Author Topic: Simile showing the purpose of mindfulness of the body  (Read 1541 times)

Offline Optimus Prime

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Simile showing the purpose of mindfulness of the body
« on: July 04, 2010, 07:01:12 am »
Why do we practice mindfulness of the body? (1 of the 4 Foundations of Mindfulness)

This is how we usually function - simile of the 6 animals 

Imagine you catch 6 animals:
1.  A snake
2.  A crocodile
3.  A bird
4.  A dog
5.  A hyena
6.  A monkey
And you tie them all together in the centre with a rope.  Now once tied together, each of these animals will want to run off their own way, e.g., the snake will want to slide off to hide somewhere, the crocodile will want to go into the river, the bird will want to fly off, the dog will want to go to a village, the hyena will want to go to find some dead meat to eat, the monkey will want to go off into the trees.  So they'll each want to go off in their own direction.

Once they get exhausted, then the weaker 5 animals will surrender and submit - and they will all head towards where the strongest animal wants to go.

In the same way, our attention is pulled out into our 6 senses:
1.  Pulled towards pleasing things to look at and repelled by unsightly things
2.  Pulled towards pleasing sounds and repelled from unpleasing noises
3.  Pleasing smells
4.  Pleasing tastes
5.  Pleasing touches
6.  Pleasing thoughts and ideas

So our attention is drawn out into our 6 senses - to live in the world of our 6 senses, just like how the animals all want to run off in their own direction.

What's a better way than just being constantly pulled out into our 6 senses?
Now with restraint, what happens is that you see a beautiful sight but you don't get attracted to it, you don't get compelled to pursue it.  Nor are you repelled by unpleasing sights.  What you do is remain with and practice mindfulness of the body (e.g., mindfulness of the breath sensation at the nose tip, or sweeping your attention up and down your body).  You do the same with all the other 5 sense objects.  You liberate yourself with wisdom so that the unskilful mental qualities that have arisen will cease.

So what's this like?

It's like taking the above 6 animals and tying them to a firm post on the ground.  Once they get tired, they just lie down where they are.  In the same way as the tired animals, if we practice mindfulness of the body, we'll find that our eyes will feel less compelled to go out and look for attractive things to look at.  And unattractive things are not as repellent to look at.  The same with sounds, smells, tastes, touches and thoughts - our attention is less and less drawn out into our 6 senses.

So we practice mindfulness of the body in order to provide an anchor for our attention so that our senses don't pull us out to get absorbed and infatuated with nice things in the world of the 6 senses.  The mindfulness of the body returns us to present moment awareness (i.e., the here and now) allows our minds to settle down and not get excited as much, settling it towards equanimity.

"Thus you should train yourselves: 'We will develop mindfulness immersed in the body. We will pursue it, hand it the reins and take it as a basis, give it a grounding. We will steady it, consolidate it, and set about it properly.' That's how you should train yourselves."
"Chappana Sutta: The Six Animals"(SN 35.206), translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight, June 8, 2010,


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