Mindfulness has been getting some bad press of late, seemingly fallout from a wave of people selling mindfulness products that make all kinds of claims. Note that this is not the only article on this subject I've come across.

It bothers me that in these valid critiques (the clinical analysis on mindfulness is still in progress, so the conclusions promoted by profit-motivated hucksters is warranted,) I never see mention the mundane benefits of the basic practice of mindfulness.

Meditation and concentration on breathing are all well and good--I utilize them myself, and find them particularly helpful in times of stress or extremity--but my most common practices of mindfulness are not related to the present experience of suffering, but avoidance of suffering thought mindful interaction with in the mundane sphere:

  • I haven't lost my wallet or car keys in decades because I am always mindful not to put them on a table when I'm out, and always put them in the same place when I come home

  • I always check for traffic before crossing the street, particularly bike lanes, a mindfulness habit I've been cultivating since I was a small child, but especially since a close call with a hurtling bus

  • I am aware of where my body is in space and it's relationship to other bodies, on the sidewalk, in venues, etc., which allows me to navigate efficiently and reduces the probability of being attacked

What gives? Are the practical, mundane benefits of mindfulness simply not emphasized, and if so, why?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – user2424
    Commented Oct 20, 2017 at 10:26

4 Answers 4


DukeZhou, and those interested,

That (outwardly mindfullness) is actually the fist step and most needed not only for one self but also for society: virtue (sila), which is aside of the most importand five precepts very broad, incl. such as paying respect, render help, doning ones duties, take care of what is in ones own sphere.

A person not having mastered outwardly "mindfulness", thinks like even how to wear cloth, how to eat... how will such a person ever come to mind? Able to trace bad habits back to defilements. Not possible. How ever, outwardly does not mean to "contoll" others but oneself.

So remember watching after oneself/others not wrongly.

As far a able to see, less, especially in the sphere of "Buddhists" are really training even the basics of the path but think they can be even Buddhas having a behaviour like kids from the street, feeling obligated like kings, taking care like if handicaped, being generous like dogs... if looking to their teaches, things become clear... "Wie der Herr, so's G'scheer", is it said." Not restrained in their sense faculties and behaviour at all but teaching mindfulness: the fool pay it.

Let them train their "householder-equanimity" since when all the fruits of their behaviour ripes, it will require much of equanimity (which is actually the reason why doing the "high" first, not capable to master even the low)

On denying Defilement, is maybe good on topic.

Since they would often just say things like:

The Buddha's Teaching is about ending suffering completely, ie. to reach Nibbana. Sure there are mundane benefits but that is not really the goal of following the Noble Eightfold Path. Freeing oneself from the cycle of rebirth is.

Maybe good to know [the unruly eight kinds of men] (AN 8.14), to understand the usual approches of "Buddhists" generally. Right?

Skillful virtues have freedom from remorse as their purpose, freedom from remorse as their reward.

"In this way, mental qualities lead on to mental qualities, mental qualities bring mental qualities to their consummation, for the sake of going from the near to the Further Shore. (AN 11.2)

Having not mastered, doing not have unspotted virtue (mundane mindfulness) at fist plase, the path is actually still far away. Those telling different either deny their defilements or deliberatly cheat.

Ajahn Chah:

The Lost Wallet

It's as if you leave home and lose your wallet. It fell out of your pocket onto the road away back there, but as long as you don't realize what happened you're at ease — at ease because you don't yet know what this ease is for. It's for the sake of dis-ease at a later time. When you eventually see that you've really lost your money: That's when you feel dis-ease — when it's right in your face.

The same holds true with our bad and good actions. The Buddha taught us to acquaint ourselves with these things. If we aren't acquainted with these things, we'll have no sense of right or wrong, good or bad.

Take care and maintain your virtues, all mundane conducts, merits fast get lost.

Are the practical, mundane benefits of mindfulness simply not emphasized, and if so, why?

Because they are not capable, yet there is good ground to make just business, anyway. It's a matter of marked, that's it.

[Note: This is a gift of Dhamma, not meant for commercial purpose or other kinds of low wordily gains by means of trade and exchange]

  • Thank you for this wonderful answer. You really get to the heart of the matter and show how "outward mindfulness" links to the greater practice.
    – DukeZhou
    Commented Oct 20, 2017 at 18:09
  • Can I ask if you know when these ideas came into being--it reminds me very much of the emphasis on conduct and benevolence/humanity in Confucianism, for instance.
    – DukeZhou
    Commented Oct 20, 2017 at 18:09
  • Mudita! My person does not think that the "mindfullness"-boom and broadly practice has long history but is simply a modern trend, made accessable, a matter of marked, for many. The training of mind in a way that is not directed of letting word behind is surely as old as their are recluses, Nyom @DukeZhou. The emphasy on conduct is basic to all humanitarian teachings and religions, was ever the reason for good life and success also in the world. It's just today that it is believed (because people might have currently plenty) to be not so importand. Propably just a opulence phenomena.
    – user11235
    Commented Oct 20, 2017 at 23:13

What gives? Are the practical, mundane benefits of mindfulness simply not emphasized, and if so, why?

The Buddha's Teaching is about ending suffering completely, ie. to reach Nibbana. Sure there are mundane benefits but that is not really the goal of following the Noble Eightfold Path. Freeing oneself from the cycle of rebirth is.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – user2424
    Commented Oct 20, 2017 at 10:27

Couldn't finish the linked article. Mindfulness, either this is a wrong etymology for the Buddhist practice; or, if accepted it's the term, than the technique told by those marketers were wrong.

Wrong etymology: this Buddhist practice, in Chinese: 繫念, doesn't simply mean mindfulness. It means rein in the mind, and fasten it to the present moment. Ever since the so-called Vipassana Movement let out by Mr. Goekna in his croaky videos in his centers, declaring "Dhamma this... Dhamma that", the secular meditation world is obsessed with body scanning; and from body scanning to scanning the body touching the chair... scanning chair touching the body, called mindfulness... as described in the linked article :).... 囧. (speechless)

When taking photo of fast movement, if chasing the movement the photo will always be taken one second behind. The right method is anticipating led to one second ahead of the movement triggering the shutter. How does it work? If one reined in the mind, fasten it to the present moment, one will act one second ahead. Chasing the movement is reaction; capturing the movement is action, achieved when the mind is empty and ready.

The car key things maybe are mindfulness, but can be achieved with minimal of strict Buddhist [meditation of mindfulness] practice. It's just be heedful, pay attention sort of can arrive there. Perhaps that's why these mundanes (benefits) not emphasized. Of course it would be good if mindfulness is a minute to minute, second to second habit - an accomplished master mastered, like the Buddha did. For instance, those older ladies doing dancing in the piazza after dinner, they are doing kind of Chacha, Salsa... but it's not the same as a professional doing Tango, or Ballet. The emphasis for dancing in the piazza is the benefit of health; the Tango performance is the art. It will confuse people if one teaching Tango, but emphasizing the benefit of health. Mindfulness practice marketed maybe are largely corrupted practice of mindfulness, got the name only.

Yet in a strict training environment, all acts are types of training; like Martial Art, even using chopsticks picking up the rice, is training of Neigong. I just read in the Chinese Vinaya, due to certain accidents, the Buddha set out discipline of mindfulness going washroom:

佛言。不應散亂心上廁。散亂心上廁突吉羅。今為諸比丘制上廁等初應學法。是中比丘應盡形壽學。若不學突吉羅... (shouldn't be mindless/heedless when going to the washroom, or else committed Duṣkṛta)

若比丘上廁時應一心看前後左右。至廁前欬彈指令廁中人非人知。廁中人亦應彈指欬。既入廁復應看前後左右仰視屋間。無蛇蚖毒虫不。不應以衣突戶兩邊。好收歛之一心安足。勿令前却以污廁上。若先有污及己所污皆應治事。須洗洗之。須拭拭之。須除草穢除之。然後出去。徐下護衣勿使污穢。往小便處及洗大小便處亦應如是。若用水時。應先看水有虫無虫。不得多用水。然要使周事。以器捲水極令安徐。不得使器相撐以致破損。用水若盡。應更取使滿。若有急事。要應取令得一人用覆頭 而去... (a detail step to step instruction, from snapping the finger to acknowledge, to arranging the clothing... using the water... etc., there were additionals when some Bhiksus violated the basic setup)

