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‘A sword never kills anybody; it is a tool in the killer’s hand.’ Probably the Best Argument for Gun Control.

18 Jun

A famous quote of Roman politician Lucius Annaeus Seneca (4Bc-65 AD) is ‘A sword never kills anybody; it is a tool in the killer’s hand.’ This quote simply states a simple truth of basic physics. An object at rest remains at rest until acted on by an outside force. A sword, sitting there, doing nothing, will not kill anyone. The same goes for guns or any other item that can cause death. None of them have any intent to cause harm, that is what the human adds to the equation. Only humans have intent, only humans can kill and the fact of the matter is they have been killing since pre-historical times and it is naive to think they will automatically stop for no particular reason. The inanimate objects are merely tools in the hands of a killer. As long as people have ignorance and unwholesome thoughts and intentions, and succumb to them, they will use tools to kill others. So since society cannot nor should constantly monitor the state of mind or intentions of its citizens (Brave New World), the most potent and catastrophic tools for killing ( i.e. assault weapons/bombs/etc.) must be restricted for the government to maintain a stable and safe society for its citizens.

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What Is your Newest Book About?

9 Jun

Since I first posted about the publication of my newest Book- The Buddha’s Radical Psychology: Explorations, I have had numerous inquirers asking about the content of the book. I thought the quickest look at the book contents would be to list the Table of Contents. Good reading!

The Buddha’s Radical Psychology: Explorations

Contents

Preface…xi

Chapter 1 Introduction 1

Chapter 2 Self/No-Self 7

Chapter 3 Self as Construction 23

Chapter 4 The Human Being as a Collective, Unified Unit 35

Chapter 5 Awakening and Enlightenment: Psychological Transformation and Transcendence 61

Chapter 6 Enlightenment: Reality, Actuality and Transcendence 73

Chapter 7 Knowing and Not Knowing – What is Possible? 81

Chapter 8 The General Doctrine of the Law of Dependent Co-arising 99

Chapter 9 Kamma 109

Chapter 10 Sense of Agency 119

Chapter 11 Agency Labelled as Self 129

Chapter 12 Dividing Existence – Duality 143

Chapter 13 Language Construction of Duality 163

Chapter 14 Identification 181

Chapter 15 The Buddha’s Compassion 197

Chapter 16 Memory 207

Chapter 17 The Unconscious 227

Chapter 18 Habits 243

Chapter 19 Cognitive Biases 253

Chapter 20 Meta-cognition and Mindfulness 267

Chapter 21 Automatic Influences on our Actions and Perceptions 277

Chapter 22 Organisms as Coherent Embedded Systems 299

Chapter 23 Happiness 379

Chapter 24 The World without a ‘Self’ 391

Chapter 25 Closing Thoughts 405

Appendix A Explanation of the effects of stress on the different systems of the human body 411

Appendix B Special experiences 415

About the Author

Rodger R. Ricketts, Psy.D. is a clinical psychologist and mindfulness meditation teacher. He has been studying Buddhism for over thirty years, both as part of his own personal quest and also in the application its principles as a therapeutic tool in psychotherapy. He has written three books exploring the foundation of the Buddha’s Teaching in psychology. Rodger has given numerous presentations at wellness and professional psychological conferences on the topics of cognitive psychology, mindfulness and wellbeing. Rodger continues his study of both science and Buddhism, and maintains a regular meditation practice.

Newest Book Now on Amazon- Buddha’s Radical Psychology: Explorations

11 May

The Buddha’s teachings are, at heart, a way of life based on a revolutionary psychology which emphasises the cultivation of wisdom and compassion. Through an exploration of significant, recent findings and thought in psychology, neuroscience, biology, physics, linguistics, ecology and culture, this book shows how the Buddha’s teachings are at the cutting edge of the new direction that psychology must take to reflect and apply the latest trends in science.

Now available on Amazon – a great read!

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Interesting and Surprising Facts about the Buddha and his Teachings

12 Mar

The Buddha was the first thinker in known history to teach the doctrine of human equality and social freedom amongst all humans. Society should be open to all, regardless of caste, color, or class. No caste, class, or race privileges existed among his lay followers or in the Order of the Sangha that he founded. Instead, social classes and castes are nothing but functional divisions of society, man-made, subject to change and resulting from social and historical factors. Any social doctrine based on the alleged superiority of a caste, class, or race, and advocating to keep it dominant by the use of force, will lead to the perpetuation of social tensions and conflict, and never bring about harmony and equality. The Buddha’s doctrine of equality means each person should be treated equally with dignity, and given an equal chance to develop their inherent potentials of economic, moral and spiritual progress, and of human perfection. Also, the Buddha was the first who attempted to abolish slavery, which included the traffic in, and the sale of, females for commercial purposes. In fact, this is a prohibited trade for his followers.

