The Urban Dharma Newsletter - July 13, 2007
In This Issue: Buddhism and Psychology
1. Buddhism and psychology // From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
2. God, Mind, Self and Reality
3. Buddhist Practice and Postmodern Psychotherapy
4. Positive Psychology & the Buddhist Path of Compassion / Lorne Ladner, Ph.D.
5. Buddhist Psychology / by Eric Pettifor
Im back from a trip to Minnesota... I spoke on Being a Buddhist at a Monastic Interreligious Conference, Welcoming the Other: A path to holiness and peace.
More info at:
1. Buddhism and psychology // From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Buddhism and psychology overlap in theory and in practice. Over the last century, three strands of interplay have evolved:
* Descriptive phenomenology: Western and Buddhist scholars have found in Buddhist teachings a detailed introspective phenomenological psychology (particularly in the Abhidhamma).
* Psychotherapeutic meaning: Humanistic psychotherapists have found in Buddhism's non-dualistic approach and enlightenment experiences (such as in Zen kensho) the potential for transformation, healing and finding existential meaning.
* Clinical utility: Contemporary mental-health practitioners increasingly find ancient Buddhist practices (such as the development of mindfulness) of empirically proven therapeutic value.
Buddhism's phenomenlogical psychology
The establishment of Buddhism predates the field of psychology by over two millennia; thus, any assessment of Buddhism in terms of psychology is necessarily a modern invention. One of the first such assessments occurred when British Indologists started translating Theravada Buddhism's Abhidhamma from Pali and Sanskrit texts. Long-term efforts to juxtapose abhidhammic psychology with Western empirical sciences have been carried out by such Vajrayana leaders as Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche and the 14th Dalai Lama.
Overview of the Abhidhamma
The earliest Buddhist writings are preserved in the three-part Tipitaka (Pali; Skt. Tripitaka). The third part (or pitaka, literally "basket") is known as the Abhidhamma (Pali; Skt. Abhidharma). Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi, president of the Buddhist Publication Society, has synopsized the Abhidhamma as follows:
Part of the Tipitaka written in Thai on traditional wood slices.
Part of the Tipitaka written in Thai on traditional wood slices.
"The system that the Abhidhamma Pitaka articulates is simultaneously a philosophy, a psychology, and an ethics, all integrated into the framework of a program for liberation.... The Abhidhamma's attempt to comprehend the nature of reality, contrary to that of classical science in the West, does not proceed from the standpoint of a neutral observer looking outwards towards the external world. The primary concern of the Abhidhamma is to understand the nature of experience, and thus the reality on which it focuses is conscious reality.... For this reason the philosophical enterprise of the Abhidhamma shades off into a phenomenological psychology. To facilitate the understanding of experienced reality, the Abhidhamma embarks upon an elaborate analysis of the mind as it presents itself to introspective meditation. It classifies consciousness into a variety of types, specifies the factors and functions of each type, correlates them with their objects and physiological bases, and shows how the different types of consciousness link up with each other and with material phenomena to constitute the ongoing process of experience." (Bodhi, 2000, pp. 3-4.)
Western recognition of the phenomenological-psychological aspect of the Abhidhamma started over a century ago with the work of British Indologists.
Rhys Davids' early scholarship (1900)
Caroline A. F. Rhys Davids was one of the first to conceptualize canonical Buddhist writings in terms of psychology.
In 1900, Indologist Caroline A. F. Rhys Davids published through the Pali Text Society a translation of the Theravada Abhidhamma's first book, the Dhamma Sangani, and entitled the translation, "Buddhist Manual of Psychological Ethics" (Rhys Davids, 2003). In the introduction to this seminal work, Rhys Davids writes:
"... Buddhist philosophy is ethical first and last. This is beyond dispute. But among ethical systems there is a world of difference in the degree of importance attached to the psychological prolegomena of ethics.... [T]he Buddhists were, in a way, more advanced in the psychology of their ethics than Aristotle in a way, that is, which would now be called scientific. Rejecting the assumption of a psyche and of its higher manifestations ..., they were content to resolve the consciousness of the Ethical Man, as they found it, into a complex continuum of subjective phenomena.... The distinguishable groups of dhammā of states or mental psychoses 'arise' in every case in consciousness, in obedience to certain laws of causation, physical and moral that is, ultimately, as the outcome of antecedent states of consciousness.... It postulated other percipients as Berkeley did, together with, not a Divine cause or source of precepts, but the implicit Monism of early thought veiled by a deliberate Agnosticism.... [S]o Buddhism, from a quite early stage of its development, set itself to analyze and classify mental processes with remarkable insight and sagacity...." (Rhys Davids, 1900, pp. xvi-xvii.)
Buddhism's psychological orientation is a theme Rhys Davids pursued for decades as evidenced by Rhys Davids (1914) and Rhys Davids (1936).
Trungpa Rinpoche and the Naropa Institute (1974)
come to the West
as a psychology."
- Chogyam Trungpa, 1974
In his introduction to his 1975 book, Glimpses of the Abhidharma, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche wrote:
"Many modern psychologists have found that the discoveries and explanations of the abhidharma coincide with their own recent discoveries and new ideas; as though the abhidharma, which was taught 2,500 years ago, had been redeveloped in the modern idiom." (Trungpa, 1975, p.2.)
Trungpa Rinpoche's book goes on to describe the nanosecond phenomenological sequence by which a sensation becomes conscious using the Buddhist concepts of the "five aggregates."
In 1974, Trungpa Rinpoche founded the Naropa Institute, now called Naropa University. Since 1975, this accredited university has offered degrees in "contemplative psychology."
The Dalai Lama and the Mind and Life dialogues (1987)
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama brings together Buddhists and Western scientists every two years.
Every two years, since 1987, the Dalai Lama has convened "Mind and Life" gatherings of Buddhists and scientists. Reflecting on one Mind and Life session in March 2000, psychologist Daniel Goleman notes:
"Since the time of Gautama Buddha in the fifth century BC, an analysis of the mind and its workings has been central to the practices of his followers. This analysis was codified during the first millennium after his death within the system called, in the Pali language of Buddha's day, Abhidhamma (or Abhidharma in Sanskrit), which means 'ultimate doctrine'.... Every branch of Buddhism today has a version of these basic psychological teachings on the mind, as well as its own refinements" (Goleman, 2004, pp. 72-73).
Psychotherapy and Enlightenment
British barrister Christmas Humphreys has referred to mid-twentieth century collaborations between psychoanalysts and Buddhist scholars as a meeting between "two of the most powerful forces operating in the Western mind today." Ever since, a variety of renown teachers, clinicians and writers such as D.T. Suzuki, Carl Jung, Erich Fromm, Alan Watts and Jack Kornfield have attempted to bridge and integrate psychology and Buddhism in a manner that offers meaning, inspiration and healing. More recently, some traditional Buddhist practitioners have expressed concern that attempts to view Buddhism through the lens of Western psychology diminishes the Buddha's liberating message.
