Is the Satipatthana Sutta the direct path or the only path?

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Is the Satipatthana Sutta the direct path or the only path?

Postby DorjePhurba » Sat Feb 06, 2010 10:35 pm

I've been listening recently to Joseph Goldstein's talks on the Satipatthana Sutta and I decided to read it. Now, it starts off:

Thus have I heard.

At one time the Blessed One was living in the Kurus, at Kammasadamma, a market-town of the Kuru people.

Then the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus as follows: "This is the only (bold comes from me not the text) way, O bhikkhus, for the purification of beings, for the overcoming of sorrow and lamentation, for the destruction of suffering and grief, for reaching the right path, for the attainment of Nibbana, namely, the Four Arousings of Mindfulness."

Now, there are three translations on accesstoinsight.com. Two have this translation and the other says the direct way. Which one is more accurate? Perhaps one of our helpful bhante's could help?

With metta,
Chris
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Re: Is the Satipatthana Sutta the direct path or the only path?

Postby appicchato » Sat Feb 06, 2010 11:00 pm

Not as a monk, but just as one who reads (suttas), my interpretation, to answer the topic question is: both...
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Re: Is the Satipatthana Sutta the direct path or the only path?

Postby Kenshou » Sat Feb 06, 2010 11:07 pm

I always figured that referred more to the necessity of the development of mindfulness in general, and it is a vital component of course, but not that this sutta itself is the only way.
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Re: Is the Satipatthana Sutta the direct path or the only path?

Postby Modus.Ponens » Sat Feb 06, 2010 11:29 pm

Hi

Bhikkhu Bodhi, in his "In the Buddha's words", translates this passage as "a one way road" and not as "the only way". He says that in the Vinaya there is the exact same pali words, clearly meaning "a one way road". I would nevertheless like that someone with the refered book to confirm this, please, because I don't have it with me.

This means that someone practicing satipatthana has a fixed destiny: to achieve Nibbana. But it also means that it is possible that satipatthana is not the only way.

Metta
Last edited by Modus.Ponens on Sun Feb 07, 2010 12:04 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Is the Satipatthana Sutta the direct path or the only path?

Postby Cittasanto » Sat Feb 06, 2010 11:54 pm

It is referring to the eightfold path, so both are correct.
but it does depend on the dictionary/understanding of the meaning the translator uses/has.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
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Re: Is the Satipatthana Sutta the direct path or the only path?

Postby Cittasanto » Sun Feb 07, 2010 12:04 am

Modus.Ponens wrote:Hi

Bhikkhu Bodhi, in his "In the Buddha's words", translates this passage as "a one way road" and not as "the only way". He says that in the Vinaya there is the exact same pali words, clearly meaning "a one way road". I would nevertheless like that someone with the refered book to confirm this, please.

This means that someone practicing satipatthana has a fixed destiny: to achieve Nibbana. But it also means that it is possible that satipatthana is not the only way.

Metta

Do you have a page reference for this!
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
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Re: Is the Satipatthana Sutta the direct path or the only path?

Postby Modus.Ponens » Sun Feb 07, 2010 12:13 am

Manapa wrote:Do you have a page reference for this!


Hi Manapa

I edited my previous message to say that I don't have the book with me. But It shouldn't be to hard to find: I believe it's a note on the translation of the Satipatthana sutta. I know it's not in the introductions to the chapters. I'm sorry if I'm not more specific.

Metta
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Re: Is the Satipatthana Sutta the direct path or the only path?

Postby baratgab » Sun Feb 07, 2010 12:19 am

One has to be careful about the interpretation of the sutta. In one hand it is used to confirm vipassana meditation, and on the other hand it is said that its main function is to support samadhi. As Bhikkhu Bodhi writes:

Most contemporary meditation teachers explain Satipatthana meditation as a means for generating insight (vipassana). While this is certainly a valid claim, we should also recognize that satipatthana meditation also generates concentration (samadhi). Unlike the forms of meditation which cultivate concentration and insight sequentially, Satipatthana brings both these faculties into being together, though naturally, in the actual process of development, concentration will have to gain a certain degree of stability before insight can exercise its penetrating function.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... wayof.html


