Buddha-Dharma offers a diversity of themes to explore the human experience. Currently, the primary exposure to the teachings in the West occurred through mindfulness/meditation retreats. Not surprisingly, mindfulness/meditation gained a self-existence somewhat detached from much of the rest of the body of the teachings.
Mindfulness/meditation has proved to be a safe option. It is non-challenging to a consumer mad culture, narcissistic and soaked in violence. Reduction of stress, being in the now, self-compassion and daily practice form the foundation of mindfulness in the West. These practices offer emotional and psychological benefits without challenging the status quo of rapacious greed, widespread institutional suffering, the violence of governmental and corporate behaviour.
Teachings explore directly fear, anger and identification with views and beliefs as primary conditions for violence.
Western mindfulness, a branch of psychology, offers personal development while mindfulness teachers give classes and retreats pointing to daily well-being. There are no signs of a revolutionary DNA in the mindfulness industry. Mindfulness teachings offer healthy and effective practices to reduce stress, find calmness of being and explore ways to respond with equanimity to daily events. Many teachers of mindfulness offer a fine service while costs of some courses remain far out of reach for those with low income.
It is an error of judgement to imagine mindfulness alone can contribute to radical social change. Non-violent activists and organisations can expect too much from mindfulness practices with regard to major issues of our time.
The practice of non-violence has a greater outreach for radical change than mindfulness. Those of us who teach mindfulness need to remind our students regularly of the limits of mindfulness for a society needing urgent and fundamental change.
We have a moral and spiritual duty to develop a comprehensive exploration and application of non-violence.
It is a pity the West did not opt to develop non-violence in the West instead as teachings of non-violence address issues in the world.
- First of the five ethics states training the mind to abstain from killing and giving support to killing.
- Second link in the noble eightfold path of right intention expresses not intending to inflict violence, cruelty or abuse on living beings.
- Third link focuses on right speech/communication
- Fifth link of right action calls for ethics to support action.
- Sixth link requires dedication to a non-violent, non-harming livelihood.
The discourses of the Buddha have a primary purpose – to point the way to end suffering, personal, social and institutional.
Yes, Western mindfulness has its historical roots in the Buddha’s teachings and the Buddhist tradition. Do not imagine the word mindfulness appears more than any other concept or practice in the 10,000 discourses.
You cannot find the word mindfulness in the vast majority of the discourses. It is not a buzz word in his teachings. The Buddha has an expansive vision of the spiritual life not tied down to any specific concepts.
Mindfulness has become a buzz word in the West.
Apply ‘mindfulness to the extent necessary’ – to quote the Buddha in the Discourse on the Applications of Mindfulness (MLD 10). Stated four times in the discourse.
Have you applied mindfulness to the extent necessary? Is it time to expand your mind to address the social and global crisis.
Christopher is the author of The Spiritual Roots of Mindfulness and The Green Buddha
Click on link below for teachings non-violence.