Buddhist Perspectives on Mental Illness
College: Emmanuel College
Course Code: 
First Semester
One Credit
Toronto (St George Campus)

For Buddhists, well-being/non-well-being are states of being along a continuum. Though dis-ease suggests an absence of ease, Buddhists see it less as illness than as a consequence of ignorance, attachment to ego-self, and delusion, or, failing to see reality as it is. The Buddhist response to this delusory state is spiritual, designed to release a suffering person from his burning state of mind to bring about a thorough transformation of consciousness using multiple techniques/ approaches. The natural healthy state of mind is arrived at through cultivation of the mind, ethics and wisdom. In the state of non-well-being, symptoms might include loss of control, restlessness, or failure to adapt, identified by modern clinicians as anxiety, stress, trauma, and evidence of psychopathology. Clinical psychology's task is to map out the mind with labels for every aberration of the mind from what it deems as the norm. The two traditions have, however, a common goal: to take away suffering. To that end, clinical psychotherapists and mind scientists have begun to mine Buddhist techniques/ teachings for healing patients. Techniques such as mindfulness (e.g. Mindfulness Based Stress Reductions (MBSR)), teachings of compassion and self-emptying (e.g. Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT)), and being present/ accepting things as-is (Acceptance & Commitment Therapy) are some examples of simulating the Buddhist model of well-being by using some aspects of it. This course will have two components: it will consider the Buddhist perspective on mental well-being by looking at the exemplary figure of the Bodhisattva whose great vow is to help all beings and whose modus operandi is compassion and wisdom. Using this model, we will attempt to understand what constitutes delusion and its effects on the mind. We will look at several therapeutic paradigms and take up case studies where clinicians have incorporated Buddhist teachings and the different techniques in secular ways/settings.

Pre-Requisites Currently Offered Next Scheduled Previously Offered Scheduling Information
Fall 2016
Start Time: 
End Time: 
Hours per Week: 
Program Requirement: 
CRPO Competencies - 1.4c; 1.4d; 1.5a; 1.5c; 1.5e; 2.1 a, b, c, d, e, f, g; 2.2a, b; 2.3b; 3.4.a
Additional Notes: 
Additional Evaluation: weekly reflection papers will shared with the class as well as handed in.
Teaching Method: 
Means of Evaluation: 
Class Participation
Research Paper
Short Paper