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Is Western Buddhism emerging as a psychology?

Buddhism is sometimes described as a lifestyle philosophy. Maybe so, those elements are present.

"Buddhism will come to the West as a psychology."

I like the religious trappings of cultural dharma, Tantric flamboyance, Zen aesthetic, Therevadin behavour modification etc.

For me though, liberation psychology, pragmatic self help and altruistic engagement is where we transcend conventional healthy ego maintenance psychology.

What does your mind say?

Comments

  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran

    Tinker Toys are endless.
    I vow to connect them all.

    lobstersilversovaInvincible_summer
  • I often feel that some humanistic psychology is a healthy prerequisite.
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abraham_Maslow

    Is an unhealthy/unbalanced ego a very difficult dharma starting point?

    I would say that drugs or difficult circumstances can be an impediment. It is almost like pre-dharma is required ...

  • sovasova delocalized fractyllic harmonizing great lakes Veteran

    Being an amateur mystic myself I really try to approach Dharma from a more ... for lack of a better term... religiously-oriented perspective. I have tremendous faith in the teachings and I think that the pomp and the ceremony make a lot of sense, because having a proper context is a beautiful thing.

    However, I do agree with Trungpa Rinpoche when he says Buddhism arrives (or arrived) as a Psychology because it's not a religion -- it's not about pleasing a god or some deity, it's about studying your own mind, changing the way you think, the way you see the world and other beings, and ultimately looking into their true nature to be perfectly liberated.

    Psychology... yes it makes sense that it would appeal to us (westerners) as a psychology, and people who are more inclined to see it as a spiritual path, or as a true depiction of how the cosmos really is (even the parts we are unable to see or know without reliance on the teachings of the Buddha) can find the appropriate grooves where they can be at home.

    Also, things in the West now need to hold up to scientific scrutiny to be accepted by people of the highest caliber. This is mixed because we need to go to university or at least read and study a lot to have the discernment (intellectual) to see what is valuable and useful. It's kinda double-edged because the more intellectual we become, we risk being separated from our basic goodness and just giving it lip-service, but in the end we see that the Buddha's teachings and the entirety of Dharma is skillful and helpful as a means to true understanding and living fully, so it loops back around. Going from not-knowing, to knowing too much, to finally synthesizing what we know and what we can really adopt to grow.

    A lot of people do try and strip dharma down to psychology, and I think that's really helpful, because a lot of people don't stray from their inherited spiritual tradition, or they stray so far that they reject all spirituality without question. When I first started studying Dharma I simply assumed there was a God and a Sacrificed Entity and all that... coming from a Christian background, and my teacher got Pissed! Assuming all that stuff was already attached without even looking into the matter myself. You know, sometimes it's hard to break free from our inherited cultural traditions.. a lot of times without even knowing.

    Even though it's a slow process, I do not mind. Truth and its causes outlasts everything, so even if there are bumps along the way, eventually the resplendence of the gem shall shine through the mire.

    Here is a nice question for you, @Lobster, would you be as enthusiastic a Dharma person if you had been born into that culture? I often wonder about this, perhaps I am very fortunate to have been born in a fringe-realm and had the opportunity to investigate its merits for myself, rather than simply being dropped into it all at once.

    silver
  • "A God and a Sacrificed Entity". Well, that's one thing to call it! :lol:

    Walker
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    Is Western Buddhism emerging as a psychology?
    What does your mind say?

    dhammachick
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    ....Yes :)

  • Mayhab yes, mayhab no. ( no insult intended)
    It depends upon what aspects and whom one talks/who is doing the talking.
    The Zen 'Mindfulness' has, for example, been usurped as a tool or 'Western Psychology' with no apology and little acknowledgment. Western 'Psychology' will cherry pick Buddhism and other traditions to call it's own and fit it into fit the 'Western paradigm'.
    Are we the least bit surprised at this?

    Peace to all

    rohit
  • @sova said:

    Here is a nice question for you, @Lobster, would you be as enthusiastic a Dharma person if you had been born into that culture? I often wonder about this, perhaps I am very fortunate to have been born in a fringe-realm and had the opportunity to investigate its merits for myself, rather than simply being dropped into it all at once.

    :)

    Yes I would.

    I feel I would have investigated the exoteric and interior models of many religions. Which is what I have done. My feeling is the interior merits of religion, whether Sufi, Gnostic, Kabbala etc often go beyond the present modern psychological model.

