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Mindful of the Body: A Study Guide - Thannisaro Bhikkhu

Mindful of the Body: A Study Guide - Thannisaro Bhikkhu

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Published by: Dhamma Thought on Mar 22, 2012
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10/27/2012

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 Mindful of the Body
A STUDY GUIDE
PREPARED BY
Thanissaro Bhikkhu
 
 
2
INTRODUCTION
Although early Buddhism is widely believed to take a negative attitude toward the body, the texts of the Pali Canon do not support this belief. They approach the body both in its positive role, as an object of meditation to develop mindfulness,concentration, and the mental powers based on concentration; and in its negative role asa object for unskillful states of mind. Even in its negative role, the body is not the culprit:the problem is the mind’s attachment to the body. Once the body can be used in itspositive role to develop mindfulness and concentration, those mental qualities can beused to free the mind of its attachments to the body. Then, as many a modernmeditation master has noted, the mind and body can live in peace.This study guide focuses on the primary sutta in the Pali Canon dealing with thecontemplation of the body: The Discourse on Mindfulness Immersed in the Body (MN119). The first section, The Context, establishes the general principles underlying thepractice of mindfulness immersed in the body, showing why attachment to the body isconsidered problematic in the first place. The second section presents the sutta itself. Theremaining sections expand on points raised in the sutta: Section Three dealing with theadvantages of practicing mindfulness immersed in the body, and Section Fourexpanding on the drawbacks of attachment to the body.Because the sutta treats the body both as an object of mindfulness and as an object of
 jhana,
or mental absorption, it raises questions concerning the relationship between thesetwo mental qualities in the practice of meditation. There is a widespread belief that theyrepresent two sides of a great divide in Buddhist meditation practice, with mindfulnesson one side, joined with
vipassana
(insight) and discernment; and jhana on the other side joined with
samatha
(tranquility). The Pali Canon, however, presents a much morecomplex picture of the interrelated roles these mental qualities in the pursuit ofAwakening. And in fact, the “Great Divide” picture of Buddhist meditation practiceconflates what the Pali Canon treats as three separate, albeit related issues: therelationship between samatha and vipassana, the relationship between mindfulness and jhana, and the relationship between jhana and discernment. To convey the originalparameters of these issues, this study guide ends with three sections focused onprecisely these relationships.For supplemental reading on the issues of jhana, mindfulness, and insight, see thearticles, “The Path of Mindfulness and Concentration” and “One Tool Among Many.”For further reading on contemplation of the body, see the following books anddhamma talks available on Access to Insight (www.accesstoinsight.org):Ajaan Mun Bhuridatto:
A Heart Released
 Ajaan Mun Bhuridatto:
The Ever-present Truth
 Ajaan Lee Dhammadharo:
The Craft of the Heart
Ajaan Lee Dhammadharo:
Frames of Reference
Ajaan Maha Boowa Ñanasampanno: “The Work of a Contemplative”Ajaan Maha Boowa Ñanasampanno: “An Heir to the Dhamma”Ajaan Suwat Suvaco: “This Body of Mine”Ajaan Suwat Suvaco: “Disenchantment”

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