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A Proposed new translations of the Satipatthana Suttas

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  • macdocaz1@aol.com
    Hi folks, I just published the Southwest Insight E letter and I thought you might enjoy the editorial from it. In this editorial I tried to answer some of the
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 2, 2003
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      Hi folks, I just published the Southwest Insight E'letter and I thought you
      might enjoy the editorial from it. In this editorial I tried to answer some of
      the conflicts people have with my proposed translations.

      THE SOUTHWEST INSIGHT E'LETTER Vol. 3.10 October 1, 2003


      A Proposed new translations of the Satipatthana Suttas

      Today, while generating this month's SWI E'letter, a student called to tell
      me that I was being accused of teaching black magic by one of the leaders of a
      sangha that I had dedicated 13 years of service to. This person had decided
      that my efforts to teach Satipatthana in a context of ecstatic contemplative
      absorption (jhana) was "dangerous." My point is, I am only attempting to teach
      meditation in the same way the historic Buddha taught.

      But, in an effort to support my contemplative insights I have recently been
      concentrating my studies on the various suttas in the Pali canon that are
      dedicated to meditation, consciousness and cognition. I have unfortunately found I
      have a bit of a conflict over some of the uses of words, like
      'consciousness,' 'mind,' and the interpretation of the Pali term 'sama-samadhi' in these
      translations that have been available to us.

      I have spent some time examining these suttas in search for the intent that I
      believe was behind the Buddha's discourses, and I have informed my study
      through reflecting upon my 30 years of daily meditation practice. This reflection
      and contemplation has confirmed my belief that our language of consciousness
      and cognition is not properly represented in the present translations of these
      ancient documents. A classic example of what I believe is the incorrect use
      of our language of gnosis, consciousness and cognition is in the use of the
      word 'consciousness' which too often seems to imply that through meditation we
      are seeking an unconscious state, which cannot be true.

      Also the Pali term 'citta' is often translated as 'mind.' Mind in the
      English language means "The faculty of thinking, reasoning, and applying knowledge,"
      whereas in the Pali canon and other Buddhist literature it is often used to
      represent bare essential awareness. In this case I believe the word
      'consciousness' would be far more appropriate for the Pali term 'citta' than is the word

      Also there are numerous unsuccessful compound words used in these
      translations, like 'eye-consciousness' which should be replaced by something that uses
      our language more effectively, such as 'visual perception.' I have therefore
      gone through the translations of the three suttas (Anapanasati,
      Maha-satipatthana and Satipatthana) from the Pali by Bhikkhus Nanamoli, Bodhi and Thanissaro,
      Nyanasatta Thera, and Maurice Walshe, and I have made suggestions for changes.
      And, I have uploaded them to the web (please see the URL below).

      If you examine these recent uploads I believe you will find them far more
      readable and accessible. And, for ease of use they are in Acrobat Reader .PDF
      format as well as MS Word. I also find the translations of the canon far too
      heavily waited on the male sex, which is somewhat offensive to present Western
      cultural values. Therefore I have removed many of the gender specifying
      references as well.

      The files uploaded are:
      Anapanasati Sutta (MN 118)
      Maha-satipatthana Sutta (DN 22)
      Satipatthana Sutta (MN 10)
      Bahiya Sutta, Udana I.10

      They are available at this URL: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Jhanas/files/

      If you read these renderings of the three suttas on Satipatthana you will see
      I of course retained the use of the word mind in places where I thought it
      was relevant, because I don't whole sale reject its use. And, I have found
      Thanissaro Bhikkhu's use of the term in the following lines consistent with my own
      uses because the intent is to calm the cognitive processes, which we commonly
      call 'mind.' By the way I found his versions of these suttas are in many
      places almost word for word identical to Bhikkhus Nanamoli and Bodhi's Majjhima
      Nikaya, and Walshe's Digha Nikaya:

      Anapanasati Sutta MN 118 Translation by Thanissaro

      "[9] One trains oneself to breathe in sensitive to the mind,
      and to breathe out sensitive to the mind.
      [10] One trains oneself to breathe in satisfying the mind,
      and to breathe out satisfying the mind.
      [11] One trains oneself to breathe in steadying the mind,
      and to breathe out steadying the mind.
      [12] One trains oneself to breathe in releasing the mind,
      and to breathe out releasing the mind.

      In this sutta I mainly changes the monastic specific references to "aspirant"
      so that it would apply to anyone who is engaged in the practice, because we
      live in a culture that is predominantly a lay community. And, I changed the
      consistent reference to the male sex, because Western culture values equity
      between the sexes.

