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Satipattana Meditation[]

The following .PDF file describes the method of meditation as taught by Lord Buddha himself. This also contains the original words in Pali language as well as its translation. This translation is provided by Ven. S. N. Goenka who has taught Vipassana meditaion all over the world in many centers and who was himself a self realized person.

See Also:

Vipassana Meditation

Meditation Best Practices

Pdf File :
File:Satipattan is vipassana meditation.pdf

Seven Days Satipattana Meditation as Taught by Ven. S.N.Goenka[]

Discourses on Satipattana Sutta 

By Ven. S. N. Goenka 

Condensed from the discourses during a course in Maha-satipattana Sutta 



Note on the Pronunciation of Pali


The Three Steps


Pariyatti—Theoretical Knowledge




The Opening Words


The Four Satipaṭṭhānas

Ānāpānapabbaṃ—Observation of Respiration

Iriyāpathapabbaṃ—Postures of the Body

Sampajānapabbaṃ—Constant Understanding of Impermanence


Paṭikūlamanasikārapabbaṃ—Reflections on Repulsiveness

Dhātumanasikārapabbaṃ—Reflections on Material Elements

Navasivathikapabbaṃ—Nine Cemetery Observations


Vedanānupassanā—Observation of Sensations

Cittānupassanā—Observation of Mind

Dhammānupassanā—Observation of Mental Contents

Nīvaraṇapabbaṃ—The Hindrances


Khandhapabbaṃ—The Aggregates

Āyatanapabbaṃ—The Sense Doors

Bojjhaṅgapabbaṃ—The Factors of Enlightenment

Questions and Answers


Catusaccapabbaṃ—The Four Noble Truths

Dukkhasaccam—The Truth of Suffering

Samudayasaccaṃ—The Truth of Arising of Suffering

Nirodhasaccaṃ—The Truth of Cessation of Suffering

Maggasaccaṃ—The Truth of the Path

Satipaṭṭhānabhāvanānisaṃso—Results of the Practice

Questions and Answers


Pāli Passages Quoted In the Discourses (with English translation)


S.N. Goenka, or Goenkaji as he is widely and respectfully referred to, is well known in numerous countries of the world as a master teacher of meditation. He received the technique that he teaches in the 1950’s from Sayagyi U Ba Khin of Burma, who in turn received it from Saya Thet, who received it in turn from the venerable monk, Ledi Sayadaw, who in turn received it from his own teacher in a long line of teachers descended directly from the Buddha. The achievement of this line of teachers in preserving the technique through such a long period of time is extraordinary, and a cause for gratitude in those who practise it. Now, in a world hungry for inner peace, there has been an extraordinary spread of the technique in Goenkaji’s lifetime: at the time of this writing meditation courses are given in 55 meditation centres as well as many temporary campsites in India and around the world, attracting about 40,000 people annually, a number which is growing each year.

In spite of his magnetic personality and the enormous success of his teaching methods, Goenkaji gives all credit for his success to the efficacy of Dhamma itself. He has never sought to play the role of a guru or to found any kind of sect, cult or religious organisation. When teaching the technique he never omits to say that he received it from the Buddha through a chain of teachers down to his own teacher, and his gratitude to them for the benefits that he has personally gained in his own meditation is evident. At the same time, he continually emphasises that he does not teach Buddhism or any kind of "ism," and that the technique that he teaches is universal, for people from any religious or philosophical background or belief.

The standard meditation course in this tradition is a residential course of ten days’ duration. Participants commit themselves to staying on the course site for the full ten days, observing a rigorous timetable, maintaining complete silence among themselves for the first nine days. At the beginning of the course, they take the five precepts as given by the Buddha to householders: to refrain from killing, to refrain from stealing, to refrain from telling lies, to refrain from sexual misconduct (which involves the maintenance of complete celibacy for the duration of the course), and to refrain from taking any intoxicants. They start with the practice of Ānāpānameditation, that is, the observation of the natural breath. On the fourth day, when some concentration has been gained, they switch to the practice of Vipassana, the systematic observation of the entire mind-matter phenomenon through the medium of bodily sensations. On the last full day, they practise Mettā-bhavana, that is, loving kindness, or sharing the merits that they have gained with others.

Although his family was from India, Goenkaji was brought up in Burma, where he learnt the technique from his teacher Sayagyi U Ba Khin. After being authorised as a teacher by U Ba Khin he left Burma in 1969 in response to his mother’s illness, to give a ten-day course to his parents and twelve others in Bombay. The inspiration that he imparted and the extraordinary results of his teaching led to many more such courses, first in campsites around India and then later in centres as these began to spring up. From 1979 onwards he also started giving courses outside India, notably in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Nepal, France, England, North America, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand. All of these areas today have one or more centres.

Unfortunately around this time confusion arose among some meditators as to how to practise Vipassana. The question arose as to what was Vipassana and what was Satipaṭṭhāna. In fact Vipassana and Satipaṭṭhāna are synonymous. They are the same.

In order to enable meditators to work directly with the Buddha’s words and to dispel this confusion, Goenkaji gave the first Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta course at Dhammagiri, the main centre near Bombay, from 16 to   22 December 1981. The discipline and timetable of a ten-day course remained, but the participants could study the text of the Sutta in the break periods, if they wished. Goenkaji’s evening discourses explained and expanded on the Sutta.In this way pariyatti (the theoretical study of Dhamma) and paṭipatti (the actual practice of Dhamma) were most beneficially combined.

Each of the chapters of this book is a condensed version of the daily evening discourse given by S.N. Goenka during a Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta course held at Dhamma Bhūmi, Blackheath, Australia, in November, 1990. The book is intended as a companion volume to the Mahā-satipaṭṭhāna Sutta, The Great Discourse on the Establishing of Awareness (VRI, 1998), with its introduction and notes, published by the Vipassana Research Institute. That volume contains the full text of the Sutta and is used as a handbook by meditation students who are attending the course. The condensed discourses in this book contain only short excerpts from the Sutta, and it is not intended to be used on the course, where students are able to hear the original discourses directly by means of videotape. It may, however, serve as an aid to meditators after the course as a review of the content, as an aid to further study of the texts for scholars, and to assist with translation and better understanding for the benefit of those whose mother tongue is not English.

"Liberation can only be gained by practice, never by mere discussion." These words of Goenkaji give a fitting background to the origin and reason for these discourses and for the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta course itself.

Goenkaji has always emphasised the importance of the actual practice of meditation; theory and study are understood as a support to the practice. In the Satipaṭṭhāna discourses he warns of how unfortunate it would be if a centre became devoted only to the study of theory. On Satipaṭṭhāna courses, as with the ten-day courses, the full meditation timetable is followed, the discourses being restricted just to one period in the evening. This means that the participants can use the theory as a foundation from which to investigate and experience realities inside themselves directly, rather than being tempted to get caught up in mere intellectual debates about it. Not that intellectual study is discouraged, but as Goenkaji emphasises, theory and practice should go together. Similarly, on a ten-day course, the teachings in the discourses proceed from sīla (morality), to samādhi (mastery of the mind), to paññā (wisdom through insight) as the meditators are introduced to each at a practical level.

A prerequisite for the Satipaṭṭhāna course in this tradition is the completion of three ten-day courses, regular daily practice, and at least a minimum maintenance of sīla, by keeping the five moral precepts. It is noteworthy that the Sutta itself contains no mention of sīla. Goenkaji explains the background in the opening discourse given on Day Two: the Sutta was given to the people of Kuru, who already had a strong background of sīla, going back generations. To talk of sīla to them was unnecessary; its importance was already understood and assumed. It is also important today that meditators taking this course and working with this Sutta have at least a basic understanding and practice of sīla. Without this foundation of morality, it is impossible for them to go to sufficient depth in their practice to work effectively with the teaching in the Sutta. Many of the original audience of the Sutta were already highly developed in their own meditation, needing very little guidance to be able to reach higher stages. While such attainments are not necessarily expected today, a requirement of the course is that the Satipaṭṭhāna students at least have some solid experience in this meditation, as well as familiarity with the ten-day discourses.

It was also no coincidence that Goenkaji’s teaching of the first course in the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta at Dhammagiri was immediately followed by his teaching of a one-month Vipassana course. The further understanding gained from attending a Satipaṭṭhāna course forms an essential base for practice during a long course, and is in fact a requirement for taking long courses in this tradition. This understanding forms a very important and helpful guide for the meditator during the extended solitude spent in practice during a long course. Additionally, the long course discourses refer frequently to the teachings of this important Sutta, which are also echoed in many other suttas.

All the thousands of discourses given by the Buddha have a particular meaning and inspiration. Each was uniquely tailored by the Buddha to its specific audience, to suit their situation and level of understanding at that time. The understanding of even one or a few discourses was often sufficient for a meditator to reach the final goal. Nevertheless, this particular discourse has been singled out for intense study because, due to the developed nature of its original audience, it can dispense with many preliminaries and deal in detail with the technique of meditation itself. As such, it is particularly helpful to older students who wish to study and understand the technique more deeply at the theoretical level, in order to strengthen their practice.

The first Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta course lasted only seven full days, because this was the time Goenkaji needed to expound and explain it in the evening discourses. This remains its standard length today. The emphasis therefore is on understanding the Sutta and, at a practical level grasping its implications by at least some practice. This practice is then further developed in the long courses after it has been solidly anchored in a deeper knowledge of the theory.

It is a source of great inspiration to students on the course to hear the direct words of the Buddha, in a context where they can work with them directly. Many meditators, having practised even a little, are thrilled when they first hear the Buddha’s words, and straightaway start to understand them in a way that is simply not possible for those who have not practised, because the experiential level is missing from their comprehension. Many meditators report that they feel as if the Buddha is speaking to them personally, as if his words were meant for them. It is a characteristic of an enlightened person’s teaching that they seem to directly address the experience of every meditator.

In the original Mahā-satipaṭṭhāna Sutta, and frequently in other suttas as well, the Buddha used repetition both for emphasis and clarity. In his discourses on the Sutta, Goenkaji recites each passage in Pāli in its entirety with the same effect. The resonance of the Buddha’s original words, especially when recited by a master teacher of Vipassana such as Goenkaji, directly invites the listener to deeper meditation. However to produce a written version which included all the Pali then recited would risk presenting an unnecessary mass of material which might create difficulties for a reader. This volume therefore separates the discourses and the full text. The discourses contain only excerpts from the Sutta, which are then followed by Goenkaji’s commentary. It should also be noted that, for the convenience of the reader, many repeated passages within these excerpts have been omitted and are replaced by ellipses (…).

The complete Pāli text and translation may be found in the companion volume, the Mahā-satipaṭṭhāna Sutta, The Great Discourse on the Establishing of Awareness (VRI, 1998). In this way, the Sutta can be read in its entirety with the background and understanding gained by first reading these discourses. Those who wish to gain the inspiration of hearing the Pāli in full while actually practising, are referred to Goenkaji’s own original discourses or recitation.

No summary of this kind can ever capture in full the flavour and impact of the original discourses. To have been present and to have heard such discourses in person is a great privilege and a source of extraordinary inspiration. Therefore these condensed discourses attempt to retain this flavour and atmosphere. While cleaving to Goenkaji’s original words where possible, they attempt to distil and crystallise the meaning of each of his points with maximum clarity. If they can serve as an inspiration to all who read them to meditate at deeper levels on the path to liberation, their purpose will have been achieved.

—Patrick Given-Wilson

May, 1998, Dhamma Bhūmi,

Blackheath, Australia

Note on the Pronunciation of Pāli[]

Pāli was a spoken language of northern India in the time of Gotama the Buddha. It was written in the Brāhmī script in India in the time of Emperor Asoka and has been preserved in the scripts of the various countries where the language has been maintained. In Roman script the following set of diacritical marks are used to indicate the proper pronunciation.

The alphabet consists of forty-one characters: eight vowels and thirty-three consonants.

The alphabet consists of forty-one characters: eight vowels and thirty-three consonants.

Vowels: a, ā, i, ī, u, ū, e, o


Velar:              k         kh        g          gh        ṅ

Palatal:            c          ch        j           jh         ñ

Retroflex:        ṭ           ṭh         ḍ          ḍh        ṇ

Dental: t           th         d          dh        n

Labial: p          ph        b          bh        m

Miscellaneous:            y, r, l, v, s, h, ḷ, ṃ

The vowels a, i, u are short; ā, ī, ū are long; e and o are pronounced long except before double consonants: deva, mettā; loka, phoṭṭhabbā.

a is pronounced like ‘a’ in ‘about’; ā like ‘a’ in ‘father’;  i is pronounced like ‘i’ in ‘mint’; ī like ‘ee’ in ‘see’;  u is pronounced like ‘u’ in ‘put’; ū like ‘oo’ in ‘pool’.

The consonant c is pronounced as in the ‘ch’ in ‘church’. All the aspirated consonants are pronounced with an audible expulsion of breath following the normal unaspirated sound. Therefore th is not as in ‘three’ but more like the sound in ‘Thailand’, and ph is not as in ‘photo’ but rather is pronounced ‘p’ accompanied by an expulsion of breath.

The retroflex consonants, ṭ, ṭh, ḍ, ḍh, ṇ are pronounced with the tip of the tongue turned back, whereas in the dentals, t, th, d, dh, n, it touches the upper front teeth.

The palatal nasal, ñ, is the same as the Spanish ‘ñ’, as in señor. The velar nasal, ṅ, is pronounced like ‘ng’ in ‘singer’ but occurs only with the other consonants in its group: ṅk, ṅkh, ṅg, ṅgh. The pronunciation of  is similar to  but occurs most commonly as a terminal nasalization: ‘evaṃ me sutaṃ’. The Pāli v is a soft ‘v’ or ‘w’ and , produced with the tongue retroflexed, is almost a combined ‘rl’ sound.

There a few instances of Sanskrit words in the text. The following are diacritical characters that occur in Sanskrit but not in Pāli:

¥ is the vocalic ‘r’, pronounced as ‘ri’ with a rolled ‘r’  Œ is a retroflex ‘sh’; œ is a palatal ‘sh’

Namo tassa bhagavato arahato


The first day of the Satipaṭṭhāna course is over. The technique, and your practice, remain the same. It is however a special course in the sense that you will try to understand the words of the Buddha with reference to the technique. All the teachings, all the discourses of the Buddha are so enlightening, full of wisdom, so precious, just like portions of a big, sweet cake. Every one of them gives the same taste of nectar, ambrosia. The Mahā-satipaṭṭhāna Sutta however is chosen because it deals with this technique in detail.

It is better for serious old students to hear the actual words of the Buddha, to understand both practice and theory more clearly, in more detail, and to come out of any confusion. A few enthusiastic students unfortunately started teaching without proper training or grounding in the technique, and mixed other things with it. In India they attended just a few courses. They mostly had great attachment to their own sectarian philosophical beliefs and no technique of their own. With only superficial knowledge of Vipassana, they were unable to teach it properly. Vipassana students who attended their courses got very confused.

Similarly in the West, people have started teaching with a base of this technique, but differently. Just to differentiate they claim to teach Satipaṭṭhāna, and say that what Goenka teaches is Vipassana. This caused great confusion. Satipaṭṭhāna is Vipassana. Vipassana is Satipaṭṭhāna. The direct words of the Buddha will clarify this. They will give inspiration and guidance, and the understanding of Dhamma at a deeper level. Therefore the technique remains the same but the evening discourses will cover this very important Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta in detail.

Initially Pāli, the ancient language spoken by the Buddha, will seem very new to you. Slowly you will start understanding the words. Later you will be able to develop a working knowledge of the language. Then it becomes so inspiring. If you are a good Vipassana meditator you will feel as if the words are for you, that the Buddha himself is directing your practice. At this beginning stage, understand just a few words, which will be helpful.

The Three Steps

There are three aspects, or important steps of Dhamma. The first is pariyatti: sufficient intellectual knowledge of the teaching. Those who have not even heard or read the words of the Enlightened Person cannot understand Dhamma and its universal nature. They will understand Dhamma only as Buddhist religion. They will take it as a sectarian philosophical belief, or a rite, ritual, or religious ceremony, such as they themselves remain involved in. A sutavā is one who has heard and will understand Dhamma as universal law, truth, nature, not limited to any sect or community. Having heard, a sutavā can practise and apply it in life, and so is a fortunate person compared to an assutavā, who has heard nothing about universal truth, and remains confused.

Hearing or reading words of pure Dhamma is very good to give inspiration and guidance to start practising. However if you remain satisfied just with that and don’t practise, because now you feel you know everything at the intellectual level, then it becomes just a devotional game. Actually you don’t know because direct experience is missing. You have just accepted the truth without practising, which may even become a hindrance to liberation. Therefore every sutavā must start practising.

Paṭipatti, the next step, is practising Dhamma. In another discourse the Buddha said:

Supaṭipanno Bhagavato sāvaka-saṅgho.

Sāvaka means sutavā. Sāvaka-saṅgho means the saṅgha which is sāvaka, which has heard the teaching of the Buddha and started walking on the path properly—that is, supaṭipanno, "well practiced." Walking on the path they will reach the final destination of full liberation. Paṭipatti will do this, not pariyatti alone. With pariyatti you start understanding that as a human being, as a social being, you must live a life of morality in your family and in society. If you disturb the peace and harmony of others, how can you experience peace and harmony? So you abstain from any physical or vocal action which hurts and harms other beings. You abstain from killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, harsh words, backbiting or useless, meaningless words which waste your time and that of others, and from taking any kind of intoxicant. You also understand that by abstaining from unwholesome actions you are actually obliging yourself, not only others. Such unwholesome actions cannot be performed unless you generate great impurity in the mind; like craving, greed, aversion, ego, and fear. When you do that, you harm yourself. For this reason you understand the importance of sīla, which means "morality."

However even with your intellectual understanding, maintaining sīla becomes difficult without control over the mind. Therefore you must practise samādhi, that is mastery of the mind. In certain circumstances, such as the environment of a Vipassana course, it is easy not to break your sīla, but walking on the path you have to develop this mastery. You start becoming supaṭipanno. Now you are practising using Ānāpāna, awareness of your respiration, which is paṭipatti.

As you proceed on the path properly, as an enlightened person intends you to, you have to control the mind in a proper way, or this control will not take you to the third step of paṭivedhana. Literally this means "piercing, penetrating." Your samādhi concentrates the mind on the reality pertaining to yourself, your own mind-matter phenomenon, because respiration is related to both mind and matter. However, as you proceed you will notice a great stock of accumulated impurities inside. Although you try to control your physical and vocal actions, yet you get overwhelmed by them from time to time. Therefore you have to reach that depth of truth which will take these impurities out.

Paññatti is apparent truth: it seems to be, it appears to be so. To witness ultimate truth you have to remove this curtain of apparent truth, pierce, penetrate, and cut it asunder. This is Vipassana. In another text it was said:

Paññatti ṭhapetvā visesena passatī’ti vipassanā.

Paññatti ṭhapetvā means "having removed the apparent truth." Then Vipassana sees (passati) things by their characteristic (visesena). By piercing, penetrating the apparent, solidified, intensified truth, which has to be dissected, disintegrated, dissolved, you move towards the ultimate truth of what is called "I," "mine," the material structure, the mental structure, and the mental contents. Then piercing the entire field of mind and matter you can witness something beyond—the ultimate truth of nibbāna, which is eternal, beyond the entire field of mind and matter. This practice of piercing wisdom, paṭivedhana, which is Vipassana, leads to the final goal of full liberation.

Therefore understand that the purpose of hearing this Sutta during the course is not merely for pariyatti. However helpful this theoretical knowledge might be, all three steps of pariyattipaṭipatti, and paṭivedhana have to be taken. These three cover the entire universe of paññā, that is wisdom.

In ten-day courses you have heard about the three stages of paññā. Suta-mayā paññā is what you have heard. It is someone else’s wisdom, not yours. Cintā-mayā paññā is your intellectual reasoning, your understanding of someone else’s wisdom. Both are good, but only if you take the third step of bhāvanā-mayā paññā, to witness the truth yourself. Repeated witnessing develops your wisdom and it is this direct experience that takes you to the final goal.

Different words for this threefold distinction are used in another Indian tradition. First is sadda sacca, truth of the word. Fanatics think that the truth of the scriptures must be accepted even without understanding it. When witnessed, experienced, it may be true, but they have merely heard and developed attachment. It is not truth for them. Next is anumāna sacca, intellectual understanding by inference. From smoke you infer fire. You have not seen the fire. Both of these can be illusionary, delusionary.

Third is the truth you directly witness yourself: paccakkha sacca. The entire teaching of an enlightened person is to inspire you to do this. Belief in the Buddha’s words is essential, but unless you yourself witness the truth you can never become enlightened. To listen and understand intellectually is very helpful, but at the same time every teaching has to be witnessed by those who aspire to get liberated. This is what is taught in theSatipaṭṭhāna Sutta, and its every word should inspire and guide you.


Sati means awareness, the witnessing of every reality pertaining to mind and matter within the framework of the body. Only with proper understanding and wisdom does it become satipaṭṭhāna. Ýhāna means getting established. Paṭṭhāna means getting established in a proper way, which is in different ways, or pakārena:

Pakārena jānātī’ti paññā.

Paññā, wisdom, jānāti, understands, reality from different angles. Witnessing from only one angle is partial, distorted truth. You have to try to witness the totality, which is done by observing from different angles. Then it ispakārena, and it becomes paññā.

Thus sati becomes paṭṭhāna when it is joined with paññā. Whenever the Buddha uses the words sati or sato, he also uses sampajāno, as in the Sutta: ātāpī sampajāno satimā

Ātāpī means "ardently." However sati is perfect only with wisdom, sampajāno, with the understanding of the nature of reality at the experiential level—that is, its basic characteristic of anicca, arising and passing. Because its nature is to be impermanent, the characteristic of dukkha, misery or suffering, is also inherent. Practising with paññā, you will understand dukkha with your own experience. Every pleasant experience, every pleasant situation is anicca. Everything within the framework of the body changes into something unpleasant, so it is nothing but dukkha. The law of nature is such. Yet the tendency of the mind is to get attached and cling to a pleasant experience, and when it is gone you feel so miserable. This is not a philosophy but a truth to be experienced by paṭivedhana: dividing, dissecting, disintegrating, dissolving you reach the stage of bhaṅga, total dissolution. You witness the solidified, material structure, the body, as actually nothing but subatomic particles, kalāpas, arising and passing. Similarly the mind and mental contents manifest as very solidified, intensified emotions—anger, fear, or passion—which overpower you. Vipassana, paṭivedhana, helps you. With piercing, penetrating paññā you divide, dissect, disintegrate to the stage where this intense emotion is nothing but wavelets. The whole material and mental structures and the mental contents are nothing but wavelets, wavelets, anicca, anicca.

Then the reality about this "I" or "mine" or "myself" becomes clear. They are just conventional words. There is no "I" to possess this mind-matter structure, these material and mental phenomena. Mere mind and matter constantly interact, constantly influence each other, and become a cause for the arising of each other, resulting in currents, cross-currents, and under-currents going on in what you call "I." Anattā becomes clear at the experiential level.

Anicca, dukkha, anattā—that is, impermanence, misery, and egolessness—should not just be taken as a sectarian philosophy. They don’t apply just to Buddhists. Everyone, man or woman, of any colour or religion, is merely a constant interaction of mind and matter. Out of ignorance, enormous attachment develops to this false ego, this "I," which brings nothing but misery.

The law of nature becomes so clear with paṭivedhana, with piercing, penetrating paññā. Without this, mere awareness will not help because you will always remain with the apparent truth, and you won’t understand the real, ultimate truth. A circus girl on a tightrope is very aware of every step she takes. Her life and parts of her body are in danger. Still she is far from liberation, because she is only with apparent truth, not with paññā inside. Thesati is not perfect, because it has to be established with the wisdom of anicca, dukkha, anattā at the experiential level. Satipaṭṭhāna is sati with paññā. Then it plays a very important part in the practice of Dhamma, of witnessing the truth. The Satipaṭṭhāna discourse is for this purpose.

In the ordinary ten-day discourses, you hear of five friends: saddhā, faith; viriya, effort; sati, awareness; samādhi, concentration; and paññā, wisdom. They were called indriyas by the Buddha. Indra means "ruler," "king." It is the name of the king of the celestial world. The sense doors are one type of indriya: the eyes, ears, nose, tongue and body. They are called this because they keep mastering and overpowering us. The five friends, or faculties which we master, are another type, and sati is one of these. These indriyas were also called "forces" or "strengths" (balas). For every meditator these five are very important strengths, and sati is among them. It is so important. Sati is also a very important factor of enlightenment. With every one of the seven factors of enlightenment you start with awareness, and you are aware of it till you reach the final goal. However sati is important and fruitful only if used properly, as explained by the Buddha in the teachings of this Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta.

Pariyatti—Theoretical Knowledge

Tomorrow we will start reading this sutta. The background given today is to help you understand that practice is most important. There is a great danger that just reading or hearing suttas or discourses may become a life aim. Great care should be taken that the purpose of a Vipassana centre remains paṭipatti and paṭivedhana, the wisdom that is developed and multiplied by experience: little by little, step by step, as you divide, dissect, disintegrate, dissolve and piercingly, penetratingly move from the apparent truth towards the ultimate truth.

One reason, out of many, why Vipassana got lost in India after the time of the Buddha was because theory and suttas alone were given importance. People felt satisfied just reciting a discourse, or reciting, memorising the entire Tipiṭaka—the teachings of the Buddha—as if the purpose of their life was fulfilled. Then came discussions, debates, arguments about the meaning of words. Confusion prevailed, and without practice there was no understanding. The words of an enlightened person are words of experience, to guide people to witness the truth. Playing games with them creates a great hindrance. Therefore we use the Buddha’s words to understand how he wanted us to practise. They give inspiration and guidance, but the actual practice remains predominant.

Of course we are not denouncing pariyatti. How can one who is practising what the Buddha taught be against the words of the Buddha? However the practice, not the words, should remain the main aim of our life. We are very thankful to the Saṅgha who maintained the purity of the words of the Buddha and those among them who maintained the practice of Vipassana; otherwise it would have been lost long ago. Because of this tradition of ours we received the practice in its pristine purity and we are deeply grateful. Similarly we have great gratitude to those who, whether or not they practised, at least maintained the words of the Buddha from teacher to pupil for twenty-five centuries.

Now so many queries arise about the Buddha’s teaching. Is this the Buddha’s teaching or not? Proof is possible only because of those in the Saṅgha of this school who felt responsible for keeping the Buddha’s words intact. So they are called Dhammabhaṇḍāgārikas, treasurers of the Dhamma—that is, of the words of the Buddha. As a result we can compare the words with the results from the practice of the technique.

Therefore let both pariyatti and paṭipatti be joined together. Pariyatti gives us confidence that our practice is as the Buddha wanted, in the proper way.

Now this Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta will be studied. If someone wants to study the entire Tipiṭaka it is wonderful. Every word is nectar, gives personal guidance, and is so clear and inspiring. However this is not necessary. Proper understanding of a few suttas is good enough. The Buddha said that even one gāthā or verse of two lines, if understood properly, is good enough for the final goal. A literal meaning of pariyatti, or pariyapti in Sanskrit and Hindi, is "sufficient." For some a larger number of discourses is sufficient. The words of the Buddha that you get in the evening discourses on a course are pariyatti. You understand how to practise properly, and why in this way, and you develop confidence in the steps you are taking. A few suttas, discourses, can be discussed in the evening discourses at centres, for understanding, but that should not be the main aim. Otherwise they will just become pariyatti centres: for teaching the Tipiṭaka, for discussion, recitation and debate, and also for emotional, devotional and intellectual games.

This is therefore a warning to those who manage such centres around the world, now and for centuries in the future: it is essential that the teaching and practice of Vipassana always remain the main activity, because the final goal will be reached only when you take steps on the path.

Therefore from tomorrow evening we will recite the sutta, to understand paṭipatti and paṭivedhana, the practical aspect, properly. We are on the right path, a path without diversion or deviation, a straight path to the final goal, without wasting time here and there on side issues.

The practice remains the same. Now you are practising Ānāpāna, observing the truth of the breath. This is sati. Breath is the nature of a living being, not merely because a book or your teacher or the Buddha says so. You are witnessing it, coming in, going out, as it is. It is not a breathing exercise. You don’t regulate it but just observe. Naturally your mind starts getting concentrated. The breath becomes finer, shorter. Then it just makes a U-turn as it comes in or goes out, and at times it seems to stop. Again a big breath comes, out of hunger for oxygen and you are just aware. Again it becomes short, makes a U-turn, stops. You do nothing. Whether it is a long breath, or a short breath, you are just aware. Of course at times when you can’t feel the subtle breath, you may have a few intentional, conscious breaths, just to feel the natural breath again.

This course is only eight days long, so time is short. Use it most seriously. You have a wonderful advantage here in that new students who often don’t understand the value of discipline and silence, and who in their confusion disturb others, are not allowed on the course. As mature old students of at least a few courses you understand the work, and you understand that continuity of practice is the secret of success. If you keep stopping your work out of laziness, wandering, roaming about or lying down and sleeping, you can’t reach the goal. Of course your mind will wander away, but you bring it back. Your effort must be continuous. Even the so-called recess periods, including the night-time, are for serious work, for meditation, for awareness. Sati must get established—satipaṭṭhāna. Now with Ānāpāna, you are aware of respiration. Sitting, standing, walking, lying down; bathing, washing, eating, drinking—day and night, except only the period of deep sleep, you are aware of natural breath. The sati gets paṭṭhāna. Awareness gets well established. Then in Vipassana the awareness, day and night, is of arising and passing, anicca.

All the rules are so important. A course like this without new students and with minimum disturbance, where everybody is so serious, is very rare. Make best use of this opportunity, this facility, to get your awareness established with wisdom, to come nearer and nearer to the final goal. Make best use of this wonderful technique. Make best use of Dhamma for your own good, benefit, and liberation from the bondages, shackles and chains of craving, aversion, and ignorance. May you all enjoy real peace, harmony and happiness.

May all beings be happy.


The second day of the Satipaṭṭhāna course is over. This evening we will start to go through the discourse to understand it in relation to the actual practice.

The name of the discourse is Mahā-satipaṭṭhāna Sutta. Sutta means discourse. Mahā means great, and indeed there is another shorter discourse on Satipaṭṭhāna. This present discourse, however, covers more subjects in detail and is therefore called mahā.

Sati means awareness. It is a very important faculty of Dhamma, as was discussed yesterday. It is one of the indriyas, the faculties to be developed. It is one of the balas, the forces, the strengths that must be developed to master Dhamma. It is one of the bojjhaṅgas, factors of enlightenment. Sammā-sati is part of the Noble Eightfold Path. Its literal meaning, as commonly used nowadays in India as sm¥ti, is "memory" or "remembrance". Vipassana involves no past memory, but you must always remember the object of meditation, which is the reality pertaining to mind and matter within the framework of the body. A better sense or understanding of sati is awareness, which is what it is; and awareness has to be of the reality of this moment as it is, of the present, not the past or future.

Paṭṭhāna means getting established. Pa means extensively, which includes the element of paññā, wisdom. The awareness is not merely of the truth of mind and matter, but also of the nature of this truth: how it arises and passes; how it is a source of misery; how it is not "I," how it is substanceless. Direct experience is required. This is not mere intellectual understanding of an apparent truth. Awareness is established with wisdom, which is the understanding of the true nature of reality. Hence the name Mahā-Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta.

The discourse starts:

Evaṃ me sutaṃ.

This was heard by me.

The words are not those of the Buddha. There is a history behind them, which Vipassana meditators should know.

When the Buddha passed away at the ripened age of eighty, his students then present who were arahants, fully liberated, understood that everyone, a Buddha or an ordinary person, has to pass away. This is a law of nature. Others of his students who were not developed in Dhamma to this extent felt very sad, and some even cried. However one person, a monk, old in age but not wisdom, dissented. He felt very happy that the old man had passed away: now they were free of his clutches and could do what they liked. The Buddha’s own teaching after all was: Attā hi attano nātho—You are your own master. This incident reveals that elements had already entered the Saṅgha who were not interested in Dhamma. They had come for status, a comfortable life, and more alms and respect than they would receive otherwise.

I feel very grateful to this monk. Why? When Mahākassapa, a wise, elderly monk, an arahant, fully liberated, and one of the chief disciples of the Buddha, heard this, he decided to preserve the actual teachings of the Buddha against future distortion by such elements. For forty-five years, day and night, the Buddha had taught Dhamma, hardly resting two or three hours at night, and even that not in ordinary sleep but with awareness and equanimity, with wisdom. He had given 82,000 discourses, and his leading arahant disciples had given another 2,000. This makes 84,000 in all. Mahākassapa thought that others, like this old monk, would in future misquote the teachings, substituting their own words and removing essential disciplines. Therefore he decided to call a conference of 500 elderly monks, arahants who were eyewitnesses to the Buddha’s teaching, to recite, compile and authenticate the actual words. Just a few could have done this, but to impress people and ensure acceptance he took 500 immediately after the Buddha’s death. Together they were to recite every word of the Buddha and give it the seal of authenticity.


Ānanda was recommended to him as the 500th member of this gathering. Ānanda was born on the same day as Gotama the Buddha, was his cousin and had spent his childhood and youth with him. When the Buddha became enlightened, Ānanda was one of many family members who renounced the householder’s life and joined him. As the number of followers, and so the work, grew, the Buddha needed an assistant. Some came, but with various motives. The usual one was the hope for a private viewing of miracles, although in public the Buddha discouraged miracles. Another was to hear the answers to certain philosophical questions which he would never answer in public. Such people could not stay long, and they left.

As the Buddha grew in age to fifty-five, the need for a stable personal assistant was accepted. Many senior monks were very eager to serve him so closely, but he was known to prefer Ānanda. Yet Ānanda remained silent. He actually asked the Buddha to agree to some terms. There were seven or eight, very healthy terms, and the Buddha accepted all of them. One was that if ever the Buddha gave a discourse at which Ānanda was not present, the Buddha must, on returning, repeat the discourse to him. Thus he heard every discourse for the last twenty-five years of the Buddha’s life. He had also heard them before that time. Ānanda had a wonderful faculty of memory due to his practice and past good qualities. If he heard something once, he could repeat it any time, word for word, like a computer or tape recorder today.

Ānanda had served the Buddha for twenty-five years. He had been so close to him, was his great personal devotee, yet he was not an arahant, not fully liberated. He was only a sotāpanna, having reached the first stage of liberation after the initial experience of Nibbāna. Beyond that is the stage of sakadāgāmī, then anāgāmī, then arahant. You should understand from this that a Buddha cannot liberate anyone. Ānanda also knew Dhamma so well: thousands taught by him were arahants, yet he was continually serving the Buddha, without the time to progress himself.

So Mahākassapa approached him, saying that now that the Buddha had passed away Ānanda had the time, and as a teacher he himself knew the technique so well. He asked him to work to become an arahant and join the gathering since he would be a great asset there. Ānanda gladly agreed; he would practise for a few days, become an arahant, and join them.

He started working very vigorously, aiming to become an arahant. As a teacher he advised others not to develop ego, as it was a dangerous obstacle. Often the teacher when he practises forgets his own teaching, and this is what happened. His aim was—"I must become an arahant." He made no progress. Mahākassapa came and told him that the conference would start the following day, if necessary without him. If he was not an arahant they would take someone else. Again he tried the whole night— "I must become an arahant." The night passed away and the sun rose. Exhausted from his work, he decided to rest. He didn’t cry, he had that good quality. Now he was not aiming to be an arahant. He just accepted the fact that he was not an arahant, he was only a sotāpanna. Like a good meditator, remaining aware of sensations arising and passing, he took rest. His mind was now no longer in the future, but in the reality of the present moment. Before his head reached the pillow, he became an arahant.

It is a middle path. With too much laxity you achieve nothing. With over-exertion the mind is unbalanced. Ānanda joined the conference.

Now Ānanda was asked exactly what the Buddha had said, and all the teachings were compiled. Three divisions were made, called Tipiṭaka. Ti means three, piṭaka commonly means basket, though it also refers to scriptures. The first is Sutta-piṭaka, the public discourses.

The second is Vinaya-piṭaka, the discourses to monks and nuns about discipline and sīla. For householders, five precepts, sīlas, are good enough, but for the monks and nuns there were over 200 sīlas, which is why the old monk dissented.

The third is Abhidhamma-piṭaka, higher Dhamma, deeper truths about the laws of nature not easily understood by an ordinary person. It is an analytical study of the entire field of mind and matter with full detail of the reality pertaining to matter (rūpa), mind (citta), and the mental factors, the mental concomitants, the mental contents (cetasika). It fully explains how they interact and influence each other, how matter and mind stimulate the arising of both themselves and each other, and the interconnections, currents, and cross-currents deep inside. This all becomes clear not just by reading Abhidhamma, but only by a deep practice of Vipassana. Ānanda was asked to recite the Suttas and Abhidhamma, and another arahant, perfect in the discipline, Upāli, was asked to recite the Vinaya.

This discourse comes in the Sutta-piṭaka.

Ānanda starts Evaṃ me sutaṃ, "This was heard by me," because he had heard it directly from the Buddha. He also gives an explanation of the situation in which the Sutta was given. "At one time the Enlightened One was living (viharati) among the Kurūs at Kammāssadhammaṃ, a market town of the Kurū people." Viharati is used in India usually for very enlightened persons or those practising Dhamma. Kurū was then one of sixteen states in northern India at that time, now called Haryana, somewhere near Delhi and Punjab. The Buddha called the bhikkhus, that is the meditators present, and spoke.


The Buddha gave this discourse in Kurū for a reason. Not only the Buddha but others also had high regard for the people of Kurū. In another Indian tradition, the Bhagavad-Gītā starts with the words: DharmakŒhetre, KurukŒhetre, meaning in "the field of Dhamma, the field of Kurū." In another discourse the Buddha explains how the Kurūs lived a life of morality, observing sīla, from the king to the lowest subject. This was quite unusual, and what is now called sīla-dhamma had then been called Kurū-dhamma. Morality was their nature.

At that time, in a past life of the Buddha, the then-bodhisatta was the ruler of Kurū. Kaliṅga, another state now called Orissa, was suffering from drought and famine year after year. It was then believed that such famines happened when people did not lead moral lives, because the ruler himself did not live a moral life. The elders of Kaliṅga advised the king to take five precepts, let all his people do the same, and observe them. It was also important that the precepts were taken from someone perfect in them. They recommended the ruler of Kurū, a perfect person, all of whose subjects lived a moral life.

Two brahmin ambassadors were sent. They told the ruler the whole story and asked him to write the precepts down on a slate: on his behalf they would read it out, and people would start practising and so come out of their misery. The ruler of Kurū refused. Although he had been living a perfect life of sīla, he felt he had committed one slight mistake. He sent them to his elderly mother. She also said she had made one slight mistake. So they were sent to the chief queen; and similarly, successively to the king’s younger brother, to the prime minister, the revenue minister, the chief businessman, down even to the charioteer and the watchman at the gate. All said they had made a slight mistake.

Yet these mistakes were so trivial. For example, the king had been demonstrating his skill in archery. An arrow fell in a pond, and did not float. Perhaps it pierced a fish. Whether it actually did is doubtful. The Kurū people were that careful.

A base of sīla is essential. However, in the gap between one Buddha and another, other parts of Dhamma become lost, and this is what had happened. The Dhamma that a Buddha gives is complete and pure—kevalaparipuṇṇaṃ, kevalaparisuddhaṃ—with nothing to be added or taken out. As time passes important parts get lost. Paññā, the most difficult part, disappears first: only intellectual paññā remains. Then pure samādhigoes: imaginations remain, but the awareness of reality goes. Sīla remains, but when the other steps are lost, it is overemphasised and stretched to such extremes that the mind becomes unbalanced. The same thing happens in India today: people become too unbalanced to practise proper samādhi and paññā.

The Buddha kept condemning sīla-vata-parāmāsa. Vata means a vow. Parāmāsa means attachment. Without proper samādhi or paññā, people take a vow, vata, and stretch just one sīla, thinking that it will liberate them. There is nothing wrong in sīla or vata, both are important. A vow not to take meals after midday helps your meditation, or to fast for a day keeps you healthy. But when it becomes stretched people fast for up to a month, just to prove their Dhamma, and the essence, the purpose gets lost.

This was the situation in Kurū at that time. Their sīla was good, but had been stretched. Although that was wrong, still observing sīla is definitely much better than not observing it. What they lacked in Dhamma, could be gained by the technique. The Sutta therefore does not talk of sīla, because this strong background was already there. With such a good base, the people of Kurū would understand the details of this technique much better. Therefore the Buddha gave this Sutta in Kurū.

Then he addressed the bhikkhus. In the ordinary language of India a bhikkhu means a monk, a recluse, but in all of the Buddha’s teachings a bhikkhu means anyone who is practising the teaching of Dhamma. Therefore it means a meditator, whether a householder—man or woman—or a monk or nun.

The Opening Words

Ekāyano ayaṃ, bhikkhave, maggo

This is the one and only path.

Sattānaṃ visuddhiyā: to purify individuals. This at the mental level. Washing the body externally will not purify the mind. The results of this purification follow:

Soka-paridevānaṃ samatikkamāya: transcending very deep sorrow, soka, and its manifestation in crying and lamentation, parideva. As you practise, it comes to the surface and observing, you pass beyond it,samatikkamāya.

Dukkha-domanassānaṃ atthaṅgamāya. At a subtler level there is still unpleasant feeling in the mind, domanassa, and unpleasant sensation on the body, dukkha. These also are eradicated, atthaṅgamāya.

Ñāyassa adhigamāya. Ñāya means truth. If you work with contemplation or imagination such results will not come. Only the surface of the mind is purified. The deepest misery can only be taken out when you observe the reality of mind and matter and their interconnection, from gross apparent truth to the subtlest ultimate truth. The truth experienced by the Buddha can only liberate the Buddha. A Buddha can only show the path, you have to walk on it. Ñāyassa adhigamāya is the high road of liberation.

Nibbānassa sacchikiriyāya. Nibbāna has to be experienced, realised, sacchikiriyāya, by the observation of truth. You have to reach the subtlest reality of mind and matter and then transcend it to witness something beyond. The entire field of mind and matter is that of anicca, arising and passing. At a gross level it arises, seems to stay for some time, and then passes away. At a subtler level, it passes with great rapidity. At the subtlest level there is merely oscillation. The ultimate truth beyond is where nothing arises or passes. It is beyond mind and matter, beyond the entire sensorium, the sensory field. The experience of nibbāna can be for a few moments, a few minutes, a few hours; it depends, but you come back a changed person. You can’t explain it. Of course people can give long intellectual explanations, but the sense organs stop functioning in nibbāna. They cannot be used to explain it. Thus the last of the six qualities of Dhamma is paccattaṃ veditabbo: it must be experienced directly and personally by each individual within him- or herself.

Ekāyano maggo, "the one and only path," seems to be narrow-minded. Those who have not walked on the path, or have not walked on it very much, may feel uncomfortable. For those who have walked on it, it is clearly the one and only path. It is after all the universal law of nature. It is to be experienced and understood by everyone, from any religion or country. Fire will burn anyone’s hand. If you don’t like being burnt, you keep your hand away, whether you are a Buddhist or a Christian, an Australian or an American. The law of gravity exists with or without Newton. The law of relativity exists with or without Einstein. Similarly the law of nature remains whether or not there is a Buddha. It is cause and effect. Two parts of hydrogen and one part of oxygen make water. If either is missing on a planet, there will be no water. This is a law of nature. This is Dhamma. As you proceed—and work much deeper—you will understand this. If you don’t want misery, you have to remove the cause. Then the resulting misery is automatically removed.

If you think that some supernatural power will liberate you in spite of all your impurities, it is just wishful thinking. It won’t happen. You have to work according to the law of nature. Your present deep habit pattern of reacting out of ignorance, as a result of which you keep experiencing misery, has to be changed.

In this sense it is ekāyano maggo, and the Buddha now describes it further.

yadidaṃ cattāro satipaṭṭhānā: that is to say, the four satipaṭṭhānas. At this stage note how there are four satipaṭṭhānas, or four ways of establishing awareness with wisdom. The first is:

Kāye kāyānupassī viharati ātāpī sampajāno satimā, vineyya loke abhijjhādomanassaṃ.

Kāye kāyānupassī viharati: to live witnessing the reality of the body in the body. The practice is done ātāpī, very ardently, diligently, sampajāno, with the wisdom of arising and passing, and satimā, with awareness. No imagination is involved, rather direct full awareness, with wisdom. The truth pertaining to the body is observed, experienced within the body itself. This is done vineyya, keeping away from, abhijjhā-domanassaṃ, craving and aversion towards the loke, the mind-matter phenomena.

Vedanāsu vedanānupassī viharati ātāpī sampajāno satimā, vineyya loke abhijjhādomanassaṃ.

The second is vedanāsu vedanānupassī viharati: to live witnessing the truth of bodily sensations. Again there is no imagination. The truth is observed within the bodily sensations, by direct experience in the same way.

Citte cittānupassī viharati ātāpī sampajāno satimā, vineyya loke abhijjhādomanassaṃ.

Similarly the third is citte cittānupassī viharati: witnessing the reality of mind within mind.

Dhammesu dhammānupassī viharati ātāpī sampajāno satimā, vineyya loke abhijjhādomanassaṃ.

The fourth is dhammesu dhammānupassī viharati: witnessing the reality of the mental contents, the law of nature, of mind and matter, within the law, within the mental contents. This is done in the same way.

These four satipaṭṭhānas, observing the truth of body, or sensations, or mind, or contents of the mind, all have to be directly experienced. Intellectual understanding will give you inspiration and guidance as to how to practise, but only experience will give results. This is to be understood as we proceed.

Now you are working with respiration, the reality of this moment, as it is, coming and going, deep or shallow. You try also to maintain awareness of the reality of sensation in this area of the body, below the nostrils above the upper lip, as it manifests from moment to moment. The object is this area of the body. Try to maintain the continuity of awareness day and night, except when you are in deep sleep. Most of the time the mind will wander. You will forget, you can’t help it, but as soon as you realise, bring the mind back. Don’t generate disappointment or depression. Just accept that the mind has wandered away, and start again. Work more seriously, more diligently now. Time is very short. You have come to a course with a very serious atmosphere, undisturbed by new students. Make use of it for your own good, benefit and liberation. May you all enjoy real peace, harmony, happiness.

May all beings be happy.


The third day of the Satipaṭṭhāna course is over.

We expressed our gratitude to the old monk because of whom Mahākassapa decided to compile all the teachings. As a result, they were maintained in their pristine purity from generation to generation. Sometimes something very wholesome results from an unwholesome situation. This is what happened. Over the centuries six councils of monks have recited and authenticated the Tipiṭaka, to remove any mistakes that had crept in. Three councils were held in India, one in Sri Lanka, and two in Myanmar. The sixth and most recent was in Rangoon in 1955-56, 2,500 years after the Buddha passed away. Just as we are grateful to those who maintained the practice in its pristine purity, we are also grateful to those who have maintained the purity of the Buddha’s words. Today we can compare the words with the technique, and derive more inspiration by knowing that we are practising as the Buddha taught.

We continue with the discourse.

The Four Satipaṭṭhānas

As we discussed, there are four satipaṭṭhānas:

kāye kāyānupassī viharati ātāpī sampajāno satimā, vineyya loke abhijjhādomanassaṃ;

vedanāsu vedanānupassī viharati ātāpī sampajāno satimā, vineyya loke abhijjhādomanassaṃ;

citte cittānupassī viharati ātāpī sampajāno satimā, vineyya loke abhijjhādomanassaṃ;

dhammesu dhammānupassī viharati ātāpī sampajāno satimā, vineyya loke abhijjhādomanassaṃ.

The purpose of satipaṭṭhāna is to explore the area which is identified with "I," to which so much attachment develops. There are two distinct fields: kāya (body) and citta (mind).

The exploration must be done at the experiential, not the intellectual, level. If you try to understand body just by taking the attention, say, to the head and asserting that "This is my head," it is only an intellectual truth, that ofsaññā (recognition). To experience reality you must feel it. Therefore there must be sensation, and kāya (body) and vedanā (sensation) go together in this exploration.

Similarly with citta: to sit down and merely assert that this is your mind will only be an imagination or at best an intellectual understanding. To experience mind, something must arise in the mind: perhaps some strong craving or aversion, or some thought. It arises and passes away. Whatever it is is called dhamma, the literal meaning of which is dhāretī ti dhamma, "that which is contained" by citta. Just as kāya and vedanā go together,citta and dhamma go together. Then, as the Buddha elsewhere announced from his own experience, another reality: vedanā-samosaraṇā sabbe dhammā. "Everything that arises in the mind starts flowing with a sensation on the body." Samosaraṇā means "gets collected together and flows."

Vedanā therefore becomes so important. To explore the kāya you have to feel sensations. Similarly in the exploration of citta and dhamma, everything that arises in the mind manifests as a sensation.

Continuing, each satipaṭṭhāna has certain similar words:

Kāye kāyānupassī viharatianupassī comes from passana or dassana, "to look." You see things directly yourself. Vipassanā means seeing in a special way, the correct way. Vividhena means in different ways, from different angles. Vicayena means by dividing, dissecting, disintegrating. So you observe whatever reality has arisen. Anupassanā means continuously from moment to moment. Thus kāye kāyānupassī is to observe the body from moment to moment within, that is, in the body. Similarly vedanāsu is in the sensations, citte is in the mind and dhammesu is in the mental contents.

Vipassana uses no imagination. You could imagine a sensation and that it is changing even without experiencing it, but this is not reality as it is, where it is. Your body must be experienced in your own body, sensations in your own sensations, mind in your own mind, mental contents in your own mental contents. Therefore the meditator lives, dwells observing body in the body, ātāpī sampajāno satimā.

Ātāpī literally means tapas, "burning." A meditator who is working very ardently, very diligently, burns off the mental impurities. Satimā means "aware." Sampajāno means having the quality of sampajañña. The awareness must be with sampajañña, the paññā that feels the arising and passing away of vedanā, because impermanence has to be experienced at the level of vedanā. Thus the observation, whether of kāya, vedanā, citta, or dhammāmust be ātāpī sampajāno satimā.

Vineyya loke abhijjhā-domanassaṃ… Keeping away from craving and aversion towards this world of mind and matter.

Vineyya means to keep away from, or to abstain from. Lokas are the planes of the universe. Here loke means the entire field of mind and matter, all five aggregates which constitute "I": the material aggregate (rūpa) and the four mental aggregates of cognising (viññāṇa) recognising (saññā) feeling (vedanā) and reacting (saṅkhāra). All four satipaṭṭhānas can be practised only with the base of vedanā. This is because unless something is felt (vedanā), craving and aversion (abhijjhā-domanassaṃ) cannot arise. If the sensation is pleasant, only then does craving arise; if the sensation is unpleasant, only then does aversion arise. If you don’t experience sensations, you won’t even know that craving or aversion has arisen, and you can’t come out of them.

Observation of Respiration

In exploring the field of matter, the body (kāya), the first chapter is on Ānāpāna, the respiration coming in and going out.

Idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhu araññagato vā rukkhamūlagato vā suññāgāragato vā

A place of solitude is required—secluded and with no disturbance. The meditator goes to a forest (arañña-gato vā) the foot of a tree (rukkha-mūla-gato vā) or a place where nobody lives (suññāgāra-gato vā), like the individual cells you have here—any of these three.

nisīdati pallaṅkaṃ ābhujitvā, ujuṃ kāyaṃ paṇidhāya

The meditator must sit down (nisīdati). Pallaṅkaṃ ābhujitvā means "cross-legged." The lotus or half-lotus posture is not necessary. If this is possible, it is a posture that brings greater alertness, but otherwise any cross-legged posture that is comfortable for longer periods at a stretch is good enough. The upper portion of the body should be straight: ujuṃ kāyaṃ paṇidhāya.

parimukhaṃ satiṃ upaṭṭhapetvā

The awareness is established around the mouth, the entrance to the nostrils: parimukhaṃ. Certain traditions translate this as "in the front," as if the awareness is imagined to be in front of the person, but this sets up a duality. Actually you have to feel the breath coming and going around the mouth, above the upper lip, which is parimukhaṃ.

Then the work starts:

So sato va assasati, sato va passasati.

With awareness he breathes in, with awareness he breathes out.

Dīghaṃ vā assasanto ‘Dīghaṃ assasāmīti’ pajānāti, dīghaṃ vā passasanto ‘Dīghaṃ passasāmīti’ pajānāti.

Breathing in a deep breath (dīgha), he understands properly (pajānāti): "I am breathing in a deep breath." Breathing out a deep breath, he understands properly: "I am breathing out a deep breath." The long in-breath, and similarly the long out-breath, is known and understood as such: because it is felt, experienced.

Rassaṃ vā assasanto ‘Rassaṃ assasāmīti’ pajānāti, rassaṃ vā passasanto ‘Rassaṃ passasāmīti’ pajānāti.

Now the breath becomes shallow, short (rassa), and is understood in the same way. You will see how each sentence signifies another station on the path, a new experience. As the mind calms down the agitation decreases, and the breath becomes short. It is not controlled as in a breathing exercise, but just observed.

‘Sabbakāyapaṭisaṃvedī assasissāmī’ti sikkhati; ‘sabbakāyapaṭisaṃvedī passasissāmī’ti sikkhati.

Now he trains himself: "Feeling the whole body (sabbakāyapaṭisaṃvedī), I shall breathe in, feeling the whole body, I shall breathe out." Instead of pajānāti, to understand properly, the word sikkhati, "learns, trains" is now used. As meditators, after a day or two’s work with the breath, you have experienced sensation in this area. Then working with both you reach the stage of feeling sensation throughout the body—sabba-kāya. Initially it is very gross, solidified, intensified, but as you keep practising patiently, persistently, remaining equanimous with every experience, the whole body dissolves into subtle vibrations, and you reach the stage of bhaṅga, total dissolution. Having started with natural breath, you learn to reach the important station of feeling sensations in the whole body in one breath: from top to bottom as you breathe out, from bottom to top as you breathe in.

Without practice there will be confusion. Other traditions interpret these words as "the body of the breath," as if the beginning, middle, end, and so the whole breath is felt. Of course, as oxygen enters the bloodstream with the breath, it moves throughout the body from the top of the head to the toes, and sensation flows with the blood. It could be taken in this sense, but we are practising kāyānupassanā. The whole body must be felt, and this is what a meditator experiences.

When bhaṅga comes, following all the unpleasant sensations, the tendency of the mind is to react with craving and clinging. This is a dangerous (ādīnava), fearful (bhaya) situation. It is much easier to stop having aversion to unpleasant sensation than to stop having craving towards pleasant sensation. Yet this craving is the mother of aversion, and Vipassana is to work vineyya loke abhijjhā-domanassaṃ—without craving or aversion. You have to keep understanding that the pleasant sensation also is anicca, nothing but tiny wavelets, bubbles, arising and passing. With this paññā the impurities get eradicated and the station of calmness, tranquillity is reached.

‘Passambhayaṃ kāyasaṅkhāraṃ assasissāmī’ti sikkhati, ‘passambhayaṃ kāyasaṅkhāraṃ passasissāmī’ti sikkhati.

Now with the body activities (kāyasaṅkhāra) calmed (passambhayaṃ) he trains himself to breathe in and out. Again the word sikkhati is used, because this station is reached by learning, by practice. The one-hour adhiṭṭhānasitting in which the posture is not changed, which was initially a struggle, becomes natural. There is no movement of the body because there is no unpleasant sensation anywhere. Breath becomes the only movement. This also is a kāya-saṅkhāra, a movement or activity of the body. As the mind is trained to become calm and tranquil, the breath also becomes shorter, calmer, subtler until it just makes a U-turn as it enters, and at times it seems to stop. It is so fine. Here also there is the danger of attachment, of taking this as the final stage.

Now the Buddha gives the example of a carpenter, who, then as now, turns and cuts wood, for instance to make a leg for a piece of furniture. He uses a lathe. A long turn of the lathe makes a thicker cut than a short turn. He, or his apprentice, knows well (pajānāti) whether his turn is long or short; similarly the meditator knows well (pajānāti) whether the breath is long or short.

In the example the lathe cuts at the point of contact. Similarly the attention is to be kept where the breath touches. You should not follow the breath deep inside or outside into the atmosphere. You are aware of this area and you also feel the whole breath coming in or going out.

Iti ajjhattaṃ vā kāye kāyānupassī viharati, bahiddhā vā kāye kāyānupassī viharati, ajjhattabahiddhā vā kāye kāyānupassī viharati.

In the next important station, with the help of the breath the whole body is felt inside, or within oneself, ajjhattaṃ. Then it is also felt outside, bahiddhā, on the surface of the body, and lastly simultaneously both inside and outside.

These are the Buddha’s words. Certain commentaries or subcommentaries have been written on them, some 1,000 to 1,500 years after the Buddha, and some even more recently. They give many good explanations of the Buddha’s words, and also descriptions of a whole spectrum of life and society at that time—political, social, educational, and economic aspects. However they give certain interpretations which this tradition of meditation cannot accept. For instance, here a commentary takes ajjhattaṃ as the meditator’s body—which is acceptable—but bahiddhā as the body of someone else, even though no one else is there. It explains that the meditator can simply think of someone else, and how all beings similarly breathe in and out. We cannot agree with this because this is imagination, and in this tradition vipassanā or anupassanā is to observe within your own body (kāye). Therefore for us bahiddhā is the surface of the body, but still within its framework.

Ajjhatta-bahiddhā can also be understood in relation to the five sense doors. When an outside object comes into contact with the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, or body surface, it is felt within the framework of the body, but on the surface of the body. Even the mind is within the framework of the body, although its object may be outside. The Sutta still does not intend you to start thinking of or seeing another body.

The next few sentences appear in every chapter. They describe the real practice of Vipassana, and great care should be taken to understand them properly.

Samudayadhammānupassī vā kāyasmiṃ viharati, vayadhammānupassī vā kāyasmiṃ viharati, samudayavayadhammānupassī vā kāyasmiṃ viharati…

Samudaya-dhammānupassī: the dhamma, the reality, or the truth of arising (samudaya) is observed within the bodyThen the truth of passing away (vaya) is observed. The gross sensation arises, seems to stay for some time, then passes away. Arising and passing are seen as separate. Then in the stage of bhaṅga, total dissolution, the sensation is one of vibrations that arise and pass with great rapidity. Samudaya and vaya are experienced together: there is no interval. According to the Visuddhimagga, the Path of Purification, the first important station is called udayabbaya. A meditator must understand this and the next stage of bhaṅga well.

…‘atthi kāyo’ti vā panassa sati paccupaṭṭhitā hoti.

Now his awareness is established: "This is body" (‘atthi kāyo’ ti). This is the stage in which the body is experienced as "not I," "not mine," but just body, just a mass of vibrations, bubbles, wavelets. It is merely a collection of kalāpas, subatomic particles, arising and passing. There is nothing good or bad, beautiful or ugly, white or brown about it. Initially the acceptance of anattā, "not I," is intellectual or devotional, based on the words of someone else. The actual experience starts with anicca, because every pleasant sensation turns into an unpleasant one. The danger of attachment is realised. It is dukkha because of its inherent nature of change. Then anattāis understood: the body is felt as just subatomic particles arising and passing, and automatically the attachment to body goes away. It is a high stage when the awareness, sati, gets established, paccupaṭṭhitā hoti, in this truth from moment to moment.

Proceeding further:

Yāvadeva ñāṇamattāya paṭissatimattāya…

Matta means "mere." There is mere wisdom, mere knowledge, mere observation. This is to the extent (yāvadeva) that there is no wise person, no-one to know or experience. In another Indian tradition it is called kevala-ñāṇa kevala-dassana, "only knowing, only seeing."

In the Buddha’s time a very old hermit lived at a place called Supārapattaṃ, near present-day Bombay. Having practised the eight jhānas, deep mental absorptions, he thought himself fully enlightened. A well-wisher corrected him, telling him that a Buddha was now present at Sāvatthi, who could teach him the real practice for becoming enlightened. He was so excited to hear this he went all the way to Sāvatthi in northern India. Reaching the monastery, he found that the Buddha had gone out for alms, so he went directly to the city. He found the Buddha walking down a street and immediately understood that this was the Buddha. He asked him then and there for the technique to become an arahant. The Buddha told him to wait for an hour or so, to be taught in the monastery, but he insisted: he might die within the hour, or the Buddha might die, or he might lose his present great faith in the Buddha. Now was the time when all these three were present. The Buddha looked and realised that very soon this man would die, and indeed should be given Dhamma now. So he spoke just a few words to this developed old hermit, there on the side of the road: Diṭṭhe diṭṭhamattaṃ bhavissati… "In seeing there is mere seeing, in hearing mere hearing, in smelling mere smelling, in tasting mere tasting, in touching mere touching, and in cognising only cognising"…viññāte viññātamattaṃ bhavissati.

This was sufficient. At the stage of mere knowing, what is being cognised or the identity of who cognises is irrelevant. There is mere understanding. The dip in nibbāna follows, where there is nothing to hold, no base to stand on (anissito).

…anissito ca viharati, na ca kiñci loke upādiyati

The entire field of mind and matter (loka) is transcended, and there is no world or universe to grasp (upādiyati).

Whether it is for a few minutes or few hours depends on the capacity and previous work of the person. A person in nibbāna is as if dead: none of the senses function, although inside the person is very aware, very alert, very awakened. After that the person returns and again starts functioning in the sensory field, but a fully liberated person has no attachment, no clinging, because there is no craving. Such a person will cling to nothing in the entire universe and nothing clings to them. This is the stage described.

So a meditator practises. Those who practise these sentences will understand the meaning of every word given, but mere intellectualisation won’t help. Real understanding comes with experience.

Iriyāpathapabbaṃ—Postures of the Body

Iriyāpatha are postures of the body.

gacchanto vā ‘gacchāmī’ti pajānāti, ṭhito vā ‘ṭhitomhī’ ti pajānāti, nisinno vā ‘nisinnomhī’ti pajānāti, sayāno vā ‘sayānomhī’ti pajānāti.

When walking (gacchanto), a meditator knows well ‘I am walking’ (‘gacchāmi’). Similarly, whether standing (ṭhito), sitting (nisinno), or lying down (sayāno) a meditator knows this well. This is just the beginning. In the sentence that follows, not "I", but just "body" is known well in whatever posture (yathā yathā paṇihito).

Yathā yathā vā panassa kāyo paṇihito hoti, tathā tathā naṃ pajānāti.

Then, in a repetition of the same sentences, the body is observed inside, outside, and both inside and outside simultaneously. Arising is observed, then passing, then both together. Actually it is the sensations that are observed as arising and passing away, because sampajāñña, the understanding of anicca, has to be present, as in every chapter. Awareness follows that ‘This is body,’ and that it is not "I." This is established with wisdom. Then mere understanding and awareness follow, without any base to hold. There is nothing to grasp.

Iti ajjhattaṃ vā kāye kāyānupassī viharati… ‘atthi kayo’ ti…na ca kiñci loke upādiyati.

Constant Thorough Understanding of Impermanence

…Abhikkante paṭikkante sampajāna-kārī hoti. Ālokite vilokite…samiñjite pasārite…saṅghāṭi-patta-cīvara-dhāraṇe…asite pīte khāyite sāyite…uccāra-passāva-kamme…gate ṭhite nisinne sutte jāgarite bhāsite tuṇhī-bhāve sampajāna-kārī hoti.

"Walking forward or coming back, looking straight or sideways, bending or stretching, with robes or begging bowl, eating, drinking, chewing, attending to the calls of nature, walking, standing, sitting, lying down, awake or asleep, speaking or remaining silent"—whatever the activity sampajañña is being practised (sampajāna-kārī hoti).

The same stages are then repeated:

Iti ajjhattaṃ vā kāye kāyānupassī viharati… ‘atthi kayo’ ti…na ca kiñci loke upādiyati.

We have already seen that sampajañña has to be present everywhere, every moment. The Buddha was frequently asked about sati. Every time his reply included sampajañña:

kāye kāyānupassī viharati ātāpī sampajāno satimā

vedanāsu vedanānupassī viharati ātāpī sampajāno satimā

citte cittānupassī viharati ātāpī sampajāno satimā

dhammesu dhammānupassī viharati ātāpī sampajāno satimā.

Without sampajaññasati is only the awareness of the circus girl. If there is no awareness of arising and passing, it will not lead to liberation.

When asked about sampajañña itself, the Buddha used to reply with either of two explanations.

One explanation was the observation with paññā of the arising, staying and passing away of three things: vedanā (sensation), saññā (perception) and vitakka (the sense object)—for instance a sound at the ear sense door. These objects are also called dhammā, and they flow with sensations—vedanā-samosaraṇā sabbe dhammā. Again, the arising and passing of sensation is predominant in sampajañña.

The paragraph in this Sutta was another explanation: sampajañña embraces every activity. The meaning is that continuity is required.

To illustrate the point, in another discourse the Buddha said:

Yato ca bhikkhu ātāpī, sampajaññaṃ na riñcati; 
tato so vedanā sabbā parijānāti paṇḍito.

So vedanā pariññāya diṭṭhe dhamme anāsavo, 
kāyassa bhedā Dhammaṭṭho, saṅkhyaṃ nopeti vedagū.

When a meditator practising ardently,  does not miss sampajañña even for a moment,  such a wise one fully understands all sensations.

And having completely understood them, he becomes freed from all impurities.

On the breaking up of the body, such a person, being established in Dhamma and understanding sensations perfectly, attains the indescribable stage beyond the conditioned world.

The arahant, having understood the entire field of sensations, from the grossest to the subtlest, does not after death return to this field of arising and passing away. Sampajañña is therefore essential in the Buddha’s teaching. If you don’t understand it you may be carried away in the wrong direction.

Sometimes translations of words create difficulties. Other schools are not to be condemned but we should understand what we are doing. Sometimes sampajañña is mistranslated "clear comprehension." Of what? It is taken to mean of gross details: while walking someone comprehends the lifting, moving, placing of one leg, then the other leg, and so forth. Actually the Buddha wants you to feel vedanā, arising, staying and passing away. If the understanding of vedanā is missed, the whole technique becomes polluted.

Therefore sampajañña has to be continuous in every situation. Even when sleeping, it should be present. When students begin they are told that they are helpless in deep sleep, and just to be aware in the waking hours, but at a high stage in meditation there is no normal sleep at all. Full rest is taken, but with sampajañña inside, the awareness of sensations arising and passing, of anicca. Sometimes on courses students start to have this experience, reporting that they had little or no sleep, but still felt quite fresh. They were with sampajañña.

In every chapter the repetition of certain words indicates the importance of this sampajañña. Ātāpī sampajāno satimā applies to the observation of kāya, vedanā, citta and dhammā: sampajañña has to be present. Similarlysamudaya-, vaya-, and samudaya-vaya-dhammānupassī, which apply everywhere in the Sutta, have to be with sampajañña and sensations. For example, in Myanmar there are many pagodas on plateaus, with four staircases, one each from the east, west, north and south. Similarly you might start with kāya, vedanā, citta, or dhammā, but as you enter the gallery they all intermingle in vedanā, and reaching the shrine room it is the same nibbāna.Whichever staircase you start climbing, you come to vedanā and sampajañña: and if you are with sampajañña you are progressing step by step towards the final goal.

Make use of the time. You have to work, no-one else can work for you. Pariyatti will give you proper direction and inspiration, but the benefit will be from your own work. Your practice of paṭipatti and paṭivedhana is to pierce this curtain of ignorance and reach the ultimate truth about mind, matter and the mental contents, to experience nibbāna. Make best use of this opportunity and the facilities. Make use of this wonderful Dhamma for your own good, benefit and liberation from the miseries and bondages of life. May you all enjoy real peace, harmony, and happiness.

May all beings be happy.


The fourth day of the Satipaṭṭhāna course is over. We continue to recite the Sutta and to try to understand it in relation to the practice.

