When we apply ourselves
to generosity, dana, to morality, sila, or to mental development, bhavana,
there is confidence, saddha, with the kusala citta. Without confidence
in the value of kusala we could not perform any kind of kusala. Kusala
citta does not only need confidence in order to perform its task, it also
needs mindfulness, sati, which is heedful, non-forgetful, of kusala.There
are many opportunities for generosity, for morality and for mental development,
but we are often forgetful of kusala and we waste such opportunities. When
mindfulness arises there is heedfulness of kusala and then the opportunity
for kusala which presents, itself is not wasted. There has to be mindfulness
with dana, with sila, with samatha and with the development of insight.
Mindfulness, sati, is one of the nineteen sobhana cetasikas which have
to arise with each sobhana citta. The Atthasdlini (I, Part IV, Chapter
1, 121) states that the characteristic of mindfulness is "not floating
away'. Mindfulness "does not allow the floating away of moral states",
such as the four applications of mindfulness and the other factors leading
to enlightenment. Another characteristic of mindfulness the Atthasalini
mentions is "acquiring" or "taking up" (1 In Pali: upaganhana.), that is,
acquirement of what is useful and beneficial. Mindfulness, when it arises,
"searches well the courses of states, advantageous and disadvantageous:
-'these states are advantageous, those disadvantageous, these states are
serviceable, those not serviceable'- and then removes the disadvantageous
and takes up the advantageous."
The Atthasalini then gives another definition of mindfulness:
has "not floating away" as its characteristic, unforgetfulness as its function,
guarding, or the state of facing the object, as its manifestation, firm
remembrance (sanna) or application in mindfulness as regards the body,
etc., as proximate cause. It should be regarded as a door-past from being
firmly established in the object, and as a door-keeper from guarding the
door of the senses.
The definition of mindfulness
in the Visuddhimagga (XIV, 141) is similar to this definition.
Mindfulness is non-forgetful of what is kusala and it keeps us from akusala.
Also those who do not know about the Dhamma are able to perform wholesome
deeds, but it is through the Dhamma that one can know more precisely what
is kusala and what is akusala. Association with the good friend in Dhamma,
listening to the Dhamma and considering it are most helpful conditions
for mindfulness in the field of dana, sila, samatha and insight, thus,
for all levels of mindfulness. The generosity, the patience and all the
other good qualities of the true friend. in Dhamma can remind one to develop
such qualities as well.
There are different ways of kusala and in order to be more heedful of what
is wholesome, it is helpful to know more in detail about them. Dana, generosity,
for example, is not only the giving away of useful things. There are also
other ways of generosity included in dana, such as expressing our appreciation
of someone else's kusala (anumodhana dana ). We may be stingy as to words
of praise or we are lazy with regard to kusala and then we let opportunities
for such a way of generosity go by. It is mindfulness which is non-forgetful
of this way of generosity when the opportunity arises. Another form of
generosity is to give someone else, no matter he lives in this world or
in some other plane of existence, the opportunity to rejoice in our good
deeds, so that he has kusala citta as well. It is rnindfuIness, not self,
which is heedful of kusala. Without mindfulness it is impossible to perform
any kind of kusala.
Abstaining from ill deeds is a way of kusala included in sila. The Buddha
explained in detail what is right and what is wrong. We should consider
his words and test their meaning. Then we can verify ourselves the truth
of his teachings. Before we studied the Dhamma we may not have known that
also the killing of insects, for example, is akusala. Through the Dharnma
we acquire more understanding of our different cittas, of kusala cittas
and akusala cittas. We come to understand that killing is motivated by
dosa and that the killing of any living being, insects included, is akusala
kamma which can produce akusala yipaka. When we see the disadvantages of
all kinds of akusala there are conditions for the arising of mindfulness
which is heedful, non-forgetful of abstaining from akusala.
