The Dalai llama argues that human kind is inherently good and that mindfulness allows our inner goodness, or Buddha nature to shine through. As proof he cites the fact that even the most psychopathic sociopath could not have survived infancy without the nurturance of a loving mother. Indeed infants deprived of close physical love and comfort perish as quickly as those deprived of physical nourishment.
Certainly, humans are fundamentally loving and good, but our capabilities include great evil even committed by mindful individuals in the name of compassion.
…history has revealed numerous examples of societies based on spiritual, ethical and meditation practices which have colluded with and supported some of the worst violence of the day…
Yoga for War: The Politics of the Divine – Be Scofield
Prominent Nazis were ardent yoga practitioners. Buddhism was a fundamental underpinning of the ethos of Imperial Japan and the pathos of China. U. S. Marines practice resiliency training that includes brief meditation in full combat gear. Military cadets at the oldest military academy in the U.S. practice meditation.
But the preliminary results of the study, now in its second year, surprised even its lead researchers. They have been methodically tracking the dozens of participants and several control groups of non-meditating cadets through detailed questionnaires as well as brain wave and eye scans to measure levels of stress, anxiety, and depression.
“All those things decreased significantly,” said Dr. Carole Bandy, a Norwich psychology professor overseeing the project. “In fact, they decreased very significantly.”
As Scofield points out, mindfulness is ethically neutral. I don’t mean to imply any moral equivalence between the U.S. military and depraved regimes of the past. I do agree with Scofield that mindfulness benefits humankind when employed within beneficent political and ethical constructs.
As we’ve seen, cultivating presence through meditation or yoga is not by itself an adequate way to address the complex global challenges we face. The “raising of consciousness,” as it’s popularly phrased in today’s yoga and meditation communities, doesn’t raise political consciousness. It doesn’t make people more aware of what is violent and what is not, nor does it make them resist violence. An increase in presence in the world does not increase justice. Nonetheless, these two elements are all-too-often conflated with each other. But inner transformation doesn’t necessarily lead to social transformation, despite the popular conceptions to the contrary. In many cases the cultivation of presence and awareness is actually used to support violence.