Satipatthana Sutta – Four Foundations Of Mindfulness

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This article is an excerpt from my book Becoming Buddha available at Amazon.com.

Introduction

In the Satipatthana Sutta, the Buddha teaches the Four Foundations of Mindfulness as the framework for what occurs during meditation and as a reference for mindfulness in all areas of a Dhamma practitioner moment-by-moment life.

Four Noble Truths is the context for meditation practice. Shamatha-Vipassana meditation is practiced for deepening concentration. It is the concentration developed during meditation that supports the refined mindfulness necessary for integration of the Eightfold Path as the framework for Dhamma Practice.

In the Satipatthana, the Buddha first teaches the Four Foundations of Mindfulness as instruction for Shamatha-Vipassana meditation.

Much is made of the detailed account of the different breaths and bodily functions to imply that the Buddha is teaching to manufacture the experience of these differences. This contradicts the fundamental teaching to not establish a self in any event or isolated experience. What is described here is a simple dispassionate mindfulness of what is occurring.

My comments in italics.

The Satipatthana Sutta

Majjhima Nikaya 120

On one occasion the Buddha was in Kammasadhamma where he addressed those assembled:

“Friends, there are four frames of reference – four foundations of mindfulness – that are required for the purification of all beings, for the overcoming of sorrow and regret, for the disappearance of pain and distress, for establishing the right method of practice, and for complete unbinding. What are these four?

  1. Being mindful of the breath in the body, determined and alert and abandoning craving and aversion to what is occurring.
  2. Being mindful of feelings arising from the six-sense base, determined and alert and abandoning craving and aversion to what is occurring.
  3. Being mindful of thoughts arising from the six-sense base, determined and alert and abandoning craving and aversion to what is occurring.
  4. Being mindful of the present quality of mind, determined and alert and abandoning craving and aversion to what is occurring.

The six-sense base is the five physical senses and conscious thought. It is through the six-sense base that self-referential contact and self-identification (attachment) with phenomena is established. Feelings in this reference is any disturbance in the mind and conscious thought is ongoing thinking that is rooted in ignorance prior to awakening.

 The Breath In The Body

“And how does one remain mindful of the breath in the body in and of itself?

“Finding a secluded spot – the shade of a tree or an empty hut – sitting erect with legs crossed in front, placing attention on the breath.

“Remaining mindful of the breath – breathe in and breathe out. Mindful of the breath, long or short, breathe in and breathe out. Training yourself to be sensitive to the breath and calming any bodily fabrication. Ever mindful calming the body with each in-breath and each out-breath.

“Remaining mindful of the breath in the body – mindful of the in-breath and the out-breath – the arising and passing away of phenomena with regard to the body.

“In this way one remains mindful internally and externally with regard to the body. With no self-reference, calmly noticing ‘there is a body,’ remaining independent of, and not clinging to anything in the world.

The first foundation of mindfulness is being mindful of the breath in the body. This is the initial establishment of the breath in Shamatha-Vipassana meditation. Quieting the mind and developing concentration begins by putting aside thoughts as thoughts arise and becoming mindful of the breath. 

  • Concentration is the foundation that supports refined mindfulness.
  • Being mindful of what is occurring in relation to The Eightfold Path is refined mindfulness.
  • Being mindful of the breath in the body is the foundation of developing understanding of an ego-personality and its relation to the distraction of stress.
  • Being mindful of the breath in the body interrupts outer-focused clinging conditioned thinking and begins to quiet the mind with directed inner mindfulness.
  • Being mindful of the in-breath and the out-breath brings mindfulness to the arising and passing away of all phenomena. Notice that there is no specialness or applied emphasis attached to the normal breathing cycle.

What is being described here is simple and direct mindfulness of the breath. 

Supported by the concentration developed in Shamatha-Vipassana meditation, the Buddha then teaches how to apply mindfulness outside of formal meditation: 

  • When walking, be mindful of walking.
  • When standing, be mindful of standing.
  • When sitting, be mindful of sitting.
  • When lying down, be mindful of lying down.
  • In any function, be mindful that ‘there is a body.’
  • When going about, looking this way and that, be fully mindful.
  • When bending or reaching, be fully mindful.
  • When carrying a bowl or a cloak, be fully mindful.
  • When eating, drinking, or savoring food, be fully mindful.
  • When eliminating waste, be fully mindful.
  • When walking, standing, sitting, sleeping, waking, talking or silent, be fully mindful.

