Buddhism and psychology

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Buddhism and psychology overlap in theory and in practice. Since the beginning of the 20th century, four 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 which outlines various traits, emotions and personality types).
  • 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. In 1993 Oliver Kress published a theory explaining this connection by introducing the process of initiation.[1]
  • clinical utility: some contemporary mental-health practitioners increasingly find ancient Buddhist practices (such as the development of mindfulness) of empirically proven therapeutic value.[citation needed]
  • popular psychology and spirituality: psychology has been popularized[by whom?], and has become blended with spirituality in some forms of modern spirituality. Buddhist notions form an important ingredient of this modern mix.

Buddhism's phenomenological 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.[lower-alpha 1] 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.
"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." [2]

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".[3] 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.)[lower-alpha 2]

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)

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

- Chogyam Trungpa, 1974[lower-alpha 3]

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." [4]

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."[5][lower-alpha 4]

The Dalai Lama and the Mind and Life dialogues (1987)

Every two years, since 1987, the Dalai Lama has convened "Mind and Life" gatherings of Buddhists and scientists.[lower-alpha 5] 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" [6]

Buddhism and psycho-analysis

A variety of teachers, clinicians and writers such as D.T. Suzuki, Carl Jung, Erich Fromm, Alan Watts, Tara Brach, Jack Kornfield, Joseph Goldstein, and Sharon Salzberg have attempted to bridge and integrate psycho-analysis and Buddhism.

British barrister Christmas Humphreys has referred to mid-twentieth century collaborations between psychoanalysts and Buddhist scholars as a meeting between

[T]wo of the most powerful forces operating in the Western mind today."[lower-alpha 6]

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.[citation needed]

D.T. Suzuki

One of the most important influences on the spread of Buddhism in the west was Zen scholar D.T. Suzuki. He collaborated with psycho-analysts Carl Jung and Erich Fromm, and also influenced the philosopher Martin Heidegger.[citation needed]

Suzuki & Jung (1948)

Carl Jung wrote the foreword to Suzuki's Introduction to Zen Buddhism, first published together in 1948.[lower-alpha 7] 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,[lower-alpha 8] 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.[7]

Suzuki & Fromm (1957)

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[8][lower-alpha 9]

Suzuki, Fromm and other psychoanalysts collaborated at a 1957 workshop on "Zen Buddhism and Psychoanalysis" in Cuernavaca, Mexico.[lower-alpha 10] 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[9]

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" [10]

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.[11] [...] [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"[12]

David Brazier

David Brazier is a psychotherapist who combines psychotherapy and Buddhism. Brazier points to various possible translations of the Pali terms of the Four Noble Truths, which give a new insight into these truths. The traditional translations of samudhaya and nirodha are "origin" and "cessation". Coupled with the translation of dukkha as "suffering", this gives rise to a causal explanation of suffering, and the impression that suffering can be totally terminated. The translation given by David Brazier[13] gives a different interpretation to the Four Noble Truths.

  1. Dukkha: existence is imperfect, it's like a wheel that's not straight into the axis;
  2. Samudhaya: simultaneously with the experience of dukkha there arises tanha, thirst: the dissatisfaction with what is and the yearning that life should be different from what it is. We keep imprisoned in this yearning when we don't see reality as it is, namely imperfect and ever-changing;
  3. Nirodha: we can confine this yearning (that reality is different from what it is), and perceive reality as it is, whereby our suffering from the imperfectness becomes confined;
  4. Marga: this confinement is possible by following the Eightfold Path.

In this translation, samudhaya means that the uneasiness that's inherent to life arises together with the craving that life's event would be different. The translation of nirodha as confinement means that this craving is a natural reaction, which cannot be totally escaped or ceased, but can be limited, which gives us freedom.[13]

Mark Epstein

Mark Epstein relates the Four Noble Truths to primary narcissism as described by Donald Winnicott in his theory on the True self and false self.[14][15] The first truth highlights the inevitability of humiliation in our lives of our narcissistic self-esteem. The second truth speaks of the primal thirst that makes such humiliation inevitable. The third truth promises release by developing a realistic self-image, and the fourth truth spells out the means of accomplishing that.[16][17]

Buddhist techniques in clinical settings

For over a millennium, throughout the world, Buddhist practices have been used for non-Buddhist ends.[lower-alpha 11] More recently, Western clinical psychologists, theorists and researchers have incorporated Buddhist practices in widespread formalized psychotherapies. Buddhist mindfulness practices have been explicitly incorporated into a variety of psychological treatments.[18] More tangentially, psychotherapies dealing with cognitive restructuring share core principles with ancient Buddhist antidotes to personal suffering.

