Dhamma Talk: Satipatthana in Daily Life by Yuttadhammo Bhikkhu

Once researching on Mahasatipatthana Sutta, I got to know some of dhamma talks from Yuttadhammo Bhikkhu. And here is one of the ones that I think it’s very useful for people who are in the workforce, bearing too many responsibilities, stress, worries, confusion, tiredness, … each and everyday. And that’s how I sat down and transcribed the talk, so that people can refer to the content more conveniently.

What I love the most from this talk is that the teaching is so simple that it’s very easy to apply it in our daily life for busy people, yet it’s so deep to the core of Buddhism meditation practice. I even started to ask my daughter to listen to the talk and find ways to apply it in her daily life. You know, kids nowadays are so distracted with too much of information available from the Internet, technology and so.

Though I have tried my best in the transcribing, I was not able to get all of the words 100%, especially some Pali words that Bhikkhu mentioned during the talk. I will revise the script, whenever I learn more. But I believe more than 90% of the content should be in the text for your reference. Feel free to use the content in an appropriate way.

I’d like to express my deep thanks to Yuttadhammo Bhikkhu for the teaching. And I wish you all the best.

You can find more about Yuttadhammo Bhikkhu and his teaching at: https://www.sirimangalo.org/

Please find below the Youtube video and the transcribed script is followed.

 [From 01:30]

You can sit down.

So I’d like to thank you all, for coming today. Thank you to the organizers for inviting me. It’s certainly quite an honor to be here today. I’ve been asked to advise or teach on the practice of meditation and “how to control your mind”. And I believe that’s the hope that somehow, I can make it applicable to people working in the world. As I mentioned, you were very busy people. And the fact that you’ve taken time out of your busy schedules to come here. That means something. I’m happy to be a part of this and to provide my support in this way.

So there are two ways of looking at meditation from the point of view of someone living in the world. Some people might think that they can use meditation to allow them to succeed in the world. I know in America they’ve started up these courses, ‘meditation for business people’. And there’s many seminars, I imagine, here in Sri Lanka. They have these seminars as well, ‘how to be successful’. I’m not sure that meditation is really the sort of thing that provides that, allows you to, for example, make more money or get a raise or so. Certainly, there are aspects of meditation that are useful and we’ll get into that.

I think before we start, it’s important to remind ourselves with something that as Buddhists people who know something about Buddhism, many of you are already aware. There’s a difference between worldly success and happiness. Sometimes, worldly success comes at the cost of your own happiness. Sometimes, it comes at the cost of the happiness of others. It comes at the cost of your morality, comes at the cost of your concentration, comes at the cost of goodness. But most important, it comes at the cost of happiness. And this is what we don’t want. So the other way you can look at it is how do I live my life, make money, enough money to get to survive, and to live my life as I see fit, without sacrificing my happiness. And I think this is where meditation is essential.

Meditation allows you to keep your happiness and and allows you to live your life in such a way that you don’t make the mistake of living for your work. We work to live. And if you live to work and you have a problem, this is not the purpose of life. We know that our lives are only very limited extent. And at some point, we’re going to have to give up everything that we acquired in this life.

So with that in mind, I’d like to offer meditation practice as a means for you to increase your happiness, and your wellbeing. The things that meditation will do for your work and for a business, for life, are certainly quite valuable. Meditation trains your mind. And there are jobs, careers, employment, types of employment that don’t require much mind training. If you’re a bricklayer or demolition, work in construction, these kinds of jobs (require) some mental training, very little.

But if you work with your mind, then, just like any system, any tool, it is something that has to be maintained and well kept. If your mind is not well kept, if you allow your mind to become full of greed, anger and delusion and so on, then it’s like a machine that is not well kept, it breaks down. It is inefficient. So even a bricklayer who is very angry will have a difficult time focusing on laying bricks.

But someone who uses their mind on a daily basis, and I imagine that includes many people in this room, training the mind is essential. If you’re full of anger, full of greed, full of delusion, how can you work? Your mind is wandering, your mind is on fire. So this is essential. This is and should be an essential part of our lives.

You come to work having showered, and washed your clothes and shaved and taken very good care of your body right down to your nails, clipping your nails every part, brush your teeth, keep your body well maintained. If you didn’t, you know what it would be like. If you came to work not having showered for a week and with your old same clothes you’d been wearing for a month, unshaven, teeth not brushed, long nails, all of this, (you) probably would be fired. No one would want to be around you. You would be in a very poor state, physically. This is a problem. So we take very good care of our bodies and we don’t take such good care of our minds. We think our minds are not on display, when in fact every aspect of our lives depends upon our mind, our interactions with other people, our efficiency and our work, our success, all of these things. Most importantly, our happiness.

There are many reasons for us to want to practice meditation and to find a way to incorporate it into our lives. (The) difficulty here is, as I said, you’re most likely very busy people. And to take a month off, to go and live in the forest is probably not in the cards for many of you. To find hours every day to meditate may not even be in the cards. So today I want to teach a little bit differently and focus more on reassuring you and encouraging in the practice of satipatthana in everyday life.

The principles are the same, whether you’re off in the forest sitting with your legs crossed, or whether you’re sitting at a desk or in the meeting or whether you’re even talking with someone, whether you’re doing work. Actually, meditation, satipatthana meditation can occur anywhere. The Buddha said [in Pali words], mindfulness – sati, is useful everywhere. And these are the words of the Buddha.

So today I’m going to teach you satipatthana. We’ll focus mostly on this concept of satipatthana. Because it is a type of meditation that can be used anywhere. In the time of the Buddha, the Buddha went to the land of Kuru, which apparently is near Delhi in India, and he saw that these people were practicing the four satipatthana in their daily lives and they would even ask each other. They would be working in their jobs and they would ask, which satipatthana are you practicing today? And they said, ‘yes, I am practicing kayanupassana satipatthana, vedana, citta, dhamma. One or the other. Or all four of them’. They’re practicing satipatthana and they would congratulate each other and say, very good. You have not wasted your life. You’ve been born in the time of Buddha, when the Buddha starts and ends here, and you have not wasted this opportunity.

But if there was anyone who, no matter how busy they were, is not practicing satipatthana, if they were negligent, just living their lives according to their habits and their ways, then even though, even they’re living, they are so dead. [Talking in Pali]. Even though you’re living, you’re acting as though you’re dead. This is a dead person. The Buddha himself said the person who is not mindful is  already dead. It’s like someone who’s already dead. What it does means is that you’re not really living your life, having this opportunity to be born as a human being. You’re sitting, you don’t know that you’re sitting. You’re here with me, but where is your mind? If you don’t have mindfulness, maybe you’re already judging what I have to say. Maybe you say what is this person going to teach me about Buddhism. And maybe even before I started talking, I haven’t even started teaching it, (you) maybe already judging because I have been so pernicious. I can’t stop them. You’ve been judging. Maybe you think you know everything about Buddhism and what can I teach you there, anything? Maybe you’re thinking about work that you’ve just done or have yet to do. Maybe you’re thinking about food or something, that you’re thinking about home or family. Maybe you have a crisis.

We’re very good at getting caught up in the past, the future, planning, memories, worries, cares. So we live our lives and bouncing around from one thing to another and we’re never really here. It’s very difficult for us to stay here and now to really be sitting in this room. Imagine if you could live your life that you were actually here all the time. When you’re in a meeting, you’re actually in the meeting. When you’re with your family, you’re actually with your family, not bothered by your family, bothered by your relatives or friends. You’re with them, not thinking about future or past.

So this is the benefit of satipatthana, even for ordinary people. I have to stress that satipatthana is not just for monks in the forest. Many types of meditation are difficult for people to practice in the world, but this one is not. So I’m going to teach it today.

OK, so first we have to understand what is satipatthana. There are four satipatthana. They are the foundation of mindfulness, or the categories of mindfulness, of sati. So patthana means foundation or upatthana means founding or establishing, where we establish our mindfulness. We establish it based on kaya, vedana, citta, dhamma which are the four of satipatthana. But first, the word about sati. Sati is a tool that I’m going to give to you. And I want to stress that many of you probably have a wrong idea of what sati means. Well, this is because in Sinhala, as in Thai or even in English, the words that we use to translate sati are not correct. They become colloquial.

So in Thai, the word sati means to be aware, to be conscious. So if you go unconscious, if you fall unconscious, they say you have no sati. But sati doesn’t mean to be aware. The same in Sinhala. In Sinhala, this word for sati is not what we mean by sati. So I want you to understand when I say sati here, I’m going to refer to something specific.

Sati means to remember, but it’s a special kind of remembering. It’s recollect. This may be a good translation. Sati means recollection. So an ordinary kind of sati means our ability to remember things that happened a long time ago. So try to understand this is what we mean by sati, not awareness, not something that you have been understood it to mean. It means to recollect. If you can recollect what you did when you were five years old, this means you have a good sati, which is hopefully maybe a new way of understanding this word. But I can back it up with sources, all in the dictionary, (that) this is the actual meaning of the word sati. That, it has to do with remembering, not awareness. So it’s a tool. One’s ability to remember is a mental faculty that we have to develop.

Now, what does this have to do with meditation? Obviously, we’re not trying to remember the past in a meditative sense. Sati means to remember yourself or remember the present moment or remember what is happening right now. Remember the essence of reality. What does that mean? Why is that important? Because when we see something, when you see me, maybe you don’t know me. If you know me, then maybe you’re happy to see me. Maybe you’re unhappy to see me. Maybe you think I look young or old or ugly or handsome, whatever. You’re happy to see a monk or you wish you didn’t have to see a monk. Many different things.