A man named Dighajanu once visited the Buddha and said, ‘Venerable Sir, we are ordinary laymen, leading a family life with wife and children. Would the Blessed One teach us some doctrines which will be conducive to our happiness in this world and hereafter?’ In a large number of his discourses, the Buddha has given practical guidance for the lay life and sound advice to cope with life’s difficulties. The Buddha identified four traits conducive to lay happiness (Pali: sukha) in this life: hard-working (uṭṭhāna-sampadā), being skilled and diligent in one’s livelihood; vigilance (ārakkha-sampadā), protecting one’s wealth from theft and disaster; virtuous friendship (kalyāṇa-mittatā), associating with and emulating those who are learned, generous, virtuous, wise, who will help one along the right path away; and, balanced living (sama-jīvikatā), abstaining from drunkenness, gambling and unwholesome friendships and behaviors.While accepting material comforts, Buddhism always lays great stress on the development of the moral and spiritual character for a happy, peaceful and contented life as well as society.

Buddhism teaches ‘The Middle Way’ because it avoids the extremes of sensual indulgence and self-mortification.
For six years the, to be, Buddha fervently followed a path of self-mortification, yet it led, not to higher wisdom and enlightenment, but only to physical weakness and the deterioration of his mental faculties. Ascetic Gotama then thought of another path to enlightenment, one which balanced proper care of the body with sustained contemplation and deep investigation. He would later call this path “the Middle Way”. He had experienced both extremes, the former as a prince and the latter as an ascetic, and he knew they were ultimately dead ends. To follow the middle way, however, he realized he would first have to regain his strength. Thus, he gave up his practice of austerities and resumed taking nutritious food. Later, He became Awakened and The Noble Buddha.

The name bhikkhuni refers to a fully ordained Buddhist nun i.e. a woman who has taken higher ordination (upasampada) in the Buddhist monastic community. Bhikkhunis live a simple life, equal to that of a bhikkhu or monk. In fact, all the monks and nuns are equal as the disciples of the Buddha. The order of nuns was established lastly, after the Bhikkhu Sangha, and the communities of laymen and laywomen. Ananda asked the Buddha, “Lord Buddha, can women attain enlightenment?” The Buddha said to him, “Ananda, yes of course they can.” He said, “If they can, why don’t you allow them to join the Sangha, learning and practicing directly?’ Because of practical considerations, it took some time and persuasion for the Bhikkhuni Sangha to be established by the Buddha, but thanks to Maha Pajapati-Gotami and Ananda’s support it came to be.

In Buddhism, actions are not termed ‘sinful’ but unskilful or unwholesome. Buddhists do regard humans as sinful or ‘evil’ by nature but the wicked person is ignorant, foolish and immature. They need instruction most of all, more than punishment and condemnation. The Buddha has encouraged us to develop and use our highest understandings through responsibility for our thoughts and actions. Our suffering is not handed down by the Gods, instead, it is created by our not understanding the great principles of life: Life is impermanent, continuously changing and interrelated; there is No-Self and there is Suffering in life. As our Enlightened teacher, The Buddha advised us on how to lead a pure life and achieve the attainment of nibbana.

The Buddha did not encourage the use of magic, charms or fortune telling to improve our lives. They have no spiritual significance or value. It is only through our Right Understanding, Right Effort and Right Practice that we advance.

In the Kalamas Sutta, the Buddha said, ‘Now, Kalamas, don’t go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, ‘This contemplative is our teacher.’ When you know for yourselves that, ‘These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness’ — then you should enter & remain in them.’  Many honest seekers today, like the Kalamas, of the Truth become confused and worried by the many conflicting and inconsistent sects and theologies that are pronounced daily by so many people calling themselves the ‘light to follow’. The Buddha provided a simple and direct test to guide us to know the truth of his teaching: trust yourself, your own experience, and through your experience of the correct teachings which you have found to be reliable and insightful – follow and use. Those people who are “the wise” will teach with the plan that you will see the benefit for yourself through your experience and transformation and not through blind faith and, therefore, you don’t become a slave to their wisdom, instead, you use your reason, your common sense, and your own experience as the ultimate guide and confirmation. So you develop insights for yourself ultimately. While you can benefit from reading books and listening to teachers, etc, your true reliance is upon your real understanding created through the real work that must ultimately be done in transforming and purifying our individual mind. In the end you know for yourself the confirmation of the Buddha’s teachings – there is suffering and the ending of suffering- and this is the only authority needed or desirable.

The Buddha spoke of “beginningless time” and how there is no beginning. The Buddha said that “there is no first beginning, no first beginning is knowable.” (Samyutta Nikaya 15.1-2) This implies that certainly at even the most basic level of existence, everything is made of the same atoms and cosmic ‘stuff’ and we see exclusion and separation only made by our minds.

The Buddha gave to all a practical method (Eighfold Path) for the development of the mind and heart for the shaping of our lives to eventually achieve Awakening or Enlightenment. He did not teach theology or doctrinal orthodoxy. The Buddha understood that all religious doctrines and theology are human inventions built up by the particular authors out of their own mentalities and foisted on people’s minds from the outside. Instead, The Buddha was the teacher who gave the lessons and, if we so want, we are the ones who practice sincerely what he taught and thereby develop our own insights and knowledge of especially the primary Three Universal Truths of Impermanence, No-Self and the existence of Suffering. In Buddhism this is entirely a matter that each individual has to settle for him/herself. But if one makes the effort sincerely- the benefits appear immediately.

Emperor Asoka (304–232 BCE) was an Indian emperor of the Maurya Dynasty who ruled almost all of the Indian subcontinent  from c. 268 to 232 BCE. He [propagated the relatively new doctrine of Buddhism to new heights, as far as ancient Rome and Egypt. He made Buddhism his state religion around 260 BC. He built thousands of Stupas and Viharas for Buddhist followers. The Stupas of Sanchi are world famous and the Stupa named Sanchi Stupa was built by Emperor Ashoka. During the remaining portion of Ashoka’s reign, he pursued an official policy of nonviolence (Ahimsa). Even the unnecessary slaughter or mutilation of Animals was immediately abolished. Everyone became protected by the king’s law against sport Hunting and branding. Limited Hunting was permitted for consumption reasons but Ashoka also promoted the concept of vegetarianism. Ashoka also showed mercy to those imprisoned, allowing them leave for the outside a day of the year. He attempted to raise the professional ambition of the common man by building universities for study, and water transit and irrigation systems for trade and agriculture. He treated his subjects as equals regardless of their religion, politics and Caste. The kingdoms surrounding his, so easily overthrown, were instead made to be well-respected allies. He is acclaimed for constructing hospitals for Animals and renovating major roads throughout India. After this transformation, Ashoka came to be known as Dhammashoka (Sanskrit), meaning Ashoka, the follower of Dharma. Ashoka defined the main principles of Dharma (Dhamma) as nonviolence, tolerance of all sects and opinions, obedience to parents, respect for the Brahmans and other religious teachers and priests, liberality towards friends, humane treatment of servants, and Generosity towards all.

Buddhism teaches that the two qualities-wisdom with compassion—are as interdependent as the two wings of a great bird. Together, where there is true wisdom there is compassion, where there is true compassion there is wisdom. This teaching develops positive cooperative relationships among all people and with sentient beings. It is a teaching for a peaceful, fruitful world and enlightened personal mentality.

Buddhism is concerned with how anyone, male or female, can follow a definite path of mental culture and development to have that same realization. In his own lifetime, The Buddha saw many of his followers realize Enlightenment. After his death, and down through the centuries, thousands have experienced the awakened state – and not only monks. Buddhism is a teaching that explains how realization can be acquired in one’s life – here and now.

The Greeks had a story of a handsome young man named Narcissus who went to a pool, where he saw his own reflection in the water and fell in love with it, not realizing it was merely an image or illusion. Unable to leave the beauty of his reflection, later he fell in the water and drowned. Narcissus is the origin of the term narcissism, a fixation with oneself and one’s physical appearance.
The Buddha, before the Greeks, warned of the suffering caused by a belief and love of the illusion of a self. The Greek story is a nice exposition on this ignorance and the dire consequences of it. The Buddha taught the doctrine of Anatta or no-self.

Sometime between the 2nd century BC and the 1st century AD, the first representations of the physical Buddha were developed. These were absent from earlier Buddhist art, which preferred to represent the Buddha with symbols such as the stupa, the Bodhi tree, the empty seat, the wheel, or the footprints. The Buddha never encouraged statues or artistic representations of himself when he was living. The physical Buddha image like the standing Buddha in the photo was inspired by the sculptural styles of Hellenistic Greek influence.

When some people hear Buddhists say that ‘The World is an Illusion’ they think that means everything in the world is unreal, an illusion. This is a misunderstanding. The Buddha taught that the external environment is ‘real’ but our understanding of it is filtered through our senses, expectations, identities, and memories so our mental construction of the world is an illusion in that we believe that to be the ‘real’ reality but it isn’t – it is like a magic show. To be Awakened is to see beyond the tricks of the magician.

The Doctrine of Karma or Kamma is not a mystical force and does not entail fatalism. Instead, it is a natural phenomenon, like gravity. Our thoughts create consequences inside our mind which we then act on. The doctrine refers to our intentional mental actions- our volitions. What we are now is determined by our thoughts and actions in the past and what we do next, in the future, is determined by our thoughts and actions in the present. Therefore, our kamma has the potential to continuously change depending on our development of our thoughts and actions. The Buddha was very clear in teaching the Noble Eightfold Path that we can definitely transform the quality of our mind and action for the better and ultimately achieve Enlightenment. So Karma does not mean that we have a fixed destiny across lifetimes that we must passively accept or that bad or good things happen only because of our past actions.

The Importance of Personal Refinement

14 Dec
  • This blog is about the topic of refinement in a personal sense.

I have read in different sources the difference between people who have developed a “refined” behavior, comportment vs. others who haven’t. For example, recently, I read a book on Haiku and there was a passage about Matsuo Bashò – the famous Japanese poet – in which he had expressed his thoughts on the nature of refinement and the nature of high art. He had written “Through the waka of Saigyò, the renga of Sògi, the painting of Sesshù and the tea of Rikyù, one thing flows. People of such refinement submit to nature and befriend the four seasons. Where they look is nothing but flowers, what they think is nothing but the moon. Perceiving shapes other than flowers amounts to being a barbarian. Holding thoughts other than the moon is akin to being a beast. Come out from barbarians, depart from beasts. Submit to nature, return to nature.”

I must admit that for some reason, when I was growing up, I had not learned well the importance and self-efficacious nature of refinement. I had approached the topic with suspicion and trepidation. I had associated it with pompousness, exaggerated ego and elitism. It appeared to be a behavior of the upper class not necessary or desirable for the working middle class. It was a bother like music lessons. Now I see this erroneous attitude of mine had to do with an understanding/approach to myself.

Growing up in the USA, a perspective I had learned was that I should be simple, plain, and not self aware to any great extent, not taking pleasure in the appreciation of my own development needed in personal refinement. Much of my distaste for personal refinement was a psychological attitude toward myself fostered by a Protestant ethic of simplicity, sameness and plainness. While I certainly was taught good manners and etiquette in my family as well as encouraged to appreciate art and music, etc, my mental block toward fostering personal refinement was the attitude toward the self. Simplicity was equated with simplicity of self as from a Protestant perspective. Now I see that as an American, the cultural linage from the Quakers, Amish, Baptists and other moral but stern Christian people have been a pervasive cultural baggage that significantly influenced my psychological development.

Max Weber had written extensively on the Protestant ethic and the following quote exemplifies this ethic’s approach to the Fine Arts. “But the situation is quite different when one looks at non-scientific literature and especially the fine arts. Here asceticism descended like a frost on the life of “Merrie old England.” And not only worldly merriment felt its effect. The Puritan’s ferocious hatred of everything which smacked of superstition, of all survivals of magical or sacramental salvation, applied to the Christmas festivities and the May Pole and all spontaneous religious art. That there was room in Holland for a great, often uncouthly realistic art proves only how far from completely the authoritarian moral discipline of that country was able to counteract the influence of the court and the regents (a class of rentiers), and also the joy in life of the parvenu bourgeoisie, after the short supremacy of the Calvinistic theocracy had been transformed into a moderate national Church, and with it Calvinism had perceptibly lost in its power of ascetic influence.

The theatre was obnoxious to the Puritans, and with the strict exclusion of the erotic and of nudity from the realm of toleration, a radical view of either literature or art could not exist. The conceptions of idle talk, of superfluities, and of vain ostentation, all designations of an irrational attitude without objective purpose, thus not ascetic, and especially not serving the glory of God, but of man, were always at hand to serve in deciding in favour of sober utility as against any artistic tendencies. This was especially true in the case of decoration of the person, for instance clothing. That powerful tendency toward uniformity of life, which today so immensely aids the capitalistic interest in the standardization of production, had its ideal foundations in the repudiation of all idolatry of the flesh.”

Also as David Kelley wrote, perhaps my coming of age in the ‘60’s had important consequences to my attitude toward the self discipline needed to refine one’s mental culture and behavior. “Rousseau hated the cosmopolitanism and refinement of Enlightenment life and vehemently criticized inequality, which he thought was an inescapable consequence of civilization. He offered an idealized image of primitive man not yet corrupted by civilization and of life in a nature not yet polluted by cities or machines. The source of those primitivist views was Rousseau’s antipathy to reason. He felt that emotion and instinct should be our guides to action. In this respect, he was the father of the 19th-century Romantic poets and of the counterculture of the 1960s, with its demand for sexual liberation, its contempt for “bourgeois morality,” its emphasis on self-expression rather than self-discipline. The Age of Aquarius sought release from the constraints of reason through drugs and New Age religions. Like Rousseau, it rejected the cosmopolitan modernism of the Enlightenment and praised the authenticity of primitive modes of life.”

Whatever the influences, it wasn’t until I started to explore other cultural points of view that I began to experiment with new ways of approaching myself. A significant influence for me became, and continues to this day, Buddhism with its emphasis on mental culture and etiquette as a means of better comprehending and relating to one’s self and the world. Etiquette became for me a practice which, in general, is concerned with the refinement of human behavior in its relationship with other human beings. Instead of being a system of self approval and haughtiness/superiority- ‘my etiquette is better than yours’-, it is a method of self refinement done in humility.

With my study and practice of Buddhism, I slowly began to approach my thoughts and behaviors in a manner that fostered refinement with humility. The results were satisfying which continued to encourage my practice. The use of meditation, esp. mindfulness, opened a new experience. As Robert Bogoda wrote, “The particularly important method of experiential verification necessitates consistent Buddhist practice—usually contemplation and meditation-as this refines the ability of a person to trust his or her senses through the cultivation of awareness and the implementation of mindfulness in everyday life. Buddhists posit that cultivated awareness is a requisite for trusting the information gathered from the senses, so that emotions and prejudices do not cloud one’s judgments. The refinement of one’s ability to accurately perceive the world and thus trust his or her senses is a primary reason why meditation is central to Buddhist practice.

Sati or bare attention is an important aspect of mindfulness. Sati is the objective seeing of things stripped bare of likes and dislikes, bias and prejudice. It is viewing things and events as they really are — the naked facts. The ability to do this is a sign of true Buddhist maturity. The principle of bare attention should be applied vigorously to everyday thinking. The results will be: clearer thinking and saner living, a marked reduction in the pernicious influence of mass media propaganda and advertisements, and an improvement in our inter-personal relationships. “

The Buddhist approach teaches that progress along the path does not follow a simple linear trajectory. Rather, development of each aspect of the Noble Eightfold Path encourages the refinement and strengthening of the others, leading the practitioner ever forward in an upward spiral of spiritual maturity that culminates in Awakening. Put briefly, it states that action is real, effective, and the result of one’s own choice. If one chooses to act skillfully and works to develop that skill, one’s actions can lead to happiness.

Now I think that refinement corresponds to sensitivity and comprehension. An increased sensitivity which of course also means an alteration in the self. The self is ‘entangled’ – (I borrow a term from quantum physics which means, ‘a system (relationship) containing two or more objects, where the objects that make up the system are linked in a way that one cannot adequately describe the state of a constituent of the system without full mention of its counterparts, even if the individual objects are spatially separated with the other.’ The division of self/object is absent and both are one interacting experience. It is a sense based experience.

 

From another perspective David L. Barnhill wrote, “Phenomenological hermeneutics focuses on experience, seeing it not as a subjective being experiencing an objective reality but rather a mutual implication of subject and object. That is, subject and object are not separate entities but part of a single field of experience, like poles of a continuum. What the author (for example Bashō) experienced was his particular being-in-the-world, not some objective reality. The text arises out of that experience and is itself a presentation of a mode of experience.”

Several examples of this experience are the following translations of a haiku written by Bashò:

Thinking to gaze at them, I drew extremely close to the cherry blossoms, making the parting ever so painful. trans. James Brandon

Gazing at them, these blossoms have grown so much a part of me, to part with them when they fall seems bitter indeed! trans. Burton Watson

“Detached” observer Of blossoms finds himself in time Intimate with them– So, when they separate from the branch, It’s he who falls…deeply into grief. trans. William R. LaFleur

So to conclude, I now understand better and value highly what Bashò wrote  regarding refinement, however, I would not be so strong in my characterization of people who haven’t yet come to understand the significance and transformative nature of personal refinement –“barbarian”. I like better the terms skillful vs. unskillful.

 O’ GREAT SPIRIT help me always to speak the truth quietly, to listen with an open mind when others speak, and to remember the peace that may be found in silence. Cherokee Prayer

Psychology and Mindfulness

4 Dec

There have been several attempts to integrate psychology theory with the Buddha’s teachings. For example, the collaboration of Erich Fromm, Zen Buddhist teacher and author D. T. Suzuki and Richard De Martino led to the publication of Zen and Psychoanalysis in 1960. This work represents one of the first serious attempts to effectively blend Buddhist teachings with Psychoanalytic thought. Alan Watts (1961) was also a key figure in some of the more popular efforts at mixing Western forms of psychology and psychotherapy with Buddhist and Daoist approaches. For some contemporary Psychoanalysts, Zen Buddhist meditation remains an acceptable way to explore the unconscious and to bring hitherto unknown or unacknowledged (repressed) desires and material into consciousness awareness (Cooper 2004). Also, clinicians and writers such as Carl Jung, Tara Brach, Jack Kornfield, Joseph Goldstein, Sharon Salzberg, Fritz Perls and Mark Epstein have attempted to bridge and integrate psychology and Buddhism.

With the recent rise of influence of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) in psychology, there has been a fruitful yet limited integration between certain aspects of ‘Buddhist psychology’ and certain parallel areas of psychology. For example, for the control of unwanted, intrusive cognitions, which particularly hinder one’s meditative efforts and can therefore be a major problem, several strategies are recommended; to reflect on an object which is associated with thoughts which are the opposite of the unwanted thought; ponder on harmful consequences or the perils and disadvantages of the thought; one strives not to ignore and distract the unwanted cognition; to reflect on the removal or stopping of the causes of the target thought. Interventions similar to these meditation strategies and techniques are also used for related problems in cognitive-behavior therapy. Thought-stopping, thought-switching, distraction and covert sensitization are all foreshadowed in the meditation techniques.

Another aspect of Buddhist psychology for modern therapeutic purposes lies in the area of prophylaxis. Several Buddhist techniques can have a role to play in the prevention of certain kinds of psychological disorders. For example, training in meditation, leading to greater ability to achieve calmness and tranquility, can help enhance one’s tolerance of the numerous inevitable stresses in modern life. With meditation one can achieve a degree of

immunity against the psychological effects of stress and frustration. The facility and skill in self-monitoring one can acquire with the aid of mindfulness meditation can provide a valuable means of self-control. The role of self-monitoring is well-documented in the self-regulation of behavior. The overall self-development that Buddhism encourages and recommends also has something to offer for prevention purposes. Some of the meditation exercises and other personal development behaviors found in

Buddhism can potentially enable a person to develop a positive outlook on life and patterns of response, which, in turn, will help cope with the problem of living; by enabling greater calmness and assurance, and with reduced vulnerability to common psychological disorders. A positive modern wellness program can easily incorporate many of the practices of the Eightfold Path.

Recently, another Buddhist meditation practice called Mindfulness has grown in usage and popularity in both the medical and psychological fields. Now there are many programs offering Mindfulness training to the general public with assertions that Mindfulness can help reduce negative thinking and habits and increase positive experiences and thinking – to name a few. Mindfulness has become a treatment for depression, anxiety and reducing stress and relapses (Williams, Teasdale, Segal, Kabat-Zinn 2007). However, these adaptations of mindfulness are being used to reduce our stress, to make us less depressed, more fulfilled and happy but are rarely requiring us to make the necessary life changes that the accompanying practices of the Eightfold Path require. Remember in Buddhism meditation is not a standalone practice but is closely intertwined with the wisdom and ethical practices. As a consequence, Buddhism has mistakenly become part of a secular quest for happiness even though the Buddha‘s understanding of happiness was radically different. The Buddha’s teachings addressed suffering and cessation of suffering. He consistently taught that the pursuit of happiness based upon our erroneous and pre-awakened understanding of the world with our craving for sensory delights and distractions was at the heart of our problems. The Buddha taught that in the eyes of the awakened the very things we consider to be the sources of our happiness are actually the very sources of our misery. Not surprisingly the aspects of Buddhism which appear to be most popular in the West have little or nothing to do with renunciation and more to do with ‘enhancing’ life and seeking personal fulfillment. As a consequence the Buddha’s teachings become ignored by our sense of entitlement to happiness often irrespective of our moral conduct.

Indeed, examples of this entitlement to happiness are easily found on Mindfulness websites by psychotherapists and psychologists on the application of mindfulness to psychotherapy: “The practice of meditation and mindfulness will clear away the dullness of being on autopilot and free you to live more fully than you ever have before.”; “LIBERATE your true Self and discover inner balance, wellbeing and happiness as well as RESPOND to life and relationships with greater intelligence, creativity, intuition and compassion.” and “The more we increase mindfulness, the more we increase happiness.” Also we are often reminded that mindfulness was originated by the Buddha, -“Mindfulness meditation, as it is called, is rooted in the teachings of a fifth-century B.C. Indian prince, Siddhartha Gautama, later known as the Buddha” – and all cite meditation ( ‘non-judgmental awareness of the now’) as the sole technique to be used. Quite different from the Buddha’s original teachings, these psychotherapeutic/wellness adaptations of mindfulness are usually presented independent of any ethical/moral requirements and instead emphasize an amoral immediacy of being. While, in fact, Buddhist meditation is supported by the factors of ethical training as taught in the Noble Eightfold Path. The eight factors complement each other and are an integrated practice. Therefore, if psychotherapists and researchers want to clearly apply the use of meditation as in Buddhist practice, with its accompanying positive results, they need to look at how all factors of the Eightfold Path are involved and how this complete package would have a positive effect on wider diagnostic categories of clients of psychotherapy being now treated with the intervention of mindfulness.

Mindfulness in popular western psychology has now only become yet another coping mechanism for dealing with the stresses of modern life. While the central teachings of the Buddha and the original purpose of cultivating mindfulness was to reach full and complete awakening; to completely overcome ignorance, hatred and craving and to put an end to suffering. While, as in the similarity of meditative techniques and other cognitive-behavioral techniques, there is a complementary aspect which can enhance each other, another problem with the current popular psychologizing of mindfulness is the name of the meditation that the Buddha originated is being converted and misrepresented into something very different. This is harmful as the Buddha’s message of Awakening is lost as it becomes represented as the rush for happiness and self-fulfillment.

The Buddha was not a psychologist and there is a real risk that the psychologizing of the Buddha’s teachings does a great disservice to, and distorts, the original purpose of them and, specifically, reduces the practice of mindfulness to a self-centered pursuit more concerned with allowing us to have more productive and intense experiences than the original purpose which was for us to reach awakening, to overcome ignorance, hatred and craving and to put an end to our suffering and re-birth. Psychologizing the Buddha’s teachings can twist and subvert them into a mental health gimmick, and thereby prevent them from introducing the sharply alternative vision of life they are capable of bringing us. In fact, beyond some positive interaction and influence that Buddhist psychology can have on modern psychology, as mentioned above, it is neither feasible or desirable to assume that the two systems in their entirety can ever be integrated because the highest goal of psychology/psychotherapy is limited to various forms of psychological adjustment, higher functioning or promoting self-actualization and individual fulfillment and these are simply not what the Buddha wanted us to understand. In fact, those goals are merely band aids for the deeper problem which is our suffering due to the ignorance of our pre-enlightened existence.

