A couple of months ago someone tried to convince me that arahants no longer have sati.

He said that sati is like a raft in the sense that it should be given up as soon as the goal, arahantship, has been reached. To give more strength to his claim he also pointed out that sati is not one of the 10 parami (perfections).

I myself think that his claim is absurd, I think that arahants have nothing but sati. But, I'm neither a scholar nor an arahant. So, I can be wrong. I also don't understand the link he makes to the 10 parami.

Does someone have a reference or source from the tipitaka that would support or deny his claim without a doubt and put my mind at ease? And does someone understand the link he makes to the perfections?

5 Answers 5


He said that sati is like a raft in the sense that it should be given up as soon as the goal, arahantship, has been reached.

Sati is "non-forgetting" of the Dhamma Truth.

To give more strength to his claim he also pointed out that sati is not one of the 10 parami (perfections).

This does not make sense because effort, determination, patience, etc are parami. Why would a mind that has destroyed/uprooted the defilements need effort, determination, patience, etc? Regardless, the Buddha never taught the 10 parami; particularly for Arahants.

I myself think that his claim is absurd, I think that arahants have nothing but sati.

When the defilements are destroyed/uprooted; naturally the sati of a non-arahant (which includes the abandoning of wrong view) is not required. The sati of a non-arahant or learner is described as follows:

One is mindful to abandon wrong view & to enter & remain in right view: This is one's right mindfulness.

MN 117

This being said, the mind of an arahant obviously cannot forget the Dhamma Truth. Thus MN 117 also says:

Thus the learner is endowed with eight factors, and the arahant with ten.

MN 117

In short, the sati of an arahant is automatic because an arahant can never forget the Dhamma Truth.

  • Thank you. I'm glad I'm not the only one thinking that the link to the parami didn't make sense in this context. And thanks for the sutta text. (Accepted as answer to question since it was response to all points of my oq.)
    – user13579
    Sep 1, 2018 at 15:36

Maybe your friend meant to say that an arahant no longer has to consciously make an effort to develop sati? An arahant has developed all 8 limbs of the Noble Eightfold Path to perfection such that they've become second nature. To him, sati's no longer an effort to be developed. It's become his way of life. It's like a novice martial arts student at first has to constantly practicing many drills to build up his reflex and awareness. Once he's become a martial arts master, it'd be absurd to say he "no longer has reflex and awareness", but reflex and awareness have become second nature to him.

The Blessed One said, "Now, what are the eight thoughts of a great person? This Dhamma is for one who is modest, not for one who is self-aggrandizing. This Dhamma is for one who is content, not for one who is discontent. This Dhamma is for one who is reclusive, not for one who is entangled. This Dhamma is for one whose persistence is aroused, not for one who is lazy. This Dhamma is for one whose mindfulness is established, not for one whose mindfulness is confused. This Dhamma is for one whose mind is centered, not for one whose mind is uncentered. This Dhamma is for one endowed with discernment, not for one whose discernment is weak. This Dhamma is for one who enjoys non-objectification, who delights in non-objectification, not for one who enjoys & delights in objectification. ~~ AN 8.30 ~~

  • I don't know what he (not my friend) meant. It's also not really of that importance, I think. I do very much like your explanation of sati basically being a second nature to an arahant. At least, that's how I look at it as well. Thanks.
    – user13579
    Sep 1, 2018 at 15:32

That's not what DN 16 appears to say. The Buddha, who is also an Arahant, endured his physical pains mindfully (sati) according to DN 16.

After the Buddha had commenced the rainy season residence, he fell severely ill, struck by dreadful pains, close to death.
Atha kho bhagavato vassūpagatassa kharo ābādho uppajji, bāḷhā vedanā vattanti māraṇantikā.

But he endured with mindfulness and situational awareness, without worrying.
Tā sudaṃ bhagavā sato sampajāno adhivāsesi avihaññamāno.

And also:

But the mendicants who were free of desire endured, mindful and aware, thinking:
Ye pana te bhikkhū vītarāgā, te satā sampajānā adhivāsenti:

“Conditions are impermanent. How could it possibly be otherwise?”
“aniccā saṅkhārā, taṃ kutettha labbhā”ti.

