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Sati (in Pali; Sanskrit: smṛti), translated as mindfulness or awareness is a spiritual or psychological faculty (indriya) that forms an essential part of Buddhist practice. It is one of the seven factors of enlightenment. "Correct" or "right" mindfulness (Pali: sammā-sati, Sanskrit samyak-smṛti) is the seventh element of the noble eightfold path.
- Definition 1
- Pali 2.1
- Sanskrit 2.2
- Chinese 2.3
- Alternate translations 2.4
- Anapanasati 3.1
- Satipaṭṭhāna 3.2
- Vipassanā 3.3
- Samprajaña, apramāda and atappa 3.4
- "Bare attention" 3.5
- Āgamas 3.6
- Mindfulness (psychology) 3.7
- See also 4
- Notes 5
- References 6
- Sources 7
- External links 8
The word sati derives from a root meaning 'to remember,' but as a mental factor it signifies presence of mind, attentiveness to the present, rather than the faculty of memory regarding the past. It has the characteristic of not wobbling, i.e. not floating away from the object. Its function is absence of confusion or non-forgetfulness. It is manifested as guardianship, or as the state of confronting an objective field. Its proximate cause is strong perception (thirasaññā) or the four foundations of mindfulness.
What is smṛti? It is not to let what one knows slip away from one's mind. Its function is not to be distracted.
Mindfulness means not only, "moment to moment awareness of present events," but also, "remembering to be aware of something or to do something at a designated time in the future".[note 1] In fact, "the primary connotation of this Sanskrit term [smrti] (and its corresponding Pali term sati) is recollection".[note 1]
(RR: yeom or yŏm)
(Wylie: dran pa;
|Glossary of Buddhism|
The Buddhist term translated into English as "mindfulness" originates in the Pali term sati and in its Sanskrit counterpart smṛti. Translators rendered the Sanskrit word as trenpa in Tibetan (wylie: dran pa) and as nian 念 in Chinese.
The Pali-language scholar Thomas William Rhys Davids (1843–1922) first translated sati in 1881 as English mindfulness in sammā-sati "Right Mindfulness; the active, watchful mind". Noting that Daniel John Gogerly (1845) initially rendered sammā-sati as "Correct meditation", Davids explained,
sati is literally 'memory' but is used with reference to the constantly repeated phrase 'mindful and thoughtful' (sato sampajâno); and means that activity of mind and constant presence of mind which is one of the duties most frequently inculcated on the good Buddhist."
Henry Alabaster, in The Wheel of the Law: Buddhism Illustrated From Siamese Sources by the Modern Buddhist, A Life of Buddha, and an Account of the Phrabat (1871), had earlier defined "Satipatthan/Smrityupasthana" as "The act of keeping one's self mindful."
The English term mindfulness already existed before it came to be used in a (western) Buddhist context. It was first recorded as myndfulness in 1530 (John Palsgrave translates French pensee), as mindfulnesse in 1561, and mindfulness in 1817. Morphologically earlier terms include mindful (first recorded in 1340), mindfully (1382), and the obsolete mindiness (ca. 1200).
John D. Dunne, an associate professor at Emory University whose current research focuses especially on the concept of "mindfulness" in both theoretical and practical contexts, asserts that the translation of sati and smṛti as mindfulness is confusing and that a number of Buddhist scholars have started trying to establish "retention" as the preferred alternative.
Bhikkhu Bodhi also points to the meaning of "sati" as "memory":
The word derives from a verb, sarati, meaning “to remember,” and occasionally in Pali sati is still explained in a way that connects it with the idea of memory. But when it is used in relation to meditation practice, we have no word in English that precisely captures what it refers to. An early translator cleverly drew upon the word mindfulness, which is not even in my dictionary. This has served its role admirably, but it does not preserve the connection with memory, sometimes needed to make sense of a passage.
The Sanskrit word smṛti स्मृति (also transliterated variously as smriti, smRti, or sm'Rti) literally means "that which is remembered", and refers both to "mindfulness" in Buddhism and "a category of metrical texts" in Hinduism, considered second in authority to the Śruti scriptures.
