Kāyānupassanā – Section on Postures (Iriyāpathapabba)

1. Let us first clarify what kāyānupassanā means. There are two interchangeably used meanings for “kāya”: one is the body, the other is whatever is involved in “kriya” or “actions”. In kāyānupassanā the latter is more general. This section on postures is based on body postures, but is still concerned with all “actions” done via all six senses. This will become clear as we proceed below.

  • It is normally written as “kāyānupassanā”, and is ALWAYS pronounced as “kāyānupassanā”.
  • In interacting with the world, we see visuals (rupa) with eyes, hear sounds with ears, smell odors with nose, taste with the tongue, touch (pottabba) with body, and think about concepts (dhamma) with the mind.
  • Thus there are six internal “kāya”, and six external “kāya” involved in experiencing the world. Thus we are concerned with both the internal sense faculties (ajjhatta, pronounced “ajjhaththa”) and the six external entities (bahiddha), while we are in any of the four main postures of sitting, standing, walking, or lying down.

2. When one starts on the Path, one does not need to believe in anything that the Buddha (or anybody else) said about the true nature of the world. One can start with a simple goal of “getting some peace of mind” or “get some relief from the day-to-day stresses of this world”, i.e., get to the “atāpi” stage.

  • One can keep an open mind on whether there is rebirth or not, whether the concept of kamma is correct or not (of course one should not rule out those either; that would be “niyata micchā diṭṭhi” and one WILL NOT be able to make any progress); see, “How do we Decide which View is Wrong View (Diṭṭhi)?“.

3. The Buddha said that the mind is burdened by greed, hate, and ignorance. It is not easy to see “the truth” (i.e., to remove ignorance) because the mind is normally “covered” by strong versions of greed and hate called “kāmaccandha” (one becomes blind by greed) and “vyāpāda” (one keeps going downward with intense hate); you can do keyword searches to find related posts.

  • And these two, kāmaccandha and vyāpāda are the main culprits for making a mind stressful, and for causing “inside fires”. Thus by forcibly removing any thoughts of extreme greed and hate as they come to the mind, one can get relief in real time. One does not have to wait for “effects of kamma to materialize”. Such benefits will be there too, but one WILL be able to experience more immediate benefits.
  • This is the beginning of “cooling down” or experiencing nirāmisa sukha, as explained in the post, “Three Kinds of Happiness”.

4. As explained in the previous post, “Satipaṭṭhāna – Introduction”, we start by disciplining our actions through speech and bodily actions, because they have a “time lag” and there is enough time to stop them willfully.

  • We can start with the conventional five precepts. Without that basic discipline, one CANNOT get any kind of long-lasting peace of mind, no matter how much time one spends in meditation.
  • If one is engaged in any of these five (intentional killing of living beings, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, and using alcohol excessively or using drugs), and can abstain from them one should be able to experience the benefits of that in the near term.

5. After that one can tackle the BIG EIGHT (killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, gossiping, slandering, harsh speech, and getting “drunk” with not only drugs or alcohol, but also with wealth, fame, power, etc); see, “The Basics in Meditation”.

6. The kāyānupassanā of the satipatthāna consists of six sections or “pabba“:

Anāpānapabba (section on “ānapāna“)
Iriyāpathapabba (section on postures)
Sampajānapabba (section on habits)
Patikulamanasikārapabba (section on contemplation of body parts)
Dhatumanasikāra (section on contemplation of elements)
Navasivathikapabba (section on contemplation of the decay of a body)

  •  We have already discussed ānapāna in several posts, starting with “What is Anapana?“.

7. The “Iriyāpathapabba” section of the Kāyānupassanā in the Satipaṭṭhāna sutta is all about how to abstain from committing an immoral act AT ANY TIME.

  • We have four postures or“iriya”: sitting, standing, walking, and in the sleeping position (laying flat).
  • In any posture, we need to be vigilant on what we are about to do or speak. This is the beginning of “satipatthāna”, being “morally mindful” at all times.
  • When a thought comes to mind to say something or to do something (whether sitting, standing, walking, or lying down), we need to get into the habit of contemplating their consequences.

8. For example, we may be walking on the street and see someone, whom we do not like, coming our way. If we get the tendency to say something bad, we have enough time to contemplate the bad consequences and stop saying those words.

  • We may be lying in bed and getting bored, and may decide to go and see a friend to do some “gossiping” for fun. We have time to think about it and see whether we can use that time more productively.
  • Sometimes we get “nasty e-mails”; someone pointing out an allegedly bad deed that we have done. We get that immediate “tāpa” or “heating up” in our heart because we get so perturbed by that false accusation. We tend to fire up an equally nasty e-mail back to that person. But we need to take time and contemplate a better action. Give that person the benefit of the doubt; may be he/she did not do it to aggravate us, or truly was misled. Of course, there are people who do such things purposely to aggravate, but even then it is better to ignore it, rather than letting it develop into a worse situation. Learning to keep away from such troublemakers is a habit that we learn to develop. By responding in kind, it will not help quenching the “fires”.

9. We need to constantly ask ourselves “why am I going to do this? Why am I going to say this?”. If the outcome of that action could hurt us or someone else, we need to think about a different way, or totally abandon it.

  • It is sad to see that many people waste their time “walking mindfully” one step at a time, just concentrating on taking each step, or “lifting their arm mindfully” This is the ‘iriyāpathapabba” that is being practiced in most places. How can that procedure lead to a long-lasting peace of mind? Of course, just like doing breath meditation, it can make a person calm for the time being; that is the ONLY benefit.
  • And it is not enough to do this in a formal session. This needs to become a habit (a keyword search can be done to find more on habits; developing habits is the key to change those all important “gati”). Buddha Dhamma is all about purifying the mind.

10. If one can do this for a week or so, one should be able to see a change in oneself; a sense of tranquility, a “peace of mind”. Of course some of you may be there already. We will discuss how to take the next step in the next post.

  • When one is at this stage, it will be easier to get into samādhi, even if one is just doing the “breath meditation”. A moral mind is easy to be calmed. Many people do horrible acts on the spur-of-the-moment because they do not have this mindset or habit. Also see, “Possible Outcomes of Meditation – Samadhi, Jhana, Magga Phala“.

Next, “Kāyānupassanā – The Section on Habits (Sampajānapabba)“, ………


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