorption, born of detachment, accompanied by initial and sustained application of the mind and filled with rapture and bliss and he dwells therein. With the subsiding of initial and sustained application of the mind and gaining inner tranquility and oneness of mind he enters into the second absorption, born of concentration, free from initial and sustained application of the mind, filled with rapture and bliss and he dwells therein. After the fading away of rapture he dwells in equanimity, aware with constant thorough understanding of impermanence, and he experiences in his body the bliss of which the noble ones say: “That bliss is experienced by one with equanimity and awareness.” Thus he enters the third absorption and dwells therein. After the eradication of pleasure and pain and with joy and grief having previously passed away, he enters into a state beyond pleasure and pain, the fourth absorption, that is totally purified by equanimity and awareness and he dwells therein. This, Meditators, is called Right Concentration.
This, Meditators, is the Noble Truth of the Path leading to the Cessation of Suffering.
Followed by “P”

6. The Results of the Establishing of Awareness

Indeed, Meditators, whoever practices this fourfold establishing of awareness in this manner* for XX, he may expect one of two results: in this very life highest wisdom or, if a substratum of aggregates remains, the stage of non-returner.
Let alone XX, Meditators.
XX:
1. 7,6,5,4,3,2,1 years
2. 7,6,5,4,3,2,1 months
3. 7 days
It is for this reason that it was said: “This is the one and only way, Meditators, for the purification of beings, for the overcoming of sorrow and lamentation, for the extinguishing of suffering and grief, for walking on the path of truth, for the realization of nibbāna: that is to say, the fourfold establishing of awareness.”
Thus the Enlightened One spoke. Glad in heart, the Meditators welcomed the words of the Enlightened One.
*) ardently, with right awareness of sensations and continues understanding of impermanence even for a moment gets these results

The End of the Mahāsatipaṭṭhāna Sutta

%d bloggers like this: