Satipatthana: Internal and external contemplation

Discussion of Satipatthana bhavanā and Vipassana bhavana.
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zavk
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Satipatthana: Internal and external contemplation

Postby zavk » Tue Apr 07, 2009 11:57 am

Hi friends,

This line from the story posted by Chris reminded me of something I've been meaning to ask:

"We must constantly keep ourselves under observation--not only others. In fact, let others be our mirror wherein we may discover our own defilements."


In the Satipatthana Sutta, there is a line that goes:

"In this way he abides contemplating the body/feelings/mind/dhammas internally, or he abides contemplating the body/feelings/mind/dhammas externally, or he abides contemplating the body/feelings mind/dhammas both internally and externally..."

This is the part of sutta that Ven. Analayo calls the 'refrain', the modus operandi of satipatthana, if you like. He suggests that the "task of this 'refrain' is to direct attention to those aspects that are essential for the proper practice of each exercise" (p. 92). The refrain also tells us to contemplate the 'arising/passing', with 'bare knowledge and continuous mindfulness' and 'independently without clinging'.

I am, however, curious about the part that says 'internally/externally'. These two terms are not further elaborated in the Satipatthana Sutta. But to sum up Ven. Analayo's arguments very briefly, he examines two ways of interpreting 'internally/externally'.

The first way of interpreting follows the Abhidhammic and commentarial literature, which interprets 'internally/externally' to encompass phenomenon arising in oneself and others. So, when one contemplates body/feelings/mind/dhammas, one contemplates them in oneself and in others. We of course cannot read the minds of others. But reading the Abhidhammic and commentarial literature, Ven. Analayo suggests that we can direct mindfulness towards the outer manifestations of others (facial expressions, posture, movements, etc) so as to practice satipatthana 'externally'.

The second way of interpretating is suggested by some contemporary teachers who interpret 'internally/externally' to refer to what is inside of the body and what is on the outside of the body--i.e. the surface of the skin. I won't reproduce Ven. Analayo's arguments in detail here. But he more or less argues that while such interpretations are not entirely unfounded and have their practical benefits, they have their limits (e.g. it becomes hard to maintain such a distinction when one begins to contemplate the dhammas).

So, leaving aside the more contemporary interpretations, I have some questions about the more 'classical' way of understanding 'internally/externally'. Following the sequence stated in the Satipatthana Sutta, one first practices internal contemplation, which then becomes the basis of external contemplation. And finally one contemplates both internally and externally. Ven. Analayo thus opines that "indeed to be aware of one's feelings and reactions enables one to understand the feelings and reactions of others more easily". He adds:

'For a balanced development of awareness, this shift from the internal to the external is of considerable importance. Awareness applied only internally can lead to self-centredness. One can become excessively concerned with what happens with and within oneself while at the same time remaining unaware of how one's action and behaviour affect others. Practicing both internal and external satipatthana can prevent such lopsidedness and achieve a skillful balance between introspection and extroversion' (p. 98).


When we talk about meditation we often speak of it as a kind of introspective practice. But in light of the above, we see that it shouldn't be only introspective. Indeed, the force of introspection should propel one towards a certain extroversion, a greater sensitivity to the thoughts and feelings of others.

So my questions are: Do you actually make a conscious effort to contemplate 'externally'? Should we attempt to do so? Or is this something that happens 'naturally' as we build up the momentum of 'internal' contemplation?

Metta,
zavk
Last edited by zavk on Tue Apr 07, 2009 12:05 pm, edited 2 times in total.
With metta,
zavk

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Re: Satipatthana: Internal and external contemplation

Postby zavk » Tue Apr 07, 2009 12:02 pm

I personally have not made a conscious effort to cultivate satipatthana 'externally'. But what Ven. Analayo suggests speaks to me. I do find that over time, I gradually became more aware of the outer manifestations of others. It is almost as if the slow but constant dripping of mindfulness of my own 'internal' thoughts and feelings slowly increases and begins to overflow into mindfulness of others 'externally'.

However, I must admit that I sometimes use such observations to make judgments about others. When I do so, I am of course seduced by my ego and am no longer in the 'space' of satipatthana, for I am no longer cultivating the other aspects of the 'refrain' (arising/passing/bare knowledge and continuous mindfulness/independently without clinging).

Given the importance of 'internal/external' in the sutta, and, in light of how Ven. Analayo interprets the instruction as a means to become more sensitive to the feelings and thoughts of others, it seems to me then that there is an important ethical aspect to satipatthana practice. For satipatthana practice is not just about ourselves but also about others.

