Goldstein, Jack Kornfield and Sharon Salzberg brought back from Asia the formof Buddhism called Insight Meditation and founded the Insight Meditation Societyin Massachusetts. Starting in the 1980’s came pioneering work in the integrationof Buddhism and psychotherapy – especially the books of Diane Shainberg(Shainberg, 1983, 1993, 2000), John Welwood (1983, 2000), and Mark Epstein(Epstein, 1995, 1998, 2001), among many others.It has often been noted that among many spiritual traditions Buddhism seems tohold a particular appeal for psychotherapists. This has been attributed to twocauses. First, compared to the other great spiritual traditions, Buddhism containsa particularly sophisticated understanding of human psychology (the Buddhahaving jokingly been referred to as the world’s first cognitive psychotherapist).Second, the powerful emphasis on love and compassion that permeates all of Buddhist teaching is sometimes contrasted with what is said to be the harshnessof the Jewish conception of divinity, and with the Christian emphasis on originalsin and guilt, and is said to be in harmony with psychotherapeutic concepts of healing.Basic Concepts of BuddhismFor the purposes of this paper we will focus on four basic concepts of Buddhism:Buddha nature, the dharma, attachment, and meditation.
1. The Nature of the Self and Buddha Nature.
The most fundamental idea inBuddhism is that all human beings are, at their core, healthy, wise and loving –brilliantly sane, as one Buddhist teacher put it. This is referred to as Buddhanature. At the same time, Buddhism famously teaches that “there is no self.” Bythis Buddhism does not mean to deny the obvious fact that we all experienceourselves as having a continuous identity, and that this concept is useful in livingour daily lives. The idea is rather that this everyday idea of identity is not thedeepest, most real experience that we can have of ourselves. We might say thatour identity, as we usually experience it, is composed of a set of mentalconstructs, self-representations or self-images, which are actually simply ideas.Buddhism teaches that on a deep level we may sometimes experience ourselvesin such a way as to reveal this ordinary concept of the self to be not completelyreal. Instead, we could experience ourselves as deeply aware, peaceful, wise,and caring, as not a static object but a process, as interdependent with others –“inter-being,” as one teacher put it – rather than as independent of others.Putting these ideas together, we might say that there are fundamentally twodifferent ways to experience the self – somewhat analogous to, although notidentical with, Winnicott’s well-known concept of the true self and false self. Inone mode, which we could call the social self or the false self, we experienceourselves as a
set of self-representations,
of others, in whichdeficiency and psychodynamic conflict reside. In the other mode – Buddhanature – we may experience ourselves as a fundamentally healthy, loving, wise