When one’s Awareness state is strong enough to master the soul, practitioners then reach the next stage of Right Mindfulness. In other words, the Right Mindfulness Stage (the 7th stage in the Noble Eightfold Path) is the stage when the Awareness has consumed most of one’s mind and become the most prominent part. In this very stage, thoughts become a stranger or a harmful parasite that needs to be removed from one’s mind.
There are 2 ways for ones to achieve this stage. First, it is because ones have diligently cultivated the Right Effort stage that nurtures their Awareness within this life. When the time has come and the conditions are enough, that Awareness will become strong enough to be the master of their minds, instead of thoughts.
The second way is to achieve this stage is when ones have made enough good karmar and practiced enough meditation in the many previous lives. The results are designated to them in this life. Thus, they can suddenly achieve the Right Mindfulness stage without much practice.
These 2 cases are the same – in which the Awareness state officially becomes the most major part of the mind. However, it is not exactly the same to everybody. There is some extremely rare case that when a person achieves this stage, the Awareness is too powerful that thoughts can no longer arise. Most people usually when they first achieve this stage, thoughts still can appear sometimes. However, they are not strong enough to control or influence their minds anymore.
At that time, when people are not influenced and controlled by their thoughts, what will influence and control their behaviors? As discussed previously, the subconscious points of view, tendencies, and understanding will influence and control their behaviors. Therefore, what practitioners save in their subconsciousness is vital! If those information that they save there are moral, righteous, and correct – including Selflessness, Loving-Kindness, the Law of Karma, Humility – they will act accordingly to that and keep going forward to achieve higher fruition in meditation and Sainthood. On the other side, if the information that they save in there are immoral and incorrect, they will make a lot of mistakes and soonly lose all of their fruitions.
Again, the Mindfulness Stage is a higher level of meditation. However, please do not forget that that achieving a higher stage in meditation does NOT mean achieving higher according stage in Sainthood. So, even after achieving a mindful and tranquil mind, ones must always be aware of their egos, mistakes, and ignorance.
There are 2 different scales to which determine how far that ones go in Meditation and Sainthood. There are the Five Hindrances that ones have to get rid of in order to complete the Right Mindfulness stage and get to the Right Concentration. On the other side, there are the Ten Fetters that ones will destroy one by one as they go further in Sainthood (from the first – Sotapanna to the highest – Arahat) .
When ones have reached the Right Mindfulness stage, they will start to destroy the five Hindrances, which are: Sensual Desire/Greed, Ill-Will (Anger), Drowsiness, Doubt, and Restlessness. Right then, if ones have also nurtured enough good karma and their veneration for Buddha, they can also attain the Sotapanna stage (The first stage of Sainthood). Right after they become the Sotapanna Saint, they immediately destroy the first three fetters of Doubt, Selfishness, and Stubbornness in Rules.
However, the confusing part is that there are many categories that share the same names between Fetters and Hindrances and the order in which fetters and hindrances are destroyed. For instance, when ones attain the Second stage in Sainthood (Sakadagami), they have almost finished getting rid of the two fetters of Sensual Desire and Ill-Will. Not until when they have attained the Third Stage in Sainthood (Anagami) that they have completely destroyed those two fetters. On the other side, as ones achieve the Right Mindfulness stage in Meditation, they have mostly destroyed the Sensual Desire and Ill-Will Hindrances.
Furthermore, when ones have attained the Right Mindfulness stage, they will start to break the Doubt Hindrance; whereas if they attain the Sotapanna stage, they will destroy the Doubt Fetter immediately.
As a matter of fact, even though some of the Fetters and Hindrances shared the same name, it is far different from one another.
Thus, it is extremely important for practitioners to understand those categories and differences in fruitions between Sainthood and Meditation, between the Hindrances and Fetters. Understand this helps practitioners to observe their progress and see whether they are in the right path or not. Not understanding or ignoring Hindrances and Fetters will be detrimental to ones’ practice. Hence, is someone teaches about Buddhist Meditation without discussing Hindrances and Fetters, practitioners should quickly disregard those teachings.
In the next few articles, we will have a more detailed discussion in:
The Lower Five Fetters:
Doubt (in Buddha and his teachings)
Stubbornness in Rules.
Sensual Desire or Greed (Lust for the Desire Realm)
Ill Will (Anger)
Sensory Desire or Greed
Sloth-and-torpor: Dullness and drowsiness of mind.
Restlessness: Unable to hold the body and mind still and static.