This topic is pretty close to my heart I spent 9 years on a research PhD on the Recovery from Mental Illness, that included a trial of interventions based on exploration of how the mind operates (thoughts and conditioning). The outcome was 66% ongoing improvement in quality of life and physical well being, as opposed to 30% using standard, existing Mental Health interventions. Note the intervention was applied on a statewide level… which gave the statistics a really high reliability… Similar results are coming up now, and some of them are mentioned in this film.
I’m now very hopeful that similar things are coming to light, that may advance the approach and treatment of ‘mental illness’ though I no longer think of this in the current psychological paradigm of ‘mental illness’…
However, even though there are benefits from mindfulness, I am confident that the fullest/best results come from understanding the Buddhas COMPLETE message, in context of the 4 Noble truths, not only bits and pieces selected and applied to address currently ‘perceived problems’…
lol was debating whether to add to this … But I think it’s important not to underestimate the cumulative effect of each of the 8 path factors. And I know you realise this, but for the sake of a complete answer for others…
Even if not aiming for liberation, and just looking to ease some suffering in the here and now, the framework of sila is pretty crucial in my opinion. If one is still beset by delusion, one has no way of recognising wholesome v/s unwholesome things without a reliable external moral framework. And so by leaving sila out of the equation of mindfulness, one is severely limiting the capacity for full mindfulness and samadhi.
The film had nothing to say about sīla, but then it’s not a film about Buddhism, but about secular applications of mindfulness. I wonder if poor quality sīla might be responsible for some of the inconclusive results in some studies of the secular applications mindfulness.
Thank you for posting the link, @Viveka, it was an interesting film and probably the discussion even more so.
Glad you enjoyed it… The link was in this months newsletter from the BSWA.
Questioning - to speak or not to speak? Is it really a useful addition or just the desire for words? To be restrained?? and then deciding to speak after-all opinions opinions… I don’t know, I find it all pretty funny sometimes…
This whole life is pretty funny really… will ‘try’ to be a bit more serious … but I don’t think it will work
Thank you for the link. I quite enjoyed the film. I really liked the fact she looked at the social justice aspect - that’s an aspect that is often absent or tangential in Western mindfulness training.
Having, in recent years, re-vitalized my meditation practice through Western sources, in response to developing extreme anxiety, I found the film’s perspective one I was familar with on a personal level.
The absence of a sila component in the sources I was learning meditation from was my biggest concern. While my meditation practice had always been a bit hit-or-miss, when I first started sitting 30+ years ago, I was within the Zen tradition. It was quite a jump from Sentient beings are numberless, I vow to save them to This will help you feel better.
Then in the last year I discovered Ajahn Sona and Birken Monastery were only 100 km from where I lived, and now I’m studying Pali and starting to read the Pali canon.
Thank you @Viveka – I’m really enjoying the documentary. I am inspired to see so many people working to apply the dharma, at least in part, to help ease others suffering. Makes me hopeful about our future.
I scan suttacentral regularly for resources like this…thanks again!
Jon Kabat-Zinn has a different goal than Buddhism has.
Jon Kabat-Zinn has a serious Buddhist background. He used to study with Zen Master Seung Sahn. I used to go to Seung Sahn’s darma talks back in the 80’s. Seung Sahn wasn’t a Westernized teacher.
Kabat-Zinn’s goal was to find a way to use Buddhist techniques to help people in the West–of all social and economic backgrounds. And as a scientist he was looking to demonstrate the effectiveness of the techniques. So he took mindfulness tools and created a stress reduction intervention. Which did really well when tested, and could be taught to people in 8 weeks. So he achieved his goal - a mental health intervention that helped people.
Could it arise from compassion arising in him for the the suffering that he sees around him and in his clinical practice?
There is also the issue of whether it is appropriate for counsellors, psychologists, and psychiatrists to give ethical instruction as part of their services. The mix of ethical and personal advice is more the domain of chaplains and religious leaders.
In some countries government funding would be withdrawn from programs that ‘pushed’ any religion and in other countries from programs that promoted anything other than the state religion.
And of course people who’ve been helped by secular mindfulness training may choose to look into its origins once they are feeling more positive again.
I guess sila is interpreted through the lens of cultural norms, it changes with time and has a political dimension so its not just an individual choice. Sila has scale effects. So what happens on a societal scale filters down and has individual impacts. For example, when I question the inequities women face in Theravada I am routinely told by female buddhist practitioners the problem is my individual practice and I have misunderstood the Buddhist message. If I suggest they have been co-opted I am met with a rebuttal. Sila is underpinned by values and I guess our values vary significantly.