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A Dhamma of Mindfulness
A Dhamma of Mindfulness is an article on the refined mindfulness developed through the Eightfold Path. Throughout the Buddha’s teaching he emphasized developing Refined Mindfulness. Mindfulness is the quality of mind that brings insight to the Buddha’s teaching. The Buddha placed an emphasis on mindfulness in very specific ways. When the Buddha taught the seven factors of enlightenment to Cunda, Mindfulness was the first factor.
Mindfulness means to “hold in mind” or to recollect. It is the mind-less-ness caused by the distraction of dukkha that is to be overcome to break free of clinging, craving, aversion, and all deluded thinking.
In the Satipatthana Sutta the Buddha teaches the Four Foundations of Mindfulness:
- Being mindful of the breath in the body
- Being mindful of feelings in the body (physical and mental)
- Being mindful of thinking – being mindful that thoughts are occurring and are determining perception/expereience
- Being mindful of mind – the point of view of dispassionately observing the breath, feelings and thoughts. The fourth foundation of mindfulness is mindful awareness of the current quality of mind free of the desire that this quality be any different than is occurring.
These are all aspects of a Shamatha-Vipassana meditation practice. As we sit and place awareness on the sensation of breathing, the mind quiets. As the mind quiets a dispassionate observance of feelings, physical or emotional, becomes possible. Insight into the impermanence of all things mental and physical arises.
In the Appamada Sutta King Pasenadi asked the Buddha:
“Is there one quality that develops understanding (of The Four Noble Truths) both now in this life and for all time?” The Buddha responded: There is one quality that develops understanding in this life and for all time. That quality is mindfulness.”
The Buddha then offered this verse:
For one who desires long life, health, nibbana
The wise praise mindfulness of the Eightfold Path.
When mindful and wise
You develop understanding now and for all time.
By breaking through to your own understanding
You are called enlightened.
The buddha used mindfulness repeatedly throughout the forty-five years of his teaching the Dhamma and always in two specific applications: The meditation method that the Buddha taught, Shamatha-Vipassana, is grounded in mindfulness of the breath-in-the-body, feelings, and thoughts, and the impermanence of these three (of four) foundations of mindfulness. The fourth foundation, being mindful of mind is holding in mind a dispassionate view of the first the breath, feelings, thoughts and the resulting quality of mind.
Reaction to feelings and thoughts brings disturbance to the mind. Dispassionate observance of feelings and thoughts brings calm and insight.
The Buddha also taught to remain mindful of the Dhamma and in particular The Four Noble Truths including the Eightfold Path. Relating mindfulness to the Eightfold Path the Buddha taught:
•Be mindful to abandon wrong view and enter and remain in Right View
•Be mindful to abandon wrong intention and enter and remain in Right Intention
•Be mindful to abandon wrong speech and enter and remain in Right Speech
•Be mindful to abandon wrong action and enter and remain in Right Action
•Be mindful to abandon wrong livelihood and enter and remain in Right Livelihood 
As mindfulness of The Four Noble Truths develops, agitated or confused mind states will be recognized as a distraction from mindfulness. As Dhamma practice deepens all impermanent distractions will be recognized and abandoned. Eventually, with wholehearted practice of mindfulness of the Dhamma, all causes of confusion and unhappiness will be put aside and lasting peace and happiness will be seen as the abiding quality of a well-concentrated mind.
The Last words of the Buddha, spoken moments before his death:
“Impermanence is relentless, decay inevitable. Work diligently for your own salvation. Mindful you should dwell, clearly comprehending. This I exhort you.”
Enjoy your mindfulness. Peace.
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My Dhamma articles and talks are based on the Buddha's teachings (suttas) as preserved in the Sutta Pitaka, the second book of the Pali Canon. I have relied primarily on Thanissaro Bhikkhu’s excellent and insightful translation of the Pali generously made freely available at his website Dhammatalks.org, as well as the works of Acharya Buddharakkhita, Nyanaponika Thera, John Ireland, Maurice Walsh, Hellmuth Hecker, and Sister Khema, among others, as preserved at Access To Insight.
Also, I have found Bhikkhu Bodhi's translations from Wisdom Publications Pali Canon Anthologies to be most informative and an excellent resource.
I have made edits to the suttas from these sources for further clarity, to modernize language, to minimize repetition, and maintain contextual relevance to Dependent Origination and Four Noble Truths.
Becoming-Buddha.com and Dhamma articles and recordings by John Haspel are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.