Sati/Mindfulness - Remembering what was Done & Said long ago?


It is important to note that it is not “Sati”.
It is “Samma Sati”
That is remembering what is relating to the path and ultimate goal.
That is four Satipathanas.


Samma sadhu. :pray:


Sorry to enter this conversation late, but has anyone else taken note of an 4.189? Here it is, bold mine:

“Mendicants, these four things should be realized. What four?
There are things to be realized directly. There are things to be realized with mindfulness. There are things to be realized with vision. There are things to be realized with wisdom.
What things are to be realized directly? The eight liberations.
What things are to be realized with mindfulness? Past lives.
What things are to be realized with vision? The passing away and rebirth of sentient beings.
What things are to be realized with wisdom? The ending of defilements.
These are the four things to be realized.”

Past lives? It seems pretty clear that sati in this context must involve remembering rather than present moment awareness. Furthermore, it’s not even necessarily memory of the dhamma, but rather stuff from your own personal experience.


Yes, samma sati is satipatthana, which focuses on nupassana (observation), rather than on memory.


With practice, we all dissolve and relinquish the clinging to past pleasure or pain that impinge on the mindfulness of present feelings. We learn to see the past delight that gives rise to a presently arising resentment or sorrow. Mindfulness shows us the conditioned link we forged for ourselves by craving and grasping. This is why mindfulness must involve remembering what was done and said long ago. Mindfulness sees the origin of our present condition.

Given the role that mindfulness plays in our daily practice, bridging as it does past and present, I can only reason that delights clung to voraciously in past lives would necessarily manifest as tendencies in this very life. And that therefore we would naturally conclude that mindfulness is the very means by which past lives would be realized.

How else could it be?


Well the “standard explanation” in AN3.58 (and elsewhere) is that the yogi, upon gaining strong jhana, willfully directs her mind towards recalling past lives:

he enters and dwells in the fourth jhāna, neither painful nor pleasant, which has purification of mindfulness by equanimity.
When his mind is thus concentrated, purified, cleansed, unblemished, rid of defilement, malleable, wieldy, steady, and attained to imperturbability, he directs it to the knowledge of the recollection of past abodes.

However, SN52.22 does report the four (standard) foundations of mindfulness (as described in the first sutta of the saṃyutta) as the path to the recollection of past lives. And, indeed, it has been my experience (just as you describe) that I generally don’t care about my past lives, except when a strong reaction / attachment comes up out of (seeming) nowhere: then I really do desire to recall “where the h*ck did that come from?!” :joy:


Manokamma and sati? What is the relationship?


I think the main reason why some consider sati is about ‘remembering constantly what was done and said long ago’, is because they do not notice the main teachings from SN 47 Satipatthana Samyutta (such as SN 47.2) and SN 54 Anapana Samyutta (such as SN 54.1). Sati in the collections is certainly about awareness (sampajana) in the present moment in the direction of mental attention on ‘restraining covetousness and distress in the world’ (vineyya loke abhijjhaadomanassam) (pp. 215-6, 225-7 The Fundamental Teachings of Early Buddhism).


It’s tricky to understand the meaning of ‘sati’ in the context of Satipatthana. Fortunately, there’s an explanation in the Commentary and in the Abhidharma-samuccaya:


Satimā hoti, paramena satinepakkenasamannāgato, cirakatampi cirabhāsitampi saritāanussaritā. (Sekhasuttaṃ)
He is mindful, possessed of the highest mindfulness and discrimination, remembering, recollecting what he has done and said long ago. (Sekhasuttaṃ-SS)

Simply when he is mindful it enhances recalling of memory, if someone says sati has a similar meaning to memory, he is misinterpreting.
This is the phrase that led many people think sati is a form of memory. However, this clearly establishes a relationship between mindfulness and memory, although at the same time it does not just equate the two. Although the standard definition of mindfulness suggests some relationship to episodic memory, the two cannot simply be identified with each other. The reason is that some types of episodic memory can take the form of unintentionally dwelling on memories of the past and related fantasies, which would be the very opposite of being mindful. That being mindful will make one remember better is in fact quite intuitive, and this would apply for working, semantic, as well as episodic types of memory. Being receptively mindful in the present moment, more data related to that moment can be taken in by the mind, thereby furnishing a good foundation for later recalling that moment and its various related details. mindful recognition of the situation in the present moment is indubitably a crucial aspect of successful satipaṭṭhāna practice.( Bhante Analayo, 2016)

When we consider Bhante Analayos explaination, we can conclude that sati (mindfulness) is related to memory but it is not sharing identity with memory.
Mindfulness is not about memory. It simply means bare awareness to the moment. When you are aware of your mind and your object in the meditation dhamma vicaya (Investigation of the nature of reality) helps you identifying the quality of the object. One have to be careful identifying sati and other bojjangas, where they are gathered together.

Bhante Nyanaponika in his book The Power of Mindfulness, explains that the basic, unalloyed form of mindfulness is bare attention. He further explains, the clear and single-minded awareness of what actually happens to us and in us, at the successive moments of perception is called bare attention (Bhante Nyanaponika, 1972).

Anālayo, B. (2016). Early Buddhist mindfulness and memory, the body, and pain. Mindfulness, 7(6), 1271-1280.
Thera, N. (2008). The power of mindfulness. Wheel Publication, 1-75.
(This book published originally in 1972)


To me, one way of suggesting the involvement of memory is the bearing in mind of the skillful and ethical behavior contemplated by the six prior factors on the Path. A recollection of this wise and ethical foundation establishes the mind in a foundation of solidity. This recollection, or infusion of positive memory, of this wise and good life, brightens the mind; these qualities allow for calm and bright awareness or focus on the object of mindfulness. This then opens access to the potential for jhana. My two baht, anyway.


I think it is also not entirely correct, according to the main teachings of sati based on SN 47 Satipatthana Samyutta (such as SN 47.2) and SN 54 Anapana Samyutta (such as SN 54.1).

Sati is not just “bare awareness to the moment” [with respect to body, feeling, mind and phenomena], but also in the direction of mental attention to “restraining covetousness and distress in the world” (vineyya loke abhijjhaadomanassam) ( See Choong Mun-keat, The Fundamental Teachings of Early Buddhism,pp. 215-6, 225-7).


When we consider the whole sentence from Mahāsatipaṭṭhānasuttaṃ,
ātāpī sampajāno satimā vineyya loke abhijjhādomanassaṃ”
There are few qualities one should achieve to restraining covetousness and distress in the world.

  1. ātāpī- strenuous, ardent (not sure the meaning)
  2. sampajāno-thoughtful
  3. satimā-Mindful
    He is not only mindful (satimā) but also, thoughtful and he is an ātāpī, where he can achieve the restraining.


Sampajano also means aware.


Sati-sampajana means mindfulness and clear comprehension and then, sampajāno means comprehensive.

You could get a general idea of sampajana is being aware, but sampajana contains a way more than that.
Read also,


The commentaries developed a definition (given in your link) since sampajāno is not really defined in the suttas; well, except for one place as far as I’m aware: SN 47.35 (with a similar definition covering both sati and sampajāno at AN8.9):

And how, bhikkhus, does a bhikkhu exercise clear comprehension? Here, bhikkhus, for a bhikkhu feelings are understood as they arise, understood as they remain present, understood as they pass away. Thoughts are understood as they arise, understood as they remain present, understood as they pass away. Perceptions are understood as they arise, understood as they remain present, understood as they pass away. It is in this way, bhikkhus, that a bhikkhu exercises clear comprehension.


Tasmātiha tvaṃ bhikkhu kāye kāyānupassī viharāhi ātāpī sampajāno satimā vineyya loke abhijjhādomanassaṃ.

“Ātāpī”tivīriyindriyaṃ, “Sampajāno” ti paññindriyaṃ, “Satimā” ti satindriyaṃ, “Vineyya lokeabhijjhādomanassa” nti samādhindriyaṃ, evaṃkāye kāyānupassino viharato cattāro satipaṭṭhānābhāvanāpāripūriṃ gacchanti. Kena kāraṇena, ekalakkhaṇattā catunnaṃ indriyānaṃ.
See also Samāropanahāravibhaṅgo
I am sorry there is no English translation available.
This explains,
Ātāpī - vīriyindriyaṃ (Faculty of strength)
Sampajāno - paññindriyaṃ (faculty of wisdom)
Satimā - satindriyaṃ (faculty of mindfulness)


Thanks. I have very little Pali unfortunately though. Those are from the Netti in the Khuddaka Nikaya? If so, there actually seems to be an old PTS Nanamoli translation floating around the web.


Sampajāno (aware) (together with Sati) is defined clearly and practically in SN 47.2 (= SA 622):

“And how, bhiksus, is a bhiksu aware? Herein, bhiksus, a bhiksu in going forth and in returning is acting with awareness (sampajānakārī). In looking in front and looking behind he is acting with awareness. In bending or relaxing he is acting with awareness. In wearing his robe, in bearing bowl and outer robe he is acting with awareness. In eating, drinking, chewing and tasting he is acting with awareness. In easing himself he is acting with awareness. In going, standing, sitting and sleeping, in waking, speaking and keeping silence he is acting with awareness. Thus, bhiksus, is a bhiksu aware.”(Choong Mun-keat, The Fundamental Teachings of Early Buddhism, p. 216)


This is just how the translator thought. Not a must to be correct…

Idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhu kāye kāyānupassī viharati ātāpī sampajāno satimā vineyya loke abhijjhādomanassaṃ, vedanāsu vedanānupassī viharati -pe-

This part from Mahāsatipaṭṭhānasutta is translated by bhante Analayo, in his book Satipaṭṭhāna, the Direct Path to Realization as below,

Here, monks, in regard to the body a monk abides contemplating the body, diligent, clearly knowing, and mindful, free from desires and discontent in regard to the world.
In regard to feelings so on[1].

When you take sampajāno as clearly knowing, which resembles some similarity with pajānāti (knows clearly) where it gives a proper meaning. Here we can see it consists of two words: knowing + clearly, where knowing (somewhat similar to awareness). When we take the clearly part, sampajāno (clearly knowing) needs a clarification of “knowing”. In contrast he knows (he is aware) but not just knows the object, he knows it clearly.
To clarify what he really knows he needs the faculty of wisdom. The quote from Netti back this idea.

In Dasuttarasuttaṃ,
Katame dve dhammā bahukārā? sati ca sampajaññañca. Ime dve dhammā bahukārā.
This part is translated by R. Davids and
Bhante Sujato.

Which Two help much?
Mindfulness and deliberation.(R. Davids)

What two things are helpful? Mindfulness and situational awareness(Bhante Sujato)
(Up to Ten)

  1. Satipaṭṭhāna, the Direct Path to Realization, Birmingham: Windhorse, 2003.

Bhante @sujato, I would be grateful if you could kindly give your opinion on this translation problem.
Why bhante picked stuational awareness?

Davids, T. W. R., & Stede, W. (1993). Pali-english dictionary . Motilal Banarsidass Publ…