“In this way, one remains mindful of the breath in the body – the in-breath and the out-breath.

“In this way, one remains mindful of the breath in the body – the arising and the passing away of the body – independent of and not clinging to anything in the world.

“Just as a person with good eyesight, emptying a bag full of mixed grains, would know ‘this is wheat, this is rice, these are beans, these are sesame seeds.’ In this same way one remains mindful from the soles of the feet to the top of the head, encased in skin, there is hair, nails, teeth, tendons, bones, marrow, organs, feces, phlegm, blood, urine, sweat, fat, tears, saliva, mucous, and fluid in the joints.

“In this way, one is mindful of the four elements – the earth element, the water element, the fire element, and the wind element.

The four elements that comprise a human being are impermanent.

“Be mindful of the impermanence of the body to develop dispassion. If left unattended, a corpse decays quickly. It becomes bloated and infested. It is picked at by birds and dogs and other creatures. Eventually, nothing is left but dust.

“Be mindful that ‘this very body, too’ will die and pass away. This the nature of the world – and unavoidable fate.

“In this way, one remains mindful of the breath in the body – the in-breath and the out-breath.

“In this way, one remains mindful of the arising and the passing away of the body – independent of and not clinging to anything in the world.

“This how one remains mindful of the breath in the body.”

Without creating and specialness or over-analysis of normal bodily activities or functions, including the impermanence of the body itself, maintain mindfulness of life as life occurs. 

What follows teaches a dispassionate mindfulness of feelings arising and passing away, and thoughts arising and passing away. Finally, one becomes mindful of the arising and passing away of the quality of mind.

Mindfulness of Feelings

“And how does one remain mindful of feelings in and of themselves?

“When feeling pain be mindful that there is pain. When feeling pleasure be mindful that there is pleasure. When feeling neither pleasure nor pain (ambivalence) be mindful that there is neither pleasure nor pain.

“When feeling the pain of the body be mindful that there is pain of the body. When feeling pain not of the body (a disturbance in the mind) be mindful that there is pain not of the body.

“When feeling pleasure in the body be mindful that there is pleasure in the body. When feeling pleasure not in the body (an excitement in the mind) be mindful that there is pleasure not in the body.

“When feeling neither pleasure nor pain in the body be mindful that there is neither pleasure nor pain in the body. When feeling neither pleasure nor pain not in the body be mindful that there is neither pleasure nor pain not in the body.

“In this way, one remains mindful of feelings and the arising and the passing away of feelings – independent of and not clinging to anything in the world.

“In this way, one remains mindful internally and externally with regard to feelings. This is how one remains mindful of feelings in and of themselves.

The second foundation of mindfulness is being mindful of feelings. Mindfulness of feelings becomes possible once the mind has quieted enough to be able to hold in mind the breath in the body for a few moments. 

Once a tranquil mind state has been achieved and mindfulness of the breath is maintained, notice any feelings, emotional or physical, that arise. If physical pain arises,  let go of any thoughts in reference to the feeling. If an emotion such as frustration, anger, fear, resentment, joy, bliss, etcetera, simply recognize that a feeling has arisen. While maintaining mindfulness of the breath, let go of any thoughts in reference to the feeling. 

You may want to begin to blame yourself or others to justify the feeling. Put these thoughts aside. You may be drawn to analyze the feeling in some other way. You may ask yourself where did the feeling come from, what circumstances took place to bring a rise to the feeling? Put these thoughts aside. It is enough to recognize the feeling for what it is while maintaining mindfulness of your breath. 

With mindfulness of your breath let go of the feeling. Let go of the judgment attached to the feeling. Judging a feeling creates clinging and develops emotion. An emotion is a reaction to an event, judging an event in some way. 

Reaction caused by judgment further intensifies feeling and further conditions conditioned mind. 

Notice that there is no instruction by the Buddha to create self-referential attachment by “embracing” pain or to “breathe into the pain.” This will only further personalize what is intended to be a dispassionate experience of mindfulness of what is occurring. This will only continue clinging self-referential views. 

Notice that this is not instruction to perform an elaborate body scan. This is a subtle way of encouraging further distraction through self-identification with the body. The Buddha’s instruction develops a dispassionate awareness of ‘remaining mindful of feelings and the arising and the passing away of feelings – independent of and not clinging to anything in the world’ including impermanent phenomena arising and passing away within the body. 

Notice that it is often a reaction to an external event that was perceived through one or more of the six senses that initiated the feeling. It is at the point of contact with the external experience that a personal, self-referential, attachment is made. 

Mindfulness of this process develops useful insight into impermanence. 

Mindfulness of this process brings understanding of the subtle but pervasive and continual establishment of a self that is prone to confusion and suffering. This is the ongoing process of “I-making” also known as conceit

Recognition of the initiation of I-making develops the ability to bring continued I-making to cessation. 

Mindfulness is a dispassionate focused awareness on whatever is arising in the present moment without being distracted by judgments or discriminating thoughts. Being mindful of feelings as feelings arise allows the feeling to dissipate and allows a tranquil mind to deepen. 

If a physical sensation arises such as pain or discomfort in some area of your body, remain mindful of the sensation of breathing. Note the physical sensation and the immediate self-identification and return your mindfulness to your breath. Again, do not judge the physical sensation in any way. Do not wish that you are not having the experience of discomfort or agitation. Simply note the experience while maintaining mindfulness of your breath. 

Being mindful of physical sensations without further judgment often will minimize the sensation. Returning mindfulness to the breath interrupts reaction to physical and emotional feelings. 

This is the second foundation of mindfulness: being mindful that through contact with the five physical senses and consciousness, feelings arise. Being mindful of feelings, being ardent and aware of feelings as feelings arise, begins to de-condition conditioned mind by interrupting the discursive and self-perpetuating judgment and analysis of feelings. 

Simply and dispassionately be mindful of feelings as feelings arise while maintaining mindfulness of the breath. 

Mindfulness of Thoughts

“And how does one remain mindful of thoughts in and of themselves?

“When thoughts are passionate be mindful that thoughts are passionate. When thoughts are dispassionate be mindful that thoughts are dispassionate.

“When there are thoughts of aversion be mindful that there are thoughts of aversion. When thoughts are free of aversion be mindful that thoughts are free of aversion.

“When thoughts are deluded be mindful that thoughts are deluded. When thoughts are free of delusion be mindful that thoughts are free of delusion.

How does one know delusion? Thoughts and actions that contradict the Eightfold Path are deluded.

“When the mind is constricted be mindful that the mind is constricted. When thoughts are scattered be mindful that thoughts are scattered. When the mind is spacious be mindful that the mind is spacious.

“When thoughts are common be mindful that thoughts are common. When thoughts are unsurpassed be mindful that thoughts are unsurpassed.

“When the mind is not concentrated be mindful that the mind is not concentrated. When the mind is concentrated be mindful that the mind is concentrated.

“When the mind is not released be mindful that the mind is not released. When the mind is released be mindful that the mind is released.

“In this way one remains mindful internally and externally with regard to thoughts.

The third foundation of mindfulness is being mindful of the thinking process. With dispassionate mindfulness notice how thoughts cling to impermanent qualities of mind. Notice if the present quality of mind is agitated or peaceful. Notice if the present quality mind is constricted or spacious. Dispassionately notice thoughts attached to the quality of mind, often driven by feelings. This begins to develop insight into how thoughts have created confusion and suffering. With insight you can begin to incline your mind towards release from clinging conditioned mind. 

Remember that Shamatha-Vipassana meditation is primarily used to develop unwavering concentration. This entire process of noting feelings and thoughts is done with dispassionate mindfulness. Feelings arise that take your attention. Note that a feeling has your attention and return your mindfulness to your breathing. When you find that you are distracted by discriminating thoughts related to the changing quality of your mind simply note the quality of your mind and return your mindfulness to your breath. 