We are still in kāyānupassanā. You can start with any of the four fields of kāyānupassanā, vedanānupassanā, cittānupassanā, or dhammānupassanā and with any section of kāyānupassanā, but as you proceed they intermingle. You have to reach certain important stations. You have to feel the body inside (ajjhattaṃ) and outside (bahiddhā), then both inside and outside (ajjhatta-bahiddhā). You have to experience arising and passing(samudaya-dhammānupassī viharati, vaya-dhammānupassī viharati) then both together, (samudaya-vaya-dhammānupassī viharati). You have to feel the entire body as a mass of vibrations arising and passing with great rapidity, in the stage of bhaṅga. Then you reach the stage of body as just body (‘atthi kāyo’ti), or sensations as just sensations, mind as just mind, or mental contents as just mental contents. There is no identification with it. Then there is the stage of mere awareness (paṭissati-mattāya) and mere understanding (ñāṇa-mattāya) without any evaluation or reaction.

As you progress and get established in the practice, deep-rooted saṅkhāras come on the surface and are eradicated, provided you are vineyya loke abhijjhā-domanassaṃ, keeping away from craving and aversion towards mind and matter.

In another discourse, the Buddha gave an illustration:

Sabba kamma jahassa bhikkhuno, 
dhunamānassa pure kataṃ rajaṃ.

The meditator who does not make new kamma,  combs out old defilements as they arise.

When a meditator stops generating all kamma saṅkhāras, (that is, new actions or reactions), the old impurities—pure kataṃ rajaṃ—are combed out. Dhunamānassa means combing or carding cotton, separating every fibre, clearing out all the knots and dirt. This can happen at any stage, whenever you don’t generate a new saṅkhāra, but the very deep-rooted impurities only start coming up after bhaṅga. If you keep generating saṅkhāras, you keep multiplying your old stock. As long as you refrain from generating any new ones and remain equanimous, layers after layers of saṅkhāras are eradicated.

Dhamma is very kind. Initially very crude saṅkhāras which would result in a very miserable, low order of new life, surface and get eradicated. You are relieved of them:

uppajjitvā nirujjhanti, tesaṃ vūpasamo sukho

having arisen, when they are extinguished,  their eradication brings happiness.

When all the saṅkhāras which would have taken you to a lower field of life are gone, the mind becomes perfectly balanced—fit to transcend the field of mind and matter and gain the first glimpse of nibbāna.

This may be for a few moments, seconds or minutes, but on returning to the field of mind and matter the meditator’s behaviour pattern is totally changed. A saṅkhāra of the lower fields cannot now be generated. The clan is changed—gotrabhū. The anariyo becomes a sotāpanna, ariyo. Today the word ‘aryan’ has lost its meaning and is used for a certain race. In the Buddha’s day ariyo meant a noble person, one who had experienced nibbāna. Sotāpanna means one who has fallen into the stream, sota. Within seven lives at most such a person is bound to keep working to become an arahant. No power on earth can stop the process.

The work continues in the same way: ātāpī sampajāno satimā. Further deep saṅkhāras come on the surface and pass away (uppajjitvā nirujjhanti) and a much deeper experience of nibbāna results. The meditator returns again to the field of arising and passing, a totally changed person, the stage of sakadāgāmī has been reached. Only one more life is possible in the sensual world. Then again the practice is ātāpī sampajāno satimā. Finer impurities, but ones which would still give lives of misery, are now eradicated by this equanimity, and the dip in nibbāna is again much deeper. The stage of anāgāmī is experienced. Now the only possible life is not in the sensual field, but in a very high Brāhmic plane. As the meditator continues, the finest saṅkhāras—which would give even one life of misery, because they are still within the circle of life and death—are eradicated, and thenibbāna of an arahant is experienced, total liberation. It can be in this very life or in future lives, but the practice is the same: ātāpī sampajāno satimā.

Satimā is with awareness. Sampajāno is with wisdom, paññā, of arising and passing, direct experience of bodily sensations. Body alone cannot feel sensations and so mind is involved, but in the body is where they are felt. The Buddha gave an illustration: just as different kinds of winds arise in the sky—warm or cold, fast or slow, dirty or clean—so in the body different kinds of sensations arise and pass away.

In another discourse he said:

Yato ca bhikkhu ātāpī sampajaññaṃ na riñcati, 
tato so vedanā sabbā parijānāti paṇḍito.

Working ardently, without missing sampajaññaṃ,  a meditator experiences the entire field of vedanā and gains wisdom.

There are different kinds of vedanā whether the saṅkhāras are gross, finer or finest. Sampajaññaṃ day and night is thus the essence of the whole technique.

So vedanā pariññāya diṭṭhe dhamme anāsavo, 
kāyassa bhedā dhammaṭṭho saṅkhyaṃ nopeti vedagū.

"When the entire field of vedanā is transcended, Dhamma is understood. Such a person, without impurities (anāsavā) fully established in Dhamma (dhammaṭṭho) knows perfectly the entire field of sensations (vedagu) and does not after death (kāyassa bhedā) return to this field of sensations."

This summarises the whole path to liberation. It is achieved with sampajañña, the wisdom of arising and passing, equanimity with sensations. Ātāpī, working hard, and satimā, when it is the awareness of the circus girl, will not alone liberate because sampajāñña is essential.


It is not necessary to pass through every section of kāyānupassanā, because each is complete in itself. Only the starting point differs. You can start with any section and reach the same stations and ultimately the final goal. We start with Ānāpāna, and later switch to vedanānupassanā. However sampajañña is required at every stage. The second and third sections of kāyānupassanā are always necessary. We practise in the sitting posture, but at times during the day other postures are necessary. The second section covers all four postures of the body (sitting, standing, lying down, and walking) but it still involves ātāpī sampajāno satimā, whatever the position or posture. Then the third section involves sampajañña continuously in every physical activity. This is necessary because sampajañña must always be present. Thus the first three sections on bodily activities must continue throughout our practice, but not every section of kāyānupassanā.

Reflection on Repulsiveness

Paṭikūla means "repulsive." Manasikāra means "reflection" or "contemplation." This will not in itself take you to the final goal. The Buddha teaches direct experience, not mere imagination or intellectualisation. However in some cases, when the mind is very dull or agitated, it cannot start with respiration, let alone with equanimity with the feeling of sensations. In most cases such people have strong attachment to the body and are engrossed in sexual pleasures, obsessed by the outer beauty of the body. They won’t try to understand, and cannot practise Dhamma, so this contemplation of repulsiveness is used to balance the mind at least slightly. They are asked just to start thinking in the proper way: what is this body?

imameva kāyaṃ uddhaṃ pādatalā adho kesamatthhakā tacapariyantaṃ pūraṃ nānappakārassa asucino paccavekkhati…

From the soles of the feet up and from the hairs of the head down the entire body covered by skin is reflected on or thought about (paccavekkhati) as impure (asucino) in different ways (nānappakārassa). It is all so ugly. It contains hair of the head, hair of the body, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, sinews, bones, marrow, kidney, heart, liver, pleura, spleen, lungs, intestines, mesentery, stomach and contents, faeces, bile, phlegm, pus, blood, sweat, fat, tears, grease, saliva, nasal mucus, synovial fluid, and urine. This is its nature.

This is just a beginning for those not in a position to observe reality inside. Impurity keeps overpowering them. Once they can think properly, they are fit to practise, either with respiration or directly with sensations. Of course, when the actual practice of Vipassana starts, there should be no aversion towards this ugly body. It is just observed as it is—yathābhūta. It is observed as body, with sensations arising and passing. The meditator is now on the path.

The Buddha gives an example of a double-mouthed provision bag full of different seeds and grains, such as hill paddy, paddy, green gram, cowpeas, sesame and husked rice. Just as a man with good eyes can see all these different grains, so such things are seen in this body covered with skin. When divine eye is developed, at a much later stage, it becomes very easy to see the body. Every part—indeed, every particle of the body—is seen as if with open eyes.

Iti ajjhattaṃ vā kāye kāyānupassī viharati… ‘atthi kayo’ ti…na ca kiñci loke upādiyati.

Then the process is the same. Although the starting point varies according to the background and mental capacity of the person, the ending stations are the same. The body is observed inside and out, ajjhatta-bahiddhā. The arising and passing away is observed: samudaya-vaya. Then ‘atthi kāyo’ ti, "This is body." The awareness gets established, and without any support in this world of mind and matter, there is nothing to grasp (na ca kiñci loke upādiyati) in the stage of full liberation.

Reflections on Material Elements

Dhātu means element. Again, for a certain type of person with strong attachment to the body and to sexual pleasures, thinking is involved at the beginning of the practice.

imameva kāyaṃ yathāṭhitaṃ yathāpaṇihitaṃ dhātuso paccavekkhati: ‘atthi imasmiṃ kāye pathavīdhātu āpodhātu tejodhātu vāyodhātū’ti.

However the body is placed or disposed (kāyaṃ yathāṭhitaṃ yathāpaṇihitaṃ), the elements in it are just thought about (paccavekkhati): earth (pathavī), water (āpo), fire (tejo), and air (vāyo).

The Buddha gives another example. Just as a butcher or his apprentice kills a cow, divides it into portions bit by bit, and sells it seated in the marketplace, so the body is understood as being just these four elements. It consists of: solidity—flesh, bones, and so forth; liquidity—blood, urine, and so forth; gases; and temperature. Just as "cow" is a conventional word for a composition of parts, so the body is nothing else but these four elements, none of which is "body." Thus people are brought to the point where the mind is at least slightly balanced.

Iti ajjhattaṃ vā kāye kāyānupassī viharati… ‘atthi kāyo’ti… na ca kiñci loke upādiyati.

Then the same work starts, because mere thinking is not sufficient. The same stations have to be passed through. The stage is reached of ‘atthi kāyo’ti, "This is body," to which there was formerly so much attachment, and putting aside all attachments the meditator reaches the final goal.

Nine Cemetery Observations'

There were some people, then as now, with so much attachment to the body that even proper thinking was impossible. Therefore a cruder, grosser starting point was given: they were just taken to a cemetery. This was of the kind where the dead body is not burned or buried, but just thrown away to be eaten by birds, animals, and so forth. Unable to work with their attention inside themselves, they were just asked to start looking at a corpse. Then they could consider their own body in the same way:

So imameva kāyaṃ upasaṃharati: ‘ayaṃ pi kho kāyo evaṃdhammo evaṃbhāvī evaṃanatīto’ti.

They think (upasaṃharati) about their own body: "My body too is of the same nature, it will unavoidably become like this." There are nine cemetery contemplations:

They view a corpse that is one-day, two-days, or three-days old, swollen, blue, and festering. They consider and understand that their body also has the same nature, and will ultimately die with the same result.

Again they view a corpse thrown in a cemetery being eaten by crows, hawks, vultures, dogs, jackals, or different kinds of worms. Again they consider their own body in the same way.

They view a corpse reduced to a skeleton with flesh or blood attached, held together by tendons. Then they consider their own body.

They view a corpse reduced to a skeleton without any flesh but smeared with blood and held together by tendons.

They view a corpse reduced to a skeleton without flesh or blood attached, held together by tendons.

This time they view only disconnected bones scattered in all directions: the bone of a hand or foot, a knee-bone, thigh-bone, pelvis, spine, or skull.

Now after a long time the bones are white, bleached.

They view bones that, after more than a year are just lying in a heap.

They view bones that are rotting and breaking down into dust.

Each time, after viewing, they reflect in the same way about their own body.

It is necessary to begin with just viewing in this way because Vipassana—to observe and experience the true nature of reality—is a delicate job. People living a coarse, gross life, involved in gross impurities, cannot do it. Special cases are therefore taken to a cemetery, just to see, to keep contemplating, and to understand what they see as the ultimate result for everyone. They are asked to start thinking. With this feeling of repulsiveness and now with understanding, the mind is slightly balanced: it can practise.

Iti ajjhattaṃ vā kāye kāyānupassī viharati… ‘atthi kāyo’ti… na ca kiñci loke upādiyati.

Now they start working through the same stations. They reach the stage of ‘atthi kāyo’ ti, "This is body," to which there was so much attachment. Then they continue until all attachments are given up at the stage of full liberation.


The path is the same in every section. Only the starting point differs. In every section you must feel arising and passing away, manifesting as sensation, which is the combination of mind and matter. First you feel it separately, then together when it arises and instantly passes away. Then everywhere the entire structure is dissolved, arising, passing, arising, passing. You just observe. In this way you develop your faculties of sati andsampajañña—the wisdom that develops equanimity.

There can be a type of equanimity even without the understanding of anicca. It is achieved by repeatedly suggesting non-reaction and calmness to the mind. Many people develop this faculty and seem not to react or be upset by the vicissitudes of life. They are balanced, but only at the surface level. A deeper part of the mind keeps on reacting because it is in constant contact with bodily sensations at a depth they have not reached. Withoutsampajañña, the roots of the behaviour pattern of reaction—the saṅkhāras—remain.

This is why the Buddha gave so much importance to vedanā. To put aside craving and aversion is a traditional teaching of the past. In India there were teachers before and after the Buddha, and teachers contemporary to the Buddha, who taught it, and whose disciples practised it. Yet it was only in relation to outside objects: that which was seen, heard, smelt, tasted, touched, or thought. The Buddha went deeper. Both the six sense doors and their objects were called saḷāyatana. He discovered that the contact between the two inevitably results in sensation, and that craving or aversion arises only after the sensation arises.

Saḷāyatana paccayā phasso, 
phassa paccayā vedanā, 
vedanā paccayā taṇhā:

Contact is because of the sense doors, sensation is because of contact, craving is because of sensation. This was his enlightenment.

The gap, the missing link, was vedanā. Without it people were dealing only with the sense objects, and their reactions to these objects. They could only rectify the intellect, the surface of the mind. Yet at the deepest level, following the contact, part of the mind evaluates this contact as good or bad. This evaluation gives a pleasant or unpleasant sensation. Then the reaction of craving or aversion starts. From his own experience the Buddha continued to teach equanimity towards sensations, to change the behaviour pattern of the mind at the deepest level, and to come out of bondage.

This is what you have started practising. You are developing equanimity not merely to the sense objects—sound, vision, smell, taste, touch or thought—but to the sensations that you feel, pleasant, unpleasant or neutral.Sampajañña has started with the understanding of the characteristic of arising and passing in bodily sensations. Having worked with Ānāpāna you easily experience sensations and you are developing equanimity with this understanding. You are practising the Buddha’s exact words. You work hard to remain satimā and sampajāno: ātāpī sampajāno satimā. This is the message of the whole Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta.

Make use of whatever time is left on this serious course. Reading and understanding the Sutta at the intellectual level will give much inspiration, guidance and confidence that you are doing what the Buddha intended: but intellectual understanding will not in itself liberate you. Make use of this Sutta and these evening discourses, but work. Work day and night, sampajaññaṃ na riñcati. In deep sleep you are helpless, but otherwise you should not miss sampajañña for a moment, whatever you are doing—eating, drinking, walking, or lying down. Of course, at this stage the mind still wanders and you forget. You start contemplating, imagining or thinking, but see how quickly you realise, and start again with sensations. Keep reminding yourself. Develop your wisdom, your enlightenment. You have to change the old habit pattern of running away from sensations; you must remain with the deeper reality of arising and passing, samudaya-vaya, anicca. Come out of the ignorance, the bondage. Make use of these wonderful days of your life to come out of all your miseries. May you all enjoy real peace, real harmony, real happiness.

May all beings be happy.


The fifth day of the Satipaṭṭhāna course is over. We have covered kāyānupassanā.

Kāyānupassanā is not complete without vedanānupassanā, because anupassanā means to continuously experience the truth, which means to feel the body. Actually vedanā is central in all four satipaṭṭhānas. Mind and mental contents also have to be felt. Without feeling, the practice is just an intellectual game. This tradition emphasises vedanā because it gives us a tangible understanding of anicca, of arising and passing, samudaya, vaya.This understanding at the level of vedanā is absolutely essential because without it there is no sampajañña. Without sampajañña there is no paññā. Without paññā there is no Vipassana. Without Vipassana there is noSatipaṭṭhāna, and no liberation.

Deep samādhi can be gained using any object of concentration. For instance the breath coming and going, as in the first paragraph of the Ānāpāna section, can be used to gain the deep absorption of the first jhāna, then the deeper absorption of the second jhāna and then the third and fourth jhānas. It is quite possible that along with the awareness of respiration, sensation may also be felt; but without the appreciation of arising and passing, it is not Vipassana. Then from the fifth to the eighth jhānas the body is forgotten. These work with the mind only, and imagination is used.

Before his enlightenment, the Buddha had already learnt the seventh and eighth jhānas from Āḷāra Kālāma and Uddaka Rāmaputta, and certainly attained much purification. However he still found deep-rooted impurities inside, which he called anusaya kilesa. Saya means sleeping. Anu indicates that they follow with the mind from birth to birth. Like dormant volcanoes they can erupt at any time, and one of them always arises at the time of death. The others just follow on to the next life. For this reason, though he had perfected the eight jhānas, he did not accept himself as liberated.

Bodily torture also produced no result. He continued to investigate. From respiration he started observing sensation, and from this he gained the understanding of arising and passing. The key to liberation was found. Thejhānas which he had practised previously now had Vipassana, sampajañña, added to them. Previously they were called lokiya jhānas because they still resulted in new birth and so rotation in the loka, the planes of the universe. Now they were called lokuttara jhānas, because with the experience of arising and passing they gave the fruit of nibbāna, beyond the loka. This is the Buddha’s contribution to humankind, and it is attained withvedanā, which is why vedanā is so important for us.

Observation of Sensations

vedanāsu vedanānupassī viharati

How are sensations observed in sensations? No imagination is involved. It is not as if the meditator is outside and thus examining his or her feelings. No one is standing outside. You must have direct experience. The same applies to kāya, and later to citta and dhammā. The observation must be without any separation of observer and observed, or the imagination of any outside examiner.

…sukhaṃ vā vedanaṃ vedayamāno ‘sukhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayāmī’ti pajānāti…

Experiencing a pleasant sensation (sukhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayamāno) the meditator understands this as the experience of a pleasant sensation.

…dukkhaṃ vā vedanaṃ vedayamāno ‘dukkhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayāmī’ti pajānāti; adukkhamasukhaṃ vā vedanaṃ vedayamāno ‘adukkhamasukhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayāmī’ti pajānāti.

The same applies to unpleasant (dukkha vedanā) sensation, such as pain; and neutral sensation (adukkhamasukha vedanā), which is neither pleasant nor unpleasant. The words sukha and dukkha refer to bodily feelings. For pleasant or unpleasant mental feelings, the Buddha used somanassa and domanassa. Sukha and dukkha vedanā therefore refer to sensation on the body. Body by itself cannot feel them, and they are felt by a part of the mind; nevertheless the body is the base.

Sāmisaṃ vā sukhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayamāno ‘sāmisaṃ sukhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayāmī’ti pajānāti; nirāmisaṃ vā sukhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayamāno ‘nirāmisaṃ sukhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayāmī’ti pajānāti.

A pleasant sensation is understood properly as being with craving or attachment (sāmisa) or without craving or attachment (nirāmisa). In today’s India nirāmisa means vegetarian and sāmisa means non-vegetarian food. The meaning here is pure or impure. A pleasant sensation arising as result of proper Vipassana meditation, if it is observed without craving or attachment, leads to purity. The same pleasant sensation, perhaps encountered through involvement in some sensual pleasure, if it is reacted to with craving and attachment, with an attempt to increase it, is unwholesome and leads to impurity. It leads to rotation in misery. In this sense, a pleasant sensation may be pure or impure.

A sāmisa sensation is just to be observed, so that the reaction weakens and stops. A nirāmisa sensation, towards which there is equanimity, and no reaction, is also just observed. Then naturally according to the law, this faculty of objective observation increases. You do nothing. Pajānāti is mere observation, based in wisdom.

Sāmisaṃ vā dukkhaṃ vedanaṃ… nirāmisaṃ vā dukkhaṃ vedanaṃ… pajānāti.

Sāmisaṃ vā adukkhamasukhaṃ vedanaṃ… nirāmisaṃ vā adukkhamasukhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayamāno ‘nirāmisaṃ adukkhamasukhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayāmī’ti pajānāti.

Similarly whether the unpleasant (dukkha) sensation experienced is pure or impure depends on whether there is a reaction to it. It also is just observed, understood and accepted as it is. The neutral (adukkhamasukha)sensation is understood in the same way.

Iti ajjhattaṃ vā vedanāsu vedanānupassī viharati, bahiddhā vā vedanāsu vedanānupassī viharati, ajjhattabahiddhā vā vedanāsu vedanānupassī viharati.

As in every section, similar stations now follow. The sensations are felt inside and on the surface of the body, and then simultaneously throughout the entire physical structure.

Another tradition interprets ajjhattaṃ as the feeling on one’s own body, bahiddhā as the feeling on someone else’s body, and ajjhatta-bahiddhā as switching between the two. As before, our tradition does not accept this. The meditator is working alone, whether in the forest, under a tree, or in a cell. It is argued that when begging for food the monk encounters others and has this opportunity to feel their breath or sensations. However the eyes of serious meditators are downcast (okkhitta-cakkhu) and at most they might see someone else’s legs as they walk: so this interpretation seems illogical. Of course, at a very high stage of observation the meditator becomes very sensitive to the sensations of others also, and to the vibrations of the surrounding atmosphere and of animate and inanimate objects. Possibly it could be understood in this way. Otherwise to practise on someone else’s breath or sensations is unworkable. It is better therefore to take ajjhattaṃ as "inside" and bahiddhā as "on the surface of one’s own body."

…samudayadhammānupassī… vayadhammānupassī… samudayavayadhammānupassī vā vedanāsu viharati…

This and the following stations, which occur in every section, are very important. The meditator has to pass through them. The arising of vedanā, the passing of vedanā, and the arising and instant passing of vedanā are felt.

…‘atthi vedanā’ti vā panassa sati paccupaṭṭhitā hoti.

In kāyānupassanā the stage of ‘atthi kāyo’ ti came when the body became merely a mass of subatomic particles, with no valuation or judgement: saññā no longer recognised it as human or animal, male or female, beautiful or ugly. It became just body as body, beyond differentiation. Similarly sensations, vedanā, are now seen just as sensations, vedanā, neither pleasant nor unpleasant. There is no judgement, no evaluation, no saññā. The awareness now established is of sensations as just sensations. Then the same stations follow to the final goal.

Yāvadeva ñāṇamattāya paṭissatimattāya anissito ca viharati, na ca kiñci loke upādiyati.

The role of vedanā was the Buddha’s great discovery for humanity. It is the important junction from which two roads start: either dukkha-samudaya-gāminī paṭipadā, the road in which misery is continuously generated, ordukkha-nirodha-gāminī paṭipadā, the road in which misery becomes totally eradicated. He discovered that every reaction, every saṅkhāra can be generated only with the feeling of sensation—pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. At the deepest level the mind constantly reacts to vedanā throughout the body, in every particle, all the time, wherever there is life. Unless sensations, vedanā, are experienced, any freedom from craving or aversion is only at the surface of the mind. It is an illusion of non-reaction because it is only in relation to outside objects: to the outside world of sound, vision, smell, touch-feeling or taste. What is missed is the reality of your reaction because every contact of an object with a sense door is bound to produce a sensation on the body, pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. This is missed.

