Sunday, May 25, 2008

MINDFULNESS SCHMINDFULNESS

I'm so happy Nishijima Roshi put up this post about mindfulness. It's the May 24, 2008 posting if I've just sent you to a generic link to his blog. Anyway I'm so fed up with this whole mindfulness thing it's wonderful to see somebody else feels the same way. And, no, we never discussed this particular topic.

I've been saying lately that I want to destroy the whole cult of mindfulness that's grown up in Buddhism these days. As Nishijima points out, the word "mindfulness" has come to mean getting deeper and deeper into your own head and that's not Buddhism at all. I think I've bitched about this before. But I live in a meditation center where several teachers do their thing. I can't tell you how many times I've been in my room listening to someone rattling on about mindfulness then come out after they've gone to find they've left the door unlocked, the windows wide open, the chairs all over the place... What the hell kind of mindfulness are they studying out there?

It's such a crap word. Anyway, just a little plug for Nishijima's blog. And speaking of plugs, see below for one about the Zero Defex CDs.

34 comments:

Anonymous said...

Mindfullmess.

Ha! First again! I rock like a dead guy!

Regards,

H.

HezB said...

P.s. This is a very mindfull blog.

People are always giving Ven. Brad a mindfull.

H.

Anonymous said...

Hey Brad,

Could you expound on this one a bit? Why you don't like the term? Seriously. Is it because 'mindfulness' is just 'not being distracted' and nothing more than that? Or because labelling a mind state sets it up as something we are not and should be (an ideal state)?

I don't really understand Nishijima Roshi's post or your reaction to it.

Thanks,
Ray

Anonymous said...

p.s. I'm not even pro- or -anti. I just don't understand where the ramp up is coming from & maybe I'm missing something significant?

Mysterion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

so the seventh aspect of the eightfold path is bunk?

Mysterion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Craig O'Brien said...

I think what Nishijima is getting at is that Buddhism is not about mind. In his book To See the Real Dragon (or something like that) he goes on about this a fair bit. There's mind, there's matter, there's mind and matter coming together in action, and then there is going beyond action to what he calls the "ineffable reality." That last bit being what Buddhism is about, according to my probably poor reading of his book. Taken literally, "mindfulness" is then at best the first step, and at worst going off in completely the wrong direction.

I'm not sure that Nishijima has shown that people take mindfulness literally, as Brad claims. I've always taken it as being at that point of action, at the here and now, and just doing. Maybe Brad and Nishijima are seeing people who take it literally, as being totally wrapped up in your own mind. I could see that as a bad thing, since I came to Buddhism to get away from being wrapped up in my own mind.

Or perhaps I have been fortuitously misunderstanding everyone who mentions mindfulness. It must be the SubGenius in me.

Mysterion said...

7. Right Mindfulness - samma sati

"And what, monks, is right mindfulness?

* There is the case where a monk remains focused on (his/her) body in & of itself... ardent, aware, & mindful...putting away greed & distress with reference to the world.
* (He/she) remains focused on feelings in & of themselves... ardent, aware, & mindful...putting away greed & distress with reference to the world.
* (He/she) remains focused on the mind in & of itself...ardent, aware, & mindful...putting away greed & distress with reference to the world.
* (He/she) remains focused on mental qualities in & of themselves... ardent, aware, & mindful... putting away greed & distress with reference to the world. This, monks, is called right mindfulness."

Right Mindfulness means to cherish good and pure thoughts, for all that we say and do arises from our thoughts. source

*****************************

samma sati really translates to "perfect attention."

Right Mindfulness is the errant traditional translation hatched from the linguistic ignorance of the previous two centuries.

Anonymous said...

"Mindfulness, I declare, is all-helpful" (Samyutta, 46:59).

"All things can be mastered by mindfulness" (Anguttara, 8:83).

-Buddha

Anonymous said...

Thich Nhat Hanh talks about mindfulness.

Anonymous said...

Special for Brad

Anonymous said...

Noah Levine talks about mindfulness.

z0tl said...

1. mindfoolness
2. kinda like confusing stoics with enlightened beings.
3. which is why i practice endarkenment.

grisom said...

I'm with Ray, I don't get it. I've always been taught that "mindfulness" means "paying attention to what you're doing". I don't think I've encountered whatever interpretation Brad and Nishijima are complaining about here.

Anonymous said...

Translation: I, Brad, don't understand it so it isn't Buddhist.

Try not to be so dogmatic, Brad, and get a real teacher who knows what Buddhism is since you and Nishijima obviously don't.

I suggest sitting down and shutting up.

Mysterion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Dear Reader,

Are you breathing?

Can you see this question mark?

Are you having any thoughts in reaction to these words?

In the teaching of the Buddha, your awareness of your experience is known as "sati" or Mindfulness.

Anonymous said...

"It's such a crap word."

... like 'crap'?

Mountaintop Rebel said...

"Mindfulness is a term new-age buddhists (with a small b) hijacked from pop psychology."

Yeah, like those Therevada monks. Buncha flaky hippies I tell ya!

As for small b, hey, I thought Buddhists weren't SUPPOSED to treat it like an identity or an affiliation?

.....Guess I'm not retired from commenting after all. I'm a hypocrite.

Mike said...

I've tried that whole mindfulness thing - labeling every move and every though and all - and it's the exact opposite of meditation. Neither peaceful nor useful in real life.

Mysterion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Thing is, if 'mindfulness' is such a crap word, please do your audience the favor of explaining your POV so as to assist them in their wandering.

I mean, 'is' is the crappiest of them all when you get straight to it, yes?

Anonymous said...

"so the seventh aspect of the eightfold path is bunk?"