    I personally like the exoteric religious forms. The cultural, superstitious, fantastical parts. However having a liking for fantasy is no substitute for grounded truth searching ...

    I feel increasingly the beneficial ancient practices and insights are being explored and practiced by people with a modern psychology grounding. Good thing too.
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sufi_psychology

    Buddhism like other traditions is deeply versed in pragmatic psychological tools, insights and training IMO.

    silverShoshindhammachick
  • I find it hardly surprising that it is emerging as psychology. What other major religion puts so much emphasis on the mind, and how it works? Most faiths are just that, faiths, and require the subject to suspend their disbelief, and trust in a diety to save them from what ails them. Buddhism requires that we examine our own minds and make adjustments to ourselves.

    silverShoshinlobsterDavid
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    One has only got to look to/study the Dhammapada Twin Verses to see the connection...

    sova
  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran

    A random thought: Psychology is about being in control. If Buddhism were nothing more than being in control, would it any longer be Buddhism?

    karastisova
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    @genkaku to go with that, psyc. is also very much about labels, about determining a normal and helping people achieve it rather than accept straying from it. It is about charts and bell curves and obtaining answers to where people fit on that curve. I think, honestly, that what most people who study psychology are after is understanding themselves. They'd be better off with Buddhism, LOL. People want to understand themselves, and then compare to others. If anything, psychology creates a deeper seated ego by firming up existence of self and comparison of it to the rest of the world, seeking "normal."

    JeffreyMorningstarsova
  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran

    @karasti -- My mother once suggested, "I imagine you'd need to have an ego in order to lose it."

    "Ego" may be a fabrication, but it's an important fabrication to embrace and plumb.

    lobstersovadhammachick
  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited January 2016

    @Dakini said:
    OP, you lost me with "Theravadin behavior modification" (lol) and the last paragraph. But I've always viewed Buddhism as psychology, and the Buddha as the first psychologist, and a brilliant one, at that.

    :)

    I feel The Buddha (PBUH) came from a lineage of yogi psychologists, interior designers (to misuse a term) stretching into prehistory. The Buddha and those who he trained became the special forces of spiritual development IMO. B)

    I would suggest that healthy dharma adoption in a foreign culture, goes back to basics and integrates most successfully with its greatest pragmatic wisdom systems.

    As cyber-sanghinis we can take a part in that adoption. Just need to keep Buddha off the cigars and cocaine and Freud on the meditational couch.

    sova
  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran
    edited January 2016

    @Shoshin said:> One has only got to look to/study the Dhammapada Twin Verses to see the connection...

    Indeed, but that doesn't mean that BuddhaDharma is just psychology.

    Clearly some western Buddhists want it to be just psychology, such is their aversion to anything transcendental or "religious".

    People impose western values on BuddhaDharma and then claim they have stripped away the cultural baggage. Yeah, whatever. ;)

    Buddhism has adapted to many different cultures over the last 2,500 years, and is now in the process of adapting to western culture. But let's not kid ourselves that the current adaptation is any more valuable than all the previous ones.

    persondhammachick
  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran
    edited January 2016

    @karasti said: I think psychology is too limiting for Buddhism, basically.

    I agree, much too limiting. It's like having a cathedral and only allowing people into the crypt.

    sova
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran
    edited January 2016

    If I were to nutshell Buddhism into conventional sense understanding...I would have to say it's all about 'self-help' ....

    Striped of all the extra trappings, Dharma practice is in a sense self-help psychotherapy...
    and if one takes the question "Is Western Buddhism emerging as a psychology?"
    Western psychology is not stagnant, it adapts as it evolves ...and Dharma practice is, as some like to call it "Inner science" "Mind training"
    ...

    I guess even with all the trappings that often comes with Buddhism, the end result remains the same-it all comes out in the wash -washing/cleansing of the mind/brain, so to speak

    For me...to be spiritual is psychological in nature and to tread a spiritual path is to tread a psychological one and lest we forget : psych[e] mind/spirit ology .study/knowledge...:) But then that's just how "I" personally choose to see it.....

    robotsova
  • Adopting the religious or ceremonial aspects, "the trappings", could maybe help to put someone in a frame of mind to make right effort, but realization is not dependent on it.

