Sunday, 3 October 2010

A slight prologue to Mahasatipatthanasutta

There are two discourses on the foundation of mindfulness (Mahæsatipa¥¥hænasutta), one is found in the Døghanikæya (long discourse of the Buddha) and the other is found in the Majjimanikæya  (middle length discourse of the Buddha). Both discourses offer precise procedures which are required in establishing mindfulness. The former discourse, which is contained in the Døghanikæya, has a supplementary component on the development of four noble truths, which is not found in the Majjimanikæya. There are two commentaries on these discourses written by the Buddhaghosa around fifth century and subsequently developed two sub-commentaries written by Dhammapæla, around sixth/seventh century.  The commentary to Døghanikæya is known as Suma³galavisæsinø and its sub-commentary as Lønatthapakæsinø. Similarly, the commentary to Majjimanikæya is known as Papañcasþdanø and its sub-commentary Lønatthapakæsinø.
No scholar has been translated on any part of these commentaries into English. I have translated about five pages from Mahæsatipa¥¥hænasutta va¼¼anæ, a commentary on the Mahæsatipa¥¥hænasutta of of Døghanikæya. I was not aware of the predicament of this translation in the beginning. As I work on the translation, I found many compound and even complex words together, which are not possible to translate without additional information, for example Æramma¼ædhipatisahajætabhþmikammavipækakiriyædinæ- nattabhedænaµ(by means of the diversities of senses, masters, togetherness, realms, actions, results, functions and so on). This additional information is really not clearly explained. A reader without basic knowledge on such a concept is unlikely to understand by merely reading the commentary.
There are also many plural terms, for examples when the text explains about the six senses, only eyes sensation is mentioned and the remaining five senses are concluded with ‘ædi=etc’. The commentator means to include the remaining senses. This is completely different from the original pæli discourse where we find each name of sensation.
There are a number of passages of similes used in this commentary in which the Buddha compared with a bamboo-plaiter, and geologist; a meditating bhikkhu with leopard; mind with a calf; mindfulness with a rope.
There are many verses in this commentary quoted from another texts and treaties. Among them the verses “Just as the man (cowherd) willing to tame a calf may tie it to a post; even so one’s mind should be tied firmly to a post of meditative sense in this Sæsanæ” and Just as a leopard hiding himself in the forest seizes beasts, even so the bhikkhu, the son of Buddha, who has meditation practised and observes several phenomena, having entered the forest, seizes four noble fruitions are merely quoted from unidentified authors what they are called “Ancient teachers”. These verses can also be found in different commentaries such as Pæræjikaka¼ðaa¥¥hakathæ (vol.2. p-12,), Visuddhimaggaa¥¥hakathæ (vol. 1, p-217) and pa¥isambhidæmaggaa¥¥hakathæ (vol.2. p-163). However, it is still not clear who exactly composed these verses.
All in all, the explanation of Mahæsatipa¥¥hænasuttava¼¼anæ is acceptable to all of the Dhamma seekers due to its practical level of quality and meditative techniques.

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