I am perhaps stating the obvious, for we all know that sila, samadhi, and panna must mutually support one another. It seems to me that when the three are strong, one gains the momentum to deeply contemplate the satipatthanas both internally and externally, such that one comes to "understand the contemplated objects as such, without considering it as part of one's own subjective experience, or that or others" (p. 98). Which is to say that one begins to experience the truth of anatta.

Needless to say, my sila, samadhi and panna are nowhere strong enough for me to even intuit this truth experientially. But I suspect it will require me to attend to what's 'out there' as much as to what's 'in here'. Tough..... :? :meditate:

I'm off to a retreat tomorrow to strengthen my 'internal' contemplation. See you all in 10-days. Happy Easter!

Metta,
zavk
With metta,
zavk

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Re: Satipatthana: Internal and external contemplation

Postby Cittasanto » Tue Apr 07, 2009 1:48 pm

Hi Zavk

I am, however, curious about the part that says 'internally/externally'. These two terms are not further elaborated in the Satipatthana Sutta. But to sum up Ven. Analayo's arguments very briefly, he examines two ways of interpreting 'internally/externally'.

The first way of interpreting follows the Abhidhammic and commentarial literature, which interprets 'internally/externally' to encompass phenomenon arising in oneself and others. So, when one contemplates body/feelings/mind/dhammas, one contemplates them in oneself and in others. We of course cannot read the minds of others. But reading the Abhidhammic and commentarial literature, Ven. Analayo suggests that we can direct mindfulness towards the outer manifestations of others (facial expressions, posture, movements, etc) so as to practice satipatthana 'externally'.

The second way of interpretating is suggested by some contemporary teachers who interpret 'internally/externally' to refer to what is inside of the body and what is on the outside of the body--i.e. the surface of the skin. I won't reproduce Ven. Analayo's arguments in detail here. But he more or less argues that while such interpretations are not entirely unfounded and have their practical benefits, they have their limits (e.g. it becomes hard to maintain such a distinction when one begins to contemplate the dhammas).


there is a line in the satipatthana sutta which may clear how to interpret the internally and externally up?
"There is the case where a monk — having gone to the wilderness, to the shade of a tree, or to an empty building — sits down folding his legs crosswise, holding his body erect and setting mindfulness to the fore. Always mindful, he breathes in; mindful he breathes out."
although I would suggest that it would depend on the situation we are in (formal or informal periods of meditation) would depend on how we take the internal external to mean.
although with the others if we take the internal to be ourselves and the external to be another person looking at the Sabbe sutta may also gleam some insight here, and the external focusing becomes a sort of equalising ourselves with others, but again focus specific.

So my questions are: Do you actually make a conscious effort to contemplate 'externally'?

Yes

Should we attempt to do so?

Yes, I think both internal and external mean different things at times in the satipatthana sutta, so it would depend on the meaning of the words at the time.

Or is this something that happens 'naturally' as we build up the momentum of 'internal' contemplation?

If we are doing the practice correctly I would imagine 'yes' to be the case.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."

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Re: Satipatthana: Internal and external contemplation

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Apr 10, 2009 6:10 am

Here are two msgs I posted elsewhere on this topic:

Note 143, page1190 of Bhikkhu Bodhi’s translation of the Satipatthana Sutta in his MIDDLE LENGTH DISCOURSES OF THE BUDDHA: 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, 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 contemplations externally, apart from those possessing telepathic powers, must be inferential.

Contemplation of the 31 bits of the body must, for the most part, be inferential. The cemetery contemplations are certainly directed, initially, externally, then inferred internally.

As matter of understanding where I am coming from, I see the basis, the bed-rock, practice of the Satipatthana Sutta as being “bare attention,” 'In the seen will be merely what is seen; in the heard will be merely what is heard; in the sensed will be merely what is sensed; in the cognized will be merely what is cognized[ [Udana 10, Instructions to Bahiya]. This serves as a foundation for how everything else unfolds in the Satipatthana Sutta.

In the late 70’s while at a three month retreat at IMS (Insight Meditation Society in Barre, MA), halfway through my time there the meditation hall was very quite, even though there were about 100 people sitting there. Very focused. I became aware of the faint sound of the breathing of the person sitting next to me, and I took that as my object of attention rather than my own breath. Of course it was simply the rise and fall of sound, but it was also the breathing of another, it was the mindfulness of breathing of another person. I am not going to talk about the content of my practice or the experiences resulting from my practice, but suffice it to say that even if the commentary’s take on the internal/external business is wrong, it is, from my experience, a potent form of practice that gives rise to both insight and compassion.

For some reason we Theravadin practicioners relish overly complex explanations of relatively simple concepts.