Monier Monier-Williams's Sanskrit-English Dictionary differentiates eight meanings of smṛti स्मृति, "remembrance, reminiscence, thinking of or upon, calling to mind, memory":
- memory as one of the Vyabhicāri-bhāvas [transient feelings];
- Memory (personified either as the daughter of Daksha and wife of Aṅgiras or as the daughter of Dharma and Medhā);
- the whole body of sacred tradition or what is remembered by human teachers (in contradistinction to Śruti or what is directly heard or revealed to the Rishis; in its widest acceptation this use of the term Smṛti includes the 6 Vedangas, the Sūtras both Śrauta and Grhya, the Manusmṛti, the Itihāsas (e.g., the Mahābhārata and Ramayana), the Puranas and the Nītiśāstras, "according to such and such a traditional precept or legal text";
- the whole body of codes of law as handed down memoriter or by tradition (esp. the codes of Manusmṛti, Yājñavalkya Smṛti and the 16 succeeding inspired lawgivers) … all these lawgivers being held to be inspired and to have based their precepts on the Vedas;
- symbolical name for the number 18 (from the 18 lawgivers above);
- a kind of meter;
- name of the letter g- ग्;
- desire, wish
Buddhist scholars translated smṛti with the Chinese word nian 念 "study; read aloud; think of; remember; remind". Nian is commonly used in Modern Standard Chinese words such as guannian 觀念 (观念) "concept; idea", huainian 懷念 (怀念) "cherish the memory of; think of", nianshu 念書 (念书) "read; study", and niantou 念頭 (念头) "thought; idea; intention". Two specialized Buddhist terms are nianfo 念佛 "chant the name of Buddha; pray to Buddha" and nianjing 念經 (念经) "chant/recite sutras".
This Chinese character nian 念 is composed of jin 今 "now; this" and xin 心 "heart; mind". Bernhard Karlgren graphically explains nian meaning "reflect, think; to study, learn by heart, remember; recite, read – to have 今 present to 心 the mind". The Chinese character nian or nien 念 is pronounced as Korean yeom or yŏm 염, Japanese ネン or nen, and Vietnamese niệm.
A Dictionary of Chinese Buddhist Terms gives basic translations of nian: "Recollection, memory; to think on, reflect; repeat, intone; a thought; a moment."
The Digital Dictionary of Buddhism gives more detailed translations of nian "mindfulness, memory":
- Recollection (Skt. smṛti; Tib. dran pa). To recall, remember. That which is remembered. The function of remembering. The operation of the mind of not forgetting an object. Awareness, concentration. Mindfulness of the Buddha, as in Pure Land practice. In Abhidharma-kośa theory, one of the ten omnipresent factors 大地法. In Yogâcāra, one of the five 'object-dependent' mental factors 五別境;
- Settled recollection; (Skt. sthāpana; Tib. gnas pa). To ascertain one's thoughts;
- To think within one's mind (without expressing in speech). To contemplate; meditative wisdom;
- Mind, consciousness;
- A thought; a thought-moment; an instant of thought. (Skt. kṣana);
- Patience, forbearance.
The terms sati/smriti have been translated as:
- Attention (Jack Kornfield)
- Concentrated attention (Mahasi Sayadaw)
- Inspection (Herbert Guenther)
- Mindful attention
- Self-recollection (Jack Kornfield)
- Recollecting mindfulness (Alexander Berzin)
- Recollection (Erik Pema Kunsang, Buddhadasa Bhikkhu)
- Reflective awareness (Buddhadasa Bhikkhu)
- Presence (Symran) Dav Panesar
Mindfulness, which, among other things, is an attentive awareness of the reality of things (especially of the present moment) is an antidote to delusion (Pali: Moha), and is considered as such one of the 'powers' (Pali: bala) that contribute to the attainment of nirvana. The faculty of mindfulness becomes a power in particular when it is coupled with clear comprehension of whatever is taking place. Nirvana is a state of being in which greed, hatred and delusion (Pali: moha) have been overcome and abandoned, and are absent from the mind.
