Concept: Buddhist philosophy
Modern exponents of mindfulness meditation promote the therapeutic effects of “bare attention”-a sort of non-judgmental, non-discursive attending to the moment-to-moment flow of consciousness. This approach to Buddhist meditation can be traced to Burmese Buddhist reform movements of the first half of the 20th century, and is arguably at odds with more traditional Theravāda Buddhist doctrine and meditative practices. But the cultivation of present-centered awareness is not without precedent in Buddhist history; similar innovations arose in medieval Chinese Zen (Chan) and Tibetan Dzogchen. These movements have several things in common. In each case the reforms were, in part, attempts to render Buddhist practice and insight accessible to laypersons unfamiliar with Buddhist philosophy and/or unwilling to adopt a renunciatory lifestyle. In addition, these movements all promised astonishingly quick results. And finally, the innovations in practice were met with suspicion and criticism from traditional Buddhist quarters. Those interested in the therapeutic effects of mindfulness and bare attention are often not aware of the existence, much less the content, of the controversies surrounding these practices in Asian Buddhist history.
Does Buddhism really promote tolerance? Based on cross-cultural and cross-religious evidence, we hypothesized that Buddhist concepts, possibly differing from Christian concepts, activate not only prosociality but also tolerance. Subliminally priming Buddhist concepts, compared with neutral or Christian concepts, decreased explicit prejudice against ethnic, ideological, and moral outgroups among Western Buddhists who valued universalism (Experiment 1, N = 116). It also increased spontaneous prosociality, and decreased, among low authoritarians or high universalists, implicit religious and ethnic prejudice among Westerners of Christian background (Experiment 2, N = 128) and Taiwanese of Buddhist/Taoist background (Experiment 3, N = 122). Increased compassion and tolerance of contradiction occasionally mediated some of the effects. The general idea that religion promotes (ingroup) prosociality and outgroup prejudice, based on research in monotheistic contexts, lacks cross-cultural sensitivity; Buddhist concepts activate extended prosociality and tolerance of outgroups, at least among those with socio-cognitive and moral openness.
Dealing with physical pain represents a huge public health expenditure, especially for cancer-induced bone pain, one of the most difficult health issues, which impairs appetite, sleep, and mobility, negatively impacting quality of life and evoking mental problems. Although some literature has reported positive correlation between religion and pain management, there is a dearth of research examining the effectiveness of Buddhism on this topic. This study investigates the usefulness of Buddhist beliefs in managing cancer-induced bone pain through a case example. It illustrates how an advanced cancer patient, with the assistance of a counsellor, perceived pain and coped with it and pain-induced mental problems via Buddhist teachings and practices, including the four noble truths, the law of dependent origination, and karma. It offers alternative perspectives for helping professionals (such as physicians, nurses, counsellors, social workers, hospice and palliative service providers, and pain management practitioners) who are keen to equip themselves with a wider worldview and life view to better serve their clients.
Because of the multifaceted process of weaning patients with prolonged mechanical ventilation, enhancing weaning success remains a challenge. The Care-Integrated Concentration Meditation Program was developed on the basis of Buddhist philosophy and implemented to determine its procedural feasibility. A qualitative case study with 3 participants was conducted, and the process and initial outcomes were evaluated.
The concept of self-compassion originated from Buddhism, but very little is known about the utility and functions of this concept among Buddhists. Four hundred and eleven individuals (179 Buddhists and 232 non-Buddhists) completed the survey packages using the self-compassion scale (SCS; Neff in Self Identity 2(3):223-250, 2003a. doi: 10.1080/15298860309027 ). Confirmatory factor analysis showed that the original six dimensions of the SCS were not replicated by both samples, and further analysis of the intra-correlations within dimensions of SCS and relationships between SCS and other variables showed unexpected results specific to Buddhists. Among Buddhists, the dimensions of self-kindness and common humanity neither showed negative correlations with their opposite dimensions nor were associated with better emotional outcomes. In addition, these two dimensions were not predicted by the regular practice of loving-kindness meditation. This study argued that the ideas of self-compassion reflected in the SCS are theoretically different from the ideas of Buddhism, and further implications for measuring and clinically applying self-compassion were discussed.
Mindfulness meditation and other techniques drawn from Buddhism have increasingly been integrated into forms of psychotherapeutic intervention. In much of this work, mindfulness is understood as a mode of awareness that is present-centered and nonevaluative. This form of awareness is assumed to have intrinsic value in promoting positive mental health and adaptation by interrupting discursive thoughts that give rise to suffering. However, in the societies where it originated, mindfulness meditation is part of a larger system of Buddhist belief and practice with strong ethical and moral dimensions. Extracting techniques like mindfulness meditation from the social contexts in which they originate may change the nature and effects of the practice. The papers in this issue of Transcultural Psychiatry explore the implications of a cultural and contextual view of mindfulness for continued dialogue between Buddhist thought and psychiatry. This introductory essay considers the meanings of mindfulness meditation in cultural context and the uses of mindfulness as a therapeutic intervention in contemporary psychiatry and psychology.
The metaphor of host and guest has value for exploring the practice and role identity of nurses on inpatient mental health units. Two complementary texts, one from the ancient Zen record of Lin-chi, and the other from the contemporary hermeneutic philosopher Richard Kearney, are used to elaborate meanings of host and guest that can be applied to the situation of mental health nurses. In a doctoral study with a hermeneutic design, I addressed the topic of nurse-patient relationship using an interpretive framework that included sources from Buddhist thought. The positions of host and guest emerged from interviews with nurses as one interpretive theme to open up new understanding of the topic. The two texts, originally distant in era and culture, both employ the host and guest metaphor. They are applied to extracts from interviews to open up discussions of hierarchy, status, patients' perspectives, otherness and resistances as features of nurses' complex experience. These provide insights into understanding practice and suggest implications for how institutional environments shape practice. An intercultural reading of texts can provide a source of new understanding of nurse-patient relationships.
The shift in health communication scholarship from the narrow focus on curing to the complexly intertwined spaces of health, illness, healing, and curing attends to the dynamic cultural contexts within which meanings and practices are negotiated, directing scholarship toward alternative spaces of health care delivery. This study utilized the culture-centered approach as a theoretical lens for providing a discursive space for understanding meanings of health constituted in the practices of the Tzu Chi Foundation, an organization that offers biomedical services within the larger philosophical understandings of Buddhism with 10 million members in over 50 different countries. The emerging perspective promotes non-biomedical meanings of health through selfless giving and assistance founded in Buddhist principles, simultaneously seeking purity of the mind, body, and soul holistically. Through the negotiation of the principles driving Buddhist philosophy and the principles that shape biomedical health care delivery, this study seeks to understand the interpretive frames that circulate among foundation staff and care recipients.