Pamadaviharin Sutta: Dwelling in Mindfulness

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Introduction

There is a popular phrase that shows that the modern view of the purpose of life for many is acquisition and a consumer-driven way of life. “Life is a banquet – don’t leave the table hungry.” This phrase is likely an adaptation of a quote from Aristotle who lived approximately 150 years after the Buddha: “It is best to rise from life as from a banquet, neither thirsty nor drunken.”

Notice how the adaptation to Aristotle’s quote dismisses restraint in favor of consumption and continually seeking to satisfy the senses. Rephrasing the modern adaptation to reflect restraint might be “Life is a banquet – take only what is necessary.”

Modern life encourages constant engagement with the world and in many subtle ways discourages restraint. Many today feel overwhelmed by the demands of life and the busy-ness of their lives. Often what is creating busy-ness is a lack of restraint and a “wrong view” of what is realistically skillful and necessary to engage with and associate with. This is a result of mindlessness or having control over one’s mind.

Solitude and disengagement are essential aspects of the Dhamma and are easily developed through proper restraint.

It is mindful restraint at the Six-sense base that develops awakening or full human maturity. The Six-sense base is our five physical senses and interpretive thinking. In this way, the teachings on restraint directly relate to Dependent Origination in a very practical way.

Dependent Origination shows that:

•    From ignorance as a requisite condition come fabrications.

•    From fabrications as a requisite condition comes consciousness.

•    From consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-and-form.

•    From name-and-form as a requisite condition comes the six sense-bases.

•    From the six sense-bases as a requisite condition comes contact.

•    From contact as a requisite condition comes feeling.

•    From feeling as a requisite condition comes craving.

•    From craving as a requisite condition comes clinging and maintaining.

•    From clinging and maintaining as a requisite condition comes becoming.

•    From becoming as a requisite condition comes birth.

•    From birth as a requisite condition comes aging, sickness, death, sorrow, regret, pain, distress and despair.

As the fifth link in the 12 link chain of dependencies, the six-sense base follows from the initial ignorance of Four Noble Truths. What this means is that the interpretation of contact at the senses is rooted in ignorance and any further assumptions made by contact can only further the confusion and deluded thinking that was initiated by initial fabrications arising from ignorance. In other words, whatever follows from ignorance will be tainted by the fabrications or conditioned thinking initiated from ignorance of Four Noble Truths.

It is imperative to recognize the ongoing process of using sensory stimulus to attempt to continue to establish a permanent self through discursive self-referential thinking. Rather than use sensory stimulus to continue confusion, delusion, and ongoing unsatisfactory experiences, recognizing this process of “I-making” or “Selfing” develops the ability to be mindfully present with what is occurring, rather than interpret life unfolding from a view rooted in initial ignorance.

Pamadaviharin Sutta: Dwelling in Mindfulness

Samyutta Nikaya 35.97

“Friends, pay close attention! I will teach you about one who dwells in mindlessness and one who dwells in mindfulness.

“And how does one dwell in mindlessness? When one is unrestrained at the eye the mind is agitated and distracted by mental fabrications. When agitated and distracted there is no joyful engagement with the Dhamma. Lacking joyful engagement with the Dhamma there is no serenity. There is only disappointment and distraction. When the mind is distracted there can be no Dhamma. Lacking the Dhamma, there is only dwelling in mindlessness.

“When one dwells unrestrained over the ear, or the nose, or the tongue, or the body, the mind is agitated and distracted. There is no joyful engagement with the Dhamma. Lacking joyful engagement with the Dhamma there is no serenity. There is only disappointment and distraction. When the mind is distracted there can be no Dhamma. Lacking the Dhamma there is only dwelling in mindlessness.

“When one dwells unrestrained of thoughts, the mind is agitated and distracted by ideological fabrications. There is no joyful engagement with the Dhamma. Lacking joyful engagement with the Dhamma there is no serenity. There is only disappointment and distraction. When the mind is distracted there can be no Dhamma. Lacking the Dhamma there is only dwelling in mindlessness.

“This is how one dwells in mindlessness.

“And how does one dwell in mindfulness? When a Dhamma Practitioner dwells in restraint with eye, with nose, with the ear, with the tongue, and with the body, the mind is not agitated or distracted by mental fabrications. There is joyful engagement with the Dhamma. There being joyful engagement with the Dhamma there is serenity. There is contentment. The Dhamma is present moment-by-moment and they dwell in mindfulness.

“When one dwells well restrained of thought’s the mind is not agitated or distracted by ideological fabrications. There is joyful engagement with the Dhamma. There being joyful engagement with the Dhamma there is serenity. There is contentment. The Dhamma is present moment by moment and they dwell in mindfulness.

“This is how one dwells in mindfulness.”

End of Sutta

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 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 contextual edits to the suttas from these sources for further clarity, to modernize language, to minimize repetition, and maintain relevance to Dependent Origination and Four Noble Truths.

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