Archive for the ‘sati’ Category

Can a practice that we undertake which does not purify our mind be truly considered “cultivation of the mind”? Let’s forget our concepts and ideas about “meditation” for a moment and look at some words of the Awakened One on how to clean and purify our minds as a beautiful activity in and by itself…

[The Buddha:]…Here, bhikkhus, the ordinary man has not seen Noble Ones and Great Men, not clever and not tamed in their teaching, does not know the thoughts that should be thought and should not be thought. So he thinks thoughts that should not be thought and does not think thoughts that should be thought. Bhikkhus, what thoughts that should not be thought are thought? Those thoughts that arouse non-arisen sensual desires, and thoughts that develop arisen sensual desires….He thinks unwisely in this manner:`Was I in the past or wasn’t I in the past? Who was I in the past? How was I in the past? Become who and who was I in the past? Will I be in the future, or will I not be in the future? What will I be in the future? How will I be in the future? Who will I become and who will I be in the future?’

So manasikaraṇīye dhamme appajānanto amanasikaraṇīye dhamme appajānanto, ye dhammā na manasikaraṇīyā, te dhamme manasi karoti, ye dhammā manasikaraṇīyā te dhamme na manasi karoti…. ‘‘So evaṃ ayoniso manasi karoti – ‘ahosiṃ nu kho ahaṃ atītamaddhānaṃ? Na nu kho ahosiṃ atītamaddhānaṃ? Kiṃ nu kho ahosiṃ atītamaddhānaṃ? Kathaṃ nu kho ahosiṃ atītamaddhānaṃ? Kiṃ hutvā kiṃ ahosiṃ nu kho ahaṃ atītamaddhānaṃ? =>Middle Length Sayings, (Majjhima Nikaya), Sabbāsava Sutta.

[The Buddha:]…Such a monk, o monks, who has heard the Dhamma, dwells with a double kind of seclusion – he dwells with his body secluded and with his mind secluded. When he dwells thus secluded he (constantly) remembers verbatim [lit. “remembers along”] that Dhamma [i.e. the one he heard] and follows that Dhamma in thoughts [lit. “thinks along”]. At such a time, o monks, when a monk thus secluded remembers and thinks about that Dhamma again and again, mindfulness [lit. memory] as a factor of awakening has begun for that monk…mindfulness [sati, lit. remembrance, memory] as a factor of awakening is being cultivated at that time by that monk…

Tathārūpānaṃ, bhikkhave, bhikkhūnaṃ dhammaṃ sutvā dvayena vūpakāsena vūpakaṭṭho viharati – kāyavūpakāsena ca cittavūpakāsena ca. So tathā vūpakaṭṭho viharanto taṃ dhammaṃ anussarati anuvitakketi.‘‘Yasmiṃ samaye, bhikkhave, bhikkhu tathā vūpakaṭṭho viharanto taṃ dhammaṃ anussarati anuvitakketi, satisambojjhaṅgo tasmiṃ samaye bhikkhuno āraddho hoti…samādhisambojjhaṅgaṃ tasmiṃ samaye bhikkhu bhāveti..Diṭṭheva dhamme paṭikacca aññaṃ ārādheti. =>SN, Mahavagga, Sīlasutta.

So if reflection/contemplation is so important, should not it be emphasized duly in our Buddhist practice? How important is proper thinking really? How does it relate to the noble eight-fold path? Can we find some more quotes?

[The Buddha:]…And what, Kevatta, is the miracle of instruction? Here, Kevatta, a monk teaches thus: “Think in this way, do not think in that way. Reflect [lit. ‘keep in mind’, ‘attend to’] in this way, do not reflect in that way. Reject this, attain and dwell in that”. This is called, Kevatta, the miracle of instruction.

‘‘Katamañca, kevaṭṭa, anusāsanīpāṭihāriyaṃ? Idha, kevaṭṭa, bhikkhu evamanusāsati – ‘evaṃ vitakketha, mā evaṃ vitakkayittha, evaṃ manasikarotha, mā evaṃ manasākattha, idaṃ pajahatha, idaṃ upasampajja viharathā’ti. Idaṃ vuccati, kevaṭṭa, anusāsanīpāṭihāriyaṃ. =>DN, Kevatthasutta

[The Buddha:]…”I too, Brahmin, instruct thus: – “Think in this way, do not think in that way. Reflect [lit. ‘keep in mind’, ‘attend to’] in this way, do not reflect in that way. Reject this, attain and dwell in that”.

Ahañhi, brāhmaṇa, evamanusāsāmi – ‘evaṃ vitakketha, mā evaṃ vitakkayittha; evaṃ manasi karotha, mā evaṃ manasākattha; idaṃ pajahatha, idaṃ upasampajja viharathā’’’ti. =>AN, 3. Brahmanavagga, Dvebrahmana Sutta.

[The Buddha:]…as he has heard and learned the Dhamma he follows it in his thinking, follows it reflecting, closely investigates it with his mind. Him, thus thinking and reflecting and investigating along the Dhamma which he has heard and memorized [lit. pariyatta means ‘taken-up completely’] his heart is released trough the ultimate destruction of attachment.

…yathāsutaṃ yathāpariyattaṃ dhammaṃ cetasā anuvitakketi anuvicāreti manasānupekkhati. Tassa yathāsutaṃ yathāpariyattaṃ dhammaṃ cetasā anuvitakkayato anuvicārayato manasānupekkhato anuttare upadhisaṅkhaye cittaṃ vimuccati. Ayaṃ, ānanda, chaṭṭho ānisaṃso kālena atthupaparikkhāya. => AN, 6. Mahavaggo, Phagguna Sutta

But can this be “meditation” ? I always thought getting rid of thoughts is meditation? Stilling the mind? Is proper thinking meditation? Why is it necessary?

[The Buddha:]….Whenever, o monks, a monk follows and reflects upon and investigates along, that Dhamma, which he has heard, which he as memorized, then, at that time, he is experiencing the meaning, he is experiencing the Dhamma. Him, who is experiencing the meaning, experiencing the Dhamma gladness arises. For the gladdened one, joy arises. The joyful one’s body becomes tranquil. When his body become tranquil he feels happiness. The happy one’s mind becomes collected, concentrated…

Yathā yathā, bhikkhave, bhikkhu yathāsutaṃ yathāpariyattaṃ dhammaṃ cetasā anuvitakketi anuvicāreti manasānupekkhati tathā tathā so tasmiṃ dhamme atthapaṭisaṃvedī ca hoti dhammapaṭisaṃvedī ca. Tassa atthapaṭisaṃvedino dhammapaṭisaṃvedino pāmojjaṃ jāyati. Pamuditassa pīti jāyati. Pītimanassa kāyo passambhati. Passaddhakāyo sukhaṃ vedeti. Sukhino cittaṃ samādhiyati.

Wow! This is very straight forward. So you do follow the Buddha’s words in your mind. If I understand this correctly, a contemplation on a topic of the Dhamma itself, if practiced correctly, will turn into a deep meditation by itself. Very interesting. But how can thinking lead to a concentrated mind, to the jhanas, to vipassana?

[The Buddha:]….Whoever, o monks, greedy has rid himself of greediness, ill-tempered has rid himself of ill-temper, angry has kid himself of anger…He observes himself cleansed from all these evil unwholesome qualities. Him, observing himself cleansed from all these evil unwholesome qualities gladness arises. For the gladdened one joy is born. The body of the joyful calms down. With a calm body he feels happiness. The happy one’s mind attains concentration.

Yassa kassaci, bhikkhave, bhikkhuno abhijjhālussa abhijjhā pahīnā hoti, byāpannacittassa byāpādo pahīno hoti, kodhanassa kodho pahīno hoti… So sabbehi imehi pāpakehi akusalehi dhammehi visuddhamattānaṃ samanupassati. Tassa sabbehi imehi pāpakehi akusalehi dhammehi visuddhamattānaṃ samanupassato pāmojjaṃ jāyati, pamuditassa pīti jāyati, pītimanassa kāyo passambhati, passaddhakāyo sukhaṃ vedeti, sukhino cittaṃ samādhiyati. =>MN, Cula Assapura Sutta

Do you always have to start out with thinking? What if someone has trained, lets say his metta thinking, to such an extant that he often experiences bliss right away when he starts his contemplation exercise…does not he almost have a “shortcut” to samadhi?

[The Buddha:]…here he does not think and reflect and investigate the Dhamma the way he heard and learned it, but instead he has well grasped, well attended to, well held up in his mind and well penetrated with wisdom a certain object of mental unification: whenever, o monks, that monks has well grasped, attended to, well held up in his mind and wisely penetrated that object of mental unification at that time he experiences the meaning and nature of that object. Experiencing the meaning and nature of that meditative object gladness arises. For the gladdened one joy is born. The body of the joyful calms down. With a calm body he feels happiness. The happy one’s mind attains concentration.

nāpi yathāsutaṃ yathāpariyattaṃ dhammaṃ cetasā anuvitakketi anuvicāreti manasānupekkhati; api ca khvassa aññataraṃ samādhinimittaṃ suggahitaṃ hoti sumanasikataṃ sūpadhāritaṃ suppaṭividdhaṃ paññāya. Yathā yathā, bhikkhave, bhikkhuno aññataraṃ samādhinimittaṃ suggahitaṃ hoti sumanasikataṃ sūpadhāritaṃ suppaṭividdhaṃ paññāya tathā tathā so tasmiṃ dhamme atthapaṭisaṃvedī ca hoti dhammapaṭisaṃvedī ca. Tassa atthapaṭisaṃvedino dhammapaṭisaṃvedino pāmojjaṃ jāyati. Pamuditassa pīti jāyati. Pītimanassa kāyo passambhati. Passaddhakāyo sukhaṃ vedeti. Sukhino cittaṃ samādhiyati.

Is there also a false way how to do this?

[The Buddha:]… And again, o monks, there a monk thinks and reflects and investigates along a Dhamma which he heard and memorized. He, with those Dhamma-thoughts, spends too much of the day, neglects (mental) seclusion, does not yoke himself to inner mental tranquility. This monk, o monks, is called someone who is a “Think-a-lot” not a “Dhamma-dweller”.

‘‘Puna caparaṃ, bhikkhu, bhikkhu yathāsutaṃ yathāpariyattaṃ dhammaṃ cetasā anuvitakketi anuvicāreti manasānupekkhati. So tehi dhammavitakkehi divasaṃ atināmeti, riñcati paṭisallānaṃ, nānuyuñjati ajjhattaṃ cetosamathaṃ. Ayaṃ vuccati, bhikkhu – ‘bhikkhu vitakkabahulo, no dhammavihārī’’’.

Okay. So to summarize, the Buddha encourages his students to hear the Dhamma. Then listen in such a way that they remember it. Then go and dwell on the Dhamma they learned in a calm contemplative fashion. If they do so, the mind will get unified, experiencing jhana. If they practice thus frequently, they might experience the stilling of the mind right away. However, while contemplating a topic of the Dhamma is the way to still the mind, if one just “thinks about” and “daydreams” one is missing the point either. So the goal has to be to experience, ultimately, what you are thinking about. Okay, so tell me, how did the monks at the time of the Buddha do this practice of correct thinking or reflection to purify their minds?

[The Buddha:]…He is equipped with this noble mass of virtue, equipped with this noble restraint of the senses, equipped with this noble remembrance and clear awareness, equipped with this noble contentment and he takes refuge in a secluded place, a jungle, the foot of a tree, a mountain, a gorge, a mountain cave, a cemetery, a forest abode, under the open sky, on a heap of straw. He, after his meal, when he has come back from his alms round sits down, having crossed his legs and straightened his body and having had his awareness/remembrance settle in front of him [lit. ‘around his face’].

He dwells with a mind freed from sensual desire, having rid himself of desire towards the world, he cleanses his mind from sensual desire. He has given up anger and ill-will, dwelling with a heart free of ill-temper he is filled with compassion and welfare towards all living beings, he cleanses his mind from ill-temper. He has rejected sloth and torpor, without sloth and torpor he dwells, perceiving light, remembering and clearly aware, he cleanses his mind of sloth and torpor. He has thrown out restlessness and remorse, he dwells stilled, with his heart inside at peace, he cleanses his mind from restlessness and remorse. He has given up doubt, dwells having gone beyond doubt, he is without doubt regarding the wholesome qualities, he cleanses his mind from doubt.

Let’s say, great king, a man has taken on a debt to endeavor in some business. That business succeeds. So those former debts which he had, he is able to eliminate them and he would have something left to support a wife. He would think thus: “I have taken on a debt before, to endeavor in this business. That business of mine succeeded. Now I am able to pay off those debts and beyond that something remains which allows me to support a wife.” He would based on that become glad, experience  happiness.

‘‘So iminā ca ariyena sīlakkhandhena samannāgato, iminā ca ariyena indriyasaṃvarena samannāgato, iminā ca ariyena satisampajaññena samannāgato, imāya ca ariyāya santuṭṭhiyā samannāgato, vivittaṃ senāsanaṃ bhajati araññaṃ rukkhamūlaṃ pabbataṃ kandaraṃ giriguhaṃ susānaṃ vanapatthaṃ abbhokāsaṃ palālapuñjaṃ. So pacchābhattaṃ piṇḍapātappaṭikkanto nisīdati pallaṅkaṃ ābhujitvā ujuṃ kāyaṃ paṇidhāya parimukhaṃ satiṃ upaṭṭhapetvā.

‘‘So abhijjhaṃ loke pahāya vigatābhijjhena cetasā viharati, abhijjhāya cittaṃ parisodheti. Byāpādapadosaṃ pahāya abyāpannacitto viharati sabbapāṇabhūtahitānukampī, byāpādapadosā cittaṃ parisodheti. Thinamiddhaṃ pahāya vigatathinamiddho viharati ālokasaññī, sato sampajāno, thinamiddhā cittaṃ parisodheti. Uddhaccakukkuccaṃ pahāya anuddhato viharati, ajjhattaṃ vūpasantacitto, uddhaccakukkuccā cittaṃ parisodheti. Vicikicchaṃ pahāya tiṇṇavicikiccho viharati, akathaṃkathī kusalesu dhammesu, vicikicchāya cittaṃ parisodheti.

218. ‘‘Seyyathāpi, mahārāja, puriso iṇaṃ ādāya kammante payojeyya. Tassa te kammantā samijjheyyuṃ. So yāni ca porāṇāni iṇamūlāni, tāni ca byantiṃ kareyya siyā cassa uttariṃ avasiṭṭhaṃ dārabharaṇāya. Tassa evamassa – ‘ahaṃ kho pubbe iṇaṃ ādāya kammante payojesiṃ. Tassa me te kammantā samijjhiṃsu. Sohaṃ yāni ca porāṇāni iṇamūlāni, tāni ca byantiṃ akāsiṃ, atthi ca me uttariṃ avasiṭṭhaṃ dārabharaṇāyā’ti. So tatonidānaṃ labhetha pāmojjaṃ, adhigaccheyya somanassaṃ=> DN 2, Sāmaññaphala Sutta.

So the monks spend their afternoons actively purifying their mind from unwholesome qualities and states and if they succeeded would experience the bliss and final tranquility of the jhanas. Obviously, this is not a five minute activity!!! This purification of the mind is the exercise regiment for their afternoon seclusion! The five hindrances which the monks try to purify themselves from are an embodiment of unwholesome qualities against which the Buddha offered a wide variety of meditation (thinking – or rather contemplation) topics. Let’s look at some examples of what these monks would actually have practiced:

[The Buddha:]…o monks, even if robbers cut your limbs one after another with a two handled saw, if your mind be defiled on account of that, you have not done the duty in my dispensation. Then too you should train thus: “Our minds will not change, we will not utter evil words. We will abide compassionate with thoughts of loving kindness not angry. We will pervade that person with thoughts of loving kindness. Having pervaded that person with a mind of loving kindness we will dwell thus and from that object onward pervade the whole world with a mind of loving kindness…” Monks, you should train thus. Monks, you should constantly attend to the advice on the simile of the saw. Is there anything small or large in those words of others which you then would not be able to endure? – No, Sir – Therefore, o monks, often reflect [lit. attend to, manasikarotha, “make it in your mind”] on the simile of the saw, it will be for your welfare and happiness for a long time.

‘‘Ubhatodaṇḍakena cepi, bhikkhave, kakacena corā ocarakā aṅgamaṅgāni okanteyyuṃ, tatrāpi yo mano padūseyya, na me so tena sāsanakaro. Tatrāpi vo, bhikkhave, evaṃ sikkhitabbaṃ – ‘na ceva no cittaṃ vipariṇataṃ bhavissati, na ca pāpikaṃ vācaṃ nicchāressāma, hitānukampī ca viharissāma mettacittā na dosantarā. Tañca puggalaṃ mettāsahagatena cetasā pharitvā viharissāma tadārammaṇañca sabbāvantaṃ lokaṃ mettāsahagatena cetasā vipulena mahaggatena appamāṇena averena abyābajjhena pharitvā viharissāmā’ti. Evañhi vo, bhikkhave, sikkhitabbaṃ. ‘‘Imañca tumhe, bhikkhave, kakacūpamaṃ ovādaṃ abhikkhaṇaṃ manasi kareyyātha. Passatha no tumhe, bhikkhave, taṃ vacanapathaṃ, aṇuṃ vā thūlaṃ vā, yaṃ tumhe nādhivāseyyāthā’’ti? ‘‘No hetaṃ, bhante’’. ‘‘Tasmātiha, bhikkhave, imaṃ kakacūpamaṃ ovādaṃ abhikkhaṇaṃ manasikarotha. Taṃ vo bhavissati dīgharattaṃ hitāya sukhāyā’’ti. => MN 21.

[The Buddha:]…I do not see a better thing, o monks, that will prevent sensual desire from arising when it has not arisen yet and will remove sensual desire once arisen – than a (meditative) object of impurity. Wisely reflecting o monks on the object of impurity (of the body) o monks, will not allow unarisen sensual desire to arise and will remove sensual desire which arose.

Nāhaṃ, bhikkhave, aññaṃ ekadhammampi samanupassāmi yena anuppanno vā kāmacchando nuppajjati uppanno vā kāmacchando pahīyati yathayidaṃ, bhikkhave, asubhanimittaṃ. Asubhanimittaṃ, bhikkhave, yoniso manasi karoto anuppanno ceva kāmacchando nuppajjati uppanno ca kāmacchando pahīyatī’ => AN 1.

[The Buddha:]...a monk reflects on this body from the top to the bottom of his feet, from below to the hair on his head, surounded by skin, filled with various kinds of impurities: “In this body there is hair, body-hair, nails, teeth, skin, flesh…just like, o monks, there would be a bag filled with various kinds of grains…and a man with sharp vision would open up the bag and investigate it thus: “These are wheat grains, these are rice grains, these are beans…”

…bhikkhu imameva kāyaṃ uddhaṃ pādatalā, adho kesamatthakā, tacapariyantaṃ pūraṃ nānappakārassa asucino paccavekkhati – ‘atthi imasmiṃ kāye kesā lomā nakhā dantā taco maṃsaṃ…‘‘Seyyathāpi, bhikkhave, ubhatomukhā putoḷi [mūtoḷī (sī. syā. pī.)] pūrā nānāvihitassa dhaññassa, seyyathidaṃ – sālīnaṃ vīhīnaṃ muggānaṃ māsānaṃ tilānaṃ taṇḍulānaṃ. Tamenaṃ cakkhumā puriso muñcitvā paccavekkheyya – ‘ime sālī ime vīhī ime muggā  => MN 10.

So this reflecting according to the Buddha’s teaching, did the Buddha do something similar before his enlightenment?

[The Buddha:]...Before even, o monks, my awakening, as yet an unawakened, the awakening searching, this thought occured to me: “What now if I were to dwell (exercise) breaking up my thoughts and dividing them into two”? And I, o monks, whenever a thought of sensual desire, a thought of ill-will or a detrimental thought arose, I put it on one side, and whenever a thought of renunciation, a thought of non-ill-will and not detrimental arose, I put it on the other side…and I knew: “In me arose a detrimental thought. This thought will lead to my own disadvantage, it will lead to other’s disadvantage, it will lead to both, it destroys my wisdom, it will bring trouble, it will not lead to cessation.” – (When I was thinking) “Leads to my own disadvantage” thus o monks reflecting [patisancikkhati] that thought vanished. (When I was thinking) “Leads to others disadvantage” thus o monks reflecting that thought vanished...”will destroy my wisdom, cause trouble, does not lead to cessation.” that thought vanished. Thus I, o monks, got rid of those thoughts, cleaned myself of them, made and end to them….Whatever one thinks along, reflects along often, thereto the mind is bent….Just as, o monks, in the last month of the summer, when all the cowherds are watching over the cows they sit at the root of a tree or under the open sky and have to make their remembrance: – “(there) are the cows”. In the same way, o monks, I had to make my remembrance (thinking) “(there) are these thoughts”…And energetic was, o monks, my effort, not negligent, ongoing was my remembrance, not disturbed or lost, stilled was my body, tranquil, and one-pointed my mind, collected. Then I, o monks, entered the first jhana away from sensuality, away from other unwholesome thoughts, with thought and reflection experiencing joy born of seclusion, dwelling in it.

Pubbeva me, bhikkhave, sambodhā anabhisambuddhassa bodhisattasseva sato etadahosi – ‘yaṃnūnāhaṃ dvidhā katvā dvidhā katvā vitakke vihareyya’nti. So kho ahaṃ, bhikkhave, yo cāyaṃ kāmavitakko yo ca byāpādavitakko yo ca vihiṃsāvitakko – imaṃ ekaṃ bhāgamakāsiṃ; yo cāyaṃ nekkhammavitakko yo ca abyāpādavitakko yo ca avihiṃsāvitakko – imaṃ dutiyaṃ bhāgamakāsiṃ….So evaṃ pajānāmi – ‘uppanno kho me ayaṃ vihiṃsāvitakko. So ca kho attabyābādhāyapi saṃvattati, parabyābādhāyapi saṃvattati, ubhayabyābādhāyapi saṃvattati, paññānirodhiko vighātapakkhiko anibbānasaṃvattaniko’. ‘Attabyābādhāya saṃvattatī’tipi me, bhikkhave, paṭisañcikkhato abbhatthaṃ gacchati; ‘parabyābādhāya saṃvattatī’tipi me, bhikkhave, paṭisañcikkhato abbhatthaṃ gacchati; ‘ubhayabyābādhāya saṃvattatī’tipi me, bhikkhave, paṭisañcikkhato abbhatthaṃ gacchati; ‘paññānirodhiko vighātapakkhiko anibbānasaṃvattaniko’tipi me, bhikkhave, paṭisañcikkhato abbhatthaṃ gacchati. So kho ahaṃ, bhikkhave, uppannuppannaṃ vihiṃsāvitakkaṃ pajahameva vinodameva byantameva naṃ akāsiṃ‘‘Yaññadeva, bhikkhave, bhikkhu bahulamanuvitakketi anuvicāreti, tathā tathā nati hoti cetaso…Seyyathāpi, bhikkhave, gimhānaṃ pacchime māse sabbasassesu gāmantasambhatesu gopālako gāvo rakkheyya, tassa rukkhamūlagatassa vā abbhokāsagatassa vā satikaraṇīyameva hoti – ‘etā  gāvo’ti. Evamevaṃ kho, bhikkhave, satikaraṇīyameva ahosi – ‘ete dhammā’ti..‘‘Āraddhaṃ kho pana me, bhikkhave, vīriyaṃ ahosi asallīnaṃ, upaṭṭhitā sati asammuṭṭhā passaddho kāyo asāraddho, samāhitaṃ cittaṃ ekaggaṃ. So kho ahaṃ, bhikkhave, vivicceva kāmehi vivicca akusalehi dhammehi savitakkaṃ savicāraṃ vivekajaṃ pītisukhaṃ paṭhamaṃ jhānaṃ upasampajja vihāsiṃ.  =>MN 19, Dvedhavitakka

[The Buddha:]..

Ràhula, when you desire to do some mental action, you should reflect. In doing, this mental action, will I trouble myself? Is it demerit? Is it unpleasant? When reflecting if you know, this mental action will trouble me. It is demerit and unpleasant. Then, if possible you should not do it. Ràhula, when reflecting if you know, this mental action will not bring me trouble. It is merit and pleasant. Then Ràhula, you should do such mental actions. Even while doing that mental action, you should reflect. Does this mental action give me, others, trouble? Is it demerit and unpleasant? Ràhula, if that is so, give up that mental action. If you know, this mental action does not bring me, others trouble. It’s merit, and pleasant Then follow it up. Having done such mental actions too you should reflect. Did it cause me, others, trouble? Was it demerit? Was it unpleasant? When reflecting if you know, this mental action caused me, others, trouble. It is demerit and unpleasant. Then you should be disgusted and loathe such mental actions. Ràhula, when reflecting if you know, this mental action did not cause me, others, trouble, it was merit and it was pleasant. Then you should pursue such things of merit day and night delightedly. Ràhula, whoever recluses or brahmins purified their bodily actions, verbal actions and mental actions in the past, did by reflecting. Whoever recluses or brahmins will purify their bodily, verbal and mental actions in the future will do so reflecting reflecting. Whoever recluses or brahmins purify their bodily, verbal, and mental actions at present do so reflecting. Therefore Ràhula, you should train thus. Reflecting I will purify my bodily, verbal and mental actions.

Yadeva tvaṃ, rāhula, manasā kammaṃ kattukāmo ahosi…Karontenapi te, rāhula, manasā kammaṃ tadeva te manokammaṃ paccavekkhitabbaṃ…Katvāpi te, rāhula, manasā kammaṃ tadeva te manokammaṃ paccavekkhitabbaṃ – ‘yaṃ nu kho ahaṃ idaṃ manasā kammaṃ akāsiṃ idaṃ me manokammaṃ attabyābādhāyapi saṃvattati, parabyābādhāyapi saṃvattati, ubhayabyābādhāyapi saṃvattati – akusalaṃ idaṃ manokammaṃ dukkhudrayaṃ dukkhavipāka’nti?Sace kho tvaṃ, rāhula, paccavekkhamāno evaṃ jāneyyāsi – ‘yaṃ kho ahaṃ idaṃ manasā kammaṃ akāsiṃ idaṃ me manokammaṃ attabyābādhāyapi saṃvattati, parabyābādhāyapi saṃvattati, ubhayabyābādhāyapi saṃvattati – akusalaṃ idaṃ manokammaṃ dukkhudrayaṃ dukkhavipāka’nti, evarūpaṃ pana [evarūpe (sī. pī.), evarūpe pana (syā. kaṃ.)] te, rāhula, manokammaṃ [manokamme (sī. syā. kaṃ. pī.)] aṭṭīyitabbaṃ harāyitabbaṃ jigucchitabbaṃ; aṭṭīyitvā harāyitvā jigucchitvā āyatiṃ saṃvaraṃ āpajjitabbaṃ. Sace pana tvaṃ, rāhula, paccavekkhamāno evaṃ jāneyyāsi – ‘yaṃ kho ahaṃ idaṃ manasā kammaṃ akāsiṃ idaṃ me manokammaṃ nevattabyābādhāyapi saṃvattati, na parabyābādhāyapi saṃvattati, na ubhayabyābādhāyapi saṃvattati – kusalaṃ idaṃ manokammaṃ sukhudrayaṃ sukhavipāka’nti, teneva tvaṃ, rāhula, pītipāmojjena vihareyyāsi ahorattānusikkhī kusalesu dhammesu….Ye hi keci, rāhula, atītamaddhānaṃ samaṇā vā brāhmaṇā vā kāyakammaṃ parisodhesuṃ, vacīkammaṃ parisodhesuṃ, manokammaṃ parisodhesuṃ, sabbe te evamevaṃ paccavekkhitvā paccavekkhitvā kāyakammaṃ parisodhesuṃ, paccavekkhitvā paccavekkhitvā vacīkammaṃ parisodhesuṃ, paccavekkhitvā paccavekkhitvā manokammaṃ parisodhesuṃ. => MN 61.

oh, so they were cleansing their mind. this is facinating. can you quote another suttas where we can see how that was done?

I heard thus. At one time a certain bhikkhu lived in a certain stretch of forest in the country of Kosala. At that time, this bhikkhu sitting for seclusion during the day thought evil thoughts of demerit such as sensual thoughts, angry thoughts and hurting thoughts. Then a deity living in that stretch of forest out of compassion, wishing to arouse remorse, approached that bhikkhu. Approaching, said these stanzas:

Thinking unwisely the good one is submerged in thoughts,
Give up the unwise thinking and be wise
Bhikkhus in the Community of the Teacher, become virtuous
And doubtlessly delight, realizing pleasantness.û

Then that bhikkhu made remorseful by the deity became concerned.

231. Ekaṃ samayaṃ aññataro bhikkhu kosalesu viharati aññatarasmiṃ vanasaṇḍe. Tena kho pana samayena so bhikkhu divāvihāragato pāpake akusale vitakke vitakketi, seyyathidaṃ  kāmavitakkaṃ, byāpādavitakkaṃ, vihiṃsāvitakkaṃ. Atha kho yā tasmiṃ vanasaṇḍe adhivatthā devatā tassa bhikkhuno anukampikā atthakāmā taṃ bhikkhuṃ saṃvejetukāmā yena so bhikkhu tenupasaṅkami; upasaṅkamitvā taṃ bhikkhuṃ gāthāhi ajjhabhāsi –

‘‘Ayoniso manasikārā, so vitakkehi khajjasi;
Ayoniso paṭinissajja, yoniso anucintaya.
‘‘Satthāraṃ dhammamārabbha, saṅghaṃ sīlāni attano;
Adhigacchasi pāmojjaṃ, pītisukhamasaṃsayaṃ;
Tato pāmojjabahulo, dukkhassantaṃ karissasī’’ti. => Vanasamyutta 11, SN. Akusalavitakkasuttaṃ.

So you are saying that cultivation (bhavana) is really cultivating a whole different mindset throughout the day (besides purifying ones bodily and verbal actions, of course!) by following in your mind along the way the Buddha recommended looking at things. Does not that mean we first have to know at least a couple of suttas very well (by heart) in order to do that? In other words – don’t we have to know at least a little piece of Dhamma to reflect accordingly, to actually have topics of the Dhamma to reflect upon or – similarly – see the disadvantage of unwholesome states of the mind?

[The Buddha:]...With the arising of trust, he visits him and grows close to him. Growing close to him, he lends ear. Lending ear, he hears the Dhamma. Hearing the Dhamma, he remembers it [lit. “carries the Dhamma, ie. remember it]. Remembering it, he reflects upon the meaning of those dhammas.

saddhājāto upasaṅkamati, upasaṅkamanto payirupāsati, payirupāsanto sotaṃ odahati, ohitasoto dhammaṃ suṇāti, sutvā dhammaṃ dhāreti, dhatānaṃ [dhāritānaṃ (ka.)] dhammānaṃ atthaṃ upaparikkhati, =>MN 95

so, if meditation is this continous proper reflection throughout my day, what will happen? Can you show me how this continous pondering over the Dhamma or contemplation alongside the thoughts of the Dhamma fits into the whole pathway of the Buddha’s teaching? What is the big picture?

[The Buddha:]... In the same way, o monks, due to keeping wrong company he does not get to hear the true Dhamma. Not getting to hear the true Dhamma trust (in the message of the Buddha) is weakened. Without conviction wise reflection (in accordance with the Dhamma) does not get fulfilled. Without wise reflection on the Dhamma remembrance and clear awareness do not get fulfilled. If they are not fulfilled the sense doors will not be well guarded. With the senses not well guarded he will behave wrong in one of three ways (body, speech, mind). Due to fulfilling bad actions in body, mind, speech the five hindrances will get stronger. Because the five hindrances get stronger, ignorance (of the four noble truths) will grow….

