Zen Wisdom 137



How is Ch'an similar to or different from psychotherapy? Is the relationship between student and master similar to that of patient and therapist?


There are similarities and differences. The goals of Ch'an are to eliminate ignorance and vexation, to see into one's self-nature and to realize bodhi. We can say the goal of psychotherapy is to eliminate or alleviate a person's internal conflicts, confusion, contradictions, sense of helplessness, etc. Thus, they are similar in that they address issues of the mind, and that their goals are to help people come to a level of clarity. The difference is in the degree of clarity. Psychology doesn't speak of self-nature and spiritual awakening. It tries to help a person become more stable and to understand and deal with his or her problems. If the therapy is successful, the person can be somewhat wiser and happier.

Not having studied Western psychology and psychoanalysis in depth, I do not have a good understanding of what therapists do. I am more qualified to talk about Ch'an. It is better to talk to psychologists about therapy. With that in mind, I will try to answer questions.