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This book argues for the central role played by absorption in the functioning of the human mind. The importance of absorption makes itself felt in different ways; the two studies combined in this book concentrate on two of them. The first study, 'The Symbolic Mind', argues that, largely as a result of language acquisition, humans have two levels of cognition, which in normal circumstances are simultaneously active. Absorption is a (or the) means to circumvent some, perhaps all, of the associations that characterize one of these two levels of cognition, resulting in what is sometimes referred to as mysitcal experience, but which is not confined to mysticism and plays a role in various "religious" phenomena, and elsewhere. In the second study, 'The Psychology of the Buddha', Prof. Bronkhorst provides a theoretical context for the observation that absorption is a source of pleasure, grapples with Freud, and illustrates his observations through translations of ancient Buddhist texts from the Pali ans Sanskrit languages along with his psychological commentary.
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This study examined the effects of meditation on mental imagery, evaluating Buddhist monks' reports concerning their extraordinary imagery skills. Practitioners of Buddhist meditation were divided into two groups according to their preferred meditation style: Deity Yoga (focused attention on an internal visual image) or Open Presence (evenly distributed attention, not directed to any particular object). Both groups of meditators completed computerized mental-imagery tasks before and after meditation. Their performance was compared with that of control groups, who either rested or performed other visuospatial tasks between testing sessions. The results indicate that all the groups performed at the same baseline level, but after meditation, Deity Yoga practitioners demonstrated a dramatic increase in performance on imagery tasks compared with the other groups. The results suggest that Deity meditation specifically trains one's capacity to access heightened visuospatial processing resources, rather than generally improving visuospatial imagery abilities.

The present study was an exploratory investigation of a unique phenomenon: the traditional, Theravadin Buddhist meditation retreat. It is unique in the sense that such meditation retreats involve the constant practice of "concentration" and "insight" meditation techniques during every waking moment for periods of time up to 3 months. The following research questions derived from Buddhist sources and contemporary psychological theory and research, provided the major organizing framework of the study; (1) Are relationship factors, such as idealization, an important component of retreat experience? (2) In a Western, psychoanalytic sense, are the meditators characterized by a healthy sense of "narcissism" or self-love? (3) What is the nature of the meditators' self-concepts? (4) What are the effects of the meditation retreats on the participant's experience of self and world? All subjects were solicited, unpaid, volunteers recruited from the Insight Meditation Society (IMS) during the autumn and winter of 1979-80. The design of the study was naturalistic in the sense that it utilized the natural groupings of the IMS: the 3 month and 2 week meditation retreats. A total of 53 meditators completed the pre and post-retreat test packets: a sample of 20 subjects from the 3 month retreat and a pooled sample of 33 subjects from 3 different 2 week retreats. The self-administering test package included a Semantic Differential with 5 factor scales and 12 concepts, Knapp's Metaphor Scales (MS), and a Who-Are-You (WAY) test in addition to several less important measures. The data analysis was based on the interpretation of sample descriptive statistics, "Matched" T-tests, and analysis of covariance. As reflected by the WAY test, "Abstract" self-concepts predominated over "Role" and "Trait" self-descriptions, suggesting the meditators have an ideological commitment to the "anatta" (no-self) principle of Buddhism. Self-concepts were not significantly effected by either retreat experience. Comparison of the relative magnitude of the profile of semantic factor means for the concepts "Me" and "Your Meditation Instructor" documented that the relationship is an important factor in both types of meditation retreats. Both groups of meditators idealize their teachers, find them reliable and consistent, and experience them as emotionally rewarding. Among the 2 week sample, only, there is evidence that something akin to an "idealizing transference" (or perhaps a more general "positive transference") develops in relation to the teacher. Personality change among the meditators may be as much due to the relationship with the teacher as it is to the practice of meditation, per se. Judged in relation to 3 Western variables, derived from modern clinical theory, both samples appeared to have a healthy sense of "narcissism". These clinical variables seemed unaffected by the meditation retreats. However, important changes in the experience of self and world did occur among the 3 month sample. These results were consistent with Theravadin Buddhist theory. The self was perceived as more "non-reactive", suggesting an increased mastery of the "insight meditation" technique of "bare attention". The connotations of death changed, suggesting an increased appreciation of "anicca" (impermanence) and acceptance of the theory of reincarnation. The 3 month meditators come to reject a Western, romantic, interpersonal definition of love in favor of the Buddhist emphasis on an internally generated and maintained feeling state and stance of selfless, altruistic, "non-reactive", non-selective, compassion for the world. Finally, the 3 month retreat seemed to increase the participants' emotional detachment from and devaluation of Western attitudes concerning work and material strivings. Additional, but less important findings are reported in the body of the study.

