Pali Term: Sati

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Re: Pali Term: Sati

Postby Sekha » Thu Apr 12, 2012 1:27 pm

Dmytro wrote:
Sekha wrote:However, when he started to teach in English and he looked for the appropriate translation of sati, he chose "mindfulness". I don't think anyone can reasonably consider that the Sayadaw merely followed Rhys Davids' choice, and few people can be considered as being more knowledgeable than him in both theory and practice, Margaret Cone certainly not being among them.


Then where from he got the term 'mindfulness'? Coined it independently?

Sekha wrote:I don't think anyone can reasonably consider that the Sayadaw merely followed Rhys Davids' choice

I am not saying he made the choice of that word totally independently from Rhys Davids' choice, I am saying that given his level of knowledge, he has certainly made a thoughtful choice, and it is not the case that he just followed Rhys Davids' choice, as has been suggested above:
Dmytro wrote:if Margaret Cone will interpret the word 'sati' as 'remembrance' in her new dictionary, this interpretation will be used in new translations, and then by meditation practitioners and teachers.



Dmytro wrote:Discussions of who is more knowledgeable, for example, Ven. Buddhaghosa or Ven. Pa Auk Sayadaw, will lead us nowhere.

I agree, but the main purpose of comparing Pa Auk Sayadaw with Cone was to underline the fact that the opinion of the latter is worth being listened to. I don't think anyone thinks of opposing Buddhaghosa to the Pa Auk Sayadaw, since the Pa Auk Sayadaw considers himself as a teacher of Buddhaghosa's system.

Dmytro wrote:Pali passages are the most reliable source of the meanings of Pali terms, and I hope we'll discuss Pali passages in this forum.

My whole point is actually to say that the most reliable source of the meanings of Pali terms used by the Buddha is one's own practice, and therefore the opinion of those who are serious and effective meditation teachers is worth taking account of. I could easily quote here the Kalama sutta and so many passages where the Buddha states that direct knowledge will always be superior to other sources of knowledge.

To be sure I get understood, I repeat that I appreciate and respect all your efforts, but there is another approach to the one you have chosen, which is complementary, and it is also worth paying some attention to it.

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Re: Pali Term: Sati

Postby Dmytro » Thu Apr 12, 2012 5:23 pm

Sekha wrote:My whole point is actually to say that the most reliable source of the meanings of Pali terms used by the Buddha is one's own practice, and therefore the opinion of those who are serious and effective meditation teachers is worth taking account of. I could easily quote here the Kalama sutta and so many passages where the Buddha states that direct knowledge will always be superior to other sources of knowledge.


Surely wise teachers are worth taking account of. In Kalama sutta Buddha recommends attending to the words of the wise.

However Kalama sutta is about ways of behaviour, not about Dhamma.

As for the Dhamma and Vinaya, the Buddha gave a clear framework - "Four great references" described in Mahaparinibbana sutta. Using this framework, I compare the statements with Dhamma and Vnaya.

It's good to know that 'mindfulness' in its original use means basically the same as 'remembrance', so there's no contradiction between these words per se. 'Remembrance' is just more exact. There's not a single passage in the Sutta where 'sati' would mean something else than remembrance, memory, and recollection.

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Re: Pali Term: Sati

Postby Sekha » Fri Apr 13, 2012 1:33 am

Dmytro wrote:However Kalama sutta is about ways of behaviour, not about Dhamma.

??

Dmytro wrote:As for the Dhamma and Vinaya, the Buddha gave a clear framework - "Four great references" described in Mahaparinibbana sutta. Using this framework, I compare the statements with Dhamma and Vnaya.

Which is a very respectable approach:
Dmytro wrote:Anabhinanditvā appaṭikkositvā tāni padabyañjanāni sādhukaṃ uggahetvā sutte osāretabbāni, vinaye sandassetabbāni.

Without approval and without scorn, but carefully studying the sentences word by word, one should trace them in the Discourses and verify them by the Discipline.