You must go to that depth where you feel sensations and yet do not react. Only when you are aware of sensations and equanimous towards them can the habit pattern of the mind be changed at the deepest level. Deep-rootedsaṅkhāras like lines drawn on rock with chisel and hammer—the anusaya kilesa—can then come up and pass away. Otherwise the process of multiplication continues. Therefore vedanā plays such an important role inSatipaṭṭhāna.

Cittānupassanā—Observation of Mind

citte cittānupassī viharati

How does a meditator practise observation of mind in mind?

"In mind" (citte) means by direct experience, as "in body" and "in sensations." To avoid any imagination about the mind something must happen in it, because as something happens and then passes away, it can be felt as sensation.

sarāgaṃ vā cittaṃ ‘sarāgaṃ cittaṃ’ti pajānāti, vītarāgaṃ vā cittaṃ ‘vītarāgaṃ cittaṃ’ti pajānāti.

Sarāgaṃ means with craving, sa-rāga. If craving has arisen in the mind, this is just observed. When it passes away, and the mind is free of it (vīta-rāgaṃ) this is just observed: the craving arose and passed away.

sadosaṃ vā cittaṃ… vītadosaṃ vā cittaṃ ‘vitadosaṃ cittaṃ’ti pajānāti,

samohaṃ vā cittaṃ ‘samohaṃ cittaṃ’ ti pajānāti, vītamohaṃ vā cittaṃ ‘vītamohaṃ cittaṃ’ti pajānāti.

The reality of a mind with or without aversion (dosa) is observed and when the aversion passes away the mind is free of it. Similarly moha (illusion, delusion, confusion, ignorance) is observed: when it has gone the mind is free of it.

Saṅkhittaṃ vā cittaṃ... vikkhittaṃ vā cittaṃ… 
mahaggataṃ vā cittaṃ… amahaggataṃ vā cittaṃ… 
sa-uttaraṃ vā cittaṃ… anuttaraṃ vā cittaṃ… 
samāhitaṃ vā cittaṃ… asamāhitaṃ vā cittaṃ… 
vimuttaṃ vā cittaṃ… avimuttaṃ vā cittaṃ ‘avimuttaṃ cittaṃ’ti pajānāti.

Whether the mind is collected and concentrated (saṅkhitta) or vikkhitta (scattered)—this is just observed and accepted. In deeper jhānas when the mind is expanded, using imagination, to a limitless area, it is calledmahaggata, big. Whether or not it is mahaggata—this is just observed. Sa-uttara means there are higher minds, or scope for development. Anuttara is when there is nothing higher: mind has reached the highest stage. This also is observed. Whether the mind is deeply absorbed in samādhi (samāhita) or not is observed. Whether the mind is liberated (vimutta) or in bondage is also observed.

Iti ajjhattaṃ vā… bahiddhā vā…ajjhattabahiddhā vā citte cittānupassī viharati.

The same stations follow. Mind is observed inside and outside. Again, this tradition does not accept bahiddhā as the mind of someone else. At a high stage of purification the meditator does develop the psychic power to read the minds of others, but this is not a final station.

Mind inside (ajjhattaṃ) is a mind experiencing something within the framework of the body. Mind is taken as outside when it experiences an object from outside: when it feels a sound coming into contact with the ear, a shape with the eye, a smell with the nose, a taste with the tongue, something tangible with the body, or a thought of something outside. However the whole process is still within the framework of the body. Mind itself always remains inside the body, even when its object is outside.

Then arising and passing is experienced and the stage of ‘atthi cittaṃ’ ti is reached: it is just viññāṇa, just mind, not "I" or "my" mind. The awareness gets established in this. Then there is mere wisdom or understanding, mere observation. There is nothing to support or to grasp.

‘atthi cittaṃ’ti…na ca kiñci loke upādiyati.

A Vipassana meditator understands how, when there is mere awareness, only cognition (viññāṇa) functions. There is no process of multiplication of misery. Recall the words spoken to the old hermit who came all the way from near Bombay to Sāvatthi to meet the Buddha. These words were sufficient, in that the hermit had already practised eight jhānas: diṭṭhe diṭṭhamattaṃ bhavissati… "In seeing there is only seeing," nothing beyond it, because there is no evaluation or reaction. "There is just hearing as hearing, smelling as smelling, tasting as tasting, touching as touching, and …viññāte viññātamattaṃ …cognising as cognising." This high stage takes time. But it must be reached to experience nibbāna.

The practice is to understand this process. All the sense doors are on the body, so the body is central. There is a contact with the eye, ear, nose, tongue, body touch, or mind. Viññāṇa cognises that something has happened. Then saññā evaluates it as good or bad, and the sensation that results is pleasant or unpleasant. Saṅkhāra reacts, and bondage, misery starts. These other aggregates overpower viññāṇa. Saṅkhāra has become so strong andviññāṇa so weak. As a result, misery and bondage have become so strong. The practice is to weaken saṅkhāra and saññā, and to strengthen viññāṇa, until there is nothing else but mere understanding and awareness—yāvadeva ñāṇamattāya paṭissati-mattāya.

The Buddha practised eight jhānas before his enlightenment. The name of the eighth jhāna is nevasaññā-nāsaññāyatana: in this jhāna, saññā cannot be said either to exist or not exist. Although it has become so feeble, it does still exist, so the Buddha did not yet call himself a liberated person. Using Vipassana he developed the lokuttara jhānas, leading to nibbāna, and introduced the "ninth jhāna," which he called saññā-vedayita-nirodha:where saññā and vedanā stop. So long as saññā functions, however feebly, it will produce a reaction, a saṅkhāra. Saññā must be totally eradicated to experience the stage of viññāṇa as viññāṇa.

Observation of Mental Contents

dhammesu dhammānupassi viharati

Just as kāyānupassanā is incomplete without vedanānupassanā, so cittānupassanā is incomplete without dhammānupassanā. For the mind and body be felt, something must arise on them; otherwise the practice is just imagination. Therefore citta can only be experienced when something arises and passes away, such as rāga, dosa, or moha.

What mind contains is called dhamma.

Many words used by the Buddha are difficult to translate, because they have no equivalents in other languages. Of these, dhamma is the most difficult. Its range of meaning is vast. Its root meaning is dhāretī’ti dhammo: that which is contained. It is what is contained in the mind.

A further meaning became the nature or the characteristic of whatever arises in the mind:

Attano sabhāvaṃ attano lakkhaṇaṃ dhāretī’ti dhammo.

Dhamma means the self-nature, the self-characteristic that is contained.

Sometimes in the languages of India today, it is said that the dhamma of fire is to burn. Burning is its characteristic, otherwise it is not fire. The dhamma of ice is to cool, or it is not ice. Similarly rāga (craving) contains its own dhamma or characteristic, which is to create agitation and misery. The dhamma of love and compassion is calmness, harmony and peace. So dhamma became the nature or the quality.

After a few centuries the term dhamma, or nature, was divided into kusala (wholesome) and akusala (unwholesome), referring to its fruit. Impurities contained in the mind—such as anger, hatred, animosity, passion, fear, and ego, which give unwholesome fruit—were called akusala. Qualities which were to one’s credit and gave a better life—such as compassion, goodwill and selfless service—were called kusala. Thus in the old literature we find dhamma divided into "pure" and "impure."

Slowly akusala became adhamma or pāpa, anti-Dhamma or sin, that which causes rotation in misery. Then Dhamma became used for anything wholesome, contained in a person, which leads to liberation.

The meaning of dhamma continued to expand. As the result of a mental content is observed—say what happens as result of anger or compassion—the law of cause and effect, that is the law of nature, starts to be understood. Therefore dhamma can be whatever is contained in the mind, or the characteristic of that which is contained, or the law of nature—that is, the law of the universe.

How does a meditator practise observation of the dhammas?

Nīvaraṇapabbaṃ—The Hindrances

dhammesu dhammānupassī viharati pañcasu nīvaraṇesu.

Nīvaraṇa means a "curtain" or "cover": that which prevents the reality from being seen. In the ten-day courses we refer to the nīvaraṇas as the five enemies: craving, aversion, drowsiness, agitation, and doubt. An example is given. At that time there were no mirrors, and people used to look at the reflection of their faces in a pot of clean water with a light. If the water is dirty, coloured, or agitated, you can’t see properly. Similarly, these nīvaraṇasare enemies to your progress on the path of observing reality because they colour or prevent you from seeing it.

Again there is no imagination involved: dhamma is experienced in dhamma (dhammesu). Nor does this section involve any contemplation. How then are these hindrances observed?

santaṃ vā ajjhattaṃ kāmacchandaṃ ‘atthi me ajjhattaṃ kāmacchando’ti pajānāti,

asantaṃ vā ajjhattaṃ kāmacchandaṃ ‘natthi me ajjhattaṃ kāmacchando’ti pajānāti

When a craving for sensual pleasures (kāmacchanda) is present inside, this is just accepted. There is just awareness of this fact. When it is not present, this is understood: just awareness of the reality as it is, from moment to moment.

…yathā ca anuppannassa kāmacchandassa uppādo hoti tañca pajānāti, yathā ca uppannassa kāmacchandassa pahānaṃ hoti tañca pajānāti, yathā ca pahīnassa kāmacchandassa āyatiṃ anuppādo hoti tañca pajānāti.

Then those kāmacchandas which were lying deep inside and had not previously come to the surface (anuppanna) now do so (uppāda). This is also understood (pajānāti). Things arise and sooner or later pass away,samudayavaya; similarly this craving arises and passes away. As layers after layers arise and are observed, they are eradicated (pahāna). The layers that have been eradicated (pahīna) do not come back again (āyatiṃ anuppādo). All this is just observed and understood (pajānāti).

When all the accumulated craving has been eradicated, full liberation is reached. The mental habit of generating craving is gone, and no such saṅkhāra can be generated now.

Santaṃ vā ajjhattaṃ byāpādaṃ… 
Santaṃ vā ajjhattaṃ thinamiddhaṃ… 
Santaṃ vā ajjhattaṃ uddhaccakukkuccaṃ… 
Santaṃ vā ajjhattaṃ vicikicchaṃ… tañca pajānāti.

In the same way the meditator understands aversion (byāpādaṃ) to be present or absent. The whole process of Vipassana is described in these paragraphs. Whatever past aversion was lying low, like a dormant volcano deep inside, arises. This is also observed and eradicated. Unless the habit pattern is totally changed, saṅkhāras of aversion of the same type will start anew. When all are eradicated at the root level, nothing comes back. This is the final goal. It is impossible for an arahant to generate any new craving or aversion.

Similarly thīna-midda (drowsiness of the mind and body), uddhacca-kukkucca (agitation) and vicikicchā (doubts, scepticism) are eradicated.

It should be clear that every dhamma, anything that arises on the mind—even a slight thought—starts flowing with a sensation on the body: vedanā samosaraṇā sabbe dhammā. This law of nature was realised but not created by the Buddha. Whatever arises—anger, passion, or anything else—if the sensation is observed the meditator is working properly. Otherwise it is an intellectual game. Anger may have gone away at the surface level, but deep inside the sensation remains, and the mind continues to react with anger to this sensation without the meditator even knowing. Therefore, so far as this tradition is concerned, the sensation on the body cannot be missed. The words of the Buddha are so clear: sampajaññaṃ na riñcati. Every moment there must be awareness of sensation arising and passing.

Whether you are practising any section of kāyānupassanā or vedanānupassanā, or cittānupassanā or dhammānupassanā, without the understanding of arising and passing of sensation, the accumulated impurities at the depth of the mind can be neither reached nor eradicated. The practice will just be a surface game.

The same stations follow:

Iti ajjhattaṃ vā dhammesu dhammānupassī viharati…‘atthi dhammā’ti…na ca kiñci loke upādiyati.

Observing inside and on the surface, and then arising and passing, the stage of ‘atthi dhammā’ ti, is reached: neither good nor bad, mine nor yours, just the law of nature, mere mental contents and their nature. The same stations follow until there is nothing to grasp.

When craving has arisen, you can’t take it out with aversion; otherwise you generate a new saṅkhāra of aversion. If you just accept that there is craving in the mind, then you are just observing, and the reaction, which is the nature of craving, is not being multiplied. It is weakened and becomes feeble. Any mental impurity is similarly observed. Even the practice of intellectually contemplating the body as repulsive, as in some opening paragraphs of kāyānupassanā, was given by the Buddha merely as a beginning to bring people on the right path. Once Vipassana starts, there is no aversion to this ugly body; it is just observed as it is with the wisdom of arising and passing—yathābhūta-ñāṇa-dassanaṃ. The ñāṇa, as in pajānāti, is just awareness with the understanding of anicca. Whatever arises—whether good or bad, pure or impure—there is mere observation, no attempt to retain or push it out. This is the proper path to the final goal.

The path is long, but it starts with the first step. Don’t be disheartened if the final goal is far away. No effort is wasted on this path. Whatever effort you make gives you benefit. You have started on the right path to the final goal. Step by step, as you come nearer and nearer, you are bound to reach the final goal.

May all of you keep walking on this path, step by step. Make use of the time and the facility. Understanding the direct words of the Buddha, make use of this wonderful technique. As much as possible try not to misssampajañña in any situation. Excepting only the time of deep sleep, try to be aware with sampajañña in every physical activity, for your own good, benefit and liberation. May you all be liberated from the bondages, the miseries.

May all beings be happy.


The sixth day of the Satipaṭṭhāna course is over. We proceed further with Dhammānupassanā. Dhammas are mental contents and their nature, the universal law of nature. A Buddha, an enlightened person, has no interest in establishing a sect or religion. Having discovered ultimate truth at the deepest level, the Buddha teaches this law to help people understand reality and end their misery, whatever their sect, community, country, colour or gender. The entire universe, animate and inanimate, everyone and everything, is governed by this law. With or without the Buddha, it governs the constant interaction of mind and matter, the currents, undercurrents and cross-currents going on in each individual. Yet people keep on playing games at the surface of the mind, deluding themselves in ignorance and multiplying their misery by multiplying their bondages.

Khandhapabbaṃ—The Aggregates

dhammesu dhammānupassī viharati pañcasu upādānakkhandhesu

Khandha means an aggregate, an accumulation, or a heap of something. We are called individual beings. This is an apparent truth: but at a deeper level every living individual—I, you, he, or she—is just pañca khandhā, the five aggregates. The Buddha wants you to go to the depth of this reality, where you cannot differentiate or identify by name, where they are merely the five aggregates.

One aggregate is the countless, subatomic material particles, kalāpas, joined together as matter. Mind is divided into another four aggregates: viññāṇa cognises; saññā recognises and evaluates; vedanā feels; and saṅkhārareacts and creates. These five aggregates combined are called an entity, an individual. At the ultimate level they are just five aggregates and the whole process of Satipaṭṭhāna, of Vipassana, is to experience this fact. Otherwise the delusion of identifying "I," "mine," or "myself" with any or all of these aggregates—which is ignorance—causes tremendous attachment and clinging to them, resulting in great misery. This is not a belief to be accepted out of devotion, just because an enlightened person said it, nor a philosophy just to be intellectually accepted as rational and logical. It is a truth to be experienced and realised at the actual level within the framework of the body. When this truth becomes clear, the habit pattern at the deepest level of the mind changes, and liberation is reached. This is Dhamma, the law.

Upādāna means attachment and clinging. This develops towards the five aggregates, which are its object; or, the five aggregates are generated and come together because of upādāna. They are aggregates of attachment.

Again a meditator observes dhamma in dhamma, the five aggregates. How does a meditator practise with them?

…‘iti rūpaṃ, iti rūpassa samudayo, iti rūpassa atthaṅgamo…

This is matter, this is the arising of matter, this is the passing away of matter: all this is experienced. Rūpa means matter, samudaya means arising, atthaṅgamo passing away.

iti vedanā, iti vedanāya samudayo, iti vedanāya atthaṅgamo; 
iti saññā, iti saññāya samudayo, iti saññāya atthaṅgamo; 
iti saṅkhārā, iti saṅkhārānaṃ samudayo, iti saṅkhārānaṃ atthaṅgamo; 
iti viññāṇaṃ, iti viññāṇassa samudayo, iti viññāṇassa atthaṅgamo’ti.

As the mental aggregates also are experienced—sensation (vedanā), perception (saññā), reaction (saṅkhāra), and consciousness (viññāṇa)—the whole process of what is happening inside is realised.

Iti ajjhattaṃ vā dhammesu dhammānupassī viharati,…‘atthi dhamma’ti…

The same stations follow, inside, outside, both together. Then "atthi dhammā’ti,"—"Oh, this is Dhamma." Awareness gets established in the reality that these five aggregates are all there is. A high stage of observation finds mere mind and matter, nothing else—no "I," "mine," or "myself."

At the apparent, conventional level, the words "I" and "you" have to be used, but at the actual, ultimate level there are just the five khandhas. Similarly for conventional purposes, we call something joined together a motor car, but if we disintegrate it and separate its parts, which part is the car? the tyres? the wheels? the seats? the engine? the battery? the body? Actually a car is just different parts joined together.

Similarly, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday when joined make a week; thirty days joined together make a month; and twelve months a year, for conventional purposes only. Vipassana divides, dissects, disintegrates and observes reality as it is. Then the attachment goes away. The khandhās remain, arising and passing, but they are mere aggregates, because upādāna is gone. This is the Dhamma of thekhandhās.

Yāvadeva ñāṇamattāya paṭissatimattāya anissito ca viharati, na ca kiñci loke upādiyati.

Then comes ñāṇamattāya paṭissatimattāya also known in those days as samyak darshana, kevala darshana, samyak jñāna kevala jñāna—mere observation and mere understanding. Then anissito ca viharati: there is nothing to depend on because there is no attachment; there is nothing to grasp.

Āyatanapabbaṃ—The Sense Spheres

dhammesu dhammānupassī viharati chasu ajjhattikabāhiresu āyatanesu.

The āyatanas are the six sense spheres or doors: the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind. All six are inside (ajjhattika) because they are on or inside the body. Their objects are outside (bāhiresu): for the eyes, a vision, colour, shape, or light; for the ears, sound; for the nose, smell; for the tongue, taste; for the body, something tangible; for the mind, a thought, emotion, fantasy or dream. Although called external, they become objects only when in contact with the internal āyatanas, on the framework of the body. For someone blind from birth there is no world of colour, light, shape or form and no way of understanding that world. Six internal āyatanas and six external āyatanas, make twelve in all, and the bāhiresu āyatana only actually exist for us when each is in contact with its respective sense door.

How is the work done with the six internal and external sense spheres?

cakkhuṃ ca pajānāti, rūpe ca pajānāti, yañca tadubhayaṃ paṭicca uppajjati saṃyojanaṃ tañca pajānāti…

The truth of cakkhu (the eye sense door) and its object, rūpa (the shape or form) is realised: pajānāti. Yañca tadubhayaṃ paṭicca, with the base of these two, because of their contact, uppajjati saṃyojanaṃ—a bondage arises.

…yathā ca anuppannassa saṃyojanassa uppādo hoti tañca pajānāti…

The meditator works with this bondage that has now arisen: saṃyojanassa uppādo hoti tañca pajānāti. The reality is that with every contact there is vibration, phassa-paccayā vedanā. Saññā evaluates: female, male; beautiful, ugly; pleasant, unpleasant. With this evaluation the sensations become pleasant or unpleasant, and immediately saṅkhāra, the reacting part of the mind, starts generating craving or aversion. Thus this whole process of bondage starts and multiplies.

The work with the six sense doors is within the boundary of mind and matter. It is a matter of analysing and continually understanding how everything happens. If you are ignorant you constantly tie new knots and multiply bondage after bondage. When you don’t react, as you experience and observe the bondage in wisdom, it weakens. The habit pattern of reaction starts changing. The old bondages can come on the surface: yathā ca anuppannassa saṃyojanassa uppādo hoti tañca pajānāti. You observe the arising (uppāda) of the bondage which had not previously come up (anuppanna).

…yathā ca uppannassa saṃyojanassa pahānaṃ hoti tañca pajānāti, yathā ca pahīnassa saṃyojanassa āyatiṃ anuppādo hoti tañca pajānāti.

As you observe, the bondages get eradicated (pahānaṃ)one after the other: yathā ca uppannassa samyojannassa pahānaṃ hoti tañca pajānāti. When they have all come to the surface and passed away they do not again arise(āyatiṃ anuppādo). The stage beyond bondage, of total liberation, is reached.

There are three types of eradication. Even when you just observe sīla, because at the surface level of the mind you are not over-reacting with craving or aversion, there is momentary eradication of your bondage. When you go deeper with samādhi, there is more eradication: the roots are shaken. Then when you practise Vipassana these roots are eradicated at the deepest level of the mind—pahānaṃ. For example, a thirsty person comes to drink at a pond with a surface covered by poisonous weeds. The weeds are pushed aside by hand from a small area, for temporary access; but afterwards they again cover this small area. This is momentary eradication. This is sīla.For better access, four poles with nets between are set up to hold back the weeds. This is samādhi which, as it goes deeper, clears a larger area, but leaves the roots. Paññā removes all the weeds, so that not a particle remains. This is real pahāna at the root level, which is what is meant here: yathā ca pahīnassa saṃyojanassa āyatiṃ anuppādo hoti tañca pajānāti. Total eradication of the bondages is realised; they cannot again arise(anuppādo). This is the stage of the arahant, of total liberation.

Sotañca pajānāti, sadde ca pajānāti, yañca tadubhayaṃ paṭicca uppajjati saṃyojanaṃ tañca pajānāti…

Similarly the ear, the sound, and the bondage that arises because of them is observed.

…yathā ca anuppannassa saṃyojanassa uppādo hoti tañca pajānāti, yathā ca uppannassa saṃyojanassa pahānaṃ hoti tañca pajānāti, yathā ca pahīnassa saṃyojanassa āyatiṃ anuppādo hoti tañca pajānāti.

As equanimity develops, such bondages which had never previously come to the surface do so and are eradicated. This also is observed.

Ghānañca pajānāti, gandhe ca pajānāti… 
Jivhañca pajānāti, rase ca pajānāti… 
Kāyañca pajānāti, phoṭṭhabbe ca pajānāti… 
Manañca pajānāti, dhamme ca pajānāti…āyatiṃ anuppādo hoti tañca pajānāti...

Similarly the reality of nose and smell, tongue and taste, body and anything tangible, and mind and contents (dhamme) are observed (pajānāti). In each case the bondages arise, are eradicated, and do not come again. In each case the stage of an arahant is not merely accepted philosophically, but is experienced, witnessed: pajānāti.

Iti ajjhattaṃ vā dhammesu dhammānupassī viharati…‘atthi dhammā’ti…na ca kiñci loke upādiyati.

The same process follows. "This is dhamma." All the six sense doors and their objects are mere dhamma, with no "I," "mine," "he," or "she," no individual there. Dividing, dissecting, disintegrating and dissolving, analysing each sense door separately, the individual becomes just a mass, a process, an interaction of all of the āyatanas combined. With mere intellectual understanding, ignorance will prevent the witnessing of this dhamma, this process, and the escape from this bondage.

The practice leads through the same stations to the final goal.

The Factors of Enlightenment

dhammesu dhammānupassī viharati sattasu bojjhaṅgesu

The bojjhaṅgas are the seven factors of enlightenment or qualities to be developed to reach the final goal.

The mind by itself is very pure: viññāṇa is very pure, but because of past saṅkhāras, conditioned saññā always gives a wrong evaluation, and when the sensation arises, saṅkhāra after saṅkhāra is again created. Because of this entire process, the mind loses its own nature of purity and becomes very agitated. Bojjhaṅgas restore this purity: when they are observed as a reality, they increase to become perfect and when each is perfect, enlightenment is perfect. This is the whole process of Vipassana.

The first bojjhaṅga is sati, awareness. Without it, further steps on the path cannot be taken. Sati, objective observation of reality, is the most important factor because it must be continuously present from moment to moment with every other factor.

Dhamma-vicaya is second. The word caya or cayana means "to integrate." Apparent, consolidated, integrated, illusionary truth creates so much delusion and confusion: every decision and action goes wrong. Vicaya orvicayana means to divide, dissect, disintegrate, separate, as Vipassana intends you to do. Initially dhamma-vicaya is intellectual. The body is analysed as just four elements, with no "I" about it. The mind is just the four aggregates. The six sense doors, their respective objects, the contact and process of multiplication are observed. The intellectual clarity gained gives guidance to start the actual practice of Vipassana and study the truth at the actual level.

The third bojjhaṅga is viriya (effort) as in sammā-vāyāmo in the Noble Eightfold Path. Great effort is required, but the effort is not to react, to let things just happen. Even if you have been victorious in a thousand battles against a thousand warriors, this inner battle of non-reaction is more difficult because the old habit is to do something, to react. Don’t fight Ānanda’s battle—"I must become an arahant," "I must" eradicate my impurities—if you do, the mind becomes unbalanced. Another extreme is not to work, not to observe at all, and just let things happen. Let things happen, but also know the reality as it is. Some slight degree of tension is necessary: either too much, or none at all, doesn’t work. For example, some pressure is necessary to drill a hole in a precious gem, but too much pressure will break it. It is a middle path.

Viriya is to just observe, understanding the impermanent nature of arising and passing: practising without reaction. The liberation is done by Dhamma, by the law of nature.

As you keep practising with sati, dhamma-vicaya, and viriya, the impurities go away, and pīti comes and grows: pleasant sensation in the body, rapture, and bliss. You have to be careful. If you develop attachment to this free flow of subtle vibrations throughout the body, if you look for it and cling to it, it is no longer a bojjhaṅga. If the understanding of anicca remains—that this is still the field of mind and matter, of arising and passing—then the impurity goes away, and pīti develops and becomes a factor of enlightenment.

As wave after wave of this pleasant sensation comes and is observed, the important stage of passaddhi comes: deep tranquillity and calmness. Now even a slight sound is a great disturbance. Even the breath which becomes like a fine thread, making a subtle U-turn at the entrance of the nostrils, is a disturbance. The mind is so peaceful, quiet, tranquil. Again a danger comes: the false impression that this deep peace, never experienced before, is liberation. Just as pīti, bliss, may become a bondage if not used properly, in the same way this passaddhi also may become a bondage. It is only a midway resthouse: the final goal is still far away. You can check that the six sense doors are still functioning: open your eyes, or listen. You are still in the field of arising and passing. You have not transcended the field of mind and matter.

Although difficult to grasp at this high stage, a subtle oscillation remains, and this sensation is called adukkhaṃasukhaṃ. In pīti it was pleasant; now it is just peaceful, and the danger is that anicca is not experienced. Detachment from craving towards pleasant sensation or aversion towards unpleasant sensation is much easier than detachment from this feeling of peace. Be very attentive: with a very sharp mind, feel the subtle oscillation, check the six sense doors, and keep understanding that this experience is anicca.

There is often a question about neutral sensation. The Buddha did not mean the initial, surface sensation which is neither pleasant nor unpleasant. That is totally different. It involves craving and aversion because people get bored with it, lose interest, and want something else. Their experience has become stale. They want something more or new, something they don’t have. This is their old habit pattern.

Different people from different sects, communities, countries, religions, beliefs, and dogmas come to this Ganges of Vipassana to quench their thirst, to end ignorance and misery. Even when the mind-matter structure is accepted as arising and passing, and essenceless, because of their background this deep, neutral sensation gives an illusion of eternity, and so can become a bondage. To someone with a traditional belief in eternal soul,passaddhi seems to be this. To another with a belief in an eternal creator living inside us, it seems to be the unchanging creator. This is a dangerous illusion. Thoroughly examine this passaddhi, this deep, tranquil, calm experience. If you are aware of the very subtle oscillation, arising and passing, then it becomes a bojjhaṅga and gives you the strength to move further. Your experience grows.

The next enlightenment factor is samādhi—concentration or absorption. There were different types of samādhis before the Buddha became Buddha, as there are today. When eight jhānas are attained, there is a danger of feeling that the goal is attained, but this is only lokiya samādhi, which life after life results in rotation from one plane of existence to another. Sammā-samādhi takes us out of all the planes and gives full liberation from the bondage of birth and death, and from every type of suffering. It is practised with sampajañña, the awareness of the mind-matter phenomenon and the realisation of its nature of arising and passing. The mind is concentrated on reality. Then it becomes lokuttara, beyond the planes. As the jhāna is attained, simultaneously the fruit of nibbāna is attained. With samādhi, one after the other, the meditator attains the fruit of sotāpanna, sakadāgāmī, anāgāmī, and arahant. Then samādhi becomes an enlightenment factor.

Upekkhā—equanimity is the seventh factor of enlightenment. Like sati, it must be present from the beginning to the end, at every step. Whatever other factor is worked on, awareness and equanimity must always be there.

A pure mind has all these factors. Impurities, as they are observed, come to the surface and get eradicated; but these enlightenment factors, as they are observed, one by one, come on the surface, develop, multiply and become totally fulfilled. This section explains how the final goal of full enlightenment is thus reached.

santaṃ vā ajjhattaṃ satisambojjhaṅgaṃ ‘atthi me ajjhattaṃ satisambojjhaṅgo’ti pajānāti, asantaṃ vā ajjhattaṃ satisambojjhaṅgaṃ ‘natthi me ajjhattaṃ satisambojjhaṅgo’ ti pajānāti.

When the enlightenment factor of sati is present (santaṃ) the meditator understands (pajānāti)‘Atthi me ajjhattaṃ…’ ("Now it is present in me.") When it is asantaṃ (not present) the meditator accepts this reality also—‘Natthi me ajjhattaṃ…’ ("Now it is not present in me.")

…yathā ca anuppannassa satisambojjhaṅgassa uppādo hoti tañca pajānāti, yathā ca uppannassa satisambojjhaṅgassa bhāvanāya pāripūrī hoti tañca pajānāti.

All the past accumulated enlightenment factors of sati now help. They now come on the surface (anuppannassa uppādo hoti) and the meditator understands (tañca pajānāti). Having repeatedly arisen (uppannassa) they are understood with wisdom and multiply till they become complete—totally and fully attained (bhāvanāya pāripūrī).

Santaṃ vā ajjhattaṃ dhammavicayasambojjhaṅgaṃ… bhāvanāya pāripūrī hoti tañca pajānāti.

Similarly dhamma-vicaya, analytical study of the truth, is understood as simply being present or absent. The past dhamma-vicaya, which had not arisen earlier, repeatedly arises from the depth of the mind and is observed: it develops to fulfilment and the final goal is reached. All this is understood.

…pītisambojjhaṅgaṃ… passaddhisambojjhaṅgaṃ 
…samādhisambojjhaṅgaṃ…  Santaṃ vā ajjhattaṃ upekkhāsambojjhaṅgaṃ bhāvanāya pāripūrī hoti tañca pajānāti.

The enlightenment factors of viriya (effort), pīti (rapture, bliss, while feeling pleasant sensation in the body), passaddhi (tranquillity), samādhi (concentration) and upekkhā (equanimity) are understood in the same way and develop to completion.

Iti ajjhattaṃ vā dhammesu dhammānupassī viharati…‘atthi dhammā’ti…na ca kiñci loke upādiyati.

Dhammas are observed inside, outside, and both inside and outside; arising, passing, and both arising and passing. The meditator realises, "These are dhammas" and the awareness gets established with this reality. There is no more grasping or clinging. Thus dhammānupassanā is practised.


Questions And Answers

Q: Is directing our attention the only freedom we have, all other things being governed by Dhamma?

A: Everything is governed by Dhamma. Directing your attention is the only way to liberate yourself. You can do anything you wish, but if you react, Dhamma will bind you. If you just observe, Dhamma will certainly liberate you. This is the law of nature.

Q: Where is the dividing line between seriousness of practice and craving?

A: This is a good question. If you crave to work seriously, you are craving attainment of the result, or at least developing an attachment to working seriously. If you find yourself not working seriously and you then become depressed, there was craving. Just accept the fact that you were not working seriously and start again, knowing that you must work seriously. Then you keep progressing.

Q: Do neutral sensations come from neutral reactions, and do we hope to change this to mere observation?

A: Neutral sensations come because of ignorance. The ignorance goes when they are just observed as a changing phenomenon. A surface understanding of anicca, which is helpful, comes when after some time a very gross, solidified, unpleasant sensation goes. A deeper understanding, based on awareness of the subtle undercurrent of vibration, is that this sensation arises and passes every moment.

Q: When a meditator is carried away and rolls in thoughts of sense desire for some time before observation, is he multiplying the saṅkhāras to a worse state rather than purifying?

A: Previously the process of multiplication was continuous. Now your few moments of observation will turn into a few seconds, a few minutes, a few hours, which go to your credit. Practising Vipassana, you understand that every time you roll in sense desires, you multiply your misery, and as much as you observe you are coming out of it.

Q: The Buddha’s teaching seems to imply a sweeping movement of the attention related to the breath. What then is the origin and importance of working part by part in this practice?

A: When the Buddha says sabba-kāya-paṭisaṃvedī assasissāmī’ti sikkhati, "sikkhati" means "learns." Elsewhere pajānāti ("he understands properly") is used. You have to learn to sweep the whole body with one breath, and this learning is—observing part by part, allowing its solidity to dissolve, until the whole body is dissolved and you can sweep the entire mass. Then again you go part by part because even though the whole body seems opened up, there might be small unknown areas. You learn (sikkhati) to reach the stage of bhaṅga-ñāṇa.

Q: The Sutta outlines four observations and numerous practices, yet you teach only respiration and sensation on the body. There is no ranking of practices by order of importance. Why not also teach all practices such as walking meditation and noting ideas?

A: There are different traditions, and the Buddha, an enlightened person, also gave different initial objects to different people according to their background, capacity and inclination. However, as they proceeded, the stations were the same.

This living tradition comes from the initial practice of respiration, from which the meditator goes on to experience sensation, and thus arising and passing. Awareness of respiration and sensation together will lead to the final goal. It is not prohibited to try something else, but if you are progressing here, trying elsewhere just out of curiosity will waste your time. If you already feel sensation everywhere and now somewhere else you try observing walking—each foot moving up and down, but without sensation—your faculty of feeling sensation at a subtle level will get blunted. Reverting again to this technique you won’t be able to feel sensations at that depth. Of course there are people with very gross, rough types of mind for whom subtle respiration is very difficult, and walking may suit them better.

It is also difficult to feel subtle breath in a small area. If you are already feeling it clearly and then you try to feel it with your hand on the stomach—which is such a crude technique—you are regressing. The Buddha intends you to move from oḷāriko to sukhuma—from the gross to the subtle. If at a certain stage something gross arises from the depths, it can’t be helped; but just out of curiosity you cannot afford to start intentionally working with a gross object, such as the first sentences of another technique, forgetting all about the subtle reality of the station you had already reached. If another technique suits you better, stick to it and reach the final goal: but time is essential. Don’t waste your precious life running here and there.

Q: "I" is not.

A: Yes—"I" is not!

Q: What is it then that needs enlightening?

A: Ignorance needs enlightening, bondage needs liberation. Nothing else.

Q: How do you define a mind of compassion? Can we use compassion with awareness when dealing with our own suffering?

A: When compassion is in your mind, accept your mind as a mind of compassion. Certainly be kind to yourself, love yourself, be the first object of your own compassion. Every time you generate saṅkhāras, even craving and aversion towards someone else, you cruelly inflict so much misery on yourself. Your anger will not harm a good Vipassana meditator—it may or may not harm others—but you yourself are harmed and become miserable. Avoid it. Be kind and compassionate to yourself.

Q: Is it true that the interpretation of vedanā most distinguishes our form of Vipassana from others in the Buddhist tradition? And how do the others define vedanā, if not as physical sensations?

A: Yes. Other traditions take vedanā only as feelings of the mind. We don’t condemn others and it is true that vedanā is one of the four aggregates of the mind. We have to explain rather than just translate because some words used by the Buddha had already been explained previously by him. For instance, sampajañña had been explained as the feeling of sensations arising and passing. Also, many words today are either lost or carry totally different meanings, so that we have to go to the Tipiṭaka to find the Buddha’s original definition of them. The Buddha had explained that sukha and dukkha vedanā referred to the body, and he used somanassa anddomanassa to refer to the mind. In vedanānupassanā he doesn’t use somanassa and domanassa, but sukha and dukkha vedanā, so we have to work with sensations on the body.


Whatever you have understood intellectually and whatever you have experienced, make use of it. Make use of Dhamma not only on this course but in daily life. Reaction is always full of negativity. Live the life of Dhamma. Whatever happens outside, observe the reality of sensations inside and remain equanimous, then all your decisions and all your actions will be healthy—not reactions, but positive actions, good for you and good for others.

May all of you be able to lead a life good for both yourself and others. May you all enjoy the best fruits of Dhamma: peace, harmony, happiness.

May all beings be happy.


The seventh day of the Satipaṭṭhāna course is over. We reach the closing part of the Mahāsatipaṭṭhāna Sutta.

Catusaccapabbaṃ—The Four Noble Truths

dhammesu dhammānupassī viharati catūsu ariyasaccesu

How is dhammānupassanā practised observing the Four Noble Truths?

‘idaṃ dukkhaṃ’ti yathābhūtaṃ pajānāti, ‘ayaṃ dukkhasamudayo’ti yathābhūtaṃ pajānāti, ‘ayaṃ dukkhanirodho’ ti yathābhūtaṃ pajānāti, ‘ayaṃ dukkhanirodhagāminī paṭipadā’ti yathābhūtaṃ pajānāti.

"This is suffering." "This is the arising of suffering." "This is the total cessation of suffering." "This is the path which leads to the total cessation of suffering." Each truth is understood as it is.

Pajānāti means to understand in wisdom. Yathābhutaṃ—as it is, as it happens—means direct experience and understanding, as taught in the Buddha’s first discourse. The fact that suffering resulted from craving was already known. That craving had to be eradicated was not new. Everyone is suffering, but that fact by itself does not make anyone a noble person. The Buddha’s discovery was how to make it an ariya sacca, a noble truth, so that whoever experiences it becomes a noble person, attains at least the first experience of nibbāna, the first stage of liberation.

For each of the Four Noble Truths three things are necessary, making twelve in all. The first part of the First Noble Truth—"This is suffering"—is understood by everybody. The second part, pariññeyya, means however that every aspect of suffering must be understood, the entire field. The same word parijānāti was previously used for the total understanding of vedanā, with sampajañña. Parijānāti comes when vedanā is transcended. If not, some part of the field of vedanā might still be unexplored. Similarly the entire field of dukkha has to be explored, up to its limit. Then the third part comes: pariññāta, "It is totally explored." This means that it is transcended: it is an ariya sacca. The claim to have explored the entire field of dukkha can only be made when it is transcended.

On the surface there are four Noble Truths, but as you go deeper they culminate in one, like the four satipaṭṭhānas.

Dukkha samudaya, the arising or cause of suffering—that is, craving—is the Second Noble Truth. Again, intellectual acceptance and surface understanding of this basic principle survive from the teachings of previous Buddhas. However the second part of it is pahātabbaṃ: craving should be totally eradicated. Then comes the third, pahīnaṃ: it is totally eradicated; the stage of final liberation is reached. The Buddha’s contribution was to re-establish this deeper aspect, which had long ago disappeared.

Similarly mere acceptance of the Third Noble Truth—dukkha nirodha, the cessation of suffering—out of devotion or logic is insufficient. Its second part is sacchikātabbaṃ: it is to be witnessed. Its third stage is sacchikataṃ:it has been witnessed, and so is complete.

The Fourth Noble Truth of the Path is also meaningless if it is merely accepted intellectually. Its second part is bhāvetabbaṃ: it has to be practised repeatedly until bhāvitaṃ, its full completion. Only when he had walked on the whole Path, only when he had completed all Four Noble Truths, each in these three ways, did Gotama call himself a Buddha.

Initially the five friends to whom he first gave Dhamma would not even listen to the Buddha. They believed that liberation was impossible without practicing extreme bodily torture. The Buddha had already practised this. He had starved his body until it was a mere skeleton, too weak to take even two steps. Yet with his earlier practice of eight jhānas, he had seen that the deeper impurities still remained. Starving the body was a futile exercise, so he had given it up and started eating.

To convince them he told them that he had witnessed the Four Noble Truths yathābhūtaṃ pajānāti: with experiential wisdom as they happen, not just intellectually or devotionally. Only then were they prepared at least to start listening to him.

Dukkhasaccaṃ—The Truth of Suffering

dukkhaṃ ariyasaccaṃ

The Noble Truth of Suffering is now described, from the gross to the subtle.

Jāti pi dukkhā, jarā pi dukkhā, (byādhi pi dukkhā,) maraṇaṃ pi dukkhaṃ, sokaparidevadukkhadomanassupāyāsā pi dukkhā, appiyehi sampayogo pi dukkho, piyehi vippayogo pi dukkho, yampicchaṃ na labhati taṃ pi dukkhaṃ, saṅkhittena pañcupādānakkhandhā dukkhā.

Each manifestation of dukkha is explained using synonyms.

Jāti is birth in whatever plane of existence. Jarā is old age, frailty, the deterioration of the sense faculties. Byādhi is disease or sickness. Maraṇa is death from whatever plane of existence, and the dissolution of the aggregates. Soka is sorrow, mental grief from the loss of something very dear, and parideva is the crying and lamenting that results. Dukkha is bodily pain and unpleasant sensation. Domanassa is mental unpleasantness.Upāyāsa is mental distress and affliction following loss or misfortune. All these are dukkha.

Both here and in other explanations, dukkha is used for unpleasant or painful bodily sensation, and domanassa (from mana, mind) for mental unpleasantness. It could be a thought, a memory, a fear. Similarly sukha is used for pleasant bodily sensation and somanassa for pleasant feeling in the mind. In vedanānupassanā the words dukkha and sukha vedanā are used, which is why this tradition strongly emphasises bodily sensations as the object of meditation.

At a subtler level appiyehi sampayogo is association with anything unpleasant: rūpa, a vision, colour or light; sadda, sound; gandha, smell; rasa, taste; phoṭṭhabba, touch; or dhamma, a thought. Piyehi vippayogo is disassociation from anything pleasant. Disassociation from those who are dear, such as friends and family members, is dukkha

Still subtler is icchaṃ na labhati: not getting what is desired. If someone desires to escape the cycle of birth, but does not reach this stage, it is na pattabbaṃ, not fulfilled. This is misery. Similarly desire arises to be free of old age, illness, death, and of all mental and physical grief and pain, and it is not fulfilled.

Saṅkhittena, in summary, and at a still deeper level, the pañcupādānakkhandha, the upādāna, the attachment to the five aggregates, the pañca khandha—of rūpa, matter; vedanā, sensation; saññā, perception; saṅkhāra,reaction; and viññāṇa, consciousness—is misery.

Devotional or logical acceptance of the First Noble Truth does not help: it has to be experienced (yathābhūtaṃ pajānāti) to its final limit. This is done by the practice of sīla and samādhi, and with a concentrated mind you practice the observation of the subtler reality of the workings of the five khandhas and the six sense doors. This is the whole process of the Noble Eightfold Path.

The initial solidified, intensified and painful sensations are obviously dukkha, but they have to be observed with equanimity because reaction to them will multiply the misery. By equanimity they are divided, dissected, disintegrated and dissolved, and even if pain remains, an undercurrent of vibrations is felt with it. When broken up by these wavelets it does not seem to be misery. When even this goes away, there is only a flow of very subtle vibrations, giving rise to pīti. This is still the field of dukkha, lacking any real happiness, because it is anicca, arising and passing. The first experience of bhaṅga is very important, just to realise the truth that the entire material structure is nothing but subatomic particles. If however it is regarded as freedom from misery, then the field of dukkha has not been fully covered. Unpleasant sensations will again come: partly because of the surfacing of deep past saṇkhāras, partly because of posture, illness, and the like. Every pleasant experience, because it is impermanent, has dukkha as its inherent nature.

The next stage, passaddhi, tranquillity, containing no unpleasantness and apparently no dukkha, still has samudaya vaya present. Yet sabbe saṅkhārā aniccā—whatever gets composed is sooner or later bound to be destroyed. Gross experiences will still come, because this passaddhi is still a passing experience, still in the field of mind and matter. The entire field of dukkha is not complete. It can be said to be explored only when it is transcended to a stage beyond, where nothing arises or is created.

Thus the understanding of dukkha at a gross level cannot be said to be a Noble Truth. Parijānāti (complete understanding) means exploring the entire field with direct experience. Only when it is pariññātaṃ (understood to its end) does it actually become a Noble Truth.

The Truth of the Arising of Suffering'

dukkhasamudayaṃ ariyasaccaṃ

The Second Noble Truth is the arising of misery.

Yāyaṃ taṇhā ponobbhavikā nandīrāgasahagatā tatratatrābhinandinī, seyyathidaṃ, kāmataṇhā bhavataṇhā vibhavataṇhā.

This is taṇhā, craving; ponobbhavikā, resulting in life after life; nandī-rāga-sahagatā, bound up with desire for pleasure; tatra-tatrābhinandinī, taking pleasure here and there; seyyathīdaṃ, that is:

Kāma-taṇhā is sensual pleasure. Any little desire so quickly turns into craving, and predominant is sexual desire.

Bhava-taṇhā is the desire to survive, even though the body and the entire universe are continually destroyed. Because of this ego, because of craving towards becoming, philosophies which espouse eternity seem attractive.

