Curious to hear Dhammic responses to this critique of Buddhism and mindfulness


BTW, here is a brief clip of Jon Kabat-Zinn clarifying “non-judgmental awareness.” I like what he says. He says that the goal isn’t to “judge the judging” or not have judging (a point I brought up earlier). The goal is instead to observe the judging and cultivate discernment, so that we no longer get caught in the habits of our mind. I’m guessing what he means here is that we act on our judgements less impulsively, not that we don’t have judgements.

I’m starting to wonder if many people (myself included) have been misinterpreting JKZ and “non-judgmental awareness” all this time :thinking:


This was an interesting article.
I agree that there are many negatives to be found in the commercialization/watering down of mindfulness.
As a Buddhist practitioner and public school teacher, however, I made a decision to start a secular mindfulness program in my school this September, with full support from my administration. I feel that taking a moment to breathe and note can only help my students. To just become aware of emotions can prevent impulsive reactions, and I have direct personal experience with this. To that end, I am taking a course from the organization Mindful Schools. Much of what they do is based on MBSR, Jon Kabat-Zinn’s movement that began in hospitals 30 years ago. Many of the lessons in this course are based in the history of the secular mindfulness movement, in the research and and how to face school community members who may not agree with the practice. (I don’t expect much push back from parents).
I do not agree with this statement in the article:
“My own gripes with mindfulness are of a different, though related, order. In claiming to offer a multipurpose, multi-user remedy for all occasions, mindfulness oversimplifies the difficult business of understanding oneself. It fits oh-so-neatly into a culture of techno-fixes, easy answers and self-hacks, where we can all just tinker with the contents of our heads to solve problems, instead of probing why we’re so dissatisfied with our lives in the first place.”
In the Mindful Schools program, the very first lesson is to tell students and parents that mindfulness is NOT a magic bullet, it will not make all your problems go away. It is also not a way to detach yourself from your actions and not take responsibility.
What I like about this secular mindfulness is that it emphasizes the idea that mindfulness in children is just a way to give them a little mindful space between the EMOTION and the REACTION.
What’s wrong with that? It’s just one little step, and at least in this program, it doesn’t claim to be an “easy fix.” It’s a step in the right direction.
Also in the article, the author states, “Without some ownership of one’s feelings and thoughts, it is difficult to take responsibility for them. The relationship between individuals and their mental phenomena is a weighty one, encompassing questions of personal responsibility and history. These matters shouldn’t be shunted so easily to one side.”
In my opinion, Buddhism is all about taking responsibility!
In the AN 5.57:
What is the advantage of often reflecting like this: ‘I am the owner of my deeds and heir to my deeds. Deeds are my womb, my relative, and my refuge. I shall be the heir of whatever deeds I do, whether good or bad’? There are sentient beings who do bad things by way of body, speech, and mind. Reviewing this subject often, they entirely give up bad conduct, or at least reduce it. This is the advantage for a woman or a man, a layperson or a renunciate of often reflecting like this: ‘I am the owner of my deeds and heir to my deeds. Deeds are my womb, my relative, and my refuge. I shall be the heir of whatever deeds I do, whether good or bad.’
It does NOT say in the suttas that “not self” means not taking responsibilities for your thoughts and actions. I don’t think that secular mindfulness is saying that either.
I think her messages are a little confused and muddy, just my opinion. I feel bad that she feels disillusioned based on her experiences, but I think the article discounts much of the positive research on secular meditation in many settings.
I think it is key to understand that secular mindfulness is NOT Buddhism. Although the secular mindfulness movement is based on buddhist practice, it is not the same and you will not get the same benefits. In settings such as schools, jails and mental health facilities, one cannot use religion. Secular mindfulness has its benefits, and its place.


I’m guessing what he means here is that we act on our judgements less impulsively, not that we don’t have judgements.
@TheSynergist I agree!! JKZ is about slowing the jump to reaction, to change habitual REACTION into mindful RESPONSE.


One of my friends is a teacher in a school with such a program. She related a surprising story about a religious parent who asked that her child be exempted from the…“brainwashing”. We were both surprised and astounded that something as simple as “pay attention” would be construed as threatening and harmful.


Yes, conservative Christian groups have even brought lawsuits against schools with yoga and mindfulness programs. I shouldn’t have an issue in more liberal NYC…but it could happen. I am preparing parents ahead of time and explaining the secularity and neuroscience research behind it. It doesn’t surprise me, actually. People can be very afraid of things like this. They claim that yoga and mindfulness is rooted in eastern spiritualism, therefore it violates separation of church and state. If you do these things, you do have to be very careful to be secular, and not use “namaste” or something like that, then the argument can be made. I am not even using a singing bowl… or using the word “meditation.” I hope your friend was not shut down because of that parent.


My grandkids attend an Australian public elementary school. Some parents there withdraw their children from yoga classes. … Will it be tennis next?


Christmas, Santa Claus and the easter bunny :rabbit: could be considered the same manner?


…and birthdays…

Some religions do not acknowledge personal birth days. The separation of church and state creates interesting challenges and opportunities for being inclusive. In the USA, public school teachers represent the state, not any religion. Private schools can be mono-religious, although parents do send children to schools based on academic record regardless of religion.


I do understand how some people find these things problematic in schools. Even as a practioner, and father, I am unsure as of right now as to how I feel regarding my daughter being a part of these activities in school. Mostly because from what I have seen and heard the children mostly go along with it because they have to. Those who ask too many questions, or giggle etc, are asked to leave the class. I am sure this isn’t the case in all applications.

Yoga is a mixed bag because there are yoga studios/teachers who are more into fitness and then there are those who are more spiritual. Mindfulness is similar in that way I would say.


Yeah, and as some additional context in the USA, there was a brouhaha a while back when it was ruled that school-sponsored prayer, even if voluntarily and non-sectarian, is unconstitutional. It’s not hard to see how some Christians might argue that there is a double standard when it comes to prayer vs. meditation in schools. We have to tread carefully.


You refer only to one country tho.

School prayer , in the context of religious liberty, is state-sanctioned or mandatory prayer by students in public schools. Depending on the country and the type of school, state-sponsored prayer may be required, permitted, or prohibited. Countries which prohibit or limit school prayer often differ in their reasons for doing so: In the United States, school prayer cannot be required of students in accordance with the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. In Canada, school-sponsored prayer is disallowed under the concept of freedom of conscience as outlined in the Canadian Charter on Rights & Fundamental Freedoms. School-sponsored prayer is disallowed in France as a byproduct of its status as a laïcist (religiously neutral) nation. Countries that allow or require school and other state-sponsored prayer include Greece, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Australia, Italy and the United Kingdom. School prayer - Wikipedia


I edited my post to say USA. The link is specifically about the Lee v. Weisman decision in the US.


Thank you for stating your personal association with this issue. Often in these type of cultural debates we are needlessly ideological. The litmus test with any of these social conversations are responses like as a father what is acceptable for my child. Thank you for bringing the debate to a practical level.


mind·ful /ˈmīn(d)fəl/

    1. conscious or aware of something.
      “we can be more mindful of the energy we use to heat our homes”
      synonyms: aware of, conscious of, alive to, sensible of, alert to, awake to, acquainted with, heedful of, watchful of, careful of, wary of, chary of, cognizant of;
    1. focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, especially as part of a therapeutic or meditative technique.
      “tune in to your body and be mindful”

noun: mindfulness

    1. the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.
      “their mindfulness of the wider cinematic tradition”
    1. a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.

Oxford definitions

Mindfulness seems to me to be NOT exclusive to the religious mode, nor to any religion.

Still rereading & thinking about the article (thank you for sharing!) This life seems distinct; this moment seems distinct; other POVs seem to exist; this seems to be just how things are.


Well this was just a word chosen for translation many years ago. From an Angelican (If I remember correctly) prayer “…and keep us ever mindful of the needs of others.”

Dictionary definitions also change over time as we all know, or are adjusted to social norms and/or contexts.

Still, you are indeed correct.


Dictionary definitions change in order to keep pace with changes in the language. The development of secular Buddhist practices is having an impact on Western societies. It seems to me to have shifted the current meaning of ‘mindfulness’ from something quite deep to a superficial “don’t forget”. As a person this saddens me. As a linguist I know it’s just what happens. As a Buddhist I think of anicca. In general I reckon it’s time to use the Pali ‘sāti’ to (temporally at least) avoid confusion.


Another potential solution is mentioned in Mattes (2019):

Different measures of course imply somewhat different notions of mindfulness, so it might be worthwhile to distinguish between different “mindfulnesses” like mindfulnessFFMQ, and maybe also mindfulnesssati, in accordance with Flanagan (2011, p. 112) who distinguished between concepts of eudaimonia as eudaimoniaBuddha, eudaimoniaAristotle, and eudaimoniaHedonist.
Are We Forgetting Sati? Memory and the Benefits of Mindfulness from a Non-Buddhist Viewpoint | SpringerLink


? - ? - Mindfulness -?


The Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ) developed by Baer et al. (2006)
(Mattes, 2019)


The word “charm” has a precise meaning in physics independent of its everyday use. In much the same way, I trust that “mindfulness” will retain its EBT meaning independent of its New Age wanderings. Perhaps it is just an opportunity for discussion and a sharing of the Dhamma. :wink: