Buddhist Meditations
Zen and Western Psychotherapy: Nirvanic Transcendence and Samsaric Fixation
by Sandra A. Wawrytko
13/07/2010 14:11 (GMT+7)
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Zen and Western Psychotherapy:
Nirvanic Transcendence and Samsaric Fixation

Chung-Hwa Buddhist Journal

by Sandra A. Wawrytko

Vol.4  July, 1991  pp. 451-494



    Much has been said about the relationship between Buddhism
and Western  psychotherapy.  I argue  that both the ends and
the means of Buddhist practice far exceed the limitations of
Western psychotherapy  in its dominant forms.  This claim is
substantiated  by examining  the underlying  views  of human
nature  in the broader  context  of cosmic  Nature, as these
reflect the assumed nature of the therapeutic task.  Special
attention  is given to the universal  human  encounter  with
death as the ultimate manifestation of dukkha.My conclusions
may be summarized as follows:
    1)Western psychotherapy, rooted in ancient Greek assumptions
and represented  by strains as diverse as Sigmund  Freud and
Abraham Maslow, essentially views human nature as internally
weak  and thus largely  controlled  by "objective"  external
forces.  Consequently, it conceives  of its task in terms of
teaching patients to cope with existing conditions, that is,
how to tread  water  in the samsaric  sea.  Its response  to
death, as expressed  in Freud's  later  theory  of the Death
Instinct,  is  one  of  resignation   as  demanded   by  the
scientifically validated fact of natural necessity.
    2) One of the few variations on this therapeutic scheme,
tending toward Buddhism in general and Zen in particular, is
to be found in Viktor E.  Frankl's Logotherapy.  As revealed
in Frankl's dimensional  ontology, he is more sanguine about
human prospects and our ability to achieve


self-transcendence. Many parallels are to be found between
logotherapeutic  techniques  and  those  of  Zen,  including
glimmerings  of enlightenmental insight into the key role of
suffering.  Yet, Frankl  is never  fully  able  to  liberate
either himself or Logotherapy from Samsaara, as reflected in
his  view  of  death  as  a necessary  guarantor  of  life's
3)Only Zen is able to transcend both self (ego) and Samsaara,
by means of the resources  inherent in Original Nature.  Its
attitude of detachment  toward death, without succumbing  to
denial, epitomizes its overarching efficacy.


    Much has been said about the relationship between Buddhism
in general  and Western  psychotherapy.  This  is especially
true in terms of various  explorations  of the "therapeutic"
potential inherent in  Zen  Buddhism.(1) In   part, Buddhist
tradition would seem to corroborate the comparison, as seen
in  the  metaphor  of Buddhism  as  a medicine  or  therapy
dispensed by the enlightened physician,theBuddha,to cure our
samsaric suffering.
    Despite  these  apparent  similarities, this  discussion
focuses on the need for caution in the pursuit of comparisons,
for  an uncritical  association  of Buddhism  with  existing
forms of psychotherapy  as practiced in the West carries the
danger  of  reductionism,  whereby   both  disciplines   are
compromised.  When Buddhism is reduced to being nothing more
than  another  form of psychotherapy, with Sakyamuni  Buddha
himself identified as a proto-therapist, a valuable resource
is lost for the West. In being so regarded, Western thinkers
need not delve deeply to reveal  Buddhism's  uniqueness, but
remain content with superficial  similarities.(2) This leads
to such absurdities as the assumption that psychedelic
1) For  example,  see  Erich  Fromm  and  D.T.  Suzuki,  Zen
Buddhism  and  Psychoanalysis  (New  York: Harper, 1960) and
Alan  W.  Watts, Psychotherapy  East  and  West  (New  York:
Ballantine  Books, 1961).  The  parallels  are  more  subtly
suggested  by Frederick  (Fritz).  S.  Perls  in his Gestalt
Therapy Verbatim  (Lafayette, California: Real People Press,
1969), where  the text is sprinkled  with references  to Zen
and  terms  such  as satori  are used  interchangeably  with
psychotherapeutic  concepts.
2) The same reductionism  is appallingly present in the many
attempts to provide convenient, but simple-minded, contrasts
based on the geographical  categorization  of East and West.
Buddhists  would  rightly  be shocked  to read the following
description of the "Eastern" world view by Irwin D. Yalom:
        The Eastern  world  never  assumes  that there  is a
        'point'  to  life, or that  it is  a problem  to  be
        solved;  instead, life  is a mystery  be lived.  The
        Indian sage Bhaqway Shree Rajneesh  says, "Existence
        has no goal. It is pure journey. The journey in life
        is so beautiful, who bothers for the destination?"
Reconciling this beautiful journey with the reality of Samsaara
is indeed problematic.  Even more disconcerting  is the fact
that  Yalom  seems  to derive  his conclusions  from  D.  T.
Suzuki, as indicated  in the discussion  prior  to the above
passage.  Existential Psychotherapy  (New York: Basic Books,
Inc., 1980), p. 470.


delic drugs  can be a substitute  for the self-discipline  of
meditational practice, in that they induce the same ecstatic
state and represent  a kind of expressway  to enlightenment,
or that meditation  is primarily  of interest  as a means of
stress reduction.  Even those who more modestly suggest that
drugs  be used merely  as a motivation  for undertaking  the
arduous path of practice, by granting a glimpse of things to
come, fail to heed Buddhism's  fundamental  precept  against
   In the following I argue that both the ends and the means
of Buddhist practice  far exceed the limitations  of Western
psychotherapy   in  its  dominant   forms.   This  claim  is
substantiated  by examining  the underlying  views  of human
nature  in the broader  context  of cosmic  Nature, as these
reflect the assumed nature of the therapeutic task.  Special
attention  is given to the universal  human  encounter  with
death  as  the  ultimate  manifestation   of  dukkha.(3)  My
conclusions may be summarized as follows:
   I)Western psychotherapy, rooted in ancient Greek assumptions
     and represented  by strains as diverse as Sigmund Freud
     and Abraham  Maslow, essentially  views human nature as
     internally   weak  and  thus  largely   controlled   by
     "objective" external forces. Consequently, it conceives
     of its task in terms of teaching patients  to cope with
     existing conditions, that is, how to tread water in the
     samsaric sea.  Its response  to death, as expressed  in
     Freud's  later theory  of the Death Instinct, is one of
     resignation, as demanded by the scientifically validated
     fact of natural necessity.
   2)One of the few variations on this therapeutic scheme,
     tending   toward  Buddhism   in  general   and  Zen  in
     particular, is  to  be  found  in  Viktor  E.  Frankl's
     Logotherapy.   As  revealed   in  Frankl's  dimensional
     ontology, he is more sanguine about human prospects and
     our ability to achieve
3)It is significant that the Chinese translation of Samsaara
  (sheng(1) ssu(3a))literally means "Life and Death".


     self-transcendence.  Many  parallels  are  to be  found
     between logother-apeutic techniques and those of Zen,
     including glimmerings  of enlightenmental  insight into
     the  key  role  of  suffering.  Yet,  despite  Frankl's
     nirvaanic excursions, he is never fully able to liberate
     either himself or Logotherapy from Samsaara, as reflected
     in his view of death as a necessary guarantor of life's
   3)Only Zen is able to transcend both self (ego) and Samsara,
     by means of the resources  inherent in Original Nature.
     Its  attitude  of  detachment   toward  death,  without
     succumbing   to  denial,  epitomizes   its  overarching

1.Human Nature and the Nature of the Psychotherapeutic  Task:
  From Plato to the Present

    To understand the aim of psychotherapy, and thereby evaluate
its efficacy, one must  first  understand  its subject.  The
terms  "psychology",  "psychotherapy", "psychoanalysis", and
"psychiatry"  all  share  a common  etymological  component,
"psyche", indicative  of  this  subject.  Derived  from  the
Greek,  psyche (4) (Latin, anima) originally  referred  to
one's breath and eventually  came to be associated  with the
soul or spirit.  This was based on the belief  that the soul
departed  from  the body at death  in one's  last  breath, a
long-standing  medical criterion of death.  Hence psychology
is the logos or study of the soul, psychotherapy attendance
 (therapia) upon it, and psychiatry  the  art of healing it
(4)In Creek mythology the character of Psyche is the feminine
   personification  of the soul.  Her life story  includes  a
   forced  marriage  to a mysterious  stranger  (subsequently
   revealed  to  be  Eros  or Cupid) and  conflict  with  her
   unsympathetic mother-in-law  (Aphrodite, goddess of love),
   as detailed  by Apuleius  in his Metamorphoses.  The plot,
   suffused with Freudian symbolism, later re-emerged  in the
   fairy tale of Beauty and the Beast.  See Bruno Bettelheim,
   The uses  of Enchantment:  The Meanings and  Importance of
   Fair  Tales  (New York: Vintage  Books, 1977), "Cupid  and
   Psyche", pp. 291-303; "Beauty and the Beast", pp. 303-10.


    The psyche concept likewise reveals a fundamental assumption
in Western culture, namely the separability (dualism) of mind
or soul and body.  In the Phaedo Socrates  speaks confidently
of this  separation  at death  (presumably  drawing  upon his
Orphic background and beliefs). A distinct preference also is
shown for the psyche over the body, which last is assumed  to
be pure while its material  prison is a source  of defilement
that must be overcome.  Psyche  alone constitutes  the "real"
me, the essence of my being. (5) This assumption became a key
component of Christian theology (although contrary to the Old
Testament  views of Judaism, which often  posits  a temporary
separation that ends with the resurrection of the body at the
Last Judgement(6)).
    It is noteworthy that the same concept of the soul as "breath"
is found in another Indo-European  language, Sanskrit, giving
rise  to the  word  "aatman."(7) Thus, it may  be  said  that
psychology  is devoted to the study of the aatman.  Yet it is
precisely  this  aatman,  at  the  core  of  the  Brahmanical
literature, that the Buddha  countered  with his doctrine  of
an-aatman (anaatta), the denial of
5) In the course of the Socratic dialectic of the Phaedo, the
   participants  come to a consensus  on the fact that "death
   is nothing more or less than this, the separate  condition
   of the body by itself  when it is released  from the soul,
   and the separate  condition  by itself of the soul when it
   is released  from  the  body"  (Plato: The  Last  Days  of
   Socrates, Hugh  Trendennick  trans.  (Baltimore, Maryland:
   Penguin  Books,  1969),  p.  108).  Socrates  goes  on  to
   recommend  this separation, stating "So long as we keep to
   the   body...our   soul   is   contaminated    with   this
   imperfection"  (p.  111).  Hence, "true philosophers  make
   dying their profession" (p. 113).
6) Daniel 12:2 states: "many of them that sleep in the dust of
   the earth  shall  awake  to everlasting  life, and some to
   shame  and  everlasting  contempt",  while  Isaiah  26: 19
   proclaims: "Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead
   body shall they arise." Quoted by Jacques  Choron in Death
   and Western  Thought  (New York: Collier  Books, 1963), p.
   81.  Choron blames Paul for importing this "pagan" idea of
   the resurrection  of the body into Christian theology;  p.
7) The Indo-European root "anh" ("breath, soul, spirit")
   provides  the point  of derivation  for myriad  linguistic
   developments  --  including  the  Latin  "anima", Sanskrit
   "atman" and English  "animate".  See Robert Claiborne, The
   Roots  of English: A Reader's  Handbook  of Word  Origins
   (New York: Timnes Books, 1989), p. 48.


aatman's reality. Accordingly, the task of psychotherapy to
care for this very psyche/aatman is fundamentally wrongheaded
Buddhistically-speaking.   It  amounts  to  attending  to  an
illusion, and  represents  a state  of being  deluded  by  an
illusion in making it the focal point of discussion.(8)
    Freudian psychoanalysis is aptly named in the sense that
it literally  strives to breakdown  (analyze) the psyche into
its  assumed  constituent  parts.(9) In fact, in his analysis
Freud was heavily influenced  by classical  Greek sources (as
he was with so many of his concepts), specifically  Plato.  A
vivid and revealing image of a tripartite  soul is offered in
the Phaedrus:

      Of  the  nature  of the  soul....let  the  figure  be a
      composite--a    pair   of   winged    horses    and   a
      charioteer....the  human  charioteer  drives  his  in a
      pair;  one of them is noble and of noble breed, and the
      other is ignoble and of ignoble breed;  and the driving
      of them of necessity  gives a great deal of trouble  to
      him....The  chariots of the gods in even poise, obeying
      the rein, glide rapidly;  but the others  labour [sic],
      for the vicious steed goes heavily, weighing
8) Grave consequences follow from this revelation with respect
   to the Western  philosophical  tradition, which  also  has
   made psyche (in its intellectual  aspect) a focal point of
   investigation.  From a Buddhist  perspective  this too has
   been the pursuit of an illusion, a series of footnotes  to
   Samsaara, from Aristotle's  On the Soul through Descartes'
   meditations to Kant's transcendental ego and Husserl's own
   Cartesian   meditations.   The  case  of  Descartes  does,
   however,  merit  further   study  from  a  Zen  viewpoint,
   inasmuch as he begins by marshalling  the forces of "Great
   Doubt"   needed  for  enlightenment.   Unfortunately   for
   Descartes, his "Great Faith"  rested in Catholicism, which
   in  turn  made  the  sine  qua  non  of  a  "Great  Death"
   impossible for him or, more precisely, unthinkable.
9) Freud is himself well away of these etymological connections,
   as he notes while  describing  the psychoanalytic  method:
   "We have analyzed the patient, i.e.  separated  his mental
   processes  into their  constituent  parts and demonstrated
   these instinctual elements in him singly and in isolation;
   what could be more natural  than a request  that we should
   also help him to make a new and better  re-combination  of
   them?";  Turnings in the Ways of Psychoanalytical Therapy"
   (1919) in Collected  Papers, Vol.  II, John Riviere trans.
   (New York: Basic Books, Inc., 1959), p.  394.  Freud  even
   compares   the  process  to  that  used  by  chemists   in
   distinguishing between substances in their laboratories.


      down the charioteer to the earth when his steed has not
      been thoroughly trained:--this is the hour of agony and
      extremest  conflict  for  the  soul.....The  right-hand
      horse is upright and cleanly made;  he has a lofty neck
      and an aquiline nose; his colour is white, and his eyes
      dark;  he is a lover  of honour  [sic] and modesty  and
      temperance, and the follower of true glory; he needs no
      touch of the whip, but is guided by word and admonition
      alone.  The other  is a crooked  lumbering  animal, put
      together  anyhow;  he has  a short  thick  neck;  he is
      flat-faced  and of a dark  colour;  with  grey eyes and
      blood-red complexion;  the mate of insolence and pride,
      shag-eared  and  deaf,  hardly  yielding  to  whip  and

    The two horses represent the motive force/energy of our
inmost  being, one of which can only be made to cooperate  by
repressing   its  natural   tendencies.   The  task   of  the
charioteer, representing  reason, is to keep these two on the
right path and compel them to work in unison.  Significantly,
without  their efforts the chariot  will go nowhere--nor  can
they  be traded  for a more manageable  pair.  Hence  each of
these  three  elements--reason,  will,  and  passion--has  an
indispensable role to play in effecting the forward motion of
the  vehicle   (body)  despite   the  instability   of  their

The Freudian Vision of the Psyche
    Down through the centuries the tripartite view of the soul
(and, hence, of human  nature), with its keynote  of conflict
and tension, became ingrained in
10)Plato, Phaedrus, trans. Benjamin Jowett and included in
   The  Dialogues  of  Plato, vol.  7 of Great  Books  of the
   Western  World  (Chicago: Encyclopedia  Britannica,  Inc.,
   1952), 246-47, 253;  pp.  124-25, 128.  The means by which
   the  "evil"  steed  is to be  restrained  are  graphically
   presented   later  in  the  text  (254;   p.   128) : "the
   charioteer...with  a still more violent  wrench  drags the
   bit out of the teeth  of the  wild  steed  and covers  his
   abusive  tongue  and jaws with blood, and forces  his legs
   and haunches  to the ground and punishes  him sorely.  And
   when this has happened  several  times and the villain has
   ceased  from his wanton  way, he is tamed and humbled, and
   follows the will of the charioteer."


Western  consciousness  through variations  on the theme.(11)
Inherited  by  Sigmund  Freud, it was  examined  through  the
lenses of scientific  materialism  to produce  his own unique
reinterpretation.  The  essential  mechanism  of control, the
assumption  of  a need  to  exert  control  over  conflicting
forces,  remains   unchanged,  as  does  the  sense   of  the
regrettable, but necessary, evil inherent  in our sources  of
energy.   However,  Freud's  refinements  seem  to  give  the
dark-horse  of passion  almost  unstoppable  power, while the
willing  white horse  is envisioned  to be a nay-saying  nag.
    This view of human nature  has been aptly described  by
David Stafford Clark:

      Freud,,.,struggled to help man find a way to elevate
      himself above the savage beast, which, through no fault
      of his own, is always a part of him, The doctrine of
      original sin found no opposition from Freud, although
11)On a mundane level, we have the model of the guardian angel
   or conscience opposing devilish temptations, both of which
   vie  for the attentions  of the  befuddled  decisionmaker.
   Under  the influence  of Aristotelian  philosophy  (On the
   Soul,  Book  II, 413b), the  seventeenth  century  British
   philosopher,  Thomas  Hobbes,  speaks  of  the  nutritive,
   motive, and  rational  faculties  of the soul  (Leviathan,
   part II, chapter 29).  The three branches  of the American
   political  system may similarly be cited here: controlling
   executive branch/ President, inhibiting  judiciary/Supreme
   Court,   and   grass-roots   legislature/Congress.    More
   recently, theories  about the "triune  brain" have emerged
   in scientific  circles  whereby  "three  basic brains show
   great  differences  in structure  and  chemistry, yet  all
   three  must  intermesh  and function  together"  (Paul  D.
   MacLean, A Triune Concept of Brain and Behavior  (Toronto:
   University of Toronto Press, 1973), p.  7.  The assumption
   of   potential   conflict   among   three   forces,  which
   nonetheless  must work together, is perpetrated here.  The
   parallels  to the Platonic  vision  are striking, although
   now the ephemeral soul is replaced by the "objective" fact
   of the brain.  A layering  effect is posited  in the human
   brain: the core resides in the brain stem, designated  the
   reptilian  brain, source  of our  survival  functions, and
   those recalcitrant  passions  represented  by Plato's dark
   horse;  a mammalian  overlay  keeps  us within  the animal
   realm  of the  white  horse, who  is more  refined  in its
   motives and behavior than the reptilian root; the crowning
   achievement  of the  sophisticated  neocortex, however, is
   confined to primates, representing  the rationality of the
   charioteer  who must strive  to remain  in command  of the


      his explanation of it was biological rather than

    What is unique about Freud's three components is that
they  are  interconnected  elements, rather  than  the  three
distinct  faculties  or entities  implied in Plato's analogy.
Each  evolves  out of its  lower  predecessor, struggling  to
raise  itself  above its own roots, in a psychic  version  of
Darwinian evolution.  The fundamental  substratum, identified
as  the  Id  (in  German, "Das  Es"),(13) is  an  impersonal,
seething sea of psychic energies, a microcosmic of the cosmic
soup out of which the universe  emerged.  Freud  links the Id
with instinctual  drives, most prominently  the sexual energy
of the libido.  These drives represent our primal inheritance
(original  sin?) of human nature shared with all individuals,
past, present, and future.  It can also be equated  with  the
"beast  within", that aspect  of human  nature  that directly
links, or  binds, us  to  the  primitive, material  world  of
animals.  Precisely  because of this beast that lurks within,
the savage  hidden  beneath  a thin  veneer  of civilization,
social structures  must be rigidly  enforced  and legal codes
adopted.   The  alternative   is  to  plunge  back  into  the
deplorable   "State  of  Nature",  characterized   by  primal
instincts of aggression and desire run amuck."(14)
12) David Stafford-Clark, What Freud Really Said (New York:
    Schocken Books, 1976), p. 243.
13) Debates have arisen as to the appropriateness of standard
    translations of Freud's terminology. The problem seems more
    crucial in the case of "Id" than that of "Ego." Bettelheim
    suggests that we refer to the former as "the It" and the
    latter as "the I," while the "Super-Ego" becomes "the Over-I".
    Having noted the controversy,I shall continue to use the
    traditional renderings here.
14) Descriptions of this "State of Nature" can be found in
    Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan, one of the foremost spokespersons
    for this dominant self-vision in the Western world. A terrifying
    fictional account of the degeneration of civilization occurs
    in William Golding's Lord of the Flies (New York: Coward-McCann,
    1954), chronicling the  savagery that emerges when a group of
    English schoolboys is marooned on an island,  turning them
    from well-mannered  little gentlemen  to murderous brutes.
    Nor is the problem of psychic conflict deemed to be confined
    to the human race. The intergalactic dimensions of this
    phenomenon are set forth in the classic science fiction film


