Jeremy Safran, "Cross-Cultural Dialogue and the Resonance of Narrative Strands," in Buddhism and Psychotherapy Across Cultures

Summary by Judson "Matt" Redpath

In Chapter Three, "Cross-Cultural Dialogue and the Resonance of Narrative Strands," Jeremy Safran acknowledges the dialogue that is developing between Western psychotherapy and Buddhism.  However, he is concerned with the appropriation of Buddhism within Western psychotherapy, especially the tendency "of the distorted construction and [or] marginalization of the other as a means of validating one's own world view" (53).  He examines this understanding through Richard Payne's perception of Western psychology which has constructed Buddhism within an atonement narrative, a Judeo-Christian understanding of beginning in unity God, then falling out of grace, and finally, redeeming oneself to be back in grace with God, or in short, grace, alienation, and then redemption.

    After examining the pitfalls of such dialogues, Safran examines how certain psychological theories have a commonality with Buddhism.  For example, he looks at Freud's understanding of the "pleasure/reality principle," in which there is said to exists a conflict between the individual self and society that may never be resolved.  In order to alleviate the suffering of the conflict, one needs to realize that personal fulfillment cannot be fully achieved.  Safran then acknowledges how it may be compared to Buddhism, in which the "reality principle" of Freud is comparable to the first noble truth of Buddhism, "Life is suffering."  He goes on to compare Kleinian theory to Buddhist compassion and Lacanian understanding with the idea of no-self in Buddhism.

    Finally, he examines the development of Buddhism in East Asia. He explains how this development of Indian Buddhism became infused with pre-existing Chinese religious philosophy, such Daoism. This leads him to conclude that cross-cultural dialogue between Western psychology and Buddhism is difficult and must be cautiously explored, because of the many cultural influences upon Buddhism.

Taitetsu Unno, "Naikan Therapy and Shin Buddhism"

Summary by Judson "Matt" Redpath

    In Chapter Nine‚"Naikan Therapy and Shin Buddhism," Taitetsu Unno examines Shin Buddhist ideologies that are used to conduct Naikan Therapy.  In Shin Buddhism, a person seeks religion to address a two-value system, in which there is the "utility-value," the answer to immediate material needs and practical concerns, and the "truth-value," the answer to a deeper understanding of "why we exist."  Naikan Therapy uses self-examination in order to construct a deeper understanding of one's existence, but there is still some fixed, utilitarian aim of "self-improvement."  In doing so, it does use the ideology of the two-fold truth that is found in Shin Buddhism, of blind passion and boundless compassion.  By constructing Naikan Therapy around this Shin Buddhist understanding, the patient is asked three questions, "What has one received from others?" "What has one done for others?" and, "What troubles and worries has one created for others?" Through this continual and intense self-examination, where the patient spends a week in isolation, the patient moves from a self-centeredness to a compassionate understanding of others. Ultimately in Shin Buddhism, however, one seeks to go beyond any program of self-improvement to embrace and be embraced in the profound oneness of reality, or the true boundlessness of compassion beyond all distinctions, of life and death, of spiritual progress or regress.