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Lama Tendar Olaf Hoeyer
  The author of this page
  Tendar Olaf Hoeyer is a
  Danish Lama or Dharma
  teacher  of  the  Karma
  Kagyu   tradition   since
  1994; his expertise is in
  classical meditation and
  applied Buddhist view.

Click here for the text of this page as a PDF file. The PDF files are better suited for printing on paper than the HTML files on the website. The PDF files contain the same text, they have page numbers and a more simple design for paper size A4.
This kind of training is called: smriti-upasthana in Sanskrit.


How to Fasten or attach
mindfulness to the four bases or fields of application

Shamarpa, 2010. Photographer is unknown.

a lecture in Dhagpo Kagyü Ling, May 2014
by the 14th Shamar Mipham Chögyi Lodrö Rinpoche

Links to the chapters:                  

1.   Body                        
1.2.   Body and meditation                        
2.   Sensations                        
2.2.   Suffering                        
3.   Mind                        
4.   Phenomena                        
extra:  Sutra on the Full Awareness of breathing                  



This teaching focuses on the four objects of mindfulness. These four objects  –  or foundations for developing awareness –  are a very important subject, whatever our approach to Buddhism is: whether we are practitioners of the common teachings of Buddhism, the Shravakayana, or the great vehicle – Mahayana, the way of the Bodhisattvas. It is equally important in the teachings of Vajrayana. The four objects of mindfulness are the body, sensations, mind, and phenomena. What is the meaning of 'object of mindfulness'  (drenpa nyewar shakpa, in Tibetan )?  - [ It actually means: [implicitly: the field of] application of mindfulness.] It concerns the observation of the specific characteristics of the body, sensations, mind, and phenomena, to recognize their true nature, their reality, and to keep this in one's mind. It means to maintain awareness of, what the body, sensations, mind, and phenomena truly are.


1    The Body as Field of Mindfulness

Manjusri; foto Ling Cui.Let us look at the application of mindfulness to the body. Our general idea is that the body is somehow pure, it is a source of pleasure, that it is somehow permanent, and that it is the  Self or related to the Self. We [habitually] identify with it. The idea that we   [instinctively] have about, what our body is, does not correspond with the reality of our body. We have been grasping the body as being something, which it is not. We  [instinctively]  take the body to be pure, permanent, to be a base for happiness, to be the Self, where in fact it is impossible for the body to be these things, because they do not correspond with its fundamental characteristics.

 So we use this practice [Sanskrit: sadhana] to look at the real characteristics of, what the body is. We look at it very carefully, and by using the practice, we see that the body is not pure, that it is actually the basis for suffering and not pleasure,  [also] it is ephemeral, not permanent. It is not a Self, we cannot identify with it, because there is nothing solid   [ – there are just sensations –]  to identify with, there  is no ultimate existence within the body.

 By observing the true characteristics of the body, looking at its true nature, it is possible for us to break apart, and pierce through, our  [instinctive] misunderstanding about, what the body is, and thereby break the grasping, that keeps us turning in samsara [the relative world of sentient beings], since we will have recognized the illusory nature of the object [the body], that we have been grasping [at], in terms of characteristics that it does not actually have. There are two aspects to this observation of the body. The first one is to eliminate our  attachment to the body. In order to do this, we look at the body as being quite unattractive  

     [ – do not do this, if you constantly feel like that at all times, already. Instead, go see your therapist. This instruction is for people with a strong attachment to their own bodily perfection, beauty and attractiveness. People, who really cherish their actual incarnation in a body. If you do not like your body, you should contemplate, that this is also attachment.  You would then rather have a completely other and more perfect body, than your actual vehicle of incarnation. You should recognise the impossible and obsessive character of this desire. It is certainly possible for you to experience your body without both kinds of attachment – as well as without indifference – with a curious, open, sensible and sensitive mind. The point to realise is, that you do not know, what your body is. You therefore have a very good reason to be curious, open, sensible and sensitive about your body.
      To observe the body without attachment and identification is quite difficult, though. Generally, this is so, because we are simply not used to do it. That does not mean, we cannot make a habit of it. It is just not easy to overcome an instinctive concept and habit, Sanskrit:  samskara, exactly because we are not used to do so. We lack that sort of habit, while we have loads of instinctive inborn ones, that urge us to identify and emotionally cling on to our body.
     Please note, when Buddha Skyamuni gave these instructions to the early Sangha, there were several monks, who developed a strong loathing towards their bodies. And there were some, who simply killed themselves for this reason of unreflected and distorted view. So the Buddha got busy explaining this instruction as an antidote for attachment to the body, but not as a path to Nirvana. Once you have rid yourself of this kind of attachment, you should not apply this antidote. It is a solution to a particular problem. Just like when you are sick and take some medicine for the disease, you will hopefully get cured. Once cured, it would be foolish to continue taking the medicine.
     The meaning of this instruction is not for you to hate your body - quite the opposite, actually. You should appreciate your body as an opportunity for liberation and enlightenment, while simultaneously you understand how perishable, fragile, composite and connected to suffering your body is.
     Shamar Rinpoche does not explain the precise instruction how to discover the unattractive character of the body, because he already did explain this subject previously at Dhagpo. Ask your Dharma-teacher for details.]

   The second aspect involves examining the characteristics of the body and seeing the emptiness  [Sanskrit: sunyata] of the body, such that we naturally give up our attachment to the body as an entity with an inherent   [absolute] existence, as having  [independent]  substance.

     [Your actual body – as you know and experience it –   is a selective set of sensations. Everything else in connection with the body are emotions,  deductions and abstractions. When you for instance feel, that you are inside your body, this is a deduction – not a sensation as such. Emotions, deductions and abstractions unfold in the fourth skandha – not in the first. Read the paper:  The 5 Skandhas
     These bodily sensations suggest substantiality, but they are really just sensations, experiences of the mind. These experiences are not made of atoms, but are mind stuff. We cannot know, what the body is – besides an experience in the mind. Even when we look at biological substances under a microscope, the only really substantial matter we have, is an experience in the mind.  So, substantiality is not the essence of such sensations, even sensations appear physical.
     The essence is mind experiencing sensation, but the mind has no essence itself, because of its space nature, Sanskrit: alaya. On the other hand, space provide the base for everything else,  exactly because it has no essence, that otherwise might prevent everything from happening. A self-existing essence would leave no room for anything else. There must be sunyata, emptiness, as base for everything relative to unfold. Without space  – or room for experience – no experience could appear in the mind. Space in its character is  non-impeding emptiness, Sanskrit: sunyata.
     So, the emptiness of the body is both the relativity of it, as well as the space nature of the mind, that perceive these experiences.]


Training in Calm Abiding (sanskrit: shamatha,  Tibetan: shiné)

Manjusri; foto Ling Cui.In order to be able to do any sort of practice, it is important to calm and settle our mind  [first]. All practice begins with the meditation of shamatha, or shiné in Tibetan. There are many different methods and ways to put this into practice. The goal is to calm the agitation of the mind. The agitation or dullness of the mind consists of anything, that keeps the mind from being sharp, clear and calm.

 There are quite a lot of different instructions, that have been given by masters of the past, whether they are Arhats or Bodhisattvas on the  [Bodhicitta] path. They all stressed  the importance of the method based on contemplating the cycles of breath, following the breath, or settling the mind on the breath.   All of these are really fundamental instructions for practice, that are present in all the types of Buddhism. Settling the mind on the breathing cycles leads us to the  result of shamatha , which is the stability that we are looking for  [to obtain as a skill].

 Concerning the body as an object  [or field for application] of mindfulness, and more specifically the observation of the reality of the body, the essence of the practice consists of observing, that we  [instinctively]  see our bodies as being ourselves, as the basis of pleasure or permanence, but in fact, none of this is true. There is no ultimate intrinsic reality to our autonomous physical dimension. We can practice this meditation, where we scan the different parts of the body, as already explained earlier: “I see the skin, the flesh and the bones, all scattered.” 

     [Rinpoche refers to a traditional example:  you should imagine your body split up into all its constituent parts, laid out on the ground each part by itself next to the other parts. Is this heap of flesh, blood, sinews and bones 'your body'? Rinpoche taught this subject at an earlier occasion in Dhagpo.]

 We lead this analysis, and we dissect the body, and we understand, that here is not one thing, that we can call a body; it has no substantial existence.

     [The body is not just the sum of its single parts. So it is not substantial as such, even when we consider the body parts to be so. It is a concept of interaction  or incarnation, dependent on mind, that perceive it, which is the psychological view. The body does not exist without the 12 links of mutually dependent origination, which is the philosophical view. So the causes and resultant appearance – of the body are the 12 links, while the mind or consciousness is the condition.]

 There is nothing, that we can grasp as one ‘body’ in the ultimate sense of the term.

     [Because the body is a composite interaction, that only exists as result of a certain lively interplay between  causes, conditions and contributing conditions.  So, the body is a  relation – it has no independent existence. Its essence is the mind, that perceive it – not its physical molecules. The mind though, has no essence because of its space nature, Sanskrit: alaya.]

 There is also an auxiliary practice, which is the practice of the visualization of the unattractiveness or ugliness of the body, especially if we are very attached to our bodies, or someone else’ physical [appearance]. If we are feeling a lot of lust or desire, we can do a meditation, where we visualize the disgusting aspects of the body and bring those very closely to mind.

      [Hereby the desire fades away or the lust evaporates. Buddha Sakyamuni instructed his monks and nuns to do so, but this practice may - in certain situations - be helpful to lay persons as w ell. A Dharma-teacher can explain the details of this instruction to you].Click here to go to the top of the page


2    Sensations as Field of Mindfulness

Manjusri; foto Ling Cui.Essentially, we could say, that there are two kinds of sensations: physical sensations and mental sensations. Of course, when we talk about physical sensations, it is always mental sensations, but the contrary is not true.

    [All sensations, physical and mental, are experiences of the mind. They are only different in character, but not in their nature. They are all mind by nature. For instance in your dreams, you also experience sensations of an 'external' world. This may appear just as real as the world, that you know and recognise, when you wake up. Whether you are dreaming or awake, you experience sensations. When your sensual ability contact a sense object, a 'form' – Sanskrit: rupa – is created in the mind. The term 'rupa' should be understood as 'appearance' rather than 'sense object', even we are talking about a 'perceived sense object'. This 'perception' is exactly different from the 'actual' sense object, that give rise to the perception. One might say, that the 'real' sense object is never experienced by the mind. How real is it then? It seems, that ‘reality’ actually means ‘relativity’. Some Pandits call this 'rupa' a mental representation  of the sense object. Anyway, the 'form', ‘figure’  or ‘appearance’ that is experienced, is not the same as the sense object, that tricked the experience.]

 These experiences take place in the mind. If there is a pleasant or unpleasant physical sensation, it is experienced in the mind, but the same does not hold for the mental sensations, as they are not necessarily connected to physical sensations .

