Dharma Pearls

Translating Classical Buddhism to Modern English

The Medium Discourses

Chapter 9: Cause

98. The Abodes of Mindfulness

1. Thus I have heard: One time, the Buddha traveled to Kuru and stayed at the Kuru town of [Karmasadharma].

2. It was then that the Bhagavān addressed the monks, “There’s one path that purifies sentient beings. It frees them from sorrow and fear, ceases suffering and vexation, ends lamentation, and attains the right Dharma. It’s called the four abodes of mindfulness.

3. “If there were Tathāgatas, Arhats, and Fully Awakened Ones in the past, they all ended the five hindrances that defile the mind and weaken wisdom, established their minds in the four abodes of mindfulness, and cultivated the seven factors of awakening. They then attained the awakening that is the unsurpassed, correct, and full awakening. If there will be Tathāgatas, Arhats, and Fully Awakened Ones in the future, they all will end the five hindrances that defile the mind and weaken wisdom, establish their minds in the four abodes of mindfulness, and cultivate the seven factors of awakening. They then will attain the awakening that is the unsurpassed, correct, and full awakening. I’m now the Tathāgata, Arhat, and Completely Enlightened One in the present. I’ve also ended the five hindrances that defile the mind and weaken wisdom, established my mind in the four abodes of mindfulness, and cultivated the seven factors of awakening. I then attained the awakening that is the unsurpassed, correct, and full awakening.

4. “What are the four? They are the mindful abode of observing body as body and the mindful abode of observing feelings … mind … and principles as principles.

Mindfulness of Body

5. “What is the mindful abode of observing body as body? A monk walks and knows he’s walking. He stands and knows he’s standing, sits and knows he’s sitting, and lies down and knows he’s lying down. He sleeps and knows he’s sleeping, wakes and knows he’s waking, and he sleeps and wakes and knows he has slept and woke up.

6. “Thus, a monk observes the internal body as body and observes the external body as body. He establishes mindfulness in body with knowing, seeing, insight, and comprehension. This is called a monk observing body as body.

7. “Furthermore, a monk observes body as body. That monk correctly knows that he’s exiting and entering, and he well observes and discerns that he’s bending and stretching high and low. His manner is peaceful, and he wears his outer and other robes and carries his bowl well. He’s correctly aware when walking, standing, sitting, lying, sleeping, waking, speaking, and being silent.

8. “Thus, a monk observes the internal body as body and observes the external body as body. He establishes mindfulness in body with knowing, seeing, insight, and comprehension. This is called a monk observing body as body.

9. “Furthermore, a monk observes body as body. That monk produces mindfulness of what’s bad and unwholesome. He subdues and extinguishes it with mindfulness of what’s good. He’s like a carpenter or a carpenter’s apprentice who ties wood together with a cord and then chops off the excess with a sharp ax to make a straight [edge]. Thus, the monk produces mindfulness of what’s bad and unwholesome, and he subdues and extinguishes it with mindfulness of what’s good.

10. “Thus, a monk observes the internal body as body and observes the external body as body. He establishes mindfulness in body with knowing, seeing, insight, and comprehension. This is called a monk observing body as body.

11. “Furthermore, a monk observes body as body. That monk puts his teeth together, presses his tongue up against his palate, and uses his mind to govern his thoughts, subduing and extinguishing them. It’s like when two strong men arrest a weak man. They go from place to place holding, controlling, and disciplining him. Thus, that monk puts his teeth together, presses his tongue against his palate, and uses his mind to govern his thoughts, subduing and extinguishing them.

12. “Thus, a monk observes the internal body as body and observes the external body as body. He establishes mindfulness in body with knowing, seeing, insight, and comprehension. This is called a monk observing body as body.

13. “Furthermore, a monk observes body as body. That monk is mindful of inhaling and knows he’s mindful of inhaling. He’s mindful of exhaling and knows he’s mindful of exhaling. He inhales long and knows he’s inhaling long. He exhales long and knows he’s exhaling long. He inhales short and knows he’s inhaling short. He exhales short and knows that he’s exhaling short. He trains while inhaling with his whole body and trains while exhaling with his whole body. He trains while calming physical action as he inhales and trains while calming verbal action as he exhales.

14. “Thus, a monk observes the internal body as body and observes the external body as body. He establishes mindfulness in body with knowing, seeing, insight, and comprehension. This is called a monk observing body as body.

15. “Furthermore, a monk observes body as body. That monk’s body is wet and moistened by joy and happiness that arises from seclusion. It thoroughly fills what’s in his body. There’s nowhere that that joy and happiness that arises from seclusion doesn’t reach. It’s like when a bath worker fills a dish with soap and mixes it with water to make a ball. The water wets, moistens, and thoroughly fills it. There’s nowhere that it doesn’t reach. Thus, a monk’s body is wet and moistened by joy and happiness that arises from seclusion. It thoroughly fills what’s in his body. There’s nowhere that that joy and happiness that arises from seclusion doesn’t reach.

16. “Thus, a monk observes the internal body as body and observes the external body as body. He establishes mindfulness in body with knowing, seeing, insight, and comprehension. This is called a monk observing body as body.

17. “Furthermore, a monk observes body as body. That monk’s body is wet and moistened by joy and happiness that arises from concentration. It thoroughly fills what’s in his body. There’s nowhere that that joy and happiness that arises from concentration doesn’t reach. It’s like a mountain spring that fills to overflowing with the pure and unsullied water. On all four sides, there’s nowhere [more] water can enter. From the bottom of that spring, the water spontaneously wells up and flows out to wet and moisten the mountain and thoroughly fill it. There’s nowhere that it doesn’t reach. Thus, a monk’s body is wet and moistened by the joy and happiness that arises from concentration. It thoroughly fills what’s in his body. There’s nowhere that that joy and happiness that arises from concentration doesn’t reach.

18. “Thus, a monk observes the internal body as body and observes the external body as body. He establishes mindfulness in body with knowing, seeing, insight, and comprehension. This is called a monk observing body as body.

19. “Furthermore, a monk observes body as body. That monk’s body is wet and moistened by happiness that arises from the absence of joy. It thoroughly fills what’s in his body. There’s nowhere that that happiness that arises from the absence of joy doesn’t reach. It’s like the blue lotus and the red and white lotuses, which are born from water and grow in water. At the water’s bottom, their roots, stems, flowers, and leaves are all wet and moistened. They are thoroughly filled, and there’s nowhere that the water doesn’t reach. Thus, the monk’s body is wet and moistened by happiness that arises from the absence of joy. It thoroughly fills what’s in his body. There’s nowhere that that happiness that arises from the absence of joy doesn’t reach.

20. “Thus, a monk observes the internal body as body and observes the external body as body. He establishes mindfulness in body with knowing, seeing, insight, and comprehension. This is called a monk observing body as body.

21. “Furthermore, a monk observes body as body. What’s in that monk’s body is filled with the accomplishment of the mental freedom of a pure mind. There’s nowhere in his body that that pure mind doesn’t reach. He’s like a person wearing a seven- or eight-cubit robe. From head to toe, there’s no part of his body that isn’t covered. Thus, there’s nowhere in that monk’s body that that pure mind doesn’t reach.

22. “Thus, a monk observes the internal body as body and observes the external body as body. He establishes mindfulness in body with knowing, seeing, insight, and comprehension. This is called a monk observing body as body.

23. “Furthermore, a monk observes body as body. That monk is mindful of the perception of light. That mindfulness is well-acquired, well-maintained, and well-intended. As before, it’s likewise afterward. As after, it’s likewise beforehand. As during the day, it’s likewise at night. As during the night, it’s likewise during daytime. As below, it’s likewise above. As above, it’s likewise below. Thus, he isn’t mistaken, and his mind has no fetters. He cultivates a radiant mind, and his mind is never covered by darkness.

24. “Thus, a monk observes the internal body as body and observes the external body as body. He establishes mindfulness in body with knowing, seeing, insight, and comprehension. This is called a monk observing body as body.

25. “Furthermore, a monk observes body as body. That monk well-acquires and observes appearances, and that mindfulness is well-recollected. He’s like a person sitting and observing someone lying down or lying down and observing someone sitting. Thus, the monk well-acquires and observes appearances, and that mindfulness is well-recollected.

26. “Thus, a monk observes the internal body as body and observes the external body as body. He establishes mindfulness in body with knowing, seeing, insight, and comprehension. This is called a monk observing body as body.

27. “Furthermore, a monk observes body as body. That monk follows this body’s loveliness and ugliness from head to toe according to its abiding. He observes the various ways it’s filled with impurities: ‘In my body, there’s beard, hair, nails, teeth, coarse, fine, and thin skin, flesh, tendons, bones, heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, large and small intestines, spleen, stomach, dung, brain and spine, tears, sweat, phlegm, pus, blood, fat, marrow, saliva, bile, and urine.’ He’s like a man with eyes to look at a container full of various seeds. He discerns them clearly as rice, millet, rape, and mustard seed. Thus, the monk follows this body’s loveliness and ugliness from head to toe according to its abiding. He observes the various ways it’s filled with impurities, ‘In my body there’s beard, hair, nails, teeth, coarse, fine, and thin skin, flesh, tendons, bones, heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, large and small intestines, spleen, stomach, dung, brain and spine, tears, sweat, phlegm, pus, blood, fat, marrow, saliva, bile, and urine.’

28. “Thus, a monk observes the internal body as body and observes the external body as body. He establishes mindfulness in body with knowing, seeing, insight, and comprehension. This is called a monk observing body as body.

29. “Furthermore, a monk observes body as body. That monk observes the body’s elements: ‘In this body of mine, there’s the element of earth, element of water, element of fire, element of air, element of space, and element of consciousness.’ It’s like a butcher’s son who slaughters a cow, skins it, spreads its hide on the ground, and divides it into six pieces. Thus, the monk observes the elements of his body: ‘In this body of mine, there’s the element of earth, element of water, element of fire, element of air, element of space, and element of consciousness.’

30. “Thus, a monk observes the internal body as body and observes the external body as body. He establishes mindfulness in body with knowing, seeing, insight, and comprehension. This is called a monk observing body as body.

31. “Furthermore, a monk observes body as body. That monk observes a dead corpse, whether one, two … six, or seven days old. It’s been pecked by crows and kites, eaten by wolves and dogs, burned, or buried in the ground, and it’s thoroughly rotted and decayed. He compares himself to what he’s seen: ‘Now, this body of mine will be likewise. Both have this principle; it’ll never escape this.’

32. “Thus, a monk observes the internal body as body and observes the external body as body. He establishes mindfulness in body with knowing, seeing, insight, and comprehension. This is called a monk observing body as body.

33. “Furthermore, a monk observes the body as body. That monk sees as before a skeleton that’s bluish, rotted, half-eaten, or just bones on the ground at a charnel ground. He compares himself to what he’s seen: ‘Now, this body of mine will be likewise. Both have this principle; it’ll never escape this.’

34. “Thus, a monk observes the internal body as body and observes the external body as body. He establishes mindfulness in body with knowing, seeing, insight, and comprehension. This is called a monk observing body as body.

35. “Furthermore, a monk observes body as body. That monk as before sees skin, flesh, and blood removed [from the bones] with only sinews connecting them at a charnel ground. He compares himself to what he’s seen: ‘Now, this body of mine will be likewise. Both have this principle; it’ll never escape this.’

36. “Thus, a monk observes the internal body as body and observes the external body as body. He establishes mindfulness in body with knowing, seeing, insight, and comprehension. This is called a monk observing body as body.

37. “Furthermore, a monk observes the body as body. That monk as before sees bones with sinews removed and scattered in different directions at a charnel ground: Foot bones, leg bones, thigh bones, hip bones, back bones, shoulder bones, neck bones, and skull bones. Each is lying in a different place. He compares himself to what he’s seen: ‘Now, this body of mine will be likewise. Both have this principle; it’ll never escape this.’

38. “Thus, a monk observes the internal body as body and observes the external body as body. He establishes mindfulness in body with knowing, seeing, insight, and comprehension. This is called a monk observing body as body.

39. “Furthermore, a monk observes the body as body. That monk as before sees bones at a charnel ground as white as seashells, blue like a pigeon, or red like smeared blood. They are decayed, broken, and reduced to dust. He compares himself to what he’s seen: ‘Now, this body of mine will be likewise. Both have this principle; it’ll never escape this.’

40. “Thus, a monk observes the internal body as body and observes the external body as body. He establishes mindfulness in body with knowing, seeing, insight, and comprehension. This is called a monk observing body as body. If monks and nuns thus observe the body as body little by little, this is called the mindful abode of observing the body as body.

Mindfulness of Feelings

41. “What is the mindful abode of observing feelings as feelings? When a monk feels a pleasant feeling, he then knows, ‘I’m feeling a pleasant feeling.’ When he feels a painful feeling, he then knows, ‘I’m feeling a painful feeling.’ When he feels a feeling that’s neither pleasant nor painful, then he knows, ‘I’m feeling a feeling that’s neither pleasant nor painful.’ He experiences a pleasant body … a painful body … a body that’s neither pleasant nor painful … a pleasant mind … a painful mind … a mind that’s neither pleasant nor painful … pleasant food … painful food … food that’s neither pleasant nor painful … pleasant lack of food … painful lack of food … lack of food that’s neither pleasant nor painful … pleasant desires … painful desires … desires that are neither pleasant nor painful. When he experiences a pleasant lack of desire … a painful lack of desire … a lack of desire that’s neither pleasant nor painful, then he knows ‘I’m experiencing a lack of desire that’s neither pleasant nor painful.’

42. “Thus, a monk observes internal feelings as feelings and observes external feelings as feelings. He establishes mindfulness in feeling with knowing, seeing, insight, and comprehension. This is called a monk observing feelings as feelings. If monks and nuns thus observe feelings as feelings little by little, this is called the mindful abode of observing feelings as feelings.

Mindfulness of Mind

43. “What is the mindful abode of observing mind as mind? A monk who has a mind with desire knows ‘I have a mind with desire’ as it truly is … a mind lacking desire knows ‘I have a mind lacking desire’ as it truly is … with anger … lacking anger … with delusion … lacking delusion … with defilement … lacking defilement … with unity … with distraction … with lower … with higher … with little … with greatness … that’s cultivated … that’s not cultivated … that’s concentrated … that’s not concentrated … has a mind that’s not liberated knows ‘I have a mind that’s not liberated’ as it truly is … has a mind that’s liberated knows ‘I have a mind that’s liberated’ as it truly is.

44. “Thus, a monk observes internal mind as mind and observes external mind as mind. He establishes mindfulness in mind with knowing, seeing, insight, and comprehension. This is called a monk observing mind as mind. If monks and nuns thus observe the mind as mind little by little, this is called the mindful abode of observing the mind as mind.

Mindfulness of Principles

45. “What is the mindful abode of observing principles as principles? The eye conditioned by form creates internal bonds. A monk who really has internal bonds knows ‘I have internal bonds’ as it truly is … has no internal bonds knows ‘I have no internal bonds’ as it truly is. If internal bonds yet to arise do arise, he knows it as it truly is. If internal bonds that have arisen cease and don’t arise again, he knows it as it truly is. Thus, the ear … nose … tongue … body … mind conditioned by cognition creates internal bonds. A monk who really has internal bonds knows ‘I have internal bonds’ as it truly is … has no internal bonds knows ‘I have no internal bonds’ as it truly is. If internal bonds yet to arise do arise, he knows it as it truly is. If internal bonds that have arisen cease and don’t arise again, he knows it as it truly is.

46. “Thus, a monk observes internal principles as principles and observes external principles as principles. He establishes mindfulness in principles with knowing, seeing, insight, and comprehension. This is called a monk who observes principles as principles that are the six internal sense-fields.

47. “Furthermore, a monk observes principles as principles. That monk really has internal desire and knows ‘I have desire’ as it truly is … really has no internal desire and knows ‘I have no desire’ as it truly is. If desires yet to arise do arise, he knows it as it truly is. If desires that have arisen cease and don’t arise again, he knows it as it truly is. Thus … anger … drowsiness … agitation and remorse … really has internal doubt knows ‘I have doubt’ as it truly is … really has no doubt knows ‘I have no doubt’ as it truly is. If doubt yet to arise does arise, he knows it as it truly is. If doubt that has arisen ceases and doesn’t arise again, he knows it as it truly is.

48. “Thus, a monk observes internal principles as principles and observes external principles as principles. He establishes mindfulness in principles with knowing, seeing, insight, and comprehension. This is called a monk who observes principles as principles that are the five hindrances.

49. “Furthermore, a monk observes principles as principles. A monk who really has the internal awakening factor of mindfulness knows ‘I have the awakening factor of mindfulness’ as it truly is … really doesn’t have the awakening factor of mindfulness knows ‘I don’t have the awakening factor of mindfulness’ as it truly is. If the awakening factor of mindfulness that has yet to arise does arise, he knows it as it truly is. If the awakening factor of mindfulness that has arisen then remains, isn’t lost, and doesn’t fade or retreat and he develops, cultivates, and increases it, then he knows it as it truly is. Thus … discriminating qualities … effort … joy … calm … concentration … really has the internal awakening factor of equanimity knows ‘I have the awakening factor of equanimity’ as it truly is … really doesn’t have the internal awakening factor of equanimity knows ‘I don’t have the awakening factor of equanimity’ as it truly is. If the awakening factor of equanimity that has yet to arise does arise, he knows it as it truly is. If the awakening factor of equanimity that has arisen then remains, isn’t lost, and doesn’t fade or retreat and he develops, cultivates, and increases it, then he knows it as it truly is.

50. “Thus, a monk observes internal principles as principles and observes external principles as principles. He establishes mindfulness in principles with knowing, seeing, insight, and comprehension. This is called a monk who observes principles as principles, which are the seven factors of awakening. If monks and nuns thus observe principles as principles little by little, this is called the mindful abode of observing principles as principles.

Conclusion

51. “If monks and nuns establish their minds with the correct abiding in the four abodes of mindfulness for seven years, they surely will attain two fruits. Either they will attain the ultimate knowledge in the present life, or they will have some remainder and become non-returners if they stop at seven years or six, five, four, three, two, or one year.

52. “If monks and nuns establish their minds with the correct abiding in the four abodes of mindfulness for seven months, they surely will attain two fruits. Either they will attain the ultimate knowledge in the present life, or they’ll have some remainder and become non-returners if they stop at seven months or six, five, four, three, two, or one month.

53. “If monks and nuns establish their minds with the correct abiding in the four abodes of mindfulness for seven days and nights, they surely will attain two fruits. Either they will attain the ultimate knowledge in the present life, or they’ll have some remainder and become non-returners if they stop at seven days and nights or six, five, four, three, two, or one day and night.

54. “If monks and nuns establish their minds with the correct abiding in the four abodes of mindfulness for the slightest moment and do so in the morning, they’ll surely ascend and advance by sunset. Doing so at sunset, they’ll surely ascend and advance in the morning.”

55. The Buddha spoke thus. Those monks who heard what the Buddha taught rejoiced and approved.


Translator: Charles Patton

Last Revised: 14 September 2020