Insight Meditation Online

 

The Four Foundations of Mindfulness
(Satipatthäna Sutta)

The Four Foundations of Mindfulness as taught by the Buddha is the framework for Insight Meditation.

Thus Have I Heard. On one occasion the Blessed One was living in the Kuru country at a town of the Kurus named Kamma-sadhamma. There he addressed the bhikkhus thus: "Bhikkhus." - "Venerable sir," they replied. The Blessed One said thus:

"Bhikkhus, this is the direct path for the purification of beings, for the surmounting of sorrow and lamentation, for the disappearance of pain and grief, for the attainment of the true way, for the realisation of nibbana - namely the four foundations of mindfulness.

"What are these four? Here, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu abides contemplating the body as a body, ardent, fully aware, and mindful, having put away covetousness and grief for the world. He abides contemplating feelings as feelings, ardent, fully aware, and mindful, having put away covetousness and grief for the world. He abides contemplating feelings as feelings, ardent, fully aware, and mindful, having put away covetousness and grief for the world. He abides contemplating mind as mind, ardent, fully aware, and mindful, having put away covetousness and grief for the world. He abides contemplating mind-objects as mind-objects, ardent, fully aware, and mindful, having put away covetousness and grief for the world.

1. Contemplation of the Body

(a) Mindfulness of Breathing

"And how, bhikkhus, does a bhikkhu abide contemplating the body as body? Here a bhikkhu, gone to the forest or to the root of a tree or to an empty hut, sits down; having folded his legs crosswise, sets his body erect, and established mindfulness in front of him, ever mindful he breathes in, mindful he breathes out. Breathing in long, he understands: ‘I breathe in long’; or breathing out long, he understands: ‘ I breathe out long.’ Breathing in short, he understands: ‘ I breathe in short’ ; breathing out short, he understands: ‘I breathe out short.’ He trains thus: ‘I shall breathe in experiencing the whole body (of breath).’ He trains thus: ‘I shall breathe out experiencing the whole body (of breathe).’ He trains thus: ‘I shall breathe in tranquillising the bodily formation’; he trains thus: ‘I shall breathe out tranquillising the bodily formation.’ Just as a skilled nurse or his apprentice, when making a long turn, understands: ‘I make a long turn’; or, when making a short turn understands: ‘I make a short turn’ ; so too, breathing in long, a bhikkhu understands: ‘I breathe in long’…he trains thus: ‘I shall breathe out tranquillising the bodily formation.’

(b) The Four Postures

"Again, bhikkhus, when walking a bhikkhu understands: ‘I am walking’; when standing, he understands: ‘I am standing’; when sitting, he understands: ‘I am sitting’; when lying down, he understands: ‘I am lying down’; or he understands accordingly however his body is disposed.

"In this way he abides contemplating the body as a body internally, externally, and both internally and externally… And he abides independent, not clinging to anything in the world. That too is how a bhikkhu abides contemplating the body as a body.

(c) Full Awareness

" Again, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu is one who acts in full awareness when going forward and returning; who acts in full awareness when looking ahead and looking away; who acts in full awareness when flexing and extending his limbs; who acts in full awareness when wearing his robes and carrying his outer robe and bowl; who acts in full awareness when eating, drinking, consuming food, and tasting; who acts in full awareness when defecating and urinating; who acts in full awareness when walking, standing, sitting, falling asleep, waking up, talking, and keeping silent.

"In this way he abides contemplating the body as a body internally, externally, and both internally and externally…And he abides independent, not clinging to anything in the world. That is how a bhikkhu abides contemplating the body as a body.

(d) Foulness - The Bodily Parts

"Again, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu reviews this same body up from the soles of the feet and down from the top of the hair, bounded by the skin, as full of many kinds of impurity thus: ‘In this body there are head-hairs, body-hairs, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, sinews, bones, bone-marrow, kidneys, heart, liver, diaphragm, spleen, lungs, large-intestines, small intestines, contents of the stomach, faeces, bile, phlegm, pus, blood, sweat, fat, tears, grease, spittle, snot, oil of the joints, and urine. Just as though there were a bag with an opening at both ends full of many sorts of grain, such as hill rice, red rice, beans, peas, millet, and white rice, and a man with good eyes were to open it and review it thus: ‘This is hill rice, this is red rice, these are beans, these are peas, this is millet, this is white rice’; so too, a bhikkhu reviews this same body…as full of many kinds of impurity thus: ‘In this body there are head-hairs…and urine.’

"In this way he abides contemplating the body as a body internally, externally, and both internally and externally…And he abides independent, not clinging to anything in the world. That too is how a bhikkhu abides contemplating the body as a body.

(e) The Primary Elements

"Again, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu reviews this same body, however it is placed, however disposed, as consisting of elements thus: ‘In this body there are the earth element, the water element, the fire element and the air element.’ Just as though a skilled butcher or his apprentice had killed a cow and was seated at the crossroads with it cut up into pieces; so too, a bhikkhu reviews this same body…as consisting of elements thus: ‘In this body there are the earth element, the water element, the fire element, and the air element.’

"In this way he abides contemplating the body as a body internally, externally, and both internally and externally…And he abides independent, not clinging to anything in the world. That too is how a bhikkhu abides contemplating the body as a body.

(f) The Nine Charnel Grounds Contemplations

"Again, bhikkhus, as though he were to see a corpse thrown aside in a charnel ground, one, two, or three days dead, bloated, livid, and oozing matter, a bhikkhu compares this same body with it thus: ‘This body too is of the same nature, it will be like that, it is not exempt from that fate.’

" In this way he abides contemplating the body as the body internally, externally, and both internally and externally…And he abides independent, not clinging to anything in the world. That too is how a bhikkhu abides contemplating the body as a body.

"Again, as though he were to see a corpse thrown aside in a charnel ground, being devoured by crows, hawks, vultures, dogs, jackals, or various kinds of worms, a bhikkhu compares the same body with it thus: ‘This body too is of the same nature, it will be like that, it is not exempt from that fate.’

"…That too is how a bhikkhu abides contemplating the body as a body.

"Again, as though he were to see a corpse thrown aside in a charnel ground, a skeleton with flesh and blood, held together with sinews…a fleshless skeleton smeared with blood, held together with sinews…a skeleton without flesh and blood, held together with sinews…disconnected bones scattered in all directions - here a hand-bone, there a foot-bone, here a shin-bone, there a thigh-bone, here a hip-bone, there a back-bone, here a rib-bone, there a breast-bone, here an arm-bone, there a shoulder-bone, here a neck-bone, there a jaw-bone, here a tooth, there the skull - a bhikkhu compares this same body with it thus:’This body too is of the same nature, it will be like that, it is not exempt from that fate.’

"…That too is how a bhikkhu abides contemplating the body as a body.

"Again, as though he were to see a corpse thrown aside in a charnel ground, bones bleached white, the colour of shells…bones heaped up, more than a year old…bones rotted and crumbled to dust, a bhikkhu compares this same body with it thus: ‘This body too is of the same nature, it will be like that, it is not exempt from that fate.’

[Insight]

"In this way he abides contemplating the body as a body internally, or he abides contemplating the body as a body externally, or he abides contemplating the body as a body both internally and externally. Or else he abides contemplating in the body its arising factors, or he abides contemplating its vanishing factors, or he abides contemplating in the body both its arising and vanishing factors. Or else mindfulness that ‘there is a body’ is simply established in him to the extent necessary for bare knowledge and mindfulness. And he abides independent, not clinging to anything in the world. That is how a bhikkhu abides contemplating the body as a body.

2. Contemplation of Feelings

"And how, bhikkhus, does a bhikkhu contemplating feelings as feelings? Here, when feeling a pleasant feeling, a bhikkhu understands: 'I feel a pleasant feeling', when feeling a painful feeling, he understands: 'I feel a painful feeling'; when feeling a neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling.' he understands 'I feel a neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling.' When feeling a worldly pleasant feeling, he understands: 'I feel a worldly pleasant feeling'; when feeling an unworldly pleasant feeling, he understands: 'I feel an unworldly pleasant feeling'; when feeling a