Pristine Mindfulness

G.T.M. Kwee (2012). Relational Buddhism: Wedding K.J. Gergen’s Relational Being and Buddhism to create harmony in-between-selves. Psychological Studies, 57 (2), 203–210.

A paraphrased passage: 

INTEGRATING THERAVADA, MAHAYANA AND POSTMODERN VIEWS IN MEDITATION PRACTICE

Mindfulness meditation enjoys mushrooming interest due to research since Kabat-Zinn introduced Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction in the medical setting (1979). However MBSR is Buddhist-Lite, i.e. stripped off from its roots. Full-blown Buddhist is Pristine Mindfulness, a core process for clearing the mind and a springboard to practice a family of 12-Meditations on Breathing, Behaviours, Repulsiveness, Elements, Decomposing, Feelings, Hindrances, Modalities, Senses, Awakening, the 4Ennobling Realities and an 8Fold Balancing Practice. The latter considers mindfulness as awareness-and-attention and an inseparable part of Buddhist views, intentions, speech, actions, living and efforts. The practice of mindfulness is embedded in a wholistic framework. During mindfulness we encounter dhammas, the smallest units of experience, here called “perceivables” (experienced through the body and its feelings) and “conceivables” (experienced through the mind and its events) (Mahasatipatthana Sutta).

According to the Buddha, the human predicament of suffering is relational and rooted in the 3Poisons of greed, hatred and ignorance on how mind functions (Sedaka Sutta). Wisdom detoxifies by healing speech (including self-dialogue and interpersonal performance) which emphasizes an extended view of mindfulness and the mind as located beyond the brain and in-between-people, a proposition made by Relational Buddhism. Involving Western psychological insights, Pristine Mindfulness fine-tunes attention-concentration (to discipline a wandering mind) and awareness-introspection (to understand kamma and not-self). It operates through the “mind’s eye” in sensorium and refers to process and outcome. Practice involves inward/outward concentration of attention (changeable foreground presence) and introspective awareness (changeable background presence) which illuminates consciousness (constant backdrop presence) and enables alert monitoring in luminous comprehension of dhammas as they arise in Dependent Origination (patticasamupada).

By integrating views from Theravada, Mahayana and Social Construction, two phases and eight stages of awareness can be differentiated. Phase I: 1. Samatha, stress-free serenity amidst adversity, 2. Samadhi, concentrative absorption and firmness while extinguishing emotional arousal (toward Nirvana), 3. Vipasanna, insight in mind’s Dependent Origination of sensing-thinking-feeling-doing/interacting, and 4.  Sunyata, “suchness” or “zeroness”: a reset-point characterized by not-self and emptiness. Phase II: 5. Non-duality/mahamudra, mindfulness of speech which transcends the trap of duality (e.g. emptiness/form, beginning/end, good/bad, etc., culminating in: the Buddha=bad), 6. Kill-the-Buddha: a Chan advice to eradicate progress-hindering concepts and dependency, 7. Brahmaviharas, implementing kindness, compassion, joy and relational equanimity, and 8. dharmas: understanding the world as neither-empty-nor-not-empty (the Buddha, 6th century BCE), empty-of-emptiness (Nagarjuna, 2nd century), empty-non-duality (Vasubandhu, 4th century), and as a social construction which is ontologically mute and empty-of-Transcendental-Truth (K.J. Gergen, 21st century).

Reviewing the literature leads to the conclusion that the salubrious outcome evidence of the Buddhist-Lite Mindfulness-Based approaches refers to the first two stages of stress-free serenity (Samatha) and concentrative absorption (Samadhi). It would be exciting to see future studies on Pristine Mindfulness in the context of Relational Buddhism, Karma Transformation and Buddhist Psychology/Psychotherapy.

Thus, Pristine Mindfulness is the cultivation of attention-awareness toward calming-tranquility (Samatha), concentrative absorption (Samadhi), deep insight/understanding (Vipassana), profound emptiness experiencing (Sunyata), non-dual silence (Yogacara), “Buddha-kill” dis-attachment (Chan), disseminating the social sublimes (Brahmaviharas), and the smallest empty experiential units (dharmas).

It offers a broad-spectrum practice which includes a “judgmental aspect” as an inherent part of the exercise by discerning wholesome and unwholesome Karma, and cultivating wholesome Karma as an inseparable part of the training, as in the following steps which designates eight states in four phased stages. 

