What Is Mindfulness?
When the mind disappears, thoughts disappear. It is not that you become mindless; on the contrary you become mindful. Buddha uses these words “right mindfulness” millions of times. When the mind disappears and thoughts disappear you become mindful. You do things – you move, you work, you eat, you sleep, but you are always mindful. The mind is not there, but mindfulness is there. What is mindfulness? It is awareness. It is perfect awareness.
Right-mindfulness Is Not a Goal
Please explain “right-mindfulness.” If not a goal or something to practice, what is it?
"'Right-mindfulness' is a strange word. First: there is no mind in it – hence it is called 'right-mindfulness.' Secondly, there is nothing right and wrong in it – hence it is called right-mindfulness. This is a Buddhist way of saying things.
"It can’t be a goal, because when there is a goal you are always in the wrong. Why are you in the wrong when there is a goal? because when there is a goal there is desire, when there is desire you are unhappy, discontented. When there is desire, there is anxiety – whether you will be able to make it or not? Will it be possible or not?
"When there is desire there is future, and with the future anxiety enters into your being. With the desire you have lost contact with the present.
"Right-mindfulness is not a goal, cannot be a goal – because when all desires disappear and all goals disappear and you are herenow…that is the moment of right-mindfulness.
"Why is it called 'right'? It is called right because it knows no division between right and wrong. Nothing is wrong! and nothing is right. All judgments have disappeared. One is utterly innocent.
"When you see a roseflower, does the idea arise in you: 'It is right, it is wrong'? When you see the morning star disappearing, does the idea arise in you: 'Is it right or is it wrong?' When you start looking at life with no judgment, with no prejudice, then you are in the state of right-mindfulness."
Walk without Feet, Fly without Wings, and Think without Mind, Talk #9
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Presence of Mind Is Really a State of No-Mind – You Can Call It Mindfulness
What is presence of mind?
“Presence of mind is really a state of no-mind. You can call it mindfulness, awareness, or you can call it a state of no-mind. The words seem to be contradicting each other, but they are indicative of the same state. Presence of mind means to be in the present, to be spontaneous, to be available to whatsoever is happening right now. To be available to here and now is presence of mind. But the only way to be available to here and now is not to be in the past, not to be in the future.
“And mind consists of past and future; mind knows nothing of the present. Mind is always occupied, it is never unoccupied. And whenever the mind is unoccupied, utterly without any thought, just watchful, alert, conscious, there arises a great presence. That presence functions on its own accord. That presence makes your life a life of responses, not of reactions.
"Ordinary life is of reaction; you react. Reaction means you are reacting to a present situation according to the past. It never fits because life never repeats itself.”
The Dhammapada: The Way of the Buddha, Vol. 8, Talk #10
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In Meditation You Are in a Deep Rest
I have been doing meditation for almost forty years, but I am as far away from the goal of god-realization as ever. What should I do?
"To make God a goal is to start in the wrong direction. God is not a goal; because if you think in terms of goals God becomes your desire, an object of desire. Then god-realization is nothing but the ultimate glorification of the ego. Hence you have been missing.
"And I don’t know what kind of meditation you have been doing for forty years; it must be some wrong kind. It can’t be right mindfulness – what Buddha talks about – it must be some wrong mindfulness. You must be doing some kind of concentration and thinking that this is meditation.
"This is one of the greatest fallacies, very much prevalent in the so-called religious circles of the world, particularly in India. Concentration is thought to be meditation, and concentration is not meditation; it is just the opposite of meditation. Concentration is a mind phenomenon. To concentrate upon something means you are focusing your mind on something. It has its own benefits, but those benefits are scientific, not religious. In science, concentration is needed; concentration is a scientific method.
"And your schools, colleges, universities, all prepare you for concentration because their preparation is for scientific goals, not for religious experience. Concentration means excluding everything from the mind except the one thing on which you are focusing.
"Meditation simply means not focusing on anything at all, not even on God – not focusing at all. Hence it does not exclude anything, it includes all. In meditation you relax, in concentration you become tense. In meditation you are in a deep rest, just alert about whatsoever is happening."
The Dhammapada: The Way of the Buddha, Vol. 8, Talk #2
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Buddha Calls It “Right Mindfulness"
“Mind is politics, because mind is ambitious and ambition is the root of politics. If you are ambitious you are political. Your ambition may take the form of religion, but the politics is there. Then you are competing with other saints…
“My effort here is to teach you a different way of life which is not political at all. Let the mind be dropped. Don’t be a slave of your mind. Become more conscious, more alert of all the nuisance that your mind is doing to you, the mess the mind is creating in you, the chaos the mind has reduced you to. Just watch, be alert. And slowly, slowly as your watchfulness grows – Buddha calls it ‘right mindfulness’ – you will be able to slip out of the mind. Out of the mind and you are out of politics; otherwise, whatsoever you do is politics. If you don’t do anything, that too is politics. You participate, either positively or negatively. If you vote you participate, if you don’t vote still you participate, in a negative way. There seems to be no choice. In every way you will be part of it.”
The Dhammapada: The Way of the Buddha, Vol. 8, Talk #6
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What Will You Take with You?
“Tomorrow is death. You are like the yellow leaf. The next moment is death: What will you take with you? Have you earned anything that you can take with you? If you have not earned anything, then your life has been a sheer waste. You may have accumulated much wealth, you may have become very famous, but all that is futile. You cannot take it with you. Your degrees, your titles, your awards; all will be left behind. You will be going utterly alone. Is there something which you can take with you?
“There is only one thing which you can take with you, and that is true wealth. Buddha calls it meditation, awareness, watchfulness, mindfulness, consciousness. If you become more and more conscious, you can take that consciousness with you. But you are living a very, very unconscious life. Your whole life is mechanical, you simply go on repeating. You are not really living, you are being lived by unconscious desires.
“Buddha says: ‘Meditation is the only wealth,’ because you can take it beyond death. In fact he says this is the criterion: if something can be taken beyond death it is true wealth. If it cannot be taken beyond death, it is untrue wealth, it is a deception. And not only are you deceiving others, you are deceiving yourself. And when death will knock at your door, you will weep, you will cry, but then nothing can be done.”
The Dhammapada: The Way of the Buddha, Vol. 7, Talk #1
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Don’t Do Anything Unconsciously
“People go on living through fantasies, absurd fantasies. Look at your own fantasies and they will all be ridiculous. But you never see your own fantasies as ridiculous; it is easier to see others’ fantasies as ridiculous. Watch your own fantasies. What do you want out of your life? What are you living for? What is your program, your schedule on this earth? Why do you want to still be alive tomorrow? Just look at your fantasies. If you are given only seven days to live, how are you going to fulfill those seven days? With what? Write down your fantasies, don’t be cunning and don’t be clever, be utterly true, and you will find all your fantasies are ridiculous. But this is how people are living.
“’This life,’ Buddha says, ‘is nothing but sorrow.’ He agrees with Socrates. Socrates says: ‘An unexamined life is not worth living.’ And Buddha says: ‘An unexamined life is nothing but sorrow.’ That is the first noble truth.
"The second noble truth, one who follows the path becomes aware of is: …the beginning of sorrow… the cause of sorrow. The cause is desire, desire for more. First, one experiences that his whole life is full of sorrow; then, one becomes aware that the cause of that sorrow is desire. Those who have escaped from the wheel of desire are not in sorrow, they are utterly blissful. But those who are caught in the wheel are crushed by so many desires.
"The first truth is: life is sorrow. The second truth is: the cause of sorrow is desire, desire for more. The third truth is: the eightfold way. Buddha says that his whole approach of transforming your being can be divided into eight steps – the eightfold way. And all those steps are nothing but different dimensions of a single phenomenon: right mindfulness, sammasati. Whatsoever you are doing, do it absolutely consciously, alertly, with awareness. Those eight steps are nothing but applications of awareness into different aspects of life. Buddha calls it right mindfulness. Don’t do anything unconsciously.”
The Dhammapada: The Way of the Buddha, Vol. 6, Talk #3
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This Has to Be Remembered, That “I Am Real”
“’Is there anything I need to remember?’ you ask. It is you yourself. Self-remembering is needed. Buddha used to call it right-mindfulness, sammasati; Mahavira used to call it vivek, awareness; George Gurdjieff used to call it self-remembering, Kabir used to call it surati. But they all mean the same thing.
“You don’t know who you are. You are – that much is certain. In fact only that is certain, and nothing else. The existence of others is not certain…
“The world may be illusion, but who is an illusion? At least some consciousness is needed, absolutely needed, categorically needed; without some consciousness the illusion cannot exist. The rope may not be the snake, the snake may be the illusion. But the person who has the illusion is not an illusion himself.
“This has to be remembered, that ‘I am real.’ This has to be remembered, that ‘I am the only certain reality, – everything else may be, may not be.'
“We never look inwards for this absolute reality; and we go on living a life without basing it on this rock of certainty. Hence our lives are just castles in the air, or at the most, sandcastles – signatures made on water; you have not even completed it, and the signature is gone. Our lives are like that: one moment we are here, another moment we are gone, and that moment could have been used for self-remembering.
