A Sniper's Mindfulness

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A Sniper's Mindfulness

Postby BFS » Sun Dec 20, 2009 6:11 pm

"Is mindfulness wholesome in and of itself?
An inspiring meeting convened by the Mind and Life Institute between the Dalai Lama and a group of distinguished scientists and scholars recently was held in Dharamsala, India.

Rupert Gethin, an eminent scholar of the Theravada and Pali tradition of Buddhism, expressed the opinion that mindfulness, as defined by the Pali scriptures, is wholesome in and of itself.

He gave the example of Philippe Petit, the famous French high wire artist who, in 1974, spent 45 minutes walking back and forth on a cable stretched between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York, 380 meters above the ground.

He danced on it, bounced up and down (his feet leaving the wire), and even lay down on the cable - all this with a beatific smile on his face. He was obviously in a state of grace. Witnesses still speak of this astonishing feat with tears in their eyes.

Rupert Gethin felt that this incredible acrobat must have maintained a state of uninterrupted mindfulness that could be considered to be a fundamentally wholesome state, like the kind that leads to achieving enlightenment.

We argued that it all depended on the motivation of the acrobat. Even though he declared that his feat was a display of sheer beauty offered to the world, he could have also been motivated by less lofty purposed. He could have been seeking fame, and we might even conceive of a case where an acrobat would want to cross over on the tightrope to take revenge and kill someone on the other side. R. Gethin thought that if that were the case, the acrobat would not have been able to maintain pure mindfulness for so long and would have fallen down.

A clearer example might be that of a sniper waiting for his victim: he can be one-pointedly concentrated, abiding unwaveringly in the present moment, calm and poised. The sniper is able to maintain his attention over time and bring it back to his target as soon as it wanders. To succeed in his ominous goal, he has to ward off distraction and laxity, the two major obstacles to attention.

Bare attention, as consummate as it might be, is no more than a tool that can certainly be used to achieve enlightenment and is needed for this purpose, but which can also be use to cause immense suffering. Obviously what is entirely missing is the ethical dimension of a mindfulness that deserves the qualification of “wholesome” and can lead to enlightenment.

In addition to directing the attention (manasikara in Pali, manaskara in Sanskrit, and yid la byed pa in Tibetan) to a chosen object and maintaining the attention on this object (respectively sati, smriti, and dran pa), genuine mindfulness must include an understanding of the nature of one’s mental state (sampajanna, samprajnana and shes bzhin), free from distortions, as well as an embedded ethical component that enables one to clearly discern whether or not it is beneficial to maintain our present state of mind and behavior.

To these three, one also adds “concern” (Pali, appamadena, Skt. apramada, Tib. bag yod) which is to constantly maintain the ethical dimension of mindfulness and vigilantly guard the mind from falling into unwholesome thoughts that lead to unwholesome actions.

The practice of mindfulness thus needs to be guided by right view and insight (such as the understanding that all phenomena are empty of independent existence), and motivated by the right intention, such as the aspiration to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings.

It is quite true that a meditator resting in pure awareness and perfect understanding of the fundamental nature of mind, unaltered by mental constructions, will be unable to pull the trigger and kill someone. This kind of luminous awareness is a state of wisdom and is the natural state of a mind that is entirely free from ignorance and mental toxins and spontaneously imbued with unconditional altruism and compassion. Such a state is the result of having achieved inner freedom and should not be confused with mere mindfulness and bare attention." ~ Matthieu Ricard.


Source:



http://www.matthieuricard.org/en/index.php/blog/a_snipers_mindfulness/




Videos with Matthieu Ricard:









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Re: A Sniper's Mindfulness

Postby Ngawang Drolma » Sun Dec 20, 2009 7:27 pm

Wonderful post, thank you :twothumbsup:
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Re: A Sniper's Mindfulness

Postby ground » Mon Dec 21, 2009 8:13 am

BFS wrote:"Is mindfulness wholesome in and of itself?


How could it? "Mindfulness" is not necessarily "right mindfulness" and does not exist inherently. It is "right" depending on "right view".

Kind regards
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Re: A Sniper's Mindfulness

Postby muni » Mon Dec 21, 2009 9:01 am

A mindfulness in which concepts about it, or taking that mindfulness as object to analyze - that "mindfulness" cannot be the meaning behind Matthieu Ricard his explanation.

Very nice to read it. :namaste:
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Re: A Sniper's Mindfulness

Postby Luke » Sat Jan 02, 2010 9:39 pm

My lama frequently says that meditation is much more than mere one-pointed concentration. He says that true meditation cannot be forced. It's more like gradually opening up as you become more in touch with your mind.

