The Shorter Sutta on the Foundations of Mindfulness

MN 10: Satipatthānasutta, Translated by Christopher Ash

Summary of the direct way

Thus have I heard: On one occasion the blessed one was living in the Kuru country, at the Kuru town named Kammasadhamma. There he spoke to the bhikkhus, thus:

“Bhikkhus!”

“Venerable Sir,” they replied.

“Bhikkhus, this is the direct way for the purification of beings, for going beyond sorrow and lamentation, for the disappearance of sorrow and dejection, for the study of the right path, for experiencing Nirvana – namely, the way of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness.

“What are the four? Here, Bhikkhus, a bhikkhu, ardent, mindful, and in full comprehension, having put away longing and distress regarding the world, dwells contemplating: the body in the body, the feelings in the feelings, the mind-states in the mind-states; and the dhammas in the dhammas themselves.

Contemplating the body – mindfulness of breathing section

“And how, Bhikkhus, does a bhikkhu dwell contemplating the body in the body? Here a bhikkhu, having gone to a forest, or to the root of a tree, or to an empty dwelling, sits down, and folding his legs crosswise, he sits with his body upright, and putting mindfulness in front of him, breathes in mindfully, and he breathes out mindfully.

“When breathing a long in-breath or out-breath, or a short in-breath or out-breath, he knows: ‘I breathe in long’, ‘I breathe out long.’ Or, ‘I breathe in short’, ‘I breathe out short.’ And he trains in this way: ‘I shall breathe in, experiencing the whole body.’ ‘I shall breathe out, experiencing the whole body.’ And, he trains: ‘I shall breathe in, calming my bodily formations.’ He trains: ‘I shall breathe out, calming my bodily formations.’

“Just as a skilled wood turner or his apprentice, when making a long turn, knows: ‘I’m making a long turn’; or, when making a short turn, he knows: ‘I’m making a short turn,’ so too, breathing in or out, long or short, a bhikkhu knows: ‘I breathe in long’, ‘I breathe out long,’ and so on. And, he trains in calming bodily formations: ‘I shall breathe in, calming the body,’ and ‘I shall breathe out, calming the body.’

Refrain

“In this way he dwells contemplating the body in the body with reference to the internal, or with reference to the external, or with reference to both the internal and external. Or, he dwells either contemplating the body’s experiences as they arise, or the body’s experiences as they vanish; or he dwells contemplating both the arising and vanishing of bodily experiences. Otherwise, the mindfulness that ‘There is a body’ is simply established in him. To the extent that discernment and attentiveness are established, he is one who dwells independent, not clinging to anything in the world. This is how a bhikkhu dwells contemplating the body in the body.

Contemplating the body – bodily activity section

“Again, Bhikkhus, when walking, a bhikkhu knows: ‘I am walking.’ When standing, he knows: ‘I am standing.’ When sitting, he knows: ‘I am sitting.’ When lying down, he knows: ‘I am lying down.’ Or, whatever his body’s disposition, he knows it accordingly.

Refrain

“In this way… not clinging to anything in the world.

This, too, is how a bhikkhu dwells contemplating the body in the body.

Contemplating the body – full awareness section

“And moreover, Bhikkhus, a bhikkhu is one who acts with full awareness when going backward and forward. he acts with full awareness when looking ahead or about her, when bending and stretching his limbs, when dressing, and when carrying things. he acts with full awareness when eating and drinking, chewing and tasting; and when defecating and urinating. When walking, standing, sitting, falling asleep, waking up, talking, and keeping silent, he acts with full awareness.

Refrain…

“In this way… not clinging to anything in the world.

This, too, is how a bhikkhu dwells contemplating the body in the body.

Contemplating the body – bodily impurities section

“And further, Bhikkhus, a bhikkhu contemplates this same body, bounded by the skin, up from the soles of the feet and down from the top of the head, as full of many kinds of impurities, saying: ‘In this body there are: head-hair, body-hair, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, tendons, bones, marrow, kidneys, heart, liver, diaphragm, spleen, lungs, small intestines, bowels, the stomach and its contents, excrement, bile, phlegm, pus, blood, sweat, fat, tears, oils, saliva, mucus of the nose, lubricants of the joints, and urine.’

“Just as though there were a bag with an opening at both ends, full of many sorts of grain, such as hill rice, red rice, beans, peas, millet, and white rice – and a man with sound eyes were to open it and contemplate it thus: ‘This is hill rice, this is red rice, these are beans, these are peas, this is millet, this is white rice.’ So too, a bhikkhu contemplates this same body, bounded by the skin, up from the soles of the feet and down from the top of the head, as full of many kinds of impurities: ‘In this body there are: head-hair, body-hair, nails, teeth, skin, and so on.’

