In recent years a voluminous literature has appeared that has examined the numerous commonalities between western psychotherapy and counselling and Buddhism. This has been possible because Buddhism, in addition to its religious aspects, can also be described as a philosophy and psychology of transformation. The Buddhist teachings are replete with analyses of human behavior, emotion, cognition, interpersonal and psychological functioning that closely resemble the models of human behavior and mental illness that have emerged in western culture. In this comparative course the convergence between Buddhism and the major systems of psychotherapy will be surveyed. Specifically, the key features of psychoanalytic, behavioral, cognitive, existential-humanistic, emotion-focused, mindfulness-based interventions, and the emerging field of positive psychology will each first be described. Convergences and divergences with the key elements of Buddhist psychology as described in the teachings on skillful living (i.e., the 8-fold path), harmful emotional states (i.e., the 5 nivaranas), the psychophysical nature of the self (i.e., the 5 skandhas), psychological causality (i.e., dependent origination), and the analysis of the human condition (i.e. the 4 Noble Truths) will be underscored.
Students will critically study the key representative texts for each form of psychotherapy and the major Buddhist sutras/teachings that elaborate the Buddha's psychology with the goal of evaluating how the study of Buddhist psychology may enhance our understanding of emotional suffering and its alleviation.
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