Through the Dharnrna we learn about different ways of kusala. Before we
studied the Dhamma we may not have-known that politeness and respect are
ways of kusala kamma. Politeness and respect which are expressed by gestures
or words are forms of sila. When there is an opportunity for such a way
of kusala, mindfulness may arise and be non-forgetful of it, so that this
opportunity is not wasted; that is the function of mindfulness.
There is not only mindfulness which is non-forgetful of dana or of sila,
there is also mindfulness with mental development. The development of calm,samatha,is
one way of mental development. There is mindfulness with the kusala citta
which develops calm. There are many degrees of calm. Jhana, absorption,
is a high level of calm and it is extremely difficult to attain this level;
one can only attain jhana if one has accumulations for it and if there
is right understanding of its way of development. One may have no accumulations
for jhana, but there can be moments of calm in daily life. For example,
if there is right understanding of the characteristic of loving kindness,
which is one of the meditation subjects of samatha, this quality can be
developed in daily life and then there is calm conditioned by loving kindness.
When there is calm, no matter of what degree, there is also mindfulness
of the object of calm, be it loving kindness, compassion, the recollection
of the Buddha or any other object of samatha.
The study of the Dhamma is included in mental development. When we study
the Dhamma with the aim to have more understanding of realities there is
mindfulness at that moment. When we study the Dhamma and consider it there
is intellectual understanding of realities and this is different from direct
understanding of the reality which appears at the present moment. Intellectual
understanding is a necessary foundation for the development of direct understanding
or insight, vipassana.
In order to understand what mindfulness of vipassana is, we should know
what its object is. The object of mindfulness in the development of vipassana
is the nama or rupa which appears at the present moment. Nama and rupa
are ultimate realities, different from "conventional realities" or concepts,
such as person, mind, body, animal or tree. Concepts are objects we can
think of but they are not real in the absolute sense.
We should know the difference between ultimate realities and concepts.
If we only know concepts and not ultimate realities we believe that a person
or self really exists. We tend to think of a "whole" of mind and body,
of the human person. When we study the Dhamma we learn that what we call
mind are different types of citta accompanied by different cetasikas, and
that these change all the time. What we call body are different rupas,
some of which are produced by kamrna, some by citta, some by temperature
and some by nutridon. These rupas arise and then fall away, they change
all the time. Through the study of the Dhamma we leam about the different
conditions for the cittas, cetasikas and rupas which arise. For instance,
people are bom with different bodily features: some are beautiful, some
are ugly, some are strong in body, some are weak. Such differences are
caused by kamma. People have, as we say in conventional language, different
characters, and through the Dhamma we acquire a more precise understanding
of the conditions for their different characters. People had, in past lives,
different abilities, different inclinations, and these have been accumulated
from one moment of citta to the next moment of citta; therefore, they can
condition the citta arising at the present moment. Kusala cittas and akusala
cittas which arise are conditioned by accumulated inclinations to wholesomeness
and unwholesomeness. We have pleasant experiences and unpleasant experiences
through the senses and these are conditioned phenomena, they are yipakacittas
produced by kamma. When we study the different conditions for the phenomena
which arise we will understand more clearly that they are only fleeting
phenomena, that there is no person or self who can exert control over the
events of life.
We are used to only paying attention to concepts, but through the study
of the Dhamma we leam to see the value of developing understanding of ultimate
realities, of nama and rupa. We learn through the study of the Abhidhamma
that the sense-objects are experienced through their appropriate doorway
by cittas which arise in processes. Visible object is experienced through
the eye-door by cittas arising in the eye-door process. Tangible object
such as hardness is experienced through the body-door by cittas arising
in the body-door process. Each object is experienced through its appropriate
doorway; tangible object, for example, could not be experienced through
the eye-door. Only one object can be experienced at a time, through one
doorway; the different doorways should not be confused with each other.
When we only pay attention to concepts we think for example, that we can
see and touch a flower. But in reality the seeing sees only what is visible,
visible object, and the body-consciousness experiences tangible object
such as hardness or softness. We can think of a 'whole" such as a flower
because of remembrance of different experiences through different doorways.
The thinking is conditioned by the seeing and other sense impressions.
Nama and rupa appear one at a time and each one of them has its own characteristic.
These characteristics cannot be changed. Seeing, for example, has its own
characteristic; we can give it another name, but its characteristic cannot
be changed. Seeing is always seeing for everybody, no matter an animal
or any other living being sees. Concepts are only objects of thinking,
they are not realities with their own characteristics, and thus they are
not objects of which right understanding is to be developed. Nama and rupa
which are real in the absolute sense are the objects of which right understanding
should be developed.
Only one reality at a time can be experienced by citta and thus also mindfulness
which accompanies the kusala citta can experience only one object at a
time. Since we are so used to paying attention to "wholes", to concepts
such as people, cars or trees, we find it difficult to consider only one
reality at a time. When we know the difference between the moments of thinking
of concepts and the moments that only one reality at a time, such as sound
or hardness appears, we will gradually have more understanding of what
In order to remind people of the truth of conditioned realities the Buddha
taught about six doors, the objects experienced through these doorways
and the realities which experience these objects. We read, for example,
in the Middle Length Sayings (III, no. 148, "Discourse on the Six Sixes")
that the Buddha, while he was staying near Savatthi, in the Jeta Grove,
explained to the monks :
... When it
is said. "Six internal sense-fields are to be understood", in reference
to what is it said? It is in reference to the sense-field of eye, the sense-field
of ear, the sense-field of nose, the sense-field of tongue, the sense-field
of body, the sensefield of mind. When it is said, "Six internal sense-fields
are to be understood" it is said in reference to this. This is the first
We then read about the
six classes of impingement (contact or phassa), about the six classes of
feeling conditioned by those impingements and about the six classes, of
craving conditioned by the six classes of feeling. Direct understanding
of all these realities which arise because of their own conditions can
eradicate the wrong view of self and can eventually lead to "turning away",
to detachment from realities.
When it is said, "Six external sense-fields are to be understood". In reference
to what is it said? It is in reference to the sense-field of material shapes,
the sense-field of sounds. the sense-field of smells, the sense-field of
tastes, the sense-field of touches, the sense-field of mental states. When
it is said. "Six external sense-fields are to be understood", it is said
in reference to this. This is the second Six.
When it is said, "Six clones of consciousness are to be understood", in
reference to what is it said? It is in reference to the visual consciousness
that arises because of eye and material shapes; the auditory consciousness
that arises because of ear and sounds; the olfactory consciousness that
arises because of nose and smells; the gustatory consciousness that arises
because tongue and tastes; the bodily consciousness that arises because
of body and touches; the mental consciousness that arises because of mind
and mental states.
When it is said. "Six classes of consciousness are to be understood" it
is said in reference to this. This is the third Six...
This sutta reminds us that each reality which appears through one of the
six doors should be known separately, we should not confuse different realities
with each other. We are so used to the idea of seeing people. However,
the only object which can be seen is visible object. If there is mindfulness
of visible object when it appears we will understand that visible object
is a reality which can be experienced through the eyesense, that it is
not a person. We may find it difficult to grasp this truth and we may wonder
whether we have to avoid thinking of concepts. We do not have to avoid
this, then we could not live our daily life. The citta which thinks of
concepts is a reality, it arises because of conditions and it can be known
as only a kind of nama, not self. We can live our daily life as usual,
thinking of concepts and expressing ourselves by means of conventional
language, in terms of "I", "self" or "person", but at the same time right
understanding of nama and rupa can be developed. Even when we think of
people and talk to them, there are nama and rupa which appear, and these
can be objects of mindfulness.
The cetasika sati, mindfulness, is different from what is meant by mindfulness
in conventional language. Someone may think that he is mindful when he
directs his attention to what he is doing or to what is going on around
him. That is not the characteristic of sati in the development of insight.
