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Saṃyukta Āgama: Bases of Mindfulness

606. Bases of Mindfulness

Thus have I heard. At one time the Buddha was dwelling in Śrāvastī, in the Jeta Grove, in Anāthapiṇḍada’s Park.

At that time, the Bhagavān told the bhikṣus, “There are four bases of mindfulness. What are these four? That is to say, [1] the base of mindfulness of the body, observing the body; [2] of sensation; [3] of the mind; and [4] the base of mindfulness of dharmas, observing dharmas. Thusly, bhikṣus, these four bases of mindfulness are cultivated to fulfillment. With ardency, mindfulness, and awareness, they should be learned.”

After the Buddha had spoken this sūtra, then the bhikṣus heard what the Buddha had said, and joyfully practiced in accordance.

610. Correct Mindfulness

Thus have I heard. At one time, the Buddha was dwelling in Śrāvastī, in the Jeta Grove, in Anāthapiṇḍada’s Park. At that time, the Bhagavān said to the bhikṣus, “I will speak of cultivating the Four Bases of Mindfulness. Listen carefully and consider well.

“How are the Four Bases of Mindfulness cultivated? That is to say, [1] dwelling in mindfulness of the body, observing the inner body: ardent, aware and mindful, setting aside worldly sorrow and distress; and of the outer body; and of dwelling observing both inner and outer body: ardent, mindful and aware, setting aside worldly sorrow and distress. It is also such as this [2] for sensations; [3] for the mind; [4] and for dharmas, dwelling in the mindfulness of observing inner dharmas, outer dharmas, and both inner and outer dharmas: ardent, mindful and aware, setting aside worldly sorrow and distress. This is what is meant by a bhikṣu cultivating the Four Bases of Mindfulness.”

After the Buddha had spoken this sūtra, the bhikṣus heard what the Buddha had said, and joyfully practiced in accordance.

615. Bhikṣuṇī Residence

Thus have I heard. At one time the Buddha was abiding in Śrāvastī, in the Jeta Grove, in Anāthapiṇḍada’s Park. At that time, in the early morning, Venerable Ānanda arranged his robes, picked up his bowl, and entered the city of Śrāvastī to beg for food. Along the road, he thought, “I should first go to the residence of the bhikṣuṇīs.” He then promptly went to the residence of the bhikṣuṇīs.

The bhikṣuṇīs saw Venerable Ānanda coming from afar. They quickly arranged a seat for him, and invited him to be seated. Then the bhikṣuṇīs bowed at the feet of Venerable Ānanda and withdrew to one side. They addressed Venerable Ānanda, saying, “We bhikṣuṇīs cultivate the Four Bases of Mindfulness, dwelling steadfastly, with self-knowledge of before and after, rising and falling.”

Venerable Ānanda said to the bhikṣuṇīs, “Excellent, excellent, sisters! They should be trained as you have said. One who cultivates the Four Bases of Mindfulness, dwelling steadfastly, should thusly know of before and after, rising and falling.” Then Venerable Ānanda spoke of various dharmas to the bhikṣuṇīs. After speaking of various dharmas, he arose from his seat and departed.

At that time, Venerable Ānanda begged for food in Śrāvastī and returned. He put away his bowl, washed his feet, and went to the place of the Bhagavān. He bowed his head at the Buddha’s feet and withdrew to one side. He spoke to the Bhagavān about what he had told the bhikṣuṇīs.

The Buddha said to Ānanda, “Excellent, excellent! The Four Bases of Mindfulness should be cultivated thusly: dwelling steadfastly, knowing before and after, rising and falling. Why is this so? The mind seeks the external, and as a result seeking arises in the mind, and the mind is scattered, unable to understand how things truly are.

“Suppose a bhikṣu [1] abides in mindfulness of the body, observing the body. Having abided in mindfulness of the body, observing the body, suppose his body is sluggish, or his mind and dharmas are remiss. That bhikṣu should give rise to pure faith, grasping hold of this pure manifestation. Giving rise to a mind of pure faith, recollecting this manifestation of purity, his mind becomes gladdened. Gladdened, there is the arising of joy. The mind being joyful, the body becomes pliant and calm. The body being pliant and calm, the body feels bliss. The body feeling bliss, the mind becomes concentrated.

“Concentrated, the noble disciple should train, ‘According to this principle, the mind scattered outside is controlled and pacified, not giving rise to vitarka and vicāra. Without vitarka and vicāra, one abandons reflections and abides in bliss. Abiding in bliss, one understands how things truly are.’ [2] For sensations, [3] for the mind, [4] and for dharmas, it is also said thusly.”

After the Buddha had spoken this sūtra, then Venerable Ānanda heard what the Buddha had said, and joyfully practiced in accordance.

620. The Monkey

Thus have I heard. At one time, the Buddha was in Rājagṛha, in the Kalandaka Bamboo Garden. At that time, the Bhagavān said to the bhikṣus, “In the Himalayas, in some cold and precipitous places, there may be no monkeys and yet there may be people. There are also mountainous places where monkeys reside but where there are no people. There are also mountainous places where people and animals reside together.

“In a place traveled by monkeys, a hunter smears a sticky adhesive on the grass. There are smart monkeys who will avoid it and leave. However, the foolish monkey cannot avoid it. With its hand it gives a little touch, and then its hand is stuck. Then with its second hand it tries to free itself, but its second hand becomes stuck. With its feet it tries to free itself, but then its feet become stuck. With its mouth it tries to gnaw at the grass, and its mouth too becomes stuck. Trapped in five places, lying upon the ground, the hunter arrives and promptly spears it, shoulders it, and departs.

“You bhikṣus should know: that foolish monkey strayed from the realm of its father and mother. Wandering into other realms caused this suffering and affliction. Just so is the bhikṣu who stays in a village like a foolish person. In the morning, he puts on his robes and grabs his bowl, and enters the city to beg for alms. Unskillful in protecting his body, he does not guard the doors of his sense faculties. His eyes see forms and he gives rise to defiling attachment. His ears hear, nose smells, tongue tastes, and body feels, all giving rise to defiling attachment. The inner faculty of the foolish bhikṣu has been bound to external objects with five cords, in the will of Māra.

“For this reason, bhikṣus, you should train thusly: staying in the realm of your father and mother, and abiding there. Do not walk into other places and other realms. How does a bhiksu dwell in the place of the realm of his father and mother? That is to say in the Four Bases of Mindfulness: [1] abiding in mindfulness of the body, observing the body; [2] of sensation; [3] of the mind; and [4] abiding in mindfulness of dharmas, observing dharmas.”

After the Buddha had spoken this sūtra, the bhikṣus heard what the Buddha had said, and joyfully practiced in accordance.

621. The Young Bhikṣus

Thus have I heard. At one time the Buddha was abiding in Śrāvastī, in the Jeta Grove, in Anāthapiṇḍada’s Park. Then Venerable Ānanda along with an assembly of many bhikṣus went to the place of the Bhagavān, paid obeisance at his feet, and then sat off to one side. Venerable Ānanda addressed the Buddha, saying, “Bhagavān, what should these young bhikṣus be taught? How should the Dharma be spoken to them?”

The Buddha said to Ānanda, “These young bhikṣus should be taught the Four Bases of Mindfulness, causing them to be cultivated. What are these four? That is to say, [1] abiding in mindfulness of the body, observing the body: ardent, vigilant, mindful and aware, quieted in mind, even fully knowing the body; [2] and abiding in mindfulness of sensations; [3] of the mind; [4] and of dharmas, observing dharmas: ardent, vigilant, mindful and aware, quieted in mind, even fully knowing dharmas. For what reason?