Enough is Enough- The cause of Suffering is not a Mystery

4 Dec

Even though recent events in the world of beheadings, mass murder, slavery, forced starvation, kidnappings, assault, domination, war and poverty are not a new phenomenon of the human race, with the newer mass communications these horrific acts created by human beings against each other are now exposed in all of its evil so vividly and graphically for all to see that this is yet another compelling reason for this suffering to end. Of course, this refrain against war and the ‘inhumanity’ of human beings to one another is an old often unheeded refrain, however, now the root causes of this abhorrent behavior is clear to be seen and, therefore, changed and, therefore, extinguished through the knowledge and application of the Buddha’s teachings. For it is now possible and, in an explanatory way, to confirm the truth of the Buddha’s teachings and this support and explanatory teachings  of the Buddha is now available through science. With the application of the Buddha’s teachings as a framework or schema for the science of psychology, personality and the consequent perspective from this, allows the possibility of the ending of man’s inhumanity to each other in a scientific and rational way. Even though the Buddha’s teachings are over 2500 years old, with the new support from the findings of science, these teachings of the Buddha will now provide the framework for the new rational consciousness that will end the suffering which human beings create and have created for each other and other living creatures since civilization began. The quote attributed to Albert Einstein is supportive of this point of view: ‘The religion of the future will be a cosmic religion. It should transcend a personal God and avoid dogmas and theology. Covering both the natural and the spiritual, it should be based on a religious sense arising from the experience of all things, natural and spiritual, as a meaningful unity. Buddhism answers this description.’  It is with great anticipation and excitement that we can look forward to our future as a species in which we will be able to create a civilization based on a harmonious relationship between the human race and the other creatures that share this earth with us, as well as our relationship with the earth itself. Even though this vision of harmonious relationship has been promised in the past by religions and other philosophical groups with their own particular identities, the vision created by the understanding of the Buddha’s teachings supported by modern science is radically different and avoids the great pitfalls of the static identification of one group versus another which is at heart, one of the causes of past/current conflicts. Therefore, the Buddha’s teachings are indeed a peaceful revolutionary and radical approach which can and will be successful in the final reduction and elimination of this great suffering that human beings experience primarily because of their own folly of separation from the truth of existence as we experience it and understand it here on this planet Earth. Therefore, there is no time to lose to begin the explanation and expounding of the Buddha’s teaching to the world so that we do not have to continue to create the immense suffering that is now daily experienced and broadcast around the world. This suffering is not only the direct experience of those who experience the perpetration of these horrific acts of violence- psychologically and physically and emotionally and spiritually – but also by the people who are committing these horrific acts. For let us not forget that from the Buddha’s perspective, a person who commits an act of violence and is angry and actively hostile and actively ignorant and actively greedy and actively selfish and actively feeling superior is suffering from a foolish, ignorant, unwholesome mind-set. It is this ignorance that creates the actions which are at the basis of the suffering we see in the world today and which has occurred in the history of humankind.  Let us be very clear about this – the suffering that we continually learn about,  where another human being creates violence not only against others but also against themselves is created through their mind-set which is based in ignorance and once that ignorance is dispelled, the violence, the depression, the greed, the hostility, the selfishness, the uncompassionate feelings both towards others and towards oneself is ended. When one properly understands the teachings of the Buddha and follows those teachings in one’s life, happiness, compassion and wisdom are the result. So now with the rational support and explanation of how the Buddha’s teaching can be explained so that all human beings can understand the psychological basis for their own happiness and for the world’s happiness and the ending of human caused suffering in this world is available now. There’s no reason to ignore the Buddha’s teachings because many think the teachings are some esoteric training or they are thought to be some mystical explanation of the universe and they have no relevance to the common man and the common human experience and, therefore, the Buddha’s teachings have been relegated by many only to be important to the life of obscure monks living in a forest monastery. Now we can see this is a misconception and a great misunderstanding of the significance and foundation of the Buddha’s teachings. The Buddha’s teachings are for everyone and are pragmatic and are rational and are based on empiricism or facts. The Buddha did not indulge in mystical thinking nor did he encourage mysticism or religion as an explanation for human suffering. The Buddha, through years of study of psychological study, understood that the foundation of humanity’s suffering is based on an ignorance, a wrong perspective, a misunderstanding and he taught how to gain a perspective based on a correct understanding and this correct understanding relieves the suffering that is created through anger and greed and hostility and selfishness and other forms of ignorance. The result of Enlightenment is a sense of peace and calm and happiness and compassion both for oneself and for the other living creatures not only  human but all living things on this earth because we are all interconnected and to see us separate is one of the facets of ignorance. So there is an immense and great possibility available to us through the perspective of the teacher Buddha who gave his first teachings over 2500 years ago and it is now possible to show his teachings from a scientific point of view. Therefore, we can see that they are not an obscure esoteric understanding of reality instead they are a pragmatic, fact based understanding of how we as human beings create our suffering not only for ourselves but also for other people when we relate without a correct perspective. So now is a time for the new Renaissance of awareness of our functionality, of our psychology, of our ecology, of our sociology, of our neurology, of our biology, of our physics and astronomy and more supporting the principles of the Four Noble Truths in which the Buddha summarized and made into a framework the essential principles of his insights into humanity. Now is the time for us and opportunity for us to understand the profound and radical Buddha’s teachings from an empirical, pragmatic and scientific point of view which will have radical positive consequences in the future of humanity and now is the time for us to begin that Reformation towards happiness and non-suffering of all beings living on this earth.