Over the decades, Buddhist practice, with its own set of traditions, ethics and beliefs, has been transformed in the West to “mindfulness”, a therapeutic exercise that wields the power and authority of scientific studies and medical experts, as well as Human Resource specialists in some of the biggest companies in America and abroad.
This story, a kind of bizarro companion-piece to Episode 3, presents the other side of Buddhism in the modern world. While Buddhism in Myanmar and Southeast Asia has become tribal and tied up with collective identity, Buddhism as it exists in the West has become highly individualized and divorced from any traditional practice.
This episode explores the limits of mindfulness, uncovering its roots in a neoliberal and pro-capitalist ethos. Despite all its baggage, we ask if the deepest and most radical aspects of Buddhism, rooted in compassion and transformation, might find their way to the surface anyway.
This is the last episode in our mini-series on religion, politics and borders. We’ll be returning with a new season sometime soon – stay tuned for updates on our Twitter page.