Not that the two are mutually exclusive, but many Theravada teachers warn against practicing restraint in the commonly understood sense of the word.

For example, if I understand correctly, Yuttadhammo Bhikku says to not stop and quit a behavior but to try our best to remain mindful. I understand to some extent that the reasoning has to do with non-self, and trying to stop a behaviour may involve deluding oneself with more of this self.

However, in the texts it is frequently mentioned to practice restraint for bad habits (for eg. 9:11). So I am a little confused here...both approaches make sense to me in their own right. Which one is the right way? or what are the conditions under which these are applicable? Hope this makes sense. Thanks

2 Answers 2


I think it's both.

"I love this bad habit but I'll try to refrain" may not work very well, in several ways.

"I'm mindful that this would be wrong behaviour, therefore I avoid it" is more like both.

Mindfulness (in the sense of 'present-moment awareness' (though this is a meaning of "awareness" or "mindfulness" which some people argue against) might tell you that, "while enacting this bad behaviour, I become aware that it is 'bad' (in whatever ways it's bad, maybe harming self or others or distracting from the goal), this was a mistake".

Having gained that insight there's mindfulness in the sense of 'remembering', for example, "I remember, last time I did this was a mistake with unfortunate consequences, suppose this time I were to 'refrain' from repeating that."

  • Thanks. I think the two senses of the word mindfullness in your answer may be just two sides of the same coin. Commented Jan 14 at 1:46

If Yuttadhammo Bhikkhu says what you wrote, Yuttadhammo Bhikkhu has wrong view. Remaining mindful in Buddhism means to remember to not engage in unwholesome behaviour. For example, the suttas say:

One is mindful to abandon wrong action & to enter & remain in right action: This is one's right mindfulness. Thus these three qualities — right view, right effort, & right mindfulness — run & circle around right action. MN 117

Just as a citadel has a gatekeeper who is astute, competent, and intelligent, who keeps strangers out and lets known people in, in the same way a noble disciple is mindful. They have utmost mindfulness and alertness, and can remember and recall what was said and done long ago. A noble disciple with mindfulness as their gatekeeper gives up the unskillful and develops the skillful, they give up the blameworthy and develop the blameless, and they keep themselves pure. This is the sixth good quality they have. AN 7.67

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