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The Satipaṭṭhāna-sutta (Discourse on the Foundations of Mindfulness) is one of the most important expositions of Buddhist meditation in the Pāli canon and in the TheravĀda school. The discourse enumerates twenty-one meditation practices for the cultivation of mindfulness (Pāli, sati; Sanskrit, smṛti) under a fourfold rubric called the four foundations of mindfulness. The four foundations are extolled as the one path leading to the realization of nirvĀṆa. The first foundation, "contemplation of the body" (kāyānupassanā), includes fourteen practices: mindfulness of breathing, mindfulness of postures, full awareness of bodily actions, contemplation of bodily impurities, contemplation of elements, and nine cemetery meditations. The second foundation, "contemplation of feeling" (veda-nānupassanā), consists of one practice: mindfulness of sensations (pleasant, unpleasant, neutral). The third foundation, "contemplation of mind" (cittānupassanā) is also a single practice: mindfulness of states of mind, such as lust, hatred, and liberation. The fourth foundation, "contemplation of mind-objects" (dhammānupassanā), includes five meditations on specific categories of dharmas: the five hindrances, the five skandha (aggregates), the six sense bases, the seven enlightenment factors, and the four noble truths. In every exercise, the practitioner is directed to observe the object of meditation simply as it is with bare attention and without attachment.

The text claims that correct practice of the four foundations of mindfulness will lead to enlightenment in as little as seven days. An expanded version of this text named the Mahāsatipaṭṭhāna-sutta is also found in the Pāli canon. Since the beginning of the twentieth century, the satipaṭṭhāna-sutta has become especially influential as the scriptural foundation for the modern revival and popularization of insight meditation practice (vipassanā) in the Theravāda countries of South and Southeast Asia.

See also:Vipassanā (Sanskrit, Vipaśyanā)


Bhikkhu Ñāṇamoli and Bhikkhu Bodhi, trans. "The Foundations of Mindfulness." In The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Majjhima Nikāya. Boston: Wisdom, 1995.

Nyanaponika Thera. The Heart of Buddhist Meditation (Satipaṭṭhāna): A Handbook of Mental Training Based on the Buddha's Way of Mindfulness. London: Rider, 1962.

Patrick A. Pranke