Buddhist Theories of Mindfulness: the Voices of South Asian Contemplative Traditions
In recent years, “mindfulness” has emerged into the mainstream, with mindfulness-based programs proliferating in numerous and diverse contexts, including health care, primary education, the corporate world, and the military. Yet this dramatic increase in the presence of mindfulness in our culture has often been paralleled by increasing confusion about what “mindfulness” might be. Drawing on the Buddhist contemplative traditions of South Asia, this talk aims to clarify some of the pressing issues—such as the question of ethics—that are relevant to the current uses of mindfulness. We will examine the diversity of opinion and occasionally strong disagreements among Buddhist traditions so as to understand the contradictory streams of influence that inform our contemporary versions of mindfulness. At the same time, some key points of convergence—such as the central role of meta-awareness—will also be central to our inquiry.
John Dunne (PhD 1999, Harvard University) serves on the faculty of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he holds the Distinguished Chair in Contemplative Humanities, a newly endowed position created through the Center for Healthy Minds. He also holds a co-appointment in the Department of East Asian Languages and Literature and is participating in the creation of a new program in Asian Languages & Cultures. Previously he was an Associate Professor in the Department of Religion at Emory University, where he co-founded the Collaborative for Contemplative Studies. His work focuses on Buddhist philosophy and contemplative practice, especially in dialog with Cognitive Science and Psychology. His publications appear in venues ranging across both the Humanities and the Sciences, and they include works on Buddhist philosophy, contemplative practice and their interpretation within scientific contexts. Much of his current research focuses especially on the varieties of mindfulness and the contemplative theories that inquire into its nature.