All Our Practice Efforts, Directed to the Cessation of the Taints
Right Mindfulness (Sammā-Sati)
Right Mindfulness (Sammā-Sati) training enables us to intervene our habitual thought and behaviors process, which lead us to suffering and death, by being fully aware of this process and by making intentional choices based on the Buddha’s wisdom that lead us to a happy and healthy life, and even the deathless.
“Mindfulness” is a translation of the Pali-term sati (Sanskrit smṛti), which is one of the five strengths(bala) of the mind, when used skillfully, can help us rise above the kamma forces toward nibbāna. It means “to remember,” “to bear in mind,” or “to be aware.”
Right Mindfulness (Sammā-Sati) is mindfulness with wise discernment (sati-sampajānna 正念正知). It is a critical constituents of the noble eight-fold path that leads to nibbāna, the end of lust, ill will and delusion (rāga, dosa & moha).
Satipaṭṭhāna (四念处) is used as a key technique for achieving the right mindfulness in the Theravādan Buddhism. The fourfold foundation of mindfulness (satipaṭṭhānā) practices are set out by watching sensory experience in order to control and contain the arising of mental objects (dhammās) that would power future rebirths into this world, including lust and ill will, including all negative motions such as anxiety, fear, anger, depression, or addiction.
Paṭṭhāna literary means “to begin a journey”. The fourfold foundation of mindfulness practice includes mindfulness of the body 身, the feelings or sensations (vedanā 受), the mind or consciousness (citta 心); and the dhammās (mental objects 法). When external sense objects (visible objects, sound, odor, taste, touch, mental objects) travel through the six sense organs of the body (eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mano [sense organ of the conscious mind]), known as “contact” (phassa), the associated consciousness (viññāṇa) arises. The new viññāṇa consciousness will then be absorbed by the conscious mind with cognitive activities, together with a pleasant or unpleasant or neutral feeling (vedanā) arises. Due to mental fetters coming from past life experiences exist in our mind (citta), this incoming feeling will further trigger and accumulate many more mental objects (dhammās) or emotions including craving (taṇhā) and all sorts of negative emotions and sufferings (dukkha). Powerful feelings such as sadness or hopelessness can be expressed not only as thoughts or mental events but also as effects in the body. Stooped posture, heaviness in the chest, tightness in the shoulders, or chronical pains may signal the results of strong feelings. What happens in the body may then again strengthens negative feelings(vedanā), thoughts and emotions (dhammās) in the mind, which creates a loop.
This right mindfulness training aims to break the habituated thought patterns generated from kamma of past experiences in our subconscious mind, especially the unwholesome ones, and to establish new wholesome habits. We start with quiet observation of habituated thought patterns and emotions using the Mindfulness (Sati, awareness) strength of the mind. We then interrupt what can be an unhealthy tendency to over-identify with and stress out about these transient contents of the mind using Buddhism ethical discernment. This is what Right mindfulness means. We then purposely cultivate and develop wholesome qualities of the mind such as patient kindness and compassion and other virtues using various meditation techniques and real-life practices. This process is also a purifying process for the unwholesome kamma seeds in our subconscious mind. We use selected meditation technique to overcome specific kinds of unwholesome and negative kamma seeds as well. This too will strengthen our mind. When the mind is purified, soft and calm, we will be ready for further concentration training toward Samadhi. These are the four main aspects of the Right Mindfulness training that will be presented in the following chapters. With right mindfulness training, the mind will become more focused and very calm. We will be able to release negative emotions from past experiences. We will experience inner brightness, a cleansed and purified mind. The true nature of the mind will shine through, which is patiently kind, emotional balanced, compassionate, humble, tolerant, forgiving, modest, grateful. It connects a realm of vibrant peace, with a subtle emanation of joy arising from deep within. The more we connect with it, the more it grows through us. When withdrawing from our identification with the worldly character and disposition of a self, consciousness in its pure state prior to identification with form will then be able to reach a timeless and deathless realm. This is the path to the end of our sufferings in this samsāra world.
