What is the connection between Buddhism, Yoga and Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is an ancient practice with its origins rooted in Taoism, Hinduism and Buddhism. Moreover, Trousselard et al. 2014 said: “It is important to include that some commentators argue that the history of mindfulness should not be reduced to Buddhism and Hinduism, as mindfulness also has roots in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam”.
Hindu tradition has a range of meditation that involves mindfulness and yoga practices; likewise Taoism which is a Chinese doctrine that advocates “energy of work” and harmony between human beings and the environment, also includes various taoist mindfulness practices.
The origins of mindfulness practice can be tracked back to Buddhism origins more than 2,500 years ago, evidence are in the Theravada Buddhist Sect which is one of the oldest form of Buddhism. The latter teaches us that life is suffering and first seeks to bring our focus inward and then to direct our awareness away from ourselves. The Buddha taught three overarching purposes of mindfulness:
1) Knowing the mind,
2) Training the mind,
3) Freeing the mind.
In fact, Right Mindfulness is part of the Noble Eightfold Path of Buddhism which is a path to purification that enables to attain enlightenment.
Yoga means “unity” or “oneness” and is derived from the Sanskrit word yuj, which means “to join”. In spiritual terms the union is described as the union of the individual consciousness with universal consciousness. However, on a more practical level, yoga is a practice that helps balancing and harmonising the body, mind and emotions and many yoga practices include mindfulness (as also suggested by Swami Satyananda Saraswati in his book: “Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha”).
Buddhism, Meditation, and Yoga are very closely intertwined and can be used to complement one another. Yoga or meditation can be practiced without “subscribing” to the philosophy of Buddhism; however, by practicing either of the two, many parts of the philosophy of Buddhism are also exercised.
In my opinion the main connection between the three is the focus on helping the individual to become more aware, awake and conscious, finding happiness and peace in every moment, which in spirituality can be seen as a path towards enlightenment.