Contemplation of the Dhammas: Dhammānupassanā (Maṅgala Sutta – Protection with Blessing)


revised on 2020-06-30


By Venerable Uttamo Thera(尊者 鄔達摩 長老)


Condensed, the four satipaṭṭhāna objects only have mind and body. Contemplation of the body is called rūpapariggaha—discernment of the body. Contemplation of the feelings and mind is called nāmapariggaha—discernment of the mind. Combined the body and the mind contemplations become dhammānupassanā.

In the contemplation of the body—the contemplation is on the real material phenomena. They are arising by causes and conditions. They are originating from kamma, consciousness, temperature and nutriment (kamma, citta, utu, āhāra).

Some material phenomena are not by causes, the outcomes of the real material phenomena. They are called non-concrete matters (anipphanna rūpa), e.g., the space element. There are 28 matters; 18 are concrete and 10 non-concrete matters. In contemplation of matters, only contemplate the 18 concrete matters, e.g., the four great elements. In contemplation of the mind, only contemplate the mundane mind with their mental states. Because they create the suffering of the round of existence.

Among the five path factors (contemplating mind), sati and ñāṇa (paññā) are the main important factors. Because sati takes the object and ñāṇa contemplates. The meaning of dhamma is quite extensive. Therefore, define its meaning accordingly with its function.

If not, it can be confused. If taking dhamma as nature, then it includes everything, even Nibbāna. The main meaning of dhamma is not a being and not a soul (nissatta and nijjīva). Combine with others have to understand as has its nature. So, it includes all. Contemplation of dhammas is in five sections.

1. The hindrances (nīvaraṇas)
2. The aggregates (khandhas)
3. The sense-spheres (āyatana)
4. The awakening factors (bojjhaṅgas)
5. The Four Noble Truths (the four ariyasacca).

Why the Buddha only divided these five dhammas? Dhamma is extensive and these only are important. In the world, it is very important to distinguish what is important and what is not or unimportant. Most human beings are wasting their precious times and energies in unimportant things and matters. This point is very important to take care, reflect and act in our daily lives accordingly.

  1. The five hindrances—The five Nīvaraṇas:
The five hindrances are;
(1) sensual desire (kāmacchanda),
(2) aversion (byāpāda),
(3) sloth-and-torpor (thīna-middha),
(4) restlessness-and-worry (uddhacca-kukkucca)
(5) doubt (vicikicchā).

In the practice of samatha or vipassanā to remove them far away is very important. If not, the practice cannot progress. Even wholesome dhammas cannot arise. These hindrances are the causes for the defilement of the mind. It weakens knowledge. Even it can defile the purified mind (e.g., some yogis lost their samādhi which had been developed).

For each hindrance, the yogi has to know them in five points. For Example, sensual desire:

  1. There is sensual desire in me.
  2. There is no sensual desire in me.

Contemplate and checking the hindrance. This is not only arising now, but also happen very often. Some ask, this is practice or not. Sayadaw said that this was contemplation. If we do not reflect and check, how we know it exists or not. With knowledge, we can correct it. This point is very important. Usually, people only are thinking about what things they have or not have? (e.g., money, power, fame…etc.) So, people are always thinking with defilement (kilesa).

  1. He knows how unarisen sensual desire can arise or why it happens.

Have to find out the causes. “Why it happens”; the Buddha did not mention it here, but he taught in other suttas. For example, lust arises because of wrong attention (ayoniso) on the beauty of the object. Therefore, defilement arises and increases when the problem has arisen.

  1. How can the arisen sensual desire be removed?

How to remove it when it happens? The lust can be removed by contemplating the unattractiveness of the object (asubha).

  1. How can an arising of the removed sensual desire in the future be prevented?

The other hindrances are also contemplated in these ways if we can find out the answers and try to remove them. And then contemplating dhammas internally, externally and both. With the development, the yogi discerns the arising and passing away in dhammas, etc.

  1. The aggregates—The Khandhas:

The yogi contemplates dhammas in terms of the five aggregates of clinging in the following ways. The Buddha taught three ways—

  1. Body aggregate (rūpakkhandha)
a. Such is material form—knowing its nature
b. Such is its arising
c. Such is its passing away

The other four khandhas (feeling, cognition, volition and consciousness) are also in the same way for contemplations.

  1. Sense-spheres—Āyatanas:

The yogi contemplates dhammas in terms of the six internal and external sense-spheres, in the following ways. With the contacts of the six internal sense-spheres (eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind) and the six external sense-spheres (forms, sounds, odors, flavors, tangibles and mind objects), the six consciousnesses arise.

It is not necessary with every contact and fetter (saṁyojana) arises. If it is arising, then find out the causes. There are ten fetters; belief in a substantial and permanent self; doubt, dogmatic clinging to particular rules and observations, sensual desire, aversion, craving for fine material existence, craving for immaterial existence, conceit, restlessness and ignorance.

