Establishing of Mindfulness: Satipatthāna (Maṅgala Sutta – Protection with Blessing)

By Venerable Uttamo Thera(尊者 鄔達摩 長老)

Satipatthāna Sutta is the direct path to the realization of the 4 Noble Truths. Therefore Buddhists should know this important sutta for the practice. Want to know more detailed on this sutta can read & study the book by Ven. Anālayo, Satipatthāna – The Direct Path to Realization, an excellent book on this sutta. Here I present a general outline from the Dhamma talks by Sayadaw Dr. Nandamalarbhivamsa.


What is satipatthāna? To know the exact meaning of this word is valuable. By separating it and becomes two words; sati + patthāna or sati + upatthāna. Satipatthāna was used by the commentary & satiupatthāna was in the suttas. Satiupatthāna is mindfulness staying with the object or presence of mindfulness. Satipatthāna is mindfulness has to stay with the four objects.

Sayadaw translated satipatthāna as establishing of mindfulness. Sati has the meaning of mindful of the object or remembering. So it has two meanings; sati stays with the object & memory. The first one concerns with the present. In the suttas, sati was defined as the wholesome quality, & not used in unwholesome matters.

Then, what about wrong mindfulness-miccha-sati? This is remembering of unwholesome matter. The Buddha emphasized strongly that sati was always needed. It did not like the other four faculties (indriya – spiritual faculty), i.e., conviction, persistence, concentration & discernment. These four need to be balanced.

In the beginning, the Buddha talked about the results of establishing of sati – satipatthāna. This point is very important. Only with results & benefits, people have the interest to do it. There are also dangers & disadvantages by doing things blindly before consideration. There are seven results;

  1. For the purification of beings:

The practice purifies the mental impurities, i.e., defilements. So it leads to happiness & peace. Different path knowledge purifies forever of different impurities accordingly, e.g. the first path knowledge (maggañāna) purifies the identity view of the five khandhas, non-returner for hatred, anger, ill-will, etc.

  1. For the surmounting of sorrow & lamentation – soka & parideva:

Soka means lost something & become sorrow & parideva means crying with sorrow. With the practice, surmount these negative mental states. (Here are two results)

  1. For the disappearance of dukkha & discontent (dukkha & domanassa).

Here dukkha means bodily dukkha & domanassa means mental dukkha, both mean bodily & mental sufferings. What are the differences between soka & domanassa? They are nearly the same meaning, but differences in aspects. Domanassa is something happening in mind & become discontent. Both of them are feelings of dosa nature. If dukkha arises & follows with domanassa. (Here are two results)

  1. For acquiring the true method:

With the practice arrives on the main road to Nibbāna. It is not easy to arrive on the main road for realization. There are many reasons for it & only the Buddhists know why?

  1. For the realization of Nibbāna:

These results were the guarantee gave by the Buddha.

And then the Buddha continued the four satipatthāna in general.

Contemplate the body as the body & not other ways. This is differentiating the object. Sati needs to see a thing as it is. If it is the body, then it is the body. The meaning of pass is contemplating. Samādhi and paññā are including in the contemplating. The factors include are; ātāpī – practicing very hard or perseverance or diligent; sampajãna –knowing, knows knowing the situation of the mind & satima – must have sati.

Natural phenomena are working together. In the contemplation must has these three factors. There are five functional factors – karaka maggaṅga; right view, right thought, right effort, right mindfulness & right concentration. They are working together. What are they pushing away? Or are they overcoming? The hindrances – nivaranas are overcome. They defiled the mind & blockage the knowledge to arise.

Therefore wholesome mental states cannot arise. Here the Buddha was only sorting out two hindrances; desires (abhijjhā) & discontent (domanassa). Abhijjhā here is thinking on objects with greed (lobha). This is not the mental action of covetousness (abhijjhā) which mentioned in the ten unwholesome kammas. The same word but have different meanings. Here is thinking about desirable & pleasant objects.

With the undesirable & unpleasant objects discontent arises. Contemplating with ātāpī, sampajãna & sati, and these hindrances cannot arise, or like or dislike cannot arise. Contemplating feelings, minds & dhammas are also in the same way. In the introduction of the satipatthāna sutta, the Buddha gave the general outline.

The reason behind the four objects of satipatthāna is relating to the abandoning of 12 inversions or distortions (vipallāsa) with the body contemplation to see the body nature of without beauty or unattractiveness (asubha). To see the feelings as dukkha. To see the mind as inconstant (anicca). And to see the dhammas as not-self (anatta).

And then, distorted knowledge will not arise. In Buddhist meditation, there are two ways to Nibbāna; start from samatha practice to insight & start with insight (samatha yanika & vispassanā yanika). Among yogis, there are three characters; wisdom, craving & view. These can be divided into weak & strong characters.

For samatha yanika:
Weak in wisdom – contemplation on the body.
Strong in wisdom – contemplation on the feeling.

For vipassanā yanika:
Weak in wisdom – contemplation on the mind.
Strong in wisdom – contemplation on the dhammas.

Yogis with weak craving (tanhā) contemplate the body. Yogis with strong craving (tanhā) contemplate the feelings. Yogis with a weak view (ditthi) contemplate the mind. Yogis with a strong view (ditthi) contemplate the dhammas. In one of the suttas in Aṅguttara Nikāya, mentioned the important points in the practice.

First abandoning the hindrances, with one of the satipatthāna practice & develop the enlightenment factors, will realize Nibbāna. There are two ways of abandoning the hindrances; with samatha practice & direct satipatthāna practice. The realizations of the yogis are only slow & quick results. Here Sayadaw remarked the commentaries. He said that the commentarial expositions were the works of teachers who had experienced. And not just only purely scholarly works.

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