Suzuki & Jung (1948)
A number of psychologists have identified a pivotal collaboration between Buddhism and psychology was when psychoanalyst Carl Jung wrote the foreword to Zen scholar Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki's Introduction to Zen Buddhism, first published together in 1948. In his foreword, Jung highlights the enlightenment experience of satori as the unsurpassed transformation to wholeness for Zen practitioners. And while acknowledging the inadequacy of Westerners' attempts to comprehend satori through the lens of Western intellectualism, Jung nonetheless contends:
"The only movement within our culture which partly has, and partly should have, some understanding of these aspirations [for such enlightenment] is psychotherapy. It is therefore not a matter of chance that this foreword is written by a psychotherapist.... Taken basically, psychotherapy is a dialectic relationship between the doctor and the patient.... The goal is transformation...." (Suzuki & Jung, 1948, p. 25).
Suzuki & Fromm (1957)
Post-Freudian psychoanalyst Erich Fromm collaborated with both Zen scholar D. T. Suzuki and Theravada scholar Nyanaponika Thera.
Referencing Jung and Suzuki's collaboration as well as the efforts of others, humanistic philosopher and psychoanalyst Erich Fromm noted:
"...[T]here is an unmistakable and increasing interest in Zen Buddhism among psychoanalysts" (Fromm et al., 1960, pp. 77-78).
Suzuki, Fromm and other psychoanalysts collaborated together at a 1957 workshop on "Zen Buddhism and Psychoanalysis" in Cuernavaca, Mexico. In his contribution to this workshop, Fromm declares: "Psychoanalysis is a characteristic expression of Western man's spiritual crisis, and an attempt to find a solution" (Fromm et al., 1960, p. 80). Fromm contends that, at the turn of the twentieth century, most psychotherapeutic patients sought treatment due to medical-like symptoms that hindered their social functioning. However, by mid-century, the majority of psychoanalytic patients lacked overt symptoms and functioned well but instead suffered from an "inner deadness":
"The common suffering is the alienation from oneself, from one's fellow man, and from nature; the awareness that life runs out of one's hand like sand, and that one will die without having lived; that one lives in the midst of plenty and yet is joyless" (Fromm et al. pp. 85-86).
Paraphrasing Suzuki broadly, Fromm continues:
"Zen is the art of seeing into the nature of one's being; it is a way from bondage to freedom; it liberates our natural energies; ... and it impels us to express our faculty for happiness and love (p. 115).
"...[W]hat can be said with more certainty is that the knowledge of Zen, and a concern with it, can have a most fertile and clarifying influence on the theory and technique of psychoanalysis. Zen, different as it is in its method from psychoanalysis, can sharpen the focus, throw new light on the nature of insight, and heighten the sense of what it is to see, what it is to be creative, what it is to overcome the affective contaminations and false intellectualizations which are the necessary results of experience based on the subject-object split" (p. 140).
Mainstream teachers and popularizers
Alan Watts was an early popularizer of Buddhism's transformative power for Westerners.
In 1961, Philosopher and Orientalist Alan Watts wrote:
"If we look deeply into such ways of life as Buddhism and Taoism, Vedanta and Yoga, we do not find either philosophy or religion as these are understood in the West. We find something more nearly resembling psychotherapy.... The main resemblance between these Eastern ways of life and Western psychotherapy is in the concern of both with bringing about changes of consciousness, changes in our ways of feeling our own existence and our relation to human society and the natural world. The psychotherapist has, for the most part, been interested in changing the consciousness of peculiarly disturbed individuals. The disciplines of Buddhism and Taoism are, however, concerned with changing the consciousness of normal, socially adjusted people." (Watts, 1975, pp. 3-4.)
Since Watts's early observations and musings, there have been many other important contributors to the contemporary popularization of Buddhism-informed psychology including Kornfield (1993), Epstein (1995) and Nhat Hanh (1998).
Tracing the roots of modern Western spiritual ideals from German Romantic Era philosopher Immanuel Kant through American psychologist and philosopher William James, Jung and humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow, Thanissaro Bhikkhu (undated) identifies broad commonalities between "Romantic/humanistic psychology" and early Buddhism: beliefs in human (versus divine) intervention with an approach that is experiential, pragmatic and therapeutic. However, Thanissaro asserts that there are also core differences between Romantic/humantistic psychology and Buddhism summarized in the table to the right. Thanissaro implicitly deems those who impose Romantic/humanistic goals on the Buddha's message as "Buddhist Romantics."
Recognizing the widespread alienation and social fragmentation of modern life, Thanissaro Bhikkhu writes:
"When Buddhist Romanticism speaks to these needs, it opens the gate to areas of dharma [the Buddha's teachings] that can help many people find the solace theyre looking for. In doing so, it augments the work of psychotherapy....
"However, Buddhist Romanticism also helps close the gate to areas of the dharma that would challenge people in their hope for an ultimate happiness based on interconnectedness. Traditional dharma calls for renunciation and sacrifice, on the grounds that all interconnectedness is essentially unstable, and any happiness based on this instability is an invitation to suffering. True happiness has to go beyond interdependence and interconnectedness to the unconditioned. ... [T]he gate [of Buddhist Romanticism] closes off radical areas of the dharma designed to address levels of suffering remaining even when a sense of wholeness has been mastered." (Thanissaro, undated.)
Buddhist techniques in clinical settings
For over a millennium, throughout the world, Buddhist practices have been used for non-Buddhist ends. More recently, Western clinical psychologists, theorists and researchers have incorporated Buddhist practices in widespread formalized psychotherapies. Buddhist mindfulness practices have been explicitly incorporated in a variety of psychological treatments. More tangentially, psychotherapies dealing with cognitive restructuring share core principles with ancient Buddhist antidotes to personal suffering.
Fromm (2002, pp. 49-52) distinguishes between two types of meditative techniques that have been used in psychotherapy:
1. auto-suggestion used to induce relaxation; and,
2. meditation "to achieve a higher degree of non-attachment, of non-greed, and of non-illusion; briefly, those that serve to reach a higher level of being" (p. 50).
Fromm attributes techniques associated with the latter to Buddhist mindfulness practices.
Two increasingly popular therapeutic practices using Buddhist mindfulness techniques are Jon Kabat-Zinn's Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Marsha M. Linehan's Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). Other prominent therapies that use mindfulness include Steven C. Hayes' Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and, based on MBSR, Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) (Segal et al., 2002).
Clinical researchers have found Buddhist mindfulness practices to help alleviate anxiety, depression and certain personality disorders.
Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR):
Kabat-Zinn developed the eight-week MBSR program over a ten year period with over four thousand patients at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center (Kabat-Zinn, 1990, p. 1). Describing the MBSR program, Kabat-Zinn writes:
"This 'work' involves above all the regular, disciplined practice of moment-to-moment awareness or mindfulness, the complete 'owning' of each moment of your experience, good, bad, or ugly. This is the essence of full catastrophe living." (p. 11)
Kabat-Zinn, a one-time Zen practitioner, goes on to write:
"Although at this time mindfulness meditation is most commonly taught and practiced within the context of Buddhism, its essence is universal.... Yet it is no accident that mindfulness comes out of Buddhism, which has as its overriding concerns the relief of suffering and the dispelling of illusions." (pp. 12-13)
Not surprisingly, in terms of clinical diagnoses, MBSR has proven beneficial for people with depression and anxiety disorders; however, the program is meant to serve anyone experiencing significant stress.
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT):
In writing about DBT, Zen practitioner Linehan (1993a, p. 19) states:
"As its name suggests, its overriding characteristic is an emphasis on 'dialectics' that is, the reconciliation of opposites in a continual process of sythesis.... This emphasis on acceptance as a balance to change flows directly from the integration of a perspective drawn from Eastern (Zen) practice with Western psychological practice."
Similarly, Linehan (1993b, p. 63) writes:
"Mindfulness skills are central to DBT.... They are the first skills taught and are [reviewed] ... every week.... The skills are psychological and behavioral versions of meditation practices from Eastern spiritual training. I have drawn most heavily from the practice of Zen...."
Controlled clinical studies have demonstrated DBT's effectiveness for people with borderline personality disorder.
Dr. Albert Ellis, considered the "grandfather of cognitive-behavioral therapy" (CBT), has written:
"Many of the principles incorporated in the theory of rational-emotive psychotherapy are not new; some of them, in fact, were originally stated several thousands of years ago, especially by the Greek and Roman Stoic philosophers (such as Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius) and by some of the ancient Taoist and Buddhist thinkers (see Suzuki, 1956, and Watts, 1959, 1960)." (Ellis, 1991, p. 35.)
To give but one example, Buddhism identifies anger and ill-will as basic hindrances to spiritual development (see, for instance, the Five Hindrances, Ten Fetters and kilesas). A common Buddhist antidote for anger is the use of active contemplation of loving thoughts (see, for instance, metta). This is similar to using a CBT technique known as "emotional training" which Ellis (1997, pp. 86-87) describes in the following manner:
"Think of an intensely pleasant experience you have had with the person with whom you now feel angry. When you have fantasized such a pleasant experience and have actually given yourself unusually good, intensely warm feelings toward that person as a result of this remembrance, continue the process. Recall pleasant experiences and good feelings, and try to make these feelings paramount over your feelings of hostility."
The Four Noble Truths vs. the Medical Model
Broadly speaking, differences between traditional Buddhism and contemporary institutionalized Western psychology can be conceived in terms used in the following table.
Buddhism (Four Noble Truths) /// Western psychology
problem - suffering (dukkha) /// significant distress, disability, pain, loss of freedom, suicidality
etiology - craving (tanha), ignorance (avijja) /// genetics, biology, childhood development, socialization
goal - Enlightenment (bodhi), Nirvana /// normal or higher functioning, lack of initial symptoms
treatment - Noble Eightfold Path /// counseling, therapy, medication, systems advocacy
2. God, Mind, Self and Reality
When God was creating the Universe where did his Mind come from?
What was his True Self at the moment of Creation?
Does God have Mind or Self?
If so, what, exactly, is the Mind and Self of God? And, where did they come from?
If no, how is Reality possible?
Of course the words God, Mind and Self are only exactly what they are
lines and dots on your screen, words in language and in speech, sounds and letters used in communication, used to convey something inherently human, maybe even exclusively human, an acknowledgement of our unknowing, of our limitations, of the infinite complexity of the Reality we live in and the fact that a singular human mind and brain will never grasp it in its entirety. It does not mean, however, that we can not be intimate with it, on contrary, one can only enter it in the moment of not-knowing, in the moment of not experiencing, in fact, in the very moment of non-being, which is exactly this very moment of your life.
One can not not be it even if it is beyond what we are and are not.
And entering it, always fragmentary and incomplete, because it happens in the realm of the Real not yet symbolized in cultural images / signs and letters, is often easier than finding ways to communicate it to others.
This inquiry in to the most absolute and fundamental of all religions, all spiritual paths and all scientific psychologies converge in this very question. What is God, what is Mind, what is Self, how do we search for it and how do we express what we discover?
Are we to become monks and mystics? Should we contemplate, meditate, pray, recite, chant? Should we study the brain and mind scientifically and experimentally?
What is the path? Is there a path? Or maybe many paths?
The very fact that there is religion, art, and science only confirms the multiplicity and fragmentation of our (un)knowing. Or, maybe there are no truths and discoveries but only narratives and rhetorical / interpretative survivors?
These are important questions. What are your thoughts about it?
Where is your mind, your Self, your Reality and your God in this very moment?
3. Buddhist Practice and Postmodern Psychotherapy
Buddhism liberates, offers a glimpse into the absolute, a sense of transcendence in the realization of fundamental emptiness, realization of the emptiness of the present moment, the emptiness of existence and mind, psychotherapy gives one skills to unlock the mind, to diagnose the symptoms, unearth their causes and to heal them.
Buddhisms suffering (duhkha) manifests itself as psychological, or psychiatric dis-ease, or symptoms, symptoms which are individual, private, mine, yours, even if the same ones in many, if not all of us.
Life is full of suffering because of a fundamental lack, not only a perception of a lack, but the actual lack of our absence. If the absence is lacking, then there is suffering. Of course there are moments of great joy, love, ecstasy, in fact there is the entire spectrum of human emotions arising from just being alive and human, but the lack of your absence which is nothing but your life is the source of your suffering. Our very existence originates from the lack of absence, so there is that actual experience of not being absent, of the lack, of not not-being there, and that lack, life itself, is causing suffering.
That fundamental suffering manifests itself as psychiatric and psychological symptoms so well described in the DSM system of psychopathology. Depression, suicide, panic attacks, anxiety, perversions, addictions, violence, psychosis, hundreds of other. They are real, they exist, we all do suffer in some way. And that suffering and symptoms is where Buddhism and psychotherapy meet. They both address the same aspect of life and being. One might say, that therapy then moves on to devise a system of healing, systems of alleviating of the suffering, of reducing, decreasing, eliminating or controlling the symptoms. Hundreds of systems have evolved to do just that the major ones being psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic/psychodynamic therapy, cognitive behavior therapy, and psychopharmacology.
Buddhism and postmodern psychotherapy are similar to the extent they both attempt to understand the Mind and find a way to alleviate human suffering.
In Buddhism, the essence of the Mind (sunyata) and the ubiquity of suffering (duhkha) are, arguably, best described by the Mahayana doctrines of Emptiness and Interdependent Origination and by the Four Noble Truths, while the Eightfold Path (sila, samadhi, prajna) charts the general path towards personal liberation (Nirvana, Enlightenment).
Correspondingly, postmodern psychotherapy combines cognitive psychology and psychoanalytic theory to describe how minds work and borrows from the DSM system of classification of psychiatric symptoms to catalogue diverse manifestations of individual suffering (anxiety, depression, psychosis, personality disorders, etc.)
