Learning & Practice

Satipatthana Sutta: Contemplating Internally, Externally, and Both Internally and Externally

"Through the cultivation of mindfulness, we come to see that the internal, the external, and both the internal and external are interconnected and interdependent, and that by embracing this interconnectedness, we can cultivate greater compassion, wisdom, and transformation in our lives."

Jesse Foy

The Satipatthana Sutta, one of the foundational teachings of Buddhism, emphasizes the importance of contemplating internally, externally, and both internally and externally. Today, we’ll explore this contemplation from Three perspectives. Each perspective offers unique insights related to the establishment of mindfulness and our dharma practice as a whole.

Contemplating Self and Other

The first way of contemplation invites us to view our personal experience, both physically and mentally, from the perspective of self and others. We are invited to observe our individual experience of the body, feelings, mind-heart, and actions as well as contemplate the experience of others. By understanding ourselves, we can begin to understand others, and by understanding others, we can gain a deeper understanding of ourselves.

Contemplating both self and other, we can see how each affects the other and how our thoughts and actions impact others and how others impact us. This perspective can also be helpful in cultivating positive relationships and resolving conflicts with others.

Furthermore, this practice can help us to recognize our interconnectedness, cultivate compassion and empathy, and develop a shared humanity between self and other.

Contemplating the Internal and External

A second way of contemplation involves the observation of the inner world of thoughts, feelings, and mental events, as well as the external world of our present moment environment. It highlights the interconnectedness between internal and external events, where external and internal events are mutually interdependent and co-create one another.

By cultivating mindfulness of the inner and outer world, we can gain a deeper understanding of how our internal experiences influence our perceptions of the external world and vice versa. This understanding can help us to develop greater awareness of the patterns and habits that govern our lives and to make positive changes.

Additionally, by contemplating both the internal and external, we can begin to recognize the impermanence and transience of all things, leading to greater acceptance of change and an appreciation of the present moment.

Contemplating Interdependence

The third way of contemplation involves contemplating the interdependence of all things. It recognizes that we, as individuals, are not separate from the greater whole, the web of life. Likewise, the whole is not separate from the individual.

Through this contemplation, we can see that all things arise within an interconnected web of systems, full of ever-changing causes and conditions that are born into each moment. The concepts of emptiness, dependent origination, and karma can be understood through the practice of contemplating internally, externally, and both internally and externally.

By understanding the interconnectedness of all things, we can begin to cultivate a deeper appreciation for our interconnectedness and a sense of responsibility for our actions and a greater commitment to the well-being of all beings.

A Wholistic Approach

Each of these ways of contemplation is unique, yet they are all interconnected and interdependent. They offer different perspectives on how to cultivate mindfulness and insight, and together they provide a more wholistic approach to Buddhist practice.

A wholistic approach to the practice of Satipatthana invites us to contemplate internally, externally, and both internally and externally, and to see the interconnectedness of all things. Through these different perspectives, we can gain a more comprehensive understanding of ourselves, others, and the world around us.

This understanding can lead to greater compassion, wisdom, and transformation in our lives. May we continue to cultivate mindfulness and insight, embracing the interconnectedness of all things.

Contemplations and Practice

Be mindful of what is going on within yourself, others, the world, and the relational web of interdependence that all of these thing arise within.

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