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Buddhadharma : Fall 2005
buddhadharma| 67 |fall 2005 merely a concentrated form of energy. On the other side, thinkers such as Hobbes, Marx, Watson, B. F. Skinner, and Dennett have argued that mind is in essence noth- ing but matter; in other words, mind is only what the brain does. Buddhism maintains that at the root of our many psychological and emotional problems lies a fundamental misconcep- tion of reality. We have an innate belief in the existence of things as they appear to us, and we are ignorant of the discrepancy between the appearances and their true mode of existence, much like our belief, when we are in the dream state, that the appearances in our dreams are real. Because of this belief, we automatically grasp on to things as objects that possess essential natures, and this leads to confu- sion, psychological disturbances, and so forth. A brief illustration of this point: as you read these words they appear to be on the paper that you are holding. But we could argue that all of your experience, including the words, the paper, and your sense of touch, is actually “in your head,” the experiencing of your brain function. Ultimately, neither these letters nor the person beholding them have independent, essential natures. In Buddhism, mind cannot be under- stood in isolation from the body. Mind is not so much a substantial entity indepen- dent of the body but a dynamic process intimately connected with the physiologi- cal states of the body. Trungpa Rinpoche was the first to introduce these concepts to the West in a language easily understood by a culture familiar with psychologists like James, Freud, Jung, and Perls, among many others. He introduced Buddhism and Buddhist psychology in an extraordinarily direct language, by speaking directly of our immediate experience. In Garuda, a 1976 publication put out by Vajradhatu Publications, he analyzes ego in a way that contrasts greatly with the Western notion of ego, by describing its origin: Meditation is a way of working with the neurosis of ego, so in order to understand the psychology of medita- tion we must understand the dynam- ics of that neurosis. According to Buddhist psychology, the basis of ego is the tendency to solidify energy into a barrier that separates space into two entities, I and Other, the space in here and the space out there. This process is technically termed dualis- tic fixation. First there is the initial creation of the barrier, which is the sensing of other, and then the infer- ence of inner or I. This is the birth of ego. We identify with what is in here and struggle to relate to what is out there. The barrier causes an imbal- ance between inside and outside. The struggle to redress that imbalance further solidifies the wall. The irony of the barrier-creating process is that we lose track of the fact that we have created the barrier and, instead, act as if it was always there. After the initial creation of I and Other, I feels the territory outside itself, determin- ing if it is threatening, attractive, or uninteresting. Trungpa Rinpoche goes on to describe the further development of ego all the way into neurosis and psychosis, which he describes as “losing contact with the ground.” His teachings on Maitri Space Awareness practice are a direct way for practitioners and nonpractitioners alike to experience directly the process just described. Western psychology is increasingly concerned with fundamental issues, such as the nature of mind, the relationship of brain and mind, the limits of human potential for growth, the possibilities for mental health, and the means for change and transformation. This new compila- tion of talks is an excellent introduction to Rinpoche’s unique contribution to this investigation. The Sanity We Are Born With is divided into three main parts. The first section intro- duces the means to explore the questions of mind through meditation practices, start- ing with one’s own mind as the ground for understanding others. Trungpa Rinpoche writes, “The practice of meditation is based, not on how we would like things to be, but on what is. We often do not have a proper understanding of what we are, of what we are actually doing. Instead our attention is focused on the possible end product of the process we are involved in.” The second section explains mind from the perspective of the insight gained through practice. Tibetan Buddhism has perhaps the most sophisticated phenom- enological model and detailed analyses of mental states, cognition, and conscious- ness of any psychology, while at the same time emphasizing that none of the descriptions, teachings, and texts should be taken as articles of faith or dogma. Rather, every step of the way should be explored and validated personally through study, practice, and one’s own experience. Trungpa Rinpoche introduces the devel- opment of ego, the eight consciousnesses, and the five buddha families, which are the basis for understanding Maitri Space Awareness practice introduced in the third part. The third section talks about psychol- ogy, health and healing, and the training of health professionals and psychothera- pists. It includes an article written in the early 1970’s, before Maitri Space Awareness practice became a cornerstone for the training of psychotherapists at Naropa University. In the last chapter, Rinpoche discusses the question “Is meditation therapy?” The answer is no. Here he addresses a fundamental issue: what is the high- est potential we have as human beings? We can use psychology or meditation or Buddhism to make our life better, nicer, or easier. There is nothing wrong with that. But, as he points out, meditation is about “unconditional freedom.” Trungpa Rinpoche’s teachings point to our ultimate nature of basic goodness and health. I find it helpful to read his teach- ings with an “open ear,” without filtering, categorizing, or trying to achieve a transla- tion into familiar terms. His speech was, and is, mantra − immediate transmission, if we open ourselves to it. suggested reAding: for those Who Are neW to Buddhist psychology, i suggest reAding mindscience: An eAst-West diAlogue, By his holiness the dAlAi lAmA And pArticipAnts in the hArvArd mind science symposium, first puBlished By Wisdom puBlicAtions in 1991. •BRILLIA NT •SANITY• Logo designed by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche for the Naropa Journal of Psychology. It is now the logo for Naropa University’s Master’s degree program in Contemplative Psychotherapy.