Duhkha, the first of the Four Noble Truths and the Buddhist term for any form of dis-ease, pain and suffering corresponds to the inherent conflictedness of our lives and the inescapable presence of psychological symptoms addressed in any psychotherapy.
To understand Buddhism and psychotherapy one has to understand why people suffer?
And we do not mean the physical pain, although, it may actually be involved, we really mean the psychological pain, despair, anguish, anxiety, depression, psychosis, alienation, self-destructive behavior, aggression, suicide, etc. There are many ways in which people suffer, and the pain takes on infinite and infinitely subtle manifestations so well depicted in art and so often seen in clinical practice. But is suffering limited to people only? Everybody would agree that all animals experience physical pain, but how about the mental pain depression, loss, anxiety? And what about other forms of life? Is suffering contingent on having a mind? Consciousness? Self? Do plants and trees suffer? And how about inanimate object? Can we imagine a river or a mountain suffering? Do industrial or human waste dumped into delicately balanced ecosystems of our land creates a form of suffering? If it destroys life and living organisms, pollutes water and soil, poisons and sickens people who live there does it create some sort of universal suffering?
What are the boundaries of suffering when her child is in pain, the mother suffers, somehow childs and mothers pain are connected or maybe even really just being one, even if we cant see it as long as we function within the more narrow sense of our individuality restricted to inside of our skin? Do we suffer when others suffers? And what empathy really is? Is it resonating with the other or is it experiencing the same state, emotional, physical or psychological?
And what about a farmer, a rancher who cant sleep at night when his land or his cattle is destroyed by a natural or man made disaster? Individual pain is never just individual, it transcends, it permeates all those who are sensitive enough to experience it.
Buddhism asserts that all duhkha results from some form of desire, including the desire for existence and the desire for non-existence. Postmodern theory places psychological symptoms in the realm of Desire and Lack (wish, instinct, drive, motive, need, deficit, deprivation, etc.), fundamental precursors of any individual self, identity and behavior.
Buddhism does not elaborate on the how of how symptoms develop, why depression and not anxiety, why obsessive rituals and not panic attacks. In Buddhism, all suffering is one suffering, the suffering of the Universe. And the Buddhist Eightfold Path is presented as a way out. Right understanding, right speech, right action, right life - what on the surface of it appears a uniform prescription for all, is, in its actual implementation, completely individualized. It is always, ultimately, my right speech, my right understanding, my action, my suffering, my life, and this is where psychotherapy and Buddhism overlap. It is a person attempting to change him/herself
and anything that pertains to changing mind, speech or behavior is, by definition, a realm of psychology. The same thing looked at from two different perspectives.
Not only two perspectives but two different methods. And it is the methods where Buddhism and psychotherapy begin to diverge. Psychotherapy is codified in the psychoanalytic and the cognitive paradigms, psychopharmacology, inpatient crisis interventions, the entire mental health industry as we know it. Buddhism is different, with its meditation at the core, teacher / student matrix of interactions, its monasticism, Sangha, precepts, vows, mind-to-mind-transmission, Buddhism approaches a person completely differently.
And there is the outcome, the end, or is there? What is the prescriptive outcome of Buddhist practice? The art of happiness? Compassion? Boddhisatvas realized and actualized enlightenment? And what is the outcome of psychotherapy? At bare minimum, alleviation of symptoms, a lack of diagnosable mental disorder. Happiness? Health? Adjustment? Insight? Freuds ability to play, work and love?
It is easy to see that there are similarities and differences here. Capacity for happiness and insight overlap for Buddhism and psychotherapy, enlightenment is clearly not even addressed in therapy, usually relegated, and rightly so, to the realm of religion. But what is enlightenment in Buddhism? Maybe it exists in psychology under different names? Mystical experience, peak experience? Flow in the zone? From James and Maslow to contemporary post- modernists, there has always been a great interest in the transcendental in psychology. Freud and Jung grappled with it. Is compassion similar to empathy? Altruism? What is health, happiness, compassion?
This area needs more clarification of those basic terms to sort through it, but just looking at it, it appears that even in the outcome, there are great similarities, or at least similar concepts which may, or may not, actually denote similar realities.
So, in summary, it looks that in Buddhism and psychotherapy the nature of the problem is similar suffering manifesting itself in psychological and psychiatric symptoms. The solutions are very different psychotherapy vs. Buddhist practice; the outcomes may actually be more similar than not
when the terminology and concepts are clarified.
And, fundamentally, there is only one soul, one mind, to treat and to save. Some say that we do not need to divide it into different conceptual fields of practice and treatment. There is only one person in front of a therapist or a Buddhist teacher. A person who seems to need some sort of help or liberation. So when we sit in front of each other, it is yet another Mysterium of a healing dialogue, because, somehow, words heal your suffering and my alienation from you. And, as we talk, as you reveal yourself even more to me, I dont know if I am being Buddhist or just therapeutic. Actually, I forget myself in your story. What is psychotherapy anyway? Somehow people have realized that speaking heals, brings things out, to focus, focus of the mind, two minds. You and me, leaning over your illness, your pain, touching it with words, touching it with attention, feelings and our imagination, ourselves touched, as we discover the new and the old buried under the skin of our minds.
Your words flow, language flows, and we change the direction, telling, retelling, listening, hearing, till the pain dissolves. Even if life does not have a rewind button, we can change the past in the present of our dialogue. Living without a possibility of return is living in the Real, but there can also be the Imaginary transformed by the Symbolic
And there is the lack, the lack of absence, the lack of emptiness, your life, and there is the emptiness of the lack
.a possibility for healing and liberation.
4. Positive Psychology & the Buddhist Path of Compassion / Lorne Ladner, Ph.D.
Lorne Ladner is clinical psychologist in private practice in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. Dr. Ladner serves as director of the Guhyasamaja Buddhist Center and is also the author of a number of books including The Lost Art of Compassion: Discovering the Practice of Happiness in the Meeting of Buddhism and Psychology.
Western psychology has tended to focus almost exclusively on pathology. In over a hundred years of our Western psychological tradition, our greatest thinkers and researchers have focused on understanding hysteria, obsessions, psychoses, compulsions, depression, anxiety, impulsive anger, personality disorders, and the like. On the other hand, very little scientific research or theoretical thought has gone into understanding positive emotions or the psychology of human strengths and well-being. Dr. Martin Seligman, a former president of the American Psychological Association, has written about our neglect of positive psychology, reflecting that "the exclusive focus on pathology that has dominated so much of our discipline results in a model of the human being lacking the positive features that make life worth living."
