Mindfulness is the “pop-tune of the 21st Century.” So suggests Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi with a smile in an interview published today with Ven. angel Kyodo williams. He continues by praising mindfulness teaching insofar as it is helping people but he worries that mindfulness is perhaps being taught only to make workers more productive or soldiers better combatants.
williams responds, suggesting that he means that a Buddhist ethical framework is missing and is really needed for mindfulness to reach its true potential.
Bhikkhu Bodhi agrees, saying that right view and right intentions (commonly identified with the prajna or ‘wisdom’ portion of the path) and ethical foundations of Buddhism are needed for mindfulness’s full benefits to come to fruition.
In a perhaps surprising moment, Bhikkhu Bodhi praises Slavoj Žižek’s criticism of Western Buddhism as a tool for making people accepting of corporate capitalism. This is because, Bhikkhu Bodhi explains, Buddhism as it is presented in the West teaches that one should “accept whatever arises.”
williams asks how Buddhism can be presented to avoid this pitfall. Bhikkhu Bodhi responds that what he calls “conscientious compassion” must be taught, and this includes a sense of responsibility to help others based on our capacity and a sense of justice, which seeks to, “establish a social and economic order and a political system which is respectful to every human being, and which enables every human being to unfold their full potential and capacities.”
The interview concludes with Bhikkhu Bodhi leading a meditation on connecting with victims of the Nepal earthquakes and members of the Baltimore community.
Read more on recent discussions on mindfulness here: