What is the difference between Samma Sati and Yoniso Manasikara?

What is the difference between Samma Sati and Yoniso Manasikara?


Sati is maintainance, manasikara is a direction.


Nicely put!


The great majority of Pali synonyms have no minutely specific defined meanings. They have general meanings and are often comfortably interchangeable. Of course this is not to discourage enquiry into lexical significations; only, the best way to understand a word is to read it in the unique context in which it appears, and to realise that even the one word or term can sometimes indicate or highlight different ideas in various contexts. This is my experience.


Sati, is mindfulness or infrequently , memory.

Samadhi is concentration, focus or unification of mind.

Manasikara has to be something different from these two.

The Sinhala translation is in bold below:

“ඇවැත් ශාරිපුත්‍රයෙනි, රහත්වූවාහු විසින් කවර ධර්මයෝ නුවණින් මෙනෙහි කටයුත්තාහුද? රහත්වූවහු විසින්ද මේ පස් උපාදානස්කන්ධයෝ අනිත්‍ය වශයෙන් දුක් වශයෙන් රෝග වශයෙන් ගඩක් වශයෙන් හුලක් වශයෙන් පීඩාවක් වශයෙන් ආබාධ වශයෙන් අනුන් අයත් වූවක් වශයෙන් බිඳෙන්නක් වශයෙන් සූන්‍ය වශයෙන් අනාත්ම වශයෙන් නුවණින් මෙනෙහි කටයුත්තාහ. ඇවැත්නි, රහත්හු විසින් මත්තෙහි කළ යුත්තක් හෝ කරණ ලද දැයෙහි නැවත කිරීමක් හෝ නැති. SN22.123

‘A virtuous monk, Kotthita my friend, should attend in an appropriate way to the five clinging-aggregates as …a cancer, an arrow… alien’. SN22.123

"With regard to internal factors, I don’t envision any other single factor like wise contemplation as doing so much for a monk in training, who has not attained the heart’s goal but remains intent on the unsurpassed safety from bondage. A monk who contemplates appropriately abandons what is unskillful and develops what is skillful. Iti9

Tamenaṃ cakkhumā puriso passeyya nijjhāyeyya yoniso upaparikkheyya. Tassa taṃ passato nijjhāyato yoniso upaparikkhato rittakaññeva khāyeyya, tucchakaññeva khāyeyya, asārakaññeva khāyeyya.
A man with good sight would inspect it, ponder it, and carefully investigate it, and it would appear to him to be void, hollow, insubstantial. SN22.95

No meditation method based purely on focusing and/or mindfulness will make the meditator think an aggregate is ‘cancer’ - unless they reflected on it in that specific way. It is a verbal thought describing what he or she is observing. Now modern meditators may find thinking as part of their practice, a rather unusual thing. The Buddha said yonisomanasikara was used before each step in the Noble Eightfold Path, according to the suttas.

The Buddha did not leave verbal thoughts out of the box of tools one could use to develop insight. In the Silavant sutta he states that doing so will lead to the fruit of stream entry and higher stages of attainment. Yonisomanasikara is also used for thinking about paticcasamuppada:

Tassa mayhaṃ, bhikkhave, yoniso manasikārā ahu paññāya abhisamayo: ‘jātiyā kho sati jarāmaraṇaṃ hoti, jātipaccayā jarāmaraṇan’ti.
Then, monks, as I considered this thoroughly, the insight and comprehension dawned on me: 'Birth being present, death-and-decay comes to be […and so on for the 12 steps of the DO]; SN12.10

This again suggests contemplation rather than mindfulness, as it is not possible to mindful of elements of a previous or future life, as found in it.

Yonisomanasikara is said to give rise to Right view, along with the ‘voice of another’ and again the suggestion of a verbal thought props up, giving rise to Right view which is another concept. AN2.125

Factors of stream entry (sotapatti anga):

  1. kalyanamitta sevana
  2. saddhamma savana
  3. Yonisomanasikara
  4. dhammanudhamma patipada SN55.5

The above sequence illustrates how listening to the Dhamma of an attained person, will lead to contemplation (and in turn Right view), but it is seen here that the following step is practicing according to the Dhamma. That is mindfulness, concentration etc begins at this stage.