Thus have I heard. On one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling at Vesālī in Beluvagāmaka. There the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus thus:
“Come, bhikkhus, enter upon the rains wherever you have friends, acquaintances, and intimates in the vicinity of Vesālī. I myself will enter upon the rains right here in Beluvagāmaka.”
“Yes, venerable sir,” those bhikkhus replied, and they entered upon the rains wherever they had friends, acquaintances, and intimates in the vicinity of Vesālī, while the Blessed One entered upon the rains right there in Beluvagāmaka.
Then, when the Blessed One had entered upon the rains, a severe illness arose in him and terrible pains bordering on death assailed him. But the Blessed One endured them, mindful and clearly comprehending, without becoming distressed. Then the thought occurred to the Blessed One: “It is not proper for me to attain final Nibbāna without having addressed my attendants and taken leave of the Bhikkhu Saṅgha. Let me then suppress this illness by means of energy and live on, having resolved upon the life formation.” Then the Blessed One suppressed that illness by means of energy and lived on, having resolved upon the life formation.
The Blessed One then recovered from that illness. Soon after he had recovered, he came out from his dwelling and sat down in the seat that had been prepared in the shade behind the dwelling. The Venerable Ānanda then approached the Blessed One, paid homage to him, sat down to one side, and said to him: “It’s splendid, venerable sir, that the Blessed One is bearing up, splendid that he has recovered! But, venerable sir, when the Blessed One was ill my body seemed as if it were drugged, I had become disoriented, the teachings were not clear to me. Nevertheless, I had this much consolation: that the Blessed One would not attain final Nibbāna without having made some pronouncement concerning the Bhikkhu Saṅgha.”
“What does the Bhikkhu Saṅgha now expect from me, Ānanda? I have taught the Dhamma, Ānanda, without making a distinction between inside and outside. The Tathāgata has no closed fist of a teacher in regard to the teachings. If, Ānanda, anyone thinks, ‘I will take charge of the Bhikkhu Saṅgha,’ or ‘The Bhikkhu Saṅgha is under my direction,’ it is he who should make some pronouncement concerning the Bhikkhu Saṅgha. But, Ānanda, it does not occur to the Tathāgata, ‘I will take charge of the Bhikkhu Saṅgha,’ or ‘The Bhikkhu Saṅgha is under my direction, ’ so why should the Tathāgata make some pronouncement concerning the Bhikkhu Saṅgha? Now I am old, Ānanda, aged, burdened with years, advanced in life, come to the last stage. My age is now turning eighty. Just as an old cart keeps going by a combination of straps, so it seems the body of the Tathāgata keeps going by a combination of straps.
“Whenever, Ānanda, by nonattention to all signs and by the cessation of certain feelings, the Tathāgata enters and dwells in the signless concentration of mind, on that occasion, Ānanda, the body of the Tathāgata is more comfortable. Therefore, Ānanda, dwell with yourselves as your own island, with yourselves as your own refuge, with no other refuge; dwell with the Dhamma as your island, with the Dhamma as your refuge, with no other refuge. And how, Ānanda, does a bhikkhu dwell with himself as his own island, with himself as his own refuge, with no other refuge; with the Dhamma as his island, with the Dhamma as his refuge, with no other refuge? Here, Ānanda, a bhikkhu dwells contemplating the body in the body, ardent, clearly comprehending, mindful, having removed covetousness and displeasure in regard to the world. He dwells contemplating feelings in feelings … mind in mind … phenomena in phenomena, ardent, clearly comprehending, mindful, having removed covetousness and displeasure in regard to the world.
“Those bhikkhus, Ānanda, either now or after I am gone, who dwell with themselves as their own island, with themselves as their own refuge, with no other refuge; with the Dhamma as their island, with the Dhamma as their refuge, with no other refuge—it is these bhikkhus, Ānanda, who will be for me topmost of those keen on the training.” [S Part V – The Great Book, Chapter III 47, I Ambapali 9 (9) Ill]