The 4 stages and 8 steps require zeal (1/2, onto Nirvana: flame extinction), wise reflection (3/4, onto emptiness, the highest wisdom), clear comprehension (5/6, onto non-clinging to the Buddha), and benevolence (7/8, onto “in-between-selves”). Steps 1-4 is a journey of absolute bodhicitta, the spirit of heartfelt diligence to awaken along AHA/introvert experiencing and traverse a process of socially deconstructing self via insight experiences while sitting in front of a wall to gain full insight in the emptiness of self (anatman). (NB: Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and Cognitive-Behavior Therapy as in western health care are usually confined to states 1 and 2.).

Steps 5-8 travels in relative bodhicitta, the dedication to awaken along HAHA/extravert experiencing and reflect a process of socially re/constructing “inter-mind/self” via joyful experiences while fully functioning on the marketplace. (NB: called antaratman in Javanese Mahayana Buddhism, “inter-self” is depicted as Indra’s net on the Gandavyuha Sutra panels of the Borobudur. This is a jeweled net with a gem at each crossing which reflects every other gem it mirrors in infinite interpenetration.)

The eight steps/states can be specified as follows:
1. Samatha: a state of stress-free amidst adversity via the 12-Meditations; it comprises preliminary concentration and calming (Jhanas) as a basis for deep concentration (Samadhi) and contemplation by sensing, perceiving, and meta/cognizing. Apex is absorption (neither-perception-nor-non-perception), taught to the Buddha by gurus Alara Kalama and Uraka Ramaputta at the start of his career.

2. Samadhi: [1] a deep concentrative awareness state leading to cessation of all flames of emotional arousal, aka Nirvana, experienced in firm-focus/receptive absorption (also in action e.g. when painting or making music), called “flow” in psychology. Siddhartha got into this state spontaneously while watching a plow breaking ground.

3. Vipasanna: a state of insight in how the mind works, i.e. in Dependent Origination, a process which refers to body/speech/mind: feeling, thinking, and interacting, modalities arising/subsiding in conjunction while feeling greed (or its underlying fear of loss or sadness of the lost) or hatred (or its underlying other-hate/aggression or self-hate/depression).

4. Sunyata: a state of “luminous suchness” or “vast zeroness”, a reset point that not only knows no flames, but no candle nor oil either, and which is the highest wisdom as opposed to believing in a supernatural power which would imply the end of self-inquiry toward not-self or pervasive non-self.

5. Yogacara’s non-duality is a state that requires attention of speech which inheres in dualities as a trap. The practice is to transcend duality, thus emptiness= form, beginning=end, cause=effect, left=right, up=down, heaven=hell, ugly=beautiful, good=evil, yes=no, etc., which culminates in: the Buddha-as-concept=bad (a hampering factor).

6. Chan‘s “Kill-the-Buddha” is an expression by the great Chan master Lin-chi (died 866) whose anarchistic genius is still quite practical for any Buddhist trainee who wishes to eradicate concepts in favour of emptiness. Because the Buddha is already dead literally, what one metaphorically kills is progress impeding psychological dependency.

7. Brahmaviharas: the Buddha often uses Brahmanistic terms to which he subsequently alluded a different meaning; the brahmaviharas is one of them. For non-Brahmanists, the term is to be interpreted as a metaphor for sublime places of dwelling: loving-kindness, empathic compassion, shared joy, and relational equanimity.

8. dharmas: this scholastic term for the smallest unit of experience can be conceived as “neither-empty-nor-not-empty” (the Buddha), “empty-of-emptiness” (Nagarjuna), and “empty-non-duality” (Vasubandhu), it is now here fathomed as “ontologically mute social constructions empty of Transcendental Truths” (K.J. Gergen). We call this last development: “the 4th turning of the Dharma Wheel”, which summarizes our efforts of confluencing the Dharma with Social Construction and psychology/psychotherapy.

[1] The Bahiya Sutta includes an instruction to Samadhi: ‘O Bahiya, whenever you see a form, let there be just the seeing; whenever you hear a sound, let there be just the hearing; when you smell an odor, let there be just the smelling, when you taste a flavor, let there be just the tasting; when you experience a physical sensation, let it merely be sensation; and when a thought or feeling arises, let it be just a natural phenomenon arising in the mind. When it’s like this, there will be no self, no I. When there is no self, there will be no moving about here and there, and no stopping anywhere. And that is the end of Dukkha. That is Nibbana. Whenever it’s like that, then it is Nibbana. If it is lasting, then it is lasting Nibbana; if it is temporary, then it’s temporary Nibbana. In other words, it is just one principle.’