FOUR FOUNDATIONS OF MINDFULNESS
The Four Foundations of Mindfulness were originally set forth in the Satipatthana Sutta, the Buddha’s comprehensive practical instructions on the development of mindfulness. Included are awareness of the body, awareness of feeling, awareness of mental phenomena, and awareness of truth, of the laws of experience. It is a core teaching the importance of which cannot be overstated.
In one Pali dictionary there is this cite for kaya: (lit. accumulation): ‘group,’ ‘body.’ May either refer to the physical body (rupa-kaya) or to the mental body (nama-kaya). In Pali “mindfulness with regard to the body” is translated as kaya-gata-sati. “Contemplation of the body” is kayanupassana.
Included here are mindfulness of breathing; postures of the body (walking, standing, sitting and lying down); clear comprehension; reflection on the reality of the body – the traditional 32 parts of the body; reflection on the material elements (earth, water, air and fire); and the cemetery contemplations.
Our bodies are always with us and our experience is readily and immediately available. The opportunity for mindfulness is always there no matter where we are or what we are doing.
Not to be confused with feelings as emotions. Rather, it is the sense of pleasant, unpleasant or neutral that occurs when one of the six sense doors (Buddhism includes the mind) – sight, sound, touch, smell, taste, thought – connects with an object and out of which consciousness arises. For example, in seeing a flower do we like it, not like it or not have much of a reaction at all. Feelings are quite critical in our experience. If we are not aware of them when they arise they can turn into craving or aversion – the root causes of suffering. Interestingly, in the twelve link Chain of Dependent Origination, the Buddhist explanation of how suffering comes into being, essentially the Law of Causality (www.arrowriver.ca/smap.html), it is exactly at the point between feeling and craving where the cycle can be broken and liberation can occur.
Mind is the faculty of knowing. In and of itself it is pure, lucid and aware. It knows sense appearances and different mind objects like thoughts, ideas and emotions. Mind is also more than knowing and is affected by different mental qualities (love, compassion, mindfulness, concentration, greed, hatred, envy, etc.) that arise. We can be mindful of precisely what is the state of our mind. Is it settled? Calm? Distracted? With or without hatred? Is it sleepy? Are we doubting, planning, remembering?
IDEAS, THOUGHTS, CONCEPTIONS AND MENTAL OBJECTS (dhamma)
With this Fourth Foundation of Mindfulness the Buddha invites us to examine the core teachings of the dhamma and to examine our experience with them in mind. By being mindful in this way, we notice that all of these things are impermanent and empty of self. Specifically we are asked to be mindful of:
1. The Five Hindrances
2. The Five Aggregates
3. The Six External and Six Internal Sense Bases
4. The Seven Factors of Enlightenment
5. The Four Noble Truths
The image used to illustrate these four cards was taken in Madrid, New Mexico. An aware resident painted the back end of an abandoned truck body with a very helpful reminder to passersby – THINGS CHANGE – something to be especially mindful of.