This article makes depressing reading. The extremely tricky character of modernity, religion, secularism shows itself here in still another variant. We can see the automatic compulsion of the modernist drift to attempt to adapt a religious issue of antiquity to the present and future, and the results seem to fail, why?
Traditional buddhists see a problem and react toward traditionalism. But a deeper point is missed. The modern world does have to recreate buddhism for a new era, but this wasn’t the way. This is an ancient problem, one Gautama solved by following the complete outline of a ‘meditation’ movement, the ancient Jain legacy.
The reason to me is clear, but it won’t help much: buddhism had such a spectacular emergence because it was clocked to the onset of the Axial Age and was also gifted with a great legacy of completed experiments that we see in the the Jain line which stretched back thousands of years.
The modern period is different: there is no spectrum of parallel emergence tracks we see in the Axial Age. The nature of the macro process shifts to a single focus, which creates a unified culture of modernity spread through globalization. A religion in the line of ‘santana dharma’ like buddhism/jainism has thus no macro pogo stick to recreate and amp out its successor. It has to spread by diffusion and its tone is instantly diluted in the way it must enter, not the science, but the scientism field of pseudo-modernity with in addition its commercial and utilitarian bent. It is the latter in part that are producing the muddle over mindfulness.
This situation is why I have frequently tried to consider the neo-buddhists of the Rajneesh/Osho experiment: a genuine effort to recreate a new successor to the ancient line of buddhisms, in the plural. But at this point the Hinayana field ought to be trying to recreate a future neo-buddhist experiment. Not so simple, but begin to study the question. Ditto for Tibetan buddhism. But Osho/Rajneesh is a giant step ahead of everyone else here. But the result is quirky and hard to assess. Strangely, the Osho field has, to my knowledge, a near absent emphasis on ‘zazen’ or basic meditation. The point is that to clip the ‘path of enlightenment’ and reduce it to a stress reduction technique simply beggars the whole idea.
We should note in passing the effect of the culture of capitalism. It spoils the result. Ancient buddhism started with stepping out of society as renunciates. That is very hard now, there is no place to go…
The mindfulness culture emerging is a way to stumble into the future, but without the rocket blast that made buddhism into a world religion.
All we can hope is to carry the seeds of the ancient phenomenon to a new and future theatre. A lot more to be said here… The Hinayana field that let this rascal slip away into the market place should study the Rajneesh aura to get a sense of the way to create a neo-buddhism that can reabsorb movements like the mindfulness movement.