However, under 'sutta', the Buddha obviously did not include the various texts which were not existing by then, such as commentaries etc. He obviously referred to the suttas only. I don't mean to say that commentaries and abhidhamma should be totally rejected, but they are not to be accepted simply because they are old and written in Pali.


Dmytro wrote:It's good to know that 'mindfulness' in its original use means basically the same as 'remembrance', so there's no contradiction between these words per se.

I think there is total agreement here, all the more that it sounds like a moderate point of view.


Dmytro wrote:'Remembrance' is just more exact.

But now, such an uncompromising point of view cannot withstand criticism. Which rendering is more exact has to be determined according to the context (even in the case where there is no substantial difference of meaning in the original language). Every translator knows this. Moreover, there are words whose meaning can be completely different (in the original language itself) according to the context, and there is no proof that it is not the case for sati (see below).


Dmytro wrote:'Remembrance' is just more exact. There's not a single passage in the Sutta where 'sati' would mean something else than remembrance, memory, and recollection.

That doesn't prove anything. In every sentence where the word 'car' occurs, you can replace it by 'vehicle', that doesn't mean that the latter is a more exact interpretation.

I can give a lot of examples where the difference in meaning is subtle so that it may not be noticed. For example, 'skyline' used to mean 'horizon', but now the meaning has shifted towards 'horizon delimited by skyscrapers', so that in every sentence where 'skyline' occurs you can interpret it as 'horizon', and you will still get a meaningful interpretation, but there is a loss of information in the process, and it would be easy to create an example where it would result in a complete misunderstanding.

It is very possible that the Buddha used a word that had a particular meaning in the popular language of his time (perhaps this role would be played by 'remembrance' qv. the definition of sati in terms of carefulness and skills in memorization) and gave a new shade of meaning to it (that could be 'mindfulness' qv. the definition of samma-sati). There are numerous cases where the Buddha did this. For example, he altered the meaning of yañña, which referred to the bloody brahmanic sacrifices, to give it the meaning of almsgiving, charity (qv for example PTSD's definition of the word).

other more recent and well recorded examples of such alteration in meanings:
Self-esteem is an interesting one; this isn't to say that it precisely means something completely different – it also meant "to value oneself" back then – but once upon a time it was largely a term of derision or disapproval, eg 'look at that arrogant prick; he's so full of self-esteem.'

Another one with interesting shadings is ideology. Ideology is a term that dates from the time of the French revolution, when it was used by a minor philosopher (I think we might say pundit today) to describe his system of ideas; however, it was quickly taken up as an insult against him and a term of mocking, and people were thereafter often accused of being 'ideologues.' However, the term was really popularized by that miner of the French revolution, Karl Marx, who used 'ideology' frequently as a technical term in his system. To him, 'ideology' was a form of false consciousness; someone who subscribes to an ideology is someone who has taken on a worldview irrationally, simply because it was taught to him and he hasn't questioned it. Karl Marx never speaks of his own system as an 'ideology;' he believes that he is above ideology, and that his system is the truth. Whereas even many Marxists now use the term as a neutral term, and talk for example about how Marx differs 'ideologically' from Engels. I think that's a big change; the conviction that 'ideology' meant someone was being irrational and wrong has disappeared, and 'ideology' simply seems to mean 'set of ideas.'
http://ask.metafilter.com/164524/Englis ... ed-meaning


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Re: Pali Term: Sati

Postby Dmytro » Fri Apr 13, 2012 2:00 pm

Hi Sekha,

Sekha wrote:
Dmytro wrote:However Kalama sutta is about ways of behaviour, not about Dhamma.

??


Kalama sutta is about kusala and akusala dhammas, i.e. skillful and unskillful ways of behavior.
See the thread: viewtopic.php?f=23&t=11098

Dmytro wrote:'Remembrance' is just more exact. There's not a single passage in the Sutta where 'sati' would mean something else than remembrance, memory, and recollection.

