Buddhist mindfulness meditation is based on the principle that it is possible to understand the mind directly through experience. All that is required is following a series of instructions that help to develop attention and awareness. You also need to be prepared to invest enough effort, and this is dependent on having some faith that this will enable you to understand the mind and that this understanding will help.
As with learning any skill, it also helps if people have some kind of conceptual understanding of why they should do what they are being asked to do. It’s best if explanations and instructions are clear and easily understood. Buddhist mindfulness meditation is set in a context of ideas adapted by teachers in various social contexts based on tradition and Buddhist texts, which give an account of what the Buddha taught two and a half thousand years ago.
Any source of knowledge is power and people will always attempt to co-opt it to control others. In this respect Buddhism is no different to any other religion. However, the heart of the Buddhist tradition is different in one significant respect; it is based on the principle that people should test what is taught in their own experience to understand it, rather than accept teachings handed down by figures of authority on the basis of faith alone.
Today, we are discovering that some Buddhist knowledge, which is based on reports of personal experience, is scientifically testable and objectively measureable. With recent advances, mindfulness exercises – and the way these help us live a better life - are being better and better understood by psychologists. Buddhist knowledge has informed these recent developments in psychology but now, an evidence-base built from scientific explanation is replacing the Buddhist thinking as the rationale for mindfulness practice. Because the dominant language of contemporary society is scientific, this development promises to make the benefits of mindfulness practice available to a larger audience than has ever been previously possible.
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