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Charles Day *

According to Buddha, studying and practicing his teaching on the

Four Foundations of Mindfulness (the Satipatthana Sutta) is the
surest way to gain enlightenment and insight into the way things
really are, i.e., into the reality that all physical phenomena and
mental experiences are inherently dissatisfying, impermanent,
selfless, and interdependent. Paradoxical as it may seem, these
realizations are associated with:

 Overcoming greed, hatred, and delusion of the sense of a

separate self (the Three Defilements, Poisons, or Roots of
 Increasing experiences of Lovingkindness, Compassion,

Appreciative and Altruistic Joy, and Equanimity (the Four

Great Virtues, Immeasurables, or Bhrama Viharas);
 Ending the inevitable suffering caused by our attachments to

desires, aversions, and the delusions of perpetual happiness,

permanence, and an enduring, autonomous, and independent
self, and by wanting things to be different than the way they
are (The Four Noble Truths); and
 Attaining the blissful, peaceful state of our already

enlightenment nature in which all thoughts, feelings, words,

and behaviors are wholesome, spontaneous, appropriate, and
beneficial to oneself, others, and the universe.

Buddha said this about the Four Foundations of Mindfulness:

“This is the only way, monks, 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 realization
of Nirvana, namely the Four Foundations of Mindfulness. What
are the four? Herein, a monk lives contemplating the…

1. Body in the body,

2. Feelings in feelings,
3. Consciousness in consciousness, and
4. Mind objects in mind objects (dharmas in the dharmas).

Contemplation of each of these Four Foundations must be


1. Ardently, i.e., intentionally and with the appropriate energy,

neither too much nor too little, to arouse and maintain
2. With clear comprehension and mindfulness, i.e., with
appropriate effort, mindfulness, concentration and wisdom in
order to realize the three truths of unsatisfactoriness,
impermanence, and selflessness/interdependence; and
3. Abandoning covetousness and grief in the world, i.e.,
overcoming in the mind greed, craving, attachment and anger, ill
will, fear, sadness, negativity, and displeasure.

The meditator also contemplates each of the Four Foundations in

the following ways:

1. Body in the body (etc., for each of the other Foundations)

internally, externally, or both internally and externally;
2. Origination factors in the body (etc.), the dissolution factors in
the body (etc.), or both the origination and dissolution factors in
the body (etc.);
3. Or his mindfulness is established as 'there is the body (etc.)
only'. And that mindfulness is established to the extent necessary
to further insight and mindfulness."


1. Mindfulness of Breath: Awareness of whether it is an in-breath

or out-breath, a long breath or short breath, a deep breath
or shallow breath, a calm breath or rough breath. Awareness of
the beginning, middle, and end of, and the space between each
inhalation and exhalation. Awareness of the calming affect which
mindful breathing has on the whole physical body.

2. Mindfulness of Postures: Awareness of walking when walking,

standing when standing, sitting when sitting, lying down when
lying down, bending when bending, and awareness of whatever
position or movement characterizes the body in the present

3. Mindfulness with Clear Comprehension: Awareness of the

bodily actions of eating, drinking, dressing, washing, brushing
teeth, toilet functions, sleeping, waking up, exercising,
meditating, taking medications, speaking, and all behavioral
actions happening in the present moment.

There should also be Mindfulness with Clear Comprehension in

balancing the Five Mental Faculties of Mindfulness, Faith and
Wisdom, and Energy and Concentration.

And finally, there should be Mindfulness with Clear

Comprehension in thinking, speaking, and acting in terms of

a. Purpose: Is the purpose of the thought, speech, or action

beneficial, meaningful, skillful, and wholesome for you and others?
b. Suitability: Are the time, place, and circumstances of the
thought, speech, or action appropriate?

c. Domain: Are you mindful of the full range of the activity in
thinking, speaking, and action as it is experienced within the body
and mind?
d. Reality: Is the thought, speech, and or action experienced
as impersonal, interdependent, and without an autonomous,
independent, controlling self?

4. Reflection on the Material Elements of the Body: The body is

composed of the elements of earth (solidity), water (fluidity), fire
(heat), and wind (movement). The solid element is seen in the
first 20 body parts, explained in the next Section 5 below, and the
fluid element in the last 12 parts; the heat element is seen is the
body's temperature and the movement element in respiration.
This reflection assists in recognizing the interrelatedness of the
body with the rest of the world through emphasizing how the
body is made up of the very same elements as the animal,
vegetable, and mineral realms.

The next two sections on Body Parts and Cemetery are intended
primarily for monks, lay persons committed to celibacy, and those
who want to lessen their attachments to sexuality, sensual
desires, physical attractiveness, or bodily function. They are not
necessarily recommended for married couples, single persons,
householders, or lay persons who want to maintain or increase
their sensual, bodily, and physical pleasures.

Furthermore, these contemplations are definitely not intended to

produce repulsion, insensitivity, or indifference toward the body or
its functions, because this would only replace the defilement of
desire with the defilement of aversion, both of which reflect the
delusion of a separate self or ego..

They are intended simply to counter and thereby lessen the

attachment to and identification with physical beauty, bodily
functions, and desires related to the body for those who want to

do so. These contemplations are also intended to facilitate
experiencing the interdependence of different body parts and their
interdependence with the environment.

5. Mindfulness of Parts of the Body: Reflection on the

repulsiveness of the 32 Body Parts: Head hair, body hair, nails,
teeth, skin, flesh, sinews (nerves), bones, marrow, kidneys, heart,
liver, intestines, spleen, lungs, bowels, stomach, undigested food,
feces, brain, bile, phlegm, pus, blood, sweat, fat, tears, lymph,
saliva, nasal mucus, oil of the joints, and urine.

Thich Nhat Hanh suggests an alternative way of contemplating

the 32 Body Parts for lay persons. He suggests reflecting on
each of the different parts and embracing each part with the
energy of mindfulness and smiling to it with recognition, gratitude,
and love for its contribution to our existence, to the existence of
the mind-body organism.

6. The Nine Cemetery Contemplations: These are to be

conttemplated through using the imagination, through viewing
physiological text illustrations or photographs of the body, through
observing an autopsy, or through observing a dead body in the
process of…

a. Decomposing after being dead one day, two days, or three

days, swelling, festering, turning blue and black;
b. Being eaten by birds, animals, and worms;
c. Reduced to a skeleton, held together by tendons, with
some flesh and blood attached to it;
d. Reduced to a skeleton, blood smeared and without flesh, held
together by tendons;
e. Reduced to a skeleton without flesh and blood;
f. Reduced to loose bones, scattered in all directions—here a
bone of the hand, here a bone of the foot, a shin bone, thigh
bone, pelvis, spine, and skull;

g. Reduced to bleached bones of shell-like color;
h. Reduced to bones more than a year, lying in a heap;
i. Reduced to rotten bones, crumbling to dust.

In addition to weakening the identification with and attachment to

the body, the Contemplation on the 32 Body Parts and the
Cemetery Contemplations assist in recognizing the impermanent,
impersonal, and insubstantial nature of the body, the
interconnectedness and interdependence of the parts with each
other and with the external universe, and the illusory nature of the
appearance of a whole body/self. Zen teacher Alan Watts
described the body as a "skin encapsulated ego." To further
understand the illusion of physical appearance, you might imagine
your body or a loved one’s body without the skin covering it.

It is perfectly all right to also view the body as sacred, as the

temple of God. Any point of view about the body can be adopted
while acknowledging the reality of its multiple parts and functions.
However, it is best not to get too attached to any particular point
of view, since both the body and the point of view change with
age and points of view and judgements reflect the delusion of


Feelings, according to the perspective of the Four Foundations

refer to the affective tones of the initial mental reactions to every
physical and cognitive experience. Feelings are not to be
confused with emotions. Emotions, thoughts, and other cognitive
experiences result from an elaboration of the initial feelings and
will be dealt with under the category of mental formations in the
Third Foundation of Mindfulness. With respect to feelings...

1. Be mindful of whether the mental feeling or affective tone
which accompanies each experience is

a. Pleasant (positive),
b. Unpleasant (painful, negative) or
c. Neutral (neither pleasant nor unpleasant).

Again, in Buddhism, the term "feelings" refers specifically to these

three basic, root feelings from which all other elaborated
emotions, thoughts, and habits are derived. It is critical from a
karmic or causal point of view to mindfully identify the pleasant,
unpleasant, or neutral nature of the feelings as quickly as possible
in order to intentionally control and choose one’s subsequent
reactions. Without mindfulness of the initial feelings, they
spontaneously proliferate into greater emotional intensity and/or a
variety of emotional variations of the original basic feeling.

Guarding the Sense Doors: This process of mindfully identifying

the quality of a feeling as soon as it arises in order to prevent it
from proliferating is called "guarding the sense doors." The sense
door refers to that moment of mindfulness when one becomes
conscious that one of the six sense organs—eye, ears, nose,
tongue, skin, and mind—has been stimulated by contact with one
of the six sense objects—sight, sound, smell, taste,
touch/temperature, or cognition. Such contact produces the six
sense consciousnesses of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting,
tactile sensing, and cognizing. It is the feeling that accompanies
such consciousness that one strives to be mindful of.

2. Buddha also recommends that we be mindful of whether the

pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral feeling is (1) worldly (mundane),
i.e., based on greed, aversion, or delusion, or (2) spiritual
(supramundane), i.e., associated with spiritual values and desires.
There are pleasant worldly feelings, pleasant spiritual feelings,
unpleasant worldly feelings, unpleasant spiritual feelings, neither

pleasant nor unpleasant worldly feelings, and neither pleasant nor
unpleasant spiritual feelings.

For example, one may be grieving over the loss of a job or a

divorce (worldly unpleasant feelings) or frustrated over several
successive meditations filled with agitation or failure to grow faster
spiritually (spiritual unpleasant feelings). Or one may feel joy
associated with getting a promotion or falling in love (worldly
pleasant feelings) or joy associated with a blissful meditation or
feeling that one is growing spiritually (pleasant spiritual feelings).
Or one may experience indifference toward a partner or job
(neither pleasant nor unpleasant worldly feelings) or about a
meditation or one's spiritual progress (neither pleasant nor
unpleasant spiritual feelings).

Our mindful intention should be to intentionally let go of worldly

feelings and cultivate spiritual feelings.

3. A feeling may be determined largely by the object that

stimulated it, such as the pleasant feeling generally associated
with observing a sunrise or smelling a rose, or the painful feeling
associated with stubbing a toe or the smell of a hog lot. Or the
feeling may be determined by one's mental disposition or past
experiences, such as an unpleasant feeling evoked by a sunrise
after a sleepless night, the pleasantness of the hog lot smell to its
owner, or music associated with a spouse, depending on whether
the relationship is pleasant or unpleasant at the time of hearing it.

4. It should be emphasized that the three basic feelings of

pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral are conditioned, spontaneous,
and dependent on heredity, past experiences, and the stimuli in
the present moment. Every experience is accompanied by a
pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral feeling. And it is our reaction to
this basic feeling that determines whether suffering is caused,
perpetuated, increased, lessened, or eliminated. The intentional

reaction to the initial feeling determines future karmic or causal

For example, we easily grasp onto, indulge, and pursue pleasant

feelings, which causes them to develop into emotions related to
greed, craving, and attachment. Similarly, reacting to an
unpleasant feeling by attempting to push it away, deny it, or reject
it causes it to develop into an aversion, ill will, anger, fear, anxiety
or upset. And neutral feelings are often reacted to with
indifference, insensitivity, or boredom.

Mindfulness of a feeling, simply recognizing and accepting it when

it arises, coupled with the intention not to react with greed,
aversion, or indifference can prevent further defilement of the
mind, and minimize present and future suffering. Such
mindfulness and allowing a feeling to simply pass away without
reacting to it is often followed by an experience of calmness or
equanimity, a pleasant spiritual feeling.

5. Again, a feeling arises when contact between one of the six

sense organs and its corresponding sense object becomes
conscious: eye-sight-seeing, ears-sound-hearing, nose-odor-
smelling, tongue-taste-tasting, body-touch/temperature-sensing,
mind-mental object-thinking/cognizing. When meditating, a
feeling generally arises from conscious contact with the ears
(sound), body (touch/temperature), or mind (thoughts).

6. Worth repeating again, guarding the sense doors refers to

vigilantly cultivating the capacity to be mindful of a feeling as
quickly as possible after it arises and then to intentionally refrain
from reacting to it as soon as you become aware of it or as soon
as you become aware that it has begun to develop into an
emotional variant of greed, aversion, or delusion.

Guarding the sense doors is one of the most powerful tools in
psychological and spiritual growth. It facilitates learning to identify
and let go of feelings, thoughts, and emotions, enabling one to
become generally calmer, less emotionally reactive, and more
proactive in choosing how to respond. It also promotes insight
into the unsatisfactory, impermanent, and conditioned nature of
feelings, emotions, thoughts, and all physical and mental
experiences. We become aware of our conditioned response

7. When a particularly intense or persistent painful physical or

mental feeling arises during meditation, it is first recommended
that one become mindful of it, let go of it, and return the attention
to the breath. One may need to do this several times when a
particularly strong feeling keeps pulling the attention away from
the breath. And if the feeling persists, one may want to focus the
attention on it for some time, mindfully observing its physical
sensory correlates and their continually changing quality,
intensity, and location.

One may also be mindful of any mental qualities or thoughts

associated with the feeling. Then, when the feeling subsides or
passes away, return the attention to following the breath. Also
when unpleasant feeling arises because of intense physical pain
or discomfort and mindfulness and letting go are ineffective in
eliminating, alleviating, or accepting the pain, it is quite
appropriate to intentionally change the physical position. One may
also intentionally change the contents of consciousness or the
focus of thoughts when mindfulness is ineffective in letting go of
unpleasant feelings and the unpleasant thoughts that accompany



In the Buddha's teachings on the Third Foundation of
Mindfulness, consciousness is synonymous with mind and has
two aspects: (1) the pure illuminating, knowing, or cognizing
function and (2) the mind states, mental factors, and objects or
contents of consciousness that always accompany the
illuminating function of consciousness. One of these mind states
is considered so important—feelings—that it constitutes the
Second of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness.

Perception and memory are the mind states responsible for

identifying, labeling, evaluating, and discriminating among
objects. What is critical in contemplating the mind states of
consciousness is to be aware, during meditation as well as
throughout the day, of whether a mind state, mood, thought or
emotion, is wholesome or unwholesome, ethical or moral, skillful
or unskillful. As soon as one becomes mindful of the mind state,
it should be identified and acknowledged as (1) wholesome,
beneficial, or skillful or (2) unwholesome, harmful, or unskillful or
(3) neutral or neither wholesome nor unwholesome, skillful nor
unskillful or (4) mixed wholesome and unwholesome factors.

1. Unwholesome states include the primary defilements and their

secondary variants:

a. Desire/greed/lust—pride, false views, arrogance,

immodesty, avarice, selfishness, unwholesome excitement,
stinginess, possessiveness, etc.;
b. Aversion/anger/hatred—anger, malevolence, malice,
hypocrisy, jealousy, guile, the wish to harm, fear, resentment,
worry, frustration, disappointment, restlessness, guilt, etc.
c. Delusion/ignorance—doubt, lack of faith, dullness,
carelessness, forgetfulness, lack of faith, distraction,
inattentiveness, laziness, confusion, etc.

2. Wholesome states are those in which the defilements are
a. Non-greed—generosity, renunciation, nonattachment,
simple living, humility, gratitude, altruism, sharing, etc.
b. Non-aversion—lovingkindness, compassion, empathy,
caring, goodwill, joy in the success and happiness of others,
nonviolence, etc.
c. Non-delusion—wisdom, understanding, mindfulness,
diligence, faith, confidence, ease, equanimity, peace, etc.

Some states are wholesome or unwholesome, depending on

circumstances, such as sleepiness, regret, initial thinking, and
developing thought. Sleepiness is wholesome when the body and
mind need rest but not to avoid responsibility. Regret is
wholesome when we have hurt someone but not when it develops
into unproductive guilt, which in Buddhist reflects hostility directed
to toward oneself. Thinking is wholesome when it helps us see
clearly but not when it is scattered or wishes harm to someone.

Some mind states arise only under certain circumstances—zeal,

determination, mindfulness, concentration, and wisdom.

Universal mind states are those that are always present when
consciousness arises—contact, attention, feeling, perception, and
volition/intention. Intention or volition is considered one of the most
critical of all mental factors or mind states because intention is the
karmic determinant of whether suffering is prevented, lessened,
continued, or increased.

Most of the mind states are primarily conditioned by past

experiences. They develop out of the pleasant, unpleasant, or
neutral feelings that arise when mindfulness and/or the intention to
refrain from reacting to the initial feelings are not present. The
importance of identifying and intentionally preventing the

proliferation of pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral feelings was the
subject of the Second Foundation of Mindfulness.

Regret and sadness, but not guilt and self-recrimination, may be

appropriate reactions to the recognition of unwholesome states
when they arise. Wolesome states may arise spontaneously
when previous conditioning interacts with present circumstances,
mindfulness is not present, and one fails to intentionally refrain
from reacting in unwholesome way.

In this Third Foundation of Mindfulness, it is the intention to let go

of unwholesome states and to cultivate wholesome ones that
becomes critically important. Being mindful of the ethical or
skillful nature of mental states as quickly as possible after they
arise presents another opportunity to intentionally refrain from
reacting to unwholesome states and prevent their reinforcement
and proliferation into other unwholesome states or manifesting
them in unwholesome speech or behavior. On the other hand,
mindfulness of wholesome and skillful mind states presents the
opportunity to intentionally reinforce and cultivate them.

Consciousness is not an enduring or continuously present entity.

It is considered a succession of separate and extremely rapid
moments of consciousness. A single moment of consciousness
is associated with several mind states. The task is to become
whenever possible mindful of a specific moment of consciousness
and to identify its accompanying mind states as wholesome or
unwholesome, let go of the unwholesome ones, and cultivate the
wholesome ones.

Mindfulness itself is a wholesome mind state and free of

defilements. It is a very powerful tool in growing psychologically
and spiritually by learning to let go of unwholesome states and to
cultivate wholesome ones. Such letting go is sometimes very
difficult. For example, if one remains very attached to an

unwholesome state, such as hatred toward an abusive parent or
former spouse or partner, one is likely to experience conflict and
vacillation between the states of nonjudgmental mindfulness and
the self-protective justification of anger, if abusive memories arise
during meditation or anytime. Skillful means of dealing with the
anger and the object of the anger need to be developed.

3. The Buddha specifically noted that it is especially helpful to be

mindful when consciousness is associated with the presence or
absence of the following mind states:

a. Consciousness with desire and consciousness without

b. Consciousness with aversion and consciousness without
c. Consciousness with delusion and consciousness without
d. Shrunken consciousness—dull, drowsy, unworkable,
without energy;
e. Distracted consciousness—restless, agitated, worried,
f. Developed, exhaulted, elevated, superior consciousness
and undeveloped, not exhaulted, not elevated, not superior
g. Concentrated consciousness and unconcentrated
h. Wholesome, liberated consciousness free of defilements
and unliberated, unwholesome consciousness with defilements

Again, the primary objective of practicing the Fourth Foundation of

Mindfulness is to be mindful of the specific mind state of
consciousness, to identify its ethical or skillful quality, and in the
case of unwholesome states of consciousness, to intentionally
refrain from reacting to them with continued unwholesome thinking

or manifesting the unwholesome thoughts, moods, or mind states
in speech or behavior which is unwholesome, unskillful, or harmful.
Such reactions only perpetuate and increase immediate or
ultimate suffering.

The practice during a period of meditation is to acknowledge

when an unwholesome state arises and intentionally
let it go and return to the breath. Returning to the breath can be
practiced in daily activity as well, as a means of preventing a mind
state recognized as unwholesome from intensifying, proliferating
or manifesting in unwholesome speech and behavior. And, of
course, one should be mindful of intentionally cultivating
wholesome mind states, moods, and thoughts.

4. Techniques for weakening unwholesome and strengthening

wholesome states:

a. Mindfulness reminders during the day (e.g., when the

telephone rings, going through a doorway, stopping for a red light,
etc.) can be used as opportunities to mindfully note the
wholesome or unwholesome state of consciousness occupying
the mind at the time of the reminder, to intentionally let go of
unwholesome states, and turn the attention to breath and for a
few seconds. One may want to reflect on the wholesome states
in ways that will intentionally cultivate them.

b. Whenever unpleasant, negative, harmful, guilty, frustrating,

or hostile thoughts arise during meditation or anytime,
lovingkindness phrases can be directed toward the object of your
negativity, whether yourself or others. Or compassion phrases
can be used, along with reflecting on the suffering that
accompanies and produces the negativity or anger.

c. Thought substitution can be used by replacing negative

thoughts or memories about yourself or others with positive

thoughts or memories.

d. Smile at or complement the person or object of your

unwholesome emotions and thoughts; resolve conflicts through
gentle conversation and being kind; or buy a gift for the person
you feel negative toward, including yourself.

These techniques are definitely not intended to help you

suppress, repress, or deny aversive feelings or anger. On the
contrary, they are intended to help you become even more
mindful of unwholesome, negative and angry thoughts, and the
suffering they cause you and others, then to acknowledge
responsibility for them, and intentionally engage in a activity that
will weaken them.



In the Fourth Foundation of Mindfulness, dharmas refer to the

objects or content of consciousness. The body, feelings, and
mind states focused on in the first three foundations of
mindfulness become mind objects when contemplated in this
Fourth Foundation. Such objects include all physical, material,
and tangible internal and external objects, as well as all mental
experiences. This Foundation emphasizes contemplating and
understanding five specific major teachings of Buddha in a way
that facilitates insight into the unsatisfactory, impermanent, and
impersonal, insubstantial, selfless, and interdependent nature of
all experience, of mind objects, of the content of consciousness.

1. The Five Hindrances: (l) desire, (2) ill will, (3) dullness and
drowsiness, (4) restlessness, remorse, and worry, and (5) doubt
and uncertainty. Each hindrance is contemplated as follows:
When a desire (or other hindrance) is present, a person knows

desire is present in me, and when not present, he knows there is
no desire in me. He also knows when desire begins to arise and
when already arisen desire is abandoned. And he knows when
abandoned desire will not arise again in the future.

Furthermore, each hindrance is observed internally, functioning

within oneself, and externally, as it functions in others. The
process of the hindrance coming-to-be in the mind and the
process of its dissolution is observed. Or one is just mindful of
the presence of the hindrance until understanding and full
awareness come about.

a. Desire arises because of unwise attention to the attractive,

enjoyable, pleasurable aspects of a mind object and can be
abandoned by giving wise attention to its impermanent and
unsatisfactory qualities and by being mindful of the object without
reacting to it.

b. Anger, ill will, and aversion arise by giving unwise attention

to and dwelling upon the disagreeable or unpleasant aspects of a
mind object. Several recommendations have been made to
overcome ill will. One can change one's attitude toward the
object or become mindful of the disagreeable object without
reacting to it. If the disagreeable object is a person, one can
practice lovingkindness meditation toward that person or consider
giving the troublesome person a gift.

One can also reflect on the idea that everyone reaps his own
karma, that the difficult person will suffer the consequences of any
unwholesome action, or that such is happening to oneself
because of one's own previous actions. Also one can be grateful
for the opportunity to deal with one's previous unwholesome

c. Dullness and drowsiness, also called sloth and torpor, arise

frequently in meditation, and are caused by unwise attention to
boredom, lethargy, and sluggishness in the mind.

Recommendations for overcoming such a state include being

mindful of it as soon as it arises; using the state itself as an object
of attention; stirring up energy by focusing on another object of
attention between breaths, such as awareness of the body sitting
or the touching sensations of the buttocks on the cushion or chair;
imagining a sunrise or bright light; pulling on the ear lobes;
meditating in a standing position; opening the eyes slightly; doing
walking meditation; or, if all else fails, taking a short nap and then
resuming meditation.

d. Restlessness, remorse, and worry arise because of unwise

attention to a mind object, a thought or emotion which causes
stress, agitation, worry, or confusion. To overcome it, one can
become mindful of each succeeding thought, making each
thought the object of attention, watching the mind react to each
thought and watching the thoughts simply rise and fall.

One may also turn the attention to an object, a thought or

emotion, that will bring calm and peacefulness, such as an image
of the Buddha, a flower garden, or a sunset. Or one can focus on
the breath as it flows throughout the body, or one can take
several deep breaths and focus the attention specifically on the
rising and falling of the abdomen.

e. Doubt and uncertainty refer specifically to concerns that

arise concering one's spiritual path, such as whether the
meditation technique or one’s teacher is right or whether another
might be better, whether the teachings are beneficial, whether the
time and place for practice are right, whether the sangha, group,
or organization is helpful, or whether the extent of and manner of
committing oneself is appropriate.

These concerns can be dealt with by reflecting on the historical
and universal acceptance of the practice and the scientifically
proven benefits experienced by oneself and others; by cultivating
confidence and faith balanced by understanding and wisdom; by
discussing experiences with respected teachers and other
students; and, most importantly, by weighing the positive progress
of oneself and others against any harm or lack of progress.

Insights into the unsatisfactory, impermanent and impersonal

nature of reality and one's illusory sense of self can be both
liberating and painful. When accompanied by unpleasant
feelings, emotions, and thoughts, these insights may lead to
doubts and uncertainty regarding the immediate and ultimate
benefits of the path. Only careful and critical examination of one's
personal experiences and aspirations can determine whether the
doubts or uncertainties that arise are appropriate, and a change in
the meditation practice or a different teacher is called for, or
whether such doubts reflect one of the aforementioned
hindrances to be overcome through continued practice. An
experienced and trusted teacher can be very helpful in such an

It should be emphasized that the primary way to overcome any

hindrance is always mindfulness, to become mindful of the
hindrance when it first arises, to let go of it and return to the
breath, and to repeat this process. This process should be
repeated as often as the hindrance continues to arise until it is
gradually weakened and disappears. Other means are used only
when mindfulness and letting go fail to weaken and overcome the

2. The Five Aggregates of Clinging, according to Buddha, create

the illusion of an independent and autonomous self: They are (1)
body or material form, (2) feelings, (3) perceptions, (4) mental
formations, and (5) consciousness. Each of these should be

contemplated as follows: "This is body, material form, this is the
arising of material form, and this is the passing away of material
form, " and so forth, using the other four aggregates.

Furthermore, as was done with the hindrances, each of the

aggregates of clinging should be observed internally, as it
functions within oneself, and externally, as it functions in others.
The process of the aggregate coming-to-be in the mind and the
process of its dissolution should also be observed. Or one should
just be mindful of the presence of the aggregate until
understanding and full awareness come about.

a. Body or Material Form: The previous section on the First

Foundation of Mindfulness deals with additional means of
contemplating the aggregate of Material Form and the Body.

b. Feelings: One should be mindful of the presence or

absence of feelings, how they arise and pass away, are manifest
within oneself and others, come-to-be and are dissolved, or just
be mindful of their presence until understanding and full
awareness come about. The previous section on the Second
Foundation of Mindfulness deals with additional means of
contemplating the aggregate of Feelings.

c. Perceptions: Perceptions constitute the aggregate or

mental factor responsible for identification, discrimination,
classification, categorization, and evaluation. One should be
mindful of the presence or absence of perceptions, how they arise
and pass away, manifest within oneself and others, and come-to-
be and are dissolved. Or one should just be mindful of their
presence until understanding and full awareness occur.

Perception is that aggregate which notes and remembers the

distinguishing qualities of an object and is critical in recognition
and memory. Like feelings, perceptions are innate, conditioned,

and learned, so they arise spontaneously based on previous
experiences. They may be weakened, strengthened, and
modified by new experiences, depending on the associated
mental formations—thoughts, emotions and intentions—which
occur in reacting to them.

Becoming mindful of spontaneous perceptions when they

spontaneously arise and then the volitional intentions following
them provide opportunities to purposefully influence subsequent
perceptions and reactions. Mindfulness makes possible the
training and control of mind and the influence of future karma.

d. Mental Formations: Mental formations, the fourth aggregate

of clinging, refer to all volitional, intellectual, thoughts, emotions,
and all cognitive experiences which are concocted, compounded,
elaborated, developed, and formed in response to feelings and
perceptions. While the aggregates of feelings, perceptions, and
mind states are also mental formations, the term here is used to
emphasize the specifically compounded reactions to feelings,
perceptions, and mind states.

One should be mindful the presence or absence of a mental

formations, how they arise and pass away, manifest within
oneself and others, and come-to-be and are dissolved. Or one
should just be mindful of their presence until understanding and
full awareness occur.

The specific mental formation referred to as the volitional or

intentional factor is particularly emphasized because of its critical
role in determining future karma and experience. Wholesome
intentions lead to immediate or future positive consequences, and
unwholesome intentions lead to immediate or future negative

e. Consciousness: One should be mindful of the presence or
absence of consciousness, how it arises and pass away,
manifests within oneself and others, and comes-to-be and is
dissolved. Or one should just be mindful of its presence until
understanding and full awareness occur.
The previous section on the Third Foundation of Mindfulness
deals with additional means of contemplating Consciousness and
Mind States.

Our sense of self, our personality, our ego arises out of the
continuous, ever-changing interaction of all of these aggregates.
Every individual has a unique and continually changing set of
aggregates that depend on his or her continually changing
experiences. And because of memory, each persons tends to
identify with, become attached to, and cling to his or her habitually
conditioned unique set as “me,” “I,” "my personality," or “myself"
and this illusory self presumes ownership as “mine” of the
person’s mental experiences and physical property.

Such identification may be predominately with a particular

aggregate and result in greater attachment to it. For example,
one person may cling especially to the body and place importance
on beauty, youth, athletic ability, or sexual performance. Another
may identify more with mental formations, such as a professor or
cleric. Another may be more attached to feelings and
perceptions, such as an artist, musician, homemaker, or
caretaker. And, of course, the aggregates persons identify with or
become attached to change depending on time, place, and
circumstance, because attachment itself is impermanent and
depends on changing causes and conditions.

Contemplating the five aggregates of clinging, observing

the rising and falling nature of each aggregate and its
components, observing how they continually interact to produce
experience, and observing their ever-changing impermanent and

interdependent nature leads to insight into the illusory nature
of any permanent, autonomous, independent, or controllable self.
The aggregates constituting the sense of a self, like all
phenomena, are impermanent, rise and fall from moment to
moment, and depend on causes and conditions. So, craving,
clinging or attaching to any of them as I, me, mine, or myself only
causes suffering.

3. The Six Sense Organs, the Six Sense Objects, and the Six
Sense Consciousnesses: Eye-visible form-seeing, ear-sound-
hearing, nose-smell-smelling, tongue-taste-tasting, body-tactile
objects/temperature-sensing, mind-mind objects-

Mindfulness in terms of the Six Sense Organs and Six Sense

Objects refers especially to the accompanying fetters that impede
spiritual growth, which arise dependent on contact between a
sense organ and sense object, how the fetter is abandoned, and
why it may not arise in the future. Ten important fetters are
desire, ill will or anger, pride or conceit, false view, doubt, belief in
rites and ceremonies, desire for a good or better existence now or
after death, envy or jealousy of the possessions or prosperity of
others, avarice or stinginess, and ignorance,
which accompanies all other fetters.

The task is to become mindful of the conscious contact between a

sense organ and its object as soon as possible after it occurs and
to be mindful of any resulting fetter in order to weaken and
prevent unwholesome thoughts and their manifestation in speech
and behavior.

4. The Seven Factors of Enlightenment: These are mindfulness,

investigation of mental objects, energy, rapture, tranquility,
concentration, and equanimity. The person knows when the
enlightenment factor, and each of the other factors, is present or

not present in the mind, how it arises, and how it is perfected.
These factors are cultivated and perfected sequentially, i.e., each
factor depends on the cultivation and perfection of the previous

5. The Four Noble Truths: These Truths are (1) the

Universality of Suffering or Unsatisfactoriness, (3) the Origin of
Suffering in Attachment to Desires, Aversions, and the Illusory
Sense of Self, (3), the End of Suffering through Spiritual Growth
and Enlightenment, and (4) The Way to End Suffering
through practice of the Noble Eightfold Path.

The Nobel Eightfold Path consist of Right Understanding, Right

Thought, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right
Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration. The Noble
Eightfold Path is also called the Middle Way to End Suffering
because it emphasizes moderation, restraint, and transcendence,
rather than the extreme indulgence of desires or severe
deprivation of needs

These Eight Steps are the last teachings referred to in the

Satipatthana Sutra or the Four Foundations of Mindfulness. So, I
will conclude this discussion by elaborating briefly on them
because they so exquisitely summarize all of the Buddha’s
teachings on how to end suffering and attain enlightenment. It
should be noted that they are called “Right Steps” or “Right
Practices,” not in the sense of being righteous, but because they
are considered wise, beneficial, and skillful.

1. Right Understanding: Right Understanding refers to correct

understanding of the Four Noble Truths: First, suffering,
discontent, or unsatisfactoriness is universal. Second, it is
caused by attachment to desires, aversions, and the illusion of an
independent, autonomous, and separate sense of self or ego.
Third, It can be eliminated and the bliss of enlightenment attained

by transcending the sense of self or ego and realizing that
everybody and everything is interconnected. And fourth, suffering
can be overcome and our already enlightened nature realized by
practicing the steps on the Noble Eightfold Path.

2. Right Thought (Intention): Refrain from negative thoughts

and unwholesome thinking related to greed, anger, harming, and
self-centeredness. And cultivate wholesome and harmonious
thoughts related to selfless detachment, renunciation, gratitude,
generosity, good will, nonviolence, lovingkindness, compassion,
appreciate and altruistic joy in the happiness and good fortune of
others, and peaceful equanimity,

3. Right Speech: Refrain from lying, deception, and

exaggeration; slander, gossip, divisive, and malicious speech;
harsh, abusive, and profane speech; and useless, idle, and
unnecessary speech. And practice truthfulness and kind speech.

