To be rightfully mindful (Right Mindfulness stage) is to remember the correct meditative methods. It is to remember the body, its impermanence, and the breaths. Only when ones remember those methods, thoughts become lessen and mind becomes more tranquil and peaceful. On the other side, wrongfully mindful is to remember and think of some objects that make mind uncalm and disturbed.
So, once again, Right Mindfulness is to remembering the meditative methods that make thoughts weakened. It is NOT to actively and deliberately remember to seek and destroy thoughts.
But, what actually is “remembering” anyway?
There are two types or ways of remembering. First, it is trying to remember, try not to forget something. The second type is to automatically remember without much intention or force.
In contrast with remembering is forgetting. In mediation, when practitioners forget the meditative methods, thoughts will be strengthened. Or on the other side, it could also occur when thoughts are so strong and powerful, practitioners forget their meditative routine. The two cases are correct! But why do people forget their meditative methods? Why do they let thoughts distract them from discerning their body and breaths?
It is all because of the lack of Good Karma or because of a bad karma from the unwholesome deeds or immoral thoughts. In order for the mindfulness to be everlasting, ones must have a tremendous amount of good karma and strong virtue. Ones must continuously refuse to engage in harmful or immoral actions. Ones must see the great dangers in every small mistake (Buddha).
We are just the tired travelers in the endless journey that is full of wonders, yet dangers, chaos, and perhaps pain. It has been a long and dangerous journey, but we cannot find the safe place to settle.
When we know Buddha and his miraculous teachings, all of the sudden, we see our home. We know that it’s time for us to go home. We have found the right destination! We must go there because we cannot keep wandering and getting lost in this endless journey.
So we are walking towards the peaceful haven that we just found. It is right there, just across the busy street. Though the door is closed and everything seems so silent, we know from our guts that inside there is the dawn of endless hopes, possibilities, and happiness.
And we start to pass this extremely busy street to get one step closer to the gate of our home. After years of trying to pass the busy and dangerous traffic, we finally arrived in front of the gate, but the gate is still closed and we cannot get inside. We try everything but still cannot open it. We know that dangers and pain, as well as many desires and temptations, are still waiting there behind our back. We want to get inside and take refuge but we stuck. At some points, we feel hopeless and disappointed, and perhaps, we even look back and want to get back on that journey. But because of our absolute and endless faith and reverence for Buddha, we won’t give up. We keep turning our back on that mundane and dangerous life to find the way inside our home.
Whenever we turn our back on life and try to open to the gate, this is when we live in the Right Mindfulness. Whenever life makes us look back, this is when we lose our mindfulness. We have to be carefully and skillfully to hold on to the gate, just like we hold on to the meditative methods that Buddha taught. Because holding on to that, we still stay there and not letting life drags us away.
Finally, on one beautiful day, the gate opens. As strong as a black hole, it strongly pulls us inside the front yard and we cannot resist. From this moment, we cannot get out of this yard anymore. Just like when we have achieved the higher state of Right Mindfulness, nothing in life, even danger or death, could take away our Mindfulness, tranquility, and stability.
Before, when we still hold on to the gate, it is the early phrase of Right Mindfulness, in which we still try and force ourselves to hold on to our practice and methods to maintain the mindfulness. When we get into the yard, it is the higher phrase of Right Mindfulness, in which we do not have to try anymore because the mindfulness is always within us.
Many people, after getting into the yard, feel overwhelmed and extremely confident. They believe that they have actually arrived at the final destination. Just as in meditation, some people think they have completely enlightened like Buddha when they reach the higher Right Mindfulness. Many new philosophies, ideas arise in this stage, which created many different Schools in Buddhist Meditation.
However, it is still in the Right Mindfulness stage. It is not even the First Jhana (or First Stage/Fruition of Right Concentration). Like Buddha said, even in the First Jhana, subtle thoughts still arise. Only when ones reach to the Second Jhana, all of the thoughts, even the most subtle and invisible ones, will then completely disappear and the mind becomes absolute concentrated and peaceful.
In this yard of Right Mindfulness, though we don’t have to try too hard anymore, thoughts are still active. They never stop. Thus, many Zen Masters actually admitted that:
“Suddenly enlightening, though as great as Buddha (1) Bad habits from many previous lives still exist The winds are still howling and the waves are still creeping Ideas are still there, and thoughts are still there”
(1): Please do not accept this incorrect statement. Suddenly enlightening is not as great as Buddha
The moment that the gate opens and pulls the practitioners inside is the magnificent moment. However, it is only perhaps the beginning. We are still outside. We still yet open the door to truly arrive inside our home.