The mind is very hard to perceive, extremely subtle, flits wherever it wishes. Let the wise person guard it; a guarded mind is conducive to happiness. Understand this nature of mind is helpful to develop wisdom by overcoming defilements/ cankers. Then, what is the method of developing wisdom and overcome cankers in the mind? In fact, it is not that much simple as we think. It has a rational process and we have to be aware of our own behaviours and actions to cultivate mindfulness.
For a long long time beings have been making happy their five sense doors by contacting external objects such as forms, sounds, smells, taste etc… normally, where the mind goes we let it go as it wishes, we try to fulfil what mind asks for. In other words, we have autopilot mind because we have let mind to go as it wishes. Since this nature of the mind, it is very hard to perceive. Therefore one has to make effort to guard it. The way of controlling autopilot mind is; practising mindfulness.
1. Transfer the mind’s control from autopilot to manual control
Once, a charioteer sat on his chariot and held the bridle and ordered to the horse to draw the chariot. On the way, the charioteer slept and loses the bridle. The horse drew the chariot as it wishes and charioteer could not go to the place where he expected since he was not aware of where the chariot goes. Another time a certain merchants’ crew was passing a desert and on the way, the leading head charioteer slept and the bull of the cart turned back and went back to the middle of the desert and merchants lost the way and suffer a lot for unconsciousness of the leading merchant.
Above two stories mention the way of running of uncontrolled bulls and horses. As long as the horse or the bull that draws is, not controlled and charioteer is not aware of where the chariot goes, horse or the bull goes to where it wishes. And this way of going can be said autopilot manner. In the same manner, our mind takes its own autopilot way and goes here and there mindlessly as long as we control it.
Buddhist teaching provides many ways and means to transfer the mind’s control from autopilot to manual control, in other words, restraining the unrestrained mind. There are many sutta discourses referred to this.
2. One has to put the appropriate item on the mind’s agenda
One has to put the right item on the mind agenda and remove the wrong agenda from the mind. To put the appropriate item on the mind’s agenda on the one’s mind he must be aware of the nature of his own mind. Sacitta sutta of AN directs how to see one’s own mind; in fact, reflecting on one’s own mind leads to see one’s own weaknesses.
“How is a monk skilled in reading his own mind? Imagine a young woman — or man — fond of adornment, examining the image of her own face in a bright, clean mirror or bowl of clear water: If she saw any dirt or blemish there, she would try to remove it. If she saw no dirt or blemish there, she would be pleased, her resolves fulfilled: 'How fortunate I am! How clean I am!' In the same way, a monk's self-examination is very productive in terms of skilful qualities: 'Do I usually remain covetous or not? With thoughts of ill will or not? Overcome by sloth & drowsiness or not? Restless or not? Uncertain or gone beyond uncertainty? Angry or not? With soiled thoughts or unsoiled thoughts? With my body aroused or unaroused? Lazy or with persistence aroused? Unconcentrated or concentrated?'
This statement directs the person’s knowledge to cognize skilful qualities and unskillful qualities in one’s own mind through self-examination. This self-examination contributes to understand and apply the most appropriate agenda to the mind by removing inappropriate agenda from the mind just as we uninstall unnecessary software from the computer and install useful software we need.
According to Mahācattarisaka sutta of MN, mindfulness has been analysed thus into five parts and these statements also very helpful to apply proper mind agenda on the mind.
"One should be mindful to abandon the wrong view, to enter and remain in : This is person's right mindfulness...
"One should be mindful to abandon wrong resolve, to enter and remain in : This is person's right mindfulness...
"One should be mindful to abandon wrong speech, to enter and remain in : This is person's right mindfulness...
"One should be mindful to abandon wrong action, to enter and remain in : This is person's right mindfulness...
"One should be mindful to abandon wrong livelihood, to enter and remain in : This is person's right mindfulness..."
It is clear that Buddhism introduces mindfulness as a technique which abandons evil or removes inappropriate agenda and cultivates wholesome or puts appropriate agenda on the mind. This is the way of developing the wisdom to see phenomena as they are. Always mindfulness teaching by the Buddha refers to right mindfulness. In other words, Buddhist way of practice mindfulness leads to put the right item on the mind agenda and remove the wrong agenda from the mind and transfer the mind’s control from autopilot to manual control.
3. The gradual way how one transfer the mind’s control from autopilot to manual control by putting the right item on the mental agenda.
When one has an autopilot mind, it is just like an untamed wild elephant that person can’t control. The manual mind is just like a tamed elephant that man can control as he wishes. Buddhist teaching is for transfer mindless mind into mindfulness and it is the right item to the mind agenda.
Once, a worrier king wanted a good elephant to take to the battleground. Therefore the warrior king addressed the elephant hunter thus;
“Dear elephant hunter! Ascend the royal elephant, enter the elephant grove, search for a wild elephant and fix it with a rope to the royal elephant's neck and let the royal elephant bring it to open ground”.
Asking said the hunter went into the jungle and searched for a wild elephant and fixed it with a rope to the royal elephant's neck and brought to open space. Then the elephant hunter informs the warrior king. “Lord! The wild elephant is brought to open space”.
Then the warrior king addressed the elephant tamer and ordered.
“Dear elephant tamer, tame the wild elephant, so that it may get over the wild ways, wild thoughts and the displeasures and worries of leaving the remote. Make him like the end of the village and the ways of humans.
The elephant tamer agrees and fixes a huge strong post and ties the wild elephant to the post by his neck, so that it may get over its wild ways, thoughts and displeasures and worries of leaving the remote and would get used to the end of the village and the ways of humans. The elephant tamer speaks words that are pleasing and go straight to the heart, speaks words that are accepted as polite by many. When the wild elephant listens to the words of the elephant tamer, he is given grass and water. If the wild elephant accepts grass and water, the elephant trainer knows that the elephant would live and not die.
Then the elephant trainer gives him a further training as, good one, take this! Put it down! If he obeys the elephant trainer, he is given a further training. Good one, go forward! Recede! If the king's elephant obeys these orders, he is given a further training as stand up! and sit down! If the king's elephant obeys the elephant trainer's orders he is given a further training in imperturbability. A great log is tied to the trunk and a man with an elephant lance climbs on the elephant's neck men with lances stand all round and the elephant trainer to taking a long elephant spear stands in front of the elephant and trains the king's elephant as long as endures the contact of weapons, swords, and arrows, endures loud noises of drums, conches and melodious sounds made by enemies. When all crookednesses and faults are rectified and is blameless, it becomes worthy for the king, the property of the king and gets the mark of royalty. Then the king takes this elephant that never leaves the battleground and dies for the sake of the king.
In the same manner, indeed our mind is just like an untamed wild elephant that has wild ways, wild thoughts, displeasures, worries, and would not get used to the end of the village and the ways of humans. Our mind is always full of greed, aversion, delusion, and other defilements which defile our mind and it is always searching for pleasure to feel, cling, and crave. In fact, it is suffering from thirsty of greed, stress, and unsatisfaction. In a way, the mind is just like a monkey that jumps from branch to branch. In a way, it is just like a jumping fish put out of the water. Therefore it is beneficial to tame this untamed, wild mind to achieve absolute happiness. The process of training the mind is practising mindfulness. Developing mindfulness has a systematic order.
Come out of the forest of sensual desire – (Realize, be mindful of the meaninglessness and unsatisfactoriness of sensual pleasure)
This is the first step of the person who turns his mind to right mindfulness. He reflects that the mind is full of defilements, going forth is like open space. The person has to take suitable steps to tame one’s unrestrained mind and first of all, he has to understand the unsatisfactoriness of these things that we are consuming and experiencing as sensual pleasures. On the other hand, the person necessarily has to understand that one has endless desires to see beautiful forms with eyes, hear nice sounds with ears, smell pleasant smells with the nose, taste delicious tastes with tongue, and touch pleasant tactile.
Normally, in this moment we hope that we will have a more pleasant and precious form, sound, smell, taste, or tactile to experience as the supreme experience in next moment. But we never meet supreme pleasure of sensuality and it is just like running after a mirage because how long we run after a mirage, we never meet water. In the same manner, how much we experience the pleasure of forms, sounds, smell, taste, and touch we never experience the supreme level of sensual pleasure since sense pleasure does not have something called supreme pleasure, it is just a miracle. Coming to this conclusion is just like taking wild elephant from forest to space. This is the first step of converting autopilot mind to manual control.
Further, the Buddha mentioned in the discourse of the serpent (Alagaddupama sutta, MN) sensuality is comparable to a skeleton, a tendon of flesh, a burning grass torch, a pit full of burning charcoal, a dream, something borrowed, like a tree full of fruits, a slaughterhouse, the blade of a weapon, the head of a serpent. And further, he says sensuality brings much unpleasantness, much trouble and many dangers.