  • 1
    To add, from DN 16: But the bhikkhus who were freed from passion, mindful and clearly comprehending, reflected in this way: "Impermanent are all compounded things. How could this be otherwise?" Aug 26, 2018 at 0:35
  • 1
    Thanks, @ruben2020. I went through the DN 16 just now. This one caught my eye as well: "So at the Cāpāla tree shrine the Buddha, mindful and aware, surrendered the life force. Atha kho bhagavā cāpāle cetiye sato sampajāno āyusaṅkhāraṃ ossaji." Great source, thanks.
    – user13579
    Sep 1, 2018 at 14:56

In my understanding, The Five Powers develop in progression:

  • Faith/Conviction (saddhā bala)
  • Energy/Effort/Persistence (viriya bala)
  • Mindfulness (sati bala)
  • Concentration (samādhi bala)
  • Wisdom/Discernment (paññā bala)

Each Power supercedes the previous, subsumes it and makes it obsolete.

First, the only Power helping the neophyte move forward on the Path is Faith in Buddha and Dharma.

Then the student, inspired by Faith, develops the power of Effort or "Working Hard", which, while not necessarily removing Faith, certainly supercedes it as the main factor of moving forward.

As the student applies Effort again and again, failing and trying again to overcome ignorance, desire, aversion, and the habitual pathologic mindstates - the power of Mindfulness (=remembering the Instructions during daily activities) develops and becomes the main engine and guardian of one's practice, superceding both Brute Effort as well as Blind Faith.

When the power of Mindfulness fully matures, it grows into ability to maintain the Dharmic perspective, which is a certain choice of interpretation of what's going on. It's not just remebering the teaching anymore, it's a kind of Focus or Concentration, keeping the mind on reality of Dharma-world. When this power fully matures it makes one a different person living in a very different world and supersedes the power of Mindfulness.

Finally, as the student acquires the wisdom of seeing "how things are", the power of Samadhi, or fabricating and maintaining a certain perspective, gives way to Prajna, also known as The Knowledge of All Modes - which is the power of seeing all realities beyond conceptual limitations and skillfully navigating them.

As you see, according to this model at some point sati is overgrown, subsumed and superceded by samadhi.


I have no references to texts, only personal experience. I hope I can still shed some light on your question though. Only so much can be learned through teachings. We must look to personal experience to answer these types of questions. You will never know the true answer until you experience enlightenment for yourself.

I am an arahant, if I can say that. There is no perminant, separate self to be an arahant. But enlightenment occurred, and the paradigm shift occurred.

Sati is translated many ways.

If you translate it as "Mindfulness", you are talking about keeping the teachings in mind to guide your mind towards enlightenment. Once you have awoken completely, there is no need for guidance.

I think what you may be hung up on is the concept of effort. I believed I was working hard to do the "right" thing. I thought I was making choices, and pushing myself where I wanted to go.

It was just belief though. When enlightenment occurs, you see there is no such thing as effort. It stems from a belief that the permanent, separate self makes choices and acts. We do not have free will. We do not choose and we do not act.

What is choice? Choice is a thought. Take the question, "Would you like soup or salad?". You might repeat the question as a thought in your mind. Then there is a pause. Then the thought "I would like salad" comes and goes. Then a thought occurs, "I made a choice".

There was nothing between the question and answer. Did you choose the answer to the question, or did it just appear? Perhaps you have a preference? Did you choose to prefer salad over soup? With the thought "I made a choice", the belief in choosing is created. A choice always appears after it has been made in the form of a present thought.

Why do we believe we have free will? It stems from an innate understanding of what we truly are. We are the universe, creating all minds and experiences. The freedom is in the infinite possibilities of what we can experience. We have no control over our experiences. I don't choose the colors of the trees or the sounds of traffic. All experience is uncontrollable and ever changing. How could effort exist without control?

I do not have sati. There is no I to possess sati. Nothing becomes. All things are.

  • Downvote because it's not an answer to my question. For the record: I'm not hung up on the concept of effort, as you put it. There is also no confusion about the nature of choice or free will. Thanks.
    – user13579
    Sep 1, 2018 at 14:09

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