37bp = 4pd + 4ip + 4sp + 5bal + 5ind + 7sb + 8aam
sati = remembering, memory, remembrance. one who is a rememberer has sati.
a-sati = forgetful, not-remembering, not-rememberful
What does sati remember? Always remember the Dhamma. Dhamma with a capital D.
Dhamma = Dhamma teachings re-discovered by the Buddha that lead to the end of suffering, to vi-raga, to nirodho, to nirvana.
a-Dhamma = not-Dhamma. one sutta defines it terms of the specific parts of wrong view, wrong action, wrong speech. So Dhamma is the opposite, it means he practice of right view, right speech, right action, or more completely, the 8aam (noble eightfold path) or 4as (noble truths).
samma sati = right remembering = right remembering of the Dhamma,
sati 'patthana = remembrance establishing = remembering to do Dhamma, remembering to be Dhamma every moment, to give Dhamma everything you got, in this one breath, or the time it takes to eat one morsel of food. Who knows when death comes (marana-sati, death-remembering)?
sati-sambojjhanga = samma sati = sati patthana.
The 4th aspect of the 4sp (satipatthana) is Dhamma-anu-passana = The Dhamma, you continuously see, non-stop.
the 4th of the 4sp:
Dhamme-Dhamma-anu-passana = seeing of Dhamma as Dhamma. That means you’re constantly practicing Dhamma-vicaya-sam-bojjhanga, constantly discriminating, scrutinizing the Dhamma to make sure what think of as Dhamma practice is matching up to genuine Dhamma. In the process of Dhamma investigation, you might work with dhammas (things, qualities, phenomena), but never-forget (a-sati) that Dhamma (4as) is the goal, it’s every thing, it’s the only thing that matters.
Kaye-kaya-anu-passana = continously seeing the body as the body. That the body is just a body, merely rupa, that it is impermanent, not self, not yours, etc. Seeing the body as it actually is (yatha bhuta). You don’t see the body and make futile plans for an imagined future, in unrealistic ways. Remembering (sati) to see (passati) and discern (pajanati) body as it actually is builds pañña (discernment/wisdom) and right view. evam etam yathu bhutam samma paññaya datthabam. right viewing, right discernment, is built from sati (remembering Dhamma) one moment of pajanati at a time.
the 37bp is brilliantly designed to massively and intuitively link to every other factor.
At the top of the food chain, you could remember Dhamma = 8aam, or Dhamma = 4as. Either way will work, because the first factor of 8aam, right view, is knowledge of 4as. And the 4th noble truth, is the practice of the 8aam.
7sb, is like zooming in on the samadhi khandha (group) of the 8aam (vayamo, sati, samadhi): but in a slightly different order, and with some extra factors added in that shows a causal sequence that gets you from sati to samadhi. Then upekhha, juiced up with the power of samadhi, is able to prove the hypothesis of saddha-indriya (conviction faculty of 5ind and 5bal), and that view isn’t just a theory anymore, but direct experience and knowledge of the truth of Dhamma.
At the beginning of the article, I asserted that what sati remembers is Dhamma. I bet many of you are questioning that. You think sati is being mindful of the 4sp (satipatthana)? The 4th sp is Dhamma-anu-passana, essentially the same as dhamma-vicaya-bojjhanga. And where in the 7sb causal sequence does Dhamma-vicaya sit? At #2. What’s at number #1? sati. Sati remembers Dhamma, Dhamma-vicaya inspects the Dhamma that sati remembered (SN 46.3). So this is the brilliant architecture and design of the Buddha’s oral tradition in teaching Dhamma. Whatever factor you remember, it contains a hook that seamlessly links you to the next related, relevant Dhamma factor(s).
So whether you focus on just sati, or just Dhamma, or even samma-samadhi, you’re always just one link away from 4as and Dhamma, connected holistically and symbiotically. That’s why it’s important to translate and understand the basic terms correctly, otherwise it breaks the links, and turns parts of the 37bp, 4as, 8aam into vestigial organs, like a man living alone needing to nurse an infant who desperately needs mother’s milk. His nipples don’t produce milk.
So what if you just focus on samma samadhi? How does that link to Dhamma and 7sb? Three places. The obvious ones are S&S&U (sati & sampajano & upekkha) explicitly stated in the 3rd and 4th jhana. The not obvious but very important link is V&V in first jhana. You don’t leave 4sp to practice 4j (jhanas). Sati is always on, always active, 4sp is always on. There is no off switch for 4sp, no time out, no break. It’s not explicitly listed in 2nd and 1st jhana, but it’s available and on call. In first jhana, V&V (vitakka & vicara) acts as a coarser form of S&S&U. Vitakaa is directed thought. It performs the role of sati-sambojjhanga. It remembers (sati) the Dhamma. It picks the meditation topic. Dhamma-vicaya-sambojjhanga takes the topic selected by vitakka/sati-samobobjjhanga, and investigates it with vicara. Look it up. It’s in SN 46.3. anu-vitakka, anu-vicara.
In second jhana, with V&V disappearing, it doesn’t mean vipassana capability as disabled until 3rd jhana, where S&S&U is explicitly present. It just means the rapture-pleasure of 2nd jhana is so strong it’s difficult to exercise S&S&U. Just like a kid is playing with toys and you try to take toys away from him. It’s not easy to do.
Here’s the part most people never notice or realize. Look at the beginning of first jhana, and the conclusion of 4th jhana, and compare to the causal sequence of 7sb. 7sb starts with sati, ends with upekkha.
First jhana starts with vitakka (doing the role of sati samobjjhanga) and vicara (doing the role of dhamma vicaya sambojjhanga). 4th jhana ends with upekkha-sati-pari-suddhim. Purified remembrance & clear-discerning & equanimous-observation. Although sampajano is not stated in 4th jhana, usually “sati” means “sati & sampajano” just as from context often you can tell a single “samadhi” really means “samma samadhi that leads to nirvana” in context. And upekkha means equanimous-observation. Not just a passive attitude of equanimity. So again, upekkha-sambojjhanga matches the culmination of the 4th jhana. Whether you focus just on samma-samadhi and 4j (jhanas), or sati, or 7sb, they all map out the same exact road map that takes you from deluded to nirvana.