That doesn't prove anything. In every sentence where the word 'car' occurs, you can replace it by 'vehicle', that doesn't mean that the latter is a more exact interpretation.


Buddha clearly defines 'sati' dozens of times in the suttas, and that for me proves everything. You did not provide any Sutta passages which would explain 'sati' as some 'present moment awareness'.

Seems like we have quite different references, and so I consider further discussion pointless.

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Re: Pali Term: Sati

Postby Sekha » Thu May 31, 2012 8:19 am

I have to rectify a statement made by me earlier:
Sekha wrote:
Dmytro wrote:It's good to know that 'mindfulness' in its original use means basically the same as 'remembrance', so there's no contradiction between these words per se.

I think there is total agreement here, all the more that it sounds like a moderate point of view.

Actually these words have something in common, since in both cases the mind is "filled" with a mental object. But there is a very important difference, which is that in one case the mind is filled with the Saññā of a past phenomena (remembrance) working on the mind-consciousness whereas in the other, it is filled with the Saññā of a present phenomena (the movement of the breath in the case of anapanassati) working on the body-consciousness.

Anapanassati is classified under observation of the body, so that is still another argument in favor of the second interpretation.

We can settle here this discussion, but I just underline that I am not falling short of arguments at all and I could keep backing up my position.
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Re: Pali Term: Sati

Postby hanzze_ » Thu May 31, 2012 9:09 am

I found this explaining useful and reasonable Mindfulness Defined even it goes beyond of "just" translation. Keeping in mind the cause of backing a position.
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Re: Pali Term: Sati

Postby Dmytro » Sun Aug 26, 2012 3:29 pm

An excellent quote from Ven. Thanissaro:

‘‘Sikkhānisaṃsamidaṃ, bhikkhave, brahmacariyaṃ vussati paññuttaraṃ vimuttisāraṃ satādhipateyyaṃ....
‘‘Kathañca, bhikkhave, satādhipateyyaṃ hoti? ‘Iti aparipūraṃ vā ābhisamācārikaṃ sikkhaṃ paripūressāmi, paripūraṃ vā ābhisamācārikaṃ sikkhaṃ tattha tattha paññāya anuggahessāmī’ti – ajjhattaṃyeva sati sūpaṭṭhitā hoti. ‘Iti aparipūraṃ vā ādibrahmacariyikaṃ sikkhaṃ paripūressāmi, paripūraṃ vā ādibrahmacariyikaṃ sikkhaṃ tattha tattha paññāya anuggahessāmī’ti – ajjhattaṃyeva sati sūpaṭṭhitā hoti. ‘Iti asamavekkhitaṃ vā dhammaṃ paññāya samavekkhissāmi, samavekkhitaṃ vā dhammaṃ tattha tattha paññāya anuggahessāmī’ti – ajjhattaṃyeva sati sūpaṭṭhitā hoti. ‘Iti aphusitaṃ vā dhammaṃ vimuttiyā phusissāmi, phusitaṃ vā dhammaṃ tattha tattha paññāya anuggahessāmī’ti – ajjhattaṃyeva sati sūpaṭṭhitā hoti. Evaṃ kho, bhikkhave, satādhipateyyaṃ hoti. ‘Sikkhānisaṃsamidaṃ, bhikkhave, brahmacariyaṃ vussati paññuttaraṃ vimuttisāraṃ satādhipateyya’nti, iti yaṃ taṃ vuttaṃ idametaṃ paṭicca vutta’’nti.

