4 jhanas = 4 satipatthanas = sammasamadhi

Was just listening to MN51 and realised another implication there:

The 4 Jhanas are the 4 Satipatthanas.

That, to add on to Ajahn Brahm (where I first heard)'s “Sammasamadhi are the 4 Jhanas.”

Anyone else sees this?


The suttas are pretty clear on this: satipatthana is right mindfulness, the four jhanas are right samadhi.


in ven. Anālayo’s “perspectives on satipatthana” he compares the pali sutta MN 10 satipathana sutta with the Chinese agama parallels, there are 2 or 3 verisons. at the end of the book there are straight translations of all of those versions so you can compare. one of the chinese versions incorporates the 4 jhanas as part of the satipatthana! this is interesting but not found in the pali suttas.


Except the 4 juhanas are in fact in the DN22 version of the Satipatthana Sutta. I also discussed this at length in my A History of Mindfulness. There is of course some overlap between the two areas: this is, after all, spiritual practice, not engineering! So we find mindfulness mentioned in the jhana formula, and samadhi mentioned in the context of meditation. However, in general, the basic situation is as I have mentioned. In fact, the main role that satipatthana plays in the suttas is simply “meditation”, i.e. what you and I do when we sit down to meditate. Samadhi (= jhana) is the outcome of successful meditation.


many thanks Banthe. This clarifies a lot and gives a clear direction to our practice.


the 4 jhanas in DN 22 are merely part samma samadhi, which is part of noble eightfold path and a result of a mechanical expansion of the 4 noble truths as a dhamma in the 4th satipatthana.

In the chinese madhyama agama version though, it’s a much more striking inclusion because it’s under kayanupassana, and includes the 4 jhana similes. Thus, based on this madhyaagama sutra, I could see someone saying 4 jhanas are a subset of satipatthana, whereas if one were to go by pali suttas alone, I would still see 4 jhanas strictly as samma samadhi, and not part of samma sati or part of satipattthana.

I agree with Bhante Sujato that because of the overlapping and sharing of duties between samma samadhi, samma sati, samma vayamo it’s perhaps not skillful to try to get too nitpicky on exactly how to divide them up into distinct entities.


Dear Frankk and Everyone,

I believe it is quite important to distinguish between the functions of sammā-sati and sammā-samādhi. The more clear this is, the more clear is the instruction for the development of the path.

To be able to do this properly we need to distinguish between the main function of these path factors and any subsidiary functions they may have. I think it is true that jhāna can form the basis for satipaṭṭhāna practice, in the sense that the jhānas can be contemplated to yield deep insight. We see this in a number of places in the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta(s) where, for instance, nirāmisa sukha and mahaggata citta (both most likely referring to jhāna, or even higher states) are included in the contemplation. But I would contend that this is a subsidiary function of satipaṭṭhāna, and that this is, in fact, normally known as sammā-ñāṇa, in accordance with the structure of the ten-fold path.

The overwhelming use of satipaṭṭhāna in the suttas is as a foundation and condition for jhāna. This is clear from almost all places where sammā-sati and sammā-samādhi are used in conjunction. It is from such places that we can get a clear perspective on these factors and their mutual relationship, and not so much from the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta(s) which really only deal with satipaṭṭhāna. Thus, in fundamental sets of factors concerning the practice of the path, such as the eightfold path, the seven factors of awakening, and the five faculties, we always see sammā-sati placed before sammā-samādhi. Moreover - and this is the crucial issue - all of these sets are explained as sequences of factors where the previous factor is the condition for the subsequent one. In other words, in all of these cases sammā-sati is the cause and condition for sammā-samādhi. And a similar pattern can be seen in a number of other suttas, such as MN125, SN47:8 and AN8:63.

The main function of satipaṭṭhāna, then, is to take the mind to sammā-samādhi or jhāna. The most important aspect of this is probably to eliminate the last vestiges of the hindrances, and this is clearly why there is such a great emphasis on defilements in the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta(s), the high point of which is the very thorough investigation of the hindrances in the Dhammānupassanā section. That satipaṭṭhāna is mainly about the overcoming of the most refined aspects of the hindrances is clear also from other suttas such as MN125 and SN47:8. From this I take it as almost certain that the reference to overcoming the hindrances in the gradual training - and, again, this comes just before the four jhānas - is about satipaṭṭhāna. Once the hindrances have been overcome, satipaṭṭhāna helps you focus the mind and enter jhāna.

