How to Use the Course Materials
The purpose of this six week training is to familiarise participants with the intensive practise of mindfulness as taught by the Buddha in the Pāli Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta.
A table showing an overview of the course is available here.
Before you begin the module, it is important that you read Sangharakshita’s commentary on the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta called Living with Awareness (Windhorse Publications, ISBN). It’s a short book and there’s no need to take notes at this stage.
At some point soon a digital edition of this book will be available from Windhorse Publications.
There is also a free audio version of the entire book at Buddhist Audio Books, usefully laid out in chapters - this could be a good resource for the course.
It would also be helpful to have a copy of Anālayo’s Satipaṭṭhāna – the Direct Path to Realization (Windhorse Publications, ISBN 1899579540), which is referred to during the module and provides an excellent in-depth study of the Sutta (although you don’t need to read it before you begin the module).
The course consists of three phases:
1. Phase one is a single week (plus the prior preparation outlined above) grasping the theoretical basis. 2. Phase two is a three week training establishing the theory in your own experience.
3. Phase three comprises two weeks of deeper reflections and insight.
The principles of mindfulness were introduced during the Foundation Year (Part Three, Week Six, on the fifth precept) and within the Noble Eightfold Path module (in the section on Perfect Awareness). As well as clarifying principles, this course focuses on bringing the practice alive. Students are asked to commit strongly to practising mindfulness, taking to heart the Buddha’s concluding words in the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta:
“Monks, if anyone should develop these four Satipaṭṭhānas in such a way for seven years... six... five... four... three... two...one year... seven months... six... five... four... three... two... one... half a month...if anyone should develop these four Satipaṭṭhānas in such a way for seven days, one of two fruits could be expected for him: either final knowledge here and now, or, if there is a trace of clinging left, non-returning.”
Working with the material
Ideally a group will work together over the course: applying the teachings, staying in contact, checking in with one another, doing rituals that support mindfulness practice and determining to realise its fruits. For example over a week the group would:
• Prepare individually the relevant material, understanding it and putting it into practice.
• Read together a chosen section of the Satipaṭṭhāna text.
• Study Sangharakshita’s commentary on that section.
• Reflect on and discuss the ideas in various ways.
• Meditate together on relevant aspects of the practice.
• Celebrate ritually their aspirations for the practice.
• Take the practice home to continue throughout the next week.
The course leader will, if possible, work individually with each student, giving practice guidance and answering any theoretical questions that arise during the week. They may also vary the programme if they think it is appropriate.