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What is mindfulness according to the teachings of masters?

Mindfulness means right meditation leads to awakening (to inner peace, happiness, truth, and wisdom). Our true nature is peace, happiness, love, wisdom and pure awareness. Because mind veils the true nature due to the influx of thoughts, a method that empties the contents of the mind (removes the veil) is mindfulness. When we empty the mind by the passive method, it is passive meditation or mindfulness. The passive method means we do not ask the mind to do anything and separate the contents of the mind.

Let us know how masters defined meditation.

The ancient master, Kapila, who propounded Samkhya (one of the six Indian philosophical systems)


Meditation is emptiness (state) of mind

The famous Sutra of Patanjali says


Emptying the contents of the mind is meditation.

Buddhism in his noble eightfold path explains “mindfulness” as the seventh step. The Mindfulness what people call it is termed – Samyaka Smriti. If one translates the two words literally, it means – the right memory.

“Samyaka Smriti”

There are more than 50 definitions given by ancient masters in different texts, but I am restricting to only three definitions in this booklet. These definitions will help one to understand the philosophy, practice, and applications of meditation.

The above definitions though opposing help one to appreciate the very reasoning that may become helper and barriers to understanding the meditation and its practice.

The emptiness of mind is meditation. But the mind is helpless as it cannot perceive or know what is beyond the mind. We know when mind divides into subject- object and its relationship. When there is no “I,” there is no “you” also. Hence the relationship between the two also does not exist. Is mind required to experience the state of meditation? The simple answer is meditation is a state that transcends the mind. What is the way left then? Practice and wisdom are the answer. When one practice meditation/mindfulness by the mind to end the mind, to enter the meditative state is both subjects of wisdom and practice.

Moving from waking state to awakening state

We need to practice with conscious awareness to end the mind or go beyond the mind or transcend the mind. We move from ‘waking state’ to ‘awakening state’ which is meditation. Hence, any conditions that confirm ‘sleeping’ or ‘dreaming,’ cannot lead one to mindfulness/meditation.

We are aware of three states of consciousness – dream, sleep and waking states. In the waking state – there is consciousness (awareness) and thoughts or contents of the mind. In the dream state, there is unconsciousness and contents. In the sleep state, there is neither consciousness (awareness) nor contents of the mind. This metaphor is given for understanding the meditation only. The ancient masters declare that there is the fourth state that they named in Sanskrit as Turiya. The word Turiya means – fourth. These masters avoided all confusions and conflicts by naming the meditative state as the ‘fourth state of consciousness. What master does Kapila define ‘empty state’ is ‘Turiya’ state of consciousness, where the mind is absent or kept in abeyance?

The second definition defines meditation is a method of emptying the contents of the mind. The method of emptying of the mind requires effort where ‘state of emptiness’ is a matter of awakening. Patanjali explains in details the fivefold modifications of the mind and ways to empty the mind. Many authors explain the definition as control of modifications of the mind that is not true. Whatever one controls, demands effort and the effort cannot remain indefinitely. The effort to control may bring fatigue and exhaustion. There are other factors – the mind cannot hold attention and sustain the effort for long. That leads to word and understanding of ‘mindfulness.’

The word ‘mindfulness’ is a translation in English from two words – “Samyak Smriti.’ The mindfulness is the seventh step of eight noble fold path of Buddhism. Many people jump to the seventh step without understanding or practicing them. People may talk about meditation or mindfulness as an effortless process, but it takes one to begin with the first seven steps of the noble eightfold path. That is how the great master explains the eight-limbed path of yoga.