Satipatthana sequencing

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.

Satipatthana sequencing

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Jan 29, 2009 12:02 pm

Greetings,

I'm starting a new thread on the Satipatthana Sutta as I don't want to derail the one Manapa started.

MN 10: Satipatthana Sutta
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

In satipatthana there are four frames of reference... Body, Feeling, Consciousness and Mental Objects.

In the introduction to Soma Thera's commentary to the Satipatthana Sutta there is talk, based on the traditional commentarial expositions about choosing one frame of reference as your "preliminary object of contemplation"

All the four different objects of mindfulness: body, feeling, consciousness and mental objects, have to be understood before one reaches sanctitude. According to character, temperament and cognizing slant, one can make however only one of these the preliminary object of contemplation. It is often the case that owing to a lack of proper understanding of oneself one has to try all objects before one gets to know what suits one best for the preliminary work. The choice is made more difficult by the fact that most of us have no clear-cut natures and are a mixture of a little of every possible human characteristic. In these circumstances there is no alternative to the method of trial and error. But the earnest ones will find their way with persistence and sustained effort.

By character there are two types determined by the excess of sensuous qualities of craving, or of the asensuous qualities of abstract beliefs that make up their personality. The craving type is generally extrovert; the other is generally introvert. According to temperament there are those whose mental functioning is slow, those who are languid mentally and those who are mentally keen, the nervous type. But here it must be understood that the terms languid and nervous have no necessary connection with calm and excitement. The nervous often keep cool when the languid fluster. The nervous type is sensitive, but strong and vigorous and keen. The nervous think forcefully and clearly. The languid are sluggish, inert, and weak, unclear, discursive, and often mixed-up in thought. Cognizing slant is either intuitive or intellective.

According to character and temperament the body-object is recommended for the languid extravert and the feeling-object for the nervous extrovert. For the languid introvert the consciousness-object is recommended, and for the nervous introvert, mental objects.

According to cognizing slant and temperament the body-object is pointed out for the mentally slow who belong to the intuitive kind which makes concentration its vehicle for progress, and for the mentally keen of this kind the feeling-object. For the mentally slow who belong to the intellective kind which makes insight its vehicle the consciousness-object is recommended, and to the mentally keen of this kind the mental object.

Further, contemplation on the body destroys the delusion of beauty; that on feeling destroys the delusion of pleasure; contemplation on consciousness dispels the delusion of permanence; and that on mental objects, the delusion of the soul.


Based on my limited experience, and understanding of the suttas, I think this restrictiveness in selection of primary object is not at all what the Buddha had in mind when he expounded this most excellent sutta.

In suttas on the jhanas, we see talk of entering the first jhana, going to the second, the third, the fourth, on to the formless jhanas and so on as mental sharpness improves with each subsequent step. There is no talk in the context of samatha suggesting that the first jhana is best for a particular character, the second is better for anyone character type, third for another and so on. Likewise, I think such a distinction in the context of vipassana is out of place, and that each stage of the sutta reflects a progression from the last as mental sharpness improves and attention turns within....

Looking at the sutta in sequence, we have a section on the Body [A]. This initial section commences with anapanasati aimed to calm and still the mind. Even when not engaged in sitting meditation, mindfulness of the body should be maintained to keep a base level of meditative mindfulness in daily activities or in walking meditation. The intention is to start the process of turning awareness inwards, moving attention away from worldly papanca towards the "world" of the Buddha's teachings as defined by the Buddha in suttas such as SN 12.44, SN 35.82 and AN 4.45.

Having commenced the taming of the mind, we progress to Feelings [B], observing the physical sensations and whether we classify them as pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. Increased sensitivity develops and it becomes possible to redirect the focus of meditation to the state of mind, or 'consciousness' [C]. This shift away from the physical to the mental is very important because it's within the realm of the mental that we falsely perceive a self, and its in the realm of the mental that craving is regenerated. The mind is however a more subtle subject for investigation and harder to get a read upon than the body, but the previous sections are invaluable cornerstones for increasing the power of mindfulness so that it is ready to tackle the challenge.