Sometimes things aren’t simple. I do think that the commentary’s gloss of bahiddhaa, “external”, literally, outside, as referring to another’s “body” is reasonable, if not correct. When look at the various passages throughout the suttas that contain ajjhata, internal/inside, and bahiddhaa that gloss certainly seems to be supported.

If we follow the instructions in the Satipatthana Sutta, in some instances, such as the parts of the body contemplation and the cemetery contemplation and the other body contemplations – postures, breathing, the material elements, the commentaries stance clearly makes sense. Where the difficulty lies is with the obviously interior experiences such as the vedanas, the feelings, and the factors of awakening, and such that are not directly observable, unless one has developed psychic powers, iddhi.

One the other hand with the parts of body contemplations, most of the items listed are not directly observable, so there is a discursive and imaginative element to the practice. The cemetery practice can only be meaningfully applied to oneself via the use of imagination/discursiveness, and so it would be concerning the things such as feelings or factors of awakening in terms of others.

We can certainly mindfully attend to our own feelings as they arise and fall, as we experience them, one might be able to observe a facial expression or hear a statement of what the feeling may be, but as a meditative practice one also may “imaginatively/discursively” explore the feelings of others, just as we might do a parts of the body contemplation with another individual as the object.

It seems to me that the commentary’s explanation makes more sense in the long run than does any of the other explanations offered here. Also, though it is not talked about in this way in the suttas or commentaries of which I am aware, this strikes me as a compassion, anu-kampaa, practice, which is exemplified by this passage:

"As I am, so are others;
as others are, so am I."
Having thus identified self and others,
harm no one nor have them harmed.
Sn 705
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson

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Re: Satipatthana: Internal and external contemplation

Postby rowyourboat » Fri Apr 10, 2009 1:48 pm

I post here suttas to do with internal/external- and also other suttas on satipatthana which dont get enough attention:

§ 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

§ 29. Analysis. I will teach you the frames of reference, their
development, and the path of practice leading to their development.
Listen & pay close attention. I will speak.
Now, what are the frames of reference? There is the case where a monk
remains focused on the body in & of itself — ardent, alert, &
mindful — putting aside greed & distress with reference to the world.
He remains focused on feelings... mind... mental qualities in & of
themselves — ardent, alert, & mindful — putting aside greed &
distress with reference to the world. These are called the frames of
reference.

And what is the development of the frames of reference? There is the
case where a monk remains focused on the phenomenon of origination
with regard to the body, remains focused on the phenomenon of passing
away with regard to the body, remains focused on the phenomenon of
origination & passing away with regard to the body — ardent, alert, &
mindful — putting aside greed & distress with reference to the world.
He remains focused on the phenomenon of origination with regard to
feelings... with regard to the mind... with regard to mental
qualities, remains focused on the phenomenon of passing away with
regard to mental qualities, remains focused on the phenomenon of
origination & passing away with regard to mental qualities — ardent,
alert, & mindful — putting aside greed & distress with reference to
the world. This is called the development of the frames of reference.
And what is the path of practice to the development of the frames of
reference? Just this noble eightfold path: right view, right resolve,
right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right
mindfulness, right concentration. This is called the path of practice
to the development of the frames of reference.
— SN § 28.

Mindful & Alert. Stay mindful (sati), monks, and alert. This is our
instruction to you all. And how is a monk mindful? There is the case
where a monk remains focused on the body in & of itself — ardent,
alert, & mindful — putting aside greed & distress with reference to
the world. He remains focused on feelings... mind... mental qualities
in & of themselves — ardent, alert, & mindful — putting aside greed &
distress with reference to the world [§213]. This is how a monk is
mindful.

And how is a monk alert (sampajanna)? There is the case where feelings are known
to the monk as they arise, known as they persist, known as they
subside. Thoughts are known to him as they arise, known as they
persist, known as they subside. Discernment (vl: perception) is known
to him as it arises, known as it persists, known as it subsides. This
is how a monk is alert. So stay mindful, monks, and alert. This is
our instruction to you all.
— SN 47.35

§ 27. Uttiya: It would be good, lord, if the Blessed One would teach
me the Dhamma in brief so that, having heard the Dhamma from the
Blessed One, I might dwell alone, secluded, heedful, ardent, &
resolute.

