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Psychotherapeutic Self-Healing in Buddhism.


Individuals don't stand on singularity but a combination of five associative elements of existence, better called as the five skandhas, these are form, Sensation/feeling which we have during our daily life, Perception/ Understanding which we develop during daily interaction with the external and internal world, Mental formation and volition, which can be generated throughout transaction with external and internal world, consciousness is obtained after learning different techniques of being liberated from worldly matters. In Buddhism (like Hinduism) the word atman refers to self (soul). According to Buddhism, self is an illusory (maya) by-product of skandhas. A Foul psychical force or negative energy (ignorance) called Mara helped to create and maintain the self, by blessing and encouraging all self-creations (e.g., self-ratings). In aggregate and separately, the five skandhas are empty (illusory). Our sense organs form perceptions of the world and ourselves that we think of as "reality". Our "self is a construction of the upbringing and totality of our learnings from birth to the present, sculpted by interpersonally and culturally based experiences and understandings of the world and our personal existence. In Buddhist psychotherapy all aspects of the self, including inferences and attitudes regarding any genuine physical limitations, constructed by the skandhas that's why the self is viewed as illusory, essence less, impermanent, contingent, and interdependent rather than as permanent, independent, or eternal. These later characteristics of the self reflect more about the nature of self according to Hinduism. To understand self from Buddhist psychotherapy perspective it is important to understand that attitude of radical acceptance and inclusion in moment-to-moment experience in terms of self and related environment, together with the negative as well as positive ideas that swim through our minds, emotions, perceptions and judgments can lixiviate and freedom from the sense of a static self that responds unconsciously to whatever stimuli are present.

Therapeutic impression of Self in Buddhist approach:

Momentariness of the Self:

In Buddhist approache Self and its other related aspect have been perceived as transitory not static or fixed continuously. It is clear that negative thought that skirts our consciousness, such as "I am bad," in this context can be seen as nothing more than a thought, rather than a permanent and indelible marker of our character. Here important point is that person under supervision can achieve a breakdown of the boundary between the "self and "other realities," and the "self and the object of attention, experiencing more or less a sense of union and integration with what is perceived and felt in the moment.

Soft reminder markers of transitory nature Self in Mahayan approach believing that self is not static with time rather changing. It emphasizes about Impermanence (Anicca) means nothing in our experience is long lasting and everything that is present now was not available in the past and what is there in the present would not be existing in the future. Suffering (Dukkha) is the lack of satisfaction in life is an essential feature of the human experience which needs to be accepted by all.

Manifestation of self in Buddhism:

Samsara ("continuous flow"), or the great round of becoming of being ("cyclic existence"), refers to the cycle of birth, life, death, and rebirth, which is basically seen as a cycle of suffering and dissatisfaction on materialistic as well as spiritual terms. Because in each cyclic existence human wishes are attached consistently and in the condition of unfulfilment birth and rebirth continues.

As related to the samsara cycle, there are mainly six realms of existence

* God realm (characterized by wholesome actions, but also pride);

* Demi-god realm (characterized by generosity, but also envy/anger);

* Human realm (characterized by determined good conduct, but also desires/passion);

Harbinger of proper suffering and conflict resulting in the form of psychopathology

* (4) Animal realm (characterized by ignorance and prejudice/stereotypes);

* (5) "Hungry ghost" realm (characterized by lust/greed);

* (6) "Hell" realm (characterized by hate/aggression).

These six realms of existence are also believed to indicate the various states of consciousness within our own mind and mortal life, not just substantial states or worlds of existence. (Bernard, 2013). Therapeutic efficacy has encouraged both the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (2009) and the American Psychiatry Association (2010) to advocate the practice of mindfulness as advance form of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT; Segal, Williams, & Teasdale, 2002) for the treatment of psychological disorders. In recent years Buddhist therapeutic relevant principles such as compassion, loving kindness, and "non-self integrated with enthusiasm into a string of purposefully developed psychopathology modal of interventions (e.g., Gilbert, 2009; Johnson et al., 2011; Pace et al., 2012; Shonin, Van Gordon, & Griffiths, 2013b).

Therapeutic approaches in Buddhism:

Meditation and Mindfulness Awareness, or Mind Training

Primarily Meditation and Mindfulness awareness practice gives emphasis on wise efforts, wise mindfulness, wise concentration that can be paralleled with contemporary functional assumptions or healthy cognitive belief in various existing psychotherapies.

Mindfulness can be defined as facing the bare truth of experience, seeing each event as though occurring for the first time (Goleman, 2003).

One Buddhist scholar has explained his understanding of mindfulness as 'Keeping one's consciousness and cognitive faculties alive to the present reality' (Hanh, 1995)

During Meditation and mindfulness awareness emphasis is laid down on wise effort (e.g., to use our mental resources to attain our liberation aims), and wise mindfulness which is very helpful to observe moment by moment awareness and encourages acceptance of the entirety of present reality.

Another very crucial technique of mindfulness awareness is wise concentration (e.g., awareness and experience of a specific aspect of reality to see the holistic nature of reality/events/things as they are and promote acceptance. It becomes important to remind that concentrative meditation on an object or thought is helpful in developing this ability. Many experts from psychotherapy and mental health area have started showing interest in the potential health benefits of mindfulness which has fuelled attempts to define its components noticeably through empirical research. But lots of research is still needed as these are in their infancy, although specify that some components could be primary: Individual's capacity to direct and sustain consistent receptive awareness for reality, and holding and producing internal willingness and attitude towards all experience (Bishop, 2004).

Mindfulness can be understood as relaxed, open, lucid, moment-to-moment present awareness of the reality. According to Davis and Hayes 's (2011) review, during psychotherapeutic session emphasis on acceptance and mindfulness can bring out positive emotions, encourage greater response plasticity, decrease reactivity and pathological clinging attitude to thoughts and emotions, and minimize negative affect and decreases rumination. Lama Surya Das (1997) puts meditation as mental discipline, an endeavor to empower the mind through the cultivation of mindful awareness and attention to the current passing moment. Different meditation techniques facilitate individual's efforts to cultivate compassion, capacity to hold with kindness painful or intense feelings and experiences arising within. Growth of radical acceptance and equanimity in mindfulness based meditative awareness practice (as an inner investigational laboratory to train the mind and attitude transformation) can help human being to be more focused, mindful, objective, detached, and being aware of the fact that it's not what happens to us in life, but what we make of it, that makes the significant difference in the process of self exploration.

Mindfulness has achieved tremendous flow in popularity in the past few years in the psychotherapy literature (Didonna, 2009a; Shapiro & Carlson, 2009). Due to the strong therapeutic impressive profile of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) programs and the vital task of mindfulness in dialectical behavior therapy, along with acceptance and commitment therapy, mindfulness has reached from a largely ambiguous Buddhist concept to a mainstream psychotherapy construct. Understanding and accepting this fact through investigation and experience forwards us to become master rather than victim of circumstances and conditions. Acceptance is therefore an unavoidable aspect of mindfulness and classical Buddhist meditation practice. Therapeutic value of acceptance and equanimity as well as mindfulness and meditation practices has been promoted by scientific community including scientists, neuroscientists, and therapists. Meditation as a part of psychotherapy plan have been applied to treat anxiety (Roemer, Orsillo, & Salters- Pedneault, 2008), substance abuse (Bowen et al., 2006), depression (Teasdale et al., 2000), chronic pain (Grossman, Tiefenthaler-Gilmer, Raysz, & Kesper, 2007), enhance overall health as well as quality of life (Grossman, Niemann, Schmidt, & Walach, 2004). Moreover, meta-analyses (Baer, 2003; Hofmann, Sawyer, Witt, & Oh, 2010) supported application of mindfulness techniques are beneficial in the treatment of a variety of problems and medical conditions.

Self Acceptance and other Self Relational Issues:

In this context acceptance means purposeful nonjudgmental recognition of moment-to-moment knowledge of reality and the ability to allow experiences and cravings to come and go without clinging and attachment or aversion and resistance is like systematic gradual exposure to the anxiety provoking event or objects. As an adjustment technique acceptance also implies tolerance of ever-changing experiences (see Williams & Lynn, 2010). Acceptance can be perceived like a bright mirror which is nonclinging, nongrasping, nonaversive, nonreactive, undistorting" (Lama Surya Das,1997). Traditional Buddhist meditation manuals tells mindfulness as paying attention to what we experience positive or negative, not what we would like to experience. In other words, mindfulness implies simply acceptance of the totality of our changing experience rather than avoidance or manipulation of experience.

Different Practicing mental health professional and Buddhist monk have developed techniques of mindfulness. Whereas some people develop mindfulness under the impression that pursuits such as regularly playing a musical instrument can foster it. It is usually learned through a blend of instruction guided by expert and personal practice. The techniques that are generally applied have been divided into something like those that can only be practiced after withdrawal from other activities to practice extended exercises (formal practices) and those techniques that can be used throughout the day, in the midst of other activities (informal practices).

Some of the teachings of Buddhism related to self can be applied as wonderful techniques to understand and bring positive therapeutic changes in the concept of self. An attitude of radical acceptance of reality and genuine absorption in moment-to-moment feelings, including the negative as well as positive ideas that flow through our minds, usually help greater flexibility and liberation from the sense of a fixed faulty self that responds pathologically to whatever stimuli are present. For example: a negative feelings for self that skirts our consciousness, such as "I am not good" in this context is to be seen as only a thought, rather than a permanent and stubborn symbol of our character. Now after the practice of self notion according to Buddhism, with mindfulness practice, often in the context of meditation, subject can pull off a breakdown of the boundary between the Ideal self and false self" and can learn how to keep away materialistic wishes in the form of personality profile from the " Ideal self and the object of attention, experiencing more or less a sense of union and integration with what is perceived and felt in the moment.