Initially we don't look at individual moments of thought, but at the blunter 'state of mind' and what that consists of. As one's vipassana improves, that process naturally flows into looking at individual Mental Objects [D] as they arise. Current hindrances are identified so they can remedied and concentration improved further. Then it is time to commence what I consider to be highlight and true essence of vipassana...

Mental qualities are reviewed, with wisdom, with respect to the five clinging-aggregates and also with respect to the six sense bases. By this stage the mind is very finely tuned and can see the arising of clinging with respect to these experiences. An unpleasant sound potentially evokes aversion... we see whether suffering arises, dependent on whether we have clinging. An unpleasant sound potentially evokes desire... we see whether suffering arises, dependent on whether we have clinging.

The response to the unpleasant is easier to discern, the clinging causes suffering and this is rather obvious. The response to the pleasant however is far more subtle, as the immediate danger cannot be discerned easily. However if we are prepared to forsake those pleasant dhammas, as per the simile of the raft, I feel we get a brief taste of what we are striving towards on the path. We see that there is something even better than blissful physical and mental sensations and it occurs when there is no becoming... when there is no engagement, when there is no clinging to accompany the aggregates. Thus we can come to see mental qualities with respect to the Four Noble Truths, as concludes the section on Mental Objects [D]. Then all that remains is to continue doing what one is doing, and if possible to do it better. How? By viewing the mental objects with respect to the seven enlightenment factors and using that sevenfold toolkit as a means to further sharpen one's mindfulness.

You can't just jump straight into section [D] unless the mind is already sharp enough to do it properly. Likewise you can't even really do section [A] properly without a good foundation in sila. Step-by-step the ability to 'see things as they really are' improves and the rewards increase too. Just like you wouldn't deliberately sit in the second jhana when you were capable of moving to the fourth, I would strongly recommend people consider whether they want to limit their satipatthana/vipassana practice to a small restricted section of the sutta. The conclusion shows the extent to which the Buddha expounded the efficacy of the satipatthana practice... let's do as he says, and not truncate the practice abnormally.

Anyhow, that is how I see it.

Comments, questions, corrections, criticisms, slaps around the face... whatever is relevant... are all appreciated.

:meditate:

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)
User avatar
retrofuturist
Site Admin
 
Posts: 14655
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 9:52 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: Satipatthana sequencing

Postby Cittasanto » Thu Jan 29, 2009 4:09 pm

Hi Retro,
I agree, but maybe the Buddha did mean this also, I have found it useful when I hit a rough patch in my sitting periods to just go back to basics, looking at the most gross or obvious sensation be it the breath, body sensations, feelings, or what ever, and being as impartial to those sensations as I could be more than useful when I realised sometimes we need a refresher course to bring us back to reality instead of running into the brick wall time after time.
even then it does depend on what is most gross at the time to know what is most suitable, no point looking at the breath if all you can perceive is the pain in our knees! and no point looking at the pain in the knees if all you can think about is the git who punched you last week for no reason (only an example not an actual event).
I suppose it could be said that in Meditation we calm the Gross Formations in the mind in regard to the Body Feelings and Conciousness, and once we see what these are we look at why the formations happen?

Warning :offtopic: from here

This is one of the reasons why I started doing the commentary (or whatever anyone wants to call it) as I can change it with new things and I am definetly going to look through to see if I got some of the bits you bring up here! :namaste:
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
Upāsaka Cittasanto
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."
User avatar
Cittasanto
 
Posts: 5743
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 10:31 pm
Location: Ellan Vannin

Re: Satipatthana sequencing

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Jan 30, 2009 12:01 am

Greetings Manapa,

I think you raise some good points. There is no shame in starting at the beginning of the process. In fact, that is how the Buddha explains it.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)
User avatar
retrofuturist
Site Admin
 
Posts: 14655
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 9:52 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: Satipatthana sequencing

Postby kc2dpt » Fri Jan 30, 2009 12:42 am

Some quick thoughts...

retrofuturist wrote:Based on my limited experience, and understanding of the suttas, I think this restrictiveness in selection of primary object is not at all what the Buddha had in mind when he expounded this most excellent sutta.

You say "primary" but Soma Thera says "preliminary". Is there perhaps a difference between what Soma Thera said and what you think he said?

retrofuturist wrote:let's do as he says, and not truncate the practice abnormally.

Is a truncation what is being recommended?

Soma Thera wrote:All the four different objects of mindfulness: body, feeling, consciousness and mental objects, have to be understood before one reaches sanctitude.


retrofuturist wrote:each stage of the sutta reflects a progression from the last as mental sharpness improves and attention turns within....

I have learned one may progress in this way. I have also heard one can indeed "skip around" and do them in any order. I do not think a order is strictly necessary as in the jhanas. In jhana meditation various factors are stripped away in turn, from gross to subtle; it makes sense the subtle can't go before the gross. But while we can order the satipathannas I don't think we need to, much like we can order colors by wavelength but I don't need to see red before I can see blue. For example, I believe I have meditated on feeling without first meditating on body.

My opinion.


On a side note...
Soma Thera wrote:Further, contemplation on the body destroys the delusion of beauty; that on feeling destroys the delusion of pleasure; contemplation on consciousness dispels the delusion of permanence; and that on mental objects, the delusion of the soul.

Bhikkhu Bodhi talks about doing satipathanna in just this way here.
- Peter

Be heedful and you will accomplish your goal.
User avatar
kc2dpt
 
Posts: 956
Joined: Thu Jan 01, 2009 3:48 pm

Re: Satipatthana sequencing

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Jan 30, 2009 1:10 am

Greetings Peter,

Thanks for your thoughts.

Peter wrote:You say "primary" but Soma Thera says "preliminary". Is there perhaps a difference between what Soma Thera said and what you think he said?

He says that in the end you have to master all (as you rightly quoted), but if you read the recommendations, he's pretty insistent that you start with and avidly pursue whichever one best matches your disposition, as discovered through character analysis, teacher recommendation and/or trial-and-error... and that's what I disagree with, largely because 1) the earlier steps help sharpen the mind for the later steps, 2) Each step reveals more penetrative insight than the last, 3) I don't think the Buddha was offering them up as a platter of options, rather a cohesive program.

Peter wrote:
retrofuturist wrote:let's do as he says, and not truncate the practice abnormally.

Is a truncation what is being recommended?.


I think so. If your character type suggests you should just do mindfulness of the body, then you're abnormally truncating the satipatthana program if you are ready and able to proceed to latter stages but intentionally don't.

But while we can order the satipathannas I don't think we need to, much like we can order colors by wavelength but I don't need to see red before I can see blue. For example, I believe I have meditated on feeling without first meditating on body.


I agree, but my opinion (based on experience, not suttas per se, even though it's compatible with teachings on hindrances and the enlightenment factors) is that it will only be effective if your mind was already sufficiently stable, sharp and pliant to be able to do it. Otherwise there'll be too much papanca going on and it will be difficult to achieve the required level of concentration.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)
User avatar
retrofuturist
Site Admin
 
Posts: 14655
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 9:52 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: Satipatthana sequencing

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Jan 30, 2009 1:45 am

Retro,

I certainly agree that it difficult to do much with the C and D sections of the Sutta unless one has developed some degree of concentration. However, you seem to be assuming that this Sutta is the entire meditation practise. That is not necessarily the case.

At the start it says:
"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.

A number of teachers would argue that this means that some development is necessary before embarking on these instructions in the first place. Many teachers have students do concentration practise first. There is three days of concentration practise on a ten day Goenka course, for example. Some teachers encourage students to develop jhanic levels of concentration first, arguing that "putting aside greed and distress" is shorthand for temporarily suppressing all five hindrances (these being the first two) with jhana.

Some "modern" approaches have no preliminary practises and simply rely on the primary object(s) to develop concentration. So in my Mahasi-style practise it is usual to use motion of the feet when walking or the abdomen when sitting as the primary objects. After a while that leads to quite a lot of concentration and my experience is that after a week or so on retreat mindfulness and concentration can be strong enough that it is possible to simply sit down and start observing mind states and mind objects without the need for any repetitive physical objects to maintain concentration.

So for someone who has weeks or months of continuous concentration practise I could well believe that jumping into any of the sections would be quite possible, and if that is the approach being taken (concentration before satipatthana) then it may well be fruitful to use the Commentarial advice on which object to pick.

Metta
Mike
User avatar
mikenz66
 
Posts: 10276
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: Satipatthana sequencing

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Jan 30, 2009 1:54 am

Greetings Mike,

I agree with what you say here. In fact, I think that's precisely why the sutta opens up with a mini exposition on anapanasati... in which case, it is in fact the entire practice (minus the preparatory sila, which I imagine is already assumed)

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)
User avatar
retrofuturist
Site Admin
 
Posts: 14655
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 9:52 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: Satipatthana sequencing

Postby kc2dpt » Fri Jan 30, 2009 3:40 am

Have you listened to Bhikkhu Bodhi's talks on this sutta from his MN class?
- Peter

Be heedful and you will accomplish your goal.
User avatar
kc2dpt
 
Posts: 956
Joined: Thu Jan 01, 2009 3:48 pm

Re: Satipatthana sequencing

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Jan 30, 2009 3:42 am

Greetings Peter,

Peter wrote:Have you listened to Bhikkhu Bodhi's talks on this sutta from his MN class?


No, I generally don't do Dhamma MP3s as I find I never have an opportunity to listen to them... but if you think it's relevant and are able to point me towards a link, then I'll make the effort to find some time.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)
User avatar
retrofuturist
Site Admin
 
Posts: 14655
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 9:52 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: Satipatthana sequencing

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Jan 30, 2009 4:22 am

Bhikkhu Bodhi's talks on the MN.

http://www.bodhimonastery.net/bm/about- ... ?showall=1

Metta
Mike
User avatar
mikenz66
 
Posts: 10276
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: Satipatthana sequencing

Postby appicchato » Fri Jan 30, 2009 4:26 am

retrofuturist wrote:No, I generally don't do Dhamma MP3s as I find I never have an opportunity to listen to them... but if you think it's relevant and are able to point me towards a link, then I'll make the effort to find some time.

http://www.bodhimonastery.net/bm/about-buddhism/audio/15-a-systematic-study-of-the-majjhima-nikaya.html?start=5

Paul,

Scroll down to #2 'The Way of Mindfullness'...

Take your pick... :smile:
User avatar
appicchato
 
Posts: 1586
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 12:47 am
Location: Bridge on the River Kwae

Re: Satipatthana sequencing

Postby Ben » Fri Jan 30, 2009 4:42 am

Hi Retro

I don't agree with your comment:
Based on my limited experience, and understanding of the suttas, I think this restrictiveness in selection of primary object is not at all what the Buddha had in mind when he expounded this most excellent sutta.


One begins with a preliminary object and moves on, as one progresses. Eventually, one is aware of all the different types of phenomena as they rise and fall. Some vipassana teachers choose one object over others as a means to teach students the basic technique of developing anicca-vijja.
Cheers

Ben
"One cannot step twice into the same river, nor can one grasp any mortal substance in a stable condition, but it scatters and again gathers; it forms and dissolves, and approaches and departs."

- Hereclitus


Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR
Buddhist Life Stories of Australia

e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com
User avatar
Ben
Site Admin
 
Posts: 16070
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 12:49 am
Location: Land of the sleeping gods

Re: Satipatthana sequencing

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Jan 30, 2009 9:25 am

Greetings Ben,

When you say... "I don't agree with your comment"... can you elaborate on what your disagreeance is based on? Personal experience, suttas, commentaries, your teacher's advice etc.? If that is how it should be, why did the Buddha not say it to be so?

Ben wrote:One begins with a preliminary object and moves on, as one progresses.

But are you talking one hour or one decade here? Remember that according to the Buddha, you could do it in seven days... and he specified no time frame longer than seven years.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)
User avatar
retrofuturist
Site Admin
 
Posts: 14655
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 9:52 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: Satipatthana sequencing

Postby Cittasanto » Fri Jan 30, 2009 9:32 am

Hi Ben Retro, & All
"Enlightenment is only a moment away"
the length of that moment is another thing though

I personally think the time frames given are concerning the right method mentioned in the start, the full practice done correctly, remember Ananda took longer than 7 years under the Buddhas teachings to gain enlightenment.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
Upāsaka Cittasanto
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."
User avatar
Cittasanto
 
Posts: 5743
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 10:31 pm
Location: Ellan Vannin

Re: Satipatthana sequencing

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Jan 30, 2009 10:33 am

Greetings bhante,

appicchato wrote:croll down to #2 'The Way of Mindfullness'...

