“Spirituality” and “mindfulness” a means of colonising and commodifying Asian wisdom traditions

“Spirituality” is a term which over the past few years become the replacement for “religion” in the Western world. In other words, spirituality, has been the privatisation of religions. While religions had communal dimensions, spirituality is individualistic and even narcissistic.

Spirituality is fast replacing belief based Abrahamic religions, since most of the organised religions are now associated with human right abuses, child abuses, decimation of indigenous cultures and propagation of violence as seen in the “jihadists” and other forms of religiously motivated violence.

Asian wisdom traditions are those traditions that have maintained orthopraxis over belief. In other words, while belief is the acceptance of something that is not known, but considered to be fact. Whereas, orthopraxy is correct conduct, both ethical and liturgical, transmitted through authentic teacher with established and verifiable lineage to their students. This is a human to human interaction that is developed, cultivated and supported throughout their journey, not simply taught a practice as a course online or offline.

The process of commodifying Asian wisdom traditions can easily be seen with yoga. Yoga as practiced today in the west has been extracted from its immense wisdom framework known as the eight limbs of yoga, and now offered as nothing more than postural exercises devoid of any of its accompanying elements.

Today, we find the same strategy being employed with “mindfulness”. All Indic traditions share the royal path of meditation, or mindfulness, varying from mindfulness of breath to mindfulness of sounds, or mantras. These powerful practices are designed to transform, to take individuals beyond their conditioned mind, emotions and body, towards consciousness itself. They were never designed as antidotes to depression, stress or anxiety. The reason mindfulness is so effective in addressing depression, stress or anxiety, is because of witnessing thoughts and conditioned cognitive patterns enable individuals to transcend or modify them. These practices are designed to take individuals to the very source of their existence, beyond their ego self.

However, unlike the bastardization of yoga, mindfulness without its accompanying wisdom on the nature of life, mind and consciousness is far more likely to leave the participants in a variety of transpersonal dilemmas, not to mention loss of self without any underpinning support and guidance. The assumption that mindfulness can be taught to others without any consideration for authentic guidance from a teacher with lineage is both irresponsible and dangerous.

There is a reason why Samma Sati or right or correct mindfulness, is differentiated and Micca Sati or incorrect mindfulness. Right mindfulness is the 7th element in the noble eight-fold path. Without the other 6 proceeding elements, mindfulness practice is incorrect or unhealthy and will lead the participant into states and stages of consciousness that may prove far more destructive to their inner sense of self and wellbeing, than anxiety, depression or stress.

Mindfulness without the guidance of an authentic teacher with proven lineage is like learning to drive, without knowing the rules of driving.