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  Discourse on the Four Establishments of Mindfulness

 

Satipatthana Sutta,  Majjhima Nikaya, 10
Translated by Thich Nhat Hanh

 

I

            I heard these words of the Buddha one time when he was living at Kammassadharma, a market town of the Kuru people. The Buddha addressed the bhikkhus, “O bhikkhus.”

            And the bhikkhus replied, “Venerable Lord.”

            The Buddha said, “Bhikkhus, there is a most wonderful way to help living beings realize purification, overcome directly grief and sorrow, end pain and anxiety, travel the right path, and realize nirvana. This way is the Four Establishments of Mindfulness.

            “What are the Four Establishments?

            1. “Bhikkhus, a practitioner remains established in the observation of the body in the body, diligent, with clear understanding, mindful, having abandoned every craving and every distaste for this life.

            2. “He remains established in the observation of the feelings in the feelings, diligent, with clear understanding, mindful, having abandoned every craving and every distaste for this life.

            3. “He remains established in the observation of the mind in the mind, diligent, with clear understanding, mindful, having abandoned every craving and every distaste for this life.

            4. “He remains established in the observation of the objects of mind in the objects of mind, diligent, with clear understanding, mindful, having abandoned every craving and every distaste for this life.

II

            “And how does a practitioner remain established in the observation of the body in the body?

            “He goes to the forest, to the foot of a tree, or to an empty room, sits down cross-legged in the lotus position, holds his body straight, and establishes mindfulness in front of him. He breathes in, aware that he is breathing in. He breathes out, aware that he is breathing out. When he breathes in a long breath, he knows, ‘I am breathing in a long breath.’ When he breathes out a long breath, he knows, ‘I am breathing out a long breath.’ When he breathes in a short breath, he knows, ‘I am breathing in a short breath.’ When he breathes out a short breath, he knows, ‘I am breathing out a short breath.’

            “Just as a skilled turner knows when he makes a long turn, ‘I am making a long turn,’ and knows when he makes a short turn, ‘I am making a short turn,’ so a practitioner, when he breathes in a long breath, knows, ‘I am breathing in a long breath,’ and when he breathes in a short breath knows, ‘I am breathing in a short breath,’ when he breathes out a long breath, knows, ‘I am breathing out a long breath,’ and when he breathes out a short breath knows, ‘I am breathing out a short breath.’

            “He uses the following practice: ‘Breathing in, I am aware of my whole body. Breathing out, I am aware of my whole body. Breathing in, I calm the activities of my body. Breathing out, I calm the activities of my body.’

            “This is how a practitioner observes the body in the body. He observes the inside of the body or the outside of the body, or both the inside and the outside of the body. He observes the process of coming-to-be in the body or the process of dissolution in the body or both the process of coming-to-be and the process of dissolution. Or he is mindful of the fact, ‘There is a body here,’ until understanding and full awareness come about. He maintains the observation, free, not caught up in any worldly consideration. That is how to practice observation of the body in the body, O bhikkhus.

            “Moreover, when a practitioner walks, he is aware, ‘I am walking.’ When he is standing, he is aware, ‘I am standing.’ When he is sitting, he is aware, ‘I am sitting.’ When he is lying down, he is aware, ‘I am lying down.’ In whatever position his body happens to be, he is aware of the position of his body.

            “Moreover, when the practitioner is going forward or backward, he applies full awareness to his going forward or backward. When he looks in front or looks behind, bends down or stands up, he also applies full awareness to what he is doing. He applies full awareness to wearing the sanghati robe or carrying the almsbowl. When he eats or drinks, chews or savors the food, he applies full awareness to all this. When passing excrement or urinating, he applies full awareness to this. When he walks, stands, lies down, sits, sleeps or wakes up, speaks or is silent, he shines his awareness on all this.

            “This is how a practitioner observes the body in the body. He observes the inside of the body or the outside of the body, or both the inside of the body and the outside of the body. He observes the process of coming-to-be in the body or the process of dissolution in the body or both the process of coming-to-be and the process of dissolution. Or he is mindful of the fact, ‘There is a body here,’ until understanding and full awareness come about. He maintains the observation, free, not caught up in any worldly consideration. That is how to practice observation of the body in the body, O bhikkhus.

