Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

by Gelongma Karma Migme Chödrön | 2001 | 941,039 words

This page describes “the four foundations of mindfulness (smrityupasthana)” as written by Nagarjuna in his Maha-prajnaparamita-sastra (lit. “the treatise on the great virtue of wisdom”) in the 2nd century. This book, written in five volumes, represents an encyclopedia on Buddhism as well as a commentary on the Pancavimsatisahasrika Prajnaparamita.

E.1: The Four Foundations of Mindfulness (smṛtyupasthāna)

1. Foundations and mistakes

Question. – What are the four foundations of mindfulness (smṛtyupasthāna)?[1]

Answer. – The foundation of mindfulness on the body (kāyasmṛtyupasthāna) and the foundations of mindfulness on feeling (vedanā), mind (citta) and dharmas are the four foundations of mindfulness. The yogin considers (anupaśyati) these four things in four ways: 1) he considers the impurities of the body (kāyāśuci); 2) he considers the painfulness of feelings (vedanāduḥkha); 3) he considers the impermanence of the mind (cittānityatā); 4) he considers the non-self of dharmas (dharmanairātmya).

Although each of the four things has these four characteristics, in the body it is especially the impurities that must be considered; in feelings, the suffering; in the mind, impermanence; and in dharmas, non-self.

Why? The worldly person (pṛthagjana), who has not yet entered into the Path, is deluded about these four things and produces four mistakes (viparyāsa): 1) the mistake that consists of taking what is impure to be pure (aśucau śucir iti viparyāsa); 2) the mistake that consists of taking what is suffering to be happy (duḥkhe sukham iti viparyāsa); 3) the mistake that consists of taking what is impermanent to be permanent (anitye nityam iti viparyāso); 4) the mistake that consists of taking what is not a “self” to be a “self” (anātmany ātmeti viparyāsa).[2]

In order to destroy these four mistakes, the Buddha preached the four foundations of mindfulness: 1) to destroy the mistake about purity (śuciviparyāsa), he preaches the foundation of mindfulness on the body (kāyasmṛtyupasthāna); 2) to destroy the mistake on happiness (sukhaviparyāsa), he preaches the foundation of mindfulness on feelings (vedanāsmṛtyupasthāna);

3) to destroy the mistake on permanence (nityaviparyāsa), he preaches mindfulness on the mind (cittasmṛtyupasthāna); 4) to destroy the mistake on the self (ātmaviparyāsa), he preaches the foundation of mindfulness on dharmas (dharmasmṛtyupasthāna). It is for this reason that he preached four, no more and no less.[3]

2. Foundation of mindfulness on the body

Question. – How does one obtain these four foundations of mindfulness?

Answer. – The yogin who is established in pure morality (viśuddhaśīla) and is practicing exertion (vīrya) wholeheartedly (ekacittena) considers (anupaśyati) the fivefold impurity of the body (kāyāśuci). What are these five impurities? 1) The impurity of birthplace (jātisthānāśuci); 2) the impurity of seed (bījāśuci); 3) the impurity of intrinsic nature (svabhāvāśuci); 4) the impurity of intrinsic characteristics (svalakṣanāśuci); 5) the impurity of the final outcome (paryavasānāśuci).

1. What is the impurity of the place of birth (jātisthānaśuci)? Head (śiras), feet (pāda), belly (udara), back (pṛṣṭha), thighs (pārśva), that which is called a woman’s body (strīkāya) is a collection of impure things (aśuddhavastusamāgrī).

Inwardly (adhyātman), it contains a stomach (āmāśaya), a belly (pakvāśaya), excrement (viṣ), urine (mūtra)[4] and [other] impurities (aśuci). Outwardly (bahirdhā), there is a wind (vāta) conditioned by the afflictions (kleśa) and actions (karman), a wind that blows on the seed-consciousness (vijñānabīja) (see Appendix 2) and introduces it within the two viscera. During eight or nine months, the seed-consciousness dwells in a pit of excrement and urine (vinmūtragarta). Thus it is said:

This body is foul and revolting:
It is not from a flower that it is born,

Neither does it come from Campaka, [199a]
And it does not come from a jewel mountain.

This is what is called the impurity of the place of birth.

2. The impurity of the seed (bījaśuci). – By means of the wind (vāta) of deceptive concepts (mṛṣāvikalpa) and wrong thoughts (mithyāmanasikāra), the father and mother (mātāpitṛ) blow upon the fire (agni) of sexual desire (rāga); blood (rudhira), marrow (majjan) and fat (vasā) escape, get hot and are changed into sperm. The seed-consciousness (vijñānabīja) conditioned by previous actions (pūrvakarman) settles in the blood (śoṇita) and whitish sperm (śukra). That is what is called the seed of the body (kāyabīja). Thus it is said:

The seed of the body is impure,
It is not a precious substance,
It has not come from pure innocence,
It has come only from the urinary pathways.

That is what is called the impurity of the seed.

3. The impurity of intrinsic nature (svabhāvāśuci). – From head to toe and on all four sides, the body is a lowly rag. Everything in it is full of impurities. Decorate it with garments, bathe it with perfumed water, nourish it with the best dishes and food of many flavors, at the end of one night all of it will be impure.[5] Even if that you clothe it in celestial garments (divyavastra) and feed it with celestial food (divyāhāra), because of the body itself, all of it will become impure. Then what can be said if you give it only human garments and human clothes? Thus it is said:

Formed from earth, water, fire and wind,
It transforms everything into impurities.
Empty the sea to bathebody,
Still you will be unable to clean it.

That is what is called the impurity of intrinsic nature.

4. The impurity of intrinsic characteristics (svalakṣaṇāśuci). – This body with its nine gates (nanadvāra) is always secreting impurity: the eyes (akṣi) spill out rheum (akṣigūthaka) and tears (aśru); the ears (karṇa) produce wax (karṇagūthaka); the nose (nāsā) contains snot (siṃghāṇaka); the mouth (mukha) has saliva (lālā) and vomit (vāntīkṛta); the anus (guda) and the urethra (mūtramārga) constantly empty out excrement (viṣ) and urine (mūtra); and the hair-pores (romakūpa) sweaty impurity.[6] Thus it is said:

All kinds of impure things
Fill the interior of the body.
It flows ceaselessly
Like a filter-sack containing dirt.

