Bhikkhu Bodhi Translation
Thus have I heard. On one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling at Vesālī in Ambapālī’s Grove. There the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus thus: “Bhikkhus!”
“Venerable sir!” the bhikkhus replied. The Blessed One said this:
“Bhikkhus, this is the one-way path for the purification of beings, for the overcoming of sorrow and lamentation, for the passing away of pain and displeasure, for the achievement of the method, for the realization of Nibbāna, that is, the four establishments of mindfulness. What four?
“Here, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu dwells contemplating the body in the body, ardent, clearly comprehending, mindful, having removed covetousness and displeasure in regard to the world. He dwells contemplating feelings in feelings, ardent, clearly comprehending, mindful, having removed covetousness and displeasure in regard to the world. He dwells contemplating mind in mind, ardent, clearly comprehending, mindful, having removed covetousness and displeasure in regard to the world. He dwells contemplating phenomena in phenomena, ardent, clearly comprehending, mindful, having removed covetousness and displeasure in regard to the world.
“This, bhikkhus, is the one-way path for the purification of beings, for the overcoming of sorrow and lamentation, for the passing away of pain and displeasure, for the achievement of the method, for the realization of Nibbāna, that is, the four establishments of mindfulness.”
This is what the Blessed One said. Elated, those bhikkhus delighted in the Blessed One’s statement.
 What follows is the uddesa (condensed statement) of the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta (DN 22; MN 10) without the niddesa (elaboration). Full-length commentaries on the text are at Sv III 741-61 and Ps II 244-66; the commentary in Spk is much abridged. The relevant passages, with excerpts from the subcommentary, are translated in Soma, The Way of Mindfulness, pp. 35-64.
The commentaries offer two derivations of satipaṭṭhāna: one from sati + upaṭṭhāna, “the establishment of mindfulness”; the other from sati + paṭṭhāna, “the foundation of mindfulness.” The former emphasizes the act of setting up mindfulness, the latter the objects to which mindfulness is applied. While the commentaries lean towards the derivation from sati + paṭṭhāna, the former is certainly more original and is supported by the Skt smṛtyupasthāna. See too the common expressions, upaṭṭhitasati, “with mindfulness established” (e.g., at SN 54:13; V 331,10, etc.) and parimukhaṃ satiṃ upaṭṭhapetvā, “having established mindfulness in front of him” (e.g., at 54:1; V 311,13, etc.). Paṭis, by consistently glossing sati with upaṭṭhāna, also shows a preference for this derivation. For a brief explanation of the expression according to the commentarial method, see Vism 678-79 (Ppn 22:34).
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- 34. “Foundation” (paþþhána) is because of establishment (upaþþhána) by going down
into, by descending upon, such and such objects. Mindfulness itself as foundation
(establishment) is “foundation of mindfulness.” It is of four kinds because it occurs
with respect to the body feeling, consciousness, and mental objects (dhamma), taking,
them as foul, painful, impermanent, and non-self, and because it accomplishes the
function of abandoning perception of beauty pleasure, permanence, and self. ,
That is why “four foundations of mindfulness” is said.
 The Paþisambhidá (Paþis I 177) derives satipaþþhána from sati (mindfulness) and
paþþhána (foundation, establishment). The commentaries prefer to derive it from sati
and upaþþhána (establishment, appearance, and also waiting upon: see M-a I 238). The
readings of the Ee and Ae eds. disagree here and that of the former has been followed
though the result is much the same.
 Ekāyano ayaṃ maggo is often translated “This is the only way” (Soma) or “This is the sole way” (Nyanaponika), implying that the Buddha’s way of mindfulness is an exclusive path. The commentary to the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta, however, gives five explanations of the phrase, of which only one suggests exclusivity (see Sv III 743-44; Ps I 229-30; translated in Soma, The Way of Mindfulness, pp. 36-39). Spk here mentions only the first: ekamaggo ayaṃ bhikkhave maggo, na dvedhāpathabhūto; “a single path, bhikkhus, is this path, not a forked path.” Ekāyana magga occurs elsewhere in the Nikāyas only at MN I 74,14-15 foll., where it clearly means a path leading straight to its destination.
- Suppose there were a charcoal pit deeper than a man's height full of glowing coals without flame or smoke; and then a man scorched and exhausted by hot weather, weary, parched and thirsty, came by a path going in one way only and directed to that same charcoal pit.
I thus understand the metaphorical use of the phrase to be a way of indicating that satipaṭṭhāna leads straight to “the purification of beings,” etc.; perhaps the way of mindfulness is being contrasted with other types of meditation that do not always lead straight to the goal. For a fuller discussion, see Gethin, The Buddhist Path to Awakening, pp. 59-66. The word should not be confused with ekayāna, “one vehicle,” the central theme of the Saddharma Puṇḍarīka Sūtra.
Spk explains the “method” (ñāya) as the Noble Eightfold Path. Thus, by developing the path of satipaṭṭhāna, which is mundane in the preliminary phase, one eventually achieves the supramundane path. On ñāya, see II, n. 122.
- Note 122 from Volume II:
- Spk: The method (ñāya) is both dependent origination and the stable knowledge after one has known the dependently arisen. As he says: “It is dependent origination that is called the method; the method is also the Noble Eightfold Path” (untraced). Wisdom here is repeatedly arisen insight-wisdom (aparāparaṃ uppannā vipassanāpaññā).
Spk-pṭ: Dependent origination is called “the method” because, with the application of the right means, it is what is known (ñāyati) as it actually is in the dependently arisen. But knowledge (ñāṇa) is called “the method” because it is by this that the latter is known.
Despite the commentators, ñāya has no relation to ñāṇa but is derived from ni + i.
 For a translation of the commentarial passage on this basic formula, see Soma, The Way of Mindfulness, pp. 51-64. An early word gloss is at Vibh 194-95. Gethin discusses the basic formula, Buddhist Path to Awakening, pp. 47-53.
A few key points: The repetitive phrase “contemplating the body in the body” (kāye kāyānupassī) serves “to determine the object (the body) by isolating it” from other things such as feeling, mind, etc., and to show that one contemplates only the body as such, not as permanent, pleasurable, a self, or beautiful. Similarly in regard to the other three establishments. “Ardent” (ātāpī) connotes energy, “clearly comprehending” (sampajāno) implies wisdom. “Covetousness and displeasure” (abhijjhā-domanassa) are code words for the first two hindrances, and thus their removal may be understood to imply some success in concentration. Thus altogether four of the five spiritual faculties (indriya) are indicated here, and while faith is not mentioned it is clearly a prerequisite for taking up the practice in the first place.
Spk glosses vineyya: tadaṅgavinayena vā vikkhambhanavinayena vā vinayitvā, “having removed: having removed by removal in a particular respect or by removal through suppression.” “Removal in a particular respect” signifies temporary removal by deliberate restraint or by insight, “removal through suppression” temporary removal by the attainment of jhāna. The phrase need not be understood to mean that one must first abandon the hindrances before one starts to develop the four establishments of mindfulness. It would be sufficient to have temporarily suspended “covetousness and displeasure” through dedication to the practice itself.