Appamada Vagga: Mindfulness

1. Mindfulness is the way to immortality; heedlessness is the way to death. The mindful do not die; the heedless are already dead.


2. Knowing clearly the distinction of mindfulness, the wise rejoice in mindfulness, delighting in the pastures of the Nobel Ones.


3. The wise, constant in contemplation, ever persevering steadfastly, attain to nirvana, the supreme freedom from bondage.


4. Ever growing in the glory of him who is vigorous, vigilant, pure in conduct, considerate, self-restrained, righteous and heedful.


5. By sustained effort, mindfulness, discipline and self-control, let the wise man make for himself an island which no flood can engulf.


6. The ignorant and foolish indulge in heedlessness; the wise man guards his mindfulness as his greatest treasure.


7. Do not indulge in heedlessness. Do not seek intimacy with sensory delights. Verily, the mindful and the meditative attain abundant bliss.


8. Just as one who stands upon the summit of a mountain surveys those below who suffer in ignorance, even so the wise man, who casts off heedlessness by mindfulness, beholds the suffering mass from the heights of wisdom he has mastered.


9. Mindful amidst the heedless, wide awake among the slumbering, the wise man moves ahead like a swift steed leaving behind a weak horse.


10. By mindfulness did Mahava (Indra) attain to sovereignty over the gods. Mindfulness is ever esteemed and heedlessness ever disdained.


11. The mendicant who delights in mindfulness and looks upon heedlessness with fear advances like fire, consuming all fetters*, great and small.


12. The mendicant who delights in mindfulness and looks upon heedlessness with fear cannot fall backwards. He is close to nirvana.

* There are ten kinds of fetters: 1) the delusion of separateness; 2) indulgence in rites and ceremonies; 3) doubts; 4) sense-desires; 5) attachment to forms; 6) attachment to formless realms; 7) hatred; 8) restlessness; 9) pride; 10) ignorance. The first five pertain to this shore, the next five pertain to the further shore. The first three are removed on becoming a sotapanna or srotapatti, the second two are becoming a skadagamin, the next two on becoming an anagamin, and the last five on becoming an arahant or arhat.

Taken from The Dhammapada with Udanavarga published by Concord Grove Press 1986

 

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October 24, 2015 Theme for Contemplation: Right Mindfulness

” He is free from danger who, even when he is safe, is on his guard.”

– Publilius Syrius

” Know, one false step is ne’er retriev’d,

And be with caution bold.”

– Thomas Gray

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October 25, 2015 Theme for Contemplation: Right Mindfulness

” The mendicant who delights in mindfulness and looks upon heedlessness with fear advances like fire, consuming all fetters, great and small.”

— Buddha

“By the force of mindfulness, one prevents thought from straying and settles the mind within itself.”

— Tsong-Kha-Pa

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October 26, 2015 Theme for Contemplation: Right Mindfulness

” Withdrawing desire from things of desire, the silent Sage walks in solitude; ever contented in the Supreme SELF, through the Supreme SELF.”

— Shankaracharya

“Guide your attention with mindfulness,

Holding it within compassion.”

— The VIIth Dalai Lama

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Is this the same text as found on this link:  Dhammapada  ?

If so, aren't the "Twin Verses" first up for study, or is there another approach to the study of this text?  Why skip the first chapter?

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Yes it is the Dhammapada.   And in the interest of time we are only doing one Canto (chapter) at this time.

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Thank you.

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While it is believed there is no strict order to the chapters in the Dhammapada, the first chapter does provide some context for understanding the importance and relevance of vigilance (awareness/mindfulness)  which is praised as the theme in chapter two. For example, the first two verses of chapter one state:

All experience is preceded by mind,
    Led by mind,
    Made by mind.
Speak or act with a corrupted mind,
    And suffering follows
As the wagon wheel follows the hoof of the ox.

‘All experience is preceded by mind,
    Led by mind,
    Made by mind.
Speak or act with a peaceful mind,
    And happiness follows
Like a never parting shadow.

(translation Gil Fronsdal)

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The Buddha wastes no time in identifying the battleground of spiritual life.

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October 28, 2015 Theme for Contemplation: Right Mindfulness

“The yogin should continually yoke himself to the Self, remaining alone in seclusion, with mind and self subdued, devoid of expectation, and without any craving for possessions.”

— Shri Krishna

“The mind must remain blunt to all but the universal truths.”

— H.P. Blavatsky

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Anyone care to offer a definition of Mindfulness?

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Interesting...

I wonder how स्मृति (smṛti) can denote mindfulness.  Personally, I've understood the verb root स्मृ/smṛ to indicate (something which is) remembered, or simply remembering etc. hence, most lexicons will have "to call upon to mind" as something relatable.  

How does this connect to mindfulness?  Perhaps a literal interpretation it might mean that ones mind is full of something which had happened in the past, hence, remembered.  Whether or not this denotes the "meditative contexts" mentioned by the above source, I really couldn't say (but, chances are that it is correct), however it seems like a pretty obscure and vague word to use when talking about Mindfulness.

If we would get technical, I think sāvadhāna (सावधान) [ Attentive, bestowing attention, careful, heedful. -2 Cautious. -3 Diligent. -नम् ind. Carefully, attentively, cautiously], or anucintayan (अनुचिन्तयन्) constantly thinking (of) would be probably closer to mindfulness as to how is it being used here, in my opinion.  We see this word presented in the 8th sloka of the 8th discourse of the Bhagavadgita;

अभ्यासयोगयुक्तेन चेतसा नान्यगामिना । परमं पुरुषं दिव्यं याति पार्थानुचिन्तयन्

abhyāsayogayuktena cetasā nānyagāminā
paramaḿ puruṣaḿ divyaḿ yāti pārthānucintayan

"With consciousness yoked to yoga by constant practice, not straying to anything else, one goes to the Supreme Resplendent Spirit, continuously contemplating it, O Son of Prithā."

As Grace simply put it, "paying attention to the activity of the mind"-  is perfect as it is.  With closer examination of the mind, one can recognize this as being akin to the practice of analyzing Nature; The Universal Matter endowed with the three conditions (gunas). This can obviously be applied regarding the macrocosm and microcosm (human nature, collective or individual). With a sense of caution and diligence, the Mindful One will surely recognize that;

ब्रह्मणा तन्यते विश्वं मनसैव स्वयम्भुवा । मनोमयं अतो चिश्वं यन्नाम परिदृश्यते ।
The universe is spread (or projected) by the Self-Existent Brahmâ only by the mind.  Therefore, the universe which, verily, is seen all around is made of the mind.

________

But I guess it might be debatable regarding the connection/similarity of the verb roots स्मृति (smṛti) and चिन्त् (cint).

   Root Word - IAST - Meaning Monier Williams Page Class
   √ चिन्त्  - cint - remembering, pondering over / smṛti 1272/2 Cl.10

 

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Just for reference (having just looked it up): the pali word in the text isappamāda, this being the opposite of pamāda, which is translated as intoxication, carelessness, or unawareness.  Thus, the title and/or theme for this section is translated variously as ‘vigilance’ , ‘watchfulness’, ’heedfulness, ‘awareness’, or ‘mindfulness’.

(Note: I've reposted the above here as the original - which I've deleted - ended up in a different thread.)

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Permalink Reply by Peter on October 29, 2015 at 7:56am
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Here are some initial thoughts on the question - "Anyone care to offer a definition of Mindfulness?'  

To be mindful of something is to be aware of it, to be conscious of it.  Mindfulness is always mindfulness of some thing, some object, whether via the senses or via our mental apparatus.   

Mindfulness involves deliberate attention towards the object of awareness.  In other words, it requires both intention and observation.  The practice of mindfulness includes developing both 1) the ability to attend to the object of awareness whilst minimising the number of times the mind wanders away from the object and 2) the power of observation and investigation when awareness is focused on the object.

For mindfulness to develop we may need to bring some further qualities to our experience of observing, such as being non-judgemental,  curiously caring, perhaps even compassion - all depending on the object of awareness.

The ability to stay attentive to the object of awareness brings, in time, a stabilising element or quality to the mind.  This develops gradually: partly as the mind becomes less distracted by extraneous thoughts, feelings and sensations and partly as the mind develops some objectivity towards the object of awareness.  In the case of objects of awareness that are neutral this objectivity may be easy to achieve, but in the case of strong sensations, feelings and thoughts (pleasant or unpleasant) this may be harder to achieve.  The intention to be mindful and observe can help create some space within the mind in which such strong experiences (‘good’ or ‘bad’) are less likely to overwhelm us.  In that space insights may arise as to the way things really are along with the opportunity to be more responsive to people and events, thus lessening the occurrence of our usual and largely unconsciousness habitual tendencies to react.  Mindfulness could be said to go against our usual daily reactiveness to events and develop instead our response-ability.

In brief - the practice of mindfulness can help develop both stability of mind and insight into the way things are.

As the Dhammapada is a text associated mainly with Theravada Buddhism it might be valuable to also look at what the Buddha is reported to said about the nature and stages of mindfulness in the sutra on mindfulness - the Satipatthana Sutta. 

Permalink Reply by Kristan Stratos on October 29, 2015 at 4:41pm
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Yes sir. 

I like how you emphasized "deliberate attention."  This to me is a key fundamental.  One might consider that mindfulness could be related to a highly active and concentrated mode of energy- roused by ones own will.  Sounds a lot like an aspect of the Higher Kundalini.

Bhavani S'ankar has some very interesting and highly insightful things to say about this in "Doctrine of the Bhagavadgita."  There is an article which includes his work, plus others here.

Permalink Reply by Tamiko Yamada on November 25, 2015 at 5:46pm
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The idea of deliberation is a good english work to describe the willful act of directing the mind to consider and engage a particular idea.  We could also think of the idea of being Mind Full.  That being the mind is full of only one subject and therefore has no more room for another subject.  This is another way of looking at one-pointedness.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on October 31, 2015 at 11:45am
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It might be possible to take a high idea or ideal and place it before the mind's eye and try to maintain a mindfulness of that idea as one moves about ones day.  We might use it as a touch stone of sorts, a way of anchoring the mind to something sacred to us. Karma, Unity, Immortality of the Soul, Cycles, Universal Brotherhood etc. etc.  Any one of these ideas are worthy of us carrying around with us as we go about our days.  It helps to build continuity of consciousness another aspect of mindfulness.

Permalink Reply by barbaram on October 31, 2015 at 2:38pm
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"This (mindfulness) "objective" way of looking at a thing, freed from considerations of the personal reactions to that thing, is the pith of the method and constitutes what is called "knowing as it is" (yathabhuta ñanadassana). Also by its quality of reckoning just what is present, mindfulness cuts down discursive thought and prepares the mind to take in the actual characteristics of the cognized objects. In this sense, mindfulness lets the objects speak for themselves and unfold their nature." 

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/soma/wayof.html

http://www.vipassana.com/meditation/foundations_of_mindfulness.php

Reading the definition above, another term for mindfulness, I would say would be objective observation.   The emphasis is not on choosing a lofty idea to meditate on but, rather to watch whatever goes through the mind and bodily sensation.  As I peruse through the Satipatthana Sutta, mentioned by Peter, there are four sections of mindfulness:  1.  The contemplation of the body, 2.  The contemplation of feelings;  3.  The contemplation of consciousness,  4.  The contemplation of mental objects and  these, being the objects of contemplation for deliverance. 

