The Science Delusion and New Mindfulness

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The Science Delusion and New Mindfulness

Postby ancientbuddhism » Tue Feb 11, 2014 6:17 pm

In an interview with Curtis White, featured in this Springs issue of Tricycle:The Science Delusion, White warns of what he coins ‘scientism’, an ideological narrative told by science which intends to reduce every human function and quality into its own terms. This ideology would preclude any nuance of human intuition or spirituality, such as art, faith or the contemplative ethics that would give rise to liberating insight and its fruits of empathy and compassion; reducing these to “…merely a function of neurons and chemicals…”.

White also discusses how the narrative of ‘scientism’ is motivated by “what stories best support our own self interests” with the intention of “stories that you want everyone to see themselves in” as an impetus of mass social manipulation.

One concern White raises toward the end of the interview, is the rise of neo-mindfulness trends in the mainstream corporate world. (underlined emphasis mine)

    “As for Silicon Valley, it has a legitimate interest in the health of its workers, but it has little interest in Weil’s notion of the “the authentic and pure values.” Its primary aim is to bring Buddhist meditation techniques (as neuroscience understands them) to the aid of corporate culture, such as in the Search Inside Yourself program developed at Google. This is from the Search Inside Yourself Institute website:

    Developed at Google and based on the latest in neuroscience research, our programs offer attention and mindfulness training that build the core emotional intelligence skills needed for peak performance and effective leadership. We help professionals at all levels adapt, management teams evolve, and leaders optimize their impact and influence.


    Mindfulness is enabling corporations to “optimize impact”? In this view of things, mindfulness can be extracted from a context of Buddhist meanings, values, and purposes. Meditation and mindfulness are not part of a whole way of life but only a spiritual technology, a mental app that is the same regardless of how it is used and what it is used for. It is as if we were trying to create a Buddhism based on the careful maintenance of a delusion, a science delusion. It reminds me of the Babylonian captivity in the Hebrew Bible, but now the question for Buddhists is whether or not we can exist in technological exile and still remain a “faithful remnant.”

    Bringing Buddhist mediation techniques into industry accomplishes two things for industry. It does actually give companies like Google something useful for an employee’s well-being, but it also neutralizes a potentially disruptive adversary. Buddhism has its own orienting perspectives, attitudes, and values, as does American corporate culture. And not only are they very different from each other, they are also often fundamentally opposed to each other.

    A benign way to think about this is that once people experience the benefits of mindfulness they will become interested in the dharma and develop a truer appreciation for Buddhism – and that would be fine. But the problem is that neither Buddhists nor employees are in control of how this will play out. Industry is in control. This is how ideology works. It takes something that has the capacity to be oppositional, like Buddhism, and it redefines it. And somewhere down the line, we forget that it ever had its own meaning.”

Grist for the mill of White’s argument is the article The Mindful Revolution in this months TIME magazine, giving us two factors that set this Dharma-lite apart from tradition, “…giving it a practical veneer that is helping propel it into the mainstream.” One is the “smart marketing” of Jon Kabat-Zinn et al, who are “…careful to avoid any talk of spirituality when espousing mindfulness. Instead, they advocate a commonsense approach: think of your attention as a muscle. As with any muscle, it makes sense to exercise it (in this case, with meditation), and like any muscle, it will strengthen from that exercise.” (I notice that this advice is without ethical direction, what to say of the structure and aim of dependant-arising to understand what practice is aimed at.) The second factor mentioned is one of science-to-the-rescue with reference to neuroplasticity and the benefits of brain exercises, but the article is rather lite on evidence here.

Clinical mindfulness modalities such as MBCT/MBSR are having an impact in the mainstream community, at least a popular one. And there has been, and will emerge, studies showing the benefits. But are these really refinements of ‘mindfulness’ as understood in Buddhist tradition? Do these lead to the same ultimate goal of liberation? I cannot say I agree with everything White is saying, but some of his cautions, especially with regard to what seems a recent trend in the scientific and industrial communities, do resonate.

[Edit 4/11: location of articles cited]
Last edited by ancientbuddhism on Fri Apr 11, 2014 5:12 pm, edited 3 times in total.
Anuvicca papañca nāmarūpaṃ
ajjhattaṃ bahiddhā ca rogamūlaṃ,
sabbarogamūlabandhanā pamutto
anuvidito tādi pavuccate tathattā
.

“Having known the naming of objects,
With its proliferation, its root in illness – within and without;
One is released from bondage to the root of all illness.
And thus is called the Knowing One – the Such.