The common contemporary idea that satipaṭṭhāna is all about insight is not supported by the suttas. Satipaṭṭhāna is the development of the mind in the direction of jhāna, and as such it is about both samatha and vipassanā, which is true of the entire path to awakening.

With metta.


Thank you for all the explanations.

Just want to add these from MN118:

IB Horner: Mindfulness of in-breathing and out-breathing, monks, if developed and made much of, brings to fulfilment the four applications of mindfulness; …

Nanamoli/Bhikkhu Bodhi: When mindfulness of breathing is developed and cultivated, it fulfils the four foundations of mindfulness.

Thank you.


Dear Ajahn Brahmali

I’ve heard Ajahn Brahm say that sati must go with ‘clear comprehension’… So that’s the wisdom component of Satipatthana then? An awareness that includes ‘understanding’…and with that understanding, something happens to cause a hindrance to weaken or fall away?

I remember when I read the “Ajahn Chah books”, there were times, from memory where he would talk about Sila, Samadhi and Panna coming together and sort of converging.

The idea of Sati, causing Understanding; it seems to cause a loop which goes back to Sila and possibly causes a refinement of Sila as well. And all this together, causes a more peaceful mind, a deepening stillness…the road of renunciation of hindrances, into ulitmate letting go…

Thanks so much.

With metta


Dear Waiyin

I believe I’ve heard Ajahn Brahm say something very very similar. It might be in, *Mindfulness, Bliss and Beyond’, but I’m not sure…

With metta

Dear Kay,

Yes, true satipaṭṭhāna includes clear comprehension, and this is specifically stated in the standard satipaṭṭhāna formula. The main purpose of the clear comprehension is to guide the practice. For instance, you have a good idea of whether you are ready for satipaṭṭhāna practice, such as breath meditation. Clear comprehension also monitors the practice to ensure that you are heading in the right direction, that the defilements are decreasing and not increasing.

Sure, but this would normally refer to very deep samādhi, such as the jhānas.

Yes, this is how it works. The path is a sequence of causal factors that works in forward order, such as sammā-diṭṭhi being the condition for sammā-sankappa, etc. But there is also a feedback loop whereby the later factors, as they develop, strengthen and stabilise the earlier factors.

With metta.


Yes, thank you very much for pointing this out.

I must also thank Bhante Sujato (or was it Ajahn Brahmali) for having pointed out that, “the Buddha tends to understate things.” That which he said in the suttas should be taken as absolute, e.g. in MN56, the first two factors of the progressive training: giving/generosity and virtue/morality.

Feedback loop is also excellent.


“Internally and externally” as used in the Satipaṭṭhāna is very elusive for me. The later commentaries say that it is observation of self, others, and “self and others” back and forth. For me, this begs the question, why not just come out and say exactly that?

Could it be that internally is the embodied sense (embodied in the body, in the feelings, in the mind, etc) and externally is the observatory perspective (of the body, of the feelings, of the mind, etc). This second perspective of 3rd-person observation, could also apply to others but doesn’t necessarily need to be so.

Then the mystery for me is what is meant by “internally and externally” or to put it in other terms already discussed - “in and of”. Could that be the perspective of one in jhāna? The boundary between internal & external being dissolved?

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I have to admit I am quite content with understanding ajjhatta/bahiddhā as personal/other. This is the contextual meaning of these words elsewhere, such as in the Anattalakkhaṇa Sutta. Ajjhatta is derived from adhi + atta, and as such is very closely related to the ideas of oneself. And bahiddhā is then external to this.

I feel this makes fairly good sense in a satipaṭṭhāna framework. For example, with the body contemplation, you first contemplate your own body as consisting of 31 parts and then you move on to the bodies of others. Eventually you see that the 31 parts are a universal characteristic of bodies, and this is the ajjhatta-bahiddhā stage.

One of the reasons ajjhatta/bahiddhā is sometimes hard to reconcile with the idea of oneself/others is that some of the meditations described in the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta are probably not original to it. Take the breath meditation: it does not seem to make much sense to do this with other people’s breath. But the point here is not that our usual interpretation of ajjhatta/bahiddhā is wrong, but that breath meditation probably does not belong in the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta.

