A Reflection on Mindfulness. Is it progress to shift from Buddhism to Mindfulism?

The Buddha of Mindfulness

Many senior leaders of the mindfulness world wisely insist those training to be a mindfulness teacher attend regularly Buddhist retreats.

These retreats often include taking refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, frequent quotes of the Buddha and plenty of references to the Buddhist tradition and practice in the East.

Most centres have Buddha images at the front of the meditation hall. Some retreats include chanting, bowing to the Buddha, Buddhist monks, nuns, Dharma teachers and Zen teachers.

Practitioners on these silent weeklong retreats or longer in the East or West will adopt the Five Precepts as the basis of mindfulness and meditation.

While participating in these retreats, mindfulness teachers will probably realise the connection of the depths of mindfulness and meditation to the depth of Dharma teachings.

The Dharma addresses every area of life. The practitioners also have the opportunity to experience the importance of the relationship of the spiritual and the sacred to mindfulness and meditation.

The Buddhist tradition of meditation retreats serves as the backbone of the entire mindfulness movement in the West.

Far too many mindfulness teachers only know about a fake Buddha. To take two examples: some stress reduction teachers think that the Buddha only taught to be in the moment or the Buddha said we create our own reality. No such naïve statements of the Buddha appear in 10,000 discourses in the Pali texts. There are many jewels in his discourses on relative and ultimate truth.

The Buddha’s discourses have far more to offer the contemporary human condition than science, psychology and stress reduction programmes put together.

Disregard for the Five Precepts – the Primary Cause for High Levels of Stress

In the West, most mindfulness teachers exclude offering teachings on the spiritual and the sacred in their teachings. There is little or no explicit exploration of the training in the Five Precepts in their teachings and practices in the private and public sector.

Desire, greed, anger, fears, guilt and various levels of stress penetrate the heart, mind and body for those who show little or no regard for the Five Precepts.

The Five Precepts apply to individuals and institutions.

  1. I undertake the training not to kill. This is the precept of non-violence, non harm and an absence of intention to support killing. Eg. PTSD (Post- Traumatic Stress disorder) arises for many involved in war. Those who sanction war and executions also have to take responsibility for ignoring this sacred precept.
  2. I undertake the training not to steal. This includes theft, corruption, avoidance of payment of taxes and the pursuit of profit regardless of the cost to others.
  3. I undertake the training not to engage in sexual/sensual abuse. This include sexual harassment, sexual intimidation, obsession with consumer goods and exploitation of people, animals and resources for sensual pleasure.
  4. I undertake the training not to lie. This includes deception, gossip, backbiting and manipulating the truth for gain for the individual or institution.
  5. I undertake the training not to engage in abuse of drugs and alcohol. This includes abuse of drugs for recreational purposes, addiction to medication and abuse of alcohol.

Stress reduction is only putting the big toe into the ocean of the Dharma.

Deep Realisation

Mindfulness leaders and the secular Buddhist sects know the wisdom found in a 2600-year-old tradition can help show the way to the depths of realization and a genuine awakening.

We, the senior in the Dharma, can only encourage the wave of mindfulness teachers to attend residential Buddhist retreats year in year out. Nobody is asking you to become a Buddhist, nor bring religion into your work. You have much to offer if you have access to the Deep.

You will need the depth of experience to find skilful ways and means to apply mindfulness explicitly to ethics, spirituality, the sacred, the condition of our institutions and liberating truth. Otherwise, mindfulness teachers will remain in the kindergarten of mindfulness.

You need to reflect on what spirituality, the sacred and religious experiences mean to you. How do you define such themes?

We, the senior Dharma teachers, applaud your work to reduce stress and pain levels for individuals. It is truly a commendable service.

You will need to be bold to break out of the current box of Mindfulness and apply the practices with a bigger vision. The current wave of Mindfulness is very conservative and very orthodox with more and more control over its organic development. Is it progress to  shift from Buddhism to Mindfulism?

Without the depth, mindfulness becomes just another lightweight wing of the Well-Being Industry, a pillar for the privatisation of the self, the identification with self-help, self-compassion, at the expense of wisdom and vision.

Mindfulness has become a very marketable product for the Buyers/Sellers of Attention. Corporations, politicians, advertisers, institutions, social media and the public function as Buyers/Sellers of Attention. No wonder mindfulness has become big business in the buying and selling of mindfulness practices.

Mindfulness teachers need to develop confidence to challenge the Church of Consumerism..

Please take bold steps in the private and public sector to offer profound teachings/practices to end corrupt and demanding practices in the workplace.


  • Such a huge echo I heard from these words!
    And much more certainty that there is a huge way for me to go before experiencing the confidence to ever dare transmitting whatever insights I discover for myself.
    Will I ever reach that deep?
    Wise and bold words you wrote.
    Thank you.

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