   Obviously such views of human nature and its roots contrast
sharply with the "Original  Nature" both valued and sought by
Zen.  How odd, then, that some have suggested  Freud's morass
of instinctual  drives  lodged  in the Unconscious  coincides
with  the goal  of Zen mediation.  For example, it is claimed
that "[t]hrough  the practice  of zazen (Zen meditation), the
discriminating  mind (the conscious  mind) is quieted and the
intuitive  mind (the unconscious) is liberated and identifies
with  the universal  mind."(15) Such an interpretation  is at
best a partial truth, representing  yet another manifestation
of  the  reductionist   fallacy   responsible   for   serious
misconceptions of Zen in the West.
    The Ego develops out of the Id, serving as mediator between
the latter and the "real"  or social world.  Since the Ego is
derived from sense data and memories, what Buddhism refers to
as the five skandhas, it constitutes individual consciousness
and the sense  of personal  identity.  In turn, the Super-Ego
emerges  out of the Ego, two steps  removed  from  the Id, by
means  of  social  conditioning,  the  product   of  external
impositions,  the  demands  made  upon  us,  particularly  by
parental  and  other  authority   figures.   The  Super-Ego's
function  is essentially  to inhibit  the  selfish  (natural)
tendencies   of  both   the   instinct-driven   Id  and   the
self-interested  Ego.  More  informally  referred  to as  the
conscience, the  Super-Ego  is  responsible   for  instilling
feelings   of  guilt   and  anxiety   that   may  in  certain
circumstances escalate into psychic imbalance.
    In a "normal", integrated personality, the Ego assumes the
reins,  holding   in  check   the  recalcitrant   Id  without
capitulating   to  the  excessive  demands  of  the  nagging,
negating  Super-Ego.  Despite the liabilities  of both the Id
and the Super-Ego, the Ego cannot afford to eliminate either.
That would amount to
    "Forbidden  Planet" (1956).  In the story remnants  of an
    advanced,  non-human  civilization   are  discovered   by
    Professor  Morbius  of  planet  Earth.  Their  mysterious
    demise  is  ultimately   traced  to  a  "dark,  terrible,
    incomprehensible force", which turns out to be none other
    than  "monsters  from the Id".  As the hero  of the piece
    states: "We're  all part  monsters  in our  subconscious.
    That's why we have laws and religion."
15) Claire Myers Owens, "Zen Buddhism" in Charles T. Tart ed.,
    Transpersonal  Psychologies  (New  York:  Harper  &  Row,
    Publishers, 1975), p. 156.


self-mutilation, as well as undermining  the delicate balance
of power, The only  hope  for the Ego is to keep both  Id and
Super-Ego  in check  by constantly  shifting  alliances  with
their polar opposites.  In fact, Freud declares "Man is lived
by the unconscious,"(16) meaning that our life energy derives
from this source  and that  our instincts  are "the  ultimate
cause  of all activity."(17) When  we fail to give the Id and
the  Unconscious   due  respect,  Freud   observes,  neurosis
    The primary task of psychotherapy, then, is to help the
individual  (in the  person/persona  of the  Ego  as would-be
controller) to cope with the natural contentiousness of these
three  forces  and  reinstate   a  balance   among  them.(18)
Regression  lies  at the root  of the neurotic  imbalance.  A
psychic mechanism  of great functionality, repression  can at
times  be too effective, too  efficient, in its  attempts  to
tame the Id, thereby thwarting  the flow of psychic energies.
Furthermore,  by  Freud's   psychological   version   of  the
scientific law of the Conservation of Energy, this energy can
be neither  created  nor destroyed, only transformed.  Out of
this transformation, neurosis arises.
    Consider the example of anger, as viewed within the Freudian
framework.  Two  options  are recognized  when  this  emotion
begins  to bubble up from the primeval  sludge of the Id into
consciousness: one may ex-press  the anger  (literally, press
or squeeze it out) or re-press/sup-press it (press it back or
under).  The  Super-Ego, as  guardian  of  social  order  and
harmony, often  inhabits  direct  expression  of  our  anger,
particularly if it is directed toward what is deemed to be an
inappropriate object (e.g., an authority figure such as
16) Freud as quoted by Yalom, p. 288, from Rollo May, Love and
    Will  (New York: W.W. Norton, 1969), p. 183.
17) Freud, An Outline of Psychoanalysis. 1939. Vol. XXIII
    Standard Ed., p. 150, quoted by Stafford-Clark, p. 136
18) In a popularized adaptation of Freud's tripartite model,
    the more personalized labels of Parent (Super-Ego), Child
    (Id), and Adult  (Ego) have been  utilized.  Nonetheless,
    the  Platonic  and  Freudian  goal  of  constructing   an
    integrated, well-balanced  personality  under the control
    of reason remains unchanged.

P. 463

one's father or mother).  The psychic strategy  of the Ego in
such  cases  may be to banish  the anger  from consciousness.
Nonetheless, the  energy  so generated  cannot  be destroyed,
merely rechanneled, and so it is relegated  to the wilderness
of the Unconscious. Freud warns that this strategy leads to a
potentially explosive situation, for the repressed anger will
eventually  seek  expression  in other, more indirect  forms.
These  may be as harmless  as Freudian  slips  or jokes or as
serious   as   neurotic   manifestations   of  paralysis   or
    In this dualism of expression versus repression, Freud sees
no solution  but to dredge  the  Unconscious  (through  Dream
Analysis,  Free  Association,  etc.) in  order  to  drag  the
repressed  emotion to the surface.  Once exposed in the light
of consciousness, its hidden energies  become dissipated.  It
is assumed  that only  by venting  the anger  in a controlled
situation can we avoid suffering the affects of its distorted
mutations.  Fritz  Perls  echoes  the Freudian  line  when he
states  "Any anger  that is not coming  out, flowing  freely,
will  turn  into  sadism, power  drive, and  other  means  of
    Debates persist within the psychotherapeutic community on
the veracity of this analysis.  Recent studies have suggested
that  the mere fact  of discussing  one's  anger  (much  less
expressing  it) has  the effect  of aggravating  rather  than
ameliorating it. This implies that the situation is much more
complicated  than Freud's mechanistic model realizes.  Unlike
hot air in a overfilled  balloon, we cannot simply find a way
to release anger in order to prevent it from exploding.
    The dualistic nature of Western thought processes illustrated
by the Freudian  model equally can be applied  to any emotion
or  instinctual  drive--from  hunger  and  sex  to  fear  and
aggression.  This  either/or  positing  of  a  forced  choice
between  polar  extremes  presupposes  the  existence  of  an
unresolvable  dilemma intrinsic  to human nature.  The psyche
thus  is conceived  as  a veritable  battlefield  upon  which
natural  instincts  (the  Id) are  pitted  against  civilized
standards  of  conduct  (the  Super-Ego),  in  the  midst  of
survival  imperatives  (the  safeguarding  of  which  is  the
primary responsibility of the Ego).
19) Frederick S. Perls, Gestalt Therapy Verbatim, John O.
    Stevens ed. (Lafayette, California: Real People Press,
    1969), p. 76.


    Comparing the Freudian analysis of emotion with Buddhist
accounts, we see that  Buddhist  theory  allows  for  a third
option  over  and  above  the  extremes  of Western  dualism:
extinction.  Anger  (dosa) is  a  particularly  apt  example,
inasmuch  as it is identified  as one of the three  "poisons"
(along  with  greed,  lobha,  and  ignorance,  moha)(20)  The
Dhammapada  devotes  an entire chapter (XVII) to the topic of
anger, recognizing  it as a self-imposed  "fetter"  (fu) we
must  liberate  ourselves  from.(21) Significantly, this same
passage (221) cautions against clinging to either the body or
the mind  (psyche).  The image  of the chariot  also appears,
bringing  to  mind  Plato's  analogy: "Whoso,  as  a  rolling
chariot, checks his uprising  anger, him I call a charioteer;
other  folk  merely  hold the reins"  (222).  The element  of
control  highlighted  here would  seem  to correspond  to the
prevailing Western models.  Nonetheless, it is not repression
that  is  being  advised--this   would  merely  preserve  the
unavoidable  state of tension.  Rather, we are instructed  to
eradicate  the negative  emotion.  This  is borne  out by the
subsequent   passage   (223) ,  where   the  methodology   is
clarified--the  anger (fen 4) is to be "conquered" (sheng)by
means of non--anger  (pu-fen).  The Suutra  of Begueathed
Teaching  recommends  patience  in such cases, for "the angry
mind is worse than a fierce fire" while anger and rage "steal
your merit and virtue" (22) Thus, anger or any other negative
emotion  is  not  to be repressed, but  replaced.  We thereby
avoid the future dangers for both ourselves and others latent
within it.
   Buddhism, then, allows us to transcend the Freudian dilemma
of expression  versus  repression  by means  of  this  third,
transcendent option. The
20) See, for example, the Kalama Suutra, in which the Buddha
    argues for the centrality  of these three emotions  based
    on empirical data derived from his listeners.
21) The  Dhammapada, trans. into Chinese from Paali by Shih
    Liao-Chau  and trans.  into English  from Paali by Narada
    Thera, in Vo.II, Sutras  and Scriptures, the  Bilingual
    Buddhist Series (Taipei: Buddhist Culture Service, 1962),
    pp. 27-28.
22) The Suutra of Bequeathed Teaching, 6, trans. into Chinese
    from Sanskrit by Kumarajiva and trans.  from Chinese into
    English  by  Chou  Hsiang-Kuang, included  in  Vol.I of
    Sutras and Scriptures, pp. 223-24.


