The Four Foundations of Mindfulness: Summary

Going back to the introduction

The Four Foundations

At the beginning of the sutta, the Buddha tells us the purpose of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness: “Monks, this is the direct path for the purification of beings, for the surmounting of sorrow and lamentation, for the disappearance of dukkha and discontent, for acquiring the true method, for the realization of nibbāna, namely, the four satipaṭṭhānas.”

What are the four? Here, monks, in regard to the body a monk abides contemplating the body, diligent, clearly knowing, and mindful, free from desires and discontent in regard to the world. In regard to feelings he abides contemplating feelings, diligent, clearly knowing, and mindful, free from desires and discontent in regard to the world. In regard to the mind he abides contemplating the mind, diligent, clearly knowing, and mindful, free from desires and discontent in regard to the world. In regard to dhammas he abides contemplating dhammas, diligent, clearly knowing, and mindful, free from desires and discontent in regard to the world.” Goldstein, Joseph. Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening (pp. 365-366)

Below is an outline of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness.  There are many contemplations listed which are covered in more detail in the previous talks:

  1. Mindfulness of the Body
    • Mindfulness of the breath
    • Mindfulness of the four postures: walking, standing, sitting, and lying down
    • Mindfulness with clear comprehension: of what is beneficial, of suitability, of the meditator’s domain, of non-delusion.
    • Reflection on the thirty-two parts of the body
    • Cemetery Contemplations: Death and Impermanence
  2. Mindfulness of Feelings
    • Pleasant, painful, and neither-painful-nor-pleasant feelings, worldly and spiritual
  3. Mindfulness of Mind
    • Understanding the mind as: greedy or not greedy, hateful or not hateful, deluded or not deluded, contracted or distracted, not developed or developed, not supreme or supreme, not concentrated or concentrated, not liberated or liberated.
  4. Mindfulness of Dhamma
  • Five Hindrances
    • Sense desire, ill will, sloth and torpor, restlessness and worry, doubt.
  • Five Aggregates of Clinging
    • Material form, feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness
  • Six Internal and six external sense bases
    • Eye and visible objects, ear and sounds, nose and smells, tongue and tastes, body and tangible objects, mind and mental objects
  • Seven Factors of Awakening
    • Mindfulness, investigation of Dhamma, energy, joy, tranquility, concentration, and equanimity
  • Four Noble Truths
    • Suffering, its origin, its cessation, and the path that leads to the cessation of suffering
  • Noble Eightfold Path
    • Skillful understanding, thinking, speech, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness, and concentration

Below are what I consider three significant contemplations:

Mindfulness of the Breath – This is very useful for calming the mind, increasing concentration, and becoming aware of the life force and universal nature of all beings.  This is the very basic tool that you have with you at all times.  It can be used to reboot the mind!

Mindfulness of Feelings – This is one of the five aggregates of clinging and the first conditioning factor of the arising of “I” (self).  Being aware of the feeling when it arises serves as an alert that the “I” (self) is arising can serve to deal with it before perceptions and mental formations (reactivity) come into play.

The diagram below shows the three aggregates (feeling, perception, and mental formations) that are influenced by the “I” (self) and lead to reactivity and unskillful behavior.

Mindfulness of the Hindrances – These are the five ways in which the mind becomes clouded and impedes mindfulness:  desire, aversion, physical and mental dullness, restlessness and worry, doubt).  These phenomena obscure and distort our perception and prevent us from seeing clearly.

The Path

The Eightfold Path is what the Buddha prescribed for ending suffering.  It is the discipline (practice) based in the doctrine of the Four Noble Truths.  Below is a list of questions that can serve as a checklist for comprehension and practice of the Eightfold Path.

The Four Noble Truths 

  1. Suffering exists (dissatisfaction)
  2. There is a cause of suffering
  3. Cessation of suffering is possible
  4. There is a path that leads to the cessation of suffering 

The Eightfold Path

  1. Right Understanding (Wisdom)
    1. Do you know understand the Four Noble Truths?
    2. Do you have faith and confidence that there are people who have been able to transform their suffering?
    3. Do you understand cause and effect (karma)?
  2. Right Thought (Wisdom)
    1. Are you practicing three skillful thoughts (generosity, loving kindness (metta), compassion)?
  3. Right Speech (Virtue)
    1. Are you speaking truthfully?
    2. Are you avoiding malicious talk?
    3. Are you avoiding harsh language?
    4. Are you avoiding gossip?
  4. Right Action (Virtue)
    1. Are you abstaining from killing?
    2. Are you abstaining from stealing?
    3. Are you abstaining from speaking falsely?
    4. Are you abstaining from sexual misconduct?
    5. Are you abstaining from misusing alcohol or other intoxicants?
  5. Right Livelihood (Virtue)
    1. Is your livelihood inherently harmful to self and others?
    2. Does your livelihood cause you to break any of the five moral precepts?
    3. Are there other factors with your livelihood that make it difficult for the mind to settle down?
  6. Right Effort (Concentration)
    1. Are you preventing negative states of mind?
    2. Are you overcoming negative states of mind?
    3. Are you cultivating positive states of mind?
    4. Are you maintaining positive states of mind?
    5. Are you able to understand and overcome the five hindrances (desire, aversion, dullness, restlessness and worry, doubt)?
  7. Right Mindfulness (Concentration)
    1. Are you practicing mindfulness?
  8. Right Concentration (Concentration)
    1. Are you practicing skillful concentration?
    2. Are you using the breath as a guide?

Summary

The Four Foundations has the benefits of improving our daily lives, deepening our mindfulness and moving us farther along the spiritual path. We become more fully aware of what is going on in the mind and body in the present moment, we are able to evaluate more clearly the purpose and suitability of everything we say and do and we see our body, feelings, perceptions, thoughts and consciousness more clearly.  We see the world around us without distortion.  Most importantly, we learn to dedicate ourselves fully to reflection and meditation.

The Buddha’s Prediction

“Monks, if anyone should develop these four satipaṭṭhānas in such a way for seven years, one of two fruits could be expected for him: either final knowledge here and now, or, if there is a trace of clinging left, non-returning. Let alone seven years . . . six years . . . five years . . . four years . . . three years . . . two years . . . one year . . . seven months . . . six months . . . five months . . . four months . . . three months . . . two months . . . one month . . . half a month . . . if anyone should develop these four satipaṭṭhānas in such a way for seven days, one of two fruits could be expected for him: either final knowledge here and now, or, if there is a trace of clinging left, non-returning.

Reflection

  • Reread and reflect on this talk daily.

Meditation

  • Meditate using the mindfulness of the breath technique and focus your insight meditation on states of mind that arise

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