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Cognitive Therapy and Buddhism

Posted by Mark H. on May 20, 2003, at 20:29:52

I've recently noticed a number of similarities that I would like to share between development stage practice in Buddhism and CBT. Here's a brief list:

1.) Positive assumptions about the nature of experience that cannot be proven or disproven, but that shape beliefs in a direction that is less harmful and more helpful. An example is the idea that everyone you meet has been your mother or father in a past life, and is therefore deserving of your respect and compassion.

2.) Application of antidotes to the afflictive emotions (e.g., patience as an antidote to anger). To use the above example, if I have the habit of getting angry at bad drivers who endanger others, to think of each of them as my mother or father allows me to observe their behavior and make adjustments to my own driving without experiencing anger.

3.) Awareness of the emptiness of all phenomena (e.g., afflictive emotions and negative thoughts arise and subside without any inherent meaning or permanence). Iím usually attached to my strongest feelings. I want to be right. Yet if I look closely, grasping itself is the source of my suffering. What would happen if I let go of the need to judge everything that arises?

4.) Forgiveness of self and others (e.g., the importance of letting go of old hurts Iíve experienced and of visualizing benefit and fulfillment for those Iíve harmed).

5.) Gratitude as the active acknowledgement of all the good things I experience, even on my worst days.

6.) Honest regret (without guilt or shame) for my mistakes, and a daily-renewed commitment to harmlessness and helpfulness.

7.) Generosity as a statement of faith in abundance (including good health, satisfying relationships at home and work, and being able to meet lifeís needs) and in the principle of karma (what goes around comes around, and what we focus on tends to increase).

8.) Joyful perseverance as a decision to choose happiness, to look for what is good, and to practice harmlessness, even when things donít go my way.

CBT recognizes the changeable quality of mind and our ability to influence how we think and feel. By becoming more observant and applying these principles over time, CBT claims we can measurably improve our lives.

I gave some thought as to whether I should post this here or on the Faith board, and I elected to post it to Psychological Babble because the principles are secular and not unique to any religious belief (or lack of belief). I hope someone finds them helpful.

With kind regards,

Mark H.




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