Psychology Of Zen
Oriental Psychology consists of
the psychologically relevant materials taken from ancient
writings in the orient. During the early part of the present
century, modern psychology emphasized sensation and perception
and Indian Psychology consisted of largely Indian theories of
perception. Later on when modern psychology started studying cognition, materials relevant to that also were
taken from ancient scriptures and other documents. Still later
theories of emotion also were included.
Climate perhaps has an influence
on the goals and values of people. In the West people have an
external orientation, their temperament being characterized by
practical aggressive traits. In the East people are
philosophically inclined. There is an internal orientation and
the main concern of life is with the ultimates. Consequently
ancient oriental writings are largely concerning religious and
philosophical issues. Self-enquiry using holistic intuitive
methods did not fall within the traditional framework of
empirical psychology and so most of oriental material was
supposed to be irrelevant for Psychology. But with the
development of humanistic approach and the psychology of
consciousness, almost the
whole of oriental writings has become very relevant.
In Western psychology, the
reference point was the average person. The normal was the
average. But in the orient the normal was the ideal, the perfect.
Cultivation of the quality of subjective experience was the main
concern. The aim of life was considered to be self-realization.
The four asramas are Brahmacharya, Garhasthya, Vanaprastha and Sanyasa, the last one aiming at
self-realization. The four motives are Kama, Artha,
Dharma and Moksha, showing a rough correspondence to Maslow's hierarchy of
needs. The concept of Nishkama Karma
(action with detachment) shows a similarity to Maslow's concept of metamotivation.
The three components of
temperament are Thamasik (characterised by lethargy), Rajasik (characterised by high drive) and
Sathwik characterized by balance and
stability. There is also a transcendental qualityless (gunatheetha) state conducive to self-realisation.
Six personality types are
recognised in Buddhism: Ragacharith (attached), Doshacharith (envy, aggression), Mohacharith (dull, idle), Buddhicharith (rational), Vithakkacharith (imaginative), and Sadvacharith (disciplined).
Jain typology called Laisya or colour type theory grades
people according to the colouration of soul by karmic passions:
Black, Blue, Grey, Pink, Red and White. All these theories
recognise a gradation with respect to the state of
Personality development consists
of growth toward unity. The Indian view is similar to the views
of Rogers and Maslow which hypothesise spontaneous growth
given right conditions. Guru
occupies a very important place and parallels have been drawn
between the guru-sishya relationship and counsellor- counsellee
relationship. The main difference is that the Guru is a person
with a high degree of self-awareness instead of any factual
knowledge or skill of a counsellor and in the Indian system total
personality change is emphasized more than specific behaviour
change. The guru is a person with steady awareness. Many modern
therapies like the Gestalt therapy emphasise Nowness, Actuality, Awareness
and Wholeness and emphasise the personality of the counsellor and
these therapies come close to the Indian model.
Yoga means union. It is
customarily used to denote methods used to attain superconsciousness. Several qualities like ability to
discriminate the real from the unreal (viveka), disinterest and
desire to know the truth (mumukshathava) are required in order to become a
sadhaka (practitioner). The methods have been grouped into four.
Every action has a reaction on
the doer and the effect of actions remain in the person as his samskara. Good karma purifies the mind. Adler's method of developing social interest as
a technique for personality development and personality
development through improving social interactions (including
counselling) can be related to karma yoga.
Actions can be classified into
Nitya (daily routines), Kamya (desire-driven), Nishidha (sinful),
Naimithika (occasional duties) and prayaschitha (compensatory).
Another classification is into Sakama karma (desire driven) and
Nishkama karma (action motivated only by a sense of duty, without
any concern for the results. The concept of Nishkama Karma is
close to Maslow's notion of Meta motivation (action
stemming from fullness) as against deficiency motivation.
Bhakthi yoga is the yoga of
emotions. It is controlled cultivation of higher emotions. It
involves the awakening, actualising and controlling of libidinal
forces. It draws out latent emotional potentiality, arouses
experiencial capacities and merges suppressions, repressions and
Gods represent psychic forces.
God is the symbol of one's own evolved self. It is Brahman (the
absolute) relfected in Maya (the percieved reality). Through Bhakthi yoga
you seek your own true identity. Each person is advised to select
or conceive of a God suited to his personality requirements.
Bhakthas are of different types: The Artha prays to escape from suffering. The Jignasu does so out of curiosity. The Artharthi seeks material gain. The Jnani seeks deliverance. This classification
is based on the aim of the Bhaktha.
Bhakthi or devotion has been
broadly classified into Saguna Bhakthi (God with name & form) and Nirguna
Bhakthi (God as the absolute consciousness). There is some
agreement that Nirguna Bhakthi represents a higher type of Bhakthi than Saguna Bhakthi. In Dasya
Bakthi, the bhaktha considers himself to be the servant of
God. In Sakhya Bhakthi God is approached in a friendly manner.
This has been further subdivided into relationships in which God
is considered as a friend, a child or lover. In bridal mysticism,
the sadhaka (regardless of whether he is male or
female) considers himself a female and God as his lover. Love and
hate are two sides of the same coin and there is Vaira Bhakthi in which God is contemplated as an
enemy. Some sadhakas have mixed emotions; they shower praise
as well as abuse on the chosen god.
The instruments of worship are
the body (for puja,
archana, vandana), word (for parayana, sravana, keerthana and japa) and mind (smarana). To a sadhaka following Bhakthi yoga,
Bhakthi is a pleasurable experience and an end
in itself. To him God is not just a device, but more real than
any object of the senses.
The goal of Bhakthi is to replace fear by love.
This is the yoga of exercises
and mind control. The term yoga
is most often used to refer to Raja Yoga. This is also the type of yoga where a formal guru is considered
essential. Usually there are initiation ceremonies to initiate a
person into Raja
yoga. Pathanjali's Yogasutra (1st century A.D.) is considered to be
the best known treatise on yoga. It is also known as Astanga yoga
or yoga with eight limbs as follows:
1. Yama (ethical condcut)
- Ahimsa, Sathya, Astheya (non-stealing), brahmacharya and aparigraha (non-acceptance of gifts)
2. Niyama (practices and
observances) - Soucha (cleanliness), Santhosha, Thapa (austerity), Swadhyaya (study)
and Iswara Pranidhana (surrender to God)
3. Asana - yogic
postures. Asanas, kriyas (stomach wash, etc.) and pranayama
together are called Hata yoga.
4. Pranayama - breath
control. This is supposed to purify the mind. This involves
paying attention to breathing and regulating the duration of
inhalation (Puraka), holding breath (Kumbhaka) and exhalation
5. Prathyahara -
Withdrawal of the mind from the objects of the senses.
6. Dharana - Concentration. Achieving one pointedness.
7. Dhyanam - meditation - achieving stillness of mind.
8. Samadhi - superconscious state. The person enjoysbliss,
peace and freedom. There is lack of body consciousness and
The different states of mind are
Kshiptha (scattered), Moodha (slovenly and sleepy), Vikshiptha
(oscillating), Ekagra (one pointed) and Nirudha (controlled). The
different states of consciousness are Jagrath (waking), Swapna
(dream), Sushupthi (deep sleep), Thuriam (superconscious) and
Thuriatheetham (absolute). Samadhi itself is of three grades -
Savikalpa samadhi involves retention of personal identity while
in Nirvikalpa samadhi, there is the experience of pure
consciousness, beyond time and space.
Sahaja samadhi is experience of
samadhi within, all the time, even when the person interacts and
behaves like an ordinary person. Ishta samadhi is samadhi at
will. Bhavasamadhi is experienced by artists. Karma samadhi is experienced by karmayogis. Jada
samadhi is not real samadhi; it is a state of numbness
experienced by pranayama or meditation and often mistaken for
It is supposed that
consciousness has three sheaths - Physical body, astral body and
causal body. There are seven psychic centres in the astral body
along the spine. They are Muladhara (root of spine), Swadhistana
(corresponding to sex organs, in spine), Manipuraka
(corresponding to navel), Anahatha (corresponding to heart),
Visudhi (corresponding to throat), Ajna (corresponding to pineal
gland, at the base of the brain) and Sahasrara (slightly above
the head). It is supposed that in ordinary persons, pschic energy
lies dormant in the form of a coiled serpent in Muladhara chakra.
By intense visualisation, the yogi attempts to arouse the
kundalini sakthi and make it move along the spine upwards passing
through the other chakras. Various siddhis are obtained when the
kundalini reaches the different centres. The major siddhis are
eight in number. Samadhi is experienced when the energy reaches
sahasrara chakra. Many techniques of kundalini yoga involve
pranayama. Kundalini is often visualised as moving up along with
inhalation and it is visualised as coming down (in two different
paths crossing each other at the chakras during exhalation.
In Mantra yoga, the yogi repeatedly utters a word or a few words
constituting the mantra. The word may or may not have a meaning.
It is supposed that thoughts have power and that the principle of
autosuggestion makes for changes in the person who repeatedly
utters a mantra with meaning. The mantra is a means to bring back
the wandering mind and make it one-pointed. In yoga, the mantra
is used to evoke higher states of consciousness by association,
while in black magic the mantra is used to evoke psychic power.
The commonly used mantras include Om, yogic aphorisms like Aham
Brahamasmi and names of gods and goddesses. It is believed that
silent utterance in the mind has more effect than loud utterance.
