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The theory and practice of mindfulness originate in an ancient oriental religion and yet is being appropriated by modern social and psychological sciences. This has created problems in how mindfulness and its theoretical framework can be adapted to contemporary conditions without either importing a new religion or excluding ideas and experience that may be useful to the contemporary application of mindfulness. This chapter addresses these problems through a return to the Buddha’s dharma, before “Buddhism” was invented, treating it as an empirical phenomenology based on a first-person perspective. It examines, in particular, the Buddha’s understanding of sīla (ethics, moral discipline) and its embrace of what we would call the realm of the secular. By taking seriously the Buddha’s understanding of what is required for human flourishing in a this-worldly sense, we may find a way to apply his understanding to the diversity of contemporary life without the need to adopt ideological commitments incompatible with a secular and scientific world view.


Institute for Learning Sciences and Teacher Education

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Book Chapter

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