11 Jan
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But to What End?

Do “secular” mindfulness programs teach the same mindfulness the Buddha taught?

“What distinguishes the mindfulness of the Buddha from secular mindfulness,” writes Phillip Moffitt, “is that he did not teach it as a standalone skill….

“The Buddha taught that mental suffering arises out of ignorance. By ‘ignorance’ he meant the mind’s misunderstanding of the nature of reality, both mental and physical. For example, if we don’t see clearly the impermanence of things, we believe there is something that can be grasped. The way to free the mind from suffering that comes from grasping is gained by ‘insight’ into what truly is…. Through vipassana practice we have insights about the implications of the constancy of change, the true nature of reality and self, and the empty radiant nature of mind when it is not clouded by desire and aversion.

“But to what end are we cultivating these critical realizations through insight? 

[We do this] in order to be able to choose non-suffering rather than suffering — to be able to think, speak and act in a manner that does not cause suffering for ourselves or others….

“What distinguishes the mindfulness of the Buddha from secular mindfulness is that he did not teach it as a standalone skill. Rather, it is a part of the Eightfold Path that leads to the realization of the Four Noble Truths and the end of mental suffering…

“Mindfulness supports the moment-to-moment intention to not cause harm, to be kind, and to renounce those thoughts and actions that lead to heedlessness. Without wise intention and wise understanding, mindfulness is aimless, and therefore not the Buddha’s mindfulness.

— from “What Is the Mindfulness of the Buddha?, by Phillip Moffitt, published in the Winter 2016 issue of Spirit Rock News.

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