Much ink has been spilt discussing whether Buddhism is a #Religion or a philosophy. What it undoubtedly is, is a way of life, a way of living. The openness of Buddhist thought has made it highly portable and promiscuous.

Mindfulness, derived from Buddhist practice, is being promoted as the new panacea in the Western health system. This new vogue both illustrates the portability and promiscuity of Buddhist thinking; but, also, the limits of this openness and accessibility. Promoters of "Mindfulness" are keen to acknowledge its roots in Buddhism. This gives it an ancient pedigree, giving it the impression of being well tried and tested, and not a fad. However, promoters of "Mindfulness" are not Buddhist, and steer well clear of appearing to promote a particular religion, or vision of the good life.

So, how does this both demonstrate the promiscuity and portability of Buddhist thought, and the limitations of the portability and accessibility of Buddhist thought?

The fact that a key aspect of Buddhist practice (i.e. Mindfulness) has been re-imagined and transported into the Western health system illustrates what I mean by the portability and promiscuity of Buddhist thought. However, it also shows the limitations of the ability to transport Buddhist thought and make it accessible. Mindfulness has been divorced from Buddhism; it has become a separate entity. In the Western health system, it is no longer a practice within Buddhism, but a separate "thing". Mindfulness is rather like a ghost without a body. It stalks the health system, but it is a rootless spectre that is ultimately out of time and out of place. The flawed panacea that is Mindfulness is a result of its separation from its body (i.e. Buddhism). It is a wailing banshee mourning its separation from its parent-body, Buddhism.

OK, so you are thinking, "what is all this ghostly imagery and metaphor about?"

OK, Buddhism is a way of life, a way of living. Mindfulness is not.

Buddhism holds its devotee in a place within The World. Their life and existence has a location and meaning - they define themselves as a follower of Buddhism, and their meaning is to live a Buddhist life. Mindfulness lacks the completeness of Buddhist thought. One may practice Mindfulness, but that does not mean that one defines themselves through their practicing of Mindfulness, and nor does Mindfulness provide meaning to life. Ultimately, the existential lacuna remains.

This is rather predictable, because it could not be expected for the Western health system to endorse Buddhism. Instead, it can only provide something like Mindfulness.

Buddhism may provide meaning and definition. But only if it is really pursued with genuine devotion, and this is not something that a health system could advocate. Similarly, any religion: Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Paganism etc, if truly believed and as the central defining facet of a person's life, could provide the same meaning and definition.

However, here is the rub, I cannot with postmodern irony say, "it doesn't matter whether I choose Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Paganism etc, as long as I choose one of them", because this prevents me from devotion to that system of living. Instead, I am ironically realising that any one of those systems of living would provide an escape from existentialism.