Satipatthana Sutta clarification

Discussion of Satipatthana bhavanā and Vipassana bhavana.

Satipatthana Sutta clarification

Postby Dhammanucara » Sat Jul 16, 2011 1:09 am

There is one part in this particular sutta that says:
"In this way he remains focused internally on the body in & of itself, or externally on the body in & of itself, or both internally & externally on the body in & of itself." (Quoted from Ajahn Thanissaro's translation: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.010.than.html)

I notice that this is repeated throughout the entire sutta. What strikes my mind is the part on "internal or external or both internal and external." From what I have understood through listening teachings from many teachers, they tend to emphasize that the practice of meditation is an internal one, while some openly reject the notion of external things. But here in this sutta, it says one should focus internally, externally or both internal and external. Do you know or how would you understand this phrase?

I try to reconcile this seeming conflict in the following way: the internal part refers to one's own mind - watching how one mind easily gets distracted or jumps from one thought to another - and why it is so restless and agitated - because of one's defilements such as greed, hatred, envy, selfishness, ignorance, etc. Hence, it is important to look internally to identify these roots of suffering and guard the mind from the attack of these defilement to prevent or overcome suffering.

However, one needs to also pay attention to the external part as well, because by just merely focusing on the internal part, one could easily get so absorbed in the internal processes that he loses awareness of his body movement/posture or even his external surrounding which may pose a danger to himself. To account for this, I take as example public speaking or communication. When speaking, the speaker first needs to look internally into himself: he needs to make sure he focuses on what he wishes to address or speak and not get off-track, he needs to make sure he is reasonably calm or otherwise he would stutter or stammer throughout the communication process. However, he needs to look at his audience and environment for non-verbal feedback or cues and cater his speech accordingly to those feedback so that he could successfully convey what he wishes his audience to receive. In this manner, by accounting or being mindful of both internal and external things, it also seems to prove the practicality of mindfulness, or how mindfulness yields not only insight but also wisdom in dealing with everyday issues. That's why, in my opinion, the practice of mindfulness meditation includes kayanupassana: contemplating on bodily activities such as seeing, listening, walking, etc, as these are the channels of activities that could connect both the internal and external world through mindfulness.

This phrase from the sutta became a point for contemplation to me after I heard some of my friends who have been regular meditators and have been attending talks on meditation keep on emphasizing that one should always focus internally and disregard the external aspects. For me, I thought the external aspects could serve to facilitate meditation practice and should not be denied altogether, although they could be dangerous if one is not mindful about them.

This is just my own point of view and I'm very happy to be corrected if I'm wrong. What do you think about that phrase from the sutta?

With metta,
Dhammanucara :namaste:
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Re: Satipatthana Sutta clarification

Postby Modus.Ponens » Sat Jul 16, 2011 1:51 am

There is a sutta somewhere (I'm sorry for not knowing where can you find it) that clarifies this saying that externaly means focusing on others' bodies, feelings, etc. This contemplation can only be done through psychic powers (except maybe the body part).

EDIT: Do a search on satipatthana and externaly and you'll probably find that sutta mentioned.
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Re: Satipatthana Sutta clarification

Postby bodom » Sat Jul 16, 2011 2:01 am

I highly recommend checking out Analayos' Satipatthana commentary where he presents a number of different interpretations on this matter from the suttas, commentaries and modern day meditation masters:

Satipatthana: The Direct Path to Realization
http://www.amazon.com/Satipatthana-Dire ... 1899579540

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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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Re: Satipatthana Sutta clarification

Postby cooran » Sat Jul 16, 2011 2:37 am

Hello Dhammanucara, all,

Bhikkhu Bodhi’s translation reads: ‘’In this way he abides contemplating thebody as a body internally, oor he abides contemplating the body as a body externally, or he abides contemplating the body as a body both internally and externally.’’
Note: MA: ‘’Internally’’: contemplating the breathing in his own body. ‘’externally’’: contemplating the breathing occurring in the body of another. ‘’Internally and externally’’: contemplating the breathing in his own body and in the body of another alternately, with uninterrupted attention. A similar explanation applies to the refrain that follows each of the other sections, except that under the contemplation of feeling, mind, and mind-objects, the contemplation externally, apart from those possessing telepathic powers, must be inferential.’’


with metta
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Re: Satipatthana Sutta clarification

Postby octathlon » Sat Jul 16, 2011 3:38 am

I've heard it before, but that interpretation makes no sense to me. Many examples of what to focus on are given throughout the sutta but focusing on other people's breathing, feelings, etc. or telepathically observing someone else's mind objects (!?) ... none of these are given as examples.
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Re: Satipatthana Sutta clarification

Postby bodom » Sat Jul 16, 2011 3:47 am

octathlon wrote:I've heard it before, but that interpretation makes no sense to me. Many examples of what to focus on are given throughout the sutta but focusing on other people's breathing, feelings, etc. or telepathically observing someone else's mind objects (!?) ... none of these are given as examples.