Refrain…

“In this way… not clinging to anything in the world.

This, too, is how a bhikkhu dwells contemplating the body in the body.

Contemplating the body – primary elements section

“And further, Bhikkhus, a bhikkhu views this same body, however it is placed, whatever it’s activity, as consisting of elements, saying: ‘In this body there are the earth element, the water element, the fire element, and the air element.’

Just as though a skilled butcher or his apprentice had killed a cow and was seated at the crossroads with it cut up into pieces; so too, a bhikkhu considers this same body as consisting of elements: ‘In this body there are the earth element, the water element, the fire element, and the air element.’ However the body is placed, whatever his activity, he contemplates it thus.

Refrain…

“In this way… not clinging to anything in the world.

This, too, is how a bhikkhu dwells contemplating the body in the body.

Contemplating the body – nine charnel grounds contemplations section

“And further, Bhikkhus, as though a bhikkhu were to see a skeleton in a charnel ground – a corpse one, two, or three days dead, bloated, discoloured, and oozing matter – he would compare his own body with that body, saying: ‘This body, too, is of such a nature. It will be like that. It is not free from that.’

“And further, Bhikkhus, as though a bhikkhu were to see a skeleton in a charnel ground, being eaten by crows, hawks, vultures, dogs, jackals, and all kinds of worms, he compares his own body with that body, saying: ‘This body, too, is of that nature. It will be like that. It has not gone beyond that.’

“And further, Bhikkhus, as though a bhikkhu were to see a skeleton in a charnel ground with flesh and blood, held together with tendons; or, a fleshless skeleton smeared with blood, held together with tendons; or, a skeleton without flesh and blood, held together with tendons; or, as though he were to see disconnected bones scattered in all directions – here a hand-bone, there a foot-bone, here a ankle-bone, there a shin-bone, here a thigh-bone, there a pelvis, here a back-bone, there a rib-bone, here a breast-bone, there a neck-bone, here a jaw-bone, there a tooth, and there the skull – so a Bhikkhu compares his own body with that body, saying: ‘This body, too, is of that nature. It will be like that. It has not gone beyond that.’

“And further, Bhikkhus, as though a bhikkhu were to see, in a charnel ground, bones bleached white, the colour of shells; or, bones heaped up, more than a year old; or, bones rotted and crumbled to dust, so a bhikkhu compares his own body with a corpse, saying: ‘This body, too, is of that nature. It will be like that. It has not gone beyond that.’

Refrain

“In these ways, too, one dwells contemplating the body in the body with reference to the internal, or with reference to the external, or with reference to both the internal and external. Or, one dwells either contemplating the body’s experiences as they arise, or the body’s experiences as they vanish; or he dwells contemplating both the arising and vanishing of bodily experiences. Otherwise, the mindfulness that ‘There is a body’ is simply established in one. To the extent that discernment and attentiveness are established in him, so is one a bhikkhu who dwells independent, not clinging to anything in the world. This, too, (to contemplate death) is how a bhikkhu dwells contemplating the body in the body.

Contemplating the feelings

“And how, Bhikkhus, does a bhikkhu contemplate feelings in feelings? Here, when feeling a pleasant experience, a bhikkhu knows: ‘I am feeling a pleasant feeling-tone.’ When feeling an unpleasant experience, he knows: ‘I am feeling an unpleasant feeling-tone.’ When feeling a neither-pleasant-nor-unpleasant experience,’ he knows: ‘I am feeling a feeling-tone which is neither-pleasant-nor-unpleasant.’

“And further, when experiencing a worldly pleasant experience, he knows: ‘I am feeling a worldly pleasant feeling-tone.’ When experiencing an unworldly pleasant experience, he knows: ‘I am feeling an unworldly pleasant feeling-tone.’

“When experiencing a worldly unpleasant experience, he knows: ‘I am feeling a worldly unpleasant feeling-tone.’ When experiencing an unworldly unpleasant experience, he knows: ‘I am feeling an unworldly unpleasant feeling-tone.’

“When experiencing a worldly experience which is neither pleasant nor unpleasant, he knows: ‘I am feeling a worldly neither-pleasant-nor-unpleasant feeling-tone.’ When experiencing an unworldly experience which is neither pleasant nor unpleasant, he knows: ‘I am feeling an unworldly neither-pleasant-nor-unpleasant feeling-tone.’

