Satipa??h?na is the direct path to purify beings, remove dukkha and attachment, overcome sorrow and lamentation, acquire the true method, and realize Nibbana. (janakabhivamsa 1985)The benefit of practicing four satipa??h?nas are in two levels: for worldly person it is a good way to get out of suffering?furthermore it lead a way to Nibbana. The importance of Maha-Satipatthana Sutta in Theravada Buddhism is just like that of Prajñ?p?ramit? H?daya sutra in Mahayana Buddhism. In Theravada Buddhism, people believe if someone know and practice four Satipa??h?nas very well, he/she will get the true dhamma since in their point of view four Satipa??h?nas include all the dhammas.
In the subtitle of book, the direct path to realization, “direct path” is a translation of pali words ekayano maggo. There are five alternative explanations for understanding this particular expression in commentarial book. “ekayano” which qualify the path could be understood as a “direct” path in the sense of leading straight to the goal; as a path travelled by oneself “alone” ; as a path taught by the “one” (the Buddha); as a path that is found “only” in Buddhism; as a path which leads to “one” goal, namely to Nibbana. (Gethin 1992:pp.60-3)
At the end of each meditation exercises in the discourse, there is a part presenting four key aspects of satipa??h?na called “refrain”. The refrain repeats 14 times in the discourse in order to show those aspects are essential for practice of each exercises in the Four Satipa??h?nas. Each refrain follows the same pattern to indicate and emphasis that the range of satipa??h?na practice includes internal and external phenomena, their nature to arise and pass away, mindfulness which need bare knowledge and continuous mindfulness, and abiding independent without clinging. Meditator practice satipa??h?na developing awareness in personal experience associated with internal and in corresponding phenomena in other beings associated with external. This is a tendency to shift the awareness of particular individual experience to general nature of the phenomena. The nature to arise and pass away actually shows a comprehensive vision of impermanence. The last two advanced aspects guide meditators to know the dependent co-arising principle and then detach the world though practice of mindfulness.
Four Satipa??h?nas are k?y?nupassan? ?Vedan?nupassan??Citt?nupassan??and Dhamm?nupassan?. Someone may ask why Buddha said four Satipa??h?nas but not five or six Satipa??h?nas. Four Satipa??h?nas are contemplating body, feeling, consciousness and dhamma with wisdom in order to remove four distortions in nitya-sukha-atma-subha. According to Satipa??h?na Sutta, if anyone should develop these four satipa??h?na, no matter for seven days or seven years, there are two fruits expected for him: either final knowledge here and now, or, if there is a trace of clinging left, non- returning. (Nanamoli, 1995) Therefore, Satipa??h?na is a great way to purify people no matter for the starters or the ones who have practice meditation for several years.
Contemplation of body (k?y?nupassan?)
There are six ways or stages of practice in k?y?nupassan (body contemplation). They are ?n?p?nasati (awareness of breathing), Iriy?patha (awareness of bodily postures), Sampaj?na (clear knowledge in regard to bodily activities), Patik?lamanasik?ra (analysis of the body into its anatomical parts), Dh?tumanasik?ra (analyzing the body into its elementary qualities) and Navasivathika (contemplating a corpse in nine consecutive stages of decay). According to the sequence of body contemplations, it is a progressive process starting with the basic and obvious aspects of the body and continuing developing towards a more detailed and analytical understanding the nature of the body. (Nanamoli 1995. pp126) The contemplation of body is not necessary related with disgust or dislike in body. It is not body but our attachment to body cause defilements.
Contemplation of feeling (Vedan?nupassan?)