That is what is called the impurity of intrinsic characteristics.

5. The impurity of the final outcome (paryavāsanāśuci). – Thrown on the fire (agni), the body becomes ash (bhasman); devoured by insects (kurmi) it becomes dung (purīṣa); placed in the earth, it decays, decomposes, and becomes earth; put into the water, it swells up and decays or it is eaten by water-insects. Of all corpses (kuṇapa), that of man is the most impure: his impurities (aśucidharma) will be explained at length in reference to the nine concepts (navasaṃjñā).[7] Thus it is said:

Examine the body minutely:

It ends up necessarily in death.
Difficult to control,[8]
It gives nothing in return,
Ungrateful like a lowly individual.

That is what is called the impurity of the final outcome.

Moreover, from birth (jāti) until death, everything that moves close to the body, everywhere that it rests, all is defiled. Just as perfumed clear waters that [199b] flow in a hundred rivers are changed into bitter salt as soon as they reach the great sea (mahāsamudra), so whatever the body eats, the most delicate dishes of various flavors, beautiful colors and fine smells, as soon as they penetrate into the sea of the belly (udarasamudra), are changed into filth. Thus the body, from birth to death, always contains disgusting impurities.

The yogin wonders if this body, impure as it is, does not have some permanence. Wrong! It is a great suffering (mahāduḥkha). This body is the place of arising (upapattisthāna) of all the suffering. Just as water (ap) arises from the earth (pṛthivī), wind (vāyu) from the ether (ākāśa) and fire from wood (dāru), so all the inner (ādhyātmika) and outer (bāhya) suffering comes from the body. The inner sufferings are old age (jarā), sickness (vyādhi) and death (maraṇa); the outer sufferings are the knife (asi), the stick (daṇḍa), cold and heat (śītoṣṇa), hunger and thirst (kṣutpipāsā), etc. It is because there is a body that these sufferings exist.

Question. – The body is not suffering alone basically (duḥkhasvabhāva); happiness (sukha) also comes from it. If there were no body, who would experience the five objects of enjoyment (pañcakāmaguṇa) as they like?

Answer. –The suffering which the four noble truths [mention] the saint cognizes truly as suffering, but worldly people (pṛthagjana) call it happiness. It is necessary to rely on the noble truth (āryatattva) and reject error (moha) and doubt (kāṅkṣā). This body is really suffering because it rests on the ‘Great Suffering’ (mahāduḥkha) [of saṃsāra], and it is only a lesser suffering (parīttaduḥkha) that constitutes happiness. Thus, when a man condemned to death undergoes punishment (daṇḍa) instead of being executed, he feels great joy. This punishment is really suffering, but as he escapes from death, the condemned man calls it happiness.

Furthermore, recent suffering (navaduḥkha) is ‘happiness’ (sukha) [in contrast] to the old suffering (pūrvaduḥkha) which is ‘suffering’. Thus, when one sits down (sīdati) one feels happiness, but when this position persists, it gives rise to suffering. At the beginning, walking (caṅkrama), standing (sthāna) and lying down (śayyā) are happiness, but in the end they too are suffering. Whether one is bending (saiñjite) or one is stretching (prasārite), whether one is bowing the head or raising it, whether one looks straight ahead (ālokite) or to the side (vilokite), whether one is breathing out (praśvasite) or breathing in (āśvasite),[9] suffering always follows the body. From conception (garbhāvakrānti) and birth (jāti) to death (maraṇa), there is not a single moment of happiness.

You enjoyed pleasures (rāga) as if they were happiness; when the sickness of lust (abrahmacaryavyādhi) increases, you seek women outside, but the more you find, the more your torment increases. It is like when one suffers from scabies (kacchū), one goes near the fire, one scratches one’s hands and roasts them. At that time, one feels a little joy, but in the long run (read kieou) the sickness increases in intensity. This little joy, it too becomes the cause of sickness: it was not a true happiness or the elimination of the sickness. Those who see people with scabies act thus, feeling pity (karuṇā) for them. The person who has renounced desire (vītarāga) has the same feelings towards the lustful: he has compassion for these angry madmen, burned by the fire of desire (kāmadagdha) who suffer more than they enjoy. For many reasons of this kind, we know that the body has the nature of suffering (duḥkhalakṣaṇa) and is the cause of suffering (duḥkhahetu).

The yogin knows that the body is merely impure (aśuci), impermanent (anitya) and suffering (duḥkha) but he cannot do otherwise than nourish it. It is like parents who have given birth to a son: however vicious the child, he is born from themselves (ātmaja) and this is why they must feed him and raise him.

The body is, in truth, not the self (ātman). Why? Because it is not independent (svatantra). It is like a man sick with an illness of wind (vāyuvyādhi), unable to raise or lower his head, unable to come or go; or like a man suffering from an obstruction in his throat, unable to speak. This is why we know that [199c] the body is not independent. If a man has something, he uses it as required. This is not the case for the body; as it escapes from all influence, we know that it is not ours.

It is in this way that the yogin meditates on the body, the impure (aśuci), impermanent (anitya), painful (duḥkha), empty (śūnya), selfless (anātman) body possessing innumerable defects of the same type. The various considerations on the body are called mindfulness of the body (kāyasmṛtyupasthāna).

3. Mindfulness of feeling

(p. 1158F)

In possession of this consideration called kāyasmṛtyupasthāna, the yogin pursues his reflections and asks himself why beings are attached (abhiniviśante) to this body. It is because of pleasant feeling (sukhavedanā). How? From the meeting between the six internal organs (ādhyātmikendriya) and the six outer objects (bāhyaviṣaya) the six kinds of consciousnesses (vijñāna) arise. From these six consciousnesses arise the three kinds of feelings (vedanā), unpleasant feeling (duḥkhavedanā), pleasant feeling (sukhavedanā), neither unpleasant nor pleasant feeling (aduḥikhāsukhavedanā). Pleasant feelings are loved by all beings; unpleasant feelings are hated by all beings; as for the neither unpleasant nor pleasant feelings, people neither reject them nor cling to them. Thus it is said:

Evil-doers and monks (pravrajita).
Gods, humans and small worms:
Amongst these beings divided among the five destinies (gati) in the ten directions,
There is not one that does not love happiness and hate suffering.[10]
Out of error (moha), mistake (viparyāsa) and ignorance (ajñāna),
They do not know nirvāṇa, the abode of eternal bliss.

