I read a comment to James Ford’s HuffPo piece today Thoughts on Zen’s Sex Scandals and What Might Follow that got me thinking. The comment in part:
It seems to me that this is about ethics and mindfulness. I get the impression that most schools of Buddhism teach mindfulness, whether they call it that or not. If one presumes to teach others, the student will reasonably expect that the teacher has a firm grasp of, and commitment to Buddhist ethics and compassion. If so, a practice of mindfulness should alert the teacher that he is going astray.
These are two different issues to me. There’s lots of mindfulness teaching going on but not so much mention of ethics. Where ethics come up, usually in the guise of precepts, in the Buddhist context, there’s often a lot of equivocating, sometimes to the point of dismissing them entirely. “They’re just guidelines/suggestions/recommendations.” “They’re not like commandments from God.” “I can apply them as I see fit (usually then comes a line or two from the Kalama Sutra as rationalization)”
Ethics is a separate but related discussion to mindfulness. Since the secularization of mindfulness, to impose a Buddhist ethical viewpoint upon it would again bring it back into the realm of Buddhist religion. Many of those who take up mindfulness training in itself do not necessarily want to declare themselves as Buddhists. Many of the institutions that accept mindfulness training only do so on the condition of its secularization.
Mindfulness, in itself, does not concern ethics. It only provides the conditions in which ethics may be discovered lacking and applied.