What is the meaning of SN 47.42?

Dear Q & A forum

I read Bhikkhu Sujato’s translation of SN 47.42, which is:

“Mendicants, I will teach you the origin and the ending of the four kinds of mindfulness meditation.

“Catunnaṃ, bhikkhave, satipaṭṭhānānaṃ samudayañca atthaṅgamañca desessāmi.

Listen …

Taṃ suṇātha.

And what is the origin of the body?

Ko ca, bhikkhave, kāyassa samudayo?

The body originates from food.

Āhārasamudayā kāyassa samudayo;

When food ceases, the body ends.

āhāranirodhā kāyassa atthaṅgamo.

Feelings originate from contact.

Phassasamudayā vedanānaṃ samudayo;

When contact ceases, feelings end.

phassanirodhā vedanānaṃ atthaṅgamo.

The mind originates from name and form.

Nāmarūpasamudayā cittassa samudayo;

When name and form cease, the mind ends.

nāmarūpanirodhā cittassa atthaṅgamo.

Principles originate from attention.

Manasikārasamudayā dhammānaṃ samudayo;

When focus ends, principles end.”

manasikāranirodhā dhammānaṃ atthaṅgamo”ti.

I assume the term “atthaṅgamo” is not synonymous with “nirodha” (which appears generally connected to “liberation”).

My questions are:

  1. Is ‘satipaṭṭhānānaṃ atthaṅgamañca’ something negative, i.e., a loss of mindfulness?

  2. Is ‘satipaṭṭhānānaṃ samudayañca’ something positive, i.e., the arising of mindfulness?

If the answer to the above questions is ‘yes’, then:

  1. Is ‘manasikārasamudayā dhammānaṃ samudayo’ something positive, i.e., giving attention to Dhamma principles?

If not:

  1. Is SN 47.42 merely neutrally saying because there is a body (arising from food), because there is feeling (arising from contact), because there is citta (arising from nama-rupa) and because there is Dhamma principles (arising from attention), these four things (body, feeling, mind & Dhamma) will inevitably arise into consciousness when mindfulness is established?

Thank you :slightly_smiling_face:

1 Like

Tagging ajahn @sujato may help getting his attention and perspectives on the questions you have.

I was about to create a new topic called “How do you understand SN 47.42, AN 8.53, AN 10.58?” so I figured I would post my questions here.

Let me first try to answer some of the previous questions:

Bhikkhu Bodhi notes:

Here satipaṭṭhāna obviously refers to the four objects of mindfulness

Thanissaro Bhikkhu comments:

This discourse is unusual in that it identifies the word satipaṭṭhāna, not with the standard formula of the process of establishing mindfulness, but with the objects that form the frame of reference for that process. For example, instead of identifying the first satipaṭṭhāna as, “There is the case where a monk remains focused on the body in & of itself—ardent, alert, & mindful—subduing greed & distress with reference to the world,” it identifies it simply as “body.”

So it appears from this that it could have been translated:

Mendicants, I will teach you the origin and the ending [of the objects] of the four kinds of mindfulness meditation.

Same remark goes for question 2: it does not seem to refer to mindfulness per se but to its objects.

It would appear to be so at first glance, but this is where I find myself somewhat puzzled too. I’ll address that below.

I would guess that the goal here is to observe both the arising and passing away of the four objects as a satipatthana practice.

The thing that I find a bit strange arises from the following passage:

SN 47.42

manasikārasamudayā dhammānaṃ samudayo; manasikāranirodhā dhammānaṃ atthaṅgamo”ti.

Bhante Sujato:

Principles originate from attention. When focus ends, principles end.

Thanissaro Bhikkhu:

“From the origination of attention is the origination of mental qualities. From the cessation of attention is the subsiding of mental qualities.”

Bhikkhu Bodhi:

With the origination of attention there is the origination of phenomena. With the cessation of attention there is the passing away of phenomena.”

Bhikkhu Bodhi quotes the Commentary:

Spk: The phenomena of the enlightenment factors originate through careful attention; the phenomena of the hindrances through careless attention.

Thanissaro Bhikkhu further comments:

Mental qualities = dhammas. SN 46:51 discusses the ways in which inappropriate attention feeds such unskillful mental qualities as the hindrances, whereas appropriate attention feeds such skillful mental qualities as the factors for awakening.
Dhammas can also mean “phenomena,” “events,” or “actions.” It is apparently in connection with these three meanings that AN 10:58 lists three factors underlying the appearance of dhammas:
“‘All phenomena are rooted in desire.
“‘All phenomena come into play through attention.
“‘All phenomena have contact as their origination.’”