This type of yoga flourished in
north eastern India. Elements of manthra yoga and Kundalini yoga
are included in Tanthra yoga. Some tanthric sects think that
controlled indulgence of sense pleasures is a means to arouse
Kundalini and that indulgence with awareness and with the aim of
self-realisation enables the yogi to gradually transecend
desires. Partial indulgence without full satisfaction is seen as
a method of arousing and sublimating libidinal forces.
Meditation is the most important technique of Raja yoga. It is functioning in the passive,
receptive mode, as against the active mode. It increases
awareness and control and has some similarities with bio-feed
back. It gradually reduces restlessness and reduces instinctual
disturbances. Instincts cause mechanical, uncontrolled behaviour
and meditating makes for more conscious behaviour.
A lot of modern scientific
research has gone into the effects of meditation. Japanese
scientists found that monks in meditation show alpha brain wave
by reduction in heart rate, BP, respiratory rate, rate of oxygen
consumption, muscular tension, electrical skin conductivity of
the skin, lactate content in blood, etc. Meditators show
increased perceptual ability, higher gains in IQ, creativity,
academic achievement, adjustment, stress tolerance, work output
and athletic performance. Meditating prisoners show better
rehabilitation. A significant reduction in crime rate was
observed in cities where a significant percentage of the people
were meditating (Maharishi effect). Meditating drug addicts showed more
improvement than control groups. Meditation techniques have been
incorporated into many modern psychotherapeutic systems (like Autogenic Training of Schultz, Morita Therapy of Japan, and
This is the yoga of the
intellect. Some people think that each type of yoga is meant for
people with a certain type of temperament while some others like Aurobindo speak of an integral yoga which combines all the four yogas as
best. Still others think that there is a gradation. Initial
preparation and readiness are required for the practice of any yoga, without which imbalances may develop. Karma yoga is for beginners and after achieving a
degree of purity one becomes ripe for Bhakthi yoga when devotion spontanesously appears in
the heart. Bhakthi
yoga prepares one for
practice of Raja
yoga and mind control.
Finally the person reaches the stage where the existential
questions arise with force in his mind and he becomes a Jnana
yogi. All intellectual effort, in a broad sense is Jnana yoga. Broadly conceived, all scientists and
philosophers are Jnana yogis. Low living and high thinking go
together and an austere life is part of Jnana yoga. It is said that if a person is
genuinely curious about anything, that will in due course lead
him to the same ultimate questions of existence the final answer
to which lies in a transformation of personality leading to an
alteration in consciousness. You can't know reality without
becoming part of it.
The four stages of acquiring
knowledge are sensory perception, testimony by somebody,
reasoning and the last is insight. Sensory and intellectual
knowledge is supposed to be indirect (Paroksha Jnana) while
direct knowledge (Aparaoksha Jnana) is intuitive. Apara Vidya is wordly knowledge while truth is
apprehended through Para vidya.
The first step in Jana yoga is developing a real urge to ralise the
truth, or asking the one ultimate question: what is reality ? One
has to discard wrong answers by reasoning - Neti, Neti (not this,
not this). Intellectual blocks have to be surmounted. In the
language of Advaitha, one has to experience Paramarthika reality, discarding Vyavaharika (empirical) and Prathibhasika (illusory). Dwaitha is unreal and the result of Maya. Truth is unitary; it is the Advaithic experience. The method is Sravana, Manana and Nididhyasa i.e., hearing, thinking and fitting what
one has understood to one's actual experience. Finally one
realises one's indentity with pure consciousness and the
perceiver, perception and object of perception merge into one
Buddhism is said to be the most
'scientific' religion. It does not speak of a God. There is no
soul, but only the continuation of experiences or karma or
personality through different incarnations. The ultimate reality
is described as vacuum or 'Sunyata'. The four noble truths are
- Cause of pain (passion and
- Annihilation of Pain (i.e.,
the possibility of ending pain or suffering),
- The eight fold path leading
to cessation of pain.
The eight fold path consists of
right views, right intention, right speech, right conduct, right
livelihood, right effort (mental exercises), right mindfulness
(of body, mind and actions) and right meditation. The capacity
for moral sense is inherited but it has to be developed by
Desirelessness is the key to
nirvana and the path is moderation, not total indulgence or
complete self-denial. One has to become indifferent to pain and
Buddhism does not emphasise the guru-sishya system. It encourages free enquiry.
Buddha told his disciples not to accept anything because he said
it, but only if it appeared rational. His last words were,
"Do not seek refuge in anything external, be a refuge unto
yourself". One should not have any belief or preconception.
But one should pierce all preconceptions like a diamond needle (Vajracheda) to experience truth.
Theravada (thera=elders) follows the orignal
teachings of Buddha, while Mahayana sects admit innovations.