– Sn. 3.6 (Sabhiyasuttaṃ)

Secure your own mask before assisting others. – NORTHWEST AIRLINES (Pre-Flight Instruction)

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Re: The Science Delusion and New Mindfulness

Postby Babadhari » Tue Feb 11, 2014 6:55 pm

it just boils down to companies introducing employees to methods which reduce stress that wont have them hungover or stoned at work.
mindfulness meditation reduces the minds tendancy to become distracted from the task at hand.
it would be naive of the 'corporations' not to take advantage of these methods.
whether its right or wrong, it happens and its not harming anyone is it?
Aflame with the fire of passion, the fire of aversion, the fire of delusion.
Aflame, with birth, aging & death, with sorrows, lamentations, pains, distresses, & despairs ......

Seeing thus, the disciple of the Noble One grows disenchanted. SN 35.28
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Re: The Science Delusion and New Mindfulness

Postby Sam Vara » Tue Feb 11, 2014 7:59 pm

kitztack wrote:it just boils down to companies introducing employees to methods which reduce stress that wont have them hungover or stoned at work.
mindfulness meditation reduces the minds tendancy to become distracted from the task at hand.
it would be naive of the 'corporations' not to take advantage of these methods.
whether its right or wrong, it happens and its not harming anyone is it?


I agree with most of this. Companies are indeed interested in stress reduction; they don't want distracted employees; and corporations will unerringly tend towards their own advantage. But the last bit - whether it harms anyone - is an open question. As ancientbuddhism notes, there is an issue to do with ethical direction. If someone repeatedly uses a muscle, it does indeed get stronger. But what are they going to do with that extra strength?
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Re: The Science Delusion and New Mindfulness

Postby Mkoll » Wed Feb 12, 2014 6:09 am

ancientbuddhism wrote:But are these really refinements of ‘mindfulness’ as understood in Buddhist tradition?

It's not a refinement but a complete reinterpretation at best and a perversion at worst.

Do these lead to the same ultimate goal of liberation?

Only the Noble Eightfold Path leads to liberation.
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Re: The Science Delusion and New Mindfulness

Postby chownah » Wed Feb 12, 2014 8:06 am

Worriers gonna worry.....
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Re: The Science Delusion and New Mindfulness

Postby Babadhari » Wed Feb 12, 2014 9:57 am

Sam Vara wrote: . If someone repeatedly uses a muscle, it does indeed get stronger. But what are they going to do with that extra strength?


very well put.
Aflame with the fire of passion, the fire of aversion, the fire of delusion.
Aflame, with birth, aging & death, with sorrows, lamentations, pains, distresses, & despairs ......

Seeing thus, the disciple of the Noble One grows disenchanted. SN 35.28
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Re: The Science Delusion and New Mindfulness

Postby chownah » Wed Feb 12, 2014 12:19 pm

I certainly hope the Russians don't win the mindfulness race!
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Re: The Science Delusion and New Mindfulness

Postby Spiny Norman » Wed Feb 12, 2014 1:24 pm

Sam Vara wrote: Companies are indeed interested in stress reduction; they don't want distracted employees; and corporations will unerringly tend towards their own advantage.


Very true, and I think companies also prefer techniques where the onus is on the employee to "put in the work".
"I ride tandem with the random, Things don't run the way I planned them, In the humdrum."
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Re: The Science Delusion and New Mindfulness

Postby Spiny Norman » Wed Feb 12, 2014 1:25 pm

chownah wrote:I certainly hope the Russians don't win the mindfulness race!


It's already been won, comrade. :tongue:
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Re: The Science Delusion and New Mindfulness

Postby ancientbuddhism » Wed Feb 12, 2014 4:12 pm

kitztack wrote:it just boils down to companies introducing employees to methods which reduce stress that wont have them hungover or stoned at work.
mindfulness meditation reduces the minds tendancy to become distracted from the task at hand.
it would be naive of the 'corporations' not to take advantage of these methods.
whether its right or wrong, it happens and its not harming anyone is it?


True, it is a hard sell to say that these corporations are harming their employ with modalities which promote efficiency on the upside, and at worse shaping a more malleable workforce. At least they will be ‘mindfully’ malleable, for whatever that means to them.

A concern I have noticed directly for some time now, as these clinical ‘mindfulness’ modalities have developed, is how some practitioners (some of many years), have assimilated these new interpretations of practice at the sacrifice of traditional Dhamma; for some, so much as to say that ‘these communicate to my daily life better’. I know it is fair enough, people are free to choose for themselves. Bur it does impress upon me some urgency to introduce in as clear and inspiring way as I can, what the Tathāgata has given us, which has lent to established and proven traditions of Vipassanā.
Anuvicca papañca nāmarūpaṃ
ajjhattaṃ bahiddhā ca rogamūlaṃ,
sabbarogamūlabandhanā pamutto
anuvidito tādi pavuccate tathattā
.

“Having known the naming of objects,
With its proliferation, its root in illness – within and without;
One is released from bondage to the root of all illness.
And thus is called the Knowing One – the Such.

– Sn. 3.6 (Sabhiyasuttaṃ)

Secure your own mask before assisting others. – NORTHWEST AIRLINES (Pre-Flight Instruction)

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Re: The Science Delusion and New Mindfulness

Postby ancientbuddhism » Wed Feb 12, 2014 4:16 pm

Sam Vara wrote:
kitztack wrote:it just boils down to companies introducing employees to methods which reduce stress that wont have them hungover or stoned at work.
mindfulness meditation reduces the minds tendancy to become distracted from the task at hand.
it would be naive of the 'corporations' not to take advantage of these methods.
whether its right or wrong, it happens and its not harming anyone is it?


I agree with most of this. Companies are indeed interested in stress reduction; they don't want distracted employees; and corporations will unerringly tend towards their own advantage. But the last bit - whether it harms anyone - is an open question. As ancientbuddhism notes, there is an issue to do with ethical direction. If someone repeatedly uses a muscle, it does indeed get stronger. But what are they going to do with that extra strength?


That reminds me of an old discussion we had some time ago on Esangha; can a sociopath practice Dhamma? And for what it is worth, it is an interesting question. Awareness can be strengthened by so-called mindfulness practices, but without the ethics, that strength can be applied to anything.
Anuvicca papañca nāmarūpaṃ
ajjhattaṃ bahiddhā ca rogamūlaṃ,
sabbarogamūlabandhanā pamutto
anuvidito tādi pavuccate tathattā
.

“Having known the naming of objects,
With its proliferation, its root in illness – within and without;
One is released from bondage to the root of all illness.
And thus is called the Knowing One – the Such.

– Sn. 3.6 (Sabhiyasuttaṃ)

Secure your own mask before assisting others. – NORTHWEST AIRLINES (Pre-Flight Instruction)

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Re: The Science Delusion and New Mindfulness

Postby ancientbuddhism » Wed Feb 12, 2014 4:18 pm

Mkoll wrote: ...Do these lead to the same ultimate goal of liberation?
Only the Noble Eightfold Path leads to liberation.


True, that.
Anuvicca papañca nāmarūpaṃ
ajjhattaṃ bahiddhā ca rogamūlaṃ,
sabbarogamūlabandhanā pamutto
anuvidito tādi pavuccate tathattā
.

“Having known the naming of objects,
With its proliferation, its root in illness – within and without;
One is released from bondage to the root of all illness.
And thus is called the Knowing One – the Such.

– Sn. 3.6 (Sabhiyasuttaṃ)

Secure your own mask before assisting others. – NORTHWEST AIRLINES (Pre-Flight Instruction)

A Handful of Leaves
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Re: The Science Delusion and New Mindfulness

Postby daverupa » Wed Feb 12, 2014 4:41 pm

I think this discussion is refined by considering "samma-" as 'integrous', meaning integrated with the Dhamma in toto, as opposed to the more common 'right', suggesting that one can get meditation 'right' on its own, in relative isolation and with a cafeteria approach.

Instead, I see that the ennobling eightfold path is a cohesive effort that offers feedback and mutual support throughout. So, given this, there's no way for this sort of new mindfulness to even approach the benefits to be had via Dhamma, and to an extent it isn't even a Buddhist meditation method because, when parsed in that way, it is no longer accurate to call it sammasati.

So mindfulness is a lovely word, but Buddhists may need to start preferring e.g. bhavana, sati, and similar terms, in order to build a bit of Pali jargon up in the English-speaking world for clarity in these matters.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: The Science Delusion and New Mindfulness

Postby Babadhari » Wed Feb 12, 2014 5:09 pm

Mkoll wrote:
ancientbuddhism wrote:But are these really refinements of ‘mindfulness’ as understood in Buddhist tradition?

It's not a refinement but a complete reinterpretation at best and a perversion at worst.

Do these lead to the same ultimate goal of liberation?

Only the Noble Eightfold Path leads to liberation.


:meditate:

some organisations teach 'liberation' with Buddhist Vipassana and a whole bunch of other stuff thrown in!
http://www.vipassananewworld.org/1/post ... -west.html
On one evening after bedtime, a being of darkness visited one of my students and had a long conversation with them whilst asleep. The roommate of this student woke up from hearing the conversation and began listening and observing. This student is highly adept in spirituality and was able to see this being and hear its suggestions. It was a dark shadow sitting bedside attempting to seduce my student. It was also advising her to not come get me to help, as it knew I would expel it from the area, and it didn’t want this. The student who was observing invoked ArchAngel Michael among other Beings of Light

:alien:
Aflame with the fire of passion, the fire of aversion, the fire of delusion.
Aflame, with birth, aging & death, with sorrows, lamentations, pains, distresses, & despairs ......

Seeing thus, the disciple of the Noble One grows disenchanted. SN 35.28
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Re: The Science Delusion and New Mindfulness

Postby Sam Vara » Wed Feb 12, 2014 6:24 pm

daverupa wrote:I think this discussion is refined by considering "samma-" as 'integrous', meaning integrated with the Dhamma in toto, as opposed to the more common 'right', suggesting that one can get meditation 'right' on its own, in relative isolation and with a cafeteria approach.

Instead, I see that the ennobling eightfold path is a cohesive effort that offers feedback and mutual support throughout. So, given this, there's no way for this sort of new mindfulness to even approach the benefits to be had via Dhamma, and to an extent it isn't even a Buddhist meditation method because, when parsed in that way, it is no longer accurate to call it sammasati.

So mindfulness is a lovely word, but Buddhists may need to start preferring e.g. bhavana, sati, and similar terms, in order to build a bit of Pali jargon up in the English-speaking world for clarity in these matters.


I think this is an excellent post, daverupa. You mentioned the interpretation of "samma" as "integrous" before, and I found it very helpful. I link it to
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.117.than.html MN 117, which is a favourite of mine.

*EDIT* Is the "integrous" point your own? If you have any pointers to other articles, etc., I would appreciate them!
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Re: The Science Delusion and New Mindfulness

Postby Mkoll » Wed Feb 12, 2014 9:48 pm

kitztack wrote:
Mkoll wrote:
ancientbuddhism wrote:But are these really refinements of ‘mindfulness’ as understood in Buddhist tradition?

It's not a refinement but a complete reinterpretation at best and a perversion at worst.

Do these lead to the same ultimate goal of liberation?

Only the Noble Eightfold Path leads to liberation.


:meditate:

some organisations teach 'liberation' with Buddhist Vipassana and a whole bunch of other stuff thrown in!
http://www.vipassananewworld.org/1/post ... -west.html
On one evening after bedtime, a being of darkness visited one of my students and had a long conversation with them whilst asleep. The roommate of this student woke up from hearing the conversation and began listening and observing. This student is highly adept in spirituality and was able to see this being and hear its suggestions. It was a dark shadow sitting bedside attempting to seduce my student. It was also advising her to not come get me to help, as it knew I would expel it from the area, and it didn’t want this. The student who was observing invoked ArchAngel Michael among other Beings of Light

:alien:

:alien: indeed. Whatever liberation they're talking about is not the liberation (Nibbana) as taught by the Buddha. It's really simple and straightforward to me:

Nibbana = end of suffering = Third Noble Truth
Noble Eightfold Path = way to the end of suffering = Fourth Noble Truth

:buddha2:
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Re: The Science Delusion and New Mindfulness

Postby Spiny Norman » Thu Feb 13, 2014 9:22 am

ancientbuddhism wrote:Awareness can be strengthened by so-called mindfulness practices, but without the ethics, that strength can be applied to anything.


Yes, if one takes mindfulness out of context it all gets rather dubious. I would imagine that bank robbers are very mindful in that limited sense!
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Re: The Science Delusion and New Mindfulness

Postby chownah » Thu Feb 13, 2014 12:44 pm

Spiny Norman wrote:
ancientbuddhism wrote:Awareness can be strengthened by so-called mindfulness practices, but without the ethics, that strength can be applied to anything.


Yes, if one takes mindfulness out of context it all gets rather dubious. I would imagine that bank robbers are very mindful in that limited sense!

Even with ethics, that strength can be applied to anything.
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Re: The Science Delusion and New Mindfulness

Postby Spiny Norman » Thu Feb 13, 2014 12:48 pm

chownah wrote:
Spiny Norman wrote:
ancientbuddhism wrote:Awareness can be strengthened by so-called mindfulness practices, but without the ethics, that strength can be applied to anything.


Yes, if one takes mindfulness out of context it all gets rather dubious. I would imagine that bank robbers are very mindful in that limited sense!

Even with ethics, that strength can be applied to anything.
chownah


Ethical bank-robbing? I'm not sure that would be right livelihood. :tongue:
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Peter Gabriel lyric
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Re: The Science Delusion and New Mindfulness

Postby rowboat » Thu Feb 13, 2014 1:07 pm

University of Toronto professor of philosophy Mark Kingwell gives a balanced review of Curtis White's The Science Delusion: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/boo ... e12562938/

See also, Thomas Nagel -- Mind and Cosmos
Raymond Tallis -- Aping Mankind: Neuromania, Darwinitis and the Misrepresentation of Humanity
Rain soddens what is covered up,
It does not sodden what is open.
Therefore uncover what is covered
That the rain will not sodden it.
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