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Buddhadharma : Spring 2019
30 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER'S QUARTERLY Imagine Buddhism as an iceberg where all types of social engage- ment, including ecodharma, form the tip at the top. Beneath them, but still above sea level, is something much bigger and still growing: the mindfulness movement, which has been incredibly successful over the last few years. Within the Buddhist world, however, it has also become increasingly controversial. Here I will not delve into that debate except to note that although mindfulness practices can be very beneficial, they can also discourage critical reflection on the institutional causes of collective suffering, what might be called social dukkha. Bhikkhu Bodhi has warned about the appropriation of Buddhist teachings, and his words apply even more to the commodification of the mindfulness movement, insofar as that movement has divested itself of the ethical context that Buddhism traditionally provides: “absent a sharp social critique, Buddhist practices could easily be used to justify and stabilize the status quo, becoming a reinforce- ment of consumer capitalism.” In other words, Buddhist mindful- ness practices can be employed to normalize our obsession with ever-increasing production and consumption. In both cases the focus on personal transformation can turn our attention away from the importance of social transformation. The contrast between the extraordinary impact of the mindful- ness movement and the much smaller influence of socially engaged Buddhism is striking. Why has the one been so successful, while the other limps along? That discrepancy may be changing somewhat: an increasing number of mindfulness teachers are concerned to incor- porate social justice issues, and the election of Donald Trump has motivated many Buddhists to become more engaged. Nonetheless, When it comes to the ecological crisis, Buddhist teachings do not tell us what to do. But they tell us a lot about how to do it.