According to the discourse, feelings are divided into three basic kinds: pleasant, unpleasant and neutral. These three feelings are subdivided into “worldly” and “unworldly”. The worldly feelings are related to the five senses while unworldly feelings are related to renunciation. Buddha further categorize feelings into worldly and unworldly these two groups in order to emphasis the mental and ethical consequence of these two classifications. Referring to Culavedalla sutta, the worldly feelings stimulate the arising of tendencies towards lust, irritation, or ignorance while
the three unworldly feelings are not related with the arising of these tendencies. The unworldly pleasant feeling and unworldly neutral feeling arise during deep concentration. (Bendall 1990)
contemplation of mind
contemplation of mind includes 16 states of mind in 8 categories. The meditators should know a specific mental quality or its opposite during contemplation of mind. The 8 categories can be further divided into two sets. In the first set, lust, angry, deluded, distracted these unwholesome states of mind contrast their opposite which are wholesome. The second set is about the presence or absence of great, unsurpassable, concentrated and liberated these four higher states of mind.
Mind contemplating doesn’t include active measures to oppose unwholesome states of mind since people instinctively tend to ignore whatever threatens their sense of importance and personal integrity. The Vitakkasa??h?na Sutta points out that in order to grips with the repeated occurrence of unwholesome thoughts, attention turns to the nature of unwholesome thoughts and to the driving force that produced them. (Analayo, 2003, p.175) In the four higher state of mind, the theme is to develop the ability to monitor the more advanced stages of one’s meditative development.
Contemplation of Dhamma
The Dharma here refers to the mental qualities and categories which constitute central aspects of the Buddha’s way of teaching. The contemplation of dharma is about the analysis of experience into specific categories or mental factors. Mental qualities include five hindrances and the seven awakening factors, and the mental categories includes five aggregates, the six sense-spheres, and the four-noble truth. These classifications are applied in contemplation as the points of reference and frameworks which they constitute but not the objects of meditation. During actual practice one should look whatever is experienced regarding to these dhammas but not one’s worldly views. Therefore, dhamma mentioned in this satipa??h?na are not “mental objects” but are applied to whatever becomes an object of mind or of any other sense door. (Analayo, 2003 p183 )
Five hindrances not only impede the attainment of meditative absorption, but also prevent the establishment of the awakening factors. The opposed relationship between five hindrances and seven awakening factors is important since removing the five hindrances and developing seven awakening factors are essential conditions for realization to become a Buddha. If one wants to get out of dukkha completely, one should fully understand the five aggregates and six sense-spheres and develop detachment from them since the five aggregates of clinging causes the arising dukkha and removing clinging to six sense-spheres are essential in the development of realization. The sense of substantial “I” develops from the identification of five aggregates and the independent experiencer of sense objects. No matter for the contemplation of five aggregates or six sense-spheres, it is essential to aware its arising and passing away to know that they are dependently arisen. Four noble truth listed as the final meditation practice in this satipa??h?na comprise the conclusion of this series of contemplations and they are also related to each meditation practice of contemplation of dhammas.
Not only the Satipa??h?na sutta but also Nettippakara?a and Visuddhimagga use the four Satipa??h?na to overcome the four distortions and turn what is attractive, satisfactory, permanent, and a self to be unattractive, unsatisfactory, impermanent, and not self. According to them, four Satipa??h?nas are correlated with five aggregates and there is particular correlation indicating that one satipa??h?na is used in oppositing the temporary manifestation of any specific distortion or in accordance with one’s general character disposition. The contemplation of body, related with material form, can resolve the desire of bodily beauty; The contemplation of feeling helps someone to be against his unlimited fleeting desire to get the true nature of feeling; The contemplation of consciousness has a potential to revel the impermanent nature of all subjective experience; the contemplation of dhammas can remove the notion of a substantial and permanent self, related with cognition and volition. In spite of the aggregates correlation, four satipa??h?nas are suitable for specific type of character or tendency. Meditators who are likely craving should emphasize on contemplating body and feeling, while mind and dhammas contemplation should be the main practice for people who tend to intellectual speculation.
“The four foundations of mindfulness have a single essence, which consists of mindful contemplation of phenomena. They are differentiated in so far as this mindful contemplation is to be applied to four objects.” ( Vibh-a 222. Bodhi 1993)