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The Four Establishments of Mindfulness

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  • The Four Establishments of Mindfulness

    Greetings Venerable Sir or Ayya,

    In the sutta on The Four Establishments of Mindfulness the Buddha refers to, "body in the body", "feelings in the feelings", "mind in the mind", "objects of the mind in objects of the mind". I have read two quite different explanations of the meanings of these phases from teachers of different schools of Buddhism. Could you please explain them.

    I understand that you may have already answered the same question in a talk or previous thread, and if so, a link to that explanation would be fine.

    Thank you in advance.

    Blair Rollin

  • #2
    Dear Blair,

    Ajahn Brahm points out that "Body in the Body" is just a Pali idiom. It simply means "body". I think a better translation of satipatthana is "the four focuses of mindfulness". That is to say four different things to focus the mind on. The Satipatthana sutta gives a number of meditation objects to fulfill what is basically the 7th factor of the 8-fold-path. Different teachers will interpret this in different ways, but Ajahn Brahm encourages us simply to do anapanasati. Indeed the Buddha explicitly says that practicing anapanasati fulfills the 4 focuses of mindfulness by itself. You can cherry pick other objects from the satipatthana sutta to help you in your practice, and indeed take meditation objects (metta for example) from other suttas describing meditation.

    I hope this helps!

    J.R.

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    • #3
      Bhante

      I have also heard an alternative explanation that the idiom actually means something like "an aspect of the body" or "an aspect of feeling" - as opposed to the whole body, or all feelings. In other words it means a subset of what the word is referring to and hence limits the contemplation to this one aspect. This makes sense when the various aspects that are recommended to contemplate are then listed in the rest of the verse. It also explains what the Buddha means when he says the breath is a "body amongst the bodies" and why then anapanasati fulfils satipatthana. It also supports the translation of "focus" rather than "foundation".

      MR

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      • #4
        I have also heard an alternative explanation that the idiom actually means something like "an aspect of the body" or "an aspect of feeling" - as opposed to the whole body
        It may well be possible to understand it that way. My Pali is pretty poor, so I have to rely on the Pali "wizards" like Ajahns Brahm, Brahmali and Sujato.

        With metta,

        J.R.

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