      Where ever he used "feelings" I added (sensation) because I did not want to
      lose the focus of the intent of the practice of Satipatthana on cultivating
      awareness of the senses. I did not want "feeling" to be construed as the
      emotions. The emotions come into play later in the Satipatthana Sutta under
      Dependent Origination where they are dealt with as the aggregates of nama-rupa (body
      and mind).

      Also Thanissaro Bhikkhu has retained the translation of sama-samadhi as
      "right concentration." I reject this translation and choose right absorption,
      which makes a lot more sense to me, when the historic Buddha was proposing a
      contemplative practice that was clearly based on jhana (ecstatic absorption).

      In the case of the Maha-Satipatthana Sutta this becomes much more significant
      in the following paragraph. You will also notice that I contributed the word
      'exuberance' instead of 'rapture' for the first jhana as well:

      Maha-satipatthana Sutta (DN 22)

      "And what is right absorption (samma samadhi)? There is the case
      where an aspirant -- quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn
      from unskillful (mental) qualities -- enters & remains in the first
      jhana: joy & pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by
      directed thought & mindfulness. With the stilling of directed thought
      & evaluation, one enters & remains in the second jhana: joy &
      pleasure born of composure, unification of awareness free from
      directed thought & evaluation -- internal assurance. With the
      fading of exuberance one remains in equanimity, mindful & alert,
      physically sensitive of ecstasy. One enters & remains in the third
      jhana, of which the Noble Ones declare, 'Equanimous & mindful,
      one has a pleasurable abiding.' With the abandoning of (grasping
      and aversion for) pleasure & pain -- as with the earlier disappearance
      of pleasure & pain -- one enters & remains in the fourth jhana:
      purity of equanimity & mindfulness, neither pleasure nor pain.
      This is called right absorption."

      Also in this sutta you will notice that I employed the language of cognition
      instead of Pali double speak such as "eye consciousness":

      "The Auditory-sense objects... The Olfactory-sense objects...
      The Taste-sense objects... Tactile-sense objects... Cognition...

      "Forms... Sounds... Smells... Tastes... Tactile sensations...

      "Visual-perception... Auditory-perception... Olfactory-perception...
      Taste-perception... Tactile-perception... (cognition)..

      "Visual-contact... Auditory-contact... Olfactory-contact...
      Taste-contact... Tactile-contact... Cognition...

      "Feeling born of Visual-contact... Feeling born of Auditory-contact...
      Feeling born of Olfactory-contact... Feeling born of Taste-contact...
      Feeling born of Tactile-contact... Feeling born of Cognition...

      "Perception of forms... Perception of sounds... Perception of smells...
      Perception of tastes... Perception of tactile sensations... Perception
      of ideas...

      In the Satipatthana Sutta I made a number of changes with respect the
      language of cognition as well, where I used the word 'consciousness' instead of the
      word 'mind':

      Satipatthana Sutta (MN 10)

      III. The Contemplation of consciousness and mental states (Cognition)

      And how, monks, does an aspirant live contemplating
      consciousness in cognition?

      Herein, monks, an aspirant knows the mental state of lust,
      as with lust; the mental state without lust, as without lust;
      the mental state of hate, as with hate; the mental state without
      hate, as without hate; the mental state of ignorance, as with
      ignorance; the mental state without ignorance, as without ignorance;
      the shrunken state of consciousness, as the shrunken state;
      [13] the distracted state of consciousness, as the distracted state;
      [14] the developed state of consciousness as the developed state;
      [15] the undeveloped state of consciousness as the undeveloped state;
      [16] the state of consciousness with some other mental state superior
      to it, as the state with something mentally higher;
      [17] the state of consciousness with no other mental state superior
      to it, as the state with nothing mentally higher;[18] the absorbed
      state of consciousness, as the absorbed state; the unabsorbed state
      of consciousness, as the unabsorbed state; the freed state of
      consciousness, as the freed state;[19] and the unfreed state of
      consciousness as the unfreed state.

      In conclusion you can see that since I have changed sama-samadhi to 'right
      absorption,' the consequence is I have changed the meaning of part of the 8 fold
      path, as well as the 7 factors of enlightenment, which is no small
      suggestion. But, in so doing I believe I have not only rendered the teachings of the
      Buddha into a more accessible document for us English speakers to embrace, but I
      have also established Buddhism as first and foremost a contemplative
      tradition that is intent on ecstatic absorption.

      Blessings to you and all,

      Suffering can indeed be ended in this very lifetime
      Take refuge
      Let the Four Noble Truths be your guiding-light
      Follow the Eighth Fold Path, and observe the precepts
      Practice regularly and often, with duration and intensity
      Dedicate every thought, word, action and resource to the benefit of all beings

      Jeff Brooks
      editor, Southwest Insight E'letter
      moderator, Ecstatic Buddhism
      moderator, Jhana Support Group
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