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Buddhadharma : Spring 2019
DAVID R. LOY 39 to promote psychological well-being. These include not only reduc- ing greed, ill will, and delusion here and now, but also sorting out our emotional lives and working through personal traumas. As in psychotherapy, the emphasis of this psychologized Bud- dhism is on helping us adapt better to the circumstances of our lives. The basic approach is that my main problem is the way my mind works and the solution is to change the way my mind works, so that I can play my various roles (at work, with family, with friends, and so on) better—in short, so that I fit into this world better. A common corollary is that the problems we see in the world are projections of our own dissatisfaction with ourselves. According to this spiritual trap, “the world is already perfect when we view it spiritually,” as Joanna Macy puts it. Notice the pattern. Much of traditional Asian Buddhism, espe- cially Theravada Buddhism and the Pali canon, emphasizes ending physical rebirth into this unsatisfactory world. The goal is to escape samsara, this realm of suffering, craving, and delusion that cannot be reformed. In contrast, much of modern Buddhism, especially Buddhist psychotherapy (and most of the mindfulness movement), emphasizes harmonizing with this world by transforming one’s mind, because one’s mind is the problem, not the world. Otherworldly Buddhism and this-worldly Buddhism seem like polar opposites, yet in one important way they agree: neither is concerned about address- ing the problems of this world, to help transform it into a better place. Whether they reject it or embrace it, both take its shortcom- ings for granted and in that sense accept it for what it is. Neither approach encourages ecodharma or other types of social engagement. Instead, both encourage a different way of responding to them, which I sometimes facetiously call the Buddhist “solution” to the eco-crisis. By now we’re all familiar with the pattern: we read photo page 36 | Sludge River Ivan Bandura / Unsplash