Buddhist Psychology

This site working in conjunction with www.buddhistpsychology.info. It will include answers to questions relating to courses at Amida Trust and will give explanation and comments on aspects of Buddhist psychology.

Sunday, December 21, 2008


We are launching a month long course looking at attitudes to food, eating and body image. The programme includes exploratory exercises, guided meditations, and theoretical material based in the insights derived from Buddhist psychology. Participants join a supported peer group. Enrolment will be ongoing, with the first participants starting after Christmas.

This month long programme helps you to look at your eating behaviour and your relationship with your body in new ways. Through daily activities and reflections it helps you to understand some of the factors behind compulsive or restricted patterns of eating and to develop strategies to change your behaviour around food. The multi-media course uses meditations, work charts, guided fantasy exercises and practical experiments. It also contains theoretical and inspirational material related to the subject. Participants join an on-line support group and are given access to many resources. They remain registered after completion of the programme thus having access to an ongoing community of peers.

Check out details and register through the web page on: http://www.buddhistpsychology.info/eatingonline.html

Saturday, February 03, 2007


I was fascinated by this item on the BBC new site today. Quite amazing how strong the instinct about our genetic origins is. Not only did both father and son sense the mistake that had been made, despite there apparently being no evidence other than their own intuition for the swap having happened. Also, the sister became convinced by the appearance of the young stranger of her lost brother's relationship, to the point where she initiated conversation that led to the uncovering of the mistake. The case, as disturbing as that of the boy brought up as a girl, gives yet more evidence that our sense of who we are is embodied and programmed from before birth, not learned.

A disturbing issue also raised incidentally by this article is the legal barrier the boy faces to renouncing Islam, such religious restriction so opposite to the path of faith.

Chance meeting solves baby mix-up
By Jonathan Kent BBC News, Kuala Lumpur
A Malaysian Chinese couple are considering taking legal action against a hospital for sending them home with the wrong baby nearly 30 years ago.
The couple, who had always suspected a mix-up, were reunited with their biological son after a chance meeting in a shopping centre.
But the family may now face a battle with Malaysia's religious authorities.
As well as taking a Chinese name, the son wants to renounce Islam - something which is very difficult in Malaysia.
Teo Ma Leong had always suspected his fifth child was not his own.
The young boy's dark features led neighbours to whisper that he was the result of an affair.
Meanwhile, Mr Teo's biological son had always suspected he was not really the child of the Malay Muslim couple who took him home from a hospital in Batu Pahat in southern Malaysia in 1978.
So Zulhaidi Omar left home at 13 because he felt he did not belong.
Supermarket spot
Then eight years ago one of his sisters spotted him working in a shopping centre.
Convinced he was the spitting image of their father, she brought the rest of her family along.
After staring at one another for a while they found the courage to speak and the truth emerged.
DNA tests subsequently proved that the two men were father and son.
Now the family has gone public with their story because Zulhaidi wishes to take a Chinese name and renounce Islam.
That is very difficult in Malaysia, where the Islamic authorities regard abandoning the faith as a grievous sin.
However the Malaysian government has started to encourage a more pragmatic approach from its religious departments, so the Teo family may yet be reunited in name as well as deed.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Is forgiveness a Buddhist concept?

It is hard to argue for forgiveness as a Buddhist concept, even though it may seem superficially to be in line with Buddhist concepts of generosity, loving kindness and so on. Having said this, when I put "forgiveness" and "Buddhism" into google, plenty of references come up. I think this is basically an importation of judeo-christian values. Forgiveness is a concept that goes with divine authority. Compassion is a much more solidly Buddhist idea.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Can the therapist be neutral or are they always leading the client?

I have to say I am very doubtful that we ever entirely give up leading the client. We may become less deliberately "leading" but I'm sure clients perceive our responses to things they say and adjust their direction accordingly. Also because our minds are conditioned we hear certain parts of the clients story more strongly. This leads us to reflect some things and not others.

If you take a class of students, or indeed any group of therapists, and ask them to listen to a piece of counselling, stop it, and ask them to write what they would say next, you will get quite a variety of answers. Ask them what you think the main themes are, significant insights are, or future direction is and you will get a similarly diverse set of responses.

Being neutral is impossible. Therapy is about interaction, not a monlogue. Whether this is leading or participating in a shared exploration can be debated, but I think the therapist certainly has a big influence on the process.

