Clear Comprehension For Stress Management September 4 2019

Sati Sampajanna (Mindful Clear Comprehension) is a core concept and practice regarding mindfulness of the body in the Satipatthana Sutta, the Four Foundations of Mindfulness Discourse.  It may not be clearly understood that in the Buddhist commentaries on Sati Sampajanna describe the “four clear comprehensions” as a way of living using this formula for setting goals and reaching them, determining: 1-a worthy goal; 2-suitable means for attaining this goal; 3-mindful awareness of the application of suitable means while making appropriate adaptations when circumstances change, and 4- weaving these comprehensive practices into the process of Awakening.  During this talk Peter described these four practices in detail and the discussion that followed clarified how these practices and be beneficially applied to the complexities and stresses of contemporary life–a new sort of “decision tree” that is self-aware and capable of assessing and adapting to the changing circumstances and uncertainties we all are confronted with.

This talk is meant to provide a framework for upcoming discussions of the various stressful aspects of contemporary life experiences such as managing strong consumerist conditioning, adapting to global warming, being able to have working relationships with others whose beliefs may counter one’s own, etc.  The disciplined application of the Four Clear Comprehensions can be a useful strategy for a less stressful life, providing a foundation for deeper liberation from dukkha.

Apologies for the quality of the recording–technical difficulties necessitated the use of a backup recording that is not of the same clarity.

Here are the notes prepared for this talk:  Understanding Clear Comprehension

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Four Clear Comprehensions

This talk focused on a commentarial addition to the Mindful Comprehension stanzas of the Satipatthana Sutta, (sati sampajanna), which emphasize integrating mindfulness into all activities, walking, eating, dressing, and other behavioral routines of daily life.  The commentary further divides the practice into four functions for effective decision making: determining a worthy goal, cultivating the suitable means for realizing that goal, mindfully monitoring the suitable means, and maintaining focus on understanding the reality of impermanence (anicca), the distress and confusion that is the result of craving and clinging (dukkha), and the absence of an enduring, autonomous and in-control self (anatta).  This explanation was followed by group discussion related to how to apply these decision making functions in daily life.

Here are the notes prepared for this discussion:  Four Applications Of Clear Comprehension

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Staying Mindful In Regular Life

During this dialogue, Peter described the core Buddhist concept of sati-sampajanna, usually translated as mindful, clear comprehension.  He quoted from the Satipatthana Sutta the stanzas associated with mindfulness of breathing, mindfulness of posture and mindfulness of movement.  He then described the “four clear comprehensions” from the Buddhist commentaries, which comprises what amounts to an ongoing process of setting goals, ways and means to achieve them, keeping in mind impermanence, non-self and the distress that arises as the result of craving and clinging.  This was followed by dialogues with various folks in the group, with the intention of using their daily routines as ways to illustrate the value of sati-sampajanna.

Ecology and the Eightfold Path

During this dialogue, Peter described the extraordinary complexity of our material culture, compared to the time of the Buddha.  He also emphasized how easy it is to just think about pollution, global warming, and resource scarcity in the abstract, at a distance from the daily choices we make.  He described the history of his developing concerns regarding the environment, beginning with such books as “Silent Spring”, “Diet For A Small Planet” and “Voluntary Simplicity”.  The inspirational and informative quality of the books combined with the development of his Buddhist practice.  He presented this as a realistic model of how the Four Clear Comprehensions (satisampajjana) can provide ways to make concrete decisions that are beneficial for the environment (in a small, personal way) and one’s sense of meaningful action in the world.  During the ensuing discussion, examples from the persons attending the meeting were analyzed through the lens of satisampajjana.