Introduction to The Power of Mindfulness by Nyanaponika Thera, part 2 of 2 (see previous post for part 1):
The Buddha spoke of the power of mindfulness in a very emphatic way:
“Mindfulness, I declare, is all-helpful” (Samyutta, 46:59). “All things can be mastered by mindfulness” (Anguttara, 8:83).
Further, there is that solemn and weighty utterance opening and concluding the Satipatthana Sutta, the Discourse on the 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 pain and grief, for reaching the right path, for the attainment of Nibbana, namely the four foundations of mindfulness.”
In ordinary life, if mindfulness, or attention, is directed to any object, it is rarely sustained long enough for the purpose of careful and factual observation. Generally it is followed immediately by emotional reaction, discriminative thought, reflection, or purposeful action. In a life and thought governed by the Buddha’s teaching too, mindfulness (sati) is mostly linked with clear comprehension (sampajañña) of the right purpose or suitability of an action, and other considerations. Thus again it is not viewed in itself. But to tap the actual and potential power of mindfulness it is necessary to understand and deliberately cultivate it in its basic, unalloyed form, which we shall call bare attention.
By bare attention we understand the clear and single-minded awareness of what actually happens to us and in us, at the successive moments of perception. It is called “bare” because it attends to the bare facts of a perception without reacting to them by deed, speech or mental comment. Ordinarily, that purely receptive state of mind is, as we said, just a very brief phase of the thought process of which one is often scarcely aware. But in the methodical development of mindfulness aimed at the unfolding of its latent powers, bare attention is sustained for as long a time as one’s strength of concentration permits. Bare attention then becomes the key to the meditative practice of satipatthana, opening the door to mind’s mastery and final liberation.
Bare attention is developed in two ways: (1) as a methodical meditative practice with selected objects; (2) as applied, as far as practicable, to the normal events of the day, together with a general attitude of mindfulness and clear comprehension. The details of the practice have been described elsewhere, and need not be repeated here.
The primary purpose of this essay is to demonstrate and explain the efficacy of this method, that is, to show the actual power of mindfulness. Particularly in an age like ours, with its superstitious worship of ceaseless external activity, there will be those who ask: “How can such a passive attitude of mind as that of bare attention possibly lead to the great results claimed for it?” In reply, one may be inclined to suggest to the questioner not to rely on the words of others, but to put these assertions of the Buddha to the test of personal experience. But those who do not yet know the Buddha’s teaching well enough to accept it as a reliable guide, may hesitate to take up, without good reasons, a practice that just on account of its radical simplicity may appear strange to them. In the following a number of such “good reasons” are therefore proffered for the reader’s scrutiny. They are also meant as an introduction to the general spirit of satipatthana and as pointers to its wide and significant perspectives. Furthermore, it is hoped that he who has taken up the methodical training will recognize in the following observations certain features of his own practice, and be encouraged to cultivate them deliberately.
[to be continued…]
Full article can be found here: https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/nyanaponika/wheel121.html