The Buddha’s Words on Mindfulness,
plus contemporary views on Mindfulness
32 Quotes from the Discourses
The Buddha has regularly referred to mindfulness, but not with great frequency, in his teachings located in some 10,000 discourses ranging in length from a few lines to several pages.
Known as the Pali texts, his discourses (suttas) address the wide variety of human issues with mindfulness as one of many, many themes. The Western secular approach to mindfulness often defines mindfulness as being in the present moment in a non-judgemental way.
The Buddha applied mindfulness to a much wider area than just the present moment. He said Dharma practitioners should direct mindfulness to include and support ethics, meditation concentration, happiness, reflection, right livelihood, a moderate lifestyle, restraint of the senses, right action, inquiry into desire, wisdom, liberation and much more.
Mindfulness belongs to the Buddha’s major discourse on the human situation. He did not restrict mindfulness to the box of the present moment experience. The Buddha showed that right (fulfilling and complete mindfulness, free from causing harm) connects directly with the rest of his teachings to ensure that mindfulness is not taken out of context.
(Please note that many of the Buddha’s talks were addressed to monks. I have made the quotes non gender specific).
DN 2.21. In walking, standing, sitting, lying down, in waking, in speaking and in keeping silent, one acts with clear awareness. In this way, one is accomplished in mindfulness and clear comprehension.
DN 22.2. One sits down cross-legged, holding body erect, having established mindfulness before him/her. Mindfully s/he breathes in, mindfully s/he breathes out.
M.53.16 S/he has the highest mindfulness and skill; s/he recalls and recollects what was done long ago and spoken long ago.
M 66.16. When he is practising the way, memories and intentions associated with accumulations beset him now and then through lapses of mindfulness. His or her mindfulness may be slow to arising but s/he quickly abandoned them, removes them and does away with them
M 118.13. One abides contemplating the body as a body, ardent, fully aware, and mindful, having put away covetousness and grief.
M 118.30. The mindfulness enlightenment factor is aroused and one develops it, and by development, it comes to fulfilment.
M. 118.33. These three states circle around right livelihood, that is, right view, right effort, and right mindfulness.
M. 10.46. If anyone should develop these four foundations of mindfulness (body, feelings, states of mind and the Dharma inner and outer) either final knowing (of liberation), here and now or if there is any trace of clinging left, there is no returning though to a mundane state.
M.44.12. Unification of mind is concentration. The four foundations of mindfulness are the basis for meditative concentration.
M. 103.3. In mindfulness you should all train in concord, with mutual appreciation, without conflict.
M.118.12. In this Sangha (community of practitioners), there are those who abide devoted to the development of the four foundations of mindfulness.
M.151.12. If by reviewing, he knows that the four foundations of mindfulness are not developed in me, then he should make an effort to develop them. If by reviewing, he knows the four foundations of mindfulness are developed in me, then he can abide happy and glad training day and night in wholesome states.
M.62.5. Develop mindfulness of breathing. When mindfulness of breathing is developed and cultivated, it is of great fruit and great benefit.
M. 141.30. What is right mindfulness? One contemplates the body as a body, feelings as feelings, states of mind as states of mind, and Dharma as Dharma having put away covetousness and grief for the world.
SN.1.130. A person has various foodstuffs strewn over his lap – sesame seeds, rice grains, lakes and jujubes – if he loses his mindfulness when rising from that seat he would scatter them all over.
AN.499. One bent on his own welfare should practice mindfulness and guard the mind.
AN.737. Guard the doors of the senses. Take mindfulness as protector. Be mindful and alert. A mind is under the protection of mindfulness.
AN.822. One who falls asleep mindfully and with clear comprehension does not have bad dreams.
AN1009. One has a strong commitment to mindfulness and alertness and does not lose this fondness for mindfulness and alertness in the future
AN.1078. With mindfulness as his gatekeeper, the noble one abandoned the unwholesome and develops the wholesome, abandoned what is blameworthy and develops what is blameless.
AN 1160. The Dharma is the one with mindfulness established, not for one who is muddled headed,.
AN.611. How is mindfulness an authority? Once mindfulness is established internally: “In just such a way, I will experience through liberation the Dharma that I have not yet experienced or assist with wisdom in various respects the Dharma that I have experienced.” It is in this way that mindfulness is an authority.
AN.1269. What exercises authority over intentions and thoughts? Mindfulness exercises authority over them. “ “What is their supervisor?” “Wisdom is their supervisor.” “What is their core?” “Liberation is their core.”
Sn. 45. If one finds a wise friend, a companion, who is living according to wholesome virtues, then live with him happily and mindfully.
Sn. 151. As long as s/he is awake, s/he should develop this mindfulness.
Sn 212. One who has the strength of wisdom, born of ethics and restraint, tranquil in mind and delights in meditation, who is mindful, free from clinging, is called a sage by the wise.
Sn.283. Be pure and associate with the pure; being mindful, united and arise; put an end to suffering.
Sn. 340. Be restrained in the senses. Be mindful of the body. Continually develop to end fuelling what arises.
Sn. 413. The beggar walked on from house to house watching the sense doors, well restrained, alert and mindful. Soon his bowl was full.
Sn 777. Look at those who struggle after their petty ambitions, like fish in the stream that is fast drying up. Mindful, let one fair unselfish while ceasing to worry about various states of becoming.
Sn.974. Let him mindfully trained to end the pollution from forms, sounds, tastes, smells and touch
Sn. 975. Let one who is mindful with well liberated mind subdue the desire for things. Then, investigating the truth thoroughly, and with concentration, one will destroy the darkness (of not seeing).
From previous blogs, I have put six critiques of certain applications of mindfulness on next blog.
- M. Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha. 1150 pages plus notes etc.
- DN. The Long Discourses of the Buddha. 520 pages, plus notes etc.
- SN. Connected Discourses of the Buddha 2920 pages plus notes etc
- Sn. Sutta-Nipata. 1149 verses.
Essays and Critiques on Mindfulness
Ajahn Amaro, Ron Purser and David Loy,
Monteiro, Musten and Compson
and six blog entries (2012-2014) of Christopher Titmuss
A Holistic Mindfulness. Ajahn Amaro, Abbot of Amaravati Monastery, Herts. UK
Beyond McMindfulness. Ron Purser and David Loy
Monteiro, Musten and Compson, J. (2015). Traditional and contemporary mindfulness: finding the middle path in the tangle of concerns.