The Buddhist term for mindfulness is often rendered as sati, which can be translated as awareness or Mindfulness. However, “the literal meaning of the word is simply memory or recollection” (Sanghrakshita, 1990 p. 132). Moreover, mindfulness is not sati alone, for, “when we are talking about mindfulness, we need to be talking both to appramada, samprajanya and sati” (Subhuti, 2001, p. 1). Sati can be rendered as “the retaining in mind of a previous impression” and “keeping a continuity of focus” (Subhuti, 2001, p. 1).
Within the context of meditation, sati specifically means keeping one’s mind on the ‘object’ of meditation. The first interpretation of sati correlates with Shapiro’s second axiom of mindfulness, ‘attention’, that is, “observing the operation of one’s moment-to-moment, internal and external experience” (Shapiro, 2006, p. 376) Appamada can be defined “as the mindfulness that watches mental states arising, discriminates… and holds the unskilful at bay, preserving the skilful” (Subhuti, 2001, p. 7). This has links with Shapiro’s second axiom of mindfulness, ‘attitude’, which addresses the quality of awareness in relation to the ‘seven attitudinal factors of mindfulness’. Attention can have a “cold, critical quality” or it can include “an affectionate compassionate quality… a sense of open-hearted, friendly presence and interest” (Kabat-Zinn in Shapiro, 2006, p. 376).
I consider the cultivation of these “attitudes” to be skilful, from a Buddhist ethical perspective. Sampajanna can be rendered as “seeing what is going on in yourself and around you and putting it in its proper moral and spiritual perspective” (Subhuti, 2001, p. 4), which I would translate as a continuity of purpose coming from a certain clarity of practice. This continuity of purpose can be either immediate, to stay with the breath within meditation, or ongoing, for instance to attain ‘enlightenment’ (Tejananda, 2001). Sampajanna has clear connections with Shapiro’s first axiom of ‘intention’ where “…outcomes correlate with intentions. Those whose goal was self regulation and stress management attained self regulation; those whose goal was self liberation moved towards self liberation and compassionate service” (Bishop et al in Shapiro, 2006, p. 376). References Sangharakshita (1990), Vision and transformation: An introduction to the Buddha’s noble eightfold path, Glasgow: Windhorse Publications Shapiro, S.L., Carlson, L.E., Astin, J.A., Freedman, B. (2006), Mechanisms of mindfulness, Journal of Clinical Psychology, 62(3), 373-386 Subhuti (2001), Talk 9: Apramada, Avihimsa – Talk on mind and mental events. Men’s Order Convention Tejananda (2000), Just sitting, with reference to sati, sampajanna and appamada, Wales: Handout from Vajraloka Retreat Centre