The Foundations of Mindfulness (The Satipatthana Sutta) translated by Eric Harrison

The Foundations of Mindfulness is the Buddha’s original manual for the training of attention.  2500 years on, it is still the most lucid and comprehensive explanation of mindfulness available to us. Both the modern mindfulness movement and 10-day Vipassana retreats draw their authority from this text. Unfortunately, almost no one nowadays reads it. The common translation is in Victorian English that is virtually indecipherable to non-experts. As a result, modern mindfulness owes more to the Zen practice of ‘Just Sitting’ and knows little about the Buddha’s more sophisticated approach. In 1975, I translated this text into workable English and made …

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Sati: the Analysis of a Word (Chapter 14)

For a text that is 2500 years old, the Sutta is remarkably easy to understand, so why is it so neglected? Part of the reason is the mistranslation and consequent misuse of its key term. In this chapter, I’ll try to answer just one question: what did the Buddha actually mean by sati, the word we now translate as ‘mindfulness’? As a result, this chapter is full of technical details and quotes from the traditional authorities. This is where I get pedantic. If you are new to the field, you don’t need to understand it all. It is quite sufficient …

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How the Sutta works (Chapter 15)

In the last chapter I described sati as sustained, purposeful attention. I will now explain how it is applied throughout the Sutta. Before I do so, I have to address an uncomfortable issue. The Buddha’s techniques are exquisitely practical, but his values are not ours. Above all, he was a monk with little sympathy for the ‘householder’ life. If you read the Pali Canon texts, it is obvious that seeking Nirvana entails physical seclusion, emotional detachment, a horror of sensuality and an indifference towards the world. Hardly anyone swallows this original Buddhist formula whole nowadays. It is far too cold …

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Why did I write this book?

In April 2017, my latest book ‘The Foundations of Mindfulness’ was published by The Experiment, New York, in three formats: paperless hardback, e-book and audiobook. My book is basically a translation of a much neglected old Buddhist text, and my commentary on it, with a particular emphasis on its practical application. Let me first explain my background. I am a full-time meditation teacher and author. I have taught 30-40,000 people since I opened the Perth Meditation Centre in Western Australia in 1987. I have also written six books on meditation which have now been translated into fifteen languages. The British …

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