extinction of negative emotion can be likened to the "blowing
out" of Nirvaana  itself, so that no smoldering  ashes remain
from  the  fire  of anger  that  could  later  be  rekindled.
Accordingly  it is said  "Defilements  of those  who are ever
vigilant, who train themselves  day and night, who are wholly
intent  on Nibbaana, fade away."(23) Others have compared  it
to the uprooting of a tree:

      In  the  primitive   Buddhist   view  of  human  nature
      naamaruupa   (name-form)  was  also  called  naamakaaya
      (name-body) and satkaaya-d.r.s.ti  (the  attachment  to
      one's own body).  It was seen as being in this world by
      sinking  roots  in the form of worldly  passions, while
      the co-dependent  element  of vijnaana  [consciousness]
      was the trunk  that grew  out of these  earthly  roots,
      opposed to the earthiness of the roots by the principle
      of clarity or knowledge.  This would seem to head us in
      the  direction  of  an  opposition  between  light  and
      darkness, but in fact  both  are fed by the same sap of
      kle`sa (worldly  passions) that flow through  the human
      mode   of  being.   The  rational   discrimination   of
      consciousness and the correlative judgments of good and
      evil may prune the branches of appetite but they do not
      uproot the tree.  When the violent wind of impermanence
      strikes  terror  into  one then  the extinction  of all
      suffering  and skandhas, the elemental  negation of the
      human mode of being, becomes  a real possibility.  That
      is the real issue in the extinction of lust.  Those who
      ignore the co-dependency of clinging--lust and think it
      enough to deny the burning  thirst of desire reduce the
      problem to a simple matter of trimming branches.(24)

If we interpret  the Ego  as vijnaana  and  the Id as kle`sa,
with the Super-Ego  being represented  by "judgments  of good
and evil", we see that Freudian thera
23) The Dhammapada, XVII, 226, pp. 27-28.
24) Takeuchi Yoshinori, The Heart of Buddhism: In Search of
    the Timeless Spirit of Primitive Buddhism, James W. Eisig
    ed., trans. (New York: Crossroad, 1983), pp. 95-96.


-py's  denial  of desire  (repression) is just  so much  tree
trimming.  It cannot hope to uproot the fundamental  cause of
tension in human life.  Buddhism's daring encounter with "the
violent wind of impermanence", most especially  reflected  it
approach  to death, will be dealt  with  later.  Here  let us
examine  more closely the Buddhist  doctrine  of human nature
that  allows  its  radicalization  or uprooting  activity  to
succeed, in contrast  to the absence  of this possibility  in
Western views.
   The Buddhist option, which offers a way out of the endless
cycle of Samsaara  rather than simply helping  us to keep our
heads above the samsaaric waves, is difficult for the Western
mind to fathom, inasmuch  as it poses a direct  challenge  to
the reigning world view.  It implies a degree of self-control
that defies the deterministic "laws" of science.  Thus, Freud
condemns    the   concepts   of   freedom   and   choice   as
"unscientific,"(25) even though he himself also described the
task of the therapist as giving "the patient's ego freedom to
choose  one  way or another."(26) Simply  stated, the Western
view envisions  the human  being  as irrevocably  subject  to
external  controls, whether  in the form of a divine being or
the forces of Nature.
    In contrast, Buddhism, and Zen in particular, espouses a
doctrine  of  self-reliance  bolstered  by the  efficacious
internal  resources   of  Original  Nature  (hsing) .   The
significance  of this difference  is reflected in the role of
moral precepts in the respective traditions.  In keeping with
the Freudian model, ethical principles tend to be seen in the
West as externally-imposed universal
25) Sigmund  Freud, as cited  by R.  May, Love  and Will, and
    quoted by Yalom, p.  288.
26) Sigmund Freud, Tie Ego and the Id, vol.  XIX, Standard Ed.
    (London: Hogarth Press, 1961, originally  pub.  1923), p.
    50: cited by Yalom, p.  288.  The incompatibility  of the
    free will assumed by Western morality  and religion  with
    the determinism demanded by science continues to be a key
    point  of  tension  and  contention.   Numerous  creative
    attempts  have  sought  to resolve  the unresolvable--for
    example  William James' candid assertion  of his personal
    preference  for indeterminism  in his seminal essay, "The
    Dilemma  of Determinism".  Here again Buddhism  offers an
    option to transcend--and dis-solve-the problem.


standards   handed   down  by  God,  or,  as  for  Freud,  an
incorporation  of external authority  figures in the guise of
the Super-Ego.  Thus, the human response  to the Moral Law is
characterized  by  compulsion.  Immanuel  Kant,  despite  his
description  of humans as legislating the Moral Law by virtue
of innate reason, uses language  clearly indicative  of force
and conflict.(27) A contemporary  scholar, under  the obvious
influence of Freudian thought, succinctly observes: "Morality
is the means by which we accomplish our repression".(28)

    For Buddhists,  however, the  moral  precepts  or  `sila
are regarded  in a different  light.  Moral precepts  are not
imposed upon the individual from without, but are voluntarily
observed   as  an  expression   of  Buddhist  compassion.(29)
Although  compared  to "a yoke upon the organs of sensation,"
they  do not constitute  a form  of repression.  Rather  than
seeking  to tame what has already "gone astray", the precepts
act as preventive measures:

      `sila exponentializes negation to the power of infinity
      until  at last it steps  outside  the social  realm  of
      ethical order altogether  and takes the radical form of
      a withdrawal  from the world--asceticism  and poverty--
      that is almost inhuman in form.(30)
27) See, for example, Kant's discussion, "On the Relation of
    Theory to Practice in Morality in General", in On the Old
    Saw: That May Be Right  in Theory, But it Won't  Work  in
    Practice, E.B.Ashton trans Philadelphia:   Unviersity  of
    Pennsyvania  Press): "duty  is  itself  nothing  but  the
    will's  restriction  to  the  condition  of  a  universal
    legislation; "(pp.46-47) "being virtuous, one bows to his
    duty in the act(pp.48);  self-denial"(pp.52);  "man will
    revere  his duty above  all else, will  wrestle  with the
    countless  ills  of life  as well  as its most  seductive
    temptations (pp. 54).
28) Paul Bohannan, "Go to the Ant, Thou Sluggard", Science 82,
    April, an essay included  under the column heading "Being
    Human".  Specifically  Bohannan is referring  here to the
    social need to repress individual drives of sexuality and
    aggression, citing as an authority  Freud's  Civilization
    and Its Discontents.
29) For an enlightening discussion of this point see Lily de
    Silva, "The Scope  and Contemporary  Significance  of the
    Five Precepts", in Buddhist  Ethics ond the Modern World,
    Charles  Wei-hsun  Fu  and  Sandra  A.   Wawrytko   eds.,
    (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1991).
30) Yoshinori,p.29.


Two points in this passage are especially  deserving of note:
1) the way in which the `sila  transcend  social  convention,
including the Super-Ego, and 2) the further transcendence  of
humanness  itself.  The  latter  point, a  unique  aspect  of
Buddhism's   radicalization   of  our  being,  ties  in  with
Mahayana's  assumption  that the Buddha-nature  pervades  all
beings, as reinforced  by the universal compassion  expressed
in the ahimsaa (non-injury) precept.
    Delving more deeply, the Buddhistic concept of human nature
emerges, sharply contrasting  with the dominant  Western view
discussed above:

      the human person is basically pure, but in allowing oneself
      to be exteriorized  one takes evil karma  upon oneself,
      just  like iron that  rusts  because  it has been  left
      exposed to the elements. That evil karma then rusts the
      subject to the core, like rust corroding  the iron.  It
      is  something   that  takes   place  without   and  yet
      penetrates within unhindered to corrupt the core of the
      subject.  The fault  here lies  completely  and totally
      with the subject.(31)

Yet, precisely  because  the responsibility  lies  completely
within  ourselves, we  likewise  have  the  means  to  become
purified.  As an oft-quoted  passage of the Dhammapada  (l65)

      By oneself, indeed, is evil done; by oneself is one
      defiled; by oneself is evil left undone; by oneself,
      indeed, is one purified. Purity and impurity  depend
      on oneself. No one purifies another.(32)

In Buddhism, then, one must be a savior  only to oneself  and
cannot  fulfill  this  function  for,  or  expect  it  to  be
fulfilled  by, another.  This is both possible  and necessary
because one has the responsibility and resources to do so.
31) Yoshinori,  pp.29-30.
32) Dhammapada,  p.77.

P. 469

    Among all Buddhist sects, none is more adamant about self-
reliance  than Ch'an or Zen, as is repeatedly  emphasized  by
Hui-neng, the Sixth Patriarch, in his Platform  Suutra.  Here
`sila  is referred  to as one  of the five  forms  of incense
(along  with  samaadhi, prajnaa, liberation, and liberational
knowledge), which  "perfumes  us from within;  we should  not
seek it without." (33) Hui-neng refers to the twofold process
of letting  go of past misdeeds  and guarding  against future
ones, tasks to be performed by ourselves alone.  Our Original
Nature, in sharp contrast to Freud's nefarious Id, is not the
source  of our problems  but rather  of their  solution.  The
"repentance  ritual  (hui)" described  by the Sixth Patriarch
does not require  another to whom our appeal is directed  nor
anyone  from  which  forgiveness  is  received.  Although  it
involves  a vow for the deliverance  of an infinite number of
sentient  beings, the  vow  is similarly  explained  as being

      It does not mean that I, Hui-neng am going to deliver
      them.  And  who  are these  sentient  beings, potential
      within  our  minds? They  are  the  delusive  mind, the
      deceitful  mind, the evil mind, and such  like  --  all
      these  are  sentient  beings.  Each  of them  has to be
      delivered  by one-self by means of one's own Essence of
      Mind [Original  Mind];  only by one's own deliver-ance,
      is it genuine.

