Mindfulness and Buddhism

Having identified the various mindfulness approaches outlined above we may feel the urge to ask the question, “what does mindfulness represent in its’ truest Buddhist form,– how did the Buddha achieve spiritual enlightenment and how did this enlightenment transfer into living daily life?”

According to ND, through great meditation and insight, Shakyamuni grasped the universal spiritual law of Myo Ho Renge Kyo. In other words, Shakyamuni viewed all existential phenomena, all his experiences, internal or external as manifestations of the law of NMHRGK. This understanding enabled him to identify the essence of the law within himself. He firmly observed his mind with the understanding that based on cause and effect, all phenomena are forever changing, thoughts come and go but the essence of one’s life remains always part of the whole transcending the perceived stages of life and death, forever interconnected with all there is.

Mindfulness as it is currently practiced in psychological therapy and Zen type Buddhism however appears to limit its focus only on the present moment by entering an accepting observer perspective. This is most certainly of therapeutic value if clients are plagued by overwhelming thought processes at the time, but beyond this, it neither gives the practitioner of mindfulness an explanation of ‘who’ and ‘what’ the observer within them really is, nor does it provide a construct which would clarify their experiences and greater significance in the world they live in.

Hence, the more existential questions brought on by events such as birth, aging, sickness and death, and the greater quest for meaning remains largely unresolved through the practice of mindfulness.

Thus, even if one were able to remain focused on the here and now most of the time, practitioners of these techniques will most likely come to realise that there are significant limitations to the experience, latest when life circumstances such as the mentioned experiences of birth, aging and death bring on existential questions about the very nature of existence.

Psychology has embraced mindfulness as a technique because it appears to be devoid of religious or spiritual content. We know that currently used mindfulness techniques are effective in changing thoughts and behaviours. Then again, so do most behavioural therapies that enable people to develop a focus, acceptance and schema by which their experience can be put into perspective.

But is what has been so enthusiastically been embraced by psychologists as mindfulness really what the original Buddha, Shakyamuni had envisioned when he expounded his version of mindfulness?

What did the kind of mindfulness he practiced do for him, he who sought true liberation and refuge from the woes of existence? How did he perceive the world through mindfulness meditation?

We know that ‘being of correct understanding’ his worries of the stages of birth, old age, sickness and death most certainly dissipated because he perceived the true nature of phenomena and the world around him. Furthermore, he must have been a very motivated individual as he went through great lengths teaching others to become enlightened to the true nature of their lives just as he had.

So the question is, what would we do when we, like him, come to believe and embrace the idea (philosophy) that we are living eternally, interconnected with all there is, going through the stages of birth, aging, sickness and death faced by the consequences of our actions (cause and effect) no matter where we go?

What would we do when we, like Shayamuni come to realise that our perceived self is ‘plastic’ (non self) constantly changing and evolving into ‘something else’ as we are stimulated by the world around us and our own creations?

If we would come to firmly believe this, what would psychologically change for us?

Would we feel empowered?

Would awareness of these rather aspects of Buddhist mindfulness which are nevertheless rather scientific in nature cause us to feel better about ourselves and the things we do?

Would we be wiser?

Would it cause us to change our behaviour for the better?

It appears that a more comprehensive level of Buddhist mindfulness as prescribed by the Buddha himself has a lot more to offer when compared to maintaining focus only on the here and now to the exclusion of yesterday and tomorrow.

Understanding the past and projecting hope towards an even better future are just as important to a healthy mind and our ability to truly value our experience of the here and now.

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