Seattle Insight Meditation Center | May 2016
The Satipatthana Sutta forms the basis of our meditation practice. Often translated as the Four Foundations of Mindfulness, this sutta clearly establishes the intention of meditation practice as the direct path toward unbinding of the heart. The Four Foundations integrate mindfulness with investigation and offer a comprehensive way way to deconstruct the sense of self. There will be four talks in this series.
The Satipatthana Sutta is one of the primary suttas addressing our meditation practice. As with all suttas, we must realize what the Buddha actually taught has been interpreted, altered and translated in the last 2600 years. Our own practice and direct seeing becomes an important aspect of interpreting a sutta. Yet our own experience isnt't the complete picture.
In the Four Foundations of Mindfulness, the intention for practicing mindfulness meditation is established and wed with investigation. Understanding this intention shapes how we practice. The first instructions in this sutta point toward a steady, non-influencing relationship to the breath as an object of mindfulness.
The Satipatthana Sutta can be seen as a systematic investigation and deconstruction of the sense of self. In the first foundation, this process begins by embodiment. Learning to disengage from a thought and concept driven life and connect to our physical bodies is a vital training. At the same time, we learn to understand and release the layers of identification embedded in our bodies. Paradoxically, we learn to become more intimate with the physical sensations of our bodies yet see that our body does not contain the sense of self.
An essential aspect of mindfulness is non-preferential attention. In the Second and Third Foundations of Mindfulness, the Buddha emphasizes this quality even in the midst of reactivity, infatuation and meditative mind states. Repeatedly, he instructs us to just know what is present. This quality of attention sees beyond the normal duality of better or worse. In this way, mindfulness of vedana and mind continues the process of deconstruction of the sense of self.
As we explore the Fourth Foundation of mindfulness, we continue to look at the Satipatthana Sutta through the lens of deconstruction of self. We take the rich detail of this Foundation and organize it into three sections: the movement of contraction and release; the mechanism of forming a sense of self; the Four Noble Truths as a practice. Also, we explore the often repeated phrase from this sutta:
“She lives independent and clings to naught in the world.”
This is the fourth and final talk in this series.