Ānāpānasati (Pali; Sanskrit: ānāpānasmṛti; Chinese: 安那般那; Pīnyīn: ānnàbānnà; Sinhala: ආනා පානා සති), meaning 'mindfulness of breathing' ("sati" means mindfulness; "ānāpāna" refers to inhalation and exhalation), is a form of Buddhist meditation now common to the Tibetan, Zen, Tiantai, and Theravada schools of Buddhism, as well as western-based mindfulness programs. Anapanasati means to feel the sensations caused by the movements of the breath in the body, as is practiced in the context of mindfulness. According to tradition, Anapanasati was originally taught by the Buddha in several sutras including the Ānāpānasati Sutta.[note 2] (MN 118)
The Buddha advocated that one should establish mindfulness (satipaṭṭhāna) in one's day-to-day life, maintaining as much as possible a calm awareness of one's body, feelings, mind, and dharmas. The practice of mindfulness supports analysis resulting in the arising of wisdom (Pali: paññā, Sanskrit: prajñā).[note 3] A key innovative teaching of the Buddha was that meditative stabilisation must be combined with liberating discernment.
The Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta (Sanskrit: Smṛtyupasthāna Sūtra) is an early text dealing with mindfulness.
Vipassanā (Pāli) is commonly used as a synonym for vipassanā-meditation, in which satipatthana, four foundations of mindfulness or anapanasati, "mindfulness of breathing," is used to become aware of the impermanence of everything that exists. Vipassanā in the Buddhist tradition means insight into the true nature of reality.
In the Theravadin context, this entails insight into the three marks of existence, namely the impermanence of and the unsatisfactoriness of every conditioned thing that exists, and non-self. In Mahayana contexts, it entails insight into what is variously described as sunyata, dharmata, the inseparability of appearance and emptiness (two truths doctrine), clarity and emptiness, or bliss and emptiness.
Vipassanā is commonly used as one of two poles for the categorization of types of Buddhist practice, the other being samatha (Pāli; Sanskrit: śamatha). Though both terms appear in the Sutta Pitaka[note 4], Gombrich and Brooks argue that the distinction as two separate paths originates in the earliest interpretations of the Sutta Pitaka, not in the suttas themselves.[note 5] Various traditions disagree which techniques belong to which pole. According to the contemporary Theravada orthodoxy, samatha is used as a preparation for vipassanā, pacifying the mind and strengthening the concentration in order to allow the work of insight, which leads to liberation.
Vipassanā-meditation has gained popularity in the west through the modern Buddhist vipassana movement, modeled after Theravāda Buddhism meditation practices, which employs vipassanā and ānāpāna meditation as its primary techniques and places emphasis on the teachings of the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta.
Samprajaña, apramāda and atappa
In Buddhist practice, "mindfulness" also includes samprajaña, meaning "clear comprehension" and apramāda meaning "vigilance".[note 6] All three terms are sometimes (confusingly) translated as "mindfulness", but they all have specific shades of meaning.
He held that in the proper practice of right mindfulness, sati has to be integrated with sampajañña, clear comprehension, and it is only when these two work together that right mindfulness can fulfill its intended purpose.[note 7]
In the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta, sati and sampajañña are combined with atappa (Pali; Sanskrit: ātapaḥ), or "ardency,"[note 8] and the three together comprise yoniso manisikara (Pali; Sanskrit: yoniśas manaskāraḥ), "appropriate attention" or "wise reflection."
|mindfulness/awareness||sati||smṛiti स्मृति||念 (niàn)||trenpa (wylie: dran pa)|
|clear comprehension||sampajañña||samprajñāna संप्रज्ञान||正知力 (zhèng zhī lì)||sheshin (wylie: shes bzhin)|
|vigilance/heedfulness||appamada||apramāda अप्रमाद||不放逸座 (bù fàng yì zuò)||bakyö (wylie: bag yod)|
|ardency||atappa||ātapaḥ आतप||勇猛 (yǒng měng)||nyima (wylie: nyi ma)|
|attention/engagement||manasikara||manaskāraḥ मनस्कारः||如理作意 (rú lǐ zuò yì)||yila jeypa (wylie: yid la byed pa)|
|foundation of mindfulness||satipaṭṭhāna||
|念住 (niànzhù)||trenpa neybar zagpa (wylie: dran pa nye bar gzhag pa)|
[T]he identification of mindfulness with bare attention ignores or, at least, underestimates the cognitive implications of mindfulness, its ability to bring together various aspects of experience so as to lead to the clear comprehension of the nature of mental and bodily states. By over-emphasizing the nonjudgmental nature of mindfulness and arguing that our problems stem from conceptuality, contemporary authors are in danger of leading to a one-sided understanding of mindfulness as a form of therapeutically helpful spacious quietness. I think that it is important not to lose sight that mindfulness is not just a therapeutic technique but is a natural capacity that plays a central role in the cognitive process. It is this aspect that seems to be ignored when mindfulness is reduced to a form of nonjudgmental present-centered form of awareness of one’s experiences.