With metta.


a plausible explanation, bhante, but it compels one to question either the intelligence, competence or tidiness of its editors, who couldn’t have not been aware of the apparent inconsistency and a source of confusion for future readers they’re creating

and if we don’t question their intelligence and good intentions the question to be asked is WHY they did it


Thank you for your response. What you said about mindfulness of breathing as a meditation probably not being original to the Satipaṭṭhāna is supported by it’s absence in the Satipaṭṭhāna of the Aagamas.

However, it is still problematic, for me at least. Particularly, to see how this self/others dichotomy applies to feelings, mind, and dhammas in others. Feelings I can sort of understand as that is the basis of empathy (and compassion). Mind and dhammas would seem to rely on inference (unless of course we’re talking about telepathy).

Another curious point is why there is a distinction in “self and others”? If it was just two categories then it would be 1. self and 2. others. The discourse identifies a third category that is still mysterious for me. Do you take this third category to mean observation switching back and forth between self and others in an alternating/oscillating way?

With Gratitude

In my experience the editors were not really interested in creating an absolutely coherent and consistent text. Have a look at MN111, the Anupada Sutta, for it really is a strange mishmash of text from different sources, sometimes revealed by glaring redundancies such as mentioning the same jhāna factors twice in the same jhāna formula. (E.g. have a look at upekkha in the fourth jhāna). It seems clear to me that the editors were not concerned with creating a perfectly coherent and harmonious text.

There could be a number of reasons for this. They may have felt uncomfortable tampering with the actual wording rather than moving textual blocks around. The question they would have been asking themselves is how can we best preserve the word of the Buddha, and this may have been the compromise they came up with.

Another explanation is to consider the nature of oral transmission, and here we have the excellent scholarship of Ven. Analayo to rely on. Oral transmission really only works when there is a high degree of standardisation. The idea of having different concluding sections for each meditation subject may have occurred to the editors, but found to be impractical. Another aspect of oral tradition that has been highlighted by Analayo is the tendency for commentarial material to intrude into the suttas themselves. Perhaps mindfulness of breathing was originally just mentioned in the commentaries, perhaps as a reference to the Ānāpānasati Sutta, and then made its way into the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta when commentarial material was confused with sutta material, which might happen during oral recitation. If this were the case, then it is all just an accident, and then of course the idea of editing it would not really be an option. I tend to favour the hypothesis of accidental mistakes over intentional editing.

All of this is just speculation, but it makes the point that there are a number of ways in which such inconsistencies may have arisen, without having to attribute it to a lack of competence.


I am rather sceptical of the idea that vedanānupassanā and cittānupassanā are about telepathy. Satipaṭṭhāna is for all meditators, not just for the extremely small subset that has such abilities. Rather, I would agree with you that this is about inference. These inferences can often be supported by our observations of others, whereby their mental content often can be known through observing their body language.

The idea of the third category, as I understand it, it to universalise. You contemplate your own feelings, then the feelings of others, and then you realise that this is the nature of feelings for all beings, human or otherwise. This sort of universalisation seems to be required for the deepest insights in to the nature of mind. So no, I don’t think this is about oscillation.


Thank you for following up on this, Bhante.

My confusion is cleared up, mostly. I do have one additional question, if I may.

The Ānāpānasati Sutta starts with instructions to go to the forest (into seclusion), describes the practice, then how the practice fulfills Satipaṭṭhāna. I suppose, given your explanation, that the “external” here could be the cittānupassanā, dhammānupassanā, etc. of other animals in the forest? A minor point, perhaps, but if you could help elucidate I would be appreciative.

edit: nevermind, externally is not mentioned in MN118

I’m unfortunately not familiar with this observation by Ven Analayo, he maybe explains this point. At the moment my assumption (or maybe it’s already been demonstrated by scholars as the case in the Buddhist tradition, or even universally) is that commentarial tradition should have started only after the text had been committed to writing, otherwise one would have to memorize and orally transmit the commentary as well, which seems unlikely to me

and if this is so, oral recitation could have not interfered with the written text and corrupted it because, at least in the modern civilization, the written is usually considered finalized, correct and reliable