The Buddha: In that case, Uttiya, you should purify what is most
basic with regard to skillful mental qualities. And what is the basis
of skillful mental qualities? Well-purified virtue & views made
straight. Then, when your virtue is well-purified and your views made
straight, in dependence on virtue, established in virtue, you should
develop the four frames of reference... Then, when in dependence on
virtue, relying on virtue, you develop the four frames of reference,
you will go beyond the realm of Death.
— SN 47.16

§ 26. Imagine a tree devoid of branches & leaves: Its buds don't grow
to maturity, its bark doesn't grow to maturity, its sapwood doesn't
grow to maturity, its heartwood doesn't grow to maturity. In the same
way, when — there being no mindfulness or alertness — a person is
devoid of mindfulness or alertness, the prerequisite for a sense of
conscience & concern [for the results of wrong-doing] becomes
spoiled. There being no sense of conscience & concern... the
prerequisite for restraint of the senses becomes spoiled. There being
no restraint of the senses... the prerequisite for virtue becomes
spoiled. There being no virtue... the prerequisite for right
concentration becomes spoiled. There being no right concentration...
the prerequisite for knowledge & vision of things as they actually
are present becomes spoiled. There being no knowledge & vision of
things as they actually are present, the prerequisite for
disenchantment & dispassion becomes spoiled. There being no
disenchantment & dispassion, the prerequisite for knowledge & vision
of release becomes spoiled...

Now imagine a tree abundant in its branches & leaves: Its buds grow
to maturity, its bark grows to maturity, its sapwood grows to
maturity, its heartwood grows to maturity. In the same way, when —
there being mindfulness & alertness — a person is abundant in
mindfulness & alertness, the prerequisite for a sense of conscience &
concern becomes abundant. There being a sense of conscience &
concern... the prerequisite for restraint of the senses becomes
abundant. There being restraint of the senses... the prerequisite for
virtue becomes abundant. There being virtue... the prerequisite for
right concentration becomes abundant. There being right
concentration... the prerequisite for knowledge & vision of things as
they actually are present becomes abundant. There being knowledge &
vision of things as they have come to be, the prerequisite for
disenchantment & dispassion becomes abundant. There being
disenchantment & dispassion, the prerequisite for knowledge & vision
of release becomes abundant.
— AN 8.81

§ 33. Mindfulness & Concentration. Having abandoned the five
hindrances — imperfections of awareness that weaken discernment — the
monk remains focused on the body in & of itself — ardent, alert, &
mindful — putting aside greed & distress with reference to the world.
He remains focused on feelings... mind... mental qualities in & of
themselves — ardent, alert, & mindful — putting aside greed &
distress with reference to the world. Just as if an elephant trainer
were to plant a large post in the ground and were to bind a forest
elephant to it by the neck in order to break it of its forest habits,
its forest memories & resolves, its distraction, fatigue, & fever
over leaving the forest, to make it delight in the town and to
inculcate in it habits congenial to human beings; in the same way,
these four frames of reference are bindings for the awareness of the
disiciple of the noble ones, to break him of his household habits,
his household memories & resolves, his distraction, fatigue, & fever
over leaving the household life, for the attainment of the right
method and the realization of Unbinding.

Then the Tathagata trains him further: 'Come, monk, remain focused on
the body in & of itself, but do not think any thoughts connected with
the body. Remain focused on feelings in & of themselves, but do not
think any thoughts connected with feelings. Remain focused on the
mind in & of itself, but do not think any thoughts connected with
mind. Remain focused on mental qualities in & of themselves, but do
not think any thoughts connected with mental qualities.' With the
stilling of directed thoughts & evaluations, he enters the second
jhana...
— MN 125

§ 36. Directing & Not Directing the Mind. Ananda, if a monk or nun
remains with mind well established in the four frames of reference,
he/she may be expected to realize greater-than-ever distinction.
There is the case of a monk who remains focused on the body in & of
itself — ardent, alert, & mindful — putting aside greed & distress
with reference to the world. As he remains thus focused on the body
in & of itself, a fever based on the body arises within his body, or
there is sluggishness in his awareness, or his mind becomes scattered
externally. He should then direct his mind to any inspiring theme
[Comm: such as recollection of the Buddha]. As his mind is directed
to any inspiring theme, delight arises within him. In one who feels
delight, rapture arises. In one whose mind is enraptured, the body
grows serene. His body serene, he feels pleasure. As he feels
pleasure, his mind grows concentrated. He reflects, 'I have attained
the aim to which my mind was directed. Let me withdraw [my mind from
the inspiring theme].' He withdraws & engages neither in directed
thought nor in evaluation. He discerns, 'I am not thinking or
evaluating. I am inwardly mindful & at ease.'
Furthermore, he remains focused on feelings... mind... mental
qualities in & of themselves — ardent, alert, & mindful — putting
aside greed & distress with reference to the world. As he remains
thus focused on mental qualities in & of themselves, a fever based on
mental qualities arises within his body, or there is sluggishness in
his awareness, or his mind becomes scattered externally. He should
then direct his mind to any inspiring theme. As his mind is directed
to any inspiring theme, delight arises within him. In one who feels
delight, rapture arises. In one whose mind is enraptured, the body
grows serene. His body serene, he is sensitive to pleasure. As he
feels pleasure, his mind grows concentrated. He reflects, 'I have
attained the aim to which my mind was directed. Let me withdraw.' He
withdraws & engages neither in directed thought nor in evaluation. He
discerns, 'I am not thinking or evaluating. I am inwardly mindful &
at ease.'

