Mindfulness
The Foundation of Buddhist Mediation
 

The Eightfold Path
The steps of the Eightfold Path are arranged under three categories. The first two steps ... fall under the category of “proper view” [a.k.a “wisdom” (prajna)]; they present a perspective and way of thinking that orient one skillfully on the path to Awakening and Nirvana. The next three steps ... fall under the category of “proper conduct” [a.k.a. “morality” (sila)]; they define what is required to walk the path in terms of moral purification and living. The last three step ... fall under the category of “proper practice” [a.k.a. “concentration” (samadhi)]; these practices deepen proper view into the wisdom of Awakening and deepen proper conduct into an awakened life. [BIBE, 52-3]
 
Wisdom

1. Right View

  • Adherence to Buddha’s understanding of the Four Noble Truths as a starting point of spiritual practice.

2.Right Resolve

  • Forming the intention to pursue the Buddha’s path, including the resolution to practice benevolence or nonharmfulness (ahimsa) to sentient beings.

Morality

3. Right Speech

  • Ones speech should always be in accordance with the principle of nonharmfulness.

4. Right Action

  • Ones actions should also be in accord with the principle of nonharmfulness.

5. Right Livelihood

  • In line with the previous ethical principles, laypeople should pursue a line of work that promotes the welfare of other sentient beings and minimizes actions that might harm them.

6. Right Effort

  • The effort to eliminate harmful karma at the mental level; this represents the beginning of the self-examination process (e.g. identifying hatred and replacing it with love).

7. Right Mindfulness

  • Four mindfulness meditations focusing on body, feelings, mental states, and mental qualities [see “The Four Foundations of Mindfulness” below]
The purpose of this form of meditation is to investigate the three characteristics” (cf. BIBE, 34), namely:
 
Impermanence, as the arising and passing away of the things of life, is sometimes described in the early texts as taking place in three stages. The elements of an object come together so that it “arises” into existence. Then, the arisen object is subject to “decay.” This means that once an object has come into being, it changes over time. Finally, the elements of an object change  to such an extent that the thing passes away. In this manner, all things are impermanent in two senses: They arise and pass away, and while existing they are in a state of constant change. [BIBE, 36]
 
This characterization of impermanence leads to the second characteristic of phenomena, namely, “dissatisfactoriness” (dukkha). ... The term dukkha connotes the dissatisfactory condition caused by an axle hole that is not properly made. Whether the hole is too big or too small, it causes the axle to wobble or rub in a way that is dissatisfactory. [BIBE, 36]
 
 
The Buddha always affirmed that persons have an empirical selfhood constituted by a body and a mind. But he also claimed that the various constituents of this conventional selfhood are characterized by impermanence and dukkha; they are always changing, and they ordinarily produce mental and physical processes that are experienced as ultimately dissatisfactory. The Buddha also taught that when one examines these constituents of conventional selfhood, one does not find any permanent substance. Impermanence is not just a characteristic of the phenomena of the external world; it applies to oneself. [BIBE, 37]
 
Samatha/Vipassana
There are two main types of meditation in the Theravada Buddhist tradition: “tranquilization/calm” (samatha) and “insight” (vipasyana)Samatha is good for stabilizing the mind and preventing new karma, but only “insight” leads to nirvana; the practice of mindfulness is therefore regarded as essential for the attainment of enlightenment.
 

8. Right Concentration

  • Although it was through mindfulness that the Buddha attained enlightenment, he went on to cultivate the four jhanas.
The four jhanas (absorptions; Sanskrit: dhyanas) represent the highest states of one-pointed concentration. They are described in the following account of the Buddhas awakening:
 
