I read the following on the internet:

If having a little wisdom one would not see any different between "staying right focused" and "watch closely", but the fool seeks to accumulate knowledge just for gain and to pave his way downwardly.

From the Pali suttas, the word "anupassi" is translated as follows:

On that occasion the monk remains focused on the body in & of itself — ardent, alert, & mindful — putting aside greed & distress with reference to the world. Thanissaro

on that occasion a bhikkhu abides contemplating the body as a body, ardent, fully aware, and mindful, having put away covetousness and grief for the world. Bodhi

That’s why at that time a mendicant is meditating by observing an aspect of the body—keen, aware, and mindful, rid of desire and aversion for the world. Sujato

a monk lives contemplating the body in the body, ardent, clearly comprehending and mindful, having overcome, in this world, covetousness and grief Nyanasatta Thera

a bhikkhu lives contemplating the body in the body, ardent, clearly comprehending (it) and mindful (of it), having overcome, in this world, covetousness and grief... Soma Thera

a monk fares along contemplating the body in the body, ardent, clearly conscious (of it), mindful (of it) so as to control the covetousness and dejection in the world... Horner

that bhikkhu is considered one who lives constantly contemplating body in bodies, strives to burn up defile­ments, comprehends readily, and is mindful, in order to abandon all liking and disliking toward the world... Buddhadasa

in regard to the body a monk abides contemplating the body, diligent, clearly knowing, and mindful, free from desires and discontent in regard to the world. Analayo

Contemplates the body in the body with effort, sampajañña and sati, eradicating covetousness and distress with regard to the world... Payutto

These unpleasant feelings are dukkha-vedana and the contemplation of these feeling is vedananupassana, contemplation of feeling... Mahasi Sayadaw

It appears, from the ten translators above, the American Geoffrey DeGraff (also named Bhikkhu Thanissaro) has uniquely translated "anupassi" as "focused".


  1. Is Thanissaro's translation accurate? Is the English word "focused" synonymous with the other translations of "contemplating", "observing", "watching closely", etc?

  2. Is there a possible downward path, misguidance &/or confusion in adhering & attaching to Thanissaro's translation? Why?

  3. Is there a possible downward path in rejecting, admonishing &/or even ridiculing Thanissaro's translation? Why?

  4. Is there a possible upward & even Noble path in rejecting, admonishing &/or even ridiculing Thanissaro's translation? Why?


3 Answers 3


Anupassi is watching (by understanding) continuously.

You can translate into many words because when mind arising, there are many mind factors arising together with each mind.

However, according to each Sutta's context, the selected words are the most proper words for that Sutta.

For the example, Anupassi in DN22 MahasatipatthanaSutta.

Anupassi in that Sutta has many situations, many objects, etc., so Anupassi is the conclusion, Uddeso, of the whole comprehension styles in DN22.

Anupasī is including Viharati, Ātāpī, Sampajañño, Satimā, Vineyya, Pajānāti, SatiPaccupatthitā, Nāna, PatisatiMattāya,Anissito, Na Upādiyati, SampajānaKārī, Paccavekkhati, Upasanharati, Ariyo Atthangika Maggo, Sammāditthi, SammāSankappo, SammāVācā, SammāKammanto, SammāĀjīvo, SammāVāyāmo, SammāSati, SammāSamādhi, and every word in it's explanation such as Vitaka, Vicāra, pīti, concentration (focusing), etc.

You can see that if you want to translate Anupassī in DN22, you need to translate all of those words together, however you can't. So in this case the translation which is same as in Pāli is better, except you are the Tipitaka Memorizer who teaching one who is going to enlighten immediately. In this case, the proper words for that enlightening person are allowed. However, they need to get back to the original version in Pāli after enlightened to keep Buddha's teaching to 5000th B.E.


Colloquially, the word "to focus" means you keep your attention on that one thing and don't attend to the other distracting things around it.

That is what Thanissaro is trying to say there: you attend to "body in and of itself" and don't attend to whether it looks sexy or handsome or fat or young or old - etc. any worldly judgment or association.

He explains his idea in detail in a foreword to his sutta anthology Handful of Leaves that "body in and of itself", "feelings in and of themselves" etc means looking at things phenomenologically, putting aside their worldly significances and worldly referents.

Hence the choice of word, to stress that one should tune one's lens onto the phenomenological aspect, and tune out the other stuff.

In general, this interpretation is characteristic of Thanissaro's approach. He summarizes the entire Buddha's method as shifting away from the worldly perspectives and worldly goals, rewards, weaning off the worldly mind sustenance ("nutrition") - through methodical cultivation of the phenomenological perspective and correspondingly phenomenological goals, rewards, and sustenance.

  • anupassi appears to be a factor of clear seeing rather than a factor stability Oct 23, 2020 at 5:16
  • "Focused" there means selectivity, discernment - not stability.
    – Andriy Volkov
    Oct 23, 2020 at 12:47

Is there a possible downward path in rejecting, admonishing &/or even ridiculing Thanissaro's translation? Why?

Yes, garanted (being Brahman Element's firm gained agati). At least because it's total lack of anupassi used toward Samanupassati, the aim, liberation. Crasping after sañña and garanted fail to get the meaning even on conventional level, caught in a forest of view and bound by conceit.

No need to speak of the many other demerits around the appearance of improper attention and putting strew-mans around for ones lossy gains...

[Note that this isn't given for stacks, exchange, world-bindin trades... but for an escape from this wheel]

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .