Abhayagiri 2015 Winter Retreat

The Four Foundations of Mindfulness

Ajahn Pasanno, Ajahn Karuṇadhammo, and Ajahn Ñaniko

Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastery, Redwood Valley, California

January 1 to March 31, 2015

Which four? There is the case where a monk remains focused on the body in & of itself—ardent, alert, & mindful—subduing greed & distress with reference to the world. He remains focused on feelings... mind... mental qualities in & of themselves—ardent, alert, & mindful—subduing greed & distress with reference to the world.” – Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta (MN 10)

Introductory Talks – Ajahn Pasanno, January 6 – January 9

Mindfulness of the Body – Ajahns Karuadhammo and Pasanno, January 10 – January 22

Thirty-two Parts of the Body video slideshows, January 14-15

Mindfulness the Gatekeeper – Ajahn Pasanno, January 23 – February 1

The Structure of Breath Meditation – Ajahns Pasanno and Ñaniko, February 2 – February 9

The Urgency of Practice – Ajahns Ñaniko and Pasanno, February 10 – February 19

Fleshing Out the Four Tetrads – Ajahns Pasanno and Karuadhammo, February 20 – March 10

Body: February 2728; Feeling: February 28March 3; Mind: March 39; Mental qualities: March 10

The 2013 Abhayagiri Winter Retreat CD is an in-depth discussion of mindfulness of dhammas/mental qualities.

Mindfulness of Feeling and Mind – Ajahns Pasanno and Ñaniko, March 15 – March 29


Group Photograph

Dedication to Ruth Denison

Introductory Talks

Broadly Established Mindfulness – Ajahn Pasanno, January 6, 2015

After the Abhayagiri community begins the retreat with the ceremony of taking dependence, Ajahn Pasanno explains the meaning of dependence, the importance of mindfulness, and how mindfulness connects with the eightfold path. He explains how to look after both oneself and others with mindfulness using the Simile of the Acrobat (SN 47:19).

Right Effort and Mindfulness – Ajahn Pasanno, January 7, 2015

Ajahn Pasanno reflects upon the question: “What kind of effort do we need to conform with what the Buddha means by mindfulness?” He answers in terms of the four aspects of right effort, the seven qualities of Dhamma the Buddha taught to Upali (AN 7:79), and the Buddha's description of how he crossed the flood (SN 1:1).

Mindfulness and Clear Comprehension – Ajahn Pasanno, January 8, 2015

The commentary explains sampajañña (clear comprehension / alertness) as clear comprehension of purpose, suitability, domain, and non-delusion. Ajahn Pasanno describes how each of these factors relate to the practice of mindfulness.

Ardent, Alert, and Mindful – Ajahn Pasanno, January 9, 2015

Cautioning against trusting our assumptions about the nature of mindfulness, Ajahn Pasanno reviews several key passages in the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta (MN 10).

Mindfulness of the Body

Advantages of Mindfulness, Disadvantages of Attachment – Ajahn Karuṇadhammo, January 10, 2015

Readings from Body Contemplation: A Study Guide by Ṭhanissaro Bhikkhu:


(12:40) Do non-returners fear death?

(30:18) How does mindfulness of the body relate to feeling (vedana)?

The Kāyagatāsati Sutta (MN 119) – Ajahn Karuṇadhammo, January 11, 2015

This sutta describes the development of mindfulness of the body through mindfulness of breathing, the four postures, full awareness, bodily parts, elements, corpse contemplation, and the four jhānas.


(28:00) What is mesentery?

(29:26) Why are some body parts omitted from this list?

(32:32) This reminds me of Ajahn Anan's practice.

(34:06) What do the Pāḷi terms translated as impurity and foulness mean?