Refrain

“In this way he dwells contemplating the feelings in the feelings with reference to the internal, or with reference to the external, or with reference to both the internal and external. Or, he dwells either contemplating the feelings as they arise, or the feelings as they vanish. Or he dwells contemplating both the arising and vanishing of the feelings. Otherwise, the mindfulness that ‘There is a feeling-tone’ is simply established in him. To the extent that discernment and attentiveness are established in him, he is one who dwells independent, not clinging to anything in the world. This, then, is how a bhikkhu dwells contemplating the feelings in the feelings.

Contemplating the mind states

“And how, Bhikkhus, does a bhikkhu dwell contemplating the mind-states in the mind-states? Here, a bhikkhu knows a mind affected by longing as a mind so affected. And mind unaffected by longing as a mind not affected in that way. he knows the mind affected by ill-will as a mind affected by ill-will, and the mind unaffected by ill-will as unaffected by such. He knows a mind affected by ignorance as a mind affected by ignorance, and a mind unaffected by ignorance as a mind unaffected by such.

“She knows a tense mind as a tense mind, and a scattered mind as a scattered mind. he knows an expanded mind as an expanded mind, and a contracted mind as a contracted mind. He knows a psychic state capable of being surpassed as a surpassable state, and a psychic state not capable of being surpassed as an unsurpassable state. he knows a composed mind as a composed mind, and an agitated mind as an agitated mind. he knows a released mind as a released mind, and an unfree mind as an unfree mind.

Refrain

“In this way he dwells contemplating the mind statesin the mind with reference to the internal, or with reference to the external, or with reference to both the internal and external. Or, he dwells contemplating arising in the mind, or he dwells contemplating vanishing in the mind; or he dwells contemplating both arising and vanishing in the mind. Or else, the mindfulness that ‘There is a state of the mind’ is simply established in her. To the extent that discernment and attentiveness are established, he is one who dwells independent, not clinging to anything in the world. This is how a bhikkhu dwells contemplating the mind-states in the states of the mind.

Contemplating the dhammas – ‘five hindrances’ section

“And how, Bhikkhus, does a bhikkhu dwell contemplating the dhammas in the dhammas themselves? Here a bhikkhu dwells contemplating dhammas in terms of the five hindrances. And how does a bhikkhu dwell contemplating dhammas in terms of the five hindrances? Here, there being sensual desire in her, a bhikkhu knows: ‘There is sensual desire in me.’ Or, there being no sensual desire in her, he knows: ‘There is no sensual desire in me.’ And so, when it has not arisen, he is aware how sensual desire arises. When sensual longing has arisen, he knows the abandoning of that sensual longing. And he knows how abandoning the sensual-longing hindrance leads to its non-arising sometime in the future.

And likewise with: ill-will, sloth & torpor, restlessness and agitation, and doubt. When a hindrances is present in  him, a bhikkhu knows it is present in  him. And when it is not present in  him, he knows that it’s not. And so, when it has not arisen, he is aware how a hindrance arises. When it has arisen, he knows its abandoning. And he knows how abandoning the hindrances leads to their non-arising in the future.

Refrain…

“In this way… not clinging to anything in the world.

Thus, a bhikkhu dwells contemplating the dhammas in the dhammas themselves in terms of the five hindrances.

Contemplating the dhammas – ‘five aggregates’ section

“Further, Bhikkhus, a bhikkhu dwells contemplating the dhammas in the dhammas themselves in terms of the five aggregates, subject to clinging. And how does a bhikkhu dwell contemplating dhammas in terms of the five aggregates, subject to clinging? Here a bhikkhu knows: ‘Such is form; such its origin, such its disappearance. Such is a feeling-tone; such its origin, such its disappearance. Such is a perception; such its origin, such its disappearance. Such are volitional formations; such their origin, such their disappearance. Such is consciousness; such its origin, such its disappearance.’

Refrain…

” In this way… not clinging to anything in the world.

Thus, a bhikkhu dwells contemplating the dhammas in the dhammas themselves in terms of the five aggregates, subject to clinging.

Contemplating the dhammas – ‘six sense-bases’ section

“Again, Bhikkhus, a bhikkhu dwells contemplating the dhammas, in the dhammas themselves, in terms of the six internal and six external sense-bases. And how does a Bhikkhu dwell contemplating dhammas in terms of the six internal and six external sense-bases? Here a bhikkhu knows the eye, and he knows forms. And he knows any fetter that arises dependent on both the eye and form. And, he knows how such a fetter which has not yet arisen can present itself, based on the eye and form. When such an fetter has arisen, he knows the abandoning of it. And he knows how abandoning these fetters leads to their non-arising sometime in the future.

