The Fourfold Mindfulness – Satipaṭṭhāna
The Path to Liberation in Buddhism
All Buddhist doctrines that the Buddha has explained in his 45 years of life focus on how to achieve happiness. In the same way the Buddha explained the path of getting rid of suffering. The main purpose of all beings is to be happy. Although they do everything in the name of happiness, unfortunately, they mostly live unhappily, or their hopes end with sorrow. The main reason for this situation is though we do everything to overcome illness, death and separation, those things themselves cause us to create suffering again and again. Here, the supreme Buddha always preaches us how to overcome suffering truly and live with real happiness. If we can listen to his message and practice it in our lives, we can get rid of suffering and achieve real happiness in this life itself. Mindfulness which is appreciated and recommended in Buddhism many times is one of the most important doctrines that we should practice for liberation.
Buddhism explains the reasons we suffer. Birth is suffering. Decay is suffering. Sickness is suffering. Death is suffering… Finally, Buddhism concludes all sufferings in five aggregates. In short, arising of the five aggregates is suffering (Samkhittena pañcupādānakkhandā dukkhā). The path of getting rid of suffering depends on understanding and releasing the grasping of the five aggregates. Practicing mindfulness is the path that leads to the liberation from the suffering of the five aggregates.
Mindfulness guides us how to live in the present moment. When we spend our life, we mostly live in the past or future. Unfortunately, we don’t know that we live in the past or future because of ignorance and lack of mindfulness. We have lost the chance of seeing the beauty of the present experience. By practicing mindfulness, we train our mind not to go to the past or future without awareness and how to live in the present moment seeing the world reality. Our success or happiness and how far we have overcome suffering depend on how much we have practiced mindfulness. By practicing mindfulness, we train our mind to be aware of our mind and body. Mindfulness is the best friend who brings the real happiness. Mind with mindfulness is the best friend. Similarly, mind without mindfulness is the worst enemy. We should be clever enough to live with the best friend getting rid of the worst enemy.
The importance of practicing mindfulness is always emphasized among Buddhist doctrines. Mindfulness is the seventh factor of the Noble Eightfold Path; it is the third faculty (or indriya) of The Five Spiritual Faculties; and it is also the first faculty of The Seven Enlightenment Faculties. According to this, we can think how important it is in Buddhism. Mindfulness in Buddhism relates to wisdom which is the understanding of impermanence.
All Buddhist teachings can be included into one topic that is mindfulness. Our spiritual success and real happiness depend on how far we have practiced mindfulness in our lives. Practicing Buddhism means practicing mental culture. Practicing mental culture means practicing mindfulness.
Also, practicing mindfulness means practicing happiness. Finally, we can say very clearly practicing of all teachings of the Buddha means practicing mindfulness. The entire dispensation of the Buddha depends on practicing mindfulness. Hence mindfulness is highly praised in Buddhism.
That is why Buddhism illustrates the one and only way;
for the purification of beings (Sattānam visuddhiyā),
for the overcoming of sorrow and lamentation (sokapariddavānam samatikkhamāya),
for the destruction of pain and grief (dukkhadomanassanam attamgamaya),
for the gaining of wisdom (ñāyassa adhigamāya)
for the attaining or realization of Nibbana or enlightenment (nibbānassa sacchikiriyāya)
which is practicing the fourfold mindfulness.
Satipaṭṭhāna, Satipaṭṭhāna Bhavana and Satipaṭṭhānabhavanagamini patipadā
Mindfulness, Mindful Meditation and the path of Mindful Meditation
When we discuss mindfulness, we can see that a lot of people discuss it everywhere in the current society. Mostly they say mindfulness is that living in the present moment. Actually, this is not an exact definition for mindfulness according to Buddhism. Mindfulness is not just living in present moment. Mindfulness, which leads to overcome all sufferings completely, has a wide meaning in Buddhism. According to Vibhanga Sutta in Satipaṭṭhāna Sanyutta of Samyutta nikaya, when he who wants to know and practice mindfulness should know three things about mindfulness. They are Mindfulness, mindful meditation and the path of mindful meditation. Mindfulness means keeping our attention in four areas as body, feelings, consciousness and mental formations. Mindful meditation means reflecting on the impermanence of the body, feelings, consciousness and mental formations as arising and ceasing. The path to mindful meditation means understanding the noble eightfold path which consists with the four noble truths as,
Right Understanding (Sammā diṭṭhi)
Right Thoughts (Sammā samkappa)
Right Speech (Sammā vācā)
Right Action (Sammā kammantha)
Right Livelihood (Sammā ājiva)
Right Effort (Sammā vāyāma)
Right Mindfulness (Sammā sathi)
Right Concentration (Sammā samādhi)
Understanding mindfulness in Buddhism depends on understanding the dependent origination which is described below.
The Satipatthāna Sutta deals with the fourfold development of ‘Sati’, mindfulness and ‘Patthāna’, establishment or practice. So ‘Satipatthāna’ means establishment of mindfulness. The main purpose of practicing mindfulness is to investigate what happens to our mind and body and finally understanding whole life. If we can clearly understand the process of our life as it is, we can overcome all sufferings that we worry in our day to day life and in whole sansāric journey.
Here it is said the four types of areas where we practice mindfulness. They are;
• The Contemplation (or mindfulness) of the body (Kāyānupassanā)
• The Contemplation (or mindfulness) of sensation or feelings (Vedanānupassanā)
• The Contemplation (or mindfulness) of mind (Cittānupassanā)
• The Contemplation (or mindfulness) of mind-objects (Dhammānupassanā)
According to practicing mindfulness in these four areas, we develop our attention and awareness about our body and mind. And we practice our attention to live in the present moment consciously. We mostly suffer because of the past or the future. If we lose our attention with mindfulness about the present, it means we lose our happiness. That is why Buddhism emphasizes here the importance of developing mindfulness.
• The Contemplation of body
When we practice mindfulness in the field of body, we develop it in six areas. They are;
• Mindfulness of breathing (Ānāpāna).
When someone breathes, he does it consciously.
• Mindfulness of the four postures (Iriyāpatha)
When someone is walking, he knows he is walking. When someone is standing, he knows he is standing. When someone is sitting, he knows, he is sitting. When someone is lying down, he knows he is lying down.
• Mindfulness of clear awareness (Sampajañña)
When someone does everything from waking up to going to bed, he does all of them mindfully and wisely.
• Mindfulness or reflection on the repulsive: Parts of the body (Patikkulamanasikāra)
Here, meditator considers his all (32) parts of body such as hair, nail, teeth, skin are impure.
• Mindfulness of the four elements (Dhātumanasikāra)
Here, meditator further pays attention to four elements like earth (Patavi), water (Āpo), fire (Tejo) and air (Vāyo).
• Mindfulness of the Nine Charnel- Ground (Navasivatika)
Here, meditator recollects a dead body, what happens to the body after death (from moment of death to a skeleton). While he is investigating his whole body according to above areas, he sees arising and ceasing of the body.
• The Contemplation of feelings (or sensation)
Here, someone feeling a pleasant feeling knows that he feels a pleasant feeling, feeling a painful feeling he knows that he feels a painful feeling, feeling a feeling that is neither painful nor pleasant he knows that he feels a feeling that is neither painful nor pleasant.
While he is investigating his whole feelings according to above information, he sees arising and ceasing of all feelings.
• The Contemplation of mind
Here, the meditator considers his own mind whether it is lustful or not, hating or not, deluded or undeluded, contracted or distracted, developed or undeveloped, surpassed or unsurpassed, concentrated or unconcentrated, liberated or unliberated.
While he is investigating his mind process according to above areas, he sees arising and ceasing of mind.
• The Contemplation of mind-objects
• The five hindrances (sensual desire, ill will, sloth and torpor, restlessness and scruples, skeptical doubt)
• The five aggregates (form, feeling, perception, metal formation, consciousness)
• The six internal and external sense bases (eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind – sight, sound, smell, taste, touching, mind-objects)
• The seven factors of enlightenment (Mindfulness, keen investigation, energy, rapture, tranquility, concentration, equanimity)
• The four Noble truths
1. The unsatisfactoriness (Dukkha Sacca),
2. The cause of unsatisfactoriness (Samudaya Sacca),
3. The cessation of unsatisfactoriness (Nirodha Sacca),
4. The path that leads to cessation of unsatisfactoriness (Magga Sacca)
While he is investigating his whole mind objects according to above areas as unwholesome and wholesome, he reflects arising and ceasing of his mind objects.
As the result of practicing mindfulness by using Buddhist teachings, we don’t stop concentrating mind. With concentrated mind, we reflect on the world reality as impermanent seeing
arising and ceasing of our mind and body. Here it is very important to understand the dependent origination. Our entire life is the five aggregates which arise at the moment with conditions and cease when conditions cease.
If we have any experience through our six senses, five aggregates arise together at the moment. Five aggregates are forms (Rupa-රූප), feelings (Vedanā-වේදනා), perception (Saññā-සඤ්ඤා), mental formations (Samkhāra-සංඛාර) and mind (Viññāna-විඤ්ඤාණ). These five aggregates arise together at the moment when the conditions are together, and they instantly cease when the conditions separate. These five things appear behind any kind of experiences in our life, but they are invisible, and have to be known with insight. The nature of these five aggregates is arising and ceasing. At the moment of ceasing everything ceases without leaving anything remaining. The most valuable and interesting explanation in Buddhism is impermanence. It is said in Buddhism; Not being occurred (in the past) comes to an occurrence. Being occurred (at the present) will not come to (the future) occurrence (Ahutvā sambhutam hutvā na bhavissati). This is the nature of impermanence that Buddhism illustrates. If something is impermanent (Anicca), it is suffering (Dukkha). If something is suffering, it is out of our control (Anatta). If someone can realize these three characteristics as the worldly reality, he is able to overcome suffering.
When we see this reality, we understand, there is nothing to grasp or reject. We comprehend our life as a conditioned process. There is no particular certain being or person, it is only a process which always arises and ceases. With this true understanding we can gradually overcome suffering. Little by little we go forward on the path of liberation from suffering and unsatisfactoriness. By practicing tranquility (Samatha) and insight (Vipassanā) meditation with discipline (Sīla) in speech and behavior, we reach the final bliss of liberation, full enlightenment. Here it is clear that mindfulness is the foundation of all doctrines. Living in mindfulness is like living in the field of the Buddha. It means we are away from suffering like decay, death and rebirth. Whenever we are away from mindfulness, then we are in the field of the Mara. It means we are not away from suffering like sorrow, lamentation, grief, pain, decay, sickness, death and rebirth.
As the result of practicing mindfulness, the five spiritual faculties are going to be filled. They are confidence, energy, mindfulness, concentration and wisdom.
May the Triple Gem Bless You!
(Monday Dhamma Discussion at Leicester Buddhist Vihara in England, 12/05/2019