Thirty-Two Parts Slideshow 1 (mp4 video) – Ajahn Karuṇadhammo, January 14, 2015

The contemplation of the parts of the body can be used to reduce sexual craving, to still the mind, and to induce insight into the nature of the body. In the first slideshow, Ajahn Karuṇadhammo gives a brief description of the structure and function of each of the thirty-two parts. Page 37 of the Abhayagiri Chanting Book lists the thirty-two parts in Pali and English. Many of the slide show images come from 32parts.com, an internet resource for body contemplation.


(29:05) What is the length of an average small intestine?

(29:24) How long does it take food to make its way through the digestive tract?

(35:58) Is blood only red when it's outside the body?

(38:30) Is there a biological function for tears?

(40:17) How does phlegm relate to mucus?

(42:41) Can you contemplate removing the parts one by one?

Thirty-Two Parts Slideshow 2 (mp4 video) – Ajahn Karuṇadhammo, January 15, 2015

Ajahn Karuṇadhammo reviews the slideshow again with an emphasis on internal contemplation and insight.


(9:28) Why is there no liquid blood in the photographs of flesh and sinews?

(15:20) Where does a stomach ache originate from?

(15:52) Is there a particular orientation for the intestines?

(17:47) Perhaps the thirty-one parts were part of the medical culture at the time of the Buddha.

(29:55) I cultivate saṁvega by contemplating the heart.

(30:25) Why are the first five parts chosen for special contemplation?

Ajahn Chah Remembrance Day – Ajahn Pasanno, January 16, 2015

On the twenty-second anniversary of Ajahn Chah's passing, Ajahn Passano reads of the founding of Wat Pah Pong and a Westerner's contemporary reflection on Ajahn Chah.

Contemplation of Death – Ajahn Karuṇadhammo, January 17, 2015


(29:03) Further comments about the Lam Rim teachings

(30:13) Reflections on visiting the morgue in Thailand

Elements 1 – Ajahn Karuṇadhammo, January 18, 2015


(29:26) Has there been discussion of getting a skeleton for Abhayagiri?

(30:28) Is it common for body contemplation to veer towards aversion?

Elements 2 – Ajahn Pasanno, January 21, 2015

Elements 3 – Ajahn Pasanno, January 22, 2015


(21:33) Does the imbalance mentioned come from focusing in too much on a single element?

(22:12) Two monks express appreciation for this meditation technique.

(24:54) What did Winnie-the-Pooh say about intellect versus understanding?

Mindfulness the Gatekeeper

(Chapter 1 in Right Mindfulness by Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu)

Mindfulness the Gatekeeper 1 – Ajahn Pasanno, January 23, 2015


(13:16) Present moment awareness and remembering the past are not mutually exclusive.

(28:23) How can one be mindful of the beginning of thought?

(35:55) Could you clarify the last two foundations of mindfulness?

(37:26) Could you clarify “the body in the body?”

Mindfulness the Gatekeeper 2 – Ajahn Pasanno, January 24, 2015


(11:37) What does “headed by” refer to?

(23:15) Is the Buddha quoted as saying “I teach a path of the application of effort?”

(26:25) Is there a distinction between viriya and vayama?

(26:51) Can you speak about the roots of wholesome and unwholesome desire?

(30:48) How can you strive without becoming tense and grim?

(33:10) Can you tell the story of Ajahn Sumedho bringing the “farang Buddha” to Ajahn Chah?

Mindfulness the Gatekeeper 3 – Ajahn Pasanno, January 25, 2015


(26:26) Why is the intellect not included in the five cords of sensual pleasure?

(32:42) Why doesn't the passage mention obsession with painful objects?

Mindfulness the Gatekeeper 4 – Ajahn Pasanno, January 26, 2015


(8:05) If you observe that you are angry, do you use effort to abandon anger or just watch it?

(9:25) Does the term mindfulness always imply right mindfulness?

(33:12) What word does the translator (Saddhatissa) render as “immortality?”

(33:40) What is a plowshare?

(34:07) How does mindfulness relate to choice? (continuing the anger question)

Mindfulness the Gatekeeper 5 – Ajahn Pasanno, January 29, 2015


(8:29) What are the rewards for the skillful monk?

