Psy305G --Personality-- Spring 2005

UNITS 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 Final

Buddhism And Understanding Of Personality

The roots of Morita therapy

Morita therapy has its conceptual roots in Zen Buddhism. Buddhism is far from being a unified reality: there are many forms of Buddhism. Zen Buddhism itself comes in many varieties. In general, Zen does not uses many images, never speaks about God (hence it is more psychological perhaps than religious), emphasizes meditation and mindfulness. It is a rather sparse form of Buddhism.

Dr Masatake (Shoma) Morita (1874-1938), who developed this method in the 1920's was the chairman of the Jikei University School of Medicine in Tokyo. Morita was aware of western psychology and blended some of their techniques into his own Zen-influenced psychology. The Morita method does not require allegeance to any particular religious system.

Here are some of the points Morita therapy has in common with Zen:

  • emphasis on living in the here and now
  • letting feelings be, accepting them, not resisting them, observing them--also not identifying with them and letting them rule behavior
  • clear distinction between feelings and behavior
  • learning to observe one's feelings
  • learning to be fully present in what one does
  • learning to live in reality, and not in the stories, rationales, excuses one creates

The roots of Naikan therapy

The founder of Naikan was not a psychiatrist, but a Japanese Jodo Shinshu Buddhist by the name of Ishin Yoshimoto, who, having benefitted from a rather rigorous form of meditation, adapted the core of that experience to a practice more accessible to ordinary people. He called this method Naikan. Naikan, developed around 1938, became popular in Japan in the 1950's.

Naikan retreats in Japan are sometimes still given within a temple context.

Read this interesting account of Naikan retreat by an American young man who is also a Zen practitioner. He does touch upon the "place" of Naikan in relation to Buddhism and to psychology.

Also, connecting Naikan to its roots and current practice is an interview of Gregg Krech, of the ToDo Institute.

Buddhism and one's sense of self

Notice that both in the Morita and the Naikan methods, the "self" and its characteristics, defense mechanisms and strategies are not a concern. The goal of both therapies is for the student to open outwards, to live in reality, to care for others, to see the many ways in which life is a gift.

Buddhist psychology sees the self in a very different way than Western psychology.

There is a good introductory site on Buddhism put out by the Buddhist periodical Tricycle. It deals mostly with the sort of things we would be interested in from a psychological perspective, and is written for people like us (Western and non-Buddhist). The articles are written by various people who identify with different traditions within Buddhism, and are well done, readable, and not too long. Go to the Dharma 101 site, and read the articles. What do you think of the "Who are you?" article? And the following article about no-self?(among others).

Bethel Psychology Dept
Rev. 03/29/2005 / © Copyright 2003-2010 by Lucie Johnson / Feedback? Write Webmaster