Transcultural Mindfulness (TM)

TM is Dr Virtbauer’s habilitation project in transcultural psychotherapy at the SFU. A new transcultural approach to mindfulness is developed. Mindfulness meditation is an ancient Buddhist practice that has been integrated into Western psychotherapy, psychology, and medicine. Mindfulness plays an increasingly important role in Western health systems. It is particularly useful in the prevention and treatment of stress-related illnesses and disorders. Many Buddhist scholars consider the Buddhist Pali canon the earliest corpus of Buddhist literature, recorded in the middle Indo-Aryan language of Pali. It includes the texts on mindfulness that have played the key role in the reception and integration of this originally Buddhist practice in Western clinical settings. TM reflects on mindfulness from the perspectives of Pali-Buddhist studies and Western clinical psychology and psychotherapy. TM compares the theoretical and practical approaches to mindfulness in Pali Buddhism with the Western clinical approaches to mindfulness. This comparison is of great importance for the further development of the theory and application of mindfulness meditation in the West. Though mindfulness is widely applied in some European countries in clinical settings there is still a lot of confusion about the meaning and practice of mindfulness in its Buddhist root texts. TM fills a critical gap in the current academic discourses on clinical mindfulness, where the need for a more precise understanding of mindfulness’s Buddhist roots has come to the fore. In this way TM also shows new possibilities of applying and integrating mindfulness in Western society. Theoretical and practical research methods are combined. The theoretical work focuses on descriptive and comparative dimensions. Buddhist mindfulness (Pali “sati”) is analysed, interpreted, and described in a way that is understandable to Western clinicians. Sati is compared in-depth with the current Western clinical concepts of mindfulness. The fieldwork in the UK, Sri Lanka, and India employs interviews with mindfulness experts (both Buddhist and clinical) and participatory observation in the field (in Buddhist monasteries and meditation centres where mindfulness is practised). The research is methodologically based on contemporary approaches to the descriptive phenomenological psychology and the phenomenology of religion. The project’s outcomes will be of great use to the increasing number of Western people that want to include mindfulness into their lives. The development of TM will be a mayor contribution to the clinical mindfulness discourses. It will stimulate further discussion and research. It will play an important role in the training of future mindfulness scholars and scientists. Mindfulness is a young field in Western science that has developed in an increasingly interdisciplinary direction in the last years. TM will be the first comprehensive source for studying mindfulness interdisciplinarily based on its Buddhist roots.

Dr. Gerald Virtbauer

Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies,
Oxford Mindfulness Centre,

Academic advisors
Ven. Dr Khammai Dhammasami (University of Oxford)
Prof. Richard Gombrich (University of Oxford)
Prof. Giselher Guttmann (SFU)
Dr John Peacocke (University of Oxford)
Prof. Johannes Reichmayr (SFU)
Dr Sarah Shaw (University of Oxford)
Dr Jan Westerhoff (University of Oxford)
Prof. Mark Williams (University of Oxford)
Prof. Stefano Zacchetti (University of Oxford)

SS 2016