Robert H. Sharf notes that Buddhist practice is aimed at the attainment of "correct view", not just "bare attention":
Mahasi’s technique did not require familiarity with Buddhist doctrine (notably abhidhamma), did not require adherence to strict ethical norms (notably monasticism), and promised astonishingly quick results. This was made possible through interpreting sati as a state of "bare awareness" — the unmediated, non-judgmental perception of things "as they are," uninflected by prior psychological, social, or cultural conditioning. This notion of mindfulness is at variance with premodern Buddhist epistemologies in several respects. Traditional Buddhist practices are oriented more toward acquiring "correct view" and proper ethical discernment, rather than "no view" and a non-judgmental attitude.Jay Garfield, quoting Shantideva and other sources, stresses that mindfulness is constituted by the union of two functions, calling to mind and vigilantly retaining in mind. He demonstrates that there is a direct connection between the practice of mindfulness and the cultivation of morality – at least in the context of Buddhism from which modern interpretations of mindfulness are stemming.
- mindfulness of the Buddha
- mindfulness of the Dharma
- mindfulness of the Sangha
- mindfulness of giving
- mindfulness of the heavens
- mindfulness of stopping and resting
- mindfulness of discipline
- mindfulness of breathing
- mindfulness of the body
- mindfulness of death
According to Nan Huaijin, the Ekottara Āgama emphasizes mindfulness of breathing more than any of the other methods, and provides the most specific teachings on this one form of mindfulness.
Mindfulness practice, inherited from the Buddhist tradition, is being employed in psychology to alleviate a variety of mental and physical conditions, including obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, and in the prevention of relapse in depression and drug addiction.
- Buddhism and psychology
- Buddhist meditation
- Dennis Lewis
- Eternal Now (New Age)
- Henepola Gunaratana
- John Garrie
- Mahasati Meditation
- Mahasi Sayadaw
- Mindfulness (journal)
- S.N. Goenka
- Samu (Zen)
- Shinzen Young
- Taqwa and dhikr, related Islamic concepts
- Thich Nhat Hanh
- "The topics of Mind and Life XVIII are human attention, memory, and the mind considered from phenomenological (including contemplative), psychological, and neurobiological perspectives... Furthermore, sustained voluntary attention (samadhi) is closely related to memory, because in order to deliberately sustain one’s attention upon a chosen object, one must continue to remember to do so from moment to moment, faithfully returning back to refocus on that object whenever the mind wanders away from it. Likewise, in Buddhism, the faculty of “mindfulness” (smrti) refers not only to moment-to-moment awareness of present events. Instead, the primary connotation of this Sanskrit term (and its corresponding Pali term sati) is recollection. This includes long-term, short-term, and working memory, non-forgetful, present-centered awareness, and also prospective memory, i.e., remembering to be aware of something or to do something at a designated time in the future. In these ways, from a contemplative perspective, memory is critically linked to attention, and both of these mental faculties have important ramifications for the experiential and phenomenological study of the mind, its training, and potential optimization." - official website for the 18th Mind and Life Dialogues meeting
- In the Pali canon, the instructions for anapanasati are presented as either one tetrad (four instructions) or four tetrads (16 instructions). The most famous exposition of four tetrads – after which Theravada countries have a national holiday (see uposatha) – is the Anapanasati Sutta, found in the Majjhima Nikaya (MN), sutta number 118 (for instance, see Thanissaro, 2006). Other discourses which describe the full four tetrads can be found in the Samyutta Nikaya's Anapana-samyutta (Ch. 54), such as SN 54.6 (Thanissaro, 2006a), SN 54.8 (Thanissaro, 2006b) and SN 54.13 (Thanissaro, 1995a). The one-tetrad exposition of anapanasati is found, for instance, in the Kayagata-sati Sutta (MN 119; Thanissaro, 1997), the Maha-satipatthana Sutta (DN 22; Thanissaro, 2000) and the Satipatthana Sutta (MN 10; Thanissaro, 1995b).
- "In short, the contemplative training known as “shamatha” (meditative quiescence) deals with the development and refinement of attention; and this is the basis for “vipashyana” (contemplative insight), which entails methods for experientially exploring the nature of the mind and its relation to the world at large." from a description of the 18th Mind and Life Dialogues meeting, official webpage,
AN 4.170 (Pali):
“Yo hi koci, āvuso, bhikkhu vā bhikkhunī vā mama santike arahattappattiṁ byākaroti, sabbo so catūhi maggehi, etesaṁ vā aññatarena.
Katamehi catūhi? Idha, āvuso, bhikkhu samathapubbaṅgamaṁ vipassanaṁ bhāveti[...]
Puna caparaṁ, āvuso, bhikkhu vipassanāpubbaṅgamaṁ samathaṁ bhāveti[...]
Puna caparaṁ, āvuso, bhikkhu samathavipassanaṁ yuganaddhaṁ bhāveti[...]
Puna caparaṁ, āvuso, bhikkhuno dhammuddhaccaviggahitaṁ mānasaṁ hoti[...]
Friends, whoever — monk or nun — declares the attainment of arahantship in my presence, they all do it by means of one or another of four paths. Which four?
There is the case where a monk has developed insight preceded by tranquility. [...]
Then there is the case where a monk has developed tranquillity preceded by insight. [...]
Then there is the case where a monk has developed tranquillity in tandem with insight. [...]
"Then there is the case where a monk's mind has its restlessness concerning the Dhamma [Comm: the corruptions of insight] well under control.
 AN 2.30 Vijja-bhagiya Sutta, A Share in Clear Knowing:
"These two qualities have a share in clear knowing. Which two? Tranquility (samatha) & insight (vipassana).
"When tranquility is developed, what purpose does it serve? The mind is developed. And when the mind is developed, what purpose does it serve? Passion is abandoned.
"When insight is developed, what purpose does it serve? Discernment is developed. And when discernment is developed, what purpose does it serve? Ignorance is abandoned.
"Defiled by passion, the mind is not released. Defiled by ignorance, discernment does not develop. Thus from the fading of passion is there awareness-release. From the fading of ignorance is there discernment-release."
SN 43.2 (Pali): "Katamo ca, bhikkhave, asaṅkhatagāmimaggo? Samatho ca vipassanā". English translation: "And what, bhikkhus, is the path leading to the unconditioned? Serenity and insight."
- Brooks: "While many commentaries and translations of the Buddha's Discourses claim the Buddha taught two practice paths, one called "shamata" and the other called "vipassanā," there is in fact no place in the suttas where one can definitively claim that."
- [I]n Buddhist discourse, there are three terms that together map the field of mindfulness [...] [in their Sanskrit variants] smṛti (Pali: sati), samprajaña (Pali: Sampajañña) and apramāda (Pali: appamada).
- According to this correspondence, Ven. Nyanaponika spend his last ten years living with and being cared for by Bodhi. Bodhi refers to Nyanaponika as "my closest kalyāṇamitta in my life as a monk."
- having, expressive of, or characterized by intense feeling; passionate; fervent: an ardent vow; ardent love.
- intensely devoted, eager, or enthusiastic; zealous: an ardent theatergoer. an ardent student of French history.
- vehement; fierce: They were frightened by his ardent, burning eyes.
- burning, fiery, or hot: the ardent core of a star.
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- Lecture, Stanford University Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, c 18:03 
- TRANSLATOR FOR THE BUDDHA: AN INTERVIEW WITH BHIKKHU BODHI
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