Buddhism and Psychology: Basics of Integration

By Sandhu, Ramesh | Indian Journal of Positive Psychology, June 1, 2017 | Go to article overview

Buddhism and Psychology: Basics of Integration


Sandhu, Ramesh, Indian Journal of Positive Psychology


Buddhism was originated in India about 2500 years ago. Buddhism thought holds assumptions that significantly differ from modem psychology with some similarities. This study is limited to Tibetan branch of Buddhism that has roots in Indian culture and developed by Tibetan theorists. This branch of Buddhism is more than 1000 years old. "Although different aspects of Buddhists thought have already influenced a number of psychologists, its challenges for research on emotion are not widely known. Some suggestive convergences between Buddhist thinking and, for example, findings in neurobiology, suggest the fruitfulness of integrating a Buddhist view into emotional research"(Ekman et al., 2005). The word emotion as such is not mentioned anywhere in the languages used to write Buddhism, i.e., Pali, Sanskrit and Tibetan. Modem psychological research has mentioned emotion as a distinct mental process that can be studied. However, absence of emotion as a word in Buddhist literature is consistent with the findings of neuroscientist. While studying the anatomy of brain, neuroscientists found that every region in the brain that has been identified with some aspect of emotion has also been identified with some aspect of emotion (e.g., Davidson & Irwin, 1999). The circuitry that supports affect and the circuitry that supports cognition are completely intertwined-an anatomical arrangement consistent with the Buddhist view that these processes cannot be separated (Ekman et al., 2005). Neurobiological studies show that mindfulness meditation has shown positive results in fostering emotional mental health among clinical and healthy population (Bohlmeijer et al., 2010; Fjorback et al., 2011; Gotnik et al., 2015). Neurobiological studies indicate that this type of mental training may have an effect on the plasticity of brain structure and functioning (Tomasino et al., 2013; Fox et al., 2014). Some of the main neuro-cognitive mechanisms implicated in mindfulness meditation include attention control, emotion regulation, and self awareness (Tang et al., 2015). Using neurobiologically based emotion regulation systems as a framework, we have described how top-down strategies (explicit emotion regulation system) and bottom up strategies (emotion generation & implicit emotion regulation systems) can be present within novice and expert meditations (Guendelman et al., 2017). The investigator has chosen two issues: the achievement of enduring happiness and the nature of afflictive emotion for research in this paper. The study will explore how the Buddhist perspectives help in achieving the enduring happines s and relieve a person from sufferings.

Achieving enduring happiness

Both Buddhists and psychologists believe that emotions have significant effect on a person's thoughts, words and actions, Both helps people to attain transient pleasures and satisfaction. Buddhist say that some emotions are conducive to genuine and enduring happiness and others not. Buddhist calls such happiness as 'sukh'. The meaning of 'sukh' in context of Buddhism is a state of flourishing that arises from mental balance and insight into the nature of reality. As compared to temporary nature of emotion or mood that is originated from sensory or conceptual stimuli, 'sukh' is an enduring trait that originate in that mind which is in a state of equilibrium and entails a conceptually unstructured and unfiltered awareness of the true nature of reality. Many Buddhists claimed to have achieved 'sukh' through sustained training of their mind.

Similarly, the concept of 'dukh' propounded by Buddhists often termedas "sufferings" is not simply an unpleasant feeling. However, Buddhist define 'dukh' as the basic vulnerability of a person to suffering and pain due to misunderstanding of the nature of reality, The term 'sukh' and 'dukh' have been derived from Sanskrit language because it is one of languages of Buddhist literature.

Buddhists believe that 'sukh' can be realised through radical transformation of consciousness and that can be attained by sustained training in attention, emotional balance and mindfulness. …

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