Example, Mahisasakas Pratimoksa (survived only in the Chinese Canon) recorded an event, Buddha and his Bhiksus were invited by a famous courtesan to her manor for the meal. When setting out, Buddha reminded the Bhiksus, "繫念在前" (reined in and fasten the mind to present, or be mindful), because they were about to enter into a house of great temptation. In this event, the mindfulness, contrast to the marketers' advice, doesn't have an object to be mindful of. Another example, also in the Chinese Vinaya collection, recorded when Devadatta stolen 500 Bhiksus from the Buddha to set up his own Saṃgha, Sariputra and Maudgalyāyana sent by the Buddha visiting him. Devadatta, thinking they were coming to join him, mimicking the Buddha, ordered Sari. to deliver the teaching while Maud. do the Rddhi show, said his back was kind of aching (like the Buddha's back), then laid down on his right for a rest (also like the Buddha did). However, he forgot to "繫念在前" (be mindful) (the Buddha always did) soon fell asleep, snoring noisily and drooling, when the two led away the 500 Bhiksus. Here again, there would not be any object to be mindful of if Devadetta really practiced mindfulness to prevent fallen asleep.

According to records in Chinese Canon, if mindfulness - 繫念 practiced correctly, one will easily be a genius, from simply having photographic memory, to preforming psychokinesis.

  • Very good answer! Remembering the car keys, checking traffic, awareness of bodies in space are definitely Buddhist mindfulness--the whole point is that they requires being present in the moment with no "sort of" (the last comes out of long-term Wudang practice;) but definitely distinct from "no-mind" applications. Partly what I'm getting at is the value of Buddhist thought and methods in a non-religious context, because the type of Buddhism these practices arise from are deeply process and psychologically based.
    – DukeZhou
    Commented Oct 20, 2017 at 17:59
  • It definitely bothers me that marketers latch on to concepts in a manner that is not even minimally practical, which then reflects negatively on the practice in general, even where it has been misrepresented. (Possibly teaching compassion would be of more benefit in an office environment than "mindfulness" because it would lend insight, and help people contextualize and be less affected, in regard to the negativity often surrounding them.)
    – DukeZhou
    Commented Oct 20, 2017 at 18:02
  • I think mindfulness is the herald of "no-mind", if there is "no-mind" there is "no-forget", @Duke; as emptiness is indestructible for nothing could destroy the formless. For a gross understanding recalling from my "past" learning, Wudang practice is fractal very fine, the Buddhist is more like heading the correct direction eventually one arrived. Like the Daoist having those routes for Qi, but Buddhist just "the Four Greats (body) are empty". Commented Oct 24, 2017 at 10:46
  • I'd agree that traditional taoism is somewhat misdirected in emphasis on physical immortality, and that Zen purifies the approach, but that emphasis in Taoism resulted in superior physical training, by which I mean not simply sitting in meditation, but integrating meditation into a system of physically navigating reality. (Much easier on the knees;) For the vast majority, who won't achieve enlightenment in a single lifetime's practice, it's probably more beneficial not to harm the body.
    – DukeZhou
    Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 16:08
  • It always intrigues me, these two camps, rivalry also complimentary. In a way, both are searching for the deathless, even myths in Greeks many themes are searching for immortality. The Chinese in a way is very worldly, hence immortality is living in the world forever, this needs a body. The Indian mind regards the world an illusion, immortality achieved by destroying the illusion, included the body. Yet the dilemma is Chinese thinking they came from the "sky", eager to dab in the Red Dust for the thrill of life. The ancient architectures and dresses were said copying the Celestials. Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 22:05

Buddha taught dāna, sīla, and bhāvanā for a layman, and taught sīla, concentration-bhāvanā, and insight-bhāvanā for a monk.

So, general “mundane” mindfulness is sīla, virtual. There are many sutta that teaching you to practice virtual mindfulness.

But, concentration-bhāvanā and insight-bhāvanā are the mundane path to leave out the whole mundane. Because the natural mundane is five strands of sensuality, that the practitioner try to leave out first by concentration-bhāvanā. And the supernatural mundana is concentration-bhāvanā, that the practitioner try to leave out by insight-bhāvanā. See mahādukkhakhandhasutta for more information.

In detail as abhidhamma, concentration-bhāvanā and insight-bhāvanā still being mundane, lokiya, just magga, phala, and nibbāna are super mundane, lokuttara.

Note: super natural mundane, lokiya, is not super mundane, lokuttara.


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