T 1670B Nāgasena Bhikṣu Sūtra

Part 2: Dialogues

2.12. Mindfulness

The king asked again, “Why should the mind think of meritorious deeds?”

Nāgasena replied, “It is like a person who takes different kinds of flowers and strings them by the thread so that they cannot be scattered by the wind.”

Nāgasena again gave a simile, “It is like the treasurer of the king, he knows how much gold, silver, gems, jade, colored glass and other treasures are in the state treasury. If the trainee wishes to obtain nirvana, he should be mindful of the thirty-seven factors of enlightenment. This is just what we called crossing over the stream of samsara by way of consideration. With mindfulness, a person knows the meritorious and demeritorious, what should be practiced, what should not be practiced, and also distinguishes between the black ones and the white ones. Having pondered, he then gives up the demeritorious and cultivates the meritorious.”

Nāgasena gave more similes saying, “It is like the king’s guard. He knows the people to whom the king respects and the people to whom the king does not, those who are beneficial to the king and those who are not. He allows those who are beneficial to and respected by the king to come in and does not allow those who are not beneficial to and not respected by the king to come in. So is mindfulness, it lets all the wholesome thoughts come in and stops all the unwholesome thoughts. In such a way, one should be able to guide his mind and control his thought.”

Then Nāgasena quoted from a sutra: “One should protect and check one’s mind and the six cravings in one’s own mind. By strictly checking the mind and holding fast on to it, one can transcend the world.”

“Excellent, Nāgasena.