The sequence of this sutta is not meant to imply a fixed sequence. In meditation one becomes mindful of the breath. As the mind calms one may become mindful of feelings followed by thoughts driven by feelings or awareness of thoughts may initiate a reaction – a feeling. 

Mindfulness during meditation is holding in mind the breath while feelings and thoughts arise and pass away. Being mindful that thoughts are flowing develops your innate ability to control thoughts. Being mindful of thoughts is recognizing that thinking is taking place. Unless concentration is developed, thoughts will “feed” themselves from conditioned thought patterns. This is discursive thinking and is an aspect of clinging mind. 

Through refined mindfulness it becomes clear that thoughts are an ongoing evaluation or judgment of feelings and mental states. Much mental energy and distraction is spent on recollecting harsh or extreme judgments. This is a form of unskillful or unrefined mindfulness. This type of unrefined mindfulness can be debilitating. If left unchecked, this can lead to ever intensifying emotions that can result in depression and anxiety, or other mental diseases. 

Dispassionately remaining ardent and aware of thinking while maintaining mindfulness of the breath in the body will interrupt discursive thinking. This allows the mind to quiet and for concentration to develop. As mindfulness and concentration develops, the afflictions caused by discursive thinking subside and a mind of equanimity, a non-reactive mind, is maintained.

The Present Quality of Mind

“And how does one remain mindful of the present quality of mind in and of itself? One remains focused on the mind internally or externally on the mind itself. One remains focused on the origination of the mind and the arising and the passing away of with regard to the mind itself. One knows ‘there is a mind.’ They remain independent of and not clinging to anything in the world. This how one remains mindful of thoughts in and of themselves.”

 The fourth foundation of mindfulness is being mindful of the present (but impermanent) quality of your mind. Is your present quality of mind inclined towards craving, clinging, and the continuation of stress? Is your present quality of mind inclined towards developing wisdom and release from craving and clinging? 

Knowing that ‘there is a mind’ is mindfulness of the process resulting in the present quality of mind and that one has control over the present quality of mind. 

During meditation ‘remaining mindful of the present quality of mind’ is dispassionate awareness of the process of feelings and thoughts affecting the present quality of mind and noticing the impermanent quality of all mind states – the arising and passing away of qualities of mind. 

During meditation ‘remaining mindful of the present quality of mind’ is dispassionate awareness of the process of feelings and thoughts affecting the present quality of mind while being mindful of the impermanent nature of all mind states. Concentration supports mindfulness and insight of the arising and passing away of qualities of mind. This develops the singular quality of samadhi, non-distraction – remaining at peace with less than peaceful mind-states. This is the quality of a well-concentrated mind during meditation and otherwise. 

All mind-states are impermanent. Be at peace with less than peaceful mind-states. 

The conclusion of the Satipatthana Sutta expands the Four Foundations of mindfulness from formal Shamatha-Vipassana meditation to apply these ‘Four Frames of Reference’ first to the Five Hindrances which often arise during meditation. 

If one or all of the hindrances arise, simply remain mindful of the particular disturbance and return mindfulness to the breath. When the Hindrances arise outside of meditation a well-concentrated mind will not be further distracted by the particular hindrance but will dispassionately notice the arising and passing away of the hindrance. 

Applying the Four Foundations of Mindfulness in reference to the Hindrances, or the Aggregates, or the Six-Sense Base, or the Seven Factors of Awakening, or The Four Noble Truths, should not be taken as direction on what to contemplate during meditation. Rather, it is important to remain mindful of the purpose of meditation is to deepen samadhi – non-distraction. 

Notice that the last four themes – the Aggregates, the Six-Sense Base, the Seven Factors of Awakening, and The Four Noble Truths – are preceded by the word ‘furthermore’ to show that these are themes to be considered outside of formal meditation but supported by the concentration supporting the refined mindfulness developed during meditation. 

During meditation, remain mindful when thoughts are directed towards these themes and return mindfulness to the breath. 

In this way, these important themes become integrated into the overall process of Becoming Buddha without becoming a distraction during formal Shamatha-Vipassana meditation. This avoids the possibility of getting caught in a feedback loop during meditation and directly contributes to the useful and skillful insight that will arise outside of meditation within the framework and guidance of the Eightfold Path.

Mindfulness of the Five Hindrances [1]

Notice the guarantors offered by the Buddha. When one completely abandons a hindrance it will not arise again. Completely abandoning the hindrances is a reasonable goal and skillful reference to progress.

“Remain mindful of the quality of mind in reference to the five hindrances. When sensual desire is present be mindful that sensual desire is present. When sensual desire is not present be mindful that sensual desire is not present. Be mindful of abandoning sensual desire when it arises. Be mindful that when sensual desire has been (completely) abandoned, sensual desire will not arise in the future.

“When ill-will is present be mindful that ill-will is present. When ill-will is not present be mindful that ill-will is not present. Be mindful of abandoning ill-will when it arises. Be mindful that when ill-will has been (completely) abandoned, ill-will will not arise in the future.

“When laziness and drowsiness is present be mindful that laziness and drowsiness is present. When laziness and drowsiness is not present be mindful that laziness and drowsiness is not present. Be mindful of abandoning laziness and drowsiness when it arises. Be mindful that when laziness and drowsiness has been (completely) abandoned, laziness and drowsiness will not arise in the future.

“When restlessness and anxiety is present be mindful that restlessness and anxiety is present. When restlessness and anxiety is not present be mindful that restlessness and anxiety is not present. Be mindful of abandoning restlessness and anxiety when it arises. Be mindful that when restlessness and anxiety has been (completely) abandoned, restlessness and anxiety will not arise in the future.

“When doubt and uncertainty is present be mindful that doubt and uncertainty is present. When doubt and uncertainty is not present be mindful that doubt and uncertainty is not present. Be mindful of abandoning doubt and uncertainty when it arises. Be mindful that when doubt and uncertainty has been (completely) abandoned, doubt and uncertainty will not arise in the future.

“In this way, one remains mindful of the quality of mind and the arising and the passing away of the qualities of mind – independent of and not clinging to anything in the world. This how one remains mindful of the quality of mind in and of itself.

This is a broader type of mindfulness that notices the quality of your mind that has developed from defining yourself through self-referential experiences driven by feelings and conditioned thinking. Notice when your mind seeks further sensual stimulation. Notice when your mind is distracted by ill-will. Notice when your mind is dull or restless or anxious or distracted by uncertainty. Return mindfulness to the breath. This is developing mindfulness of The Five Hindrances. Mindfulness of Hindrances directed by the Right Intention to abandon Hindrances brings release.

Mindfulness of The Five Clinging-Aggregates [2]

“Furthermore, one remains mindful of the quality of the mind in reference to The Five Clinging-Aggregates.

  • Remain mindful of form and the arising and passing away of form.
  • Remain mindful of feelings and the arising and passing away of feelings.
  • Remain mindful of perceptions and the arising and the passing away of perceptions.
    • Remain mindful of fabrications and the arising and passing away of fabrications.
  • Remain mindful of consciousness and the arising and passing away of consciousness.

“In this way, one remains mindful of The Five Clinging-Aggregates and the arising and the passing away of The Five Clinging-Aggregates – independent of and not clinging to anything in the world. This how one remains mindful of The Five Clinging-Aggregates in and of themselves.

The Buddha is teaching here to be mindful of self-identification to the Five Clinging-Aggregates. He is teaching to be mindful of the impermanence of each of these aggregates – the arising and passing away of each aggregate. 

This relates to Dependent Origination and supports insight into the process rooted in ignorance that confusion, deluded thinking, and ongoing disappointment is dependent on. Outside of formal meditation, a well-concentrated mind will become increasingly less self-identified to these impermanent aggregates and become increasingly awakened.

 Mindfulness of the Six-Sense Base

“Furthermore, one remains mindful of the quality of the mind in reference to the six-sense base.

“Remain mindful of the eye-form and the clinging that arises from the eye-form. Be mindful of the arising of clinging to the eye-form. Be mindful that when clinging to the eye-form is (completely) abandoned, clinging to the eye-form will not arise in the future.

“Remain mindful of the ear-form and the clinging that arises from the ear-form. Be mindful of the arising of clinging to the ear-form. Be mindful that when clinging to the ear-form is (completely) abandoned, clinging to the ear-form will not arise in the future.

“Remain mindful of the nose-form and the clinging that arises from the nose-form. Be mindful of the arising of clinging to the nose-form. Be mindful that when clinging to the nose-form is (completely) abandoned, clinging to the nose-form will not arise in the future.

“Remain mindful of the tongue-form and the clinging that arises from the tongue-form. Be mindful of the arising of clinging to the tongue-form. Be mindful that when clinging to the tongue-form is (completely) abandoned, clinging to the tongue-form will not arise in the future.

“Remain mindful of the body-form (touch sense) and the clinging that arises from the body-form. Be mindful of the arising of clinging to the body-form. Be mindful that when clinging to the body-form is (completely) abandoned, clinging to the body-form will not arise in the future.

“In this way, one remains mindful of six-sense base and the arising and the passing away of six-sense base – independent of and not clinging to anything in the world. This how one remains mindful of six-sense base in and of themselves.

Mindfulness of the various sense-based-consciousness brings a profound understanding of creating self-referential views through sense contact and also directly relates to Dependent origination. 

Avoid being distracted by the six-sense base and ‘remain mindful of six-sense base and the arising and the passing away of six-sense base – independent of and not clinging to anything in the world.’  This includes becoming analytical of what should be dispassionate mindfulness of the six-sense base. 

Mindfulness of the Seven Factors of Awakening [3]

“Furthermore, one remains mindful of the quality of the mind in reference to the Seven Factors of Awakening.

“Remain mindful that ‘mindfulness is a factor of awakening within me.’ If mindfulness as a factor of awakening is not present, be mindful that ‘mindfulness as a factor of awakening is not present within me’ and be mindful of how mindfulness as a factor of awakening will arise. (through appropriate mindfulness)

“Remain mindful of the culmination of the development of mindfulness as a factor of awakening.

“Remain mindful that investigation of the Dhamma is a factor of awakening. If investigation of the Dhamma as a factor of awakening is not present, be mindful that investigation of the Dhamma is not present and be mindful of how investigation of the Dhamma as a factor of awakening will arise. (through appropriate mindfulness)

“Remain mindful of the culmination of the development of investigation of the Dhamma as a factor of awakening.

“Remain mindful that persistence is a factor of awakening. If persistence as a factor of awakening is not present, be mindful that persistence is not present and be mindful of how persistence as a factor of awakening will arise. (through appropriate mindfulness)

“Remain mindful of the culmination of the development of persistence as a factor of awakening.

“Remain mindful that joyful engagement with the Dhamma is a factor of awakening. If joyful engagement with the Dhamma as a factor of awakening is not present, be mindful that joyful engagement with the Dhamma is not present and be mindful of how joyful engagement with the Dhamma as a factor of awakening will arise. (through appropriate mindfulness)

“Remain mindful of the culmination of the development of joyful engagement with the Dhamma as a factor of awakening.

“Remain mindful that serenity is a factor of awakening. If serenity as a factor of awakening is not present, be mindful that serenity is not present and be mindful of how serenity as a factor of awakening will arise. (through appropriate mindfulness)

“Remain mindful of the culmination of the development of serenity as a factor of awakening.

“Remain mindful that concentration is a factor of awakening. If concentration as a factor of awakening is not present, be mindful that concentration is not present and be mindful of how concentration as a factor of awakening will arise. (through appropriate mindfulness)

“Remain mindful of the culmination of the development of concentration as a factor of awakening.

“Remain mindful that equanimity is a factor of awakening. If equanimity as a factor of awakening is not present, be mindful that equanimity is not present and be mindful of how equanimity as a factor of awakening will arise. (through appropriate mindfulness)

“Remain mindful of the culmination of the development of equanimity as a factor of awakening.

