A critique of the contemporary mindfulness practices in Western societies with particular reference to the teachings of Thich Nhat Hahn

Student, A. (2016) A critique of the contemporary mindfulness practices in Western societies with particular reference to the teachings of Thich Nhat Hahn. Undergraduate thesis, University of Chichester.

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Abstract

This study will critique the contemporary secularisation, acculturation and appropriation of mindfulness practices in Western societies. Specifically, it will investigate the work of Thich Nhat Hahn, since he has been instrumental in the expansion of mindfulness. This expansion has seen meditation’s meteoric rise from the realms of mumbo-jumbo to claims of it being a panacea. This growth of mindfulness’ popularity has resulted in it now being practised in many secular private and state organisations, for example in: the National Health Service and corporate companies.
Hahn claims “some people think there is a difference between mindfulness and meditation, but this is not correct the practice of mindfulness is simply to bring awareness into each moment of our lives.”

My argument is that Hahn’s teachings and practices can benefit the majority of individuals, families and societies enhancing their sense of peace in the present reality. However, there are issues with secularising mindfulness that seem to be largely ignored. Therefore, this study will present the benefits but also examine the issues relating to mindfulness’ secular appropriation highlighting the need for thorough unbiased research to be undertaken, to fully understand the implications of participating in this fundamentally spiritual practice.

Firstly, I will examine Hahn’s socio-cultural background. It is important to look at the influences in his life as it demonstrates how he came to develop his vision of a renewed and engaged Buddhism.
Secondly, I will consider mindfulness’ secularisation, acculturation and appropriation in Western societies. Hanh has been instrumental in the adoption of mindfulness into Western societies; he has adapted and portrayed it as a universally relevant practice to Buddhists, and non-Buddhists alike, through his widespread teachings, writings and retreats in the west. Furthermore, I will evaluate the secularisation of this fundamentally spiritual practice to establish if this makes a marked difference to the Buddhist mindfulness goal of recognising and overcoming suffering. I will investigate its format in some of the establishments where it is practised. Additionally, the purported benefits and potential downsides of mindfulness will be evaluated.
Finally, I will critique the contemporary spread in mindfulness by western society drawing on the information gathered to establish whether there is any merit to the claims that mindfulness is a panacea, including the claims of Dr Willoughby Britton’s study that “meditation is not all peace and calm. Sometimes stuff can come up that needs to be dealt with.”
I am from Anglo-Irish origins, a formal meditator of almost thirty years and an advocate of interfaith dialogue and relations, as well as aspiring to be an Interfaith Minister. Accordingly, I am aware that I could have a bias towards meditation and Western perspectives; I have kept this in mind throughout my research and writing of this dissertation.

Item Type: Thesis (Undergraduate)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Buddhism, Secularisation, Mindfulness
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BQ Buddhism
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BV Practical Theology
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine
Divisions: Departments > Theology
Undergraduate Dissertations
Depositing User: Janet Carter
Date Deposited: 17 Jan 2017 08:59
Last Modified: 17 Jan 2017 08:59
URI: http://eprints.chi.ac.uk/id/eprint/2429

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