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Pali Canon - Satipatthana Sutta - Unchecked

DISCLAIMER - This transcript has not been checked by Sangharakshita, and may contain mistakes and mishearings. Checked and reprinted copies of all seminars will be available as part of the Complete Works Project.

by Sangharakshita

Satipatthana Sutta

Held at: Tuscany. 22nd November 1982.
Present: Ven. Sangharakshita, Dharmachari s Devamitra, Gunapala, Cittapala, Surata,
Harshaprabha, Suvajra, Ratnaprabha and Richard Clayton.
S:
We're all grouped? (pause) Anyway, are we ready? Are the machines both working?
Suvajra:
Yes. Yes.
S: So perhaps we'll start by doing a voice print to help our transcriber. So perhaps you'd go
on fl0entiOnior?~ your names, your new names of course in the case of those who 've just
received new names, and just saying a few words about yourselves so that the transcriber can
identify the different speakers.
Devamitra:
T'm Devamitra from Padmaloka, Middlesbrough and England and I've been in
Italy for four months now and will shortly be departing for the United States for six weeks. I
don't think I have anything further to say.
Gunapala:
I'm Gunapala. I've been in Italy for three months.(laughter). I don't need to
think of anything relevant to say. (laughter). I'm from New Zealand and when I go back to
England I will be going back to Brighton, and working there in Brighton.
Richard Clayton:
I'm Richard Clayton. I've been in Tuscany three months from Brighton.
I'm enjoying the countryside here
Cittapala:
I'm Cittapala and I'm sort of feeling for the transcriber since I'm going to be
taking a lot of transcribing.(laughter). I've been out here for four months and not looking
forward to the English winter.
Surata: I'm Surata from Brighton. I'm quite looking forward to going back to England in a
way. I'm also looking forward to the next few days of study very much.
Harshaprabha: I'm Harshaprabha. I'm really pleased to be so. I'm from the L.B.C. and again
very moch looking forward to being here for the next seven days.
Euvajra:
I'm Suvajra from Manchester. I'm the only Scottish voice on the tape so I
should be quite easy to recognise.
Ratnaprabha: I'm Ratnaprabha and I will be returning to Padmalok at the beginning of Dec
ember.
S: Alright then, on to the Foundations of Mindfulness, Satipatthana Sutta, the discourse of
the Buddha translated by I think we'll go through the introduction. It does give us a bit of a
resume of material with which probably most people are already familiar. Perhaps it won't be
a bad thing for us to revise a little. We need not spend too much time going through it before
proceeding to the sutta itself. Alright then, would someone like to start reading. Just read
those first two paragraphs.
Surata:
Do you want the footnotes included?
S:
No. No.
[2]
Surata:
"The philosophy of Buddhism is contained in the Four Noble Truths. The truth
of suffering reveals that all forms of becoming, all the various elements of existence comprise
of the five aggregates or groups of existence, also called the five categories which are the
objects of clinging and are inseparable from suffering as long as they remain objects of
grasping or clinging, all corporeality, all feeling from sensations, all perceptions, all mental
formations and consciousness being im ermanent are a source of suffering, are conditioned
phenomena and hence not-self - anitya, mkkha , Anatta. Ceaseless origination and dissolution
best characterise the process of existence called life. For all elements of this flux of becoming
continually arise from conditions created by us and then pass away givirg ; rise to new
elements of being according to one's own actions or karma.
S:
So this is one might say standard, basic Buddhist teaching. At least standard
Theravada teaching. Is there anything there that requires discussion? Anything that isn't clear?
Perhaps one shouldn't carp too much at the use of the expression " the philosophy of
Buddhism' yeh? Perhaps its difficult to say what other sort of generally accepted term could
be used in this way (pause) The danger, of course, is that someone might understand
philosophy in an academic sense and think of Buddhism in terms of an academic philosophy.
Maybe something like 'fundamental principle' would have been better. " The Fundamental
principles of Buddhism are contained in the following truths ". But even that wouldn't be
completely adequate, because the Four Noble Truths also concern the practice, yeh? (pause).
Anyway, as I said, perhaps one shouldn't carp at the term. (pause). This second paragraph
deals w ith the three lakshanas, and in particular with the second one, that of Dukkha, which
is of course the first of the Four Noble Truths. (pause).
Voice: (unclear)
