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Satipatthana Sutta, Fourth Foundation: The Effort to Discern

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Teacher: Rodney Smith
Date: 2011-10-25
Venue: Seattle Insight Meditation Center



What is a skillful or unskillful state of mind? What do those terms mean–skillful for what purpose? Even to know something at this most basic level requires active discernment. The Buddha may have said certain states were skillful or unskillful, but that does nothing for your practice. You have to see its effect on you and know its impact directly.


States of mind arise almost continually and are often linked to the sense of “I” having them (I am sleepy, I am angry, I am lonely). Active discernment can help flesh out the details of a confusing state of mind. Pick a mindstate that you often identify with and use the following investigative procedure (active discernment) to give you a little clarity about what is happening.

Step 1: Knowing that you are in the middle of an unwholesome mind state.

Step 2: Willing to step out of the energy of the emotion and stop the destructive behavior.

Step 3: Willing to take responsibility for what you are feeling.

Step 4: Willing to change the view from separation to reconnection.


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