- Paperback: 224 pages
- Publisher: Samuel Weiser (June 1, 1973)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0877280738
- ISBN-13: 978-0877280736
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 30 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #207,327 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Heart of Buddhist Meditation: Satipatthna: A Handbook of Mental Training Based on the Buddha's Way of Mindfulness Paperback – June 1, 1973
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The purpose of these pages is to draw attention to the far- and deep-reaching significance of the Buddha's 'Way of Mindfulness' (Satipatthana), and to give initial guidance to an understanding of these teachings and their practical value.
This book is issued in the deep conviction that the systematic cultivation of Right Mindfulness, as taught by the Buddha in his Discourse on Satipatthana, still provides the most simple and direct, the most thorough and effective, method for training and developing the mind for its daily tasks and problems as well as for its highest aim: mind's own unshakable deliverance from Greed, Hatred and Delusion.
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This book is divided into three parts: (1) Nyanaponika Thera's own essay on Insight Meditation, (2) a translation of the Maha Satipatthana Sutta from the Pali canon, and (3) a collection of traditional commentaries from both the Pali canon and the Mahayana tradition. It is intended not to advocate Buddhism as a religion, but rather to explain the activity of Insight Meditation, and to explain the virtue developed by Insight Meditation, as well as the action performed by one who has acquired it, Right Mindfulness.
Of particular interest is the first section, Nyanaponika Thera's own essay on Right Mindfulness. This has all the detail of an Aristotelian treatise, discussing the function, the nature, and the efficient cause of Right Mindfulness, breaking it down through a detailed analysis that empowers one to read the following Sutta and commentaries for oneself, as part of one's own meditation practice, without relying on others for interpretation. This book will be of primary interest to anyone who is practicing Insight Meditation, whether or not he/she is Buddhist. It will also be of interest to anyone curious about the nature of Buddhist awakening and the means to that end.
The author devotes a section of his essay specifically to the Burmese tradition of Insight Meditation. This is the very tradition which has found wide acceptance in the US and elsewhere, under the tutelage of Jack Kornfield and others, and constitutes another reason why this book is relevant. Further, there is a section devoted entirely to Anapanasati, or Mindfulness of Breathing, which is a simple and straightforward version of Insight Meditation, and which is widely practiced for that reason.
My one criticism is that the author's writing style is dated and can be difficult to follow. He has the bad habit of starting a new section of his essay by referring to previous sections, so that the book is more difficult to read than it should be. But if you are patient enough to overcome this problem, you will be rewarded many times over with insight drawn from the author's years of personal practice and study.
Many of the compliments I paid to Rahula's work (see my Amazon review) I can pay to this one as well. In fact, the two are even structured in a similar fashion--a dense yet lucid, non-sectarian exposition followed by an expertly translated and arranged set of selections from the suttas. The chief difference lies in the more focused and practical thrust of this book. If Rahula's is for orientation, a gazeteer or general map, as it were, Nyanaponika's is like the car you get in to travel to your destination.
The book's focus is the Satipatthana Sutta (Majjhima Nikaya 10), which is the same discourse as the Mahasatipatthana Sutta (Digha Nikaya 22) only minus the exposition of the four noble truths. In effect, Nyanaponika's little book is a commentary upon this great teaching. The first chapter, "The Way of Mindfulness," discusses the centrality of mental culture in the Buddha's teaching, and places mindfulness (sati) at the heart of the practice of mental culture.
Chapter two, "Mindfulness and Clear Comprehension," is the critical part. Here the notion of "bare attention" is defined, and for those who are entirely new to meditation, this may be a difficult concept to wrap the head around precisely because it is not a concept. The teaching of Right Mindfulness is described within the context of bare attention. Clear comprehension (sampajañña), the second aspect of Right Mindfulness, is discussed in various ways per the sutta commentaries, such as awareness of what one is doing, the suitability of one's actions, etc.
Chapter three, "The Four Objects of Mindfulness," dives into the discourse proper, examining the various bases or foundations of practice, the body (breath, postures, contemplation of disgust for the body, etc), feelings (i.e. what is felt or sensed internally and externally), mental states (sleepy, clear, distracted, etc) and mental objects (thoughts and emotions that arise and pass away).
Chapter four attempts to counter charges that these practices are "coldly intellectual," "dry," or "indifferent," charges that have at times been leveled at Theravadin teachings in general (though to be exact, these teachings are pre-Theravadin). I have to confess I've always found such objections to the Pali teachings rather hard to understand. They clearly derive from people armed and ready with preconceived ideological agendas who are eager to avoid any evidence to the contrary.
The last two chapters of Nyanaponika's exposition cover the Burmese satipatthana method (the Mahasi style of practice) and anapanasati, which is mindfulness of the breath, traditionally as it passes through the nasal passages. Here you get detailed instructions for how to put everything you've learned into practice. It must be noted that these are simply instructions on "how to"--they are not equivalent to having an actual teacher who will tell you what to expect, or what you should do if--god forbid--you actually get enlightened!
Part II of the text is a translation with extensive notes of the Satipatthana Sutta. I have only one bone to pick here, and that is with the translation of ekayano maggo in the first sentence of the third paragraph as "sole way," as if satipatthana was the only way to nibbana. Numerous translators have done this, but it has been pointed out by many others that a better translation of this phrase is "a road that goes one way" or has "one direction"--meaning that satipatthana is a path that leads inevitably toward a single goal. Maurice Walshe, in his note to the passage (from The Long Discourses of the Buddha, p. 589, n. 626), points out even the commentary is confused about how exactly to interpret it. Part III, "Flowers of Deliverance," collects other passages from the suttas and even the Mahayana sutras that concern mental culture, with particular attention to satipatthana and its related concepts.
While the book can at times perhaps be faulted for a somewhat dated prose style, this is in no way to say its contents are dated. It is throughout a clear and intellectually rigorous work, quite complete as regards its subject matter, and represents an excellent starting point for anyone interested in Buddhist meditation practice.
For me one has to decide what that is and once understood,onward to the next sentence or paragraph.The problem if you have read enough dharma books, all this stuff means different things to different authors.I would prefer a more simple interpretation of the Buddha's teachings.I fully understand the need to understand Buddha's direct transmissions.I would'nt recommend this book to anyone who is new to Vipassana.