Remember that day when your kid came home from first grade crying, because some other kid told them that there was no Santa Claus? Sorry about that; that kid was me. Look, it isn’t like you think; I wasn’t trying to be mean or anything. You see, my parents never told me that there was a Santa to begin with. My earliest Christmas memories was of them putting presents in front of me, saying, “Your Dad and I bought these for you because we love you,” and there was never any talk of fat men in red outfits, or reindeers that magically fly. When I was plopped in first grade, and Christmas time rolled around, I was taken aback by all the other kid’s talk about this Santa character. When I asked who he was, they told me that it was the person that gives us our presents; to this, I simply replied, “No it’s not. Our moms and dads buy us the gifts to be nice to us.” By the time I got home that day, there were already a slew of angry parents who had left some not-so-nice comments about me and my parent’s parenting skills on the phone. “What kind of a jerky kid are they raising? What kind of a parent doesn’t tell their kid there is a Santa? How are they going to correct this?” “Correct this,” my parents said, “you do know that there really isn’t a Santa right?”
Fast-forward a good decade or two, and here I find myself doing it all over again; although, this time it isn’t over a fat red men, no, this time it was over meditation in front of a bunch of Buddhists I was meeting for the first time. I was new to Buddhism, I haven’t been meditating long; I knew I liked to meditate, I had read the Dhammapada over a few times, and I had memorized the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path—besides that, I was as “green” as they come. Partway through the night the discussion in the Buddhist group turned to “Mindfulness”, which I thought to myself, was awesome, “I know this one”; since that was one of those 8 really important thingies that Buddha guy told us to do… The “Awesome 8”, as I like to call them! (No, I have never actually called them that.)
So, they started talking about the importance Mindfulness, how great it is, and then talked about how Mindfulness IS Meditation… I raised my hand and simply stated, “No it isn’t. I mean, the Buddha listed them as two different things on the Dharma Wheel… so how can they be the same thing?”
I mean, did the Buddha screw up here? Was Mindfulness so great that he wanted to slip in there twice, but under a different name? Did the Buddha have some kind of O.C.D. about even and odd numbers; so, once he ended at 7, he had to repeat one to make it a nice, even 8?
Some people got offended, others corrected me, and the general populous simply patted me on the head, and told me that I was too new at this to understand, and that they, having practiced longer, know what they are talking about. Now, I am not a cocky individual, so I took this advice to heart, and I spent the next while studying the Suttas, Sutras, and various other resources on how I could be so mistaken about Meditation. Now, I have to tell you… and I hate to say it… but the more I study, the more I see that I was right the first time. We all know the old saying, “From out of the mouths of babes…”, and well, maybe this was one of those cases. Maybe, being new to all this and simply taking the teaching of the Buddha for what they were, at face value, I had avoided all those years of rationalizing, explaining away, justification, watering-down, and intellectual re-writes that tend to come along the way.
Let me make one thing perfectly clear: I am not belittling Mindfulness. How could I? I mean, it’s one of the Awesome 8! I could never say that Mindfulness in non-important, or, that it was some unnecessary part of “old-Buddhism” that can now be ignored or is supplemented by one of the other 7. I would never do that, but that is what others in this new Zen movement are doing to Meditation. They are belittling Meditation, kicking it right off the Wheel, and are making the claim that Mindfulness now is supplementing, or fulfilling the requirement for that part of the regiment. This not only, is bad Buddhism, but I also take to be quite offensive.
Think about it in a different context: Would we ever make the claim that Mindfulness fulfills/supplements Right Action? Shouldn’t we go and find all those Buddhists working out there to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and help the hopeless that all they really need to do is walk slow, eat slow, and be “present” more and they can really forget about all that Right Action stuff… I mean, that takes a lot of effort and work anyway, right? And who wants that.
Mindfulness is Meditation no more than Right Speech is Right View, or Right Intent is Right Action.
Now, Mindfulness IS great, in that it really does lead into and strengthen the rest of the practice (other 7), but. In doing so, it does not negate the need to still practice the others. If you are “mindful” then you are going to be more careful in how you speak to others; If you are “mindful” of what is going on around you in the world, you are going to eventually feel the need to act and do something to help out. Those are just a few examples, but I hope you get the idea; although, not to “diss” Mindfulness or anything, but really practicing ANY of the 7, or having an emphasis on one, should (if done properly) result in being drawn to and fulfilling the others. It is a wheel you know.
I think it is erroneous and dangerous to leave sitting Meditation out of the practice, and I do have to question what kind of Buddhism is really being practiced without it. This all came to a “head” the other day to me as I was reading through a new issue of a popular, international, Buddhist magazine; where, they featured an article on how Mindfulness and Meditation are the same thing, and how much easier it is to be “mindful” than to be bothered with all that sitting and concentrating.
The article points out that Meditation is just concentration and Mindfulness is concentrating… so really, being mindful is meditating. They then, also admit how they don’t like to do sitting meditation, that is cuts into their busy life schedule too much, and that it is too uncomfortable. However, Zen mindfulness is GREAT since they can be mindful easily. How easy? Well, they say that when they take a shower… they are mindful to turn the dial back to cold when finished, and that is Meditation. They even talk about playing pool with their friends all the time, and how they realized that it takes a lot of “concentration” to play pool… I mean, you have to focus and not get distracted by all the noises and people talking, and you have to think about your shot, and make the shot… heck, so playing pool is some deep-ass meditation! Who needs sitting meditation anyway?
Funny that with all their mindfulness they never became mindful of their time; never considering maybe waking up a bit earlier, not going out with the boys to play pool so much (if they can find the time for that but not meditating), and maybe cutting back some of the TV so they can “fit” meditation into their lives better.
You know, when you watch TV, you are concentrating on the pictures, words, AND you are sitting! So, TV meditation, oh I’m sorry, TV mindfulness, does wonders! I know people who watch TV for hours and hours at a time—I could never sit that long meditating the old-fashioned way. These guys are true masters. Have you ever seen them at work? Sometimes, they are so “deep” into their TV meditation, so single focused, that they can’t even hear you when you tell them to take the trash out, turn it down, or pick the kids up from school. I always thought this was just pathetic, but really… really, they are just deep in the Jahna’s of TV meditation. Once hitting the 4th Jahna of TV watching, all outside noises fade away, nothing exists besides you and your show, you are the show, and time seems to stop all together.
I never had this experience, but I do think I at least got the the 3rd Jahna of Video Game Playing Meditation once.
Look, just because concentration is involved in meditation, that does not mean that everything that involves concentration is meditation. Sitting is involved in mediation as well, but does that mean that all sitting is meditation? I am sitting right now, heck… my roommates have been sitting on their butts upstairs for the past 3 hours watching movies… are we meditating?
Anyway, let me wrap this up.
I love Mindfulness. I practice Zen. And, I think this modern tendency to make “mindful… fill in the blank” replace a daily meditation disciple is just stupid.
I love to meditate, but I can’t stay in that state forever. Sooner or later I have to “unplug” and enter back into the world. I have people I have to talk to, meetings, I got to eat, sleep, work or go to school. This is where Mindfulness comes into play with my Meditation. I can’t sit on my butt all day, all the time, being blissful while my responsibilities in life go undone and the world around me goes to hell. I have to unplug, and enter back into the world of sense-pleasures. In doing so, I have to now switch to Mindfulness to take what I have gained and learned through my meditation regiment with me as I move through the day. Mindfulness reminds me to keep my nose clean, not to stray from the path, not to do anything or put anything into my body that is going to take away from my practice or harm others… However, I have found that my level of mindfulness is directly in proportion to, and resulting from, my level of meditation… and not the other way around.
To be fair to those who disagree with me, I can understand why some people would give up on sitting meditation for something more appealing, and more instantly gratifying as being mindful. Why sit with your legs all folded up for hours and hours when you can just eat really slow or even practice hugging meditation? Yes, there is such a thing as Zen Hugging Meditation.
Besides, if you are of the Buddhist school that says that there is NO enlightenment, no real Nirvana, and that any and every satori experience, vision, or insight that you may think you have during sitting meditation is false; then, why even bother meditating? To what purpose? There is no enlightenment anyway so why go through all the trouble? For these people, who see the practice as good works, self discipline, and a positive philosophy of life only—there is no reason to bust their asses with meditation. That, I understand. I disagree with it, but I understand it. If that is where you are coming from, then enjoy that walk and watching flowers bloom. But! (Yes, there is a “but”) But please stop attacking and belittling sitting meditation in the process. It makes baby Buddha cry.
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