The 'Universal Dharma Foundation' of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction: Non-duality and Mahāyāna Buddhist Influences in the Work of Jon Kabat-Zinn

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The discussion on the Buddhist roots of contemporary mindfulness practices is dominated by a narrative which considers the Theravāda tradition and Theravāda-based ‘neo-vipassanā movement’ as the principal source of Buddhist influences in mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) and related mindfulness-based programmes (MBPs). This Theravāda bias fails to acknowledge the significant Mahāyāna Buddhist influences that have informed the pioneering work of Jon Kabat-Zinn in the formation of the MBSR programme. In Kabat-Zinn’s texts, the ‘universal dharma foundation’ of mindfulness practice is grounded in pan-Buddhist teachings on the origins and cessation of suffering. While MBSR methods derive from both Theravāda-based vipassanā and non-dual Mahāyāna approaches, the philosophical foundation of MBSR differs significantly from Theravāda views. Instead, the characteristic principles and insights of MBSR practice indicate significant similarities and historical continuities with contemporary Zen/Sŏn/Thiền and Tibetan Dzogchen teachings based on doctrinal developments within Indian and East Asian Mahāyāna Buddhism.
Original languageEnglish
JournalContemporary Buddhism: an interdisciplinary journal
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)275-326
Number of pages52
Publication statusPublished - 2018
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fields of Science

  • 6160 Other humanities
  • Study of Religion
  • Buddhist Studies
  • mindfulness
  • meditation
  • MBSR
  • 614 Theology

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