The Satipaṭṭhāna Method

[revised 12/2/2022] Suppose you want to do something really well, maybe wash the dishes, ride a bicycle, write a report, identify the birds feeding in your back yard, play a tune. What mental resources do you require? First, you need to bring the relevant knowledge and skills to bear; they are always there, even for the simplest task. Second, you need to be very attentive to the circumstances in which you are performing the task. Third, since you want to do the task really well, you need to muster attention and concern to bear on the task. Fourth, you need to let go of all distractions to your attention and concern.

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What I have described is what I call the ‘satipaṭṭhāna method.’ It is a method that when developed and cultivated turns into the skill of doing things skillfully. Learning this skill is critical to Buddhist practice. The Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta goes beyond the method: it outlines a fourfold practice task, along with this four-factored method which is applied in the performance of that task:

Here, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu abides contemplating the body in the body, ardent, clearly comprehending, and recollective, having put away covetousness and grief for the world. He abides contemplating feelings in feelings, ardent, clearly comprehending, and recollective, having put away covetousness and grief for the world. He abides contemplating mind in mind, ardent, clearly comprehending, and recollective, having put away covetousness and grief for the world. He abides contemplating phenomena in phenomena, ardent, clearly comprehending, and recollective, having put away covetousness and grief for the world.
(MN 10 i56)

. . .  MORE: SatipatthanaMethod

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