Thus now, o monks, with keeping good company his listening to the true Dhamma gets fulfilled. Because of listening to the true Dhamma his faith/conviction grows. Due to his conviction (in the teaching of the Buddha) his wise reflections start to grow. With fulfilled wise reflections his remembrance and clear awareness will get fulfilled. When his memory and awareness are fulfilled [which allows hims to actually guard and identify what is going on at the doors of his senses] his guarding of the senses will grow. When his guarding of the senses is fulfilled his behavior in body, speech and mind will get purified. When his wholesome behavior in body, speech and mind is fulfilled the four pillars of memory will get fulfilled [now he is able to keep is pure mind on the meditation objects, which act like pillars for his continues awareness]. When the four pillars of memory are fulfilled the seven factors of awakening will get fulfilled [they are: memory (sic!) =>investigation of the Dhamma (sic!), =>effort => joy => tranquility of the body => collectedness (can you see the pattern!!!) => equanimity]. When the seven factors of awakening are fulfilled knowledge and liberation will be achieved.

‘‘Evamevaṃ kho, bhikkhave, asappurisasaṃsevo paripūro asaddhammassavanaṃ paripūreti, asaddhammassavanaṃ paripūraṃ assaddhiyaṃ paripūreti, assaddhiyaṃ paripūraṃ ayonisomanasikāraṃ paripūreti, ayonisomanasikāro paripūro asatāsampajaññaṃ paripūreti, asatāsampajaññaṃ paripūraṃ indriyaasaṃvaraṃ paripūreti, indriyaasaṃvaro paripūro tīṇi duccaritāni paripūreti, tīṇi duccaritāni paripūrāni pañca nīvaraṇe paripūrenti, pañca nīvaraṇā paripūrā avijjaṃ paripūrenti; evametissā avijjāya āhāro hoti, evañca pāripūri….

‘‘Iti kho, bhikkhave, sappurisasaṃsevo paripūro saddhammassavanaṃ paripūreti, saddhammassavanaṃ paripūraṃ saddhaṃ paripūreti, saddhā paripūrā yonisomanasikāraṃ paripūreti, yonisomanasikāro paripūro satisampajaññaṃ paripūreti, satisampajaññaṃ paripūraṃ indriyasaṃvaraṃ paripūreti, indriyasaṃvaro paripūro tīṇi sucaritāni paripūreti, tīṇi sucaritāni paripūrāni cattāro satipaṭṭhāne paripūrenti, cattāro satipaṭṭhānā paripūrā satta bojjhaṅge paripūrenti, satta bojjhaṅgā paripūrā vijjāvimuttiṃ paripūrenti; evametissā vijjāvimuttiyā āhāro hoti, evañca pāripūri. => AN, Yamakvagga, Avijjasutta.

Ah! If I reflect right, sort my thoughts, catch them right when they come up and purify my thinking step by step by adding more good thoughts, chastising bad thoughts, gradually changing my thinking towards the wholesome and good, I act like  the doorkeeper in the Buddha’s simile of sati. This doorkeeper promotes sense restraint. And sense restraint means I will not fall for unwholesome qualities of my mind which could break my sila which in due course would destroy my mental energy break up my concentration and destroy my efforts in building up wisdom. You translate sati as memory and sampajaññā as awareness. In the above steps of progression it fits in nicely, as memory is essential after listening to the Dhamma to remember and continously go over the “thoughts of the Dhamma” in this form of contemplative meditation. What was the simile of sati as the doorkeeper again?

[The Buddha:] …”Similarly, o monks, just when there is a doorkeeper of a royal border-town, who is wise, smart, intelligent and who blocks those who he does not know and lets those proceed who he does know and who thus protects those inside and wards off those outside. In the same way, o monks, a noble disciple is remembering, is equipped with the highest carefulness and remembers things done a long time ago, spoken a long time ago, remembers in accordance. With memory as the doorkeeper, o monks, the noble disciple rejects the unwholesome and cultivates the wholesome. He rejects that which is with blemish and cultivates what is free of blemish, he always keeps himself pure.

‘‘Seyyathāpi, bhikkhave, rañño paccantime nagare dovāriko hoti paṇḍito byatto medhāvī aññātānaṃ nivāretā ñātānaṃ pavesetā abbhantarānaṃ guttiyā bāhirānaṃ paṭighātāya. Evamevaṃ kho, bhikkhave, ariyasāvako satimā hoti paramena satinepakkena samannāgato cirakatampi cirabhāsitampi saritā anussaritā. Satidovāriko, bhikkhave, ariyasāvako akusalaṃ pajahati, kusalaṃ bhāveti; sāvajjaṃ pajahati, anavajjaṃ bhāveti; suddhaṃ attānaṃ pariharati. => AN, 10. Nagaropamasutta

What a wonderful simile! This is why sati or memory plays such an important part in Buddhist practice. When I think wisely I nourish the doorkeeper, I create a doorkeeper that way. Because, after all, the doorkeeper as to be aware of people passing by (sampajaññā, as in “knowing what is going on right at this moment”) but he also has to remember who these people are to make a sound judgement, whether he should let them in or not (sati)! If his memory (in this case, his memory of the Dhamma) fails him, he will not recognize bad and unwholesome things as bad, like a doorkeeper with bad information – he will make wrong choices in terms of who he lets in. Now it also makes sense, why the Buddha mentioned that listening to the Dhamma and trusting it are the predecessors of sati, memory. Without them, there is no memory of the teachings. But if there is, whatever goes through our senses, we will carefully investigate in line with our knowledge of wholesome and unwholesome. So this practice will lead to real sense restraint. And real sense restraint will lead to a pure life. A purified conduct in body, speech and mind will nourish the meditation practice automatically and fundamentally. The four foundation of binding the continuous remembrance of the mind that is, and they in due course will lead to a highly concentrated mind through joy and happiness, creating the source of concentration and wisdom… now I understand, how wonderful mental training can be – but also how life pervasive mental training has to be, if I expect results! And how important to know, meditation cannot be isolated to sitting down on a cushion – at least according to the Buddha – if our goal is final liberation from samsara (that’s a whole different topic, of course). And finally, it cannot be restricted to the mind alone, it needs to include purification of deeds and words, otherwise only 1/3 of the foundation is laid.

Finally, what are good meditations to do so?

[The Buddha: ] … Once, when the Buddha was dwelling near Savatthi at the Jeta Grove, the householder Anathapindika visited him and, after greeting him politely, sat down at one side.
The Exalted One addressed Anathapindika, “Are alms given in your house, householder?”
“Yes, Lord, alms are given by my family, but they consist only of broken rice and sour gruel.”
“Householder, whether one gives coarse or choice alms, if one gives with respect, thoughtfully, by one’s own hand, gives things tht are not leftovers, and with belief in the result of actions, then, wherever one is born as a result of having given with respect, the mind will experience pleasantness.”
“Long ago, householder, there lived a brahman named Velama who gave very valuable gifts. He gave thousands of bowls of gold, silver and copper, filled with jewels; thousands of horses with trappings; banners and nets of gold; carriages spread with saffron-colored blankets; thousands of milk-giving cows with fine jute ropes and silver milk pails; beds with covers od fleece, white blankets, embroidered coverlets, and with crimson cushions at the ends; lengths of cloth of the best flax, silk, wool and cotton. And how to describe all the food, sweets and syrups that he gave? They flowed like rivers.”
“Householder, who was the brahman who made those very valuable gifts? It was me.”
“But, when those gifts were given, householder, there were no worthy recipients. Although the brahman Velama gave such valuable gifts, if he had fed just one person of right view, the fruit of the latter deed would have been greater.”
“…and though he fed a hundred people of right view, the fruit of feeding a Once-returner would have been greater.”
“…and though he fed a hundred Sakadagamis, the fruit of feeding one Non-returner would have been greater.”
“…and though he fed a hundred Anagamis, the fruit of feeding one Arahat would have been greater.”
“…and though he fed a hundred Arahats, the fruit of feeding one Non-teaching Buddha would have been greater.”
“…and though he fed a hundred Paccekkabuddhas, the fruit of feeding a Perfect One, a Teaching Buddha, would have been greater.”
“…and though he fed a Sammasambuddha, the fruit of feeding the Order of monks with the Buddha at its head would have been even greater.”
“…and though he fed the Sangha with the Buddha at its head, the fruit of building a monastery for the use of the Sangha would have been even greater.”
“…and though he built a monastery for the monks, the fruit of sincerely taking refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma and the Sangha would have been even greater.”
“…and though he sincerely took refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma and the Sangha, the fruit of sincerely undertaking the Five Moral Precepts would have been even greater.”
“…and though he sincerely undertook the Five Precepts, the fruit of developing (concentration on radiating) metta, even for just to the extent of a whiff of scent, would have been even greater.”
“…and though he developed universal lovingkindness, the fruit of cultivating the awareness of anicca-even for the moment of a finger snap-would have been even greater.

yo ca antamaso gandhohanamattampi mettacittaṃ bhāveyya, yo ca accharāsaṅghātamattampi aniccasaññaṃ bhāveyya, idaṃ tato mahapphalatara’’nti.  =>Anguttara Nikaya, Navakanipata, Sutta 20

[The Buddha:] …Ràhula, develop loving kindness; when it is developed, anger fades. Ràhula, develop compassion; when it is developed, anger fades. Ràhula, develop joy with others; when it is developed discontentment fades. Ràhula, develop equanimity; when it is developed aversion fades. Ràhula, develop the thought of loathesomeness; when it is developed lust fades. Ràhula, develop the perception of impermanence; when it is developed the conceit `I am’ fades.

‘‘Mettaṃ, rāhula, bhāvanaṃ bhāvehi. Mettañhi te, rāhula, bhāvanaṃ bhāvayato yo byāpādo so pahīyissati. Karuṇaṃ, rāhula, bhāvanaṃ bhāvehi. Karuṇañhi te, rāhula, bhāvanaṃ bhāvayato yā vihesā sā pahīyissati. Muditaṃ, rāhula, bhāvanaṃ bhāvehi. Muditañhi te, rāhula, bhāvanaṃ bhāvayato yā arati sā pahīyissati. Upekkhaṃ, rāhula, bhāvanaṃ bhāvehi. Upekkhañhi te, rāhula, bhāvanaṃ bhāvayato yo paṭigho so pahīyissati. Asubhaṃ, rāhula, bhāvanaṃ bhāvehi. Asubhañhi te, rāhula, bhāvanaṃ bhāvayato yo rāgo so pahīyissati. Aniccasaññaṃ, rāhula, bhāvanaṃ bhāvehi. Aniccasaññañhi te, rāhula, bhāvanaṃ bhāvayato yo asmimāno so pahīyissati. => MN 62.

[The Buddha:] … The notion of impermanence, o monks, cultivated, often done, makes all sensual desire fade away, makes all desire for forms fade away, makes all desire of existence fade away, makes all ignorance fade away and completely eradicates the conceit of “I am”. In the Autumn the farmer ploughs his field, cutting and tearing all the roots with a huge plough…Just as the reapers would reap the reeds, and holding the top of the reeds would shake off the seeds…Just as when the stem of a bunch of mangoes is broken, all the mangoes in the bunch get dismantled…Just as all the rafters meet at the ridgepole, supporting the framework of a gabled roof, and it is said to be the chief beam…Monks in the Autumn when the sky is clear, is free from clouds, the sun having ascended in the sky, has dispelled all darkness and burns and shines, in the same manner the monk, developing the perception of impermanence, destroys all sensual greed, all material greed, the greed `to be’, all ignorance, and the measuring `I am’…And how, o monks, is this perception of impermanence developed…? (he reflects thus) Such is form. Such is the arising of form. Such is the disappearing of form. Such is feeling…such is perception…such is intention…such mental formation…such is cognition, such is the arising of cognition, such is the disappearing of cognition.”

‘‘Aniccasaññā, bhikkhave, bhāvitā bahulīkatā sabbaṃ kāmarāgaṃ pariyādiyati, sabbaṃ rūparāgaṃ pariyādiyati, sabbaṃ bhavarāgaṃ pariyādiyati, sabbaṃ avijjaṃ pariyādiyati, sabbaṃ asmimānaṃ samūhanati’’….‘‘Kathaṃ bhāvitā ca, bhikkhave, aniccasaññā kathaṃ bahulīkatā sabbaṃ kāmarāgaṃ pariyādiyati…pe… sabbaṃ asmimānaṃ samūhanati? ‘Iti rūpaṃ, iti rūpassa samudayo, iti rūpassa atthaṅgamo; iti vedanā… iti saññā… iti saṅkhārā… iti viññāṇaṃ, iti viññāṇassa samudayo, iti viññāṇassa atthaṅgamo’ti – => SN, Khandhasamyutta, Aniccasaññāsutta.

[The Buddha:] … Collectedness, o monks, cultivate, once collected a monk, o monks, will understand “form is impermanent”. Thus seeing and knowing a noble disciple will be freed from birth….

Samādhiṃ, bhikkhave, bhāvetha, samāhito, bhikkhave, bhikkhu rūpaṃ aniccanti pajānāti. Evaṃ passaṃ ariyasāvako parimuccati jātiyāpi => Samādhi Sutta, SN, Salāyatanasamyutta.

[Ven. Udayi reports]…Amazingly, O Lord, astonishing, O Lord, how very much it helped me, that I won the sympathy and reverence, shame and shyness towards the Blessed One. Earlier, O Lord, when I lived in the home I did not care much for the Dhamma, did not care too much of the Sangha. But when I, O Lord, began to notice that I won sympathy and esteem for the Blessed One, shame and shyness, it was then that I went from home into homelessness. And the Blessed one taught me the Dhamma thus: Such is form. Such is the arising of form. Such is the disappearing of form. Such is feeling…such is perception…such is intention…such mental formation…such is cognition, such is the arising of cognition, such is the disappearing of cognition.” And am I, O Lord, went into an empty hut and turned these five factors of grasping upward and downward and truly understood: ‘This is suffering” understood in accord with reality, ‘That’s the sufferings origin”  understood in accordance with reality ‘ This is the cessation of suffering’ understood in accord with reality ‘ this is the procedure leading to the cessation of suffering”…

‘‘Acchariyaṃ, bhante, abbhutaṃ, bhante! Yāva bahukatañca me, bhante, bhagavati pemañca gāravo ca hirī ca ottappañca. Ahañhi, bhante, pubbe agārikabhūto samāno abahukato ahosiṃ dhammena  abahukato saṅghena. So khvāhaṃ bhagavati pemañca gāravañca hiriñca ottappañca sampassamāno agārasmā anagāriyaṃ pabbajito. Tassa me bhagavā dhammaṃ desesi – ‘iti rūpaṃ, iti rūpassa samudayo, iti rūpassa atthaṅgamo; iti vedanā…pe… iti saññā… iti saṅkhārā… iti viññāṇaṃ, iti viññāṇassa samudayo, iti viññāṇassa atthaṅgamo’ti. ‘‘So khvāhaṃ, bhante, suññāgāragato imesaṃ pañcupādānakkhandhānaṃ ukkujjāvakujjaṃ samparivattento ‘idaṃ dukkha’nti yathābhūtaṃ abbhaññāsiṃ, ‘ayaṃ dukkhasamudayo’ti yathābhūtaṃ abbhaññāsiṃ, ‘ayaṃ dukkhanirodho’ti yathābhūtaṃ abbhaññāsiṃ, ‘ayaṃ dukkhanirodhagāminī paṭipadā’ti yathābhūtaṃ abbhaññāsiṃ. Dhammo ca me, bhante, abhisamito, maggo ca me paṭiladdho; yo me bhāvito bahulīkato tathā tathā viharantaṃ tathattāya upanessati yathāhaṃ – ‘khīṇā jāti, vusitaṃ brahmacariyaṃ, kataṃ karaṇīyaṃ, nāparaṃ itthattāyā’ti pajānissāmi. => Udayi Sutta, SN

[The Buddha:] Bhikkhus, what is the concentration developed and made much would conduce to a gain of knowledge and vision? Here, bhikkhus, the bhikkhu attends to the perception of light and intends the perception of daylight. In the day time, intends night and in the night, intends day. Thus with an open mind develops the uncovered mind, full of light. Bhikkhus, this concentration developed and made much would conduce to a gain of knowledge and vision. Bhikkhus, what is the concentration developed and made much would conduce to remembering awareness? Here, bhikkhus, to the bhikkhu feelings arise, persist and fade knowingly, perceptions arise, persist and fade knowingly and thoughts arise, persist and fade knowingly. Bhikkhus, this concentration developed and made much conduces to mindfull awareness. Bhikkhus, what samādhi developed and made much would conduce to the destruction of desires (āsavakkhaya, i.e. Nibbāna)? Here, bhikkhus, the bhikkhu abides reflecting the arising and fading of the five holdling masses.Such is feeling…such is perception…such is intention…such mental formation…such is cognition, such is the arising of cognition, such is the disappearing of cognition.”

‘‘Katamā ca, bhikkhave, samādhibhāvanā bhāvitā bahulīkatā ñāṇadassanappaṭilābhāya saṃvattati? Idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhu ālokasaññaṃ manasi karoti, divāsaññaṃ adhiṭṭhāti – yathā divā tathā rattiṃ, yathā rattiṃ tathā divā. Iti vivaṭena cetasā apariyonaddhena sappabhāsaṃ cittaṃ bhāveti. Ayaṃ, bhikkhave, samādhibhāvanā bhāvitā bahulīkatā ñāṇadassanappaṭilābhāya saṃvattati.‘‘Katamā ca, bhikkhave, samādhibhāvanā bhāvitā bahulīkatā satisampajaññāya saṃvattati? Idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhuno viditā vedanā uppajjanti, viditā upaṭṭhahanti, viditā abbhatthaṃ gacchanti; viditā saññā…pe… viditā vitakkā uppajjanti, viditā upaṭṭhahanti, viditā abbhatthaṃ gacchanti. Ayaṃ, bhikkhave, samādhibhāvanā bhāvitā bahulīkatā satisampajaññāya saṃvattati. ‘‘Katamā ca, bhikkhave, samādhibhāvanā bhāvitā bahulīkatā āsavānaṃ khayāya saṃvattati? Idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhu pañcasu upādānakkhandhesu udayabbayānupassī viharati – ‘iti rūpaṃ, iti rūpassa samudayo, iti rūpassa atthaṅgamo, iti vedanā, iti vedanāya samudayo, iti vedanāya atthaṅgamo; iti saññā, iti saññāya samudayo, iti saññāya atthaṅgamo; iti saṅkhārā, iti saṅkhārānaṃ samudayo, iti saṅkhārānaṃ atthaṅgamo; iti viññāṇaṃ, iti viññāṇassa samudayo, iti viññāṇassa atthaṅgamo’ti. Ayaṃ, bhikkhave, samādhibhāvanā bhāvitā bahulīkatā āsavānaṃ khayāya saṃvattati. => SN, Rohitassavaggo, Samādhibhāvana Sutta.

Therefore contemplation leads progressively into a deeper state of meditation, a samādhi, which is set on the right topic, a topic of wisdom generating quality. The practice of samathā and vipassanā

[Ven. Sariputta declares]…”For, Lord, all the Blessed Ones, Arahats, Fully Enlightened Ones of the past had abandoned the five hindrances,  the mental defilements that weaken wisdom; had well established their minds in the four foundations of mindfulness; had duly cultivated the seven factors of enlightenment, and were fully enlightened in unsurpassed, supreme Enlightenment. And, Lord, all the Blessed Ones, Arahats, Fully Enlightened Ones of the future will abandon the five hindrances, the mental defilements that weaken wisdom; will well establish their minds in the four foundations of mindfulness; will duly cultivate the seven factors of enlightenment, and will be fully enlightened in unsurpassed, supreme Enlightenment. And the Blessed One too, Lord, being at present the Arahat, the Fully Enlightened One, has abandoned the five hindrances, the mental defilements that weaken wisdom; has well established his mind in the four foundations of mindfulness; has duly cultivated the seven factors of enlightenment, and is fully enlightened in unsurpassed, supreme Enlightenment.”

Ye te, bhante, ahesuṃ atītamaddhānaṃ arahanto sammāsambuddhā, sabbe te bhagavanto pañca nīvaraṇe pahāya cetaso upakkilese paññāya dubbalīkaraṇe catūsu satipaṭṭhānesu suppatiṭṭhitacittā, satta sambojjhaṅge yathābhūtaṃ bhāvetvā anuttaraṃ sammāsambodhiṃ abhisambujjhiṃsu. Yepi te, bhante, bhavissanti anāgatamaddhānaṃ arahanto sammāsambuddhā, sabbe te bhagavanto pañca nīvaraṇe pahāya cetaso upakkilese paññāya dubbalīkaraṇe catūsu satipaṭṭhānesu suppatiṭṭhitacittā, satta sambojjhaṅge yathābhūtaṃ bhāvetvā anuttaraṃ sammāsambodhiṃ abhisambujjhissanti. Bhagavāpi, bhante, etarahi arahaṃ sammāsambuddho pañca nīvaraṇe pahāya cetaso upakkilese paññāya dubbalīkaraṇe catūsu satipaṭṭhānesu suppatiṭṭhitacitto satta sambojjhaṅge yathābhūtaṃ bhāvetvā anuttaraṃ sammāsambodhiṃ abhisambuddho… => DN 16

If you read all of the above up to this point, I sincerely wish that you may benefit immensely from these words of the Awakened One and attain Nibbana in this very life! (For everyone else who did not get this far, I have the same wish, but they did n’t see this message 😉 May you not repeat my mistake of thinking that meditation practice and purification of the mind are two separate things. Thanks for stopping 😉 by.


a theravadin…


Translations (and mistakes) are mostly mine and with some adaptations (less the mistakes) from metta.lk 

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Practical ideas on anussati, sati and apilapanā.

Today I would like to invite you to a short experiment. It is going to be very simple. Here is the experiment:

Think of a random number, for instance “1325”. Now close your eyes and try to keep that number in your mind, continously, don’t forget it, don’t think of anything else. Just this number and only this number. Try your best to just keep that number in the forefront of your mind at all times. You must try to hold it continously, without letting it slip from your attention! It has to be one ongoing “ride”. Think of it as learning how to ride a bike: you will fall off (the number) but you will get back on it immediately, trying to stay on it as long as you can. Don’t let it go and keep coming back! Your goal should be to stick with it, as long as you possibly can – and then increase those little moments.

Do this for at least 5 minutes. If you don’t, it will be hard for you to understand what this post is trying to illustrate.

Thanks for trying :-). Trying to tame the mind means training ones skill of mental one-pointedness. But there is so much more going on when you develop that skill which may have reminded you of your days as a child, when you tried to find your balance on the saddle of a bike, only to realize that you were falling off the bike almost as quickly as you got on it.

Developing the Jhanas is exactly the same type of activity as the one you just exercised. Developing the jhanas is like learning how to ride a (mental) bike. When learning how to ride a bike there are three important things involved: First of all, you see others on the bike and see how much fun they have. You want that too. Secondly, almost everyone you see did learn it, so you are thinking: I can do it too. Third, when you are up on the bike, you learn to intuitively avoid falling – but that takes lot of practice. You know now, that the falling was actually part of the game, and it taught you how NOT to fall. In order to develop the skill to keep your balance your mind had to learn to avoid extreme movements away from the center. You also realized that eventually, once you started to keep going, the balance was easy to hold and the fun bike ride started.
Concentration meditation and learning to get into the jhanas are a very very similar process. No one would consider constant falling off a bike to be called “riding a bike”. Similarly, constantly “loosing” ones meditation object and never getting to the first jhana is like trying to get on a bike but never succeeding. It is like a perpetual state of meditation-trial. We would not expect someone to get very far either, if he is still struggling with finding his balance on a bike – and in the same way, from the perspective of the suttas, the ability to ride that bike is a presupposed training, something which allows you to cover a lot of ground with insight meditation, but also something which everyone and obviously did not have a hard time doing. So lets get back to the essentials of riding that bike.

When you did the little exercise above you were asked to use the number in lieu of a meditation object (a meditation object is nothing else than a mental object – in the case of this number probably a picture or a sound, your thought of it) and you were eager and tried diligently to keep that mental object stable and continously in the presence of your mind. You probably also noticed that you needed effort, but that too much effort was contra-productive and made your mind bubble even more. But you probably also noted that as soon as you were not careful you would lose your focus on what you originally intended to hold in your mind, what you wanted to continously remember.  I hope you find those five minutes challenging and that challenge interesting.

So, lets summarize:

  1. To get on a bike, you need a bike – this is your meditation object
  2. Your goal is it to effortlessly be in a state of riding, needing hardly any “effort” to stay balanced and enjoying the breeze – this is your blissful jhanic state of calm, mental, focused abiding
  3. To develop that knowledge of keeping the balance you need lots of practice – the same for meditation
  4. You have to have a measure of progress: less falling from the bike, longer stretches of effortless riding – the same applies for meditation
  5. The challenge in riding the bike is to get up to speed while the body is yet moving too quickly too strongly too far away from the center – same in meditation: in the beginning it is a catch 22 where the mind is too quickly and strongly moving away from your meditation object which will make your mental bike wobble and throw you off…

It is through renewed practice, knowing the technique and checking your progress, that you will eventually master the skill of mental biking – with all the benefits it will bestow on you.

Let’s talk a little bit more about the technique and have a look at some definitions the Buddha is teaching in the suttas on this topic.

We compared meditation to the idea of  “riding” a “thought” like you ride a bike. Does not that challenge, and it definitely is a challenge, remind you of the following story the Buddha told:

“Suppose the loveliest girl of the land was dancing and singing and a crowd assembled. A man was there wishing to live, not to die, wishing for happiness, averse to suffering. If someone said to him, ‘Good man, carry around this bowl of oil filled to the brim between the crowds and the girl. A man with a sword will follow you, and if you spill even a drop, he will cut off your head,’ would that man stop attending to that bowl of oil and turn his attention outward to the girl? This simile shows how you should train yourselves.”

‘‘Seyyathāpi, bhikkhave, ‘janapadakalyāṇī, janapadakalyāṇī’ti kho, bhikkhave, mahājanakāyo sannipateyya. ‘Sā kho panassa janapadakalyāṇī paramapāsāvinī nacce, paramapāsāvinī gīte. Janapadakalyāṇī naccati gāyatī’ti kho, bhikkhave, bhiyyosomattāya mahājanakāyo sannipateyya. Atha puriso āgaccheyya jīvitukāmo amaritukāmo sukhakāmo dukkhappaṭikūlo. Tamenaṃ evaṃ vadeyya – ‘ayaṃ te, ambho purisa, samatittiko telapatto antarena ca mahāsamajjaṃ antarena ca janapadakalyāṇiyā pariharitabbo. Puriso ca te ukkhittāsiko piṭṭhito piṭṭhito anubandhissati. Yattheva naṃ thokampi chaḍḍessati tattheva te siro pātessatī’ti. Taṃ kiṃ maññatha, bhikkhave, api nu so puriso amuṃ telapattaṃ amanasikaritvā bahiddhā pamādaṃ āhareyyā’’ti? ‘‘No hetaṃ, bhante’’. ‘‘Upamā kho myāyaṃ, bhikkhave, katā atthassa viññāpanāya. Ayaṃ cevettha attho – samatittiko telapattoti kho, bhikkhave, kāyagatāya etaṃ satiyā adhivacanaṃ. Tasmātiha, bhikkhave, evaṃ sikkhitabbaṃ – ‘kāyagatā sati no bhāvitā bhavissati bahulīkatā yānīkatā vatthukatā anuṭṭhitā paricitā susamāraddhā’ti. Evañhi kho, bhikkhave, sikkhitabba’’nti.
(SN, PTS.  5. 170)

In some of the previous posts we have come across the idea that such an effort as described above in fact entails samma sati which in due course would lead to a meditative absorption or collectedness called samma samadhi (the two last parts of the Buddha’s noble eightfold path). In the “Mahāniddesa-Aṭṭhakathā” we find a very telling description of samma sati. It also allows us to better understand a similar term which the suttas also apply to the practice of sati, namely “anussati“. The Mahāniddesa-Aṭṭhakathā (Commentary on the Mahaniddesa) has the following line which makes it very clear what the practice of sati, i.e. anussati, means. An explanation which seems to match our observation after all of the aforesaid – and it will be especially obvious to you, if you tried the initial experiment as suggested in the beginning. Have a look how meditation gets defined in that over 2000 year old text:

Punappunaṃ saraṇato anussaraṇa-vasena ‘anussati’.
Again and again remembering, through the method of continously remembering [lit.: along-remembering], (that is called) “anussati”.
[Mahāniddesa-Aṭṭhakathā, PTS 1.51]

This is quite a telling and very descriptive explanation – but it seems certainly very intuitive and striking to someone who practices concentration meditation. Typically “anussati” is translated into English simply as “recollection”. Nothing wrong with such a translation, besides the obvious drawback that the word “anu-sati” tells you actually how to practice just through the name itself (anu-after/along, sati-remembrance) and the word “recollection” however is more vague and unclear as to “how” to practice.(1) What is described as “anu-saraṇa”  is exactly what we try when someone asks us to keep one object in the forefront of our mind, we try to keep it upright, established, alive in our mind without letting go of it. “anu-” is a prefix in Pāli and carries the connotation of “following after, along, alongside, going after”. “saraṇa” means remembering, related to the word sati (as a  noun) and sarati (the verb) – anussaraṇa is a nominalized verb, expressing the active character of the verb’s activity. So here in this case, anussati then describes the method of “along- or follow along remembering” – does not that seem like a pretty good description of our own little experiment from the beginning? Now, in theory, you yourself would know – and that just by looking at the name – how to practice any of the following meditations exercises:

buddhānussati (anussati on the Buddha), asubhānussati (on the loathesomeness of the body), maraṇānussati (on death), upasamānussati (on peace), dhammānussati (on the Dhamma), sanghānussati (on the sangha), cāgānussati (on giving), etc….

At this point you might say; “wait a second. isn’t anussati typically translated as ‘recollection’? I get what you are saying, how anussati could mean a continuous process of keeping a memory in the mind, but how would one explain the Buddha’s ‘recollection of former lives’ (pubbenivesānussati) or Buddhaghosa’s description of ‘recollecting’ the virtues of the Buddha?”
Valid questions. The connotations of the English expression ‘recollection’ are not very meditative. When we hear ‘recollection’ we think of a random way of bringing stuff back into our memory, a (more or less – stress on more) random  jumping around. However, ‘anussati‘ as we see it utilized in Pali, has a narrower meaning. It means that you are staying with a memory (preferably only one). Whether it is the case of the Buddha remembering memories of former lives, you can see that in the description of such a ‘recollection’ the meditator recalls one life after the other in a constant succession, without letting go of the object of the concentration. It is therefore a veritable ‘along’-remembering, without interruptions(4) – and drawing you a w a y from the senses => the decisive necessity to get to the first jhana. A similar observation can be made reading the Visuddhimagga’s description of meditation on body-parts: first the meditator is asked to recite them in a certain succession (anyone can do that, a very smart way to introduce meditation), then, at a certain point, the meditator is now asked to “flip the switch” and continue to “chant” mentally, i.e. recollect uninterruptedly in a mentally voiced manner(3) – that is the same what you would do when someone asks you to mentally keep a number in your head without letting any other “distraction” take over. Here too, your ‘recollection’ becomes a sustained, continous effort, which succeeds when the practice of anussati evokes first mental bliss (through sense reduction –  viveka from kama) and then via an automatic centering in the jhanic dwelling.