Considering pleasant feeling (sukhavedanā), the yogin truly knows that it contains no happiness but only suffering. Why? Happiness (sukha), i.e., ‘true happiness’ (bhūtasukha) is free of errors (viparyāsa). And yet all the pleasant feelings of the world come from mistakes and contain no reality.[11]

Furthermore, while greedily seeking the happiness of pleasant feeling, one will encounter great suffering. Thus it is said:

Those who go to sea encounter heavy winds
The waves rise up as high as the Kālaparvata.
Those who go into the army to fight
Cross very dangerous paths and perilous gorges.
Noble śreṣṭhins must bow down when approaching vile people in order to satisfy their sexual desires.
These many great sufferings
All come from attachment to happiness and to cupidity (rāgacitta).

This is why we know that pleasant feeling can give rise to all sorts of suffering.

Furthermore, although the Buddha spoke of the three kinds of suffering, one of them, that of pleasant feeling, merits the name of suffering because in it happiness is rare. It is like a bushel of honey (madhu) which, when thrown into a big river, loses its smell and its taste (rasa).

Question. – Happiness [such as it is conceived in the world (laukikasukha)], having error (viparyāsa) as cause and condition (hetupratyaya), is suffering (duḥkha). But the concentrations (samādhi) practiced by the saints (āryapudgala) give rise to a pure happiness (anāsravasukha) which itself is real happiness. Why? Because this happiness is not derived from delusion (moha) or mistake (viparyāsa). How then could it be suffering?

Answer. – It is not suffering. Although the Buddha said: “All that is impermanent is suffering” (yad anityaṃ tad duḥkham),[12] it was only in regard to impure dharmas (sāsravadhrma) that he was speaking of suffering. Why? Worldly people (pṛthagjana) are mentally attached to impure dharmas, and as these impure dharmas are impermanent (anitya) and perishable (vyaya), they give rise [200a] to suffering. But the mind does not become attached (nābhiviśate) to pure dharmas and, although they are impermanent (anitya), they do not produce sadness (daurmanasya), lamentation (parideva), suffering (duḥkha), torment (viheṭhana), etc. That is why they are not called suffering. And besides, the bad contaminants (anuśaya) do not take shelter there.[13]

Furthermore, if pure happiness were suffering, the Buddha would not have treated it separately in the truth of the Path (mārgasatya), since, [as suffering], it would have been included (saṃgṛhīta) in the truth of suffering (duḥkhasatya).[14]

Question. – “There are two kinds of happiness (sukha): impure (sāsrava) happiness and pure (anāsrava) happiness.”[15] Impure happiness is lowly, vile, perverse and bad; pure happiness is excellent. Why does one become attached to the lowly vile happiness and not attached to the excellent happiness? One should become attached preferentially to the excellent happiness in the same way that one would prefer to be attached to precious objects of gold (heman) or silver (rajata) rather than to straw (tṛṇa) or to wood (kāṣṭha).

Answer.- Pure happiness being excellent, wisdom (prajñā) abounds there and, as wisdom is abundant there, it can eliminate attachment (abhiniveśa). In the impure happiness, it is the fetters (saṃyojana), thirst (tṛṣṇā), etc., that abound, and thirst is the root of attachment (abhiniveśamūla). The true wisdom (bhūtaprajñā) [inherent in pure happiness] is able to eliminate attachment. That is why it is not attached to [the pure happiness].

Furthermore, pure wisdom (anāsravaprajñā) always considers (anupaśyati) universal impermanence (sarvānityatā) and because it considers impermanence it does not produce the fetters (saṃyojana), thirst (tṛṣṇā), etc. It is like a sheep (eḍaka) that is kept near a tiger (vyāghra): even if it has good grass and good water, it does not get fat.[16] In the same way, even though they experience pure happiness (anāsravasukha), the saints nevertheless contemplate impermanence (anityatā) and emptiness (śūnya) and that is why they do not produce the ‘fat’ of desire (rāgameda).

Furthermore, pure happiness (anāsravasukha) is inseparable from the sixteen noble aspects (ṣoḍaśākāra) of the three concentrations (samādhi)[17] and is always without the mark of a self (sattvanimitta). If it were endowed with the mark of a self, it would produce minds of attachment (abhiniveśacitta). Thus pure happiness, although excellent, does not give rise to attachment.

For many reasons of this kind, the yogin considers pleasant worldly feeling (laukikā sukhavedanā) as suffering.

He considers unpleasant feeling (duḥkhavedanā) as an arrow (śalya); as for the neither unpleasant nor pleasant feeling (adhuḥāsukhavedanā), he considers its impermanent and perishable nature (anityavyayanimitta).

Thus he does not experience desire (rāga) for pleasant feeling; he does not experience hatred (dveṣa) for unpleasant feeling and he does not experience delusion (moha) for neither unpleasant nor pleasant feeling.

That is what is called mindfulness of feeling (vedanāsmṛtyupasthāna).

4. Mindfulness of mind

The yogin also says to himself: “It is because of happiness that one becomes attached to the body; but who is experiencing (vedayati) this happiness?” Having reflected, he knows that feeling (vedanā) comes from the mind (citta). It is following mental elation (cittakṣepa) and a misunderstanding (viparyāsa) that beings experience a given happiness. The yogin must take into account that the mind which is transitory (anitya) has the nature of being born and perishing (utpādabhaṅgalakṣaṇa) and lasts for only a moment, is unable to experience happiness. It is by mistake that a person claims to feel happiness. Why? At the very moment when one wishes to experience happiness, the mind has already changed; at the moment when the happiness arises, the mind is another (anya) mind. There is no connection between happiness and the mind. How could it be said that the mind experiences happiness?

The past mind (atītacitta), being already destroyed (bhagna), does not experience the happiness; the future mind (anāgatacitta), being not yet born (utpanna), does not experience the happiness; the present mind (pratyutpannacitta), being momentary (ekakṣaṇika) and fleeting (kṣipra), does not have the awareness to experience the happiness.

