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Arousing Mindfulness

Module 2 of An Introduction to Buddhism

Being present is the extraordinary gift of being alive.

Photo by Amit Roy, CC BY-SA 4.0

Mindfulness is perhaps Buddhism’s most distinctive and important “psycho-technology.” It is, succinctly, the ability to attend: to direct attention to the present reality and to recognize where we are and what we are doing. When we bring the mind back to the present moment and experience it fully, we live each moment and are able to remember every detail of our experience later. Directing attention also gives us the ability to regulate our emotions, as emotions are simply a product of what we attend to.

Reading Assignments

Before each lecture, at the top of each module, I will assign a few reading assignments to prepare you for the next lecture and to provide some food for thought.

This lesson we’ll read a short booklet and a popular article on meditation, and read a couple chapters from what will be our main textbook for the class:

The Miracle of Mindfulness – Thích Nhất Hạnh (.pdf) (.epub)

In this beautiful letter to a friend (and one of my favorite books period), Thay offers practical advice and encouragement to cultivate mindfulness: the quality of presence and wakefulness in our life. From washing the dishes to answering the phone, he reminds us that each moment holds within it the seeds of understanding and peace. Highly recommended for all, especially newcomers to Buddhism or meditation, or anyone looking to brighten their day.

Are We Morally Obligated to Meditate? – Samuel Sigal (.pdf)

An overview of the benefits of meditation, this article asks about moral “obligation” whereas Buddhism talks about “karma” which we can think about as “opportunities” versus Western “duties.” How does reframing morality as an opportunity help you understand the question at the heart of this article?

Being Nobody, Going Nowhere: Meditations on the Buddhist Path – Ayya Khema (.pdf)

This classic introduction to Buddhism begins with meditation and widens out to the Buddhist view on life. This lesson, let’s start by reading chapter one and chapter five. Chapter 5 is a guided meditation on Loving-Kindness. Read it slowly and try to cultivate the mind-states mentioned in the text.

Feel free to take some time to do the readings above and think about them before coming back to watch the lecture below. If you do, remember to bookmark this page (or the course’s Table of Contents) so it’s easy to find your place again later.

Dharma Talk

Happiness – Ven Hong Ci (.mp3)

Venerable Hong Ci is a Chinese-Canadian monk from Vancouver in the Chan (Chinese Zen) Tradition and in this lecture he explains what happiness really is.


Here are some questions to consider after the video. I’d love to hear what you thought of today’s lesson, so please fill out the form!

As always, you’ll find the link to the next lesson below, but first…

Further Reading

If you enjoyed this lesson and would like to learn more about the mechanics of mindfulness meditation, Bhante G’s book Mindfulness in Plain English is considered the standard introduction to the subject.

And if you’re especially interested in how Buddhism transforms our lives to create joy, please consider taking our course “The Practice of Buddhism” after this one. It covers mindfulness in more depth and its relationship to ethics, and it also features the fantastic “Los Angeles” lectures by Bhante Yuttadhammo, whom you already met in the previous class. So, check it out!

Okay, now back to this course! 😅