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Mindfulness (Pali: sati, Sanskrit: smṛti; also translated as awareness) is a spiritual faculty (indriya) that is considered to be of great importance in the path to enlightenment according to the teaching of the Buddha. It is one of the seven factors of enlightenment. "Correct" or "right" mindfulness (Pali: sammā-sati, Sanskrit samyak-smṛti) is the seventh element of the noble eightfold path.

Enlightenment (bodhi) is a state of being in which delusion (Pali: moha) has been overcome, abandoned and is absent from the mind. Mindfulness, which is an attentive awareness of the reality of things (especially of the present moment) is an antidote to delusion and is considered as such a 'power' (Pali: bala). This faculty becomes a power in particular when it is coupled with clear comprehension of whatever is taking place.

The Buddha advocated that one should establish mindfulness (satipatthana) in one's day-to-day life maintaining as much as possible a calm awareness of one's bodily functions, sensations (feelings), objects of consciousness (thoughts and perceptions), and consciousness itself. The practice of mindfulness supports analysis resulting in the arising of wisdom (Pali: paññā, Sanskrit: prajñā).[1] A key innovative teaching of the Buddha was that meditative stabilisation must be combined with liberating discernment.[2]

The Satipatthana Sutta (Sanskrit: Smṛtyupasthāna Sūtra) is one of the foremost early texts dealing with mindfulness.

Mindfulness practice, inherited from the Buddhist tradition, is increasingly being employed in Western psychology to alleviate a variety of mental and physical conditions, including obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, and in the prevention of relapse in depression and drug addiction.[3] See also Mindfulness (psychology).

TerminologyEdit

The Buddhist term translated into English as "mindfulness" originates in the Pali term sati and in its Sanskrit counterpart smṛti. Translators rendered the Sanskrit word as trenpa in Tibetan (wylie: dran pa) and as nian 念 in Chinese.

The Pali-language scholar Thomas William Rhys Davids (1881) first translated sati as English mindfulness in sammā-sati "Right Mindfulness; the active, watchful mind".[4] Noting that Daniel John Gogerly (1845) initially rendered sammā-sati as "Correct meditation",[5] Davids explained, "sati is literally 'memory' but is used with reference to the constantly repeated phrase 'mindful and thoughtful' (sato sampagâno); and means that activity of mind and constant presence of mind which is one of the duties most frequently inculcated on the good Buddhist."[6]</blockquote>

When practicing mindfulness, for instance by watching the breath, one must remember to maintain attention on the chosen object of awareness, "faithfully returning back to refocus on that object whenever the mind wanders away from it."[7] Thus, mindfulness means not only, "moment to moment awareness of present events," but also, "remembering to be aware of something or to do something at a designated time in the future".[7] In fact, "the primary connotation of this Sanskrit term [smrti] (and its corresponding Pali term sati) is recollection".[7]

The English term mindfulness has been in use for centuries, long predating its use in the Buddhist context. The OED defines it as "The state or quality of being mindful; attention; regard", with obsolete meanings of "memory" and "intention, purpose". This word was first recorded as myndfulness in 1530 (Palsgrave translates French pensee) , as mindfulnesse in 1561, and mindfulness in 1817. Morphologically earlier terms include mindful (first recorded in 1340), mindfully (1382), and the obsolete mindiness (ca. 1200).[8]

SanskritEdit

The Sanskrit word smṛti स्मृति (smriti, smRti, or sm'Rti) literally means "that which is remembered", and refers both to "mindfulness" in Buddhism and "a category of metrical texts" in Hinduism, considered second in authority to the Śruti scriptures.