Question. – We accept that the past mind and the future mind cannot experience happiness. But the present mind, which endures for a moment, must experience happiness. How can you say that it does not?

Answer. – I have just said that, being fleeting, it does not have the awareness to experience happiness. [200b]

Besides, being impermanent in nature (anityalakṣaṇa), all dharmas have no span of duration (sthitikāla). If mind lasted for a moment, it would also last during the second moment. It would then be eternal in duration and without the nature of disappearing (vyayalakṣaṇa). And yet, among the three characteristics of conditioned dharmas (saṃskṛtadharmalakṣaṇa), the Buddha also mentioned the characteristic of disappearance (vyayalakṣaṇa). (see Appendix 3) If the mind did not have disappearance, it would not show the characteristics of the conditioned.

Furthermore, if dharmas suffered a destruction a posteriori (uttareṇa), we would know that they possessed it already a priori (pūrveṇa). Thus, when a person clothes himself in a new garment (navavastra), if on the same day that he puts it in, the garment is not yet old, it would not be old on the second day either, and so on for ten years: the garment would always be new and never old. In truth, the garment was already old, and we should know that [this ageing] coexisted with its newness. But since this ageing was subtle, we were not aware of it. It is only in the presence of old things that we notice it. This is why we know that dharmas do not have a time of duration (sthitikāla). How then could the mind last long enough to be able to experience happiness? Since it has no duration, it is impossible that it experiences happiness.

This is why we know that there is nothing that can truly experience happiness. [A mind ‘experiencing happiness’] is a purely conventional entity (prajñaptimātra dharma): we speak of a single entity experiencing happiness as a result of the succession of minds (cittaprabandha).

Question. – How do you know that all conditioned dharmas (saṃskṛtadhrma) are impermanent (anitya)?

Answer. – Here I must repeat what I have already said above (p. 37F). These conditioned dharmas, which all depend on causes and conditions (hetupratyayāpekṣa), are impermanent. Because not existing earlier, they exist now and because existing now, they will not exist later, they are impermanent.

Furthermore, the nature of impermanence (anityatālakṣaṇa)[18] always follows (anusarati) conditioned dharmas. Conditioned dharmas have neither increase (upacaya) nor decrease (apacaya), and finally, all conditioned dharmas are mutually destroyed (parasparaviheṭhaka): therefore they are impermanent.

Furthermore, a twofold old age (dvividhajarā) always follows (anusarati) conditioned dharmas: i) primary old age (mūlajarā); ii) the old age of old age (jarājarā).[19] A twofold death (dvidhamaraṇa) always follows them: i) death by oneself (ātmanā maraṇam); ii) being put to death by another (pareṇa maraṇa).[20] This is why we know that all conditioned dharmas are impermanent.

Among the conditioned dharmas, the impermanence of the mind (cittānityatā) is very easy to detect. Thus the Buddha said: “Sometimes worldly people (pṛthgjana) recognize the impermanence of the body (kāyānityatā) but do not recognize the impermanence of the mind (cittānityatā). Some worldly people say that the body is eternal, but the mistake that holds the mind to be eternal is even more fatal. Why? It may be that the body will last for ten years or twenty years, whereas the mind, night and day, disappears each moment (ekakṣaṇalavamuhūrte), arising as one thing, perishing as another, without stopping for a single moment. On the point of arising, it is born one thing; on the point of perishing, it dies another thing. (se e Appendix 4: impermanence of the mind) The true nature (bhūtalakṣaṇa) of such a magical thing (māyāvastu) is ungraspable (anupalabdha).

For innumerable reasons of this kind, we know that the mind is impermanent. That is what is called mindfulness of mind (cittasmṛtypasthāna).

5. Mindfulness of Dharmas

The yogin asks himself on whom does the mind depend (apekṣate) and who controls the mind. Having considered well, he does not see that the mind has a master. The dharmas resulting from the complex of causes and conditions (hetupratyayasāmagrī) are not independent (svatantra); not being independent, they have no intrinsic nature (svabhāva); not having any intrinsic nature, they have no self (ātman). If there is no self, then who controls the mind?

Question. – 1) There must be an ātman. Why? If the mind (citta) controls [200c] the body (kāya), there also must be an ātman to control the mind. In the same way that the master of a kingdom (rāṣṭreśvara) controls the general (senāpati) and the general controls the soldiers (patti), there must be an ātman to control the mind, and there must be a mind to control the body so that it may enjoy the five objects of enjoyment (pañcakāmaguṇa).

2) Moreover, as each person possesses his own mind (ātmacitta), we know that there really is an ātman. If it were only due to a mistake (viparyāsa) about the body and the mind that we assume an ātman, why would we not produce the idea of an ātman in regard to another?[21] Thanks to this sign, we know that each one possesses his own ātman.

Answer. – 1) If, the mind controlling the body, there were an ātman to control the mind, there still must be someone to control the ātman. If there were still someone to control the ātman, there would be an infinite regress (anavasthā); as there would be still someone to control the ātman, there would be two ātmans.

If there is no ātman to control the mind, there can only be the mind to control the body. You consider the mind to be dependent on a soul (pudgalāpekṣa), but in the absence of the mind, the soul has no object of consciousness (jñeya) and, having no object of consciousness, how would it control the mind? If the soul had the characteristics of a knowledge (jñānalakṣaṇa), why resort again to the mind? This is why we know that only the mind presents the characteristics of a consciousness (vijñānalakṣaṇa). Therefore it is able to control the body and does not depend on a soul (pudgalaṃ nāpekṣate). It is like fire (agni) which, by its nature, burns things without the intervention of a person (puruṣa).

Objection. – Although fire has the power to burn, it is not useful without a person; although the mind has the characteristic of a consciousness (vijñānalakṣaṇa), it is not controlled without the soul (pudgala).

Answer. – Dharmas exist insofar as they have their own characteristics (lakṣaṇa). Not having any characteristics, the soul does not exist. You consider the inbreath and the outbreath (ānāpāna), suffering and happiness (duḥkhasukha), etc., as characteristics of the soul; but that is not right (ayukta). Why? Because the inbreath and the outbreath, etc., are characteristics of the body, and the fact of feeling suffering, happiness, etc., is characteristic of the mind. Why make the body and the mind into characteristics of the soul?