You forget … what the Buddha said [in Pali]. You forget that you’re seeing. That is ordinary. This is normal. You don’t dwell on the act of seeing. You immediately rush on into ‘what am I seeing’? It’s a monk, so maybe it’s a [can’t get the word]. And then you say, I’m happy about this. I’m unhappy about this. I like this. I don’t like this. You do this with everything.

When you hear a sound, maybe it’s a nice sound. Maybe it’s a sound that bothers you when you hear it. When you smell something, you smell the incense, maybe you enjoy the smell. We skip or we very quickly move on from the reality of it. So sati is the act of remembering or reminding ourselves of the reality of it. What it means is staying with the essential reality. It’s a type of meditation where you keep your mind with the reality that you’re experiencing.

You don’t go on into your projections, your likes, your dislikes, your fantasies, you say, oh, this [person?] reminds me of that, [oh this person…] you think about that. You smell the incense and it reminds you of when you were a child and your mother or father used to run incense.

Sati is to keep your mind on the reality. So you smell, smelling is just smelling. This is what keeps you here. This is the tool that keeps you present. When you have an important meeting and you want to stay present, sati is what allows you to stay in the present moment and not get caught up in your likes and dislikes and past and future and all of your fantasies and so. Sati keeps you here and now. It’s a tool.

So, for example, the Buddha said, if you’re sitting, know that you’re sitting. So everyone can try this now. Just remind yourself, use the word to remind yourself. Say to yourself, ‘sitting…, sitting…, sitting…’. And you see, suddenly you’re here, just for a moment, but you’re actually sitting here, you feel it in a way that you didn’t before, your present. Suddenly, you’re no longer in your mind somewhere else, you’re here sitting. This is the magic of sati, something quite special. When you’re walking, you say to yourself, ‘walking…, walking, …’, remind yourself. That word, when you remind yourself using some word, that is sati, means to recollect that, to remember that. Don’t let your mind wander on. When you see something, you remind yourself.

So when you look at me, say to yourself, ‘seeing …, seeing …. And you’ll be very aware of the act of seeing. Suddenly you’re no longer seeing a monk or anything. You’re just seeing and your mind is clear. You’ll find that when you do this. Many of the judgments and partiality disappear as well. You know, you lose the liking and disliking and all of the mental confusion that’s in the mind. And your mind becomes clear and calm.

If you’re able to maintain this, it’s actually a great way to keep your mind in the calm place, in a clear state, so you’re able to understand and process things. It means your mind becomes more efficient, as a result. This is the meaning of sati. This is what we mean by sati. It means to remind yourself and we use a word, we create a clear thought in our mind that is a clear awareness of the activity. This clear awareness is what we call sampajanna, which is what happens when you’re mindful, when you’re mindful you have sampajanna means you see things as they are. Your mind is clear. When you say to yourself, ‘sitting…, sitting…”, that’s clear awareness of being present. That is what we call sampajanna You can experience that here and now. And you can use this in your daily life.

Let me explain the four satipatthana and then I’ll show you what I mean. So satipatthana are kaya, vedana, citta, dhamma. I would like everyone here, now, if you don’t know this, then we can memorize them together. Normally when I teach this, I want everyone to memorize these, because this is what we stress. So if everyone could repeat after me.

Kaya. Vedana. Citta. Dhamma.

Kaya. Vedana. Citta. Dhamma.

Kaya. Vedana. Citta. Dhamma.

Now, you say it.


And one more time.

OK, those are the four satipatthana and that’s the Pali words, very important. Actually, not to make light of this subject, because this is the core of the Buddha [Pali word], the core of the meditation or the practice of the Buddhist teaching. Buddha’s last words were [Pali sentence], and the commentary says this actually sums up the whole of the Tipitaka, [talking in Pali]. Appamada is the … When you distill the entire Tipitaka down, all that’s left is appamada pada, the path of appamada. Appamada means, as I said, to have mindfulness all the time, [talking in Pali]. When you’re with, when you always are mindful, this is appamada. So here memorizing this is something quite special. It’s not just any kind of, it’s just not, just any old words. These words are quite special and important to remember. But more than that, it’s important to understand what they mean.

