Buddhist Philosophy & Mindfulness by Dr. Aparna Sharma

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“Buddhist Philosophy & Mindfulness”

Dr. Aparna Sharma
AIESR,
Amity University
Noida, U.P. India



Abstract

Buddhist philosophy is not new to this world. This century old viewpoint comes with the follow-up of middle path; it bequeathed many styles of living and enduring to this world. “Dispersed mind is also mind, just as waves rippling in water are also water. When mind has taken hold of mind, deluded mind becomes true mind.” Mindfulness is an art in which whatever is to be done has to be done with complete determination. The manifestation of mindfulness even in one member at a place can be considered as the presence of Buddha. The special thing about this is that religion, culture, tradition everything is there without the hassles of stereotype offerings which communicates not only to the senses but deep within nerves.

It communicates at the philosophical and psychological level through practical mode. To show that everything exists co-dependently like a network is Buddha’s philosophy. He thus sees substance as empty and relationship as real. Apart from consciousness theory of five senses, there comes the sixth sense of intuition, or the substance of mind, which is beyond language, symbols or senses. When it works, it works for the universe and sends the power to universe. This theory or philosophy delivers with lot of strength to mind which we need in today’s rat race conviction.

The paper will focus on that how the various aspects of Buddhist philosophy of this communication is relevant in today’s context, to make this world a beautiful place to live in.

Key words: Philosophy, Buddhism, Mindfulness, Communication, Mind, Art, Language, Mind, Life, World.



Mindfulness is a state in which we have to give our hundred percent to every work we are involved in. The concentration which comes with that conscious effort is able to create wonders not only in the life of that person but in the life of surrounding people as well.

When a child demands something from mother he puts up the whole effort to get his demand fulfilled by her in totality he never agrees to compromise, and his deliberate attempt to make him heard is possible easily, the manner in which he constantly chase his demand in the same manner we have to put some extra effort to make our mind conscious.

In every philosophy or religion concentration and righteous path is the main motive to achieve, and every religion is marked with so many practices for the same. Some messages are like direct sermons and some are like -has to be read between the lines. Meditation, yoga, chanting and many more are there.

Mindfulness no doubt has not been given much consideration so far but actually it works all the time. For the spiritual upliftment or for religious perspective whenever something is done, if mindfulness is added it can work wonders. Not only for the spiritual aspect but for the purpose of material success as well mindfulness works. It makes us realize our own self and gives answer to many of our queries. Different dimension dilemma could be treated with it.

In communication the basic structure revolves around the verbal mode and to a higher degree of the nonverbal one which means to decipher something extra which the writer or conveyer wants to tell. Mindfulness works there. “It makes us understand that which is not said, and speaks which is not heard earlier”.

Giving 100% to the work one is involved in not only through body and mind but through your soul as well is mindfulness. To quote Thich Nhat Hanh , there are two ways to wash the dishes: the first is to wash the dishes in order to have clean dishes and the second is to wash the dishes in order to wash the dishes[1]. This might seem silly as both are meant for same but it is not like this. In second option the person is completely his oneself, following his breath, conscious of his presence and conscious of his thoughts and actions.

The sutra of mindfulness says: “when walking, the practitioner must be conscious that he is walking, when sitting, he must be conscious that he is sitting, when lying down, he must be conscious that he is lying down….. No matter what position one’s body is in, the practitioner must be conscious of that position. Practicing thus, the practitioner lives in direct and constant mindfulness of the body”. The mindfulness of the positions of one’s body is not enough, however. The sutra of mindfulness says that we must be conscious of each breath, each movement, every thought and feeling- in short, everything which has any relation to ourselves[2].

If we do not practice mindfulness, will we be able to continue our work which grows more and more difficult and seemingly more and more invisible in our present world where the violence of partisan conflicts burns everywhere? Let us at least not be invisible to each other. If we do not practice mindfulness we will not be able to see and help each other across the stretches of ocean and land. We will not be able to share humble meals with each other in our hearts. If we cannot see each other, if we cannot make our work one for the human family, will any of the seeds we now sow bear fruit?[3] The answer to this is no.

Zen Master Doc The says, that when sitting in meditation, one should sit upright, giving birth to this thought: Sitting here is like sitting on the Bodhi spot. The Bodhi spot is the spot where Lord Buddha sat when he obtained Enlightenment. If any person can become a Buddha, and the Buddhas are without number, that means persons who have obtained enlightenment, who are Buddhas themselves, have sat on the very spot I sit on now. Sitting on the same spot as a Buddha gives rise to happiness and sitting in mindfulness means itself to have become a potential Buddha: The poet Nguyen Cong Tru experienced the same thing when he sat down on a certain spot, and suddenly saw how others had sat on the same spot countless ages ago, and how in ages to come others will also come to sit there:

On the same spot I sit today
Others came, in ages past, to sit
One thousand years, still others will come
Who is the singer, and who the listener?
That spot and the minutes he spent there became a link in eternal reality.[4]

Thus mindfulness means a beginning and an end as well, at the same time the seed and the fruit. When it is practiced in order to build up concentration, mindfulness is a seed, and the perfection and contentment it brings is the fruit. Mindfulness in itself is the life of awareness: the presence of mindfulness means the presence of life, and therefore mindfulness is also the fruit. It frees us of forgetfulness and dispersion, mindfulness makes it possible to live each minute of life to its fullest as possible. It could be said that it works on the principle of cause and effect. All the things in this world are interrelated. Then there is a perception where all existence is nothing but consciousness.[5]

During meditation, various emotions and thoughts may arise. If we do not practice mindfulness of the breath, these feelings will soon lure us away from mindfulness. But the breath isn’t simply a means by which to chase away such thoughts and feelings. Breath remains the vehicle to unite body and mind and to open the gate to wisdom. When an emotion arises, one’s intention should not be to chase it away, even if by continuing to concentrate on the breath such feeling passes naturally from the mind. The intention isn’t to hunt it away, hate it, worry about it, or to be confused or frightened by it. So what exactly should one be doing concerning such thoughts and feelings? One has to acknowledge their presence. Let them come and reach to their saturation point. For example, when a feeling of sadness arises, immediately recognize it: “A feeling of sadness has just arisen in me.” If the feeling of sadness continues, continue to recognize “A feeling of sadness is still in me.” If, for example, a thought like ’It’s late but the neighbors are sure making a lot of racket,’ appears, recognize that this thought has appeared. If the thought continues to exist, continue to recognize it. If a different feeling or thought arises, recognize it in like manner.[6] The essential thing is not to let any feeling or thought arise without recognizing it in mindfulness, like a palace guard who is aware of every face that passes through the front corridor.

If there are no feelings or thoughts present, then recognize that there are no feelings of thoughts present. Practicing like this is to be mindful of one’s feelings and thoughts. By practicing in this way, one will soon arrive at taking hold of his mind. One can join the method of mindfulness of the breath with the mindfulness of feelings and thoughts.[7]

While one sits in meditation, after having taken hold of mind, he can direct his concentration to contemplate on the interdependent nature of objects. This meditation is not a discursive reflection on a philosophy of interdependence; rather, it is a penetration of mind into mind, using one’s concentration power to cause the objects contemplated to reveal their real nature. Those who have studied the teaching of Vijñāṇavāda know that the term vijñāṇa (consciousness) denotes both the subject and object of knowledge.[8] The subject of knowledge cannot exist independently from the object of knowledge. To see is to see something; to hear is to hear something, to be angry is to be angry over something, to hope is hope for something, thinking is thinking about something, and so forth. When the object of knowledge (the something) is not present, there can be no subject of mind. The practitioner meditates on mind and, by so doing, is able to see the interdependence of the subject of knowledge and the object of knowledge. When one practice mindfulness of breath, then the knowledge of breath is mind; when one practice mindfulness of the body, then the knowledge of body is mind; when one practice mindfulness of objects outside ourselves, then the knowledge of these objects is also mind. Therefore the contemplation on the nature of interdependence of all objects is also the contemplation of the mind.

When one sits in mindfulness both, body and mind can be at peace and in total relaxation, and this state of peace and relaxation differs fundamentally from the lazy, semi-conscious state of mind that one gets while resting and dozing, which is like sitting in a dark cave, far from being mindful. In mindfulness we are not only restful and happy, but also alert and awake. Meditation is not evasion; it is a serene encounter with reality.[9]

Subjects of meditation like interdependence, compassion, self, emptiness, non-attachment, all these belong to the categories of meditation which have the power to reveal and to heal. At the end of the day, we are all human beings with hearts and souls. Everyone has different lives and different issues; however the one thing that unites us – especially in the workplace—is that we are all trying to do our best and to have our work appreciated, for the benefit of making the world a better place to live. Contentment in the workplace, bred by a sense of spiritual fulfilment, is every bit a valuable commodity. Our attitudes and entitlement take on a different shape only when we are on the receiving end of the treatment we wish all would aspire to. [10]

There is only one important time and that is ‘Now’. The present moment is the only time over which we have dominion. The most important person is always the person with whom you are, who is right before you, for who knows if you will have dealings with any other person in the future. The most important pursuit is making that person, the one sitting with you, the one standing at your side, happy, for that alone is the pursuit of life.” Quang, and, Tolstoy’s story is like a story out of a Buddhist scripture: it doesn’t fall short of any Sutra. We talk about social service, service to the people, service of humanity, service for others who are far away—but often we forget that it is the very people around us that we must live for first of all. If you cannot serve your wife, how are you going to serve society? If you cannot make her happy, how do you expect to be able to make anyone else happy? If all our friends in the School of Youth do not love and help one another, whom can we love and help? Are we working for other humans, or are we just working for the name of our organization? In social service, the word ’service’ is so immense and the word ’social’ is just as immense. Let’s return first of all to a more modest scale: our families, our classmates, our friends, and our own community. We must live for them, for if we cannot live for them, who else do we think we are living for?[11]

If we ask our children to work on mindfulness, and present a live example for them to practice it’s not that only their life will be good but theirs’s can communicate in modifying other’s. The people those who are involved in some wrongs as per the standards of society, or commit some crime as offence are generally the ones who have some psychological insecurities and fears which results in inferiority and then in some criminal mindset. It could be used as a measure to cure the tendency of crime in prisoners. By punishing them we are punishing their body, and somewhere providing scope to revenge to grow in their hearts. This could be seen that as per the criminal records of the people. Thus, overcoming revulsion and fear, life will be seen as infinitely precious, every second of it is worth living. And it is not just our own lives that are recognized as precious, but the lives of every other person, every other being, and every other reality. No longer we could be deluded by the notion that the destruction of others’ lives is necessary for our own survival.

Mindfulness if learnt in the childhood only, it can become a habit and then safeguards the society against such vices and sick perspectives. It may appear as a too ideological one, to practice in contemporary material world but it is possible with some effort and when it starts communicating the whole world could be experienced as bliss. Work is only a part of life, and work is life only when done in mindfulness.

The life of today is full of hassles, we don’t even wish to listen to the voice of our soul and surrender to the allurements of worldly affairs. Communication thus is a big problem which stops the progress and peace of mind. To get connected to the souls of near and dear ones and then to the strangers is an art of mindfulness. This is able to create wonders and provide a new scope to the future researches of communication. Mindfulness is beyond the various modes of nonverbal communication, it is beyond telepathy, beyond six senses and thus works on our aura which through unseen and unfelt vibrations communicates a lot to us and then through us it is communicated to the world. Mindfulness and spiritualism goes hand in hand, mindfulness is a state of spirituality only. The way ‘spirituality’ is often used suggests that we exist solely as a collection of individuals, not as members of a religious community, and that religious life is merely a private journey.[12] Although religion affects individual’s spirituality and plays an important role in governing our day to day behavior at work through ritual practices but the religion should not be interpreted in terms of spirituality, because spirituality is personal; religion is social.[13] Yet the middle path suggested by Buddha conveys a religion beyond the limitations of religion and that is of, ‘humanity’ at its base.

Though it appears quite difficult to reach this level of mindfulness, yet Thich Nhat Hanh tried his best with: Thirty Exercises to Practice Mindfulness[14]

“Note: Here are a number of exercises and methods in meditation which I have often used, adapting them from various methods to fit my own circumstances and preferences. Select the ones you like best and find the most suitable ones for you. The value of each method will vary according to each person’s unique needs. Although these exercises are all relatively easy, they form the foundations on which everything else is built.

1. The Half-Smile

a) Half-smile when you first wake up in the morning: Hang a branch or any other sign, or even the word ’smile’ on the ceiling or wall so that you see it right away when you open your eyes. This sign will serve as your reminder. Use these seconds before you get out of bed to take hold of your breath. Inhale and exhale three breaths gently while maintaining the half-smile. Follow your breaths.
b) Half-smile during your free moments: While in a waiting room, or on a bus, standing in line at the post office, or anywhere you find yourself sitting or standing, half-smile. Look at a child, a leaf, a painting on the wall, anything which is relatively still, and smile. Inhale and exhale quietly three times. Maintain the half-smile and consider the spot of attention as your own true nature.
c) Half-smile while listening to music: Listen to a piece of music for two or three minutes. Pay attention to the words, music, rhythm and sentiments. Smile while watching your inhalations and exhalations.
d) Half-smile when irritated: When you realize you are irritated, half-smile at once. Inhale and exhale quietly, maintaining the half-smile for three breaths.

2. Letting Go/Relaxation

a) Letting go in a lying down position:
b) Letting go in the sitting position:

3. Breathing

a) Deep breathing:
b) Measuring your breath by your footsteps:
c) Counting your breath:

Whenever you lose count, return to one.

d) Following your breath while listening to music:
e) Follow your breath while having a conversation: Breathe long, light and even breaths. Follow your breath while listening to a friend’s words and to your own replies.
Continue as in 3d.
f) Following the breath:
g) Breathing to Quiet the Mind and Body to Realize Joy:

4. Mindfulness of the Position and Movements of the Body

a) Mindfulness of the positions of the body: This can be practiced at any time and place. Begin to focus your attention on your breath. Breath quietly and more deeply than usual. Be mindful of the position of your body, whether you are walking, standing, lying or sitting down. Know where you walk; where you stand; where you lie, where you sit. Be mindful of the purpose of your position. For example, you might be conscious that you are standing on a green hillside in order to refresh yourself, to practice breathing or just to stand. If there is no purpose, be mindful that there is no purpose.
b) Mindfulness of the preparation of tea
c) Mindfulness while washing the dishes:
d) Mindfulness while washing clothes: Avoid any abrupt or harsh movement. Maintain mindfulness of the breath, especially when your thoughts wander.
f) Mindfulness while bathing

Think of yourself as being in a clean and fragrant lotus pond in the summer.

g) Mindfulness on a pebble
h) Plan a day of mindfulness: Select one day of the week, any day that accords with your own situation. Forget the work you do during the other days. Do not organize any meetings or have friends over. Do only such simple work as house cleaning, cooking, washing clothes and dusting. During the day, take two walks of 30 to 45 minutes long. Do not read before you go to sleep. Instead of reading, practice total relaxation (2a) for 5 to 10 minutes. Be master of your breathing. Breathe gently (the breath should not be too long), following the rising and falling of your stomach and chest, with your eyes closed. Every movement during this day should be at least two times slower than usual.

5. Contemplation on Interdependence

a) Contemplation on the five aggregates: Find a photo of yourself as a child. After 20 breaths, begin to focus your attention on the photo in front of you. Recreate and live again the 5 aggregates of which you were made up at the time the photo was taken: the physical characteristics of your body, your feelings, perceptions, mind functioning and consciousness at that age.
b) Contemplation of your own skeleton
c) Contemplation on your true face before you were born

6. Contemplation on Compassion

a) Contemplation on the person you hate or despise the most
b) Contemplate on the suffering caused by the lack of wisdom

Meditate on all the sufferings until your heart fills with compassion like a well of fresh water, and you are able to see that that person suffers because of circumstances and ignorance. Resolve to help that person get out of his present situation through the most silent and unpretentious means possible. Remember the Sutra’s words:

In the time of war Raise in yourself the Mind of Compassion Helping living beings
Abandon the will to fight, Wherever there is furious battle
Use all your might, To keep both sides’ strength equal
And then step into the conflict to reconcile
(Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra)

Meditate until every reproach and hatred disappears, and compassion and love rise like a well of fresh water in your heart. Vow to work for awareness and reconciliation by the most silent and unpretentious means possible.

c) Contemplation on detached action
d) Contemplation on detachment
e) Contemplation on non-abandonment”

Certain virtues such as courage, honesty, fairness and empathy are considered as traits necessary for ethical behaviour.[15] Emotions organize intellectual capacities, and indeed create the sense of self.[16] For a successful life in the contemporary world mindfulness works for such virtues.

In fine it could be said that communication is wide field from nature to material, real to fake, water to air, intonation to color code, spiritualism to technology, love to hatred, submissiveness to courage, everything, every being and every emotion speaks volumes. We need to activate that mindfulness to listen and decipher between the lines, to make this world a beautiful place. Not only for us to live in but for the progenies as well.

Footnotes

  1. 1. Hanh Thich Nhat, The Miracle of Being Awake, Trans. Mobi Quynh Hoa, The Wheel Publication, Kandy, Srilanka, 1976. p.7
  2. 2.Ibid p.8
  3. 3. Sceaux (France), 18 June 1975, p.5
  4. 4. Hanh Thich Nhat, The Miracle of Being Awake, Trans. Mobi Quynh Hoa, The Wheel Publication, Kandy, Srilanka, 1976. p.9
  5. 5. Cheon, Young-Cheol, Buddhist Perspective on Life and Communication, Institute of Communication for Life, 2010, p.2 (Internet)
  6. 6. Hanh Thich Nhat, The Miracle of Being Awake, Trans. Mobi Quynh Hoa, The Wheel Publication, Kandy, Srilanka, 1976. p.18
  7. 7. Ibid, p.19
  8. 8. Ibid , p.20
  9. 9. Ibid, p.23
  10. http://www.businesstoday.org/magazine/temporarily-cancelled-running-bull/spirituality-workplace
  11. 11. Hanh Thich Nhat, The Miracle of Being Awake, Trans. Mobi Quynh Hoa, The Wheel Publication, Kandy, Srilanka, 1976. p.28
  12. Bellah, Robert. (2004). An interview published in Tricycle: The Buddhist Review. August, (New York, NY: The Tricycle Foundation).
  13. 13. Kozney, G. (2004) Dancing with Dogmas: The fine line between religion and spirituality. Communities, 124
  14. 14. Hanh Thich Nhat, The Miracle of Being Awake, Trans. Mobi Quynh Hoa, The Wheel Publication, Kandy, Srilanka, 1976. p.32-37
  15. 15. Joseph P T, SJ, EQ & Leadership, Tata McGraw Hill, New Delhi, 2007, p-42
  16. 16. Concepts of workplace spirituality, http://www.mbaknol.com/management-concepts/concept-of-workplace-spirituality