Selfless Self / Insightful Wisdom and Self-Knowledge:

Refined understanding of self can be cultured through insightful wisdom under the domains of Buddhism. Wise view and correct understanding with replacement of cognitive error, which basically means to realize and understand the Four Noble very important Truths, leading human being to the beginning and the end of the path to nirvana. After attainment of Nirvana or liberation from desires, attachments, one stays ever in blissful cognitive state. Right intention and attention in the process of self-knowledge makes possible our commitment to the marga (the path). Only when the attention is transparent and calm can it be practiced appropriately in the venture of self understanding. Actually human always can choose in life that counts. Our lives can be driven by important values that, when acted upon, represent to us the expression of own's understanding about the nature of the Four Noble Truths. Accurate understanding of real cause of human suffering lead directly to inner serenity, balance, and harmony, both individually and collectively with one and everyone around presented near or at distance. Teaching embedded in mindfulness based psychotherapy from Buddhist approach can be instrumental to achieve accurate understanding of real cause of human suffering. Mindfulness places 'attention' as very influential element in the heart of Buddhist psychotherapy. Considering the significance of attention in mindfulness psychotherapy it can be said that this kind of psychotherapy depends heavily on the interaction between therapist and patient.

It is remarkable that not very much space has been devoted in the area of psychotherapy in terms of Buddhist perspective. Notable exceptions have included Freud, who believed psychoanalyst's attention to be essential to their practice. The psychoanalyst should maintain:

"evenly hovering attention... all conscious exertion is to be withheld from the capacity for attention, and one's "unconscious memory" is to be given full play; or to express it in terms of technique, pure and simple: one has simply to listen and not to trouble to keep in mind anything in particular. Failure to do this risks "never finding anything but what he already knows" (Freud, 1912)

Understanding of Self carries great significance for self-knowledge. In this regards one very popular technique to insightful wisdom in terms of accurate perception of elusive and illusory self is to shift the locus of subjectivity from representations of self to awareness of the self. One is expected to contemplate over issues to: who it is that is thinking this very moment, feeling this, experiencing this, having this sensation, behaving in this particular way (Safran, 2003). One needs to investigate with criticality one's own cognitive faculties in an intrepid attitude to enhance the quality of decision making, judgment in order to avoid fusion of conflict, trauma, and pathology. Importance of self knowledge from Buddhist perspective as therapeutic tool has been equally validated by current scientific approaches of psychotherapies.


Teaching of Buddhism at mental health perspective carries great strength to be implied and to inculcate as self corrective functional attitude and thinking to overcome daily life challenges and conflicts. Both Buddhism and Psychotherapeutic view, role of judgmental self-evaluation to be detrimental and harmful for self growth. According to Rational Emotive Behavioiur Therapy, self-evaluation inappropriately influences and impacts negatively mental health, not only this it is felt that improved self-esteem and self concept could support "feeling better. Self-Evaluation and refinement in one's own concept of personality sketch is detrimental in terms of liberation from the cycle of birth and death or samsara because "self" and self-evaluation encourage attachment and desires. In fact this is not exaggerated to say that they are themselves purely forms of attachment. To emphasize it more Buddhism scholars agrees that self-evaluation is detrimental in order to correct pathological aspect of self. Healing of holistic self is based on the finest understanding of the constituting parts of the self. However, Buddhist approach of psychotherapy proposes alternative conceptualizations to contend with self- evaluation that are potentially complimentary. In the case of Buddhism, self is thought to be an illusion and same attitude is applied in case of mental illness where it is believed that pathological state of mind can be corrected and changed for betterment, if practiced carefully under various psychotherapeutic techniques like Mindfulness Meditation.

In terms of Buddhist approach of psychotherapy it becomes important of emphasize here in the end is that for practical reasons techniques proposed by Buddhism's marga (the path) can be applied effectively for cognitive restructuring, behavioral modification, emotive techniques to modify faulty state of mind and could be easily incorporated as advance traditions.

Mindfulness meditation which has evolved out of the teaching of the Buddhism is conceptualized as an emotion based techniques which were initially introduced as simple and healthy daily life rituals. Teaching of Buddhism can be used as experiential techniques to change irrational/dysfunctional cognitions). In Buddhist practice, flexible formulation of desires could be used to reduce the pathological and inappropriate attachment/craving component of desires, as an intermediate step before complete renunciation of desires and freedom from pathological attachments to cravings. So it seems right to promote teaching of Buddhism as advanced form of psychotherapy which is wider in its application as it can cater needs of larger proportion of the society. Buddhist approach of psychotherapy, alone and in tandem, can enrich people who have a desire for seek self-acceptance, who need compassion, divine love, and inner pace along with vibrant living.


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Received: January 15, 2017

Revised: April 30, 2017

Accepted: August 26, 2017

Lallt Kumar Singh (*) and Kiran Srivastava (**)

(*) Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, Lucknow University, Lucknow, India.

(**) Department of Education, Dayalbagh University, Agra,India.
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Author:Singh, Lallt Kumar; Srivastava, Kiran
Publication:Indian Journal of Community Psychology
Article Type:Report
Date:Sep 1, 2017
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