The ultimate  refuge, then, lies not beyond us, but rather in
our Original  Nature;  each should take refuge  in the Buddha
within.  No reference is made to any other Buddhas: "hence if
we do not take refuge in the Buddha  of our own Mind-essence,
there is nowhere else for us to go." In this respect Hui-neng
is  in  perfect  accord  with  the  teachings  of  the  First
Patriarch, Bodhidharma, and his
33) These and subsequent references to the Platform Suutra or
    Suutra  Spoken  by the Sixth  Patriarch, Chapter  II, are
    taken from the record of Fahai, Wong Mov-lam trans., rev.
    by  Dwight  Goddard, included  in Vol.  I of  Sutras  and
    Scriptures, pp.365-73.  The English  rendering  has  been
    amended in some places.


key insight that "This mind is the Buddha",(34) which has been
described as "Mahayana Buddhism in a nutshell."(35)
    Zen Repentance is suggestive of existential therapy's task
to  "to  de-repress,  to  re-acquaint   the  individual  with
something  he or she has  known  all along....Above  all, the
philosopher  and the therapist must encourage  the individual
to  look  within  and  to attend  to his  or her  existential
situation."  (36) The  similarity  in perceptions  does  not,
however, translate  into practice.  "Existential  guilt," the
sense of self-transgression  or failure to realize one's full
potential   that  emanates  from  regret  remains  steadfast.
Confrontation  with  one's  responsibility  is  necessary  to
expiate such guilt, but too often it remains repressed  until
the self-victimizing victim succumbs to death.
    Irwin Y'alom discusses the pervasiveness of existential
guilt in Western society in terms of both clinical experience
and  contemporary  literature.   In  the  latter  context  he
provides  an  insightful  analysis  of Franz  Kafka's  modern
classic,  The   Trial,  as  an  explication   of  one   man's
self-indictment,  self-conviction, and  self-avoidance, ended
only by his death:

      Kafka's  man from  the country  was guilty--not  only
      guilty  of  living  an  unlived  life, of  waiting  for
      permission from another, but he was guilty, too, of not
      accepting  his guilt, of not using it as a guide to his
      interior, of not "unconditionally" confessing--an act
      which  would  have  resulted  in  the  door  "springing
34) Bodhidharma.  "Bloodstream  Sermon"  included  in The Zen
    Teaching of Bodhidharma,Red Pine trans. (San Francisco:
    North  Point Press, 1989), p.9.  Bodhidharma  further
    insists  that one must look into one's Original  Nature
    in order  to discover  a Buddha  and assiduously  avoid
    savior  figures  in the forms  of external  Buddhas  or
    bodhisattvas, which are but illusions  associated  with
    the mortal realm.
35) Red Pine, in his commentary to the "Bloodstream Sermon",
    p. 16, note 12.
36) Yalom,p.16.
37) Yalom, pp.280-85.


The presupposed  limitations of human nature would seem to be
instrumental  in these  failures.  Conspicuously  lacking  is
Buddhism's  structural  basis for implementing  the necessary
self-assertion, what Hui-neng outlines  as "the Ritual of the
three-fold  Guidance", in terms of the Buddha, the Dharma and
the Sangha.(38)

Beyond the Freudian Vision: Original Nature versus Original Sin

    It  may  be  objected  that  there  is  more  to Western
psychotherapy  than Freud, and this is indeed  true.(39) Many
therapists, from Freud's  own time  until  today, have  taken
issue with this all-encompassing  determinism regarding human
nature and human motivations.  In particular  there have been
many whose evaluation  of the Unconscious  has been much more
positive  than  Freud's  fear and trembling  over  our latent
instinctual drives. C.G;.  Jung, for example, redefined the
Unconscious   in  terms  of  its  collective   resources   of
creativity.  Moreover, a self-styled  "Humanistic"  trend has
taken hold in America, purporting to offer an alternative  to
both  Freudianism  and  Behaviorism,  which  heretofore  have
dominated the psychotherapeutic scene.
   These claims notwithstanding, an abiding consistency in the
view of human nature as inherently  weak and constitutionally
inept  in its  dealings  with  natural  forces  remains.  The
assumption  of a fatal  flaw  has gone largely  unchallenged.
Buddhism's  emphasis on self-reliance  goes against the grain
of the Judeo-Christian  tradition.  The latter is constructed
around the core assumption of Original Sin passed on from the
primal  parents  (and beyond our control).  The corollary  of
this  theological  assumption  is Christianity's  need  for a
sacrifical  victim, in the  person  of Jesus, to expiate  our
collective  guilt  as  Savior  of  all  humanity.  That  this
assumption  continues to suffuse Western culture is evidenced
by Jean Delumeau's  exploration  of the "cultural  history of
sin in the West":
38) Hui-neng,p. 370.
39) Nonetheless,  Yalom  observes  "Freud's   ideas  have  so
    influenced  the field that to a great extent the evolution
    of dynamic thought is the evolution of Freud's thought";
    p. 59.


      I think that sin exists, I feel its presence in me.
      Furthermore, I cannot  see how  one  can eliminate
      the idea of an Original Sin, whose scars we still bear.
      Freud felt this and tried to explain it, while both
      Bergson and Gouthier observed that "everything  happens
      as if there were an original defect in man."
      My book must therefore not be taken either as a refusal
      of guilt or the need for a consciousness of sin. On the
      contrary, I think  it will shed light  on the excessive
      sense   of  guilt   and  "culpabilization"...that   has
      characterized Western history.(40)

    One corroborating example from the realm of psychology
can  be found  in Abraham  Maslow.  Heralded  for  his upbeat
theories, Maslow emphasizes  an optimistic  striving to reach
the pinnacle of one's individual  potential  under the banner
of "self-actualization."  Despite this effusive  terminology,
however, Maslow has little hope concerning the self's ability
to thwart impinging forces, especially when compared to Zen's
confidence  in our Original Nature.  While Maslow asserts the
goodness or neutrality of what he deems our "inner nature" in
the grounding  assumptions  of his psychology, he goes  on to
provide the following characterization of that nature:

      It is weak and delicate and subtle and easily overcome
      by habit, cultural pressure, and wrong attitudes toward
      it....Even   though  denied,  it  persists  underground
      forever  pressing  for  actualization....every  falling
      away from species-virtue, every crime against one's own
      nature, every  evil  act, every  one without  exception
      records itself in our unconscious and makes us
40) Jean Delumeau, Sin.and Fear: The Emergence of a Western
    Guilt  Culture,  13th-18th  Centuries   (New  York:  St.
    Martin's Press, 1990).


      despise ourselves.(41)

This passage resonates with both Freudian views of the psyche
as a plaything  of external  powers  and  the  experience  of
existential  guilt.  Conditions  beyond our control  occasion
denial/repression of certain fundamental aspects of our inner
nature.  The insistence on commitment to our "species-virtue"
also demonstrates that Maslow is not prepared for the radical
transcendence  of humanness required in Buddhism's conception
of Original Nature.
    Similarly, Maslow's oft-cited "Hierarchy of Needs" reflects
a recognition of human limitations. According to this theory,
five  successive  levels  of  needs, expressive  of universal
human  nature, must be met:
    l)physiological  needs
    3)social, interpersonal needs
Satisfaction   of  the  "higher"   needs  presupposes   prior
satisfaction  of the "lower".  A species of determinism is at
work here, though it is much more subtle than the determinism
in Freud's system.  Maslow assumes that l) our physical needs
(food, sleep, etc.) are the sine qua non, the bottom line, in
human life.  Thus, only when they are first fulfilled  can we
seek 2) to solidify  our position psychologically, from which
point  we can move on to 3) human  interrelationships.  After
the need for others  has been realized  we must 4) acquire  a
positive  self-image before we are able to 5) maximize  our
potentials  in the  fullest  sense.  Such, for Maslow, is the
irrevocable   demand   of   human   life,  a  universal   and
inter-cultural phenomenon.
41) Abraham Maslow in his Introduction to Toward a Psychology
    of  Being,  2nd  ed.  (New  York: Van  Nostrand  Reinhold
    Company, 1968), pp.  3-5.  Under  these  same assumptions
    Maslow discusses the nature of anger; his comments invite
    comparison   with  the  Buddhist  notion  of  the  "three
    poisons"  mentioned  above: "Anger is in itself not evil,
    nor  is  fear, laziness, or even  ignorance.  Of  course,
    these  can  and  do  lead  to  evil  behavior,  but  they


   The model found in Buddhism again differs greatly. Even if
we assume that the fifth and final stage, self-actualization,
is inclusive of enlightenment (a most optimistic assumption),
the  other  four  steps  pose  the possibility  of indefinite
postponement.  When, indeed, can  we be certain  those  other
needs have been fulfilled, such that we are at last liberated
from  natural  necessity? How far do our physiological  needs
really extend--how much food, sleep, etc. is necessary before
progressing  to a sense  of security? What  is an appropriate
means of assuring security--a stable job, a six-digit income?
Without  human  bonding   is  a  sense  of  security   indeed
impossible? Even then how broad and intricate must this human
network   be  in  order  for  one  to  feel  fulfilled?  Most
problematic  of  all  is the  emphasis  on self  at what  are
assumed  to  be  the  highest  levels  of  development.   Zen
practitioners  would seem to defy their own nature  when they
defy  the  promptings  of  what  Maslow  takes  to be natural
necessity.  What shall we say of those who forego fulfillment
of the lower level needs while  meditating  --abjuring  food,
sleep, human  interaction, and all sense  of self (much  less
self-esteem!).  Are they, then, not human? Buddhism's element
of  self-transcendence,  including  a  transcendence  of  the
human, is again crucial  here.  Perhaps  Maslow has misjudged
human  nature, ascribing  to it limitations  that are neither
universal nor insurmountable.
    Another problematic aspect of Maslow's view is his emphasis
on the polarities  of growth  and deficiency.  We must either
move forward  or remain  defective.  The "process  of healthy
growth" is elaborated in terms of mutually exclusive choices:
"a never ending series of free choice situations, confronting
each individual  at every point throughout his life, in which
he must choose  between  the delights  of safety  and growth,
dependence  and  independence,  regression  and  progression,
immaturity  and  maturity."(42) In  Zen, however, realization
rather   than  growth   is  the  focus--realization   of  our
pre-existing  and pristine Original Nature.  There is nowhere
to grow to, nor is there an innate  weakness  or defect  to be
42)Maslow, p. 47.

