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Buddhist and Western Psychology: A Comparative and Historical Approach

Semester and Year FA 2019
Course Number IDSEM-UG1211
Section 001
Instructor Lee Robbins
Days TR
Time 2:00 PM - 3:15 PM
Units 4
Level U
Requirement   HUM



This course introduces basic concepts of Buddhist psychology and compares Buddhist insights into the nature of the mind with the modern depth psychologies of Freud, Jung and Winnicott. Buddhist psychology was born out of Buddha’s awakening to bridge the social divide between the privileged and working classes transforming the political milieu of 5th century BCE Northern India. It offers the possibility of easing similar class tension in our time. Special attention will be given to theories of the self in Buddhist and Western texts, for it is the idea of the "false self" or a belief in an unchanging ego that has emerged as a key common ground between Buddhist and Western forms of psychology. While Western psychology attributes the false self to the deficiencies of upbringing, Buddhist psychology takes the changing self as its starting point to claim that traditional models of therapeutic intervention fail to free people from narcissistic craving. Our goal is to bring this insight, and classical Buddhist strategies for healing the mind and society into conversation with the models and strategies of Western psychology. Texts may include: Olendski, The Radical Experiential Psychology of Buddhism; Gay, The Freud Reader; Jung, Psychology and the East; Gethin, The Foundations of Buddhism; Bhikku Bodi, In The Words of the Buddha (translation of suttas from the Pali Cannon); Thanissaro Bhikkhu, The Mind Like Fire Unbound; David Loy, Lack and Transcendence.


All Syllabi

Course Type

Interdisciplinary Seminars (IDSEM-UG)