Richard Ollier has recently published an essay in the Journal of Global Buddhism "Dharmavidya’s Engagement with Hōnen: How a Contemporary British Pureland Buddhist Teacher Retrieves his Japanese Spiritual Heritage"*

It is a good academic article and, of course, interesting for me to read. I discovered that I am a post-secular Buddhist (but not a post-"secular Buddhist"). Well, I suppose that is true. Also that I reaffirm that Buddhism is a religion while undermining the academic understanding of the category "religion". I suppose that that is true as well. In fact, the article is very good all round.

The only point where I would quibble is on the references to mindfulness. Richard says that outside Asia Buddhism is now more or less synonymous with mindfulness but that in my approach that mindfulness is hardly mentioned and that mindfulness is not part of my understanding of Buddhism. What he means is correct, but this way of putting it is not. In fact, mindfulness is absolutely central to my approach to Buddhism, it is just that my understanding of what mindfulness is is quite different from what is generally put about in the West these days. I assert that my mindfulness is the real mindfulness and the common sort is a distant derivative psychological exercise that has lost the function that it had when Buddha deemed it a factor of enlightenment.

How I understand it is the way almost any scholar would have understood it a few decades ago, which is the same way as the people who originally chose the word mindfulness to translate sati (Pali) or smtiri (Sanskrit) understood it, namely as the practice of keeping something holy in mind. In particular, what a Buddhist keeps in mind is the Buddha and the Buyddhadharma. It makes no difference if this is a samghogakaya Buddha such as Amitabha or Quan Shi Yin or Manjushri. The point is that the core of Buddhism is refuge and keeping refuge in mind is Buddhism. All other practices reduce to or are built upon this one. Mindfulness is refuge.

In Pureland Buddhism, this takes the practical form of reciting the nembutsu. Nembutsu means "mindfulness of Buddha" since butsu is Buddha and nem is mindfulness. Pureland and all forms of Amidism are therefore practices of mindfulness in the original sense. All the other factors of enlightenment rest upon this foundation.

What is contemporaneously called mindfulness is something different. It is an alertness exercise. Such an exercise can have its uses, but it is a long way distant from what Shakyamuni was talking about.

* Journal of Global Buddhism Vol. 19 (2018): 43-59
DOI: https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.1494233

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Blog Posts

GROUP

Posted by David Brazier on January 11, 2019 at 9:43 2 Comments

I’ve always been interested in groupwork. Recently I’ve been facilitating a rather challenging group. It includes an older man who is enjoying his retirement, an outdoor type who does not say so much but clearly regards the other members as wimps, a writer who has an irritating obsession with etymology, one I think of as the wanderer whose life problem seems to be that of never having learnt to settle down, who tells endless entertaining stories of travels, love affairs and so on, and I was…

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Sense on Brexit

Posted by Geeta Chari on December 16, 2018 at 18:51 0 Comments

https://news.liverpool.ac.uk/2018/12/13/full-speech-sir-ivan-rogers-on-brexit/

I found this piece tremendously sensible, well-reasoned, and above all, realistic.

LONG JOURNEY

Posted by David Brazier on December 14, 2018 at 18:52 6 Comments

Carol drove me into Ottawa at midday on Wednesday 12th. I had spent the morning being interviewed and making a short film. In Ottawa we had lunch at the vegetarian restaurant and then went on to the airport where she dropped me off. I was to take a local plane to Montreal then fly to Paris and on to Bilbao in Spain with Air France, due to arrive at nine in the morning local time the following day. F would meet me in Spain and take me back to stay with him in a village near Vittoria.…

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MY REAL LIFE

Posted by David Brazier on December 8, 2018 at 15:00 4 Comments

I'd like to try to say something about real life, which is the only thing that is really interesting.

I have been a bookworm ever since I learnt to read, which was not until I was seven years old. By that time I had already had important spiritual experiences. I was a rather odd child. Many ideas went through my head that tended to set me apart from other children.

Now,…

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