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Buddhadharma : Fall 2006
buddhadharma| 67 |fall 2006 Those who know do not speak; those who speak do not know. But at con- ferences on Buddhism and psycho- therapy, the spoken word is all we have to go on. What is the point? The hope at such conferences is always for some- one to explain what Buddhist awakening actually consists of, what enlightenment actually means. To this day, Buddhism retains its aura of intuitive, esoteric knowledge − the sense that it harbors the key to the mystery, the answer to the riddle, the lost piece of the puzzle. People come to such conferences, and buy the books of the proceedings, in the hope that something essential will be revealed. All too often, they leave exhausted and disappointed after a series of numbingly academic or superficially glib presentations, glad to return to the comforts of worldly existence. Mark Unno’s recent volume, Buddhism and Psychotherapy Across Cultures, skirts this problem by focusing on what one contributor, Richard K. Payne, describes as “what Buddhism is not.” This is an age-old strategy in the history of Buddhist philosophy and it is remarkably effective, as far as it goes. By exposing and refuting many of the preconceptions about a given subject, room is created for an intuition to surface about what emptiness or ego- lessness or enlightenment or awakening might actually be. In a series of helpful articles, weighted toward the beginning of the collection, contributors lay out a startlingly succinct series of insights chal- lenging many of the conventional notions of what Buddhism and enlightenment actually are. Beginning with an extraor- dinary article by Jack Engler, an instruc- tor in psychology at Harvard Medical School and a scholar of the interface of Buddhism and psychotherapy, this work begins to address a disconcertingly obvi- ous phenomenon concerning the Bud- dhist path: Buddhist meditation, at least as practiced in this country, does not seem to eliminate neurosis. Mark EpstEin, MD, is thE author of GoinG to piEcEs Without fallinG apart: a BuDDhist pEr- spEctivE on WholEnEss anD opEn to DEsirE: EMBracinG a lust for lifE, insiGhts froM BuD- DhisM anD psychothErapy. hE is a psychiatrist in privatE practicE in nEW york city. Engler, who has contributed a series of penetrating articles over the past thirty years to the expanding dialogue between therapists and meditators, begins his most recent piece with an exchange between the late American Zen master Philip Kap- leau and a student: Questioner: But doesn’t enlightenment clear away imperfections and person- ality flaws? Roshi: No, it shows them up! Before awakening, one can easily ignore or rationalize his shortcomings, but after enlightenment this is no longer possi- ble. One’s failings are painfully evident. Yet at the time a strong determination develops to rid oneself of them. Even opening the mind’s eye fully does not at one fell swoop purify the emotions. Continuous training after enlighten- ment is required to purify the emotions so that our behavior accords with our understanding. This vital point must be understood. As Engler makes clear, this vital point is not what most people want to believe. feaTure reviews Rind, M. C. Escher 1955 analyzing enlighTenmenT Buddhism and PsychoTheraPy across culTures: essays on Theories and Practices edited by mark unno wisdom Publications, 2006 384 pages; $19.95 (paperback) The Psychology of BuddhisT TanTra By rob Preece snow lion Publications, 2006 266 pages; $18.95 (paperback) reviewed by mark epstein, md ©2006TheM.C.esCherCoMpany-holland.allrighTsreserved.www.MCesCher.CoM