There seem to be a variety of reasons for this historical neglect of positive psychology in the West. Our tradition of psychology has developed within the overall context of the Western disease model of looking at human beings. From Freud's time on, doctors have received their pay for helping to relieve patients' symptoms. And, research money has also tended to be spent on developing medications and therapies for the treatment of pathological symptoms. Also, psychologists have tended to be insecure in the scientific community where the "hard sciences" receive more respect than psychology does; for example, it's not lost on psychologists that Nobel prizes are given to physicists and chemists but not to those who study the psyche. And, studying well-being or positive emotions has often relied on introspection and self-reports, which can seem less scientifically significant than things that can be more easily weighed and measured.
Among positive emotions, compassion has been particularly neglected in our Western tradition of psychology. Freud once advised psychoanalysts to "model themselves during the psychoanalytic treatment on the surgeon, who puts aside all his feelings, even his human sympathy." Heinz Kohut, who is very well-known for his work on the psychological importance of empathy, warns psychologists that empathy (which he defines as a tool for understanding the contents of other people's minds) should not be confused with "such fuzzily related meanings as kindness, compassion, and sympathy." From early on, it appears that psychotherapists did not want to be accused of being compassionate.
Researchers have also tended to avoid studying compassion. I recently attended a conference at which a number of important researchers spoke about the dialogue between Buddhism and psychology. They noted that the Western psychological tradition does not yet have any agreed upon definition of compassion. Until psychology defines an emotion, it is extremely difficult to measure or study it. And, so although there are numerous psychological tests and measures for depression, anxiety, and anger, we do not yet have any reliable, accepted measures for compassion.
From a scientific perspective, when something is not clearly defined and cannot readily be weighed or measured, it is almost as though that thing does not exist. And yet, we can certainly all recognize that love and compassion do indeed exist and are certainly as real and as important as anger or anxiety!
Over the past few years a number of researchers have begun studying the positive psychology of compassion. As Buddhism places such a great emphasis on compassion as a cause of happiness and well-being, much of this growing interest has been initiated through the dialogue between Buddhism and Western psychology. In particular, a number of leading researchers have begun studying compassion as a result of ongoing dialogues with His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Dr. Richard Davidson has studied the brains of meditators, discovering that meditation seems to strengthen connections and functioning in those parts of the brain that calm such feelings as fear or anger. When Dr. Davidson did a study of the brain waves of an experienced meditator he found the highest level of activity ever seen in brain areas associated with happiness and positive emotions.
In general, research suggests that meditation supports the development of positive emotions. And, preliminary research findings seem to suggest that meditation of loving-kindness and compassion are associated with feelings of happiness.
From a Buddhist perspective, this is certainly no surprise. For many centuries now, Buddhist practitioners in the great monastic universities first of India and then of Tibet, Mongolia, Bhutan, and other Buddhist nations have been systematically studying positive psychology. And, perhaps the most significant and practical psychological finding from all of those centuries of inner science is this: the most powerful way of becoming happy is developing compassion.
In the West, even our tradition of psychology often forgets that happiness is a state of the mind and so its main cause must also be psychological. Too often, we imagine that we can find happiness outside of ourselves-in wealth, success, fame, work, or relationships. The truth is that the extent to which we are happy depends mainly on our emotions. Even if we together with someone close to us in a very beautiful setting, if we ourselves are feeling extremely anxious or angry then we certainly won't be happy. On the other hand, if we're feeling very strong love or compassion, then we can be happy even in difficult external circumstances.
In my own clinical work, I find that people are familiar with how negative emotions can appear at different levels of intensity and power. Most of us know the differences between feeling annoyance, anger, rage, and hatred. We know the differences between feeling concerned, worried, afraid, and terrified. We can also recognize that the more powerful our negative emotions become, the more suffering they are likely to cause for ourselves and for others around us.
Yet, we do not generally realize that positive emotions also have such gradations. We do not even have a language to describe such levels of compassion-from mild feelings of concern for others up to overwhelmingly powerful and expansive feelings of connection, warmth and caring energy.
We all recognize how powerful feelings of hatred, terror or greed can be very powerful, leading to terrible results in the external world. However, we rarely seem to recall how positive emotions can be equally powerful. In the West, we often associate feelings of love or compassion with weakness; we too often imagine that one must be angry or arrogant to be strong. Borrowing from Buddhism's tradition of positive psychology can help us to remember that compassion can also be powerful.
Various Buddhist traditions offer many different methods for cultivating positive emotions. There are relatively simple methods such as meditation of the four immeasurables (also referred to as the four BrahmaViharas) - meditating on limitless love, compassion, equanimity and joy. And, then also there are the more complex methods unique to Mahayana Buddhism such as the sequence of meditations called the seven point cause and effect method for generating Bodhichitta, which involves recognizing all beings as having been one's kind mothers in previous lives and generating gratitude for their oceans of kindness until one develops an infinite commitment to repaying their kindness and sets out for Buddhahood in order to be able to do so. There is also the remarkable method called equalizing and exchanging self for others, which includes the well-known meditation on taking other's suffering and its causes into your own self-cherishing while giving them your happiness and virtue.
I set out to write The Lost Art of Compassion in order to provide methods that ordinary Westerners can use outside of the Buddhist context. From a psychological perspective, what's important is to become aware of the great value of compassion for our own and others happiness and then to apply practical methods in our daily lives for actually increasing our feelings of love and compassion.
If we spend time actively cultivating such feelings, then we will quickly begin seeing how they lead to happiness for ourselves. I just recently read one research study that found that people who pray for others tend to live longer than those who do not. The point is that when we develop feelings of love or compassion, we may not always be able to actually benefit others in a direct way, but we ourselves do always benefit from such feelings. They serve as causes for our own happiness.
And, as we give more and more time to developing such feelings, then we will naturally begin benefiting others as well. My experience as a psychotherapist has shown me that, contrary to Freud's assertion, the expression of simple human compassion is healing in and of itself. By developing deep, powerful feelings of compassionate connection with others that we can learn to live meaningful and joyful lives. Only such feelings can help us to learn experientially how to work for meaningful causes and give of ourselves without becoming exhausted or burnt out-such feelings of joyful compassion teach us how taking care of others is actually a supreme method for taking care of ourselves.
5. Buddhist Psychology / by Eric Pettifor / http://www.pandc.ca/
Eastern influence on Western thought goes back at least to the time of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Alexander the Great (4 th century B.C.E.) made it as far as northern India, and the Roman philosopher Plotinus made a trip to study the philosophies of the region in 242 C.E.. According to Hall and Lindzey (1978 p. 350), he may have subsequently been an influence on Christian mystics, such as Meister Eckhart and St. John of the Cross. However, it is important to note that the phenomenological emphases of much of Eastern philosophies are such that, if true, we should also expect culturally distinct expressions of the same phenomenon to arise independently. The primary cultural difference seems to be whether or not the experience of the individual is legitimized by the society in which the individual lives or if expression of that experience is considered heresy, as was the case in the West with Christian mystics.
