Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Benefits of mindfulness

Well, I found an interesting website that has an Introduction to Insight Meditation by a teacher named Venerable Sujiva. Here's an excerpt that is about the benefits of mindfulness:
Sometimes, people say, there is a thin line between sanity and insanity. The mad genius, for example, is not far from being a maniac. That’s why Frankenstein was invented, and so was the Terminator. In any case, bombs of all sorts are bad. But no matter how thin a line it is, it is still a line and even if it is really thick, if you are confused, you will still miss it.

Mindfulness actually is the line. When you are unmindful, such as when you are in a rage, you are indeed not different from a madman. It is only a matter of degree. When you have zero mindfulness over an extended period, then you can safely conclude that you are crazy. So, if you don’t want to go mad then hang on to your dear mindfulness, for on the other side, that is, at the bottom, is living hell. Sanity is indeed a thin line. It really does not need much, so to speak, to break a person. Lock him up without contact for a few days or weeks and there you are, someone fit for the mental ward.

If you are a meditator, you’ll have a fighting chance and maybe even end up saner than anyone else. But they may still call you mad because you are different. I remember how some people considered a friend mad because he was not his usual excitable and irritable self after a retreat. They were satisfied only when they managed to infuriate him. Can you imagine how this can be so, when they themselves are supposed to be regular meditators? Who then is mad? But if you’re really mindful then you know for yourself, without doubt, that your mind is clear and thinking rationally. It is they who are confused.

If it goes without saying that with mindfulness the mind is pure of defilements such as greed, anger and delusion, then it will also mean that it draws the line between genuine happiness and suffering. We can understand why anger and delusion are suffering but not greed, especially when it comes with joy. That is because joy tends to muffle the real state of mind. Take away the joy and what do you have left? There will be a really restless state of craving and tenacious clinging. It is like someone who is hungry. Therefore, if you will have real happiness, then look for peace of mind that is born of purity and mindfulness.

It is a kind of happiness that is truly satisfying, strengthened by noble purpose. No sensual pleasure can be equal to it. Besides, it can be freely obtained (as long as you practice), and you don’t have to pay anything to acquire it.

That's the universal motivation isn't it? The wish to be happy. And I want the real thing - not something that is dependent on craving or grasping. Keeping the reality of that happiness ever before us is the truly reliable motivation for being faithful to our meditative practice.

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