The purpose of this theoretical study was to investigate the potential compatibility of existential-humanistic psychotherapy and Buddhist meditation as they are practiced in the contemporary Western world. The fundamental philosophies and practices of Buddhist meditation, drawn from Tibetan, Zen, and Vipassana sources in Western publication, were presented. The principles and practices of existential-humanistic psychotherapy, represented by the works of May, Rogers, and Maslow, were next brought forth. After these presentations, the major ideologies and techniques of each discipline were compared and contrasted, with a view toward examining their essential similarities and significant points of departure. Following this examination, contemporary practices in the synthesis of existential-humanistic psychotherapy and Buddhist meditation were discussed as they exist in current usage in therapeutic situations. The voices of persons expressing opposition to a synthesis of Buddhist meditation and existential-humanistic psychotherapy were also brought forth for consideration. It was found that a sequential approach, wherein psychotherapy precedes meditation, is of overall greater benefit to the client and to both the disciplines of psychotherapy and meditation, than a blended approach. Among the reasons cited for the favoring of a linear progression from psychotherapy to meditation is a respect for the developmental tasks of each individual. In this regard, it was noted that the existential-humanistic therapy tasks of self-identification, emotional contact and expression, ego-development, and increase in self-esteem are necessary before the individual can undertake, in a serious way, the Buddhist meditational tasks of dis-identification for emotional and egoic concerns. In this light, another advantage of the sequential approach is the opportunity provided for the individual to be sufficiently prepared and matured for the discipline of meditation, which is a journey toward higher realms of consciousness not generally obtainable in existential-humanistic psychotherapy. Additionally, it was shown that although Buddhist meditation and existential-humanistic psychotherapy perform corollary functions in the enhancement of individual well-being, the intensification of present awareness, and the lifting of repressedness, there are philosophical differences that are of such sufficient degree that a separation is deemed advisable. It was further seen that a clear distinction between the two disciplines maintains the full integrity and power of each to best accomplish its stated aims. It was noted that meditative practice offers the student specific skills that facilitate the attainment of a still mind, a state of inner harmony, and a transformation and transcendence of the concerns of the pyschotherapeutic level of development.

The study of the Abhidharma is indispensable for understanding the history of Buddhist philosophy and practice. Originally a summary of terms according to subject matters, it was first systematized into a philosophical analysis of man and his world by the bainhasikas. Their analysis was accepted by all subsequent schools who elaborated the implications of this earliest philosophical system in Buddhism. This book gives a synoptic view of the significance of the Abhidharma as presented by the Theravadins & brought to its climax by the Vaibhasikas & Yogacara-Vijnanovadins. It analyzes the concepts of Mind and its States with reference to healthy and unhealthy attitudes towards life and deals with the psychological factors and problems in Meditation which is geared to an individual's capacity and temperament. Theories of perception, a predominant feature of Indian & Buddhist philosophies, are discussed together with the interpretation of the world on the basis of these theories as well as their critiques. The discussion of the Path as conceived by the various schools concludes this survey of the Abhidharma. Of particular significance are the accompanying tables of the structure of mind in Buddhist philosophy.
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This exploratory study examined differences in normal narcissism between mindfulness meditation practitioners (n = 76), comprised of men (30%) and women (70%) between the ages of 18 and 79, and a control group (n = 36) of nonmeditators with spiritual interests, comprised of men (19%) and women (81%) between the ages of 31 and 78. Normal narcissism was defined as a concentration of psychological interest upon the representational self (i.e., ego-identity). Quantitative analysis was conducted using the Kruskal-Wallis ANOVA and Fisher's Least Significant Differences (LSD) test. The study's measures included (a) the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI) measuring normal, overt narcissism and (b) the Transpersonally Oriented Narcissism Questionnaire (TONQ)--a piloted measure of normal narcissism designed to assess overt, covert, and transformative aspects of 4 core narcissistic features: (a) self-centeredness, (b) grandiosity, (c) need-for-mirroring/admiration, and (d) emptiness. Quantitative results are informed by qualitative analysis utilizing heuristic, hermeneutical, and phenomenological principles. Results indicate no differences in NPI scores among the various meditator variables: (a) years of practice, (b) amount of meditation per week, (c) duration of meditation per sitting, and (d) retreat experience or between meditators ( n = 76) and control (n = 36). Differences exist among all 4 meditator variables (a) - (d) and control group regarding (a) overall transformation of narcissism, (b) emptiness as the ultimate potential (e.g., sunnata), and (c) self-centeredness, with controls having higher means than meditators on overall narcissism-transformation and narcissistic emptiness, and lower means on self-centeredness subscales. Differences exist between 3 meditator variables and control regarding narcissistic emptiness, with controls having higher means than meditators. Differences exist between 2 meditator variables and control regarding transforming grandiosity, where controls report higher means than meditators. This exploratory research demonstrates that the transpersonal study of narcissism is possible despite the many methodological complications and numerous theoretical questions it raises.

Counselling psychology is increasingly curious regarding the benefits of mindfulness and meditation. This research explores the relationship between the clinical work of psychotherapists and their long-term Buddhist-informed meditation. This is an emerging and cross-cultural field. Thorne's (2008) interpretive description guided this exploratory qualitative study of the experiences of four registered psychologists. This study finds that meditation supports an unconditional, compassionate therapeutic stance that serves therapy through the development of the therapeutic relationship. Further, Buddhist-informed meditation appears to promote integrative functioning in the therapists and is related to integrated clinical decision-making. This study dips into areas of transpersonal and Buddhist psychology that require further culturally-sensitive investigation. Future directions for research are presented.

Numerous studies have noted that depth psychology has been one of the most prevalent frameworks for the interpretation of Buddhism in the West. Similarly, many commentators have bemoaned the assimilation of Buddhist thought and practice into western psychological discourse. This paper argues, however, that such critiques often fail to adequately distinguish between reductive approaches that reduce Buddhist phenomena to psychological states, and dialogical enterprises that utilize psychology as a tool to extend, through dialogue, the aims of Buddhism. Through a focus on what I identify as "West Coast Vipassana," a distinctive current within the American Insight Community, I examine attempts to incorporate personal life into Buddhist practice. While there are numerous incidents of the reductive approach in the Buddhist-psychology interface, I interpret West Coast Vipassana as providing a more legitimate and dialogical or "skillful means" approach to Buddhist practice in a contemporary Western climate.