While this influence may have been present so far back, it was not until the time of the Theosophical movement in the 19 th century that a real interest in Eastern thought (including Buddhism) emerged. As well, there was an interest in pre-Christian systems of belief, leading to latter day druid in England, and in Germany Richard Wagner promoted and capitalized on an intense interest in pre-Christian Germanic mythology (Noll,1994). To our ears at this point in history, Freud's assertion to Jung that a dogma be made of the sexual theory in order to serve as a "bulwark" against the black tide of "occultism" (Jung, 1963) sounds almost 'hysterical', but within the context of that time this movement was taken very seriously. The Nazi party adopted its swastika emblem from the seal of the Thule society, a German metaphysical group which believed in the myth of Aryan 1supremacy.
Freud may have lumped Buddhism in with all of the theosophical rest. Certainly the attitude of psychoanalysis towards Buddhism can be seen in the title of psychoanalyst Franz Alexander's paper "Buddhistic Training as an Artificial Catatonia" (1961, cited in Hall and Lindzey, 1978, p. 376). Jung saw much of value in Buddhism and Eastern thought in general, but he did not believe that it was suitable for Westerners to practice since it constituted a denial of their own history. He believed that there was truth in the Eastern teachings, but that being the case, we should fashion something uniquely Western (Jung's Analytical Psychology (1968) ?) which could serve as our own culturally specific container for the universal content of these truths (Jung, 1958, cited in Hall and Lindzey, 1978, p. 378). Jung did not seem to appreciate that Buddhism is not the same in Tibet as India, in China as Tibet, in Japan as China - that is, that Buddhism adapts itself to the culture at least as much as individuals adapt themselves to Buddhism (Dalai Lama, in Lama Surya Das, 1993). Indeed, the question of just what American Buddhism is or will become is a question currently being asked by the American Buddhist community. That we can even speak so easily of Buddhist psychology is in part because in the west we have a great facility for taking things apart and analyzing them as though this were not unnatural.
Buddhism as a religion is distinguished by faith in the Three Treasures: the Buddha, the Dharma (Law -natural, spiritual, and teachings), and the Sangha (originally community of monks, but more generally the Buddhist religious community).
The formula "I take refuge in Gautama the World-honored One, in the Law, and in the Order of Monks. World-honored One, from this day to the end of my life, recognize me as a believer who has taken refuge" occurs time and again in the earliest Buddhist scriptures and means that even without theoretical understanding, a person who has faith in the Three Treasures is a true Buddhist.
(Mizuno, 1987, p. 39, my italics)
Further, the religion contains beliefs in supernatural phenomenon (such as rebirth) and entities (such as devas and demons and their associated realms) which could never be entertained by empirical science (unless the devas and demons consented to visit the lab). These beliefs do have some influence on the psychology and philosophy of Buddhism as we shall see, but as Joseph Goldstein notes, "if you do not find it credible, no matter; you do not have to accept any of the Buddhist cosmology in order to attain full liberation." (1993, p. 128)
While Buddhism is a relatively new force in the West, it predates Christianity. Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha) lived and taught 500 years before Christ. Like Christ, Buddha taught orally, and encouraged expression of his ideas in the local dialect. Many of the earliest writings were in Pali, later translated into other languages, such as Sanskrit. So from the very beginning we have the problem of translation and retranslation. There is a similar problem to that of ascertaining the nature of the earliest Christian Church in that writings appeared well after the death of the founder. Thus there are no expressions of Buddha's teaching which can be taken as verbatim.
About 300 to 500 years after the death of the Buddha there was a splintering of his followers into different groups (the sectarian period). It is in this period that everything was pulled together into an orderly system of belief consisting of the three "baskets" (pitaka) of teachings- the sutras, the precepts, and the commentaries on the sutras. The Abhidhamma ("about the Law") is the latter of the three (Mizuno, 1987, p. 21). While one can find psychological truths in all three baskets ("In the Buddhist doctrine, mind is the starting point, the focal point, and also, as the liberated and purified mind of the Saint, the culminating point" (Nyanaponika,1962, cited in Hall and Lindzey, 1978, p. 358)), and they influence all later Buddhist thought and writing, it is not until the collection of writings in the Abhidhamma that we come across explicitly psychological works. Buddhist Psychology, then, may be said to be about 2,000 years old, predating Western psychology as a 'science' by more than eighteen and a half centuries.
Western psychology and Buddhist psychology differ in many ways. In the West, following from Freud to the present, a great deal of importance has been attached to development through childhood. This is the period when an infant develops into a person (regardless of whether they are viewed as starting 'tabula rasa' or with genetic predisposition). In Buddhism there is a greater importance placed on death (esp. Tibetan Buddhism (Dalai Lama, 1994)), since the law of cause and effect (kamma,or 'action') determines how one moment conditions the next. Consequently, the moment of death is very important. This is an area where it is difficult to separate the psychology from the religion. A concept like 'tabula rasa' is totally unthinkable in a Buddhist context, since each child is born with an accumulation of kamma which will have a profound effect on their development.
Having introduced the concept of kamma, I think it is very important to note that within Buddhist understanding, kamma is not totally deterministic. It conditions existence, it has even been argued to determine probabilities (e.g. rebirth as an animal making probable a slippery series of incarnations down into a hell realm (Dalai Lama, 1994, p. 44)), but a person still possesses agency and through their actions may soften or mitigate the effect of negative kamma, while enhancing the circumstances for the unfolding of positive kamma (as well as the reverse) (Goldstein, 1993, pgs. 123-138).
A story which reflects the concern for the moment of death and kamma is one about a real villain whose last thought on the gallows was of the single positive action he ever committed through the course of a bloody life - the giving of food to one of Buddha's disciples. He was reborn into a higher (deva) realm. There he practiced Buddhism diligently, because he was probably the fellow with the worst kamma in that realm, and he knew it. He also knew to take advantage of his opportunity (agency), because that negative kamma was still there waiting for conditions to be right to manifest (Goldstein, 1993, p. 128).
Kamma might be more easily understood in the West as cause and effect. This is a simplification, but one which affords a broad applicability in the here and now without the religious (or even necessarily moral) element. A common Western moral injunction -- Do unto others as you would have them do unto you - has strong karmic overtones. However, the karmic equivalent might be phrased more strongly -- As you do unto others, so they shall do unto you. Thoughts and feelings are of karmic consequence, therefore negative karma can accrue to a victim due to their negative response -- they are, in a sense, victimized twice. A karmic golden rule corollary might be -- As is done unto you, so you shall do unto others (again with the qualification of probability). In Western psychology we can discover this with studies into the likelihood of those suffering child abuse growing up to become abusers themselves. The power of this simple concept of kamma is immense and observable as being at work in the world, but from the perspective of Western psychology (at least in mainstream academe), this falls into the category of 'folk wisdom'. However, an understanding of kamma affords the individual the very practical opportunity to enhance or mitigate the expression of kamma. Ignorance is most definitely NOT bliss.
