Thursday, November 18, 2010

Bhagvadgita and Mindfulness Practice

Hinduism and Buddhism have common roots. It is not surprising that the origins of mindfulness practice can possibly be traced back to early Hinduism. I am reminded of a couple of shlokas from the Bhagvadgita that show such a relationship.

Asanshayam mahabaho mano durnigraham chalam,
Abhyasena tu Kaunteya vairagyena cha grihyate.
-- Gita 6:35
[O mighty armed, the mind is undoubtedly restless and hard to control, but by practice and non-attachment, O son of Kunti, it can be controlled.]


In this shloka we see the fundamental understanding of the nature of the mind – it wanders. We also see the how we can ‘control’ it – by practice and non-attachment. That’s what mindfulness practice is. You practice letting go (non attachment).

Here’s another shloka from chapter 6 of the Bhagvadgita.

The yogi should sit on a firm seat
That is neither too high nor too low,
Covered with sacred Kusha grass,
A deerskin, and a cloth,
One over the other, in a clean spot.

Sitting and concentrating the mind
On a single object,
Controlling the thoughts
And the activities of the senses,
Let the yogi practice meditation for self-purification.

Hold the waist, spine, chest, neck, and head erect,
Motionless and steady, fix the eyes and the mind
Steadily between the eye brows,
and do not look around.

Uncannily similar to the instructions for Zazen practice! Zen teachers instruct us to sit on a soft cushion. Much importance is placed on maintaining an alert posture and keeping the spine straight, eyes open and fixed on an unremarkable spot on the floor. Although it is possible that the practiced detailed in the Bhagvadgita is about concentrating on a particular thought, rather than just observing your thoughts as in Zazen.

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