Re-contextualising mindfulness: Ethical and spiritual dimensions of awareness, T Lomas

Content: Re-contextualising mindfulness: Ethical and spiritual dimensions of awareness Dr. Tim Lomas University of East London
Overview Theoretical presentation The re-contextualisation of mindfulness A Therevada Buddhist perspective Three types of mindfulness? Sati (awareness of the present moment) Appamada (awareness suffused with ethical care) Sampajaссa (awareness suffused with spirituality)
Mindfulness de-contextualised Surge of interest in mindfulness Hundreds of empirical studies each year Largely de-contextualised Presented in secular / scientific format This was arguably both... Necessary: to appeal to secular Wester audiences Useful: had a profound impact
But... Does this diminish its power? `The rush to define mindfulness within Western psychology may wind up denaturing it in fundamental ways' There is `the potential for something priceless to be lost' ­ Williams & Kabat-Zinn (2011, p. 4)
Re-contextualisation Many schools of thought Theravda ­ Circa first century BCE onwards ­ Buddhist communities who closely adhered to the Pli canon Mahyna ­ Circa first century CE onwards ­ adapting/developing teachings in new and innovative ways Vajrayana ­ Circa third century CE onwards ­ Further philosophical and ritualistic development
A Therevada persepctive Urgyen Sangharakshita Born Dennis Lingwood in London in 1925 Ordained in Therevada tradition (India, 1950) Founded the (F)WBO in 1967 (recently renamed Triratna) Syncretic, selective and non-exclusive approach Multiple influences Sarvstivda (emerged circa second century BCE) Buddhaghosa (circa fifth century CE)
Basis: paiccasamuppda
The law of conditionality
`This being, that exists; through the arising of this, that arises. This not being, that does not exist; through the ceasing of this, that ceases' (Majjhima Nikya, 79). Central to Buddhism
Meta law that underpins all other laws, such as the second Noble truth (that suffering has a cause) Pathway to liberation
`Once we have understood and are fully convinced about the nature of reality as paiccasamuppda, we align ourselves with those regularities or laws that lead us to liberation.'
Sangharakshita and Subhuti (2013, p. 49)
Fivefold niyama Exegesis/interpretation by Bodhidharma `Laws, conditions or constraints that govern processes or phenomena' (Keown, 2003) Utu-niyma: law of `the seasons' Bja-niyma: law of `seeds' Citta-niyma: law of `the mind' Kamma-niyma: law of `karma' Dhamma-niyma: law of `nature'
Sati Satipahna sutta `Establishing present-moment recollection right where you are, simply breathe in, simply aware, then breathe out, simply aware' ­ Discourse on the establishment of mindfulness (MN 10) Conceptual origin for mindfulness `The awareness that arises through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment' (KabatZinn, 2003, p.145)
Why `mindfulness'? Selected by T. W. Rhys Davids (Gethin, 2011) 1881 publication of suttas, sati was rendered as `mental activity' (p.9) and even simply `thought' (p.63) Only with 1910 work that he settled on `mindfulness' Means `remembrance/recollection' Not historical/chronological memory per se Remembering to focus on `what is otherwise too easily forgotten: the present moment' (Analayo, 2003, p.48)
Conceptualising sati Western psychological perspective `Open monitoring': an `open field capacity to detect arising sensory, feeling and thought events within an unrestricted `background' of awareness, without a `grasping' of these events in an explicitly selected foreground or focus (Raffone & Srinivasan, 2010, p.2) Buddhist perspective Awareness of utu-niyma (environmental causality) Awareness of bija-niyma (biological causality) Awareness of citta-niyma (psychological causality)
The value of sati Basis for contemporary MBIs Arguably mainly foster insight into citta-niyma E.g., MBCT (Teasdale et al., 2000) Awareness of recurrent thought patterns Learn to `de-centre' `Retraining awareness': people may `more consciously choose... thoughts, emotions and sensations... rather than habitually reacting to them' (Chambers et al, 2009)
Is anything missing? What about ethics? Influences the experiences that one has in meditation Lack: arguably renders negative affect more likely What about spirituality Influences the extent/reach of development Lack: neuters the potential of meditation practice Other `types' of awareness in the canon Appamada (awareness suffused with ethical care) Sampajaссa (awareness suffused with spirituality)
Appamada Another `type' of mindfulness/awareness Not `distinct' from sati, but a quality that may augment it Introduces an ethical dimension to mindfulness Awareness of one's actions in light of ethical guidelines Range of translations Vigilant care (Soeng, 2006) Moral watchfulness (Rao, 2007) Awareness... with regard to the sphere of qualities of good conduct (Old Commentary of the Dhammapada)
Ethics in Buddhism Various sets of precepts/guidelines Noble eight-fold path 3 aspects concerned with morality (sla): right speech, right action, and right livelihood Paсca-sla (Five precepts) Absintence from: harming living beings, taking the not given, misconduct concerning sense pleasures, false speech), and unmindful states related to consumption of alcohol or drugs Pimokkha (Monastic Disciplinary Code)
Why do ethics matter? Benefits the actor, not only others/society Kamma-niyma: law of `karma' `The law of karma states that anu volitional action rooted in non-greed, non-hatred and non-delusion (or in positive terms: generosity, love/compassion, and wisdom) gives rise to virtuous or positive imprints in the mind that would subsequently result in experiences of happiness and pleasure.' Conversely, `any ethical action rooted in greed, hatred or delusion gives rise to their opposite nonvirtuous/negative mental imprints that later result in experiences of suffering and displeasure' Kang (2009, p.73)
Sampajaссa Another `type' of mindfulness/awareness Not `distinct' from sati, but a quality that may augment it Introduces an spiritual dimension to mindfulness Awareness of one's actions in light of spiritual possibilities `Clear comprehension' (Bodhi, 2011) Shantideva: `Samprajanya comes and, once come, does not go again, if smti [sati] stands guard at the door of the mind' Samprajanya = a `more spontaneous and effortless state of watchfulness of the body and mind' (Maharaj, 2013, p.67)
Spirituality in Buddhism Sampajaссa = awareness of dhamma niyma Appreciate that people have potential to become Buddhas Evaluate one's actions in terms of progress on a path One can still be spiritual with sati mindfulness Sampajaссa = spiritual development a conscious, explicit and overriding priority in their life Stages of spiritual development Many different models Bucknell (1984): 6 different lists just in Tipiaka
Sarvstivda 5 path schema 1) Integration 1) `Cultivating ever-more skilful actions of body, speech and mind' 2) Skilful intention 1) `Systematic cultivation of skilful intentions and actions' 3) Spiritual death 1) Insight into anicca (impermanence), anatt (insubstantiality), and dukkha (suffering), especially with respect to self 4) Spiritual re-birth 1) Enter `deeper' sense of self (co-terminous with dhamma niyma 5) Enlightenment Sangharakshita and Subhuti (2013, p.133)
Conclusion Value of re-contextualising mindfulness Introduce ethical and spiritual dimension to MBIs Potential for more powerful impact on wellbeing Caveats This is just one perspective here (others are available...!) Be careful about imposing on anyone (e.g., not everyone is comfortable with spirituality) Offer as an `invitation' where appropriate
Thank you for listening! Any questions?
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