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Mindfulness is Recognition and Renunciation
Mindfulness Is Recognition and Renunciation is an article and talk on how mindfulness is used to bring recognition of craving and renunciation of clinging. The Four Noble Truths, including the Eightfold Path, is initially a way of recognizing the true nature of life in the phenomenal world. The First Noble Truth is that life in the phenomenal world is stressful, confusing, disappointing and disillusioning.
At first glance, this may seem overly pessimistic, but when the ever-changing nature of all things is closely observed, and the human beings pervasive desire to attach to impermanent objects and events, the First Noble Truth is recognized as simply realistic. (See the Four Noble Truths linked below)
Recognizing that the cause of stress is the endless pursuit of clinging to pleasurable experiences, craving for more pleasurable experiences, and the desire to maintain or avoid the ending of pleasurable experiences, allows for the possibility of the cessation of stress and suffering.
The Eightfold Path is the practical framework for developing recognition of all mind states that give rise to stress and suffering. Every mind state is a condition with a cause. Conditioned mind is a singular condition with an almost infinite number of causes.
Every desirous thought, word or deed is a cause of more conditioned thinking. Every virtuous and well-concentrated thought, free of attachment, is a cause for the interruption of conditioned mind and the recognition of unconditioned mind.
The Buddha was referring to these mind-states when he said: “I teach the arising of suffering and the cessation of suffering. Nothing more.”
Modern applications of mindfulness have been taken out of the context of the Eightfold path and applied in ways that, while helpful, likely will not develop the Buddha’s stated intention to bring about the cessation of suffering or awakening to the true nature of reality.
The most skillful application of mindfulness, or the concentration and insight developed with a true and effective meditation practice, is to be able to recognize desire in all its mental manifestations as desire occurs, and to mindfully control the ensuing reaction.
Control of reaction, which leads to a mind of equanimity, is achieved by renouncing, mindfully rejecting, the reaction caused by desire. Discontent with the people and events of our lives, including ourselves and our own mind-states, is desire manifesting as aversion.
Through recognition, conditioned mind becomes more aware of stress-causing desire arising. Mindfully practicing renunciation of desire as desire arises, conditioned mind begins to settle and become less reactive and less desirous. As recognition of desire in all its manifestations increases through mindfulness, it often becomes astonishingly apparent that we are truly the cause of our stress and suffering.
Mind’s natural state of equanimity is always present but elusive due to greed, aversion and delusion. As recognition of stressful and agitated mind-states and subsequent reaction is put aside, our minds unconditioned, peaceful and non-reactive state arises. Glimpses of this state of mind are often experienced by beginning meditators and those with an established practice recognize this state as Samadhi, the non-distracted mind. This is our natural state of mind continually expressing itself through virtuous, mindful acts informed by wisdom.
The more mindful awareness we place on recognition and renunciation, the deeper and more effective our practice will become. By integrating the Eightfold Path into our practice, mindful recognition of desire arises and mindful renunciation develops as an insightful aspect of practice. Recognition and renunciation truly is the essence of mindful practice of the Four Noble Truths.
By being mindful of the condition of our minds moment-to-moment as life occurs, we will gain the insight necessary to develop a mind of equanimity. This is the mindfulness that the Buddha referred to in the Four Foundations of Mindfulness Sutta, The Satipatthana Sutta. (Linked Below)
Meditation alone is not mindfulness. Mindfulness is the skillful awareness of the condition of our minds as life unfolds. Mindfulness develops from the concentration and insight gained from shamatha-vipassana practice within an integrated practice of the Eightfold Path. The concentration and insight gained in meditation develops the quietness and spaciousness of mind to recognize desire as desire arises, and to generate renunciation from skillful means.
The process of reclaiming our own minds from our own delusional thinking begins with the recognition that the Four Noble Truths are in fact Noble Truths, liberating, absolute and permanent truths in a phenomenal world characterized by impermanence, stress, and ego-driven delusion. (See Anicca, Dukkha and Anatta linked below)
Be mindful of your thoughts of clinging, craving, desire and aversion. When they arise, with gentle resolve, put them aside and be mindful of your minds permanent state of peaceful equanimity. Enjoy your practice. Be gentle with your mind and your selves. Peace.
This is an update to an article published on October 21, 2013.
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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.