Has mindfulness been surgically cut off from insight and awakening?

I continue to receive regular emails of concern from seniors in the Dharma about the application of Mindfulness in the corporate world. Here are extracts from two emails.

Extract from an email:

I am very concerned about how silent and complicit the Buddhist, and particularly the Insight Meditation community, is on what is being destroyed right in front of our noses: democracy, the public sphere and the environment while the corporate mindfulness movement boasts about all the ‘good’ they are doing.

Extract from another email.

Something does not sit easily with me. I guess there is a big difference between trying to maintain a pilgrimage on donations and going to teach big trades and corporations (I enjoyed your article on your July  blog on the topic).

 I trust that I will find my way to stay genuine to my inner longing of sharing what is most precious in my life: the Dharma.

I share your concerns about offering Mindfulness in the corporate world and the passive response in Buddhism including the Insight Meditation community to the application essentially of the Four Noble Truths to major issues of suffering, the causes/conditions for suffering and the way forward to the resolution.

I had an invitation some years ago to give a mindfulness workshop at the Google HQ and declined.  I had stopped going to the USA and had no interest to make an additional trip (s) and maintained instead serving the Dharma in three other continents on an annual basis.

It certainly seems that  mindfulness has been surgically cut off from the body of awakening as taught in the  Buddha-Dharma, and has ended up supporting capitalism, arguably the most destructive ideology in history,  through mindfulness workshops refusing to make any inquiry into the current practices in politics/corporations/the military and  big banks.

Mindfulness programmes work best in hospitals, clinics, prisons and schools. Such mindfulness programmes contribute to a real improvement in the quality of life of the participants even though fundamental changes are required in these institutions.

Having said that, I think it is fine to earn income from teaching mindfulness in the corporate world but mindfulness teachers working in the political/corporate/military world need to address:

  • Addiction to control and power
  • brutal competitiveness of  management and executives
  • craving to maximise income
  • environmental destruction,
  • exploitation of customers
  • harmful products
  • lack of public accountability
  • low wages for cleaners 
  • mad pursuit of market share,
  • manipulative business practices,
  • obsession with profit,
  • off share tax havens,
  • poor working/environmental conditions for workers in the so-called developing nations,
  • provision of information about customers to government agencies for surveillance,
  • suppression of information of practices and products
  • tax avoidance that deprive the poor and the sick of basic necessities from the State
  • will to maximise pleasure and excess

Mindfulness teachers in the corporate world must be fearless rather than compliant. The current generation of mindfulness teachers working in the powerful and controlling political/corporate/military system tend to state what pleases – stress reduction, being in the present moment, concentration on goals and staying focussed on the political/corporate/ military objectives without reference to ethics, codes of conduct and the context of mindfulness to awakening.

For example, there is a weekly Mindfulness class for 50 MPs in the British Parliament in London. There is no evidence to show whatsoever that such classes changes the MPs views on military campaigns, massive expenditure on defence, slashing off benefits to the poor or environmental protection for the welfare of all, the nature and future generations. Real compassion through real political change remains excluded from the political agenda in such mindfulness programmes.

I regard these large business conferences on the practice and benefits of mindfulness as largely meaningless. I read the reports from the organisers. They read like exercises in self-indulgence and self-gratification. It is the very issue that the Buddha protested about in his first discourse in Sarnath.

The Buddha listed seven limbs for the full body of awakening –

  • mindfulness,
  •  inquiry,
  • concentration,
  • equanimity,
  • energy,
  • happiness
  • calmness.

Through the application of mindfulness/awareness to the inner and outer, it leads to inquiry/investigation to uncover and disclose the causes and conditions for suffering and to change the contingency factors for suffering.

That requires dedicated concentration and equanimity to deal with the consequences. It brings the benefit of happiness, a profound calm abiding and a full awakening.








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