We’ve detected that you’re using Internet Explorer. Please consider updating to a more modern browser to ensure the best user experience on our website.

Forcing Change in Mindfulness Curriculum as We Dig Deeper Into Buddhist-Based Indoctrination in Public Schools


Christina Compagnone

February 26, 2019

7 min read

Religious Liberty



As you’ve probably read, over the past few months, the ACLJ has been fighting to remove Buddhist meditation practices from public schools. Simply put, these meditation practices are religious and teach children dangerous ideas about faith, right versus wrong, and identity. More and more parents are just now learning, over halfway through the school year, about the Buddhist ideas filling their children’s heads.

Thanks to the concerned parents and teachers who have reached out to the ACLJ, we have been taking the first steps to remove this Buddhist infiltration from our schools. Without these reports, the ACLJ would have no idea where Buddhism has infiltrated and no way to fight back.

After sending multiple legal demand letters to schools, the ACLJ has seen some positive changes since we began fighting these programs. For example, some teachers in Colorado have refused to teach Inner Explorer after hearing about its Buddhist origins and teachings regardless of their school’s insistence on utilizing the program. Teachers in other states have followed suit and reached out to the ACLJ with concerns regarding their school districts’ implementation of these programs.

Most importantly, however, is the change within Inner Explorer itself. After Inner Explorer heard from schools that received letters from the ACLJ about the Buddhist teachings in their mindfulness program, Inner Explorer agreed to remove some of the more "obvious" religious language in the program. Removing some of the language brings us closer to eradicating Buddhist meditation practices in public schools, but it is not enough given how deeply Buddhism permeates Inner Explorer and other mindfulness programs in general. We must continue combating these types of programs until they are removed entirely from all public schools.

School-age children are in an important stage of life. They are learning who they are, what they think, what they believe, what their purpose is, and how to think and process life’s many questions. Many believe that these teachings can lead to children failing to understand the difference between good and bad, or right and wrong. Instead of analyzing their thoughts, desires, and dreams, they learn to passively observe them as they “float away.” The fact that mindfulness curriculums encourage this mind-clearing lesson is unsurprising given how Buddhist mindfulness practices dismiss the distinction between good and bad.

As we talked about in our last post, the very heart of these programs is the Buddhist mindfulness practice of clearing your mind. While language that speaks of connection, nature, and love sounds appealing on the surface, these lessons are inherently inseparable from Buddhist teachings. In fact, basic Buddhist writings, such as The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching, explicitly teaches that:

Mindfulness is the energy that brings the eyes of a Buddha into our hand . . . [t]he heart of Buddhist meditation is the practice of mindfulness, and mindfulness is the practice of the precepts. You cannot meditate without practicing the precepts. (p. 83, 81)

This instruction further defines mindfulness as “the energy that can embrace and transform all mental formations” which is done in part by “recogniz[ing] all of our body parts, from the top of our head to the soles of our feet” (p. 81, 69).  Echoing these teachings, mindfulness programs, such as Mindful Schools, teach students to:

[T]ake a trip around our body. First, hold your hands up in the air . . . without using your hands, pay attention to how your feet feel with your mind. That means feel your feet with your attention, not with your hands.

While at the same time Inner Explorer asks children to “disconnect from our thinking minds and connect to something much deeper.” By learning to practice mindfulness, impressionable children are learning to view themselves as a part of the universe where the universe is inside of them. They are learning that none of their thoughts are bad, but rather neutral. As they learn their thoughts are not bad, this will reflect in their decision-making, leading to children who are unable to distinguish right from wrong. What is even worse about these so-called lessons is that the state is supporting these views.

Picture a 5-year-old child hearing the following words from Inner Explorer as part of the daily mindfulness curriculum:

Each thought is a cloud. Each time you notice a thought . . . as soon as you notice, maybe smile a little and then let the thought pass like a cloud floating by and then focus again on how breathing feels. By connecting to your breathing, it helps you get back to this very moment. No matter what thoughts come, it’s ok. No need to be frustrated. Just allowing each thought to float by.

Now compare that Inner Explorer curriculum to Buddhist teachings, which encourage those studying Buddhism to let their feelings float around without being analyzed or stopped:

The second establishment is mindfulness of the feelings in the feelings . . . In us, there is a river of feelings in which every drop of water is a different feeling. To observe our feelings, we just sit on the riverbank and identify each feeling as it flows by and disappears.” (The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching, p. 71–72)

The language of Inner Explorer directly mimics Buddhist teachings, however, those words sound nice and will likely appeal to a 5-year-old child. They might make the child feel in control and free. They appear to encourage children to be calm and to learn how to recharge after feeling stressed. But when we examine these words in light of the Buddhist foundation of these lessons, the dangerous undertones become apparent. Buddhist mindfulness practice is rooted in the concept of letting thoughts float past your mind in order to find peace and eventual nirvana.

The Mindful Schools’ curriculum goes even further with the instruction to “imagine that your thoughts are just floating down a stream. You can watch them pass by and continue focusing on your breathing.” Encouraging students to merely ‘watch” emotions and thoughts as “they float by” is rooted in the principle that good and bad exist only in the mind, which is another dangerous idea in Buddhist meditation that permeates mindfulness practices. For example, in a popular manual, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind: Informal Talks on Zen Meditation and Practice, a “master” of Zen Buddhist students teaches that:

Good and bad are only in your mind. So we should not say, ‘This is good,’ or ‘This is bad.’ Instead of saying bad, you should say, ‘not-to-do’! If you think, ‘This is bad,’ it will create some confusion for you. So in the realm of pure religion there is no confusion for you. So in the realm of pure religion there is no confusion of time and space, or good or bad.” (p. 13)

This principle that good and bad exist only in the mind is a religious idea that many other religions would reject, yet it is the basis of mindfulness. Instead of encouraging children to address the confusion they feel when a “bad thought” enters their heads, mindfulness encourages them to ignore it. Viewing all thoughts as neutral eliminates the idea that thoughts and actions can be objectively right and wrong. Over time, bad thoughts left unaddressed lead to bad actions. Children are impressionable and should not be indoctrinated with religious beliefs at school, especially when those beliefs would prevent them from thinking about whether something is good or bad.

So what should you do in response to this? A few things. We ask that you join the fight. If you have children in public school, investigate whether their school has implemented a mindfulness program and contact us if they have one. If this doesn’t apply to you, encourage your friends and family with children to find out what their schools teach and spread the word. Second, we encourage you to support our work so we can prevent this dangerous ideology from influencing children. The ACLJ is committed to ensuring America’s public education system is free from religious indoctrination, but we need your help and support to do so.

close player