Mindfulness – definition, meaning, practice and modern perspective
The word ‘mindfulness’ is a fashion word. Google has more than 25 million hits. We listen to this word daily more than 100 times or more at work, at home, from friends and relations. Everyone from common man to scientists defines mindfulness in their own ways. When some word or practice becomes popular or buzzword, it gradually loses its essence, its authenticity, and clarity.
And, of course, people may not know the meaning of the word, still, they use it
Be mindfulness of
What about meditation instead of mindfulness or vice-versa
Many students who attended my classes on mindfulness/meditation, start talking, how they both are different. Why do they like mindfulness and not meditation? For a person like me, who dedicated more than 38 years of life to learning mindfulness or meditation, seems strange and superficial.
You know, mindfulness from Buddha …Really
Then people prove that mindfulness is associated with Buddha and Buddhism. Meditation is different from mindfulness. It is effortless and natural. One expert of mindfulness sent a message on Facebook, that the practice is effortless and natural. How a practice can ever be effortless? then how popular definition ‘paying attention non judgmentally………………………’ can ever be effortless. When we pay attention, it driving mind to an effort to exclude everything except where the attention is. Let’s get to the basics
The word – mindfulness in European languages
The word – mindfulness, existed in English, –mindfulness in French. Perhaps, it is derived from the word ‘men’ to ‘mind’ to ‘mindful’ (Latin). The word, ‘mind’ literally means to remember, to recollect (1400BC), to perceive (1500BC), be careful about (1750BC), to take off, to look after (1690BC). Mindful meant – of good memory, of recollecting something or someone
A British scholar of Pali (an offshoot of Sanskrit language), Thomas William Rhys David’s (1842-1922) translated the seventh of the eighth fold noble path as mindfulness.
The words Samana sati in Pali and Smriti in Sanskrit literally means – memory, recollecting, self-remembering.
He translated the word – right mindfulness or correct meditation. Later Daniel John Gingerly (1845) made clear that mindfulness is the right meditation based on eastern wisdom.
Dhyanam nirvishyamanah. Kapila
Right memory or perception is mindfulness, says Buddha
Tatra pratyaya ekatānatā dhyānam- Patanjali 3.2
According to Eastern wisdom, the goal of human life is self-discovery. The self is the subjective reality i.e. absolute-existence – consciousness –bliss or the state of mindfulness or being. The great master Kapila says, ‘mindfulness is a state devoid of any content in the mind.’ Patanjali, another master says, uninterrupted flow of awareness, free from interruption of the mind, awakens one to real-self.’
All definitions should confirm that it aims at the discovery of the subjective reality – otherwise, it is not the right practice.
A student exclaimed, “Master, I experience ‘nothingness’, I attained Nirvana.”
Master smiled and asked the student, “very good, my son, who knows within you, that you have attained Nirvana. Who knows within you that you are experiencing – nothingness? Know thyself ……mindfulness …. meditation
Kapila (1500 BC), the master lived many centuries before Buddha was born. The famous text, Samkhya Sutra by Kapila has a tremendous influence on Buddhism. The mindfulness definition by Kapila is expressed differently in Buddhism. The beauty of eastern wisdom is that every master followed the same principles with different expressions to their contemporary disciples. There is a reference in Buddhism that Buddha was Kapila in his previous birth. Swami Vivekananda called Kapila Muni “the greatest psychologist of the world has ever known. The originator of Yoga, Krishna says that he was the incarnation of Master Kapila.
Samkhya Sutra 3.30-31, the famous text of Eastern Wisdom gives a deep insight into meditation and state of well-being.
The objectless state of mind is meditation. When objective contents of the mind are removed/ prevented, one lives in a meditative state.
There are many types of thoughts in the mind. All contents of the mind are related to people, place, possession, time, and events. It means
Patanjali defines meditation
Emptying the mind of its contents (to help the mind to be in an objectless state) is Yoga (mindfulness/meditation)
How Patanjali can be wrong when Master Kapil and Buddha, both agree on how to attain the mindfulness state. We will deal with the definition and understanding of Yoga in a separate book on Patanjali.
In the eightfold path of Buddhism, mindfulness is the seventh and eight noble paths i.e. right meditation and highest meditation. But Buddha clearly says that without knowing and understanding the first six noble paths, mindfulness is too far from us. No doubt paying practices may help us relax, calm down, and manage mental and emotional challenges, however, these changes are the byproduct of the mindfulness state, not the mindfulness state. The mindfulness/meditation aims at the discovery of our true nature i.e. subjective reality whereas experiences of relaxation, calmness, and peace happen in the mind. That is why they are products, not the true state.
We should continue the practice to work on the mind but keep our goal fixed as taught to us by masters i.e. discovery of who am I? or what is my true nature?