The Buddha’s Teachings on Mindfulness
By Gil Fronsdal
What need to be provided for his disciples out of compassion by an Instructor who seeks their well-being and has empathy for them,
that I have in fact done for you, Ānanda.There are these
roots of trees, these empty huts.Meditate, Ānānda, do not postpone, otherwise you will regret it later.This is my direction to you.
(MN 152.18) The image that a lot of universally represents Buddhism is
that of the Buddha practicing meditation. Without the Buddha’s awakening, there would be no Buddhism, and without meditation, there would be no awakening. Even as an awakened being, the Buddha is usually shown as spending a great part of his days in meditation, i.e., doing the”day’s abiding”(e.g. MN 119.2). Eleven discourses report that his monastic disciples likewise spent the day practicing meditation, waiting till the night to go to the Buddha or other monks(e.g. MN 62). The Middle Length Discourses appears to have a higher concentrate on meditation than any of the other 4 primary nikāyas(collections of suttas ). The collection includes a few of the most essential and total meditation instructions in the Pāli canon. Among the best understood and most popular are the”Discourse on the Structures of Mindfulness”(MN 10 )and the “Discourse on Mindfulness of Breathing “(MN 118). Among the words most words carefully connected to the Buddha’s meditation is sati, which is generally corresponded as”
mindfulness.”However it may not be the very best choice; the modern-day Western significances of “mindfulness”may not be a great match for how sati is used in the suttas. In the following conversation, I will begin by avoiding using” mindfulness” and instead relying on the Pali word sati so we can much better take a look at its significance in a fresh way.In the Middle Length Discourses the principle of sati is utilized in two broad, overlapping methods: the mental faculty of sati, and the practice of sati. The distinct function in the course of meditation of these two elements of sati is regularly obscured due to the reality that it is easy to conflate them.The Mental Professors of SatiAs a mental faculty, satiis one of the 5 psychological faculties, or indriyas. Actually suggesting”originating from Indra,”the ruler of the Vedic gods, indriya is used in the Middle
Length Discourses to explain different human capabilities that, like Indra, have some power over their sphere of influence. The 5 psychological teachers are faith, energy, sati, concentration, and knowledge(MN 26.15).  To start to understand the faculty of sati, it works to understand that as a cognate of the verb sarati, meaning ‘to keep in mind’, satiis connected to memory. What remembering and mindfulness
share is the mental activity of holding something in awareness. This is most particular in such passages as: [One] has the highest sati and ability; [one] recalls and recollects what was done long back and spoken long back( MN 53.16).  In the note to this passage Bhikkhus Ñāṇamoli and Bodhi explain the relationship in between mindfulness and memory by pointing out that”keen listening to today kinds the basis for an exact memory of the past”(n. 560). This is highlighted in
the Buddha’s recollection (anu- [s] -sati)of his past lives while in a meditative state(MN 4.27)where sati includes’bringing to mind’what took place long ago.As holds true with various terms, the discourses do not provide a thorough definition or description forthe teachers of sati. Therefore to comprehend what this professors is we require to rely on how the word is utilized in the suttas.Overall the discourses offer the impression that sati is a crucial teachers that a private possesses however not a mental activity a private deliberately participates in. the word sati, by itself, is hardly ever used with verbs that explain an intentional psychological activity. Rather, sati is described as a state or teachers that one
has or that exists in some way: One’has’ (samannāgata )sati(MN 27.17 )One is’ endowed ‘with sati(satīmata; MN 56.29)One has’pureness’ (pārisuddhi)of sati( MN 59.10 )One is’ developed'(upaṭṭhita)in sati (MN 4.17 )One ‘abides'(viharati)in sati(MN 38.30)In the very first 3 of these statements sati is something one has. In the last 2 it is a state within which one is. Nowhere in the text does the Buddha especially recommend others to actively use or do sati. However,
MN 151.12 ), he is not telling them to participate in the activity of sati, rather he is telling them to participate in activities that reinforce the professors of sati. This is why the Buddha describes the development of sati through activities aside from sati itself. Simply put sati is a result of other practices. This is most clearly evident in those passages where the Buddha extremely initially offers a list of practices to do and after that talks about that those practices are conducive to having sati( MN 107.3-11 ). Given that the most normal use of the word sati stays in the descriptions of
the 3rd and fourth jhāna, advanced states of meditative absorption, to comprehend what sati may be we likewise require to understand it in this context. In neither of these 2 meditative states is a person actively doing or using mindfulness. Rather, sati is simply present.Because of this, a far better translationfor sati than”mindfulness” may be” awareness”– a word I relate to a state of responsive listening not requiring uncomfortable effort. In this sense, “awareness”usually fits the various methods sati is utilized in the suttas better than does” mindfulness. “This likewise recommends that typically sati had a various significance than how mindfulness is generally taught today, when it is utilized more as
an active practice of directed attention; for instance, when one chooses to be mindful of something or when one actively recognizes that which one is aware.The overall impression from the suttas is that the teachers of sati as an ability for understanding is an essential frame of mind that is stimulated or established through particular practices. Due to the fact that they established or establish awareness, these practices can be called”practices of sati,” “awareness practices,”or ” practices for establishing awareness.”The Practice of Sati If we take a look at the mentors of the Buddha, we see that the practice of sati includes more than the particular faculty of sati; it includes a mix of practices and faculties.The distinction between the professors of sati and practice of sati can be revealed with an analogy. Someone who has the capability to walk might stroll in numerous methods. One way may be to train to select a long walking, in which case the individual’s practice of strolling establishes his/her teachers of walking: one’s capability to walk improves. The person’s walking practice might vary in frequency and intensity; it may involve strolling fast and far sufficient to develop endurance and strength. It might include picking to alternate between walking in hills and strolling on flat land. In a similar method we have the capability to be conscious. Particular kinds of practice that include more than merely comprehending can strengthen this ability. This can consist of regular and ardent attentional exercises, actively letting
go of thoughts that obscure present minute awareness, and choosing valuable locations of life to focus attention.The practice of Right Sati, the seventh think about the Eightfold Course, is described accordingly: What, friends, is perfect mindfulness? Here a monk abides considering the body as body, ardent, totally mindful and conscious, having in fact put away covetousness and sorrow for the world. He abides pondering sensations as sensations, ardent, completely mindful and conscious, having really put away covetousness and sorrow for the world. He abides contemplating mind states as mind states, ardent totally conscious and conscious, having put away covetousness and grief for the world. He abides considering mind-objects as mind-objects, ardent, completely conscious and mindful, having put away covetousness and grief for the world.( MN 141.30 )Here sati practice consists of thinking about 4 specific locations of experience, the body, feelings, mind states, and mind-objects. Second, it includes being ardent, fully conscious and mindful. Third, it needs having”put away covetousness and grief for the world.”In this quote, which is my translation, the word” awareness” functions as the translation of sati. Lots of English translations of this passage render sati as “mindfulness.
“Regardless of how it is related, the word is utilized to recognize how to practice observing. To put it merely, sati is not a practice; rather it is a way of how to practice.Other descriptions of the practice of Right Sati likewise discuss it in terms besides mindfulness. In MN 117.9, for instance, Right Sati is referred to as:”Mindfully one abandons inaccurate view, mindfully one goes into upon and abides in best view: this is one’s finest sati.”Here the activity connected to Right Sati is deserting and getting in. As an adverb,’mindfully’specifies deserting and entering into, it is not an activity itself. In this example, the practice of Right Sati is integrated with the specific and active practices of deserting incorrect
view and replacing it with perfect view. Here and elsewhere Right Sati is described by a set of activities or practices besides intentionally making use of the professors of mindfulness.The “Discourse on Mindfulness of the Body” (MN 119)describes sati with the list below passage: As he abides for that reason watchful, ardent, and undaunted, his memories and objectives based upon the home life are deserted; with their abandoning his mindbecomes steadied internally, silenced, brought to singleness, and concentrated. This is how a bhikkhu establishes sati of the body.(MN 119.4)Here too sati is referred to as including a set of other qualities and practices. It does not state that having these qualities and practices are
the like sati of the body, rather it says they are the way in which sati of the body is developed. When once again, sati is a result of specific activities.The Buddha’s necessary coaches on sati are discovered in a text extensively called the “Discourse on the Structures of Mindfulness”(MN 10). The text consists of no directions to actively practice mindfulness or to direct mindfulness. In truth, thought about that sati stays in the title of the text, the word sati is, incredibly, generally missing in the discourse. Rather of providing directions in” doing”mindfulness, the text encourages us to do such deliberate activities as observe, understand, unwind, plainly understand, and review.This gets more remarkable when we think about the expression regularly translated as”structures of mindfulness”: satipaṭṭhāna.While sati can suggest”awareness,”it is not clear what pa ṭṭhāna implies. Amongst the primary options is”establishing. “Satipaṭṭhāna hence wouldbe”establishing awareness,”and the full title of the text may be the “Discourse on Establishing Awareness.”The direction given in the text is how to establish an increased listening or wakefulness through a range of various practices, all of which should be practiced with ardency, clear comprehension, and awareness.If sati is finest translated as”awareness,”then sampajañña, the Pali word for”clear understanding,”is a better suitable for the English word”mindfulness.”This is due to the fact that in contemporary mindfulness teaching” mindfulness “frequently involves plainly knowing what one comprehends. That is, when one is conscious, one
clearly comprehends whatever is the focus of attention. To put it simply, in contemporary teachings,”mindfulness “regularly corresponds to the Buddhist principle of sampajañña, not sati. When this clear comprehension/ mindfulness (sampajañña ), is incorporated with ardency, awareness( sati), and the observation of body, feeling tones, mind states, and mind things, this set of practices can still be described as”mindfulness practice. “However, the category originates from my proposed translation of sampajañña,, not that of sati. Despite how we relate the ancient Buddhist words, the purpose of mindfulness practice is to establish a strong degree of awareness. This, in turn, can cause a state that the”Discourse on the Establishing of Awareness ” (MN 10)describes as”abiding independent, not holding on to anything in the world.”When awareness ends up being strong and consistent one can enter and abide in it in such a method that one can discover liberty from what is understood. The “Discourse on the Establishing of Awareness “ends by defining: This is the direct course for the filtration of beings, for overcoming sadness and lamentation, for the disappearance of distress and grief, for the attainment of the practice, for the awareness of Nibbāna– particularly, the 4 methods of establishing awareness.  The Middle Length Discourses consists of a list of teachers which may be referred to as’noticing faculties’, i.e. the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind(MN 107.4 ).  See likewise, MN 104.16 where Bhikkhus Ñāṇamoli and Bodhi translate sati as’memory’.