For this month’s open-audience, open-discussion “Ask Us Anything” — continuing discussions about meditation and related topics — Denny and I address the “McMindfulness” phenomena mostly by exploring the translation of the original Pali word “sati” — often translated as “mindfulness” — by offering up “remembering” as a more original translation. We also touch on some classic sati related topics like:
- The Five Hinderances
- “Right Mindfulness”
- 12 Links of Dependent Origination (or “Conditional Genesis” [Pratītyasamutpāda]) especially “Contact” before “Feeling”
- Four Foundations of Mindfulness
- Some of the critiques and upsides of McMindfulness
- Story of Shiva and Hindu goddess Sati
- Metaphors/images for mindfulness from the Pali suttas
Below are our original show notes:
(Notes from Josh:)
Overall I don’t maintain a solid sweeping position for or against the popularity of mindfulness. I feel, like pretty much anything, the skillful and wise (pros) vs. the opposite (cons) must be weighed, and mostly on a case by case basis.
Without boots on the ground in many of the areas where mindfulness has gained popularity it’s even more challenging to speak to, or make broad criticisms and (especially) recommendations/solutions, which by the way, seem severely lacking.
This is a complex topic often addressed in an overly simplistic manner, glossing over significant material with many truths and mistruths mixed together.
When something gains popularity, (if it hasn’t already from the onset,) there seems a high likelihood for the agendas from various players — social, political, economic/industrial, religious, organizational, technological, etc. — to jump in and mold to their liking (and not liking) whatever can be molded, often resulting in distortions, divisions, and destruction.
- https://www.jikoji.org/mcmindfulness — brief chapter by chapter breakdown of the book McMindfulness
- https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/jun/14/the-mindfulness-conspiracy-capitalist-spirituality — some great points but no real solutions offered, mostly an underlying bashing of the current version of capitalism (which really isn’t capitalism. I don’t plan to mention political systems on the episode. For our notes: We all know the hangups of capitalism. Not a proponent of this version of gangster capitalism, nor a proponent of socialism, communism, or technocracy. Big proponent of solutions though. Some short term: voting with your dollar and paying attention to what you want to give energy to without ignoring or denying anything. Long term: various clues and bread crumbs I won’t go into here.)
Key points in general to address for the episode:
- Defining mindfulness
- Pros and cons of Popular/ (vs.) Secular/ (vs.) Buddhist mindfulness
- Proper mindfulness (leading to awareness, the foundation for wise decision making)
- Ethics involved in teaching and learning mindfulness (if mindfulness should be taught on its own)
- With so much criticism is it possible for newcomers to dismiss mindfulness entirely, and/or the opposite, can mindfulness’s popularity lead and enforce followers to not properly examine mindfulness?
Potential questions for Denny:
- China angle?
- Observations from Silicon Valley compared to the Midwest?
- What if asked to teach mindfulness to “black ops” military, or corrupt corporations and/or organizations, or anyone who you pretty much know will likely abuse it?
(Notes from Denny:)
Tomorrow we will focus on “McMindfulness and the Mindfulness Industrial Complex”.
Take any self-help/wellness topic (including Mindfulness and more recently Meridian Tapping Therapy), the pitch is always … “if you have Fear, Phobias, Anxiety, Stress, Emotional Trauma, PTSD, Grief, Sadness, Shame, Frustration, Anger, Resentment, Carvings, Addictions, Chronic Pain … and nothing works, try this?!”
Rather than criticizing the McWellness, I think it is more useful for us to properly define “Mindfulness”.
Mindfulness is Sati and the original interpretation is “remembering”.
According to Wikipedia, the English term Mindfulness already existed before it came to be used in a (western) Buddhist context. It was first recorded as myndfulness in 1530, as mindfulnesse in 1561, and finally mindfulness in 1817.
Then in 1881, Thomas Divids, a Pali-language scholar used it to mean Sati, where he wrote in his Buddhist Suttas, “Sati is literally ‘memory’ and is used with reference to the constantly repeated phrase ‘mindful and thoughtful’ (sato sampajâno) ….”
Sati was the name of the Hindu goddess of marital felicity and longevity. She was the first wife of Shiva (one of the three gods who along with Brahma and Vishnu, are responsible for the creation, upkeep and destruction of our universe, respectively).
The legend was that Sati’s royalty parents wanted a daughter and was advised by Brahma to pray before the goddess Adi-Parashakti. Finally she consented and took birth as their daughter but warned them that if she was ever insulted, she would return to her celestial form and disown them.
After Sati grew up, she married Shiva against the will of her parents. She was so devoted to her ascetic husband that when he was insulted by her opulent father, she jumped into the fire to kill herself in order to uphold Shiva’s honor.
Then as promised, Sati returned to being a goddess again and through another reincarnation, came back and became the second wife of Shiva.
Now that’s “remembering”.
Sati is also the name of an outlawed funeral custom in India where a widow immolates herself on her husband’s pyre in order to show her devotion (i.e., remembrance) by taking her own life shortly after her husband’s death.
In conclusion, Mindfulness (念 or Sati) is simply remembering.
In fact, Master has taught us the following:
- 靜則念息 – When Stationary, Remember your Breath.
- 動則念身 – When in Motion, Remember your Body.