This, Ananda, is development based on directing. And what is
development based on not directing? A monk, when not directing his
mind to external things, discerns, 'My mind is not directed to
external things. It is not attentive to what is in front or behind.
It is released & undirected. And furthermore I remain focused on the
body in & of itself. I am ardent, alert, mindful, & at ease.'
When not directing his mind to external things, he discerns, 'My mind
is not directed to external things. It is not attentive to what is in
front or behind. It is released & undirected. And furthermore I
remain focused on feelings... mind... mental qualities in & of
themselves. I am ardent, alert, mindful, & at ease.'
This, Ananda, is development based on not directing.
Now, Ananda, I have taught you development based on directing and
development based on not directing. What a teacher should do out of
compassion for his disciples, seeking their welfare, that I have done
for you. Over there are [places to sit at] the foot of trees. Over
there are empty dwellings. Practice jhana, Ananda. Do not be
heedless. Do not be remorseful in the future. That is our instruction
to you all.
— SN 47.10

§ 39. Mindfulness of the Body. There is the case where a monk, seeing
a form with the eye, is obsessed with pleasing forms, is repelled by
unpleasing forms, and remains with body-mindfulness unestablished,
with limited awareness. He does not discern, as it actually is
present, the awareness-release, the discernment-release where any
evil, unskillful mental qualities that have arisen utterly cease
without remainder. (Similarly with ear, nose, tongue, body, &
intellect.)
Just as if a person, catching six animals of different ranges, of
different habitats, were to bind them with a strong rope. Catching a
snake, he would bind it with a strong rope. Catching a crocodile... a
bird... a dog... a hyena... a monkey, he would bind it with a strong
rope. Binding them all with a strong rope, and tying a knot in the
middle, he would set chase to them.
Then those six animals, of different ranges, of different habitats,
would each pull toward its own range & habitat. The snake would pull,
thinking, 'I'll go into the anthill.' The crocodile would pull,
thinking, 'I'll go into the water.' The bird would pull,
thinking, 'I'll fly up into the air.' The dog would pull,
thinking, 'I'll go into the village.' The hyena would pull,
thinking, 'I'll go into the charnel ground.' The monkey would pull,
thinking, 'I'll go into the forest.' And when these six animals
became internally exhausted, they would submit, they would surrender,
they would come under the sway of whichever among them was the
strongest. In the same way, when a monk whose mindfulness immersed in
the body is undeveloped & unpursued, the eye pulls toward pleasing
forms, while unpleasing forms are repellent. The ear pulls toward
pleasing sounds... the nose pulls toward pleasing smells... the
tongue pulls toward pleasing tastes... the body pulls toward pleasing
tactile sensations... the intellect pulls toward pleasing ideas,
while unpleasing ideas are repellent. This, monks, is lack of
restraint.

And what is restraint? There is the case where a monk, seeing a form
with the eye, is not obsessed with pleasing forms, is not repelled by
unpleasing forms, and remains with body-mindfulness established, with
immeasurable awareness. He discerns, as it actually is present, the
awareness-release, the discernment-release where all evil, unskillful
mental qualities that have arisen utterly cease without remainder.
(Similarly with ear, nose, tongue, body, & intellect.)
Just as if a person, catching six animals of different ranges, of
different habitats, were to bind them with a strong rope... and
tether them to a strong post or stake.

Then those six animals, of different ranges, of different habitats,
would each pull toward its own range & habitat... And when these six
animals became internally exhausted, they would stand, sit, or lie
down right there next to the post or stake. In the same way, when a
monk whose mindfulness immersed in the body is developed & pursued,
the eye does not pull toward pleasing forms, and unpleasing forms are
not repellent. The ear does not pull toward pleasing sounds... the
nose does not pull toward pleasing smells... the tongue does not pull
toward pleasing tastes... the body does not pull toward pleasing
tactile sensations... the intellect does not pull toward pleasing
ideas, and unpleasing ideas are not repellent. This, monks, is
restraint.

The strong post or stake is a term for mindfulness immersed in the
body.

