The Flat Tire of ‘Mindfulness’

Ouch! Systemic Suffering and the Fourth Noble Truth

by Zenju Earthlyn Manuel

Many see this path as a personal improvement or as an achievement ladder in becoming (and appearing) Buddhist. However, among all the Noble Truths, the Eightfold Path in particular cannot be practiced out of relationship with others. It cannot be practiced without understanding suffering as systemic and as a collective human experience. Therefore, it cannot be practiced without attending to the suffering of classism, racism, sexism, homophobia, etc.

Perhaps it is this focus on mindfulness or meditation, and nothing else on the Eightfold Path, that leads many to misconstrue the path as a personal journey and not a collective path of interrelating, or a collective way toward the cessation of suffering. We emphasize mindfulness and meditation so much that perhaps our wheel of dharma has gone flat. Or perhaps we have rode upon this wheel with such a singular approach like, “I meditate,” that we lack the full understanding that we need others and other aspects of the path to turn the wheel of dharma.

—excerpt from email by Buddhist Peace Fellowship

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