Misleading mindfulness

by Bob Schwartz

Mindfulness is a popular practice of spiritual and psychological progress. That is a good thing. Transformation and evolution are more needed and valuable than ever.

Being aware of mind is a step towards full presence. As is no mind:

Dayi’s “No Mind”


Dayi Daoxin asked his teacher Jianzhi Sengcan, the Third Ancestor, “What is the mind of the ancient buddhas?”

Sengcan said, “What kind of mind do you have now?”

Dayi said, “I have no mind.”

Sengcan said, “Since you have no mind, why would you think buddhas have mind?”

Dayi immediately ceased to have doubt.


It is clear that Dayi is an adept and has investigated the Way. He has to a certain degree eliminated conceptual thought and intellectual defilement. But still, there is this “What is the mind of the ancient buddha?” Indeed, what is the mind—any mind, your mind? How big is it? Where does it reside? Does it really exist or not? The answers to these questions require that each one of us plummet the depths of our own mind.

When pressed by his teacher, Dayi, like his dharma grandfather Huike before him, has to admit that mind is ultimately ungraspable. Do you understand? Because the mind has no form, it pervades the whole universe, existing right here now. This truth comes from the direct experience of plunging into another dimension of consciousness. It is not a matter of understanding or knowing.

Sengcan presses again, saying, “Since you have no mind, why would you think buddhas have mind?” The ice begins to melt, the waters begin to flow, and no further communication is possible.

But say, since Dayi has no mind, where was he holding the doubt that he ceased to have?


When thoughts disappear, the thinker disappears,
and all things manifest as they are.
In this reality, all intentional efforts vanish.
In this world of suchness, nothing is excluded.

The True Dharma Eye: Zen Master Dōgen’s Three Hundred Kōans
With Commentary and Verse by John Daido Loori
Translated by Kazuaki Tanahashi And John Daido Loori

No mind, not just full mind. There is not a popular term no-mindedness. Maybe there should be.

© 2023 by Bob Schwartz