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four foundations of mindfulness question

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Can someone help explain to me the difference between 3. mind/consciousness and 4. mental objects? Is there a better translation of both? It seems like there's overlap amongst all four, but what are the major distinctions that the Buddha was trying to tease out by creating these four categories?

RE: four foundations of mindfulness question
Answer
6/4/10 2:44 PM as a reply to Mark Lippmann.
im pretty confused about this myself! i also spent a lot of time on the cushion trying to figure out & re-remember the differences emoticon and then i get frustrated why after reading so many different references, i still get confused

so i end up just reading no more and drawing the line with my own conclusions, even though they may not necessarily be what is correct, however they Do make sense and create closure for me.

3) mind/consciousness

- this is the state of mind before it creates a thought. To simply observe is mind, to simply be aware of awareness, to have no object.

- this is also the state of mind when affected by hindrances. I.e. mind is slothful/dull, mind is restless/agitated, mind is craving, or, as monks say, "Craving is present in me". It is the state of mind being refered to. To see the hindrances as not a thought, but as something that affects its ability to think.

4) Mental objects

- Visual imagery, inner sight, inner sound, inner talk, inner dialogue, inner desires & sensations swimming around (starting as feeling) & finally manifesting as a "thought" - a transparent, non-tangible, non-solid, yet existing thing. (mental object). It is Not dukkha, not a hindrance, yet it is often accompanied with dukkha, If the mental object is a sense desire, for instance, but Not met & accompanied with Mindfulness, it becomes dukkha.

RE: four foundations of mindfulness question
Answer
6/4/10 2:47 PM as a reply to Dark Night Yogi.
..but the rest of the time when i can't remember that, I just stick to "Body", "feeling", and "thought"..

..though its been a while since i did the 4 foundations, I really loved it! I would loove to do a Satipathanna retreat if one were available to me.

RE: four foundations of mindfulness question
Answer
6/12/10 7:50 PM as a reply to Dark Night Yogi.
I don't find 4 foundations as helpful as 6 sense doors, which requires very little interpretation beyond a careful sorting out of thought vs the rest, which is experiential, not conceptual, so much less trouble and much more direct and straightforward.

RE: four foundations of mindfulness question
Answer
6/15/10 2:52 AM as a reply to Mark Lippmann.
Mark Lippmann:
Can someone help explain to me the difference between 3. mind/consciousness and 4. mental objects? Is there a better translation of both? It seems like there's overlap amongst all four, but what are the major distinctions that the Buddha was trying to tease out by creating these four categories?

For the best discussion of this practice of satipatthana I would recommend the book by Ven. Analayo titled: [url=http://amazon.com/o/ASIN/0861714911/thomelio-20" title="Satipatthana, The Direct Path to Realization"]Satipattana, The Direct Path to Realization.

In fact, the translation of The Four Foundations of Mindfulness is, in my opinion, somewhat confusing and not quite what the Buddha meant when he used the pali word "satipatthana." In Bhikkhu Bodhi's translation of the Samyutta Nikaya, The Connected Discourses of the Buddha, in the Introduction to the last book of the Samyutta, the Mahavagga, he covers the translation of this word in some detail starting at page 1504. I have found that his translation of this word as the Four Establishments of Mindfulness to have been more informative and practical to my practice, as have others who have used this translation. Because one is practicing to "establish" or "apply" these states of mindfulness in a rather subjective way rather than using them as a "foundation." When put this way, I suppose it may be semantic; I just prefer "establishment" rather than "foundation" when thinking about this practice.

As Dark Yogi has correctly explained, the third establishment of mindfulness (scroll down to number 3: III. The Contemplation of Consciousness) is as regards the state of mind as in the description given in the Satipatthana Suttas:

"Herein, monks, a monk knows the consciousness with lust, as with lust; the consciousness without lust, as without lust; the consciousness with hate, as with hate; the consciousness without hate, as without hate; the consciousness with ignorance, as with ignorance; the consciousness without ignorance, as without ignorance..."

One observes whatever state his mind is in (whether with lust, with anger, with confusion, with ignorance or whatever) in order to know the mind in that instant and to watch that mind state's arising and passing.

As for the fourth establishment of mindfulness, one focuses on any mental object that one wishes to focus on (or whichever one arises and passes, if one is observing the arising and passing away):

"And how, monks, does a monk live contemplating mental objects in mental objects? Herein, monks, a monk lives contemplating mental objects in the mental objects of the five hindrances.

How, monks, does a monk live contemplating mental objects in the mental objects of the five hindrances?

Herein, monks, when sense-desire is present, a monk knows, "There is sense-desire in me," or when sense-desire is not present, he knows, "There is no sense-desire in me." He knows how the arising of the non-arisen sense-desire comes to be; he knows how the abandoning of the arisen sense-desire comes to be; and he knows how the non-arising in the future of the abandoned sense-desire comes to be."


Focusing on these four establishments of mindfulness (on the body, feeling, mind states, and mind objects) is where, traditionally, the Buddha recommended that practitioners will find the same awakening that he experienced. As I say, it is expained in more detail in Analayo's book if you are interested to learn more about this practice.

RE: four foundations of mindfulness question
Answer
6/17/11 8:32 AM as a reply to Dark Night Yogi.
I found this thread after struggling with the exact same question Mark described - Daniel's preference for using the 6 sense doors instead makes perfect sense to me as an experiential, unambiguous way to categorize experience for this purpose. So thanks for that :-)

Dark Night Yogi:
..but the rest of the time when i can't remember that, I just stick to "Body", "feeling", and "thought"..

..though its been a while since i did the 4 foundations, I really loved it! I would loove to do a Satipathanna retreat if one were available to me.


Courses dealing specifically with Satipathanna are offered at the Goenka centers (I personally haven't done one... need to have completed 3 regular retreats and 1 service retreat in that tradition).