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Satipatthana Sutta

From Tibetan Buddhist Encyclopedia
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Chinese: 念處

Japanese: 念処 (nenjo)

Thai: สติปัฏฐาน

Pali: satipaṭṭhāna

Sanskrit: स्मृत्युपस्थान (smṛtyupasthāna)

The Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta (MN 10) (Sanskrit: Smṛtyupasthāna Sūtra स्मृत्युपस्थान सूत्र, Chinese: 念處經; The Discourse on the Establishing of Mindfulness) and the Mahāsatipaṭṭhāna Sutta (DN 22) ([[The Great Discourse on the Establishing of Mindfulness) are two of the most important and widely studied discourses in the Pali Canon of Theravada Buddhism. The former is also found in the Āgamas of other early schools, and has been embraced by contemporary Mahayana practitioners such as Thich Nhat Hanh.

These discourses (Pāli: sutta) provide a means for practicing mindfulness in a variety of contexts and potentially continuously. Famously, the Buddha declares at the beginning of this discourse:

"This is the direct way (Pāli: ekāyano ... maggo), monks, 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...." (Vipassana Research Institute, 1996, pp. 2, 3.)

The meditation techniques identified in this sutta can be practiced individually or successively or in an interwoven fashion.


Title translation


English translations of the title, "Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta," include:

According to Anālayo (2006, pp. 29–30), Thanissaro (2000) and Nyanaponika (1996, pp. 9–10), part of the reason for the variety in this title's translation has to do with how the compound Pāli word "satipaṭṭhāna" is analyzed. It can be interpreted as "sati-paṭṭhāna" ("foundation of mindfulness") or "sati-upaṭṭhāna" ("presence of mindfulness").

In regard to the prefix "Maha-" in the Pāli title of DN 22, this simply means "great," or "larger" and likely refers to DN 22's expanded section on mindfulness of the Fourth Noble Truths.

Various Recensions & Canonical placement


In the Chinese Canon, the Nian Chu Jing (念處經, Smṛtyupasthāna Sūtra), based on a Sarvastivadin source, is found on page 582 of the Taisho Tripitaka Vol. 1, Madhyama Āgama No. 26. A second version with the The Smṛtyupasthāna Sūtra was not translated into Tibetan, except as part of the long Prajñapāramita Sūtra into which it had been incorporated. There does exist in Tibetan translation a "Saddharma Smṛtyupasthāna Sūtra" (dam pa'i chos dran pa nye bar bzhag pa'i mdo//dampé chödren panyé barzhak pé do) but this is a very large early Mahayana sutra and is an entirely different text. Ven. Ajahn Sujato completed an extensive comparative survey of the various recensions of Sutta, entitled A History of Mindfulness. These various versions are quite similar.

In the Theravadin Pali Canon, the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta is the tenth discourse in the Majjhima Nikaya (MN) and is thus often designated by "MN 10"; in the Pali Text Society (PTS) edition of the Canon, this text begins on the 55th page of the first volume of its three-volume Majjhima Nikaya (M), and is thus alternately represented as "M i 55."

As for the Mahāsatipaṭṭhāna Sutta, this is the 22nd discourse in the Digha Nikaya (DN) and is thus often designated by "DN 22"; in the PTS edition of the Canon, the Mahāsatipaṭṭhāna Sutta begins on the 289th page of the second volume of the PTS' three-volume Digha Nikaya (D), and is thus alternately represented as "D ii 289."

In post-canonical Pali literature, the classic commentary on the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta (as well as for the entire Majjhima Nikaya) is found in Buddhaghosa's Papañcasudani (Bullitt, 2002; Soma, 2003).



In this sutta, the Buddha identifies four references for establishing mindfulness (satipatthana): body, sensations (or feelings), mind (or consciousness) and mental contents. These are then further broken down into the following sections and subsections:

  1. Body (Kāyā)
  1. Sensations/Feelings (Vedanā)
  2. Mind/Consciousness (Cittā)
  1. Mental Contents (Dhammā)


Personality-based typography


According to Analāyo (2006, pp. 24–25) and Soma (2003, pp. xxii - xxiv), the Papañcasudani recommends a different satipaṭṭhāna depending on whether a person:

  • tends more toward affective craving or intellectual speculation; and,
  • is more measured in their responses or quick reacting.

Based on these two dimensions the commentary's recommended personality-based satipaṭṭhāna is reflected in the grid below.

  experiential orientation
reactivity /
slow body mind
quick sensations mental contents

Soma (2003, p. xxiv) adds that all practitioners (regardless of their character and temperament) should also practice mindfulness of Postures (moving, standing, sitting, lying down) and Clear Understanding, about which he writes: "The whole practice of mindfulness depends on the correct grasp of the exercises included in the two parts referred to here."

Single-focused, successive and simultaneous practices

There are a variety of ways that one could use the methods described in the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta including:

  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

See also

  • Related practices:


Wikipedia:Satipatthana Sutta