Mindfulness practices

Fromm [19] distinguishes between two types of meditative techniques that have been used in psychotherapy:

  1. auto-suggestion used to induce relaxation;
  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.[lower-alpha 12]

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), Adaptation Practice founded in 1978 by the British psychiatrist and Zen Buddhist Clive Sherlock 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.[20] 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.[21]

Kabat-Zinn, a one-time Zen practitioner,[lower-alpha 13]

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.[22]

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.

It would be based on relatively intensive training in Buddhist meditation without the Buddhism (as I liked to put it), and yoga.[23]

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

In writing about DBT, Zen practitioner[lower-alpha 14] Linehan [24] states:

As its name suggests, its overriding characteristic is an emphasis on 'dialectics' – that is, the reconciliation of opposites in a continual process of synthesis.... 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."[lower-alpha 15]

Similarly, Linehan [25] 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.[lower-alpha 16]

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

ACT did not explicitly emerge from Buddhism, but its concepts often parallel ideas from Buddhist and mystical traditions.[26][27] ACT has been defined by its originators as a method that "uses acceptance and mindfulness processes, and commitment and behavioral activation processes to produce psychological flexibility.".[28]

Mindfulness in ACT is defined to be a combination of four aspects of the psychological flexibility model, which is ACT's applied theory:

  1. Acceptance (openness to and engagement with present experience);
  2. Cognitive defusion (attending to the ongoing process of thought instead of automatically interacting with events as structured by prediction, judgment, and interpretation);
  3. Contact with the present moment (attention to the present external and internal world in a manner that is flexible, fluid, and voluntary);
  4. A transcendent sense of self or "self as context" (an interconnected sense of consciousness that maintains contact with the "I/Here/Nowness" of awareness and its interconnection with "You/There/Then").[28]

These four aspects of mindfulness in ACT are argued to stem from Relational Frame Theory, the research program on language and cognition that underlies ACT at the basic level. For example, "self as context" is argued to emerge from deictic verbal relations such as I/You, or Here/There, which RFT laboratories have shown to help establish perspective taking skills and interconnection with others.[29][30]

Most ACT self-help books (e.g.,[31]) and many tested ACT protocols teach formal contemplative practice skills, but by this definition of mindfulness, such defusion skills as word repetition (taking a difficult thought, distilling it to a single word, and saying it repeatedly out loud for 30 seconds) are also viewed as mindfulness methods.

Adaptation Practice

The British psychiatrist Clive Sherlock, who trained in the traditional Rinzai School of Zen, developed Adaptation Practice (Ap), the foundation of mindfulness, in 1977 based on the profound mindfulness/awareness training of Zen daily-life practice and meditation. Adaptation Practice is used for long-term relief of depression, anxiety, anger, stress and other emotional problems.

Cognitive restructuring

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).[32][lower-alpha 17]

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 [33] 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.[lower-alpha 18]

Popular psychology and spirituality

Mainstream teachers and popularizers

In 1961, philosopher and professor 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." [34]

Since Watts's early observations and musings, there have been many other important contributors to the contemporary popularization of the integration of Buddhist meditation with psychology including Kornfield (1993), Joseph Goldstein, Tara Brach, Epstein (1995) and Nhat Hanh (1998).

Caveats regarding "Romantic Buddhism"

Romantic /
divided self clinging
feeling of
knowledge of
cure on-going

Thanissaro Bhikkhu[35] 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. Thanissaro Bhikkhu traces 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 asserts that there are also core differences between Romantic/humanistic psychology and Buddhism. These are summarized in the table to the right. Thanissaro implicitly deems those who impose Romantic/humanistic goals on the Buddha's message as "Buddhist Romantics."

The same similarities have been recognized by David McMahan when describing Buddhist modernism.[36]

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 they’re 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."[35]

Education and research

Researchers interested in studying the intersection of Buddhism and psychology in North America have had to either fit themselves into Eastern Studies programs, psychology programs or engage in a program of private study. North American programs at accredited institutions dedicated to Buddhism and psychology are few. There is a minor (soon to be major) program at the University of Toronto called Buddhism and Mental Health.[37]

As for clinical training, there is an accredited Master's program in Contemplative Psychotherapy offered at Naropa University in Boulder, CO. The curriculum is a hybrid of Buddhist psychology and Western psychotherapeutic approaches, and incorporates several group retreats and ongoing meditation practice. The program, which was founded in 1978, is designed to prepare for licensure as a professional counselor.[38]

