It was gratifying reading about Louis Medina's mindfulness trip aboard a GET bus (“My free GET bus ride with the Buddha(s),” Jan. 9). As chance would have it, I had just read an article by the venerated Buddhist monk, Dr. Madawela Punnaji, and was struck by his explanation of mindfulness and how it differed from Mr. Medina's definition: “focusing one's attention on what is happening at the present moment, intentionally, objectively, nonjudgmentally.”
Dr. Punnaji writes that to be mindful means to be aware of, and on the lookout for, negative emotions that cause unconscious behavior that leads to unnecessary suffering for yourself and others. He goes on to explain that this behavior is unconscious because it is a reaction to the presence of the necessary conditions required to draw the behavior out of you and, as such, is not under your control.
The remedy to this bad behavior is a mindful introspection that is focused on the body in order to detect the physical disturbances that negative emotions produce there and to nip them in the bud, so to speak, before they become action. If they become action, then mindfulness helps to lessen the intensity and shorten the duration of the behavior and also hasten efforts to repair the damage caused. This is one end of mindfulness, the other can be found in meditation.
It is during meditation that you practice the skill you’ll need (mindfulness) when dealing with the arising of negative emotions. Through further meditation and practicing the Buddha's eight step guide to better behavior, you can aspire to acquire a level of skill whereby the perception that excited the imagination, that provoked the emotional arousal, that caused the bad behavior in the first place, doesn’t enter the mind. This divine state is called nibbana in the Pali language.
It is interesting to note that the Buddha didn’t set up a hierarchy for succession all those years ago because he thought that it wasn’t necessary. He thought that his teachings about the cause of our suffering and bad behavior would go viral and that everybody would just naturally want to start practicing becoming good. Apparently the necessary conditions weren’t present at the time, and of course this begs the question: are they present now?
Blaine Randolph is a retired educator.