“If a bhikṣu is dwelling at the ground of study, and who has not yet attained advancement, but has resolved to seek the peaceful tranquility of Nirvāṇa, [1] he abides in mindfulness of the body, observing the body: ardent, vigilant, mindful and aware, quieted in mind; [2] and of sensations; [3] and of the mind; [4] and abiding in mindfulness of dharmas, observing dharmas: ardent, vigilant, mindful and aware, quieted in mind, even fully detached from dharmas.

“If there is an arhat, with outflows dried up, who has done what was to be done, who has abandoned the burden, who has exhausted his fetters, and correctly known liberation: he also at that time still [1] abides in mindfulness of the body, observing the body: ardent, vigilant, mindful and aware, quieted in mind; [2] and of sensations; [3] and of the mind; [4] and abiding in mindfulness of dharmas, observing dharmas, even fully detached from dharmas.”

Then Venerable Ānanda joyfully paid his respects and departed.

623. The World Beauty

Thus have I heard. At one time the Buddha was in Vārāṇasī, at the Deer Park in Ṛṣipatana. At that time, the Bhagavān said to the bhikṣus, “Would a lady, said to be the most beautiful in the world, cause many people to gather together to see her?” The bhikṣus replied to the Buddha, “Certainly, Bhagavān.” The Buddha said to the bhikṣus, “If that lady, reputed to be most beautiful in the world, could perform all kinds of music, song, and dance, would many people gather together to watch?” The bhikṣus addressed the Buddha, saying, “Certainly, Bhagavān.”

The Buddha said to the bhikṣus, “Suppose there were a lady said to be the most beautiful in the world, and in this place there would be all kinds of entertainment with music, song, and dance. Moreover, a great crowd would converge upon this one place. Suppose there would be a gentleman, not foolish or stupid, preferring happiness to suffering, valuing life and fearing death. A person would say to him, ‘Sir, you should carry this bowl of oil, filled to the brim, and pass in between this world beauty and the crowd. There is a killer who will draw out his blade and follow you. If a single drop of oil is lost, he will cut off your head.’

“What do you think, bhikṣus? Would that man carrying the oil bowl be able to forget about the oil bowl, and forget about the killer, and watch that skillful lady and the large crowd of people?” The bhikṣus addressed the Buddha, saying, “No, Bhagavān. Why? Bhagavān, that man would be concerned about the man with his blade drawn out. He would think, ‘If I spill even one drop of oil, that man with his blade drawn will cut off my head.’ With that only thought, his mind would be fixated on the oil bowl. He would walk between the world beauty and the crowd and go past them, not daring to catch a glimpse.”

“Thusly, bhikṣus, if there is a śramaṇa or brāhmaṇa who is dignified in body and resolute in mind, not regarding voice and beauty, skillfully regarding all dharmas of the mind, abiding in mindfulness of the body, then this is my disciple who is in accordance with my teaching.

“What does it mean for a bhikṣu to be dignified in body and resolute in mind, not regarding voice and beauty, persevering in all dharmas of the mind, abiding in mindfulness of the body? Thusly, bhikṣus: [1] mindful of the body, observing the body: ardent, correctly aware and mindful, setting aside worldly craving and sorrow. Abiding in the mindfulness of [2] sensations; and [3] of the mind; and [4] of dharmas, observing dharmas, is also such as this. This is called a bhikṣu who is dignified in body, resolute in mind, not regarding voice and beauty, and skillfully regarding dharmas of the mind, abiding in the Four Bases of Mindfulness.”

At that time, the Bhagavān spoke a gāthā:

Focused and well-mindful,
As if protecting an oil bowl:
The mind protected this way
Reaches the unprecedented—
What is extremely difficult to reach,
Supremely wondrous and subtle.
Those things the Buddha speaks:
That teaching is a sharp sword.
With a resolute mind,
Focusing and persevering—
Not like an ordinary person,
Negligent in affairs—
One is able to enter thusly,
Not neglecting the teaching.

After the Buddha had spoken this sūtra, the bhikṣus heard what the Buddha had said, and joyfully practiced in accordance.


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