“This holy life is lived… with mindfulness as its governing principle.…
And how is mindfulness the governing principle? The mindfulness that ‘I will make complete any training with regard to good conduct that is not yet complete, or I will protect with discernment any training with regard to good conduct that is complete’ is well-established right within. The mindfulness that ‘I will make complete any training with regard to the basics of the holy life that is not yet complete, or I will protect with discernment any training with regard to the basics of the holy life that is complete’ is well-established right within. The mindfulness that ‘I will scrutinize with discernment any Dhamma that is not yet scrutinized, or I will protect with discernment any Dhamma that has been scrutinized’ is well-established right within. The mindfulness that ‘I will touch through release any Dhamma that is not yet touched, or I will protect with discernment any Dhamma that has been touched’ is well-established right within.
“This is how mindfulness is the governing principle.”

— AN 4:245

http://www.dhammatalks.org/Archive/Writ ... 120810.pdf
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Re: Pali Term: Sati

Postby Dmytro » Sun Sep 09, 2012 10:52 pm

A mindful balance: What did the Buddha really mean by "mindfulness?"

Alan Wallace

The primary meaning of sati, on the other hand, is recollection, nonforgetfulness. This includes retrospective memory of things in the past, prospectively remembering to do something in the future, and present-centered recollection in the sense of maintaining unwavering attention to a present reality. The opposite of mindfulness is forgetfulness, so mindfulness applied to the breath, for instance, involves continuous, unwavering attention to the respiration. Mindfulness may be used to sustain bare attention (manasikara), but nowhere do traditional Buddhist sources equate mindfulness with such attention.


http://www.buddhanet.net/budsas/ebud/ebdha344.htm
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Re: Pali Term: Sati

Postby Dmytro » Sun Sep 09, 2012 10:56 pm

Rupert Gethin, current President of the Pali Text Society, was the person whose book initiated my study of 'sati' and other Pali terms.

He writes:

"To find a similarly succinct definition of mindfulness in the texts of early Buddhism is not so easy. Such definitions as there are are rather different incharacter. In response to the question ‘what is the faculty of sati?’ we are told that someone who has sati ‘possesses perfect sati and understanding: he is someone who remembers and recollects what was done and said long before’ (S V 197–98). Another early response to a direct question about the characteristics of sati is found in the Milindapanha (Mil 37–38) where it is explained that sati has two characteristics (lakkhana): ‘calling to mind’ (apilapana) and ‘taking possession’(upaganhana). Thus sati is explained as calling to mind wholesome and unwholesome qualities such that the meditator is in a position to know which qualities are the ones he should pursue and which are the ones he should not; this is likened to the manner in which a king’s treasurer constantly reminds the king of his glory and property. Secondly, sati is said to follow the outcome of qualities andso to know which qualities are beneficial and which are not with the result that the meditator can remove those which are not helpful and take possession of those which are helpful; this is likened to the manner in which a king’s adviser keeps the king informed about what is and is not beneficial.The early Abhidhamma literature (see Dhs 16) lists a number of terms that are intended to illustrate the nature of sati and which are of some interest: recollection (anussati), recall (patissati), remembrance (saranata), keeping in mind (dharanata), absence of floating (apilapanata), absence of forgetfulness (asammussanata).
These ancient definitions and the Abhidhamma list of terms seem to be rather at odds with the modern clinical psychotherapeutic definition of mindfulness, and even perhaps with the more recent Buddhist definitions of mindfulness offered by way of exposition of the practice of satipatthana."

http://www.scribd.com/doc/99110733/On-S ... ethin-2011
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Re: Pali Term: Sati

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Sep 09, 2012 11:02 pm

Dmytro wrote:A mindful balance: What did the Buddha really mean by "mindfulness?"

Alan Wallace

The primary meaning of sati, on the other hand, is recollection, nonforgetfulness. This includes retrospective memory of things in the past, prospectively remembering to do something in the future, and present-centered recollection in the sense of maintaining unwavering attention to a present reality. The opposite of mindfulness is forgetfulness, so mindfulness applied to the breath, for instance, involves continuous, unwavering attention to the respiration. Mindfulness may be used to sustain bare attention (manasikara), but nowhere do traditional Buddhist sources equate mindfulness with such attention.


http://www.buddhanet.net/budsas/ebud/ebdha344.htm
Okay. He described three different functions, all of which can, to some degree depending upon what is being done in terms of one's practice, overlap. It is this one -- present-centered recollection in the sense of maintaining unwavering attention to a present reality -- that is the meditative core of what is called vipassana meditation, but that does not mean the other two are not also at play to varying degrees.
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SN I, 38.

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Re: Pali Term: Sati

Postby Spiny Norman » Mon Sep 10, 2012 8:27 am

Dmytro wrote:Buddha clearly defines 'sati' dozens of times in the suttas, and that for me proves everything. You did not provide any Sutta passages which would explain 'sati' as some 'present moment awareness'.


When I read the Satipatthana Sutta I have the sense that sati has the primary meaning of "paying attention".
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Re: Pali Term: Sati

Postby Hanzze » Mon Sep 10, 2012 9:44 am

What is attention? Does a stone have attention?
Just that! *smile*
...We Buddhists must find the courage to leave our temples and enter the temples of human experience, temples that are filled with suffering. If we listen to Buddha, Christ, or Gandhi, we can do nothing else. The refugee camps, the prisons, the ghettos, and the battlefields will become our temples. We have so much work to do. ... Peace is Possible! Step by Step. - Samtach Preah Maha Ghosananda "Step by Step" http://www.ghosananda.org/bio_book.html

BUT! it is important to become a real Buddhist first. Like Punna did: Punna Sutta Nate sante baram sokham _()_
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Re: Pali Term: Sati

Postby Dmytro » Mon Sep 10, 2012 11:58 am

porpoise wrote:When I read the Satipatthana Sutta I have the sense that sati has the primary meaning of "paying attention".


Do you read it in Pali?
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Re: Pali Term: Sati

Postby Dmytro » Mon Sep 10, 2012 12:00 pm

Another place where Rupert Gethin explains the original meaning of 'sati' is his excellent book 'The Buddhist Path to Awakening':

"What the Milindapanha account is suggesting, I think, is that sati should be understood as what allows awareness of the full range and extent of dhammas; sati is an awareness of things in relation to things, and hence an awareness of their relative value. Applied to the satipatthanas presumably what this means is that sati is what causes the practitioner of yoga to 'remember' that any feeling he may experience exists in relation to a whole variety or world of feelings that may be skilful or unskilful, with faults or faultless, relatively inferior or refined, dark or pure. The idea is probably clearest with the regard to feeling (vedana), but, of course, should be extended to cover body (kaya), mind (citta) and dhammas."
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Re: Pali Term: Sati

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Sep 10, 2012 4:56 pm

Dmytro wrote:Another place where Rupert Gethin explains the original meaning of 'sati' is his excellent book 'The Buddhist Path to Awakening':

"What the Milindapanha account is suggesting, I think, is that sati should be understood as what allows awareness of the full range and extent of dhammas; sati is an awareness of things in relation to things, and hence an awareness of their relative value. Applied to the satipatthanas presumably what this means is that sati is what causes the practitioner of yoga to 'remember' that any feeling he may experience exists in relation to a whole variety or world of feelings that may be skilful or unskilful, with faults or faultless, relatively inferior or refined, dark or pure. The idea is probably clearest with the regard to feeling (vedana), but, of course, should be extended to cover body (kaya), mind (citta) and dhammas."
Which is to say that sati is not simply remembering. From the same book, page 32, Gethin: "What is meant, I think, is that sati is understood as a quality of mind that 'stands near' or 'serves' the mind; it watches over the mind. One might say that it is a form of 'presence of mind'."
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

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People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: Pali Term: Sati

Postby Spiny Norman » Tue Sep 11, 2012 8:31 am

Dmytro wrote:
porpoise wrote:When I read the Satipatthana Sutta I have the sense that sati has the primary meaning of "paying attention".

Do you read it in Pali?


No, I'm not fluent in Pali. I suppose I'm assuming that the translations available are broadly correct, and that the meaning of language is dependent on context and can vary.
Do you see a major problem with sati meaning "paying attention" in the context of the Satipattana Sutta, and if so why?
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Re: Pali Term: Sati

Postby Spiny Norman » Tue Sep 11, 2012 8:33 am

Dmytro wrote:Another place where Rupert Gethin explains the original meaning of 'sati' is his excellent book 'The Buddhist Path to Awakening':

"What the Milindapanha account is suggesting, I think, is that sati should be understood as what allows awareness of the full range and extent of dhammas; sati is an awareness of things in relation to things, and hence an awareness of their relative value. Applied to the satipatthanas presumably what this means is that sati is what causes the practitioner of yoga to 'remember' that any feeling he may experience exists in relation to a whole variety or world of feelings that may be skilful or unskilful, with faults or faultless, relatively inferior or refined, dark or pure. The idea is probably clearest with the regard to feeling (vedana), but, of course, should be extended to cover body (kaya), mind (citta) and dhammas."


This sounds more like the aspect of clear comprehension?
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Re: Pali Term: Sati

Postby Kim OHara » Tue Sep 11, 2012 11:05 am

Dmytro wrote:
piotr wrote:It's good to know that he took it from the Bible (Psalm 8:4) where it is used (more or less) in the sense of remembering about somebody.


Thanks for the reference, Piotr:

"What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?
For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour."

There's also another passage from a popular Anglican prayer:

"Give us grateful hearts, our Father,
for all thy [your] mercies,
and make us mindful of the needs of others;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

http://www.askthepriest.org/askthepries ... ealti.html

Just tackling the translation problem from the other direction, in case it helps ...
The Bible quote is from the King James version which appeared about 1611.
Merriam-Webster reckons the word 'mindful' goes back to the 14th century.
My Chambers dictionary gives 'mindful', 'mindfully' and 'mindfulness' under the entry for 'mind', with no comment about them being archaic or obscure. A really good dictionary would give first occurrences and usage of all of them, but I haven't got one that good.
Here - http://pasadenatherapist.wordpress.com/2008/06/11/11-definitions-of-mindfulness/ - are 11 fairly modern definitions of 'mindfulness'.

:namaste:
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Re: Pali Term: Sati

Postby Dmytro » Tue Sep 11, 2012 4:17 pm

tiltbillings wrote:Which is to say that sati is not simply remembering. From the same book, page 32, Gethin: "What is meant, I think, is that sati is understood as a quality of mind that 'stands near' or 'serves' the mind; it watches over the mind. One might say that it is a form of 'presence of mind'."


Seems like Rupert Gethin's thoughts evolved gradually, and in his recent article "On some definitions of mindfulness" he speaks straightforwardly about 'remembrance' (see post above viewtopic.php?p=205748#p205436 ).

It is sometimes hard to break out of the spell of commonly accepted notions.
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Re: Pali Term: Sati

Postby Dmytro » Tue Sep 11, 2012 4:35 pm

porpoise wrote:No, I'm not fluent in Pali. I suppose I'm assuming that the translations available are broadly correct, and that the meaning of language is dependent on context and can vary.
Do you see a major problem with sati meaning "paying attention" in the context of the Satipattana Sutta, and if so why?


Translations available represent specific schools of meditational practice. For example, Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi is a student of Ven. Nyanaponika.

When the sutta speaks of everyday events, the translations agree. However the translations of specific meditational terms can broadly vary depending on the school of practice - e.g. 'sign', 'theme' or 'representation'. Who would have thought that these are translations of the one term, 'nimitta', in the identical context?

Understanding of terms informs the practice. For the beginner this may not be a problem, however for the advanced practice good understanding of terms is essential.
Some teachers write works specifically addressed to the misconception of 'paying attention' as the whole practice, e.g. Sayadaw U Tejaniya, "Awareness Alone Is Not Enough".
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