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Extensive detail; some fine techniques; but unconvincing
on December 16, 2005
Caroline Brazier, (wife of author David Brazier) psychotherapist experienced in Pure Land, Theravada, & Zen provides basic Buddhist psychology in great detail with many charts/models of various processes, p. ix: "Presenting the teachings as a psychology creates the possibility that the understanding Buddhism offers can be extended to those who might not otherwise engage with the religious aspects of the faith." She rightly points out that p. xiv: "Many of the misconceptions that have arisen in Western Buddhism have come out of poor translations of terms. Even when a word is accurately translated, it is easy to forget that nuances of the original may be lost, or new meanings may be construed that are not faithful to the original term. The use of Sanskrit is a reminder to be cautious in these matters. With the key terms we are using, it is important to find the right meanings." However, she uses a great many Sanskrit words that don't appear to be ambiguous. She says, p. 9: "Translating these words makes for easier reading but ultimately creates confusion since equivalent Western terminology never fully covers the meaning of the original & often carries its own set of associations, which may be wholly inappropriate to the real meaning of the term," but over usage creates confusion too, even having a Glossary. Overall, she states that p. 35: "Buddhist psychology is a psychology of addiction; it is also a psychology of encounter." I see parallels between psychodrama & role playing (in her fine chapter 12, "Experiment and Encounter") on one hand & Eric Berne's "The Games People Play" & Alice Miller's "Drama of the Gifted Child" on the other. Chapter 13, "Working with Other" uses family stories (p. 16: "Stories are often more a product of the times in which they are told than of the original incident that gave rise to them") & Morita Therapy. She gives an interesting analysis of dependent origination vs. interdependent co-arising or Interbeing, reminiscent of Jung's synchronicity.
She notes p. 151: "The world you see is substantially a function of your mentality. Our viewing is selective & colored. Some things you distort by misinterpretation, some by imagination, & some by selectivity of view;" which she might apply herself. Per the story of Naropa at the gate of Nalanda University, there's a great difference between understanding words & understanding meaning. Despite his education & erudition, Naropa left the university undergoing extreme hardship to learn meaning from Tilopa. For example, Brazier's description of self is too elementary; per Chögyam Trungpa's "The Sanity We Are Born With-a Buddhist Approach to Psychology," "The only material we have is ego. There is no other way to spirituality." This book is overly wordy, structured, & IMHO expressionistic. The author appears to project a lot-reading too much into things. Her approach could be more scientific, balanced, empirical, & realistic, except for chapters 12 & 13 which describe her therapeutic processes (which seem Western not Buddhist to me). The book could use some practical aspects of actual life in Buddhist countries, a more balanced/less extreme perspective, & more consistency so as not to detract from confidence in her (unsupported) statements (e.g. about dependent arising). While I personally approve, for example, of "engaged Buddhism" per se (see Karma Lekshe Tsomo's anthologies), if you criticize something as not coming directly from the Buddha, you lay yourself open to the same criticism.