3.2. See sensuality as a skeleton
Although a dog has a bone and licks it throughout the day, it never satisfies and only it gets is; tired, thirst, stress, remorse, and unsatisfaction. In the same manner how much we experience sensual pleasures of forms, sounds, smell, taste, and touch we never meet satisfaction of sensual pleasure except tired, thirst, stress, remorse, and unsatisfactoriness. Understanding and being mindful on this truth is just like taking a wild elephant out of the forest.
3.3. See sensuality as a burning grass torch
When one bears a burning grass torch towards the direction where the wind blows it buns the hand of the person as long as he leaves it, he is burnt by the fire coming from the burning grass torch and grasping torch in the hand increases pain. In the same manner, as long as one detaches form sensual attachments, he has to suffer more and more so one has to see this danger of sensual desire.
3.4. See sensuality as a dream
What one sees in the dreams is not real. In the same manner, sensual pleasure the person experiences is just like seeing things and feeling things in the dream because what we experience today may not be available yesterday. Everything including sense objects arises and pass away. When we lose what we experienced as sensual pleasures, we suffer, worry and cry by hitting on the chest.
3.5. See sensuality as a head of a serpent
Touching ahead of a serpent is dangerous and deadly since serpent poison brings serious pain to the infected person by serpent poison. In the same manner, the person who is infected by sensual pleasure inherits only suffering and it brings worries, pains, and suffering. In other words, sensual pleasure is just like a sweet, poisonous fruit. When one eats the fruit, it is sweet but at the end, he has to suffer a lot of poison.
Thus as long as one sees this danger of sensual pleasure is considered as a person who does not have the reflective knowledge of reality (yonisomanasikara). In other words, he is full of greed, aversion, and delusion but dhamma. This person is similar to an untamed wild elephant that is in the forest. But the person who sees the danger of sensual pleasure as a skeleton, a tendon of flesh, a burning grass torch, a pit full of burning charcoal, a dream, something borrowed, like a tree full of fruits, a slaughterhouse, the blade of a weapon, the head of a serpent, and that sensuality brings much unpleasantness, much trouble and many dangers. This person is similar to the wild elephant that is brought to open space from the forest.
4. Practice the right conduct to make the base for right mindfulness
Being virtuous, abiding by the higher code of rules, practice the right conduct, and seeing the fear in the slightest fault.
One has to protect doors of mental contact (indriyesu guttadvāro). By seeing a form, Hearing a sound, scenting a smell, enjoying a taste, experiencing a touch with the body, and cognizing an idea in the mind one does not take the signs or details. To one remaining not protecting the mental faculty of the eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind evil desires of covetousness and displeasure may arise, fall to its control.
Know the right amount to of food (bhojane mattaññu). Partake food reflecting in order to extinguish the greed for foods. Yoke to wakefulness (jāgariyam anuyutto) during the day and night to clean the mind of hindering things.
Being endowed with mindful-awareness (satisampajaññena samannāgato) is used to restrain the one’s mind. Be mindful when approaching and receding, looking on and looking about, bending and stretching, bearing the three robes and bowl, enjoying, drinking, eating and tasting, urinating and excreting, when going, standing, sitting and lying until awake. Be mindful when talking and keeping silence.
Dispelling the five hindrances (cittaŋ parisodheti) – cleans the mind of coveting thoughts, angry thoughts, sloth and torpor, restlessness and worry, and doubts. And wisely making the finer defilements of the mind weak, abides reflecting the body in the body (kāyānupassi), abides reflecting feelings in feelings (vedanānupassi), abides reflecting the mental qualities in the mind (cittānupassi), and abides reflecting thoughts on the Teaching (dhammānupassi), mindful and aware to dispel covetousness and displeasure for the world.
This stage is more important in Buddhist teaching because, the noble disciple's mind is bound with the four establishments of mindfulness, so that his worldly ways, thoughts, troubles, worries and fatigue are turned out, for the attainment of extinction. It is like the elephant trainer who fixes a huge strong post and ties the wild elephant to the post by his neck, so that it may get over its wild ways, thoughts and displeasures and worries of leaving the remote and would get used to the end of the village and the ways of humans.