About the interesting Mahaniddesa passage on “sati(8) to which the above quoted definition is given in the subcommentary and which he had examined in another post on this blog (Understanding Vipassana) there is another synonym listed(17) for the practice of sati, namely “apilāpanatā” which will, at a closer look, support our interpretation of sati and especially anussati as a method of keeping an object continously present in mind. The PED says about “apilāpanatā”(16)

Apilāpanatā (f.) in the pass. at Dhs 14 = Nd2 628 is evidently meant to be taken as a + pilāpana + tā (fr. pilavati, plu), but whether the der. & interpret. of Dhs A is correct, we are unable to say. On general principles it looks like popular etym. Mrs. Rh. D. translates (p. 16) “opposite of superficiality” (lit “not floating”); see her detailed note Dhs trsl. 16.

Imagine this scenario: You are caught in a wild river and out of sheer luck you are able to grab a hold of a rock. What do you think you will try to do? You will try to hold onto it with all your might, trying to not let it go:

Yathā hi udake lābukaṭāhādīni palavanti, na anupavisanti, na tathā ārammaṇe sati. Ārammaṇañhi esā anupavisati, tasmā ‘‘apilāpanatā’’ti vuttā. ”
Just as in the water pumpkins and kettles, etc. swim, but do not dive into the water, in such a way sati (is) not – regarding the object. It is called “apilapanata” (not letting float/get away) because it does enter the object.”

The attainment of the jhana, according to this simile, is achieved by a “not-floating away” or “not-drifting-away”. This is similar to a person in a wild river pushed along by the current who would try to hold on to a stone – long enough to pull himself out of the water and step on that stone. Such a temporary break (because he has not yet crossed the river but is still caught in the middle) on the steady rock in the middle of a wild river means also that no effort is necessary to maintain that calm position and one feels calmness and aloofness while the river/stream of the senses retreats(2). However, if you ever did that in your life, you know that the water can still get you – washing over the rock, water gushing up – and if you are not careful you will slip and fall back into the river(18).

The really bigger picture – the “what”

Let’s leave the detailed expedition into jhana kindling (pun intended – (20)) for a moment and make sure we understand the general setting. Sometimes we can see a big misunderstanding arising from those practicing vipassana exclusively in the way they might understand how samadhi works (because it works counter-intuitive to vipassana) – at the same time we can see a similar misunderstanding on the side of those who idealize samadhi and want it alone to be a kind of a substitute for vipassana. Let’s address misunderstanding one: It is correct that the practice of samadhi is characterized by the development of a skill of holding onto an object – a singular, very faint (because it being mental, rupaloka) object. Thus it fulfills the idea of overcoming thirst by using thirst. Albeit, during such a process and training, we are moving closer to Nirvana, incrementally. This skill of mental balancing and the resulting one-pointedness and calmness of the mind (by then being able to effortlessly ‘ride the bike’ with grace and balance resting on the needlepoint of sharp awareness) allows for the feat which vipassana will make possible:
It is crucial to understand that “vipassana” means that we have to break into the operation of the feeling, perception, and “becoming conscious” of any sense object, including the slightest mental activities – only if we are able to observe this entirety in its rising and falling, are we able to utterly exhaust our interest in it and let go of it all. And here is the challenge: if our samadhi is not that developed our vision will be blurred (because we have not learned to stay on one object – we will get cheated and tricked by lot’s of objects which we will fall for and thus not see) and it will take much longer (and some chose it that way – in ‘dry’ vipassana – where you will have to built up concentration on the fly with vipassana – which most vipassana systems, even if they don’t acknowledge it – do take into account). It will take much longer then to develop a clarity from which to let go which is necessary so that we don’t even get tricked into the faintest mental shadows of anything we become aware of / consciousness of, do not identify with them, and thus stall the process of re-lease.
So there is a purpose to the effort of getting the mind one-pointed; yes learning how to hold onto one object by letting go of others, even if, in the very end, our goal is it to transcend the holding of any object (apanihita-cetovimutti). In other words: Already the practice of sila and even further the practice of samadhi is a repeated process of self-restraint, first bodily, then verbal and eventually mentally where the roaming of the mind is hindered further and further (Yāni sotāni lokasmiṃ, sati tesaṃ nivāraṇaṃ) until the gearbox of samsara becomes visible and its complete six-fold excuse-less observation triggers a samsaric exhaustion (Sotānaṃ saṃvaraṃ brūmi, paññāyete pidhiyyare) and a turning away (nibbidā, virāgā) entails which leads to a freedom (vimutti) which, even from the perspective of the jhāna, seems impossible: one stops without an object, after having dried up the river once, allowing one to find the ability to attain to such an object-less samadhi (animitta-, apaṇihita, suññata-cetovimutti) which is impossible to attain to if one were to just use concentration on objects.

The bigger picture – the “how”

We have to understand that  the purpose of sati is not “to observe in a neutral fashion“(15). Sati in Pali terminology is a very precise technical term describing the skill of staying with the object (paṭṭhana – something we tie ourselves to) one wants to keep in mind. That of course brings something else about: upekkha – or equanimity in the highest form of jhanic calmness. Very refined in the fourth jhana, obviously. Equanimity is the pinnacle of concentration for obvious reasons: it means the state of utter balance which makes our mind (temporarily) unshakeable and therefore neutral in its observation. However – and this is quite important to the practice, sati of such a level is called purified (satiparisuddham) because of the mind’s ability to continously stay with one object is unpertubed – but does such a “bare awareness” alone lead to Nirvana? And, even more important, is someone whose mind is grasping at a meditative object in a very subtle manner be able -without technique – to look through the stickyness of his attainment? What else needs to be done at that point? So far in our description, there is nothing “Buddhist” about the samadhi. If sati is keeping focus on an object and such focus leads to strongest equanimity, where does wisdom enter the equation? Addressing the misconception that samādhi alone by itself, without right view, leads to Nirvana made the Buddha point out that samadhi is a tool for the realization of paticcasamuppada. But how?  It is at this crucial point in our practice, that samma-ditthi(21), or right view, with which the entire noble path starts and is “funded by”, that this correct view “enriches” your samādhi and turns it into something supramundane, something directed towards helping us break out of samsara. How could that be done? It is with this power of concentration (which was built up using effort – viriya – and presence of mind/recollection – sati) that the meditator directs(22) his mind towards an understanding of the mass of suffering which the Buddha found to spring off at the conceptually atomic level of five components of grasping (23) – lit. masses of fuel . This sharp view which one has to activate is called vipassana and gets boosted by the tranquility (samatha – it doesnt have to be boosted to the highest extreme(24) but it makes so much more sense developing it to the best of our ability), by the skill of continous attention (sati), the strong equanimity (upekkha) – none of which (i.e. viriya, sati and upekkha) in themselves would lead to nirvana, as anyone who does concentrate, will experience them too.
Most of his time we find the Buddha in the suttas talking about this particular part of meditation practice, where we direct our deep attention towards a direct experience of dependent origination to make wisdom grow – he called this practice variously “ñāṇadassana” (seeing-knowing), or “yathābhūa ñāṇadassanā” (to seeing-knowing as it has become) or “iti pajanati” or “sammapaññāya daṭṭhabbam“(25). The object of such a deep and careful (non-analytical!) uncompromising direct all-encompassing observation(26) were described by the Buddha in varying shades: the five groups of grasping, the six sense spheres, the dependent origination – all of which describe the same process(27), namely experience, in the moment of its occcurence, at the deepest possible level of observation – beyond names and forms on the one hand (nama rupa) and consciousness (vinnyana) on the other there is nothing else left which makes the world tick – from an experiental point of view – the point of view which wants to see how suffering is born. The Buddha at this point highlighted to us, that such a prolonged observation (nibbidābahulo(28)), a wisdom which sees the rising and falling(29),  would by (natural) law (dhammatā) lead to a certain disenchantment so that finally Nirvana takes place. The rest is history, as they say.

These last two paragraphs was just meant as a bird-view picture of the path – nothing new to many of you, but giving this post a little bit of a broader perspective in regard to the path of practice and the place of sati and practice of anussati in it.