So Kaya refers to the body. This is when you said to yourself, ‘sitting …, sitting …, sitting …’, you were mindful of kaya. When you’re walking and you say, ‘walking …, walking …, walking …’ When you’re standing, ‘standing …, standing …, standing …’ When you’re lying down at night and you’re aware that you’re ‘lying …, lying …, lying …” This is mindfulness of kayanupassna satipatthana, seeing the body as the body. We have a meditation that I usually teach, and some of you may have heard of this, this is mindfulness of the stomach rising and falling. Because the breath is an important meditation object. So when we talk about the body, as it’s affected by the breath, the most obvious effect is the expansion of the body. When the breath comes into the body, the body will expand the chest and the stomach. When the breath goes out of the body, that will contract. So if we want to practice anapana sati, in regards to the body, then we focus on the expanding and contracting. So you may have heard that the practice [talking in Pali] some of you know that. This is why they practice that.

I’m not going to focus on that today, because I want to stress that this is something that you can use in your life, as you already live it. When you’re driving in your car. You don’t have to watch the breath. You just watch your driving. You can say, ‘sitting …, sitting…’ When you turn the wheel, ‘turning …’ When you press on the gas, ‘pressing …’ When you lift your foot, ‘lifting …’ Whatever you’re doing, you can be mindful. When you’re just sitting here, sitting in a meeting or so, ‘sitting …, sitting …’ Even when you’re talking to someone, if you’re if you’re quite proficient at this … I can be mindful that my lips are moving even when I’m talking to you. Someone said that I was crazy. I had one student once who got quite upset with me, because she thought I was totally out to lunch. She said, ‘how could you possibly be talking to someone and be mindful?’

Even talking is mostly physical. Even when you’re talking, the impetus comes from the mind, but much of the lips moving. This is not mental. This is physical. And you can watch as it’s happening.

When you’re writing with your pen, be aware that you’re writing. Of course, you can’t do it all the time, because you still need the mental activity of working, calculating, thinking, planning, all of this. This doesn’t mean that I want you to be doing this all the time. Of course, it would be great if you could, but you probably would get fired, because there’s no way you could do your work, if you didn’t put your mind on your work.

This is clear, but from time to time in between mental activity, when you’re walking from one room to the next, walking to work, walking home, walking to the car, then of course, you can be mindful, you should be mindful. Otherwise your mind will work too hard.

When we’re not mindful, our mind works very, very hard and works overtime. And this makes us tired. That makes us distracted and makes it hard for us do our work, to live our lives. You find that when you’re mindful, you have the freedom from all of the anger and greed that tires you.

And as a result, you’re quite fresh and you have much more energy, you’re more efficient. The key here is efficiency. You want to run efficiently. You have to guard your mind from those things that tire the mind, that make the mind suffer. The mindfulness helps you do that. So kaya is the first one, really the easiest one, you can use it with anything. If I’m going to drink this glass of water, I can look at the glass of water. I want to take it. I will go ‘moving’. I will remind myself what I’m doing, ‘moving’. When I grasp it, ‘grasping’. When I lift it, ‘lifting and pulling’. And I’m moving it towards my mouth. When I open my mouth, ‘opening, touching’.  When I drink it, ‘drinking’. When I swallow, ‘swallowing’. ‘Moving, placing’. Everything you do, you can be mindful of.

And you’ll see the benefits. This keeps your mind clear. All of the troubles in the mind disappear. Our ordinary lives are not very efficient, because we get caught up in so many emotions. And those emotions hurt us. They hurt other people. They keep us from our optimal state and they keep us from being happy. They make us do things that we shouldn’t do, hurting ourselves and others also. So, kaya is the first one.

Vedana. Well, when you’re working long hours, you might feel pain or when bad things happen to you, you might feel sad. You might also feel happy, pleasure. When you’re not working, maybe you go out drinking and you get drunk and you have lots of pleasure. Or you listen to music or maybe you watch television and it gives you pleasure. But that can be a problem if you’re not mindful, which obviously is impossible if you’re drunk. Because you become attached to it.

We think, well, ‘what is the problem with pleasure’? Isn’t happiness a good thing? And you’re talking about happiness. We have to differentiate two kinds of happiness. There’s amisa sukha and samisa sukha. Sukha – happiness that takes an object and happiness that is nothing to do with your experience. That is just you happy, just happy without needing this or needing that. Samisa sukha means that you need this to be happy. If you don’t have music playing, you’re not really happy. If you don’t have this kind of food, something’s missing from your life, you know. Happiness that requires something to be happy. And that kind of happiness is quite dangerous, especially if you become very much addicted to that thing, to the point where you obsess about it. You’re sitting here right now. Maybe there are things like this, as I said, with food, you find that your mind suddenly is thinking about food. Why? Because you like it so much that it invades your daily life. You know, you’re not going to eat. You don’t intend to eat food. But still. If I start talking about food, you’ll find that your mind craves it, because it’s used to it. And this is a disturbance for you. Because you don’t want it, you don’t want to think about that now, but you can’t help it and you like it.

So happy feelings can be dangerous as well. They actually cause us suffering, if we’re not mindful of them. True happiness should not have anything to do with our experience. It shouldn’t depend upon a certain experience. And so we want to be clear. With some, we don’t want to be happy.

But also we want to be clear that even pain is not really a problem. The problem is when you get upset, you get upset because you don’t have happiness or because you’re not calm or you get upset because you’re in pain. And this is not necessary. It’s possible to experience physical pain without getting upset. In fact, it’s important, too. Because if you start getting upset, you’re sitting in your chair all day and you get a pain in the neck or your shoulders, it can seriously interfere with your life, you know. Anyone who has experienced this kind of headaches or so on, some people have to go to the doctor just for pain that is psychosomatic or not psychosomatic, but caused by the mind. Most headaches are not the cause of your physical environment, they’re causes of your state of mind, caused by your state of mind, tension in the neck or the shoulders (is) mostly caused by stress. All of these things you can be free from and all of these things have a strong impact on your life, if you’re not mindful of.

So people go to the massage every week and they go for acupuncture, all these things, because the pain gets in their way, they’re unable to live their lives. Mindfulness of the pain, therefore, is a very powerful tool, if we can just be with the pain and not react to it and not get upset by. This is possible. This is what satipatthana does for you. How does it do it? When you experience pain, remind yourself, remember the meaning of sati. Remind yourself, ‘pain …, pain …, pain …’ Remind yourself this is pain. Stay with the pain. Don’t get into your liking, disliking, judging of the pain. Don’t let your mind go there. Keep your mind with the reality. When you feel happy, don’t get caught up in it. Don’t become attached to it. Keep your mind clear ideas of ‘happy …, happy …’ It’s not wrong to feel happy, of course. But if you’re not mindful, you become attached to it. And this is a problem. So say to yourself, ‘happy …, happy …’ If you feel calm, same thing, say to  yourself, ‘calm …, calm …’ This is vedana, mindfulness of the feelings.

Citta. Citta means mindfulness of the mind. These are our thoughts, so memories, or planning. And as I said, sometimes you need to think, sometimes you can’t meditate on it because you need to think. You need to plan. You need to remember all of these things you need. But from time to time, your mind will get obsessed with thoughts that are useless, remembering what’s the bad things that someone did to you. There’s no point in that, (it) just makes you more angry. Worrying about things in the future. What’s going to happen with this? What’s going to happen with this? And, you know, it’s useless, but you can’t stop yourself. We don’t have to stop ourselves.

The practice of satipathana is not to stop you from thinking. Absolutely not. But it’s to stop you from reacting to your thoughts, getting upset or attached to your thoughts. So that, it interrupts your daily life and gets in the way of your life. And so when we think, we should be aware that we’re thinking. [talking in Pali]. Thinking just let it be thinking. Very simple, whether it’s past, future, good thoughts, bad thoughts, just say to yourself, ‘thinking …, thinking…’

And all of these things you can do any time, you can do them right now. You feel pain, you don’t have to listen to me. You can stop listening and focus on the pain, ‘pain …, pain…’ They may not go away, but that’s not the point. What will go away is your upset, your frustration, your obsession with it. When you’re thinking, if you sit here and you’re thinking about the past or future, just watch your thoughts, say, ‘thinking …, thinking …’ This is called cittanupassana.

The fourth one, dhammanupassana, for the purposes  of our simple short exercise today, we will focus only on the first groups, the nivarana and the indriya, the six senses.

Nivarana is a very important concept. When we talk about nivarana, usually you hear it talked about in terms of the jhanas. If you want to enter into the jhanas, you have to remove the nivarana. But the word niravana is an interesting word. It means hindrances, something that stops you or prevents you, holds you back. And this is true no matter what aspect of our life we’re talking about, these five nivarana, they get in our way and everything we do. If you want to find success in worldly sense, even if you want to be a crook, these five things will get in your way, no matter what you want to do. Most importantly, these five things get in the way of our happiness. The five things that are very bad, that are not good for us and the things that we could do without, if we were without them. If we were without them, we would be enlightened. This is what it would mean, or at the very least, we would be in be in jhana, we’d be in the state of perfect happiness, perfect peace.

So these five things we have to be mindful of as well. The five nivarana, maybe you know it, are kamachanda, vyapada, thina-middha, uddhacca-kukkucca, vicikiccha. Big Pali words that are hard to pronounce and hard to remember. Not very useful for us, in a practical sense. We need words that are quite simple to be mindful. So in English we say liking, disliking, drowsiness, distraction and doubt. We call this the five new one. The curious thing is that the answer to these five things, the way to be free from them, is not to chase them away or push them away. The correct way to deal with them is to see them clearly, to understand them. If you want to be free from liking and disliking and boredom and frustration and sadness and fear and depression, stress, anxiety, laziness, doubt, confusion, all you have to do is observe and understand it. And once you understand, understand means through observation, not through intellectual rationalization, all you have to do is watch it, see it, and you’ll see that it’s not a benefit to you. And you’ll let go of it immediately.

