The Power of Mindfulness

The Buddha describes the power of mindfulness (satindriya) in today’s Pali exercise:

“Katamañca, bhikkhave, satindriyaṃ? Idha, bhikkhave, ariyasāvako satimā hoti paramena satinepakkena samannāgato, cirakatampi cirabhāsitampi saritā anussaritā. So kāye kāyānupassī viharati ātāpī sampajāno satimā, vineyya loke abhijjhādomanassaṃ; vedanāsu … Pe … Citte … Pe … Dhammesu dhammānupassī viharati ātāpī sampajāno satimā, vineyya loke abhijjhādomanassaṃ — idaṃ vuccati, bhikkhave, satindriyaṃ.”

And what, bhikkhus, is the power of mindfulness? Here, bhikkhus, a disciple of the noble ones is mindful, endowed with excellent, careful alertness, remembering things long since said and done. He abides as a body observing the body, ardent, attentive, contemplative, letting go of desire for and distress about the world. He abides as feeling tones observing feeling tones…He abides as heart and mind observing heart and mind…He abides as phenomena observing phenomena, ardent, attentive, contemplative, letting go of desire for and distress about the world. This, bhikkhus, is what I call the power of mindfulness.
SN 48.10

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One comment

  1. This restatement of the four frames of mindfulness includes that difficult formula, exemplified in the phrase “So kāye kāyānupassī,” often translated as “he observes the body in the body.” “Kāya” means heap or collection, but is usually the term used for the body. “Kāye” is the locative singular, or “the body.” An “anupassī” is an observer, so a “kāyānupassī” is a body observer. Thus “kāye kāyānupassī,” literally means “a body-observer of the body.” The same grammatical formula is applied to vedana (feeling tone), citta (heart/mind), and dhamma (phenomena). How does one render this in sensible English? Other renderings include “the body as a body” (Bodhi), “the body in & of itself” (Thanissaro), “the body as just the body” (U Jotika), and just “body in body” (Vipassana Research Institute). The clearest of these, I think, push the ambiguous Pali more in the direction of “the body with nothing added.” But they are pushing.
    I’m gonna push a little myself, and suggest that the formula implies that there is no outside “real” observer of these things; rather, there are just the things themselves. So it is not some “you” observing the body, it is the body itself making this observation. “You” are not contemplating the heart; the heart contemplates itself. Rather than alienate from this heap of aggregates, we keep in mind that the heap is what’s being mindful. Thus my rendering, “He abides as a body observing the body.”

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