July 8, 2010

Growing Up vs. Waking Up: Why Psychology and Buddhism Are Complementary

I read and enjoyed the recent Elephant Journal article, Ego: the source of most of our problems. ~ Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche. There is definitely some profound truth in that Rinpoche’s teachings.

At the same time however, I am a big fan of Dr. John Welwood, a psychotherapist who has been combining Western psychology with Eastern meditation practices for decades now. He was one of the first to explore this terrain.

He recently appeared (can one appear on a podcast?) on Vince Horn’s Buddhist Geeks podcast. One of the things he mentioned was that he viewed Western Psychology as a tool for growing up, while Eastern Buddhist practices are designed for waking up – the two are complementary but different.

He also made the distinction of seeing psychology (growing up) as a horizontal pursuit, while Buddhism (waking up) is a vertical pursuit. I can see what he is saying, but it runs counter to the whole integral model where growing up, at some point, becomes waking up (although one can always wake up as a state [temporary] experience way before it becomes a stage [permanent] attainment), making both models vertical in orientation. I’m willing to go with Welwood on this one – I have never been fully convinced that spiritual awakening and personal development belong on the same line of development.

Here is the episode information (you might need to go to the BG’s site to listen):

Buddhist Geeks #178: Growing Up Versus Waking Up

28. Jun, 2010 by John Welwood


Episode Description:

We’re joined this week by clinical psychologist and Buddhist practitioner John Welwood. John has spent his entire adult life exploring the intersection between Eastern and Western psychological approaches. In our discussion we cover the following topics: the three realms of human experience, spiritual bypassing (a term that John coined), the Buddhist perfections, waking up and growing up as different tracks of human development, and the ways that spiritual awareness can be used in service of psychological growth and well-being.

Episode Links:


What do you all think about Welwood’s perspective? I am in full agreement, which I am sure will raise the dander of some Buddhists. But this seems like a fertile ground for discussion, since Buddhism is being used quite often now in psychotherapy, although seldom as the Buddha intended.

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