By Jayaram V
Mindfulness is the complete awareness of all the movements that
happen within oneself and outside of oneself. It is becoming aware
of the present moment happenings in one's body, mind and consciousness
and in the world outside.
Now, as to what is right mindfulness, we have several
explanations but their essence is the same: to be mindfully
aware without being attached or judgmental.
According to Buddhist scriptures, right mindfulness is to remain
focused on these things continuously without getting involved with
them and without becoming attached to them. We come across the following
definition in the Digha Nikaya(22)
"There is the case where a monk remains focused on the body
in & of itself — ardent, alert, & mindful — putting aside
greed & distress with reference to the world. He remains focused
on feelings in & of themselves... the mind in & of itself...
mental qualities in & of themselves — ardent, alert, & mindful
— putting aside greed & distress with reference to the world.
This is called right mindfulness..."
Complete mindfulness comes with practice, with the development
of certain states of mind, where by an individual becomes detached
from the material things he would ordinarily seek, gains control
over his or her thoughts, desires and impulses and achieves a complete
and continuous awareness of what is happening both in the internal
world and the external world.
The benefits of right mindedness are many. With right mindedness
comes the mindfulness, the complete and continuous awareness of
who you are and what you are, your reactions, thoughts and feelings
and your relationship with the nature of the things of the
world with whom you interact. You become conscious and watchful
of every moment and every movement within as well as without. This
awareness and state of mind help you to develop the discretionary
power to avoid the wrong movements of the body and mind or lapsing
into lethargic inertia. With mindfulness you develop insight into
the nature of things and learn to deal with your suffering and feelings
more peacefully. You become aware of things that bind you
or disturb you and through this awareness you will develop wisdom,
detachment and inner stability.
"This is the direct path for the purification of beings,
for the overcoming of sorrow & lamentation, for the disappearance
of pain & distress, for the attainment of the right method, &
for the realization of Unbinding — in other words, the four frames
of reference." Digha Nikaya 22
With the right mindfulness comes the ability to abandon the wrong
view and develop the right view, abandon the wrong resolve and stay
with the right resolve, abandon the wrong speech and practice right
speech, abandon the wrong action and follow the right action and
abandon the wrong livelihood and pursue the right livelihood. (Majjhima
This state of right mindedness does not come to us so easily.
It has to be practiced with great concentration, sincerity and discipline.
The Buddha gave a detailed account of how to develop right mindedness
to his son Rahula, when they were staying together at Savatthi at
the monastery of Anathapindaka, in the grove of Jeta. The
main aspects of this discourse are:
Right mindfulness can be cultivated by concentrating on the things
of the world, with the awareness that "this is not mine, this
is not I and this is not my soul.' "All material
forms, past, present, or future, within or without, gross or subtle,
base or fine, far or near, all should be viewed with full understanding-with
the thought 'This is not mine, this is not I, this is not my
soul," declared the Buddha.
This should be practiced in connection with not only material
forms, but also sensation, perception, the psychic constructions,
and consciousness. The Buddha further explained on what types of
objects one should develop this kind of concentration order to develop
right mindedness. They are
- Earth: as hair, nail, teeth, skin flesh, and
- Water: as bile, phlegm, pus, blood, sweat and
- Fire: as the digestive elements that help in
the digestive process.
- Air: as the upward or the downward movement of
- Space: as the orifices of ears and nose, the
door of the mouth, and the channels through which the food
and water move in and out of the body.
These five personal elements, together with the five external
elements, make up the total of the five universal elements. They
should all be regarded objectively, with right understanding, thinking 'This
is not mine, this is not me, this is not my soul.' With this
understanding attitude a man develops detachment from the five elements
and his mind takes no delight in them.
Contemplation of these five elements will lead to detachment
and equanimity. For example, people throw all types of clean and
unclean things on the earth, into the water, into the fire, into
the air and into the space. But these actions do not disturb the
elements, nor do they feel repelled or disgusted by the things that
touch them. They remain the same all the time, irrespective of what
is happening all around them. When one starts observing these things
with concentration, one develops similar state of mind.
The Buddha also declared that right mindedness required a certain
all round development of personality which was characterized by
the development of the following exceptional qualities.
- The state of friendliness, where by ill-will
would grow less,
- The state of compassion which would reduce vexation,
- the state of joy with which aversion would grow
- The state of equanimity which would reduce repugnance
- The state of consciousness of the corruption
of the body, by which passions would grow less;
- The state of the consciousness of the fleeting
nature of all things, with which pride of selfhood
would grow less.
- The state of mind of ordering the breath. This
state is achieved by conscious breathing, continuously observing
and controlling ones breathing movements and with complete
control on ones thoughts. As the monk exhales and inhales
consciously, he should train himself to be conscious of
the whole of his body, the components of his mind, realize
the impermanence of all things, or to dwell on passionlessness
and renunciation. The state of controlled breathing when
developed and increased, is very productive and helpful.
And when the mind is thus developed a man breathes his last
breath in full consciousness, and not unconsciously.
With right mindfulness comes the awareness of ones true nature
and the ability to deal with the feelings and movements of the mind
peacefully with detachment and right understanding. One realizes
the fleeting nature of the sensory world and of things in general
and there by learns to accept things with equanimity. Right mindedness
is the key to follow the eightfold path diligently.
Suggested Further Reading