Good article—an interview with a book’s author on the subject—about this from Catholic World Report.
CWR: Mindfulness, as you noted, draws on Buddhist ideas. What are the key problems with this approach? In what ways are Catholicism and Buddhism incompatible?
Susan Brinkmann: As Dr. Anthony E. Clark says in the foreword of the book, the direction one drives a car determines the place one arrives at, and our spiritual practice is no different. “When one understands well the intentions of Christian prayer and mindfulness, it is clear that, at their root, they point in contrasting directions,” he writes.
Many Catholics believe Buddhism is not really a religion because it doesn’t involve the worship of a god. It’s more of a philosophy or system of ethics, they say, and is harmless. However, upon closer inspection, we quickly realize that this is just one of many diverging philosophies that make Catholicism and Buddhism completely incompatible.
For example, on the most basic level, Buddhists do not believe in the existence of the soul. They believe people who think they have a soul are rooted in ignorance and in a desire to please one’s “self” and that we become truly enlightened only after we come to the realization that there is no such thing as a soul. Christians not only believe in the existence of the soul, but that the soul can achieve eternal life through Jesus Christ.
Christians believe suffering brings us closer to God and unites us with our Suffering Lord. Buddhists believe suffering is something to be escaped from.
Christ teaches that He is the “Way, the truth and the life,” (John 14:6), but the Buddha teaches that every person must find their own path to enlightenment.
Both faiths teach love but the Christian agape love is personal, individual and free-willed. The Buddhist teaches karuna, an impersonal feeling of compassion. The best way to understand what a stark difference this makes between the two faiths is found in the Buddhist story of the saint who gave his cloak to a beggar. The Christian gives his cloak to the beggar because of Christ’s love for the beggar. The Buddhist gives his cloak to the beggar because it’s the enlightened thing to do. In other words, the Buddhist’s concern is not for the welfare of the beggar, as is the Christian, but for the liberation of the giver from the burden of self.
Another problem I have seen stems from erroneous interpretations of Nostra Aetate, the Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions. This document says that we are permitted to adopt what is good from other religions because it believes that other religions “often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men.” What is often overlooked, however, is that a reflection of a ray is not truth that is directly from the source, but only a reflection of the source that is found in the Catholic faith.
This is why prominent theologians such as Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, warned that the poorly-catechized Christian should not engage in any kind of interreligious dialogue because this is only for doctrinally equipped Christians.
And in regard to incorporating eastern meditation techniques into Christian prayer, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger teaches in A Letter to the Bishops on Some Aspects of Christian Meditation that we can adopt what is good from other religions “so long as the Christian conception of prayer, its logic and requirements are never obscured.” Herein lies the problem. Buddhist meditation techniques such as mindfulness, by their very nature, are diametrically opposed to the Christian conception of prayer, which is “the raising of one’s heart and mind to God.” Buddhist meditation focuses on the self, while Christian meditation focuses on God.
In lieu of all of the above, St. John Paul II issues a well-founded warning in Crossing the Threshold of Faith that because the Buddhist and the Catholic have an essentially different way of perceiving the world, the Christian who wants to embrace ideas originating in Eastern religions needs to “know one’s own spiritual heritage well” before deciding whether or not to set the Faith aside.
Retrieved January 10, 2018 from http://www.catholicworldreport.com/2018/01/07/catholicism-and-mindfulness-compatible-practices-or-contrary-spiritualities/