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Sedaka Sutta: Mindfulness and The Beauty Queen
This brief sutta uses a simile to emphasize mindfulness as the Buddha teaches mindfulness. Grounded in the concentration developed and maintained through Jhana meditation,  the refined mindfulness the Buddha teaches provides the focus and quality of mind necessary to integrate the Eightfold Path.  It is the Eightfold Path that leads directly to unbinding from views rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths  and brings profound clarity and understanding to Three Marks Of Existence. 
Sedaka Sutta: The Beauty Queen
Samyutta Nikaya 47.20
I have heard that on one occasion the Buddha was in Sedaka. He addressed those assembled:
“Friends, imagine a large crowd became excited over a beauty queen, with many talents, having arrived. ‘A Beauty Queen has arrived! She is singing! She is dancing!’
A man comes along, seeking an authentic life and the deathless state. He seeks an end to suffering born of ignorance.
The excited crowd says to him: “Take this bowl filled to the brim with oil. You must carry it on your head through the crowd excited with the Beauty Queen. You must not spill a drop! A swordsman will be behind you and if you spill a drop of oil, he will cut off your head!”
“Friends, will this man, not being mindful of the bowl of oil become distracted by what is occurring outside?
“No, great teacher.”
“I have given you this simile to teach you appropriate mindfulness: The bowl filled to the brim with oil represents mindfulness united with the body.
“This is how you should train yourselves:
‘We will develop mindfulness united with the body. We will pursue mindfulness united with the body. Appropriate mindfulness will be our guide. Appropriate mindfulness will be the basis for steadying our minds right within. Appropriate mindfulness will bring skillful integration of the Eightfold Path’
“This is how you should train yourselves.”
End of Sutta
The Buddha taught a very specific application of mindfulness. Mindfulness means to hold in mind, or to recollect.
The Buddha’s words from Majjhima Nikaya 117:
“One tries to abandon wrong view & to enter into right view: This is one’s right effort. One is mindful to abandon wrong view & to enter & remain in right view: This is one’s right mindfulness. Thus these three qualities – right view, right effort, & right mindfulness – run & circle around right view.”
And from the Samyutta Nikaya 45.8
- 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
- Be Mindful to abandon wrong effort and enter and remain in Right Effort
- Be mindful to abandon wrong mindfulness and enter and remain in Right Mindfulness
- Be Mindful to abandon wrong meditation and enter and remain in Right Meditation
Appropriate Mindfulness is a quality of a well-concentrated mind that holds in mind the Eightfold Path as the framework for awakening. The ever-changing events of life are seen from Right View, free of the suffering that follows from self-referential views, free of ignorance of Four Noble Truths.
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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.