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Template:About Smṛti (P. sati; T. dran pa དྲན་པ་; C. nian; J. nen; K. yŏm 念) is translated as mindfulness, awareness, inspection, recollection, etc. The meaning of smṛti/sati is sometimes glossed as "not forgetting", refering to either not forgetting one's practice instructions, or not forgetting to keep the mind focused on a particular object of meditation. This refers to keeping in mind a particular object of focus, such as the object of meditation (e.g. the breath), the meditation instructions, or one's vows, etc., and not letting the mind wander off in distraction. Bhikkhu Bodhi states: "as a mental factor it signifies presence of mind, attentiveness to the present, rather than the faculty of memory regarding the past."Template:Manual of Abhidhamma sv

Smṛti/sati is identified within the Buddhist teachings in the following contexts:

Definitions for the mental factor of smṛti/sati

Pali tradition (Sati)

A Comprehensive Manual of Abhidhamma states:

The word sati derives from a root meaning “to remember,” but as a mental factor it signifies presence of mind, attentiveness to the present, rather than the faculty of memory regarding the past. It has the characteristic of not wobbling, i.e. not floating away from the object. Its function is absence of confusion or non-forgetfulness. It is manifested as guardianship, or as the state of confronting an objective field. Its proximate cause is strong perception (thirasaññā) or the four foundations of mindfulness (see VII, §24).Template:Manual of Abhidhamma sv

The Atthasalini sates:

Mindfulness has "not floating away" as its characteristic, unforgetfulness as its function, guarding, or the state of facing the object, as its manifestation, firm remembrance (sanna) or application in mindfulness as regards the body, etc., as proximate cause. It should be regarded as a door-past from being firmly established in the object, and as a door-keeper from guarding the door of the senses.[1]

Nina van Gorkom explains:

There are many opportunities for generosity, for morality and for mental development, but we are often forgetful of kusala and we waste such opportunities. When mindfulness arises there is heedfulness of kusala and then the opportunity for kusala which presents, itself is not wasted. There has to be mindfulness with dana, with sila, with samatha and with the development of insight.[1]

Sanskrit tradition (Smṛti)

The Abhidharma-samuccaya states:

What is inspection? It is not to let what one knows slip away from one's mind. Its function is not to be distracted.Template:MBP sv

The Khenjuk states:

Recollection means not forgetting a known object. It's function is to inhibit distraction.Template:Gateway1 sv

StudyBuddhism states:

Recollecting mindfulness (dran-pa) is not merely holding on to any cognized object without losing it as an object of focus. Here, it prevents mental activity from forgetting or losing a constructive object with which it is familiar. It has three characteristics:
  • The object must be something constructive with which we are familiar (‘dris-pa)
  • The aspect (rnam-pa) must be that it is focused on this object and does not forget or lose it
  • The function must be that it prevents mental wandering.
Thus, mindfulness is equivalent to a type of “mental glue” (‘dzin-cha) that holds on to the object of focus without letting go. Its strength spans the spectrum from weak to strong.[2]

Dawa Chödak Rinpoche stated:

Drenpa is the seed of memory...our mind is always moving, touching this or that. If we have drenpa then we instantly remember, and we don’t touch... Drenpa is the horse’s bit. If drenpa is not there, the mind is like the wild horse. When you loose your drenpa, in that moment you are getting hesitation. Drenpa helps you to get you on the stage. It is memory. It is recollection. In that moment you are going to do a non-virtue and you remember your vows. That is drenpa. Forgetting is loss of drenpa.[3]


According to Robert Sharf, the meaning of these terms has been the topic of extensive debate and discussion.Template:Sfn Smṛti originally meant "to remember", "to recollect", "to bear in mind", as in the Vedic tradition of remembering sacred texts. The term sati also means "to remember". In the Satipațțhāna-sutta the term sati means to remember the dharmas, whereby the true nature of phenomena can be seen.Template:Sfn Sharf refers to the Milindapanha, which explained that the arisement of sati calls to mind the wholesome dhammas such as the four establishments of mindfulness, the five faculties, the five powers, the seven awakening-factors, the Noble Eightfold Path, and the attainment of insight.[4] According to Rupert Gethin, Template:Quote

