Written on palm leaves in India over 2,000 years ago: the basic text of Buddhist meditation practices

Satipatthana Sutta

Satipatthana Sutta

Satipatthana Sutta

  1. A text of the Pāli Canon of Theravada Buddhism, the root *Sati-* means “mindfulness” and *sutta* means “discourse”

  2. In Buddhism, calm meditation is the central practice of mindfulness, the mastery of which leads to enlightenment

  3. Mindfulness of oneself, both physical and mental, and one’s surroundings, are at the core of gaining enlightenment

Satipatthana Sutta

Satipatthana Sutta – Kalocsai Főszékesegyházi Könyvtár (Kalocsa, Hungary)
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  1. Short Description
  2. Codicology

Short Description

The Satipatthana Sutta is a central Buddhist text that is more than 2,000 years old. Originating from India, its title has been variously translated into English as "The Arousing of Mindfulness Discourse", "The Foundations of Mindfulness Discourse", and "The Frames of Reference Discourse". It focuses on the concept of mindfulness and is a practical guide to meditative practices that was originally written on palm leaves. Mindfulness of oneself, both physical and mental, and one’s surroundings, are at the core of gaining enlightenment and breaking out of the cycle of saṃsāra, the "suffering-laden cycle of life, death, and rebirth, without beginning or end", breaking through to nirvana.

Satipatthana Sutta

One of the oldest and most widely celebrated Buddhist texts, originating over 2,000 years ago in India. Specifically, it is the Satipatthana Sutta, a discourse of the Pāli Canon of Theravada Buddhism, representing the foundation of the vipassanā meditational practices. The root Sati- means “mindfulness” and this sutta or “discourse” in Sanskrit, is “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 realization of nibbāna” (nirvana). Therefore, the title has been translated into English variously as: "The Arousing of Mindfulness Discourse", "The Foundations of Mindfulness Discourse", and "The Frames of Reference Discourse". The specimen at hand represents a transcript – the original was written on palm leaves.

The Four “Foundations of Mindfulness”

Calm meditation is the central practice of mindfulness, wherein the Buddha focuses on four aspects in this text with regard to meditative practices: Body (Kāyā), Sensations/Feelings (Vedanā), Mind/Consciousness (Cittā), Elements of Buddhist Teachings (Dhammā). Mindfulness is a concept that exceeds mere self-awareness, it means being present in the moment, of both oneself and one’s surroundings, but not reacting to them, understanding one’s emotions and impulses, but not being ruled by them. For the first aspect, body, one is mindful of breathing, posture, the elements from which one is made, and the nature of one’s own mortality. Focusing on and understanding one’s own feelings, pleasant or not, as well as worldly and spiritual feeling, is the second aspect. The third, mind/consciousness, requires one to focus on and master mental processes like lust, hate, and delusion. Finally, one has to study various elements of Buddhist teachings like the five hindrances, the five aggregates of clinging, and the Four Noble Truths. Through mastering these four “foundations”, one can be put on the path to enlightenment, to breaking the cycle of saṃsāra, the "suffering-laden cycle of life, death, and rebirth, without beginning or end", breaking through to nirvana.

Different Paths

The Satipatthana Sutta specifies a number of methods that one could use based upon one’s personality based on two dimensions: extrovert v. introvert and quick tempered v. measured in response. The methods described in the text can be used in the following ways:
1. Focus on a single method. The method most written about in the English language is that of mindfulness of breath.
2. Practice the various methods individually in succession.
3. Maintain breath mindfulness as a primary object while using other methods to address non-breath stimuli.
4. Practice multiple methods either in tandem or in a context-driven manner.

1 available facsimile edition(s) of „Satipatthana Sutta“

Satipatthana Sutta in Pali language
Satipatthana Sutta – Kalocsai Főszékesegyházi Könyvtár (Kalocsa, Hungary)
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Satipatthana Sutta in Pali language

Publisher
Pytheas Books – Budapest
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