See also


  1. Buddhist doctrine was first articulated by the Buddha (ca. 563 BCE to ca. 483 BCE). The establishment of a self-conscious field of psychology as the empirical assessment of human mental activities and behavior is often identified with the work of Wilhelm Wundt (August 16, 1832 – August 31, 1920).
  2. The notion that consciousness is a sequence of states, like cells in a film strip, while not explicitly contrary to notions of consciousness found in the Pali nikayas, is found explicitly in the Pali Abhidhamma (see Bodhi, 2000, p. 29).
  3. Cited in Goleman, 2004, p. 72. Goleman, who was teaching psychology at Harvard University at the time, goes on to write: "The very idea that Buddhism had anything to do with psychology was at the time for most of us in the field patently absurd. But that attitude reflected more our own naivete than anything to do with Buddhism. It was news that Buddhism — like many of the world's great spiritual traditions — harbored a theory of mind and its workings" (p. 72).
  4. Naropa University has also been a training ground and meeting place for many of today's most prolific popularizers of a Buddhism-informed psychology such as Jack Kornfield and a psychologically savvy Buddhism such as Joseph Goldstein
  5. Books that have documented these meetings include Begley (2007), Davidson & Harrington (2002), Goleman (1997), Goleman (2004), Harrington & Zajonc (2006), Haywood & Varela (2001), Houshmand et al.. (1999), Varela (1997), and Zajonc & Houshmand (2004).
  6. Fromm et al., (1960), back cover. Explicitly, in regards to the book associated with the 1957 Cuernavaca, Mexico conference mentioned below, Humphries wrote: "This is the first major attempt to bring together two of the most powerful forces operating in the Western mind today."
  7. Both Fromm (1960) and Ellis (1962) cite this text as influential.
  8. In particular, Jung quotes Rudolf Otto's stating, "Zen is neither psychology nor philosophy" (Suzuki & Jung, 1948, p. 11, n. 1).
  9. To support this statement, Fromm (1960, p. 78, n. 1) refers to Jung's foreword to Suzuki (1949), Benoit (1955), and Sato (1958). Fromm et al.. (1960, p. 78) also refers to Karen Horney who "was intensely interested in Zen Buddhism during the last years of her life."
  10. Fromm et al.. (1960, p. vii). Selected presentations from this conference are included in Fromm et al. (1960). Fromm's interest in Buddhism extended to multiple Buddhist schools as evidenced by his writing the foreword for Nyanaponika et al. (1986).
  11. For instance, ninth-century Chinese Patriarch Zongmi referred to non-Buddhist uses of Buddhist meditation practices as bonpu meditation. For more information, see Zongmi's "Five Types of Zen"
  12. For an authoritative source regarding Buddhist mindfulness meditation, Fromm (2002) references Nyanaponika (1996). Fromm (2002, pp. 52-53) goes on to write:

    [T]here are two core doctrines acceptable to many who, like myself, are not Buddhists, yet are deeply impressed by the core of Buddhist teaching. I refer first of all to the doctrine that the goal of life is to overcome greed, hate, and ignorance. In this respect Buddhism does not basically differ from Jewish and Christian ethical norms. More important, and different from the Jewish and Christian tradition, is another element of Buddhist thinking: the demand for optimal awareness of the processes inside and outside oneself.

    For an overview of Buddhist mindfulness practices, see Buddhist meditation and Satipatthana Sutta.

  13. In Kabat-Zinn (2005, p. 26), for instance, he writes:

    Because I practice and teach mindfulness, I have the recurring experience that people frequently make the assumption that I am a Buddhist. When asked, I usually respond that I am not a Buddhist (although there was a period in my life when I did think of myself in that way, and trained and continue to train in and have huge respect and love for different Buddhist traditions and practices), but I am a student of Buddhist meditation, and a devoted one, not because I am devoted to Buddhism per se, but because I have found its teachings and its practices to be so profound and so universally applicable, revealing and healing." He goes on to write:

  14. According to Kabat-Zinn (2005, p. 431): "Marsha [Linehan] herself is a long-time practitioner of Zen, and DBT incorporates the spirit and principles of mindfulness and whatever degree of formal practice is possible."
  15. The parenthetical "(Zen)" is included in Linehan's actual text.
  16. Regarding DBT's empirical effectiveness, Linehan (1993b, p. 1) cites Linehan et al.. (1991), Linehan & Heard (1993), and Linehan et al.. (in press). Clinical experience has shown DBT to be effective for people with borderline personality disorder as well as other Axis II Cluster B disorders.
  17. Elsewhere in Ellis (1991, pp. 336-37), in response to concerns voiced by Watts (1960) regarding overly rationalistic psychotherapy, Dr. Ellis expresses a caveat specifically regarding Zen-like spiritual pursuits. Dr. Ellis notes that "perhaps the main goal" of a patient of rational-emotive therapy "is that of commitment, risk-taking, joy of being; and sensory experiencing, as long as it does not merely consist of short-range self-defeating hedonism of a childish variety...." Dr. Ellis then adds:

