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)

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