Spanish Bishops: Zen Meditation and ‘Mindfulness’ Movement Are Not Christian
Techniques focused on the self are contrary to ‘Christian prayer, in which the most important thing is the divine You revealed in Christ.’
MADRID — The Spanish bishops’ conference said that the “mindfulness” movement and other Eastern meditation techniques cannot be considered a “properly Christian” practice of prayer.
The Spanish bishops’ commission on doctrine approved April 3 “My Soul Thirsts for God, for the Living God: A Doctrinal Orientation on Christian Prayer.” The document was officially published Sept. 3.
The bishops’ document discusses the “nature and richness of prayer and the spiritual experience rooted in Christian Revelation and Tradition.”
The document also aims to offer “criteria to discern which elements of other widespread religious traditions can be integrated into a Christian praxis of prayer.”
In particular, the bishops noted that “the thirst for God accompanies each and every human being,” while “today’s culture and society, characterized by a secularized mentality, hinder the cultivation of spirituality and everything that leads to the encounter with God.”
“Our rhythm of life, marked by activism, competitiveness and consumerism, generates emptiness, stress, anguish, frustration and multiple concerns that fail to alleviate the means that the world offers to achieve happiness,” the bishops wrote.
In this context, “not a few feel a pressing desire for silence, serenity and inner peace.”
The bishops warned, however, that “we are witnessing the resurgence of a spirituality that is presented in response to the growing ‘demand’ for emotional well-being, personal balance, enjoyment of life or serenity to face challenges.”
That spirituality, they said, is too often “understood as the cultivation of one’s own interiority so that man finds himself and which often does not lead to God.”
“To this effect, many people — even those who grew up in a Christian environment — resort to meditation, prayer techniques and methods that have their origin in religious traditions outside Christianity and the rich spiritual heritage of the Church.”
“In some cases, this is accompanied by the abandonment of the Catholic faith, even inadvertently. In other cases, people try to incorporate these methods as a ‘supplement’ of their faith to achieve a more intense experience of it. This assimilation is frequently done without proper discernment about its compatibility with the Christian faith, the anthropology that derives from it and with the Christian message of salvation,” the bishops warned.
The bishops warned that, “in many spheres of our society, the desire to find inner peace has favored the diffusion of meditation inspired by Zen Buddhism.”
“The reduction of prayer to meditation and the absence of a ‘you’ as its end, turn meditation into a monologue that begins and ends in the subject itself,” the bishops said.
“The Zen technique consists in observing the movements of one’s own mind in order to pacify the person and bring them into union with their own being.”
The meditation technique described by the bishops is often referred to as “mindfulness” in the West.
But techniques focused on the self “can hardly be compatible with Christian prayer, in which the most important thing is the divine You revealed in Christ,” the bishops said.
“Many times these meditation techniques, such as mindfulness, try to hide their religious origin and spread in movements that could be described as ‘new age,’ because they are proposed as an alternative to the Christian faith,” the bishops said.
They also explained that such techniques often disregard the difference “between the self and what is outside, between the sacred and the profane, between the divine and the created,” and “the personal face of the Christian God cannot be recognized.”
“When the divine and the world are conflated, and there is no orientation towards another, any kind of prayer is useless.”
A version of this story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.