Mindfulness and Psychological Process

Mark G. Williams

The author reviews the articles in the Special Section on Mindfulness, starting from the assumption that emotions evolved as signaling systems that need to be sensitive to environmental contingencies. Failure to switch off emotion is due to the activation of mental representations of present, past, and future that are created independently of external contingencies. Mindfulness training can be seen as one way to teach people to discriminate such “simulations” from objects and contingencies as they actually are. The articles in this Special Section show how even brief laboratory training can have effects on processing affective stimuli; that long-term meditation practitioners show distinct reactions to pain; that longer meditation training is associated with differences in brain structure; that 8 weeks’ mindfulness practice brings about changes in the way emotion is processed showing that participants can learn to uncouple the sensory, directly experienced self from the “narrative” self; that mindfulness training can affect working memory capacity, and enhance the ability of participants to talk about past crises in a way that enables them to remain specific and yet not be overwhelmed. The implications of these findings for understanding emotion and for further research is discussed.

Download paper as PDF

Mindfulness, Depression and Modes of Mind

J. Mark G. Williams

The author introduces the special section on mindfulness: four articles that between them explore the correlates of mindfulness in both crosssectional and treatment studies. Results from these studies, taken together, suggest a close association between higher levels of mindfulness, either as a trait or as cultivated during treatment, and lower levels of rumination, avoidance, perfectionism and maladaptive self-guides. These four characteristics can be seen as different aspects of the same ‘mode of mind’, which prioritizes the resolution of discrepancies between ideas of current and desired states using a test-operate-test-exit sequence. Mindfulness training allows people to recognize when this mode of mind is operating, to disengage from it if they choose, and to enter an alternative mode of mind characterized by prioritizing intentional and direct perception of moment-by-moment experience, in which thoughts are seen as mental events, and judgemental striving for goals is seen, accepted and ‘let go’.

Download paper as PDF

Language Hierarchy, Buddhism and Worldly Authority in Yunnan, Laos, Etc.

Eisel Mazard

When Cambodia gained its independence from France, a concerted effort was made to replace French loan-words with ancient-sounding neologisms: new Cambodian words were coined through the combination of Pali parts.1 This reflects a tradition that can be traced back through several centuries of adapting the unfamiliar syllables of Pali and Sanskrit into more indigenous-sounding forms; it also reflects a unique era of optimism when European colonialism seemed to have come to its end—an optimism that proved to be painfully brief. In the past century, the ancient, dead language of Pali has had a rather lively role in mainland Southeast Asia: it has not only been used to expunge French words from Cambodian, but also to expunge Thai words from Lao, and Lao words from Thai. While Pali is an equally foreign language to all of the countries and cultures concerned, it has retained its status as a touchstone of cultural authenticity for all. This paper reflects on the basis of that sociolinguistic perception in more tangible relations of authority.

Download paper as pdf

The Rigveda, ‘small scale’ societies and rebirth eschatology

Joanna Jurewicz

In this paper I would like to join the discussion about transmigration in Vedic times. It is generally assumed that the ideas of transmigration were introduced by the kṣatriyas, as attested in the Upaniads (Bṛhadāraṇyaka,Chāndogya, Kauṣītaki) . The BU and CU present the ‘knowledge of five fires’ (pañcāgnividyā) together with the division into the pityāna and devayāna, paths taken by the dead according to their past deeds. The model of five fires is used to explain how the world works also in the Jaiminīya Brāhmaa (JB 1.45-46, 49-50). This Brāhmaṇatoo presents two possible ways the dead can take, depending on their knowledge.

Click here to download full document.


The Rise of the Concept of ‘Own-Nature’ (Sabhāva) in the Paṭisambhidāmagga

Noa Ronkin (Gal)

The Buddha’s teaching, as it is recorded in the first basket of the Pali Canon, the Sutta-piṭaka, is presented as the path leading to the solution of the fundamental problem of human existence, namely, dukkha, customarily translated as ‘suffering’. The Buddha’s message contains doctrinal concepts and theoretical statements on the nature of suffering, its cause and the way to its cessation, but these are merely guidelines for making sense of Buddhist thought and do not amount to a systematic theory.

Noa Ronkin (Gal) (more…)