So believe it or not, you don’t have to believe it, but try and tell me what you know and then find out for yourself. The practice that will free us from these things is just to remind ourselves of them, remind ourselves that we have them. When we feel, when you have liking, just remind yourself, ‘liking …, liking …’ If you have disliking, say to yourself, ‘disliking …, disliking …’ If you’re sitting here and you’re bored already, (because) I’ve been talking for too long and just say to yourself, ‘bored …, bored …’ Boredom is a kind of anger. If you’re angry or frustrated, say, ‘angry … and frustrated …’ If you’re tired, say, ‘tired …, tired …’ If you’re distracted, say, ‘distracted …’ If you’re worried, say, ‘worried …, worried …’ ‘Worried’ is a good one for business people. I imagine you must get worried often, stressed, anxious. Imagine this must be a common thing, to get stressed, if you want to be successful. Some people think you have to get stressed and you have to worry to be successful. And it’s true that people who don’t take things seriously aren’t very successful. So if you’re not worried, not stressed, it may be that you’re just lazy. That’s not good either.

We have to be efficient, but we don’t have to get stressed. It doesn’t require you to be stressed. The only way to be efficient and committed without being stressed or worrying is to be mindful, to be clearly, objective and aware of things. And so when you feel stressed and worry, you say to yourself, ‘stress …, stress …, worry …, worry …’ If you have doubt or confusion, you say to yourself, ‘doubting …, doubting …’ or ‘confuse …, confuse …’ Reminding yourself of the state is what that does.

The problem with these things is not exactly that they’ve arisen. The real problem comes when we recycle them. We reiterate, we reify them. Reify them means it arose. I suppose you get anxious. When you get anxious, then your body starts to react and you get headache and maybe butterflies in your stomach, we say, or your heart starts beating fast or so on. And when you experience that, you become more anxious, you get anxious about that. So you’re actually anxious about your anxiety and this makes you more anxious and more anxious and more anxious. Or when you’re angry about something, if I make you angry, then you look at this anger and you say, he made me angry and that makes you more angry. And you think, how, why did this person make me angry? And why is this person doing this thing that makes me angry? And you get more angry and it builds and builds and builds. Normally, we end up in a feedback loop. This is like this microphone when the microphone, the sound from my voice hits the microphone and recycles and runs until you have this very loud noise. To avoid that you just have to cut the cycle. And when you remind, when you cultivate this mindfulness, objectivity, just seeing things as they are, the cycle is cut. There is no more reacting. We’re not saying, ‘this is bad’, ‘this is good’, and ‘this is me’, ‘this is mine’. You’re just saying, ‘this is this’. This is the key. When you look at something and say, ‘that is that’, like the Buddha said [in Pali], seeing is just seeing, hearing and just hearing. When you get to that, you break any kind of cycle of any problem that might arise based on the experience. So this is dhammanupassana, mindfulness of hindrances.

The second part of this is the senses. So seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, feeling, thinking. The senses are neutral in themselves, but are really the cause of our problems right now. You see something, then you like it or you dislike it. You hear something and you like it or you just think and you smell your taste, you feel something and you like it or you dislike. You like these chairs, because they’re soft. But when you have to sit on the hard floor, when you have to stand around all day, (you) dislike. And when you think (of) something, either you like or you dislike. And so this as well is a very important aspect of our lives. This is a very good way. This is why the Buddha mentioned it to Bahía when he said [in Pali], because the senses are a very good way of understanding the entirety of existence, of reality, means everything. It means if you know the six senses and if you know how to deal with them, then no problem can come to you. Because everything that you experience has to come through one of the six senses. It’s either seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, feeling, thinking. So if you have a problem in your life, it cannot be outside of these six things. Remember when you say, ‘I have this problem’, the only thing that’s happening is the six senses at that time. If you can see it just as the six senses, even your own death, even if someone’s trying to murder you, it simply comes down to six things: seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, feeling, thinking. So for those things that you can’t avoid, when you’re …

I had a student once, a Canadian woman, not even Buddist, and she came for a week to practice meditation. And after that, I heard many years later, I heard from her sister that she had been in a crash. She was on a bus and the bus hit a moose. A moose is as like a big deer and the animal is very big. And the bus hit the moose and it actually sent the bus off the road. Or maybe the bus tried to avoid the moose and it went off the road and the big crash and she went flying out of the bus and she landed on a rock and she was just lying there, broken bones and totally hurt, waiting for the ambulance. And she was just watching her breath because I taught her how to watch the stomach. And she said, ‘rising …, falling …’ And she was totally calm and at peace with herself. It was totally clear mind, even after all the suffering. And they said, when the doctors arrived, when the ambulance arrived, they couldn’t believe how calm she was just talking to them and telling them what was wrong. Even extreme experiences, anything you face in your life, if you’re objective about it, if you really understand it, none of it is a real problem at all.

