The Greatest Discourse On Steadfast Mindfulness
Translated by U Jotika & U Dhamminda
Please practise in accordance with this Mahasatipatthana Sutta so that you can see why it is acknowledged as the most important Sutta that the Buddha taught.
Try to practise all the different sections from time to time as they are all useful, but in the beginning start with something simple such as being mindful while walking (see Iriyapatha Pabba), or the mindfulness of in and out breathing (see Anapana Pabba). Then as you practise these you will be able to practise the other sections contained within this Sutta and you will find that all the four satipatthanas can be practised concurrently.
A sutta should be read again and again as you will tend to forget its message. The message here in this Sutta is that you should be mindful of whatever is occurring in the body and mind, whether it be good or bad, and thus you will become aware that all conditioned phenomena are impermanent, unsatisfactory and not-self.
Thus have I heard note1. The Bhagava note2 was at one time residing at the market-town called Kammasadhamma in the Kuru country note3. There the Bhagava addressed the bhikkhus note4 saying "O, Bhikkhus", and they replied to him, "Bhadante," note5 . Then the Bhagava said:
Bhikkhus, this is the one and the only way note6 for the purification (of the minds) of beings, for overcoming sorrow and lamentation, for the cessation note7 of physical and mental pain note8 , for attainment of the Noble Paths note9 . and for the realization of Nibbana note10. That (only way) is the four satipatthanas note11.
1. The words of Ananda Mahathera who was the Buddha's attendant monk. He recited the texts of the Dhamma, as he had heard them from the Buddha, at the First Council of monks (approx. 544 b.c.).
2. This is a polite form of address which was used when monks spoke to the Buddha. It means ''Blessed One".
3. The Kuru country was located in North West India near New Delhi.
4. A bhikkhu is a Buddhist monk who has received full ordination.
5. "Bhadante" is a polite answer to an elder or superior. Its approximate meaning would be "Yes, Venerable Sir".
6. The one and the only way: ekayano, this means that this is: the only way which surely leads to the benefits listed, there is no other way, and this way leads to nowhere else. This statement does not need to be believed in blindly, but as a meditator practises he can verify it by his own experience.
7. Cessation (atthanamaya) is generally translated as "destruction" which might wrongly imply an active attack on the physical and mental pain. However, the physical and mental pain cease due to lack of craving, just as a fire is extinguished due to lack of fuel.
8. Physical and mental pain (dukkha-domanassa) is a compound word which denotes the whole spectrum of physical and mental pain. Here, dukkha (du = bad, painful, + kha = empty, space) refers to all types of physical pain, and domanassa (du = bad, painful + mana = mind) refers to all types of mental pain including frustration, grief, fear and various types of phobias and neuroses.
9. Here naya means the four Noble Paths (ariya magga). The Noble Path is the name for the consciousness that has Nibbana for its object. The Four Noble Paths are the path of a Stream Enterer (sotapatti magga), the path of the Once-returner (sakadagami magga), the path of a Non-returner (anagami magga), and the path of an (Arahatarahatta magga).
10. Nibbana (Skt. Nirvana), is a reality experienced by a mind totally free from greed, hatred, and delusion.
11. Satipatthana (Sati = mindfulness, awareness of what is occuring + patthana = that which plunges into and penetrates continuously, again and again) is the type of mindfulness that penetrates repeatedly into the body, feelings, mind, and dhammas, and sees the actual reality that is occurring. This is in contrast to the normal unmindful state in which the mind bounces or skips over these phenomena. "The four satipatthanas" might therefore be translated as the "four steadfast mindfulnesses".
12. The Four satipatthanas in Pali are kayanupassana, vedananupassana, cittanupassana and dhammanupassana.
13. Kaya is the aggregate of physical phenomena. Here it refers to the corporeal body.
14. The phrases, "body as just the body", "feelings as just feelings", show that the body, feelings, mind, and dhammas are not to be seen as mine, I or self. This is the natural knowledge that arises from observing the body, feelings, mind and dhammas with steadfast mindfulness. It is not a belief. Normally this knowledge is absent due to lack of steadfast mindfulness.
15. Diligence (atapi) means bringing the mind back to the object of meditation again and again no matter how many times it slips away.
16. Clear understanding (see Note 39)
17. World (loka) refers to anything that arises and passes away, i.e. the five aggregates of clinging.
18. Feelings (vedana) (see Note 45)
19. Mind (citta) is that which knows, is aware, or is conscious (see Cittanupassana Section).
Here, in this context dhamma is any natural phenomenon that is not a concept and it is specifically referring to the five hindrances, the five aggregates of clinging, the six internal and external sense bases, the seven factors of enlightenment and the Four Noble Truths.