So it would appear from this that in SN 47.42, when it says

Manasikārasamudayā dhammānaṃ samudayo

it does not refer to all dhammā, but only to those that are mentioned in DN 22 (Mahasatipatthana Sutta), meaning the hindrances, factors of awakening, 4NT etc., which makes sense because we are told at the beginning that we are talking here specifically about the satipatthanas.

However, if we take a look at AN 8.53 and AN 10.58, they state:

manasikārasambhavā sabbe dhammā

Now it appears at first glance that samudaya and sambhava are more or less synonymous (perhaps that can be further discussed). This seems a bit puzzling and may also hint that in SN 47.42, the meaning of dhamma may not necessarily be restricted to the hindrances, factors of awakening, 4NT etc.

If all dhammas originate through manasikāra, it would seem that “phenomena”, “mental phenomena”, “mental qualities” aren’t appropriate translations for “dhamma”, since phenomena, mental phenomena and mental qualities do not require manasikāra to arise (subconscious mental activity etc.).

So what do you make of this?

[quote=“silence, post:3, topic:13673”]
Bhikkhu Bodhi notes:


This post will be deleted

Hi. SN 47.42 revolves around the words samudaya & atthaṅgama. These two words are most clearly used in SN 22.5:

And what is the origin of form, feeling, perception, choices, and consciousness?
Ko ca, bhikkhave, rūpassa samudayo, ko vedanāya samudayo, ko saññāya samudayo, ko saṅkhārānaṁ samudayo, ko viññāṇassa samudayo?
It’s when a mendicant approves, welcomes, and keeps clinging.
Idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhu abhinandati abhivadati ajjhosāya tiṭṭhati.

And what is the ending of form, feeling,
Ko ca, bhikkhave, rūpassa atthaṅgamo, ko vedanāya …
ko saññāya …
ko saṅkhārānaṁ …
and consciousness?
ko viññāṇassa atthaṅgamo?
It’s when a mendicant doesn’t approve, welcome, or keep clinging.
Idha, bhikkhave, nābhinandati nābhivadati nājjhosāya tiṭṭhati.

SN 22.5

Stock phrases in many suttas, such as MN 38, say the four nutrients originate (samudaya) from craving. Therefore, the following verse from SN 47.42 seems obviously inherently unwholesome:

And what is the origin of the body?

Ko ca, bhikkhave, kāyassa samudayo?

The body originates from food.

Āhārasamudayā kāyassa samudayo;

Since SN 22.5 says samudaya is “when a mendicant approves, welcomes and keeps clinging”, it seems the body originates from food (nutriment) when a mendicant keeps clinging to food.

To the contrary, when a mendicant stops clinging to food, the body “settles down” (“atthaṅgamo”).

Similarly, when there is welcoming &/or clinging towards contact & namarupa, various feelings & unwholesome states of citta (such as greed, hatred & delusion) will arise.

Based on the above, which Thanissaro also concludes in his 2nd footnote, the “attention” referred to must be inappropriate attention.

Therefore the opening phrase in SN 47.42, if taken literally (rather than coming to the conclusions about “objects” both Bodhi & Thanissaro claimed were “obvious” despite such later-day ideas not existing during the Buddha’s time) seems to be saying: “What happens when Satipatthana practise goes wrong; and what happens when Satipatthana practise goes right?

Note: SN 22.5 uses the word “ajjhosāya” as follows:

approves, welcomes, and keeps clinging.
abhinandati abhivadati ajjhosāya
doesn’t approve, welcome, or keep clinging.
nābhinandati nābhivadati nājjhosāya .

Note: Satipatthana uses the word “abhijjhā” as follows:

keen, aware, and mindful, rid of desire and aversion for the world.
ātāpī sampajāno satimā vineyya loke abhijjhādomanassaṁ.

Are these two words related? :face_with_open_eyes_and_hand_over_mouth:

hanging on, cleaving to, being bent on,
cp. Sk. adhyavasita, from adhi + ava + ;

grasps, clings to; relishes
adhi + ava + sayati, , to bind, pp. sita


  1. longing for; covetousness

fr. abhi + dhyā (jhāyati1), cp. Sk. abhidhyāna

No. These two words do not seem related. :smile:

However, I disagree with the Opening Post, Bodhi & Thanissaro. Contrary to the Opening Post, Bodhi & Thanissaro: 1. satipaṭṭhānānaṃ atthaṅgama seems something positive (wholesome/skillful) and 2. satipaṭṭhānānaṃ samudaya seems something negative (unwholesome/unskillful). :slightly_smiling_face:

My personal interim view, at this time, is MN 10, DN 22, SN 47.42, AN 8.53 & AN 10.58 are a late genre of suttas; not spoken by the Buddha. They all use the word ‘samudaya’ in a way that is not inherently unwholesome, which seems contrary to the bulk of the suttas.

AN 8.53 & AN 10.58 say strange things such as “freedom is their core; they culminate in the deathless”. If this is true then this can only apply to wholesome dhammas. If this is true then it seems ‘samudaya’ in AN 10.58 cannot apply to wholesome dhammas. For example, SN 45.57–62 uses the word “uppāda” for the “arising” of the Noble Path.

My basic (inconclusive) impression is samudaya and sambhava are more or less synonymous; because I have mostly read them in unwholesome contexts. AN 10.105, which is about Right Knowledge, interestingly uses the word “pahoti” for how right view gives rise to right intention, etc, and how wrong view gives rise to wrong intentions. But in AN 10.106 and the suttas following it, the word “sambhavanti” is used for how exclusively wrong dhammas give rise to other wrong dhammas. Similarly, and rarely discussed, causing confusion for at least one famous Oxford scholar, at the start of MN 38, which is about samsara, the Buddha refers to the “sambhava” of consciousness that can only be “dependently originated”, which then most readers & scholars immediately & probably erroneously correlate with the next discussion about the six-fold “uppajjati” of consciousness. My personal view is the “sambhava” of consciousness in the 1st part of MN 38 does not mean the “uppajjati” of consciousness in the 2nd part of MN 38. The 1st part is about how the “sabhava” of consciousness contributes to samsara and the 2nd part is simply about how consciousness up-rises due to the sense bases. In general, I have read “sabhava” used so many times for the production of unwholesome dhammas.

Note: I would be happy to read suttas that refer to the “sambhava” of wholesome Path factors but so far I have not read any, apart from AN 8.53 and AN 10.58. :slightly_smiling_face:

This sutta, SN 47.42 (=SA 609), regarding the origination and the passing away of the four stations/establishments of mindfulness, seems to have close connection with the concept of four aharas/nutriments in the Nidana Samyutta of SN and SA. See pp. 202-204 in Choong Mun-keat’s Fundamental Teachings of Early Buddhism :
Pages 202-204 from The Fundamental Teachings of Early Buddhism Choong Mun-keat 2000.pdf (221.5 KB)

As for the practice of the four stations of mindfulness, SN 47.2 = SA 622 (see p. 216) is very useful:
p. 216 in The Fundamental Teachings of Early Buddhism Choong-Mun-keat 2000.pdf (83.0 KB)

Very good. The 1st nutriment is physical food, the 2nd nutriment is contact, the 3rd nutriment is volition (which is a constituent of nama-rupa) and the 4th nutriment is consciousness. Choong Mun-keat may have been onto something here. While I did not read Choong Mun-keat’s commentary, this would support my interpretation the “arisings” in SN 47.42 are inherently unwholesome. While the Pali in the opening question of SN 47.42 is clearly in genitive case, it would be clearer in locative case, for example, what is arising in relation to the four satipatthana?; what is settling down in relation to the four satipatthana?. :slightly_smiling_face:

Correction: I wanted to refer to AN 8.83 and not AN 8.53

That would indeed annihilate the need for an explanation, but there doesn’t seem to be quite enough conclusive data about SN 47.42, AN 8.83 and AN 10.58 to raise that opinion to the level of established fact.

Just to clarify, what I am trying to understand is how all dhammas originate from manasikara (attention), and if that should have a bearing on how to understand SN 47.42

I think origin is a misleading gloss for samudaya.
The term seems to mean “appears in dependence on” or “appears contingent upon”.

So to take it that the “origin” or “cause” of dhammas (phenomena) is attention makes no sense, but to say that phenomena appear to the subject contingent on their attention makes perfect sense.

Like we do not say that the cause of Barry’s death was Barry’s birth, that makes no sense, but Barry dying being contingent on Barry’s having been born makes perfect sense.

Likewise it is simply false to say that fuel is the cause of a fire or that fire “originates” from its fuel, there being a fire is contingent on thier having been fuel, there being a fire depends on thier being fuel. Fuel does not (by itself) cause fire.