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Concerning Mindfulness

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Dependent Origination, tightly defined, means “when this happens, that happens.” Mindfulness, tightly defined, means remembering to direct the mind, with focused, conscious awareness and mental heedfulness to discern the causes and consequences of virtuous/unvirtuous intentions/actions at the very moment they are arising/happening.

Let us, then, examine how the Buddha sub-structured the mechanics of mindfulness in closer detail, based upon stages of dependence, as outlined in The Numerical Discourses of the Buddha – The Book of the Eights (AN IV. 81), as translated by Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi.*

Bhikkhus, when there is mindfulness and clear comprehension, for one possessing mindfulness and clear comprehension, the sense of moral shame and moral dread possess their proximate cause.

“Proximate,” here means the imminent, the impending, contingent upon, the immediate cause triggering and leading into the next step in mental development. In other words, dependent upon an inherent sense of mindfulness, a sense of moral shame and dread arises. This needs some explaining:

The mind, at birth, until it is conditioned, is still luminous, pure, bright, and radiant. It is not until the mind is conditioned by outside factors that it develops impure, unwholesome, unhealthy “likes” and “dislikes,” which become the forerunners of harmful inclinations and actions. Put simply, a pure mind knows the difference between good and evil and tends/inclines toward goodness rather than badness.

The mind-in-the-middle, out in the world of Samsara, free to choose between virtuousness and non-virtuousness, must be careful not to desire committing impure actions, which will lead to harmfulness and unhappiness. This is where focused awareness helps the mind to be wary, avoiding any intention to undertake actions to be ashamed of and then to have to regret and pay for later.

Bhikkhu Bodhi continues to translate the sutta:

When there is a sense of moral shame and dread, for one possessing a sense of moral shame and dread, restraint of the sense faculties possesses its proximate cause.

Dependent upon moral shame and dread, restraint of the sense faculties develops. Discernment of the consequences of sense-actions causes fear and caution, and so sense indulgence does not arise.

When there is restraint of the sense faculties, for one who exercises restraint over the sense faculties, virtuous behavior possesses its proximate cause.

Dependent upon restraint of the sense faculties, virtuous behavior develops/arises.

When there is virtuous behavior, for one whose behavior is virtuous, right concentration possesses its proximate cause.

Dependent upon virtuous behavior, right concentration is cultivated.

When there is right concentration, for one possessing right concentration, the knowledge and vision of things as they really are possesses its proximate cause.

Dependent upon right concentration, knowledge and vision of things as they really are develops.

When there is the knowledge and vision of things as they really are, for one possessing the knowledge and vision of things as they really are, disenchantment and dispassion possess their proximate cause.

Dependent upon knowledge and vision of things as they really are, disenchantment and dispassion develop.

When there is disenchantment and dispassion, for one possessing disenchantment and dispassion, the knowledge and vision of liberation possesses its proximate cause.

Dependent upon disenchantment and dispassion, vision of liberation arises.

Suppose there is a tree possessing branches and foliage. Then its shoots grow to fullness; also its bark, softwood, and heartwood grow to fullness. So too, when there is mindfulness and clear comprehension, for one possessing mindfulness and clear comprehension, the sense of moral shame and moral dread possess their proximate cause. When there is a sense of moral shame and moral dread . . . the knowledge and vision of liberation possesses its proximate cause.

Bhikkhus, when there is no mindfulness and clear comprehension, for one deficient in mindfulness and clear comprehension, the sense of moral shame and moral dread lack their proximate cause.

Dependent upon a lack of mindfulness, there is a lack of shame and dread.

When there is no sense of moral shame and moral dread, for one deficient in a sense of moral shame and moral dread, restraint of the sense faculties lacks its proximate cause.

Dependent upon a lack of shame and dread, there is a lack of sense restraint.

When there is no restraint of the sense faculties, for one deficient in restraint of the sense faculties, virtuous behavior lacks its proximate cause.

Dependent upon a lack of sense restraint there is a lack of virtuous motivation.

When there is no virtuous behavior, for one deficient in virtuous behavior, right concentration lacks its proximate cause.

Dependent upon a lack of virtuous motivation, there is a lack of right concentration.

When there is no right concentration, for one deficient in right concentration, the knowledge and vision of things as they really are lacks its proximate cause.

Dependent upon a lack of right concentration, there is a lack of knowledge and vision of things as they really are.

When there is no knowledge and vision of things as they really are, for one deficient in the knowledge and vision of things as they really are, disenchantment and dispassion lack their proximate cause.

Dependent upon a lack of knowledge and vision, a cause of disenchantment and dispassion is lacking.

When there is no disenchantment and dispassion, for one deficient in disenchantment and dispassion, the knowledge and vision of liberation lacks its proximate cause.

Dependent upon a lack of knowledge and vision, there is a lack of the cause of vision of liberation.

Suppose there is a tree deficient in branches and foliage. Then its shoots do not grow to fullness; also its bark, softwood, and heartwood do not grow to fullness. So too, when there is no mindfulness and clear comprehension, for one deficient in mindfulness and clear com prehension, the sense of moral shame and moral dread lack their proximate cause. When there is no sense of moral shame and moral dread . . .  knowledge and vision of liberation lacks its proximate cause.

* Bodhi (AN IV 81. pp.1229–30)

References

Bodhi, Ven. Bhikkhu2012. The Numerical Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Anguttara Nikaya, Boston: Wisdom Publications.

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