            “Further, the practitioner meditates on his very own body from the soles of the feet upwards and then from the hair on top of the head downwards, a body contained inside the skin and full of all the impurities which belong to the body: ‘Here is the hair of the head, the hairs on the body, the nails, teeth, skin, flesh, sinews, bones, bone marrow, kidneys, heart, liver, diaphragm, spleen, lungs, intestines, bowels, excrement, bile, phlegm, pus, blood, sweat, fat, tears, grease, saliva, mucus, synovial fluid, urine.’

            “Bhikkhus, imagine a sack which can be opened at both ends, containing a variety of grains—brown rice, wild rice, mung beans, kidney beans, sesame, white rice. When someone with good eyesight opens the bag, he will review it like this: ‘This is brown rice, this is wild rice, these are mung beans, these are kidney beans, these are sesame seeds, this is white rice.’ Just so the practitioner passes in review the whole of his body from the soles of the feet to the hair on the top of the head, a body enclosed in a layer of skin and full of all the impurities which belong to the body: ‘Here is the hair of the head, the hairs on the body, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, sinews, bones, bone marrow, kidneys, heart, liver, diaphragm, spleen, lungs, intestines, bowels, excrement, bile, phlegm, pus, blood, sweat, fat, tears, grease, saliva, mucus, synovial fluid, urine.’

            “This is how the practitioner remains established in the observation of the body in the body; observation of the body from the inside or from the outside, or both from the inside and from the outside. He remains established in the observation of the process of coming-to-be in the body or the process of dissolution in the body or both in the process of coming-to-be and the process of dissolution. Or he is mindful of the fact, ‘There is a body here,’ until understanding and full awareness come about. He remains established in the observation, free, not caught up in any worldly consideration. That is how to practice observation of the body in the body, O bhikkhus.

            “Further, in whichever position his body happens to be, the practitioner passes in review the elements which constitute the body: ‘In this body is the earth element, the water element, the fire element, and the air element.’

            “As a skilled butcher or an apprentice butcher, having killed a cow, might sit at the crossroads to divide the cow into many parts, the practitioner passes in review the elements which comprise his very own body: ‘Here in this body are the earth element, the water element, the fire element, and the air element.’

            “This is how the practitioner remains established in the observation of the body in the body: observation of the body from the inside or from the outside, or observation of the body both from the inside and from the outside. He remains established in the observation of the process of coming-to-be in the body or the process of dissolution in the body or both in the process of coming-to-be and the process of dissolution. Or he is mindful of the fact, ‘There is a body here,’ until understanding and full awareness come about. He remains established in the observation, free, not caught up in any worldly consideration. That is how to practice observation of the body in the body, O bhikkhus.

            “Further, the practitioner compares his own body with a corpse which he imagines he sees thrown onto a charnel ground and lying there for one, two, or three days—bloated, blue in color, and festering, and he observes, ‘This body of mine is of the same nature. It will end up in the same way; there is no way it can avoid that state.’

            “Further, the practitioner compares his own body with a corpse which he imagines he sees thrown onto a charnel ground, pecked at by crows, eaten by hawks, vultures, and jackals, and infested with maggots and worms, and he observes, ‘This body of mine is of the same nature, it will end up in the same way, there is no way it can avoid that state.’

            “Further, the practitioner compares his own body with a corpse which he imagines he sees thrown onto a charnel ground; it is just a skeleton with a little flesh and blood sticking to it, and the bones are held together by the ligaments, and he observes, ‘This body of mine is of the same nature. It will end up in the same way. There is no way it can avoid that state.’

            “Further, the practitioner compares his own body with a corpse which he imagines he sees thrown onto a charnel ground; it is just a skeleton, no longer adhered to by any flesh, but still smeared by a little blood, the bones still held together by the ligaments, and he observes, ‘This body of mine is of the same nature. It will end up in the same way. There is no way it can avoid that state.’

            “Further, the practitioner compares his own body with a corpse which he imagines he sees thrown onto a charnel ground; it is just a skeleton, no longer adhered to by any flesh nor smeared by any blood, but the bones are still held together by the ligaments, and he observes, ‘This body of mine is of the same nature. It will end up in the same way. There is no way it can avoid that state.’

