Cultural Generalizability of the Multidimensional Model of Mindfulness in the Indian Context
Mindfulness related studies have gained momentum in the recent past and there is a growing interest in tracing Buddhist roots, exploring the similarities and variations between mindfulness in Buddhism and in psychology since the last decade. But, the philosophical roots of the modern application of mindfulness in the Buddhist tradition stemmed from the Indian subcontinent. India, specifically, provides an interesting context for mindfulness, not only due to its historical links to mindfulness, but also due to its cultural diversity. There is a dearth of evidence related to the understanding of the mindfulness concept and assessing mindfulness in the Indian context.
The aim of this research thesis was to investigate the cultural generalizability of the multidimensional (five-factor) model of mindfulness which is a widely popularized model in mindfulness research by using the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ) in India. Furthermore, this research thesis explored to what extent the questionnaire needs to be adapted to ensure cultural generalizability in the Indian context.
The introductory part of the thesis fills the gap in understanding the concept of mindfulness from an ancient perspective beyond Buddhism to the Vedic ideas by presenting an exhaustive literature review of the historical, cultural, geographical, linguistic and religious linkage of mindfulness to the Indian subcontinent. Furthering this understanding of the extensive lineage of mindfulness concepts and practices to India, the empirical work focused on exploring the validity of the common five-factor model of mindfulness by exploring the psychometric properties of the widely used FFMQ-English language version on a sample recruited from India. The data were analyzed using Rasch analysis, and to provide continuity to the past research reports in India, confirmatory factor analysis was also performed. The results confirmed suitability of the higher-order structure of the FFMQ for use in India by using a modified FFMQ wherein three items from the Describe facet were removed.
In order to achieve the goal of cultural generalizability of the multidimensional model of mindfulness, FFMQ was translated into Tamil language for utility in a different geographical and linguistic context within India. Past studies have demonstrated different factor solutions using FFMQ-Hindi and FFMQ-Gujarati version. The study using FFMQ-Tamil confirmed a four-factor solution excluding the Observe facet and few more items from each facet resulting in a 22-item version of FFMQ-Tamil. Given that the original validation study of FFMQ involved both meditators and non-meditators, the next study in this thesis recruited long-term meditators to understand to what extent the questionnaire needs to be adapted for use with meditators in the Indian context. The sample completed an FFMQ-English language version along with perceived importance questions and based on the responses on importance questions, cognitive interviews were conducted. The meditators sample confirmed that the items from the Act with Awareness and Nonreact facet were more relevant in the Indian context.
Findings from these studies suggest further potential to explore the variability in the mindfulness assessment tools and devise country specific items to suit the concept and practice of mindfulness in the Indian context. As this research is one of its kind to be conducted in India, it opens the pathway for the future studies pertaining to the cultural generalizability of mindfulness assessments based on the understanding of India.