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Thread: Why "Sati" Became "Mindfulness"?

  1. #1
    Forums Member Glow's Avatar
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    Why "Sati" Became "Mindfulness"?

    So, this has confused me for the longest time. The Pali word usually translated as "mindfulness" in English is sati. I have read in many places, however, that a more accurate translation of the word would be "remembering" or "recollection."

    So, when we have this word in the Satipatthana Sutta:
    ""There is the case where a monk — having gone to the wilderness, to the shade of a tree, or to an empty building — sits down folding his legs crosswise, holding his body erect and setting mindfulness to the fore. Ever mindful he breathes in, mindful he breathes out."
    If we were to replace "mindful" with "remembering", we get:
    "There is the case where a monk — having gone to the wilderness, to the shade of a tree, or to an empty building — sits down folding his legs crosswise, holding his body erect and setting [recollection] to the fore. [Remembering], he breathes in, [remembering] he breathes out.
    What implications does this have on your understanding? What, exactly, is the Buddha saying? Remember that the breath exists? Remember that you are breathing in this moment? Remember to breath? Not having much knowledge of Pali grammar, I don't quite know how it should be understood. It certainly seems like it would be quite different from using the word "mindfulness" in there. What would it mean for a monk to "set recollection in front of him"? Furthermore, does the title of the Sutta itself becomes something like "The Foundations of Recollection"? Or maybe "The Fundamental Recollections"? What would that mean?

    Any thoughts on this would be most welcome! :)
    Last edited by Glow; 22 Sep 11 at 23:08.

  2. #2
    Global Moderator Esho's Avatar
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    Hi Glow,

    It's a good issue.

    To recollect; to bring into the present moment. To be aware through this bringing into the here and now. To recollect so to prevent mind to wander endlessly. If mind wanders, then we need to recollect. To bring back it to the present moment through the help of our smooth breathing.

    But... I don't know if this is the correct approach.

    Last edited by Esho; 22 Sep 11 at 23:13.

  3. #3
    Breathing in long, he discerns, 'I am breathing in long'; or breathing out long, he discerns, 'I am breathing out long.' Or breathing in short, he discerns, 'I am breathing in short'; or breathing out short, he discerns, 'I am breathing out short.'

    He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to the entire body.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to the entire body.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe in calming bodily fabrication.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out calming bodily fabrication.'

    Just as a skilled turner or his apprentice, when making a long turn, discerns, 'I am making a long turn,' or when making a short turn discerns, 'I am making a short turn'; in the same way the monk, when breathing in long, discerns, 'I am breathing in long'; or breathing out long, he discerns, 'I am breathing out long' ... He trains himself, 'I will breathe in calming bodily fabrication.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out calming bodily fabrication.'

    MN 10
    I think it means recalling the purpose of the practice, remembering to keep focused upon awareness with breathing.

  4. #4
    Forums Member Glow's Avatar
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    Hi Kaarine. Thanks for your response! Your point about preventing the mind to wander endlessly reminds me of one point I forgot to mention. It seems like, if the Buddha is using a word that means "to remember", he is also implying that, much of the time, we don't remember. That, usually we forget the breath or are not aware of it. That might be an interesting way to interpret this Sutta: the Buddha is trying to get us to remember the properties of not-self, impermanence, and unsatisfactoriness.

    Hi Aloka-D, that seems to correspond to Kaarine's response as well. It is a pretty interesting, strategic word choice, definitely.

  5. #5
    In 'Mindfulness With Breathing : Getting Started' by Ajahn Buddhadasa, sati is refered to
    in the notes as follows:

    1. Sati is a key term in Buddhist meditation. It means "recall, recollection, awareness, attention, mindfulness." All of these concern the present and do not involve memory or thought.

    In this article, the activity of sati is conveyed through a number of verbs: to fix, to note, to attend, to pay attention, to be aware, to experience. (Sati does not mean "to concentrate or focus.") Please study these various words and their meaning in each context, then you will have a correct understanding of sati, namely, what it is and how to use it to get free of dukkha.

    http://www.suanmokkh.org/archive/aps/mwb-abc1.htm#1.

  6. #6
    Forums Member Glow's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aloka-D View Post
    In 'Mindfulness With Breathing : Getting Started' by Ajahn Buddhadasa, sati is refered to
    in the notes as follows:
    Thanks for that link. Interesting. So, I guess, like dukkha and other Pali words, it has many different connotations.

  7. #7
    Forums Member Element's Avatar
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    imo "recollection" is the term that is most apt

    sati recollects

    sati brings Dhamma to & maintains Dhamma in the mind

    One is mindful to abandon wrong view & to enter & remain in right view: This is one's right mindfulness. Thus these three qualities — right view, right effort & right mindfulness — run & circle around right view.

    One is mindful to abandon wrong resolve & to enter & remain in right resolve: This is one's right mindfulness. Thus these three qualities — right view, right effort & right mindfulness — run & circle around right resolve.

    MN 117
    Last edited by Element; 23 Sep 11 at 02:49.

  8. #8
    Forums Member Element's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Glow View Post
    What would it mean for a monk to "set recollection in front of him"?
    It means the monk sets a mind free from hindrances in front of him

    It means the monks sets emptiness in front of him

    It is probably more accurate to say: "mindfulness sets clear consciousness in front of him"

    It is mindfulness doing & maintaining the "setting"

    An important thing to remember about mindfulness (sati) is it is never separated from sampajanna (clear comprehension; ready wisdom)

    So mindfulness brings clear comprehension to the fore

    Like this:



    Returning from the alms round after the meal is over, sits in a cross-legged position, the body placed straight and mindfulness established in front.

    Dispelling covetousness for the world he abides, cleaning the mind of covetousness.

    Dispelling anger he abides cleaning the mind of anger with compassion for all born.

    Dispelling sloth and torpor he abides, mindful and aware of a perception of light, cleaning sloth and torpor from the mind.

    Dispelling restlessness and worry he abides with a mind internally appeased, cleaning the mind of restlessness and worry.

    Abides with doubts dispelled of meritorious things that should be done.

    The bhikkhu dispelling the five hindrances of the mind...abides in the first jhàna.

    MN 38
    Last edited by Element; 23 Sep 11 at 04:01.

  9. #9
    Forums Member Element's Avatar
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    Like this:

    The Blessed One said:

    Suppose, monks, that a large crowd of people comes thronging together, saying: 'The beauty queen! The beauty queen!' And suppose that the beauty queen is highly accomplished at singing & dancing, so that an even greater crowd comes thronging, saying: 'The beauty queen is singing! The beauty queen is dancing!'

    Then a man comes along, desiring life & shrinking from death, desiring pleasure & abhorring pain. They say to him, 'Now look here, mister. You must take this bowl filled to the brim with oil and carry it on your head in between the great crowd & the beauty queen. A man with a raised sword will follow right behind you and, wherever you spill even a drop of oil, right there will he cut off your head.'

    Now what do you think, monks: Will that man, not paying attention to the bowl of oil, let himself get distracted outside?

    No, lord.

    I have given you this parable to convey a meaning. The meaning is this: The bowl filled to the brim with oil stands for mindfulness immersed in the body.

    Thus you should train yourselves: 'We will develop mindfulness immersed in the body. We will pursue it, hand it the reins and take it as a basis, give it a grounding, steady it, consolidate it and undertake it well.' That is how you should train yourselves.

    Sedaka Sutta

  10. #10
    Forums Member Element's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aloka-D View Post
    1. Sati is a key term in Buddhist meditation. It means "recall, recollection, awareness, attention, mindfulness." All of these concern the present and do not involve memory or thought.

    In this article, the activity of sati is conveyed through a number of verbs: to fix, to note, to attend, to pay attention, to be aware, to experience. (Sati does not mean "to concentrate or focus.") Please study these various words and their meaning in each context, then you will have a correct understanding of sati, namely, what it is and how to use it to get free of dukkha.
    The above I disagree with. The note is Santikaro's and, imo, it creates confusion



    Sati (mindfulness, reflective awareness, recollection) is the quick awareness and recall of the things which must be recalled. It must be as quick as an arrow. We also can describe sati as a vehicle or transport mechanism of the fastest kind. This most rapid transport doesn't carry material things, it carries wisdom and knowledge. Sati delivers paññä (wisdom) in time to meet our needs. Through the practice of mindfulness with breathing, sati is trained fully.

    Buddhadasa
    Last edited by Element; 23 Sep 11 at 04:23.

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