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In recent years, school mindfulness programs have sprung up across the country, offering meditation instructions to children in the hope of improving their academic performance and well-being. The providers state that they teach a secular practice that has been removed from its original religious context and is now widely endorsed by psychologists for its various benefits. But others argue that the practice is laden with Buddhist ideology and that it has no place in a public school setting.

In a new book, Debating Yoga and Mindfulness in Public Schools, Indiana University Bloomington religious studies professor Candy Gunther Brown takes a look at the history of the separation of church and state and the mindfulness movement and makes the case that mindfulness programs have overstepped their bounds. While she does not recommend that the programs should be banned, she argues that making them mandatory is unconstitutional and that students must be asked to opt-in to the classes. (Even opt-out options, she claims, place an illegal burden on the students.)

Here, Brown talks with Tricycle Editor and Publisher James Shaheen about how her view, the legal precedents set from the school prayer debate, and the claims that mindfulness is a form of “stealth Buddhism.”

Tricycle Talks is a podcast series featuring leading voices in the contemporary Buddhist world. You can listen to more Tricycle Talks on Spotify, iTunes, SoundCloud, Stitcher, and iHeartRadio.

This episode is sponsored by Maitripa College.

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