            “Further, the practitioner compares his own body with a corpse which he imagines he sees thrown onto a charnel ground; all that is left is a collection of bones scattered here and there; in one place a hand bone, in another a shin bone, a thigh bone, a pelvis, a spinal column, a skull, and he observes, ‘This body of mine is of the same nature. It will end up in the same way. There is no way it can avoid that state.’

            “Further, the practitioner compares his own body with a corpse which he imagines he sees thrown onto a charnel ground; all that is left is a collection of bleached bones, the color of shells...

“Further, the practitioner compares his own body with a corpse which he imagines he sees thrown onto a charnel ground; it has been lying there for more than one year and all that is left is a collection of dried bones, and he observes, ‘This body of mine is of the same nature. It will end up in the same way. There is no way it can avoid that state.’

            “Further, the practitioner compares his own body with a corpse which he imagines he sees thrown onto a charnel ground; all that is left is the dust which comes from the rotted bones, and he observes, ‘This body of mine is of the same nature, it will end up in the same way. There is no way it can avoid that state.’

            “This is how the practitioner remains established in the observation of the body in the body, observation of the body from inside the body or from the outside of the body, or observation of the body from both the inside and the outside. He remains established in the observation of the process of coming-to-be in the body or the process of dissolution in the body or both in the process of coming-to-be and the process of dissolution. Or he is mindful of the fact, ‘There is a body here,’ until understanding and full awareness come about. He remains established in the observation, free, not caught up in any worldly consideration. That is how to practice observation of the body in the body, O bhikkhus.”

III

            “Bhikkhus, how does a practitioner remain established in the observation of the feelings in the feelings?

            “Whenever the practitioner has a pleasant feeling, he is aware, ‘I am experiencing a pleasant feeling.’ Whenever he has a painful feeling, he is aware, ‘I am experiencing a painful feeling.’ Whenever he experiences a feeling which is neither pleasant nor painful, he is aware, ‘I am experiencing a neutral feeling.’ When he experiences a pleasant feeling based in the body, he is aware, ‘I am experiencing a pleasant feeling based in the body.’ When he experiences a pleasant feeling based in the mind, he is aware, ‘I am experiencing a pleasant feeling based in the mind.’ When he experiences a painful feeling based in the body, he is aware, ‘I am experiencing a painful feeling based in the body.’ When he experiences a painful feeling based in the mind, he is aware, ‘I am experiencing a painful feeling based in the mind.’ When he experiences a neutral feeling based in the body, he is aware, ‘I am experiencing a neutral feeling based in the body.’ When he experiences a neutral feeling based in the mind, he is aware, ‘I am experiencing a neutral feeling based in the mind.’

            “This is how the practitioner remains established in the observation of the feelings in the feelings, observation of the feelings from inside of the feelings or outside of the feelings, or observation of the feelings from both the inside and the outside. He remains established in the observation of the process of coming-to-be in the feelings or the process of dissolution in the feelings or both in the process of coming-to-be and the process of dissolution. Or he is mindful of the fact, ‘There is feeling here,’ until understanding and full awareness come about. He remains established in the observation, free, not caught up in any worldly consideration. That is how to practice observation of the feelings in the feelings, O bhikkhus.”

IV

            “Bhikkhus, how does a practitioner remain established in the observation of the mind in the mind?

            “When his mind is desiring, the practitioner is aware, ‘My mind is desiring.’ When his mind is not desiring, he is aware, ‘My mind is not desiring.’ When his mind is hating something, he is aware, ‘My mind is hating.’ When his mind is not hating, he is aware, ‘My mind is not hating.’ When his mind is in a state of ignorance, he is aware, ‘My mind is in a state of ignorance.’ When his mind is not in a state of ignorance, he is aware, ‘My mind is not in a state of ignorance.’ When his mind is collected, he is aware, ‘My mind is collected.’ When his mind is not collected, he is aware, ‘My mind is not collected.’ When his mind is distracted, he is aware, ‘My mind is distracted.’ When his mind is not distracted, he is aware, ‘My mind is not distracted.’ When his mind has a wider scope, he is aware, ‘My mind has widened in scope.’ When his mind has a narrow scope, he is aware, ‘My mind has become narrow in scope.’ When his mind is capable of reaching a higher state, he is aware, ‘My mind is capable of reaching a higher state.’ When his mind is not capable of reaching a higher state, he is aware, ‘My mind is not capable of reaching a higher state.’ When his mind is composed, he is aware, ‘My mind is composed.’ When his mind is not composed, he is aware, ‘My mind is not composed.’ When his mind is free, he is aware, ‘My mind is free.’ When his mind is not free, he is aware, ‘My mind is not free.’