In next stage, one abides reflecting the body in the body without entertaining thoughts concerning the body, abides reflecting feelings in feelings without entertaining thoughts concerning feelings, abides reflecting the mental states in the mind without entertaining thoughts concerning those mental states, abides reflecting thoughts on the Teaching without entertaining them. He overcomes thoughts and thought processes, appeases the mind internally and brings it to a single point. This is the jhana level of the concentration and it appeared as a result of right mindfulness.
In the next stage, one draws the mind for the knowledge of recollecting previous births. And next, he achieves the knowledge of the disappearing and appearing of beings (heavenly eye). At the end when one’s mind is concentrated, pure, free from minor defilements, malleable workable not disturbed, he directs the mind to the destruction of desires. He knows this is unpleasant, this its arising, this its cessation, and this, the path to the cessation of unpleasantness as it really is. Knows these are desires, this, their rising, this, their cessation and this, the path to their cessation as it really is. His mind that knows and sees thus is released from sensual desires, from desires `to be' and from ignorant desires. When released, he knows, I'm released, birth is destroyed, the holy life is lived, what should be done is done. There's nothing more to wish.
He endures cold, heat, hunger, thirst, the sting of gadflies and yellow flies, the heat of the air and the touch of serpents and creeping things. Endures badly enunciated words and unwelcome piercing sharp unpleasant feelings that deprive life. All greed, anger and delusion turned out from his mind. This is the highest, unshakable, and noble achievement of the one’s journey.
Just as the king's elephant endures the contact of weapons, swords, and arrows, endures loud noises of drums, conches and melodious sounds made by enemies. When all crookednesses and faults are rectified and is blameless, it becomes worthy for the king, the property of the king and gets the mark of royalty. Then the king takes this elephant that never leaves the battleground and dies for the sake of the king. In the same manner, the one who practised his mind to the highest level becomes steady and unshakable by anything in the world.
5. Understand that the mind is full of shortcomings but inflated with confidence.
The ordinary mind is full of defilements which defile the mind. First of all, one has to accept that one’s mind consists of defilements. There is no anything to hide since nothing is certain. One has to see what is in the mind as it is and if that thought is evil, it is to be eliminated. When the mind consists of good thoughts, it is to be cultivated. Sanditthika sutta of AN provides great guidance to realize one’s weakness as weakness and right as right.
"The fact that when a delusive quality is present within you, you discern that a delusive quality is present within you; and when a delusive quality is not present within you, you discern that a delusive quality is not present within you: that is one way in which the Dhamma is visible in the here-&-now, timeless, inviting verification, pertinent, to be realized by the wise for themselves."
At the same time, if there is something not achieved by oneself, he has to effort to gain it. This is clearly mentioned in samatha sutta of AN.
“He knows, 'I am one who achieves internal tranquillity of awareness but not insight into phenomena through heightened discernment,' then his duty is to make an effort for the maintenance of internal tranquillity of awareness and for insight into phenomena through heightened discernment. At a later time, he will then be one who achieves both internal tranquillities of awareness and insight into phenomena through heightened discernment”.
6. Look inside one’s own mind, not just “outside”
Mostly people worry and think about the outside world. But the Buddha instructed in Sacittaka sutta of AN to Look inside one’s own mind, not just “outside”.
"Even if a monk is not skilled in the ways of the minds of others. he should train himself: 'I will be skilled in reading my own mind.'
Apart from this statement the Buddha says;
One should not consider the faults of others, nor they're doing or not doing good or bad deeds. One should consider only whether one has done or not done good or bad deeds.
On the other hand, the person who does the most dangerous harm is our self because clinging to aggregates brings us all the pains no one outside. Clinging to aggregates is a shortcoming of a person and on account of this clinging one has to experience endless consequences for clinging aggregates. As long as we assume these aggregates to be self or belonging to self, suffering follows us. So, the way to be concerned about five aggregates has been given in khemaka sutta of SN as follows;
“Concerning these five clinging-aggregates described by the Blessed One – form as a clinging-aggregate, feeling as a clinging-aggregate, perception as a clinging-aggregate, fabrications as a clinging-aggregate, consciousness as a clinging-aggregate; With regard to these five clinging-aggregates, there is nothing I assume to be self or belonging to self."
In fact, the attitude about clinging aggregates misleads the person to an illusion which ends with a huge endless suffering and this is the biggest mistake we have been doing for a long time in this cycle of birth. Look into this mistake and one has to detach from this clinging aggregates.
