When did "mindfulness" become "mindfulness"?

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When did "mindfulness" become "mindfulness"?

Postby Jikan » Sun Apr 13, 2014 7:36 pm

This is a historical or geneological question: at what point was point #7 of the Eightfold Path first translated as "mindfulness" and not some other term (I mean first documented instance)? At what point did "mindfulness" become the most common English word to use in such translations? It seems to me that other words had been used as recently as the mid-20th century, but by the early 1970s, mindfulness was the industry standard.

Any guidance from those who are knowledgeable in the history of such translations will be warmly welcomed. Thank you!
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Re: When did "mindfulness" become "mindfulness"?

Postby Malcolm » Sun Apr 13, 2014 7:38 pm

Jikan wrote:This is a historical or geneological question: at what point was point #7 of the Eightfold Path first translated as "mindfulness" and not some other term (I mean first documented instance)? At what point did "mindfulness" become the most common English word to use in such translations? It seems to me that other words had been used as recently as the mid-20th century, but by the early 1970s, mindfulness was the industry standard.

Any guidance from those who are knowledgeable in the history of such translations will be warmly welcomed. Thank you!



mindful (adj.) Look up mindful at Dictionary.com
mid-14c., from mind (n.) + -ful. Related: Mindfully; mindfulness. Old English myndful meant "of good memory." Old English also had myndig (adj.) "mindful, recollecting; thoughtful," which if it had lived might have yielded a modern *mindy.
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Re: When did "mindfulness" become "mindfulness"?

Postby Jikan » Sun Apr 13, 2014 8:12 pm

Yes, I have the OED definition of the word "mindfulness." It's not hard to see how it's defined conventionally in English usage.

I'm looking for clues on how it became used in translations of Buddhist texts--who used it first and such considerations.

Thanks
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Re: When did "mindfulness" become "mindfulness"?

Postby Matt J » Sun Apr 13, 2014 8:26 pm

According to Robert Sharf, in the 20th century, especially around the 1970's.

The Great Way is not difficult
If only there is no picking or choosing
--- Xin Xin Ming

http://nondualism.org/
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Re: When did "mindfulness" become "mindfulness"?

Postby Qianxi » Sun Apr 13, 2014 9:53 pm

According to Wikipedia, sati as mindfulness originates with Thomas Rhys Davids in 1881. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mindfulness#Terminology
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Re: When did "mindfulness" become "mindfulness"?

Postby dzogchungpa » Sun Apr 13, 2014 11:03 pm

From "The Wheel of the Law" by Henry Alabaster, 1871:
http://books.google.com/books?id=UcIOAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA197&dq=mindful
Note that, in the higher tantras, there is talk of a self and an I, even though in the lower teachings the absence of self and the absence of I is what is always proclaimed. - Tony Duff
To educate the educated is notoriously difficult. - Jacques Barzun
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Re: When did "mindfulness" become "mindfulness"?

Postby Wayfarer » Sun Apr 13, 2014 11:03 pm

The book The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh was originally published in 1975 according to Wikipedia. Another popular title from around the same time was Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana. I think they were both very influential texts in the establishment of 'mindfulness' as an approach to Buddhist meditation especially for lay practitioners.
Learn to do good, refrain from evil, purify the mind ~ this is the teaching of the Buddhas
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Re: When did "mindfulness" become "mindfulness"?

Postby Osho » Sun Apr 13, 2014 11:33 pm

Jon Kabat-Zin who pathologised TNH's Mindfulness approach first did so in his 1990 magnum opus ' Full Catastrophe Living'.
Kabat- Zin's MBSR - Mindfulness Based Stress Relief and later MBCT Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy have, to some extent permeated to affect some 'Buddish' praxes.'
Very popular sideline of some Triratna's ( for example) is ' Mindfulness Coaching'.
Hence 'Mindfulness' has come to be a rather slippery concept, somewhat dependant on who is using it and for what purpose.
More about Mindfulness here
http://bemindful.co.uk/

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Re: When did "mindfulness" become "mindfulness"?

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Apr 14, 2014 2:48 am

As has been pointed out by two posters already, use of "mindfulness" as a translation of "sati" goes back to the earliest translations of the Pali Canon, back in the mid to late 1800s. This is easily verified from the links given above and and a quick scan through translations published over the past 130 years.

The escalation of "mindfulness" to the main focus of a practice is a different, much more modern, issue.

:anjali:
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Re: When did "mindfulness" become "mindfulness"?

Postby rob h » Mon Apr 14, 2014 5:08 am

I prefer to think of it as awareness to be honest. Some Tibetans use the word memory instead don't they? All three seem to work well, but I find it interesting that I haven't seen awareness used much. Maybe because mindful makes people think of remembering more? Interesting anyway. I also like the fact that if you change one letter of aware you have awake, seems to fit well.
"A 'position', Vaccha, is something that a Tathagata has done away with." - MN 72
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Re: When did "mindfulness" become "mindfulness"?