Vibhava-taṇhā is the opposite in two ways. One is desiring this circle of life and death to stop, a stage which cannot be attained by such unbalanced craving. A second is refusing to accept the continuation of misery after death, while there are still saṅkhāras, out of fear of the results of the unwholesome actions of this life. There is an unbalanced craving and clinging to the philosophy that: "This is the only existence."

These three taṇhās result in dukkha.

Where then does this taṇhā arise and stay?

Yaṃ loke piyarūpaṃ sātarūpaṃ etthesā taṇhā uppajjamānā uppajjati, ettha nivisamānā nivisati.

Craving arises (uppajjati) and stays (nivisati) wherever in the loka there is pleasure (loke piyarūpaṃ sātarūpaṃ). Both piya and sāta mean "pleasant", "agreeable." One meaning of loka is "planes of existence," but here it means "within the framework of the body." A deva called Rohita once passed in front of the monastery where the Buddha was sitting, and this person was singing: Caraiveti, caraiveti, "Keep walking, keep walking." Questioned by the Buddha, Rohita said he was walking to explore the entire loka and then beyond. The Buddha smiled, and explained that the entire universe, its cause, its cessation, and the way to its cessation are within the framework of the body.

Literally luñjati paluñjatīti loko—the loka is continually being destroyed. It arises and passes away. It is the entire field of mind and matter, and it is understood within the framework of the body. As you plant the seed of a particular plane of existence, you experience it. A very unwholesome saṅkhāra will result in hellfire within, both now and later, when the fruit comes. Planting the seed of a heavenly plane, you feel pleasant; of a brāhmicplane, you feel tranquil, both now and later. The stage of nibbāna also, where nothing arises or passes, has to be experienced within the body.

Craving therefore arises wherever something pleasant is felt, within the framework of the body. Now details are given about where the craving arises.

Cakkhu loke piyarūpaṃ sātarūpaṃ, etthesā taṇhā uppajjamānā uppajjati, ettha nivisamānā nivisati… Sotaṃ… Ghānaṃ… Jivhā… Kāyo… Mano loke piyarūpaṃ sātarūpaṃ, etthesā taṇhā uppajjamānā uppajjati, ettha nivisamānā nivisati.

Craving arises and stays at the cakkhu—the eye sense-door—which is pleasant and agreeable. The same process occurs with ear, nose, tongue, body or mind.

Rūpa… Saddā… Gandhā… Rasā… Phoṭṭhabbā… Dhammā… nivisati.

Wherever pleasure is felt in the object, such as a vision, sound, smell, taste, touch or thought, craving arises and stays.

Cakkhu-viññāṇaṃ… Sota-viññāṇaṃ… Ghāna-viññāṇaṃ… Jivhā-viññāṇaṃ… Kāya-viññāṇaṃ… Mano-viññāṇaṃ… nivisati.

Craving arises at any of the six viññāṇas of the sense doors. As a description of mind, the four aggregates of viññāṇa, saññā, vedanā, and saṅkhāra generally suffice. Deeper Vipassana separates them. Before that stage is reached however, philosophies start because, despite the experience of arising and passing, the observer—which is viññāṇa—seems to remain and it is not divided or dissected. It is viewed as eternal soul: je viññāya te āya ye āya te viññāya (Whatever is viññāṇa is soul and whatever is soul is viññāṇa). However at a deeper level it does become separated: eye viññāṇa cannot hear, ear viññāṇa cannot see, any or all of these viññāṇas can stop, and when mind viññāṇa also stops, nibbāna comes.

The Buddha gives further details:

Cakkhu-samphassajā vedanā… 
Rūpa-vicāro… nivisati.

Because of contact (samphasso) at any sense door craving also arises and stays. Because of this contact there is a sensation (samphassajā vedanā) and again craving arises and stays. Then follows evaluation or perception(saññā) of the object of the sense door, and craving arises and stays. Sañcetanā (mental reaction) towards the object is a synonym of saṅkhāra: here again craving arises and stays. Then craving (taṇhā) arises and stays in relation to any of the sense objects. Initial application of thought to the object (vitakko) follows. Finally follows the rolling in the thought (vicāro). In every case the entire process happens at each of the six sense doors.

This Second Noble Truth is called dukkha-samudaya. In general understanding it is true that taṇhā is the cause of suffering. However, samudaya means "arising," because suffering arises simultaneously with craving, with no time gap.

The Truth of the Cessation of Suffering

dukkhanirodhaṃ ariyasaccaṃ

The Third Noble Truth is the total eradication of craving so that it does not arise again at all. "It is the complete fading away and cessation of this very craving, forsaking it and giving it up; the liberation from it, leaving no place for it."

Yo tassāyeva taṇhāya asesavirāganirodho cāgo paṭinissaggo mutti anālayo.

Where is this work done?

Yaṃ loke piyarūpaṃ sātarūpaṃ, etthesā taṇhā pahīyamānā pahīyati, ettha nirujjhamānā nirujjhati.

Wherever taṇhā (craving) arises and stays in the loke—the field of mind and matter—there it is to be eradicated (pahīyamānā pahīyati) and extinguished (nirujjhamānā nirujjhati). It must be worked on and totally eradicated at the eye, the ear, the nose, the tongue, the body, and the mind sense doors. Details are now again given:

Cakkhu… Sotaṃ… Ghānaṃ… Jivhā… Kāyo… Mano loke piyarūpaṃ sātarūpaṃ, etthesā taṇhā pahīyamānā pahīyati, ettha nirujjhamānā nirujjhati.

Rūpa… Saddā… Gandhā… Rasā… Phoṭṭhabbā… Dhammā… nirujjhati.

Cakkhu-samphassajā vedanā… 
Rūpa-vicāro… nirujjhati.

The cessation must be total, both in the six sense doors and their related objects. Again six viññāṇas precede both the contact and its resulting sensation. Then follow six saññās, which evaluates the sensation. Then there are six sañcetanās (volitional actions), that can also be called saṅkhāras. Taṇhā (craving) follows. Vitakko is the beginning of thought in reaction to the contact of object and sense door, or the beginning of remembering or thinking of the future, in relation to the contact. Vitakka is followed by vicāro which is continuous thinking, in relation to the object.

This is the Noble Truth of the Cessation of Suffering. In this course such minute, detailed analysis at the experiential level is totally impossible, but the Sutta is a complete teaching. Its audience would have included those working on the third or fourth stage of nibbāna, from anāgāmī to arahant. At these high stages every detail is separated, and laid bare. You understand every little sensation that arises, how it relates to a particular sense door, and how to the object of the sense door. You understand now how it arises related to saññā, to sañcetanā, and to the saṅkhāra; and you understand how it ceases, related to this or that. At such a very high stage, each can be divided and dissected in minute detail. Now, and even at the stage of sotāpanna, the reality, although deep, is not that deep; therefore understanding whether or not there is craving or aversion as a result of some sensation—together with the understanding of anicca—is enough.

Maggasaccaṃ—The Truth of the Path

dukkhanirodhagāminī paṭipadā ariyasaccaṃ

The Fourth Noble Truth is the Path for the eradication of suffering.

ariyo aṭṭhaṅgiko maggo, seyyathidaṃ, sammādiṭṭhi, sammāsaṅkappo, sammāvācā, sammākammanto, sammā-ājīvo, sammāvāyāmo, sammāsati, sammāsamādhi.

The Path is eightfold. Each part is now explained.

Right understanding (sammādiṭṭhi) is:

dukkhe ñāṇaṃ, dukkhasamudaye ñāṇaṃ, dukkhanirodhe ñāṇaṃ, dukkhanirodhagāminiyā paṭipadāya ñāṇaṃ.

It is total experiential wisdom about misery, its arising, its cessation, and the path: yathā-bhūtaṃ pajānāti, proper understanding of the reality as it is.

Right thoughts (sammāsaṅkappo) are:

nekkhammasaṅkappo, abyāpādasaṅkappo, avihiṃsāsaṅkappo.

They are thoughts of renunciation, thoughts which are free of anger, and thoughts which are free from violence.

Right speech (sammāvācā) is:

musāvādā veramaṇī, pisuṇāya vācāya veramaṇī, pharusāya vācāya veramaṇī, samphappalāpā veramaṇī.

It is not false or hurtful. It is not back-biting or slander. Again understand that this must be yathā-bhūtaṃ pajānāti. It must happen in your life. It must be experienced, along with the understanding that you are living a life of abstinence from false, hurtful, backbiting, or slanderous talk. Unless you are practising this, unless it is experienced, unless it is happening in your life, it is not sammā but micchā, merely an intellectual or emotional game. It must be yathā-bhūta.

Right action (sammākammanto) is:

pāṇātipātā veramaṇī, adinnādānā veramaṇī, kāmesumicchācārā veramaṇī.

It is abstinence at the bodily level (veramaṇī) from killing (pāṇātipātā), stealing (adinnādānā) or sexual misconduct (kāmesumicchācārā). This must also be experienced; it must happen in life. Only when you can say that you are living a life of abstinence from killing, stealing and sexual misconduct is it pajānāti, is it experienced as it is.

Right livelihood (sammā-ājīvo) is:

ariyasāvako micchā-ājīvaṃ pahāya sammā-ājīvena jīvitaṃ kappeti.

It is where unwholesome (micchā) livelihood has been given up (pahāya), and again the same applies: the earning of a livelihood by wholesome means must be experienced in life.

Right effort (sammāvāyāmo) is fourfold:

anuppannānaṃ pāpakānaṃ akusalānaṃ dhammānaṃ anuppādāya… 
uppannānaṃ pāpakānaṃ akusalānaṃ dhammānaṃ pahānāya… 
anuppannānaṃ kusalānaṃ dhammānaṃ uppādāya… 
uppannānaṃ kusalānaṃ dhammānaṃ ṭhitiyā asammosāya bhiyyobhāvāya vepullāya bhāvanāya pāripūriyā…

…chandaṃ janeti vāyamati vīriyaṃ ārabhati cittaṃ paggaṇhāti padahati.

It is to restrain unwholesome impurities (pāpakānaṃ akusalānaṃ dhammānaṃ) which are anuppannānaṃ (unarisen). It is to remove uppannānaṃ (arisen) impurity. It is to awaken wholesomeness (kusalānaṃ dhammānaṃ)which has not arisen. It is to retain, not to let fade, and to multiply arisen wholesomeness, up to its total fulfilment (bhāvanāya pāripūriyā).

In each case the meditator "makes strong effort (chandaṃ janeti vāyamati), stirs up his energy (viriyaṃ ārabhati), applies his mind (cittaṃ paggaṇhāti) and strives (padahati)."

Right awareness (sammāsati) is:

kaye kāyānupassī viharati… vedanāsu vedanānupassī viharati… citte cittānupassī viharati… dhammesu dhammānu-passī viharati ātāpī sampajāno satimā, vineyya loke abhijjhādomanassaṃ.

Wherever the Buddha describes sati, the description of the four fields of satipaṭṭhāna is repeated: that is, sampajañña, the experience of sensation arising and passing, must be present. Otherwise what is being practiced is not sammā-sati, but rather the ordinary awareness of a circus performer.

Right concentration (sammāsamādhi) is the practice of four jhānas:

vivicceva kāmehi vivicca akusalehi dhammehi savitakkaṃ savicāraṃ vivekajaṃ pītisukhaṃ…

vitakkavicārānaṃ vūpasamā ajjhattaṃ sampasādanaṃ cetaso ekodibhāvaṃ avitakkaṃ avicāraṃ samādhijaṃ pītisukhaṃ…

pītiyā ca virāgā upekkhako ca viharati sato ca sampajāno sukhañca kāyena paṭisaṃvedeti yaṃ taṃ ariyā ācikkhanti ‘upekkhako satimā sukhavihārī’ti…

sukhassa ca pahānā dukkhassa ca pahānā pubbeva somanassadomanassānaṃ atthaṅgamā adukkhamasukhaṃ upekkhāsatipārisuddhiṃ…

In the first jhāna there is detachment from sense desires (kāmehi) and mental impurities. It is savitakkaṃ savicāraṃ: with attention to the object of meditation and with continual awareness of the object. There is detachment (vivekajaṃ) and pītisukhaṃ—a lot of mental pleasantness with pleasant sensation on the body. The mind is concentrated. In the second jhāna, vitakka-vicārānaṃ vūpasamā: the meditation object recedes, and there is pleasantness in the mind and body. In the third jhāna, mental pleasantness (pīti) recedes: there is only sukha, a pleasant bodily sensation from mental concentration. However sampajāna, the reality of arising and passing away, is now added.

Understand that even before the Buddha became Buddha, the jhānas were present in India. He had learnt the seventh and eighth jhānas from two of his previous teachers. Yet here only four jhānas are taught. The reason is that in the jhānas which he had learnt previously, sampajañña was missing. As result, they could remove only the surface and slightly deeper impurities. Without sampajañña, they could not go to the depth and take out the deep-rooted impurities of the mind. These impurities remained, because of which the life continuum continued. Now with the practice of only four jhānas, in the third arising and passing are observed. Sampajañña is present.

In the fourth jhāna, there is no more sukha or dukkha. Somanassa, and domanassa are gone. There is neither pleasant nor unpleasant feeling in the mind. Only adukkhaṃasukhaṃ (tranquillity) remains, with upekkhā-sati-pārisuddhiṃ (equanimity, awareness and total purification). Sampajāno is not now used because this is the nibbānic stage. The fourth jhāna comes together with the fourth nibbānic stage of the arahant. Sampajañña was the Buddha’s contribution to the meditation practices of those days, the means with which to go beyond the entire field of mind and matter.

This is the Fourth Noble Truth.

Iti ajjhattaṃ vā dhammesu dhammānupassī viharati…‘atthi dhamma’ ti…na ca kiñci loke upādiyati.

The same stations recur: awareness is established in the truth of nothing but dhamma and then there is nothing to cling to.

This entire explanation has to be experienced and understood. We can read it, but only with deeper experience does the meaning of the Buddha’s words become clear. At the stage of the arahant everything is clear by experience.

Results of the Practice

Practising in this manner, one of two fruits is attained:

diṭṭheva dhamme aññā, sati vā upādisese anāgāmitā.

Either diṭṭheva dhamme aññā—the total understanding of an arahant—is attained, or the third stage of anāgāmī and that within seven years.

Someone who has been practising more than seven years asks why they are not an arahant. The necessary condition however is evaṃ bhāveyya, having practised exactly as set out. It is sampajaññaṃ na riñcati, wheresampajañña is not missed for any moment in life. Now you are preparing for this stage, practising feeling sensation in everything you do at the physical level, and understanding arising and passing. When you can practise in this way you have the Buddha’s guarantee of the results.

Further the Buddha says, leave aside seven years, six years, five, four, and even down to one year; then seven months, six, and down to one, even half a month, or even seven days will suffice. It differs depending on the past accumulation, even if sampajañña is practised every moment. It might be seven years, yet practising the same technique there were instances where someone experienced nibbāna after just a few minutes, like the person who came from Bombay and was taught only the words diṭṭhe diṭṭhamattaṃ bhavissati.

Some meditators start with walking, even mentally repeating "walking", "itching", or whatever. There is no paññā: but at least the practice concentrates the mind. Those with a strong sex desire, go to a cemetery—or nowadays an autopsy—to balance their minds somewhat. Whatever the starting point, the meditator must experience sensations as arising and passing. At this point your sampajañña may be only for a few seconds, and then forgotten for minutes or even hours together. With continual work, later you will forget sampajañña only briefly, then not even for a moment. That stage may take a long time, but after that the limit is seven years.

Then come the closing words:

‘Ekāyano ayaṃ, bhikkhave, maggo sattānaṃ visuddhiyā, sokaparidevānaṃ samatikkamāya, dukkhadomanassānaṃ atthaṅgamāya, ñāyassa adhigamāya, nibbānassa sacchikiriyāya yadidaṃ cattāro satipaṭṭhānā’ti. Iti yaṃ taṃ vuttaṃ, idametaṃ paṭicca vuttaṃ ti.

"It is for this reason that it was said: ‘This is the one and only way, monks, for the purification of beings, for the overcoming of sorrow and lamentation, for the extinguishing of suffering and grief, for walking on the path of truth, for the realisation of nibbāna: that is to say, the fourfold establishing of awareness.’"

Ekāyano maggo is not a sectarian claim, but a law of nature. The path helps not only those who call themselves Buddhists or have implicit faith: it is to be experienced by one and all, practising with and so transcending sensation. Whether or not there is a Buddha, universal law exists. The earth is round; gravity does exist whether or not Galileo or Newton discovers it. Similarly the arising and eradication of misery is a law. Just as two parts of hydrogen and one part of oxygen make water: so, when in deep ignorance there is a reaction of craving or aversion, misery arises. This is not Hindu, Buddhist or Christian law, but simply the law. Similarly if there is full awareness and sampajañña, understanding of the entire truth, there is liberation. Intellectual understanding can only give inspiration and guidance. Without even this, those of different views cannot explore and experience the truth. Someone might assert that the earth is flat, or that gravity does not exist, but nothing will change for them.

Fire will burn your hand. This truth can be experienced. To avoid it, keep your hand away from fire. In exactly the same way, reacting to sensations causes misery. If you stop reacting and just observe their arising and passing, naturally your practice will extinguish misery, the fire of craving and aversion, just as water extinguishes fire. This is ekāyano maggo—the law, truth, or nature for one and all.

Questions and Answers[]

Every word of the Sutta will become clear as you practise and reach the final goal. At this stage, many questions keep coming. Even if the Teacher’s answers satisfy you intellectually, doubt may wash them away. You are only imagining, not seeing. Practise. In every course, as you keep experiencing Dhamma, you hear the same discourses, the same words, but you find something new each time. Real understanding, clear and free from any doubt or scepticism, comes with your own experience.


Q. You mentioned noting various mental states arising. How should you deal with, say, anger or fantasy?

A. Noting anger, fear, passion, ego or any kind of impurity does not mean mentally reciting them. Noting may help you concentrate and understand somewhat, but sampajañña is missing. Just accept the mental content, that your mind is with, say, anger—sadosaṃ vā cittaṃ pajānāti—and observe any predominant sensation, with the understanding of arising and passing. Any sensation at that time will be connected to the anger.

Q. From where do kalāpas arise and to what do they pass away? Something cannot come from nothing.

A. Whence did the universe start, and how was it created? This is speculation, how all philosophies start. The Buddha called them all irrelevant questions. They have nothing to do with misery, its arising, its eradication, and the way to its eradication. Creation is going on every moment: kalāpas are created, they arise and pass, and ignorance of this arising and passing results in misery. Anything else is meaningless. Human life is short and you have such a big job to change the habit pattern of the mind at the deepest level and reach full liberation. Don’t waste your time: work, and the reality of your experience will later on reveal everything.

Q. What is the cause behind the existence of this world of mind and matter?

A. Ignorance generates saṅkhāras, and saṅkhāras multiply ignorance. The entire universe is created by this mutual support, nothing else.

Q. How did ignorance begin? It could not co-exist with love, wisdom, and knowledge.

A. Certainly, but it is more important to see the ignorance of this moment and let purity come. Otherwise it becomes a philosophical question, which doesn’t help.

Q. Did the Buddha teach outside India, in Myanmar?

A. There is no evidence that he taught outside the Ganga-Jamuna area of northern India.

Q. With respect, how can we say that the Buddha rediscovered the lost technique when he was taught it and took his vow in front of a previous Buddha?

A. Many who meet a Buddha become inspired and desire not just to liberate themselves, but also to become a Sammā-sambuddha and help liberate many others. Expressing this desire, their mental capacity can be examined by the then Sammā-sambuddha: whether having already worked countless aeons they would, if now given Vipassana, very soon become arahants: and whether even though knowing this they still wish to develop theirpāramīs to the necessary extent over countless further aeons. If so, they receive not just a blessing but a time prediction. The ascetic who later was born as Gotama, was capable of reaching the stage of an arahant then, but did not take Vipassana.

In his last life, with darkness all around, words highly praising Vipassana still existed in the ancient ®g-Veda, but were mere recitations. The practice was lost. Due to his past pāramīs he went to the depth and discovered it. He said pubbe ananussutesu dhammesu cakkhuṃ udapādi: "My eye is opened in a dhamma which I had never heard before." Later he called it purāṇo maggo, an ancient path. He rediscovered and distributed a dormant, forgotten path.

Q. Does an entity with saṅkhāras causing rebirth have any choice in the circumstances, or is it actually determined by past saṅkhāras?

A. The past saṅkhāras which are responsible for life in the lower fields are so powerful that at the time of death one of these will arise and generate a vibration which is in tune with the vibration of a particular plane; in that way you are sucked to deeper levels of misery. If however Vipassana has been properly practised, even with such saṅkhāras the Vipassana vibration is so strong that at the last mind moment this arises and connects with a plane where Vipassana can be practised, instead of a lower field. So in another way you can choose not to go down.

Q. If the "I" is non-existent, an illusion, how can "I" be reincarnated?

A. Nothing is incarnated. There is a continuous flow of mind and matter: every moment saṅkhāra-paccayā viññāṇaṃ. At death the push of some deep saṅkhāra causes viññāṇa to arise with some other body.

Q. If the reward for achieving nibbāna is bodily death, why practise to die?

A. It is not annihilation, but a wonderful art of dying. It is also an art of living, coming out of impurities to lead a healthy life. When you experience nibbāna, it is something like death: the sense doors do not work, but you are fully awakened inside. Experience it. The question will be answered automatically.

Q. Where does a liberated person live without rebirth?

A. Many such questions were asked of the Buddha. What happens to the arahant after death is what is experienced by the arahant in life. Experiencing the fourth stage of nibbāna they understand that this is the ultimate stage, which also happens after death. It cannot be explained in words because it is beyond mind and matter. Something beyond the sensory field cannot be expressed by the sense organs. A fourth dimensional experience cannot be represented within three dimensions. The proof is in eating the cake.

Q. Can an enlightened married person still have children?

A. Passion naturally becomes weaker as you proceed and yet you feel so contented and happy. Why worry about it? Come to that stage and the question will get answered.

Q. Is there a preferred order to list the ten pāramīs?

A. It is more important to develop them: the order doesn’t matter.

Q. Since Vipassana is widespread, are sotāpannas, anāgāmīs and arahants to be found today?

A. The number of meditators today is just a drop in an ocean of billions of people, and most are at the kindergarten stage: there are cases of meditators who have experienced nibbāna, but very few.

Q. Without offence, are you, Goenka, fully enlightened?

A. I am not an arahant, but without doubt on the path to becoming one. Having taken a few more steps on the path than all of you, I am competent to teach you. Walk on the path and reach the goal: that is more important than examining your teacher!

Q. Who was Ledi Sayadaw’s teacher? You frequently mention the tradition where vedanā is fundamental: what is the name of this tradition?

A. There is no recorded history, but Ledi Sayadaw says that he learnt this technique from a monk in Mandalay. The tradition existed even before Ledi Sayadaw. Out of his many students, some started teaching and also gave importance to vedanā. Saya Thet taught Sayagyi U Ba Khin, among other teachers, and Sayagyi U Ba Khin had a number of students who started teaching. One is here and he gives importance to vedanā. This tradition gives importance to vedanā.

