Introduction: Zen, Mindfulness, and Behavioral Health

  • William T. O’DonohueEmail author
  • Akihiko Masuda
  • Kayla Sargent
Part of the Mindfulness in Behavioral Health book series (MIBH)


Mindfulness practice adapted to the field of behavioral health in recent decades is said to have a close connection to Zen Buddhism. This introductory chapter highlights the background and aims of the present edited book, Zen, mindfulness, and behavioral health, including a brief overview of included chapters and editors’ notes. Whereas generally encouraging, the authors argue that this trend also brings confusions to the field at applied, theoretical, and epistemological levels. Given this context, the present volume poses the importance of critically evaluating the practice of mindfulness and associated events, using the framework of Zen Buddhism, an ultimate source for the construct of mindfulness. Key questions asked throughout the volume include (a) whether the cross-fertilization of Zen Buddhism and behavioral health is possible, (b) whether it is optimal to extract single technique out of a set of interrelated beliefs and insert them into another (e.g., pulling a snippet of Buddhism out and placing it within behavioral health), and (c) whether Zen Buddhism adequately serves as an alternative paradigm. The present authors make the case that explicating and committing to one’ s philosophical and theoretical standpoint is crucial for clarifying the aims of applied practices, including mindfulness-based interventions and evaluating their effectiveness.


Zen Buddhism Behavioral health Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) Mindfulness 


