Intro To Buddhist Psychology

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Here is a brief overview of some of the fundamental Buddhist teachings. The Buddha was a very keen observer of the human condition. I think the beauty of these concepts is that you do not need to become a Buddhist to see their value or adopt them in your own life. One of the Noble truths in Buddhism is “anicca’ the truth of impermanence. The truth of impermanence is the truth that life is in a constant state of flux. Heraclitus an ancient Greek philosopher illustrates this point beautifully he says “You can’t step in the same river twice”. Being human beings gives us the ability to be cognizant of the truth that we are mortal beings. This awareness is a tremendous source of anxiety. However, this awareness is also what makes our lives and the choices we make meaningful.

The late Steve Jobs, who identified with Buddhism said, Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything: all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure… these things just fall away in the face of death… leaving only what is truly important.

This awareness is what separates us from other mammals. Time becomes sacred only when there is a finite amount of time; doing the right things and loving someone only have meaning when you do not have an eternity to work with it. Existential psychology shares a similar theme says that anxiety about being alive is an intrinsic part of life. It also states that to improve one’s life one needs to accept that anxiety is a part of life and any attempt to deny is at the root of all neurosis. Related to “annica” is the Buddhist concept of “anatta” meaning no soul or no self. This concept is commonly misinterpreted as Buddhist’s negate the idea of a soul or self. The teaching really means that Buddhist do not believe in a fixed unchanging soul. They believe in a soul that evolves and changes over time. A Buddhist would describe most human beings as “nothingness” that strives to be something. Only by characterizing our lives a one of movement rather than one of substance do we stand a chance at being an authentic being. Another teaching is that we suffer do to our tanha which means our clinging desire caused by being attached to fixed objects. I think it would be silly to avoid pleasure, happiness, and love. I also don’t think that all of our suffering comes from ourselves. Suffering is an inevitable part of life to live your going to encounter suffering. Another aspect of attachment is devesha, which means avoidance our hatred. To the Buddha hatred is just as much an attachment as clinging desire. It is only by giving the things that cause us pain permanence and solidity do we give them the power to hurt us more. The last aspect of attachment that the Buddha described is avidya meaning ignorance. This ignorance refers to not seeing reality as it is but instead only seeing your personal interpretation of it.

The Buddha himself said, “ Do not take anything I say to be true go out and test it fo yourself”.

I also encourage you to take Bruce Lee’s advice “ Absorb what is useful, discard what is not and add what is uniquely your own”.

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  1. #1 by kPad on June 28, 2012 - 6:23 am

    Great and very well-written synopsis / intro to Buddhist philosophy. Returning to this occasionally. Thank you.

    • #2 by friedmanfamilytherapy on June 28, 2012 - 11:16 am

      Hey thanks a lot. Just finished your book the other day. I am very inspired by it. I am trying out the practice.

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