Archive for the ‘Buddhism’ Category

The First Psychologist?

September 16, 2009

I really wish that the Joseph Campbell Foundation had RSS feeds.  I forget about them for months and then realize there has been a treasure trove accumulating.

When we think of psychology, the first person that usually comes to mind is Sigmund Freud.  This is natural; Freud is considered the father of modern psychology.  While many of Freud’s theories have been dismissed as being non-scientific and unverifiable by the scientific method, his work is largely responsible for the discipline of psychology as we know it today.  We still talk about defense mechanisms and concepts like the ‘self’ in psychology classes and at dinner parties…at least dull dinner parties.

When we think of Buddhism, at least here in the West, we think of a religion.  We may conjure up images of a 50’ tall golden statue of a Buddha deep in a Vietnamese jungle or the plight of His Holiness The 14th Dalai Lama living in exile.  The images seem foreign and other-worldly.  We attempt to understand Buddhism from our Western viewpoint which is, for the most part, incorrect.  Relatively few Buddhists “worship” The Buddha.  Rather, Buddhism offers ways in which we may learn about reality without being asked to accept the idea of a god, dogmatic belief systems, or the teachings of any one individual.  For these and other reasons I will discuss, Buddhism more closely resembles Western psychotherapy than any Western concept of religion.

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Rebirth in Scientific Terms?

September 15, 2009

James Ure has an interesting blog.  He usually tackles the intersection of Buddhism and other interesting areas or waxes on an interesting bit of Buddhist philosophy.  He’s open-minded, which is strangely not all that common in the online Buddhist community.  Here’s an excerpt from his latest post on rebirth:

“The same is true of the seasons, which was the first cycle I contemplated that led me toward believing the birth, life, death and rebirth theory. Spring (birth), Summer (mid-life), fall (old age and sickness), Winter (death) and it would seem to end there if rebirth wasn’t real or possible. However, it doesn’t stop there as we know Spring is reborn anew and the cycle continues until the cycle of Earth’s life ends. Then when Earth is absorbed one day by our dying sun before it explodes via new supernovae to expel the seeds and energy needed to be reborn anew as another planet or star somewhere else in our vast Universe. The cycle continues. So again, why would the rebirth of our energy into a new form of being not be possible? The potential energy of the body is absorbed into the earth, air, water and fire of our planet to be reborn as a flower, a tree or a mushroom, which would be eaten by a living being.

However, what of the energy left over in the mind upon the death of the body? In my view, that energy of our mind is nothing less than our karma but how does that karmic energy released find it’s way into a new form? This often baffles many western, science based Buddhists. At this point I’d like to borrow an explanation of this from the Venerable S. Dhammika at Buddhanet:

Think of it being like radio waves. The radio waves, which are not made up of words and music but energy at different frequencies, are transmitted, travel through space, are attracted to and picked up by the receiver from where they are broadcast as words and music. It is the same with the mind. At death, mental energy travels through space, is attracted to and picked up by the fertilized egg [or receiver]. As the embryo grows, it centers itself in the brain from where it later “broadcasts” itself as the new personality.”