A Friendly (?) Encounter: Pali scholasticism and psychological reinterpretation of Theravada doctrines

The days went by after this unnecessary clumsy tribunal to shoot a mosquito with a cannonball and I had a chance to built up further rapport with my students… there were originally two ladies in my group, one observer, a Shan bhikkhuni, and a fire spitting Indian lady whose world view as a Brahmin woman she proudly told me has the style of index finger pointing with the flavor of treating anyone who is at her service, like this teacher, as her servant, like by demanding meditation.

The most serious thing offending the Dhamma is that she practices reincarnation therapy, a kind of hypnosis, with a belief that reincarnation is a very Buddhist truth and assuring me that she is a Theravada adept. A lost case as it later turned out to be. With the observe bhikkhuni, I had a private discussion in my dearest venerable dr’s room was quite helpful to learn her way of thinking, probably prototypical for all of the students. Proudly she declared that she has an MA in business in Singapore but rather wanted to lead “the religious life” in a colonial made-up religion that is not a religion at all by lack of a god. I was amazed how she is basically a metaphysical and cosmological thinker who saw Michael Jackson and a local general burning in a hell fire. A typical case of deluded thinking, or reactive psychosis, I guess during three years of non stop Samatha meditation toward an oceanic 4th jhana state of “neither perception nor non-perception.” In the class she impresses as to an angry type of woman.

My clinical view tells me that she is most probably a “spiritual bypasser” to use Welwood’s term. Someone who turns to religion, i.e. to bypass going to a psychiatrist as this specialty is for the mad and crazy, which she is absolutely not. So this is what I have to overcome in my class… cosmology by narrating Borobudur Buddhism and metaphysics by expounding on Ancient Greek Buddhism and bringing back the Buddha to human proportion as declared by the Buddha himself when telling the Brahmin Dona that he is not a god but “only” a lotus flower appearing out of the metaphorical mud, the mental suffering of life.


When Gustaaf left the place, I was on my own, together with self, as my dearest venerable dr. was in Yangon. Knowing that my unbelievably huge undertaking, to set the Dhamma Wheel in Motion for the fourth time in history, which I already started in 2006 with the publication of Horizons in Buddhist Psychology, will not be “just” accepted in a dogmatic environment, I looked for an opportunity to present my ideas for a larger group at SSBU. So, when at lunch the young bright eyed Spanish Pali doctor signaled in line with Gustaaf’s thesis that the Myanmar students should learn to discuss any topic in full open-mindedness, I took the opportunity to propose him to set an example by having an public debate on Buddhism as Psychology, which he first took as challenging him, but later understood the mirrored message that we are here to teach students. So with the help of Dr. Pyi he came up with a title: “A Friendly Encounter: Pali scholasticism and psychological reinterpretation of Theravada doctrines”…

Interesting were the questions of the public and my opponent’s remark that according to Aristotle, everything that is not physical and tangible must be metaphysics, so he scrabbed psychology under the heading of metaphysics. I had the choice to go into it or not and decided in a split second to say that there are nowadays psychyphysiological measures to tap into the functions of psyche, like heart rate or galvanic skin response… I happen to be a student of general semantics that proposes a non-Aristotelian kind of logic emphasising the many colours of the rainbow between black or white thinking… to go into this would sidetrack the main theme which is Buddhism as Psychology, not ancient Greek philosophy… the fire spitting index finger pointing lady who I was at her service but which is something different than being someone’s servant was again demanding. Now she demanded in public whether I am a stream enterer, a once returner, a non returner on my way toward becoming an arahant as that was the third topic in my shortest explanation what might entail these four stages to awakening…

Well, this demanding interrogation which might be qualified as rude or insulting or borderless, I responded to in full Chan style by proposing her to marry me… as there came no reply, I guess it was an adequate handling of a difficult customer. In any way, she since then avoided me and skipped my classes, which was ok to me. The chairman and opponent, closed the session by stating that it was an everybody vs. me debate and that was the end after which the PhD candidate who was the main attenders came to me and shook my hand. This and the previous same explanation I offered my class prompted me to write the white paper (to be continued)

Teaching in Myanmar; Self-Critical in a Different Culture

Need to catch up writing this blog… I was back at SSBU on Saturday and Sunday was my first meeting with my students with whom I now work on a personal level with the selfie form I showed in blog 6. This is a tool for Karma Transformation because it always contains a wholesome and rational self-instruction for intentional action as a conclusion of the thought change. The method could also be called “Buddhist Rational Emotive Cognitive Behavior Therapy” or Coaching, if therapy sounds scary.

This Karma Self Analysis starts with a selfie or short video, which is an instance or AFFLICTING or activating event of Dukkha or emotiinal suffering that takes place in bodymind with consciousness and starts with sensing (Vedana= khandha or modality) and perceiving (Sanna= khandha) of the cause of emotional suffering which is our “thoughts [with which] we make the world” as in the Dhammapada. When we suffer we cater BELIEFS that are mostly poisonous by greed, hatred and ignorance, which in RE/CBT are irrational views and which Buddhists call (miccha) Ditthi that mostly proliferate (Papanca) resulting in a CONSEQUENCE which is unwanted:  depression, anxiety, anger, sadness or grief (called kilesas). Because there is no equivalent term in Pali or Sanskrit for emotion the Buddhist term for it is called mental fabrications or Samskara (=khandha).

Continue reading Teaching in Myanmar; Self-Critical in a Different Culture

Why Do I use Difficult Words? The Miracle of Education

The visa will be ready after two days, so on Thursday at 3.30 pm… after checking out from the Silom Village Inn Hotel, I went with Oud to my next destination which is the MCU hotel in Wang Noi, Ayutthaya where we arrived quite late after being lost at another nearby campus with a similar name, and driving until three times back and forth the highway because the U turns were probably on a 25 km distance, so it was 10.30 pm when we finally arrived, quite tiring after the almost infinite congestions in a gloomy dark rainy evening… Next day I had to perform which is to be recorded on video… After an ok night sleep I could perform well in my estimation… my hosts and attenders were quite satisfied as well. I gathered from the feedback and from the pictures postings on Facebook on the MCU page (Maha Chulalongkorn University) and on the MCU IT pages, where the videos, before and after the lunch break can be found, that the reception of my seminar was highly rated… In fact I offered a rather condensed version of what I am offering in essence at Shan State Buddhist University in Myanmar which might include some shocking pictures for venerables…

Continue reading Why Do I use Difficult Words? The Miracle of Education

Teaching in Bangkok; International Buddhist Studies College

Now I am at last sitting in the airplane  after a 45 minute delay, taking off to Yangon to transit to Bangkok, to apply for new visa for my stay at Shan State Buddhist University, from a desolation breathing little airport called Heho where I was earlier before at arrival but two times last year as well. Anyway, this plane seems to be a brand new jet as opposed to last year’s propellor plane. I felt more safe this time amid turbulence… 


Continue reading Teaching in Bangkok; International Buddhist Studies College

Teaching in Myanmar: blog 4

Well, remembering what happenend the day before yesterday is easier without the jet lag impacting my functioning… I gave a lecture on Buddhist Psychopathology and a first part of Karma Transformation… Both is centred around the 3P as I call it, the three poisons as known in all brands of Buddhism, which are greed (almost leading to the world’s economic demise?), hatred (leading to extreme terrorism and the 3rd world war we are still in?) and ignorance (on how the mind works and the delusion that we as human beings are all seperate rather than the reality of inter-mind).

Continue reading Teaching in Myanmar: blog 4