Moreover, fire (agni) burns things by itself without depending on a person (pudgala). We say that a man burns something only metaphorically. You have fallen into an untenable position (nigrahasthāna). Why? Because the soul (puruṣa) is the person (pudgala) and you cannot compare the person with the person.

2) Moreover, you said: “Each one possessing his own mind (ātmacitta), we know that there really is an ātman. If it were only due to a mistake (viparyāsa) about the body and the mind that an ātman is assumed, why not produce the idea of an ātman in regard to another?”

Without knowing if the ātman exists or does not exist, you are asking why one does not produce the idea of the ātman in regard to another.[22] [The distinctions] between one’s own body (ātmakāya) and another’s body (parakāya) exist as a function of the ātman. But the ātman is non-existent (nopalabhyate). [The characteristics attributed to it]: having form (rūpin) or formless (arūpin), permanent (nitya) or impermanent (anitya), finite (antavat) or infinite (ananta), moveable (gantṛ) or motionless (agantṛ), cognizant (jñātṛ) or ignorant (ajñātṛ), active (kāraka) or inactive (akāraka), autonomous (svatantra) or non-autonomous (asvatantra): all these characteristics of the ātman do not exist (nopalabhyante), as we have said above in the chapter on the ātman.

For many reasons of this kind, the yogin considers that dharmas come from complexes of causes and conditions, that there are no real dharmas endowed with ātman. That is what is called mindfulness of dharmas (dharmasmṛtyupasthāna).

6. Mindfulness itself, by connection with or as object.

The four foundations of mindfulness (smṛtyupasthāna) are of three kinds: i) mindfulness in itself (svabhāvasmṛtyupasthāna); ii) mindfulness by connection (saṃsargasmṛtyupasthāna); iii) mindfulness as object (ālambanasmṛtyupasthāna).[23] [201a]

i) What is mindfulness in itself (svabhāva)? The wisdom (prajñā) that considers the body (kāyam anupaśyan) is mindfulness of the body. – The wisdom that considers the feelings (vedanā) is mindfulness of feelings. – The wisdom that considers the mind (citta) is mindfulness of mind. – The wisdom that considers dharmas is mindfulness of dharmas. This is mindfulness in itself.

ii) What is mindfulness by connection (saṃsarga)? When they consider the body at the head of the list, the dharmas of the Path [other than prajñā], coming from causes and conditions (hetupratyaya), impure (sāsrava) or pure (anāsrava), are mindfulness of the body. – When they consider feelings, the mind or dharmas as head of the list, the dharmas of the Path [other than prajñā], coming from causes and conditions, impure or pure, are mindfulness of feelings, mind or dharmas [respectively]. This is mindfulness by connection.

iii) What is mindfulness as object (ālambana)?[24] All dharmas with form (rūpadharma), namely, the ten bases of consciousness (daśāyatana) and a small part of the dharmāyatana[25] are mindfulness of body. – The six kinds of feelings, namely, feeling arising from contact with the eye (cakṣuḥsaṃsparśajā vedanā) and the feelings arising from contact with the ear (śrotra), nose (ghrāṇa), tongue (jihvā), body (kāya) and mind (manas) respectively[26] – The six kinds of consciousnesses, namely, consciousness of the eye (cakṣurvijñāna) and consciousnesses of the ear, nose, tongue, body and mind[27] are mindfulness of mind. – The notion aggregate (saṃjñāskandha), the volition aggregate (saṃkāraskandha) and the three unconditioned (asaṃskṛta)[28] are mindfulness of dharmas. That is mindfulness as object.

Mindfulness in itself (svabhāva), having wisdom (prajñā) as nature, is formless (arūpin), invisible (anidarśana), non-resistant (apratigha), sometimes impure (sāsrava) and sometimes pure (anāsrava)… .[29]

These things are fully explained in the Ts’ien-nan ‘The Thousand Aporias.’[30] [202a]

7. Inner, outer and mixed mindfulness

1. In regard to kāyasmṛtyupasthāna.

What is the inner body (adhyātmakāya); what is the outer body (bahirdhākāya) and, since everything is already included (saṃgṛhita) in the inner and outer body, why does the sūtra[31] speak again about the consideration of both the inner and outer body (adhyātmabahirdhākāyānupaśyanā)?

Answer. – One’s own body (svakāya) is inner; another’s body (parakāya) is outer.

One’s own body is of two kinds: i) the impurities (aśuci) inside the body; ii) the skin (tvac), the hairs (roman), the nails (nakha), the hairs of the head (keśa), etc., outside.

Furthermore, when the yogin considers a corpse (mṛtaśarīra), bloated (vyādhmātaka) and rotting (vipūyaka), he grasps the characteristics (nimittāny udgṛhṇāti) and examines his own body, saying: “This body, too, is of the same nature, the same constitution and has not gone beyond this state of affairs” (sa imam eva kāyam upasaṃharati: ayam api khalu kāya evaṃdharma evaṃbhāvy etad anatīta iti),[32] then the corpse is the ‘outer’ body, whereas the yogin’s body is the ‘inner’ body.

If the yogin, possibly seeing a beautiful woman (abhirūpastrī), becomes attached to her in his mind and then considers the impurities (aśuci) of this female body, it is a matter of an outer body. But if the yogin recognizes that his own body is exactly like it, it is a question of an inner body.

Furthermore, the five organs (indriya), eye (cakṣus), etc., are inner body whereas the five objects (viṣaya), color (rūpa), etc., are outer body.

The four great elements (mahābhūta) are inner body whereas the matter derived from the four great elements (bhautikarūpa) are outer body.

The place where suffering and happiness are experienced is the inner body; the place where one does not experience suffering and happiness is outer body.

One’s own body (svakāya) and the organs (indriya), eye (cakṣus), etc., are inner body; one’s wife (bhāryā), son (putra), wealth (dhana), fields (kṣetra), house (gṛha) and other utilized objects are outer body. How is that? Since material dharmas (rūpadharma) are all [objects] of mindfulness of the body (kāyasmṛtyupasthāna).