Yes. Absolutely. If the Buddha contradicts Brad and Nishijima this just means the Buddha was mistaken. Sid probably wasn't even a 'real' buddhist like B & N anyway. All of Buddhism is bunk. Just sit down and shut up....that is buddhism.


"I've tried that whole mindfulness thing - labeling every move and every though and all - and it's the exact opposite of meditation."

Yeah, all that attentiveness thing...when you breathe in, know you are breathing in, when you are lifting your hand, know you are lifting, etc. See above. The Buddha was all wrong about that too. Exact opposite of real meditation. Obviously Gautama didn't understand how to practice real meditation. Too bad N & B weren't around to set him straight.

"The difference between 'mindfulness' and 'attention' is as great as the difference between the 'penal gland' and the 'pineal gland.'"

Noun 1. mindfulness - the trait of staying aware of (paying close attention to) your responsibilities
heedfulness
attentiveness - the trait of being observant and paying attention

Nice try mysteria. Mindfulness is just another word for attention.

The Buddha and nearly every teacher of any sect of Buddhism regards mindfulness as an important aspect of Buddhism. Naturally, they're all wrong and B and N are right.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad the sarcasticats hang out here.
Well, ok, I'm not glad, glad, but better here than spreading that poison elsewhere.


I liked what Gudo Wafu Nishijima-Roshi had to say about HezB's question on mindfulness.

It's true about a lot of 'technical' zen terms--when first starting out in this practice, there's a lot of language to learn, concepts to grasp, but as these things get handled and contemplated and discussed with others, they get reabsorbed, they disappear--it's like you never hoid a woid of any of it--back to just plain old ordinary daily life.

The sarcasticats still want the concepts, the language--they are like a baby who likes the pacifier better than the real nipple.
They've got conceptitis.
I have to say it's a helluva trick: zen always pointing to the real.
It's a dirty job, but someone's got to do it.

salvador dali parton said...

i always enjoy a nice tempest in a teapot
but maybe not as much as i
enjoy reading thich nhat hahn's writings
especially his recent letter to dubyuh

i don't really get to hang around many other
buddhists so i guess i'm not aware of any
of those buddhist mindfulness cults that
brad wants "to destroy" (how would you do that
anyway...with hand grenades or subgenuis hijinx?)

ennyhoo i guess my take on what nhat hahn
is getting at is that
mindfulness = paying attention and becoming aware of how stuff is interconnected
& connecting action with result.
gary snyder does alot of that as well.

culty? gee whiz i hope not. i got other shit
going on to worry about like peak oil,
endless war, buying food for my
kid, & finding a more comforting brand of torlet paper.

HezB said...

Dear All,

In his reply, Nishijima Roshi clearly points out that he is referring to 'mindfulness' as a type of idealistic philosophy, a type of mental fetish (note the word "might"):

"Therefore the word "mindfulness" might be a word, which is much related with idealistic philosophy." (N. Roshi)

He is obviously not talking about real action, real practice but likely the cult of striving towards some idea of what our lives *should* be like if only we could conform to some shady, abstract intellectual idea of how we should experience it: that doesn't sound very liberating to me.

Regards,

Harry.

salvador dali parton said...

it's an element of practice.

like poopin.

HezB said...

Dear Miss Dollydor,

Here's a trick:

Try not pushing some time. Let poopping do itself.

simply trust -
do not the poops plop down
like this?

(Dropped by Me, after Issa)

Regards,

Harry.

salvador dali parton said...

Old pond
leap - splash
a poop!

-basho
trans. lucian stryk
poop! added my me

Blake said...

"Mindfulness" is something people strive to obtain. Striving to obtain something is not True Buddhism.

I wouldn't worry about "mindfulness" or "mindfulness training." Or really what anyone has to say about either, especially me.

Jules said...

Brad wrote: But I live in a meditation center where several teachers do their thing. I can't tell you how many times I've been in my room listening to someone rattling on about mindfulness then come out after they've gone to find they've left the door unlocked, the windows wide open, the chairs all over the place... What the hell kind of mindfulness are they studying out there?

What's your point, Brad? That some people aren't good at practicing what they preach? Thanks a lot, Captain Obvious.

But you don't address what's wrong with the words they're preaching. Seems to me the only problem with using the word "mindfulness" is that some people aren't interpreting it correctly. But that could apply to any words, like meditation, loving kindness, Buddhism, karma, the list goes on and on.

I think it's a pretty good word. You know why? Because you were able to say, "what the hell kind of mindfulness are they studying out there?" and I bet everyone here understood exactly what you meant.

Anonymous said...

I'm with the others who don't seem to understand your aversion to the term "mindfullness."

What is your argment? You make two claims.

1. "As Nishijima points out, the word "mindfulness" has come to mean getting deeper and deeper into your own head and that's not Buddhism at all."

That is not what mindfulness means. You know that. And you ought to know that somebody misinterpreting what it means to be mindful is not an objection against mindfulness. What you ought to do is make attempts to correct their misunderstandings.

Next.

2. "I can't tell you how many times I've been in my room listening to someone rattling on about mindfulness then come out after they've gone to find they've left the door unlocked, the windows wide open, the chairs all over the place... What the hell kind of mindfulness are they studying out there?"

One, it's unclear that leaving the windows open and the door unlocked have anything on earth to do with being mindful. But set that aside.

You make the same mistake as earlier. Just because some people claim to be mindful but are not does not mean that mindfulness is not good. It's faulty reasoning.

So you've given nobody any reason to abandon the practice of mindfulness.

Anonymous said...

Blake, your comment about mindfulness is off. Pure zen doesn't strive for mindfulness. Or anything else. That's why we sit to just sit, eat to just eat, etc.