ReadingFaithfully.org icon Facebook icon Reddit icon Tumblr icon Mastodon icon RSS icon

MN 10 From… Satipaṭṭhānasutta: Mindfulness Meditation—Part 1

[Note: A month of meditation suttas would not be complete without the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta. Today’s selection is the first half of the sutta. We can also learn about mindfulness of the body in MN 119 Kāyagatāsati.]

So I have heard. At one time the Buddha was staying in the land of the Kurus, near the Kuru town named Kammāsadamma. There the Buddha addressed the mendicants, “Mendicants!”

“Venerable sir,” they replied. The Buddha said this:

“Mendicants, the four kinds of mindfulness meditation are the path to convergence. They are in order to purify sentient beings, to get past sorrow and crying, to make an end of pain and sadness, to discover the system, and to realize extinguishment.

What four? It’s when a mendicant meditates by observing an aspect of the body—keen, aware, and mindful, rid of covetousness and displeasure for the world. They meditate observing an aspect of feelings—keen, aware, and mindful, rid of covetousness and displeasure for the world. They meditate observing an aspect of the mind—keen, aware, and mindful, rid of covetousness and displeasure for the world. They meditate observing an aspect of principles—keen, aware, and mindful, rid of covetousness and displeasure for the world.

1. Observing the Body

1.1. Mindfulness of Breathing

And how does a mendicant meditate observing an aspect of the body?

It’s when a mendicant—gone to a wilderness, or to the root of a tree, or to an empty hut—sits down cross-legged, sets their body straight, and establishes mindfulness in front of them. Just mindful, they breathe in. Mindful, they breathe out.

Breathing in heavily they know: ‘I’m breathing in heavily.’ Breathing out heavily they know: ‘I’m breathing out heavily.’

When breathing in lightly they know: ‘I’m breathing in lightly.’ Breathing out lightly they know: ‘I’m breathing out lightly.’

They practice like this: ‘I’ll breathe in experiencing the whole body.’ They practice like this: ‘I’ll breathe out experiencing the whole body.’

They practice like this: ‘I’ll breathe in stilling the physical process.’ They practice like this: ‘I’ll breathe out stilling the physical process.’

It’s like a deft carpenter or carpenter’s apprentice. When making a deep cut they know: ‘I’m making a deep cut,’ and when making a shallow cut they know: ‘I’m making a shallow cut.’

And so they meditate observing an aspect of the body internally, externally, and both internally and externally. They meditate observing the body as liable to originate, as liable to vanish, and as liable to both originate and vanish. Or mindfulness is established that the body exists, to the extent necessary for knowledge and mindfulness. They meditate independent, not grasping at anything in the world.

That’s how a mendicant meditates by observing an aspect of the body.

1.2. The Postures

Furthermore, when a mendicant is walking they know: ‘I am walking.’ When standing they know: ‘I am standing.’ When sitting they know: ‘I am sitting.’ And when lying down they know: ‘I am lying down.’ Whatever posture their body is in, they know it.

And so they meditate observing an aspect of the body internally, externally, and both internally and externally. They meditate observing the body as liable to originate, as liable to vanish, and as liable to both originate and vanish. Or mindfulness is established that the body exists, to the extent necessary for knowledge and mindfulness. They meditate independent, not grasping at anything in the world.

That too is how a mendicant meditates by observing an aspect of the body.

1.3. Situational Awareness

Furthermore, a mendicant acts with situational awareness when going out and coming back; when looking ahead and aside; when bending and extending the limbs; when bearing the outer robe, bowl and robes; when eating, drinking, chewing, and tasting; when urinating and defecating; when walking, standing, sitting, sleeping, waking, speaking, and keeping silent.

And so they meditate observing an aspect of the body internally …

That too is how a mendicant meditates by observing an aspect of the body.

