The Buddha on Mindfulness. Outline of the Great Discourse on the Four Applications of Mindfulness. With brief comment


Discourse 22 in the Long Length Discourses

This discourse of the Buddha has served as major inspiration for 2600 years for the practice and application of mindfulness for realising Nirvana.

See POINTS TO REMEMBER below the discourse. There is a brief comment to words in discourse in bold type.

Thus, have I heard once the Buddha was staying among the Kurus in the market town of Kammasadhamma. He said: “There is this one way to the purification of beings, for the overcoming of grief and despair, for the disappearance of suffering, for finding the right path and for the realisation of Nirvana – the four applications of mindfulness.

ONE SEES THE BODY AS BODY. One sits down, holding his body erect, having established mindfulness in front and around. Mindfully, he breathes in and out, knowing a long breath and a short breath. One trains oneself to breathe in and out and calm the whole bodily process. One meditates on the body internally and externally and the factors for the arising and passing. Mindfulness is established to the extent necessary for knowing. One abides not clinging to anything.

In whatever way his body is – sitting, walking, standing and reclining – one knows how it is. One is clearly mindful of whatever one is doing – eating, drinking, passing urine and excrement, waking up, falling asleep, speaking or silent. One abides, not clinging to anything.

He reflects on all the parts of the body, internally and externally. He reflects on the body as elements – earth, air, heat and water. He reflects on death, the body as a corpse. ‘It will become like that. It is not exempt from that fate.’

ONE SEES THE FEELINGS AS FEELINGS One knows when one feels a pleasant feeling tone, a painful feeling tone and a feeling tone neither painful nor pleasant, a spiritual  feeling and a worldly feeling. One knows these feelings inwardly and outwardly and their passing nature. There are feelings present, so mindfulness is established to the extent necessary for knowing. One abides not clinging to anything in the world.

ONE SEES THE STATE OF MIND AS A STATE OF MIND. One knows the desirous state of mind as that and a mind not in such desire as that, an angry mind state as that and non-angry state of mind as that. One knows confusion, and its absence, contraction and non-contraction, depth of meditation and absence of it, surpassed and unsurpassed, free and not free, a developed mind and one that is not. One abides knowing arising and passing states of mind. Mindfulness of states of mind is present just to the extent necessary for knowing. One abides not clinging to anything.

ONE SEES THE DHARMA. One meditates on teachings/practices. This includes the presence and absence of any of the five hindrances, Four Truths of the Noble Ones, the relationship of sense doors to the sense objects, and the body of awakening. One knows how anything comes to arise and pass. One knows suffering, the conditions for it, the cessation of it and the way to the cessation. Mindfulness of the Dharma is established to the extent necessary for knowing. One abides not clinging to anything.

Whoever practises these four applications of mindfulness for seven years or even for seven days, one can expect one of two results: one is to be fully realised and liberated. Or, if any issue is left, there is no more returning to a mundane way of life. The practitioners rejoiced and delighted at his words.

Points to Remember from the Four Applications of Mindfulness

  1. One way. It is not a claim to the only way.
  2. Purification. Absence of greed, aggression and delusion in the mind
  3. Grief and despair show personal suffering due to loss or death. Sadness reveals a deep feeling but not inflamed with reaction.
  4. Right path.  Right means fulfilling, complete, as well as ethical.
  5. Nirvana refers to the absence of a problematic life, wisdom and an unconditioned freedom.
  6. Internally and externally. Practitioners do not confine mindfulness to self-help but apply mindfulness in all directions.
  7. Spiritual feeling. Not worldly, not materialistic. Arising of a depth of sensitivity with life, great or small.
  8. Factors for arising and passing. Mindful of conditions for what comes and goes, and mindful of impermanence
  9. Established to the extent necessary for knowing. There is no expectation to be mindful every minute and all the time.
  10. One abides not clinging to anything. This means not inflaming a situation or holding on in anyway which generates suffering. Clinging produces fear, jealousy, rage…
  11. Reflects on death. Mindful of the body and knowing it will become a corpse at some point.
  12. One knows the mind with anger and without anger (not in absolute sense). We do not have to find love to be without anger We experience non-anger.
  13. One sees the Dharma. Exploration of teachings/practices, suffering and its resolution, our relationship to the world and mutual impact of world and self.
  14. One can expect one of two fruits. 1. Realised wisdom/liberation with nothing left to work out. 2. Realised wisdom/liberation with some blind spots/ego to work on.




Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top