Buddhism and McMindfulness…

There is nothing mystical about meditation. It is a practical and helpful tool for self-improvement. It gets the woo-woo treatment big time, though, from the wannabe pandits and acharyas matching it up with ‘mindfulness’ and ‘lovingkindness’ for the big Buddhist-Christian one-two punch guaranteed to put McMindfulness in your sacred space and muesli in you breakfast nook. Did someone mention the New Age and/or Wellness communities?

Because that’s what Buddhism is, of course, to the average American and/or Western European, one of a dozen or two systems (dare I say ‘disciplines?) on tap to inspire you to the next level of awareness, sati, which is precisely the same word so often translated as ‘mindfulness’ for its salutary effect on the brain’s language centers. And at the same time, it also guarantees a course to be taught somewhere in the cool part of town, thereby guaranteeing the acceptance and continuance of such a tradition regardless of its intrinsic connection to Buddhism—or not.

Because, in the debate over just how much of Buddhism can be downloaded to the surrounding community without concern over cultural appropriation or misappropriation of intent and purpose, meditation is the one thing that definitely CAN be offloaded for the layman’s typical—even commercial—applications. Like yoga for Hindus, meditation is the one aspect of Buddhism which is truly universal, and which does NOT require a secret handshake. You simply follow certain techniques for certain effects.

The names can be confusing and causes and effects can be conflated and even reversed, such that one technique is called by its desired effect, but the techniques are generally similar, just sit down, STFU, and concentrate—on not much, either some one thing internally or the whole broad spectrum externally. Some techniques uses mantras, as made famous by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s Transcendental Meditation™ (pun intended), but many Theravada Buddhists simply repeat the name “Buddho, Buddho, Buddho.”

As Carlos Castaneda’s Don Juan character often said: “Stop the internal dialogue.” When that happens, then you have returned to proto-consciousness and thereby recover something which you had lost with language, sati and samadhi, awareness and concentration (one-pointedness). In the process, then, you will hopefully receive samatha, calmness, or vipassana, insight, but the technique is similar. What you do with it is up to you. Being nice to people is always a good place to start.