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Buddhism And Its Beliefs In Education

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Heart racing, hands sweating, and thoughts running a mile a minute are just naming a few of the crippling symptoms that is anxiety. Anxiety comes in many forms, but they can all be debilitating nonetheless. It has a negative impact on education and can be detrimental to one’s health. It is the leading cause of underachievement and prevents students from reaching their full academic potential. It is recorded by the National Institute of Mental Health that 18.1 percent of people (approximately 40 million adults between the ages of 18 to 54) suffer from anxiety. Delving deeper, the percentage of college students battling this disorder is 41.6 percent with depression following closely behind it and with due clause. Anxiety amongst college students is not or should not be that of such surprise.

Ask any college student if they have any of the symptoms of anxiety and the answer is most likely yes. The amount of assignments, projects, papers, and presentations can be extremely overwhelming and make one feel helpless and lost in the heap that is school, and that is not to mention the impossible balancing act of maintaining a work and social life. Then, we get to test-taking. A student hears the dreaded sentence of this exam will be worth 20 to sometimes even 50% of your grade, and suddenly that is all that takes residence in their mind. The test is no longer weeks away like the professor said. The test is when you try to go to sleep that night. When you wake up and try to get ready for the day. It is stuck with you in all your present moments, disturbing your peace. However, it does not have to be like that, and all you have to do is breathe. Mindfulness and meditation are essential tools to aide and alleviate the student of their test-induced anxiety, and they are also essential aspects in the religion that is Buddhism. “Mindfulness is the revolutionary insight that sets Buddhism apart from other traditions.” (Levine, 13). Buddhism is all about being mindful and living in the present moment, and that mindfulness can decenter someone from all their exhausting emotions. Siddhartha Buddha used this insight to escape Mara, a demon, but can also be referred to as the Ego or the superego (Levine, 11). All suffering in the world comes from our human instinct to cling to attachment or aversion. With the concept of test-taking, it is the wanting to avoid the test which just unfortunately, cannot be done. It is important not to repress or push these feelings away, rather, Buddhism teaches one to embrace them fully. Let these feelings visit you because they will whether you like it or not, but do not let them stay. This essay will be emphasizing how feeling fretful over a test or anything in life that stirs the panic and anxiety within you can be helped, and you already have all the tools you will ever need: yourself.

Like previously mentioned, meditation takes no special training or required tools. How it works is that it reprograms your brain to be less anxious which is an extreme desire for those who struggle performing during tests. It can be difficult at first to quiet your mind, but guided meditations can help get you there. It’s all about focusing on a single point, whatever you so happen to choose. You can pick the wind, a repetitive, relaxing noise you pick out on YouTube, or you can just focus on your breathing. Then, you simply just focus on it. Each inhale and exhale. Your thoughts will be buzzing around your head like annoying, pesky flies, and you just let them. The feelings and thoughts will fade in and fade out. Don’t chase the random, whirling thoughts. You learn to just let them come, and then you learn to let them go. As they go, so does all your stress, anxiety, and whatever that is bothering you. In this circumstance, the stresses and anxieties that come with the exams that keep you tossing and turning at night.

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Just as Buddhism teaches one not to take everything you hear as truth, the studies done on utilizing mindful breathing and meditation prove it as an efficient implementation to curb anxiety. We can take in to account many studies that have been preformed to see if these Buddhist practices can, in fact, improve one struggling with test-anxiety. One study is the Mindful Breathing and Cognitive Reappraisal and tests three groups of people of high-stress students. Group A, consisting of twelve of the students underwent a week of mindful breathing and recording their journey, while Group B took the cognitive reappraisal approach. Cognitive reappraisal is the recognizing of a negative loop or pattern of thinking you have found yourself in, then it is the breaking of that pattern with positive thinking. Group C consisting of the last twelve students were the control group and did not practice any of these approaches. With the figures published in PLoS ONE, the study led them to the results that mindful breathing and cognitive reappraisal is dramatically better than doing nothing and just living with the anxiety like those in Group C. Now, when it comes to just mindful breathing versus cognitive reappraisal, both were effective practices, however, the mindful breathing proved to work better. The post test anxiety results were lower, and the test scores were higher. “It allows people to gain a sense of mastery over their thoughts and emotions and feel able to perceive them as transient mental events, rather than to identify with them or to believe that thoughts and emotions are accurate reflections of the self or reality.” (Cho, 2016). It states in the study that cognitive reappraisal practices through experience where the mindful breathing helped students obtain a decentered, or a popular term in Buddhism unattached, viewing on their stress. It teaches people to look at emotions objectively. In other words, everything is impermanent which is important belief and concept in Buddhism. Another great study with emphasis on MBI’s or Mindfulness Based Interventions also delves into the benefits of this Buddhist practice. Mindfulness-based interventions in schools- a systematic review and meta-analysis emphasizes the importance and interrelation of mental, physical, and emotional and academic achievement. (Diamond, 2010, p.789). That also ties back into a main teaching in Buddhism. Buddhism teaches the concept of interconnectedness, the idea that everything is connected and ties back to one another. This study shows that it is important to foster all of these important aspects as this can prevent disorders and just widely be beneficial in the long run. Mindfulness breathing techniques can be the practices that teachers can and should utilize to help their students. Another study, Mindfulness, Anxiety, and High-stakes Mathematics Performance in the Laboratory and Classroom, again, reinforces all the data the studies have proved thus far that mindfulness offers an “emotional regulation” and aids in their performance.

Although only in its early stages of education, mindful breathing has proven time and time again to work. In Mindfulness, Academic Performance and Test Anxiety, an article written by Matthew Brensilver, PhD, he writes the central goal was to help the youth with their mental health and well-being. This major improvements in the test performance is just an extremely welcomed bonus and something to be pursued and researched more. The interest of Buddhism in the field of education stems from my desire to be teacher. I, myself, and many of my peers and friends, suffer from anxiety related to tests and schoolwork in general. Being offered this great opportunity to study this beautiful religion that is Buddhism has opened my eyes to the possibility of helping with my mental health and well-being regarding anxiety. I hope to one day be able to implement this practice, of meditation and mindful breathing in my classroom. As soon as a student walks into the classroom they should not be greeted with an exam and scantron in their face but rather maybe the first few minutes a chance to meditate and breathe. Like in some of the guided meditations I read about while doing this research, they need the chance to remind themselves they know the material, they did their best in their studying, and now is the time for positive thinking only.

Not only does it dramatically help improve test-taking, it has been proven to be beneficial in other essential aspects of learning. Mindfulness helps with your reading comprehension, memory, concentration, and stress. As humans our minds tend to wander. These Buddhist teachings help reduce that and thus make you fully present and aware in the moment and capable to perform the tasks at hand. In the scientific article, these decreased mind wanderings and distracting thoughts led to a higher reading comprehension and memory capacity. (Mrazek, 2013).

With that, there are many things to be learned from the beautiful religion that is Buddhism. There are also many more of the practices such as mindfulness and meditation that can help improve one’s test scores and even overall life. The teachings of mindfulness are worth a consideration going into your next semester. Anxiety is this dark cloud that lurks and follows you, but it doesn’t have to be like that. Buddha was also big on not taking things you heard for the ultimate truth. The studies prove that being present in the moment or staying on the task at hand such as a test will help with your scores and relieve you of that unnecessary added stress. It is in our human nature for our minds to wander and to want to avoid issues that our problematic in our lives. These mindful breathing teachings detach one from the impermanence of these fleeting feelings. Try it out for yourself just as the students in the above studies did. Just as Sid triumphed over Mara, you can triumph over your test. All you have to remember is to breathe.

Works Cited

  1. Bellinger, David B., et al. “Mindfulness, Anxiety, and High-Stakes Mathematics Performance in the Laboratory and Classroom.” Consciousness and Cognition, Academic Press, 12 Sept. 2015,
  2. Cho, Hyunju, et al. “The Effectiveness of Daily Mindful Breathing Practices on Test Anxiety of Students.” PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science,
  3. Grossman, Laurie. “Testing, Testing: How Mindfulness Can Help.” Teaching Tolerance, 18 Apr. 2017,
  4. Johnson, Uma. “Meditation to Deal With Test Anxiety.” Mediation to Deal With Test Anxiety- Project Meditation,
  5. Levine, Noah. Against the Stream: a Buddhist Manual for Spiritual Revolutionaries. HarperOne, 2007.
  6. Mrazek, Michael D., et al. “Mindfulness Training Improves Working Memory Capacity and GRE Performance While Reducing Mind Wandering.” Psychological Science, vol. 24, no. 5, 2013, pp. 776–781., doi:10.1177/0956797612459659.
  7. Shemanski, Emily. “Study: Mindfulness Breathing Reduces Anxiety during Test Taking.” Psypost, Psypost, 7 Jan. 2017,

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