Buddhist Mindfulness: No Shortcuts to Salvation 

Mindfulness, sati, requires some awareness of the unpleasant details, also, unfortunately or fortunately, for this is the nature of existence, the existence of suffering and the ways to ameliorate it, on a path to cessation, if not the twenty-five-dollar cure that we’ve grown so accustomed to expect, in some binary fashion, now you see it and now you don’t, as if there were indeed magic bullets that can hit every target, with never a miss—at least in theory. 

But, until someone can bio-engineer us with eternal life or create us a Virtual Reality so perfect that we can’t tell the difference, then the (not-so?) harsh reality is that each and every one of us will die, later if not sooner, peaceably if not in agony. And this is the truth of Buddhism, that suffering is ubiquitous, and implacable, if not the all-embracing disastrophe that it so recently was. But that was likely due to the dubious emboldenment of patriarchy, in distinct contrast to the previous matriarchal survivalists that sustained us for so many millennia. 

But the point is that Buddhism is not pessimistic, but realistic, and the obvious corollary would be that the silly-eyed optimism of capitalistic Christianity is itself the cause of many of our problems, especially global warming, for which it is singularly unprepared to offer a credible solution, given the demands of economic growth. But Buddhism can offer that solution: conscious mindful existence that accentuates self-sufficiency, not the excesses of abundance and infinity that capitalism and Christianity demand.  

In other words: less can indeed be more, in quality if not quantity, and that is the important consideration, now, isn’t it? Yes, I think that it is. And that is also the cautionary tale with so-called ‘mindfulness.’ Be careful which way you turn your gaze of awareness, because you will have to deal with the circumstances in your field of vision. And that is good. Buddhism in its origins never pretended to transcendence. This is the real world we find ourselves in, and that is the challenge…