            “This is how the practitioner remains established in the observation of the mind in the mind, observation of the mind from inside of the mind or outside of the mind, or observation of the mind from both the inside and the outside. He remains established in the observation of the process of coming-to-be in the mind or the process of dissolution in the mind or both in the process of coming-to-be and the process of dissolution. Or he is mindful of the fact, ‘There is mind here,’ until understanding and full awareness come about. He remains established in the observation, free, not caught up in any worldly consideration. This is how to practice observation of the mind in the mind, O bhikkhus.”

V

            “Bhikkhus, how does a practitioner remain established in the observation of the objects of mind in the objects of mind?

            “First of all, he observes the objects of mind in the objects of mind with regard to the Five Hindrances. How does he observe this?

            1. “When sensual desire is present in him, he is aware, ‘Sensual desire is present in me.’ Or when sensual desire is not present in him, he is aware, ‘Sensual desire is not present in me.’ When sensual desire begins to arise, he is aware of it. When sensual desire that has already arisen is abandoned, he is aware of it. When sensual desire that has already been abandoned will not arise again in the future, he is aware of it.

            2. “When anger is present in him, he is aware, ‘Anger is present in me.’ When anger is not present in him, he is aware, ‘Anger is not present in me.’ When anger begins to arise, he is aware of it. When anger that has already arisen is abandoned, he is aware of it. When anger that has already been abandoned will not arise again in the future, he is aware of it.

            3. “When dullness and drowsiness are present in him, he is aware, ‘Dullness and drowsiness are present in me.’ When dullness and drowsiness are not present in him, he is aware, ‘Dullness and drowsiness are not present in me.’ When dullness and drowsiness begin to arise, he is aware of it. When dullness and drowsiness that have already arisen are abandoned, he is aware of it. When dullness and drowsiness that have already been abandoned will not arise again in the future, he is aware of it.

            4. “When agitation and remorse are present in him, he is aware, ‘Agitation and remorse are present in me.’ When agitation and remorse are not present in him, he is aware, ‘Agitation and remorse are not present in me.’ When agitation and remorse begin to arise, he is aware of it. When agitation and remorse that have already arisen are abandoned, he is aware of it. When agitation and remorse that have already been abandoned will not arise again in the future, he is aware of it.

            5. “When doubt is present in him, he is aware, ‘Doubt is present in me.’ When doubt is not present in him, he is aware, ‘Doubt is not present in me.’ When doubt begins to arise, he is aware of it. When doubt that has already arisen is abandoned, he is aware of it. When doubt that has already been abandoned will not arise again in the future, he is aware of it.

            “This is how the practitioner remains established in the observation of the objects of mind in the objects of mind: observation of the objects of mind from inside the objects of mind or outside the objects of mind, or observation of the objects of mind from both the inside and the outside. He remains established in the observation of the process of coming-to-be in the objects of mind or the process of dissolution in the objects of mind or both in the process of coming-to-be and the process of dissolution. Or he is mindful of the fact, ‘There is an object of the mind here,’ until understanding and full awareness come about. He remains established in the observation, free, not caught up in any worldly consideration. That is how to practice observation of the objects of mind in the objects of mind with regard to the Five Hindrances, O bhikkhus.

            “Further, the practitioner observes the objects of mind in the objects of mind with regard to the Five Aggregates of Clinging. How does he observe this?

            “He observes like this: ‘Such is form. Such is the arising of form. Such is the disappearance of form. Such is feeling. Such is the arising of feeling. Such is the disappearance of feeling. Such is perception. Such is the arising of perception. Such is the disappearance of perception. Such are mental formations. Such is the arising of mental formations. Such is the disappearance of mental formations. Such is consciousness. Such is the arising of consciousness. Such is the disappearance of consciousness.