A serial killer who concentrates single-mindedly on stalking and killing his victim is certainly not practicing any virtues. Concentration is a mere tool and not the goal of meditation.
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Re: A Sniper's Mindfulness

Postby ronnewmexico » Sat Jan 02, 2010 11:13 pm

To my layperson view and only a limited one at that I support the sentiments recently versed.

One pointed meditation at least in my personal practice must be firstly gained and then with one pointed qualites already reinforced one may advance if advance it may be called, to the utilization of this gained capacity in the study of mind and thought.

It being not a end of itself.

A tightrope artist would be to my opinion exhibiting a one pointed meditation. A meditator who used a obejct of meditation a religious object would be establishing habitual inclination for compassion and the spiritual by choice of object but still be performing one pointed meditation.

It still would not be a end all be all. Though it is absolutely necessary.

And not to state my practice or things I describe are in any manner better or worse than any other practice. Just that these things may be looked at differently.
"This order considers that progress can be achieved more rapidly during a single month of self-transformation through terrifying conditions in rough terrain and in "the abode of harmful forces" than through meditating for a period of three years in towns and monasteries"....Takpo Tashi Namgyal.
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Re: A Sniper's Mindfulness

Postby retrofuturist » Sat Jan 02, 2010 11:43 pm

Greetings,

TMingyur wrote:
BFS wrote:"Is mindfulness wholesome in and of itself?


How could it? "Mindfulness" is not necessarily "right mindfulness" and does not exist inherently. It is "right" depending on "right view".


I concur. Well said.

Metta,
Retro. :)
Live in concord, with mutual appreciation, without disputing, blending like milk and water, viewing each other with kindly eyes

Dhamma Wheel (Theravada forum) * Here Comes Trouble
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Re: A Sniper's Mindfulness

Postby Prasadachitta » Wed Jan 06, 2010 4:59 am

I think that yes Mindfullness is always wholesome. In short Mindfulness is a quality which can accompany whatever action or reaction is occurring in our mind. Whether or not the action is skillful or not it is still preferable for us to be mindful otherwise there is no chance we will learn anything useful. For example if there is a high level of mindfulness throughout a period of rather unskillful activity we are more likely to identify the relationship between the unskillful activity and the the various cascading unsavory results. Just because there is Sammasati or perfect mindfulness does not mean that there has to be a kind of sati which is undesirable. It just means that part of the path includes the perfection of mindfulness. I would presume that this perfection is one that is supported by all the other seven perfected path factors.

Those are my thoughts on the issue.

I would say that concentration or attention can be desirable or not depending on the object which is being attended to.

Here is a question. Do you think there can be a level of relatively strong concentrated attention while there is a relatively low level of mindfulness. I think so.

I used to play a lot of video games and while I was very concentrated on them I was in a bit of a daze and time flew by without my having really that much of a clue what I was actually doing.

Metta

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Re: A Sniper's Mindfulness

Postby Luke » Wed Jan 06, 2010 3:07 pm

Mindfulness is certainly always useful, except perhaps when sleep or resting.

However, if "wholesome" is taken to mean "creates good karma," I think that the karma created depends not only on the action performed, but on the intention of the person before the action and the feelings in his or her mind after the action is performed (i.e. running over a dog by accident won't generate as much bad karma as killing it intentionally and taking pleasure in it afterward would).
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Re: A Sniper's Mindfulness

Postby Prasadachitta » Wed Jan 06, 2010 3:54 pm

Luke wrote:Mindfulness is certainly always useful, except perhaps when sleep or resting.

However, if "wholesome" is taken to mean "creates good karma," I think that the karma created depends not only on the action performed, but on the intention of the person before the action and the feelings in his or her mind after the action is performed (i.e. running over a dog by accident won't generate as much bad karma as killing it intentionally and taking pleasure in it afterward would).


Hello Luke,

First of all What is Karma? What does it mean to "create good Karma"? Karma is intentional action. Whatever can be connected by way of result is called the fruit of Karma. It is my opinion that if we as beings wish to engage in intentional actions which have increasingly desirable results then we require mindfulness. To the degree which we lack mindfulness we will lack the information we need to make our actions intentional. If your strategy to avoid the results of intentional action is to do everything by accident then you will never really be sure that this strategy works and Im guessing it wont bring as much happiness more often than not.

Maitri

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Re: A Sniper's Mindfulness

Postby Luke » Fri Jan 08, 2010 10:12 pm

gabrielbranbury wrote:If your strategy to avoid the results of intentional action is to do everything by accident then you will never really be sure that this strategy works and Im guessing it wont bring as much happiness more often than not.