Bhikkhu Sujato gives the subject a thorough investigation in his book "A History of Mindfulness". The book's subtitle gives a clear indication about his conclusions: "How Insight Worsted Tranquility in the Satipatthana Sutta". Some quotes, but probably not the best ones; I think its worth to read if you are interested (apologies for the possible typing mistakes; the copying function did not work):

The very first discourse of the Magga-samyutta stresses the causal relationship between the factors of the path including mindfulness and samadhi: "For one of right mindfulness, right samadhi comes to be." An important definition of "noble right samadhi", found in all four Nikayas, also emphasizes that the path factors, culminating in right mindfulness, function to support samadhi:

"What, monks, is noble right samadhi with its vital conditions, and with its prerequisites? These are: right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness. One-pointedness of mind equipped with these seven factors is called noble right samadhi "with its vital conditions" and also "with its prerequisites".

The principle is spelled out in Bhikkhuni Dhammadinna's analysis of samadhi:

"One-pointedness of mind, friend Visakha, is samadhi. The four satipatthanas are the basis for samadhi. The four strivings are the prerequisites of samadhi. The cultivation, development, and making much of these same principles is the development of samadhi therein."

...

Elsewhere the path is analysed into three – ethics, samadhi and understanding. If satipatthana was primarily a vipassana practice, it would of course be included in the understanding section. But both the Theravada and the Sarvastivada include satipatthana in the section on samadhi, never the section on understanding. All of the basic statements on the function of satipatthana in the path confirm that its prime role is to support samadhi, that is, jhana.

http://www.bswa.org/PDF/A_History_of_Mindfulness.pdf
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Re: Is the Satipatthana Sutta the direct path or the only path?

Postby Cittasanto » Sun Feb 07, 2010 12:39 am

its page 441, note 25

the pali reads “Ekāyano ayaṃ, bhikkhave, maggo." Almost all translators have understood this statement to ba a declaration that satipatthana is an exclusive path. Thus soma thera renders it: "This is the only way, O Bhikkhus," and Nyanaponika Thera: "This is the only way, monks." However, at MN 12.37-42 “Ekāyana magga has the unambiguous meaning of "a path that goes in one way only," and that seems to be the best here as well. The point seems to be simply that satipatthana goes in one direction, toward "the purification of beings... the realisation of nibanna."


Modus.Ponens wrote:
Manapa wrote:Do you have a page reference for this!


Hi Manapa

I edited my previous message to say that I don't have the book with me. But It shouldn't be to hard to find: I believe it's a note on the translation of the Satipatthana sutta. I know it's not in the introductions to the chapters. I'm sorry if I'm not more specific.

Metta
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Re: Is the Satipatthana Sutta the direct path or the only path?

Postby Ben » Sun Feb 07, 2010 12:42 am

Hi baratgab

How is your post relevant to the question posed by the original poster in this thread?
Thanks

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Re: Is the Satipatthana Sutta the direct path or the only path?

Postby Paññāsikhara » Sun Feb 07, 2010 12:48 am

And see also Bhante Analayo's book Satipatthana for the meaning of "one way" / "direct path", over an over-zealous "only way". Bhantes Bodhi and Analayo agree, and from the uses of the term elsewhere in the canon, it is obvious that it really can't mean "only way".
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Re: Is the Satipatthana Sutta the direct path or the only path?

Postby appicchato » Sun Feb 07, 2010 12:56 am

Modus.Ponens wrote:..."a one way road" and not as "the only way"


I refer to the Buddha's words in the Majjhima Nikaya (MN 10) where he says '...this is the direct path'...and also to the Digha Nikaya (DN 22) where he says '...this one way'...and also to Nyanaponika Thera in his 'The Heart of Buddhist Meditation' where he quotes the Buddha as saying 'the only way'...(or sole way; ekayano maggo)...to me there is not too much ambiguity...
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Re: Is the Satipatthana Sutta the direct path or the only path?

Postby appicchato » Sun Feb 07, 2010 12:59 am

Paññāsikhara wrote:...it is obvious that it really can't mean "only way".


See above...
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Re: Is the Satipatthana Sutta the direct path or the only path?

Postby Cittasanto » Sun Feb 07, 2010 1:17 am

Hi Ven,
I prefer "only means" personally.
It seams to me, like I said above, the phrase does refer to the Eightfold path, but looking through the suttas there are references to gaining enlightenment by other means such as via the Brahma-viharas, which aren't necessarily outside the scope of the eightfold path.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
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Re: Is the Satipatthana Sutta the direct path or the only path?

Postby Ben » Sun Feb 07, 2010 1:47 am

Dear Venerables and all

for the benefit of this discussion, I have transcribed below a section from Venerable Analayo's work: Satipatthana: the direct path to realization.

1.5 THE EXPRESSION “DIRECT PATH”

The first section of the Satipatthana Sutta proper introduces the four satipatthanas as the “direct path” to realization. The passage reads:
Monks, this is the direct path for the purification of beings, for the surmounting of sorrow and lamentation, for the disappearance of dukkha and discontent, for acquiring the true method, for the realization of Nibbana, namely, the four satipatthanas.[31]
 Ven Analayo translation

The qualification of being a “direct path” occurs in the discourses almost exclusively as an attribute of satipatthana, thus it conveys a considerable degree of emphasis.[32] Such emphasis is indeed warranted, since practice of the “direct path” of satipatthana is an indispensible requirement for liberation.[33] As a set of verses in the Satipatthana Samyutta point out, satipatthana is the “direct path” for crossing the flood in past, present and future times.[34]
“Direct path” is a translation of the Pali expression ekayano maggo, made up of the parts eka, “one”, ayana, “going”, and magga “path”. The commentarial tradition has preserved five alternate explanations for understanding this particular expression. According to them, a path qualified as ekayano could be understood as “direct” path in the sense of leading straight to the goal; as a path to be travelled by oneself “alone”; as a path taught by the “One” (the Buddha); as a path that is found “only” in Buddhism; or as a path which leads “one” to the goal, namely Nibbana[35]. My rendering of ekayano as “direct path” follows the first of these explanations [36]. A more commonly used translation of ekayano is “the only path”, corresponding to the fourth of the five explanations found in the commentaries.
In order to assess the meaning of a particular Pali term, its different occurrences in the discourses need to be taken into account. In the present case, in addition to occurring in several discourses in relation to satipatthana, ekayano also comes up once in a different context. This is in a simile in the Mahasihanada Sutta, which describes a man walking along a path leading to a pit, such that one can anticipate him falling into the pit[37]. This path is qualified as ekayano. In this context ekayano seems to express straightness of direction rather than exclusion. To say that this path leads “directly” to the pit would be more fitting than saying that it is “the only” path leading to the pit.
Of related interest is also the Tevijja Sutta, which reports that two Brahmin students arguing about whose teacher taught the only correct path to union with Brahma. Although in this context an exclusive expression like “the only path” might be expected, the qualification ekayano is conspicuously absent[38]. The same absence recurs in a verse from the Dhammapada, which presents the noble eightfold path as “the only path”[39]. These two instances suggest that the discourses did not avail themselves of the qualification ekayano in order to convey exclusiveness.
Thus ekayano, conveying a sense of directness rather than exclusiveness, draws attention to satipatthana as the aspect of the noble eightfold path most “directly” responsible for uncovering the vision of things as they truely are. That is, satipatthana is the “direct path”, because it leads “directly” to the realization of Nibbana[40].
This way of understanding also fits well with the final passage of the Satipatthana Sutta. Having stated that satipatthana practice can lead to the two higher stages of realization within a maximum of seven years, the discourse closes with the declaration: “because of this , it has been said – this is the direct path”. This passage highlights the directness of satipatthana, in the sens of its potential to lead to the highest stages of realization within a limited period of time.

