As meditation divorced from the Buddhadharma (and the Buddhadharma itself) become popular in the West, there are questions to consider.
1. First, as secular meditation becomes popular as a stress reliever and goes into all areas of Western life—from therapy to education—it is clear that it is benefiting these individuals who meditate. But is it also becoming a form of spiritual materialism? Is it merely stopping at the self-help comfort zone?
2. Do people cling to the eyes-closed and private peace aspect of meditation as introduced most commonly in Hatha yoga, mindfulness, or vipassana spheres and shy away from opening the eyes and developing a peace which can be taken out into the world to benefit others? In other words, is this secular form of meditation becoming “all about me,” without introducing the aspect of awareness which develops compassion? Or are people introduced to secular meditation becoming more open and curious, leading them to the study of dharma and dharmic methods which introduce compassion, like tonglen ?
3. If mindfulness or vipassana is all that is taught in a secular fashion and context, is meditation in danger of becoming commercialized? Although meditation is intrinsically beneficial, is it still dharma without any teachings on liberation?
4. Is the Buddhadharma in the West itself falling prey to bourgeois comfort and convenience—sometimes called “cozy” dharma? Can the pursuit of liberation become a casual mass movement?
5. Buddha and his students were supported in Jetagrove by the wealthy merchant Anathapindika. Is the value of a small community around an authentic teacher still a viable model for today?
6. If dharma teachers seek approval and popularity, success and gain, are they perpetuating spiritual materialism or is their motivation to be of benefit to a greater majority? How often do teachers become corrupted by playing the numbers game with students after earning initial celebrity attention and money?
Editor: Anne Clendening