Thus you should train yourselves: 'We will develop mindfulness
immersed in the body. We will pursue it, hand it the reins and take
it as a basis, give it a grounding. We will steady it, consolidate
it, and set about it properly.' That's how you should train
yourselves.
— SN 35.206

§ 40. Suppose, monks, that a large crowd of people comes thronging
together, saying, 'The beauty queen! The beauty queen!' And suppose
that the beauty queen is highly accomplished at singing & dancing, so
that an even greater crowd comes thronging, saying, 'The beauty queen
is singing! The beauty queen is dancing!' Then a man comes along,
desiring life & shrinking from death, desiring pleasure & abhorring
pain. They say to him, 'Now look here, mister. You must take this
bowl filled to the brim with oil and carry it on your head in between
the great crowd & the beauty queen. A man with a raised sword will
follow right behind you, and wherever you spill even a drop of oil,
right there will he cut off your head.' Now what do you think, monks:
Will that man, not paying attention to the bowl of oil, let himself
get distracted outside?

No, lord.

I have given you this parable to convey a meaning. The meaning is
this: The bowl filled to the brim with oil stands for mindfulness
immersed in the body. Thus you should train yourselves: 'We will
develop mindfulness immersed in the body. We will pursue it, hand it
the reins and take it as a basis, give it a grounding. We will steady
it, consolidate it, and set about it properly.' That's how you should
train yourselves.
— SN 47.20

§ 42. Whoever pervades the great ocean with his awareness encompasses
whatever rivulets flow down into the ocean. In the same way, whoever
develops & pursues mindfulness immersed in the body encompasses
whatever skillful qualities are on the side of clear knowing.
When one thing is practiced & pursued, the body is calmed, the mind
is calmed, thinking & evaluating are stilled, and all qualities on
the side of clear knowing go to the culmination of their development.
Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body.
When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear
knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, obsessions are
uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness
immersed in the body.

Those who do not taste mindfulness of the body do not taste the
Deathless. Those who taste mindfulness of the body taste the
Deathless.
Those who are heedless of mindfulness of the body are heedless of the
Deathless.
Those who comprehend mindfulness of the body comprehend the Deathless.
— AN 1.225, 227, 230, 235, 239, 245

§ 44.
It is just as if there were a great pile of dust at a four-way
intersection. If a cart or chariot came from the east, that pile of
dust would be totally leveled. If a cart or chariot came from the
west... from the north... from the south, that pile of dust would be
totally leveled. In the same way, when a monk remains focused on the
body in & of itself, then evil, unskillful qualities are totally
leveled. If he remains focused on feelings... mind... mental
qualities in & of themselves, then evil, unskillful qualities are
totally leveled.
— SN 54.10
With Metta

Karuna
Mudita
& Upekkha

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Re: Satipatthana: Internal and external contemplation

Postby Spiny O'Norman » Sun May 24, 2009 9:41 am

zavk wrote:I personally have not made a conscious effort to cultivate satipatthana 'externally'. zavk


The situations I find challenging are ones like being at work where it is necessary to focus on the external - I then find that I often lose focus on the internal. I find it easier to maintain focus on the internal when I am by myself, or meditating. Have you any thoughts about how to deal with this - it seems to me a difficult balance actually.

Rick

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Re: Satipatthana: Internal and external contemplation

Postby Jechbi » Sun May 24, 2009 8:55 pm

Hi Rick, and a big Welcome. :hello:
Rick O'Shez wrote:The situations I find challenging are ones like being at work where it is necessary to focus on the external - I then find that I often lose focus on the internal. I find it easier to maintain focus on the internal when I am by myself, or meditating. Have you any thoughts about how to deal with this - it seems to me a difficult balance actually.

If you're at work, the best thing to do might be just to focus on the task at hand and don't worry about whether your focus is "internal" or "external." Hopefully you've built up some habitual skillful self-awareness that will occur naturally in the background in stressful situations. Either way, I wouldn't worry too much about "meditating" simultaneously while doing other things like working. fwiw.
:smile:
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Uncover, then, what is concealed,
Lest it be soddened by the rain.

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Re: Satipatthana: Internal and external contemplation

Postby zavk » Mon May 25, 2009 2:41 am

Welcome to DW Rick.

Ditto what Jecbi suggested.

Have you read this?

http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/livngmed.pdf

In my experience, one is already examining 'internal' processes when being mindful of 'external' processes. For example, I often try to simply be aware of my actions when I'm washing the dishes, washing the car, etc. But my mind hardly ever stays with what I'm doing. So I have to keep bringing my attention back to whatever I'm doing: scrubbing, rinsing, etc.

All the best.
With metta,
zavk

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Re: Satipatthana: Internal and external contemplation

Postby Ben » Mon May 25, 2009 3:07 am

I'd really appreciate Ajahn's comments with regards to this section.
My own undestanding is that it relates to the observation of vedanas on the inside of the body and then on the exterior, surface, of the body. As for observing the satipatthanas in others, I'm a little perplexed why the Buddha would give a meditation object that one could not perceive within the framework of one's own nama/rupa complex.
Kind regards

Ben
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
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Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

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Re: Satipatthana: Internal and external contemplation

Postby rowyourboat » Mon May 25, 2009 9:24 am

Hi Ben,

I think the idea that we need to see the truths exclusivley from 'this fathom long body' and exclusively from direct experience is a modern conception.

with metta
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Re: Satipatthana: Internal and external contemplation

Postby Ben » Mon May 25, 2009 9:36 am

Hi RYB
How can the truths be known unless from direct experience?
Metta

Ben
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725

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Re: Satipatthana: Internal and external contemplation

Postby MMK23 » Mon May 25, 2009 1:39 pm

rowyourboat wrote:I think the idea that we need to see the truths exclusivley from 'this fathom long body' and exclusively from direct experience is a modern conception.


I agree, very modern in fact. I would say 19th century at the absolute earliest, 20th century to be sure. A product of modernism and rationalism, wherein the ultimate arbiter of any religious truth becomes "experience", and accordingly Buddhism, like other religious cognates, is transformed into an experiential religion. Cf also the rise of charismatic, evangelical and pentecostal forms of christianity - the fastest growing religions in the West - and also religions that allow the practitioner to "see for themselves"

Kindly,

MMK23

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Re: Satipatthana: Internal and external contemplation

Postby Jechbi » Mon May 25, 2009 5:46 pm

Howdy MMK,

Ben wrote:How can the truths be known unless from direct experience?


MMK23 wrote:
rowyourboat wrote:I think the idea that we need to see the truths exclusivley from 'this fathom long body' and exclusively from direct experience is a modern conception.

I agree, very modern in fact. I would say 19th century at the absolute earliest, 20th century to be sure. A product of modernism and rationalism, wherein the ultimate arbiter of any religious truth becomes "experience", and accordingly Buddhism, like other religious cognates, is transformed into an experiential religion. Cf also the rise of charismatic, evangelical and pentecostal forms of christianity - the fastest growing religions in the West - and also religions that allow the practitioner to "see for themselves"


I think you guys might be talking about two different things. I suspect Ben is asking specifically about the differences among focusing "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" as described in the Maha-satipatthana Sutta. But I suspect you and Row are talking more broadly about the role of Saddha. With regard to Saddha, I suspect that all three of you probably agree more than disagree.

MMK, are you saying that a bodily application of "internally" and "externally" as described in the Maha-satipatthana Sutta is a modern conception? I've seen differences in how "internally" and "externally" are understood in connection with this sutta, but I don't recall seeing anyone say that an application focused on one's own body is a modern development.

With regard to the OP:
zavk wrote:So my questions are: Do you actually make a conscious effort to contemplate 'externally'? Should we attempt to do so? Or is this something that happens 'naturally' as we build up the momentum of 'internal' contemplation?
That's a good question to ask one's own teacher.

:thanks: in advance for clarifying. :smile:
Rain soddens what is kept wrapped up,
But never soddens what is open;
Uncover, then, what is concealed,
Lest it be soddened by the rain.

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Re: Satipatthana: Internal and external contemplation

Postby Dhammanando » Mon May 25, 2009 9:54 pm

Hi Zavk,

zavk wrote:So, leaving aside the more contemporary interpretations, I have some questions about the more 'classical' way of understanding 'internally/externally'.

[...]

So my questions are: Do you actually make a conscious effort to contemplate 'externally'?


In the commentarial understanding it would depend on who "you" refers to. If it is someone who has mastered the jhanas and developed knowledge of the penetration of others minds (cetopariya-ñana), then he will contemplate external dhammas at those moments when he is penetrating others' minds, or just after having done so. If he hasn't developed this power then he will contemplate internal dhammas only, because these are the only dhammas that will be available to contemplate.

This commentarial view is supported by the Janavasabhasutta (DN. 18), in which the capacity for external satipatthana arises as a result of concentration developed by means of internal satipatthana:

    This was the burden of Brahma Sanankumara’s speech. He went on: ‘What do my lords of the Thirty-Three think? How well has the Lord Buddha who knows and sees pointed out the four foundations of mindfulness for the attainment of that which is good! What are they? Here a monk abides contemplating the body as body, earnestly, clearly aware, mindful and having put away all hankering and fretting for the world. As he thus dwells contemplating his own body as body, he becomes perfectly concentrated and perfectly serene. Being thus calm and serene, he gains knowledge and vision externally of the bodies of others.

