Mahasati Meditation - FAQ
- What is the meaning of Mahasati
- "Mahasati" is a Pali (ancient Indian language) term. Maha means great or big;
Sati means self-awareness or mindfulness. So Mahasati means great self-awareness, total
self-awareness, or perfect self-awareness. If one cultivates self-awareness, he/she will
be able to know his/her bodily movement more and more. When he/she knows the bodily
movement all the time, the "knowing element" will work by itself automatically.
At this point, the knowing element grows/develops up to its full capacity. It's then
- There are so many meditation methods, why Mahasati Meditation?
Because Mahasati Meditation is a natural method which we can practice anywhere, anytime
and in all activities. "Knowing Element" is a pure and natural quality that
exists in every human being. Human body cannot stay still. It moves naturally all the
time. Mahasati Meditation is a method that emphasizes the present moment all the time.
Practitioners will see their body and mind, and their own thought which is the source of
suffering (anger, greed, delusion).
- How long should we practice Mahasati Meditation each day?
- As long as we can. The more, the better. Whenever we have free time, practice formal
movement (rhythmic hand movements or walking meditation). Also at works or while we are
doing something else, we should be aware of our bodily movement - one thing at a time. For
example, when we are washing the dishes, be aware of the hand that rubbing the plate. When
we're driving a car, we can observe either the hand or the foot that's moving. Choose only
one at a time. Or when we stop the car at the red light, we could move our finger up and
- Can I close my eyes when I practice because I feel more distracted if I open my
To see is the function of the eyes. We have to work with our eyes open. Mahasati
Meditation is a natural method so we are not going to do anything against nature. Some of
us who have been practicing with eyes closed might feel uneasy at the beginning. But after
practicing Mahasati Meditation for a while, we'll get used to it and then be able to apply
the technique in our daily activities.
- Mahasati Meditation only talks
about knowing bodily movement in the present moment, how about love and compassion for
Mahasati Meditation does not ignore love and compassion. "Knowing element" is a
great perfection quality. Wisdom, love, compassion, joy, and peace are all in it; but
wisdom is the leader. Love and compassion without wisdom as the leader is painful and can
create more problems.
- What to do with breathing?
- We breathe naturally. While we're practicing rhythmic hand movements, we simply know our
hand movement, know that it is breathing in or it is breathing out. That's enough. Don't
recite "in" or "out". And no need to know that it's a long/short
exhalation or inhalation or it's a fine or coarse one.
- Should we combine the breathing to the movement?
- No. Just observe one movement at a time. If you want to be aware of hand movements,
ignore the breathing, and vice versa.
- How long should we practice in sitting posture before we change to walking?
- The important point of Mahasati Meditation is to know the bodily movement and try to
connect the chain of knowing as long as possible. We are not going to torture the body. So
if we need to change the posture we can do it at any time. But while we're changing, be
aware of our movement.
- I have no idea about Buddhism, can I practice Mahasati Meditation?
- Yes, of course. Everyone can practice Mahasati Meditation regardless of age, gender,
occupation, education, culture, nationality or religious belief. As long as we can
communicate and understand how to practice. The concept of the practice is to know what
we're doing at the moment or to be with our bodily movement in the present moment.
- I have a lot of stress at work, it also
creates health problems. I'd like to know if Mahasati Meditation can help?
Most people laugh and cry because of their own thought. They only know thought but don't
see thought. If we only know thought, we'll follow it, and don't know how to get out of
it. If we have strong self-awareness we'll see thought. Thought will stop.
- While I am practicing, I still think a lot. What shall I do?
- In this method, we don't suppress thought. Let thought flow freely but we don't pay
attention to thought. We pay attention to our bodily movement. So let go of thought; come
back to movement.
If you have questions that are not answered here, you
are more than welcome to pose it in our chat room (Yahoo Mahasati
Meditation Club). We can discuss it there.
Last updated: July 7, 1999
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