P. 475

Death: The Ultimate Challenge
    Of all the dualisms that riddle psychotherapy in the West,
the most challenging  of all revolves  around life and death.
Polish  poet  Czeslaw  Milosz  fantacizes  escape  from  this
inescapable and terrifying reality:

      ....for a short time there is no death
      And time does not unravel like a skein of yarn
      Thrown into an abyss.(43)

Like its religious predecessors, psychotherapy  is challenged
to offer a response  to the fact of human mortality.  Western
religion's  response  has largely  taken  the form of denial,
made  possible  by positing  the existence  of another  realm
beyond the material.  Thus, our mortality  is limited  to our
physical  being  and  does  not  affect  the soul  or psyche.
Accordingly,    the     central     event     of    Christian
theology--ritualized   in  the   Mass--is   the   death   and
resurrection  of Jesus Christ.  Through  his own conquest  of
death, Jesus has imparted  salvation  and immortality  to all
believers, precisely  as the primal guilt of Adam and Eve has
been imparted  to all human  beings.  The sins of the parents
are visited  on the children  while, conversely, the glory of
the "Son of Man"/"Son of God" is equally available to all.
     Freud, of course, was less sanguine and as a scientist
had grave reservations  about religion, characterizing  it as
"an attempt to get control  over the sensory  world, in which
we  are  placed, by means  of the  wish-world, which  we have
developed   inside   us  as  a  result   of  biological   and
psychological   necessities.   But  it  cannot  achieve   its
end....lts  consolations  deserve no trust."(44) In his later
years Freud was compelled  to confront the perennial  problem
of death without the benefit of religious  consolation.  Most
importantly, he was forced to modify
43) Czeslaw Milosz, "The Garden of Earthly Delights", Unattainable
    Earth  (1986).
44) Sigmund    Freud,   new   Introductory    Lectures    on
    Psychoanalysis, Lecture 35.  "A Philosophy  of Life" included
    in Vol. 54 of the Great Books, p. 878.

P. 476

his earlier view of human nature as motivated exclusively  by
the  Pleasure  Principle   to  explain  the  persistence   of
contradictory  behavior.  Hence, to the primal  instinct  for
pleasure,  identified   as  Eros,  was   added   the   "Death
    A new manifestation of the eternal inner conflict ensued
from these dual manifestations  of the Id, with the forces of
life (sexuality) confronting those of death.  Thus, according
to Freud's  analysis, the human being seeks both pleasure  or
prolonging/propagating  life  and  its  extinction  in death.
Somewhat paradoxically, both of these instinctual  drives are
grounded in the same end--homeostasis  or the elimination  of
tension.   The  tension,  experienced   as  pain  created  by
unfulfilled  instinctual  drives, is eradicated by satisfying
those drives, as pleasure  results from the reinstatement  of
balance in the organism. Death, on the other hand, represents
the elimination  of all tension, by eliminating  the organism
along with its potential for both balance and imbalance.
  Ultimately, then, the instinct for self-destruction detected
by Freud seeks to return us to pre-life oblivion.
    It has been suggested that Freud sought in the Death Instinct
"a  natural  correspondence   between  the  inevitability  of
physical  death  and the drive  of the human  personality  to
accept  this, even to seek it unconsciously  in a mixture  of
biological fulfillment  and resignation."(46) In other words,
this was Freud's  means of making scientific  sense out of an
indisputable  fact,  fitting  death  into  the  deterministic
scheme  of things as a "natural"  consequence.  Freud himself
alludes  to the comfort  that  can be derived  from the Death
Instinct  hypothesis: "If we are  to die ourselves, and first
to lose those who are dear to us, it is easier to submit to a
remorseless  law of nature, to the sublime necessity, than to
a chance which might perhaps  have been escaped."(47) Indeed,
Freud speculated
45) See Freud's Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920).
46) Stafford-Clark, p.193.
47) Sigmund Freud, Beyond the Pleasure Principle, Standard Ed.,
    Vol. XVIII, James Strachey trans. (London: Hogarth Press,
    1968), p. 45.


that the "pleasure  principle  seems  actually  to serve  the
death instincts,"(48) giving the latter ultimate priority  in
the psychic realm--pleasure as the means to the end of death.
As Freud himself puts it 'the aim of all life is death'. (49)
    The fact that no alternative exists may seem to provide
scant comfort, especially when compared to the "escape route"
outlined  by the Buddha  in the  Four  Noble  Truths, and the
Eight-fold Path in particular.  Ironically, or perhaps simply
misguidedly, Freud  uses  the  term  "Nirvaana-principle"  as
identical  with the Death Instinct designating  a stabilizing
force with "the aim of extinguishing, or at least maintaining
at  as  low   a  level   as  possible,  the   quantities   of
excitation",(50) representing  "a need to restore  an earlier
state  of things".(51) Yet, it also offers  a point  of entry
for    exploring    the    differences     between    Western
psychotherapeutic and Zen approaches to death.
    The major trends in Western psychotherapy, as exemplified
in Freud, teach  people  how to cope  or come  to terms  with
existing  social  reality.  The focus  is on balancing  inner
drives  and outer expectations.  Freud  offers  an insightful
description of his own intentions:

      We have formulated our therapeutic task as one of bringing
      to the knowledge of the patient the unconscious, repressed
      impulses existing in his mind and, to this end, of uncovering
      the resistances that oppose themselves to this extension of
      his knowledge about himself....out hope is to achieve this
      by exploiting the patient's transference to the person of
      the physician....I have expounded elsewhere the dynamic
      conditions in the new conflict we lead the patient through,
      which we have substituted in him for the previous conflict
      of his illness. (52)
48) Freud, Beyond the Pleasure Principle, p. 63.
49) Freud, Beyond the Pleasure Principle, p. 38.
50) Sigmund Freud, "The Economic Problem in Masochism",
    Sigmund Freud: Collected Papers, Vol. II, Joan Riviere trans.
     (New York: Basic Books, Inc., 1959), pp. 255-56.
51) See Freud, Beyond the Pleasure Principle, pp. 56-57.
52) Freud, "Turnings in the Ways of Psychoanalytic Therapy", pp. 392-93.


   However, while one may cure a neurosis by treating it as
an aberrant attempt at conflict  resolution  and make one fit
to re-enter  human society, no cure is offered  or sought for
the  more  fundamental  problem  of  Life  and  Death.  Thus,
psychotherapy  serves primarily as a means of self-adjustment
to Samsaara  (aptly  rendered  as Life and Death in Chinese).
Dukkha, reinterpreted  as tension, is dealt with by reference
to the instinct for pleasure or the elimination of tension in
homeostasis.  But, being  ultimately  a futile  endeavor, the
Death  Instinct  alone provides  the final resolution  of all
tensions.   Awash   with  determinism,  Freud's   view  seems
congruent with the Buddha's Noble Truths, at least in part:
    I. Life is dukkha/tension.
    II.Dukkha/derives   from  ta.nhaa/instinct.
   III.To  end dukkha/tension  we must  eliminate  ta.nhaa,
       as   the   proximate   cause   of   dukkha   or,  more
       fundamentally, eliminate the ignorance (avidyaa) which
       is its root cause (that is, satisfy instincts  through
       the Pleasure Principle or else obliterate them through
       the Death Instinct).
    Conspicuously  absent  is  the  fourth  and  final  truth
outlining  the  Eight-fold  Path.   No  practice  leading  to
transcendence is offered. Without this component the analysis
of Life and Death  loses  the optimistic  edge of Liberation,
being replaced by Freud's resgination to "sublime necessity."
The  transcendence  of Samsaara  for  Nirvaa.na--or  the  Zen
realization   of   Samsaara   as   Nirvaa.na,  Nirvaa.na   in
Samsaara--is likewise unimaginable.
    To summarize, for Freud and most psychotherapists in the
West, human nature is hopelessly  burdened  by the collective
weight of the Id forces that forever  dictate and delimit our
actions.   "Original  Nature"  thus  represents   a  kind  of
enslavement  rather than Zen's means of liberation.  All that
remains   is  to  make  the  best  of  a  bad  situation   by
rationalizing  it scientifically.  For Freud  the problem  of
Life and Death is biologically  posed, and hence must also be
resolved biologically  (that is, through the Death Instinct).
In  Zen,  however,  the  self-generated   bonds   of  desire,
clinging, etc.  allow  for  our  own action  to dissolve  the
problem of Samsaara by seeing its mergence in Nirvaa.na.

