There was a new article on the Guardian about mindfulness today.
Which makes the point that mindfulness is not the complete solution to all the world’s problems. It’s a promising area of research; here’s a few other related critiques.
Hairdressing is all about hair. It does nothing to change an unjust world.
Curing cancer is all about medicine. It does nothing to change an unjust world.
Going to Mars is all about space travel. It does nothing to change an unjust world.
I’m beginning to see a pattern emerge here: A thing is about the thing that it is, and isn’t about something that it isn’t! Excellent, that’s real progress.
There are plenty of teachings, examples, and principles in Buddhism that are really useful for positive social change. There’s the whole democracy thing; accountable decision making processes; practical compassion; sharing wealth to overcome inequality; use of no or very mild punishment; emphasis on education and individual empowerment and agency; getting rid of all forms of discrimination; the idea that even the most powerful are subject to the rule of law, and so on and so on.
Mindfulness is not one of those things; it is a teaching on how to become peaceful and accept.
Mindfulness can operate in a complex set of relationships with broader community and social issues. It is entirely possible, as the author of the article points out, that it can become abstracted from any meaningful context and used in harmful ways. But that’s not the problem of mindfulness, it’s the problem of the lack of other good things, especially ethical values. That’s why the Buddha always insisted that mindfulness, and other advanced meditative practices, take place when grounded on a very pure ethics. Removed from that and misapplied, it becomes Wrong Mindfulness.
So perhaps we can stop blaming mindfulness for not being what it is not.