Sati of vipassana is, as we have seen, mindful of a nama or a rupa which
appears, without there being a thought of self who makes a particular effort
or who is directing the attention to an object. Also sati is only a type
of nama, not self.
When there is mindfulness of a nama or rupa which appears, direct understanding
of that reality can at that moment be developed. When we learn a subject
such as mathematics or history, we study books and try to understand the
subject we study. In order to understand realities we have to investigate
or "study" them, but that is not study through thinking, it is the development
of direct understanding of realities. When a reality such as sound appears
and there is mindfulness of it, its characteristic can be "studied" or
investigated, just for an extremely short moment. In that way it can be
known as it is: a conditioned reality which does not belong to anyone.
The word "study" can remind us that there should be mindfulness of realities
again and again, until they are known as they are. Full understanding cannot
be achieved within a short time.
As we have seen in the definition of the Atthasalini, "guarding"
is a manifestation of mindfulness. Through mindfulness the six doors are
guarded. When there is no mindfulness after having seen visible object
through the eyes, there is bound to be attachment, aversion and ignorance
on account of the object. We are absorbed in the objects which are experienced
through the six doors. When mindfulness arises there is no akusala citta
on account of the object which is experienced and thus the doorways are
guarded. The Atthasalini compares mindfulness with a doorkeeper.
In order to understand the function of mindfulness it is helpful to know
the danger of the absence of mindfulness. The definition of "Heedlessness"
in the Book of Analysis (Vibhanga, Chapter 17, Analysis of Small
Items, 846) reminds us of the danger of akusala and the value of
mindfulness which guards the six doors. We read:
Therein what is "heedlessness'? Wrong bodily action or wrong verbal action
or wrong mental action or the succumbing and repeated succumbing of consciousness
to the five strands of sense pleasures or not working carefully, not working
constantly. working spasmodically. Being stagnant, relinquishing wish (desire-to-do,
chanda), relinquishing the task non-pursuance, non-development, non-repetition,
non-resolution, nonpractising, heedlessness in the development of good
states; that which is similar, heedlessness, being heedless. state of being
heedless. This is called heedlessness.
When we are not mindful
we succumb repeatedly to the " five strands of sense pleasures ". Tile
doors of the eye, ear, nose, tongue, bodysense and the mind-door are not
guarded. We are working "spasmodically", or we are stagnant; we are lazy
as to the development of right understanding. we cannot force the arising
of mindfulness, but when we sloe the danger of akusala it can condition
non-forgetfulness of the reality appearing at the present moment. When
mindfulness arises there is no "relinquishing of the task", namely the
task of the development of right understanding.
It may seem uninteresting to investigate realities such as visible object,
seeing, sound or hearing, but we should remember that right understanding
of realities bears directly on our daily life. It can eliminate wrong bodily
action, wrong verbal action and wrong mental action. When wrong view has
been eradicated completely we shall never again neglect the five precepts
since there are no more conditions for neglecting them. Even when one has
not yet become a sotapanna, mindfulness can prevent akusala kamma. For
instance, when there is an unpleasant sound aversion may arise and it could
motivate akusala kamma. Whereas when there is mindfulness of sound as only
a kind of rupa, not the voice of someone, not the sound of a radio, the
doors are guarded. When mindfulness guards the six doors it is to the benefit
of ourselves as well as of other people.
As we have seen, the Atthasalini states that the proximate cause
of mindfulness is ill remembrance (sanna) or the four applications of mindfulness
(satipatthana). There can be mindfulness of the nama or rupa which appears
because of firm remembrance of all we learnt from the teachings about nama
and rupa. Listening is mentioned in the scriptures as a most important
condition for the attainment of enlightenment, because when we listen time
and again, there can be firm remenbrance of the Dhamma. Mindfulness is
different from remembrance, sanna. Sanna accompanies every citta; it recognizes
the object and "marks" it, so that it can be recognized again. Mindfulness,
sati, is not forgethe of what is wholesome. It arises with sobhana cittas.
