Right Mindfulness is the seventh step on the Noble Eightfold Path, and belongs to the wisdom division of the path. Buddha gives right mindfulness a very high place in the scheme of spiritual practice. He says: “This is the direct path for the purification of beings, for the overcoming of sorrow and lamentation, for the disappearance of pain and distress, for the attainment of the right method, and for the realization of unbinding."
The Buddha explains: “And what, monks, is right mindfulness? Herein, a monk dwells contemplating the body in the body, ardent, clearly comprehending and mindful, having put away covetousness and grief concerning the world. He dwells contemplating feelings in feelings... states of mind in states of mind, phenomena in phenomena...”
The Buddha says that these four foundations of mindfulness form “the only way that leads to the attainment of purity, to the overcoming of sorrow and lamentation, to the end of pain and grief, to the entering upon the right path and the realization of Nirvana.” To be established in Right Mindfulness is to be in Nirvana.
Right mindfulness is both the foundation and companion of concentration. Concentration is holding on to a single idea or image steadily while right mindfulness is observing everything merely as a withess. Right mindfulness keeps a watch over the mind and puts a stop when the mind is losing attention, wandering and becoming restless. What is right mindfulness?
The Pali word for mindfulness is sati, meaning observing, noting, witnessing. Mindfulness is being in the present moment. To be mindful (mind-full) is to be fully present, not lost in judging, imagining, daydreaming, anticipating, etc. Being fully mindful means being fully attentive to everything as it is.
Mindfulness like a mirror reflects only what is presently happening and in exactly the way it is happening. Mindfulness is non-judgmental observation. Mindfulness is an impartial watchfulness. Mindfulness is non-conceptual awareness. It takes place in the here and now. It takes place without any references to thoughts like ‘me,’ ‘my’ or ‘mine.’
Mindfulness has no set goal or aim. In Mindfulness one does not strive for results, one does not try to accomplish anything. Mindfulness is watching things as they are changing. It just observes the birth, growth, and maturity of all phenomena. Here the practitioner is both the participant and also the observer at the same time.
The task is to be here and now without getting distracted by the tides of thoughts. In this watching there is no room for clinging, likes or dislikes etc.
Benefits of Right Mindfulness
1. The practice of Right Mindfulness alerts and reminds us of our present task. If the mind happens to, wander then it brings it back to meditation.
2. The practice of Right Mindfulness helps us see things as they really are and not to cherish wrong or distorted ideas about them and fall into delusion.
3. The practice of Right Mindfulness helps us get to the bottom of Reality. Through mindfulness we can clearly perceive the three characteristic marks of existence: that this world is imperfect, temporary and full of suffering. Mindfulness facilitates the achievement of both serenity and insight. Mindfulness leads to Self-knowledge.
Swami Vivekananda compares a mind without mindfulness to a restless monkey. Practice of mindfulness brings rest, serenity and insight. It will slowly lead to deep concentration and wisdom. It also keeps watch over all the hindrances beneath their camouflage and helps us expel them before they can cause harm.
Right attitude for the practice of mindfulness
Before undertaking the practice of mindfulness one must develop a special attitude of mind. This attitude consists of: Friendliness toward those who are sincerely striving; Compassion for those who are suffering; Joy seeing the others happy, and Equanimity toward the indolent.
Further there are three important factors in the practice of mindfulness: morality, concentration and wisdom. Each one influences the other, so one should cultivate the three of them together. Without the foundation of these three one will not be able to practice mindfulness.
Practice of mindfulness
Mindfulness can only be acquired with unremitting, constant practice. Only after a long time of practice can one achieve a complete and continuous awareness of what is happening both in the internal and the external world.
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 speechand practice right speech, abandon the wrong action and follow the right action and abandon the wrong livelihood and pursue the right livelihood.
There are five hindrances and seven factors of enlightenment that require special attention.
The five hindrances are: sensual desire, ill will, dullness and drowsiness, restlessness and worry, and doubt. Right mindfulness helps us detect and overcome these five obstacles.
Similarly there are seven factors of enlightenment that aid spiritual progress. These are: mindfulness, investigation, energy, rapture, tranquillity, concentration, and equanimity. With the help of these one can advance towards nirvana.
Right mindfulness helps us overcome all obstacles and gradually leads us to the state of enlightenment, nirvana.
(To be continued)