It makes sense that the untrained person would focus on a pleasant sensation and thinking many thoughts about it would give rise to craving and attachment (ayonisomanasikara). Mindful observance or pure focus is not what usually happens in such situations.

So manasikara means (verbal) contemplation- as it does in Sinhalese.

Yonisomanasikara means to contemplate deeper, rather than at the superficial level. Wise or deep contemplation might suit there. Ayonisomanasikara would be unwise contemplation as I see it.

The sutta below shows how yonisomanasikara gives rise to mindfulness and concentration, in the seven factors of enlightenment, is a precursor rather than the object itself.

“Bhikkhus, when one attends carelessly, unarisen sensual desire arises and arisen sensual desire increases and expands; when one attends carelessly, unarisen ill will arises and arisen ill will increases and expands; when one attends carelessly, unarisen sloth and torpor arise and arisen sloth and torpor increase and expand; when one attends carelessly, unarisen restlessness and remorse arise and arisen restlessness and remorse increase and expand; when one attends carelessly, unarisen doubt arises and arisen doubt increases and expands. Also, the unarisen enlightenment factor of mindfulness does not arise and the arisen enlightenment factor of mindfulness ceases … the unarisen enlightenment factor of equanimity does not arise and the arisen enlightenment factor of equanimity ceases.

“When one attends carefully, bhikkhus, unarisen sensual desire does not arise and arisen sensual desire is abandoned. When one attends carefully, unarisen ill will … sloth and torpor … restlessness and remorse … doubt does not arise and arisen doubt is abandoned. Also, the unarisen enlightenment factor of mindfulness arises and the arisen enlightenment factor of mindfulness comes to fulfilment by development … the unarisen enlightenment factor of equanimity arises and the arisen enlightenment factor of equanimity comes to fulfilment by development.” SN46.24

Also mindfulness is never seen in the suttas in the format above with the Five hindrances. Mindfulness is usually seen with the four foundations or sampjanna, which again differentiates it from yonisomanasikara.

Again this sutta (I cant access the English translation right now) shows how yonisomanasikara gives rise to the Noble eightfold path, and is not the same as the path (including right mindfulness, right concentration, etc). This seems to function via Right view, at each step, as noted in the MN117.

“Yathayidaṃ, bhikkhave, yoniso­ma­nasikā­ra­sam­padā. Yoniso­ma­nasikā­ra­sam­pannas­setaṃ, bhikkhave, bhikkhuno pāṭikaṅkhaṃ—ariyaṃ aṭṭhaṅgikaṃ maggaṃ bhāvessati, ariyaṃ aṭṭhaṅgikaṃ maggaṃ bahu­līka­ris­sati. Kathañca, bhikkhave, bhikkhu yoniso­ma­nasikā­ra­sam­panno ariyaṃ aṭṭhaṅgikaṃ maggaṃ bhāveti, ariyaṃ aṭṭhaṅgikaṃ maggaṃ bahulīkaroti? Idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhu sammādiṭṭhiṃ bhāveti rāga­vina­ya­pari­yosānaṃ dosa­vina­ya­pari­yosānaṃ moha­vina­ya­pari­yosānaṃ … pe … sammāsamādhiṃ bhāveti rāga­vina­ya­pari­yosānaṃ dosa­vina­ya­pari­yosānaṃ moha­vina­ya­pari­yosānaṃ. Evaṃ kho, bhikkhave, bhikkhu yoniso­ma­nasikā­ra­sam­panno ariyaṃ aṭṭhaṅgikaṃ maggaṃ bhāveti, ariyaṃ aṭṭhaṅgikaṃ maggaṃ bahulīkarotī”ti.
SN 45.90

In summary I believe yonisomanasikara is best translated as wise reflection. It cannot be reducing defilements by diverting attention as it wouldn’t fit in with the above suttas and it isn’t the same as indriya samvara. That wont give rise to Right view.

with metta


Manasikara is one of the five constituents of name nama. Yoniso and ayoniso stem from from this. Yoniso is translated as radical and ayoniso as un-radical. Consciousness is the culprit of everything and it happens along with nama.