First the yogin examines the inner body (adhyātmakāya) to find out if he can find a pure (śuci), eternal (nitya) and happy (sukha) ātman there, but he examines thoroughly and can find no ātman, as has been said above (p. 1167F) in regard to the examination of dharmas.

But if he finds no ātman when he examines the inner [body], perhaps this ātman is outside (bahirdhā). Why? Because outer things (bāhyavastu) are an object of attachment (abhiniveśasthāna) for all beings.[33] But when the yogin examines the outer body, the ātman is not found there either.

Then the yogin makes this reflection: “When I examined inwardly (adhyātmam anupaśyan), I did not find the ātman and [I wondered] if it was not on the outside (bahirdhā), but when I examined [things] on the outside, I did not find it either. I wonder if the ātman is not a delusion (bhrānti). Now I must examine internally and externally simultaneously (yugapat). Examining internal and external are two distinct operations (bhinna); examining [internal and external] at the same time (ekakāle) and simultaneously (sārdham) are conjunct operations!” But although he examines [internal and external] conjointly or separately, the ātman is not found anywhere (nopalabhyate): the examination is therefore ended.

2. In regard to vedanāsmṛtyupasthāna.

Question. – In regard to mindfulness of the body (kāyasmṛtyupasthāna), it might be a matter of the inner [body] and the outer [body]. But here, all the feelings (vedanā) are included (saṃgṛhīta) in the external bases of consciousness (bāhyāyatana);[34] so how can there be a difference between inner feelings (ādhyātmikavedanā) and outer feelings (bāhyavedanā)?

Answer. – The Buddha said: “There are two kinds of feelings: bodily feeling (kāyikī vedanā) and mental feeling (caitasikī vedanā).”[35] Bodily feeling is outer (bāhya) and mental feeling is inner (ādhyātmika).

Furthermore, the feelings associated with the [first] five consciousnesses (pañcavijñānasaṃprayuktavedanā) are outer, and the feelings associated with the mental consciousness (manovijñānasaṃprayuktavedanā) are inner.

The feelings arise in dependence on the twelve bases of consciousness [202b] (dvādāśāyatana). The group of the six inner bases (ādhyātmikāyatana) produce feelings that are inner; the outer six bases (bāhyāyatana) produce feelings that are outer.

Coarse (audārika) feeling is outer; subtle (sūkṣma) feeling is inner.

There are two kinds of suffering (duḥkha): inner suffering and outer suffering.

a. Inner suffering (ādhyātmika duḥkha) is of two types: physical suffering (kāyika duḥkha) and mental suffering (caitasika duḥkha).[36] Physical suffering is the four hundred and four sicknesses (vyādhi), bodily pains (kāyavyādhi), headaches (śirovyādhi), etc.[37]: those are physical suffering. – Mental suffering is grief (daurmanasya), sadness (śoka), hatred (dveṣa), fear (bhaya), jealousy (īrṣyā), doubt (vicikitsā), etc.: those are mental suffering. These two sufferings together are inner suffering.

b. Outer suffering (bāhyaduḥkha) is of two types: i) the king (rājan), the victorious enemy (vijetṛ), the wicked thief (caura), the lion (siṃha), tiger (vyāghra), wolf (vṛka), snake (sarpa) and other nuisances (viheṭhana); ii) the wind (vāta), rain (vṛṣṭi), cold (śīta), heat (uṣṇa), thunder (meghagarjita), lightning (vidyut), thunderbolts, etc: these two kinds of suffering are outer suffering.

It is the same for pleasant feeling (sukhavedanā) and neither unpleasant nor pleasant feeling (aduḥkhāsukhavedanā).

Furthermore, the feeling that takes as object (ālambate) an inner dharma is an inner feeling; that which takes as object an outer dharma is an outer feeling.

Furthermore, the one hundred and eight feelings[38] are inner feelings; the others (śeṣa) are outer feelings.

3. In regard to cittasamṛtyupasthāna.

Question. – The mind is included (saṃgṛhita) in the inner bases of consciousness (ādhyātmikāyatana): how can the sūtra say that [the yogin] “also considers the mind outwardly” (bahirdhā vā citte cittānupaśyī viharati)?

Answer. – Although the mind is included in the inner bases of consciousness, when it takes as object (ālambate) an outer dharma, it is outer mind, and when it takes as object an inner dharma, it is inner mind.

The mental consciousness (manovijñāna) is an inner mind, and the [first] five consciousnesses (pañcavijñāna) are outer minds.

The concentrated mind (saṃkṣiptacitta) that penetrates into meditation (dhyānapraviṣṭa) is an inner mind; the distracted mind (vikṣiptacitta) is an outer mind.

The mind associated (saṃprayukta) with the five inner obstacles (ādhyātmikanīvaraṇa)[39] or with the inner seven factors of enlightenment (ādhyātmikabodhyaṅga) is an inner mind; the mind associated with the five outer obstacles (bāhyanīvaraṇa) or with the seven outer factors of enlightenment (bāhyabodyaṅga) is an outer mind.

For various reasons of this kind, we distinguish inner mind, outer mind and both inner and outer mind.

4. In regard to dharmasmṛtyupasthāna.

Mindfulness of dharmas (dharmasmṛtyupasthāna) is included (saṃgṛhita) in the outer bases of consciousness (bāhyāyatana): how can [the sūtra] say that [the yogin] “also considers dharmas inwardly” (ādhyātmaṃ vā dharmeṣu dharmānupaśyī viharati)?

Answer. – Outside of feeling (vedanāṃ sthāpayitvā), there are other mental dharmas (caitasika dharma). Mental dharmas that have as object (ālambante) an inner dharma are inner dharmas; mental dharmas that have as object an outer dharma, the unconditioned (asaṃskṛta) or the formations dissociated from the mind (cittaviprayuktasaṃskāra)[40] are outer dharmas.

Furthermore, the dharmas that are the object (ālambana) of the mental consciousness (manovijñāna) are inner dharmas, for it has been said by the Buddha: “The mental consciousness arises in dependence on the object (ālambanam āśrityotpadyate manovijñānam).” Here, except for feeling (vedanāṃ sthāpayitvā), the other mental dharmas (caitasika dharma) are inner dharmas, whereas the other formations dissociated from the mind (cittaviprayuktasaṃskāra) and the unconditioned dharmas (asaṃskṛtadharma) are outer dharmas.

