Wednesday, July 03, 2013


"Bhikkhu Bodhi, an outspoken western Buddhist monk, has warned: "absent a sharp social critique, Buddhist practices could easily be used to justify and stabilize the status quo, becoming a reinforcement of consumer capitalism." Unfortunately, a more ethical and socially responsible view of mindfulness is now seen by many practitioners as a tangential concern, or as an unnecessary politicizing of one's personal journey of self-transformation."

This is from an excellent article called, "Beyond McMindfulness" by Ron Purser and David Loy.

Also, "In their branding efforts, proponents of mindfulness training usually preface their programs as being "Buddhist-inspired." There is a certain cachet and hipness in telling neophytes that mindfulness is a legacy of Buddhism -- a tradition famous for its ancient and time-tested meditation methods. But, sometimes in the same breath, consultants often assure their corporate sponsors that their particular brand of mindfulness has relinquished all ties and affiliations to its Buddhist origins."

And this: "But mindfulness, as understood and practiced within the Buddhist tradition, is not merely an ethically-neutral technique for reducing stress and improving concentration. Rather, mindfulness is a distinct quality of attention that is dependent upon and influenced by many other factors: the nature of our thoughts, speech and actions; our way of making a living; and our efforts to avoid unwholesome and unskillful behaviors, while developing those that are conducive to wise action, social harmony, and compassion."

I thought a lot about this when I was reading Mindfulness For Dummies. First off, I think it's a wonderful book, and I recommend it. But I have often wondered at the denuding of the Buddhist roots, as stated above, in the mass marketing of mindfulness by people who want to make a living off of it. The Dharma is supposed to be free. When you turn to marketing, to sell ideas, a presentation of ideas, then you're selling a presentation of ideas. Old time Buddhist might guard ideas because people were not "ready" for them. But today you can go pretty far on reading ideas. Sangharakshita talks about intellectual indigestion. You get too much before you are ready for it. The information age has created an open source Buddhism, which is good, but it lacks the social supports of integrating all that information.
There's a conflict in a way, people want to pursue their joy, and that means there's a million yoga teachers, and a million meditation teachers. I was at the library today and I almost got a Buddhist book because I've seen so much advertising for it. The spiritual marketplace is fiercely contested, and bought.

I actually like to look at all the ads in Tricycle and other Buddhist magazines. But I've never bought anything from them.

Spiritual materialism isn't just buying cool rupas and great meditation benches, it's also going on retreats with name dropping teachers, and going to foreign countries to study with teachers. It's hard to know if that's really what's required. Maybe you can stay where you are and deepen your practice by your own efforts, and the support of a good local sangha.

Of course generosity is about putting your money where your values are, but it's also a subtle way of increasing the money for a sangha. I've gotten the softest sell at Buddhist centers, but there have been times where I got a harder sell on giving to the community than I did in Christian churches.

Which all goes to show you that you can never turn off your critical faculty, and that if someone pitches you from a spiritual angle, that's just another pitch. Good spiritual friends exemplify, and don't ask anything for it.

I've heard people coming off long retreat, get people wanting them to give them the gist of it, without doing the work. You don't really need anyone else, you just need to go deeper into yourself. Of course the community is good for support. Giving it, not necessarily getting it.

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