Issues in Interdisciplinarity 2020-21/Evidence in Meditation

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Evidence for the effectiveness of mindfulness in Philosophy[edit | edit source]

The Buddhist Satipatthana Sutta, the Foundations of the practice of Mindfulness Meditation, is considered the founding philosophical text for meditative mindfulness as we know it today. If mindfulness is “cultivated and regularly practiced” the effects are said to be manyfold, including: “purification… the overcoming of sorrow and lamentation… the destruction of suffering and grief… the attainment of Nirvana.”[1] The Guatama Buddha goes on to express how mindfulness “bring(s) wisdom and deliverance to perfection”[1].

Siddhartha Guatama reached these conclusions through his personal experience of mindfulness meditation. Early Buddhist texts claim (cita. needed) that Siddhartha Guatama sat down to meditate and was determined not to get up until he had been fully awakened[2]. The evidence for the effectiveness of the practice of mindfulness meditation can be found in his own spiritual Enlightenment.

In terms of modern philosophical thought, renowned philosopher and neuroscientist Sam Harris says of mindfulness, “How we pay attention to the present moment(s) largely determines the character of our experience and, therefore, the quality of our lives.”[3] He goes on to say, the “goal (of mindfulness) is to awaken from our trance of discursive thinking... so that we can enjoy a mind that is undisturbed[4].”

The benefit of mindfulness is rooted in its ability to create a state of mind which is “undisturbed”, thus improving the character of our experience and “therefore, the quality of our lives”. Harris gathered this evidence through his own meditation practice, “I spent 2 years on silent retreat myself, practicing various techniques of meditation for twelve to eighteen hours a day,[3]” and through studying with "a wide range of monks, lamas, yogis and other contemplatives[3]". This touches an important point which is the oral tradition of passing on knowledge, insight, and wisdom in Buddhist philosophy[5]; whether or not you have attained Nirvana, you can trust the experiences shared by those who have.

Philosopher Joseph Goldstein was one of the first western mindfulness meditation teachers. He believes the ritual practice of mindfulness meditation causes a “transformation of how we are in the world… we’re more accepting, more lovinglykind, more peaceful, more compassionate, less judgmental, less selfish.[6]” He quotes the Sattipatana Sutra in suggesting that, in order to see the benefits of mindfulness meditation in your life, the practitioner must practice with “a balanced and sustained application of effort.[6]” Again, Goldstein cites his own experiences meditating with eastern teachers as the well from which he draws his evidence in support of the effectiveness of mindfulness meditation.

Thich Nhat Hahn, though not an academic philosopher, is often considered the Father of Mindfulness[7] Meditation. A monk since he was 16, Thich Nhat Hahn was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967 by Martin Luther King Jr for his work as a peace activist, which is perhaps proof of the power of meditative mindfulness. Thich Nhat Hahn says, the practice of meditative “Mindfulness is the miracle by which we master and restore ourselves[8],” and draws upon his decades of experience practicing. He also stresses the simplicity of mindfulness, and how it can be practiced in mundane, everyday activities, thus increasing its effectiveness, "There are two ways to wash the dishes. The first is to wash the dishes in order to have clean dishes and the second is to wash the dishes in order to wash the dishes.[8]"

Whether the original philosophical text of the practices of mindfulness meditation(s), western academic philosophers, or eastern monks, there is a broad array of evidence for the effectiveness of the sacred ritualized practice of mindfulness. In the discipline of philosophy, evidence is gathered through direct experience - philosophers practice mindfulness meditation extensively, and share the findings of their experiences (cita. needed).

  1. a b Nhat hanh, T. Transformation and Healing: Sutra on the Four Establishments of Mindfulness. (2nd ed.). : Parallax Press; September 9, 2002.
  2. Harris, S. Waking Up: Searching for Spirituality Without Religion. (1st ed.). : Black Swan; 10 Sept. 2015.
  3. a b c Harris, S. Waking Up: Searching for Spirituality Without Religion. (1st ed.). : Black Swan; 10 Sept. 2015.
  4. Harris, S. How to Meditate. Sam Harris. [Online] Available from: [Accessed 29 November 2020].
  5. The buddhist society. Scriptures & Texts. The Buddhist Society. [Online] Available from: [Accessed 29 November 2020].
  6. a b Goldstein, J. Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening. : Sounds True; 1 Nov. 2013.
  7. Fitzpatrick, L. The Monk Who Taught the World Mindfulness Awaits the End of This Life. Time. [Online] Available from:,an%20orange%20or%20sipping%20tea. [Accessed 29 November 2020].
  8. a b Thich nhat hanh. The Miracle Of Mindfulness: The Classic Guide. : Rider; 7 Feb. 2008.