Take your pick... :smile:


Thanks. This reminds me why I don't like listening to MP3 Dhamma talks... too slow, dodgy sound quality, no ability to knowingly skim to what you're looking for, no chapter headings etc.

We'll see how it goes any way.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)
User avatar
retrofuturist
Site Admin
 
Posts: 14655
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 9:52 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: Satipatthana sequencing

Postby kc2dpt » Fri Jan 30, 2009 2:10 pm

retrofuturist wrote:
Peter wrote:Have you listened to Bhikkhu Bodhi's talks on this sutta from his MN class?

No, I generally don't do Dhamma MP3s as I find I never have an opportunity to listen to them... but if you think it's relevant and are able to point me towards a link, then I'll make the effort to find some time.

I don't recall if it's relevant. I just think it likely he covers your question. Probably toward the end. I'd start with the last talk and skip to the Q&A

If that is how it should be, why did the Buddha not say it to be so?

In my opinion, the suttas only mention meditation techniques in passing, not in detail. It was expected that people would get detailed instruction from each other, less experienced monks from more experienced ones.

I know some people feel the suttas are in fact complete meditation instructions. I do not agree.

Given my beliefs about this, the sutta is vague as to whether all foundations are to be practiced or just one, whether they are to be practiced in a particular order, and how they are to be practiced. I have certainly heard teachers explain one leading into the next, but that seems to me one approach of many, not the only approach.

To put it another way, I have found nothing in the sutta which shows that the foundations must be pursued one after the other and in a particular order.
- Peter

Be heedful and you will accomplish your goal.
User avatar
kc2dpt
 
Posts: 956
Joined: Thu Jan 01, 2009 3:48 pm

Re: Satipatthana sequencing

Postby Jechbi » Fri Jan 30, 2009 4:49 pm

Peter wrote:It was expected that people would get detailed instruction from each other, less experienced monks from more experienced ones.

I know some people feel the suttas are in fact complete meditation instructions. I do not agree.

:goodpost:
That's probably one reason we have pariyatti monks and pattipati monks, as well as lineages. Seems to me we can talk all we want about this sutta, but it's only going to be helpful to a degree. Beyond that, I think it's best to have someone more experienced in the actual meditation practice actually walk us through the process, step by step.
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.
User avatar
Jechbi
 
Posts: 1268
Joined: Thu Jan 01, 2009 3:38 am

Re: Satipatthana sequencing

Postby kc2dpt » Fri Jan 30, 2009 5:37 pm

Bhikkhu Bodhi said once (in a class I attended) "The suttas are a high level view, a rough map (like directions from New York to Florida that say 'Go south'). The details (like go around the lake, go east a bit and you'll find a tunnel through that mountain, watch out for trees and thorn-bushes) will vary from practitioner to practitioner and so are deliberately left out."

"Go south" is techincally correct, but if we come to that mountain and a teacher says "Go eat a bit and you'll find a tunnel through" and we reply "The Buddha didn't say anything about going East" then perhaps we are not taking the Buddha's instructions as he intended them. :shrug:

Something tangential...

I have found most meditation teachers take whatever method has worked for them and say "This is the only right way." It is the rare teacher that says "This way has worked for me; other ways have worked for other people."
- Peter

Be heedful and you will accomplish your goal.
User avatar
kc2dpt
 
Posts: 956
Joined: Thu Jan 01, 2009 3:48 pm

Re: Satipatthana sequencing

Postby zavk » Sun Feb 01, 2009 8:15 am

Hi Retro,
retrofuturist wrote:....I think this restrictiveness in selection of primary object is not at all what the Buddha had in mind when he expounded this most excellent sutta.

Your curiosity about such an interpretation of the sattipathanna is an entirely valid one. I'd like to share my views with the help of Analayo's Satipatthana: The Direct Path to Realization, which in my view is a very lucid and balanced study of the discourse.

In the conclusion of the book, Analayo (p. 266) pointed out that:
The Buddha once said he would be able to answer questions about satipatthana without repeating himself or exhausting his answers, even if the inquiry were to continue for a whole century.[The footnote for this sentence references 'M i 83', which is paragraph 62 of MN12.]

I've hesitated to post a response until I could find the time to reproduce the following arguments from Analayo's book. Being a lazy Sunday... here it is. I post in two parts. The following ideas (pp. 268-271) are extracted from the concluding chapter of Analayo's book where he sums up his key arguments. However, please bear in mind that the following are only the concluding remarks. To fully appreciate his arguments one should also read the 200+ preceding pages of the book where he systematically explicates the Satipatthana Sutta in relation to other suttas and commentaries. I've reproduce this short extract because they are especially pertinent to Retro's questions.

In the following two posts, I'll add comments in [parenthesis ] where necessary to contextualise his claims and bold sentences for emphasis.

Metta,
zavk
With metta,
zavk
User avatar
zavk
 
Posts: 1161
Joined: Tue Jan 20, 2009 12:04 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: Satipatthana sequencing

Postby zavk » Sun Feb 01, 2009 8:17 am

[Please start from previous post]

The essential features of satipatthana contemplation can also be brought out visually. In Fig 15.1 below I have attempted to illustrate the relationship between the "definition" [the early part of the sutta that goes: 'What are the four? Here, monks, in regard to the body...feelings..mind...dhammas...he abides contemplating...diligent, clearly knowing, and mindful, free from desires and discontent in regard to the world], the four satipatthanas, and the "refrain" [the part of the suttas that goes: 'In this way in regard to the body/feelings/mind/dhamma he abides contemplating internally..externally...of arising...of passing away...]. The central aspects mentioned in the "refrain" are in the centre of the figure, while the qualities listed in the "definition" are repeated in each cone. These four cones represent the satipatthanas, each of which can become the main focus of practice and lead to deep insight and realization.

Image

As the diagram indicates, undertaking satipatthana contemplations of body, feelings, mind, or dhammas requires the combination of the four qualities listed in the "definition". Such contemplation leads to the development of the four aspects of satipatthiina found in the centre of the above figure and mentioned in the "refrain" Satipatthana Sutta.

In this diagram I intend to show that each of the four satipatthana constitutes a "door" or perhaps a "stepping-stone". The contemplations included under the four satipatthanas are not ends in themselves, rather, they are only tools for developing the central aspects described in the "refrain". Whichever door or stepping-stone is used to develop insight, the main task is to employ it skilfully in order to gain a comprehensive and balanced vision of the true nature of subjective experience.

In the Salayatanavibhanga Sutta the Buddha spoke of “three satipatthanas" distinct from the practices listed in the four satipatthana scheme [The footnote references M iii 221, which is MN137]. This suggests that the contemplations described in Satipatthana Sutta do not determine the only proper and suitable ways for carrying out "satipatthana" contemplation, but only recommendations for possible applications. Thus the practice of satipatthana is not necessarily restricted to the range of objects explicitly listed in the Satipatthana Sutta.

[NB: In this respect, Peter is quite right to say that:]
Peter wrote:I know some people feel the suttas are in fact complete meditation instructions. I do not agree.


The contemplations in the Satipatthana Sutta progress from gross to subtle aspects of experience. It should be kept in mind, however, that that this discourse represents a theoretical model of satipatthana, not a case study. In actual practice, the different contemplation described in the discourse can be combined in a variety of ways and it would be a misunderstanding to take the progression in the discourse as prescribing the only possible sequence for the development of satipatthana.
Last edited by zavk on Sun Feb 01, 2009 8:19 am, edited 1 time in total.
With metta,
zavk
User avatar
zavk
 
Posts: 1161
Joined: Tue Jan 20, 2009 12:04 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Next

Return to Theravada Meditation

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: EmptyShadow, Google [Bot] and 2 guests