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Article

Mindfulness

Erik Braun

in Buddhism

ISBN: 9780195393521
Published online February 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780195393521-0014
Mindfulness

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Mindfulness, the common translation of the Pali word sati (cognate of the Sanskrit word smṛti), has taken on a wide range of definitions both inside and outside of Buddhist traditions, from simply “bare attention” to a function of mind that includes memory and learning. Yet, whatever the definition, all of them typically include a quality of present-moment awareness that is understood to bring beneficial effects, whether for psychological well-being in everyday life, for calming and concentrating the mind, or for ultimate liberation from the craving-fueled round of rebirth. And however practical or secular in orientation, most sources derive their understandings of mindfulness, at root, from the earliest Buddhist texts extant in an ancient Indian language, those in the Pali language still used by the Theravada Buddhist traditions of South and Southeast Asia. Certainly, there is much concern about mindfulness in texts in other languages and in other Buddhist traditions, but the genealogy of mainstream understandings of mindfulness clearly emerges from Pali texts that are still read and debated today among a wide variety of audiences—from the Buddhist monk to the neuroscientist. The use of a relatively small body of texts to derive many different meanings for mindfulness calls our attention to the importance of the contexts in which definitions are made. For this reason, along with a survey of key Pali texts, this bibliography examines general studies of mindfulness and meditation in Buddhism, follows with a survey of studies that explore what mindfulness meant to early Buddhism, and then progresses through sections that reveal multiple understandings of mindfulness that look to the past but respond to the present.

Article.  5751 words. 

Subjects: Buddhism ; Tibetan Buddhism ; Zen Buddhism

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