     [Mental sensations are: thoughts, emotions and experiences from memory – in Sanskrit: manas, kleshas and caitasikas.  They are under one heading defined as caitasikas, manifest or actually active samskaras. Caitasikas are spontaneous mental reactions to the mental impressions, Sanskrit: jñeyas,  and interpretations of these impressions, Sanskrit: vijñaptis. While sensation [Sanskrit: sparsa] happen in the first skandha, the mental impression and interpretation is appearing with the third skandha, which causes the mental reaction of the fourth skandha. This whole composite experience then appear to awareness within the fifth skandha. After this process is completed, the whole course of events is then instantly repeated.  In the next course of   creating experience by the 5 skandhas, the previous mental reaction now appear in the first skandha, and then it runs through the rest of the skandhas as before and so on. Thereby the mental reactions of the first course of  creating experience by  the skandhas become mental sensations in the next course. In the second course, the mental sensations are then subject to new mental reactions in the fourth skandha and so on, whereby the original caitasikas change or are perceived differently – some times much differently, at other times only a little bit.
      Please note, that one might think, that mental sensations will not appear before the third skandha, because of their mental character. It is not like that, though. In the first skandha, there is the mental sensual ability [ Sanskrit: indriya, sensual ability], that perceive the mental sense objects.  So, 'form' – Sanskrit: rupa – the result of sensation in the first skandha – also implies the mental sensations.

     [There are 22 indriyas, defining various capacities, that you have, such as life-force, sex, some  potential talents, a host of possible cognitions as well as recognitions and the 6 sensual abilities. The sixth sensual ability is the capacity to perceive 'mental objects', meaning thoughts, feelings and experiences from memory, caitasikas.]

     These mental sense objects have shape of  'manas', their mental shapes in the fifth skandha, that are the causes of their reappearance in the first. Now, we have just described them as 'caitasikas', but that is their mental manifestation in the fourth skandha. In this same sense, also emotionality, the kleshas, become  klesha-manas in the fifth skandha. Experiences from memory become actual thoughts by reflection over several courses of the five skandhas. Reflection imply both forming of concepts   – and some times language – in the fourth skandha as well as awareness of the fifth.
      Read the paper:
    The 5 Skandhas   for more details of this process and about the mental sensations.]

 Let us begin with the meditation, where we are mindful of physical sensations. We become aware of physical sensations. For example, something itches, we have a headache, or we feel good and very comfortable. Whether pleasant or unpleasant, we must begin by becoming aware of sensations. Then we become mindful of that sensation  [by  applying  mindfulness  - read the ‘Definition’ above].

 When we choose  [to observe] the physical sensation, a headache for example, we are talking about a small discomfort or small headache, for beginners especially, because if we have a raging migraine, it will be nearly impossible to use it for our meditation. The beginners can choose an itch, a small headache or any other small discomfort, or small physical well-being or pleasure. We become aware of it and use it as the focus of our meditation. Once we recognize a sensation, we analyze it: we look at it, analyze how it exists, where it is located: to the right or the left? Up or down? What size it takes? What does it look like? What does it appear to be like? Is it big? How big is it? Can we maneuver it? Is the sensation fleeting? If it is, where does it go? This analysis shows us, that the  sensation is characterized by chance, as it is not fixed or stable.

     [Sensation is the result of various processes in the mind, that are constantly repeated. When the same sensation is repeated, it may very well look like something stable, but it is the  repetition, that is stable. Likewise it is the  mental processes,  that are fixed to the repetition, while the sensations are changeable or transitory.].

 And thus, we can recognize its elusive nature.

     [Because sensations all the time appear as new, change, vanish or move around - they are never the same in each moment of consciousness. The next moment of sensation will be different from the present one, including all details. Every moment of sensation is completely new and fresh.  So, when sensations appear stable and unchanging, it is a trick of the dynamic mind, that is constantly creating or recreating this impression. When nothing happens, there is a lot of work behind.]


      Meditations Associated with Sensations

Manjusri; foto Ling Cui.There are actually two ways to analyze sensations. The first is an analytic meditation, in which we examine the sensation itself. We ask ourselves where it is. Is it located in the mind? In the body? Is it one with the body? Separate from the body? We ask [such] questions in order to understand, what its nature is through logical analysis.

      [Sensations happen in  the skandha of form.  Then they are processed by interpretations and habitual  reactions in the second, third and fourth skandha, and appear afterwards as a composite mental shape to awareness in the fifth skandha of consciousness. This whole process is analysed in relation to sensations.]

 The second method consists in going to the very essence of the sensation, of looking at it directly in the moment, when the sensation arises.

      [You become aware of sensation in the so-called ‘moment of consciousness’. This is the moment of the fifth skandha, when sensation has already been worked on by the previous skandhas.  The character of the moment is, that it vanish all the time and then reappear again.  The moment does not continue. It stops and then a new moment start up. We know this from observations and simple logic. The 5 skandhas describe a single course of events whereby an experience is created in the mind. The course starts in the first skandha and end with the fifth. This is the smallest measure of a moment, though - theoretically - you may consider every single skandha as a momentary occurrence. Then a new course start, again in the first skandha. Such courses are repeated many times in just one second. After each course [Sanskrit: santana] an interruption takes place, before the whole process is repeated again and again. Some Pandits stress, that there is actually an interruption between each and every skandha. This interruption or space between two courses of the 5 skandhas, consist of a timeless void with neither skandhas, existence nor awareness.  A kind of zero point, Sanskrit: sunya. This is so, because the difference of two courses cannot consist of yet another similar course. There are no skandhas in between the skandhas. The moment of consciousness kind of  'switch on and off ' all the time. [More about this subject later.]

     This is a process and not a thing.  Or: the experience of a thing is a process and not a constant. The process take place in the space of mind. That is the emptiness, Sanskrit: sunyata, of sensation. As a process it is relative, and its essence is mind, that has no essence because of its space nature, Sanskrit: alaya.]

 If we analyze or examine sensations in this way, we will be able to distinguish a sensation from our grasping to it. So if we actually look at and practice with sensation in this way, we can then observe our attachment or the grasping to the sensation as being pleasant or unpleasant, agreeable, disagreeable, pain  [or] pleasure. We  [will then] no longer grasp  [at] the sensation or reject it  [– nor become indifferent towards it]. We thus reach a state of equanimity with regard to, what we are feeling.

 The analysis of sensation allows us to understand the non-reality of sensations on an ultimate level: they have no essence; however their relative nature may be pleasant, neutral or unpleasant, of the nature of suffering and pain. We can distinguish physical sensations, experienced by the senses , and mental sensations, experienced solely by the mind. All sensations are by nature ephemeral, subject to change. They are likewise characterized by suffering, because of this insubstantiality.  One cannot rely on pleasure  its nature is to disappear; thus it is a form of suffering, because it is subject to change [– it is impermanent or transitory].


      Suffering (Sanskrit: dukkha)  and Calm Abiding (shamatha)

Manjusri; foto Ling Cui.The teaching on  the Four Noble Truths explains, that there are the suffering of suffering  [meaning: pain], the suffering of change, and existential suffering  [suffering of being composite and clinging to identity]. The painful sensations belong to the category of suffering of suffering – it is a quite obvious suffering. Since pleasant sensations are impermanent, they belong to the suffering of change. Painful sensations are obvious suffering, and the  [emotionally] neutral are characterized by existential suffering. Seen in this light, there are no sensations, on the relative level, that do not imply one of these three sufferings.

 Existential suffering is always present, but it is extremely subtle  [intangible]. If you take for example physical pleasure, you could say, that there might be a pleasurable experience. Even though we may not perceive any sort of suffering, these sensations are marked with an existential suffering  [suffering of being composite and clinging to identity]. Take the example of lying down on a waterbed. As long as that experience is happening, and we have not gone into the change, where it turns into suffering, even while we are experiencing pleasure, we have this subtle undertone of the existential suffering, that we are generally not aware of.

     [Even while enjoying the waterbed, you will also suffer your identity, the feeling of incarnation and complexity, feeling separate  from the world and composite in your own life.]

 If existential suffering was not present continuously, both on the physical and the psychological levels, then we would not experience the grosser  [tangible] levels of suffering.

 We can [thus] see, that suffering comes from the grasping, we generate. This grasping is constant. There is no discontinuity in the grasping, leaving no place for liberty. It is like  [driving on] a highway. You look at a paved highway, and it looks like it is completely continuous and uninterrupted. This is the grasping. It is the persistent subtle suffering  [the existential suffering by being composite and clinging to identity].

 This subtle and constant grasping is characterized by agitation and not calm or peace. Thus we can see, that this inherent suffering, this subtle agitation of the mind   [by clinging to being composite, which means attachment and identification with  the 5 skandhas, that are, what is composite in the mind] – is the opposite of peace or tranquility.

 In order to pacify this grasping or identification, first on the gross level, identifying the Self as the physical Self   [the fact of feeling incarnated in a body], we are going to meditate, [by cultivating] shamatha or calm abiding meditation also known as shiné [in Tibetan]. By sitting and meditating, by practicing [Sanskrit: sadhana], we exercise concentration, and we will be able to pacify the agitation, the gross  [tangible] agitation, of the mind. Then progressively we will be able to bring the mind to a certain   [more subtle or intangible] degree of quietude or pacification. We will be able to have this experience of well-being   [Sanskrit:  sukha, pure joy - which is experienced in the state of samadhi  as result of shamatha], because our inner agitation has been truly calmed down. [Read Shamar Rinpoche’s paper: Samadhi and Shiné  about this subject.]

 But we can go further in pacifying the mind and cultivating quietude. In fact, you can always go further, you can continually go further in pacifying the mind. There are states of well-being, that can be developed  ad infinitum  [ endlessly].

     [Vajra-samadhi  is the deepest or highest kind, that possess this sort of ultimate endlessness. It is therefore characterised by great joy, Sanskrit: mahasukha, the joy of a Buddha. To understand this subject properly, ask a Dharma-teacher about the 4 dhyanas, the 4 levels of mastery in meditation  and about the  9 steps of shamatha, the path to mastery.]

 It is always possible to go deeper and be more subtle, increasing our stability of the mind. As one goes deeper and deeper into shiné, the initial peace and well-being that was experienced  [previously] seems actually quite gross. This first experience, that we had acquired, will  [at first] seem like stability, but we will later see that it can be fortified even further, as after reflection it   [now] will seem rather gross.Click here to go to the top of the page


3     The Mind as Field of Mindfulness

Manjusri; foto Ling Cui.Applying mindfulness on the  mind  leads us to recognize the nature of the mind, that is grasping  [at]  phenomena. Placing the mind on  phenomena allows us to have an understanding of the true nature of the objects  [phenomena], that are being grasped by the mind.

     [This last subject is discussed in the next chapter.]

 If we know the nature of the mind that grasps  [the emotionally clinging mind, Sanskrit:  kleshacitta], we will be able to eliminate the problems of the grasping mind. If we eliminate the problems, that are connected to the mind that grasps  [which are:  identifications and attachments], then we will naturally eliminate any problems connected to phenomena, that have been grasped at.

     [Please notice:  to let go of identity and attachment does NOT mean indifference in regard to the experiences. Indifference is a kind of attachment – one of the attitudes to let go of.  To let go means to let the mind open naturally and all by itself, unimpeded by any hindrances from the past. Hindrances – Sanskrit: nivarana; Tibetan: geg – are what distort cognition, impede insight and prevent samadhi, the trance or absorption of meditation. If the mind does not open up spontaneously, there are still identifications and attachments at work, putting a stop to it. Those are instinctive habits and concepts, so it is not over in an afternoon. You must recognise the illusory character of these hindrances, never the less, in order to overcome them. The hindrances are attachment, ill will, dullness, restlessness and doubt. How to bring an end to the first 4 points, should appear quite clear, when you have read this paper. The last point means more trouble.
      Whatever doubt, you may have about Buddhas Dharma, is removed by simply finding answers to all questions, so keep asking. When there are no more questions, there are also no more doubt. So, doubt and questions are very important and cannot be replaced by faith. You will need the answers, and it is possible to find them as well.

     The instructions about absolute and relative  Bodhicitta help to enable you to let go of identification and attachment by various means. Bodhicitta is not directly the subject in this teaching.  It is important though, to know that an open mind has truly friendly love and compassion as natural consequences of cultivating an open, curious, sensible and sensitive attitude to experience, without the 3 kinds of attachment to basic feelings.]

 We begin by developing the stability of mind, through shamatha. Once it becomes stable, and we are quite comfortable in it,  [then] we begin to observe the mind-stream itself and the different  moments of awareness  in the mind-stream  [Sanskrit: santana].

 Mind is characterized by its ability to be aware. It is described as a sort of luminosity; it is possible for the mind to experience, to know. But these qualities do not mean, that we have to be constantly aware of or conscious of something .

     [You may also just be  aware of awareness, even though consciousness always arise together with its perceived sense objects in any actual moment of consciousness. You need to shift your attention from what,  you  experience, to how  your mind does experience.]

 The mind is a continuum, a series  [santana] of conceptual instances, or thoughts that is incessant. When we are talking about the mind  [in this context], we are talking about the dualistic mind. The dualism that is grasping at itself, and because  [when] there  [thus] is a  [relative] Self, there is also everything, that is other than a Self.

     [So, you should catch yourself as being 'the experiencer' of your experiences and comprehend, what it means exactly. This is the first manifestation of dualism, when a difference is established in the mind between experience and experiencer. Observation and observer. An event and a witness to that event. You will need an instruction from a Dharma-teacher to point this out to you. Also, you should establish what exactly is being experienced. Finally, you should observe, how exactly you experience whatever  in the present moment. That is: the observer, the observation and the process of observation, the 5 skandhas.
      The observer cannot be found [– anyway, you must try to catch, in order to understand –], the observation is a mental image  or a mental shape and the process is in its character distorting, inviting dualism.
     When you do this diligently, you will be able to overcome the inborn instinctive dualism, that in its character is misunderstanding, delusion and resultant superstition.
     Read more about this subject in the paper:  Fear of Emptiness – in Danish: 
    Angst for tomhed.  Unfortunately, I have not translated this paper to English yet.]

 Attention on the mind consists in observing the continuum of the mind   [santana]. Seeing that the moments of the past that existed in the mind no longer exist, and future thoughts do not yet exist either. This being the case, we look at the present moment.

 Let us look at this present moment of consciousness and see, if it  [really] exists. How does it exist? Is it autonomous? Does it have a substance? Does it have a shape? Does it have a colour? What is this present instant of consciousness like? We use all sorts of different aspects of what the instant of awareness or consciousness could actually look like to understand just what sort of form, that it has, if it has any.

     [Awareness alone is just to know, that experience is taking place. Awareness has no form as such. It take shape of the so-called dharmas, that are being experienced. A 'dharma' is a constituent component, unit or element of the whole experience, that thus consist of various conditioned dharmas. There are 3 kinds of  conditioned dharmas:  rupas, jñeyas and caitasikas, meaning perceived sensations, mental impressions and  reactive conceptual states of mind – or in another sense: experiences from memory – caitasikas meaning both.

     [Caitasikas are simply the manifest or actually active
    samskaras, in contrast to all the other samskaras, that in any given moment are NOT active, nor manifest. You may ask, why the vijñaptis, interpretations, are not mentioned. My understanding is, that they belong under the heading of  jñeyas, because they appear in the third skandha. But since they are interpretations, they are in a certain sense caitasikas, because vijñaptis are the comparison of the present with experiences from the past. Also vedanas, feelings from the second skandha, are not mentioned. They belong with the jñeyas, mental impressions, because they are perceived by consciousness as integral parts of the composite impressions.]

     So awareness take shape of these conditioned dharmas, as long as the experience lasts.
     But we have learned, that such a conscious moment last only a fraction of a second, after which it stops. So, the conditioned dharmas are as relative as awareness itself.   They only appear, when there are causes and conditions for them to happen. Awareness always rise together with its perceived dharmas, so it is very relative as well.

     [Consciousness is itself a conditioned dharma as the fifth skandha. In practise this just means, that you can experience awareness, while it happens.  All 5 skandhas are conditioned dharmas by being defining stages of the whole experience. It is only, though, when we investigate the skandhas, that we think of them as experiences. Generally, the skandhas define the processes of experience, but they are of course also the experiences, that they generate. When we observe the 5 skandhas, they will appear as all the 3 kinds of dharmas. The objects of observation are either rupas or jñeyas, and the descriptions  and understanding – or the deductions and abstractions – are caitasikas.]
     [Another way to understand dharmas is as events. A dharma as an event is actually the most accurate description.]
     [Dharmadhatu, Nirvana and space as such  [Sanskrit: akasha, cosmic space, as well as mind space, Sanskrit: alaya] are the  unconditioned   dharmas. They seem to be present as well, but you may only know that in the moment of consciousness.  Both alaya, mind space, and akasha, space of the world, can be understood as Dharmadhatu, in which case there are only two unconditioned dharmas.  [Both akasha and alaya must be somewhere – that place is dharmadhatu, rather than the cosmos.] Dharmadhatu, the dimension of dimensionality, and Nirvana are not the subjects directly of this teaching.]

     So, even awareness basically is formless, there are all the dharmas in the moment of consciousness. They appear though, more as events than some 'forms' – even they do take mental shape in consciousness. The moment as such cannot be said to have form. Even the space of time for the moment, is more a definition of the development of the experiences than of the moment itself.  We can really only define the moment as the point, where awareness is present.
     The moment of consciousness is constantly destroyed and reborn, together with the 5 skandhas.  Just like a stroboscopic light, constantly being switched on and off. The moment has to vanish completely in order to provide space and give way for the next moment. The next moment could not happen, if the present one does not finish first.

     Never the less, there seems to be a flow of mind, Sanskrit: santana, from moment to moment, even there is really nothing in between moments. Even there is  coherence, there is no observable  connection  between moments.
     The present moment is a continuation of the previous one, but these two moments are separated by a void, Sanskrit: sunya. So, the moment is the clarity aspect of the mind, that engage with the 5 skandhas in the space of mind at the moment of consciousness, experiencing dharmas, that appear in this very same space.  The end to the moment is not experienced, because the next moment is born instantly, when the previous has finished. The moment of consciousness seems as elusive as the observer, the observation and the process of observation.]

 Likewise, as soon as there is a thought or a concept that arises in the mind stream  [Sanskrit: santana], we look at it in the same way. We ask ourselves about  its origin, its nature  [and]  its existence. When an idea ceases, we move on to the next idea, that emerges and apply the same analysis.

 The words, thought, concept, idea  [Sanskrit: manas, and / or: caitasikas], help us to describe [meaning: observe and know], the way things   [experiences] appear in the mind –  the contents of the mind, you could say.

     [Because of the presence of experiences, the contents of the mind, we are able to observe and describe the working mind. Such descriptions are helpful to understand and pay attention to  santana, the flow of mind through each moment of time. The description is of course different in character than the  actual  experience of observation. Because there are mental perceptions in the moment of consciousness, you can observe the very flow of the mind, santana, by moving your attention from what,  you experience, to how, your mind does experience.]

 Through our sense perception, for example, through the sight consciousness, there is perception of a physical object  [Sanskrit: rupa], and this appears  [in consciousness]. It appears within the mind-stream  [Sanskrit: santana].

 The perception of the mind is based on perception of something, and we cannot say that perception or ideas or concepts can be separated from the mind. If the concept could be separated from the mind, it would be something material.

      [Which of course it is not. Concepts only appear in the abstract world of the fourth skandha,  from where awareness comes to perceive them in the fifth skandha of consciousness. Among the dharmas, concepts are  ‘caitasikas’,  reactive conceptual states of mind or experiences from memory, caitasikas meaning both.]

 What is mind? Mind is experience: experience of phenomena and of thoughts.

      [The concept of  'experience'  is called anubhu  in Sanskrit – Tibetan: yoñgwa  (yoñ ba) – to experience is:  anubhava.  Read the paper: What is an experience?
     – in Danish:
    Hvad er en oplevelse?  – unfortunately, I have not translated the paper to English yet.
     By the expression: thoughts [Sanskrit: manas] – Rinpoche also implies: emotions and experiences from memory.]

 When we talk about observing the mind  [like this], we are trying to see the mind as it is, completely, in an autonomous manner, disassociated with everything that is  [habitually] grasped  [on to]. This is looking at the fundamental nature of the mind itself. If we look at it, we see, that there is actually nothing, that can be grasped.

     [There is nothing to hold on to. Mind is basically a container for experiences, Sanskrit: alaya. This container is not a thing. There is neither roof, floor nor walls. There is just immense room  for experience to unfold or space.]

 There is no object, just no concrete object that can be grasped and called ‘mind’.

     [Because the word and concept of  'mind'  is an interpretative and conceptual experience  in the mind. There is no more  ‘mind’  than this. The word  ‘mind’  points to the mystery of experience.  By using words and concepts like body, sensation, mind and phenomena, we are led to a direct recognition, Sanskrit: pratyaksha, of the nature of these experiences  –  without any words nor concepts. The application of 'mindful presence and meaning' is a path – or development – of discovery, cognition and recognition]Click here to go to the top of the page



4   Phenomena as Field of Mindfulness

Manjusri; foto Ling Cui.Once we have practiced the application of mindfulness on  [our own] mind and have trained  [in it], we gain some experience, and it is quite easy to extrapolate. We can begin to look at and meditate, using the application of mindfulness with regard to phenomena. Phenomena are perceived as existing outside of oneself, as something external to oneself. The reflection, the analysis that we proceed with, will be the same as in  [the] other applications  [of mindfulness], that is to say: what is grasped  [at]? We thus reach the conclusion, that nothing outside of us is autonomous and can exist by itself   [independent of   causes and conditions].

 Nevertheless, we see that mind plays an important role; all our perceptions are dependent on the mind, that perceives them. We can almost say, that everything that appears, are  like  a dream or a mirage,  [or] all the  [other] different examples we  [traditionally] use for an illusion.

     [Such as the flickering flames of a fire,  an insubstantial rainbow, an ever changing cloud in the sky and so on]

 How we perceive depends much more on the mind that perceives, than on the object of perception itself. So something that appears, or rather everything that appear, appear  [so] based on mind. Milarepa said:  'Phenomena appear from the mind-stream  [Sanskrit: santana] and they are re-absorbed or disappear into the mind-stream  [again]. They arise from the mind, and they fade away into the mind'.

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Læs artiklen på dansk







by Lama Tendar Olaf Hoeyer


The Sanskrit word:  smriti  –  in Tibetan: drenpa –  is normally translated as 'mindfulness' in English. The meaning within the  Buddhas Dharma is both much wider and more precise.  I suggest ‘awake presence of simple awareness’ though it may not be precise enough. The word ‘smriti’ just means ‘to apply memory’ - so in a Buddhist context there are two meanings: to remember the sense  of Buddha’s Dharma – and how  to apply memory. To apply 'smriti', means to stay present and aware of the mental space around experiences.  It is always there and may be appreciated, even you are used to pay attention to your experiences only. This is a small difference to your average use of attention. It is quite easy to do.

 At the same time  you should also notice the movements of the mind  –  without being moved by these movements – without grasping or clinging on (Sanskrit: naishkramya) to whatever experience arise in the spaciousness of mind.  This is somewhat more difficult to do. So  smriti is not only attentive space awareness, but it is also the quality: to   let go  of grasping at experiences in the space of mind, whether they are attractive, repulsive or with a neutral feeling, the 3 kinds of basic feeling attachment (Sanskrit:  vedana).  Smriti both means to practise this craft as well as the resultant mastery. But there is more to it.

 The literal meaning of smriti is  presence and  memory. What is to be remembered, is the meaning of the Buddhas Dharma. Presence of course, not only means non-clinging attentive space awareness, but also not to be absent or distracted. So if we would use the term ‘mindfulness’ – we ought to call it: mindfulness p.m. –  ’mindful presence and meaning’.

 This use of your attention stimulates  space awareness, Sanskrit:  alayavijñana,  the kind of consciousness that perceive space as well as positions and relations of the various perceived sense objects within the spaciousness of mind.  (Alayavijñana, in a certain sense, is also the root awareness, Sanskrit: mula-vijñana, according to Vasubandhu. The mind space itself, alaya, is not only space, but also a kind of repository or storing space for samskaras  and karma seeds, Sanskrit: bijas, but that is not the subject of this teaching, though a lot may be said about it.)

 The  meaning  of the Buddha’s Dharma is perceived by the mind awareness, Sanskrit:   mano-vijñana.  Smriti is thus defined as attentive use of space awareness, alaya-vijñana  and  non-clinging  mind awareness, mano-vijñana  in order to tame  or transform the emotionally clinging mind,  Sanskrit: kleshacitta   (or the emotional awareness,  klistha-mano-vijñana, the kind of consciousness that perceive emotionality, the kleshas). Kleshacitta may transform into ‘wisdom mind’ – Sanskrit: jñana, when attachment and identification with the kleshas are abandoned, because of insight into minds nature or realisation of the obsessive character of the workings of emotionality. The base for this transformation, is the intuition of emotions.  We do not want to live without such intuitions  – it is the attachments and identifications, that we want to let go of, in order to reach emancipation and enlightenment.
 The other sensual kinds of consciousness are focused on the field of application of mindfulness.  This is either used in situations, where  lojung, ‘mind training’, is applied, or within formal meditation. As result, you will experience more spaciousness and clarity in your mind, at the same time making focus more easy to execute.

 Having  smriti  in the moment of consciousness,  does not distract from conscious concentration, even though you are also spaciously aware. Please take notice of this for your theoretical understanding of the subject.  There are 8 kinds of consciousness, so any one of them will not –  by itself – disturb any other – only some may be more active than some other, depending on the perceived situation. In the darkness for instance, you will not experience colours, so the consciousness of eyesight will thus be less active, while the ear- and body-consciousnesses will have more work to do. It is our habits, that disturb the concentration. You  may have conscious focus of mind and unfocused mind space awareness at the same time, because of the various kinds of consciousness at your disposal.

   In shamatha meditation, the 6 other kinds of consciousness  (meaning:  the emotional awareness, klistha-mano-vijñana  and the 5 sensual kinds of awareness) will be occupied with the conscious effort of attentive concentration on the meditational   field of focus –  or on the  object of concentration. For instance the attentive focus on the breath that you may be familiar with. So, the 6 are busy with conscious focus, while space awareness  –  that in its character is entirely without focus, because it perceives space, positions and relations –  is aware about the mental space around the focus, and conscious of the focus’ position and relation to the other perceived sense objects, including thoughts  (Sanskrit: manas) and experiences from memory (Sanskrit: caitasikas). While these 6 kinds of consciousness work on focus of the meditation, the mind awareness, mano-vijñana, focus on meaning  (– and the meaning is:  to relax, observe, let go and realise Dharma), and space awareness encompass it all  –  as well as perceives the wholeness of the conscious moment.

Manjusri; foto Ling Cui.To realise Dharma may mean to discover minds nature, how experience is happening, the character of experiences, relative and absolute  Bodhicitta or all of these subjects together, depending on the actual practise, Sanskrit: sadhana. Each sadhana have instructions about, how to realise Dharma.