suppose the first one had... (unclear).. .the first one we looked at
Anitya...
S:
Anitya. Pali is Anicca, Janskrit Anitya. That's impermanence.
Voice: He translates Dukkha as suffering. I mean that does seem to be
fairly standard. S:
That is fairly standand, yeh?
Voice: Is there anybody else as far as you are aware who translates it as unsatisfactoriness in
preferance to suffering?
S:
I think that is sometimes used. I can't recall that anybody, any sort of as it were well
known scholar uses that. I don't think Guenther speaks in terms of suffering. I'm not so sure
he speaks in terms of unsatisfactor:~'£aI think he sometimes does.(pause). I think to speak of
Dukkha simply as suffering can be quite misleading, huh? Because it does sugagest that
existence is invariably suffering, huh? Which of course it isn't, yeh? And even here its
important to note that the translator says the five categories which are also the objects of
clinging are inseporable from suffering as long as they remain objects of grasping or clinging,
hu}g? (long pause). I mean quite ofterg people that have just a very little knowledge of
Buddhism will tell you that according to Buddhism everything is suffering, huh? As though
no experience other than a painful one was ever possible, which is certainly not the Buddha's
teaching,yeh? And consequently they think that Buddhism is a system of unmitigated
pessimism. But unsatisfactoriness tends to preclude that misunderstanding - at least more
likely to preclude it. Voice: In 'The Survey" you give a more sort of generalised formulation
of
the Four Noble Truths....
S:
Mm.
CONr lNNLB (3)
y¼Oe~~~a~ I was wondering vhether you thought that the traditional for~~of suffering,
whether that was useful given this predilection for
misinterpreting the sort of methodolota~cal approach. ...?
~:
Thirn. \~ll the other formulations are also traditional. I mentioned several in "The
Survey", that they use food and the arising of food, the cess~tion of food, the way leading to
the cessation of food, huh? So it is not that these other formulations are iintraditional; that the
formulation in terms of suffering is the only traditional formulation, huh? One could sort of
fall back on these other formulations which are no less traditional. But it does seem ttiat
throughout the ages tJ~re has been more emphasis on this particular formulation, perhaps
because the question of suffering \"a% for many people a very vital one. They were concerned
with the getting rid of suffering. I don' t know ~TheTher people nowadays think quite in those
terms. Not consciously perhaps. They'd be more likely to tiink in terms of fulfilment, that is to
say, the standard physcological, physcotherapeutic, physcoanalytical encounter group lines.
Gunapala:
I was wondering in particular with you, the way you sort of broW;ht out in the
middle pat~~ the pleasure principle and the ideal that there is any way of making it appear as
a sort of progression, of geing for higher and higher levels of pleasure and so on. It would be
more attractive..
S:
Th~. dxcept that there vould be, the danger would be that peo~le would think perhaps
of aiming directly, huh. Jireotly at pleasure, taking pleasure as a goal to be aiarr1e~ at, rather
than thinking of it as a by- product of an effort. I think probably its better to stick to this
formulation, but speak in terms of iosatisftQctoriness rather than suffering because I don't
think many peopl~ would disagree. i~cistence usually is fa from satisfactory, hm? Tt's
~asatisfactory at least in certain respects, certain major respects and
hat}½)t's~M~~lea#something needs to be done about that. But I tahink especiall W#irien
speaking to begiimers, there are people who are newly enquiring abou~ Buddhism, one
should be verJ careful about speakinaa first of all in terms of oufferinaaar or the cessation of
suffering~. It makes Buddhism sound, well, a bit u fering orientated, very negatively
orientated, very individualistic, even. You know that ajou are concerned with jour suffering,
the alleviation of yaor suffering, huh? Thoug~, of course, the formula taal on itself doesn't say
jour suffering, it just says suffering~. Perhaps tha~ also a relevant point. a~antideva brings
this up quite well ain the Bodhicaryavatara. It 's a question of just gettin~t rid of suffering.
~~o the suffering belongs to is comparatively irrelevant. a~ether its yours or somebody
els&,hu~at? It doesn't natter very much. Your aim should be to get rid of suffering, wherever
sufferJng exists iii the universe, regardless of hose, so to speak, it is.
Cittapala:
M~ of course, in modern Western societ~ one's not actuallj aware so often that
suffering does exist, w1aIereas somewiere lii;ae India....
S:
Yes, ...

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