Cormac Brown wrote:
With mindfulness as his gate-keeper, the disciple of the ones abandons what is unskillful, develops what is skillful, abandons what is blameworthy, develops what is blameless, and looks after himself with purity.
Mindfulness is essential as a first step, and then with this in place right effort can kick into gear. You would claim, on the basis of this metaphor, that mindfulness involved most/all of Samadhi and all of Sila as well.
No one seems to deserve blame here.
Yet, both of you look at the process in a linear way; while it is recursive.
As far as sila is concerned, I would say that the following pleads in Brown's favor:
"When defiling mental qualities are abandoned and bright mental qualities have grown, and one enters & remains in the culmination & abundance of discernment, having known & realized it for oneself in the here & now, there is joy, rapture, serenity, mindfulness, alertness, and a pleasant/happy abiding."
But as for those monks who are perfected ones, the cankers destroyed, who have lived the life, done what was to be done, shed the burden, attained to their own goal, the fetters of becoming utterly destroyed, and who are freed by perfect profound knowledge - these things conduce both to their abiding in ease here and now as well as to their mindfulness and clear consciousness (satisampajaññena)."
“The abandoning of both
sensual perceptions and dejection;
the dispelling of dullness,
the warding off of remorse;
purified equanimity and mindfulness
preceded by reflection on the Dhamma:
this, I say, is emancipation by final knowledge,
the breaking up of ignorance.”
How sati fits within the different progressions?:
Faculties + Powers
Confidence > energy > sati > concentration > wisdom.
Noble eightfold path
Right view > right thought > right speech > right action > right livelihood > right effort > right mindfulness (sammā sati) > right concentration.
Sati > investigation-of-dhammas (dhamma-vicaya) > energy > joy > tranquillity > concentration > equanimity.
Contemplation of the dhammas (dhammānupassanā) emphasizes contemplation of the Hindrances [Sensory desire - Ill-will - Sloth-torpor - Restlessness-worry - Doubt,] & the contemplation of the Awakening Factors.
Mindfulness/Sati is the means to a reflection on the known - gate-keeping any new knowledge and phenomena from entering (indriya saṃvara); and allowing in samatha and vipassana (SN 35.245).
Mindfulness is the eye-witness of the sphere that is witnessed.
If he desires, destroying desires, the mind released and released through wisdom, abides here and now having realized; and mindfulness in that mental sphere becomes the eye-witness in the respective sphere." (tatra tatreva sakkhibhabbataṃ pāpuṇāti sati sati āyatane”ti.)
AN 9.35 (Gāvīupamā sutta)
Hence, sati of body, sati of feelings, sati of mind and sati of dhamma - and their sub-categories.
So the process is the following:
The four establishments of mindfulness, too, I say, have a nutriment; they are not without nutriment. And what is the nutriment for the four establishments of mindfulness? It should be said: the three kinds of good conduct.
“In that case, bhikkhu, purify the very beginning of wholesome states. And what is the beginning of wholesome states? Here, bhikkhu, having abandoned bodily misconduct, you should develop good bodily conduct. ...verbal misconduct, ... mental misconduct, you should develop good mental conduct. When, bhikkhu, having abandoned bodily misconduct … you have developed good mental conduct, then, based upon virtue, established upon virtue, you should develop the four establishments of mindfulness.
In other words, the more you have previously given concern to: confidence > energy & right view > right thought > right speech > right action > right livelihood > right effort; the better the mindfulness/sati will be; the better the dhammānupassanā and dhammāvicaya will be - (and "purified equanimity and mindfulness" will ensue - AN 3.33 above).
Sati (from sarati: to remember,) enables memory.
Buddha wrote:Mindfulness and clear comprehension, too, I say, have a nutriment; they are not without nutriment. And what is the nutriment for mindfulness and clear comprehension? It should be said: careful attention.
So, as soon as yoniso manasikāra (careful attention) calls in a particular sphere (body, feeling, mind or dhamma;) and yields a contemplation upon a particular phenomena in that sphere (e.g. dhammesu dhammānupassi - an hidrance, for instance, viz. ill-will) - then Sati should act as a gate keeper (particularly at the sense doors (indriya saṃvara)-MN10,) for any new input (desire and discontent) to enter in. [active]
Then Sati calls the recollective function. [active]
Here, a bhikkhu is mindful, possessing supreme mindfulness and alertness, one who remembers and recollects what was done and said long ago.
Ill-will as a whole, from that particular instance, must be called in from memory. That bad feeling in which consciousness has found its home (SN 22.3;) that particular ill-will, must unveil its entire nature. Consciousness that has settled (SN 12.39,) must bring out all the cumulated qualities of ill-will.
Like the cowherd in AN 10.20, sati must render (actively) the big picture.
3. Contemplation and investigation:
Then comes the contemplation (passive) and the investigation (active) (anupassati & vicaya).
In our particular case, the meditator contemplates the hindrances; which is a sub-category of the fourth reflection, that is the reflection on dhammas (after body, feeling and mind (citta)). [passive]
"Come you, monk, fare along contemplating the mental states in mental states, but do not apply yourself to a train of thought connected with mental states (vitakkaṃ vitakkesi)."
Then he investigates them. (And realizes them).[active]
Finally, the meditator contemplates (samanupassati) the disappearance of the five hindrances within himself.[passive]
It is because the dhammas are cognized and realized properly, that there is an abandonment of the defiling mental qualities.
As he remains thus focused on mental qualities in & of themselves, his mind becomes concentrated, his defilements are abandoned. He takes note of that fact. As a result, he is rewarded with a pleasant abiding here & now, together with mindfulness & alertness. Why is that? Because the wise, experienced, skillful monk picks up on the theme of his own mind."
His mindfulness is purified.
Then again, the meditator pursues in his quest for perfection:
"With mindfulness as his gate-keeper, the disciple of the ones abandons what is unskillful, develops what is skillful, abandons what is blameworthy, develops what is blameless, and looks after himself with purity."
Recursive process applies here, until perfection is attained.
Where to put Sumedho in all this?
His excerpt seems to me like a catch-all for odds and ends.
Time, and particularly "Presentness (this)," might be the ultimate reality - yet, it is not the purpose of mindfulness to witness part of time; and certainly not to remain distant from the phenomena.
Mindfulness is definitely not a passive state.
The cowherd in AN 10.20, might have a clear overview (sati) of the situation; yet, he is still guarding the herd. Think of those times (no barbed wires - no weapons of mass destruction - nothing to help the poor lad against those tigers, lions, cheetas, panthers, sylvesterss, and other nefarious creatures).
Sati is not just witnessing but gatekeeping too. Moreover, it is recollecting.
Sati is just a part of a process. Vicaya is another part.
Sati let's in samatha and vipassana. It can't be equated to them.
Acknowledging the present is marginal; and of a quite questionable appurtenance.
I must admit that C. Brown's attitude is far from being unpleasant.
There is nothing more rewarding than digging Buddha's words (suttas,) in the face of some unconvincing interpretations; even when the heartiness of youth, have you stumble from time to time.