Postby Gwenn Dana » Mon Apr 14, 2014 9:37 am

rob h wrote: I also like the fact that if you change one letter of aware you have awake, seems to fit well.


If you change one letter in aware you get award, which obvously does not seem to fit very well.
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Re: When did "mindfulness" become "mindfulness"?

Postby Huifeng » Mon Apr 14, 2014 12:44 pm

I had heard it was Rhys-Davids, but looks like Dzogchungpa has found an earlier source in Alabaster.

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Re: When did "mindfulness" become "mindfulness"?

Postby daverupa » Mon Apr 14, 2014 2:17 pm

Rupert Gethin discusses this issue in this paper, "On Some Definitions of Mindfulness".
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: When did "mindfulness" become "mindfulness"?

Postby Jikan » Mon Apr 14, 2014 3:34 pm

Thanks for the helpful comments, everyone! I'm particularly intrigued by the Alabaster reference. I look forward to exploring these early translations.
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Re: When did "mindfulness" become "mindfulness"?

Postby rob h » Mon Apr 14, 2014 4:16 pm

Gwenn Dana wrote:If you change one letter in aware you get award, which obvously does not seem to fit very well.


Well spotted, and agreed. :sage:
"A 'position', Vaccha, is something that a Tathagata has done away with." - MN 72
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Re: When did "mindfulness" become "mindfulness"?

Postby Osho » Mon Apr 14, 2014 4:43 pm

"For the Buddhist tradition and for MBSR and MBCT, ‘mindfulness’ is part of a set of practices, and practices can have particular effects whatever our preconceived ideas and theories about them. That is, in its application in a clinical context, further aspects of mindfulness may well manifest and be relevant."

Paper cited above.. 'Conclusion'.
More about Mindfulness here
http://bemindful.co.uk/

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Re: When did "mindfulness" become "mindfulness"?

Postby Zhen Li » Tue Apr 15, 2014 7:35 pm

I prefer to think of it as awareness to be honest. Some Tibetans use the word memory instead don't they? All three seem to work well, but I find it interesting that I haven't seen awareness used much. Maybe because mindful makes people think of remembering more? Interesting anyway. I also like the fact that if you change one letter of aware you have awake, seems to fit well.

Sati/smṛti means remember, rather than being aware.
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Re: When did "mindfulness" become "mindfulness"?

Postby daverupa » Tue Apr 15, 2014 11:51 pm

Zhen Li wrote:
I prefer to think of it as awareness to be honest. Some Tibetans use the word memory instead don't they? All three seem to work well, but I find it interesting that I haven't seen awareness used much. Maybe because mindful makes people think of remembering more? Interesting anyway. I also like the fact that if you change one letter of aware you have awake, seems to fit well.

Sati/smṛti means remember, rather than being aware.


'aware' would probably be sampajañña, though in some contexts sati conveys this as well.

I think both are part of basic satipatthana instructions.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: When did "mindfulness" become "mindfulness"?

Postby dzogchungpa » Wed Apr 16, 2014 1:05 am

daverupa wrote:
Zhen Li wrote:
I prefer to think of it as awareness to be honest. Some Tibetans use the word memory instead don't they? All three seem to work well, but I find it interesting that I haven't seen awareness used much. Maybe because mindful makes people think of remembering more? Interesting anyway. I also like the fact that if you change one letter of aware you have awake, seems to fit well.
Sati/smṛti means remember, rather than being aware.
'aware' would probably be sampajañña, though in some contexts sati conveys this as well.

I think both are part of basic satipatthana instructions.

Possibly of interest:
https://sbinstitute.com/isp/content/correspondence-between-b-alan-wallace-and-venerable-bhikkhu-bodhi
Note that, in the higher tantras, there is talk of a self and an I, even though in the lower teachings the absence of self and the absence of I is what is always proclaimed. - Tony Duff
To educate the educated is notoriously difficult. - Jacques Barzun
སརྦ་དྷརྨ་དྷཱ་ཏུ་ཨཱཏྨ་ཀོ་྅ཧཾ༔
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Re: When did "mindfulness" become "mindfulness"?

Postby seeker242 » Wed Apr 16, 2014 12:34 pm

daverupa wrote:
Zhen Li wrote:
I prefer to think of it as awareness to be honest. Some Tibetans use the word memory instead don't they? All three seem to work well, but I find it interesting that I haven't seen awareness used much. Maybe because mindful makes people think of remembering more? Interesting anyway. I also like the fact that if you change one letter of aware you have awake, seems to fit well.

Sati/smṛti means remember, rather than being aware.


'aware' would probably be sampajañña, though in some contexts sati conveys this as well.

I think both are part of basic satipatthana instructions.


One of my favorite videos on "mindfulness" :)

One should not kill any living being, nor cause it to be killed, nor should one incite any other to kill. Do never injure any being, whether strong or weak, in this entire universe!
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