  1. Baer, D. M. (1981). A flight of behavior analysis. The Behavior Analyst, 4(2), 85–91.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  2. Broughton, J. L. (2009). Zongmi on Chan. New York, US: Columbia University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Brown, K. W., Ryan, R. M., & Creswell, J. D. (2007). Mindfulness: Theoretical foundations and evidence for its salutary effects. Psychological Inquiry, 18(4), 211–237.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Cummings, N., O’Donohue, W., & Cummings, J. (2009). Psychology’s war on religion. Phoenix, AZ, US: Zeig, Tucker & Theisen.Google Scholar
  5. Dogen, E., Leighton, T. D., & Okumura, S. (1995). Dogen’s pure standards for the Zen Community: A translation of Eihei Shingi. Albany, New York: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  6. Dogen, E., Nishiari, B., Okumura, S., Suzuki, S., & Weisman, S. M. (2011). Dogen’s Genjo Koan: Three commentaries. Barkeley, CA, US: Counterpoint.Google Scholar
  7. Dumoulin, H. (2005). Zen Buddhism: A history volume 1: India and China. Bloomington, IN, US: World Wisdom.Google Scholar
  8. Gergen, K. J. (1983). Zen Buddhism and psychological science. Psychologia: An International Journal of Psychology in the Orient, 26(3), 129–141.Google Scholar
  9. Gilbert, P. (2010). Compassion focused therapy: A special section. International Journal of Cognitive Therapy, 3(2), 95–96. doi: 10.1521/ijct.2010.3.2.95
  10. Gilbert, P., & Irons, C. (2005). Focused therapies and compassionate mind training for shame and self-attacking. In P. Gilbert & P. Gilbert (Eds.), Compassion: Conceptualisations, research and use in psychotherapy (pp. 263–325). New York, NY, US: Routledge.Google Scholar
  11. Grossman, P., Niemann, L., Schmidt, S., & Walach, H. (2004). Mindfulness-based stress reduction and health benefits: A meta-analysis. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 57(1), 35–43. doi: 10.1016/S0022-3999(03)00573-7
  12. Gu, J., Strauss, C., Bond, R., & Cavanagh, K. (2015). How do mindfulness-based cognitive therapy and mindfulness-based stress reduction improve mental health and wellbeing? A systematic review and meta-analysis of mediation studies. Clinical Psychology Review, 37, 1–12. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2015.01.006
  13. Hayes, S. C., Barnes-Holmes, D., & Wilson, K. G. (2012). Contextual behavioral science: Creating a science more adequate to the challenge of the human condition. Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science, 1(1–2), 1–16. doi:
  14. Hayes, S. C., Follette, V. M., & Linehan, M. M. (2004). Mindfulness and acceptance: Expanding the cognitive-behavioral tradition. New York, NY, US: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  15. Hayes, S. C., Strosahl, K. D., & Wilson, K. G. (1999). Acceptance and commitment therapy: An experiential approach to behavior change. New York, NY US: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  16. Hayes, S. C., Strosahl, K. D., & Wilson, K. G. (2012b). Acceptance and commitment therapy: The process and practice of mindful change (2nd ed.). New York, NY US: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  17. Hayes, S. C., Villatte, M., Levin, M., & Hildebrandt, M. (2011). Open, aware, and active: Contextual approaches as an emerging trend in the behavioral and cognitive therapies. Annual Review of Clinucal Psychology, 7, 141–168. doi: 10.1146/annurev-clinpsy-032210-104449
  18. Hofmann, S. G., Sawyer, A. T., Witt, A. A., & Oh, D. (2010). The effect of mindfulness-based therapy on anxiety and depression: A meta-analytic review. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 78(2), 169–183. doi: 10.1037/a0018555
  19. Houts, A. C. (2009). Reformed theology is a resource in conflicts between psychology and religious faith. In N. Cummings, W. O’Donohue, & J. Cummings (Eds.), Psychology’s war on religion (pp. 257–311). Phoenix, AZ, US: Zeig, Tucker & Theisen.Google Scholar
  20. Japan Buddhist Federation. (1978). Understanding Japanese Buddhism.Google Scholar
  21. Jeremias, J. (1963). The parables of Jesus (Rev. ed.). New York: Scribner.Google Scholar
  22. Kabat-Zinn, J. (1990). Full catastrophe living.Google Scholar
  23. Kabat-Zinn, J. (2003). Mindfulness-based interventions in context: Past, present, and future. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 10(2), 144–156. doi: 10.1093/clipsy/bpg016
  24. Kasulis, T. P. (1981). Zen action Zen person. Honolulu, HI, US: University of Hawaii Press.Google Scholar
  25. Kierkegaard, S., Lowrie, W., & Nelson, B. (1962). The point of view for my work as an author; a report to history, and related writings. New York: Harper.Google Scholar
  26. Linehan, M. M. (1993). Cognitive-behavioral treatment of borderline personality disorder. New York, NY US: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  27. Ma, S. H., & Teasdale, J. D. (2004). Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for depression: Replication and exploration of differential relapse prevention effects [Press release]Google Scholar