Footnotes and references:


See references above, p. 1121F.


On these mistakes (viparyāsa), see Anguttara, II, p. 52; Vibhaṅga, p. 376; Kośa, V, p. 21; Śikṣāsamuccaya, p. 198; Traité, p. 925F.


The contrast between viparyāsa and smṛtyupasthāna has already bween noted above, p. 1076F.


See also Mahāvyut., nos. 4026, 4027, 4065, 5063.


Reminder of a canonical topic: Dīgha, I, p. 76, 173, 209; Majjhima, I, p. 144, 500; II, p. 17; Saṃyutta, IV, p. 83, 194, 202; V, p. 370; Aṅguttara, IV, p. 386: Ayaṃ kāyo rūpī cātummahābhūtiko mātāpettikasambhavo odanakummāsupacayo anico’ ucchādanaparimaddanabhedanaviddhaṃsanadhammo: “The material body, composed of the four great elements, coming from the mother and father, fattened with boiled rice and gruel, that always must be oiled and massaged, nevertheless breaks up and is destroyed.”

The corresponding Sanskrit wording (Mahāvastu, II, p. 269, 278; Kāśyapaparivarta, § 152, shows asome variations: cf. Vimalakīrti, p. 134 as n.


Cf. the Vijayasutta of the Suttanipāta, p. 34,verse 197–198:

Ath’ assa navahi sotehi asūci sabbadā |
akkhimhā akkhigūthako, kaṇṇagūthako ||

siṃghāṇikā ca nāsāto, mukhena vanat’ ekadā |
pittaṃ semhañ ca vamati, kāyamhā sedajallikā ||

“Impurity flows from him ever in nine streams: from the eye, rheum; from the ear, wax; from the nose, snot; from the mouth sometimes bile and sometimes phlegm vomit; and from the entire body there flows sweat and filth.”

A sermon of the Buddha, cited in Milinda, p. 74, and Visuddhimagga, ed. Warren, p. 161, is expressed thus:

Allacammapaṭicchasnno navadvāro mahāvaso |
samantato paggharati asuci pātiganhiyo ||

“Covered with damp skin, [the body] with its nine gates, a great suffering, pours out stinking secretions from very part.”

The nine gates (dvāra), holes (chidra) or wounds (vraṇa) of the body are the two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, mouth, anus and urinary canal. They are often mentioned in Buddhist texts: Fo pan ni yuan king, T 5, k. 2, p. 171a16; Tsa pan nie pan king, T 7, k. 1, p. 194c13; Tchong a han, T 26, k. 5, p. 453c5; Anguttara, IV, p. 386; Tseng yi a han, T 125, k. 30, p. 713a28; Ts’i tch’ou san kouan king, T 150, p. 880b5; Sieou hing pen k’i king, T 184, k. 2, p. 466c16; Ta tchouang yen louen king, T 201, k. 12, p. 324b28 (tr. E. Huber, Sūtrālaṃkāra, p. 346); Fa kiu king, T 210, k. 2, p. 573c27; Śikṣasamuccaya, p. 82, l. 1 (navavraṇamukha).


The nine concepts, objects of meditation on the horrible (aśubhabhāvanā), will be studied below in Chap. XXXV.


Like a stubborn horse.


Expressions borrowed from a canonical stock phrase listing various bodily positions: abhikkante paṭikkante, ālokite vilokite, sammiñjite pasārite, etc.: cf. Dīgha, I, p. 70; II, p. 95, 292: Majjhima, I, p. 57, 181, 269, 274, 346; III, p. 3, 90, 135; Saṃyutta, IV, p. 211, V, p. 142; Anguttara, II, p. 210. V, p. 206; Pañcaviṃśati, p. 204; Śatasḥahasrika, p. 1428.


Cf. Majjhima, I, p. 315, 365; II, p. 260; Saṃyutta, II, p. 99; IV, p. 172, 188; V, p. 170, 353: Puriso jīvitukāmo amaritukāmo sukhakāmo dukkhapaṭikkūlo: “Man wants to live, fears death, loves happiness and abhors suffering.”


See the Rahogataka-suttanta of the Saṃyutta, IV, p. 216 (Tsa a han, T 99, no. 476, k. 17, p. 121c) cited in Kośa, VI, p. 131, and Kośavyākhyā, p. 519:

Transl. – “I have spoken, O monks, of three feelings: pleasant feeling, unpleasant feeling and neither unpleasant nor pleasant feeling. But I have also said that every feeling is suffering (acc. to the comm.., dukkhasmiṃ = dukkha-sannissitaṃ): it is by viewing the impermanence of [all] the formations, the perishable, transitory, unpleasant, destructible and changing nature of [all] the formations that I have declared that all feeling is suffering.”

In other words, all the phenomena of existence, by reason of their transitory nature, are suffering and, if sometimes they seem to us to be pleasant, sometimes unpleasant and sometimes indifferent, that is purely a mistake.


Anguttara, V, p, p. 187–188.


Of the 98 anuśayas, bad tendencies that cause actions to accumulate, 92 have an impure object; 6 have a pure object, namely, the third and fourth truth, cessation and the Path: cf. Kośa, V, p. 34.


The Buddha spoke of samādhi, the second element of the Path of nirvāṇa, when he was dealing with the fourth noble truth. This proves that samādhi, which gives rise to the pure happiness of nirvāṇa, is truly happiness and not suffering. If it were suffering, the Buddha would have spoken of it in connection with the first truth which deals precisely with universal suffering.


Anguttara, I, p. 80–81: Dve ‘māni bhikkave sukhāni. Katamāni dve? Sāsavañ ca sukhaṃ anāsavañ ca sukhaṃ… Etadaggaṃ bhikkhave imesaṃ dvinnaṃ sukhānaṃ yadidaṃ anāsavasukhan ti.


See the apologue of the big but not fat sheep, above (p. 908–909F)


The sixteen aspects of the four noble truths perceived in the course of the three samādhis of śūnyatā, ānimitta and apraṇihita: see above, p. 641F and later, k. 23, p. 233b6; k. 54, p. 444a15; k. 63, p. 505a17.