The Buddha’s instruction:

“He knows the eye; he knows forms, and he knows the fetter that arises dependent on both, and he also knows how an arisen fetter can arise, how an arisen fetter can be removed and how a future arising of the removed fetter can be prevented.” The other internal and external sense-spheres also know in this way.

The instruction can be put into simple terms. 1. With the contact of sense doors and sense objects, mind-consciousness arises, etc. 2. Fetters can arise 3. Why does it happen? 4. How to remove it? 5. What has to be done for removing it?

And then the yogi contemplates the dhammas internally, externally and both; seeing the arising and passing away in dhammas, etc.

  1. The awakening factors—Bojjhaṅgas:

These are the mental qualities that provide the conditions conducive to awakening. Just as rivers incline and flow towards the ocean, they incline towards Nibbāna. There are seven bojjhaṅgas:

(1) mindfulness (sati),
(2) investigation of dhammas (dhamma-vicaya)
(3) energy (viriya),
(4) joy (pīti),
(5) tranquility (passaddhi),
(6) concentration (samādhi)
(7) equanimity (upekkhā).

Why the Buddha taught the bojjhaṅga dhammas? As a human being, it is very important to know about the unwholesome dhammas. So, that we cannot fall into it. Also, as a human being, it is very important to know about wholesome dhamma. So, that we can develop it. If we observe the world today and will know how important these points are (e.g., political conflicts, society problems, immorality, all sorts of pollution, etc. are happening more than before).

If we know our mind by checking and observing, it becomes clear that what should have to be done and what should not have to be done, what is proper and what is not proper, what is beneficial and what is not beneficial, etc.

The instruction for awakening factors is: “If mindfulness (sati) is present in the yogi, he knows that mindfulness awakening factor in him. If mindfulness not present in him and knows that also.

The yogi knows how the unarisen mindfulness factor can arise. And how the arisen mindfulness factor can be perfected by development. The above instruction can be mentioned in simple ways. Contemplate for;

(1) I have sati,
(2) I don’t have sati,
(3) How to make it arise?,
(4) How to develop it?

The other six awakening factors are also practiced in these ways after that contemplating dhammas internally, externally and both. With the development, the yogi discerns the nature of arising and passing away in dhammas, etc.

  1. The Four Noble Truths—The Four Ariyasaccas:

The final exercise among the satipaṭṭhāna contemplations is the Four Noble Truths. The instruction is: The yogi knows as it is; “This is dukkha, this is the arising of dukkha, this is the cessation of dukkha and this is the way leading to the cessation of dukkha.”

The Four Noble Truths have been explained quite in detail before. Therefore, give only a rough idea. In the Buddha’s first discourse, the penetration of the truths had three levels each; study, practice and realization.

Only we know the teaching that it can be practiced. With the practice, only one can have the realization. The Buddha was like a doctor. The Four Noble Truths were like; disease (dukkha), virus (craving—taṇhā), health (Nibbāna) and medicine (the path factors).

  1. The first truth of dukkha—Dukkha has to be understood.
  2. The second truth of the cause of dukkha—its origination has to be abandoned. Craving/taṇhā has to be abandoned.
  3. The third truth of the cessation of dukkha—Its cessation has to be realized. This is the realization of Nibbāna or the ending of dukkha.
  4. The fourth truth in the way to the cessation of dukkha—The practical path to this realization has to be developed.

This is the Noble Eightfold Path. Therefore, the Four Noble Truths are the outcome of the practice. For the penetration of dukkha thoroughly, one must do the vipassanā practice, which is sīla, samādhi and paññā. With the practice going on until to the ending of vipassanā process where dukkha (the five khandhas—mind and body) and the cause (craving/taṇhā) are ceased. This is Nibbāna.

The Prediction:

Near the end of the satipaṭṭhāna discourse, the Buddha gave the prediction or guarantee for the yogis who had practiced diligently without wavering would have the following results. For seven years could be expected final knowledge (arahant) or non-returning (anāgāmi).

Let alone seven years... six years... five years... four years... three years... two years... one year... seven months... six months... five months... four months... three months... two months... one month... half a month and seven days, one of two fruits could be expected for him.

These were not exaggerations. The Burmese monk, Soon Loong Sayadaw (1877 – 1952) had his final realization within four months (i.e., from the beginning of the practice to the final realization, four paths and fruits within four months. The year was 1920. For Sayadaw’s life and his practice see Jack Kornfield’s book—Living Buddhist Masters).

This section on the 32nd highest blessing of seeing the noble truths is the most important of all the blessings. It is connecting with the whole Buddhist practices to end dukkha. Therefore, I want to present more on this section. Actually; 30th blessing—austerity, 31st blessing—celibacy, 32nd blessing—seeing noble truths and the 33rd blessing—realizing Nibbāna are connecting with practices.