    ‘He abides contemplating his own feelings as feelings, ... he abides contemplating his own mind as mind,... he abides contemplating his own mind-objects as mind-objects, earnestly, clearly aware, mindful and having put away all hankering and fretting for the world. As he thus dwells contemplating his own mind-objects as mind-objects, he becomes perfectly concentrated and perfectly serene. Being thus calm and serene, he gains knowledge and vision externally of the mind-objects of others. These are the four foundations of mindfulness well pointed out by the Lord Buddha who knows and sees, for the attainment of that which is good.’
    (DN. ii. 216, Walshe trans.)

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Dhammanando Bhikkhu
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Re: Satipatthana: Internal and external contemplation

Postby Ben » Mon May 25, 2009 10:28 pm

Thank you Ajahn

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Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725

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Re: Satipatthana: Internal and external contemplation

Postby zavk » Mon May 25, 2009 11:01 pm

Yes, thank you too.
With metta,
zavk

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Re: Satipatthana: Internal and external contemplation

Postby MMK23 » Tue May 26, 2009 9:11 am

Jechbi wrote:Howdy MMK,


Greetings Jechbi!

MMK, are you saying that a bodily application of "internally" and "externally" as described in the Maha-satipatthana Sutta is a modern conception? I've seen differences in how "internally" and "externally" are understood in connection with this sutta, but I don't recall seeing anyone say that an application focused on one's own body is a modern development.


Jechbi, I guess the overall thrust of my point is that the over-cultural trends are in effect a living hermeneutic. By necessity, the modern development of an emphasis on scientism and rationalism (and humanism) is something that resonates throughout most modern attempts at study and interpretation of the dhamma. I have little doubt that this modernist hermeneutic has profoundly influenced interpretation and understanding of the satipatthana suttas, indeed, given their centrality to the modernist vipassana movements it would be nigh on impossible for that lens to have been kept on the shelf. I think in this regard the relevant hermeneutical aspect is the emphasis on experientialism (and the oft-cited kalama sutta) so the interpretation becomes very self-centred, very rationally located within the physical bounds of the local human body.

MMK23

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Re: Satipatthana: Internal and external contemplation

Postby Jechbi » Tue May 26, 2009 10:08 am

At least until we stop breathing. ;)
Rain soddens what is kept wrapped up,
But never soddens what is open;
Uncover, then, what is concealed,
Lest it be soddened by the rain.

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Re: Satipatthana: Internal and external contemplation

Postby zavk » Wed May 27, 2009 12:54 am

MMK23 wrote:Jechbi, I guess the overall thrust of my point is that the over-cultural trends are in effect a living hermeneutic. By necessity, the modern development of an emphasis on scientism and rationalism (and humanism) is something that resonates throughout most modern attempts at study and interpretation of the dhamma. I have little doubt that this modernist hermeneutic has profoundly influenced interpretation and understanding of the satipatthana suttas, indeed, given their centrality to the modernist vipassana movements it would be nigh on impossible for that lens to have been kept on the shelf. I think in this regard the relevant hermeneutical aspect is the emphasis on experientialism (and the oft-cited kalama sutta) so the interpretation becomes very self-centred, very rationally located within the physical bounds of the local human body.


I would second this. But I do this not to suggest that modern interpretations of satipatthana (and by extension the Dhamma) are 'corrupted' or 'wrong' as such. This is merely to recognise the conditionality of our modern understanding. Our understanding of the dhamma is historically and culturally specific. As MMK23 puts it, we cannot put aside the lenses that help us see the dhamma. But even if those lenses allow us to see the Dhamma in powerful ways, we shouldn't forget that we are wearing those lenses, without which we wouldn't have been able to see the dhamma in the first place.

I am not about to give up my practice as such, for it is the 'lens' through which the Dhamma is made intelligible to me. If I discard those lenses, how am I to see the Dhamma? But what I want to always keep in mind is that I am wearing those lenses, and that they are the products of our time and culture. I want to be careful to avoid 'transcendentalizing' those lenses. For any such attempts to transcendentalize our understanding of the Dhamma would miss the fundamental tenets of conditionality and not-self.
With metta,
zavk

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Re: Satipatthana: Internal and external contemplation

Postby Jechbi » Wed May 27, 2009 1:08 am

Thanks, zavk. I like that.
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