  28. Markus, H. R., & Kitayama, S. (1991). Culture and the self: Implications for cognition, emotion, and motivation. Psychological Review, 98(2), 224–253.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Menahem, S., & Love, M. (2013). Forgiveness in psychotherapy: The key to healing. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 69(8), 829–835. doi: 10.1002/jclp.22018
  30. Monteiro, L. M., Musten, R. F., & Compson, J. (2015). Traditional and contemporary mindfulness: Finding the middle path in the tangle of concerns. Mindfulness, 6(1), 1–13. doi: 10.1007/s12671-014-0301-7
  31. Neff, K. D. (2003). Self-compassion: An alternative conceptualization of a healthy attitude toward oneself. Self and Identity, 2(2), 85–101. doi: 10.1080/15298860309032
  32. Norcross, J. C., Pfund, R. A., & Prochaska, J. O. (2013). Psychotherapy in 2022: A Delphi poll on its future. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 44(5), 363-370. doi: 10.1037/a0034633
  33. O’Donohue, W. T., & Ferguson, K. E. (2016). Historical and philosophical dimensions of contemporary cognitive-behavioral therapy. In C. M. Nezu, A. M. Nezu, C. M. Nezu, & A. M. Nezu (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of cognitive and behavioral therapies (pp. 7–27). New York, NY, US: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  34. Okumura, S. (2010). Realizing Genjokoan: The key to Dogen’s Shobogenzo. Boston MA, US: Wisdom Publications.Google Scholar
  35. Poceski, M. (2015). The records of Mazu and the making of classical Chan literature. New York, USA: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Reichenbach, H. (1938). An analysis of the foundations and the structure of knowledge. Chicago, IL, US: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  37. Robins, C. J. (2002). Zen principles and mindfulness practice in dialectical behavior therapy. Cognitive and Behavioral Practice, 9(1), 50–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Roemer, L., & Orsillo, S. M. (2005). An acceptance-based behavior therapy for generalized anxiety disorder. In S. M. Orsillo & L. Roemer (Eds.), Acceptance and mindfulness-based approaches to anxiety: Conceptualization and treatment (pp. 213–240). Boston, MA, US: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Segal, Z. V., Williams, J. M. G., & Teasdale, J. D. (2002). Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for depression: A new approach to preventing relapse. New York, NY, US: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  40. Seligman, M. E. (2011). Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being. New York, NY, US: Free Press.Google Scholar
  41. Senzaki, N., & Strout-McCandless, R. (1953). Buddhism and Zen. New York, US: North Point Press.Google Scholar
  42. Suzuki, D. T. (1994). Essays in Zen Buddhism. New York, US: Grove Press (original work published in 1949).Google Scholar
  43. Suzuki, D. T. (1996). Zen Buddhism: Selected writings of D. T. Suzuki. New York, US: An Image Book.Google Scholar
  44. Suzuki, D. T. (2010). Zen and Japanese culture. Princeton, NJ, US: Princeton University Press (original work published in 1938).Google Scholar
  45. Timberlake, W. (1995). Reconceptualizing reinforcement: A causal-system approach to reinforcement and behavior change. In W. T. O. D. L. Krasner (Ed.), Theories of behavior therapy: Exploring behavior change (pp. 59–96). Washington, DC, US: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Timberlake, W., & Allison, J. (1974). Response deprivation: An empirical approach to instrumental performance. Psychological Review, 81(2), 146–164. doi: 10.1037/h0036101
  47. Tirch, D., Silberstein, L. R., & Kolts, R. L. (2016). Buddhist psychology and cognitive-behavioral therapy: A clinician’s guide. New York, NY, US: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  48. Uchiyama, K., & Okumura, S. (2014). The Zen teaching of homeless Kodo. Somerville MA, US: Tuttle Publications.Google Scholar
  49. Uchiyama, K., Wright, T., Warner, J., & Okumura, S. (2004). Opening the hand of thought: Foundations of Zen Buddhism practice. Somerville MA, US: Wisdom Publications.Google Scholar
  50. Van Gordon, W., Shonin, E., Griffiths, M. D., & Singh, N. N. (2015a). Mindfulness and the four noble truths. In E. Shonin, W. Van Gordon, N. N. Singh, E. Shonin, W. Van Gordon, & N. N. Singh (Eds.), Buddhist foundations of mindfulness (pp. 9–27). Cham, Switzerland: Springer International Publishing.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Van Gordon, W., Shonin, E., Griffiths, M. D., & Singh, N. N. (2015b). There is only one mindfulness: Why science and Buddhism need to work together. Mindfulness, 6(1), 49–56. doi: 10.1007/s12671-014-0379-y
  52. Whitehead, A. N., & Russell, B. (1910). Principia mathematica. Cambridge: University Press.Google Scholar
  53. Wright, D. S. (1992). Rethinking transcendence: The role of language in Zen experience. Philosophy East & West, 42(1), 113–138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • William T. O’Donohue
    • 1
    Email author
  • Akihiko Masuda
    • 2
  • Kayla Sargent
    • 2
  1. 1.University of NevadaRenoUSA
  2. 2.University of Hawaii at ManoaHonoluluUSA

Personalised recommendations