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

revised on 2020-07-22

By Venerable Uttamo Thera(尊者 鄔達摩 長老)

Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta is the direct path to the realization of The Four Noble Truths. Therefore, Buddhists should know this important sutta for the practice. If you want to know more detailed on this sutta, you can read and study the book by Ven. Anālayo, Satipaṭṭhāna—The Direct Path to Realization, an excellent book on this sutta. Here I present a general outline from the Dhamma talks by Sayadaw Dr. Nandamālābhivamsa.


What is satipaṭṭhāna? To know the exact meaning of this word is valuable. By separating it and becomes two words; sati + paṭṭhāna or sati + upaṭṭhāna. Sati-paṭṭhāna was used by the commentary and sati-upatthāna was in the suttas. Sati-upatthāna is mindfulness staying with the object or presence of mindfulness. Satipaṭṭhāna is mindfulness which has to stay with the four objects.

Sayadaw translated satipaṭṭhāna 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 and memory. The first one concerns with the present. In the suttas, sati was defined as the wholesome quality, and not used in unwholesome matters.

Then, what about wrong mindfulness—micchā-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 and discernment. These four need to be balanced.

In the beginning, the Buddha talked about the results of establishing of sati—satipaṭṭhāna. This point is very important. Only with results and benefits, people have the interest to do it. There are also dangers and 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., defilement. So, it leads to happiness and peace. Different path knowledge purifies forever of different impurities accordingly; e.g., the first path knowledge (magga‐ñāṇa) purifies the identity view of the five khandhas, non-returner for hatred, anger, ill-will, etc.
  2. For the surmounting of sorrow and lamentation—soka and parideva:

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

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

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

(4) 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, and only the Buddhists know the reason why.

(5) For the realization of Nibbāna: These results were the guarantee gave by the Buddha.

And then the Buddha continued the four satipaṭṭhāna 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 anupassati is contemplating. Samādhi and paññā are included in the contemplating. The factors include are; ātāpī—practicing very hard or perseverance or diligent; sampajāna—is clearly knowing, knowing the situation of the mind and satimā—must have sati.

Natural phenomena are working together. It must have these three factors in the contemplation. There are five functional factors—kāraka maggaṅga; right view, right thought, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration. They are working together. What are they pushing away? Or are they overcoming? The hindrances—nīvaraṇas are overcome. They defiled the mind and blockage the knowledge to arise.

Therefore, wholesome mental states cannot arise. Here the Buddha was only sorting out two hindrances; desires (abhijjhā) and 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 and pleasant objects.

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

The reason behind the four objects of satipaṭṭhāna is relating to the abandoning of 12 inversions or distortions (vipallāsa), with the body contemplation to see the body nature of no beauty, unattractive or repulsive (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 and start with insight (samatha yānika and vipassanā yānika). Among yogis, there are three characters; wisdom, craving and view. These can be divided into weak and strong characters.

For samatha yānika:
Weak in wisdom—contemplation on the body.
Strong in wisdom—contemplation on the feeling.

For vipassanā yānika:
Weak in wisdom—contemplation on the mind.
Strong in wisdom—contemplation on the dhammas.

Yogis with the weak craving (taṇhā) contemplate the body. Yogis with strong craving (taṇhā) contemplate the feelings. Yogis with a weak view (diṭṭhi) contemplate the mind. Yogis with a strong view (diṭṭhi) 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 satipaṭṭhāna practice and develop the enlightenment factors, will realize Nibbāna. There are two ways of abandoning the hindrances; with samatha practice and direct satipaṭṭhāna practice. The realizations of the yogis are only slow and quick results. Here Sayadaw remarked the commentaries. He said that the commentatorial expositions were the works of teachers who had experienced. And not just only purely scholarly works.

revised on 2020-07-22; cited from (posted on 2019-11-22)

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