Please see Analayo's Satipatthana commentary. I implore anyone who has any questions regarding any aspect of the Satipatthana Sutta to see this book.

:anjali:
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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Re: Satipatthana Sutta clarification

Postby rowyourboat » Sat Jul 16, 2011 3:58 am

I take my interanl/external definition from this:

§ 32. Internal & External. There is the case where a monk remains
focused internally on the body in & of itself — ardent, alert, &
mindful — putting aside greed & distress with reference to the world.
As he remains focused internally on the body in & of itself, he
becomes rightly concentrated there, and rightly clear. Rightly
concentrated there and rightly clear, he gives rise to knowledge &
vision externally of the bodies of others.
He remains focused internally on feelings in & of themselves —
ardent, alert, & mindful — putting aside greed & distress with
reference to the world. As he remains focused internally on feelings
in & of themselves, he becomes rightly concentrated there, and
rightly clear. Rightly concentrated there and rightly clear, he gives
rise to knowledge & vision externally of the feelings of others.
He remains focused internally on the mind in & of itself — ardent,
alert, & mindful — putting aside greed & distress with reference to
the world. As he remains focused internally on the mind in & of
itself, he becomes rightly concentrated there, and rightly clear.
Rightly concentrated there and rightly clear, he gives rise to
knowledge & vision externally of the minds of others.
He remains focused internally on mental qualities in & of themselves —
ardent, alert, & mindful — putting aside greed & distress with
reference to the world. As he remains focused internally on mental
qualities in & of themselves, he becomes rightly concentrated there,
and rightly clear. Rightly concentrated there and rightly clear, he
gives rise to knowledge & vision externally of the mental qualities
of others.
— DN 18


..it seems to be a process of inference to me. Otherwise it wouldnt make sense (the noble eightfold path and the four foundations being accessible to anyone).

with metta

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Re: Satipatthana Sutta clarification

Postby Ben » Sat Jul 16, 2011 4:24 am

bodom wrote:
octathlon wrote:I've heard it before, but that interpretation makes no sense to me. Many examples of what to focus on are given throughout the sutta but focusing on other people's breathing, feelings, etc. or telepathically observing someone else's mind objects (!?) ... none of these are given as examples.


Please see Analayo's Satipatthana commentary. I implore anyone who has any questions regarding any aspect of the Satipatthana Sutta to see this book.

:anjali:


Bodom you took the words out my mouth!
Ven Analayo's work is a modern masterpiece. And according to Christopher Titmus, the most important commentary on the Satipatthana written in the last 2,000 years. Titmus may be gilding the lilly a little. However, it remains an extremely important and relevant work. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
kind regards

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Re: Satipatthana Sutta clarification

Postby octathlon » Sat Jul 16, 2011 4:27 am

bodom wrote:
octathlon wrote:I've heard it before, but that interpretation makes no sense to me. Many examples of what to focus on are given throughout the sutta but focusing on other people's breathing, feelings, etc. or telepathically observing someone else's mind objects (!?) ... none of these are given as examples.


Please see Analayo's Satipatthana commentary. I implore anyone who has any questions regarding any aspect of the Satipatthana Sutta to see this book.

:anjali:

I will take your advice. :anjali:
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Re: Satipatthana Sutta clarification

Postby cooran » Sat Jul 16, 2011 6:08 am

Ben wrote:
bodom wrote:
octathlon wrote:I've heard it before, but that interpretation makes no sense to me. Many examples of what to focus on are given throughout the sutta but focusing on other people's breathing, feelings, etc. or telepathically observing someone else's mind objects (!?) ... none of these are given as examples.


Please see Analayo's Satipatthana commentary. I implore anyone who has any questions regarding any aspect of the Satipatthana Sutta to see this book.

:anjali:


Bodom you took the words out my mouth!
Ven Analayo's work is a modern masterpiece.
Ben



Hello Bodom and Ben,

Could those of you who have Analayo's commentary please quote what he says about that particular line?

with metta
Chris
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Re: Satipatthana Sutta clarification

Postby Ben » Sat Jul 16, 2011 6:47 am

Greetings Chris,
I could, but you might have to wait until Monday night for it as it is 100km away.
kind regards

Ben
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Re: Satipatthana Sutta clarification

Postby Spiny O'Norman » Sat Jul 16, 2011 8:49 am

Dhammanucara wrote: That's why, in my opinion, the practice of mindfulness meditation includes kayanupassana: contemplating on bodily activities such as seeing, listening, walking, etc, as these are the channels of activities that could connect both the internal and external world through mindfulness.



I agree. The way I read the Satipatthana Sutta is that mindfulness needs to be directed externally as well as internally. So we need to be aware of other people, not just ourselves.

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Re: Satipatthana Sutta clarification

Postby manas » Mon Jul 18, 2011 4:21 am

Spiny O'Norman wrote:
Dhammanucara wrote: That's why, in my opinion, the practice of mindfulness meditation includes kayanupassana: contemplating on bodily activities such as seeing, listening, walking, etc, as these are the channels of activities that could connect both the internal and external world through mindfulness.



I agree. The way I read the Satipatthana Sutta is that mindfulness needs to be directed externally as well as internally. So we need to be aware of other people, not just ourselves.

Spiny
I discovered that it can indeed be done. Sometimes, if my mind is in a good enough state, I am able to observe, in a basic kind of way, the mind-state of my child(ren). I remember seeing how my eldest was constantly peering into the mirror, recently obsessed with 'the face as self' it would seem...and some compassion arose in my heart for her predicament, and this led me to observe how I, too, am still subject to self-view, for even though I don't sit in front of a mirror preening myself, that 'sense of self' is still there, I can feel it... Maybe I was perceiving (a mind-object...? clinging...?) 'externally and internally' that day...(?)
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Re: Satipatthana Sutta clarification

Postby Spiny O'Norman » Tue Jul 19, 2011 11:10 am

manasikara wrote:I discovered that it can indeed be done. Sometimes, if my mind is in a good enough state, I am able to observe, in a basic kind of way, the mind-state of my child(ren).


Yes, and this is very practical stuff not requiring supernormal powers, just some clear observation.

I think this raises a more general question about how we view the Satipatthana Sutta, whether we think of it as primarily something to be applied in sitting meditation practice, or whether we view it more expansively as a framework for developing mindfulness both on and off the cushion. I tend to go with the latter approach.

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Re: Satipatthana Sutta clarification

Postby chownah » Sat Aug 06, 2011 3:42 pm

What about the difference between meditation and contemplation?....Seems to me that the Satipatthana Sutta starts out with a monk going into seclusion (note: monk is alone....there are no other people around) and starts with breath meditation to focus the mind to get it ready for the next step which is contemplation of "body" etc.

The idea is that ()1) the meditation is a focusing of the mind brought about by concentration and elimination of mental objects which gets one ready for (2) contemplation of various mental objects (own body, other persons body, bodies in general......any of these taken to be mental objects in whatever way they arise to the mind and not specifically connected to any particular individual via any sense base etc. ) and then likewise with feelings, mind, and mental qualitites.

To repeat another way....the starting breath mediation is an objectless focusing of the mind which when focused enough is then directed to contemplate mental fabrications.

Maybe this has been posted already....not sure.

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Re: Satipatthana Sutta clarification

Postby Spiny O'Norman » Sun Aug 07, 2011 10:52 am

chownah wrote:To repeat another way....the starting breath mediation is an objectless focusing of the mind which when focused enough is then directed to contemplate mental fabrications.



That makes sense, but the four frames are applied both on and off the cushion, so it isn't just about meditation practice.

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Re: Satipatthana Sutta clarification

Postby chownah » Sun Aug 07, 2011 12:55 pm

Spiny O'Norman wrote:
chownah wrote:To repeat another way....the starting breath mediation is an objectless focusing of the mind which when focused enough is then directed to contemplate mental fabrications.



That makes sense, but the four frames are applied both on and off the cushion, so it isn't just about meditation practice.

