Buddhist psychology, psychotherapy & the brain: a critical introduction – Brendan D Kelly

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2008 March

Buddhist Psychology

Buddhist psychology is increasingly informing psychotherapeutic practice in the western world.

This article: (a) provides a general background to Buddhist tradition; (b) outlines the central tenets of Buddhist psychology, with particular emphasis on the practice of meditation; (c) provides an overview of research into the effects of Buddhist practice on the brain; (d) outlines the relationships between Buddhist psychology and existing forms of psychotherapy; (e) provides an overview of Buddhist approaches to specific psychiatric disorders and the psychological aspects of physical disorders; and (f) discusses the emergence of Buddhist psychotherapy in western societies and explores likely future developments.

There is a need for further research into the neuroscientific correlates of Buddhist concepts of mind and the evidence base for the use of specific techniques (e.g., meditation) in psychotherapeutic practice.

Note – A more literary account was provided by Hermann Hesse (2003) in his celebrated novel Siddhartha, which is loosely based the early life of Buddha. Buddha, by Karen Armstrong (2002), provides another useful overview, while Buddhism Without Beliefs (Batchelor, 1998) also summarizes much Buddhist teaching in a concise and straightforward fashion.


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