            “This is how the practitioner remains established in the observation of the objects of mind in the objects of mind with regard to the Five Aggregates of Clinging: observation of the objects of mind from inside the objects of mind or outside the objects of mind, or observation of the objects of mind from both the inside and the outside. He remains established in the observation of the process of coming-to-be in the object of mind or the process of dissolution in the object of mind or both in the process of coming-to-be and the process of dissolution. Or he is mindful of the fact, ‘There is an object of mind here,’ until understanding and full awareness come about. He remains established in the observation, free, not caught up in any worldly consideration. That is how to practice observation of the objects of mind in the objects of mind with regard to the Five Aggregates, O bhikkhus.

            “Further, bhikkhus, the practitioner observes the objects of mind in the objects of mind with regard to the six sense organs and the six sense objects. How does he observe this?

            “He is aware of the eyes and aware of the form, and he is aware of the internal formations which are produced in dependence on these two things. He is aware of the birth of a new internal formation and is aware of abandoning an already produced internal formation, and he is aware when an already abandoned internal formation will not arise again.

            “The practitioner is aware of the ears and aware of the sound, and he is aware of the internal formations which are produced in dependence on these two things. He is aware of the birth of a new internal formation and is aware of abandoning an already produced internal formation, and he is aware when an already abandoned internal formation will not arise again.

            “The practitioner is aware of the nose and aware of the smell, and he is aware of the internal formations which are produced in dependence on these two things. He is aware of the birth of a new internal formation and is aware of abandoning an already produced internal formation, and he is aware when an already abandoned internal formation will not arise again.

            “The practitioner is aware of the tongue and aware of the taste, and he is aware of the internal formations which are produced in dependence on these two things. He is aware of the birth of a new internal formation and is aware of abandoning an already produced internal formation, and he is aware when an already abandoned internal formation will not arise again.

            “The practitioner is aware of the body and aware of the object touched, and he is aware of the internal formations which are produced in dependence on these two things. He is aware of the birth of a new internal formation and is aware of abandoning an already produced internal formation, and he is aware when an already abandoned internal formation will not arise again.

            “The practitioner is aware of the mind and aware of the objects of mind (the world), and he is aware of the internal formations which are produced in dependence on these two things. He is aware of the birth of a new internal formation and is aware of abandoning an already produced internal formation, and he is aware when an already abandoned internal formation will not arise again.

            “This is how the practitioner remains established in the observation of the objects of mind in the objects of mind with regard to the six sense organs and the six sense objects: observation of the objects of mind from inside the objects of mind or outside the objects of mind, or observation of the objects of mind from both the inside and the outside. He remains established in the observation of the process of coming-to-be in the object of mind or the process of dissolution in the object of mind or both in the process of coming-to-be and the process of dissolution. Or he is mindful of the fact, ‘There is an object of mind here,’ until understanding and full awareness come about. He remains established in the observation, free, not caught up in any worldly consideration. That is how to practice observation of the objects of mind in the objects of mind with regard to the six sense organs and the six sense objects, O bhikkhus.

            “Further, bhikkhus, the practitioner remains established in the observation of the objects of mind in the objects of mind with regard to the Seven Factors of Awakening.

“How does he remain established in the practice of observation of the Seven Factors of Awakening?

            1. “When the factor of awakening, mindfulness, is present in him, he is aware, ‘Mindfulness is present in me.’ When mindfulness is not present in him, he is aware, ‘Mindfulness is not present in me.’ He is aware when not-yet-born mindfulness is being born and when already-born mindfulness is perfectly developed.

            2. “When the factor of awakening, investigation-of-phenomena, is present in him, he is aware, ‘Investigation-of-phenomena is present in me.’ When investigation-of-phenomena is not present in him, he is aware, ‘Investigation-of-phenomena is not present in me.’ He is aware when not-yet-born investigation-of-phenomena is being born and when already-born investigation-of-phenomena is perfectly developed.

            3. “When the factor of awakening, energy, is present in him, he is aware, ‘Energy is present in me.’ When energy is not present in him, he is aware, ‘Energy is not present in me.’ He is aware when not-yet-born energy is being born and when already-born energy is perfectly developed.

            4. “When the factor of awakening, joy, is present in him, he is aware, ‘Joy is present in me.’ When joy is not present in him, he is aware, ‘Joy is not present in me.’ He is aware when not-yet-born joy is being born and when already-born joy is perfectly developed.

            5. “When the factor of awakening, ease, is present in him, he is aware, ‘Ease is present in me.’ When ease is not present in him, he is aware, ‘Ease is not present in me.’ He is aware when not-yet-born ease is being born and when already-born ease is perfectly developed.

            6. “When the factor of awakening, concentration, is present in him, he is aware, ‘Concentration is present in me.’ When concentration is not present in him, he is aware, ‘Concentration is not present in me.’ He is aware when not-yet-born concentration is being born and when already-born concentration is perfectly developed.

            7. “When the factor of awakening, letting go, is present in him, he is aware, ‘Letting go is present in me.’ When letting go is not present in him, he is aware, ‘Letting go is not present in me.’ He is aware when not-yet-born letting go is being born and when already-born letting-go is perfectly developed.

            “This is how the practitioner remains established in the observation of the objects of mind in the objects of mind with regard to the Seven Factors of Awakening, observation of the objects of mind from inside the objects of mind or outside the objects of mind, or observation of the objects of mind from both the inside and the outside. He remains established in the observation of the process of coming-to-be in the object of mind or the process of dissolution in the object of mind or both in the process of coming-to-be and the process of dissolution. Or he is mindful of the fact, ‘There is an object of mind here,’ until understanding and full awareness come about. He remains established in the observation, free, not caught up in any worldly consideration. That is how to practice observation of the objects of mind in the objects of mind with regard to the Seven Factors of Awakening, O bhikkhus.

            “Further, bhikkhus, a practitioner remains established in the observation of objects of mind in the objects of mind with regard to the Four Noble Truths.

            “How, bhikkhus, does the practitioner remain established in the observation of the Four Noble Truths?

            “A practitioner is aware ‘This is suffering,’ as it arises. He is aware, ‘This is the cause of the suffering,’ as it arises. He is aware, ‘This is the end of suffering,’ as it arises. He is aware, ‘This is the path which leads to the end of suffering,’ as it arises.

            “This is how the practitioner remains established in the observation of the objects of mind in the objects of mind with regard to the Four Noble Truths, observation of the objects of mind from inside the objects of mind or outside the objects of mind, or observation of the objects of mind from both the inside and the outside. He remains established in the observation of the process of coming-to-be in the objects of mind or the process of dissolution in the objects of mind or both in the process of coming-to-be and the process of dissolution. Or he is mindful of the fact, ‘There is an object of mind here,’ until understanding and full awareness come about. He remains established in the observation, free, not caught up in any worldly consideration. That is how to practice observation of the objects of mind in the objects of mind with regard to the Four Noble Truths, O bhikkhus.”

VI

            “Bhikkhus, he who practices the Four Establishments of Mindfulness for seven years can expect one of two fruits—the highest understanding in this very life or, if there remains some residue of affliction, he can attain the fruit of no-return.

            “Let alone seven years, bhikkhus, whoever practices the Four Establishments of Mindfulness for six, five, four, three, two years or one year, can also expect one of two fruits—either the highest understanding in this very life or, if there remains some residue of affliction, he can attain the fruit of no-return.

            “Let alone one year, bhikkhus, whoever practices the Four Establishments of Mindfulness for seven, six, five, four, three, or two months, one month or half a month, can also expect one of two fruits—either the highest understanding in this very life or, if there remains some residue of affliction, he can attain the fruit of no-return.

            “Let alone half a month, bhikkhus, whoever practices the Four Establishments of Mindfulness one week, can also expect one of two fruits—either the highest understanding in this very life or, if there remains some residue of affliction, he can attain the fruit of no-return.

            “That is why we said that this path, the path of the four grounds for the establishment of mindfulness, is the most wonderful path, which helps beings realize purification, transcend grief and sorrow, destroy pain and anxiety, travel the right path, and realize nirvana.”

            The bhikkhus were delighted to hear the teaching of the Buddha. They took it to heart and began to put it into practice.