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Theoretical Foundations to Guide Mindfulness Meditation: A Path to Wisdom

  • Nandini Karunamuni
  • Rasanjala Weerasekera
Article

Abstract

Mindfulness interventions are becoming increasingly popular across a wide variety of clinical and non-clinical settings where they are often employed to promote psychological well-being. Mindfulness in its original context presented in Buddhist practice is used to systematically understand one’s moment-to-moment experience, and to gradually develop self-knowledge and wisdom. Buddhist teachings describe wisdom as seeing things just as they are - a requisite for the complete freedom from suffering. In psychological writings, although the construct of wisdom lacks a commonly accepted definition, direct experiential self-knowledge is considered to be an essential element of wisdom. The purpose of this article is to examine the three major trainings of the Buddhist path, as well as some of the key Buddhist theoretical constructs, in order to explore their contribution to the gradual development of experiential self-knowledge and wisdom. In Buddhist traditions, mindfulness is practised in the context of a moral and philosophical system, and the mind is described as a sequence of momentary mental states, each distinct and discrete, their connections with one another being causal. We explain how a clear understanding of mindfulness within the context of this broader theoretical framework can be helpful to individuals engaging in different levels of the mindfulness meditation practice, and how this understanding can result in more sustained outcomes for mindfulness interventions. Further explorations are made into how various barriers and motivators to mindfulness meditation can be better understood by linking the theoretical aspects with current research literature on mindfulness.

Keywords

Mindfulness Meditation Self-knowledge Wisdom Attachment Subjective experience Buddhist psychology 

Notes

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank Venerable S. Dhammika, Dr. Anjani Karunaratne and Dr. Paul Ritvo for reviewing an earlier version of this manuscript and providing helpful feedback. We also express our gratitude to a Buddhist meditation teacher in Sri Lanka who prefers not to be named, for providing guidance on theoretical aspects of Buddhist teachings.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Author Nandini Karunamuni declares that she has no conflict of interest. Author Rasanjala Weerasekera declares that she has no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

Funding

The authors received no financial support for the research and/or authorship of this article.

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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Health Promotion Studies, School of Public HealthUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  2. 2.School of Kinesiology and Health Science, Department of PsychologyYork UniversityTorontoCanada
  3. 3.Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research, Department of Molecular GeneticsUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

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