Spiny

I agree that the four frames can be contemplated at any time....contemplation is much more insightful (I think) though when done with a concentrated mind such as is produced with meditation. Meditation is not just a practice of the cushion. I came from a practice where the emphasis is to develop meditation off the cushion and the cushion work is just to help in developing the off the cushion work....the idea being that a meditatively concentrated mind helps in developing mindfulness throughout the entirety of our lives...and let's face it, most of our lives is spent off the cushion.... Before I didn't even distinguish between meditation and contemplation as the distinction was not taught in that practice....I guess it is assumed that with that practice the individual would pick up on whichever one was more in tune with their perspective on the practice and that eventually both aspects would be developed but at the time and rate which is natural to the individual....I didn't really start to think about these things as seperate until I started studying Buddhism....but since I'm here now I thought that contemplating the differences between contemplation and meditation within the framework of the Sutta would help in understanding it's meaning....and specifically my view is that what is being described IN THE SUTTA is meditative concentration developed and directed toward contemplation of various aspects of the four frames. So, since the topic of this thread is a clarification of the Sutta I thought that it would be good to do that from the actual practice that the Sutta describes.....there are (as you point out) other practices not specifically described in the Sutta but using ideas or views developed from reading (or perhaps contemplating) the Sutta which people practice and claim produces good benefits......I think that's great but it is something different from what the Sutta describes and perhaps should be discussed seperately and from the outset seen that it is not what the Buddha taught in the Sutta but something different....perhaps something just as beneficial as what the Buddha taught....maybe even what the Buddha taught somewhere else or if not that then maybe it is what the Buddha intended....but not what is specifically described in the Sutta.
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Re: Satipatthana Sutta clarification

Postby Travis » Sun Aug 07, 2011 1:18 pm

Here is the closing paragraph to around 8 pages of examining the portion of what Analayo refers to as the "refrain" dealing with "internal" and "external" I also included a quote from Nanananda's Nibbana Sermons that I found helpful.

Analayo, Satipatthana [pg 102]:
In the end, whichever interpretation one may adopt, once contemplation is practiced both internally and externally it entails a shift towards a comprehensive type of practice. [from note 35: This is suggested by several verses in the Sutta Nipata, where "internal" and "external" occur together in the sense of "whatever there is", expressing a sense of comprehensiveness..."] At this stage even the boundary between "I" and "other" or "internal" and "external" is left behind, leading to a comprehensive vision of phenomena as such, independent of any sense of ownership. Such a more wide-ranging view involves either a contemplation of oneself and others, or a contemplation of any internal phenomenon together with its external counterpart. Thus each of the ways of understanding "internal" and "external" discussed above ultimately leads to a more comprehensive appreciation of the phenomena under observation. Based on such a comprehensive view of phenomena satipatthana practice then proceeds to the next aspect of the "refrain" : awareness of their impermanent nature.


Nanananda: Nibbana Sermon 04:
This particular thematic paragraph in the Satipaṭṭhānasutta is of paramount importance for insight meditation. Here, too, there is the mention of internal, ajjhatta, and external, bahiddhā. When one directs one's attention to one's own body and another's body separately, one might sometimes take these two concepts, internal and external, too seriously with a dogmatic attitude. One might think that there is actually something that could be called one's own or another's. But then the mode of attention next mentioned unifies the two, as internal-external, ajjhattabahiddhā, and presents them like the conjoined pair of bulls. And what does it signify? These two are not to be viewed as two extremes, they are related to each other.

Now let us go a little deeper into this interrelation. The farthest limit of the internal is the nearest limit of the external. The farthest limit of the external is the nearest limit of the internal. More strictly rendered, ajjhatta means inward and bahiddhā means outward. So here we have the duality of an inside and an outside. One might think that the word ajjhattika refers to whatever is organic. Nowadays many people take in artificial parts into their bodies. But once acquired, they too become internal. That is why, in this context ajjhattika has a deeper significance than its usual rendering as `one's own'.

Whatever it may be, the farthest limit of the ajjhatta remains the nearest limit of the bahiddhā. Whatever portion one demarcates as one's own, just adjoining it and at its very gate is bahiddhā. And from the point of view of bahiddhā, its farthest limit and at its periphery is ajjhatta. This is a conjoined pair. These two are interrelated. So the implication is that these two are not opposed to each other. That is why, by attending to them both together, as ajjhattabahiddhā, that dogmatic involvement with a view is abandoned. Here we have an element of reconciliation, which prevents adherence to a view. This is what fosters the attitude of anissita, unattached.

