Zen, Buddhism, and Personality



Buddhism began in India in 6th century BC.


Arose out of a dissatisfaction with the Hindu tradition


Based upon the Teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha


Buddha =  One who is awake, one who has                                   

                 achieved full humanness



Siddartha was not the first Buddha, nor the last.


The Buddha is not a god or divinity, but a man who has developed into a completely mature individual.


              Every person possesses the 'Buddha-nature'


              Everyone is capable of developing into a Buddha



                     Siddartha Buddha



An Indian prince from Nepal born in 563 BC.


       Lived a life of luxury for many years.


       Made journey's away from castle :


       Saw an Old Man, bent from life's work


       Saw a man afflicted with serious illness


       Watched a corpse in a funeral possession



Based on his travels, Siddartha realized that sickness, old age, and death are unavoidable.  He became obsessed with the idea of inescapable human suffering.


       Left his family and wealth to seek the answer through mental and physical discipline, practicing Yoga with several Gurus



              Siddartha's discovery of Buddhism



After a long period of fasting, Siddartha realized that continual deprivation would not bring about enlightenment, so he ate some food to gather his strength and began meditating under a Bohdi tree until the answer came to him.



Siddartha developed The Middle Way which forms the basis for a Buddhist lifestyle.


The Middle Way :  seeking a healthy and useful

discipline without complete indulgence of the senses or self-torture.


This profound transformation allowed Siddartha to become Buddha at the age of 35.


Siddartha taught his Buddhism over the next 45 years until his death at age 80.  (483 BC)


Buddhism flourished in India for hundreds of years until a Hindu revival between 1000 - 1200 AD.  Buddhism is regaining popularity in India today.


After spreading to China, Buddhism spread to Japan in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.


Zen Buddhism developed in 6th century BC in China



              Divisions within Buddhism


2 major schools of Buddhism thrive today



Theraveda (Hinayana) school :  Southeast Asia, Sri Lanka, Burma, and Thailand


Mahayana School : Tibet (Dalai Lama), China, Korea, and Japan


       The Mahayana school practices a more "liberal" version of Buddhism, less strict observance of rituals and Buddhist scriptures.


The theravedists stress self-discipline



The mahayanists stress compassion



Zen Buddhism is one of the major schools of the Mahayana tradition, and was brought to Japan in the twelfth century.


Zen stresses contemplation and personal discipline as a way to becoming Buddha, over religious ritual



              Zen Buddhism in Japan



Two major Zen sects in Japan :


Soto sect :  Stresses that there is no gap between daily practice and enlightenment.  The right daily behavior is Buddha itself


Rinzai Sect : Stresses the way to Buddhahood is through solving Zen riddles, or Koans





Basic Buddhist Concepts



The Three Characterstics of Existence


Impermanence :  Change is the only constant.  Nothing physical lasts forever. Buddha changes, because :"truth" is time and space dependent. 


Impermanence also implies there are no "absolute truths" or "final authorities". 


The primary feature of the universe is change.


       Interdependence : All things are related to a Buddhist




Selflessness : because of impermanence, even our self-concept is a fluid, changing set of conceptions.  There is no static, unchanging self, according to Buddhism.  Who you are is a function of where and when you are.


The term I is just a convenient way to refer to a collection of constantly changing personality traits.


All things lack a separate self.   Buddhists do not believe in the nature/spirit dualism of Hinduism.



Third factor of Buddhist Existence


Dissatisfaction :  Because of the desire to avoid pain and seek out pleasure, human suffering is inevitable.


Because life is constantly changing, we can not hold onto things that make us happy forever, and this awareness breeds dissatisfaction.  Suffering comes from within, an d Buddhist teachings are designed to help us transcend our sense of self.


To be accepting of one's own mortality, and the impermanence in life which creates dissatisfaction, will help bring us closer to our Buddha nature.



Based upon these three characteristics of Existence, Siddartha developed the Four Noble Truths, as a way to overcome the suffering and limitations of human life.



              The Four Noble Truths of Buddhism




The Existence of Dissatisfaction :  Suffering is inescapable and inevitable


Craving as the Root of Dissatisfaction :  Desire creates dissatisfaction.  Desire creates a need for change, and change eventually brings dissatisfaction because of the impermanent nature of all things.


Pleasure can only be a temporary state.


Elimination of Craving :  If we can eliminate our desires, we will eliminate the source of our suffering.


If your happiness depends upon the fulfillment of your desires, you can never be satisfied.


A Buddhist learns to accept things as they are, and will not want for more, as the wanting will only lead to eventual suffering.


The first three noble truths led Siddartha to create the fourth noble truth, which provides the means to end human suffering.




The Fourth Noble truth of Buddhism



              The Eightfold Path


Is a guide to life for individuals who want to discover their Buddha Nature

Three Essentials in Buddhist training and Discipline are ethical conduct, mental discipline, and wisdom:


Ethical Conduct


       Right Speech :  Abstaining from Lies, gossip,slander, or talk that brings about disunity or disharmony. Also abstain from useless and foolish chatter.


       Right Action :  Moral, honorable and peaceful conduct.   Abstaining from destruction of life, stealing, dishonest actions, illegitimate sexual congress, drugs and alcohol.  Also, we should assist others in living a peaceful and honorable life.



       Right Livelihood :  You should not make a living in any profession which harms people :  Weapon making and distribution, making liquor or drugs, killing animals, or any profession designed to cheat other people.  You instead should earn a living in a profession that is honorable, blameless, and harmful to no one.



              The Eightfold Path to Enlightenment



Mental Discipline



       Right Effort  :  Preventing unwholesome states of mind from arising.   Facilitate good and wholesome states of mind. Bring to perfection wholesome mental states already  present.


       Right Mindfulness : Be aware of :  The functions of the Body,  Sensations and feelings,  mental activity, and specific ideas and thoughts.  Meditation is key is achieving right mindfulness


       Right Concentration :  Refers to the development of "mental muscle" to help accomplish the other goals of the eightfold path.



Wisdom :


       Right Thought :  selfless detachment, love, nonviolence, and compassion.


       Right Understanding  : Brought about through appreciation for the Four Truths.  Two levels of understanding exist within Buddhism :  Knowledge and Deep understanding.  DU can only come through meditation

              Buddhist Meditation



Zen,  loosely translated, means meditation



Two major Styles of Zen meditation


Meditation on a Koan , or Zazen (seated Zen)


Meditation on a Koan :


The spritual leader gives the Buddhist student a clssical or personal riddle, which the student attempts to "solve" through meditation.  However, the answers to the riddles are not transparent, or even logical, but are designed to bring the student to a higher level of awareness that will bring them closer to Deep Understanding.


              Classic  "MU"  Koan


A monk asked Joshu :  Has a dog Buddha-Nature or Not ?

Joshu replied "Mu !"  (Mu translated means "nothing")


       A dog was considered to be the lowest of the low animals in China at the time.


       The goal of using these riddles is to show the student their own ignorance, and entice them to go beyond simple concepts when contemplating on the Koan.



Zazen meditation



The Soto school approach to meditation has the person striving to maintain a state of concentrated awareness while sitting.  Zazen is seen as an expression of faith in the vastness of the universe and one's own inner nature.

Zazen is a practice which cleanses the mind, analogous to how a shower cleanses the body.


First, one becomes peaceful and focused in meditation.


Through practice, we hope to extend that sense of calm to our active life as well.


Meditation is an end to itself, not just a means of reaching for new levels of enlightenment.




       Enlightenment and Nirvana



Enlightenment, or Buddha Nature, can only be transitory because of the impermanence factor of existence.


Nirvana : A state of mind in which all cravings and desires have been extinguished.


Nirvana can only be achieved through self-discipline, meditation, and realization of impermanence of selflessness. 



              The "Ideal Human Being"


In  the Theraveda tradition, The ideal human renounces all attachments to family, possessions, and comfort to be perfectly free of this world. Through meditation, the Arhat delivers himself from suffering.


