Should Mindfulness be taught to Improve Military and Business Effectiveness?

Should Mindfulness be taught to Improve Military and Business Effectiveness?

military

During one of our recent talks on mindfulness, we were asked whether we feel it is ethically and morally correct for mindfulness to be taught for the purposes of improving military or business effectiveness. Given that mindfulness was originally taught as a means of fostering peace and spiritual awakening, some people are of the view that it is inappropriate for businesses and the military to teach mindfulness to their employees in order to give them a strategic advantage over the competition. This seems to be quite a hot topic at the moment – especially because projects investigating the applications of mindfulness in military and business settings are already underway. Consequently, we have decided to dedicate this entire post to providing our view on this issue.

In the Buddhist teachings, mindfulness occurs as just one aspect (the seventh aspect) of a fundamental teaching known as the Noble Eightfold Path. Although the Noble Eightfold Path (obviously) consists of eight different elements, these elements do not function as standalone entities. In other words, it is not the case that one starts at the first practice of the Noble Eightfold Path (known as ‘right view’) and concludes one’s training in this practice before moving onto the second practice (known as ‘right intention’.). Rather, although the Noble Eightfold Path has eight different elements, it is in fact just one path and just one practice. This means that whenever one aspect of the Noble Eightfold Path is present and functioning correctly, then all of the other aspects are also present and functioning correctly. For example, without, ‘right view’, ‘right intention’, ‘right speech’, ‘right action’, ‘right livelihood’, ‘right effort’, and ‘right concentration’, there cannot be ‘right mindfulness’.

Thus, if a person in the military is taught mindfulness correctly, then they are also being directly or indirectly instructed in practices intended to cultivate ethical awareness (i.e., ‘right speech’, ‘right action’, ‘right livelihood’), a compassionate and spiritual outlook (i.e., ‘right intention’), and wisdom (i.e., ‘right view’). Accordingly, people in the military or in business that practice mindfulness correctly will also be learning how to become more responsible, wiser, and compassionate world citizens. Therefore, we don’t really need to worry about whether such people will “miss-use” the mindfulness teachings. In actual fact, many accomplished Buddhist practitioners believe that the Buddha’s teaching on mindfulness are so potent and effective that anybody that practices them correctly can’t help but become a better human being.

Of course, there is a strong possibility that people in the military or in business could be taught to practice “mindfulness” outside of the above system of ethical and spiritual values. However, we also don’t particularly need to concern ourselves about this because in such situations it is no longer mindfulness that is being taught. In other words, one can’t really raise a grievance that an organisation is misusing mindfulness if in fact what they are teaching isn’t mindfulness.

Apologies if you were expecting a lengthier discourse but we don’t think there is much else to discuss on this topic.

 

Ven Edo Shonin & Ven William Van Gordon

 

Further Reading

Bodhi, B. (1994). The Noble Eightfold Path: Way to the End of Suffering. Kandy, Sri Lanka: Buddhist Publication Society.

Dalai Lama. (2001). Stages of meditation: training the mind for wisdom. London: Rider.

Gampopa. (1998). The Jewel Ornament of Liberation: The wish-fulfilling gem of the noble teachings. (A. K. Trinlay Chodron, Ed., & K. Konchong Gyaltsen, Trans.) New York: Snow Lion Publications.

Khyentse D. (2007). The heart of compassion: the thirty-seven verses on the practice of a Bodhisattva. Boston: Shambhala Publications.

Shonin, E., Van Gordon W., & Griffiths, M. D. (2014). The emerging role of Buddhism in clinical psychology: Towards effective integration. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, DOI: 10.1037/a0035859.



Categories: Mindfulness

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

3 replies

  1. Greetings to you and all who read your blog.

    I’m troubled by your assertion that military personnel, properly training in mindfulness, can become “responsible, wiser, and compassionate world citizens.” And yes, I would have appreciated a deeper blog post on this.

    Military, to use the Wikipedia definition, is an “arm of government authorised to use lethal force, and weapons, to support the interests of the state and some or all of its citizens.”

    How might a members of such a military practice ethical awareness (Noble Path) while practicing as their livelihood the use of lethal force? My take is that they should resign and renounce their military affiliations. Unless they subscribe to Shaku Soen’s escape clause that “War is an evil, and a great one indeed. But war against evil must be unflinchingly prosecuted until we reach the final aim.” (Zen for Americans, 1906, p. 198).

    Bhikkhu Bodhi’s, whose book you mentioned above, writes that “Right action means refraining from unwholesome deeds that occur with the body …” and, a bit further on, cites the Buddha’s teaching about three components of right action, the first two being “abstaining from taking life, [and] abstaining from taking what is not given” (p. 53).

    If I were to turn to a news outlet right now, I’d hear about MILITARY people bombing, killing, displacing, etc. in Gaza and Ukraine (to mention just 2 such places).

    So, dear teachers, where does it leave this householder, being neither ordained nor a scholar, wishing to be guided by the Buddha’s teachings?

    Peter
    Victoria, BC, Canada
    http://www.heartmind.ca

    • Dear Peter,
      Thank you for your comments. In addition to your comments, we received a few emails from people that also requested some clarification on our post. Therefore, we have decided to address these all together in a new post on ‘Should Mindfulness be Taught to the Militar?’

      Kind regards,
      Edo & William

Trackbacks

  1. Should Mindfulness be Taught to the Military? « Edo Shonin & William Van Gordon

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: