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       Buddhism and Self

            Part 3


 Buddhism comes to the West

     The man who brought Buddhism to Tibet, Padmasamblava, said, or so I am told, "When the iron bird flies in the sky, my teaching will come to the West" and so it has. Particularily after the Chinese invasion of Tibet. We have access to just about every form of Buddhism in the West now.

    This has influenced many of our best philosophers. Alan Watts a much respected though now dead philosopher, began his working life as an Anglican Priest but became very interested in Zen Buddhism. He is an excellent introduction for a Westerner interested in Buddhism. He writes with depth and clarity, but also in a way which is easy to understand.

    I believe Carl Jung had some interest in Buddhism too. Many who have followed on from Jung see a correlation between the work of Jung and Buddhism and I think that Carl Rogers quite by accident, due to his enormous innate compassion, realised something very similar to the Buddha.

    The Buddha believed we lived in a dream and had forgotten who we were. He believed that because of our experiences, karma, we had developed a false view of who we were, our concept of self or ego. In many Buddhist traditions, individuals who have attained a good state of being will meet with followers and if the person is open the Guru will be able to transmit some of their own state of being to them.

    Now, I see a similarity to this and the way Rogerian counsellors work with their clients. It may be in a different way and Rogerian counsellors do not pretend or want to be Guru's, but I think there is still a profound similarity.

    Carl Rogers believed that because of things that had happened to us we had developed a "false self-concept" but that we all have resources in our inner feeling self which we can trust and with which we can grow. He also discovered that when the counsellor met the client from a particular position, the core conditions of warmth, genuineness and empathy, the client was able to get in touch with their own inner resources and begin healing.

    I believe this is very similar to the 'meeting' which goes on between a 'guru' and 'disciple' in Buddhism. We all have within us our inner feeling self, but too often because of lack of respect for this in the world as it is now, we repress it.  Coming in contact with a person well in touch with that, touches the same place within us.  That is of course not to suggest that a person becomes immediately enlightened, but it does mean that one is helped towards one's own genuineness.  How one will be when this works well, will be simply how one is genuinely at the present moment.  For many people that may mean tears, as the hurt at being denied reaches the surface.  For others it may be anger.  These feelings, now reached have the possibility of being worked through in order that the individual may find what resides in all of us, underneath our pains and traumas - love (compassion), empathy, intuition and aliveness.

    I hope that if you have already read the sections on Carl Rogers and Jung, that you will see that despite the difference in time and cultures, there is a great deal of similarity between them.


    Buddhism and compassion

    I have been told Buddhism is the one religion a war has never been fought over. (*see footnote) You do not go into war saying the "Buddha" is on your side and you will be off to Nirvana if you should die! Such an idea would be preposterous in a religion where the Bodhisattva (one working towards enlightenment or who has already reached it) makes a vow not to leave this world until all sentient beings have also achieved enlightenment. Not all schools of Buddhism take this vow, but compassion is deeply entrenched within Buddhism. Most Buddhists vow to end the suffering of all beings not just themselves.

    The Buddhist position on Self therefore would be that we have all created an ego because of our experiences, but that that ego is not who we really are. Buddhism would ask you not to try to have a rigid fixed self, but to be true to your inner feeling self. Buddhism is a very ethical religion. Remember it is based on a premise to help all people, not just oneself. It recognises the right to feel and indeed the need to be honest about feelings and offers ways to change these feelings if they are destructive into a creative way of using them. It's major way of working is through Meditation, which is used to quiet the mind, become attentive and get in touch with your inner feeling self. There are many different schools of Buddhism, so if you feel interested in taking this further there is a great choice.

    *Footnote (Sadly, it would appear this is no longer the case. I understand that Buddhism has been used as an excuse for attrocities in Sri Lanka.  This is itself violence against Buddhism. It is true to say, that there is nothing in Buddhist scriptures which condones, excuses or allows vioolence)

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People interested in the relationship between Jungian psychology and Buddhism may find the following books helpful -

Essence of Jung's Psychology and Tibetan Buddhism: Western and Eastern Paths to the Heart by Radmila Moacanin.

Self and Liberation: Jung/Buddhism Dialogue (Jung & Spirituality S.) Daniel J. Meckel (Editor), Robert L. Moore (Editor)

Buddhism and Jungian Psychology by Spiegelman, J. Marvin.

Image of Thousand-Armed Chenresig courtesy of Osel Shen Phen Ling  

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