P. 479

    Although both psychotherapy and Zen recognize our problems
as self-generated--whether in the form of existential guilt or
"sin"-only   Zen   provides   the  means   for   "conquering"
conditioned genesis by opting out of the cycle completely. At
the root of this difference lies psychotherapy's  fixation on
the psyche --  aatman, the illusory  ego-self--as  opposed to
Zen's adherence to the real or Original Nature, characterized
as anaatta/anaatman.  As a consequence, psychotherapy  is not
only seeking solutions  in the wrong place (namely Samsaara),
but also is searching for the wrong object (aatman). Hence we
cannot help but remain enmeshed in impermanence  (anicca) and

II. Variations   on   the   Psychotherapeutic   Theme:
    The Logotherapy of Viktor E. Frankl

    Not all forms of Western psychotherapy fall into the same
traps as those noted above.  In the following I shall discuss
one  school--Logotherapy--that  manifests  certain  qualities
indicative  of a striving for transcendence  in the direction
of  Zen.  At the  same  time, it falls  short  of  a complete
liberation from samsaaric bonds.  The reason for this failure
further illuminates  the differences  between Zen and Western
psychotherapeutic trends.
    Logotherapy--literally "therapy  through  meaning" (logos)
--originates  from Viktor  Frankl's  sense of the limitations
and misperceptions  of his predecessors.  More  specifically,
Frankl  offers his own "dimensional  ontology"  to supplement
the oversights  of Freud  (whom he studied) and Alfred  Adler
(Freud's  erstwhile  student and one time heir apparent whose
school Frankl once belonged to).  Frankl asserts that Western
psychotherapy has failed to grasp the
53) Fritz Perls illuminates this point: "This is Freud's great
    discovery--that  there is something  between  you and the
    world....Freud's  idea  that  the intermediate  zone, the
    DMZ, this no-man's  land between you and the world should
    be eliminated, emptied out, brainwashed  or whatever  you
    want to call it, was perfectly right. The only trouble is
    that  Freud  stayed  in  that  zone  and  analyzed   this
    intermediate thing. He didn't consider the self-awareness
    or world-awareness;  he didn't consider what we can do to
    be in touch again."; pp. 49-50.


complexity of human nature. He seeks to expand the definition
beyond reductionist  tendencies  that make the human "nothing
but" another  organism  governed  by drives for sexuality  or
aggression  (the rat model) or malfunctioning  component (the
machine model).(54) It is here that Frankl begins to resonate
with Zen's insights.
    Frankl's scheme can be summarized as follows:

      Freud--Will to Pleasure, the physiological dimension
      (sexuality, sensuality, hedonism--the infant stage)
      Adler--Will to Power, the psychological dimension
      (money, politics, fame--the adolescent stage)
      Frankl--Will to Meaning, the noological dimension
      (spiritual--the adult stage)
        Love/experiential values, what one takes from the
        world (an external source of meaning in other human
        beings, Nature, etc.)
        Work/creative values, what one gives to the world
        (an internal source through service, creations, etc.)
        Suffering/attitudina1 values, one's interaction with
        and response to the world.
    Of special significance in Frankl's ontology is his attempt
to account for transformational elements in human nature, our
inherent human resources  for self-transcendence  able to act
alongside   and   beyond   instinctual   drives.    In   this
"ontological"   dimension   lies  his  "height   psychology",
countering  the  "depth  psychology"  of  Freud  and  others.
Frankl's discussions  do not focus on the conflicting  forces
of  Id,  Ego,  and  Super-Ego;   nor  does   his  therapeutic
interaction    with   patients   necessitate   delving   past
experiences, particularly childhood traumas, as the causes of
present neuroses.  Frankl supplements  the scientific methods
of Freud with existential  philosophy  (and at one point even
referred to his school as Existential Analysis).  He descries
the pan-determinism
54) See Viktor E. Frankl, The Unheard  Cry for Meaning:
    Psychotherapy and Humanism (New York: Simon & Schuster,
    1978), pp. 55-57.


or all-encompassing sense of determinism inherent in Freudian
thought. In its places he proposes a reinstatement of freedom
and  responsibility.   Unlike  the  majority   of  therapies,
Logotherapy   is  receptive   to  the  healing  potential  of
spirituality, seeing such currents as part of the cure rather
than a symptom of neurosis.(55)
    Nonetheless, as a scientifically trained professional,
Frankl is not completely  comfortable  with the inclusion  of
religion.  His coinage of the term "no1ogical"  (from "noos"
and  "nous", "mind"),  although  essentially  descriptive  of
spiritual  expressions, allows  him to clothe his discussions
in a mantle of respectability imparted by a Greek derivation.
Despite his advocacy of "cosmic meaning", Frankl's  treatment
of religion tends to be similarly circumspect. In general God
remains   for   Frankl   an   indispensable,  but   eternally
unprovable, hypothesis, much  as it is for Immanuel  Kant  in
his "als ob" moral philosophy. (56)

    By putting meaning uppermost in his analysis of human
nature, Frankl orients his therapy toward helping patients to
realize their personal life meaning. The lack of such meaning
Frankl identifies  as the mass neurosis  of modern times--the
Existential   Vacuum--a   gaping   hole  resulting   from   a
disconnectedness.  between  fact and values  that can only be
bridged  by meaning.  The parallels  to Buddhist  Sunyata are
manifest  here, although  in the  latter  case  no pejorative
value judgment  is attached  to this ultimate  expression  of
reality.  The Vacuum  or Void then becomes  our final  target
rather than something to be avoided.
55) In this regard, Frankl quotes a letter from Sigmund Freud
    to Ludwig  Binswanger  in which Freud states  that he had
    "already  found a place for religion, by putting it under
    the category of the neurosis of mankind."  Frankl goes on
    to observe  that "Even a genius cannot completely  resist
    his  Zeitgeist, the  spirit  of his  age";  The  Will  to
    Meaning: Foundations and Applications of Logotherapy (New
    York: New  American  Library, 1969), p.  27
56) Frankl's ambivalence  toward religion  is perhaps best seen
    in  the   closing   lines   of  his   unpublished   play,
    "Synchronization  in Buchenwald", where  the  protagonist
    calls  out in turn to his dead  mother, brother, and God.
    The first two respond  from their afterlife  environment,
    while  the  response  from  God  is  simply  a thundering


The Logotherapist and the Zen Master
    Frankl's therapeutic method manifests certain similarities
to Zen.  For example, like  a logotherapist, the Zen Master's
finger  points to the moon of Original  Nature without  being
able  to impart  that nature  to the disciple.
    Moreover, the importance of self-reliance is stressed in
both  Zen and Logotherapy--as  Frankl  notes  "truth  imposes
itself  and  needs  no intervention".(57) Frankl  rejects  an
approach  that would presume to give meaning  to the patients
or it create  it for them, since  each person  possesses  the
freedom  and responsibility  to realize their unique meaning,
for "the meaning  of our lives is not invented  by ourselves,
but rather  detected".(58) Thus, he compares  the role of the
logotherapist  to that  of an opthamologist, that is, one who
corrects  the patient's  vision  so that they may see reality
for  themselves, as  opposed  to  a painter  who  presents  a
picture of reality to the patient: "The logotherapist's  role
consists in widening  and broadening  the visual field of the
patient  so that  the whole  spectrum  of meaning  and values
becomes conscious and visible".(59)

    Yet  another  area  of congruence  is found  in their
respective  methodologies.  A characteristic  logotherapeutic
technique  is to help the patient  realize  their  own unique
meaning and responsibility in life. This is comparable to the
dynamics  that exist between  the Zen Master and the disciple
aspiring  toward seeing their Original  Nature.  The patient,
like   the   Zen  practitioner,  begins   at  the  level   of
hyperreflection--an excessive concern with one's own problems
to the exclusion of all other concerns.  In the patient, this
condition  may manifest  itself as a wallowing  in self-pity,
one  is deeply  sunk  in one's  own  Existential  Vacuum, and
oblivious  to  the  surrounding  reality.  The  Zen  student,
although intellectually aware of the samsaaric nature of this
suffering (dukkha)--as  well  as its universality--seeks  the
Buddhist means of ending it, as outlined in
57) Frankl, Man's Search  for  Meaning, p. 175.
58) Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning: An Introduction to
    Logotherapy(New York: Pocket Books, 1963), p. 157.
59) See Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning, p. 174.


the Four Noble Truths. However, existential or lived awareness
is  lacking.   The   problem   then   becomes   fixation   on
enlightenment, becoming  what Pai-Chang  aptly  describes  as
"one  who is fond  of the raft  and  will  not  give  it up,"
"intoxicated by the wine of pure things."(60)
    The initial task of the logotherapist/Zen Master is thus
to broaden the vision of their charges through the process of
dereflection, gradually turning the focus of attention toward
reality  as a whole.  In the context of Logotherapy, this may
take  the  form  of  paradoxical   intention,  an  unexpected
response to the patient's seeking of solace.  For example, in
response to a distraught  patient's  litany of travail Frankl
pointedly  asks  "Why  do you  not  commit  suicide?"(61) The
similarity  to the Zen koan is obvious  here.(62) Both pose a
jarring   challenge   to  our  trite   expectations,  thereby
challenging  us  to draw  upon  more  than  mere  conditioned
response--the  primal resources of Original Nature in Zen and
the   noological   dimension   in  Logotherapy.   Both   thus
demonstrate  Frankl's  insistence  on the need  for  creative
tension   as  "an   indispensable   prerequisite   of  mental
health"(63)--  in sharp  contrast  to Freud's  assumption  of
homeostasis as the optimum state of an organism.  For Frankl,
one "is questioned by life; and ...can only answer to life by
answering for his own life",(64) a process facilitated by the
person   of  the  Zen  master  or  logotherapist.   Moreover,
paradoxical  intention  is  seen  to  be "a  useful  tool  in
treating   obsessive,  compulsive   and  phobic   conditions,
especially    in   cases    with   underlying    anticipatory
anxiety."(65) What better  description  could be given of the
dukkha inherent to the human condition, infected by the three
poisons of greed, anger, and ignorance!
60) Sayings and Doings of Pai-Chang, Thomas Cleary trans.
    (Center Publications), pp. 30-32.
61) See Gordon W. Allport's Preface to Frankl, Man's Search
    for Meaning. p. vii.
62) A discussion of this topic can be found in Cliff Edwards'
    "Logotherapy and Zen: Anecdotal Approaches to Meaning"
    in Sandra A. Wawrytko ed., Analecta Frankliana: The
    Proceedings of the First World Congress of Logotherapy
    (1980) (Berkeley, California: Institute of Logotherapy
    Press, 1982), pp. 301-09
63) Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning, p. 164.
64) Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning, p. 172.
65) Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning, p.201