The Mahahyana Ideal, or Bodhisattva, is a deeply compassionate being who remains in the world until all others have been delivered from suffering.




              Psychological Growth and Buddhism



Obstacles to Growth :  The Three major sources of suffering are seen as primary obstacles to achieving nirvana.


Greed :  A major problem for most people.  We tend to want more than we have or need.  Children are most obviously greedy, as sometimes their demands can never be satisfied.


Hate :  Those individuals dominated by hate have sharp tempers and are quick to anger.  Hateful people hold grudges, belittle others, and suffer from arrogance, envy, and stinginess. 


Delusion :  Those who suffer from delusions have difficulty making up their mind and suffer from confusion and a lack of awareness. 



At their worst, these obstacles can appear as neurosis and psychosis.  However, because of impermanence , These are transitory conditions which can be alleviated.




Another Obstacles to Psychological Growth



Pride :  Can create a lack of respect for the Zen Master and can create perceptual distortion of Buddhist scripture.

Students must study and practice Zen long after they feel they have learned what they need to know, to ensure that prideful ambition itself is not creating this perception of having finished with their studies.



Other Aspects of Buddhist Teaching




The Body : Moderation in all things is the key to a healthy body.  The Buddhist does not fast for extended periods of time simply for self-discipline, and the Buddhist does not gorge himself beyond satiation.  Neither extreme of excess or denial is desirable for someone who wishes to eliminate suffering.



Social Relationships : Buddhism stresses interdependence and staying connected with the world (particularly Mahayana Buddhism)


       When we see another person, we should think


`Here comes a Buddha, how can I help her(him)'


Remember we all possess "Buddha Nature", so we are all capable of becoming Buddha


While meditation is essential for becoming Buddha, meditation within Buddhism is not about withdrawal from the "real" world. 


Social interactions offer opportunities for practicing Buddhist ideals and principles stated in the Eightfold Path.



Willpower and Buddhism  :  A basic Buddhist principle is that daily life and activity should be in harmony with the basic Buddhist Truths.  Meditation aids in every aspect of daily life.  Training is seen as an ongoing process, since enl9ightenment or Buddha state is only temporary.


Emotions : Learning to control one's emotion, to operate from a sense of calm and inner peace are a major part of Buddhist teachings.  The Extremes of emotions should be tempered, just as extremes of eating and self-discipline are shunned as well for the path of moderation.


The ideal Buddhist emotional state is that of compassion, and a feeling of unity with all other beings.




Intellect  :  Pure intellect and abstract reasoning skills are useful to a Buddhist, but can also prevent enlightenment is one is self-impressed with their intellectual capabilities.


Deep Understanding, however, can only come with appreciation and transcendence of the Four Noble Truths, and one can not "logically" ascend to the level of Nirvana.


Buddhist teachings must be actively expressed within daily life in order to reach the level of Deep Understanding



Divisions of Self within Buddhism



The Lesser Self :  The ego, the consciousness of one's mind and body.  The lesser self remains focused on individual limitations, and the separation between the body and the world.  The lesser self is created out of our own sense of inadequacy.  As we move toward enlightenment, the lesser self diminishes.


The Greater Self :  The greater self embraces the entire universe and everything found therein.  The greater Self understands how interdependence ties everything together in a unified, non-separate whole.


The ego is not to be eliminated with the reaching of enlightenment, but understood and harnesses, so Right Action and Right Speech can appear in our daily life.



Link between Buddhism and modern Personality Theory



The Buddhist concept of impermanence and personality change is found in most modern personality theories :



A major determinant of psychological health is the current adaptability of the individual.


That is, a person who is capable of growth and change is seen as a psychologically healthy individual.


One who has regressed to an earlier stage or who is fixated at a particular stage is seen as psychologically unhealthy.



The Buddhist ideal of compassion is present in Adler's conception of mental health (social interest) and in Rogerian treatment methods as well.


Buddhist meditation techniques have been experimentally demonstrated to have positive physiological and neurological benefits, and meditation techniques are now being adapted as cognitive/behavioral therapy techniques.