Saturday, April 30, 2005

Skandha process: Majjhima Nikaya 149

In today's course we were exploring skandha process by studying Majjhima Nikaya 149 In this sutra the Buddha talks about the way that the senses are conditioned, relating this to the development of the skandhas. One can draw a number of interesting conclusions from this sutra, which support the premises put forward in Buddhist Psychology cf that the different teachings of the Buddha can be mapped onto one another, and that they describe a process model.

In the sutra we find the following passage:
“Not knowing, not seeing (avidya) the eye as it actually is present; not knowing, not seeing forms (rupa)...consciousness(vijnana) at the eye...contact (sparsha) at the eye as they actually are present; not knowing, not seeing whatever arises conditioned (vedana) through contact at the eye -- experienced as pleasure, pain, or neither-pleasure-nor-pain -- as it actually is present, one is infatuated (entranced, samjna) with the eye...forms...consciousness at the eye...contact at the eye...whatever arises conditioned by contact at the eye and is experienced as pleasure, pain, or neither-pleasure-nor-pain.
"For him -- infatuated, attached, confused, not remaining focused on their drawbacks -- the five aggregates for sustenance head toward future accumulation. (through this process the Skandas grow) The craving that makes for further becoming -- accompanied by passion & delight, relishing now this & now that -- grows within him. His bodily disturbances & mental disturbances grow. His bodily torments & mental torments grow. His bodily distresses & mental distresses grow. He is sensitive both to bodily stress & mental stress.”

The above section from the sutra addresses the question of how the senses in their conditioned state (ie for the person in a state of avidya or not seeing) become hooked. The eye and the object of perception (rupa) are both conditioned, as is the eye-consciousness (eye-vijnana) and the eye contact (sparsha) with the perceved object. Through this process vedana arises, (which has positive, negative or neutral valancy) and through this, infatuation (samjna) is created.

This first paragraph shows elements from the skandha teaching (vijnana, rupa, vedana and samjna), combined with other elements familiar from the teaching of Dependant Origination (shadyatanas and sparsha) in a process description. Both these factors support the arguments for
1) a process interpretation of the skandha teaching, and
2) the overlap of meaning between the skandha teaching and that of Dependant Origination. Both of these key teachings describe the same cyclical process, but give attention to different aspects of that process, so can be combined in one model (see Buddhist Psychology)

The second paragraph above confirms that if a person becomes more enmeshed in this process, the skandhas “grow towards future accumulation”. In other words, the intensity of skandha attachment increases.

The sutra continues to describe a similar process associated with each of the other senses. In other words each of the senses is conditioned in a similar way and has its own skandha process.

Following this description of conditioned process, the sutra then moves on to the situation of one who is not taken in by the process, who sees the real situation and remains uninfatuated (asamjna). In this person's case, the sutra says that the skandhas will diminish. In other words, skandha process is, as we have suggested, something that can be increased or decreased – it is not an “all or nothing” process.

Finally the sutra talks of how someone who is able to reach this state will naturally acquire right view, right intention, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration. In other words, these five elements of the eightfold path arise naturally from having let go of attachment of the skandhas. This however depends upon having previously established right action, right speech and right livelihood. In other words, the behavioural framework (sila) creates the conditions for the process of delusion to be perceived, and from recognising the nature of conditioning and its dangers, the spiritual life flows naturally. From this, all the higher spiritual states flow.

“Any view belonging to one who has come to be like this is his right view. Any resolve, his right resolve. Any effort, his right effort. Any mindfulness, his right mindfulness. Any concentration, his right concentration: just as earlier his actions, speech, & livelihood were already well-purified. “

Monday, April 18, 2005

Summer Course Block

Summmer course block Breaking Through Delusion April 30th - May 8th

Places still available

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

The object world ; Dualistic delusion?

Surely the delusion is that there are phenomena "out there" (sense objects) to be perceived and engaged, distinct from the perceiver. Using a dualistic understanding of objects being only separate, conditioned responses occur.

Although there are different understandings of this notion of separateness around in different Buddhist schools, my understanding would be that the problem lies not in our perception of objects as separate, but rather in our perception of them as extensions or indicators of self (Lakshanas). It is the extra bit we add to perception of the object that creates the delusional worlds and the self. If we could really perceive the object as "other" we would be viewing them cleanly. This is true emptiness: to see things as they are without the self element. The term "dualistic" which is much used in the West is very slippery. People use it in all sorts of ways, most of which do not relate to original Buddhist doctrine at all. I would see it as linking to the concept of vijnana - which I would see as the self-centred mentality. The implication of vijnana is that we divide the world into "me" and "not me", making ourselves a special case. In this understanding I would see the implication to be that we should indeed see the objects in te world as separate - more separate - and let go of our habit of appropriating them to our self-project.