1.4. Focusing on the Repulsive

Furthermore, a mendicant examines their own body, up from the soles of the feet and down from the tips of the hairs, wrapped in skin and full of many kinds of filth. ‘In this body there is head hair, body hair, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, sinews, bones, bone marrow, kidneys, heart, liver, diaphragm, spleen, lungs, intestines, mesentery, undigested food, feces, bile, phlegm, pus, blood, sweat, fat, tears, grease, saliva, snot, synovial fluid, urine.’

It’s as if there were a bag with openings at both ends, filled with various kinds of grains, such as fine rice, wheat, mung beans, peas, sesame, and ordinary rice. And someone with clear eyes were to open it and examine the contents: ‘These grains are fine rice, these are wheat, these are mung beans, these are peas, these are sesame, and these are ordinary rice.’

And so they meditate observing an aspect of the body internally …

That too is how a mendicant meditates by observing an aspect of the body.

1.5. Focusing on the Elements

Furthermore, a mendicant examines their own body, whatever its placement or posture, according to the elements: ‘In this body there is the earth element, the water element, the fire element, and the air element.’

It’s as if a deft butcher or butcher’s apprentice were to kill a cow and sit down at the crossroads with the meat cut into portions.

And so they meditate observing an aspect of the body internally …

That too is how a mendicant meditates by observing an aspect of the body.

1.6. The Charnel Ground Contemplations

Furthermore, suppose a mendicant were to see a corpse discarded in a charnel ground. And it had been dead for one, two, or three days, bloated, livid, and festering. They’d compare it with their own body: ‘This body is also of that same nature, that same kind, and cannot go beyond that.’ And so they meditate observing an aspect of the body internally …

That too is how a mendicant meditates by observing an aspect of the body.

Furthermore, suppose they were to see a corpse discarded in a charnel ground being devoured by crows, hawks, vultures, herons, dogs, tigers, leopards, jackals, and many kinds of little creatures. They’d compare it with their own body: ‘This body is also of that same nature, that same kind, and cannot go beyond that.’ And so they meditate observing an aspect of the body internally …

That too is how a mendicant meditates by observing an aspect of the body.

Furthermore, suppose they were to see a corpse discarded in a charnel ground, a skeleton with flesh and blood, held together by sinews …

A skeleton without flesh but smeared with blood, and held together by sinews …

A skeleton rid of flesh and blood, held together by sinews …

Bones rid of sinews scattered in every direction. Here a hand-bone, there a foot-bone, here a shin-bone, there a thigh-bone, here a hip-bone, there a rib-bone, here a back-bone, there an arm-bone, here a neck-bone, there a jaw-bone, here a tooth, there the skull …

White bones, the color of shells …

Decrepit bones, heaped in a pile …

Bones rotted and crumbled to powder. They’d compare it with their own body: ‘This body is also of that same nature, that same kind, and cannot go beyond that.’

And so they meditate observing an aspect of the body internally, externally, and both internally and externally. They meditate observing the body as liable to originate, as liable to vanish, and as liable to both originate and vanish. Or mindfulness is established that the body exists, to the extent necessary for knowledge and mindfulness. They meditate independent, not grasping at anything in the world.

That too is how a mendicant meditates by observing an aspect of the body.


Read the entire translation of Majjhima Nikāya 10 Satipaṭṭhānasutta: Mindfulness Meditation by Bhikkhu Sujato on SuttaCentral.net. Or read a different translation on SuttaCentral.net, SuttaFriends.org, DhammaTalks.org or AccessToInsight.org. Or listen on PaliAudio.com or Voice.SuttaCentral.net. Or explore the Pali on DigitalPaliReader.online.

Or read a translation in Deutsch, Lietuvių Kalba, Polski, Русский, Srpski, বাংলা, Català, Čeština, Español, Suomi, Français, हिन्दी, Indonesian, Italiano, 日本語, 한국어/조선말, မြန်မာဘာသာ, Nederlands, Norsk, Português, සිංහල, Slovenščina, Svenska, ไทย, Tiếng Việt, or 汉语. Learn how to find your language.