“In this way one remains mindful of the Seven Factors of Awakening and the arising and the passing away of the Seven Factors of Awakening – independent of and not clinging to anything in the world. This how one remains mindful of the Seven Factors of Awakening in and of themselves.

Remaining mindful of The Seven Factors of Awakening is mindful acknowledgment of developing the Eightfold Path correctly. Mindfulness of The Seven Factors of Awakening may occur during meditation but should not necessarily be cultivated during meditation. The concentration developed during meditation will provide the spaciousness and focus to notice these seven factors and serve as continued direction.

Mindfulness of The Four Noble Truths [4]

“Furthermore, one remains mindful of the quality of the mind in reference to The Four Noble Truths.

“Remain mindful of knowing that ‘This is stress, this is the origination of stress, this is the cessation of stress, and this is the Eightfold Path leading to the cessation of stress.’

“In this way one remains mindful of the quality of mind in and of itself internally and externally. One remains mindful of the phenomenon of the origination of qualities of mind and their arising and passing away. There is the knowledge of the maintenance of qualities of mind and their recollection – independent of and not clinging to anything in the world. This how one remains mindful of the Seven Factors of Awakening in and of themselves.

Here the Buddha is bringing together the Four Foundations of Mindfulness applied during meditation and remaining mindful of each factor of the Eightfold Path in Becoming Buddha. Emphasis is on the importance of remaining mindful of the impermanent nature of all phenomena clinging to qualities of mind – the arising and passing away of all self-referential thoughts and attached fabrications. 

Notice how this last also relates directly to the Buddha’s description of his awakening in the Nagara Sutta: ‘I came to direct knowledge of fabrications, direct knowledge of the origination of fabrications, direct knowledge of the cessation of fabrications, direct knowledge of the Eightfold Path leading to the cessation of fabrications.’ 

The Effectiveness of The Four Foundations of Mindfulness

“Now, if anyone develops these Four Foundations of Mindfulness in this manner for seven years one could expect either complete understanding here and now or, if there is any clinging and maintaining remaining, in this present life.

“Let alone seven years, if anyone (perfectly) develops these Four Foundations of Mindfulness in this manner for six, or five, or four, or three, or two, or one year, for six months, or three months, for one month, for two weeks, for seven days, one could expect either complete understanding here and now or, if there is any clinging and maintaining remaining, in this present life.

“Friends, this is the direct path for the purification of all beings, for the cessation of sorrow and regret, for the disappearance of pain and distress, for establishing the right method of practice, and for complete unbinding – in other words, these Four Foundations of Mindfulness.

Perhaps the most important reference in all the Buddha’s Dhamma is contained here. The opportunity to Become Buddha in this present life is often misunderstood in even the more traditional Buddhist schools, and directly contradicted in the modern Buddhist lineages. Most modern Buddhist schools claim it will take “endless lifetimes” to develop awakening. 

Here the Buddha is stating clearly that through wholehearted engagement with the Eightfold Path anyone can Become Buddha in this present life. Whether seven days or seven years, through a well-concentrated mind and wholehearted mindful engagement with the Eightfold Path, Becoming Buddha is assured. 

This is what was said by the Buddha. Hearing these words those assembled were gratified and delighted.

End of Sutta

 

  1. Five Hindrances
  2. Five Clinging-Aggregates
  3. Seven Factors of Awakening
  4. Four Noble Truths

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My Dhamma articles and talks are based on the Buddha's teachings  (suttas) as preserved in the Sutta Pitaka, the second book of the Pali Canon. I have relied primarily on Thanissaro Bhikkhu’s excellent and insightful translation of the Pali generously made freely available at his website Dhammatalks.org, as well as the works of Nyanaponika Thera, John Ireland, Maurice Walsh, Hellmuth Hecker, and Sister Khema, among others, as preserved at Access To Insight.

Also, I have found Bhikkhu Bodhi's translations from Wisdom Publications Pali Canon Anthologies to be most informative and an excellent resource.

I have made contextual edits to the suttas from these sources for further clarity, to modernize language, to minimize repetition, and maintain relevance to Dependent Origination and Four Noble Truths.

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Becoming-Buddha.com and Dhamma articles and recordings by John Haspel are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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