Mark Unno, ed. Buddhism and Psychotherapy Across Cultures: Essays on Theories and Practices. Boston, Mass.: Wisdom Publications, 2006. Paperback, 372 pp.
The editor, who is an associate professor of religious studies at the University of Oregon, has assembled no fewer than sixteen contributions, including his Introduction, his essay “The Borderline Between Buddhism and Psychotherapy” and his glossary “Key Terms: Shin Buddhism.” The materials in this anthology were culled from presentations made at the conference on “Between Cultures: Buddhism and Psychotherapy in the Twenty-First Century, held in 2004 at Boston University.
The cross-cultural interaction between Psychotherapy and Buddhism dates back to the 1950s. Of the diverse forms of Buddhism extant today, the conference participants represented primarily Pure Land Buddhism, as prominent in Japan, though they also included members of the Zen, Theravada, and Tibetan Buddhist communities.
The essays in Part I deal mainly with methodological issues, notably the divergent approach of Psychotherapy (which is interested in creating a healthy self) and Buddhism (which is interested in transcending the self). Appropriately, this volume opens with Jack Engler’s programmatic essay “Promises and Perils of the Spiritual Path,” which is an astute examination of the notion of selfhood in Psychoanalysis and Buddhism respectively. A historical perspective on this problematic is supplied by Richard Payne, who argues that Western Buddhism is often reduced by its votaries to a humanistic religion with a strong Christian flavor. In a most penetrating essay, William Waldron looks at “self” and “selflessness” from a philophical point of view and manages to clear away a certain amount of cultural debris.
The essays in Part II explore the meeting ground between Psychotherapy and Buddhism. As Unno points out, both disciplines purport to alleviate suffering. Despite obvious and not-so-obvious differences in their orientation, Psychotherapy and Buddhism can cross-fertilize each other. Possibly Anne Klein’s notion of the “sacred maternal” can serve as a somatic anchoring of the Westernlogos, as pursued in Psychotherapy, with Eastern wisdom teachings like Shin Buddhism.
The essays of Part III address issues related to death and dying, which, in the end, is the common experiential ground on which members of all cultures and of all traditions of healing are bound to meet. As the Buddha pointed out, like life, dying is also suffering.
Apart from its seminal contribution to the growing consideration of the Psychotherapy-Buddhism dialogue, this book also will undoubtedly facilitate our understanding of Japanese Shin Buddhism.
Copyright ©2006 by Georg Feuerstein. All rights reserved.
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