    Even some of the Zen Buddhist strivings after extreme sensation, or satori, would not be thoroughly incompatible with some of the goals a devotee of rational-emotive living might seek for himself — as long as he did not seek this mode of sensing as an escape from facing some of his fundamental anxieties or hostilities

  18. In the example cited from Ellis (1997), a person attempts to replace their hostile feelings with pleasant feelings associated with the same individual. In general, with Buddhist metta practice, one elicits feelings of loving kindness by contemplating on a benefactor and one then uses these self-elicited warm feelings to then permeate the experiencing of a perceived "enemy." Moreover, Buddhist metta practice directs loving kindness towards all beings, near or far, kind or brutal, human or non-human.


  1. Kress, Oliver (1993). "A new approach to cognitive development: ontogenesis and the process of initiation". Evolution and Cognition 2(4): 319-332.
  2. Bodhi, 2000, pp. 3-4.
  3. Rhys Davids, 2003
  4. Trungpa, 1975, p.2.
  5. Schwartz, 1995, pp. 315-16).
  6. Goleman, 2004, pp. 72-73
  7. Suzuki & Jung, 1948, p. 25
  8. Fromm et al., 1960, pp. 77-78).
  9. Fromm et al., 1960, p. 80
  10. Fromm et al. pp. 85-86
  11. Fromm, p. 115
  12. Fromm, p. 140
  13. 13.0 13.1 Brazier 2001.
  14. Epstein 2004.
  15. Winnicott: Ego distortions in terms of true and false self Winnicott
  16. Epstein 2004, p. 42.
  17. Janice Priddy, Psychotherapy and Buddhism: An Unfolding Dialogue. The Four Noble Truths in Buddhism
  18. Adelman, K. (2005, May 1). What i've learned: Tara Brach. Washingtonian Magazine.
  19. 2002, pp. 49–52
  20. Kabat-Zinn, 1990, p. 1
  21. Kabat-Zinn, 1990, p. 11)
  22. Kabat-Zinn 2005, pp. 12-13
  23. Kabat-Zinn, Jon (May 2011). "Some Reflections on the Origins of MBSR, Skillful Means, and the Trouble with Maps". Contemporary Buddhism. 12 (1): 294.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. Linehan 1993a, p. 19
  25. Linehan 1993b, p. 63
  26. Shenk, C., Masuda, A., Bunting, K., & Hayes, S. C. (2006). The psychological processes underlying mindfulness: Exploring the link between Buddhism and modern contextual behavioral psychology. In D. K. Nauriyal (Ed.), Buddhist thought and applied psychology: Transcending the boundaries (pp. 431-451). London: Routledge-Curzon.
  27. Hayes, S. C. (2002). Buddhism and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. Cognitive and Behavioral Practice, 9, 58-66.
  28. 28.0 28.1 Hayes, S. C., Strosahl, K., & Wilson, K. G. (2011). Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: The process and practice of mindful change (2nd edition). New York: Guilford Press.
  29. Vilardaga, R., Estévez, A., Levin, M. E., & Hayes, S. C. (in press). Deictic relational responding, empathy and experiential avoidance as predictors of social anhedonia: Further contributions from relational frame theory. 'The Psychological Record.'
  30. Weil, T. M., Hayes, S. C., & Capurro, P. (2011). Establishing a deictic relational repertoire in young children. 'The Psychological Record,' 61, 371-390.
  31. Hayes, S. C., & Smith, S. (2005). Get out of your mind and into your life: The new Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger.
  32. Ellis, 1991, p. 35.
  33. Ellis 1997, pp. 86–87
  34. Watts, 1975, pp. 3-4.
  35. 35.0 35.1 Thanissaro Bikkhu (2012)
  36. McMahan 2008.
  37. UofT's site. [1]. Accessed April 18, 2013.
  38. MA Contemplative Psychotherapy department site. [2]. Accessed November 4, 2013.

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  • Brazier, David (2001), The Feeling Buddha, Robinson Publishing<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  • Ellis, Albert (1977, 1997). Anger: How to Live with and without It. Secaucus, NJ: Carol Publishing Group. ISBN 0-8065-0937-6.
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Early scholarship

Mainstream teachers and popularizers

Caveats and criticisms

Psychotherapy and Buddhism



Bhante Kovida