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Focus on Books:

Insights to Buddhism and psychology

Book: Buddhism and Psychology
(Similarities and differences in Buddhism and Western Psychology)
Compiler : Dr. Ruwan M Jayatunga MD
Publisher: Atlas
Publishing, Sri Lanka
Page count: 116 ages
Price: Rs.250

At a glance a reader may feel that this work by a medical doctor is an attempt to expose at length the theoretical and practical aspects as well as the links that bind Buddhism and psychology.

But the intention it seems is different as this is more of a series of essays where the broad areas of Buddhism and psychology are uncovered. The collection of essays run to 12 short chapters where quite a lot of salient factors are presented. They cover initially the broad base of Buddhism and psychology, where the two areas are shown as interlinked.

Followed by this introductory chapter, the writer /compiler takes a glimpse at the concept of Nirvana from a psychological point of view covering such aspects as the significance of meditation drawing examples from a few sources. As a layman interested in knowing more about these factors, I felt that the insights to the subject area could have been broadened.

The writer/compiler lays down the conclusion that Nirvana is cognisable by mind, and underlines that human mind can be trained in higher cognitive functions.

Undoubtedly the training of the mind is the most difficult training for the humans. The learned compiler may have exposed the reader to the psychology world of findings as to how it is practised.

I felt that the chapter three which covers the aspects of 'conquering fear' contains quite a number of factors relating to the topic in discussion. In a manual-like manner the writer lays down a list of phobias, which are quite helpful to the reader.

In Buddhist texts, quite a number of references are found pertaining to the subject of fear. Number of monks who have gone to forest abodes to meditate have returned to the Buddha due to various fears. The Buddha, it is recorded, has prescribed certain subjects for meditation where the fear is made to either eradicated or conquered. This quest over fear had been the main topic of discussion in several suttas.

The chapter five, which is titled as 'Carl Jung meets Lord Buddha', is one of the interesting rediscovery on the part of the compiler. He lays down the details pertaining to Dr. Jung's visit to India and Sri Lanka, where he had the chance to relocate his vision on the concept of collective conscience via Buddhist thought.

The most interesting research materials of the subject of psychological aspects of Jataka stories are recorded in chapter six, providing various insights to the content in the Jataka tales with examples drawn to illustrate the age-old subject in terms of modernism.

The writer selects a few examples of Jataka stories to illustrate the stories had made an attempt to visualise such aspects as stress disorder, fear of women, sexual inclinations and sexual fantasies, anti-social personality traits, pathological grief, criminological behaviours etc.

The writer collates various views and examples as drawn in the past by scholars such as Dr. D V J Harischandra and learned writers like Martin Wickramasinghe.

This indeed is a chapter which can go into a lengthy deep study. The Jataka stories or the past stories of the Buddha are not only edifying examples which teaches the aspects of Buddhism, but also treatises which provide creative insights today's behaviour patterns. As such, Jataka stories are not merely mundane experiences of humans but providers of examples for more complex situations in the life of humans.

The chapter seven which briefly deals on the links between Marxism and Buddhism, is an attempt to interpret how the social structure is observed from two points of view, which ultimately helps a person to realise that the two entities are interlinked. One is materially bound and the other is spiritually bound. According to the writer, Marx and Engels who are responsible for the Communist manifestation have regarded Buddhism as a philosophy rather than a religion. This is a salient factor that needs more interpretation.

The writer makes an attempt to trace various forms and structures of society and pinpoints what the Buddha laid down as essential factors that go into the moulding of a better society.

He illustrates these factors via the Chakkavatti Sihanada Sutta. In order to trace the concept of poverty suffering, over production and even global pollution. An understanding of wealth and honest living conditions are underlined in the teachings of the Buddha. This then is yet another chance for a scholar to interpret more on the social structure as modeled by the Buddha.

Gautama Buddha, the Unique Psychotherapist (chapter nine) is yet another cluster of material that throws new light on the aspects of Buddhist doctrine and psychology. But as I see the modern aspects as declared in psychology than the Buddhist doctrine.

The reader may have gained a lot of knowledge if reference was made to some of the suttas like Ariya Pariyesana Sutta. But these collections of notes on the part of the writer enables a new researcher to rediscover several new paths and bypaths. [email protected]
 

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