So I have heard. At one time the Fortunate One was staying near Sāvatthī in the Eastern Monastery, the stilt longhouse of Migāra’s mother, together with several well-known senior disciples, such as the venerables Sāriputta, Mahāmoggallāna, Mahākassapa, Mahākaccāna, Mahākoṭṭhita, Mahākappina, Mahācunda, Anuruddha, Revata, Ānanda, and others.

Now at that time the senior practitioners were advising and instructing the junior practitioners. Some senior practitioners instructed ten practitioners, while some instructed twenty, thirty, or forty. Being instructed by the senior practitioners, the junior practitioners realized a higher distinction than they had before.

Now, at that time it was the sabbath—the full moon on the fifteenth day—and the Fortunate One was sitting surrounded by the Saṅgha of practitioners for the invitation to admonish. Then the Fortunate One looked around the Saṅgha of practitioners, who were so very silent. He addressed them:

“I am satisfied, practitioners, with this practice. My heart is satisfied with this practice. So you should rouse up even more energy for attaining the unattained, achieving the unachieved, and realizing the unrealized. I will wait here in Sāvatthī for the Komudi full moon of the fourth month.”

Practitioners from around the country heard about this, and came down to Sāvatthī to see the Fortunate One.

And those senior practitioners instructed the junior practitioners even more. Some senior practitioners instructed ten practitioners, while some instructed twenty, thirty, or forty. Being instructed by the senior practitioners, the junior practitioners realized a higher distinction than they had before.

Now, at that time it was the sabbath—the Komudi full moon on the fifteenth day of the fourth month—and the Fortunate One was sitting in the open surrounded by the Saṅgha of practitioners. Then the Fortunate One looked around the Saṅgha of practitioners, who were so very silent. He addressed them:

“This assembly has no nonsense, practitioners, it’s free of nonsense. It consists purely of the essential core. Such is this Saṅgha of practitioners, such is this assembly! An assembly such as this is worthy of offerings dedicated to the gods, worthy of hospitality, worthy of a religious donation, worthy of greeting with joined palms, and is the supreme field of merit for the world. Such is this Saṅgha of practitioners, such is this assembly! Even a small gift to an assembly such as this is fruitful, while giving more is even more fruitful. Such is this Saṅgha of practitioners, such is this assembly! An assembly such as this is rarely seen in the world. Such is this Saṅgha of practitioners, such is this assembly! An assembly such as this is worth traveling many leagues to see, even if you have to carry your own provisions in a shoulder bag.

For in this Saṅgha there are perfected practitioners, who have ended the distortions, completed the spiritual journey, done what had to be done, laid down the burden, achieved their own goal, utterly ended the fetters of rebirth, and are rightly freed through enlightenment. There are such practitioners in this Saṅgha.

In this Saṅgha there are practitioners who, with the ending of the five lower fetters are reborn spontaneously. They attain nirvana there, and are not liable to return from that world. There are such practitioners in this Saṅgha.

In this Saṅgha there are practitioners who, with the ending of three fetters, and the weakening of greed, hate, and delusion, are once-returners. They come back to this world once only, then make an end of [selfish] desire. There are such practitioners in this Saṅgha.

In this Saṅgha there are practitioners who, with the ending of three fetters are stream-enterers, not liable to be reborn in the underworld, bound for awakening. There are such practitioners in this Saṅgha.

In this Saṅgha there are practitioners who are committed to developing the four establishments of mindfulness … the four right efforts … the four bases of psychic power … the five faculties … the five powers … the seven awakening factors … the noble eightfold path. There are such practitioners in this Saṅgha. In this Saṅgha there are practitioners who are committed to developing the establishment on love … compassion … rejoicing … equanimity … ugliness … impermanence. There are such practitioners in this Saṅgha. In this Saṅgha there are practitioners who are committed to developing the establishment of mindfulness of breathing.

Practitioners, when mindfulness of breathing is developed and cultivated it is very fruitful and beneficial. Mindfulness of breathing, when developed and cultivated, fulfills the four establishments of mindfulness. The four establishments of mindfulness, when developed and cultivated, fulfill the seven awakening factors. And the seven awakening factors, when developed and cultivated, fulfill knowledge and freedom.

And how is mindfulness of breathing developed and cultivated to be very fruitful and beneficial?

It’s when a practitioner has gone to a wilderness, or to the root of a tree, or to an empty hut. They sit down cross-legged, with their body straight, and establish mindfulness right there. Just mindful, they breathe in. Mindful, they breathe out.

When breathing in heavily they know: ‘I’m breathing in heavily.’ When breathing out heavily they know: ‘I’m breathing out heavily.’ When breathing in lightly they know: ‘I’m breathing in lightly.’ When breathing out lightly they know: ‘I’m breathing out lightly.’ They practice breathing in experiencing the whole body. They practice breathing out experiencing the whole body. They practice breathing in stilling the body’s motion. They practice breathing out stilling the body’s motion.

They practice breathing in experiencing rapture. They practice breathing out experiencing rapture. They practice breathing in experiencing bliss. They practice breathing out experiencing bliss. They practice breathing in experiencing these emotions. They practice breathing out experiencing these emotions. They practice breathing in stilling these emotions. They practice breathing out stilling these emotions.

They practice breathing in experiencing the mind. They practice breathing out experiencing the mind. They practice breathing in gladdening the mind. They practice breathing out gladdening the mind. They practice breathing in immersing the mind in samadhi. They practice breathing out immersing the mind in samadhi. They practice breathing in freeing the mind. They practice breathing out freeing the mind.

They practice breathing in observing impermanence. They practice breathing out observing impermanence. They practice breathing in observing fading away. They practice breathing out observing fading away. They practice breathing in observing cessation. They practice breathing out observing cessation. They practice breathing in observing letting go. They practice breathing out observing letting go.

Mindfulness of breathing, when developed and cultivated in this way, is very fruitful and beneficial.

And how is mindfulness of breathing developed and cultivated so as to fulfill the four establishments of mindfulness?

Whenever a practitioner knows that they breathe heavily, or lightly, or experiencing the whole body, or stilling the body’s motion—at that time they’re abiding by observing an aspect of the body—keen, aware, and mindful, rid of desire and aversion for the world. For I say that the in-breaths and out-breaths are an aspect of the body. That’s why at that time a practitioner is abiding by observing an aspect of the body—keen, aware, and mindful, rid of desire and aversion for the world.

Whenever a practitioner practices breathing while experiencing rapture, or experiencing bliss, or experiencing these emotions, or stilling these emotions—at that time they abide observing an aspect of feelings—keen, aware, and mindful, rid of desire and aversion for the world. For I say that close attention to the in-breaths and out-breaths is an aspect of feelings. That’s why at that time a practitioners is abiding by observing an aspect of feelings—keen, aware, and mindful, rid of desire and aversion for the world.

Whenever a practitioner practices breathing while experiencing the mind, or gladdening the mind, or immersing the mind in samadhi, or freeing the mind—at that time they abide observing an aspect of the mind—keen, aware, and mindful, rid of desire and aversion for the world. There is no development of mindfulness of breathing for someone who is unmindful and lacks awareness, I say. That’s why at that time a practitioner is abiding by observing an aspect of the mind—keen, aware, and mindful, rid of desire and aversion for the world.

Whenever a practitioner practices breathing while observing impermanence, or observing fading away, or observing cessation, or observing letting go—at that time they abide observing an aspect of experience—keen, aware, and mindful, rid of desire and aversion for the world. Having seen with wisdom the giving up of desire and aversion, they watch over closely with equanimity. That’s why at that time a practitioner is abiding by observing an aspect of experience—keen, aware, and mindful, rid of desire and aversion for the world.

That’s how mindfulness of breathing, when developed and cultivated, fulfills the four establishments of mindfulness.

And how are the four establishments of mindfulness developed and cultivated so as to fulfill the seven awakening factors?

Whenever a practitioner abides by observing an aspect of the body, at that time their mindfulness is established and lucid. At such a time, a practitioner has activated the awakening factor of mindfulness; they develop it and perfect it.

As they live mindfully in this way they investigate, explore, and inquire into that principle with wisdom. At such a time, a practitioner has activated the awakening factor of investigation of experience; they develop it and perfect it.

As they investigate experience with wisdom in this way their energy is roused up and unflagging. At such a time, a practitioner has activated the awakening factor of energy; they develop it and perfect it.

When they’re energetic, spiritual rapture arises. At such a time, a practitioner has activated the awakening factor of rapture; they develop it and perfect it.

When the mind is full of rapture, the body and mind become tranquil. At such a time, a practitioner has activated the awakening factor of tranquility; they develop it and perfect it.

When the body is tranquil and they feel bliss, the mind becomes immersed in samadhi. At such a time, a practitioner has activated the awakening factor of samadhi; they develop it and perfect it.

They closely watch over that mind immersed in samadhi. At such a time, a practitioner has activated the awakening factor of equanimity; they develop it and perfect it.

Whenever a practitioner abides by observing an aspect of feelings … mind … experience, at that time their mindfulness is established and lucid. At such a time, a practitioner has activated the awakening factor of mindfulness … investigation of experience … energy … rapture … tranquility … samadhi … equanimity.

That’s how the four establishments of mindfulness, when developed and cultivated, fulfill the seven awakening factors.

And how are the seven awakening factors developed and cultivated so as to fulfill knowledge and freedom?

It’s when a practitioner develops the awakening factors of mindfulness, investigation of experience, energy, rapture, tranquility, samadhi, and equanimity, which rely on seclusion, fading away, and cessation, and ripen as letting go.

That’s how the seven awakening factors, when developed and cultivated, fulfill knowledge and freedom.”

That is what the Fortunate One said. Satisfied, the practitioners were happy with what the Fortunate One said.


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This work by Bhikkhu Sujato, revised by Jay Forrest is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Based on a public domain work at https://suttacentral.net/. Please reference it as: R-Sujato.

For more information: https://jayforrest.org/r-sujato-translation-explained/