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 [Give Ear]

Sati Parimukkham

Put a look of satisfaction on your face
Mind your mouth
Mind All-Round the [the entire] Face

The Mouth
is the Expression
of the Face
The Face
is the
Interface
of the
'Front'

Mukkha = Mouth, Face, Front [Mug]

'To Front' = to put up a 'front'; Persona

 


See: Glossology: Sati

Sati-parimukkham Revisited
I continue to revisit the instruction that begins anapana sit-down practice. It is the first instruction after sitting down cross-legged with the back up straight and I believe without an understanding of this phrase practice beyond this is bound to be being built on a poor footing.

So: Previously I suggested that this term means 'mind the area around the face.' Sati = mind; pari = around; mukkham = face.

But this word 'mukkham' can mean 'front' 'face' and 'mouth'. This has lead most translators, I believe following Rhys Davids, to translate this term in words meaning 'make mindfulness the predominant effort.'

I suggested it meant literally 'face' because minding the face actually works in terms of pointing out the manner of grasping (via the point of contact with the senses) and at least one major location where grasping may be let go and the main point at which grasping can be prevented from arising. Additionally, by paying attention to, or minding the face, the following expression in the instructions, 'and in that same way mind the breathing' makes sense.

Recently as a consequence of translating MN 111 where Sariputta is said to be 'the legitimat son of the That-that-got-that, born of his mukkham...', an expression often used of Brhama, and not compatable with the translation 'face', I have experimented with 'minding around the mouth'. This has the interesting effect of accomplishing everything that minding the face accomplishes while in addition it properly sets (fixes the position of) the eyes (which otherwise roam around) and focuses attention on the fact that the 'expression' on the mouth is most clearly of any other area of the face reflective of one's reactions to sensory impact. Initial impression: this produces stronger, clearer, more rapid vision.

 

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AP: In your last paragraph, you say that "minding around the mouth" properly sets, or fixes the position of, the eyes." I'm not clear about this. Are you saying that one's eyes should be in some manner focused on the mouth as well as having the awareness on the breathing? I suppose if one first focuses the eyes on the mouth the awareness would have to be there as well. But this would not be the case if one starts with breath awareness and a general overall face minding. Is this correct?

I can say that as a result of the mouth minding these past few days, I've noticed that there is tension around the mouth and when placing the awareness there less tension results, reflective, I suppose, of an habitual tendency to grasp on to things giving the mouth a tight-lipped appearance. A sign, no doubt, of my mental makeup and of a who whose that is not any way near being got. I do sense that the mouth relaxes when the awareness is put there, and sometimes with a similar effect throughout the body.

It is surprising that such a small shift in locating the awareness can have such dramatic effects. I suspect, though, that if I had been following your earlier suggestion correctly and intently of minding both the face and the breath then at least some of the same results would have been experienced. I do like this latest suggestion and plan on using it as often as I can. Thanks for this latest.

MO: You do not focus the eyes or place the eyes. When you put your mind on the area around the mouth, the eyes focus there on their own.

When you move your attention around the face you will notice that as you move your attention around, the eyes follow. When the mind is on the mouth and the eyes are focused there this is called having 'set' the eyes.

Then, for me by way of having seen paying attention around the face ... to the eyes, nose, ears, mouth ... what I can see is that by paying attention to the mouth alone one can without moving also mind these other areas, including the whole of the lower body. When the mind is focused on the mouth and the eyes are set this way the area included in the minding encompasses it all...toughest seems to be the ears.

The next step is "Just So" mind the breathing. I now think this means not 'In just this same way' as I have previously had it, but "In just this state" or "without doing anything additional." And you will find you can do that.

Then I note from your description that you are taking a too passive role here. When you see tension anywhere you can deliberately let that go. You do not have to wait for it to go of it's own. It might not! That is not 'doing'. That is the ending of a doing that was the cause of the tension originally. Also here you can stop before it gets going any new grasping.

The very astounding thing about all this is the logic. How can we have expected this technique to have worked if we did not start it out as instructed? House built on a weak foundation will not last. And this becomes even more profound if you realize that virtually all Buddhism today, here and in the far East is based on the Satipatthana technique with the understanding of this phrase being "putting mindfulness foremost in one's effort" or some such similar idea. The Buddhism of today in the Far East is a result of a rekindled interest stimulated by the likes of Rhys Davids, and it is his interpretation/translation that is the basis for the practice whether in English or any other language. Like the crowd of adults viewing the Emperor, nobody sees that nobody is making any headway using this technique!

This makes perfect sense in terms of my understanding of how the Buddha taught. He always said exactly what he meant and what he meant could subsequently be 'heard' in very deep ways. He always begins at the surface. Mouth > Face > Front.

 

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References: See: Remembering Sati discussion.


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