And so it is, also: for the ear and sounds, the nose and smells, the tongue and tastes, the body and contact, and the mind and mental dhammas. In each case, he knows the fetters that arises dependent on both. And, he knows how the not-arisen fetters arise, dependent on such bases. When these fetters have arisen, he knows their abandoning. And he knows how abandoning the fetters leads to their non-arising sometime in the future.

Refrain…

“In this way… not clinging to anything in the world.

Thus, a bhikkhu dwells contemplating the dhammas in the dhammas themselves in terms of the six internal and external bases.

Contemplating the dhammas – ‘seven factors of enlightenment’ section

“Again, Bhikkhus, a bhikkhu dwells contemplating the dhammas, in the dhammas themselves, in terms of the seven factors of enlightenment. And how does a bhikkhu dwell contemplating dhammas in terms of the seven factors of enlightenment? Here, there being the enightenment factor of mindfulness present in him, a bhikkhu knows: ‘There is the enlightenment factor of mindfulness present in me.’ Or there being no mindfulness factor in him, he knows: ’There is no enlightenment factor of mindfulness present in me.’ And, he also knows how the not-yet-arisen mindfulness factor arises, and how the arisen mindfulness factor comes to fulfilment through development.

“And so it is for the presence in him of the inquiring factor of enlightenment, and the zeal factor, the joy factor, the serenity factor, the factor of concnetration, and the equanimity factor of enlightenment.

Refrain

“In this way… not clinging to anything in the world.

Thus, a bhikkhu dwells contemplating the dhammas in the dhammas themselves in terms of the seven factors of enlightenment.

Contemplating the dhammas – Four Noble Truths section

“Again, Bhikkhus, a bhikkhu dwells contemplating the dhammas, in the dhammas themselves, in terms of Four Noble Truths. And how does a bhikkhu dwell contemplating dhammas in terms of Four Noble Truths? Here a bhikkhu knows, as it actually presents: ‘This is suffering.’ he knows as it actually presents: ‘This is the origin of suffering.’ he knows as it actually presents: ‘This is the cessation of suffering.’ he knows as it actually presents: ‘This path is the cessation of suffering.’

Refrain

“In this way he dwells contemplating the dhammas, with reference to the internal, or with reference to the external, or with reference to both the internal and external. Or, he dwells contemplating arising in the dhammas, or he dwells contemplating vanishing in the dhammas; or he dwells contemplating both arising and vanishing in the dhammas. Or else, the mindfulness that ‘There are the dhammas’ is simply established in him. To the extent that discernment and attentiveness are established, he is one who dwells independent, not clinging to anything in the world. Thus, a bhikkhu dwells contemplating the dhammas in the dhammas themselves in terms of the Four Noble Truths.

‘This way is the direct way’

“Bhikkhus, if anyone should cultivate these Four Foundations of Mindfulnessin this way for seven years, one of two outcomes could be expected for them: either highest insight here and now; or if some trace of clinging remains, the stage of Once-Returner can be expected.

“Let alone seven years, bhikkhus, if anyone should cultivate these Four Foundations of Mindfulnessin this way for six years – for five years, or four, or three, or two, or for one year – then one of two outcomes could be expected for them: either highest insight here and now; or if there is a trace of clinging left, the stage of Once-Returner can be expected.

“Let alone one year, bhikkhus, if anyone should cultivate these Four Foundations of Mindfulnessin this way for seven months – or for six months, five months, four months, three months, two months, one month, or for half a month – then one of two outcomes could be expected for them: either highest insight, here and now; or if there is a trace of clinging left, the stage of Once-Returner can be expected.

“Let alone half a month, bhikkhus, if anyone should cultivate these Four Foundations of Mindfulnessin this way for seven days, one of two outcomes could be expected for them: either highest insight, here and now, or if there is a trace of clinging left, the stage of Once-Returner can be expected.

“So it was with reference to this that I said: ‘Bhikkhus, this is the direct way for the purification of individuals, for going beyond sorrow and lamentation, for the disappearance of sorrow and dejection, for the study of the right path, for experiencing Nirvana – namely, the way of the four foundations of mindfulness.”

That is what the Blessed One said, and those present were delighted and satisfied with what he said.

Mindfulness Sutta © 2019, Christopher Ash.