So the two, ajjhatta and bahiddhā, are neighbours. Inside and outside as concepts are neighbours to each other. It is the same as in the case of arising and ceasing, mentioned above. This fact has already been revealed to some extent by the Kaccāyanagottasutta.

Now if we go for an illustration, we have the word udaya at hand in samudaya. Quite often this word is contrasted with atthagama, going down, in the expression udayatthagaminīpaññā, the wisdom that sees the rise and fall. We can regard these two as words borrowed from everyday life. Udaya means sunrise, and atthagama is sunset. If we take this itself as an illustration, the farthest limit of the forenoon is the nearest limit of the afternoon. The farthest limit of the afternoon is the nearest limit of the forenoon. And here again we see a case of neighbourhood. When one understands the neighbourly nature of the terms udaya and atthagama, or samudaya and vaya, and regards themas interrelated by the principle of idappaccayatā, one penetrates them both by that mode of contemplating the rise and fall of the body together, samudayavayadhammānupassī vā kāyasmiṃ viharati, and develops a penetrative insight.

What comes next in the satipaṭṭhāna passage, is the outcome or net result of that insight. "The mindfulness that `there is a body' is established in him only to the extent necessary for pure knowledge and further mindfulness", `atthi kāyo'ti vāpan'assa sati pacupaṭṭhitā hoti, yāvadeva ñāṇamattāya paṭissatimattāya. At that moment one does not take even the concept of body seriously. Even the mindfulness that `there is a body' is established in that meditator only for the sake of, yavadeva, clarity of knowledge and accomplishment of mindfulness. The last sentence brings out the net result of that way of developing insight: "He abides independent and does not cling to anything in the world."

Not only in the section on the contemplation of the body, but also in the sections on feelings, mind, and mind objects in the Satipaṭṭhānasutta, we find this mode of insight development. None of the objects, taken up for the foundation of mindfulness, is to be grasped tenaciously. Only their rise and fall is discerned. So it seems that, what is found in the Satipaṭṭhānasutta, is a group of concepts. These concepts serve only as a scaffolding for the systematic development of mindfulness and knowledge. The Buddha often compared his Dhamma to a raft: nittharaṇatthāya no gahaṇatthāya, "for crossing over and not for holding on to". Accordingly, what we have here are so many scaffoldings for the up-building of mindfulness and knowledge.

Probably due to the lack of understanding of this deep philosophy enshrined in the Satipaṭṭhānasutta, many sects of Buddhism took up these concepts in a spirit of dogmatic adherence. That dogmatic attitude of clinging on is like the attempt to cling on to the scaffoldings and to live on in them. So with reference to the Satipaṭṭhānasutta also, we can understand the importance of the term nissaya.
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Re: Satipatthana Sutta clarification

Postby Dhammakid » Sun Aug 07, 2011 7:55 pm

What is the purpose of cultivating the ability to be mindful of another's body? Couldn't one be just as considerate, compassionate and understanding of others without being mindful of their physical body? How does this ability lead to unbinding?

What also strikes my mind: the Buddha speaks of being mindful of "the body" externally, not of "another's" body externally...
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Re: Satipatthana Sutta clarification

Postby bodom » Sun Aug 07, 2011 8:13 pm

Dhammakid wrote:What is the purpose of cultivating the ability to be mindful of another's body? ...


Because it is wise attention and leads to wisdom:

Did you never see in the world a man, or a woman, eighty,
ninety, or a hundred years old, frail, crooked as a gable-roof,
bent down, resting on crutches, with tottering steps, infirm,
youth long since fled, with broken teeth, grey and scanty hair
or none, wrinkled, with blotched limbs? And did the thought
never come to you that you also are subject to decay, that you
also cannot escape it?

Did you never see in the world a man, or a woman who,
being sick, afflicted, and grievously ill, wallowing in his own
filth, was lifted up by some and put to bed by others? And
did the thought never come to you that you also are subject to
disease, that you also cannot escape it?

Did you never see in the world the corpse of a man, or a
woman, one or two or three days after death, swollen up,
blue-black in color, and full of corruption? And did the
thought never come to you that you also are subject to death,
that you also cannot escape it?


http://www.urbandharma.org/pdf/wordofbuddha.pdf

:namaste:
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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