Buddhism, Interview, Society, Spirituality

Episode 34: McMindfulness — The New Capitalist Spirituality with Ron Purser

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Ron is not afraid of controversy with his new book: McMindfulness — How Mindfulness Became the New Capitalist Spirituality, out this July. He also hosts the Mindful Cranks podcast. Let’s start out by saying that:

“Dr. Purser is an ordained  Zen Dharma teacher in the Korean Zen Taego Order.  He received ordination in April 2013 from the Venerable Jongmae Park, Partriarch of the Taego Korean Zen order for the overseas sangha. His Dharma name is Hae Seong, which means “The Nature of Wisdom.”

As a long-time practitioner, he really knows his stuff! In our episode, we go over just how the modern mindfulness movement, founded on the MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) programme convinces that “a little mindfulness goes a long way” — and all the repercussions that can have.

We go into detail how mindfulness has been hijacked to serve the capitalist system. This truth is Ron’s passion.

My passion is how it has been torn apart from its very meaning, as a way to enlightenment on this planet (and all other planets and universes, also).

So, how has modern mindfulness been severed from its Buddhist roots? Well, here’s a hint: in the Sattipatthana Sutta that the Buddha laid out on mindfulness, a lot is missing from the modern mindfulness programmes.

Bhikku Bodhi lays out on Accesstoinsight.org:

“The practice of Sattipatthana meditation centers on the methodical cultivation of one simple mental faculty readily available to all of us at any moment. This is the faculty of mindfulness, the capacity for attending to the content of our experience as it becomes manifest in the immediate present. What the Buddha shows in the sutta is the tremendous, but generally hidden, power inherent in this simple mental function, a power that can unfold all the mind’s potentials culminating in final deliverance from suffering.

To exercise this power, however, mindfulness must be systematically cultivated, and the sutta shows exactly how this is to be done. The key to the practice is to combine energy, mindfulness, and clear comprehension in attending to the phenomena of mind and body summed up in the “four arousings of mindfulness”: body, feelings, consciousness, and mental objects.

At the heart of the matter, modern mindfulness misses that mindfulness is made to lead to true and final liberation from all suffering, or Nibanna. (This is simply one way to waking up out of the vast collection of the Buddha’s methods.)

Without taking into account other factors beyond “simply paying attention to the present moment” — a person will (more than likely not) magically become free or cultivate wisdom. In fact, this is just another form of suffering, and this can be proven. If simply paying attention to the present moment worked, then we would see evidence of this in the external world as greed, desire, and hatred decrease: that is its purpose, after all. Is this the case? Not at all!

Google, Apple, Nike and other major corporations have repeatedly used secular, modern mindfulness training as part of their curriculums. Marissa Levin admits this, in just one article underpinning the mindfulness/capitalist situation:

“Once the Eastern practice became popular as a method of self-help, it quickly became a tool within businesses to increase productivity and well-being of employees.

‘With business meditation, we have a practice that is extrapolated from Buddhism and secularized so that all of the theological underpinnings are swept away,” says Catherine Albanese, author of A Republic of Mind and Spirit: A Cultural History of American Metaphysical Religion.'”

Mindfulness, as a business model, completely disintegrates the value of mindfulness as a way to liberation from wordly suffering for all beings. As a business model at all, to increase productivity for corporations, lends itself to be a materialistic substitute for Reality. This is in direct contradiction to its purpose. B. Bodhi goes on to say, “This [mindfulness] is the only satisfying way for the seeker of truth when the diffuseness [papañca] of the external world with its thin layer of culture, comfort and allurement, ceases to be interesting and is found to lack true value.

Also, modern mindfulness misses out on the other facets of the Sutta, including:

Contemplating the body in mindfulness of breathing, bodily positions/postures, eating/drinking/walking/speaking, and…

Reflection on the Repulsiveness of the Body:
Ex) “And further, O bhikkhus, a bhikkhu reflects on just this body hemmed by the skin and full of manifold impurity from the soles up, and from the top of the hair down, thinking thus: ‘There are in this body hair of the head, hair of the body, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, fibrous threads (veins, nerves, sinews, tendons), bones, marrow, kidneys, heart, liver, pleura, spleen, lungs, contents of stomach, intestines, mesentery, feces, bile, phlegm, pus, blood, sweat, solid fat, tars, fat dissolved, saliva, mucus, synovic fluid, urine.”

Reflection on the Modes of Materiality: (Cemetary Contemplations 1-9)
Ex) “And further, O bhikkhus, if a bhikkhu, in whatever way, sees a body dead, one, two, or three days: swollen, blue and festering, thrown into the charnel ground, he thinks of his own body thus: ‘This body of mine too is of the same nature as that body, is going to be like that body and has not got past the condition of becoming like that body.”

