The Satipatthana Sutta, a Buddhist scripture dating back over 2,500 years, is currently enjoying widespread popularity in the Western world. This ancient text contains the most succinct description of mindfulness, a meditation style and accompanying philosophy that can be applied to contemporary lifestyles. The practice of mindfulness is known to help individuals gain insight into the nature of life by developing a clear, non-judgmental awareness of the present moment.
In India, Guru Goenkaji’s Vipassana retreats, based on the teachings of the Satipatthana Sutta, have been flourishing for the past 30 years. Vipassana, meaning “insight,” and Satipatthana, meaning “establishing mindfulness,” offer a direct path for the purification of beings on the way to the realization of Nibbana, or “ultimate liberation.”
The Satipatthana Sutta prescribes the practice of the four foundations of mindfulness as a direct path to achieving ultimate liberation. The four foundations are the body, feelings, mind, and dhammas (the teachings on a wholesome lifestyle leading to balanced and joyful existence). By diligently cultivating awareness of the present moment, simply observing, paying attention to facts and not getting caught in judgments, individuals can free themselves from intense craving and aversion. This awareness is to be cultivated for the body, feelings, thoughts and mental patterns, and dhammas.
While some may find the initial paragraph of the Satipatthana Sutta obscure, dry, boring, or simplistic, it actually contains the psychology of well-being. This deceptively simple paragraph hides layers and layers of “how to” advice on facing and overcoming the universal difficulties life poses for us.
The Sutta clarifies the details of this practice in just about six standard-size pages. The practice of mindfulness in the Satipatthana Sutta is a special type of awareness that can help individuals achieve balance and evenness of mind. However, the way to get there is through mindfulness, which has been corroborated by Western science.
The Satipatthana Sutta offers guidance on the psychological processes and functioning of the human mind. It addresses the basic tenets of Buddhism, including the four noble truths and the eightfold path, and includes discussions on joyful existence.
Understanding the historical events that led to how mindfulness penetrated the Western psyche and gained a huge following can help individuals gain a deeper appreciation for this ancient practice. With diligent practice, mindfulness can lead to a balanced and joyful existence, ultimately freeing individuals from intense cravings and aversion.