What Mahabodhi has been up to
Jun15

What Mahabodhi has been up to

Manchester Buddhist Centre newsletter June-July 2012 What Mahabodhi has been up to … Just over eight years ago I started writing a book. Originally the book was to be on ritual as that was my speciality around the centre. I had developed some ideas that I, and others, seemed to find helpful and so I thought I would share them. However, as I continued to write, after a couple of years I realized that I wanted also to talk about the meditative atmosphere required for ritual, that ritual was a way of approaching reality that was part of a bigger picture and this led me in the direction of mindfulness, which is the new topic of my book. In his lectures on the Noble Eightfold Path Sangharakshita talks about Perfect Mindfulness in terms of four ‘levels of awareness.’ He explained later that the more traditional teaching of the four foundations of mindfulness, which is contained within the Satipatthana Sutta, tended to be interpreted rather narrowly and cognitively, and practised with that interpretation he saw that mindfulness could lead to alienation. And so when he talks about mindfulness he emphasizes an integrated approach which includes the whole person, and in particular includes valuing the emotions. The whole person, conscious and subconscious, needed to be brought on board the spiritual life. And this is the approach we now have in the Triratna Community. So in his exposition of the four ‘levels of awareness:’ ‘awareness of the environment / things;’ awareness of self;’ awareness of other people;’ and ‘awareness of reality,’ Sangharakshita does in fact subsume the traditional four foundations of mindfulness under the categories of ‘awareness of self’ and ‘awareness of reality,’ – ‘awareness of self’ including awareness of body, feelings and thoughts (the first three foundations,) and ‘awareness of reality’ representing awareness of mental objects or dhammas (the fourth foundation) – but he adds to them two new categories: ‘awareness of the environment / things’ and ‘awareness of other people.’ These two categories are, he says, implicit in the body of Buddhist teachings and would, in the Buddha’s day, have been taken for granted, but in the modern sophisticated West they were often overlooked and therefore needed to be reemphasized, in order to restore a balance where emotional development and maturity were included within the Buddhist conception of mindfulness along with paying attention. As my book has developed I have felt a need to try to understand better the four foundations of mindfulness, and to see if they couldn’t be better understood along the lines of Sangharakshita’s vision. Reading them, I was often quite dissatisfied with traditional commentaries on the Sutta, whose interpretations seemed somewhat...

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