Mindfulness on breathing is the most common practice.   By watching the in and out breathing,  it brings in mental calm and insight.  The students may experience sensation of ease and lightness after prolong concentration on the breath and become more knowledgeable about the processes of the mind and body, direct knowledge (Vipassana) is gained.

Permalink Reply by Peter on November 1, 2015 at 2:37am
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I think you are right, Barbara.  There is a strong investigative element in the Buddha's teachings on Wisdom.  It is through the systematic practice of Mindfulness that the aspirant is meant to discover for herself the truth of impermanence, selfless-ness and suffering along with the factors that lead to suffering and to liberation.  

Permalink Reply by Tamiko Yamada on November 2, 2015 at 9:17pm
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High Beings are in a state of perpetual meditation we might say.   This would be the case for a Buddha for example.  For them it is possible to perform duties at various levels yet always maintain connection with their highest nature,  no breaks of continuity, no falling out of balance.  This is the condition we aspire to.  When we meditate, let us say, we are trying to reach up to higher and higher states of consciousness that we can eventually maintain vigilantly.  To ignore this effort or practice is to be heedless. Meditation and mindfulness must be woven together, I believe.  We do the one to support the other.  What we can tap in meditation we try to bring into our daily lives and in so doing we gain momentum in building continuity of consciousness.  The higher levels we are trying to connect to could be called by many names, in the Hindu tradition it might be equated with Brahman, in other traditions by other names.  In the end they all point to the same Higher Nature of Man.

Permalink Reply by Grace Cunningham on October 29, 2015 at 12:20pm
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How about paying attention to the activity of the mind so as to gently guide it back to a focus of one's choosing?

Permalink Reply by Tamiko Yamada on November 2, 2015 at 9:20pm
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That focus eventually should be the highest we can conceive of. "The SELF of all Beings."  We might have to build up to this over time with many mini-experiments.  Keeping a key idea in mind throughout the week is one example of a practice that supports the meditation-mindfulness dynamic.

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on November 9, 2015 at 3:34pm
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Yes, I'd say there is certainly (at least at this stage of our collective evolution) an aspect of "mindfulness" that must include that ability to consciously and willfully guide the mind to a subject and (continuously, perhaps) bring it back when it tries to wander. Perhaps mindfulness is essentially just that: "non-wandering" of the mind...?

Would we say that mindfulness is linked directly with the ability of mind to "self-reflect", or reflect upon itself / the Self?

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on November 11, 2015 at 4:11pm
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Good point.  Self-consciousness is the great gift of humanity.  Is there self-consciouness without manas?  Is Manas a balancing principle between Spirit and Matter, a mirror to reflect on the one hand (mindfulness), the power to initiate action depending on which side (choice) of the equation we look at it from.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on October 30, 2015 at 11:55pm
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October 29, 2015 Theme for Contemplation: Right Mindfulness

” If mind, so attached to objects of sense,

Were to be that attached to Brahman,

Who would not be free from bondage.”

— Maitrayana Upanishad

” I have put duality away, I have seen that the two worlds are one, I seek one, I know one, I see one, I call one.”

— Jalaluddin Rumi

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Permalink Reply by Peter on November 1, 2015 at 2:26am
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Is attaching the mind to Brahman really what the Buddha is talking about in the verses in the Dhammapada?

Permalink Reply by barbaram on November 1, 2015 at 8:32am
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"Is attaching the mind to Brahman really what the Buddha is talking about in the verses in the Dhammapada?"

I think not.  The emphasis of Mindfulness meditation is on "awareness" and not on the object of awareness.   Watching the breath going in and out and noticing thoughts parading across the mental space without clinging to any of them can give rise to Vipassana, (insight or clear seeing) of dukkha (translated as suffering), impermanence, and the realization of the non-self - the foundations of the Four Noble Truths.    

It is interesting to see the popularity of this Buddhist practice in the past decades.  It has been discussed  on national news and many corporations, including Google, have incorporated a few minutes of Mindfulness meditation in their meetings. 

 

Permalink Reply by Tamiko Yamada on November 2, 2015 at 9:27pm
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   Mindfulness can have many meanings, and many uses, and many applications depending on the conditions of the individual.  The Buddha did not advocate formulas or panaceas.  He offered advice for various conditions but left room for individual self-regeneration and creative initiative.  When we read the Voice of the Silence we discover that this whole process of turning inward, which is what mindfulness is essentially, is a solitary journey of self discovery.

Permalink Reply by Peter on November 3, 2015 at 10:06am
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Yes, of course, mindfulness can have many meanings and many uses and applications and different traditions will also have their own approaches - and valuable they all may be.  However, as we are studying the words of the Buddha in the Dhammapada might it not be relevant to know what the Buddha himself meant by mindfulness therein?  It would certainly be a strange approach to argue that when the Buddha says, “Mindfulness is the way to immortality; heedlessness is the way to death” what he really means to say is “Whatever mindfulness means for you is the way to immortality and conversely, whatever heedlessness means for you is the way to death.” 

The Dhammapada is part of the Pali Canon, which is considered the oldest surviving body of literature containing the Buddhas teachings.  The Satipatthana Sutta is normally considered the fullest exposition by the Buddha on the practice of Mindfulness in the Pali Canon. So it’s not unreasonable to wonder whether they are intimately connected.  Barbara has brought forward some salient points from that Sutta.

