When the Buddha Gave a Psychology Lesson

When the Buddha Gave a Psychology Lesson


Gradient / Freepik

A Lesson from Gautama Buddha

Supply: Gradient / Freepik

About 25 years in the past I had the great fortune to drive one of many world’s preeminent Buddhist lecturers, Lama Ole Nydahl, from Kennedy Airport to the Diamond Means Buddhism Middle in Manhattan. At one level on the journey, he requested me what I used to be taking on at school, and once I informed him I used to be in coaching to be a psychologist he stated: “You understand, Buddhism begins the place psychology ends.”

I hadn’t thought a lot in regards to the relationship between psychology and Buddhism, although the connection appears apparent as we speak, a quarter-century later. After we mirror on Buddhism’s contributions to trendy psychology, we’re seemingly to consider the apply of mindfulness as an intervention for every type of psychological signs, particularly nervousness, and the way it’s the cornerstone of Dialectical Behavioral Remedy (DBT). Much less emphasised in psychological therapy, nevertheless, are the precise teachings of Gautama Buddha. Most individuals, together with non-Buddhists, are accustomed to the Buddha’s teachings on the 4 Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. However the lesson that has essentially the most psychological knowledge for individuals as we speak is what’s often called the Kalama Sutta.

Throughout the Buddha’s life, the individuals within the village of Kalama had been typically visited by monks of assorted sects, with every of them elevating their very own doctrine and condemning any opposing doctrines.

Does this sort of sectarian tribalism remind you of something as we speak?

When the Kalamas had been lastly visited by Gautama Buddha, they requested him to assist them decide which teachings mirrored the reality and which had been false. What has come to be often called the Kalama Sutta was the Buddha’s response:

  • Don’t merely imagine what you hear, simply because you’ve gotten heard it for a very long time.
  • Don’t observe custom blindly, merely as a result of it has been practiced in that means for a lot of generations.
  • Don’t be fast to hearken to rumors.
  • ​Don’t affirm something simply because it agrees together with your scriptures.
  • Don’t foolishly make assumptions.
  • Don’t abruptly draw conclusions by what you see and listen to.
  • Don’t be fooled by outward appearances.
  • Don’t maintain tightly to any view or concept simply since you are snug with it.
  • Don’t settle for as truth something that you just your self discover to be logical.
  • Don’t be satisfied of something out of respect or deference to your religious lecturers.
  • It’s best to transcend opinion and perception. You may rightly reject something which, when accepted, practiced, and perfected, results in extra aversion, extra craving, and extra delusion. They don’t seem to be helpful and must be averted. Conversely, you may rightly settle for something which, when accepted and practiced, results in unconditional love, contentment, and knowledge. This stuff enable you time and house to develop a contented and peaceable thoughts. This must be your standards on what’s and what’s not the Fact; on what must be and what shouldn’t be the religious apply (Notice: the above textual content comes from an unofficial publication of the Chuang Yen Buddhist monastery).

It’s not a stretch to deduce from the Kalama Sutta that the Buddha was advocating that his college students often have interaction in some type of actuality testing, which is a way that was formally devised by Sigmund Freud (1911) after which later adopted by cognitive behavioral remedy (CBT). Though all the statements of the Kalama Sutta could be regarded as suggestions for actuality testing, that is very true of the assertion “Don’t maintain tightly to any view or concept simply since you are snug with it.”

At different factors within the Kalama Sutta, the Buddha makes suggestions to keep away from cognitive distortions and logical fallacies. “Don’t foolishly make assumptions.” “Don’t be fast to hearken to rumors.” “Don’t abruptly draw conclusions.” These are calls to keep away from, what CBT therapists may label “overgeneralization” and “leaping to conclusions.”

GerDuke / Pixabay

Watch out for Cherry Selecting

Supply: GerDuke / Pixabay

Moreover, when the Buddha says: ​”Don’t affirm something simply because it agrees together with your scriptures;” “Don’t maintain tightly to any view or concept simply since you are snug with it;” and “Don’t settle for as truth something that you just your self discover to be logical,” these are warnings in opposition to, what social psychologists name, the “affirmation bias” or “cherry-picking,” which is the place individuals solely search examples that assist their preexisting beliefs whereas ignoring examples that battle with their beliefs.

Lastly, Gautama Buddha tells the individuals of Kalama: “Don’t be satisfied of something [simply] out of respect or deference to your religious lecturers.” This final suggestion is a name to keep away from, what social psychologists and philosophers would label, the “argument from authority.” On this final assertion, Gautama Buddha was attempting to assist the Kalamas keep away from holding their lecturers and different authority figures in such excessive regard that they might imagine something they stated with out actuality testing. The Buddha even wished that his college students would apply this lesson to his personal teachings, and never take something that even he stated with out testing it first.

The Buddha’s Kalama Sutta is as legitimate now because it ever was. The following time you activate any cable information channel, notice what number of occasions the pundits indulge within the cognitive distortions and logical fallacies that the Buddha warned in opposition to—overgeneralization, leaping to conclusions, and the affirmation bias, in addition to the argument from authority and its mirror reverse, the advert hominem fallacy. To not be outdone by cable information pundits, our tradition is awash in politicians, conspiracy theorists, advertisers, social media influencers, and even spiritual leaders (Buddhists included) that use these cognitive distortions and logical fallacies with tactical precision.

Ignoring the teachings of the Kalama Sutta makes our efforts to search out reality an train in futility. It is as if we wish to drive to the land of reality, however the map we’re utilizing to get us there’s distorted and warped. In case your aim is to journey to the land of reality as effectively as attainable, a selection vacation spot for each psychologists and Buddhists, you’ll be well-served through the use of the Kalama Sutta as your GPS.


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