  1. This is a dilemma for most translators and the reason why Pali in translation loses its “preciseness” or makes long notes necessary.
  2. The attainment of phalasamapatti would be that you are in the middle of the stream yet you have no stone to hang on to, still you are not washed away (animitta). The Nirvanic experience would resemble the river (temporarily) drying up.
  3. Evaṃ kālasataṃ kālasahassaṃ kālasatasahassampi vācāya sajjhāyo kātabbo. Vacasā sajjhāyena hi kammaṭṭhānatanti paguṇā hoti, na ito cito ca cittaṃ vidhāvati. Koṭṭhāsā pākaṭā honti, hatthasaṅkhalikā viya vatipādapanti viya ca khāyanti.Yathā pana vacasā, tatheva manasāpi sajjhāyo kātabbo. Vacasā sajjhāyo hi manasā sajjhāyassa paccayo hoti. Manasā sajjhāyo lakkhaṇapaṭivedhassa paccayo hoti. (Vism. I, par.180 CST4) – “…So the teacher who expounds the meditation subject should tell the pupil to do the reictation verbally first….The recitation should be done verbally in this way a hundred times, a thousand times, even a hundred thousand times. For it is through verbal recitation that the meditation subject becomes familiar, and the mind being thus prevented from running here and there….The mental recitation [sic!] should be done just as it is done verbally. For the verbal recitation is a condition for the mental recitation and the mental recitation is a condition for the penetration of the characteristic (of this meditation). Mostly Nyanamoli transl. see p. 262.
  4. anekavihitaṃ pubbenivāsaṃ anussarati. Seyyathidaṃ – ekampi jātiṃ dvepi jātiyo tissopi jātiyo catassopi jātiyo pañcapi jātiyo dasapi jātiyo vīsampi jātiyo tiṃsampi jātiyo cattālīsampi jātiyo paññāsampi jātiyo jātisatampi jātisahassampi jātisatasahassampi anekānipi jātisatāni anekānipi jātisahassāni anekānipi jātisatasahassāni – ‘amutrāsiṃ evaṃnāmo evaṃgotto evaṃvaṇṇo evamāhāro evaṃsukhadukkhappaṭisaṃvedī evamāyupariyanto, so tato cuto amutra udapādiṃ; tatrāpāsiṃ evaṃnāmo evaṃgotto evaṃvaṇṇo evamāhāro evaṃsukhadukkhappaṭisaṃvedī evamāyupariyanto, so tato cuto idhūpapanno’ti. Iti sākāraṃ sauddesaṃ anekavihitaṃ pubbenivāsaṃ anussarati.
  5. which puts it right in the vicinity of the Milindapanha, Patisambhiddamagga and similar texts
  6. Buddhānussatīti buddhassa guṇānussaraṇaṃ. Evaṃ anussarato hi pīti uppajjati. So taṃ pītiṃ khayato vayato paṭṭhapetvā arahattaṃ pāpuṇāti. Upacārakammaṭṭhānaṃ nāmetaṃ gihīnampi labbhati, esa nayo sabbattha. DN-A. PTS, p. 3.1037
  7. Buddhānussatīti buddhaṃ ārabbha uppannā anussati, buddhaguṇārammaṇāya satiyā etaṃ adhivacanaṃ. Taṃ panetaṃ buddhānussatikammaṭṭhānaṃ duvidhaṃ hoti cittasampahaṃsanatthañceva vipassanatthañca. Kathaṃ? Yadā hi asubhārammaṇesu aññataraṃ bhāventassa bhikkhuno cittuppādo upahaññati ukkaṇṭhati nirassādo hoti, vīthiṃ nappaṭipajjati, kūṭagoṇo viya ito cito ca vidhāvati. Tasmiṃ khaṇe esa mūlakammaṭṭhānaṃ pahāya ‘‘itipi so bhagavā’’tiādinā nayena tathāgatassa lokiyalokuttaraguṇe anussarati. Tassevaṃ buddhaṃ anussarantassa cittuppādo pasīdati, vinīvaraṇo hoti. So taṃ cittaṃ evaṃ dametvā puna mūlakammaṭṭhānaṃyeva manasi karoti. Kathaṃ? Yathā nāma balavā puriso kūṭāgārakaṇṇikatthāya mahārukkhaṃ chindanto sākhāpalāsacchedanamatteneva pharasudhārāya vipannāya mahārukkhaṃ chindituṃ asakkontopi dhuranikkhepaṃ akatvāva kammārasālaṃ gantvā tikhiṇaṃ pharasuṃ kārāpetvā puna taṃ chindeyya. Evaṃsampadamidaṃ daṭṭhabbaṃ. So evaṃ buddhānussativasena cittaṃ paridametvā puna mūlakammaṭṭhānaṃ manasikaronto asubhārammaṇaṃ paṭhamajjhānaṃ nibbattetvā jhānaṅgāni sammasitvā ariyabhūmiṃ okkamati. Evaṃ tāva cittasampahaṃsanatthaṃ hoti. Yadā panesa buddhānussatiṃ anussaritvā ‘‘ko ayaṃ itipi so bhagavātiādinā nayena anussari, itthi nu kho puriso nu kho devamanussamārabrahmānaṃ aññataro nu kho’’ti pariggaṇhanto ‘‘na añño koci, satisampayuttaṃ pana cittameva anussarī’’ti disvā ‘‘taṃ kho panetaṃ cittaṃ khandhato viññāṇakkhandho hoti, tena sampayuttā vedanā vedanākkhandho, tena sampayuttā saññā saññākkhandho, sahajātā phassādayo saṅkhārakkhandhoti ime cattāro arūpakkhandhā hontī’’ti arūpañca vavatthapetvā tassa nissayaṃ pariyesanto hadayavatthuṃ disvā tassa nissayāni cattāri mahābhūtāni, tāni upādāya pavattāni sesaupādārūpāni ca pariggahetvā ‘‘sabbampetaṃ rūpaṃ rūpakkhandho’’ti vavatthapetvā ‘‘idañca rūpaṃ purimañca arūpa’’nti saṅkhepato rūpārūpaṃ, pabhedato pañcakkhandhe puna ‘‘saṅkhepato pañcapete khandhā dukkhasacca’’nti dukkhasaccaṃ vavatthapetvā ‘‘tassa pabhāvikā taṇhā samudayasaccaṃ, tassā nirodho nirodhasaccaṃ, nirodhapajānanā paṭipadā maggasacca’’nti evaṃ pubbabhāge cattāri ca saccāni vavatthapetvā paṭipāṭiyā ariyabhūmiṃ okkamati. Tadāssa imaṃ kammaṭṭhānaṃ vipassanatthaṃ nāma hoti. Ayaṃ khotiādi appanāvāro vuttanayeneva veditabbo. AN-A. PTS, p. 2.20
  8. Yā sati anussati paṭissati, sati saraṇatā dhāraṇatā apilāpanatā asammussanatā, sati satindriyaṃ satibalaṃ sammāsati satisambojjhaṅgo ekāyanamaggo – ayaṃ vuccati sati. Imāya satiyā upeto samupeto, upagato samupagato, upapanno samupapanno, samannāgato so vuccati sato.
  9. A beautiful version of an interlinear Visuddhimagga: http://thepathofpurification.blogspot.com/2010_07_01_archive.html
  10. Yathā hi udake lābukaṭāhādīni palavanti, na anupavisanti, na tathā ārammaṇe sati (?? read: yati?). Ārammaṇañhi esā anupavisati, tasmā ‘‘apilāpanatā’’ti vuttā. “Just as in the water pumpkins and kettles, etc. swim, but not dive into the water, in such a way sati (is) not – regarding the object. It is called “apilapanata” (not letting float/get away) because it does enter the object.”
  11. Also very interesting passage in the incredible Petakopadesa: Ayaṃ vīriyasambojjhaṅgo. Iminā vīriyena dve dhammā ādito avippaṭisāro pāmojjañca yā puna pīti avippaṭisārapaccayā pāmojjapaccayā, ayaṃ pītisambojjhaṅgo. Yaṃ pītimanassa kāyo passambhati. Ayaṃ passaddhisambojjhaṅgo. Tena kāyikasukhamānitaṃ yaṃ sukhino cittaṃ samādhiyati, ayaṃ samādhisambojjhaṅgo. Yaṃ samāhito yathābhūtaṃ pajānāti, ayaṃ dhammavicayasambojjhaṅgo. Yā sīlamupādāya pañcannaṃ bojjhaṅgānaṃ upādāyānulomatā nimittāyanā pītibhāgiyānañca visesabhāgiyānañca apilāpanatā sahagatā hoti anavamaggo, ayaṃ satisambojjhaṅgo. Petakop. PTS, p.186 – “When the body of the one whose mind is blissful calms down, that is the awakening factor of calmness. Through that bodily ease, when the mind of the happy one settles, that is the awakening factor of samadhi. When he, who is mentally focused/settled (samahito) knows (observes) whatever has become (come into being, he has become aware of), this is the awakening factor of unheaping mental things (dhamma-vicaya: mental deconceptualization, mental deconstuctionism 🙂 ).  What is the following along of the taking up of the practice of the five factors of awakening, that which leads to the creation of bliss and realization, that not-floating away-ness, that going-with, that not-off-the path-ness, this is the awakening factor of sati.
  12. Almost need to translate sati here as “memory” (or is it sati from as?): Satiparicite hi dhamme paññā pajānāti, no sammuṭṭhe. Through memory accumulated dhammas with wisdom he can know, but not forgotten (ones). Cf. also passage with reference to Note 7: Tassa tattha sukhino dhammapadā plavanti . Dandho, bhikkhave, satuppādo; atha so satto khippaṃyeva visesagāmī hoti. Sotānugatānaṃ, bhikkhave, dhammānaṃ, vacasā paricitānaṃ, manasānupekkhitānaṃ, diṭṭhiyā suppaṭividdhānaṃ ayaṃ paṭhamo ānisaṃso pāṭikaṅkho. To such a happy one living here (deva world) words of the Dhamma float (through the mind). Slow, o monks, is the arising of his memory, but quickly does he attain realization… AN IV, 191. See also the post “Sati is not Mindfulness?” where we quoted Colette Cox on a similar observation.
  13. yena yena cittaṃ abhinīharati tena tena sati anuparivattati. Yena yena vā pana sati anuparivattati tena tena cittaṃ abhinīharati. Tena vuccati – ‘‘anuṭṭhitā’’ti – “Through whatever one draws ones mind, around that sati will circle. By whatever sati circles around moving along, through that the mind is drawn. There it says: “anutthita” – along-standing.
  14. The Mahaniddessa Comy is a very interesting commentary. Seems the Ven. Upasena was more inclined to pickup meditative data from the ancient Sinhala Comy than Buddhaghosa, who seems slightly more leaning towards dogmatic/theoretical explanations. Look at this description of sati and samadhi: Ekaggatāniddese acalabhāvena ārammaṇe tiṭṭhatīti ṭhiti. Parato padadvayaṃ upasaggavasena vaḍḍhitaṃ. Apica sampayuttadhamme ārammaṇamhi sampiṇḍetvā tiṭṭhatīti saṇṭhiti. Ārammaṇaṃ ogāhetvā anupavisitvā tiṭṭhatīti avaṭṭhiti. Kusalapakkhasmiñhi cattāro dhammā ārammaṇaṃ ogāhanti – saddhā sati samādhi paññāti. Teneva saddhā okappanāti vuttā, sati apilāpanatāti, samādhi avaṭṭhitīti, paññā pariyogāhanāti. Akusalapakkhe pana tayo dhammā ārammaṇaṃ ogāhanti – taṇhā diṭṭhi avijjāti. Teneva te oghāti vuttā. Cittekaggatā panettha na balavatī hoti. Yathā hi rajuṭṭhānaṭṭhāne udakena siñcitvā sammaṭṭhe thokameva kālaṃ rajo sannisīdati, sukkhante sukkhante puna pakatibhāvena vuṭṭhāti, evameva akusalapakkhe cittekaggatā na balavatī hoti. Yathā pana tasmiṃ ṭhāne ghaṭehi udakaṃ āsiñcitvā kudālena khanitvā ākoṭanamaddanaghaṭṭanāni katvā upalitte ādāse viya chāyā paññāyati, vassasatātikkamepi taṃmuhuttakataṃ viya hoti, evameva kusalapakkhe cittekaggatā balavatī hoti.
  15. For instance a recent book on Vipassana related topics by Joseph Goldstein, Mirka Knaster (link) as an example but in general a theory found in the more popular books “on mindfulness”.
  16. Very nice note by Ven. Nyanaponika to: “ Zu plavanti oder apilapanti vgl. die Bezeichnung der Achtsamkeit (sati) als das Nicht-Entgleitenlassen (aus dem Geiste; apilāpanatā) in Dhammasanganī und »Fragen des Königs Milinda« (Übers. v. Nyanatiloka, I, 61; »Der einzige Weg«, Vlg. Christiani; S.  94).” (link)
  17. The text passage where one can found this neat little clarification of how anussati is related to sati and dharaṇā was the commentary to the Mahāniddesa. The Mahāniddesa is itself an old gloss-like commentary to the probably two oldest texts in the Buddhist Pali Canon (which makes them the most ancient Indian texts besides the 3 Vedas). This commentary on the Mahaniddessa was edited by the ancient monk Upasena and originates from between the 2nd century BC up to the 3rd CE.)
    In this particular section of the commentary on the Mahaniddesa (The Kamasuttavannana section) we can find many interesting thoughts on concentration meditation.
  18. Have a look at this post: “Background noise in the jhanas”. Like sitting on a stone in a river, the jhana experience is not digital but rather analog: The river (of the senses) still does exist and so also the “contamination” or level of purity of the jhana depends on many factors, including (mainly) the “roughness” of the sense stream, the “aloofness” of the rock.
  19. If you like to read more about manasikāra vs. amanasikāra and how it has to do with “keeping something in your mind”, have a look at this recent post (https://theravadin.wordpress.com/2010/03/17/yoniso-manasi-karotha/).
  20. jhāna < jhāyati – “kindling”. If you ever had to kindle a fire the old fashioned way, you know how careful, slow, patient an exercise that is – but also how rewarding 😉
  21. Katamo ca, bhikkhave, ariyo sammāsamādhi saupaniso saparikkhāro? Seyyathidaṃ – sammādiṭṭhi, sammāsaṅkappo, sammāvācā, sammākammanto, sammāājīvo, sammāvāyāmo, sammāsati; yā kho, bhikkhave, imehi sattahaṅgehi cittassa ekaggatā parikkhatā – ayaṃ vuccati, bhikkhave, ariyo sammāsamādhi saupaniso itipi, saparikkhāro itipi. Tatra, bhikkhave, sammādiṭṭhi pubbaṅgamā hoti. …Katamā ca, bhikkhave, sammādiṭṭhi ariyā anāsavā lokuttarā maggaṅgā? Yā kho, bhikkhave, ariyacittassa anāsavacittassa ariyamaggasamaṅgino ariyamaggaṃ bhāvayato paññā paññindriyaṃ paññābalaṃ dhammavicayasambojjhaṅgo sammādiṭṭhi maggaṅgaṃ – ayaṃ vuccati, bhikkhave, sammādiṭṭhi ariyā anāsavā lokuttarā maggaṅgā. …sammāvāyāmassa sammāsati pahoti, sammāsatissa sammāsamādhi pahoti, sammāsamādhissa sammāñāṇaṃ pahoti, sammāñāṇassa sammāvimutti pahoti. MN PTS, p. 3.75
  22. āsavānaṃ khayañāṇāya cittaṃ abhininnāmesiṃ MN, PTS 1.22 et al.
  23. yampicchaṃ na labhati tampi dukkhaṃ, saṅkhittena pañcupādānakkhandhā dukkhā. DN, PTS. 2.305 – Katame ca, bhikkhave, saṅkhittena pañcupādānakkhandhā dukkhā? Seyyathidaṃ – rūpupādānakkhandho, vedanupādānakkhandho, saññupādānakkhandho, saṅkhārupādānakkhandho, viññāṇupādānakkhandho.
  24. Ananda to lay person explaining how from first jhana alone vipassana can lead to Nirvana (somewhere in MN, have to look this up)
  25. various places all over the canon, especially frequent  in the Saṃyutta Nikāya  but anytime the Buddha describes the practice of the final steps towards Nirvana.
  26. The completeness or thoroughness of this approach is the single most biggest challenge for any vipassanā meditator. Avijja – we don’t see what we don’t see. 🙂 Sabbaṃ abhiññā pariññā pahānāya vo, bhikkhave, dhammaṃ desessāmi. Taṃ suṇātha. Katamo ca, bhikkhave, sabbaṃ abhiññā pariññā pahānāya dhammo? Cakkhuṃ, bhikkhave, abhiññā pariññā pahātabbaṃ, rūpā abhiññā pariññā pahātabbā, cakkhuviññāṇaṃ abhiññā pariññā pahātabbaṃ, cakkhusamphasso abhiññā pariññā pahātabbo, yampidaṃ cakkhusamphassapaccayā uppajjati vedayitaṃ sukhaṃ vā dukkhaṃ vā adukkhamasukhaṃ vā tampi abhiññā pariññā pahātabbaṃ…pe… jivhā abhiññā pariññā pahātabbā, rasā abhiññā pariññā pahātabbā, jivhāviññāṇaṃ abhiññā pariññā pahātabbaṃ, jivhāsamphasso abhiññā pariññā pahātabbo, yampidaṃ jivhāsamphassapaccayā uppajjati vedayitaṃ sukhaṃ vā dukkhaṃ vā adukkhamasukhaṃ vā tampi abhiññā pariññā pahātabbaṃ. Kāyo abhiññā pariññā pahātabbo… mano abhiññā pariññā pahātabbo, dhammā abhiññā pariññā pahātabbā, manoviññāṇaṃ abhiññā pariññā pahātabbaṃ, manosamphasso abhiññā pariññā pahātabbo, yampidaṃ manosamphassapaccayā uppajjati vedayitaṃ sukhaṃ vā dukkhaṃ vā adukkhamasukhaṃ vā tampi abhiññā pariññā pahātabbaṃ. Ayaṃ kho, bhikkhave, sabbaṃ abhiññā pariññā pahānāya dhammo’’ti. SN, PTS 4.16 or “Tasmātiha, anurādha, yaṃ kiñci rūpaṃ atītānāgatapaccuppannaṃ ajjhattaṃ vā bahiddhā vā oḷārikaṃ vā sukhumaṃ vā hīnaṃ vā paṇītaṃ vā yaṃ dūre santike vā, sabbaṃ rūpaṃ ‘netaṃ mama, nesohamasmi, na meso attā’ti evametaṃ yathābhūtaṃ sammappaññāya daṭṭhabbaṃ. SN, PTS 4. 382
  27. A sutta which beautifully discusses and explains that and, IMHO cuts through any attempt of scholastically solidifying these pragmatic concepts was discussed here, in an older post: Ingredients of insight progress.
  28. Dhammānudhammappaṭipannassa, bhikkhave, bhikkhuno ayamanudhammo hoti yaṃ rūpe nibbidābahulo [nibbidābahulaṃ (pī. ka.)] vihareyya, vedanāya nibbidābahulo vihareyya, saññā nibbidābahulo vihareyya, saṅkhāresu nibbidābahulo vihareyya, viññāṇe nibbidābahulo vihareyya. Yo rūpe nibbidābahulo viharanto, vedanāya… saññāya… saṅkhāresu nibbidābahulo viharanto, viññāṇe nibbidābahulo viharanto rūpaṃ parijānāti, vedanaṃ… saññaṃ… saṅkhāre… viññāṇaṃ parijānāti, so rūpaṃ parijānaṃ, vedanaṃ… saññaṃ… saṅkhāre… viññāṇaṃ parijānaṃ parimuccati rūpamhā, parimuccati vedanā, parimuccati saññāya, parimuccati saṅkhārehi, parimuccati viññāṇamhā, parimuccati jātiyā jarāmaraṇena sokehi paridevehi dukkhehi domanassehi upāyāsehi, parimuccati dukkhasmāti vadāmī’’ti. SN, PTS 3.40
  29. Paññavā hoti, udayatthagāminiyā paññāya samannāgato, ariyāya nibbedhikāya sammā dukkhakkhayagāminiyā. Evaṃ kho, mahānāma, ariyasāvako sattahi saddhammehi samannāgato hoti.

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Take a classic text of Hinduism, the revered Yogasutra (approx. 200 BCE (2)) and compare its semantics and vocabulary to the Buddhist canonical texts. Such a comparison will make it pretty obvious that the author of the Yoga Sutra was highly influenced by (contemporary?) Buddhist philosophy and meditation practice.

Furthermore: A student of canonical Buddhist texts might in fact have an easier time understanding the Yoga Sutra, than a Hindu practitioner who has no other (earlier, i.e. Buddhist) frame of reference for understanding this text except perhaps late Hindu/Brahmanic commentaries of which some seem to avoid (or don’t know) the original Buddhist references of this text.

The closeness of the Yoga sutra in style, vocabulary and subject to canonical Pali texts could also simply mean that Patañjali (or whoever inspired his writing) had been practicing meditation within the Sangha (pure speculation 😉 ) for a while before returning (back) into the fold of Brahmanism and then rephrasing his experience to add a divine spin to his experience while substantially borrowing technical terms from Buddhist meditation as originally developed or shaped by the Buddha for the purpose of meditation.

Equally possible, and even more likely, Buddhist meditation practice at that time had so comprehensively permeated Hindu practices (after 200 years of strong influence through Buddhist philosophy and meditation techniques), that these technical terms as well as descriptions of jhanic practices had become such a common mainstream knowledge that they ceased to appear particular ‘Buddhist’ (similar to the adoption of ideas of ‘nirvana’ and ‘karma’ in Christian countries…)

Especially if you read the sutta (which is very short) in one fluid stroke, it really amazes you how close it is to the thoughts and topics on samādhi, jhāna and samathā (concentration) meditation as defined by the earlier Pāli texts.

For a starter (bird eye view, details will follow below), if we look at the “ashtanga yoga” or the “eighfold yoga path” (sic) we are of course reminded of the Buddha’s central definition of the Noble Eightfold path. But rather than following the Buddhist textbook definition of the Noble eightfold path, the yoga path interpretation follows (to our astonishment?) another Buddhist path description: When pressed to describe his actual meditative system as taught to his disciples the Buddha lists a number of steps which are outlined in numerous suttas in the Middle Length Sayings (as listed in MN 26 etc.) and remind us very much of the yogic (pragmatic?) path as idealized by Patanjali in his Yoga Sutra:

Compare these two “pathways to achieve samādhi”. First Patanjali’s in the Yoga Sutra:

  1. Yama [moral codes] see (6)
  2. Niyama [self-purification and study],
  3. Asana [posture]
  4. Pranayama [breath control]
  5. Pratyahara [moving away from 5 senses]
  6. Dharana [concentration] see (7)
  7. Dhyana [meditation]
  8. Samadhi [absorption]

Below is a list of steps recommended by the Buddha when asked about gradual development through his teaching. This list is found in many suttas of MN and DN and elsewhere:

  1. Sila [moral codes], Santosa (Contentment)
  2. Sense Restraint [pulling away from the senses]
  3. “Asana” [mindfulness in all bodily postures]
  4. Anapanasati [focusing on breath]
  5. Overcoming 5 hindrances
  6. Sati [keeping the object in mind, often glossed with dharana in the Pali commentaries] see (7)
  7. Jhana [absorptions]
  8. Samadhi [result of absorptions, the "attainment" or samāpatti of various sorts]

I am, of course, not the first one to note similarities such as the above one.(3) A few other people have noticed obvious and less obvious parallels. Which means that even Wikipedia has an entry for the Yoga Sutra in which we read:

Karel Werner writes that “Patanjali’s system is unthinkable without Buddhism. As far as its terminology goes there is much in the Yoga Sutras that reminds us of Buddhist formulations from the Pāli Canon and even more so from the Sarvāstivāda Abhidharma and from Sautrāntika.” Robert Thurman writes that Patanjali was influenced by the success of the Buddhist monastic system to formulate his own matrix for the version of thought he considered orthodox…..The division into the Eight Limbs (Sanskrit Ashtanga) of Yoga is reminiscent of Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path; inclusion of Brahmaviharas (Yoga Sutra 1:33) also shows Buddhism's influence on parts of the Sutras. [Source: Wikipedia]

Now, this is were it gets interesting for us, here in this blog, and its relevance to Buddhist meditation practice:

Does all of the above mean that the Yogasutra is a Brahmanic commentary or at least a snapshot of mainstream (Buddhist influenced) meditation practices in the second century BCE?