Psychology of Zen
Zen is a variety of Buddhism which evolved
in Japan from 6 th century A.D. The word Zen is derived from Dhyan meaning meditation. A novice has to take
a vow to save all beings which induces the right motivation to
realise truth. Zen
practice involves different elements.
This is sitting zen. One has to
sit in the cross-legged posture and take a few deep breaths. One
may sway from side to side two or three times to become flexible
and not rigid. Then there are several options. Just sitting
(which is a very difficult, but highly valued practice),
observing the body (cultivation body awareness by observing the
sensations from different parts of the body), Watching the mind
(feelings and thoughts which arise), watching the breath,
counting the breath, etc.
2. Mobile Zen:
This is cultivating mindfulness. Learn to enter fully into every
action, with maximum awareness, and presence.
3. Koan Zen:
A koan is a riddle with no clear answer. No answer is expected.
The attempt is to break the tyranny of the intellect and the ego.
Absorption and penetration into the koan leads to a change in
consciousness. Most koans are in the form of a question, some are
in action form. Some koans were asked by a Zen master at a
certain point during a conversation which helped the disciple who
was ready for enlightenment, but was having some block to get
over the block and experience sudden enlightenment. Many koans
clear the egoistic feeling resulting from bookish erudition. When
a certain disciple was asking hair-splitting questions endlessly,
a Zen master said, "Have you taken your breakfast? ... Then
wash you bowl." In a similar context another Zen master went
on pouring tea into a cup even after tea was overflowing. Some
other well-known koans are, "Use the spade in your empty
hand", "Talk without using your tongue",
"What is the sound of one hand clapping?"
Every block is considered to be an opportunity for learning
Other Zen practices include
Concentration or contemplation (on various shapes, qualities,
chakras in the body,mandalas symmetric geometric forms),
manthras, etc. For tension release and getting rid of
inhibitions, disciples are made to utter a calm cry followed by
The results of Zen are flexibility, clarity, serenity, peace of
mind, work-efficiency, personality integration, self-control and
self-realisation. Kensho is experiencing self-transparency and
the final enlightenment (satori) may come all on a sudden on
gradually. In the final stage the realised person sees perfection
and significance in every thing (suchness) and everything is seen
as beautiful. He is self-sufficient and the only thing which
motivates him to act is compassion.
Jain philosophy also
differentiates cognitive knowledge and intuitive understanding.
The path to realisation of the Jain system has three main steps:
right faith, right knowledge and right conduct (consisting of satya, astheya, ahimsa, aparigraha and brahmacharya. While Buddhism emphasises moderation,
Jainism emphasises meditation. Buddhism advocates partial
non-violence in the sense that even eating meat is permitted
under special circumstances.
Taoism is a religion which
flourished in China. Tao means "Way" or"
How". Tao cannot be defined, because there is nothing to
compare it with. It can be known by becoming aware of what is
happening through meditation. Tao does not behave, does nothing
at all, yet everything gets done. Tao applies to everything. All
things and events are vibratory, but Tao is not a vibratory
event. Tao can be realised by becoming aware of what is happening
with an open mind. Tao has no opposites and polarities, Tao is
One. Tao is unity. Nothing comes before Tao, Nothing made Tao.
Tao is the law of all things, the common ground of all creation.
Knowing Tao is not a learning process, but a process of
subtraction. The yin-yang figure illustrates the principle of
oneness which contains apparent dichotomies (ex. like &
dislike, gain & loss).
Taoism is considered as one of
the oldest religions of the world. Lao Tsu who lived in 6th
century B.C. codified Taoism. The main guideline for living is to
actualise the principle of Wei Wu-Wei (Action Non-action) which
means cultivating an attitude of deterministic acceptance,
detachment and transcendence.
Taoism considers intellect as a
block and the path to enlightenment is a process of subtraction
and not learning. The Taoist way of life involves living in
harmony with nature.
Sufism is the mystic sect of
Islam. It origninated in Persia and spread to all countries
having Muslims, including India. Mysticism in all religions share
the same basic features and Sufism is no exception. At the
philosophical level, the dictum "Anal Haq" (meaning the
same as Aham
identification with pure consciousness. At the emotional level
Sufi mystics symbolise themselves as the bride and God as the
lover and dance and sing in ecstasy. In India some Sufis even
wear female costumes on ceremonial occasions. Sufi contribution
to devotional poetry and music has been considerable. Many Hindustani ragas and the Quawali type of singing originated in Sufism. A
large collection of Sufi teaching stories are available. The Sufi
dance involves very fast whirling movements. Like in many other
religions, Sufi mystics were considered heretics and subjected to
persecution by orthodox Muslims. Many Sufi mystics are credited
with paranormal powers. One power sometimes supposedly
demonstrated is making wounds on one's own body which
spontaneously heal quickly.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Have greater interest in psychology?
Consider working towards a Masters in Psychology.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *