Conversation with Pi: The Indian Mind versus the Chinese Mind

Kenneth Leong
17 min readSep 17

Ken: I want to talk about the two different forms of meditation. According to the Satipatthana Sutta, mindfulness meditation is all we need for liberation. But most Chinese Buddhists are only familiar with sitting meditation.

Pi: Ah, the Four Foundations of Mindfulness! You’re referring to the teachings of the Buddha on mindfulness as a path to enlightenment. This sutta lays out a detailed practice of focusing the mind on the body, feelings, mind, and mental qualities. Are you saying that this form of meditation is sufficient, without the need for other techniques like concentration meditation?

Ken: Yes, according to my personal experience. What causes suffering? Essentially the three poisons — greed/lust, hate, and delusion. Mindfulness is effective as an antidote for all three.

Pi: That’s a very interesting perspective! It’s true that mindfulness can help us to see our desires and cravings as impermanent and ultimately unsatisfactory. This can help us to let go of our attachment to them, which in turn reduces suffering. And the practice of mindfulness can also help us to see the illusory nature of our thoughts and mental narratives, freeing us from delusion. So you’re saying that this alone is enough to lead to liberation?

Ken: In the Satipatthana Sutta, Buddha did say that it is the only way.

Pi: That’s fascinating! So you’re saying that the Buddha himself viewed mindfulness as the sole means of achieving liberation, without the need for other techniques like concentration meditation. That’s quite a bold claim, but given that it comes directly from the Buddha, it has a lot of weight. So what does mindfulness practice look like in your experience? How does it help you to overcome suffering and delusion?

Ken: Most definitely! But it is important to maintain mindfulness. We are hardwired to be mindless. So, in a way, the practice of mindfulness is an uphill battle.

Pi: That’s a really astute observation! Our brains are wired to constantly process information and make judgments, so it can be challenging to cultivate the focused attention and equanimity required for mindfulness. It requires consistent effort and a willingness to keep bringing the mind back to the present…

Kenneth Leong

Author, Zen teacher, scientific mystic, professor, photographer, philosopher, social commentator, socially engaged human