Personality and Ethics in Theravada Buddhism

  • Dita ŠamánkováEmail author
  • Marek Preiss
  • Tereza Příhodová


The chapter presents the oldest Buddhist Pali canon of Theravada tradition (Abidhamma) neither as a philosophy, nor a religion, but as a psychological and ethical system, within which a specific mental faculty called sati serves as a tool of discernment of ethical and unethical motivations and actions. It discusses the shifts in meaning of sati in the Anglophone environment translating it as “mindfulness”—whose concept, stemming from Zen Buddhism, has been popularised in the Western world by Jon Kabat-Zinn and the Positive Psychology. Describing an authentic experience with satipaṭṭhāna-vipassanā meditation instructed in Czech by a Theravadian Pali speaker, it demonstrates major incongruence of the seemingly identical concepts if rendered in a different tradition and different language. The Pali encoded, Czech translated, complex functions of sati in unfolding the processual character of personality and its ethical dimension is detailed in the second half of the chapter, questioning its neurobiological substrate and possible utilisation in Western process-oriented psychotherapy. The chapter quotes a few Anglophone Buddhist scholars who also scrutinised the Western concept of “mindfulness”, and mentions some semblances of the Theravadian theses with Western philosophy.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dita Šamánková
    • 1
    Email author
  • Marek Preiss
    • 2
  • Tereza Příhodová
    • 3
  1. 1.The National Institute of Mental HealthKlecanyCzech Republic
  2. 2.The National Institute of Mental HealthKlecanyCzech Republic
  3. 3.The National Institute of Mental HealthKlecanyCzech Republic

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