Stephen Batchelor visions a secular dharma


Stephen Batchelor discusses a secular dharma based upon his interpretation of the historical Buddha’s teachings found in the Pāli Canon. I think he does a fantastic job of condensing the main topics more deeply expounded upon in his terrific new book, After Buddhism, which I highly recommend. Stephen does have some very thoughtful comments about the conflictual issues of secular mindfulness and corporate mindfulness in the Q&A found toward the end.

Talks from the Buddhism and Modernity Symposium

On June 7, 2015, a select group of presenters from the Mindfulness and Compassion Conference at SFSU convened at the Mangalam Research Center in Berkeley to discuss Buddhism and Modernity. I chose to speak on Transcendent wisdom and psychotherapy. Below are videos of all three panels.

Panel 2: The role for the transcendent dimensions of Buddhist practice and teachings in a disenchanted world. Lisa Dale Miller (Psychotherapist), David Lewis (Independent Researcher), Jack Petranker (Mangalam Research Center). My talk begins at 8:22 in the video time sequence.

Panels 1 and 3 featured wonderful commentary on the problematic of modern mindfulness from academics and researchers working in the fields of philosophy, neuroscience and the social sciences.

Panel 1: Buddhist Philosophy and the Perennial Concerns of Western Philosophy
Stephen Jenkins (Humboldt State University), Steven Stanley (Cardiff University), and David Brazier (International Zen Therapy Institute).


Panel 3: How Insights from the Fields of Science Studies/History of Science/Continental Thought Might Shed New Light on the Dialogue Between Buddhism and Science. David McMahan (Franklin & Marshall College), Cliff Saron (University of California, Davis), Kin Cheung (Temple University), Geoffrey Samuel (University of Sydney), Linda Heuman (Brown University/John Templeton Fellow)

Bhikku Bodhi illuminates what mindfulness actually is and introduces conscientious compassion

If you wish to know what mindfulness actually is I humbly suggest watching this amazing interview with Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi on mindfulness and what he calls conscientious compassion. Bhante is a treasure in the Theravada Buddhist lineage. A longtime monk and gifted translator of the Pali texts, who since returning to America has been a thoughtful spokesperson for Engaged Buddhism. He continues to walk the path of ethical Buddhism uncompromisingly bringing his wisdom to bear upon such difficult topics as war, social/political injustice, human rights, climate change and class inequity. This is an interview you will not want to miss.

Richard Davidson and Thomas Insel discuss the brain, mental health & mindfulness


Listen to an edited version of Thomas Insel, Director of the National Institute of Mental Health and Professor Richard Davidson discussing neuronal changes from the use of mindfulness interventions for the treatment of anxiety and depression. This panel took place at DAVOS 2015 and the recording was created by Mike Hanley, the Director of Communications, Digital Content and Editing at the World Economic Forum.
No hype, just great information direct from the source.

Listen here:

Ajahn Amaro’s wise commentary on the problematic of mindfulness delivery


Ajahn Amaro, a beloved Theravada Buddhist teacher and monastic has written a powerful commentary on the problematic of mindfulness delivery in the West. His paper offers clarity on “(1) the pragmatic versus dogmatic approach of the Buddha in his teachings on psychological transformation, (2) clarification of the traditional understanding of the term “mindfulness” (sati) and its various layers of meaning, and (3) the role of ethics in human well-being, as it is understood from a traditional Buddhist viewpoint.”

I highly recommend taking the time to read his erudite and important commentary on many of the controversial issues featured in Montiero, Musten & Compson’s paper*.
Here is the link to Amaro’s paper:

*Monteiro, L. J., Musten, R. F., & Compson, J. (2015). Traditional and contemporary mindfulness: finding the middle path in the tangle of concerns. Mindfulness, 6, 1–13.

Worthy panel discusses the problems of secular mindfulness

Last week, Eric Rea featured a panel discussion on the secular implementation of mindfulness on his BBC radio show. His guests were Christopher Titmuss Buddhist teacher and founder of Gaia House, Chris Cullen mindfulness teacher and psychotherapist at Oxford Mindfulness Center, and Rebecca Crane founder of the Center for Mindfulness Research and Practice at Bangor University. Eric’s questions were challenging and intelligent. I urge you all to listen to the entire 30 minute show.

Below are some highlights:

ER: How would you define mindfulness?

Christopher Titmuss: “To be conscious of what is unfolding and revealing itself, a sense of one’s inner life and outer life; an intimacy and closeness with the ordinary and everyday… I wouldn’t like to emphasize mindfulness exclusively. In Buddhism, mindfulness must contribute to inquiry, understanding of causes and conditions. A healthy right mindfulness contributes to harmony and well-being. Unhealthy mindfulness, for instance a thief is very mindful while burglarizing, but what an unhealthy intention for applying mindfulness.”

Chris Cullen: “The practice of present moment awareness is really what mindfulness is about… We live so much of our lives pre-living and reliving our experience, and mindfulness is an invitation to come back out of the cinema of the mind and its thoughts and be here now. Anyone can do this and taste the benefits of it.”

Rebecca Crane: “Mindfulness releases us from suffering moment-to-moment. I can be unhooked from patterns that might give rise to shame and bring myself back to the immediacy of experience.”

Notice the remarkable difference between the profound definition of a Buddhist teacher and the one-dimensional response of the secular mindfulness teachers who seem focused on the prophylactic effect of ‘present moment awareness’ as a method for symptom reduction. As a clinician and Buddhist teacher I favor Christopher Titmuss’ response because it represents a deepened-in relationship with mindful attending, which merges inquiry, insight and ethical, compassionate responsiveness to actual experience.

ER: What is the difference between meditation and mindfulness?

RC: “Meditation is the method of cultivating mindfulness and mindfulness is the process.”

CC: “Since 2013 eighty-five members of the British Parliament (MP’s) have taken an 8-week mindfulness course to reduce their stress.”

CT: I have some concern about these courses, which at the present time do not include any exploration into the main sources of major stress like war, environmental degradation, or tensions that exist between people and nation states. We are at an early stage in delivering mindfulness practice and it will take courage and conviction by those who offer mindfulness in this context to go deeper and awaken the MP’s.”

CC: “In secular mindfulness courses ethics is implicit rather than explicit, there is a sense as people deepen in mindfulness practice they do wake up to how we live and the consequences of the pressures on society.”

RC: “The way we pay attention with ethics in our mindfulness courses is to train teachers well. We have a huge emphasis on having teachers work with their own experience, their own mindfulness practice and ethical process. These courses should not be attached to any particular tradition.”

CT: “Bravo for the medical use of mindfulness to treat depression, chronic pain, etc. But when we talk about delivering mindfulness in political and corporate world where issues of corruption, violence, exploitation—all of that has to be offered in the context of a dialogue about people of privilege and power developing compassion.”

CC: “If it is not ethical and it is not about a paradigm shift away from greed, hatred and delusion, then it is not mindfulness. Mindfulness is radical and it changes lives if it is practiced properly.”

I will write more on the subject of the supposed ‘implicit ethics’ of mindfulness in my next post.