I'm starting a new thread on the Satipatthana Sutta as I don't want to derail the one Manapa started.
MN 10: Satipatthana Sutta
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In satipatthana there are four frames of reference... Body, Feeling, Consciousness and Mental Objects.
In the introduction to Soma Thera's commentary to the Satipatthana Sutta there is talk, based on the traditional commentarial expositions about choosing one frame of reference as your "preliminary object of contemplation"
Based on my limited experience, and understanding of the suttas, I think this restrictiveness in selection of primary object is not at all what the Buddha had in mind when he expounded this most excellent sutta.All the four different objects of mindfulness: body, feeling, consciousness and mental objects, have to be understood before one reaches sanctitude. According to character, temperament and cognizing slant, one can make however only one of these the preliminary object of contemplation. It is often the case that owing to a lack of proper understanding of oneself one has to try all objects before one gets to know what suits one best for the preliminary work. The choice is made more difficult by the fact that most of us have no clear-cut natures and are a mixture of a little of every possible human characteristic. In these circumstances there is no alternative to the method of trial and error. But the earnest ones will find their way with persistence and sustained effort.
By character there are two types determined by the excess of sensuous qualities of craving, or of the asensuous qualities of abstract beliefs that make up their personality. The craving type is generally extrovert; the other is generally introvert. According to temperament there are those whose mental functioning is slow, those who are languid mentally and those who are mentally keen, the nervous type. But here it must be understood that the terms languid and nervous have no necessary connection with calm and excitement. The nervous often keep cool when the languid fluster. The nervous type is sensitive, but strong and vigorous and keen. The nervous think forcefully and clearly. The languid are sluggish, inert, and weak, unclear, discursive, and often mixed-up in thought. Cognizing slant is either intuitive or intellective.
According to character and temperament the body-object is recommended for the languid extravert and the feeling-object for the nervous extrovert. For the languid introvert the consciousness-object is recommended, and for the nervous introvert, mental objects.
According to cognizing slant and temperament the body-object is pointed out for the mentally slow who belong to the intuitive kind which makes concentration its vehicle for progress, and for the mentally keen of this kind the feeling-object. For the mentally slow who belong to the intellective kind which makes insight its vehicle the consciousness-object is recommended, and to the mentally keen of this kind the mental object.
Further, contemplation on the body destroys the delusion of beauty; that on feeling destroys the delusion of pleasure; contemplation on consciousness dispels the delusion of permanence; and that on mental objects, the delusion of the soul.
In suttas on the jhanas, we see talk of entering the first jhana, going to the second, the third, the fourth, on to the formless jhanas and so on as mental sharpness improves with each subsequent step. There is no talk in the context of samatha suggesting that the first jhana is best for a particular character, the second is better for anyone character type, third for another and so on. Likewise, I think such a distinction in the context of vipassana is out of place, and that each stage of the sutta reflects a progression from the last as mental sharpness improves and attention turns within....
Looking at the sutta in sequence, we have a section on the Body [A]. This initial section commences with anapanasati aimed to calm and still the mind. Even when not engaged in sitting meditation, mindfulness of the body should be maintained to keep a base level of meditative mindfulness in daily activities or in walking meditation. The intention is to start the process of turning awareness inwards, moving attention away from worldly papanca towards the "world" of the Buddha's teachings as defined by the Buddha in suttas such as SN 12.44, SN 35.82 and AN 4.45.
Having commenced the taming of the mind, we progress to Feelings , observing the physical sensations and whether we classify them as pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. Increased sensitivity develops and it becomes possible to redirect the focus of meditation to the state of mind, or 'consciousness' [C]. This shift away from the physical to the mental is very important because it's within the realm of the mental that we falsely perceive a self, and its in the realm of the mental that craving is regenerated. The mind is however a more subtle subject for investigation and harder to get a read upon than the body, but the previous sections are invaluable cornerstones for increasing the power of mindfulness so that it is ready to tackle the challenge.
Initially we don't look at individual moments of thought, but at the blunter 'state of mind' and what that consists of. As one's vipassana improves, that process naturally flows into looking at individual Mental Objects [D] as they arise. Current hindrances are identified so they can remedied and concentration improved further. Then it is time to commence what I consider to be highlight and true essence of vipassana...
Mental qualities are reviewed, with wisdom, with respect to the five clinging-aggregates and also with respect to the six sense bases. By this stage the mind is very finely tuned and can see the arising of clinging with respect to these experiences. An unpleasant sound potentially evokes aversion... we see whether suffering arises, dependent on whether we have clinging. An unpleasant sound potentially evokes desire... we see whether suffering arises, dependent on whether we have clinging.
The response to the unpleasant is easier to discern, the clinging causes suffering and this is rather obvious. The response to the pleasant however is far more subtle, as the immediate danger cannot be discerned easily. However if we are prepared to forsake those pleasant dhammas, as per the simile of the raft, I feel we get a brief taste of what we are striving towards on the path. We see that there is something even better than blissful physical and mental sensations and it occurs when there is no becoming... when there is no engagement, when there is no clinging to accompany the aggregates. Thus we can come to see mental qualities with respect to the Four Noble Truths, as concludes the section on Mental Objects [D]. Then all that remains is to continue doing what one is doing, and if possible to do it better. How? By viewing the mental objects with respect to the seven enlightenment factors and using that sevenfold toolkit as a means to further sharpen one's mindfulness.
You can't just jump straight into section [D] unless the mind is already sharp enough to do it properly. Likewise you can't even really do section [A] properly without a good foundation in sila. Step-by-step the ability to 'see things as they really are' improves and the rewards increase too. Just like you wouldn't deliberately sit in the second jhana when you were capable of moving to the fourth, I would strongly recommend people consider whether they want to limit their satipatthana/vipassana practice to a small restricted section of the sutta. The conclusion shows the extent to which the Buddha expounded the efficacy of the satipatthana practice... let's do as he says, and not truncate the practice abnormally.
Anyhow, that is how I see it.
Comments, questions, corrections, criticisms, slaps around the face... whatever is relevant... are all appreciated.