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Satipatthana Sutta Discourses

by S.N. Goenka

THE FOURTH DAY of the Satipatthana course is over. We continue to recite the Sutta and to try to understand it in relation to the practice.

We are still in kayanupassana. You can start with any of the four fields of kayanupassana, vedananupassana, cittanupassana, or dhammanupassana and with any section of kayanupassana, but as you proceed they intermingle. You have to reach certain important stations. You have to feel the body inside (ajjhattam) and outside (bahiddha), then both inside and outside (ajjhatta-bahiddha). You have to experience arising and passing (samudaya-dhammanupassi viharati, vaya-dhammanupassi viharati) then both together, (samudaya-vaya-dhammanupassi viharati). You have to feel the entire body as a mass of vibrations arising and passing with great rapidity, in the stage of bhanga. Then you reach the stage of body as just body ('Atthi kayo' ti), or sensations as just sensations, mind as just mind, or mental contents as just mental contents. There is no identification with it. Then there is the stage of mere awareness (patissati-mattaya) and mere understanding (ñana-mattaya) without any evaluation or reaction.

As you progress and get established in the practice, deep-rooted sankharas come on the surface and are eradicated, provided you are vineyya loke abhijha-domanassam, keeping away from craving and aversion towards mind and matter.

In another discourse, the Buddha gave an illustration:

Sabba kamma jahassa bhikkhuno,
dhunamanassa pure katam rajam.

The meditator who does not make new kamma,
combs out old defilements as they arise.

When a meditator stops generating all kamma sankharas, (that is, new actions or reactions), the old impurities-pure katam rajam-are combed out. Dhunamanassa means combing or carding cotton, separating every fiber, clearing out all the knots and dirt. This can happen at any stage, whenever you don't generate a new sankhara, but the very deep-rooted impurities only start coming up after bhanga. If you keep generating sankharas, you keep multiplying your old stock. As long as you refrain from generating any new ones and remain equanimous, layers after layers of sankharas are eradicated.

Dhamma is very kind. Initially very crude sankharas which would result in a very miserable, low order of new life, surface and get eradicated. You are relieved of them:

uppajjitva nirujjhanti, tesam vupasamo sukho

having arisen, when they are extinguished,
their eradication brings happiness.

When all the sankharas which would have taken you to a lower field of life are gone, the mind becomes perfectly balanced-fit to transcend the field of mind and matter and gain the first glimpse of nibbana.

This may be for a few moments, seconds or minutes, but on returning to the field of mind and matter the meditator's behavior pattern is totally changed. A sankhara of the lower fields cannot now be generated. The clan is changed-gotrabhu. The anariyo becomes a sotapanna, ariyo. Today the word 'aryan' has lost its meaning and is used for a certain race. In the Buddha's day ariyo meant a noble person, one who had experienced nibbana. Sotapanna means one who has fallen into the stream, sota. Within seven lives at most such a person is bound to keep working to become an arahant. No power on earth can stop the process.

The work continues in the same way: atapi sampajano satima. Further deep sankharas come on the surface and pass away (uppajjitva nirujjhanti) and a much deeper experience of nibbana results. The meditator returns again to the field of arising and passing, a totally changed person, the stage of sakadagami has been reached. Only one more life is possible in the sensual world. Then again the practice is atapi sampajano satima. Finer impurities, but ones which would still give lives of misery, are now eradicated by this equanimity, and the dip in nibbana is again much deeper. The stage of anagami is experienced. Now the only possible life is not in the sensual field, but in a very high Brahmic plane. As the meditator continues, the finest sankharas-which would give even one life of misery, because they are still within the circle of life and death-are eradicated, and the nibbana of an arahant is experienced, total liberation. It can be in this very life or in future lives, but the practice is the same: atapi sampajano satima.

Satima is with awareness. Sampajano is with wisdom, pañña, of arising and passing, direct experience of bodily sensations. Body alone cannot feel sensations and so mind is involved, but in the body is where they are felt. The Buddha gave an illustration: just as different kinds of winds arise in the sky-warm or cold, fast or slow, dirty or clean-so in the body different kinds of sensations arise and pass away.

In another discourse he said:

Yato ca bhikkhu atapi sampajaññam na rincati,
tato so vedana sabba parijanati pandito.

Working ardently, without missing sampajaññam,
a meditator experiences the entire field of vedana and gains wisdom.

There are different kinds of vedana whether the sankharas are gross, finer or finest. Sampajaññam day and night is thus the essence of the whole technique.

So vedana pariññaya ditthe dhamme anasavo,
kayassa bheda dhammattho sankhyam nopeti vedagu.

"When the entire field of vedana is transcended, Dhamma is understood. Such a person, without impurities (anasava) fully established in Dhamma (dhammattho) knows perfectly the entire field of sensations (vedagu) and does not after death (kayassa bheda) return to this field of sensations."

This summarizes the whole path to liberation. It is achieved with sampajañña, the wisdom of arising and passing, equanimity with sensations. atapi, working hard, and satima, when it is the awareness of the circus girl, will not alone liberate because sampajañña is essential.