If that is the case, it definitely warrants a closer look In fact, because of the fact that it is NOT a Buddhist text which however shares fundamental “core” ideas about meditation it could serve as yet another pointer towards a deeper understanding of some of the Buddhist terminology as understood in the early centuries of Buddhist practice.

Therefore, if you read the Yoga sutra in a Buddhist context, might it give you some ideas as to how people at that time understood and (or !) practiced Buddhist meditation? Could it maybe be of some help to get yet another “triangulation” or pointer in the direction of early Buddhist meditation? The more we know how people practiced a few hundred years after the Buddha passed away, the better we can understand how some of his teachings evolved and how they were actually put into practice and explained/taught.

What makes this idea fascinating is that this text will definitely be filtered through the eyes of a Brahmin, but, he would still be under the influence of contemporary Buddhist meditation “knowledge” which was so accepted that it had become “mainstream”. It would show us, how much and what in particular, was considered to be the “gist” of meditation (beyond philosophical discussion about its purpose) so that it was considered universally true and thus able to “crossed over” into other religious forms of practice.

Under that viewpoint, the Yogasutra is indeed quite revealing.

Let me show you some example passages which might throw further light on this idea.

Passages like the following really look like a direct copy&paste from the Buddha-Dhamma. Some of them even make no sense whatsoever in a theological-soul-seeking-creator-type religion, but absolutely sense in the philosophy of liberation through concentration and wisdom. Nevertheless, they were considered “true” and “accepted” so the Brahmin had no other choice as to incorporate them into his brahmanic philosophy. (Almost reminds one of the Western Christian, who, because of the mainstream acceptance of the idea of karma, might find ways to incorporate that idea into his own religious views). Look at the following list of defilements, which the Yoga sutra says one has to overcome:

“Avidya (ignorance), Asmita (egoism), Raga-Dvesha (likes and dislikes), Abhinivesha (clinging to mundane life) are the five Kleshas or afflictions. Destroy these afflictions. You will attain Samadhi.” [Quote: Wikipedia]

What will strike the Buddhist reader when looking at this paragraph is the simple fact that all these defilements listed are those which are supposed to be gone in an Arahant, LOL.

Lets look at the terms used: Avijja, ignorance is even listed first (clearly, from a Buddhist standpoint it is considered to be the root of all problems). Next comes “asmitā” which gets superficially translated as “egoism” through the superficial understanding it had developed in the Sanskrit tradition which was unaware of the deeper meaning of this term as portraid in the Pali Suttas (or tried to spin it into their own religious context).

This very specific Buddhist term, which tries to express the deep rooted mental “notion of I am” (asmi-tā) gets a clear explanation in the suttas, but here, in this text and later times, fades away into a mere “selfishness” as a moral defilement missing its deeper originally psychological application. In the suttas “asmi-māna” is a deeply rooted psychological tendency of the mind which only the Arahant overcomes [see "The scent of am" in this blog for more on that topic]. And then there is “abhinivesa“, a term Buddha uses to explain how our mind enters and takes up the five groups of grasping. “nivesa” is a living place, a house – a simile brought up by the Buddha to show how our consciousness moves “into” the experience of sense contact and makes itself comfortable as if living in a house (Cf. SuttaNipata, Atthakavagga, Magandiyasutta and SN, Haliddakanisutta). This very particular psychological usage is flattened in the Brahmanic context to mean simply an “attachment to mundane life”. The question remains: Was such a superficial understanding also Patanjali’s or did just later commentators on the Yoga Sutra miss these implications because they had no knowledge or no access to the earlier Buddhist environment in which the Yoga Sutra developed?

And something enligthening about the Buddhist “Sati” can be found too:

Here is another gem from a Buddhist perspective. What I really find enlightening is the usage of the term “dhāranā” in the Yoga Sutra.

This is one of the points were our contemporary Buddhist knowledge could gain insights. “dhāranā“, which means literally “holding up, carrying, keeping (in mind)”…(9) is a nice description of the task at hand in meditation practice. In meditation too, we need to keep and hold our object of meditation in focus, in our mind, without loosing it. This central characteristic of the task at hand when trying to develop concentration meditation is reflected 1:1 by the literal meaning of the Buddhist term sati (literally “rememberance/remembering”) which is nowadays most commenly translated simply as “mindfulness” – a translation about which we raised doubts in quite a number of posts on this blog [link].

Here is why, in a nutshell: In order to keep the meditation object in your mind you need to remember it. Rememberance here means that you have to hold your object of concentration. You have to keep it present. That is exactly what the faculty of memory does, usually being pushed hard by the six sense impressions with new data, which, if given in, will result in a more or less wild jumping around.

If you are able to hold your one-pointedness however (or rather: the longer you are able), one of the laws of the mind which the Buddha rediscovered and explained in detail, is that this “artificial” abating of the senses by holding and focusing on one particular mental object will equate to less sense-stimulation. As a result calmness and mental happiness (piti) and physical happiness (sukha) will arise and show first signs of a strengthened concentration.

That is also why quite logically samma sati has to come before samma samadhi in the Buddhist eightfold path – or, as shown here in the Yoga sutra “dhāranā” is the final stage before attaining “samadhi”.

Here the Yoga Sutra gives us a great gloss on the original meaning as understood in the first few centuries of Buddhist practice and might help us getting a more precise understanding of what “samma sati” was intended to mean or imply originally. (Cf. our post on yoniso manasikara and you will see how close yoniso manasikara and sati are.

Quite in contrast, or rather as a by-product of the practice of sati is another term which would much better be described by “mindfulness”. It is the Pali term sampajaññā – which literally means “together-knowing”, i.e. being very attentive while doing some activity, ergo “mindfulness” – but this activity is then a result of sati (because keeping ones mind fixed on an object, sati, will lead to a heightened awareness of what gets into our way of keeping the mind tight to the one object, creating an increased awareness of the few sense impressions which can trickle in). According to this concept “mindfulness” is the outcome of sati and not the practice of sati itself!!

But again, both activities are practically happening at more or less the same time, even if not in the same order and so the mainstream English translation may be excused – while such a fine distinction, however has its benefits: You cannot keep one object focused in your mind without developing or causing mindfulness to arise – but (unfortunately!) you can be attentive to all your actions without (!) working on your concentration (think: eating an ice cream, i.e. sense indulgence. This is actually what, (IMHO unfortunately), some Western “Buddhist” interpretations idealize).

There is a difference between getting purposely carried away by the sense impressions by focusing on their physical benefit and increasing/supporting rāga and nandi – or, from the perspective of the Buddha Gotama, trying to stay your ground using remembrance and thereby experiencing a hightened awareness of what tries to shift you away so that it results in an increased mindfulness which, at its peak experience turns into total equanimity towards both, pleasurable and painful sensations.

In this order, therefore, what we should understand as vipassanā is not at all a synonym for sati but rather something which grows out of the combination of all these factors especially of course the last two, samma sati and samma samadhi applied to the ruthless observation of what comes into being (yathābhūta).

One could say, vipassanā is a name for the practice of sati+samadhi as applied to anicca/dukkha/anatta (i.e. generating wisdom) directed at the six-sense-process, including any mental activity. Therefore, you won’t hear of vipassana but sati in the Yogasutra, whereas the Buddhist texts will clearly mention (think: aniccanupassana) how samādhi is just the start of your insight journey. (4)

But we got side-tracked 😉 . Suffice it to say that in particular any reference to Buddhist philosophy as mentioning of anicca or anatta would points towards the goal of Nibbana, a philosophical tenet which the Yoga system of course won’t refer to. In its essence the Yoga school falls under the eternalist position. So while it definitely would need sati to produce samadhi, it definitely did not need to point that samadhi to understand anicca, dukkha anatta – something which would not at all fit into the world view of an eternalist – Rather, it tries to interpret samadhi itself as a union or at least coming closer to God. Something which comes quite natural to a theist – as for instance an evangelical Christian would never interpret the reduction of his sensual focus on one mental object and the resulting bliss to be a product of psychological techniques but rather a “devine sign of God touching him” – after all, besides in the Dhamma of the Buddha (whose main interest this was), in most scenarios we are inclined to fall for the story of our senses – including the mental impressions/thoughts/feelings/perceptions.

To stay in the Christian context for a moment longer: Let’s summarize that what Patanjali does in the above quoted passage would resemble someone taking a large chunk from the vocabulary and terminology of the New Testament and giving them a Buddhist spin.

Funny, that is exactly how many many contemporary New-Age-type books are written – an amalgation of English/Christian terms and vocabulary trying to express an Eastern mind-set. So we can picture that the situation in India was similar when the Yoga sutra was written with regard to the Buddhist philosophy.

This Buddhist philosophy with its particular terminology as established by the Buddha had become so pervasive to religious thought, that in order to appear credible someone writing on meditation would have to borrow or base his argument on many of those very predominant Buddhist concepts. This was probably done not even consciously, as most current day New Age authors don’t even reflect how their texts appear as they are more concerned with the message they deliver.

So, for the fun of it, below I “translated” (or rather transliterated, as these languages are so close) the Sanskrit Yoga sutra text “back” into Pāli. Very similar to when I tried this with the Heart Sutra (see here) it does help to see how the same text sounds in Pali and then to discover parallels in the early Buddhist texts.

However, having said all that, the pragmatism invoked by this sutra (which makes it so valuable) also indicates much more than a simple textual rip-off. Reading this text you cannot dismiss the notion, especially as a concentration meditator, that whoever wrote or inspired this text, at one time personally experienced jhana and samadhi and wanted to convey his experience making use of a Buddhist enriched meditation lingo even if his interpretation caters to a brahmanic audience.

Anyway here we go (the paragraph “headers” and translation are by this author, some key Buddhist technical terms have been underlined):

Patañjalino yogasuttaṃ (Part I of IV)


atha yogānusāsanaṃ ||1||
And now an instruction in yoking
yogo citta-vaṭṭi-nirodho ||2||
Yoking is the extinction of mind movement
tadā diṭṭhā (muni) svarūpe’avaṭṭhānaṃ ||3||
(Only) Then the seer allows (to be) in (his) true nature.
vaṭṭi-sarūpam itaritaraṃ ||4||
(Else) at other times one becomes (equal to) that (mental) activity.


vaṭṭī pañcā; kilesā ca akilesā ca ||5||
(Mental) Activities there are five; some defiling and some non-defiling:
pamāṇa-vipariyesa-vikappa-niddā-sati ||6||
Experience (Evidence), Misperception (Illusion), Thinking, Sleep, Memory.
Paccakkh’ānumān’āgamā honti pamāṇāni ||7||
That which one directly sees (paccakkha) and analyzes, taking it as a reference – that is called experience.
vipariyeso miccā-ñāṇam atad-rūpa-patiṭṭhitaṃ ||8||
Illusion is wrong knowledge, based on something (lit. “a form”) which is not such.
sadda-ñāṇānupattī vatthu-suñño vikappo ||9||
Thinking is sound-knowledge without sound-sense-base.
abhāva-paccay’-ārammaṇā vaṭṭi niddā ||10||
Lacking/Not having sense objects as a cause is the mental activity called sleep.
anubhūta-visayāsammosā sati ||11||
Non-confusion (or not losing) the (sense) object previously experienced is called memory
abhyāsa-virāgehi tesaṃ nirodho ||12||
Their [i.e. of those activities] extinction (comes about) through the practice of detachment (virāga).


tatra tiṭṭha-yatano abhyāso ||13||
Here now “practice” means the endeavour of staying (i.e. becoming unmovable mentally – a great description for concentration)
so pana dīgha-kāla-nirantara-sakkār’āsevito daḷha-bhūmi ||14||
But that (practice) has to be on the firm basis of long uninterrupted careful exercise [yep, how true! ]
diṭṭhānusavika-visaya-vitaṇhāya vasīkāra-saññā virāgaṃ ||15||
Detachment is the mastery (vasi-kāra) of perception, of not-thirsting (vitaṇhā) for what follows (anu-savika, lit. after-flow) the sense experience of seeing.
taṃ paramaṃ purisa-akkhātā guṇa-vitaṇhaṃ ||16||
This is the highest: the thirstless-ness for the senses (cp. kāma-guṇa in Pali!) based on the knowledge of the purisa, i.e soul.

Attainment – the Jhānas
1st Jhāna

vitakka-vicār-ānand-āsmitā rūp’ānugamā sampajaññatā ||17||
An awareness of the (realm of) form: a self-awareness based on thought, remaining (with it) and inner happiness.
virāma-paṭicca-ābhyāsa-pubbo saṃkhāraseso añño ||18||
(This attainment) is based on detachment practiced before and of other remaining activities
bhava-paṭicca videha-prakṛti-layānām ||19||
(For instance) Based on (this) existence and ones own personal characteristics
saddhā-viriya-sati-samādhi-paññā-pubbaka itaresam ||20||
and further ( based on such qualities) like saddhā (faith), viriya (strength), sati (remembrance), samādhi (concentration), and paññā (wisdom)
tibba-saṃvegānām āsanno||21||
(for such ones) with strong dedication attain (this goal, the first jhāna).

Further into the jhānas. Tips and tricks.

mudu-majjhim’ādhi-mattatā tato’pi viseso ||22||
There is also a difference (in result) as the “lesser”, “middle” and “higher” (achievement).
issara-paṇidhānā vā ||23||
Or based on the application (devotion) to aLord (a meditation master).
kilesa-kamma-vipākāsayā aparāmissā purisa-vises’ issaro ||24||
The master is a person not affected by the karmic result of (past) defilements and desires.
tatra niratisayaṃ sabbaññatā-bījaṃ ||25||
Therein lies the unsurpassable seed for omniscience.
sa pubbesam api guru kālen’ānavacchedanā ||26||
Such a teacher those (in) former (times) would never leave.
tassa vācako pāṇavo ||27||
His saying (is) life/breath/utterance
taj-jappo tad-attha-bhāvanam ||28||
praying that (repeatedly saying that) – this is the meaning/goal of meditation
tato pratyak-cetanādhigamo’pi antarāyābhāvo ca ||29||
Then one attains one’s own mind and destroys all hindrances:
Disease, doubts, not being removed from clinging to indolence, mistaken vision, and not having had attained (meditative) stages, or not firm (in them).
citta-vikkhepā te’ntarāyā ||30||
Those are the (causes of) mental-distractions (which he overcomes).
dukkha-domanass’aṅgam ejayatv’assāsa-passāsā vikkhepa-saha-bhuvaḥ ||31||
Physical and mental pain arise in the body, trembling in in-breathing and out-breathing appears in conjunction with (the aformentioned) distractions

Meditation Objects

tat-pratiṣedhārtham ekatattābhyāsaḥ ||32|| In order to subdue those (use) this practice of oneness:
mettā-karuṇā-mudita-upekkhā sukha-dukkha-puññāpuñña-visayānaṃ bhāvanātassa cittapasādanaṃ||33||
A calm happiness of the mind (citta-pasada) is achieved by meditation on Metta, Karuna, Mudita and Upekkha with regard to happiness, pain as well as good luck and bad luck.
pracchardana-vidhāraṇābhyāṃ vā prāṇasya ||34|| Or inbreathing and outbreathing is also a (great) meditation exercise.
visayavatī vā pa-vatti uppannā manaso thiti-nibandhinī ||35|| It helps to stop and bind down the mind’s arising activity which is due to the power of the senses.
visokā vā jotimatī ||36|| And makes the mind free of sorrow and radiant.
vīta-rāga-visayaṃ vā cittam ||37|| Free from desire for the senses.
svapna-niddā-jnānālambanaṃ vā ||38|| Dream, sleep,
yathābhimata-dhyānād vā ||39||
param-aṇu-parama-mahattvānto’ssa vasīkāri ||40||
kkhīṇa-vaṭṭi abhijātass’eva maṇī grahītṛ-grahaṇa-grāhyeṣu tat-stha-tad-anjanatāsamāpatti
||41|| When you succeed in destroying (mental) activity or motion [khina-vatti] that will give birth to a jewel and a one holding (it) and object being held and the holding itself – that standing still, that is known as an attainment.
tatra saddattha-ñāṇa-vikappaiḥ saṃkiṇṇā savitakkā samāpatti, ||42||
There is the attainment/state which is “with thought” and defiled by meaning-of-sound-knowing-thoughts
sati-parisuddhaṃ svarūpa-suññevattha-matta-nibbhāsā nivitakkā ||43||
(and on the other hand) there is the one without thought (nirvitakka) with clearest mindfulness and which is of the nature of speechless-emptiness
etadeva savicārā nirvicārā ca sukkhuma-visayā akkhātā ||44||
In the same way a state of with-vicara and without-vicara can be explained due to the subtleness of the object.
sukkhuma-visayattaṃ c’āliṅga-pary’avasānam ||45|| It culminates in a subtle object without characteristics.
tā eva sa-bījo samādhi ||46|| That though still is samadhi with a seed.
nirvicāra-visārad’ajjhatta-pasādo ||47|| You gain inner happiness through confidence in (concentration) without reflection (vicara, related to vitakka).
itaṃbharā tatra paññā ||48|| Thus filled with truth there is wisdom.
sut’ānumāna-paññāyā añña-visayā vises’atthatā ||49|| This wisdom is of a different realm than the knowledged gained through learning.
taj-jo saṃkhāro’ñña-saṃkhāra-paṭibaddhī ||50||
That such born (induced) (meditative) activity obstructs (all) other activities.
tassāpi nirodhe sabba-nirodhā nibbījo samādhi ||51||
From the extinction of that too all is extinguished – and that is the seedless-samadhi.
iti patañjali-viracite yoga-sutte paṭhamo samādhi-pādo |||
Such is Patañjali’s first Samadhi-chapter in the Yoga Sutra.