“Only people who use their life for self-remembering are using this great opportunity.
“A man runs into an old friend who has become a drunkard. ‘But why do you drink so much?’ he asks him.
’To forget,’ the drunkard replies.
‘To forget what?’ asks his friend.
‘Oh,’ says the drunkard, scratching his head, ‘I forgot.’
“We are in this forgetfulness, we are this forgetfulness.”
One Method Will Correct All Wrong
“One goal – truth – and one method. What is that method? I call it meditation, Atisha used to call it awareness, Buddha used to call it mindfulness. These are different words for the same quality – the quality of being attentive, alert, awake…
“That method is awareness. There are many illnesses but there is only one health. The quality of health is one, always the same. Whether I am healthy or you are healthy, the feel of health is the same. Diseases are millions, wrongs are many, but the right key that unlocks all the doors, the master key, is only one. And rather than cutting the branches, rather than pruning the leaves, why not cut the very root?”
Hundred Percent Mindfulness Will Be Needed
“Prayer means: lost totally, drowned totally, surrendered totally, nothing is being held back, you have gone one hundred percent into it – anything, and it becomes prayer. If in your dance you can go one hundred percent into it, it becomes prayer. Making love, if you can go one hundred percent into it, it becomes prayer. Anything! It doesn’t matter what it is…. The quality of prayer comes by being one hundred percent into it; you have forgotten yourself utterly, you are a drunkard.
“Prayer is the way of the drunkard, the way of the lover – one who can abandon himself, one who can cease to be, one who is ready to evaporate. It is the way of trust. But ninety-nine percent won’t do, not even ninety-nine-point-nine percent, no. It has to be one hundred percent.
“And the other pole is meditation: one hundred percent remembrance, mindfulness, awareness; you are just pure light. It is the way of being alert, aware, watchful, of being a witness. It is the path of the alone.
“In prayer two are implied – the lover and the beloved. That’s why Sufis call God the Beloved. Zen has no idea of God at all. Buddha says there is no God, there is no need. On the path of meditation God is not needed, because meditation is not a relationship – prayer is. Prayer is relating. Meditation is total freedom, aloneness, the flight of the alone to the alone. There is no other, so there is no question of drowning yourself, but one hundred percent mindfulness will be needed – less than that won’t do. And you become transformed.”
Mindfulness Sufis Call Zikr, Remembrance
“The Self is the space in which everything appears and disappears. That space has to be found within yourself. Don’t get identified with any content, otherwise the ego arises.
"For example, there is sadness surrounding you. Immediately you become identified, you say, ‘I am sad.’ That is stupid, unintelligent, you are unaware, you don’t know what you are saying. You are not the sadness, you are the witness. Sadness is there, but you are separate from it: you are the knower of it.
“Say, ‘I am seeing that sadness surrounds me,’ but don’t say, ‘I am sad.’ Anger is there, but don’t say, ‘I am anger,’ or ‘I am angry.’ Simply say, ‘There is anger, I can see it is there.’ Anger is the content of your consciousness, it is not the consciousness itself. Consciousness is the space, the witnessing space.
“This is the revolution, if you forget the content and remember the consciousness. Two things are continuously happening in you: the content and consciousness. A thought passes through your mind and you become identified with it; you say, ‘I am it.’ If you are hungry, you say, ‘I am hungry.’ Please be a little more aware: say, ‘I watch, I am a witness, that the body is feeling hungry.’
“When you have eaten well and you feel satiated, don’t say, ‘I am satiated.’ Again, remember. Because of our ignorance we have created a wrong kind of language too. We say, ‘I am satiated.’ You were never hungry and you are never satiated. Hunger was a content, so is satiation. Sadness was a content, so is happiness.
"This mindfulness Sufis call zikr, remembrance. Buddha has called it ‘mindfulness, right awareness.’
“Just go on cutting yourself off from the content. Slowly, slowly, the bridge is broken. The day you recognize the fact that you are never the content but always the consciousness, you have arrived home.”
Unless It Becomes a Mindfulness in You That You Are a Buddha…
“Meditation is nothing but an exploration of your ignored inner space. That small space will suddenly remind you that you are a buddha. And unless it becomes a mindfulness in you that you are a buddha… It is not a concept; nobody can convince you that you are a buddha – you cannot be otherwise.
“If you simply go in, the very experience of the interior space explodes in the recognition and remembrance of your buddhahood. It is not a philosophy, it is an existential experience.”