 So the attentive consciousness of meaningful non-clinging presence and space, smriti,  will work in harmony with the attentive one-pointed focus, that is cultivated in the application of  shamatha  – without diminishing this concentration. Some kinds of awareness will be more active than some other in any given situation, but concentration is either perfect or less so.  It does not concern space awareness, but only the 7 other kinds of consciousness.  Shamatha in its character of a mental exercise –  beside its physical aspects – is this combined use of awareness:  focus of the mind,  holding on to the meaning of the meditation  and  spaciousness of consciousness as well as awake attention.

 So, you may ask, why did Buddha Sakyamuni use the word ‘memory’ - when he wants us to use our space awareness? You should remember to let go of attachments and identifications and hold on to your minds capacity to experience the spaciousness around all experiences. This is the sort of memory, that Buddha is talking about. Hold on to this - let go of that. Also, remember to stay present  - do not lose your attention. So smriti means both a specific use of consciousness, remembering the meaning of Dharma, while cultivating awake awareness in the moment of consciousness.

 Then, what is the use of all this?   Samsara, the so-called conditioned world, means to move around in circles. Buddha Sakyamuni  recommend to us as the perfect remedy, to stop in our tracks and not move. Practically speaking, this is done by shamatha meditation, where the attention hold on to one point or a field, and stays there. Then you will stop moving around in circles. Then you may better discover, where you are.
 The next discipline is therefore called insight meditation,  Sanskrit:  vipashyana. You take a closer look on, where exactly, you are, and how precisely you do come to be, where you are. Hereby, you will be able to rise above samsara.

 Please note, that words written in [square brackets]  are additions by me, Lama Tendar Olaf Hoeyer in order to enhance the meaning of  Rinpoche’s speech. Just disregard these comments,  if you only want to learn Rinpoche’s teaching. That is why, these brackets are used, so you may easily skip them and easily identify them.

 Please also note, that the term 'A-smriti' – in Tibetan: drenme [dran med; dran pa med pa] – is also used in the Dharma in the sense of the  non-strenuous  state of consciousness in the actual vipashyana meditation, that you do after the primary application of analysis in the first phase of vipashyana. So the meaning is not 'unconscious' or 'inattentive' but rather,  asmriti  means without mental effort whatsoever, because samadhi, the meditational trance is well established and awareness is fully awakened. In such a state of mind, no application of any method is needed; it is therefore also called 'meditation without meditation' (Tilopa).

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The Sutra  on
the  Full Awareness  of  Breathing


The enlightenment of Buddha Sakyamnui; statue from Collection Guy van Rijn, Belgium.

 In the Theravada tradition we find this particular Sutra, that explains the subject of  the 4 bases to fasten ‘mindfulness’ in a very simple way. It is allegedly Buddha Sakyamuni’s own words. In the language of Pali, the Sutra is known as ’Anapanasati Sutta.’ (Sati is Pali for Sanskrit smriti.)

 In the third chapter of the Sutra, we find the following translation by the Vietnamese master  Thich Nhat Hanh:

When the practitioner breathes in or breathes out a long or a short breath, aware of the breath or the whole body, or aware that the whole body is made calm and at peace; while abiding peacefully in the observation of the body in the body, persevering, fully awake, clearly understanding the state of being, gone beyond all attachment and aversion to this life. In this case, breathing in and breathing out with full awareness belong to the first base of mindfulness, namely the body.”

When the practitioner breathes in or breathes out with the awareness of joy or happiness, or awareness of the activities of the mind; when the practitioner breathes in or out in order to make the activities of the mind calm and at peace; while abiding peacefully in the observation of the feelings in the feelings, persevering, fully awake, clearly understanding the state of being, gone beyond all attachment and aversion to this life. This exercise of breathing with awareness belong to the second base of mindfulness, namely the feelings.”
 [This correspond to the point of sensation in Rinpoche's speech (‘activities of the mind’). In this Sutra the focus is on the feeling of sensation.]

When the practitioner breathes in or out with the awareness of the mind  [Sanskrit:  manovijñana], or to make the mind calm and at peace, to collect the mind in concentration, or to free and liberate the mind; while abiding peacefully in the observation of the mind in the mind, persevering, fully awake, clearly understanding the state of being, gone beyond all attachment and aversion to this life. Without full awareness of breathing, there can be no development of stability in meditation and understanding.”
 [This practise belong to the third base of mindfulness, namely the mind.]

When the practitioner breathes in or breathes out and contemplates the essential impermanence or the essential fading of all dharmas  [experiences], or contemplate liberation or letting go; while abiding peacefully in the observation of the objects of the mind in the objects of the mind, persevering, fully awake, clearly understanding the state of being, gone beyond all attachment and aversion to this life.”
 [This practise belong to the fourth base of mindfulness, namely the dharmas, experiences, phenomena or objects of the mind.]

The practise of full awareness of breathing, if developed and practised continuously, will lead to perfect accomplishment of the four bases of mindfulness.”

    This Citation has been selected by Lama Tendar Olaf Hoeyer from  Thich Nhat Hanh’s book:   The Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing translated from Vietnamese by Annabel Laity; Parallax Press, USA;  ISBN: 0-938077-04-X. Page 9f.
    [Text in square brackets have been inserted by Lama Tendar Olaf Hoeyer.]
    This kind of instruction is already documented in the Vinaya Sutra of the Theravada tradition. Vinaya Sutra is translated by The Pali Text Society with the title: The Book of Discipline (Vinaya Pitaka), distributed by Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd. - London 1938, reprint 1982 (ISBN: 7189 0705 1). The instruction is found in the first volume on page 121ff.

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