Fourth saṃskṛtalakṣaṇa according to the Sarvāstivādin Abhidharma (see preceding note).


According to the Sarvāstivādin Abhidharma whose theories the Traité reproduces here, the four primary characteristics (mūlalakṣaṇa) of the conditioned, namely jāti, jarā, sthiti and anityatā, have secondary characteristics (anulakaṣaṇa) in their turn: birth-of-birth (jātijāti), old-age–of old-age (jarājarā) duration-of-duration (sthitisthiti) and impermanence-of-impermanence (anityatānityatā): cf. Kośa, II, p. 224–225). – But Nāgārjuna refuted the theory of the anulakṣaṇas in Madh. Kārikā, VII, 3 (Madh. vṛtti, p. 147): Utpādasthitibhaṅgānām anyat saṃskṛtalakṣaṇam | asti ced anavasthaivaṃ; nāsti cet te na saṃskṛtāḥ ||: “If production, duration and destruction have a secondary characteristic, there is infinite regression; if they do not have a secondary conditioned characteristic, they are not conditioned.”


Dīgha, III, p. 231; Anguttara, II, p. 159: Atth’ āvuso attabhāvapaṭilābho yasmiṃ attabhāvapaṭilābhe attasaṃcetanā yeva kamati no parasaṃcetanā. Atth’ āvuso attabhāvapaṭilābho yasmiṃ attabhāvapaṭilaābhe yeva kamati no attasaṃcetanā: “There is an occasion in life [note, p. 1165F] in the course of which it is one’s own volition that acts, not the volition of another. There is an occasion in life during the course of which it is the volition of another that acts and not one’s own volition.”

According to the explanations of Anguttara (l. c.) summarized in Kośavyākhyā, p. 170, in the first case, death is due to one’s personal will (ātmanā maraṇam), in the second case, to the will of another (pareṇa maraṇam). Kośa, II, p. 218, cites several examples of these two kinds of death.


This objection has already been formulated above, p. 736F.


Compare the refutation developed above, p. 737–747F.


See Kośa, VI, p. 159–161; Kośavyākhyā, p. 529–531:

Smṛtyupasthāna itself (svabhāva) is fixing of the attention (smṛter upasthānam): it is a wisdom (prajñā) by which the attention is fixed (smṛtir anayopatiṣṭhate) on the body, the feelings, the mind, dharmas. The person who possesses this prajñā becomes an anupaśyin: hence the phrase: kāye kāyānupaśyī smṛta upasthitasmṛtiḥ.

When other dharmas, the auxiliaries to the path that are not prajñā, are dharmas co-existing with prajñā, they are smṛtyupasthāna by connection (saṃsarga).

The objects – body, feelings, mind, dharmas – to which the attention is applied are smṛtyupasthāna as object. In this sense, kāyasmṛtyupasthāna should be analyzed as kāyaḥ smrtyupasthānam ‘the body is fixation of the attention’ as the attention is fixed on it.


In other words, on what objects is the attention fixed in the course of the smṛtyupasthāna?


Five ādhyātmikāyatanas or organs: cakṣus, śrotra, ghrāṇa, jihvā and kāya; five bāhyāyatanas or objects: rūpa, śabda, gandha, rasa, spraṣṭavya; and the material part of the dharmāyatana, namely, avipjñapti (cf. Kośa, I, p. 20).


The six vedanākāyas (cf. Saṃyutta, III, p. 60).


The six vijñānakāyas (cf. Saṃyutta, III, p. 61).


The six saṃjñākāyas (Saṃyutta, III, p. 60), the six cetanākāyas (Saṃyutta, ibid.) and the three asaṃskṛtasākāśa and two nirodhas – accepted by the Sarvāstivādins (Kośa, I, p. 8–9).


There follows a long list which I [Lamotte] think need not be translated here. It shows many analogies with the Pāli Vibhaṅga, p. 206.


Prakaraṇapāda, T 1541, k. 8–9, p. 667c–672a; T 1542, k. 11–12, p. 739b–743c.

The Traité cites the Ts’ien-nan (p’in) ‘Chapter of the thousand Aporias’ three times: k. 18, p. 195a15–16 (see above, p. 1101F); k. 19, p. 202a5; 203a8. It is the seventh chapter of the [Abhidharma]-Prakaraṇapāda-[śāstra] entitled in the Chinese versions Ts’ien wen louen p’in (T 1541, k. 8, p. 663a5) or Pien ts’ien wen p’in (T 1542, k. 10, p. 733a17) corresponding to a Sanskrit original like Sahasraparipṛcchā-varga ‘Chapter of the Thousand Aporias’.

Also see Appendix on the Prakaraṇapāda.


The canonical sūtra mentioned above, p. 1122F.


Canonical expression: cf. Dīgha, II, p. 297; Majjhima, I, p. 58: Ayam pi kho kāyo evaṃdhammo evaṃbhāvī etaṃ anatīto ti.


Therefore capable of being taken for the ‘self’ or ‘mine’


The six organs, eye, etc.


Saṃyutta, IV, p. 231: Katame ca bhikkhave dve vedanā. Kâyikā ca cetasikā ca.


Cf. Majjhima, I, p. 302: Yaṃ kho āvuso kāyikaṃcetasikaṃdukkhaṃ asātaṃ vedayitaṃ ayaṃ dukkhā vedanā.


See above, p. 494–495F, 583–585F.


The canonical sources distinguish two, three, five, six, eighteen, thirty-six, and one hundred and eight kinds of vedanā: cf. Saṃyutta, IV, p. 231–232; Tsa a han, T 99, no. 485, k. 17, p. 123c–124b. Later the Traité (k. 36, p. 324b4–8) will return to this subject.


The five obstacles preventing entry into dhyāna. The Traité has spoken of them above (p. 1012–1020F). In the same way as the factors of enlightenment, these obstacles are inner or outer according to whether one examines them within oneself or in another.


Kośa, II, p. 178 and foll.: cf. the cittavippayutta of the Pāli scholasticism: Dhammasaṅgaṇī, p. 210, 254.

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