 A buddhist may well claim that the instructions on mindfulness in the Satipatthana Sutta are as close to a formula as you could get for the investigation of mind and body, the understanding of the four noble truths and the final release from the Wheel of Suffering.  In that sense, the teachings of the Buddha are a panacea.  That is essentially what the Buddha is said to claim for them at the beginning of the Satipatthana Sutta :

Thus have I heard.

At one time the Blessed One was living in the Kurus, at Kammasadamma, a market-town of the Kuru people.

Then the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus as follows: "This is the only way, O bhikkhus, for the purification of beings, for the overcoming of sorrow and lamentation, for the destruction of suffering and grief, for reaching the right path, for the attainment of Nibbana, namely, the Four Arousings of Mindfulness."

(The Satipatthana Sutta or Way of Mindfulness)

That doesn’t mean that for us, as students of theosophy, we need believe there is no value in any other approach to mindfulness.  Perhaps, though, as we are studying the Dhammapada we might try to see what the teachingsactually are from that perspective and context. Then we can better assess how they might fit in with the broader understanding of mindfulness and with a theosophical perspective in particular.  The danger, otherwise, is that we make the Buddha mean whatever we want him to mean and miss the import of the teaching itself.

Permalink Reply by Jacques on November 3, 2015 at 12:16pm
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Thank you Peter, "we make the Buddha mean whatever we want him to mean ", is a safeguarding advice which highlights a very common attitude. And, as usual, the distortion comes from the "we", the ego which attracts everything into its sphere in order to substantiate his existence. The Satipatthana  Sutra expresses, almost on a scientific basis, how we perceive (and distort) Reality : First, there is an outside stimulus, a movement of energy which our senses capabilities detect. This signal is then passed on to the subtle realm - our inner sense organs - then it is brought to the attention of our mental capabilities. Up to now, it is like a signal processing operation, with no addition, a transposition from the external physical stimulus to a mental image. Entering the mental plan, there is an automatic, unconscious reaction of our ego, based on its conditioning and limitations, which consists in an automated value-judgement : I like that or I hate that (with many intermediate levels in between). From this point, we loose contact with reality, we replace it with our distorted appreciation of it. Mindfulness, as expressed in the Buddha teachings (and theosophical teachings) is a path, including practices, which allows awareness of the various steps in the process, and the capability to sense (visualize) the gaps between them. The key to a clear perception of Reality is to be able to let the stimulus enter our world without any personal coloration. When we can extend the "gap" between perception and mentalisation, we can have a direct perception of Reality.

The MahâSatipatthâna Sutra express it in Chapter "Contemplation of the Body-Clear Awareness" :  Again, a monk, when going forward or back, is clearly aware of what he is doing, in looking forward or back he is clearly aware of what he is doing, in bending and stretching he is clearly aware of what he is doing, in carrying his inner and outer robe and his bowl he is clearly aware of what he is doing, in eating, drinking, chewing and savoring he is clearly aware of what he is doing, in passing excrement or urine he is clearly aware of what he is doing, in walking, standing, sitting, falling asleep and waking up, in speaking or in staying silent, he is clearly aware of what he is doing. Son he abides contemplating body as body internally, externally, and both internally and externally...And he abides independent, not clinging to anything in the world. And that, monks, is how a monk abides contemplating body as body." - The Long Discourses of the Buddha, a translation of the Digha Nikaya by Maurice Walshe.

Permalink Reply by Tamiko Yamada on November 9, 2015 at 3:02pm
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Many apologies.  I was disturbed to discover that some of my fellow students misunderstood my words. Never would I advocate " making the Buddha mean whatever you want him to mean".  This is the way of the lower mind. If you took that meaning from my words may I offer my apologies. What I was trying to say is that universal teachings, like those of the Buddha, whose teachings I have studied all my life, have a multitude of applications and cannot be reduced to a formula.  

For example if I suffer from certain fears arising from certain situations I could devise a mindfulness practice based on the principles of observance and correction thereby using the teachings to solve a specific problem.

It would be a serious mistake to take the teachings of any great being like Buddha to mean whatever we want. That would be very untheosophical.  Many apologies, I did not want to lead anyone to think this way.   I feel very sorry about about giving out this wrong impression.

Permalink Reply by Peter on November 10, 2015 at 3:05am
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There’s nothing for you to apologise for, Tamiko. I was raising a general point and note of caution which I believe applies to all of us, including myself, when studying the texts/teachings of other spiritual traditions. 

Just to sum up the main idea I was hoping to convey - mindfulness will likely mean different things to different people and for different traditions and there may also be some factors in common to them all.  Further, we shouldn’t assume the approach in Buddhism is the only one of value.  ‘Perhaps, though, as we are studying the Dhammapada we might try to see what the teachings actually are from that perspective and context. Then we can better assess how they might fit in with the broader understanding of mindfulness and with a theosophical perspective in particular.’

The danger (perhaps ‘weakness’ is a better word) of not engaging with the actual teaching and context in which it arises is that we may simply end up projecting our own, often limited, understanding onto the words of the Teacher.   We could have a very good and valuable discussion on what mindfulness means in general, yet still miss the purport of the actual teaching if we don’t examine it.  As I mentioned above, this is a general point I feel is important for us all.

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on November 9, 2015 at 4:32pm
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I think you make a good point here, and personally I didn't imagine you were saying that the buddha was leaving such a subject so wide open as to apply to whatever we want it to mean.

The point you're making is, I think, extremely valuable and important. I've read through this whole discussion so far and I can see many different shades of "mindfulness" being discussed, leaving many open questions.

One such question might be: what is the relation between mindfulness and concentration?

I see some earlier comments that would seem to indicate that mindfulness must include an element of direct concentration; I see other comments that would seem to look more towards a kind of passive state of "watchfulness" without such concentration (such as, for instance, observing the breath or thoughts without a particular focus). This would seem, on the surface at least, quite different than the kind of mindfulness discussed in other comments where it is said that mindfulness must include an object, or must be directed in this or that way (directed by will, and, concentrated, I would presume).

I see other comments that would link mindfulness to WQJ's notion of a "life's meditation", which leaves open the idea of mindfulness as a state of being rather than solely a set practice. This seems to correspond to much of what I've read from modern Buddhist teachers, specifically of the Zen-type traditions (though again this seem somewhat devoid of the idea of concentration upon an object).

The earlier note about Brahman raises the thought of the Upanishadic verse involving the arrow and the mark, where we have a definite promotion of the idea of directing our mind (and thus our whole self) towards the Self of All. That would seem, to me at least, to be a kind of mindfulness, but a very specific kind, and perhaps somewhat different than what is spoken of in the canto from the Dhammapada. However, the quote given earlier "This (mindfulness) "objective" way of looking at a thing, freed from considerations of the personal reactions to that thing..." (see here) would seem to imply that there must be an object, and then, ultimately, the best/highest "object" to choose would certainly be the Self of All.

So I think, like you, that we must leave ourselves available to many interpretations and possible applications of "mindfulness", and seek to gain a wider understanding of the idea by study and experimentation. We must develop our own "self-induced and self-devised efforts", utilizing whichever teachings and combinations of teachings most clearly speak to our heart (and that will certainly differ from one person to another).

I've personally found it helpful, as others here have suggested, to learn something of the traditional Buddhist understanding of the teachings attributed to Buddha, but have also found it very helpful to reach to other traditions, and to modern theosophical ideas, in seeking to better understand those teachings. As theosophists, it would seem quite beneficial to allow ourselves a good deal of breathing room on subjects such as this, and to join with each other in a dialectic discussion where we might all gain better insights.

And on that note, I'd love it if anyone would be willing to tackle the question of the relation between "mindfulness" and "concentration".... are the two synonymous? Are they different, and are there important distinctions to be made? How does the Buddha's teaching of "mindfulness" relate to Patanjali's teaching of "Samyama"? Etc. Would love to hear other students thoughts on that topic.

Permalink Reply by Jacques on November 10, 2015 at 1:37pm
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On Mindfulness and concentration.

Two other sutras from the Pali Canon are worth mentioning in relation with the topic of Mindfulness : Ânâpânasati Sutta ( Mindfulness of Breathing ), and Kâyagatâsati Sutta ( Mindfulness of the Body ). These two belongs to the Majjhima Nikâya (The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha, 118 & 119).

The Kâyagatâsati Sutta describes (18-21) the different steps which are part of the Mindfulness of the Body process. These steps are called TheJhânas, and there are four of them.

"The first Jhâna (18) is entered by being quite secluded from sensual pleasures and unwholesome sates. It is accompanied by applied and sustained thought...
The second Jhâna (19) is entered by the stilling of applied and sustained thought. This Jhâna has self-confidence and singleness of mind...
A bhikku enters the third Jhâna (20) when abiding in equanimity, and mindful and fully aware.
The fourth Jhâna (21) is entered with the abandon of pleasure and pain, and the previous disappearance of joy and grief. This Jhâna has neither-pain-nor-pleasure and purity of mindfulness due to equanimity... As he (a bikkhu) abides thus diligent, ardent, and resolute, his memories and intentions based on the household life are abandoned; with their abandoning his mind becomes steadied internally, quieted, brought tosingleness, and concentrated."

Then the Sutra described the progress through Mindfulness of the Body (22), and the ten benefits of Mindfulness of the Body (32), including super-normal powers like mind-reading, super-normal vision and hearing, recollection of one's past life's,..

So, according to this text, a state of concentration seems to appear as a result of the practice of Mindfulness of the Body. The practice generates first applied and sustained thought, then the stilling of these thoughts, then equanimity, and finally singleness and concentration.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on November 11, 2015 at 3:55pm
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Please explain further what is meant by "Mindfulness of the Body"?

Permalink Reply by Jacques on November 12, 2015 at 9:35am
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Mindfulness of the Body, as described in the Kâyagatâsati Sutta, is an elaboration on the first chapter of the Mahâsatipatthâna Sutta (Digha Nikaya, 22).
The Mahâsatipatthâna Sutra is presenting four main topics : Contemplation of the body, of the feelings, of the mind, and of the mind-objects.

The Kâyagatâsati Sutta starts with a copy of the text of the first topic of the Mahâsatipatthâna Sutra, "Contemplation of the body". It includes :
- Mindfullness of Breathing
- The Four Postures
- Full Awareness
- Parts of the Body
- The Four Elements
- The Nine Charnel Ground Contemplations
Then, it adds the chapters on the Jhânas, Progress through Mindfulness of the Body, and Benefits of Mindfulness of the Body.

So, Mindfullness of the Body, according to the Kâyagatâsati Sutta, is a practice to develop non-judgmental observationsof our body, postures, physical activities.

It starts from breathing observation (4):
" I shall breath in (and out) experiencing the whole body;
I shall breath in (and out) tranquillising the bodily formation;"

Then, it extends the non-judgmental observation to the four postures (5): walking, standing, sitting, and lying down.
Next step is to develop full awareness in any physical situation (6): eating, drinking, consuming food, tasting, defecating, urinating,falling asleep, waking up,...
Next step is a reflection on the Repulsive Parts of the Body (7): "... a bikkhu reviews this body up from the soles of the feet and down from the top of the hair, bounded by skin, as full of many kinds of impurities thus : in this body there are head-hairs, body-hairs, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, sinews, bones, bone-marrow, kidneys, heart, liver, diaphragm,spleen,...