4. Right Action: Refrain from killing and harming living beings;

stealing, exploitation, and taking what is not freely given; abusive
and inappropriate sexuality and inappropriate and excessive
indulgence of any of the senses; and abusing alcohol, drugs, and
toxic entertainment and conversations. And practice
lovingkindness, compassion, and generosity to others and to

5. Right Livelihood: Refrain from earning a living or profiting

by any means that directly or indirectly causes harm to yourself or
others, such as occupations involving cheating, exploitation,
deception, and greed; trade in living beings, such as slavery,
prostitution, raising animals for slaughter, and butchery; or trade
in weapons, meat, poisons, and intoxicants.

6. Right Effort: Diligently, courageously, energetically, and

persistently practice cultivating and strengthening wholesome,

skillful, beneficial, and positive thoughts, speech, and behaviors,
and eliminating, avoiding, and letting go of unwholesome,
unskillful, harmful, divisive and negative thoughts, speech, and

7. Right Mindfulness: Practice meditation and mindful

observance of moment-to-moment sensations, perceptions,
feelings, emotions, and thoughts without impulsively and
unconsciousness reacting with judgements, decisions,
commentaries, and stories.

8. Right Concentration: Practice the sustained present-

moment mindfulness that leads to weakening attachments;
transcending desires, aversions, and the sense of an
autonomous, independent self; and attaining the mental states of
pure joy, equanimity, and happiness that are not dependent on
external or interval events.


!. Mindfulness of the Body:

Breath and other body sensations
Four elements
Thirty-two body parts
Nine cemetery contemplations

2. Mindfulness of Feelings:
And weather each of the above is worldly or spiritual

3. Mindfulness of Consciousness and Mind States or 42 qualities that
accompany the arising of consciousness, including thinking, imagining,
moods, emotions, intentions, etc.)

Whether or not mindfulness of mind states is present.

Whether the mind state of intention underlying thoughts,
emotions, speech, and behaviors is ethically wholesome,
unwholesome, or mixed.
Whether or not mind states are rooted in the defilements of desire,
aversion, or delusion.
Whether or not mind states are scattered, distracted, exulted, or

4. Mindfulness of Dharmas or Mind Objects (physical and mental

objects of experience, especially those referred to in the following
five specific teachings of the Buddha:

a. Five Hindrances in Meditation and maintaining Mindfulness

throughout the day”:

Sloth and torpor or laziness and drowsiness
Restlessness, remorse, and worry
Doubt and uncertainty

b. Five Aggregates of Clinging: These hereditary and conditioned,

ever-changing, interacting aggregates constitute the whole of
personality, ego, and sense of a separate self that exists at any given
moment. The memory of and attachment to them results in the
illusory sense of an autonomous, independent, and enduring self.

Material form (the body and physical phenomena)


Mental Formations (especially, volitional intentions)

c. Six Sense Organs, Six Sense Objects, Six Sense

Consciousnesses, and the Fetters that may arise with them:

Eye-visible form-seeing
Body-tactile objects and temperature—sensing
Mind-mental objects-cognizing and thinking

A fetter is any object that impedes spiritual growth. Ten important

fetters are sense desire, ill will or anger, pride or conceit, false view,
doubt, belief in rites and ceremonies, desire for a good or better
existence now or after death, envy or jealousy of the possessions or
prosperity of others, avarice or stinginess, and ignorance, which
accompanies all the other fetters.

d. Seven Factors of Enlightenment


e. Four Noble Truths

The universality of suffering

The origin of suffering in attachment to desire, aversion, and the
illusory sense of self

The end of suffering through spiritual growth and enlightenment
The way to end suffering through practice of the Middle Way or
Eightfold Path:

Right Understanding
Right Thought (Intention)
Right Speech
Right Action
Right Livelihood
Right Effort
Right Mindfulness
Right Concentration


Mahasatipatthana Sutta, Digha Nikaya: The Long Discourses of

the Buddha (Chapter 22), translated by Maurice Walshe,
Wisdom Publications, 1987.
Bhikkhu Bodhi, Satipatthana Sutta (14 Cassette Tapes), @ l992.
Bhikkhu Bodhi, The Noble Eightfold Path (Chapter VI), Buddhist
Publication Society, 1994.
Venerable U Silananda, The Four Foundations of Mindfulness.
Wisdom Publications, 1990.
Matthew Flickstein, Swallowing the River Ganges: A Five
DayTraining Course for Aspiring Dharma Teachers, 1998
S.N. Goenka, Satipatthana Sutta, Vipassana Research
Publications, 1998
Thich Nhat Hanh, The Miracle of Mindfulness, Parallax Press,
Thich Nhat Hanh, Transformation and Healing: Sutra on the Four
Ewstablishments of Mindfulness, Parallax Press, 1990.


* Revised 1-10. Contact Charlie Day at 515-255-8398,, or for
more information about meditation, Buddhism, sitting groups,
retreats, or to discuss meditation experiences.