Mindfulness the Gatekeeper 6 – Ajahn Pasanno, January 30, 2015


(20:43) How does cruelty differ from ill will?

(24:01) What are antidotes to the strained, tired mind?

(30:20) Is pain an obstacle to reaching right concentration?

(34:23) Can jhana occur in walking meditation?

Mindfulness the Gatekeeper 7 – Ajahn Pasanno, January 31, 2015


(6:40) What is your experience of directed thought and evaluation?

(9:25) Does the consistency of vicara correlate with samadhi?

(15:11) What does Ajahn Geoff mean by “frames of reference?”

(20:07) Is “arising and vanishing” the same as “arising and ceasing?”

(25:09) How does the general sense of awareness fit into the jhana factors?

Mindfulness the Gatekeeper 8 – Ajahn Pasanno, February 1, 2015


(5:50) Is it easy for a person with attainments to deal with the world?

The Structure of Breath Meditation

(Chapter 6 in Right Mindfulness by Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu)

The Ānānpānasati Sutta (MN 118)Ajahn Pasanno, February 2, 2015

This sutta describes how the sixteen steps of mindfulness of breathing fufill the four foundations of mindfulness, which in turn fufill the seven factors of enlightenment.


(23:37) Which Pāli word is translated as “fading away?”

(24:38) How does nirodha differ from arising and ceasing?

(27:52) How do you practice with painful feeling?

(30:53) What does “know the mind as mind; know feeling as feeling” mean?

(35:11) Should the sixteen steps be practiced simultaneously?

(39:43) “How do I get me some of that non-grasping stuff?” - Ajahn Sucitto

The Structure of Breath Meditation 1 – Ajahn Ñaniko, February 5, 2015

The Structure of Breath Meditation 2 – Ajahn Ñaniko, February 6, 2015


(31:49) Why does the Buddha describe perception in terms of colors but consciousness in terms of tastes?

(37:40) Could you say that perception is identification whereas consciousness is more refined?

The Structure of Breath Meditation 3 – Ajahn Ñaniko, February 8, 2015

The Structure of Breath Meditation 4 – Ajahn Ñaniko, February 9, 2015


(16:46) Can you speak about when to use which aspects of satipatthāna?

(18:22) Could anyone give examples of how to apply the enlightenment factor of piti when the mind is sluggish?

The Urgency of Practice

A Gift of Dhamma – Ajahn Ñaniko, February 10, 2015

A talk given by Ajahn Chah to the parents of a monk visiting Wat Pah Pong. The talk appears as Chapter 11 in Food for the Heart.


(16:01) What is the Thai that is translated as “mind” and “mind objects?”

The Method of Developing Calm – Ajahn Ñaniko, February 13, 2015

Chapter 2 in The Natural Character of Awakening by Tan Chao Khun Upālī Guṇūpamājahn. A discussion of Tan Chao Khun Upālī as a scholar, administrator, and practitioner follows the reading.

Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand – Ajahn Ñaniko, February 15, 2015


(10:42) Can you share perspectives on birth from the Thai Forest Tradition?

(19:28) Do the mental faculties of meditators diminish as they age?

Chanting for Ruth Denison – Ajahn Pasanno, February 19, 2015

Ajahn Pasanno reads email from Ruth Denison's caretakers describing her declining health condition and leads the Abhayagiri community in chanting blessings for this elder teacher followed by a ten-minute meditation and dedication of merit. Ruth passed away on February 26.

Fleshing Out the Four Tetrads

(Chapter 7 in Right Mindfulness by Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu)

Fleshing Out the Four Tetrads 1 – Ajahn Pasanno, February 20, 2015


(17:30) Discussion of Ajahn Geoff's translation “practice jhāna.”

(35:12) What is a synonym for lassitude?

Fleshing Out the Four Tetrads 2 – Ajahn Pasanno, February 21, 2015


(12:36) Explanation of ambiguous Aṅguttara Nikāya numbering

(13:26) Why did the Buddha ask the monk to develop meditation in many ways?

(33:56) Are the four frames of reference the same as the four foundations of mindfulness?

Fleshing Out the Four Tetrads 3 – Ajahn Pasanno, February 22, 2015


(12:36) Does AN 4:94 undercut the whole debate about whether to practice insight meditation or samādhi first?

(22:20) Does the Buddha mean that one can enter and emerge from these attainments at will?

(23:30) After emerging from these attainments, can one function in the world?

(30:50) Why is the deathless described as an element?

(32:27) Do you have to emerge from jhāna to contemplate the characteristics of the aggregates?

(35:35) Sometimes I find applying awareness exhausting.

Fleshing Out the Four Tetrads 4 – Ajahn Pasanno, February 23, 2015


(36:07) What is the significance of sitting to one side of the Buddha?

Fleshing Out the Four Tetrads 5 – Ajahn Pasanno, February 24, 2015


(27:00) Was it commonly accepted that the composers of the Vedas could not assert “I know, I see?”

(31:05) Are any of the lists in this sutta explained in other suttas?

Fleshing Out the Four Tetrads 6: Body – Ajahn Pasanno, February 27, 2015


(29:40) Does MN 140 define the external elements?

(31:06) Are people experiencing jhāna in different ways?

Fleshing Out the Four Tetrads 7: Body/Feeling – Ajahn Pasanno, February 28, 2015

Fleshing Out the Four Tetrads 8: Feeling – Ajahn Pasanno, March 1, 2015

Fleshing Out the Four Tetrads 9: Feeling – Ajahn Pasanno, March 2, 2015


(24:36) Could you explain the simile of the embers in regards to sensuality?

(27:48) How should householders deal with sensual pleasure?

Fleshing Out the Four Tetrads 10: Feeling/Mind – Ajahn Pasanno, March 3, 2015


(9:49) Can sharing merit with many types of beings tie one to society?

(17:07) Is seeing metaphysical principles the same as making something into a concept?

(37:24) Are psychic powers and wisdom always clearly separated?

Fleshing Out the Four Tetrads 11: Mind – Ajahn Karuṇadhammo, March 6, 2015

Fleshing Out the Four Tetrads 12: Mind – Ajahn Karuṇadhammo, March 8, 2015


(22:39) How you respond to the cynical inner voice when you recollect your own virtue?

Fleshing Out the Four Tetrads 13: Mind – Ajahn Karuṇadhammo, March 9, 2015

Fleshing Out the Four Tetrads 14: Mental qualitiesAjahn Karuṇadhammo, March 10, 2015

Mindfulness of Feeling and Mind

Vedanā 1Ajahn Karuṇadhammo, March 15, 2015


(8:41) Explanation of sāmisa and nirāmisa

(10:26) Examples of pleasures of renunciation?

(11:21) Examples of unworldly, unpleasant feelings?

(12:33) Clarification of underlying tendencies to unworldly, pleasant feelings?

(13:29) [Question in Thai]

(24:30) Dhammadinnā foremost in...?

(25:52) Discussion on neutral feeling and delusion

(27:10) Discussion on feeling, craving, self and kamma

(29:58) Is the goal (Nibbāna) a thought-less state of mind?

(34:18) Sīla and thinking

Vedanā 2Ajahn Karuṇadhammo, March 16, 2015


(9:35) Is the second dart the self we create around feelings?

(22:27) How is it that when one feels a pleasant feeling, one cannot feel an unpleasant or neutral feeling?

Vedanā 3 Ajahn Karuṇadhammo, March 17, 2015


(8:00) Meaning of “will become cool right here?”

(12:21) Discussion of kamma the results of kamma

The Honeyball 1Ajahn Karuṇadhammo, March 18, 2015


(21:06) Translation and meaning of papañca (i.e., proliferation vs. objectification), causal progression of papañca.