Chapter 8 deals with the elements (earth, water,fire and air) as constituents of the body
Chapter 9 reviews the Nine Charnel Ground Contemplations
Chapter 18 presented the Jhânas
Chapter 22 presented the Progress trough Mindfulness of the body
and Chapter 32 presented the Benefits of Mindfulness of the Body.

As a summary, Mindfulness of the Body is a practice which can be implemented at each moment and each situation of our life in our physical body. It is a mind training to clean-up our natural tendencies and atavisms to relate ourselves to our body, feelings, mind, and mind-objects. It is the practice of discrimination. Anybody can (try to) implement it because it is simple to understand. It does not mean it is simple to implement. But it is a very powerful practice to help us identifying our basic behavior on the day-to-day situations.

Permalink Reply by Peter on November 13, 2015 at 4:47am
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The body is one aspect of the form aggregate (rupa), which in  turn is one of the five aggregates (skandhas) that constitute the person.  The others being ‘feeling’, ‘perception’, ‘volitional formations’ and ‘consciousness’.  The Buddha is shown to point out that all these aggregates are impermanent, subject to suffering and lacking in a self.   These are the three signs of being that are the hallmark of all phenomena in buddhism. 

The four mindfulness practices while developing concentration are said to eventually lead the practitioner to a direct (not just conceptual) realisation of the three signs of being as they pertain to the object(s) of mindfulness and hence the make up of the person.  For example: 

“Monks, form is impermanent. What is impermanent is suffering. What is suffering is non self. What is non self should be seen as it really is with correct wisdom thus: ‘This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self.’ When one sees this as it really is with correct wisdom, the mind becomes dispassionate and is liberated from the taints by non-clinging.”

In this sutra the above statement is repeated for each of the other four aggregates - 'Monks, feeling / perception / volitional formations / consciousness is impermanent etc etc'   This is followed by a description of the liberated state of mind of the person who has gained that understanding with regards to all the aggregates i.e seen them as they really are with correct wisdom:

“By being liberated, it is steady; by being steady, it is content; by being content, he is not agitated. Being unagitated he attains Nibbāna.  He understands: ‘Destroyed is birth, the spiritual life has been lived, what had to be done has been done, there is no more coming back to any state of being.’

(Samyuta Nikaya 22.45; III 44-45, translated by Bhikku Bodhi)

The Dalai Lama points out that while  'the lower schools', as he calls them, of buddhism see nibbāna or liberation as extinction, the Mahayana tradition regards it as liberation from cyclic existence created by karma and afflicted states of mind.

“…cyclic existence does not mean having just any kind of mind and body; there can be existence with uncontaminated aggregates, liberated existence.  Cyclic existence means being born with karmically conditioned aggregates.”   (Dalai Lama, ’From Here to Enlightenment’, ch. 5)

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by barbaram on November 14, 2015 at 2:22pm
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"The four mindfulness practices while developing concentration are said to eventually lead the practitioner to a direct (not just conceptual) realisation of the three signs of being as they pertain to the object(s) of mindfulness and hence the make up of the person."

Peter,

The practice taught by the Buddha helps the followers to directly realize the Four Noble Truths.  Now, I understand better why the Buddha told the students not to accept the doctrines based on belief, but based on personal experience. 

Thank you for the post. 

 

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on November 9, 2015 at 4:04pm
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It's an interesting question... the link between Brahman and "mindfulness" and other teachings of the Buddha. I don't think we can quickly or easily dismiss this idea when looking into what he may have meant with mindfulness.

I suppose if we consider Brahman as the "Self of ALL", then no matter what we are putting our awareness on, we are putting it on Brahman, are we not? And isn't that underlying wisdom (of the oneness of all and the oneness of ourselves with all) a primary aspect of true mindfulness? That is to say: to have true mindfulness is not simply the "new age" notion of being aware of this or that, but being aware of the thing and the thing's true nature....?

"The Eternal is manifest, yet concealed; Moving-in-secret is its name; it is the great abode in which all things are set firm. It moves and breathes, with opening and closing eyes; know ye that this, which is Being and non-being, is to be sought after; it is beyond the understanding of creatures, it is most excellent. This is the enduring Eternal [Brahman], this is Life, the Word, Mind. This is the Truth, this, the Immortal. This is to be aimed at as the mark; pierce that mark, beloved!" (Mundaka Upanishad)

In reference to the specific application of awareness on breath (raised by Barbara), I'd propose that it's a primary example of the kind of mindfulness that finds its true value when the awareness of the physical breath includes an awareness of what underlies the breath, of what breath truly is, or represents, etc., and in the Upanishads and in many other traditions the breath is firmly associated with the One Life (i.e. the Great Breath). With that kind of mindfulness practice perhaps we help bring ourselves closer to realizing the idea that "I am Brahman". And even traditional Buddhist practice may ultimately lead in that direction, even if the idea of Brahman isn't there at the outset.

In any case, to my mind, the Buddha was not teaching anything different than the Upanishads teach, so the connection to Brahman may well be something worth considering when investigating and practicing Buddhist ideas of mindfulness. Traditional Buddhist schools would likely scoff at the idea, of course, but they themselves may be misunderstanding their teacher's words (or words applied to their teacher).

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on November 11, 2015 at 4:07pm
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If the Great Teachers are a "Brotherhood" which theosophy says they are, then this fact would lend weight to your points here. 

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on October 30, 2015 at 11:56pm
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October 23, 2015 Theme for Contemplation: Right Mindfulness

“A Magnanimous Soul is always awake.” — Thomas Traherne

“Our judgements judge us, and nothing reveals us, exposes our weakness more ingenuously than the attitude of pronouncing upon our fellows.”

— Paul Valery

“Tar-baby ain’t sayin’ nuthin’, en Brer Fox, he lay low.”

— Joel Chandler Harris

Permalink Reply by Grace Cunningham on November 2, 2015 at 7:47am
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Would it be fair to say that Mindfulness is both a spiritual practice and a mental posture?  If we considered it this way we might further ask: what are the blockages to mindfulness?

Permalink Reply by Tamiko Yamada on November 2, 2015 at 9:29pm
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Yes, I would agree, both.  Blockages listed from above selection.

* There are ten kinds of fetters: 1) the delusion of separateness; 2) indulgence in rites and ceremonies; 3) doubts; 4) sense-desires; 5) attachment to forms; 6) attachment to formless realms; 7) hatred; 8) restlessness; 9) pride; 10) ignorance. The first five pertain to this shore, the next five pertain to the further shore. The first three are removed on becoming a sotapanna or srotapatti, the second two are becoming a skadagamin, the next two on becoming an anagamin, and the last five on becoming an arahant or arhat.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on November 3, 2015 at 12:09pm
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"By sustained effort, mindfulness, discipline and self-control, let the wise man make for himself an island which no flood can engulf."

What does it mean to "make for himself an island which no flood can engulf"?

Permalink Reply by Peter on November 4, 2015 at 10:00am
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Yes, it’s an interesting question, Gerry.  The imagery of an island as refuge is mentioned a number of times by the Buddha.  The inference appears to be that we should become a refuge unto ourselves by our own efforts to practice the Path. There are two similar verses in Canto 18 of the Dhammapada, one of which I include below:

So make an island for yourself
Strive quickly: become wise.
Without impurity, without blemish,
You will not again reach birth and old age.
(Dhammapada: 18 'Impurity')

In the Mahaparinibbana Sutta, the underlying meaning is made explicit. This Sutta is presented as the last teachings of the Buddha before he left his body and entered his Mahaparanibbana (mahaparanirvana - sanskrit).  In these verses the Buddha stresses to Ananda that we should be our own refuge, an island unto ourselves, and the way to achieve this is through the practice of the four mindfulnesses (body, feeling, mental objects and consciousness), the instructions for which he had already taught in the Satipatthana Sutta (Way of Mindfulness).  This is the Sutta that Jacques has recently referred to.

33. "Therefore, Ananda, be islands unto yourselves, refuges unto yourselves, seeking no external refuge; with the Dhamma as your island, the Dhamma as your refuge, seeking no other refuge.
       "And how, Ananda, is a bhikkhu an island unto himself, a refuge unto himself, seeking no external refuge; with the Dhamma as his island, the Dhamma as his refuge, seeking no other refuge?

34. "When he dwells contemplating the body in the body, earnestly, clearly comprehending, and mindfully, after having overcome desire and sorrow in regard to the world; when he dwells contemplating feelings in feelings, the mind in the mind, and mental objects in mental objects, earnestly, clearly comprehending, and mindfully, after having overcome desire and sorrow in regard to the world, then, truly, he is an island unto himself, a refuge unto himself, seeking no external refuge; having the Dhamma as his island, the Dhamma as his refuge, seeking no other refuge.

35. "Those bhikkhus of mine, Ananda, who now or after I am gone, abide as an island unto themselves, as a refuge unto themselves, seeking no other refuge; having the Dhamma as their island and refuge, seeking no other refuge: it is they who will become the highest, if they have the desire to learn."

(Mahaparinibbana Sutta)

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on November 4, 2015 at 2:14pm
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You certainly get the sense from these passages of a very strong mental position which keeps the inconstant lower mind in submission to a determined will that maintains a high sense of purpose.  The lower aspect of the mind is used to having its own way.  It follows the desires without resistance.  Being an island of protection makes me think of a group of body guards surrounding a head of state.  The more one pays attention to where and what the mind is doing the more one realizes how difficult is the task of staying vigilant.

Permalink Reply by Peter on November 8, 2015 at 7:43am
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"The more one pays attention to where and what the mind is doing the more one realizes how difficult is the task of staying vigilant."

That makes a lot of sense, Gerry.  We can see why this chapter is sometimes title 'Vigilance' or 'Heedfulness'

Permalink Reply by barbaram on November 7, 2015 at 5:51pm
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33. "Therefore, Ananda, be islands unto yourselves, refuges unto yourselves, seeking no external refuge; with the Dhamma as your island, the Dhamma as your refuge, seeking no other refuge.
   

Very beautiful canto.  Does the word "Dhamma"  here mean teachings?  If so, this makes a lot of sense since everything that we  see and experience is evanescent.  The only refuge we can find, regardless of the circumstances, is in teachings.  It is a gift of the gods to humanity.......the most valuable treasure, indeed. 

Permalink Reply by Peter on November 8, 2015 at 7:41am
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Hi Barbara - yes, the usual meaning of the word dhamma (pali) or dharma (sanskrit) is 'teachings' or 'doctrines'.  

However, sometimes the same term can be used to refer to the elements that together constitute the mind and body.  In the teachings on the selflessness of the person or skandhas (aggregates) we are likely to come across phrases such as 'all dharmas are empty,' or 'all dharmas are without self.' 

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on November 5, 2015 at 10:24am
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In the next Canto, number 3 simply called Mind in this book we get this helpful passage which says a lot about mindfulness in general.

"It is good to restrain the mind, which is hard to subdue, which is flighty and seizes upon whatsoever it desires.  A controlled mind is conducive to happiness."

