The Present Moment and Mindfulness

Here is an article by ven Anālayo on “The Emphasis on the Present Moment in the Cultivation of Mindfulness”, published in Mindfulness, 2019, 10.3: 571–581.
EmphasisOnThePresentMoment.pdf (592.5 KB)


CBT takes mindfulness out of the context of the noble eightfold path and severs its link with the guidance of right view, thereby incorrectly presenting it as related only to the present moment. When mindfulness is properly seen in conjunction with right view, it includes memory of past experience applied to the present moment for future benefit:

“Right mindfulness is a complex process called the establishing of mindfulness, in which you undertake the practice of remaining focused on a particular frame of reference in and of itself—body in and of itself, feelings in and of themselves, mind in and of itself, or mental qualities in and of themselves—ardent, alert, and mindful, subduing greed and distress with reference to the world. Of the three qualities applied to this process, mindfulness remembers from the past what should be done; alertness notices what is happening—and what you are doing—in the present; ardency generates the desire to deal skillfully with the raw material from which present experience can be formed, so as to lead to wellbeing both in the present and on into the future. Without this desire, right mindfulness would not be established.


“it remembers lessons drawn from right view in the past—both lessons from reading and listening to the Dhamma, as well as lessons from reading the results of your own actions—that can be used to shape this activity in a more skillful direction: to act as the path to the end of suffering .”— “Right Mindfulness”, Thanissaro.

The concept that conventional reality provides the raw material for processing through the application of dhamma principles is important. This can happen at the time or later through contemplation. Additionally it is necessary to maintain a balance between the intake of conventional reality and the ability to process it through contemplation, by ensuring sufficient time in solitude. On the other hand some input time of CR is necessary for a healthy practice.

I would think that without working with Conventional reality, ie Right effort, it would be impossible to overcome cravings for conventional objects. It’s not everyday we crave for form, feeling, identifying, intention and awareness. :pray:

The lay practitioner encounters situations daily that involve expectations which are the ‘hooks’ of the current of samsara, expressed through social conventions. Samsara has an intention: rebirth. These are the opportunities of practice. These habits seem inescapable, indeed some would not countenance stepping outside the current, but in avoiding them, the practitioner performs the kamma that will ripen in insight. That is how CR (conventional reality) is the raw material for successful practice. Confidence is required to do this, because the kamma vipaka (fruition) is not immediate, while the conventional rewards seem to beckon. So avoidance of social situations is a profitable strategy (MN 2).

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Insight arrived at from vipassana could be classified under the enjoyment, drawbacks and emancipation or nissarana scheme of renouncing phenomena.

Without understanding gross drawbacks but going deeply into tilakkhana, we might have practitioners with insight but still attached to phenomena.

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The practitioner has to induce sensations of joy connected with the breath as an alternative for the mind to feed on, rather than the addiction to samsara. These can include visualizations which arise from that feeling of joy. This is in association with a growing understanding that samsara has an aim, rebirth, and that the interactions in everyday life are driven by its current. They will not become steps on the path unless they are consciously made to be so.
Attention is never ‘bare’. “In the untrained mind… when it comes into contact with sensory data, it is already preconditioned by ignorance to receive and attend to those data in a particular way. Even in the mind on the path it is still preconditioned, because the purpose of knowledge in terms of right view is to condition consciousness and attention in another direction, toward the ending of suffering. Only when ignorance is totally eradicated, at the culmination of the path, is there the experience of unconditioned awareness.” Thanissaro

But with the increasing skill of the mind on the path, periods of insight will be experienced of one or two days duration. As attachments are shed, this is the experience of mental seclusion.

There’s a sutta which says Right concentration is defined as the four jhana. It’s an integral part of the path.