Mahāsatipaṭṭhānasuttaṁ (DN 22): The Long Discourse about the Ways of Attending to Mindfulness
Mahāsatipaṭṭhānasuttaṁ (DN 22)
The Long Discourse about the
Ways of Attending to Mindfulness
edited and translated by
(first published, November 2005)
(revised version 1.5, October 2008)
(BJT) Sinhala edition:
from Dīghanikāya, Buddha Jayanti Tripiṭaka Series, Vol VIII, published Colombo (1976). Comment: this was the basis of the current text, but there are many problems with the printed edition both in terms of omissions and commissions, and it doesn't mention which books and ola-leaf manuscripts were consulted in the preparation of the work. The text is printed in full apart from the sections on the 2nd and 3rd Noble Truths in the Ariyasaccapabbaṁ.
(ChS) Burmese edition:
Mahāsatipaṭṭhāna Suttaṁ; revised edition Igatpuri, April 1993. Comment: there is some evidence of standardisation and what appear to be a number of additions in this edition, though the proof-reading is much better than in BJT. The text is printed in full apart from the closing section (Satipaṭṭhānabhāvanānisaṁsā), which is greatly abbreviated.
(PTS) European edition:
from Dīgha-nikāya, Pali Text Society; eds. T.W. Rhys Davids and J.E. Carpenter, London 1903, reprinted 1995. Comment: this text in terms of readings is the best of the texts compared, but it has a number of inconsistencies and some poor proof-reading, and is marred, like most PTS texts, by being greatly abbreviated in places, to such an extent that it would be difficult to reconstruct the text with this alone as a guide.
The Only Path to Nibbana, Mahā Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta, by Ven. Weragoda Sarada Maha Thero, Singapore, 1999. Comment: the editor claims this is a re-established text, correcting the text as printed elsewhere. No sources for the readings are given, but it mainly follows PTS. The text as printed contains a number of elementary mistakes and idiosyncratic readings that do not seem to have any real authority. The text is the only one printed in full.
The Greater Discourse on the Foundations of Mindfulness, from The Long Discourses of the Buddha, a translation of the Dīgha Nikāya, by Maurice Walshe; Wisdom Publications, Boston 1995. Comment: a popular, rather abbreviated and simplified (though not neccesarily wrong) translation with basic doctrinal notes.
The Only Path to Nibbana, Mahā Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta, by Ven. Weragoda Sarada Maha Thero, Singapore, 1999. Comment: there are many inconsistencies in the translation, which is made into rather poor English.
The Foundations of Mindfulness, from The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha, a translation of the Majjhima Nikāya, by Bhikkhu Ñāṇamoli and Bhikkhu Bodhi. Comment: translation of the Majjhima version of the discourse, which is easily the best translation commercially available at the present time, clear and accurate, with excellent doctrinal notes drawn mainly from the commentaries by Bhikkhu Bodhi.
The Way of Mindfulness, the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta And Its Commentary, by Soma Thera (translation of M. 10); 6th revised edition published by W.A.V.E., Kuala Lumpur, 1999. Comment: translation of the Majjhima version of the sutta, and the commentarial material from the Aṭṭhakathā and Ṭīkā. A very useful work and quite reliable translation of the discourse, but the translations from the commentaries are sometimes mere paraphrases.
PD: A Dictionary of Pāli, Margaret Cone, Pali Text Society, Oxford, Vol I (2001) Vol II (2010).
PED: Pali-English Dictionary, T.W. Rhys Davids and William Stede, 1921-25, online edition.
CPD: Critical Pāli Dictionary, 1947- (unfinished), online edition.
CPED: Concise Pāli-English Dictionary, Ven. A.P. Buddhadatta, Colombo, 1958 reprinted 1968.
BHSD: Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Dictionary, Franklin Edgerton, New Haven 1953, reprinted Delhi 1998.
SED: Sanskrit-English Dictionary, Monier-Williams, 1899, online edition.
DPPN: Dictionary of Pali Proper Names, G.P. Malalasekera, Pali Text Society, London 1937.
The text of Mahāsatipaṭṭhānasutta presented here has been established through a comparison of four editions of the text, none of which are completely satisfactory. PTS, which was compared last of all, appears to give the more reliable readings, though greatly marred by excessive ellipses and inconsistency.
It may be noted here that although the early manuscripts did in fact greatly abbreviate the discourses, the ola-leaves were normally read aloud by a recitor (bhāṇaka) who would fill in the repetitions, the written text being merely an aide-de-memoir to such a person. Nowadays, however, with the texts being read aloud by people who certainly do not have them memorized, it seems more appropriate to print them in full for ease of recitation, a practice that is to be in every way encouraged, as it helps the teaching to sink into the heart.