Permalink Reply by Peter on November 6, 2015 at 5:01am
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It might help understand the place of mindfulness in the buddhism of the early Canon, if we try to understand it in relation to the Four Noble Truths.  The Buddha explains in these Four Noble Truths that there are two sets of causes which give rise to two kinds of effects.  There are causes which create unwholesome states of mind such as attachment and craving, which in turn lead to suffering and bondage to the cycle of karma (conditioned existence).  There are causes which create wholesome states of mind, free from attachment and craving, which in turn lead to liberation from the cycle of karma and the realisation of unconditioned existence (liberation or nirvana).

The practice of mindfulness involves the investigation of those two sets of causes as they arise (or fail to arise) within the continuum of our own mental states and consciousness.  The four mindfulness practices includes first establishing the ability to stabilise the mind in concentration and then through direct observation - moving from gross to subtle - to investigate our actual experience as it occurs in the body, feelings, mental states and consciousness.

The field of enquiry is the Five Aggregates of Form, Feeling, Perception, Mental Formations, and Consciousness. 

The karma creating aspect of the aggregates is the Mental Formations (Skt. samskāra, Pālisaṅkhāra,) which includes the volitional aspects of mind.  It is likely this volitional aspect of the mind that is referred to in Canto 1:

“All experience is preceded by mind . . . speak or act with a corrupted mind, and suffering follows.”

“All experience is preceded by mind . . . speak or act with a peaceful mind, and happiness follows.”

It is also this aspect of mind mentioned in Canto 3 that we need to restrain and which is hard to subdue, which Gerry has brought to our attention.  It’s likely an impossible task to properly investigate and understand the flow of cause and effect in the continuum of our experience if we just let the volitional aspect of the mind chase after whatever it desires.  At the same time, “control” on its own may simply lead to the repression of unwholesome desires and such like, which eventually build up and break through inappropriately - sometimes disastrously.  It is very difficult to transform that which we don't understand - we find this within ourselves and also in our relationships with others in the world.

Restraint and the desire to understand need to go hand in hand. In addition, we need to actively develop wholesome Mental Formations such as compassion, equanimity, non-attachment, non-violence & so on.   Restraint, investigation, development of wholesome states would together be aspects of 'mindfulness'.

Permalink Reply by barbaram on November 7, 2015 at 6:17pm
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Thank you, Peter, for the clear summary.  It helps me to appreciate how systematic Buddha was in his teachings, how he starts with the fundamentals - the Four Noble Truths, and how he identifies the problems and then takes the students to ways of deliberation by offering specific practices to overcome suffering. 

Permalink Reply by Peter on November 8, 2015 at 7:23am
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Glad it came across clearly, Barbara.  Thanks.  It's worth noting that the Buddha is said to have provided a range of teachings throughout his life which differed according to the needs and maturity of those who listened to him.  What we find in the early Canon is only one aspect of the Buddha's teachings.

Permalink Reply by Tamiko Yamada on November 11, 2015 at 1:19am
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9. Mindful amidst the heedless, wide awake among the slumbering, the wise man moves ahead like a swift steed leaving behind a weak horse.

Does being mindful suggest a certain need to become counter-culture? Society prizes material gain, success is defined in status and possessions etc..

Permalink Reply by Peter on November 13, 2015 at 3:41am
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That makes sense, Tamiko.   The Buddha is asking us to 'wake up' and stop grasping at things that are ultimately impermanent and unreal, examples of which are those you listed.  Charles Tart talks about  ‘consensus trance’, the idea that we all contribute to and help maintain the collective illusion we live by.  So, to wake up out of this collective illusion is ‘counter-culture’, I would think.

Permalink Reply by Alex Papandakis on November 12, 2015 at 10:46am
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12. The mendicant who delights in mindfulness and looks upon heedlessness with fear cannot fall backwards. He is close to nirvana.

From this statement I gather that mindfulness has many levels of gradation, it is not just a single thing.  Am I to assume that to practice mindfulness to its fullest or highest level is "close to nirvana"?  Is continuity or intensity or both the defining element of the levels of mindfulness?

Permalink Reply by Peter on November 13, 2015 at 3:42am
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I would agree with your first two statements, Alex.   From what we may understand of the teaching there is essentially two aspects of ‘mindfulness’ taught in Buddhism  - sometimes referred to as serenity and insight.  The first involves developing concentration accompanied by equanimity which leads to stability of mind, the second involves developing insight and understanding which leads to Wisdom. 

“Is continuity or intensity or both the defining element of the levels of mindfulness?’

Yes, good question.  Perhaps the ‘temperament’ of the practitioner is also a factor.

Permalink Reply by Grace Cunningham on November 14, 2015 at 9:08am
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It occurred to me that every true theosophist has an obligation to monitor and manage their mind.  If mind is the source of action and all actions have consequences that reach out and affect others then what greater duty does a human being have to her fellow man than controlling the mind properly?  How can we overcome our auto-pilot responses to the world if we are not watching and monitoring the mind? Perhaps we have to turn this around.  Perhaps to be fully human and to march in the direction of truly becoming a full fledged theosophist we must deliberately choose and direct the mind in the consideration of Eternal Principles and their application to the task at hand. And perhaps therein lies a clue, we must become more deliberate.

Act only according to that principle whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law.

-Kant

Some thoughts for your consideration.

Permalink Reply by Ryan Hauck on November 30, 2015 at 7:54am
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I think it is true to say that it is the responsibility of every true HUMAN BEING to seek purity of mind. 

IMHO

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on December 7, 2015 at 7:23pm
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Yes indeed.  What does purifying the mind mean to students?