Bhikkhu Bodhi also points to the meaning of "sati" as "memory": Template:Quote

John D. Dunne suggests that the translation of sati and smṛti as mindfulness is confusing and that a number of Buddhist scholars have started trying to establish "retention" as the preferred alternative.[5]

Alternate translations for smṛti/sati

The terms sati/smriti have been translated as:

  • Attention (Jack Kornfield)
  • Awareness
  • Concentrated attention (Mahasi Sayadaw)
  • Inspection (Herbert Guenther)
  • Mindful attention
  • Mindfulness
  • Recollecting mindfulness (Alexander Berzin)
  • Recollection (Erik Pema Kunsang, Buddhadasa Bhikkhu, John D. Dunne)
  • Reflective awareness (Buddhadasa Bhikkhu)
  • Remindfulness (James H. Austin)[6]
  • Retention
  • Self-recollection (Jack Kornfield)

Distinction from "Bare attention"

Georges Dreyfus has expressed unease with the definition of mindfulness as "bare attention" or "nonelaborative, nonjudgmental, present-centered awareness", stressing that mindfulness in Buddhist context means also "remembering", which indicates that the function of mindfulness also includes the retention of information. Dreyfus concludes his examination by stating: Template:Quote

Robert H. Sharf notes that Buddhist practice is aimed at the attainment of "correct view", not just "bare attention": Template:Quote

Jay Garfield, quoting Shantideva and other sources, stresses that mindfulness is constituted by the union of two functions, calling to mind and vigilantly retaining in mind. He demonstrates that there is a direct connection between the practice of mindfulness and the cultivation of morality – at least in the context of Buddhism from which modern interpretations of mindfulness are stemming.[7]

Smṛti-based practices

Smṛti is the focus of specific practices.


Ānāpānasati ("mindfulness of breathing"), is a form of meditation that focuses on feeling the sensations caused by the movements of the breath in the body, as is practiced in the context of mindfulness.


Satipaṭṭhāna ("Foundations of Mindfulness") is a well-known practice that focuses on "mindfulness" of one's body, feelings, mind, and phenomena. This practice is presented in the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta.

Combined with Samprajaña and apramāda

In Buddhist texts, "mindfulness" is often presented in conjuction with samprajaña ( "clear comprehension") and apramāda ("vigilance").[8]Template:Refn

In a publicly available correspondence between Bhikkhu Bodhi and B. Alan Wallace, Bodhi has described Ven. Nyanaponika Thera's views on "right mindfulness" and sampajañña as follows: Template:Quote

Ten forms of mindfulness (Ekottara Agama)

The Ekottara Āgama of the Chinese Canon indentifies ten forms of mindfulness:[9]

  1. mindfulness of the Buddha
  2. mindfulness of the Dharma
  3. mindfulness of the Sangha
  4. mindfulness of giving
  5. mindfulness of the heavens
  6. mindfulness of stopping and resting
  7. mindfulness of discipline
  8. mindfulness of breathing
  9. mindfulness of the body
  10. mindfulness of death

According to Nan Huaijin, the Ekottara Āgama emphasizes mindfulness of breathing more than any of the other methods, and provides the most specific teachings on this one form of mindfulness.[10]

See also


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  1. 1.0 1.1 Template:Cetasikas chapter
  2. Template:SB 51 mental factors
  3. Drenpa (Kunzang Dechen Chodron)
  4. Template:Cite journal
  5. Lecture, Stanford University Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, c 18:03 [1] Template:Webarchive
  6. James H. Austin (2014), Zen-Brain Horizons: Toward a Living Zen, MIT Press, p.83
  7. "Mindfulness and Ethics: Attention, Virtue and Perfection" by Jay Garfield
  8. "Mindfulness and the Mind," by Subhuti. Madhyamavani Online
  9. Nan Huaijin. Working Toward Enlightenment: The Cultivation of Practice. York Beach: Samuel Weiser. 1993. pp. 118-119, 138-140.
  10. Nan Huaijin. Working Toward Enlightenment: The Cultivation of Practice. York Beach: Samuel Weiser. 1993. p. 146.


External links

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