Monier Monier-Williams's Sanskrit-English Dictionary differentiates eight meanings of smṛti स्मृति, "remembrance, reminiscence, thinking of or upon, calling to mind, memory":

  1. memory as one of the Vyabhicāri-bhāvas [transient feelings]
  2. Memory (personified either as the daughter of Daksha and wife of Aṅgiras or as the daughter of Dharma and Medhā)
  3. the whole body of sacred tradition or what is remembered by human teachers (in contradistinction to Śruti or what is directly heard or revealed to the Rishis; in its widest acceptation this use of the term Smṛti includes the 6 Vedangas, the Sūtras both Śrauta and Grhya, the Manusmṛti, the Itihāsas (e.g., the Mahābhārata and Ramayana), the Puranas and the Nītiśāstras, "according to such and such a traditional precept or legal text"
  4. the whole body of codes of law as handed down memoriter or by tradition (esp. the codes of Manusmṛti, Yājñavalkya Smṛti and the 16 succeeding inspired lawgivers) … all these lawgivers being held to be inspired and to have based their precepts on the Vedas
  5. symbolical name for the number 18 (from the 18 lawgivers above)
  6. a kind of meter
  7. name of the letter g- ग्
  8. desire, wish[9]

ChineseEdit

Buddhist scholars translated smṛti with the Chinese word nian 念 "study; read aloud; think of; remember; remind". Nian is commonly used in Modern Standard Chinese words such as guannian 觀念 (观念) "concept; idea", huainian 懷念 (怀念) "cherish the memory of; think of", nianshu 念書 (念书) "read; study", and niantou 念頭 (念头) "thought; idea; intention". Two specialized Buddhist terms are nianfo 念佛 "chant the name of Buddha; pray to Buddha" and nianjing 念經 (念经) "chant/recite sutras".

This Chinese character nian 念 is composed of jin "now; this" and xin "heart; mind". Bernhard Karlgren graphically explains nian meaning "reflect, think; to study, learn by heart, remember; recite, read – to have 今 present to 心 the mind".[10] The Chinese character nian or nien 念 is pronounced as Korean yeom or yŏm 염, Japanese ネン or nen, and Vietnamese niệm.

A Dictionary of Chinese Buddhist Terms gives basic translations of nian: "Recollection, memory; to think on, reflect; repeat, intone; a thought; a moment." [11]

The Digital Dictionary of Buddhism gives more detailed translations of nian "mindfulness, memory":

  • Recollection (Skt. smṛti; Tib. dran pa). To recall, remember. That which is remembered. The function of remembering. The operation of the mind of not forgetting an object. Awareness, concentration. Mindfulness of the Buddha, as in Pure Land practice. In Abhidharma-kośa theory, one of the ten omnipresent factors 大地法. In Yogâcāra, one of the five 'object-dependent' mental factors 五別境.
  • Settled recollection; (Skt. sthāpana; Tib. gnas pa). To ascertain one's thoughts.
  • To think within one's mind (without expressing in speech). To contemplate; meditative wisdom.
  • Mind, consciousness.
  • A thought; a thought-moment; an instant of thought. (Skt. kṣana)
  • Patience, forbearance.[12]

Related terms and practicesEdit

Although sati/smrti is the primary term that is usually invoked by the word mindfulness in a Buddhist context, it has been asserted "in Buddhist discourse, there are three terms that together map the field of mindfulness . . . [in their Sanskrit variants] smṛti (Pali: sati), samprajaña (Pali: sampajañña) and apramāda (Pali: appamada)."[13] All three terms are sometimes (confusingly) translated as "mindfulness," but they all have specific shades of meaning and the latter two properly mean "clear comprehension" and "vigilance," respectively. In the Satipatthana Sutta, sati and sampajañña are combined with atappa (Pali; Sanskrit: ātapaḥ), or "ardency," and the three together comprise yoniso manisikara (Pali; Sanskrit: yoniśas manaskāraḥ), "appropriate attention" or "wise reflection."[14]

In a publicly available correspondence between Bhikkhu Bodhi and B. Alan Wallace, Bodhi has described Ven. Nyanaponika Thera's views on "right mindfulness" and sampajañña in the following fashion: "... He held that in the proper practice of right mindfulness, sati has to be integrated with sampajañña, clear comprehension, and it is only when these two work together that right mindfulness can fulfill its intended purpose."[15]

English Pali Sanskrit Chinese Tibetan
mindfulness/awareness sati smṛti स्मृति 念 (niàn) trenpa (wylie: dran pa)
clear comprehension sampajañña samprajaña संप्रज्ञान 正知力 (zhèng zhī lì) sheshin (wylie: shes bzhin)
vigilance/heedfulness appamada apramāda ज्ञानकोश 不放逸座 (bù fàng yì zuò) bakyö (wylie: bag yod)
ardency atappa ātapaḥ आतप 勇猛 (yǒng měng) nyima (wylie: nyi ma)
attention/engagement manasikara manaskāraḥ मनस्कार 如理作意 (rú lǐ zuò yì) yila jeypa (wylie: yid la byed pa)
foundation of mindfulness satipaṭṭhāna smṛtyupasthāna 念住 (niànzhù) trenpa neybar zagpa (wylie: dran pa nye bar gzhag pa)

Ten forms of mindfulnessEdit

In the Āgamas of early Buddhism, there are ten forms of mindfulness. According to the Ekottara Āgama, these ten are:[16]

  1. Mindfulness of the Buddha
  2. Mindfulness of the Dharma
  3. Mindfulness of the Saṃgha
  4. Mindfulness of giving
  5. Mindfulness of the heavens
  6. Mindfulness of stopping and resting
  7. Mindfulness of discipline
  8. Mindfulness of breathing
  9. Mindfulness of the body
  10. Mindfulness of death

According to Nan Huaijin, the Ekottara Āgama emphasizes mindfulness of breathing more than any of the other methods, and teaches the most specifically on teaching this one form of mindfulness.[17]

Continuous mindfulness practiceEdit

In addition to various forms of meditation based around specific sessions, there are mindfulness training exercises that develop awareness throughout the day using designated environmental cues. The aim is to make mindfulness essentially continuous. Examples of such cues are the hourly chimes of clocks, red lights at traffic junctions and crossing the threshold of doors. The mindfulness itself can take the form of nothing more than taking three successive breaths while remembering they are a conscious experience of body activity within mind.[18] This approach is particularly helpful when it is difficult to establish a regular meditation practice.

Zen criticismEdit

Some Zen teachers emphasize the potential dangers of misunderstanding "mindfulness".

Gudo Wafu Nishijima criticizes the use of the term of mindfulness and idealistic interpretations of the practice from the Zen standpoint:

However recently many so-called Buddhist teachers insist the importance of 'mindfulness.' But such a kind of attitudes might be insistence that Buddhism might be a kind of idealistic philosophy. Therefore actually speaking I am much afraid that Buddhism is misunderstood as if it was a kind of idealistic philosophy. However we should never forget that Buddhism is not an idealistic philosophy, and so if someone in Buddhism reveres mindfulness, we should clearly recognize that he or she can never be a Buddhist at all.[19]

Muho Noelke, the abbot of Antaiji, explains the pitfalls of consciously seeking mindfulness.

We should always try to be active coming out of samadhi. For this, we have to forget things like "I should be mindful of this or that". If you are mindful, you are already creating a separation ("I - am - mindful - of - ...."). Don't be mindful, please! When you walk, just walk. Let the walk walk. Let the talk talk (Dogen Zenji says: "When we open our mouths, it is filled with Dharma"). Let the eating eat, the sitting sit, the work work. Let sleep sleep.[20]

Scientific researchEdit

Main article: Mindfulness (psychology)

Mindfulness practice, inherited from the Buddhist tradition, is increasingly being employed in Western psychology to alleviate a variety of mental and physical conditions. Scientific research into mindfulness generally falls under the umbrella of positive psychology. Research has been ongoing over the last twenty or thirty years, with a surge of interest over the last decade in particular.[21][22]

See alsoEdit

.

ReferencesEdit

  • Boccio, Frank Jude (2004). Mindfulness Yoga: The Awakened Union of Breath, Body and Mind ISBN 0861713354
  • Brahm, Ajahn (2005). Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond: A Meditator's Handbook. Wisdom Publications.
  • Gunaratana, Bhante Henepola (2002). Mindfulness in Plain English. Wisdom Publications.
  • Hanh, Thich Nhat (1996). The Miracle of Mindfulness: A Manual on Meditation. Beacon Press.
  • Weiss, Andrew (2004). Beginning Mindfulness: Learning the Way of Awareness. New World Library
  • Siegel, Ronald D. (2010). The Mindfulness Solution: Everyday Practices for Everyday Problems. The Guilford Press
  • Hoopes, Aaron (2007) "Zen Yoga: A Path to Enlightenment through Breathing, Movement and Meditation". Kodansha International.

FootnotesEdit

  1. "In short, the contemplative training known as “shamatha” (meditative quiescence) deals with the development and refinement of attention; and this is the basis for “vipashyana” (contemplative insight), which entails methods for experientially exploring the nature of the mind and its relation to the world at large." from a description of the 18th Mind and Life Dialogues meeting, official webpage, http://www.mindandlife.org/dialogues/past-conferences/ml18/
  2. Alexander Wynne, The origin of Buddhist meditation. Routledge, 2007, page 73.
  3. http://scan.oxfordjournals.org/content/2/4/259.full
  4. T. W. Rhys Davids, tr., 1881, Buddhist Suttas, Clarendon Press, p. 107.
  5. D. J. Gogerly, "On Buddhism", Journal of the Ceylon Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1845, pp. 7-28 and 90-112.
  6. Davids, 1881, p. 145.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 "The topics of Mind and Life XVIII are human attention, memory, and the mind considered from phenomenological (including contemplative), psychological, and neurobiological perspectives... Furthermore, sustained voluntary attention (samadhi) is closely related to memory, because in order to deliberately sustain one’s attention upon a chosen object, one must continue to remember to do so from moment to moment, faithfully returning back to refocus on that object whenever the mind wanders away from it. Likewise, in Buddhism, the faculty of “mindfulness” (smrti) refers not only to moment-to-moment awareness of present events. Instead, the primary connotation of this Sanskrit term (and its corresponding Pali term sati) is recollection. This includes long-term, short-term, and working memory, non-forgetful, present-centered awareness, and also prospective memory, i.e., remembering to be aware of something or to do something at a designated time in the future. In these ways, from a contemplative perspective, memory is critically linked to attention, and both of these mental faculties have important ramifications for the experiential and phenomenological study of the mind, its training, and potential optimization." - official website for the 18th Mind and Life Dialogues meeting
  8. Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed., 2002
  9. Monier-Williams Online Dictionary. N.B.: these definitions are simplified and wikified.
  10. Bernhard Karlgren, 1923, Analytic Dictionary of Chinese and Sino-Japanese, Paul Geunther, p. 207. Dover reprint.
  11. William Edward Soothill and Lewis Hodous, 1937, A Dictionary of Chinese Buddhist Terms: with Sanskrit and English Equivalents and a Sanskrit-Pali Index.
  12. Digital Dictionary of Buddhism
  13. "Mindfulness and the Mind," by Subhuti. Madhyamavani Online
  14. "Mindfulness Defined," by Thanissaro Bhikku. pg 2
  15. Wallace & Bodhi (2006), p. 4. According to this correspondence, Ven. Nyanaponika spend his last ten years living with and being cared for by Bodhi. Bodhi refers to Nyanaponika as "my closest kalyāṇamitta in my life as a monk."
  16. Nan Huaijin. Working Toward Enlightenment: The Cultivation of Practice. York Beach: Samuel Weiser. 1993. pp. 118-119, 138-140.
  17. Nan Huaijin. Working Toward Enlightenment: The Cultivation of Practice. York Beach: Samuel Weiser. 1993. p. 146.
  18. mindfulness in breathing
  19. "On Mindfulness"
  20. "Stop being mindful"
  21. Mindfulness Research Monthly, Volume 1, Number 5.
  22. "Can Meditation Cure Disease?" by Maureen Seaberg. The Daily Beast

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