7. Reflect on the assumptions of words and other actions
Both good and evil deeds are committed by the person through body, words, and thoughts. Therefore, one has to be careful and mindful when one uses the doors of actions. Before doing an action one has to reflect on it again and again. Ambalatthika rahulovada sutta gives a great guideline for this concern while one is doing a bodily action, verbal action, and mental action, one should reflect on it: 'This bodily action, verbal action, and mental action I am doing — is it leading to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both? Is it an unskillful bodily action, with painful consequences, painful results?' If, on reflection, you know that it is leading to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both... one should give it up. But if on reflection one knows that it is not... one may continue with it. Of course, this teaching inspires the person to be mindful in every action.
At the same time, Ambalatthika rahulovada sutta firmly says that to beware of one’s language. When anyone feels no shame in telling a deliberate lie, there is no evil, he will not do. Thus, one has to train oneself, 'I will not tell a deliberate lie even in jest since it is the worst.
8. My experiences of practising mindfulness
I firmly believe the way of being mindful in every action since I have to realize right action from all actions I do. On the other hand, when I engage and work with people more defilements come into the mind because I feel everyone must do what I like and what I hope.
Eg: every morning I go for chanting with a chief monk in the temple at 5.30 a.m. but he never smiles or be pleasant in the morning. Every morning he gets angry and I simply cannot understand why. At the beginning when I see him I also get little bit angry about him and I say myself; “this person is unpleasant to me, it is my bad luck to see this person in the morning, I disgust and hate this man”
Later on, I felt there is not a difference between I and him since both are with unpleasant minds in the morning. Then I determined not to get angry at all in the morning even though he gets angry. Then I was confused about the way of not getting angry. Still, I follow many methods and exactly they are fruitful.
i. I thought about the Buddha’s reactions in front of unpleasant people. The Buddha’s answer is; be a role model to him, and if it doesn’t work, advise him. If giving advices doesn’t work avoid/ neglect him. Getting angry is just like taking fire embers to throw at the enemy. It burns oneself first.
ii. Asati – stop thinking about him
iii. Annanimitta – think something important instead of thinking about him.
iv. Spread compassion towards him by saying “this monk is old and getting angry is his nature or there could be some problem with him to get angry. I have not committed any wrong. Then why should I worry about his behaviour”.
In fact, I practised these techniques and now I only see the collection of five aggregates near me to chant in the morning. I think this is being mindful of the nature of our own mind. Actually, this is only one example I experienced about one week ago.
One can be mindful of any action at any time. If the point of mindfulness is right it is good to develop it and if the point of mindfulness is bad it is good to abandon it. Mindfulness is classified into two; Sammā sati (right mindfulness) and Micchā sati (Wrong Mindfulness) that to be discussed in the field of practising mindfulness. Only right mindfulness is prescribed in Buddhist teaching since it is based on wholesome. Right mindfulness brings advantages to oneself and to the others while wrong mindfulness gaining wrong concentration, suffering, and disadvantages which are harmful to one and to others.
Phandanaŋ capalaŋ cittaŋ - durakkhaŋ dunnivārayaŋ
Ujuŋ karoti medhāvī - usukāro'va tejanaŋ.
The flickering, fickle mind, difficult to guard, difficult to control - the wise person straightens it as a fletcher straightens an arrow.
Thus, practising mindfulness brings happiness well-being to the person.
• Diga Nikaya, Vol.ii. Colombo, Sri Lanka: BJTS. 2500.
• Diga Nikaya, Vol.iii. Colombo, Sri Lanka: BJTS. 2500.
• Majima nikaya. Vol. ii, Colombo, Sri Lanka: BJTS. 2500.
• Majima nikaya. Vol. iii, Colombo, Sri Lanka: BJTS. 2500.
• Sacitta sutta, AN 10.51, translation. Bhikkhu Thannissaro (1997)
• Sanditthika sutta, AN 6.47, Thannissaro bhikkhu, (2004)
• Samatha sutta, AN 10.54, Thannissaro bhikkhu, (2011)
• Khemaka sutta,SN.22.89, Thannissaro bhikkhu (2001)
• Vibhangappakarana. Colombo, Sri Lanka: BJTS. 2500.
• Narada. Ven. The Dhammapada. Colombo: BCC. 1993
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Ven. Sumiththa T.
Sri Lankan Buddhist Cultural Centre - Hong Kong
3F, 27 Sheung Heung Road, To Kwa Wan,
Kowloon, Hong Kong
3F, 27 Sheung Heung Road, To Kwa Wan,
Kowloon, Hong Kong