I never meant that doing bad things by accident would allow someone to escape the effects of karma. All I meant was that the karma created would be somewhat less negative if a person peformed the bad action with less negative intentions.
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Re: A Sniper's Mindfulness

Postby Prasadachitta » Sat Jan 09, 2010 1:15 am

Luke wrote:
gabrielbranbury wrote:If your strategy to avoid the results of intentional action is to do everything by accident then you will never really be sure that this strategy works and Im guessing it wont bring as much happiness more often than not.

I never meant that doing bad things by accident would allow someone to escape the effects of karma. All I meant was that the karma created would be somewhat less negative if a person peformed the bad action with less negative intentions.


Hi Luke,
I understand. What I am saying is regardless of what is happening with your intention Smrti is a quality which is always preferable to a lack of it. Without smrti there is no understanding or even recollection of the continuity of cause and effect. For example when the unenlightened Milarepa recognized the terrible effects of his black magic not only on others but in his own mind stream, it was made possible by the presence of some level of smrti during and after committing those deeds. This realization brought about his fervent pursuing of the Dharma and led to one of the greatest enlightened masters ever (in my opinion).

Maitri

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Re: A Sniper's Mindfulness

Postby Luke » Sat Jan 09, 2010 2:56 pm

gabrielbranbury wrote:I understand. What I am saying is regardless of what is happening with your intention Smrti is a quality which is always preferable to a lack of it. Without smrti there is no understanding or even recollection of the continuity of cause and effect. For example when the unenlightened Milarepa recognized the terrible effects of his black magic not only on others but in his own mind stream, it was made possible by the presence of some level of smrti during and after committing those deeds. This realization brought about his fervent pursuing of the Dharma and led to one of the greatest enlightened masters ever (in my opinion).


I'm not familiar with the term "smrti." I googled it and it seems like it's a Hindu term which translates to something like "ethical awareness." Have Buddhists ever used this term? Even if not, I can see how "ethical awareness" or perhaps "absence of ignorance" could help a person and be relevant to buddhism. Perhaps this term refers to how the paramita of ethics prepares one to achieve the paramita of wisdom.

I admit that I am very, very, very unsatisfied with my present understanding of karma. I am looking for the right text which will explain all its inner details which won't just be the usual quick "These bad actions produce bad karma; these good actions produce good karma" stuff.
**************
Since we are on the subject of snipers and Buddhism, let's hear from a man who used to be a sniper and who later became a Zen priest after he retired from the military.

Mack talks about being a sniper around 1:43
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PjHsONJbEZ4

Mack talks about Zen training in this video
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8s28jxGn ... re=channel
Is that a statue of Guru Rinpoche which is shown around 1:14? Guru Rinpoche was certainly a master of meditation, but I don't believe that his statues are normally outside of zendos.

Previously, I didn't want to post any links with any relation to warfare, but soldiers exist and deserve compassion as well, even though all forms of killing are prohibited by Buddhism.
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Re: A Sniper's Mindfulness

Postby Prasadachitta » Sat Jan 09, 2010 5:49 pm

Hel
Luke wrote:I'm not familiar with the term "smrti." I googled it and it seems like it's a Hindu term which translates to something like "ethical awareness." Have Buddhists ever used this term? Even if not, I can see how "ethical awareness" or perhaps "absence of ignorance" could help a person and be relevant to buddhism. Perhaps this term refers to how the paramita of ethics prepares one to achieve the paramita of wisdom.


Hi Luke,

Smrti is the sanskrit word being translated as mindfulness. I usually refer to the word found in the Pali suttas "sati" which is the same word. When Buddhists use the word mindfulness this is the term which is being referenced. Sati or smrti is a quality of recollection or the quality which makes recollection possible. It is the opposite of absent mindedness. If you remember an event clearly sati or smrti was strong at that time. It is common for people to give the term extra meanings associated with concentration and directionality of our mind. I reccomend looking into it as I am not a scholar and I only study to the point at which I feel I am informed enough to practice effectively.

Take Care

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Re: A Sniper's Mindfulness

Postby Prasadachitta » Sun Jan 10, 2010 9:29 pm

http://www.buddhismuskunde.uni-hamburg.de/fileadmin/pdf/analayo/Sati.pdf


This is a helpful definition of the word Sati or Smrti which is the word that is generally translated as mindfulness.

It comes from the Pali Text society but I think it also applies to Mahayana understandings of the word as well.

maitri

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