Satipaṭṭhāna (Pali; smṛti-upasthāna in Sanskrit), means "establishment of attention" or "application of presence of mind. "
It is an essential limb of Buddhist practice: attention must be established, maintained at all times. This attention (sati), in the Buddhist framework, consists of clear presence, a clear awareness of things and mental events.
The Satipatthana sutta is present in two baskets of the Pali Canon, thus in two versions: there is the Satipatthana sutta (in the Majjhima Nikaya), and the Mahasatipatthana sutta (in the Dīgha Nikāya 22).
The Pali word satipaṭṭhāna, "presence or establishment of attention," is composed of :
sati (smṛti in Sanskrit): the noun sati is related to the verb sarati (to remember). As such, the common usage of sati means memory, both in the definitions of the Abhidhamma and in the commentaries.
However, in the Buddhist tradition, its definition is not limited to this literal meaning when the term is associated with meditation: it more accurately refers to attention to the present moment.
upaṭṭhāna: means "to place near, to keep present, to establish".
The Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta is a discourse by Gautama Buddha describing the establishment of mindfulness: "The four applications of mindfulness are the only Way leading to the attainment of purification, the mastery of pain and lamentation, the cessation of sorrow and grief, the entrance to the perfect Way, and the realization of Nibbāna."
In this discourse of the Buddha, there are four contemplations, which refer to the four types - the four foundations - of attention:
attention to the body (kāya);
attention to sensations (vedanā);
attention to the mind (citta);
attention to phenomena (dharma, sometimes translated as mental objects).
Contemplation of the body, in the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta, is subdivided into six parts:
attention to the breath;
the four postures;
the impurity of the anatomical parts;
the elements ;
and the nine contemplations of the decaying body.
Contemplation of sensations, in the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta, is more specifically concerned with the affective and hedonic tone of experience. The Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta is also concerned with the hedonic tone of experience. Thus, the practitioner is invited to observe pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral sensations, both physical and mental.
Contemplation of the mind, in the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta, constitutes an investigation of the cognitive aspect of experience.
The contemplation of phenomena in the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta is subdivided into five parts:
the five obstacles;
the six spheres of the senses;
the seven factors of enlightenment;
the four noble truths.