Q. About chanting…

A. Chanting is part of the duty of a Teacher, to give good vibrations, to protect the work of the students from any bad vibrations from outside. The students’ job is to practise and observe, which is why they are not asked to chant. At a certain stage some are taught: between each word you are aware of sensations with anicca, with sampajañña very clearly in every pause. This, not mere chanting, gives the Dhamma vibration. It becomes part of the constant meditation of sampajañña. Otherwise mere chanting, which looks so easy, is just a rite, ritual or religious ceremony.

Q. If not the ego, which part of the being can give or receive mettā?

A. Vipassana takes you to the ultimate truth, but the Buddha wanted you to be aware of both this and the apparent truth. Both this wall and my head are ultimately vibrations but apparently solid. The wall will still break my head on impact! Ultimately there is no being, but you still give up unwholesome actions—such as hatred, aversion, ill-will, and animosity—because they harm you. Generating mettā, love, compassion and goodwill, makes your mind better, and helps you to reach the final goal.

Q. It appears that your interpretation of the text is not as literal as it could be. How do you know that your interpretation is correct and what the Buddha intended?

A. The language is twenty-five centuries old, and meanings change. Even if they do not, what the Buddha said with his experience cannot be understood without that experience. Many translators have never practised. We are not here to quarrel with or condemn other interpretations of the Buddha’s words. As you practise, you will understand what the Buddha meant; and for now you must accept whatever you do experience.

Commentaries were written on the Buddha’s words, some over 1,000 years after his death, although our research reveals that Vipassana in its pure form was lost 500 years after his death. Others were written within 500 years, but were lost except in Sri Lanka: they were again translated into Pāli, but with the translator’s own interpretation. They give a clear picture of Indian society in the Buddha’s time: the whole spectrum of its social, political, educational, cultural, religious and philosophical background. They often unravel obscure words by giving many synonyms. Yet while they are very helpful, if their words differ from our experience, and if in the Buddha’s words we find a clear, direct explanation, then without condemning the commentaries, we have to accept the Buddha’s explanation of our experience.

For instance, one tradition takes vedanā as only mental. It is true that vedanā is a mental aggregate and that vedanānupassanā has to be mental. But in several places the Buddha talks of sukha and dukkha vedanā on the body, as in the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta, whereas somanassa and domanassa vedanā are used for the mind.

Some translations in English of the word sampajañña, such as "clear comprehension," have created much confusion. This suggests sati without sampajañña, the understanding with perfect paññā. In the Buddha’s words,viditā vedanā uppajjati, you feel sensation coming up. Mere awareness is all right just as a start: for instance, an itch is just felt and labelled, with no understanding of anicca—but this is not sampajañña.

Similarly sati parimukhaṃ has been translated "keeping the attention in front." People start imagining their attention to be in front, outside the body, and the technique of kāye kāyānupassī, vedanāsu vedanānupassīin the body, in the sensations—is lost. When our experience differs from the beliefs of other traditions, we take shelter in the Buddha’s words.

The Vipassana Research Institute has been established to go through all the Buddha’s words using computers; the volume of the literature is huge. Instead of remembering instances of, say, vedanā or sampajāno in 40 - 50 volumes of 300 - 400 pages each, computers are used to find the usages for examination. If differences result, we can’t help it, but nor do we insist that idaṃ saccaṃ, "this only is the truth." There is no attachment. I understand from my direct experience of the words of the Buddha, and from this line of teachers, including those who reached very high stages. Their experience was the same. Similarly thousands of meditators around the world have had the same experience. I am therefore confident that this teaching is correct and the Buddha’s way. If in doubt, practice: only practice will remove the doubts. If this technique does not suit you intellectually, then work with something else, but don’t keep mixing, running here and there. If you find results with this technique, go deeper and all your questions will be answered. Even having learnt just a little Pāli, the words of the Buddha will become clear in time. You feel he is directing you. Rather than unnecessary intellectual activity, or arguments and debates, experience will clarify.


You have come to a Satipaṭṭhāna course to experience, and not just to hear the Buddha’s words or a particular teacher’s interpretation. Having taken three or more courses before joining, now keep going deeper so that the Buddha’s words become clear by experience. Free yourselves from all these saṅkhāras and start experiencing real liberation. May all of you reach the final goal of full nibbāna.

You are taking right steps on the right path: although long, it doesn’t matter. Taking the first, the second, and in this way step by step you are bound to reach the final goal. May all of you enjoy the real happiness and peace of liberation.

May all beings be happy.

List of Abbreviations[]

abl. ablative

adv. adverb

caus. causative

dat. dative

i.e. id est (that is)

fig. figurative(ly)

fpp. future passive participle

fr. from

fut. future

gen. genitive

ger. gerund

lit. literally

loc. locative

neg. negative

opp. opposite

opt. optative

pass. passive

pp. past participle

pres. p. present participle

vb. verb



abhijjhā — craving, covetousness

abhinandati — rejoice, find pleasure or delight in, approve of, be pleased with

ābhujitvā — having bent in, folded (the legs)

abyāpāda — without hatred, without aversion

adhiṭṭhāna — strong determination

adhigama — attainment, acquisition

adho — below

ādīnava — danger, disadvantage

adukkhamasukha — neither pleasant nor unpleasant, neutral

ajjhatta — inside

ajjhattika — arises from within, interior, inwardly

akusala — improper, wrong, unwholesome

anāgāmī — non-returner (third stage of an ariya)

anālaya — detachment [opp. ālaya: settling place, clinging]

anāsava — one who is free from āsavas, ie: an arahant

anatīta — unavoidable, inescapable

anissita — unsupported, detached, free [opp. of nissita: hanging on, dependent on]

aññā — knowledge, insight, recognition, perfect knowledge

anumāna — inference

anuppādo — non-arising

anuppanna — not arisen [opp. of uppanna]

āpo — water

ārabhati — begin, start, undertake, attempt

arahant — fully liberated person

ariya — noble

asāta — disagreeable

asammosa — absence of confusion

āsava — intoxicating secretion, intoxication of the mind

asesa — without remnant, entirely, completely

assasati — breathes in

assutavā — not having heard, ignorant

asuci — unclean, impure

ātāpī — ardent

aṭṭhaṅgika — eightfold

attā — (one’s) self

attano — yourself, oneself (gen. and dat. of atta, self)

atthaṅgama — annihilation, disappearance

avihiṃsa — absence of violence, without cruelty

ayaṃ — this

āyatana — sphere of sense, sense door, sense object

āyatiṃ — in future [adv.]


bāhira — outer, external

bahiddhā — outside

bala — strength

bhāvī — [fr. bhava: becoming]

bhāvanā — developing, producing, cultivation by mind, mentally dwelling on

bhāvanā-mayā — brought about by practice

bhāvetabba — should be developed

bhūta — become [pp. of bhavati]

bhaṅga — total dissolution

bhagavā — fortunate, illustrious, sublime (hence "Lord")

bheda — breaking up, disjunction

bhikkhave — O bhikkhus [voc. pl. of bhikku]

bhikkhu — meditator, monk

bhiyyobhāva — become more

bojjhaṅga — factor of enlightenment [lit. bodhi-anga: limb of enlightenment]

byādhi — disease, sickness

byāpāda — aversion, ill-will


ca — and

cāga — abandoning, giving up, renunciation

cakkhu — eye

cattāro — four

cetasika — belonging to cetas, mental, mental contents

cha — six

chanda — impulse, intention, resolution, will

cintā-mayā — consisting of intellectual understanding

cittānupassanā — observation of mind

cittānupassī — continuously observing the mind

citta — mind

citte — in the mind [loc. of citta]


dhāreti — contain, hold, carry, possess

dhātu — element [abl. dhātuso: according to one’s nature]

dhammānupassanā — observation of mental contents

dhammānupassī — continuously observing mental contents

dhammesu — in the mental contents [loc. of dhammā]

dhañña — grain

dhunamāna — [Pres.p. dhunati: shake off, remove, destroy]

dīgha — long, deep

diṭṭha — seen

domanassa — unpleasant mental feeling, grief, aversion

dosa — hatred, aversion


ekāyana — one and only way, direct way

ettha — here, in this place, in this matter

evaṃ — thus, in this way


gandha — smell

gāthā — verse

ghāna — nose

gotrabhū — "become of the lineage"


hoti — is


icchā — wish, longing, desire

idha — here, now, in this connection

imasmiṃ — in this, with reference to this

indriya — faculty, function [re: sense perception], directing principle, force

iriyāpatha — posture [of the body]


janati — bring forth, produce [caus. of janati: be born]

jānāti — knows

jāti — born, become [pp. of janati]

jhāna — mental absorption

jivhā — tongue

jīvita — lifetime, living, livelihood


kalāpa — bunch, collection, group of qualities

kāma — pleasure, sense desire

kāmacchanda — sense-desire, sensual pleasure, excitement

kata — done, made

kathaṃ — how?

kattha — where? where to? whither?

kāya — body

kāyānupassī — continuously observing the body

kāyānupassanā — observation of body

kāya-saṅkhāra — activity of the body

kāyasmiṃ — in the body [loc. of kāya]

kāye — in the body [loc. of kāya]

kesa — hair of the head

kevala — alone, whole, complete

kevalaparipuṇṇa — complete and perfect

kevalaparisuddha — complete and pure

khandha — mass, bulk, collection, aggregate

kiñci — anything

kukkucca — remorse, scruple, worry

kusala — good, right, wholesome


labhati — get, receive, obtain, acquire

lakkhaṇa — mark, characteristic

loka — plane of existence, mind-matter phenomenon


magga — path, way

mahā — big, great

mahaggata — enlarged, become great, lofty

mano — mind

manasikāra — reflection on, contemplation

matta — by measure, as much as, mere, only

matthaka — head

me — by me

micchā — wrong

middha — drowsiness, torpor

moha — ignorance, delusion

mukha — mouth, face, entrance

musā — falsely, wrongly

mutti — release, freedom, emancipation


na — not

nāma — mind

nandi — enjoyment, delight

ñāṇa — knowledge

nānappakkāra — various, manifold

nātha — refuge, help, protector

natthi — is not [na atthi]

nava — nine

ñāya — truth, system, right conduct

nirāmisa — pure, without attachment [opp. sāmisa]

nirodha — eradication, cessation

nirujjhati — is eradicated, ceases

nisīdati — sit, be seated

nisinno — seated

nīvaraṇa — hindrance, obstacle, curtain

nivisati — enter, stop, settle down on, resort to, establish oneself


okkhitta — downcast


paccakkha — evident, clear, present

paccattaṃ — separately, individually

paccavekkhati — contemplate, look upon, consider

paccaya — cause, condition, foundation

paccupaṭṭhita — become established

padahati — strive, exert

pādatala — sole of the foot

paggaṇhāti — take up, exert, apply (the mind) vigorously

pahāna — giving up, abandoning [fr. pajahati, pass. pahīyati]

pajānāti — comes to know, understands properly, understands with wisdom

pakāra — mode, manner

pallaṅka — sitting cross-legged

pana — again, further

pāṇātipāta — killing, murder, destruction of a life

pañca — five

pañcupādānakkhandhā five aggregates of clinging

paññatti — concept, manifestation

paṇḍita — wise person

paṇihitaṃ — put forth, applied, disposed [pp. of paṇidahati]

pāpa — evil

pāpaka — bad

pāramī — perfection

pāripūrī — fulfilment, completion, consummation

pārisuddhi — purity

parāmāsa — attachment

paraṃ — further

parideva — crying, lamentation

parijānāti — completely understands

parimukha — around the mouth

pariññāta — understood to its end

paripāka — ripeness, decay

pariyanta — bounded by, limited by, surrounded

pariyatti — theoretical knowledge

passaddhi — calm, tranquillity

passambhaya — calming, quieting

passasati — breathes out [1st pers.: passasāmī; 1st pers. fut.: passasissāmī]

passati — sees

passeyya — should see, would see [opt. fr. passati: see]

paṭhavī — earth

paṭṭhāna — extensively established (with wisdom)

paṭicca — because of, dependent on

paṭikūla — loathsome

paṭinissagga — giving up, forsaking, rejection, renunciation

paṭipadā — path, way, means of reaching a destination

paṭipatti — practice

paṭisaṃvedī — experiences, feels

paṭissati — awareness

paṭivedha — piercing, penetrating knowledge, insight

pattabba — to be gained, attained, won

phala — fruit

phassa — contact

phoṭṭhabba — touch

pisuṇa — back-biting, malicious, calumnious

pīti — rapture, bliss

piya — dear, beloved, pleasant, agreeable [opp. appiya]

ponobbhavikā — leading to rebirth

puna — again

pūra — full of


rāga — craving, passion

rajo — dust, dirt, impurity

rasa — taste

rassa — short, shallow

riñcati — abandon, neglect, miss

rūpa — matter


sabba — all, every

sabhāva — nature, disposition, truth

sacca — truth, real

sacchikātabba — to be seen, realised

sacchikata — seen, realised, experienced for oneself [pp. of sacchikaroti]

sacchikiriyā — experiencing, realising, making true

sadda — sound, word

saddhā — faith, devotion, confidence

saddhiṃ — together

sadosa — with aversion [opp. vītadosa]

sakadāgāmī — once-returner (second stage of an ariya)

saḷāyatana — six sense-spheres, both internal (the sense faculty) and external (the object sensed)

samādhija — resulting from concentration

samāhita — collected, composed, attentive

samatikkama — passing beyond, overcoming, transcending

samaya — time

samudaya — arising

sāmisa — impure, of the flesh, with attachment [opp. nirāmisa]

saṅkhitta — collected, attentive [opp. vikkhitta: scattered]

sammā — right, proper, perfect

samoha — with delusion [opp. vītamoha]

sampajāna — with sampajañña

sampajañña — constant thorough understanding of impermanence

sampajānakārī — practising sampajañña (kāri: doing)

sampasādana — serenity

sampayoga — union, association

samphappalāpa — frivolous talk

samphassa — contact

samphassaja — resulting from contact

samudaya — arising

samudayasacca — truth of arising

saṃyojana — bond, fetter

sañcetanā — thought, cogitation, intention, reaction

saṅkhāra — mental aggregate of reaction, mental formation, volitional activity, mental conditioning

saṅkhittena — in short, concisely

saññā — perception, recognition

santa — is [pres.part. of atthi] [opp. asanta: is not]

sarāga — with craving [opp. vītarāga]

sāta — pleasant, agreeable [opp. asāta]

sati — awareness

satimā — with awareness

satipaṭṭhāna — establishing of awareness

sato — aware

satta — individual, living sentient being

satta — seven

sauttara — surpassable, inferior [opp. anuttara: "nothing higher"]

sāvaka — hearer, disciple

sikkhati — learns, trains oneself

soka — burning grief, sorrow

somanassa — pleasant mental feeling, happiness

sotāpanna — stream-enterer (first stage of an ariya)

sota — stream

sota — ear

sukha — pleasant, happy

supaṭipanna — having practised well

suta — heard

sutavā — having heard

sutta — discourse [lit. thread]


taca — skin

taṇhā — craving, thirst, hunger, excitement, fever

tato — from this, in this

tatratatrābhinandinī — finding delight here, there and all around

tejo — fire

tesaṃ — their

ṭhāna — established, set up, condition, state

ṭhita — upright, firm, standing [pp. of tiṭṭhati: stand]

thina — stiffness, mental deficiency, inertia

ṭhiti — stability, continuance, immobility, persistence

ti — [a particle denoting the end of a quotation]

tipiṭaka — three divisions of the teachings


ubhaya — both, twofold

uddhaṃ — above

uddhacca — agitation, over-balancing, excitement, distraction, flurry

uju — straight, erect

upādāna — grasping, clinging, support, attachment,

upādānakkhandha — aggregate of clinging

upādi — materially determined [see upādāna], substratum of being

upādiyati — take hold of, grasp, cling to

upaṭṭhapetvā — having established, caused to be present [ger. causative of upaṭṭhahati: stands near]

upasaṃharati — concentrate, collect, consider

upasampajja — having attained, entered on, acquired [ger. of upasampajjati]

upāyāsa — trouble, tribulation, disturbance, distress

upekkhā — equanimity

upekkhako — equanimous, with equanimity

uppāda — coming into existence, appearance, birth, arising

uppajjamāna — arising [pres.p. of uppajjati]

uppajjati — arise, be produced, be born, come into existence

uppajjitvā — arisen

uppanna — born, reborn, arisen, produced [pp. of uppajjati]

uppanna — arisen [pp. of uppajjati]


vā — or

vāca — speech

vata — vow, religious observance

vaya — passing away

vāyāma — striving, effort, exertion, endeavour

vāyamati — make effort

vāyo — air, wind

vedagu — one with highest knowledge

vedanānupassī — continuously observing sensations

vedanānupassanā — observation of sensations

vedanāsu — in the sensations [loc. of vedanā]

vedayati — feel, experience a sensation or feeling (usually with vedanā)

veditabba — to be experienced, understood, known [fpp. of vedeti]

vepulla — full development, abundance, plenty, fullness

veramaṇī — abstaining from

vibhava — non-existence, cessation of life, annihilation

vicāra — sustained mental application, rolling in thoughts

vicaya — investigation

vicikicchā — doubt, perplexity, uncertainty

vihārin — dwelling, living, being in a certain condition

viharati — lives, dwells [lit. takes out (the impurities)]

vikkhittaka — scattered, dismembered

vimutta — freed, liberated [opp. a-vimutta: not freed]

vinīlaka — bluish-black, discoloured

vinaya — discipline, code of conduct [for monks]

vineyya — keeping away, detached [fr. vineti: remove, give up, instruct, train]

viññāṇa — consciousness

vippayoga — separation

virāga — absence of desire [rāga], disgust, destruction of passions, waning, purifying, emancipation

viriya — effort

visesa — mark, distinction, characteristic

visuddhi — purity, brightness

vitakka — initial mental application, thought conception

viveka — separation, seclusion, discrimination

vivicca — having become separated or isolated from

vuccati — is called

vūpasama — calming


yathā — as, how

yathābhūtaṃ — as it is

yāvadeva — as far as, as long as

Pāli Passages Quoted In the Discourses (with English Translation)[]

Paññatti ṭhapetvā visesena passatī’ti vipassanā.

—Ledi Sayadaw, Paramattha Dīpanī

Having removed apparent reality, observing reality in its true characteristic, this is vipassanā.


Vedanā-samosaraṇā sabbe dhammā.

—Mūlaka-sutta,  Aṅguttara-nikāya, III,158

Everything that arises in the mind is accompanied by sensation.

Diṭṭe diṭṭhamattaṃ bhavissati,
sute sutamattaṃ bhavissati,
mute mutamattaṃ bhavissati,
viññate viññātamattaṃ bhavissati.

—Mālukyaputta-sutta, Saṃyutta-nikāya,  Saḷāyatana-vagga 2, 77

In the seen there will be merely the seen;

in the heard, merely the heard;

in the smelled, the tasted and touched, merely the smelled, tasted, touched;

in the cognized, there will be merely the cognized.


Seyyathāpi, bhikkhave, ākāse vividhā vātā vāyanti, puratthi-māpi vātā vāyanti, pacchimāpi vātā vāyanti, uttarāpi vātā vāyanti, dakkhiṇāpi vātā vāyanti, sarajāpi vātā vāyanti, arajāpi vātā vāyanti, sītāpi vātā vāyanti, uṇhāpi vātā vāyanti, parittāpi vātā vāyanti, adhimattāpi vātā vāyanti. Evameva kho, bhikkhave, imasmiṃ kāyasmiṃ vividhā vedanā uppajjanti, sukhāpi vedanā uppajjanti, dukkhāpi vedanā uppajjanti, adukkhamasukhāpi vedanā uppajjantī ti….


Yato ca bhikkhu ātāpī sampajaññaṃ na riñcati,

tato so vedanā sabbā parijānāti paṇḍito;

So vedanā pariññāya diṭṭhe dhamme anāsavo,

kāyassa bhedā Dhammaṭṭho, saṅkhyaṃ nopeti vedagū.

—Paṭhama-ākāsa-sutta, Saṃyutta-nikāya,  Saḷāyatana-vagga 2, 212

Through the sky blow many different winds, from east and west, from north and south, dust-laden or dustless, cold or hot, fierce gales or gentle breezes many winds blow. In the same way, in the body sensations arise, pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral….

When a meditator practising ardently, does not, miss his faculty of thorough understanding, such a wise one fully understands all sensations.

And having completely understood them, he becomes freed from all impurities.

On the breaking up of the body, such a person, being established in Dhamma and understanding sensations perfectly, attains the indescribable stage beyond the conditioned world.

Sabba kamma jahassa bhikkhuno,
dhunamānassa pure kataṃ rajaṃ;
amamassa ṭhitassa tādino,
attho natthi janaṃ lapetave.

—Khuddaka-nikāya,Udāna 3.1, 91-92

The monk who does not make new kamma,

and combs out old defilements as they arise;

has reached that meditative state where there remains no ‘I’ or ‘mine’.

For him mere babbling makes no sense.

Engrossed in silent practice he is bent.

Aniccā vata saṅkhārā, uppādavaya-dhammino;

uppajjitvā nirujjhanti, tesaṃ vūpasamo sukho.

—Mahāparinibbāna-sutta,  Dīgha-nikāya 2.3, 221

Impermanent truly are compounded things,

by nature arising and passing away

having arisen, when they are extinguished,

their eradication brings happiness.



Avijjā-paccayā saṅkhārā;
saṅkhāra-paccayā viññāṇaṃ;
viññāṇa-paccayā nāma-rūpaṃ;
nāma-rūpa-paccayā saḷāyatanaṃ;
saḷāyatana-paccayā phasso;
phassa-paccayā vedanā;
vedanā-paccayā taṇhā;
taṇhā-paccayā upādānaṃ;
upādāna-paccayā bhavo;
bhava-paccayā jāti; 
jāti-paccayā jarā-maraṇaṃ-soka-parideva-dukkha-domanassupāyāsā sambhavanti.

Evame-tassa kevalassa dukkhakkhandhassa 
samudayo hoti.

—Paṭicca-samuppāda-sutta, Saṃyutta-nikāya, XII (I), 1

Chain of Conditioned Arising

Forward Order:

With the base of ignorance, reaction arises;

with the base of reaction, consciousness arises;

with the base of consciousness, mind and body arise;

with the base of mind and body, the six senses arise;

with the base of the six senses, contact arises;

with the base of contact, sensation arises;

with the base of sensation, craving and aversion arise;

with the base of craving and aversion, attachment arises;

with the base of attachment, the process of becoming arises;

with the base of the process of becoming, birth arises;

with the base of birth, ageing and death arise, together with sorrow, lamentation, physical and mental sufferings and tribulations.

Thus arises this entire mass of suffering.

pdf File : File:Satipattana-meditation-saved.pdf