SN 47.20 Sedaka Sutta
Transltated by Bhikkhu Nananandahttp://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... passage-27
Once the Exalted One was dwelling in the Sumbha country at Sedaka, a township of the Sumbha people. There the Exalted One addressed the monks:
"Suppose, monks, a large crowd of people flock together, crying: 'The beauty-queen! The beauty-queen!' And if that beauty-queen is also a highly gifted performer as to dancing and singing, a still larger crowd would flock together, crying: 'The beauty-queen is dancing, she is singing!'
"Then comes a man, who wishes to live and does not wish to die, who desires happiness and abhors suffering. The people say to him: 'Look here, man! Here's a bowl filled to the brim with oil. You must carry it round between the large crowd and the beauty-queen. A man with uplifted sword will follow, behind your back, and wherever you spill even a little drop of the oil, there itself he will chop off your head!'
"Now, what do you think, monks? Would that man, without paying attention to that bowl of oil, solicit heedlessness from outside?"
"Surely not, lord."
"Well, monks, this parable I have given to make the meaning clear. And its significance is this: 'The bowl filled to the brim with oil,' monks, is a term for mindfulness relating to body.
"Wherefore, monks, thus must you train yourselves: 'Mindfulness relating to body shall be cultivated by us, shall be made much of, made a vehicle, a ground-plan. It shall be made effective, well-acquainted, and consummate in us.' Thus, monks, must you train yourselves."Note
This sutta presents one of the most impressive enunciations of the standard of mindfulness advocated by the Buddha. The parable is highly significant in that it depicts, the hazards involved in the worldly environment in regard to the practice of mindfulness. The beauty-queen with all her charms probably symbolizes those allurements of sense which evoke covetousness (abhijjaa). The restless crowd of people represents the other source of distraction — grief or mental uneasiness (domanassa). The bowl brimful of oil symbolizing the 'mindfulness-relating-to-body' (kaayagataasati) is always in danger of being 'spilt' amidst these distractions. Hence, the most effective impetus for the diligent practice of mindfulness is the constant awareness of impending death.