The Foundation of Mindfulness

6 May 2539

The Foundation of Mindfulness

The next discussion will be on the Foundation of Mindfulness (satipaṭṭhāna) which follows the same principle. When the correct level of samādhi is attained, it becomes a support to wisdom. In Buddhism, the goal of the Dhamma is to be realized in the process of the Threefold Training. Samādhi (samatha) serves as a factor in making use of the faculty of wisdom; thereupon, we proceed further to the development of insight (vipassanā).

Insight development has a significant practice technique called the Foundation of Mindfulness. We use the faculty of mindfulness to catch up with the six external sense-fields (form, sound, smell, taste, touch, and mind-objects). When we have mindfulness, we are aware of whatever arises in our mind and pass this along to our faculty of wisdom for examination. Mindfulness and wisdom work together as a team. In this context, wisdom denotes clear comprehension (sampajañña). An example of this occurs when we compare our eyes to wisdom. In order to see an object, it has to be in front of our eyes. If the object is not present, we cannot see it. Likewise, our faculty of wisdom examines what is present in our mind. For the object to be present in our mind, it has to be held fast—this is a function of mindfulness. Our mindfulness makes us aware of the object to be examined through the eyes of wisdom.

In the practice of insight development, mindfulness is a foremost element—being the one that holds the object in awareness for wisdom to examine. Mindfulness, as it were, captures everything that is happening at the present moment, without fail, and presents the data to the wisdom faculty to study. A quality of wisdom is to “know it as it is”. Mindfulness is aware of everything that happens to the body—the movements of the body: standing, sitting, sleeping, eating, drinking, and so forth. Wisdom perceives the happenings as they truly are. Whatever goes on in the mind, be it sensations of happiness or of sadness, is likewise a subject for mindfulness and wisdom to observe. At the very moment a thought appears in our mind, we are aware of it through mindfulness; our faculty of wisdom is free to examine it. With wisdom, one perceives the nature of impermanence, suffering, and non-self. This happens when we follow the evolution of phenomena closely as they unfold in front of us. We see the way things arise, sustain, and vanish. Such is the nature of impermanence. When we are able to look at the happenings without impediments, we will see them as they really are, in their real nature. That is to say that we see how all compounded things are changing, conditioned, and soulless.

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