Are the Brahmaviharas, Kasinas and recollections also part of Satipatthana?

From the Early Buddhist point of view:

The sutta does not mention them but I would assume that they are since the 4 Satipatthanas encompass all possible human experience? And if yes, then where would they fit into? I know for example that whatever doesn’t fit into the first three Satipatthanas is considered a Dhamma (phenomena).

From the classical Theravada point of view:

I know that the Visudhimagga classifies the Kasinas, Brahmaviharas, corpse contemplations, recollections (of the Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha, Generosity, Devas…) as Samatha practice.

Satipatthana is considered Vipassana practice, but I find this strange since Anapanasati and the corpse contemplations are part of Kayanupassana in the Satipatthana Sutta.
I’m reading “Perspectives on Satipatthana” By Analayo right now and the Satipatthana Sutta in the Ekottarika-āgama does not contain Anapanasati for example.

This is confusing.


Ven. Udayi and Ven. Ananda once discussed feelings with similar confusion. The Buddha clarified:

MN59:5.2: In one explanation I’ve spoken of two feelings. In another explanation I’ve spoken of three feelings, or five, six, eighteen, thirty-six, or a hundred and eight feelings.

I’ve always ended up with headaches searching for precise meanings in the suttas. And I’ve always had to let go of those precise meanings in favor of finding an interconnected balance that joins all the suttas.

Classifications are useful abstractions, but they can also limit our understanding. Is there limitless love? Yes. Is there satipatthana practice? Yes. And what about limitless love in sattipatthana? Well, we have this:

MN10:3.5: They meditate observing an aspect of principles—keen, aware, and mindful, rid of desire and aversion for the world.

Understanding that limitless love is a principle, we see a connection right there.

Connections are so important in practice. When we connect things, limits disappear. And as limits disappear, we see that:

SN41.7:6.2: Greed, hate, and delusion are makers of limits.


Thank you for the question. The problems have arisen due to reading the books in the wrong order. “Perspectives on Satipatthana” is a subsequent volume to the basic text “Satipatthana- The Direct Path to Realization,” so primary categories have not been established. For example in c IV of the latter the interaction between serenity and insight is defined, (4) The contribution of absorption to the progress of insight, and (5) Calm and Insight.
The overall practical approach through the Satipatthana sutta is correct as many suttas are not from a directly practical standpoint of the path, dealing with philosophical opposition to the Brahmins, or the view from the arahant perspective at the completion of the path.

The short answer to the question is the brahma viharas and recollections are preliminary subjects to breath meditation as tactics fulfilling the requirement of the third tetrad of the Anapanasati sutta, and the kasinas are not dealt with in detail in the suttas. The Anapanasati sutta lays down skills which are developed upon in the Satipatthana sutta.

The Suttas like the one I’m quoting below sometimes treat the Brahma-Viharas and the recollections as preliminary practices to enter Jhana (or Anapanasati practice as you say) as “direct development” (paṇidhāya bhāvanā), while undirect development (appaṇidhāya bhāvanā) is apparently the Satipatthana practice.
Interesting is that the Visudhimagga treats the Brahma-Viharas and recollections as full on practices but some Suttas too like there is one loving-kindness is treated as a practice that leads to the 4 Jhanas so I guess it depends on the context?

SN 47.10 Bhikkhunupassayasutta—Bhikkhu Sujato

:+1: I was unaware this existed; this has made my morning :sunny:

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Yes the brahma viharas can be used in two different ways, but the suttas dealing with immediate practice are always more preferable. In the cosmic context of nibbana as goal, the four jhanas are conditioned and a limited aim.

“But why, Sariputta — when there was still more to be done, having established Dhanañjanin the brahman in the inferior Brahma world — did you get up from your seat and leave?”

“The thought occurred to me, lord, ‘These brahmans are set on the Brahma worlds. What if I were to teach Dhanañjanin the brahman the path to union with the Brahmas?’”—MN 97

SN 47.10 is addressed to nuns via Ananda, while MN 97 deals with a Brahman layperson. Both these personnel are at an appropriate level to contain information relevant to western lay practitioners. But one deals with practical meditation in day to day life, while the other with a life and death situation.

Some laypeople pursue rebirth at a higher level and these are subject to mundane right view as outlined in MN 117. The progress from a lay Buddhist view to an unconditioned perspective is set out chapter by chapter in “In the Buddha’s Words” by Bikkhu Bodhi.

The following sutta shows how to practice Metta within the scope of Satipatthana Meditation:

At one time the Buddha was staying in the land of the Sumbhas, near the town of the Sumbhas called Sedaka. There the Buddha addressed the mendicants:

“Once upon a time, mendicants, an acrobat set up his bamboo pole and said to his apprentice Medakathālikā, ‘Come now, dear Medakathālikā, climb up the bamboo pole and stand on my shoulders.’

‘Yes, teacher,’ she replied. She climbed up the bamboo pole and stood on her teacher’s shoulders.

Then the acrobat said to Medakathālikā, ‘You look after me, dear Medakathālikā, and I’ll look after you. That’s how, guarding and looking after each other, we’ll display our skill, collect our fee, and get down safely from the bamboo pole.’

When he said this, Medakathālikā said to her teacher, ‘That’s not how it is, teacher! You should look after yourself, and I’ll look after myself. That’s how, guarding and looking after ourselves, we’ll display our skill, collect our fee, and get down safely from the bamboo pole.’

That’s the way,” said the Buddha. “It’s just as Medakathālikā said to her teacher. Thinking ‘I’ll look after myself,’ you should cultivate mindfulness meditation. Thinking ‘I’ll look after others,’ you should cultivate mindfulness meditation. Looking after yourself, you look after others; and looking after others, you look after yourself.

And how do you look after others by looking after yourself? By development, cultivation, and practice of meditation. And how do you look after yourself by looking after others? By acceptance, harmlessness, love, and sympathy.

Thinking ‘I’ll look after myself,’ you should cultivate mindfulness meditation. Thinking ‘I’ll look after others,’ you should cultivate mindfulness meditation. Looking after yourself, you look after others; and looking after others, you look after yourself.”

Perhaps you should read Bhante Sujato’s A History of Mindfulness. This part of the book is discussing relationship of satipatthana and brahmaviharas:

11.4.3 Satipaṭṭhāna Compared with Loving-kindness

The satipaṭṭhāna auxiliary formula sounds much more like samatha than vipassanā. Similar descriptions of the meditative state of mind are not found in direct vipassanā contexts. But let us compare it with this description of the practice of loving-kindness.

Satipaṭṭhāna Auxiliary formula
… ātāpī, sampajāno, satimā, vineyya loke abhijjhādomanassaṁ.
Ardent, clearly comprehending, mindful, having removed covetousness and aversion for the world.

… vigatābhijjho, vigatābyapado, asammuḷho, sampajāno, patissato mettāsahagatena cetasā…
Free of covetousness, free of ill will, unconfused, clearly comprehending, mindful, with a heart full of loving-kindness…

This is simply a slight variation in expression describing a similar subjective process of meditation. The passage on loving-kindness is obviously referring to jhāna, and the similarity of the two passages suggests that jhāna, rather than being a pre-requisite, is part of the complete fulfilment of satipaṭṭhāna. The main point of the auxilliary phrase is to emphasize that mindfulness is not developed alone, sufficient unto itself, but in the context of the path as a whole; and in this all the traditions are in full agreement.

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Hi, the link below is my own understanding of anapanasati and satipatthana. They are a framework for directing contemplation towards body, feeling, mind and finally dealing with all mental phenomena that arise. Brahma vihara, loathsomeness, impermanence, corpse contemplation are themes to fulfill each portion of the training.