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Saṃyutta Nikāya
5. Mahā-Vagga
47. Sati-Paṭṭhāna Saṃyutta
5. Amata Vagga

Sutta 42

Samudaya Suttaṃ


Translated from the Pāḷi
Michael M. Olds



[1][pts][bodh][than] I Hear Tell:

Once upon a time Bhagava,
Sāvatthi-town revisiting, Anāthapiṇḍika's Jeta-forest park.

"I will describe for you
self-arising and settling down
in the four settings-up of Mind, beggars.

Listen well!

And what, beggars,
is the self-arising of body?

Food self-arising,
body arises.

Food ending,
body settles down.

And what, beggars,
is the self-arising of sensation?

Contact self-arising,
sensation arises.

Contact ending,
sensation settles down.

And what, beggars,
is the self-arising of heart?

Identified forms self-arising,
heart arises.

Identified forms ending,
heart settles down.

And what, beggars,
is the self-arising of Dhamma.[2]

Mind-study self-arising,
Dhamma arises.

Mind-study ending,
Dhamma settles down."



Pāḷi Olds Woodward Bhk. Thanissaro Bhk. Bodhi
satipaṭṭhānā settings up of mind station of mind establishings of mindfulness establishments of mindfulness
āhāra food food nutriment nutriment
phassa contact contact contact contact
nāma-rūpa identified forms, named forms name and body — the individuality ('the fivefold person-pack') name-and-form name-and-form
mana-sikāra mind-study attention attention attention
vedanā experience, sense-experience, sensation feelings feelings feelings
cittā heart/mental states mind/mind mind mind
dhammā Dhamma (either Dhammma, the teaching, or dhamma, things mind-states mental qualities phenomena


[1] This sutta seems to have generated a great deal of confusion and debate continuing on down to our own time.

My clarification of the issue is in the wording used here in the translation. One of the things one is told to practice is the noticing of the self-arising and settling down of things. It is part of the description of the practice and result of the practice of observing the body, sensations, heart and Dhamma, that is:

Thus ...
he oversees the body ...,
watching over the self-arising of things,
or he revisits body ...,
watching over the settling down of things,
or he revisits body ...,
watching over the self-arising and settling down of things.

So here what is being described is that aspect of the practice of setting up mind.

There is no need to turn this into a re-definition of the meaning or focus or nature of 'sati-patthana'.

I am including the whole of the argument as found in Points of Controversy so that it may be seen in all its glorious utter madness.

There might have been less confusion over this issue if this set of suttas had not been formally separated from the previous set. They belong together. This is a sub-topic or deeper look. That is all.

Bhk. Thanissaro picks up the discussion with his view of the problem:

"This discourse is unusual in that it identifies the word satipaṭṭhana, not with the standard formula of the process of establishing mindfulness, but with the objects that form the frame of reference for that process. For example, instead of identifying the first satipaṭṭhana as, "There is the case where a monk remains focused on the body in and of itself — ardent, alert, and mindful — subduing greed and distress with reference to the world," it identifies it simply as "body."

Bhk. Bodhi footnotes: 'Here satipaṭṭhāna obviously refers to the four objects of mindfulness.'

Points of Controversy, p. 104 f.: 9. Of Applications in Mindfulness. Controverted Point. — That all mental states are applications in mindfulness.[sub 1] From the Commentary. — The groups holding special views who arose later, to wit, the Andhakas, comprising the sub-grooups of the Pubbaseliyas, Aparaseliyas, Rājagirikas, and Siddhaṭṭhikas, held the opinion that the objects of mindfulness, namely, the body and the rest, were themselves [the conscious subject:] mindfulness. This they deduced from the passage in the 'Satipaṭṭhāna-Saṃutta': 'I will show you, bhikkhus, the induction and the cessation of applications in mindfulness.'[sub 2] To break down this opinion, the Theravādin puts the question.

[1] Th. — "Do all cognizable things constitute applications in mindfulness?"[sub 3]

Andhaka. — Yes.

[1] Th. — "Then must you also admit that all cognizable things constitute mindfulness, the controlling faculty and force of mindfulness, mindfulness that is perfect, that is a factor of enlightenment, the 'sole conveying' path 'leading to extinction,' to 'enlightenment,' to 'disintegration,' are 'not [bound up with] the intoxicants,' not akin to the fetters, ties, floods, bonds, hindrances, contagions, graspings, corruptions'; you must admit that all cognizable things constitute the 'ten recollections,' namely of the Buddha, the Norm, the Order, morals, pious liberality, the devas, 'mindfulness in respiration,' 'reflection on death,' 'mindfulness concerning the body,' 'reflection on peace.'[sub 4] But this you deny.

[2] Again, you must equally admit, given your first affirmation, that the eye-organ constitutes an application in mindfulness. And if you are driven to admit that it does, then you must admit everything for it, which, as I claim, you must admit for all cognizable things. [3] The same argument holds for the four other sense-organs, for the five objects of sense, for lust, hate, dullness, conceit, error, doubt, sloth, distraction, impudence, indiscretion.

[4] Is mindfulness itself an application of mindfulness, and conversely? If you admit this, then must you also admit that each of the foregoing cognizable things is an application of mindfulness, and that application of mindfulness is each of those things.

You deny; then do you hold that each of those cognizable things is an application of mindfulness, but not conversely? You assent; then you must equally admit that mindfulness itself is an application in mindfulness, but that application in mindfulness is not mindfulness."

[5] A. — "Then is it wrong to say 'all things are applications in mindfulness?'"

Th. — "Yes."

A. — "But is not mindfulness established[sub 5] concerning all cognizable things?"

Th. — "Yes."

A. — "How then, good sir, can you deny what I affirm: 'All cognizable things are applications of mindfulness'?"

Th. — "We have said that mindfulness is established concerning all cognizable things: now, are all cognizable things applications of mindfulness?"

A. — "Yes."

Th. — "Contact[sub 6] is established with respect to all cognizable things: are then all such things applications in contact? For this is that to which you have committed yourself. Again, feeling, perception, volition, consciousness, each of these is established with respect to all cognizable things: are then all such things applications in feeling, in perception, etc.? For this must equally be admitted.

[6] Again, if your proposition is to stand, then you equally admit for all beings[sub 7] that they have mindfulness at hand, are endowed and set up with[sub 8] mindfulness, having it ever in readiness.[sub 9]

Moreover, was it not said by the Exalted One: 'They, bhikkhus, who do not enjoy mindfulness regarding the body, do not enjoy the Ambrosial; they, bhikkhus, who enjoy mindfulness regarding the body, enjoy the Ambrosial'?[sub 10]

Is the Suttanta thus? You admit it is; but do 'all beings' enjoy, obtain, practice, develop, and multiply mindfulness regarding the body? You know they do not.

[7] Again, was it not said by the Exalted One: 'There is a way, bhikkhus, that leads only to the purification of beings, to the passing beyond sorrow and grief, to the extinction of ill and sadness, to the attainment of right method,[sub 11] to the realization of Nibbāna, and that way is the four applications of mindfulness'?[sub 12]

Is the Suttanta thus? You admit it is; but have 'all beings' this one and only way so leading? You are bound to admit that they have not.

[8] Again, was it not said by the Exalted One: 'When a Wheel-turning Monarch appears, bhikkhus, then doth there appear seven treasures. What are the seven? The treasure of the Wheel doth appear, and the treasures of the Elephant, the Horse, the Jewel, the Woman, the Householder, the Heir-apparent; yea, bhikkhus, on the appearance of a Wheel-turning Monarch do these seven treasures appear. When a Tathāgata appears, bhikkhus, Arahant Buddha Supreme, then doth there appear these seven treasures of enlightenment. What are the seven? The treasures of those factors of enlightenment: Mindfulness, Search for Truth, Energy, Zest, Serenity, Concentration, Equanimity; yea, bhikkhus, on the appearance of a Tathāgata Arahant, Buddha Supreme, do these seven treasures appear'?[sub 13]

Is the Suttanta thus? You admit it is. But do 'all things' become that treasure of Mindfulness which is a factor of enlightenment, when a Tathāgata appears? You know they do not, yet you are bound to admit they do.

[9] Lastly, if all things are applications of mindfulness, they must be equally other of the (thirty-seven) things pertaining to enlightenment,[sub 14] such as the supreme efforts, the steps to magic potency, the controlling faculties and forces, the factors of enlightenment. To this admission are you committed.


[sub 1]'applications in mindfulness' = satipaṭṭhānā.

[sub 2] Saṃyutta-Nikāya, v. 184 [SN 5.47.42] The controversy turns upon the double sense, subjective and objective, of the term sati-paṭṭhānā, or mindfulness-applications. The Opponent confesses the objects of this important fourfold religious exercise with the mental exercise itself, thus merging object in subject, 'subject' in Buddhism being 'consciousness of object.' We have much the same ambiguity observed in the popular use of object and subject of thought. Etymologically ob- and sub- scarcely support the distinction prescribed by philosophy. A 'subject for meditation' is an 'object of thought.' A 'hypnotic subject' is for the hypnotizer an object.
The Sutta on which the opinion is based is ambiguously worded in the context that follows. This gives not the induction and cessation of the meditating 'mindfulness,' but the cause or genesis (samudayo can mean these or induction) of the four prescribed objects of the meditation — the body, feelings, consciousness, and cognizable objects — the causes being nourishment, contact, mind-and-body, attention, respectively. Hence for the immature thought of the sectarian mind there is thus much of justification.

[3] On this term, which includes 'memory,' the etymological meaning of sati, see Compendium, 40, 179; Buddh. Psy., 1914. ... The quaint comment runs thus: 'Inasmuch as paṭṭhānā mean "those things to which one applies': — applies what? mindfulness ... thus such mindfulness has paṭṭhānā's as its field; but paṭṭhānās apply — what? mindfulnesses. Thus paṭṭhānā's mean (a) objects of mindful application, (b) subjects applying mindfulness.'

[sub 4] All of these terms are technical in Buddhist religious culture, and most are associated with applications of mindfulness, in the Suttas concerning it. Dialogues, ii. 327 f.; Majjhima-Nik., i.55 f.; Saṃyutta-Nik., v. 141 f.; 294; also Vibhanga, 193 f.; 206.

[sub 5] Santiṭṭhati, literally translated, but 'actualized' may possibly be a truer rendering.

[sub 6] Contact (phassa) may be physical or mental. If mental, it takes place without impact (sanghaṭṭana). Bud. Psy. Eth., 5, n. 2.

[sub 7] Who are all 'cognizable things' (dhammā)

[sub 8] Samohitā

[sub 9] This term, in the original, is an intensive form of the attribute first named in this sentence: upaṭṭhita, paccupaṭṭhita.

[sub 10] Aṇguttara-Nik., i 45. 'The Ambrosial' in its literal meaning, the Not-dead, is a name for Nibbāna.

[sub 11] Cf. Saṃyutta-Nik., v. 388.

[sub 12] Saṃyutta-Nik., v. 141; cf. Dialogues, ii.327: Majjhima-Nik., i. 55.

[sub 13] Saṃyutta-Nik., v. 99.

[sub 14] See p.65., n.5.


[2]Dhamma. See SN 5.47.35 Olds footnote 1


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