Satipaṭṭhāna Practice for Everyone:

The following Dhamma notes are from the Dhamma talk given by the Ven. Dr. Nandamālābhivamsa. Without practicing satipaṭṭhāna, no-one can realize paths and fruits (magga and phala). There were enough evidences about this in some suttas. This point was mentioned in the Nālanda Sutta (from Satipaṭṭhāna saṁyutta, SN.47.12 Nālandasuttaṃ) and Mahā-parinibbāna Sutta (DN.16 Mahāparinibbānasuttaṃ).

Ven. Sāriputta answered to the Buddha was: Every bodhisatta of the past had to abandon the hindrances with samādhi practice, had to concentrate on the satipaṭṭhāna practice, and had to develop the awakening factors (bojjhaṅgas) and became a Buddha.

The Buddha accepted his answer. Ven. Ānanda also mentioned the same thing; everyone by abandoning the hindrances, contemplations of the satipaṭṭhāna and developing the awakening factors became a noble being. Some writers wrote: “Did satipaṭṭhāna cut off the wrong view (diṭṭhi) or craving (taṇhā)?”

The Buddha Dhamma is cutting off all defilement (kilesas). The differences were only in the number of defilements which had been abandoned. For example, the stream-enterer (i.e., sotāpanna) has cut off all wrong views and some amount of greed, anger and delusion.

Some amount of greed, anger and delusion here means, these defilements which can send a being to the woeful planes of existence. Ven. Sāriputta asked Ven. Anuruddha as in what extent a yogi could be called a trainee (sekha) (someone realized anyone of the lower stages before the arahantship).

Ven. Anuruddha said that someone who had developed some parts of satipaṭṭhāna was called a trainee (still in training). And after fully developed, it called one beyond training (asekha—an arahant).

In the Sāla Sutta (from Satipaṭṭhāna-saṁyutta, SN.47.4 Sālasuttaṃ), the Buddha asked the novices and young monks to practice satipaṭṭhāna. What was the reason? For understanding the nature of the body, the feelings, the mind and the dhammas. It was practicing to know about them as it was (yathābhūtaṁ). For becoming someone beyond training (asekha) had to practise to the point of full understanding.

After becoming an arahant also had to practise satipaṭṭhāna. For what reason? For peaceful abiding in fruition state (phala samāpatti)

In the Aṅguttara Nikāya, there is a section called Satipaṭṭhāna Vagga (Navakanipātapāḷi). There are ten suttas in which the Buddha mentioned the reasons for practicing satipaṭṭhāna. (AN. 9.63 Sikkhādubbalyasuttaṃ ~ AN. 9.72 Cetasovinibandhasuttaṃ)

  1. For not breaking the five precepts (pañcasīla).
  2. To abandon the five hindrances (pañca-nīvaraṇa). Therefore, to remove all unwholesome dhammas is satipaṭṭhāna practice.
  3. Sensual objects are binding the mind. One has to practice satipaṭṭhāna to remove them or stay away from them.
  4. To cut off the lower five fetters (saṁyojanas); i.e., identity view, doubt, clinging to particular rules and observances, sensual desire and aversion. This refers to become an anāgāmi (non-returner). These three lower fetters send beings to take rebirth in sensual realms.
  5. To be free from the five destinations (gati); i.e., hells, animals, hungry ghosts (peta), humans and deities. Also called the 31 realms of existence. This refers to become an arahant.
  6. For abandoning of the five kinds of selfishness (macchariya) or avarice (These are: with dwelling place, connections with relatives and supporters, on fortune and wealth, on beauty and fame and with Dhamma).
  7. To cut off the five higher fetters (i.e., the desire for becoming material jhānic gods, and immaterial jhānic gods, conceit, restlessness and ignorance). This refers to become an arahant.
  8. To move away from the barriers of the mind (cetokhila); such as doubts in the Buddha, Dhamma and Saṅgha, and the practice, hate and aversion to one’s companions in practice, etc. With all these barriers in mind and the practice not going smoothly.
  9. There are shackles of the mind (cetasovinibandha); such as sensual objects, one’s body, physical forms, material jhānic existences, etc. People have sīla or practicing sīla for the desiring of them. So, it needs to be freed from it. For removing them have to practise satipaṭṭhāna.
  10. For extinguishing of bodily dukkha, mental dukkha, sorrow and lamentation.

Practicing satipaṭṭhāna for these 10 points are connecting with the seven results mentioned in the introductions and the end of the satipaṭṭhāna sutta; i.e., for the purification of beings, for the surmounting of sorrow and lamentation, for the disappearance of dukkha and discontent, for acquiring the true method and for the realization of Nibbāna.


revised on 2020-06-30; cited from https://oba.org.tw/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=4702&p=36989#p36989 (posted on 2019-11-22)


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