Lion's Roar

Teachings from the Mindfulness Experts

The Four Foundations of Mindfulness

VEN. BHIKKHU BODHI unpacks the Buddha’s original mindfulness manual.

THE BUDDHA’S MOST DETAILED teaching on the practice of mindfulness is found in the famed Satipatthana Sutta, “The Discourse on the Foundations of Mindfulness.”

The Buddha opens this discourse by declaring that the four foundations of mindfulness are the “one-way path” for the overcoming of suffering and the attainment of nirvana. The expression “four foundations of mindfulness” refers to the mindful contemplation of four objective domains that, between them, comprise the entire field of human experience: the body, feelings, states of mind, and dhammas, a term I leave untranslated.

With regard to each contemplation, the text tells us that the practitioner dwells “ardent, clearly comprehending, and mindful, having put away longing and dejection concerning the world.” These terms indicate that the practice involves not only mindfulness, but the coming together of mindfulness, energy, and discernment, coupled with detachment from the claims of the mundane world.

Of the four applications of mindfulness, the contemplation of the body is concerned with the material side of existence, the middle two with the mental side, and the last with the exploration of experience in ways reflecting the goal of the teaching. The four unfold in

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