Drawing its main source of inspiration from a naturalized interpretation of Husserlian phenomenology, On Becoming Aware: A Pragmatics of Experiencing attempts to examine closely the nature of experience and how we may become aware of our own mental life. The authors also focus on how this project fits into the larger context of cognitive science, psychology, neurosciences, and philosophy. Additional partners in the effort to better understand experience are the contemplative systems of the world's spiritual or wisdom traditions, including particularly that of Buddhism. The book includes three separate glossaries of technical terms in phenomenology, the cognitive sciences, and Tibetan Buddhism. The book On Becoming Aware seeks a disciplined and practical approach to exploring human experience. While much of the book draws its inspiration from the phenomenological theories of Husserl, other approaches to the direct study of experience are also explored in depth. One of these approaches is embodied by the world's spiritual or wisdom or contemplative traditions such as Sufism, Buddhism, the Philokalia tradition, and others. Collectively, these traditions have come upon a variety of their own insights and methods for understanding experience, or, to use words from the phenomenological tradition, has developed its own ways of phenomenological reduction Amongst the various wisdom traditions, the authors focus mainly on Buddhism. The authors give an introduction to Buddhist theory and history, followed by an in-depth discussion of the Buddhist contemplative practices of mindfulness, śamatha, vipaśyanā, tonglen (gtong len), lojong (blo sbyong), dzokchen (rdzogs chen), and mahāmudrā. The authors then relate this discussion to themes from philosophy and phenomenology explored earlier in the book, paricularly Husserl's concept of épochè. (Zach Rowinski 2005-01-17) Publisher's description: This book searches for the sources and means for a disciplined practical approach to exploring human experience. The spirit of this book is pragmatic and relies on a Husserlian phenomenology primarily understood as a method of exploring our experience. The authors do not aim at a neo-Kantian a priori ‘new theory’ of experience but instead they describe a concrete activity: how we examine what we live through, how we become aware of our own mental life. The range of experiences of which we can become aware is vast: all the normal dimensions of human life (perception, motion, memory, imagination, speech, everyday social interactions), cognitive events that can be precisely defined as tasks in laboratory experiments (e.g., a protocol for visual attention), but also manifestations of mental life more fraught with meaning (dreaming, intense emotions, social tensions, altered states of consciousness). The central assertion in this work is that this immanent ability is habitually ignored or at best practiced unsystematically, that is to say, blindly. Exploring human experience amounts to developing and cultivating this basic ability through specific training. Only a hands-on, non-dogmatic approach can lead to progress, and that is what animates this book.

The effects of Zen breath meditation were compared with those of relaxation on college adjustment. 75 undergraduates (aged 17–40 yrs) were divided into 3 groups using randomized matching on the basis of initial anxiety scores of the College Adjustment Scales. Ss also completed the Taylor Manifest Anxiety Scale. The 3 groups included, meditation, relaxation, and control. Training for the meditation and relaxation groups took place during a 1-hr instructional session with written instructions being distributed. After 6 wks anxiety and depression scored significantly decreased for the meditation and relaxation groups. Interpersonal problem scores also significantly decreased for the meditation group.

The purpose of this study was to add to the empirical literature in the growing area of psychological flexibility. Specifically, this study investigated the Buddhist practices of nonattachment, self-compassion, and meditation as they related to the Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) construct of psychological flexibility among Buddhists. In addition, it was examined whether differences existed in levels of psychological flexibility among Buddhists and other religious and spiritually oriented individuals. Buddhist participants (N = 299) completed the Acceptance and Action Questionnaire - II (AAQ-II), Nonattachment Scale (NAS), Self-Compassion Scale - Short Form (SCS-SF), and a demographic questionnaire. Non-Buddhist participants (N=303) completed the AAQ-II and demographic questionnaire. Although findings indicated significant differences in degrees of psychological flexibility between Buddhists and non-Buddhists, the actual difference in mean scores was very small. Number of years of regular meditation practice, nonattachment, and self-compassion contributed to a significant degree of variance in degree of psychological flexibility among Buddhists, while the overall model was significant, accounting for ( R 2 ) 42.2% of the variance in psychological flexibility. Implications of results for clinical practice and counselor education, along with recommendations for future research are discussed.

The Buddhist technical term was first translated as ‘mindfulness’ by T.W. Rhys Davids in 1881. Since then various authors, including Rhys Davids, have attempted definitions of what precisely is meant by mindfulness. Initially these were based on readings and interpretations of ancient Buddhist texts. Beginning in the 1950s some definitions of mindfulness became more informed by the actual practice of meditation. In particular, Nyanaponika's definition appears to have had significant influence on the definition of mindfulness adopted by those who developed MBSR and MBCT. Turning to the various aspects of mindfulness brought out in traditional Theravāda definitions, several of those highlighted are not initially apparent in the definitions current in the context of MBSR and MBCT. Moreover, the MBSR and MBCT notion of mindfulness as ‘non-judgmental’ needs careful consideration from a traditional Buddhist perspective. Nevertheless, the difference in emphasis apparent in the theoretical definitions of mindfulness may not be so significant in the actual clinical application of mindfulness techniques.

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