Band-aids, baby-sitting or real Buddhadharma?
Shakyamuni Buddha is said to have presented 84,000 various teachings and methods that would lead living beings to happiness. The sole aim of these thousands of teachings is to lead the follower into an understanding of emptiness. Why emptiness? Because the insight of self and phenomena as empty of true, or inherent, existence, is the core, the essence, of all methodologies for freeing the mind of every mental disorder. This can be a very provocative notion for modern psychologists and mental health professionals.
Lama Zopa Rinpoche once commented to me that in my work with therapy clients, if I was just helping them feel better, “There is no benefit.” He elaborated, saying that if through feeling better they became interested in engaging Buddhist principles and techniques, then it could be considered beneficial. His comments reverberate and influence my work to this day. Why? Because I am trying to figure out not only how to be beneficial but what it means to be beneficial. My thinking leads me to my opening comments about the 84,000 teachings and the role of emptiness.
If to be beneficial means that, fundamentally, we are to help living beings understand the ultimate nature of their minds and the world around them, then what are the implications of this knowledge for those of us in the helping professions, particularly mental health? The repercussion for me personally is that I need to begin to operate from a different mindset, a different internal stance, so that I therefore begin to show up differently. What does it mean, how do I need to be, how do I need to think, so that I can fulfill my mission to help my clients and others to understand the ultimate nature of their minds. Wow! This is a big mandate for which even the thought drives me to want to escape to late-night television and a bowl of popcorn!
Karuna Cayton is a practicing psychotherapist with Karuna Services in California. Karuna is the Sanskrit word for compassion.
This article can be read in its entirety in Mandala