Kāyagatā Sutta (MN 119) – the Mindfulness of the Body Sutta

Mindfulness of the Body is often underrated. The disbelief or surprise – I imagine, even the skepticism – at this practice and teaching, the teaching of the power of mindfulness of the body, is hinted at in the beginning of the Kāyagatā Sutta, the Mindfulness of the Body Sutta, MN 119. I’m going to see if I can make the time to slowly translate it, with a commentary.

In the beginning of the sutta, the scene is set. This introduction is something like the later scene beginning the short Heart Sutra. The Buddha is meditating, and Avolokitesvara looks into the five skandhas and sees they are empty.

In this earlier Pāli sutta, the Kāyagatā Sutt, the morning almsround has has been completed and the monks are sitting around in the main hall talking after their meal. The Buddha, the Blessed One, is meditating in his hut, and the conversation in the hall turns to discussion of the Buddha’s claims about the power of mindfulness of the body. The monks’ are generally exclaiming, “Amazing! Wonderful! Marvellous! What the Blessed One says about mindfulness of the body is amazing.” One translation has it that they were in awe of the depth to which the Buddha had developed mindfulness of the body. We might well be astonished at the depth of his embodiment. So let’s add that into the atmosphere in the hall, as the Buddha, having risen from his meditation, enters the hall. The one who has seen into the nature of the body, the Blessed One, enters, and the monks go quiet.

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