The Honeyball 2Ajahn Karuṇadhammo, March 22, 2015


(6:10) Translation of phassapaññattiṃ paññāpessatīti (manifestation, delineation)

(10:58) Time-linear dependent origination vs. dependent co-arising

(16:21) Can one sense-bases that starts the proliferation process lead to different sense-bases?

(29:08) Examples of signs and secondary characteristics of sense objects?

(31:20) Feedback loop of perceptions looking for reinforcing perceptions

The Peace BeyondAjahn Ñāniko, March 23, 2015


(24:24) What was the context in which this reflection was given by Ajahn Chah?

Santi 1Ajahn Ñāniko, March 24, 2015

Santi 2Ajahn Ñāniko, March 25, 2015


(20:20) When did Luang Por Liem come to Wat Pah Pong?

Not by Looking for ProtectionAjahn Ñāniko, March 29, 2015


All readings from the Pāli Canon come from the Wisdom Publications editions unless otherwise noted.

Page numbers refer to the print editions; pagination may differ in the pdf versions.

Analayo Bhikkhu, Satipaṭṭhāna: The Direct Path to Realization, Windhorse Publications, 2003, pdf.

Bodhi, Bhikkhu, The Connected Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Saṁyutta Nikāya, Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2000.

——, In the Buddha's Words: An Anthology of Discourses from the Pāli Canon, Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2005.

——, The Numerical Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Aṅguttara Nikāya, Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2000.

Chah, Ajahn, The Collected Teachings of Ajahn Chah, Harnham, UK: Aruna Publications, 2011, pdf.

——, Food for the Heart: The Collected Teachings of Ajahn Chah, Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2002.

Horner, I. B., The Book of the Discipline, Part 1, Lancaster: Pali Text Society, 1938, pdf.

Ireland, John D., The Udāna & the Itivuttaka, Kandy: Buddhist Publication Society, 1997.

Jayasaro, Ajahn, unpublished translation of Ajahn Chah's biography.

Kittisaro and Thanissara, Listening to the Heart: A Contemplative Journey to Engaged Buddhism, Berkeley: North Atlantic Books, 2014.

Liem, Luang Por, Santi – Peace Beyond Delusion: Teaching on Practicing for Tranquility and Peace, Bung Wai, Thailand: Wat Pah Nanachat, 2013, pdf.

Māha Boowa Ñāṇasampanno, Ajahn, Forest Desanās, Trans. Ajaan Suchart Abhijāto, Forest Dhamma Publications, 2012, pdf.

Ñāṇamoli, Bhikkhu and Bhikkhu Bodhi, The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Majjhima Nikāya, 3rd. ed., Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2005.

Pa Auk Sayadaw, Knowing and Seeing, 4th ed., Singapore: Pa-Auk Meditation Center, 2010, pdf.

Pasanno, Ajahn and Ajahn Amaro, The Island: An Anthology of the Buddha's Teachings on Nibbāna, Redwood Valley: Abhayagiri Monastic Foundation, 2009 pdf.

Pabongka Rinpoche, Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand, Ed. Trijang Rinpoche, Trans. Michael Richards, Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2006.

Saddhatissa, H., The Sutta-Nipāta, Oxon: RoutledgeCurzon, 1994.

Sucitto, Ajahn, Meditation: A Way of Awakening, Hemel Hempstead: Amaravati Publications, 2011, pdf.

Sumedho, Ajahn, The Mind and the Way, Boston: Wisdom Publications: 1995.

Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu (Geoffry DeGraff), Right Mindfulness: Memory & Ardency on the Buddhist Path, Valley Center: CA, Metta Forest Monastery, 2012, pdf.

——, Skill in Questions, pdf.

Upālī Guṇūpamājahn, Tan Chao Khun, The Natural Character of Awakening, revised edition, Trans. Hāsapañño Bhikkkhu, 2013, pdf.

Viradhammo, Ajahn, The Stillness of Being, New Zealand, 2005, pdf.

2015 Winter Retreat Group Photograph

Dedication to Ruth Denison