Trans Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften 16. Nr. Dezember 2005

9.2. Buddhist Psychology: A Transcultural Bridge to Innovation and Reproduction
Herausgeber | Editor | Éditeur: Maurits G.T. Kwee (Buenos Aires)

Dokumentation | Documentation | Documentation

Report: Buddhist Psychology: A Transcultural Bridge to Innovation and Reproduction

Maurits G.T. Kwee (Buenos Aires)

This meeting was attended by Profs Bärmark, Oei, and Kwee, and Drs Taams, Rothenberg, Pitayataratorn, and Rapp, and later joined by Drs Luciak and Monacelli. Drs M. Tophoff (from Limmen, Holland) was ill after a journey to Sikkim, India, and J. Silberman (from Philadelphia, USA), had unexpected teaching obligations. These two gentlemen were excused. They however did submit their contribution in the form of a scientific paper for INST.

Our section is specifically centered round the innovation and reproduction of the Buddha's teaching in a framework of applied psychology and to attend the many issues and questions that can be raised. The meeting started with a one hour Powerpoint presentation by Kwee and Taams (both are psychologists). Neoyana was explained in terms of a New Buddhist Psychology that comprises the practice of social, clinical, and neuropsychology. Such psychology is the result of the interchange between the Buddha's teachings and the science of psychology since Wundt’s inception (in 1879) until today. It is an applied science meant for seekers of inner freedom from existential suffering nobody can escape from, while searching for answers on the human predicament: disease, decay, and death. The adjective Buddhist refers to the teaching as originally espoused by the Buddha some 2500 years ago here taken to be non-theistic and non-metaphysical. The basis of the New Buddhist Psychology is rooted in the traditional practice of the Buddha’s 12 meditations that had been extensively reviewed in this day’s Powerpoint presentation. These practices are meant to awaken, i.e. to open one’s mind's eye (like sexuality in puberty) to be accomplished by training in enlightening the darkness of ignorance, greed, and hate. Such forms are a natural part of human beings’ adult development, for which coaching in heartfelt mindfulness and insight meditation is necessary. This will effect in the discovery of one’s own Buddha-nature. If developed collectively, it might ignite a quantum leap in humanity’s evolution from animal hood to Buddha hood and in spreading awakened wisdom across different cultures. A New Buddhist Psychology is meant to regenerate the Buddhist teaching, which has not been basically rejuvenated for a thousand years. It bridges (post)modern psychology with the Buddhist 'self-deconstructing' art and skill of liberation that include absorption and Flow (wuwei) leading to the 'Zone of Bliss' (satori) in daily living. A discussion followed on the questions posed for this section: Can there be knowledge beyond perception? Can a soteriology be scientific? Can applied science be culture-free? It was concluded that it is not per se the practice that is ‘new’ (e.g. on mindfulness, kindness, or compassion), but rather the explanation of its potential effectiveness in psychological terms. A very worthwhile question posed by Oei was: ‘Suppose I practice Buddhist psychology, when do I now that I am arrived? This question urged to formulate an elevator pitch (a short statement delivered in an elevator to respond the questioner) and accrued the response: ‘You will know because there is an AHA and HAHA experience at the same time’. These experiences respectively reflect the provisional level or form level and the ultimate or emptiness level of all things.

Subsequently Oei, psychologist, gave his Powerpoint presentation that explored the conceptual compatibility between the distinctive processes of Cognitive-Behaviour Therapy (CBT) - an evidence-based western method of psychotherapy - and the common values of Chinese Culture rooted in Confucianism and implicitly Taoism and Buddhism. The author did not yet include explicit Taoist and Buddhist values in his inquiry. The distinctive processes attributed to CBT, generated through meta-analysis by Blagys and Hilsenroth, and the present core Chinese values, determined through an integration of The Hofstede Project are compared. CBT’s six distinctive factors (the use of homework outside of therapy sessions, direction of session activity [setting an agenda and utilizing pre-planned techniques], psycho-education: the teaching of skills to cope with symptoms of fear or depression, the focus on client’s present and future experiences, the provision of information about a client’s disorder, and the focus on a patient’s illogical or irrational thoughts or beliefs) are in principle successfully applicable to the Chinese population as a strong degree of compatibility with Chinese values were found on the basis of quantified research evidence. Oei’s evidential analysis suggests that with small modifications, fried rice be eaten successfully with a knife and fork. These utensils are more than equal to the task. The current challenge is for research to produce supporting evidence and to particularly uncover specific Taoist and Buddhist factors. Rapp, psychotherapist, talked from her heart on transforming conflicts by the use of Buddhist skilful means through gathering and using knowledge fit for purpose (upayakausika). It was her presentation that gave way to much discussion during and after her talk (and filled most of the empty space left by Silberman and Tophoff). Her thesis was that human beings are complex and our minds are modular. Knowledge contents are grounded in different paradigms and our methods of enquiry use different strategies, privilege different modalities that favour different processes of perceiving and interpreting. One may make different maps, even of the same territory. Fortunately, we seem to agree on some common principles regarding what distinguishes a useful map from an unhelpful or even dangerous one. The focus is on how she uses a four quadrant ‘mandala’ in her analysis of conflict situations with a view to working skilfully and productively with all major stakeholders. Just as mindfulness and mind emptiness are complementary functions, so the four fields of this mandala designate complementary methods on the path towards a more whole and enlightened way of apprehending and understanding the human condition. She argued that we need to accept, understand, and respect the personal qualities, values, and practices of all players (field 1), as well as the cultural and historical context of meaning making and praxis (field 2) of all groups. Further, we need to bring to bear our scientific understanding of the bio-psycho-social basis of human consciousness, emotion, and behaviour (field 3) and of our socio-political, economic and environmental understanding of systems of collective organization (field 4). Different paradigms help differentially to formulate sensitive methods, fit for purpose, capable of answering key questions relating to particular aspects or factors of a given conflict. She also told us about her performance in the Knesseth (Israeli parliament) to protest against the wall that isolates many Palestinians in Israel in her Buddhist inspired peace work. Then Rothenberg, psychologist, who originally is from the U.S.A , is a so-called JUBU (Jewish Buddhist) in the making lives in Vienna. He demonstrated the use of video in facilitating 'transpersonal' experience. The purpose of this exploration was to investigate the use of video as a tool in eliciting transpersonal experiences and its potential as a tool for personal development in integral psychotherapy including Buddhist Psychology and Cognitive-Behavior Therapy. Transpersonal experience is defined here as entailing three critical and related cognitive phenomena. (1) A detachedness of perspective connected to the ability to look to oneself from the point of view of another, as if outside, an objective observer of the self through 'witnessing consciousness'. (2) Commitment to a holistic perspective. (3) An alteration in the perception of time and space. He studied 18 people (including him self) who worked with video in various professional, creative, and artistic capacities by interviewing them on video. The results showed that video can be used as a constructive and significant tool in helping to elicit transpersonal experiences for personal development and psychotherapy, in general. Its transcultural practice was illustrated with a display or demonstration. Prof. Bärmark volunteered as subject by sitting in front of the camera; his images were displayed on a TV screen visible for the audience. Feedback to what the subject did and said was instructive to subject and public in terms of the transpersonal factors as defined above. Bärmark’s presentation was most interesting and ‘mind blowing’ as he - as a professor in the theory of science (who is also well-versed in Tibetan medicine and Buddhist teachings like lojong: transforming obstacles into one’s path) - unveiled that most social scientists and psychologists, in particular those who use natural science as an ideal to model their specific field of study, do not have a accurate image of what natural science ‘really’ is and mostly base their assumptions on vague ideas on the solidity of its evidence. These are different ‘cultures’ and have lead that psychologists became ‘quantofrenic’. Factually, most discoveries in physics were made on the basis of theoretical scrutiny or intuitive discoveries and only coincidentally on methodological rigor. From my personal experience as a psychologist, I can confirm that I and probably most of my colleagues indeed do not know that discoveries in physics are so often preceded by theory (I knew about intuition, like Kekule's discovery of benzene's chemical structure). However, in psychology we are interested in practice and not so much in theory and surprisingly we can practice adequately with inadequate theories. A postmodern paradigm shift that provides psychology with a workable and genuine (not imitated) meta-theory might help to develop our field a step further. A basis for this is Bakhtin’s (dialogical self: we are foremost social/relational beings) and Derrida’s de-construction unveiling that logic is based on interrelated concepts built on dualisms (meaning is defined by another meaning together making up a house of cards). The Buddhist not-self psychology, grounded in non-dualism, seems to be a good candidate for a meta-theory of psychology. It sucks any theoretical proposition into a ‘black hole’ to put it in an astronomy metaphor. We can think through Buddhist concepts to get a perspective on western idioms of thinking. However, thinking through Buddhist culture means that we 'anthropologize' western science, thus showing how exotic the other reality constitution is. Therefore, we need to make western domains, considered to be universal, the object of our critical reflection. In order to understand alien concepts, one has to entertain doubts about the absolute validity of those fostered in our own culture. To close, Pitayataratorn (economist); his Powerpoint presentation corresponds with his abstract. In a way he is the personification of IRICS. He talked about the Theravda Buddhist path of accomplishment and referred to his personal situation as a Thai of Chinese descent living in Austria and married to an ‘indigenous’ Viennese woman. He used to work at the United Nations Organization in Vienna and started his own business since he won the Eureka Award in Brussels for his innovation and accomplishments of ‘his virtual multiverse’ that he parlayed into climate (global warming), lack of fossile energy, internet/communication technology, geomancy (Feng Shui), etc. He averred that the Buddha's teaching on accomplishment entails will, perseverance, awareness, and investigation. These factors are criteria to apply in each of the paths of cultivation through meditation and wisdom that will lead to health. Embedded on the way we find the Buddha's three empirical marks of existence (there is suffering due to impermanence and a way out by revealing not-self). Emptiness is the primordial state of being or universal bioenergy (chi) wherein all conditioned things are impermanent and from which is constituted suffering/conflict as long as one has not yet realized the key that there is no-self involved in such conflict. The conflict itself is, therefore, an actual illusion that we cannot get rid of by mere reasoning. His basic message is that there is conflict because there is a complex in which desire for permanent existence of I/me-mine-self that is necessarily a rationalistic abstraction and that clashes with the impermanent nature of all conditions (ultimately leading to death). When there is not a self, there is no conflict either. As long as the illusion of a permanent self is maintained by craving for more and by clinging to existence that is impermanent through the passions of greed and hate, there will be a continuing 'rebirth' of that deluded self . But when in the process of action and reaction it is understood that the desire for permanence has created this illusory self, a mirage of a soul - due to be everlasting in an impermanent world - then the illusory dream will be seen as a dream and vanish. When the false is seen as false, there is 'truth'. And that is, as the Buddha said, to ‘see things as they really are’: yatha-bhuta-nana-dassana. Such Buddhist teaching (Dhamma) that is this-wordly, non-theistic, and non-metaphysical has the potential to regulate the human conditions for contentment and peace in the East as well as in the West. This ends the day of Section 9.2. on December 10, 2005 at 17.15 o’clock, one hour later than programmed. In conclusion: the seven presentations, although each was different, had clearly one overall theme reflecting indeed the section’s title. The day breathed a Buddhist inspired atmosphere. We tried to bridge and (transpersonally) transcend cultures by not only reproducing, but rather by innovating various Buddhist cultures in the Judeo-Christian West (in Europe, Australia, and the U.S.A.) through our daily practice. The specific subjects to effectuate this varied from peace work to individual salvation to social applications and included even the questioning of the various contributions’ epistemology. In the spirit of post-modernity, the reader may decide for herself or himself the meaning of the particular contributions and their inter-relationships based on this report. It was clear that the personal presentations shed a different light on the abstracts that were submitted and that this particular personal aspect is hardly possible to describe. The overall feeling we participants had at the end of the day was satisfaction and at the same time a need to further continue the exchanges, which we did during dinner and while having drinks ensemble. We were together like a big new family regretting the day was over.

© Maurits G.T. Kwee (Buenos Aires)

9.2. Buddhist Psychology: A Transcultural Bridge to Innovation and Reproduction

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TRANS       Inhalt | Table of Contents | Contenu  16 Nr.

For quotation purposes:
Maurits G.T. Kwee (Buenos Aires): Report: Buddhist Psychology: A Transcultural Bridge to Innovation and Reproduction. In: TRANS. Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften. No. 16/2005. WWW:

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