(Buddhist) Observations and Comments on the Yogasutra (by line number)

[1] Oneself to the object of meditation, i.e.: an instruction (anusāsana) in meditation practice (yoga).

[2] vaṭṭi: turbulence, whirlpool, activity, lit. going round and round. fig. derived from lit. ‘wick’ (something turned in circles) In this context, simply: “meditation is … ‘stopping of the busy mind’” (which is very active and its activity resembles a circling around). This is probably the most straightforward (and correct) translation

[3] In Pali the word ḍṛistar does not exist, it would rather use something like muni; meaning is the same – except, of course, that “seer” reminds one in this case really more of the “seeing” part in the process. I pali-ised the Sanskrit ḍṛistar into Pāli diṭṭhār to show that semantic relationship with diṭṭha. Alternative translation: “Then the seer allows for (or has an opportunity – avaṭṭhāna) [to be] in the true nature (his or the nature of things – whatever Patañjali’s philosophy would call for.

[7] Lit.: ”What comes through direct seeing and measurement is called experience”.

[9] Or: “Thinking is sound-knowledge without physical sound object (vatthu)”. Funny, I did not know that when I wrote this little piece just recently: Thoughts as silent sounds). Same explanation of what (sound-) thoughts are.

[12] Virāga and nirodha in one sentence: you cannot get more canonical Buddhist than that. Interesting is, however, the down-to-earth non-metaphysical usage of these terms in this regard. They are simply applied to the process of meditation, even more specific: to the process of concentration meditation. This is food for thought (no pun intended).

[14] Looks like the author of the mediaval Pali subcommentary to the Digha Nikaya did a similar reading. We find: “Tathā hi sasambhārābyāso, dīghakālābyāso, nirantarābyāso, sakkaccābyāsoti cattāro abyāsā caturadhiṭṭhānaparipūritasambandhā anupubbena mahābodhiṭṭhānā sampajjanti.” These definitions of strong determination looking very similar to the Yogasutra are only found in that subcommentary and – what a surprise, it also is one of the only few places to use daḷha and bhūmi in the same sentence…Would be interesting to see what else that particular subcommentary has to say about meditation.

[16] i.e. here we have the brahmanic spin: it is this getting closer to the soul which allows us to overcome thirst/craving or taṇhā. This little sentence gives so much away! Still, here at this point in time, Patañjali is so convinced of the Buddhist goal “giving up craving, getting rid of thirst”, i.e. vitaṇhā, as he states it. However, he will not let go of the idea of a soul without which his theistic philosophy would collapse and nothing in this text would make it distinguishable from a Buddhist treatise. So riding on the back of Buddhist terminology and meditation principles he introduces the “purisa” or soul into the discussion (if it is read this way), stating that by being closer to your “true nature” (svarūpa) and inner man “purisa”, i.e. soul, you can clear yourself of thirst/craving. Nice try.

[17] Here we have our copy-cat description of the first jhāna very similar to the way the Buddha describes it time and again in the Pali texts: “So vivicceva kāmehi, vivicca akusalehi dhammehi savitakkaṃ savicāraṃ vivekajaṃ pītisukhaṃ paṭhamaṃ jhānaṃ upasampajja viharati.” But, to his credit, the first jhāna simply shows certain criteria, which, if you share the language of origin, will get explained in a similar fashion. In fact, we have quite a beautiful description of the first jhāna: An explanation that the first jhāna is a form of sampajaññatā (mindfulness of what goes on) following the realm of form (our meditation topic is a mental form) and a happiness combined with the thought we are trying to hold onto which in itself could be described as the pure experience of “I am” (asmitā – the term is being used more losely in this place as the suttas would allow). Nevertheless, the listing of vitakka/vicāra at the first mentioning of meditative absorption is a clear reference to the Yogasutra’s Buddhist origin.
Interesting also, is the connection which is being made at this point with sampajaññatā: Think about everything we said before about sati. If sati is really simply the holding of an object (sati’s paṭṭhāna, so to speak) then it is interesting to see how sampajaññā in this case gets identified with the state of the first jhāna. Could that mean, that when the Buddha mentions those two in the Pāli texts, he implicitly meant samathā-vipassanā? This is not at all such a strange idea, as many vipassana meditators, focusing on subtler objects will quite quickly show signs of the first jhāna. Could it then be that this term “sampajaññatā” was seen as the first result of a concentrated mind? In any case, experience will teach you very quickly that when you try to hold one object in your mind, your awareness of what happens in the present moment will dramatically increase, simply due to the fact that your endeavor to stay with the object is under constant jeopardy through the siege of sense impressions…

[20] The Buddha mentions these 5 factors when he was training arūpa-jhāna under his former two teachers. He also mentions them as crucial factors when striving for enlightenment under the Bodhi tree. Later, in the course of his teaching years, he gave them the name of “powers” (bala) and explained that they, if perfected, would lead to enlightenment.

[24] Besides the question whether issaro here could be read as merely refering to a meditation master (which fits perfectly in the discussion up to verse 27 where it starts to not fit any longer..is open for discussion (Cf. Geshe Michael Roach and Christie McNally’s translation at this point). I have to admit, at first I was sceptical to interpret it that way, because remembering MN 1 it seemed more logical to assume issaro was foremost used to denote "the Lord" (i.e. your God). But, using CST4 and searchinga around, I did find quite some nice references where esp. in the Theragatha issaro was simply used to imply "master". Interesting is also the word āsayih…which I substituted with the simple Pāli word for wish/desire “āsā”. However, it “almost” sounds like “āsava” which would fit even better in the context of kamma and vipāka. But the idea of āsava is very particular (“that which flows into you, overwhelming you) and may or may not have been intended in this place. BTW, the Sanskrit aparāmṛṣṭaḥ took a while to crack. It comes from a+parā+mṛṣṭaḥ which in Pali (literally) turns into aparā+missā (lit. “by nothing higher mixed/shaken”. In the Pali canon, however, such a word cannot be found (another Pali-zation). A Buddha’s contemporary "Kosalan" (if I may throw that theory in here) would probably have opted for a word like “apariyuṭṭhāna” instead, which offers a similar meaning.

[26] Lit. would not “cut loose” (an+ava+chedana), i.e. abandon -not even for a (short) time (kalena).

[27] panavah (interpretated as “om” in Hindu literature). It all depends if you read verses 24-27 as implying “issaro” to mean ‘God’ or if you take it simply to refer to the meditation master from whom you learn meditation. If you do a search in the Tipitaka, you will see that at the time of the Buddha “issara” was in used to denote ones teacher (see Theragatha for instance).

[31] Here we have dukkha and domanassa mentioned. They too appear in the Buddha’s definition of the four jhanas, but in a different sense. The meditative problem described here seems out of place and looks as if someone just had to fit these words in here. Also in and out breath of course do play a role in that they cease to exist (nirodha) subjectively (!) to the meditator in the fourth jhana. Strange that all of this gets listed but put in such a different interpretation.

[33] And here we go. The four brahmaviharas, of course, famous for the way Buddha encouraged his monks to practice them to subdue the five hindrances and enter the jhanas. Also interesting how the Tipitaka sometimes aligns them with the progression in the four jhanas (which deserves its own blog post).

[34 & 35] Woa! Now someone is adding Anapanasati to the list of meditation techniques, the most favorite Buddhist meditation topic besides the brahmaviharas, which, what a coincidence was mentioned in the passage before. Here he almost “quotes” the benefit of Anapanasati from the Pali suttas, as given by the Buddha in SN Mahavagga, Anapanasatisamyutta, where the Buddha says that the biggest benefit of Anapanasati is its ability to still the mind. Very interesting!

[36] See Pali quote above and next, somehow copycat alarm : "iminā vihārena bahulaṃ viharato neva kāyo kilamati na cakkhūni; And through dwelling very often in this abiding o monks, neither did my body get tired nor my eyes; ” [see more here] What shows the experienced meditator though is right away the explanation how that radiant and desireless free mind will stay away from the senses – that realization is important and shows that the author did know what he was talking about – in pragmatic terms. If there is one thing which is most important in inducing samadhi (i.e. jhanas) it is the settling of the mind, the balancing act, against the onslaught of the senses.

[42] in the Pali Canon lingo we would say “savitakka-jhana".

[43] sati-parisuddham is of course the Buddha’s name for the fourth jhana. It seems the author tries to show us the range of the four jhanas by pointing out the criteria of the first and then contrasting it with the characteristics of the fourth jhana using again Pali Sutta terminology.

[44] strange little acknowledgement. One is inclined to ask: explained by whom

[51] I cannot help myself, but this last line sounds more like a reporter, who, after having been invited to a very important meeting, is eager to share what he has heard from those important sources. Here we are given a definition, in effect, of the Buddha’s definition of “phalasamāpatti” – a jhānic state, which can only come about after someone has had an attainment of that particular nirvanic insight, which allows him to enter such a samādhi that is without “seeds” (nibbīja). This entire concept does not fit very well into a theistic line of argument, and no attempt is being made, here, at the very end of defining samādhi, to explain it. Did the Buddhist talk about this in such terms that in “mainstream” philosophical circles this was automatically understood to mean “the highest you can achieve” and was the argument so powerful that even though it would not fit into your own school of thought, it was considered to be undisputable? Hard to tell. It just sounds more in place here: “Khīṇaṃ purāṇaṃ navam natthi sambhavaṃ, virattacittāyatike bhavasmiṃ; Te khīṇabījā avirūḷhichandā, nibbanti dhīrā yathāyaṃ padīpo;” Snip. v. 238 (Ratanasutta). We would call that Nirvana Or more specifically, something you would target for when you try “saññā-vedayita-nirodha”, the cessation of perception and feeling, an attainment the Buddha describes as possible for Arahants and Anagamis, after they enter the 8 jhanas sequentially and then finally leave even the most subtle activity (sankhāra) behind.


It would be interesting to take this Pali translation and compare it against the corpus of Pali texts (CST4) to see which phase in Pali development this text (with its particular style and vocabulary) would have best matched with. An exercise maybe for another day

Just remember:

Bahu pi ce sahitam bhasamano… Dhp 19!


  1. Here the original version in Sanskrit plus a very nice translation (and you can see for yourself how their otherwise very nice translation) is at a disadvantage from not being acquainted with the Pali predecessor of this text): click here
  2. which puts it right in the vicinity of the Milindapanha, Patisambhiddamagga and similar texts
  3. Not being that familiar with any of this subject matter other than amateurish curiosity, here another link of someone actually pointing out the lack of actual comparisions being undertaken to study these links between early Sanskrit (Hindu) texts and the Pali Canon, which, after all, developed in the time of the Upanishads: http://www.springerlink.com/content/g180174820p0j815/
  4. which is why once in a while we see two more items being added to the noble eightfold path. After “samma samadhi” comes “samma panya” and then samma vimutti”. Not many people know that, but it makes sense if you see how the samadhi part was the growing field for the Buddha to let righ-view become supermundane which, in nowadays terminology, we would understand as using samadhi + wisdom, i.e. vipassana.
  5. Yā sati anussati paṭissati sati saraṇatā dhāraṇatā apilāpanatā asammussanatā sati satindriyaṃ satibalaṃ sammāsati satisambojjhaṅgo ekāyanamaggo, ayaṃ vuccati sati. Imāya satiyā upeto hoti samupeto upagato samupagato upapanno samupapanno samannāgato, so vuccati sato. MahaNiddesa, for example, PTS 1.10
  6. Yamo is defined asAhiṁsāsatyāsteyabrahmacaryāparigrahā yamāḥ” – that is actually 4 of the 5 sila, namely: Not harming living beings (ahimsa), not lying (sacca), not stealing (asteya), chastity (brahmacariya). In the next line the yoga sutra states, how they should be practiced, mentioning “achinnam” unbroken, a qualifier used in the Pali suttas when explaining how to keep the sila. Here, in the yoga sutra, we get to know what that means: apply them in any circumstance possible. YS: II, 31. In II, 33 it is recommended to practice the opposite if (in thoughts) we want to break the silas. Interesting detail (which may have been inspired by contemporary Buddhist practices/teachings).
  7. Dharana defined in YS III, 1: “Concentration (dhāraṇā) is the mind’s (cittasya) fixation (bandháḥ) on one area (deśá)”. Or in Pāli: cittassa desabandhanā dhāraṇā. – beautiful description of sati, isn’t it !
  8. You might also like to look at Johannes Bronkhorst’s 2007 work Greater Magadha where he discusses the so-called influence of the Upanishads on the Buddha’s teachings and concludes that it was probably the other way around – that the teachings of religions in what he calls Greater Magadha – Buddhism, Jainism and the Aajiavikas (with respect to karmic retribution, reincarnation and the universal I) were incorporated into Vedic thought. (pages 112-35). He also questions the traditional date of the Upanisads as pre-Buddhist (page 175f)” [Quoted from palistudy%40yahoogroups.com] [link]
  9. In the PED "dharana" is defined as "Dhāraṇa (nt.) [cp. Sk. dhāraṇa, to dhāreti] 1. wearing, in mālā˚ (etc.) D i.5=A ii.210=Pug 58; KhA 37; cīvara˚ A ii.104=Pug 45. — 2. maintaining, sustaining, keeping up Miln 320 (āyu˚ bhojana). — 3. bearing in mind, remembrance Vin iv.305; M ii.175 (dhamma˚)." which makes it a perfect synonym to sati yet expresses the concentrative aspect of sati, which consists in the power of memory to hold something in the focus of our attention, more clearly. Note the Milindapanha reference here and cf. (1).

Recomended translations and readings:

  • from another Buddhist perspective: The Essential Yoga Sutra.

  • and another Buddhist peak focusing less on the Tipitaka but general Buddhist/Yoga: Samādhi: the numinous and cessative in Indo-Tibetan yoga By Stuart Ray Sarbacker

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