But when there is sati which is non-forgetfuI of dana, sila, of the object
of calm or, in the case of vipassana, of the nama and rupa appearing at
the present moment, there is also kusala sanna which remembers the object
in the fight way, in the wholesome way.
The other proximate cause of mindfulness is the four applications of mindfulness
or satipatthana (1 satipatthana means mindfulness of vipassana or the object
of mindfulness of vipassana.) . All realities can be object of mindfulness
in the development of insight and are thus included in the four applications
of mindfulness which are rupa, feeling, citta and dhamma. For those who
have accumulations to develop calm to the degree of jhana and to develop
insight as well, also jhanacitta can be object of mindfulness in vipassana,
in order to see it as non-self. Right understanding of realities is developed
through mindfulness of any nama or rupa which appears now, be it akusala
citta, maha-kusala citta, jhanacitta or any other reality. One should not
try to direct mindfulness to a particular object; there is no self who
can have power over any reality or who can direct sad. There is not any
reality which is excluded from the four applications of mindfulness.
Mindfulness is one of the "five spiritual faculties" (indriyas) Which should
be developed. As we have seen, the other spiritual faculties are: confidence,
energy, concentration and wisdom. We read in the Dhammasangani (14)
about the faculty of mindfulness:
What on that
occasion is the faculty of mindfulness?
(I, Part IV, Chapter II, 147), in its explanation of this passage, states
The mindfulness which on that occasion is recollecting, calling back to
mind: the mindfulness which is remembering, bearing in mind, the apposite
of superficiality and of obliviousness; mindfulness as faculty (indriya),
mindfulness as power (bala), right mindfulness- this is the faculty of
mindfulness that there then is.
(in the sense of diving or entering into the object) is the state of not
letting the object float away. Not as pumpkins and pots, etc., which float
on the water and do not sink therein, does mindfulness sink into the object.
Hence it is said to be non-superficiality... .
Mindfulness is an indriya,
a " controlling faculty", a "leader' of the citta and accompanying cetasikas
in its function of heedfulness, of non-forgetfulness of what is wholesome.
We read in the Atthasalini, in the same section:
... It exercises
government (over associated states) in the characteristic of presenting
or illuminating the object- this is the faculty of mindfulness.
Mindfulness is non-forgetful
of the object, and understanding (panna) has the function of knowing it
as it h. Mindfulness, when it is developed, becomes a power or strength
(bala), and then it is unshalkable by its opposite, by forgetfulness. We
read in the same section of the Atthasalini :
... It does
not fluctuate on account of negligence- this is "strength of mindfulness
" Right mindfulness " is irreversible, emancipating, moral mindfulness.
The five wholesome controlling
faculties, the "spiritual faculties", must be developed in samatha in order
to attain jhana and in vipassana in order to attain enlightenment. It is
our nature to be forgetful of the reality which appears now, but gradually
mindfulness can be accumulated. It can even become a "power".
Right mindfulness is one of the factors of the eightfold Path. It is "emancipating";
the factors of the eightfold Path lead to freedom from defilements. Mindfulness
is alto one of the enlightenment factors (bojjhangas). The other factors
are: investigation of Dhamma (dhamma vicaya), energy, enthusiasm (piti),
tranquillity (passaddhi), concentration and equanimity.
One may wonder how, in the development of insight, the faculty of mindfulness,
the power of mindfulness, the Path factor right mindfulness and the enlightenment
factor of mindfulness can be developed. The answer is: through mindfulness
of the nama and rupa which appears right now. There is no other way. Sights,
sounds, scents, flavours and tangible objects are most of the time objects
of attachment, aversion and ignorance. If mindfulness arises and right
understanding of the object is being developed, one is at that moment not
enslaved to the object nor disturbed by it. If we understand that mindfulness
of realities can eventually have an immediate effect on our daily life,
we will have more courage to develop it at this moment.