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Prescribing the DharmaPsychotherapists, Buddhist Traditions, and Defining Religion$
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Ira Helderman

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781469648521

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469648521.001.0001

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Black Boxes and Trojan Horses

Black Boxes and Trojan Horses

Translating Religion Approaches

Chapter:
(p.113) Chapter Four Black Boxes and Trojan Horses
Source:
Prescribing the Dharma
Author(s):

Ira Helderman

Publisher:
University of North Carolina Press
DOI:10.5149/northcarolina/9781469648521.003.0005

This chapter introduces psychotherapists’ translating religion approaches to Buddhist traditions focusing on the therapeutic use of mindfulness practices as a popular case example. In these approaches, Buddhist elements are “translated” into biomedical treatment interventions admissible to secular-designated psychotherapy. Influenced by a number of institutional and affiliative factors, cognitive behavioral psychotherapists were predisposed to seek to maintain scientific legitimacy while incorporating Buddhist practices. Taking a closer look at the historical origins of contemporary therapeutic mindfulness practices and the currently-untold stories of the development of some of the most prominent mindfulness methodologies (Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, etc.), the chapter interrogates the prevailing narrative that “mindfulness was extracted from Buddhism” and completely remade into a secular biomedical item. The chapter elucidates the ongoing contestation among clinicians - spurred by encounters with multiple, overlapping institutional authorities (not only biomedical or Buddhist, but academic as well) - over whether to define their “translations” as Buddhist or psychotherapeutic, religious or not-religious.

Keywords:   Mindfulness, Practice/Theory dichotomy, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), Jon Kabat-Zinn, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), Transcendental Meditation, Nyanaponika Thera and the Mahāsī method, Thomas Rhys Davids, Medieval Chinese Buddhism, U.S. Liberal religion

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