Robert Sharf's Lecture in DILA: “Is Mindfulness Buddhist? Why it matters??

As Professor Sharf pointed out, he didn’t mean to contradict the therapic effects that Mindfulness Meditation may achieve. He further added that Mahasi Sayadaw and other Burmese Chan Masters may in fact value the core spirit of Buddhism. Nevertheless, these meditation methods which are mainly run by lay people reiterated that wisdom and contemplation of thusness can be attained through human operations and took them as propagation of Buddhism. This may raise the misinterpretation that Buddhism doctrines are no longer necessary to comprehend.
In the Modern Chan movement, Buddhist views for life, the world, and any belief that related to the religion and cultures should be forgone. This would be very worrying in deed if people streamline Buddhism into mindfulness and bare attention. In particular, modern Chan view mindfulness meditation as a device of “resolving disappointment” and “generating happiness” which would counter the core spirit of Buddhism; that is to understand human suffering is the inherent nature of our world so all beings can only attain liberation by seeing through their own ignorance.
The questions and feedback from the floor also drive straight to the heart, such as “Do we fall into the misinterpretation of the vipassana meditation and mindfulness meditation?”; “How to draw the line properly between the expedient propagation and stick to the essence of Buddhists teachings?” “In history, similar reformation has also taken place in Chinese Chan Buddhism, and Tibetan Mahāsaṅdhi (Great Perfection) “Buddha himself once took analogy of those shot by arrow; it is most important to remove the arrow rather than argue who or what made the shooting happened. “
Professor Sharf cogitated on modern society needs and influences, thus expounded that many people are interested in mindfulness meditation for their mental needs and social concern not simply for religious reasons. Besides, people from different cultural and era backgrounds may have diverse understanding of mindfulness meditation. If we take the mindfulness meditation as an academic discipline, religions would most likely be replaced.
Professor Sharf reinforced the idea that Chan practices eventually dwell in our daily life and can only be verified thereof. “What really matters is the way you get along with people, and the environment, not just your Chan experiences on cushion or sensation arising inside your brain.”
Texts: Venerable Yan Zhen (演真法師) – 法鼓雜誌
Photos: Lee Fan (李東陽)
Translation: Elenda Huang
Editing: DDM Australian Editorial Team