The Positive Psychology of Buddhism and Yoga: Paths to a Mature Happiness

By Marvin Levine | Go to book overview

13

Anatman Reconsidered: You Are Not Your Mind

Buddhism, as we have seen, arose in a Hindu context and shares many of its ideals. At the outset, however, the Buddha announced one point of difference, the doctrine of Anatman. For the Hindu Yogi, the inner Atman constitutes the essential self. All other psychological processes, that is, our emotions and states of mind, are peripheral. The following example from Yoga practice will illustrate this idea.

Suppose you are starting the physical exercises of Yoga with a simple movement like raising your arms. You are instructed to breathe in slowly, raise your arms while inhaling, and lower them while exhaling. This cycle is repeated a few times. Simultaneous with this coordinated breathing and movement, you are to attend to and relax all muscles not in use (e.g., the face, the toes). Clearly, then, your mind is busy. It is focused on the movement, the breathing, the coordination, and the relaxing. Your full attention is required. Nevertheless, you may find your mind drifting, perhaps to a recent argument with your brother, or to the film you saw last night. In such a case, the beginner is instructed to redirect the mind. Specifically, you are to (inwardly) say "Stop," as though giving a command to a voice-operated TV set, and return to the movement, breathing, and relaxing.

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