Contemplation of Feeling:
Ex) “Thus he lives contemplating [painful, pleasureable, and neutral] feelings in feelings internally, or he lives contemplating feeling in feelings externally, or he lives contemplating feeling in feelings internally and externally. He lives contemplating origination-things in feelings, or he lives contemplating dissolution-things in feelings, or he lives contemplating origination-and-dissolution-things in feelings. Or his mindfulness is established with the thought: ‘Feeling exists,’ to the extent necessary just for knowledge and remembrance and he lives independent and clings to naught in the world.”

Contemplation of Consciousness:
Ex) “Here, O bhikkhus, a bhikkhu understands the consciousness with lust, as with lust; the consciousness without lust, as without lust; the consciousness with hate, as with hate; the consciousness without hate, as without hate; the consciousness with ignorance, as with ignorance; the consciousness without ignorance, as without ignorance; the shrunken state of consciousness, as the shrunken state; the distracted state of consciousness, as the distracted state…”

And so much more…

Ron and I go into detail on how modern mindfulness and capitalism are satisfied holding hands. See www.ronpurser.com to contact him.

 

 

Buddhism, Hinduism / Sanatana Dharma, Philosophy, Society, Spirituality

Episode 19: Building an Ecological House – Part II


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Building an ecological house… is what I am going to do. Because I feel a responsiblity towards taking care of myself and changing the current situation on earth.

People, like you and me, are starting to wake up and bypass the status quo, because the disillusionment of pleasing authorities that exist in our imaginations is over-grown, like disengaged tree branches falling and crippling away at their stems.

Bodily freedom comes with enjoying life’s blessings and eliminating the stress of chasing bills for energy companies who could give a damn if we stay warm or not. Freedom comes when we are living authentically, under less pressure, acknowledging the inner space to let thoughts, emotions, sensations, and material sense objects flow through our experience without having to cling to them. Our current cultures all encourage clinging: to business (busy-ness), to success, to sense stimulation, to future events, to familiar people, to our reputation, and more subtly, to habits (“Samskaras” in Buddhist/Hindu philosophy), and to self-image. That is: the external world and its multiplicity of situations.

In my previous episode (#18), I talked about how the Industrial Revolution ignited massive economic change in Europe and North America, spurring the growth of the consumer society we now live in. It’s not our fault, but we made rash decisions when the population boomed and kept growing larger. Cities replaced rural lifestyles, factory lines replaced craftsmanship, and railroads promoted long-haul transport. Now we have a system (again, imaginary, but passed right along by our forefathers) that encourages working to get by while life passes us by.

So… I will build an eco-house and harness wind and solar power to create a home where the family are reliant on nature and live closely with her; we will grow our own fruit and vegetables and freeze them over winter. We will nurture animals who come to live with us. We will spend time making music, taking long walks, reading, podcasting, painting, building guitars, and have a healing centre with massage and meditation.

I feel the responsiblity to be free — to inspire the rest of humanity to be free.

If you have similar ideas that need expression or an inspiring thought to share, then comment below!

Buddhism, Hinduism / Sanatana Dharma, Philosophy, Society, Spirituality

Episode 18: The Economy, Cities, & Our Big Brains – Part I

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What will happen in the future to jobs and the economy as people start to “wake up”?

Firstly, people who are awakening are more concerned with not only themselves and their immediate families and friends, but the wider scope: humanity as a whole.

As the population is growing — estimates of nearly 10 billion by 2050 — how are we to take care of each other in this new age we are entering? More and more graduates of top universities can’t get jobs, because the bar is raising and the sectors we are currently engaged in, in cities in particular, are becoming obsolete. Think about this: in my city alone, London, the top sector is finance and banking: according to uncsbrp.org:

”London’s economic importance cannot be underestimated. In terms of industries, it is the financial sector which is the most important. Although creative, media, technology and manufacturing industries all operate from London, it is the financial services sector which dominates them all. Most of the banking, underwriting and trading markets that operate in the capital are base in the City of London.”

How many people, out of the entire 9 million people who live in London, are in, or desire to be in banking? I’m not everyone, of course, but the majority of London is a cultural hub where over 250 languages are spoken and people have wide and diverse interests: East London’s creative scene is being overturned lately by developers, and many are scared for the future of their neighbourhood. London is a place that’s hard to leave, and you can find generations of families who have lived in the same neighbourhood their whole lives and masses of foreigners who came to the city 10, 20, 30 years ago and call it their home: that’s why you have what is called “Banglatown” in Shoreditch, Chinatown in the center, Jamaicans living in Brixton and Seven Sisters, Jewish areas in Stoke Newington and Stamford Hill, student centres in New Cross and Westminster and Aldgate, a smattering of schoolboys and girls everywhere, office workers, restaurant owners, pop-up shops and record stores, and a thousand other small businesses like tattoo shops, hair salons, music venues, and off-licenses. It’s not difficult to integrate with everyone, and that’s what makes London unique: we don’t all desire to follow the status quo, and we stay even though developers are taking land to create unaffordable housing and rents we’re up to our necks in heating bills, because you know, it’s never even really sunny… we are a collective, though segregated by smartphones and cliques and language barriers and busy-ness.

We don’t all want to be in banking…

(Tune in to hear the rest of the episode!)