Turning Eastward: Explorations in East/West Psychology
Fall 2014 and Winter 2015 quarters
Western psychology has so far failed to provide us with a satisfactory understanding of the full range of human experience. It has largely overlooked the core of human understanding—our everyday mind and our immediate awareness of being—with all of its felt complexity and sensitive attunement to the vast network of interconnectedness with the universe around us. Instead, Western psychology has chosen to analyze the mind as though it were an object independent of the analyzer, consisting of hypothetical structures and mechanisms that cannot be directly experienced. Western psychology's neglect of the living mind—both in its everyday dynamics and its larger possibilities—has led to a tremendous upsurge of interest in the ancient wisdom of Asia, particularly Buddhism, which does not divorce the study of psychology from the concern with wisdom and human liberation.
In contrast to Western psychology, Eastern psychology shuns any impersonal attempt to objectify human life from the viewpoint of an external observer and instead studies consciousness as a living reality which shapes individual and collective perception and action. The primary tool for directly exploring the mind is meditation or mindfulness, an experiential process in which one becomes an attentive participant-observer in the unfolding of moment-to-moment consciousness.
Learning mainly from lectures, readings, videos, workshops, seminar discussions, individual and group research projects and field trips, in fall quarter we will take a critical look at the basic assumptions and tenets of the major currents in traditional Western psychology, the concept of mental illness and the distinctions drawn between normal and abnormal thought and behavior. In winter quarter, we will then investigate the Eastern study of mind that has developed within spiritual traditions, particularly within the Buddhist tradition. In doing so, we will take special care to avoid the common pitfall of most Western interpretations of Eastern thought—the attempt to fit Eastern ideas and practices into unexamined Western assumptions and traditional intellectual categories. Lastly, we will address the encounter between Eastern and Western psychology as possibly having important ramifications for the human sciences in the future, potentially leading to new perspectives on the whole range of human experience and life concerns.
Fields of Study
Preparatory for studies or careers in
Location and Schedule
Offered during: Day