Another difference between Buddhism and Western psychology is that in Buddhism there is not the same concern with mind/body, nature/nurture sorts of dichotomies . There is a distinction made between biological, situational, and psychological states, but they are viewed more holistically (Hall & Lindzey,1978, p. 373). Likewise, thoughts are a variety of mental objects or states, but so are the five senses related to corresponding sense objects, for a total of six senses (Hall & Lindzey, 1978, p. 360) to the Western five with thoughts (mind) being a thorny other which either has to be an epiphenomenon or at best an emergent property, lest we fall prey to the spectre of dualism. Interestingly, the Buddhists seem to have managed to avoid the problem of dualism within a religious context.
Part of the problem Western science has with dualism is that it is very much at odds with the much longer established Western religion. In the Judaic tradition (which has contributed to Christianity), there is a personified God who is other. He is not only other to the person, but to his entire creation. He is not inherent in Nature, merely its creator and overlord. Furthermore, he's bestowed a soul on every individual which is essentially on loan, to be destroyed if we fail to conform to his commandments, or even worse, by some accounts, to be eternally tormented if we fail. The body is disposable - so much so that if any part of it offends, we're advised to cut it off (Bible: Matthew 5:29,30)! It is this soul, typically endowed with all our cognitive abilities (the mystic Eckhart's minimalist description being an extreme Christian exception (Eckhart, 1996)), which is important and separable from the body. Whilst not accepting a 'soul' separate from the body, science has sought to remain detached from the world (objective), itself its own definer of creative processes (evolution). In allying itself with these general tendencies in 'science', psychology has gone to the devil. That in the West science and religion should be seen as being in opposition to one another is not surprising, since science seeks to usurp the throne of God.
Buddhism is an atheistic (non-theistic) religion, something of an anomaly from a Western perspective. There is no God. A distinction may be made here between the early Pali canon and Abhidhamma, and later more elaborated Buddhisms where Buddha is a godlike being, or the Pure Land Sect where chanting the name of the Bodhisatva of Compassion will assure one rebirth into a deva realm. However, even in these, Buddha is a supernatural teacher, not a mighty creator god and supreme judge. There is no need for a judge when kamma acts like a natural law, when the 'judgment' is already contained in the action. And even in the most elaborated Buddhism in the end there is just One. The world of a thousand and one things is illusion. This is expressed in the dependence of everything on everything else, expressed in the law of interdependent origination. Nothing, absolutely nothing, is separate and distinct ultimately. To believe so is to be deluded, and from a Buddhist perspective, the extreme reductionism of Western ways of seeing is delusion. Mind/body? Nature/nurture? Apollonian/Dionysan? Creator/Creation? Not so.
The sharpest and most challenging contention of Buddhism, though, is that we don't have a soul. Phrased in more psychological terms, there is no self. This needs to be understood as a consequence of the Buddhist understanding of impermanence. Buddha made the astute observation that everything is impermanent. This is easy to understand from the perspective of contemporary Western science. Even the Himalayas once weren't, until an island continent we know as India today crashed into Eurasia in much the same way Indian thought has smacked into the Western thought beginning the creation of who knows what sort of Himalayas of understanding yet to come. But it will be different.
As apparent as the truth of impermanence is everywhere else, it is a difficult one to accept within the field of personality. We would still like to cling to the belief that there is something of us that is permanent through life. The Jamesian 'me' may change, but must the 'I' change too (James,1890/1964)? Is there no changeless transcendental knower?
A compromise may be offered in the understanding of the self as a process. Processes may have identity, at least for convenience. More importantly, from kamma it is understood that one moment conditions the next. There is continuity. I experience guilt when I remember an unskillful action taken by me in the past. Even if I am deluded in believing myself to be my self, there is no denying that the unskillful action was an event occurring in an ongoing process. This process is not determined -- conditioned, perhaps, but there is agency, there are feelings, and there is cognition. This process has all the properties of the trilogy of mind, and satisfies all the criteria of the ethico-legal perspective of personhood (Paranjpe, 1995). Therefore, while there may be no permanent unchanging self, there is still a person who is eligible for responsibilities and privileges as a participant in human society.
Without full functioning in all three areas, there are limits as to the amount of responsibility that can reasonably be expected, and therefore limited expectations for moral behavior, as well as potentially a restriction of rights and freedoms as a society seeks to protect both the person who is deficient and itself from harm (Paranjpe, 1995). Where these criteria are met, as I have argued is the case with the person as process in Buddhism, we should reasonably expect to find some expression of morality.
Buddhism has a strong concern with ethics, and these are expressed throughout the writings. The most fundamental teaching to all variety of Buddhisms is the Four Noble Truths which are concerned with suffering and transcendence of suffering. While this could be looked upon as a straight forward description of life, it is this focus and concern for liberating others (esp. in Mahayana Buddhism) which provides a foundation and impetus for moral interest. More directly concerned with ethical conduct is the Eight Fold Path of right views, thought, speech, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness and meditation, as well as numerous precepts (both Abhidhamma and Mahayana) (Mizuno, 1987, pp. 129-143).
While there is an emphasis on altruistic behavior in Buddhism, ethical conduct is also critical for personal development and well being. One of the keys to the experiential understanding of Buddhism is meditation, but it is maintained that without the practice of virtue, there will be no advancement through meditation.
While there are many specific forms of meditation, Hall and Lindzey (1978) and Gunartana (1991) place the various forms into two main groups; concentration (Samatha) and mindfulness (Vipassana).
Concentration meditation is perhaps the method most strongly etched in the public imagination. This is the form where the meditator focuses in on a single thing to the exclusion of all else. This could be a syllable or series of syllables chanted over and over as in a mantra, a religious image, the breath, or even a quality such as compassion or loving kindness. The object should be something healthy so that the effect of this concentration is to increase positive factors and diminish negative ones. There are several stages that the meditator passes through. At the stage of "access" concentration, there are feelings of rapture, energy and equanimity, but these factors vary in strength. When they become stable, the meditator experiences a strong shift from normal consciousness, called jhana (or samadhi in other Buddhist and Hindu traditions). This state is characterized by bliss, rapture, and the absence of all other thoughts and feelings. There are eight stages of jhana, with bliss being replaced by strong equanimity at higher stages (Hall & Lindzey, 1978, pp. 369-370). Hall and Lindzey (1978) and Gunartana (1991) maintain that the results achieved by this method are lost outside of meditation when the meditator returns to everyday consciousness.
The effects of mindfulness meditation last beyond the sitting (Hall & Lindzey, 1978). Indeed, the nature of mindfulness meditation is such that an objective of the meditator may be (as in Vispassana meditation of the Theravada tradition) to achieve this state of meditation permanently. This is achievable without bumping into any walls because the objective in mindfulness meditation is full awareness of one's experiences. In formal sitting, these experiences will be typically thoughts arising in the mind. These thoughts are noted and let go. There is no attempt to suppress the arising of thoughts, and there is also no pursuit of thoughts which arise, no linking of thoughts together into chains of thinking. Another experience which comes up in formal meditation is emotion. These are regarded in exactly the same way, noted, but not suppressed and not wallowed in. For those sitting in the full lotus position (especially beginners not accustomed to this position), opportunity is afforded to work with attending pain in a neutral, non-judgmental manner (Goldstein,1993, pp 44-46). Mindfulness of the physical can be formally worked with further in walking meditation. Here every movement is in awareness (not a method for the novice in a hurry to actually get somewhere!). And this is a natural bridge towards mindfulness in every activity. At this stage it isn't really a formal meditation anymore, but rather a permanent and (in advanced practitioners) quite natural way of being in the world (Goldstein, 1993). Hall and Lindzey emphasize various stages in this type of meditation as well (1978, p. 370). While Goldstein (1993) uses Vipassana as a global overall term, and translates this as "insight", Hall and Lindzey reserve that term for a second stage where one has achieved this state of uninterrupted mindfulness. The first stage is characterized by getting caught in thought trains, losing one's mindful awareness, and returning again and again to it. This is viewed as being quite natural, and the point is not to force anything, but rather to gently return to awareness.
The third stage is nibbana (Sanskrit: nirvana). Hall and Lindzey describe this as a state in which "there is no experience whatsoever " (1978, p. 371). Not even of bliss or equanimity. A person who has achieved a permanent state of nibbana is an arhat, "the ideal type of the healthy personality" (Hall & Lindzey, 1978, p. 372). Characteristics of an arhat are:
1. absence of: greed for sense desires, anxiety, resentments, or fear of any sort; dogmatisms...., aversion to conditions such as loss, disgrace, pain or blame feelings of lust or anger; experiences of suffering; need for approval, pleasure, or praise; desire for anything for oneself beyond essential and necessary items.
2. prevalence of: impartiality toward others and equanimity in all circumstances; ongoing alertness and calm delight in experience no matter how ordinary or even seemingly boring; strong feelings of compassion and loving kindness; quick and accurate perception; composure and skill in taking action; openness to others and responsivity to their needs.
(Hall & Lindzey, 1978, p. 372)
How a person who has gone beyond experience altogether, beyond feelings of bliss and equanimity, can feel "delight", and "compassion and loving kindness "Hall and Lindzey do not make clear.
The Mahayana sect viewed the Abhidhamma ideal of the arhat as being too much concerned with the personal liberation of the individual and not enough with concern for the well being of others. Consequently, while agreeing with most of Abhidhamma teaching, their ideal is that of the bodhisatva who, in addition, vows to work for the liberation of all sentient beings and will not accept her own liberation from the cycle of birth and death until such time as that is achieved (Mizuno, 1987, p. 28).
In actual practice, there is nothing to prevent a combination of both concentration and mindfulness methods, and this is common in the Theravada tradition (Gunartana, 1991, p. 4). One of the earliest sutras is the Anapanasati Sutta (in Hanh, 1996, pp. 3-10) which outlines a concentration method centred entirely around the breath. This sutra seems to contradict Hall and Lindzey's (1978) and Gunartama's (1991) contention that concentration methods are not enough to effect permanent change, since this sutra teaches that concentration on the breath is a key to enlightenment in and of itself. The breath may be a special case, however, as Gunartana (1991) advocates its use as a "primary focus" (1991, my italics), and Goldstein uses it in the method he outlines (1993). While not advocating pin-point focus on it, for him it is something to which the meditator can return again and again. Also it can be a very good relaxing technique at the beginning of mindfulness meditation. Goldstein also sees great value in meditating on loving-kindness. He relates how a deeply revered teacher of his, Dipa Ma, "used the loving-kindness practice to develop deep states of concentration, and then used deep concentration to develop insight and wisdom through the power of mindfulness." (Goldstein, 1993, p. 142). Concentration and mindfulness methods should not be seen as mutually exclusive.
It should be clear by now that Buddhist psychology is very phenomenological, concerned with the inner experience of the individual, as opposed to mainstream academic psychology which exclusively values empirical evidence, where 'empirical' contains the implicit qualifications of repeatability by anyone with the minimum prerequisite of familiarity with the methods, and that the results of experiments can be published and read by anyone who wishes. Verification of Buddhist methods can be obtained ultimately only through personal experience.
In truth, there is a strong cultural bias as well, since the experiences and findings of Buddhism can be shared between people who have had similar experiences in the same way experiments can be replicated and publications understood by people in the scientific community who share similar training and experience. Likewise, in Buddhism those not as far along on the path look to the authority of teachers, just as the authority of peer reviewed journals is important to the scientist who, if only for practical reasons of time and resources, does not replicate all the experiments he reads of so that he can see for himself. 'Lay' persons in the scientific West are actually more at the mercy of the authority of scientists than Buddhist lay persons who can see for themselves with the aid of a cushion and perhaps a copy of Goldstein's Insight Meditation (1993).
'Empirical' evidence for the claims of the meditation are scant, but Hall and Lindzey cite a couple of examples -- Yogis don't blink and Zen masters never stop. The yogic concentration is so intense that Yogis can be senseless to external stimuli (Ananda et al., 1961, cited in Hall & Lindzey,1978, p. 374). Zen mindfulness meditation with its awareness of everything in the moment, each event seemingly happening for the first time, do not exhibit habituation over many repetitions of a stimulus (Kasamatsu & Hirai, 1966; Hirai, 1974, cited in Hall & Lindzey, 1978, p. 375). These results are exactly what we would expect. Likewise, surveys of experienced meditators show an accentuation of positive factors and a diminishment of negative ones (Ferguson & Gowan, 1976; Goleman & Schwartz,1976; Nidich et al., 1973; Schwartz, 1973; Pelletier, 1974; Seeman et al., 1972; Lesh, 1970; Leung, 1973; and Garfield, 1974, cited in Hall & Lindzey, 1978, p. 375).
This short paper is in danger of not being short, and yet there is so much more to explore. For example, there is in Abhidhamma the theory of positive and negative factors which are mutually exclusive. From this there arises a theory of personality where personality may be said to be the expression of persistent traits. There are similarities here between Buddhist psychology and something as non-phenomenological as trait/factor theory in the West. Likewise George Kelly comes to mind in considering dichotomous traits, especially the dichotomy corollary to his fundamental postulate (Kelly, 1955, in Feist, 1985, p. 587). And there are also ancient examinations of cognitive processes which resemble work done recently in cognitive psychology.
While the content of Buddhist psychology is of great value, the most important thing it has to offer the West is a different way of seeing, a valuing of the phenomenological and personal experience. If the content is based on a discovered reality, it may be that the method is more important than the content which can be discovered thereby. It is not as though this approach has been totally absent in the West, but it has been a minority position - heresy in the time of the Church and heresy in this time of Science.
As the world opens and different peoples are reunited for the first time since the dispersion out of Africa way back in our evolutionary history, the authority of entire cultures and histories different from those Western will demand consideration, and in the exchange I optimistically believe we will all benefit. Buddhist psychology as a discipline distinct from Buddhism as a religion can make more broadly available much of value. While there may be no 'Self' in this psychology, it is very much one compassionately concerned with persons.
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