All Our Practice Efforts, Directed to the Cessation of the Taints
The pali term “Kaya” means body, “gata” means lead to, “sati” is mindfulness or awareness. Kayagatasati, mindfulness directed to the body, is a special training to develop concentration power of the mind that will lead to nibbāna. By getting intimately connected with our bodies, we can open to a deeper, subtler being of the mind. It is praised by the Buddha in numerous suttas in “The Numerical Discourses of the Buddha” and “The Connected Discourses of the Buddha”, as “the only path that can lead to liberation… “the path of the Fourth Truth”.
We use kayagatasati for our right-mindfulness meditation. We start by bringing our awareness away from outside world and into our body. We scan different parts of the body in turn and relax them. We then rest our awareness on some comfortable place in our body, and simply pay attention, moment by moment, to sensations of the body, our feeling, how our mind responds to them, how thoughts and emotions rise and fall, without trying to alter them in any way, let go. Letting go means relinquishing involvement in these routines, freeing ourselves from the need for things to be different that drives the thinking patterns—it is the continued attempts to escape or avoid unhappiness that keep the negative cycles turning. Our aim of the practice is freedom, not happiness, relaxation, and so on, although these may well be welcome by-products.
We embrace our thoughts and emotions fully with total acceptance and patient kindness. This includes anxious, depressive, or intrusive thoughts as well. It becomes easier once we’ve understood the true unsubstantial nature of thoughts. It’s the relationship we have to these thoughts and feelings that define whether they pass-by with ease or torment us for years. We allow thoughts to come and go naturally. We do not chase thoughts, nor do we neglect, ignore their existence, or push them away, either. This encourages us to embrace our personal difficulties with honesty and courage. By gradually expose ourselves to our difficulties, or even fear, reduces over-reactivity to it over the long-term.
SN Part V The Great Book (Mah̄vagga) Chapter III 47 Satipaṭṭhānasaṃyutta – Connected Discourses on the Foundations of Mindfulness
20 (10) The Most Beautiful Girl of the Land
Thus have I heard. On one occasion the Blessed One was living among the Sumbhas, where there was a town of the Sumbhas named Sedaka. There the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus thus: “Bhikkhus!”
“Venerable sir!” the bhikkhus replied. The Blessed One said this:
“Bhikkhus, suppose that on hearing, ‘The most beautiful girl of the land! The most beautiful girl of the land!’ a great crowd of people would assemble. Now that most beautiful girl of the land would dance exquisitely and sing exquisitely. On hearing, ‘The most beautiful girl of the land is dancing! The most beautiful girl of the land is singing!’ an even larger crowd of people would assemble. Then a man would come along, wishing to live, not wishing to die, wishing for happiness, averse to suffering. Someone would say to him: ‘Good man, you must carry around this bowl of oil filled to the brim between the crowd and the most beautiful girl of the land. A man with a drawn sword will be following right behind you, and wherever you spill even a little of it, right there he will fell your head.’
“What do you think, bhikkhus, would that man stop attending to that bowl of oil and out of negligence turn his attention outwards?”
“No, venerable sir.”
“I have made up this simile, bhikkhus, in order to convey a meaning. This here is the meaning: ‘The bowl of oil filled to the brim’: this is a designation for mindfulness directed to the body. Therefore, bhikkhus, you should train yourselves thus: ‘We will develop and cultivate kayagatasati, make it our vehicle, make it our basis, stabilize it, exercise ourselves in it, and fully perfect it.’ Thus, bhikkhus, should you train yourselves.”
“Bhikkhus, one thing, when developed and cultivated, leads to a strong sense of urgency … leads to great good … leads to great security from bondage … leads to mindfulness and wise discernment … leads to the attainment of knowledge and vision … leads to a pleasant dwelling in this very life … leads to realization of the fruit of knowledge and liberation. What is that one thing? kayagatasati. This is the one thing that, when developed and cultivated, leads to realization of the fruit of knowledge and liberation.”
“Bhikkhus, when one thing is developed and cultivated, ignorance is abandoned … true knowledge arises … the conceit ‘I am’ is abandoned … the underlying tendencies are uprooted … the fetters are abandoned. What is that one thing? kayagatasati.”
“Bhikkhus, the deathless has not been partaken of by those who have not partaken of kayagatasati. The deathless has been partaken of by those who have partaken of kayagatasati.”
(AN XIX. kayagatasati)
“Develop and cultivate Kayagatasati, make it your vehicle, make it your basis, stabilize it, exercise yourselves in it, and fully perfect it”. (Samyutta Nikaya, Part IV The Book of Six Sense Bases, Chapter I – 35 Salayatana samyutta, Division IV The Fourth Fifties 247(10) )