Beliefnet

Enlightenment meets Enlightenment: Finding the Buddha in the secular west

Dr. Arnie Kozak, beliefnet: I recently gave a talk at the University of Vermont College of Medicine called “Beyond Stress Reduction: Mindfulness as a Radical Technology. In this talk, I spoke about the indictment that the healthcare and corporate-related applications of mindfulness are tantamount to “McMindfulness.”

If you read my post on this issue, you know that I think the criticisms of secularized mindfulness go to far. In my talk, I made the point that secular dharma is a uniquely Western dharma.

Secular Buddhism, which seeks enlightenment, accords with the Enlightenment era values of rationality, empiricism, and skepticism…

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Living Buddha, Goenka, dead at 90

Dr. Arnie Kozak, Beliefnet: I was surprised by the news of S. N. Goenka’s death this past Saturday. He was almost 90 years old.

In the summer of 1989, I sat my first vipassana meditation retreat with Goenka at the Vipassana Meditation Center in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts. That experience was a watershed for me. It changed my life. I view it as the single most difficult and beneficial experience of my life. It put meditation and the Buddha’s teachings at the center of my life and has been part of a daily conversation for the past almost twenty-five years.

Anyone who has sat with Goenka…

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McMindfulness revisited

Dr. Arnie Kozak, Beliefnet: I have read Ron Purser and David Loy’s Huffington Post blog entry, Beyond McMindfulness. They write a thoughtful indictment of the popularization of all things mindfulness, especially in the corporate context. There are many important points made in this essay:

Uncoupling mindfulness from its ethical and religious Buddhist context is understandable as an expedient move to make such training a viable product on the open market. But the rush to secularize and commodify mindfulness into a marketable technique may be leading to an unfortunate denaturing of this ancient practice, which was intended for far more than relieving a headache, reducing blood pressure, or helping executives become better focused and more productive.

While a stripped-down, secularized technique — what some critics are now calling “McMindfulness” — may make it more palatable to the corporate world, decontextualizing mindfulness from its original liberative and transformative purpose, as well as its foundation in social ethics, amounts to a Faustian bargain. Rather than applying mindfulness as a means to awaken individuals and organizations from the unwholesome roots of greed, ill will and delusion, it is usually being refashioned into a banal, therapeutic, self-help technique that can actually reinforce those roots…

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