Notes
[31] M I 55, On this passage cf also Janakkabhivamsa 1985: pp.37-44.
[32] Ekayano occurs in relation to satipatthana at D II 290; M I 55, S V 167; and S V 185. In contrast at A III 314, a passage otherwise resembling the “direct path” statement does not have the ekayano specification. The same absence of ekayano can be seen at A III 329 in relation to the practice of recollecting the Buddha. Khantipalo 1981:p29 and Nanaponika 1973:p12; draw attention to the emphatic implications of the term ekayano in ancient India (various examples of which are discussed in Gethin 1992:p61).
[33] According to A V 195, whosoever have escaped, are escaping, or will escape from this world, all of them do so by well of well developing the four satipatthanas.
[34]S V 167 and S V 186.
[35] Ps I 229: ekamaggo na dvedhapathabhuto...ekena ayitabbo...ekassa ayano...ekasmim ayano...ekam ayati. These alternatives are discussed by Gethin 1992: pp60-3.
[36]”Direct Path” as a way of translating ekayano is also used by Nanatiloka 1910: p91 n7 (“der direkte Weg”); and Nanamoli 1995: p145. Translating ekayano as “direct path” has the advantage of avoiding a slightly dogmatic nuance conveyed by the translation of “the only path”, noted eg. By Conze 1962: p51 n++
[37]M I 75, the same is then repeated for a path leading in the direction of a tree, a mansion, and a pond. Cf also Nanamoli 1995: p1188 n135.
[38] D I 235.
[39]Dhp 274. Nanavira 1987:p 371, points out that to speak of the “only path” would be applicable only to the entire noble eightfold path, not to satipatthana alone, which after all is just one of its factors.
[40] Gethin 1992: p 64, commenting on ekayano explains: “what is basically being said is that the four satipatthanas represent a path that leads straight and directly all the way to the final goal.”

 Ven Analayo: Satipatthana: the direct path to realization, p27-29


Metta

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Re: Is the Satipatthana Sutta the direct path or the only path?

Postby Modus.Ponens » Sun Feb 07, 2010 2:02 am

Thank you Ben :smile:
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Re: Is the Satipatthana Sutta the direct path or the only path?

Postby appicchato » Sun Feb 07, 2010 2:49 am

The closest thing we have to the Buddha's actual words are the suttas, period...all these translations (if you're not happy with a translation, pick one you are, and if you can't decide, learn the language), interpretations, commentaries, and whatever else, are just those...(some) people tend to trump one contemporary (or otherwise) person's version (and the suttas as well) over another, sometimes with a completely different take on what is said in those suttas...if I were asked, I would say read, and reflect, on those suttas, then assemble your own evaluation, interpretation, understanding...you decide...not another...

Okay, end of... :soap:
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Re: Is the Satipatthana Sutta the direct path or the only path?

Postby zavk » Sun Feb 07, 2010 3:23 am

Ben wrote:Dear Venerables and all

for the benefit of this discussion, I have transcribed below a section from Venerable Analayo's work: Satipatthana: the direct path to realization.

1.5 THE EXPRESSION “DIRECT PATH”

The first section of the Satipatthana Sutta proper introduces the four satipatthanas as the “direct path” to realization. The passage reads:
Monks, this is the direct path for the purification of beings, for the surmounting of sorrow and lamentation, for the disappearance of dukkha and discontent, for acquiring the true method, for the realization of Nibbana, namely, the four satipatthanas.[31]
 Ven Analayo translation

The qualification of being a “direct path” occurs in the discourses almost exclusively as an attribute of satipatthana, thus it conveys a considerable degree of emphasis.[32] Such emphasis is indeed warranted, since practice of the “direct path” of satipatthana is an indispensible requirement for liberation.[33] As a set of verses in the Satipatthana Samyutta point out, satipatthana is the “direct path” for crossing the flood in past, present and future times.[34]
“Direct path” is a translation of the Pali expression ekayano maggo, made up of the parts eka, “one”, ayana, “going”, and magga “path”. The commentarial tradition has preserved five alternate explanations for understanding this particular expression. According to them, a path qualified as ekayano could be understood as “direct” path in the sense of leading straight to the goal; as a path to be travelled by oneself “alone”; as a path taught by the “One” (the Buddha); as a path that is found “only” in Buddhism; or as a path which leads “one” to the goal, namely Nibbana[35]. My rendering of ekayano as “direct path” follows the first of these explanations [36]. A more commonly used translation of ekayano is “the only path”, corresponding to the fourth of the five explanations found in the commentaries.
In order to assess the meaning of a particular Pali term, its different occurrences in the discourses need to be taken into account. In the present case, in addition to occurring in several discourses in relation to satipatthana, ekayano also comes up once in a different context. This is in a simile in the Mahasihanada Sutta, which describes a man walking along a path leading to a pit, such that one can anticipate him falling into the pit[37]. This path is qualified as ekayano. In this context ekayano seems to express straightness of direction rather than exclusion. To say that this path leads “directly” to the pit would be more fitting than saying that it is “the only” path leading to the pit.
Of related interest is also the Tevijja Sutta, which reports that two Brahmin students arguing about whose teacher taught the only correct path to union with Brahma. Although in this context an exclusive expression like “the only path” might be expected, the qualification ekayano is conspicuously absent[38]. The same absence recurs in a verse from the Dhammapada, which presents the noble eightfold path as “the only path”[39]. These two instances suggest that the discourses did not avail themselves of the qualification ekayano in order to convey exclusiveness.
Thus ekayano, conveying a sense of directness rather than exclusiveness, draws attention to satipatthana as the aspect of the noble eightfold path most “directly” responsible for uncovering the vision of things as they truely are. That is, satipatthana is the “direct path”, because it leads “directly” to the realization of Nibbana[40].
This way of understanding also fits well with the final passage of the Satipatthana Sutta. Having stated that satipatthana practice can lead to the two higher stages of realization within a maximum of seven years, the discourse closes with the declaration: “because of this , it has been said – this is the direct path”. This passage highlights the directness of satipatthana, in the sens of its potential to lead to the highest stages of realization within a limited period of time.

Notes
[31] M I 55, On this passage cf also Janakkabhivamsa 1985: pp.37-44.
[32] Ekayano occurs in relation to satipatthana at D II 290; M I 55, S V 167; and S V 185. In contrast at A III 314, a passage otherwise resembling the “direct path” statement does not have the ekayano specification. The same absence of ekayano can be seen at A III 329 in relation to the practice of recollecting the Buddha. Khantipalo 1981:p29 and Nanaponika 1973:p12; draw attention to the emphatic implications of the term ekayano in ancient India (various examples of which are discussed in Gethin 1992:p61).
[33] According to A V 195, whosoever have escaped, are escaping, or will escape from this world, all of them do so by well of well developing the four satipatthanas.
[34]S V 167 and S V 186.
[35] Ps I 229: ekamaggo na dvedhapathabhuto...ekena ayitabbo...ekassa ayano...ekasmim ayano...ekam ayati. These alternatives are discussed by Gethin 1992: pp60-3.
[36]”Direct Path” as a way of translating ekayano is also used by Nanatiloka 1910: p91 n7 (“der direkte Weg”); and Nanamoli 1995: p145. Translating ekayano as “direct path” has the advantage of avoiding a slightly dogmatic nuance conveyed by the translation of “the only path”, noted eg. By Conze 1962: p51 n++
[37]M I 75, the same is then repeated for a path leading in the direction of a tree, a mansion, and a pond. Cf also Nanamoli 1995: p1188 n135.
[38] D I 235.
[39]Dhp 274. Nanavira 1987:p 371, points out that to speak of the “only path” would be applicable only to the entire noble eightfold path, not to satipatthana alone, which after all is just one of its factors.
[40] Gethin 1992: p 64, commenting on ekayano explains: “what is basically being said is that the four satipatthanas represent a path that leads straight and directly all the way to the final goal.”

 Ven Analayo: Satipatthana: the direct path to realization, p27-29


Metta

Ben


:twothumbsup:

I find Ven. Analayo's arguments extremely cogent, fair, and balanced. Definitely my preferred interpretation of ekayano maggo
With metta,
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Re: Is the Satipatthana Sutta the direct path or the only path?

Postby Paññāsikhara » Sun Feb 07, 2010 4:19 am

Thanks Ben.

I would have cited it myself, but I'm at home today, and yesterday I gave my copy of Analayo's book to a colleague.
Bodhi, in In the Buddha's Words, also gives reference to Analayo's statement there, if I recall.
He shows clearly that not only could it be "direct" or "one way", but also why it is not "only way".
And in that passage, it clearly and explicitly refers to Satipatthana and not the 8FP.
Elsewhere there are similar but different terms wrt to the 8FP, but that is not the topic of this thread, according to the OP.
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Re: Is the Satipatthana Sutta the direct path or the only path?

Postby bodom » Sun Feb 07, 2010 4:49 am

Analayo is the man. :thumbsup:

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The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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