Buddhist Audio Books

Living with Awareness
A Guide to the Satipatthana Sutta
By Sangharakshita
ISBN: 1899579389
Read by Subhadra

Mindfulness is the means by which our consciousness is transformed, transcended, Enlightened.

The Satipatthana Sutta is one of the Buddha’s foremost discourses on mindfulness. In Living with Awareness, a commentary on this sutta, Sangharakshita counsels against an over-narrow interpretation of mindfulness as being simply about developing a focused attention on the present moment. To be fully mindful, one needs to look further than the end of one’s nose, and integrate even the most rarefied practice into the context of a fully lived human life.

The guiding principle of Buddhism is that things change - we change - and that we have the capacity to direct that change towards spiritual growth and development. In being mindful, therefore, we recollect not only the breadth of our current experience, but also our purpose in attending to it. Living with Awareness explores this principle progressively through the filter of the sutta.

An Extract from: Living with Awareness
From chapter 4: Living

Everyone needs satisfaction and inspiration if they are to stay in touch with the spiritual path - and not all that is enjoyable is unskilful. One can find great enjoyment in devotional practice, as well as in music and poetry, and especially in communication with one's friends. Meditation, too, should be enjoyable, not a hard grind. If you don't find the spiritual life enjoyable, you might be able to keep going for a while on force of will and intellectual conviction, but you can't rely on this indefinitely. In the end the conflict between the call of duty and the need for pleasure will be too great.

The way to become mindful, therefore, is to learn to enjoy mindfulness for its own sake. Humdrum everyday activities such as eating, walking, and sleeping can give deep satisfaction. Paying attention to how things look, sound, and feel makes them more enjoyable; it is as simple (and as difficult) as that. If we give close enough attention to the aesthetic dimension of daily life, we will be drawn into the simplest activities with interest and enjoyment. It makes all the difference to a mealtime, for instance, if there is a clean cloth and a vase of flowers on the table. Even inexpensive crockery can be well-designed and aesthetically pleasing, and even simple food can be served with genuine care. Simplicity is very important to mindfulness. At mealtimes, you can enrich the experience by focusing on the process of eating. A little gentle conversation is all right, but leave serious discussions until later. As for business lunches, avoid these at all costs!

Mealtimes give us an especially good opportunity to practise mindfulness of the body, both because they arrive with such regularity and because so much energy is aroused by the activity and even the very thought of eating. From a Buddhist perspective the purpose of eating is not to indulge ourselves and assuage our neurotic cravings, but to sustain the strength of the body and keep ourselves in good health so that we can get on with the all-important quest for higher states of consciousness. However, this is not to say that in the interests of spiritual progress we have to give up enjoying our food altogether. If you become attached to the pleasant sensations of eating, food can easily become a distraction, but if you can enjoy eating a meal whatever it is, irrespective of your likes and dislikes, this will be an important breakthrough in your practice of mindfulness. People sometimes imagine that with the arising of transcendental insight we will become completely indifferent to the tastes of food, because we will have gone beyond liking and disliking. But it is more that, freed from the tyranny of our likes and dislikes, we will be able to savour with enjoyment the very experience of eating, whatever we happen to be eating. We know that Milarepa, the great Tibetan yogi, lived for years in the mountains on nothing more than nettle soup - and we can assume that he thoroughly enjoyed his nettle soup every time. Of course, without putting it to the test we can't know whether we ourselves would be able to eat a very simple diet with the relish with which we might tuck into a gourmet banquet. It is worth trying it from time to time.


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