As the full moon rose over the river before him, the Bodhisattva (i.e. Siddhattha Gotama prior to his awakening) focused on his in-and-out breathing and ascended the four stages of dhyana. The first stage is a meditative absorption produced by detaching from sensual thoughts and unskillful attitudes. The mind attains a state of unity while evaluating the object to which it consciously directs its thoughts, giving rise to a sense of rapture and ease born of seclusion. The second stage is an absorption free from the activity of evaluation and directed thought. There is singleness of mind and internal assurance, in addition to rapture and ease born of composure. The third stage — dispassionate rather than rapturous — is mindful and fully aware, with a feeling of bodily ease. The fourth stage is a state of pure equanimity and mindfulness, free of elation and sorrow, pleasure and pain. [The Buddhist Religion, 15]
 
 
 
“There is a direct way, monks, for the purification of beings, for the overcoming of sorrow and lamentation, for the disappearance of suffering and misery, for attaining the right path, for realizing nibbana, namely, the four foundations of mindfulness. What are the four?
       “Herein, monks, a monk abides contemplating the body ... the feelings ... the mind ... [and] mental objects, ardent, fully conscious of them, mindful of them, having control over the covetousness and grief in the world.


“And how, monks, does a monk abide contemplating the body in the body? Herein, monks, a monk gone to the forest, to the root of a tree, or to an empty place, sits down cross-legged, holding his back erect, and establishes mindfulness in front of him. Mindful he breathes in, mindful he breathes out. While he is breathing in a long breath, he comprehends, ‘I am breathing in a long breath’; or breathing out a long breath, he comprehends, ‘I am breathing out a long breath’; or while he is breathing in a short breath, he comprehends, ‘I am breathing in a short breath’; or while he is breathing out a short breath, he comprehends, ‘I am breathing out a short breath.’ He trains himself, thinking: ‘I shall breathe in experiencing the whole body.’ He trains himself, thinking: ‘I shall breathe out experiencing the whole body.’ He trains himself, thinking: ‘I shall breathe in calming the activities of the body.’ He trains himself, thinking: ‘I shall breathe out calming the activities of the body.’
“And again, monks, a monk reflects on precisely this body itself full of various impurities, from the soles of the feet up and down from the top of the head: ‘There is connected with this body head hair, body hair, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, sinews, bones, marrow, kidneys, heart, liver, membranes, spleen, lungs, intestines, stomach, excrement, bile, phlegm, pus, blood, sweat, fat, tears, grease, saliva, mucus, joint oil, urine.’ ...
“Again, monks, as a person might see a corpse discarded in a cemetery, dead for one, two, or three days, swollen, discolored, decomposed. A monk compares his body thinking: ‘This body, too, is of the same nature; it will become like that; it is not exempt from that fate.’ ...
“Again, monks, a monk might see a body discarded in a cemetery: the bones bleached white and the color of sea-shells ... a heap of dried up bones more than a year old ... the rotten bones reduced to dust; he compares this same body with it, thinking: ‘This body, too, is the same nature, it will become like that; it is not exempt from that fate.’ ...
“And how, monks, does a monk abide contemplating the feelings as feelings? Herein, monks, while he is experiencing a pleasant feeling he comprehends: ‘I am experiencing a pleasant feeling’; while he is experiencing a painful feeling he comprehends, ‘I am experiencing a painful feeling’; while he is experiencing a feeling that is neither painful nor pleasant he comprehends: ‘I am experiencing a feeling that is neither painful nor pleasant.’ ...
And how, monks, does a monk abide contemplating mind as the mind? Herein, a monk knows intuitively the mind with attachment as a mind with attachment; he knows intuitively the mind without attachment as a mind without attachment ... the mind that is freed as a mind that is liberated ... the mind that is not liberated as a mind that is not liberated. Thus he abides contemplating the mind in the mind internally, or he abides contemplating the mind in the mind externally, or he abides contemplating the mind in the mind internally and externally. Or he abides contemplating the origination of the mind, or he abides contemplating dissolution of the mind, or he abides contemplating the origination and dissolution of the mind. ...
Again, monks, a monk abides contemplating mental objects as mental objects from the point of view of the five groups of grasping ... the six internal and external sense-bases ... [and] the seven enlightenment factors.” [Original Buddhist Sources, 70-6]