So Sati is like a watchman who does the watching. That is, Sati, when practiced correctly ensures that yoniso manasikara is maintained at all times. Sati and manasikara has to co exist for the practice to flourish.
This is my understanding please.
With Metta


According to Abhidhamma Manasikara is a universal mental faculty. Even Buddha and Arahants possess the same.
Samma Sati is a wholesome mental faculty.
However, there is no mention about Ayoniso Manasikara as an unwholesome mental factor.
Any reason for this?

I am not a fan of Abhidhamma simply because scholars have proven beyond doubt that it is not a preaching of the Buddha. All what it does IMO is that it complicates things for the practitioner.

Samma Sati is the four establishings of mindfulness ie; body, feeling, mind and mental objects. It is called Samma because it is the true nature of body, feeling, mind and mental objects which one is mindful of.
With Metta

Nor have scholars proven beyond doubt that anything else IS a a preaching of the Buddha.

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You are absolutely correct. My point is that, again this is my personal view based on my own understanding of the teaching, Sutta Pitaka alone is sufficient for achieving liberation. Abhidamma too I think has its usefulness but it is not a necessity for liberation because as I said Suttas alone can do it.
With Metta

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That’s reasonable.

For some, Abhidhamma opens fruitful pathways of practice through investigation in more detail what the Buddha s/t only sketched. For others not so, who may be less inclined to such an analytical approach.

Generalizing one’s own preferences (as if they were true for everyone) can be a risky sort of view-holding.

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Link to discussion on DW


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I would say Yoniso Manasikara means wholesome mental factors and the Ayoniso Manasikara is Unwholesome mental factors.
Hence Samma Sati is Yoniso Manaskikara.
ie: Samma Sati is only one of the many wholesome factors.
Am I right?

Manasikara is ‘menehi kireema’ (reflection). It could mean ‘mind-act’, to put it bluntly. It doesn’t mean wholesome actions which is termed ‘kusala’. Instead it is a practice that leads to kusala. It is also only one practice that leads to kusala (it isn’t the only method of reaching kusala). Apart from leading to wholesome emotions (samatha) it also leads to panna/wisdom (Right view), as part of broader vipassana framework.

with metta


This is interesting. Let me try a simile. Suppose there rules a king over a country. This king has a mighty army which protects the four corners of this country. The king looks after the army very well and army in return takes care of the king and the country. Because of this mutual relationship the country overall is prosperous and peaceful.
Now this king is Sati, the mindfulness and the mighty army is the radical attention which protects the four corners of the four establishings of mindfulness. The whole country which is prosperous and peaceful is the wholesome mental state.
In short, Sati, yoniso manasikara and wholesome states co exist.
I am sure others can express this better but this is my two cents.
With Metta

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Thank you, Nimal.
Is Manasikara “Menehi Kirima” in Sinhalrase?

I would say it is the nature of the mind (Sithe Akaraya/Swabhawaya)
With Metta

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I agree.
We (Sri Lankan) use the term Manashara in our day to day language and this is the meaning we use it for.

then what is the difference, for you, between sammā samādhi and sammā sati, because for me they go like this:

sammā samādhi - right maintenance (in the present)

sammā sati - has the original meaning of right memory (about the past, recollecting past births, of course reversed from the tradition listing of the Noble Eightfold Path)

sampajañña/yoniso manasikāra - direction (for the future), seeing the rise and fall of beings (firstly within us) according to their kamma

vijjā - knowing the direction works or not for us in personal experience

Thanks for that, but I don’t think you are taking into account semantic shift and that texts from different periods would reflect changes in meaning. I have found this is usual in traditional Buddhism and even in ‘early Buddhist’ studies. I have not found any research on the possibility of semantic shift in Pāli, as acknowledged in other languages and believe it reflects an unwholesome faith in the commentaries.

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