    Shoshinlobstersovadhammachick
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    @robot said:
    Adopting the religious or ceremonial aspects, "the trappings", could maybe help to put someone in a frame of mind to make right effort, but realization is not dependent on it.

    True @robot ..The trappings can be liken to the natural light that shines upon the path, showing the way

    And Modern Western psychology, just lending a helping hand...

    robotDakinisovadhammachick
  • personperson Where is my mind? 'Merica! Veteran

    I like the analogy of the teachings and approaches to Buddhism as like a funnel, wide at the top, narrowing down the deeper you go. So I think that the wide part of the funnel will be more psychological and appealing to a broader array of people.

    But as @SpinyNorman pointed out, there is a deeper aspect beyond getting well psychologically that moves into the transcendent.

    lobsterShoshinsova
  • Having found the Dharma after trying psychological therapy and medication, and after having received a bachelors in psychology and completing some graduate study.... The dharma just felt like humanistic psych wrapped in a hug :) I never liked labels anyway; healthy vs unhealthy minds, crazy vs sane etc. Psycology is the study of the mind, the development of a sense of self, and the way our thoughts and emotions play on these things.

    To me, the dharma could easily be seen as another pathological therapy method. it's main function is to eliminate ego and promote awareness.... Well.... So is the purpose of every other therapy method out there or over here in the west. Now what you find at the end of that therapy is up to you. But since there is no "end" to Buddhism I don't see the harm is calling it psychology . A rose by any other name is still a rose, as long as I can smell it who cares.

    Shoshinsova
  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran

    @sdaniel said: To me, the dharma could easily be seen as another pathological therapy method. it's main function is to eliminate ego and promote awareness....

    Isn't therapy usually about making the ego "healthy"?

    sova
  • @sdaniel said:
    The dharma just felt like humanistic psych wrapped in a hug :)

    I LOVE this! :heart:

    sovasilver
  • Humanistic, pragmatic psychology would seem a good way to go. @Walker says it well here:

    @Walker said:
    I find it hardly surprising that it is emerging as psychology. What other major religion puts so much emphasis on the mind, and how it works? Most faiths are just that, faiths, and require the subject to suspend their disbelief, and trust in a diety to save them from what ails them. Buddhism requires that we examine our own minds and make adjustments to ourselves.

    If dharma does not change us and awakening is a major change at the heart of Buddhism, then it is just playing at the solution to ignorance and dukkha IMO.

    Personally I require and have no 'faith' in dharma. I know from knowledge and experience that it works.

    Be kind. Yep. Good plan. Good outcome on so many positive levels.

    sova
  • pegembarapegembara Veteran
    edited February 2016

    Does this sound like any Western psychology?
    https://www.saybrook.edu/newexistentialists/posts/04-20-15

    "And what are the ideas fit for attention that he does not attend to? Whatever ideas such that, when he attends to them, the unarisen fermentation of sensuality does not arise in him, and the arisen fermentation of sensuality is abandoned; the unarisen fermentation of becoming does not arise in him, and arisen fermentation of becoming is abandoned; the unarisen fermentation of ignorance does not arise in him, and the arisen fermentation of ignorance is abandoned. These are the ideas fit for attention that he does not attend to. Through his attending to ideas unfit for attention and through his not attending to ideas fit for attention, both unarisen fermentations arise in him, and arisen fermentations increase.

    "This is how he attends inappropriately: 'Was I in the past? Was I not in the past? What was I in the past? How was I in the past? Having been what, what was I in the past? Shall I be in the future? Shall I not be in the future? What shall I be in the future? How shall I be in the future? Having been what, what shall I be in the future?' Or else he is inwardly perplexed about the immediate present: 'Am I? Am I not? What am I? How am I? Where has this being come from? Where is it bound?'

    This is called a thicket of views, a wilderness of views, a contortion of views, a writhing of views, a fetter of views. Bound by a fetter of views, the uninstructed run-of-the-mill person is not freed from birth, aging, & death, from sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair. He is not freed, I tell you, from suffering & stress.

    Sabbasava Sutta

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    One could also say, past experience leads one to put ones 'faith' in the Dharma...In other words one 'trusts' it's going to live up to expectations (for want of a better term) and past 'experiential knowledge' (which has now become the very fabric of one's being) will more often than not override any doubts.... The kind of 'faith' that comes about when one does not just 'believe' what's been said, but experiences the results first hand...

  • @pegembara said:
    Does this sound like any Western psychology?
    https://www.saybrook.edu/newexistentialists/posts/04-20-15

    That link shows the vast potential for a useful and pragmatic emergence and exchange. :+1:

    The sutta on the other hand sounds to me like superstitious [allegedly sacred] drivel on the mundane level, found in some form in all religious dogmatic ignorance. :-1:

    In a similar way we could take practices and theories from psychology as psychobabble for example Jungs extensive and misguided obsession with alchemy. :-1:

    As always when baking a new pie, we cherry pick the best available fruit not half rotted compost fodder.

    We could reinterpret or find a healthier interpretation of the sutta. Frankly that is not required as people are hungry and fruit plentiful. B)

    sova
  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran
    edited February 2016

    @Shoshin said: One could also say, past experience leads one to put ones 'faith' in the Dharma...In other words one 'trusts' it's going to live up to expectations (for want of a better term) a

    I wonder though to what extent our expectations and preconceptions shape or limit what develops. Disbelief shapes our experience as much as belief.

  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran

    @lobster said: The sutta on the other hand sounds to me like superstitious [allegedly sacred] drivel on the mundane level, found in some form in all religious dogmatic ignorance. :-1:

    How so?

  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited February 2016

    @SpinyNorman said:
    How so?

    I will apply the sutta and not express a view. Free at last. ;)

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    Stop poking, you two.....

  • @genkaku said:
    A random thought: Psychology is about being in control. If Buddhism were nothing more than being in control, would it any longer be Buddhism?

    We could as easily suggest that Buddhism initially is about 'being in control'. If psychology was only about being in control, it would not be a very complete psychology.

    Both have potential to enhance the other.

    silver
  • @lobster said:

    @genkaku said:
    A random thought: Psychology is about being in control. If Buddhism were nothing more than being in control, would it any longer be Buddhism?

    We could as easily suggest that Buddhism initially is about 'being in control'. If psychology was only about being in control, it would not be a very complete psychology.

    Both have potential to enhance the other.

    Yes. The Noble 8 Fold path is all about being in control in the initial stages.

    http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/bodhi/waytoend.html

    lobster
  • sovasova delocalized fractyllic harmonizing great lakes Veteran

    @lobster said:
    Be kind. Yep. Good plan. Good outcome on so many positive levels.

    to quote a master... iz best plan.

  • sovasova delocalized fractyllic harmonizing great lakes Veteran

    @pegembara said:
    self-grasping is ... a thicket of views

    no doubt.

    how many arms does the universe share?
    maybe pass along the cookie and a cake will fall on your head one day.

  • sovasova delocalized fractyllic harmonizing great lakes Veteran

    @SpinyNorman said something about expectations

    Expect Nothing! =D Get in your carriage and take it down the trail.

    "Maybe it leads to a beach."

    May you always know the waves.

    Also: this is kinda a personal swift shot but I was standing barefeet on the dirt last night and it very much assisted contemplation of Emptiness. Emptiness is a Living space. Again, words are just a tool. <3 love you brother

  • @genkaku said:
    "Ego" may be a fabrication, but it's an important fabrication to embrace and plumb.

    Thanks guys. :)

    As we all know from reading our Buddhist Manuals, reciting dharma verses and being wise guys and gals, the fabrication is a curtain or veil to reality.

    In other words psychology is often a pretty wall covering and Buddhism takes down the wall hangings and the walls.

    We are in a container with walls we have made.

    This is why the value of pschological well being should be embraced BUT IMO Buddhism goes a few steps beyond psychology. Are some of the difficulties in maintaining a practice because people think Buddhism is just about a 'settled ego'?

  • littlestudentlittlestudent uk Explorer
    edited February 2016

    Maybe we should start be defining psychology and psychotherapy. Psychotherapy is off course the treatment administered by a qualified professional, but it is more than that. Our local vicar does plenty of psychotherapy, and does it very well too. Is every philosophy or religion then psychology?

  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran

    Is Western Buddhism emerging as a psychology?

    I hope so! Many would benefit from that!

    lobster
  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited February 2016

    @littlestudent said:
    Is every philosophy or religion then psychology?

    There are people exploring this evolving question by immersion in both traditions. For example here the exploration of cognition and dharma.
    http://www.tricycle.com/interview/embodied-mind

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    Western psychology is emerging as a Buddhism :)

    lobster
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