What is Parimukham

COMMENT on the Satipatthāna Sutta

II. The body contemplation


A. The breathing mindfulness

Here, O monks, the monk went into the forest, etc. Here

i.e. in these statutes of the Buddha. This points to the Buddha's teaching, which forms the basis for one who engages in body contemplation in every respect. It excludes other teachings for which such completeness is not available.

Because individual parts of body contemplation can also be found in sects outside of the Buddha-doctrine, the commentator mentions the complete comprehension of body contemplation by someone who does it in every respect.


Went into the forest, etc. - This describes the choice of a suitable place to stay for satipatthāna meditation. For the mind of a monk who has long chased forms and other objects of the senses has no tendency to embark on the path of meditation. It resembles a wagon, drawn by an unruly ox, which strays from the path. He then has to behave like a shepherd who wants to tame a wild calf that has grown up with the milk of a wild cow. The shepherd will first take the calf away from the cow; he will then drive in a strong post and tie the calf to it with a strap. The young bull will first tug in all directions, but then, unable to escape, will eventually crouch or lie down by this post. The monk who wishes to tame his wild spirit, which he has raised for a long time with the tasty drink of forms and other sensory objects, should behave in the same way. He should lead his mind away from the forms and other sense objects, go into the forest, at the foot of a tree or in an empty dwelling and there tie his mind to the post of the Satipatthāna object with the strap of mindfulness. When this has happened, his mind will probably first tug in all directions. But if he does not attain the objects he has enjoyed earlier and is unable to tear the belt of mindfulness and escape, then he will finally settle down with this very object in the Adjacent or Full Collection, as it were. Hence the ancient teachers said:


"How to Tame a Calf,
Must be tied to a post
This is how you bind your own mind
Firmly attached to the object of mindfulness. "


For this reason, those dwelling places are suitable for the cultivation of the meditation of that monk, and that is why it was said above that the text words explained here describe the choice of a place suitable for the satipatthāna meditation.

Furthermore, since noise is an enemy of absorption, it is difficult to practice this meditation object of breathing mindfulness, which is the main part of body contemplation, without leaving the village area filled with the noise of men, women, elephants, horses, etc. and for all enlightened ones (Buddhas), some individual enlightened ones (Pacceka Buddhas) and holy disciples (sāvaka) formed the immediate basis for the achievement of goals and for present well-being. Outside the village, however, in the forest, it is easy for a meditator who has chosen this object to practice to create the fourth indentation by inhaling and exhaling and, with this indentation as the basis, to think through the forms of existence thoroughly (sammasana; see p. 119), to gain the ultimate goal, holiness. For this reason the Blessed One said, in order to show the suitable place for the meditator to stay: "A monk has gone into the forest here ..."

The sublime is like a master experienced in the choice of the building site. Such a master will first look at the area intended for the construction of the city, examine it carefully and then give the instruction: "Here you may build the city!" If the construction of the city is then successfully completed, that master is given great honor by the royal family. Likewise, the sublime one also checks the location suitable for the meditator and then gives the instruction: "The meditation object should be practiced here!" When the meditator has surrendered to the practice there and gradually attained holiness, then the exalted one (on the part of the disciple who is grateful for his success) receives great veneration: "Truly, a fully awakened one is the exalted!"

A monk who meditates in such suitable places is said to be like a tiger. Because like him, so he too, staying lonely in the forest, will achieve his intended purpose: overcoming his opponents, his passions. Just as the great Bengal tiger lies in wait in the forest, in a grass undergrowth, a thicket or a rock crevice and seizes the wild ox, the elk, wild boar and other animals, so does the monk who meditates in the forest and in other lonely places gradually seize himself the four high paths and finally the goal of holiness. Hence the ancient teachers said:

"Like a tiger lying in wait,
A game takes prey,
This is how this Buddha-son becomes
Who is eager to practice and has a clear view,
Lingering in the forest, seize the highest goal. "


That is why the Blessed One has shown staying in the forest as a place of powerful and quick inner work and said: "A monk has gone into the forest here ..."

What more could be said about inhalation and exhalation in this section is dealt with in the "Visuddhi-Magga" (Part 8, Chapter 3).

In the following, the most important explanations of the sentences in our text are given in the translation by Ven. Nyanatiloka. For more details on breathing mindfulness, see the entire chapter of the Visuddhi-Magga.

With his legs crossed (pallankam ābhujitvā). This is said to show the firmness of the seat occupied by the meditator, as well as the ease of inhaling and exhaling and the means of holding onto the object. Meanspallanka'sitting with thighs fully drawn up; ,ābhujitvā'means having dressed'.


The body straightened up. This means: having the upper body straightened; straightening the eighteen vertebrae from start to finish. In the person sitting in this way, neither skin, flesh nor sinews bend. And those feelings of pain that want to attack him every moment as a result of the stooping do not arise. But since these do not rise, his mind gathers and the practice is not disturbed, but instead comes to growth and development.


Keeping mindfulness in front of you (parimukham satim upatthapetvā). This means: the mindfulness of the object to be exercised (parimukham) having asked. Or else 'pari' has the meaning of 'relating to something'; ,mukham'means' escape'; ,sati':' Being aware '. Thus it is said: 'Being aware that relates to escape. Also according to this explanation given in Patisambhidā-Magga (I.176) one has to understand the meaning here. In short, it is the same: practicing escape-related mindfulness.

Taking a long breath he knows: 'I take a long breath.' ... As far as the length and shortness (of the breaths) are concerned, these are to be understood with regard to the (temporal) distance. Just as water or sand spread over a spatial stretch is called long water and long sand or short water and short sand, so too, if only little by little, inhalations and exhalations slowly fill the body of an elephant or snake as yours Corporeality apply long distance and flow out again very slowly; that is why it is called long. The short distance that dogs and hares consider to be their corporeality, however, are filled quickly and flow out again very quickly; therefore it is called short. But among people some, like elephants, snakes, etc., breathe out for a long time, in the sense of the (temporal) distance; but some are short, as is the case with dogs and rabbits. For this reason the breaths that cover a long distance in the temporal sense when flowing in and out are to be understood as "long"; and those who travel a short distance on inhalation and exhalation are considered 'short'.

"It says in Patisambhidā-Magga (I, 177):" But how does he know, taking a long breath: I take a long breath ...? He does a long, i.e. prolonged inhalation; he does a long, i.e. long exhalation; he does a long, i.e. long inhalation and exhalation. A long, i.e. Making long inhalations and exhalations, volition arises to him. Willingly he makes an even finer long, i.e. Long inhalation - exhalation - inhalation and exhalation. Deliberately making an even finer, long inhalation and exhalation, joy rises to him. Because of the joy he makes an even finer long inhalation - exhalation - inhalation and exhalation. On the basis of joy making an even finer long inhalation and exhalation, he turns his mind away from long inhalation and exhalation, and equanimity enters. "The same explanation can be found for the words concerning the short breath.


Sensing the whole body, I'll breathe in ... I'll breathe out, that's how he practices. This means: the beginning, middle and end of the full body of the inhalation, clearly recognizable and clear to me, I will inhale, so he practices; The beginning, middle and end of the full body of the exhalation can be clearly recognized and made clear to me, I will exhale, this is how he practices. In this way, making the breathing body clearly recognizable and clear, he breathes in and out with a spirit connected with knowledge.

"For one monk the beginning of the (in a row) of the smallest particles is clear, but not the middle and the end; and he can only hold on to the beginning and is weary at the middle and the end. To another monk the middle is clear, but not beginning and end. The end is clear to a third, but not beginning and middle; he can only hold on to the end and is weary at beginning and middle. But to another monk the whole body of breath is clear and he is able to grasp the whole body of breath without exhausting anywhere. But how one should be. To show this, the Blessed One said: "Sensing the whole body, I will breathe in ..."

"Because, according to the earlier method, the monk only has to breathe in and out and nothing else to do, but from then on he has to strive to generate knowledge, etc., the text was given there in the present tense, namely: 'Me breathe in for a long time, so he knows'; from then on, however, in order to show the characteristic of generating knowledge, etc. to be practiced, the text has been placed in the future tense, namely: 'Sensing the whole body, I will breathe in, etc.' That is how it is to be understood.


Soothing the body function, I will breathe in ... I will breathe out, - this is how he practices. These words say: the gross bodily function soothing, softening, nursing, calming, I will breathe in. . . breathe out - that's how he practices. Here being coarse, delicacy and calming are to be understood as follows: Before, when the monk is not yet in control, his body and mind are tormented and coarse. As long as the gross nature of body and mind has not yet been settled, the inhalations and exhalations are gross; and if this occurs even more, the nose fails and the monk breathes in and out through the mouth at the same time. But if body and mind are controlled in him, both are stilled and calmed down. But as soon as these are calmed down, the inhalations and exhalations become more refined and reach a state in which one has to check, as it were, whether they are still there or not. Even with a man who has run or climbed down a mountain, for example, or has taken a heavy load off his head, the inhalations and exhalations are so violent that the nose fails and he has to breathe through his mouth at the same time when inhaling and exhaling. But as soon as he has overcome exhaustion and, after a bath and a drink of water, has placed a damp cloth on his heart and rests in the cool shade, those inhalations and exhalations occur with him in a refined manner and reach a state in which one can, as it were, test whether they are still there or not. It is exactly the same with that monk. And why? Before, when he was not yet mastered, he did not harbor such thoughts, considerations, considerations and deliberations as: "I must appease all the gross bodily functions." But as soon as he is controlled, he does it. Therefore, as soon as it is controlled, its bodily function is finer than when it was not yet controlled. Hence the old masters say:


"Are mind and body excited,
So the functions are also coarse;
But if the body is not aroused
So they appear refined. '


"In the Patisambhidā-Magga, however, the meaning of this is discussed as follows:

But how does one understand: "Soothing the body function, I will breathe in ... I will breathe out, - this is how he practices"? What are the body functions there? The long inhalations and exhalations are something physical; and these things are bound to the body, are bodily functions. He practices soothing, calming, calming these bodily functions: I will breathe in such bodily functions that cause the body to bend down, bend away, bend down, bend forward, arouse, shake, tremble, jolt, soothe, calm, calm down such bodily functions ... I'll breathe out - that's how he practices. Such bodily functions, according to which the body does not bend down ... I will breathe in, calming such still, refined bodily functions ... I will breathe out, - this is how he practices. That is said to be the meaning of these words'. "

(End of the excerpts from the Visuddhi Magga)


To those who practice inhalation and exhalation in the manner described, rise with the spiritual image obtained through breathing (assāsa-passāsa nimitta), namely the reflex image (patibhāga-nimitta; see p. 107, note 2) the four depressions. After the practitioner has risen from the depression, he examines either the inhalations and exhalations or the depression limbs (jhānanga).

The one who turns to breathing asks himself: 'What are the inhalations and exhalations based on?' -, On a basis (vatthu) they are supported. ' This basis is the gross body. This in turn means the four basic substances and the physicality that depends on them. In such a way he examines the physicality (rūpa). Anyone who, turning to breathing, examines inhalations and exhalations, comes to a clear view on the path of the physical. In the group of five starting with sensory impression (i.e. sensory impression, feeling, perception, will and consciousness), which has this (physicality) as an object, he sees the spiritual (nāma) *. Does he have so mind and body (nāma-rūpa) examines, then he searches for its cause. He recognizes this cause in the series of 'Dependent Origins' beginning with 'ignorance' (paticcasamuppāda) and has now got over all doubt: 'This is only a conditioned and conditional process. There is nothing else that could be called a being or a personality. ' In this way his gaze is purified so that he sees: a mere impersonal process (dhammamattam) is this. It is not causeless, but it is without such perverse cause as God and so on. (nāpi issarādi-visama-hetukam). Rather, it has ignorance etc. as its (real) cause. By then applying the three characteristics of impermanence, suffering and impersonality to mind and body and their causes, he causes the clarity of vision to grow and he gradually attains holiness. For that monk this is the path of liberation that leads to holiness.


* Here, for the purpose of meditation, the spiritual is referred to this representative group of five (phassa-pañcaka) reduced. More on this in the translator's Abhidhamma Studies.


Even those who turn to deepening asks themselves: what are the deepening members based on? ' Examining the deepening members, he comes to a clear view on the path of the incorporeal. They are based on one foundation. This basis is the gross body. The deepening members represent the spiritual here (nāma); the gross body is physicality (rūpa). So he determines mind and body and then searches for their cause. He recognizes this cause in the series of dependent origins beginning with 'ignorance' (paticcasamuppāda) and has now got over all doubt: 'This is only a conditioned and conditional process. There is nothing else that could be called a being or a personality. ' Then, by applying the Three Marks to the mind and body and their causes, he causes clarity to grow and he gradually attains holiness. For that monk this is the path of liberation leading to holiness.


So he dwells within ... means: so he dwells with his own breathing body in contemplation of the body.


Or he lingers outside ... means: with someone else's breathing body.

Another's breathing body is mentioned because the text of the discourse deals with the aspect of thinking through (sammasana-cara; see p. 120) (i.e. to clear-sighted meditation). But when breathing mindfulness is an exercise in calmness of mind (samatha; see p. 107), there is, however, no ascension of the mental image indicating the full concentration in the breathing body of another (appanā-nimitta).


Inward and outward ... means: temporarily with one's own breathing body, sometimes with that of another. With the words, from time to time one speaks of the time from one object (i.e. the inner) to the other (i.e. the outer), coherent sequence of thoughts in which the familiar meditation object is not abandoned, i.e. not put down in between; it is the time of uninterrupted meditation on internal and external things. But both considerations do not take place at the same time. ,Inside and outside' (ajjhatta-bahiddhā), which are combined here to form a double concept, cannot be found at the same time as a single object. The point is: you cannot take them as an object as a unit.


Looking at things as they arise (samudayadhammānupassī; literally: considering the things of origin). Just as the air flows in and out through the bellows of a blacksmith, through the bellows tube and the corresponding effort, just as the breath flows in and out, due to the gross body, the nostrils and the spirit. - The 'things' whose origin one looks at are the body etc. The body-things etc. are the 'origin' (themselves). Of those who know them, it is said: "Looking at things as they arise, he dwells with the body".

That is, the gross body forms a source of origin for breathing. - The text word,dhamma'can also be understood as an expression for the natural condition of a thing, as in "subject to birth" (jāti-dhamma). (Then the text passage would have to be translated: "The law of arising" or "considering the lawful arising in the body". The corresponding alternative explanation also applies to the 'offense'.) The first explanation serves to clarify the particular context that applies here ( ie the relationship to breath and body); the second explanation is (a general one) without this particular application.


Looking at things in their offense. But if the leather bag of the bellows is removed, the tube is broken and no appropriate effort is applied, then there is no development of wind. Likewise, when the body is disintegrated, the nostrils are broken, and spirit activity is suspended, then the breathing body does not come into being. By releasing (the above-mentioned conditions for breathing, namely) of the body, etc., there is a suspension of inhalations and exhalations. It is said of him who recognizes this: "Looking at things as they pass away, he dwells with the body."


Looking at things as they arise and as they pass away: at times the arising, at times the passing away.

Because, just as when looking at the inside and outside, different things form the object area, the consideration of things in their emergence and fading does not take place at the same time.


'There is a body'. There is only a body, but no being, no personality, no woman, no man, no self, nothing belonging to a self, no 'I', no 'mine', not anyone and nothing belonging to anyone. So his mindfulness is attentive.


Just as far as it serves the knowledge, as far as it serves the mindfulness. It means "just so far" to define the limitation of the purpose. It is expressed as follows: As for that 'hardened mindfulness', it serves no other purpose; i.e. just for the purpose of an ever wider and higher degree of knowledge and mindfulness. This in turn means: for the purpose of growing mindfulness (sati) and clarity of knowledge (sampajañña).


He lives independently (anissito ca viharati). That is, he lives independently in relation to the dependence on desire (tanhā-nissaya) and from wrong views (ditthi-nissaya).


And he is not attached to anything in the world. This means: He does not reach for (or cling to) any (of the five groups of attachment: not to any) physicality, any feeling, any perception, any mental formations, any consciousness, thinking: "This is my self or something belonging to the self. "


The monk stays in the same way (evam pi). The little word "also" has the meaning to create a connection, and indeed it refers to the following material belonging to the topic.

With this sentence the Blessed One closes the presentation of the breathing section.

Here now the mindfulness grasping the inhalations and exhalations is the 'truth of suffering'. The previous desire that generates this is the 'truth of the origin of suffering'. The non-occurrence of both is the 'truth of the cancellation of suffering'. The holy path that understands suffering, gives up its origin (cause), aims at its abolition (dukkha parijānano samudaya-pajahano nirodh'ārammano āriyo maggo) is the 'truth of the path leading to the lifting of suffering'. Because the (worldly) initial stage of satipatthāna practice is dealt with here, it says "Mindfulness is the 'truth of suffering'." The desire that creates the personality form also creates the mindfulness present in it; and if this personality form is not there, then there is still no mindfulness. Therefore, what is spoken here of the "previous desire that generates this (mindfulness)" is in the sense of the 'dependent origination': "Consciousness arises due to the karma formations (of previous existence)." According to the interpretation of the suttas, here under 'consciousness' is understood not only the germ-consciousness (i.e. the consciousness-moment of rebirth), but also the whole series of worldly consciousness-processes which form its continuation and which developed during the continuation of existence thus including the mindfulness that occurs in it. According to the Abhidhamma interpretation, however, this term of condition refers only to the rebirth consciousness).

"The non-occurrence of both" (namely the suffering and its cause of origin), refers to the cause of the non-occurrence (appavatti-nimitta). It denotes (not just the fact of the mere absence, but) that which is the cause (nibbāna).

After diligently striving in this way, following the method of the Four Sacred Truths, the practitioner will attain extinction. For a monk who devotes himself to the method of breathing mindfulness, this is the access to salvation leading to holiness, i.e. the means to escape from the suffering of the cycle of existence.