So this is what we mean by the four satipatthana. This is the practice that we undertake. It’s what I want to share with you. We still have some time. So I’d like to take some questions maybe. And then if we still have time, we will actually, we can actually do a meditation sitting here together. So if you have questions, now is the time.

Question: [Once being stimulated by one of the senses, we just note it, but don’t get attached to it, is that right?].

Yes, noting it stops you from getting attached to. If you know anything about Abhidhamma, the mind has a process. One mind comes after another and there’s one mind that determines whether it’s good, a wholesome mind (kusala or akusala), this mind determines. That moment, if you’re mindful, then there’s no possibility, then it’s wholesome. Then the reaction can’t occur. But if you’re not mindful that mind will be judging, liking, disliking. And so it’s either or, when you are mindful, when you are aware of something as it is, there’s no possibility for you to judge.

[Is it the javana???]. It’s before the javana. It’s what causes the javana I think. I’m not a really good Abhidhamma scholar. But that’s the general understanding. There is that moment, where it’s either kusala or akusala, that creates the javana that determines [can’t get the words].

So what we say sometimes is, when you’re mindful, every time you say to yourself, ‘seeing …, seeing …’ or ‘hearing …’ or ‘pain …, pain …’, you destroy seven lives of defilement, seven javana, seven different lives so. You destroy them. You destroy the akusala. You prevent seven akusala. The first javana will have, will mean you have bad result in this life. The seventh javana now means you have bad result in your next life. And the second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth javana could have an effect any time from now until nibbana or any lifetime. So future lifetime. Every time you’re mindful, you destroy seven. So it’s quite beneficial if you read or you study Abhidhamma. You can see how beneficial it is to be mindful.

No questions. All right. Questions? Last chance.

(Now) do some meditation and if you think of any, you’re welcome to ask them after.

I’d like everyone know then to close your eyes. And start by focusing on the body. A formal meditation is training, if you think of all of the things I’ve talked about and how it’s useful in your daily life, this is a chance to train yourself in that. Because when you get out in life, it’s too easy to forget to be mindful, but when you’re sitting here with no work to do, it’s very easy. It’s much easier to train yourself in this skill that you then can use in your daily life.

So we start by watching the body, if you just want to say to yourself, ‘sitting …, sitting …, sitting …’, that’s fine. If you want to watch the movement of the body, when the breath enters and leaves, you can watch the stomach or put your hand on your stomach and feel the stomach rising and falling and say to yourself, ‘rising …, falling …, rising …, falling …’ And then if you feel any kind of pain or happiness or calm, you can be mindful of that as well. Remind yourself, ‘calm …, calm …’, ‘happy …, happy …’ If you have pain, focus on the pain and say ‘pain …, pain …’ Until it goes away and when it’s gone, come back again to the body.

‘Rising …, falling …’ or just ‘sitting …, sitting …’

When thoughts arise, say to yourself, ‘thinking …, thinking …’, whatever kind of thoughts they may be. It’s very difficult in the beginning to catch them when they start. That’s OK. Whenever you catch them, just remind yourself, ‘thinking …, thinking …’ And then let them go, come back to the body.

And if the nivarara arises, liking, disliking, drowsiness, distraction, doubt, just say to yourself, ‘liking …, liking …”

‘disliking …, disliking …’

‘drowsy …, drowsy …, distracted …, distracted …, doubting …, doubting …’

And then come back to the body. If you see anything with your eyes closed, say to yourself, ‘seeing …, seeing …’ Don’t get caught up in things that you might see or hear or smell or taste or feel. Just remind yourself, ‘seeing …, seeing …, hearing …, hearing …’

OK, so that is the practice of the four of satipatthana.

I think we have still ten more minutes and I’m happy to just sit here and meditate, if there really are no more questions. But we have ten more minutes. We’ll quit at five thirty. You’re welcome to sit here and meditate or questions, or if you have to leave, you’re welcome to get up and leave.


Yeah, that’s what I was talking about. So when you’re working, you can practice the four satipatthana. Kaya means when you’re sitting, you say, ‘sitting …, sitting …’ Vedana, if you have a pain, aching or so, say to yourself, ‘pain …, pain …’ Really try it, don’t just believe me or throw it away thinking I must be crazy. Try it for yourself. It’s quite useful. When you’re thinking and your mind is distracted, say ‘thinking …, thinking …’ If you feel angry or frustrated or bored, if you want something or like something, you feel tired, distracted, doubt, confused, worried, focus on those emotions. These can be used any time. These, you can practice when you’re working.


No, I mean, to some extent, you have to not be mindful, you have to not practice satipatthana. Otherwise you can’t possibly write the memorandum. But using satipatthana when you get bored or frustrated or distracted helps you to focus on what you’re doing. It throws away all the garbage. Suppose you’re writing the memorandum, but there’s noise outside and it makes you frustrated or angry and you say to yourself, ‘angry …, angry …’, and then you’re free from the anger, you can go back to writing a memorandum. It keeps your mind clear. When I was in university, I had finished a meditation course and then I went back to university and then used the satipatthana for my studies. Every aspect of it improved, because my mind was so clear. If it came to writing an essay, I would just sit down and write it in one go. Very lean. And then I edited a little bit. Very little editing, because my mind was so sharp. I was meditating and, keeping my mind clear of all of the things. You find your mind is so much clearer when you practice satipatthana.

When it came to taking exams, you know, normally it’d be very afraid or stressed about it. I would go in smiling to the exams, because my mind was clearly and I had no concern about whether pass or fail. Remember when I did this for a year, I got nine A+. We used this letter system. Nine A+, one A and one A- for the whole year. I didn’t even have to work that hard. I just was very mindful and I was just studying for a while and then take a break, do walking meditation, watching my feet and then I would come back to study again. My mind would stay clear. It was very useful for study, for work.

[Question] So you did have music playing in the background, when you were studying?

No, no, I mean, the problem isn’t music playing in the background. It’s when you get attracted to the music and you’d rather be listening to music and studying. And it’s really the mind, even if there’s music playing in the background. People do that, they study with music in the background? It must because they’re so fed up with studying that they need something to calm them down. So if you have that feeling of being fed up with studying, there are much better ways to clear that from your mind. So meditation, sati would do that for you. ‘bored …, bored …’, ‘frustrated …, frustrated …’ Or free from the kilesa.

[Question]: What was the special reason for you to become a monk?

Very special reason. I desired to become a monk, because I wanted to practice meditation. It was this meditation that convinced me. I actually wasn’t interested in becoming a monk. As I said, many of the monks were not doing anything useful. And so I thought, what is this? This is not what I want. But once I practiced meditation, I realized this was a great thing, not only for myself, but I can do things like this. I can come and teach you. Because I’m a monk, I can share the Dhamma. I don’t have to go to work. I don’t need to go to a job. I can dedicated my life to spreading and practicing and studying the Dhamma. And this is why I did it. But it was because I wanted to practice meditation. Realized the importance of this. The world needs this. It’s very important and useful.


Right. Well, there’s the worry, there’s the disliking of it. It’s not just worrying, but we don’t like, we’re sad about it. As I said, the way to be free from these things is to understand them. Worry, for example, is a good one, because we think there’s some benefit to it. You think when you worry about something, somehow you can solve it better. If you didn’t worry, then you just let it happen, something like that.

But actually, worry doesn’t help. And so mostly we understand that worry is suffering for us. It’s not pleasant or it doesn’t help you solve problems. And it actually makes it more difficult, because you can’t focus. So when you understand that, you won’t get worried. This is why the Buddha said [Pali word]. The problem is ignorance. Once you understand the truth, you won’t get worried, you won’t get angry, you won’t get sad. And so this is why we use sati to study the problem. When you are worried, you study the worry by saying to yourself, ‘worry …, worry …’ We’re just watching the worry, not trying to get rid of it. We don’t want to get rid of it. We want to study it. Because once we study it, we’ll see the truth of it and say this is useless. I shouldn’t get worried. It doesn’t help me at all. We will see that without thinking about it. And we never get worried again. We’ll less and less get worried as we see it clearer and clearer, until we don’t get worried at all. Just by observing it, just by studying. If you feel sad, say “sad …, sad …” You study that sadness. And then you don’t get sad anymore. Everything that is harmful to you, you will stop. Because you will see clearly that it is harming it. This is the path. This is the way out of suffering.

Anyway, it’s five thirty now, so I think it’s time to let you go. You’ve been a very patient audience. Thank you for your time and your effort. I hope that this has been of use to you and you’re able to take these teachings away and practice them in your lives and cultivate sati and find happiness, worldly happiness, spiritual happiness. I hope that you can all live long lives, happy, happy, healthy, strong. May you be rich, materially but also rich spiritually. May your mind ever be focused on the Dharma, on the truth. And may you cultivate goodness to the point that you too are able to free yourselves from suffering and find the true peace and happiness that we call nibbana.

And thank you for your time. All the best to you.

One thought on “Dhamma Talk: Satipatthana in Daily Life by Yuttadhammo Bhikkhu

Leave a Reply