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MN 4 says:

And with the fading away of rapture, I entered and remained in the third absorption, where I meditated with equanimity, mindful and aware, personally experiencing the bliss of which the noble ones declare, ‘Equanimous and mindful, one meditates in bliss.’

Pītiyā ca virāgā upekkhako ca vihāsiṁ, sato ca sampajāno sukhañca kāyena paṭisaṁvedesiṁ; yaṁ taṁ ariyā ācikkhanti: ‘upekkhako satimā sukhavihārī’ti tatiyaṁ jhānaṁ upasampajja vihāsiṁ.

Sujato has subjectively opined here:

The emotional response to bliss matures from the subtle thrill of rapture to the poise of equanimity. Mindfulness is present in all states of deep meditation, but with equanimity it becomes prominent.

Why do we personally think sati sampajāno is mentioned in the 3rd jhana?

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2 Answers 2

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Pītiyā ca virāgā upekkhako ca vihāsim, sato ca sampajāno sukhañca kāyena paṭisamvedesim; yam tam ariyā ācikkhanti: ‘upekkhako satimā sukhavihārī’ti

"Why do we personally think sati sampajāno is mentioned?"

I personally think in this context sampajāno is used to specify and clarify the exact meaning in which sati is used here.

I think this is evident from the subsequent phrase "upekkhako satimā sukhavihārī’ti" — a (then) popular saying that uses sati in the sense of sampajāna but does not explicitly mention sampajāna.

In general, I agree with and support your interpretation that in many contexts sati means remembrance of the instructions or, even more precisely, having one's awareness be positioned and settled within the framework given by the instructions.

But, evidently, neither this particular passage nor this sutta at large set any context, expressed or implied, of following the instructions or remembering the instructions.

Instead, in this passage the Buddha explains what he means by dwelling in equanimity; first he simply describes it as a kind of mindfulness (sati) and then he clarifies that he means the peaceful bliss of being present and aware in the here and now. To this end he quotes the popular saying that succinctly summarizes what he just described.

From the rest of the jhana sequence we know this dwelling in equanimity, the peaceful bliss of being present and aware comes from having no cravings and no aversions, not making vitakka/vicara effort, no revulsion and no joy that would come from one judging phenomena as agreeable or disagreeable. The only remaining asava at this point are the subtle aversion to dukkha and the subtle attachment to peace inherent in this jhana itself, to be overcome in the next jhana.

This is what I personally think.

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  • Sati does not mean aware. However, thank you for your effort, despite making unsubstantiated claims about what the Buddha meant 2600 years ago. Commented Nov 4, 2023 at 12:33
  • The subtle aversion to dukkha and the attachment to peace, to be overcome in the next jhana, does not sound evident in the passage. Keep in mind the Buddha, who was free from aversion & attachment, often abided in the various jhanas. Commented Nov 4, 2023 at 12:35
  • Improved the answer in response to your comments, thanks.
    – Andriy Volkov
    Commented Nov 4, 2023 at 14:22
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This is an interesting question. I cannot provide a definitive answer. But, merely speculating, it sounds like "mindful and [situationally] aware, personally experiencing the bliss of which the noble ones declare" means, in the 3rd jhana, it becomes crystal clear to the mind what the Buddha taught about happiness, equanimity & peace is absolutely true & the supreme purpose of the Buddha's teaching. In other words, rapture (piti) is not the happiness (sukha) & peace (Nibbana) the Buddha has declared. Thus this stock phrase says: "the noble ones declare".

Keep in mind, when describing the mindfulness factor of enlightenment, the suttas say:

Bhikkhus, those bhikkhus who are accomplished in virtue, accomplished in concentration, accomplished in wisdom, accomplished in liberation, accomplished in the knowledge and vision of liberation: even the sight of those bhikkhus is helpful, I say; even listening to them … even approaching them … even attending on them … even recollecting them … even going forth after them is helpful, I say. For what reason? Because when one has heard the Dhamma from such bhikkhus one dwells withdrawn by way of two kinds of withdrawal—withdrawal of body and withdrawal of mind.

Dwelling thus withdrawn, one recollects that Dhamma and thinks it over. Whenever, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu dwelling thus withdrawn recollects that Dhamma and thinks it over, on that occasion the enlightenment factor of mindfulness is aroused by the bhikkhu; on that occasion the bhikkhu develops the enlightenment factor of mindfulness; on that occasion the enlightenment factor of mindfulness comes to fulfilment by development in the bhikkhu.

SN 46.3

I guess for the faithless, for those who actually have never taken refuge in the Triple Gem, for those who revile Noble Ones & attempt to make a career based on continuously reviling bhikkhus on every possible chatsite, the above true meaning of mindfulness is unknowable to them. Instead, these faithless ones believe 'mindfulness' means 'observing' or 'watching' or 'seeing' or 'bare awareness', similar to as taught in American Layperson Buddhism.

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