I go through my daily chores and it has become habituated to the extent that i do not need to concentrate on the action and my mind has some time to do thinking or just wander.

Now monks life is also similar in that they repeat the activities over life time. So my question, what does monk think on daily basis? Does one control his thoughts or let it wander without attaching oneself to the thought? How does a monk achieve oneness or prepare to be in present?

Regards, Contemplating One

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4 Answers 4


I'll disregard the emphasis on monks, because mindfulness isn't exclusive to monastics, and secondly, the monk as a super-hero trope needs some critical examination. Most monks, like 90% of them in traditionally Buddhist countries follow the herd, and ordain because it is better than farming, or because their family gets some respect in the village, or some motive other than nibbana and buddhahood. This means, it is the rare monk generally that graduates to being a real super hero in the sense of an Arhat, or who can practice or even attempt 100% mindfulness. This doesn't mean the rest of them are bad monks, not at all. Monks are human after all, and they are attempting the near impossible, which is more than one can say of most. Even in the time of the Buddha, there were a good many monks who were earnest at least initially, but were not so special, it appears.

I say all this because I respect and love the idea of monasticism, and don't want to see it become a Potemkin village. I live in India, where the popular notion of a monastic (Hindu, Buddhist, what have you) has taken a real beating, and a monastic is viewed by the urban educated as a sex and money crazy conman. There are still enough of course who unquestioningly fall at the feet of anyone in saffron robes, but that isn't very healthy either.

Politicians all claim to be incorruptible because no one votes for the one who is honest enough to admit he is a little dirty, because politics in general is a little dirty. And, monks and dharma teachers are similarly forced to at least tacitly let on that they are beyond simple human frailties, at least the really bad ones, and they constantly endeavor to live in mindfulness and bliss and speak in soothing voices.

The love of Nibbana cannot be born out of a hatred for anything, not even Samsara. In fact there cannot be Nirvana without Samsara, they inter-depend.

The old Zen saying is when sleeping sleep, when showering shower, when walking walk. This no-mind state is easier said than done.

  • By being regular in one's schedule and routine, and by having a time set apart each day to meditate one can bring about mindfulness.

  • Meditating daily or regularly, and attaining jhanas often is another good way to ensure constant mindfulness.

  • Being in the presence of an enlightened teacher who radiates mindfulness is yet another way to boost our own mindfulness energy.

  • Regular and heartfelt practice of Metta is another way to increase mindfulness.

  • Making a habit of returning to the present moment, is another good way. See, Thich Nhat Hanh's mindfullness moment practice

  • Not dwelling in negative thoughts and practicing the Bramha viharas is another method.


When waking, a monk thinks "waking, waking". When chewing, a monk thinks "chewing, chewing". When washing his bowl, a monk thinks "rubbing, rubbing".

"'But,' [he resolves,] 'I will think thoughts that are noble, onward-leading, that lead to the right ending of stress for the person who acts on them — i.e., thoughts of renunciation, thoughts of no ill will, thoughts of harmlessness.' In this way he is alert there.

Maha-suññata Sutta: The Greater Discourse on Emptiness


Actually the same way a Lay person would do. Renouncing unwholesome thoughts, maintaining good qualities and developing good qualities. Right effort as the eightfold path is the same, it's just that not so many gun-mans knocking on the door.

Practice for the Householder

Very useful collection:

The Five Mental Hindrances and Their Conquest: Selected Texts from the Pali Canon and the Commentaries, compiled and translated by Nyanaponika Thera

  • 1
    I like your Achaan Chah link. Parts of it remind me of seeing my Guru at the center that she created. I like this quote: "Meditation does not simply involve being at peace with the world. On the contrary, confronting the self can be like walking into a raging storm. Beginning intensive practice, one often despairs at first and may even want to km oneself. Some think that a monk's life is lazy and easy - let them try it themselves and see how long they can stand it. A monk's work is hard; he works to free his heart in order to feel the loving-kindness that embraces all things."
    – user2341
    Dec 31, 2015 at 14:12

I do not have a sutta reference, but a personal experience to offer. I used to run a retreat center. Much of the work was physical or chores, not mental: cooking (which takes some thought and creativity but gets fairly routine), cleaning, doing laundry and preparing rooms, grocery shopping, outdoor work, etc. I did this for 10 years, and part of the time I was learning all these tasks, but eventually had done them a long time and they were familiar.

I was a computer programmer before that, for more than a decade. I also used to read a lot, and I wrote and did artwork then. But at the retreat center, there was not time or energy (or sometimes inclination) to do anything using thought or creativity. This is not a balanced situation. It led me to do a lot of spurious thinking while doing other things, and that led to thinking of things that were not possible for me to do in my situation (due to lack of time, money, opportunities, friends, etc).

It is urged on people to be mindful and focus their thoughts while doing routine things, and this is a good skill to develop. It may be used any time. But expecting people to no longer use their cognitive, investigative, creative and social abilities is not going to work. Mindfulness is not enough. For people to be fulfilled, they must develop all aspects of themselves in a healthy way, and just doing the accounting at a retreat center is probably not enough to offset the many hours of non-thought, non-creative work. Sorry to say.

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