I have taken a conservative approach in establishing the text, believing that there is unlikely to have been loss in textual matter in such an important work; but that additions are quite likely, especially when they bring the discourse into line with other readings found elsewhere in the Canon. This process of standardisation has probably been at work throughout the history of the textual transmission, but there seems to be no good reason for it to continue now. The additional readings found in the various editions are recorded in the notes.
An important exception to this is in the inclusion of two lines in the the section on the First Truth in Dhammānupassanā, defining suffering to include being joined to what is not liked and being parted from what is liked, and also in the analysis that follows. If these lines are not to be included here then they do not occur in the early texts at all, and must have come in from the Suttantabhājanīyaṁ analysis of the Truths in the Abhidhamma Vibhaṅga, a situation that seems to me inherently unlikely.
The subjects given in the discourse for contemplation under the various headings vary greatly from those given in the Vibhaṅga. There we see that in the Kāyānupassanā is only Applying the Mind to Repulsiveness, and in the Dhammānupassanā there are only the Hindrances and the Factors of Awakening.
When we look at the Satipaṭṭhāna discourses, however, there are many additions to these. All the additions do in fact come from the teachings that are found elsewhere, and it is fairly straightforward to identify the source of much of the additional material.
For instance the fully expanded version of Kāyānupassanā evidently has been made by including the material found in the Mindfulness related to the Body Discourse (MN 119), which, after the setting, continues in the exact same order as we have here with Mindfulness while Breathing, The Postures, Full Awareness, Applying the Mind to Repulsiveness, Applying the Mind to the Elements and the Nine Charnel Grounds.
I have shown elsewhere in my study of the Dhammapada how material comes into a text through association.  There I demonstrated how some verses which are otherwise unrelated have been added to the various chapters because they are in sequences that contain keywords that are being collected through collocation or thematic considerations.
The same sort of principle is at work here. Applying the Mind to Repulsiveness appears in The Mindfulness related to the Body discourse, but there it is in a sequence with the others as listed above. It is then a simple matter to include the rest of the material in The Ways of Attending to Mindfulness Discourse.
The Contemplation of Feelings and Mind occur the same in the Saṁyutta discourses as they do here, but in the Contemplation of (the Nature of) Things there is again expansion of the material, with the addition of the Constituents (of Mind & Matter), the Sense-Spheres and the Four Truths.
I cannot explain the addition of the Constituents and Sense-Spheres in the same way, although with the former the formula that is used in found in many places throughout the discourses, in the Sense Spheres the exact formula is only found here, and either is original to the discourse or lost elsewhere.
But the Truths can again be accounted for by inclusion of material found elsewhere. First we should note that in the Majjhimanikāya version of the discourse, it simply states the truths, and doesn't elaborate on them at all: a monk knows as it really is “this is Suffering” ... “this is the Origination of Suffering” ... “this is the Cessation of Suffering” and ... “this is the Practice Leading to the Cessation of Suffering”.
In the Mahāsatipaṭṭhānasutta, which we are examining here, on the other hand there is considerable expansion of that basic statement, as the Truths are analysed and defined. The major part of the material comes verbatim from The Discourse giving the Analysis of the Truths (MN 141) inserted wholesale into the discourse here.
There is a difference though, as the material that forms the explanation of the Origination and Cessation is greatly expanded after their basic statements, with a further analysis. We can also find that sub-analysis in another discourse, this time coming from the Nidānasaṁyutta, SN 12.66, the Discourse about Determining (Sammasanasutta).
Contemplation of the Body
|In-breathing and Out-breathing||Mindfulness related to the Body|
|The Postures||Mindfulness related to the Body|
|Full Awareness||Mindfulness related to the Body|
|Applying the Mind to Repulsiveness||original|
|Applying the Mind to the Elements||Mindfulness related to the Body|
|The Nine Charnel Grounds||Mindfulness related to the Body|
Contemplation of Feelings
Contemplation of the Mind
Contemplation of (the Nature of) Things
|Constituents (of Mind & Matter)||? found in many places|
|The Factors of Awakening||original|
|The Four Truths (summary)||original|
|The Truth of Suffering||The Analysis of the Truths|
|The Truth of Origination||The Analysis of the Truths & Determining|
|The Truth of Cessation||The Analysis of the Truths & Determining|
|The Truth of the Path||The Analysis of the Truths|
- For the idea that the Vibhaṅga represents an early stage in the development of the Mindfulness teachings I am indebted to Bhikkhu Sujāto and his book A History of Mindfulness (Taipei, 2005). See my Introduction to the Analysis of the Ways of Attending to Mindfulness for a fuller appreciation.
- That discourse concludes with the absorptions, which are missing here, and shows how all these things lead up to complete Emancipation. Note that in the early parallel from the Sarvāstivāda school the Smṛtyupasthānasūtraṁ, the absorptions are indeed included, over and above the rest of the material, which further suggests that the Body Discourse is the origin of the expansion.
- See A Comparative Edition of the Dhammapada, especially the Introduction, 3 on Collocation onwards.