Introduction to 3.8.2 Satisuttaṃ - Remaining Sato and Sampajāno
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa
Introduction to 3.8.2 - Remaining Sato and Sampajāno
“Sato, bhikkhave, bhikkhu vihareyya sampajāno. Ayaṃ vo amhākaṃ anusāsanī”
“A Bhikkhu should remain aware, Bhikkhus, and with constant thorough understanding of impermanence. This is my teaching to you!
The Satisutta recapitulates this essence of the Buddha’s entire teaching. It explains in short how one is supposed to practice awareness through the four satipaṭṭhāna and how one is expected to maintain sampajāno in all the positions and movements of the body by whatever activity one performs – remaining conscious of the arising, persisting and passing away of sensations, thoughts and different states of consciousness and perception:
‘‘Kathañca, bhikkhave, bhikkhu sampajāno hoti? Idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhuno viditā vedanā uppajjanti, viditā upaṭṭhahanti, viditā abbhatthaṃ gacchanti. Viditā vitakkā uppajjanti, viditā upaṭṭhahanti, viditā abbhatthaṃ gacchanti. Viditā saññā uppajjanti, viditā upaṭṭhahanti, viditā abbhatthaṃ gacchanti. Evaṃ kho, bhikkhave, bhikkhu sampajāno hoti. Sato, bhikkhave, bhikkhu vihareyya sampajāno. Ayaṃ vo amhākaṃ anusāsanī’’ti.1
Sato and sampajāno – these two essential terms for every meditator need to applied thoroughly and continually in order to receive the envisaged results. The explanation given for both in this text puts special emphasis not only on continuity: anu + passī,2 but also does the grammatical usage of the Pāli-explanation underscore the object of meditation: The locative case – kāye kāyānupassī; vedanāsu vedanānupassī, citte cittānupassī, dhammesu dhammānupassī – and respectively the locative absolute: – gate ṭhite nisinne sutte jāgarite bhāsite tuṇhībhāve sampajānakārī hoti – clearly point to the fact that the observation needs to be maintained WITHIN one’s own physical structure wherever and whatever one does.
The current advice and instruction was uttered to the monks when the Buddha dwelled at Vesāli in the Park (ambapālivana) of Ambapāli. Ambapāli literal means fruit of the Mango tree and this was the name given to a girl who was found by the royal gardener under a mango tree (amba). He compassionately took her with him to his home to the city of Vesāli.3 When raising her, the girl developed legendary extraordinary beauty while she grew up and became the source of passionate desire and clashes for many princes. At one point judges were asked to resolve the discords and frictions that had arisen between those princes. These judges - partially likewise being driven by their own sexual desires towards her - in conclusion decided to consign Ambapāli to the position of a courtesan4 who should belong to everyone.
Because of her beauty she had numerous affluent customers and she could charge a high price for her service. At one time when she learned that the Buddha was touring in Vesāli she became highly elated and invited him for a meal. By that time she owned a park which at the conclusion of this meal she offered to Buddha and the Saṅgha as a resting and dwelling place. This grove was also planted with many Mango-trees and later became known as Ambapālivana. Here the Buddha stayed and delivered some of his discourses.
Later in her life Ambapāli attained arahantship herself by gaining insight in the impermanent nature of everything—including her own beauty. Her verses of insight are related in the Ambapālītherīgāthā:
… Suchlike (of such beauty) was this body, now feeble with old age, abode of many pains, an old house with its plaster falling off, the speaker of truth spoke fully factual.
The core importance of sato and sampajāno is repeatedly addressed and cannot be overstressed. In his dispute with King Milinda the Venerable Nagasena7 emphasised that sati as a door-keeper is the stronghold to examine one’s intention as the threshold towards downfall or purity:
“Satidovāriko, bhikkhave, ariyasāvako akusalaṃ pajahati kusalaṃ bhāveti, sāvajjaṃ pajahati, anavajjaṃ bhāveti, suddhamattānaṃ pariharatī”ti8
“With awareness as his door-keeper, Bhikkhus, the disciple of the Noble Ones renounces what is unwholesome and pursues what is wholesome, renounces what is blameable and pursues what is blameless and in this very way preserves himself in purity of life.”
The Venerable Nagasena here refers to the simile that the Buddha provides in the Nagaropamasuttaṃ9: Here the Buddha describes seven excellent qualities that a Noble Disciple should master10 and on base of which he gains at will, without difficulty, easy and comfortable the four jhanas that constitute the pleasant dwelling of someone who has realised the truth - diṭṭhadhammasukhavihārānaṃ. A Noble Disciple should perfectly master these seven qualities which are faith, shame, fearful of any wrongdoing, maintaining unyielding energy, full awareness and wisdom:
When the Buddha describes how a Noble Disciple should maintain awareness he uses the simile of a gatekeeper of a king’s fortress:
‘‘Seyyathāpi, bhikkhave, rañño paccantime nagare dovāriko hoti paṇḍito byatto medhāvī aññātānaṃ nivāretā ñātānaṃ pavesetā abbhantarānaṃ11 guttiyā bāhirānaṃ paṭighātāya. Evamevaṃ kho, bhikkhave, ariyasāvako satimā hoti paramena satinepakkena12 samannāgato cirakatampi cirabhāsitampi saritā anussaritā. Satidovāriko, bhikkhave, ariyasāvako akusalaṃ pajahati, kusalaṃ bhāveti; sāvajjaṃ pajahati, anavajjaṃ bhāveti; suddhaṃ attānaṃ pariharati.”
“Just as a gatekeeper of a fortress of a king should be skilled, clever and intelligent and keeps off outsiders and welcomes acquaintances, protects inhabitants and wards off foreigners - in the same way a Noble Disciple maintains awareness, is endowed with supreme and discriminating awareness and remembers and recollects what was done and said long ago. With awareness as his door-keeper, Bhikkhus, the disciple of the Noble Ones renounces what is unwholesome and pursues what is wholesome, renounces what is blameable and pursues what is blameless and in this very way preserves himself in purity of life.”
With awareness as one’s door-keeper, with the solid base of sammāsati unwholesomeness gets removed and wholesomeness developed as corroborated and verified with the following words of the Buddha:
So sato micchādiṭṭhiṃ pajahati, sato sammādiṭṭhiṃ upasampajja viharati, sāssa hoti sammāsati.
So sato micchāsaṅkappaṃ pajahati, sato sammāsaṅkappaṃ upasampajja viharati; sāssa hoti sammāsati.
So sato micchāvācaṃ pajahati, sato sammāvācaṃ upasampajja viharati; sāssa hoti sammāsati.
So sato micchākammantaṃ pajahati, sato sammākammantaṃ upasampajja viharati; sāssa hoti sammāsati.
So sato micchāājīvaṃ pajahati, sato sammāājīvaṃ upasampajja viharati; sāssa hoti sammāsati.13
Thus fully aware he abandons wrong view and acquires right view and dwells therein: that is right awareness.”
Thus fully aware he abandons wrong thought and acquires right thought and dwells therein: that is right awareness.
Thus fully aware he abandons wrong speech and acquires right speech and dwells therein: that is right awareness.
Thus fully aware he abandons wrong action and acquires right action and dwells therein: that is right awareness.”
Thus fully aware he abandons wrong livelihood and acquires right livelihood and dwells therein: that is right awareness.””
Likewise, the Buddha stresses the significance of sampajāno when he says14:
‘‘Nāhaṃ, bhikkhave, aññaṃ ekadhammampi samanupassāmi yena anuppannā vā akusalā dhammā uppajjanti uppannā vā kusalā dhammā parihāyanti15 yathayidaṃ, bhikkhave, asampajaññaṃ. Asampajānassa, bhikkhave, anuppannā ceva akusalā dhammā uppajjanti uppannā ca kusalā dhammā parihāyantī’’ti.
“I cannot see any other thing, Bhikkhus, that supports unarisen unwholesome qualities to arise and arisen wholesome qualities to diminish as the lack of sampajāna. Because the lack of sampajāna unwholesome unarisen qualities arise and wholesome arisen qualities deteriorate.”
‘‘Nāhaṃ, bhikkhave, aññaṃ ekadhammampi samanupassāmi yena anuppannā vā kusalā dhammā uppajjanti uppannā vā akusalā dhammā parihāyanti yathayidaṃ, bhikkhave, sampajaññaṃ. Sampajānassa, bhikkhave, anuppannā ceva kusalā dhammā uppajjanti uppannā ca akusalā dhammā parihāyantī’’ti.
“I cannot see any other thing, Bhikkhus, that supports arisen wholesome qualities to multiply and arisen unwholesome qualities to diminish as sampajāna. Because sampajāna is maintained wholesome unarisen qualities arise and unwholesome arisen qualities fade away.”
That is why the above statement should be always kept in mind:
“Sato, bhikkhave, bhikkhu vihareyya sampajāno.
Ayaṃ vo amhākaṃ anusāsanī”
1. Satisuttaṃ, Ananussutavaggo, Satipaṭṭhānasaṃyuttaṃ, Mahāvaggo, Saṃyuttanikāyo
2. kāye kāyānupassī: the prefix anu – ‘following along with’ stresses the process of constant observation and awareness.
3. Vesāli was the capital of the Licchavi country where the popular Ratanasutta was taught. About the naming of Vesāli see 1.4.9 Ratanasuttaṃ - Taking Refuge in the Three Jewels: the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Saṅgha
4. The commentary explains this unfortunate fate as the kammic result of an action in one of her past lives. Ambapāli at that time had been a Bhikkhuni herself and insulting a fellow sister naming her a prostitute.
5. samussayo: body, accumulation of parts
6. jajjaro: withered, feeble with age
7. For a short description of the encounter and question of King Milinda and Venerable Nagasena please see: 1.3.2 - Orimatīrasuttaṃ (The Hither and the Further Shore); also 2.1.5 Sevitabbasuttaṃ (What one should Associate with); and 2.1.1. Kesamuttisuttaṃ part one (Don‘t Believe in Tradition, in Hearsay, in Teachers but your own Experience, understanding what is unwholesome)
8. Milindapañha, Cakkavattiṅgapañho
9. Mahāvaggo, Paṭhamapaṇṇāsakaṃ, Sattakanipātapāḷi, Aṅguttaranikāyo,
10. Evamevaṃ kho, bhikkhave, yato ariyasāvako sattahi saddhammehi samannāgato hoti, catunnañca jhānānaṃ ābhicetasikānaṃ diṭṭhadhammasukhavihārānaṃ nikāmalābhī hoti akicchalābhī akasiralābhī …
11. abbhantara: abhi + antara: towards the inside, internal
12. satinepakkena: sati + nepakka: awareness + carefulness, prudence
14. Vīriyārambhādivaggo sattamo, Ekakanipātapāḷi, Aṅguttaranikāyo
15. parihāyanti: decay, waste, diminish, suffer loss
Pāli lesson (with audio) 3.8.2
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