    If successful this technique elicits detachment or a
distancing  from one's obscuring self-involvement.  Thus, the
distraught    patient   is   stimulated   by   the   shocking
counter-question  of the logotherapist to provide a multitude
of reasons  as to why  he or she should  not commit  suicide,
whereas previously they were passively waiting to be provided
with  that  meaning.  Correspondingly, in  Zen  the  apparent
request for a logical  response  to the counter-logical  koan
question belies the true intent of drawing upon the student's
trans-rational resources, rooted in Original Nature.  In both
Logotherapy  and  Zen, humor  is reognized  as  an  effective
expression of paradoxical intention. Frankl's own experiences
in the death  camps  of World  War II Frankl  confirmed  that
"humor, more  than  anything  else  in the human  makeup, can
afford  an aloofiness  and  an  ability  to  rise  above  any
situation,  even  if  only  for  a  few  seconds."(66)  Given
sufficient  prior cultivation, satori may indeed  be attained
satori may indeed be attained within these few seconds.
    An interesting integration of Frankl's technique of paradoxical
intention  is found in the story of Ch'an master  Hsien-yai's
successful  intervention  (by  non-intervention) in  a marital
conflict.  While traveling  the Master  encountered  a couple
engaged   in   a  violent   quarrel,  hurling   threats   and
counter-threats  at each other.  Rather than trying to reason
them out of their anger or address  them directly, the Master
called  on passers-by  to come and see the excitement, luring
them with the prospect of an imminent homicide.  When someone
in the crowd objected to such behavior  on the part of a monk
the Master  replied  that this was quite consistent  with his
calling, since it represented a good opportunity to earn some
money by performing funeral services. As the argument between
the Master and the irate spectator  escalated, the couple was
distracted/dereflected  from their own hyperreflective state.
This  humor-induced  detachment  paved  the  way  to  a final
resolution  of both the quarrel and their dysfunctional  mode
of interaction.
    The final stage in the therapeutic process is in Logotherapy
66) Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning, p.68.


dence and in  Zen  enlightenment.  Here  Frankl  has  made  a
valuable  contribution  to psychotherapy  by pointing  beyond
both Freud's self-involved  Ego/Id/Super-Ego construction and
Maslow's culminating point in self-actualization, Ego-centrism
is  at  last  decentralized,  edging  close  upon  Buddhism's
anaatta  insight.  Frankl  even  flirts  with non-duality  by
insisting that our own happiness is only possible when we are
willing  to forego  it for the sake  of something  or someone
outside ourselves.  He employs the analogy  of the boomerang,
which, like happiness, returns  to us only  when it has first
been  thrown  away.  Taken  a step further, this  leads  to a
recognition of the artificiality of ego-boundaries, such that
self  and  others   are  not  separated.   However,  Frankl's
Western-trained sensibilities seem to prevent him from taking
this final step into the nirvaanic Void.
    As illustrated through these paralleling processes, the
role  of the logotherapist  is far  closer  to that  of a Zen
Master than to a Freudian psychoanalyst. The latter functions
as a mediator, an object  of transference, who all too  often
induces a state of utter dependency in the patient.  There is
in Freud's  therapy  a presupposed  ideal  of how the psychic
elements  of Ego, Id, and Super-Ego are to be integrated, set
limitations   for  handling  repressed   instincts,  definite
expectations   as  to   the   value   of  sublimation.   This
authoritarian  stance  is largely  absent  in logotherapeutic
theory, and  even  moreso  in Zen, both  of  which  emphasize
self-reliance.  Both also share a common  optimism  about the
patient's  ability  to reveal pre-existing  values, either in
the form of meaning or the Original Nature.
    Finally, Frankl's approach is future-oriented, is focussed
on a goal to be accomplished  or meaning to be realized.  The
past  is not allowed  to be used  as an excuse  for  shirking
present  responsibilities.  As Frankl  tells  a patient: What
counts  is not what lurks in the depths but what waits in the
future, waits to be actualized by you." (67) Like the Buddha,
Frankl counsels against speculating on
67) Viktor E. Frankl, "Fragments from the Logotherapeutic
    Treatment of Four Cases" in Modern Psychotherapeutic
    Practice, A. Burton ed. (Pale Alto, California: Science
    and Behavior Books, 1965), pp. 365-67.


the causes  for one's condition, and instead  encourages  the
patient  to simply  get on with  their  life  task.  Just so,
Hui-neng exhorts us to non-attachment  by declaring  "let the
past be dead".(68)

Love, Work, and Suffering; Wisdom, Compassion, and Practice
    Comparisons also exist with regard to the three sources
of meaning  recognized  by Frankl.  The  experiential  values
reflected  in it may be correlated  with wisdom (prajna), the
creative  values  of work with  compassion  (karuna), and the
attitudinal values of suffering with practice. These pairings
also  serve  to disclose  the  limitations  inherent  in  the
logotherapeutic methodology, revealing its groping toward the
insights  that reach  their  full  realization  only  in Zen.
Frankl  sees these as three  equally  accessible  avenues  to
meaning, three interchangeable  routes to satisfying the will
to  meaning.  Nonetheless, suffering  is  said  to  hold  the
promise  of meaning  only when  it concerns  an "inescapable,
unavoidable  situation", as "a last chance  to actualize  the
highest  value,  to  fulfill  the  deepest  meaning".(69)  In
Buddhism, however, the  first  Noble  Truth  recognizes  that
suffering  (dukkha) in its myriad  forms  pervades  the  life
experience.  Accordingly, a a vehicle to meaning, it does not
represent  a "last chance", but rather is an integral part of
all meaning.  Suffering  as dukkha is indeed the one and only
means to meaning.  Furthermore, the division of experiential,
creative, and attitudinal  values is merely  provisional, for
in essence they are inseparable.
    Frankl characterizes love as something to be experienced
or "taken" from the world, from which one might assume it has
more in common  with the emotion  of compassion  than wisdom.
However, the Buddhist practitioner does not merely experience
the world through love, but actively seeks to transform  that
world.  Wisdom, then, seems a more appropriate parallel here,
in the sense of its being an existential acquisition by means
of lived experience.  The limitation  in Frankl's conception,
from the Buddhist  standpoint, is seen in his description  of
experiential   values  as  being  "realized  by  the  passive
receiving of the
68) Hui-neng, p 391.
69) Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning, p. 178.


world (nature, art) into the ego".(70) This quotation reveals
that the self/other  distinction, the illusion of ego/aatman,
is itself  the limiting  factor  here. The redeeming  aspect
is that love also is said to open the lover to as broader and
deeper vision of the cosmos, which in turn may  serve as  the
occasion for removing that selfsame dualistic delusion.
    Work, like compassion, constitutes a creative expression,
what  we "give"  to  the  world, thus  a natural  progression
beyond the acquiring  of insight.  Buddhist  love, unlike its
more mundane human expression, fits this description by being
rooted     in    meditational     practice.     It    is    a
microcosmic-macrocosmic   merging   or  dissolution   of  the
ego-self, (71) a mystical  love made  possible  by detachment
from  the  samsaric  realm,  while  simultaneously  rendering
service  to those  who remain  deluded  by Samsaara.  On this
point the Buddhist approach comes into conflict with Frankl's
emphasis    on   the    indispensibility,   irreplaceability,
uniquenmess, and singulaiity  of the individual  as an active
agent.(72) Such assumptions  are indicative of being enmeshed
in the "demon  net" of the would-be  Bodhisattva  or "warrior
for enlightenment".(73)
    A liability of both experiential and creative values in
Frankl's approach is that he often discusses them in terms of
"the optimism of the past"--a perspective  that envisions the
past as a permanent  storehouse  of values.  This contradicts
Hui-neng's  directive  to "let the past  be dead".  Only  the
attitudinal  values of suffering, practice (dhyana leading to
samadhi),  is  present  and future-oriented.  Suffering  also
offers the most promise  here as a catalyst  for what I refer
to  as  "serendipitous  enlightenment",  that  is,  a  crisis
situation  that has the effect of allowing  an individual  to
achieve    insight   into   reality    through   a   critical
reconsideration   of  their   past  value  system.   Such  an
experience thrusts the person
70) Viktor E. Frankl, The Doctor and the Soul: From Psychotherapy
    to Logotherapy, Richard and Clara Winston trans. (New York:
    Vantage Books, 1973), p. 105.
71) For an elaboration of the intricacies of Buddhist love-in
    the forms of mettaa, karunaa, muditaa, and upekkhaa -- see
    Yoshinori, pp. 42-47.
72) Frankl, The Doctor and the Soul, p. 35.
73) Pai-CVhang,  p. 35.


headlong into the Existential Vacuum. and may even induce the
symptomatology of existential neurosis. Numerous cases are to
be  found   both  within   and  beyond   the  logotherapeutic
literature.   All  share  a  common  core  experience  --  an
accidentally  provoked  crisis  that  serves  to  expose  the
superficiality    of   previously    held    goals,   thereby
precipitating  a confrontation  with one's life task from the
vantage point of a new, broader perspective.
    While Logotherapy does not advocate that the individual
actively seek such crises (which, according  to Frankl, would
amount  to  masochism), it does  propose  a structure  within
which   they   can  be  made  meaningful   when  unavoidable.
Buddhistically speaking one may say that suffering in general
--  the samsaric cycle of dukkha -- is unavoidable, and hence
every   experience   is  potentially   enlightenmental.   But
Buddhism, and Zen in particular, goes even further to propose
a plan of action  or practice  under these  circumstances, as
contained  in  Buddhist  Dharma.   What  in  Frankl's  scheme
represents  a negative  happenstance  that is therapeutically
transformed, in Zen becomes the ground of the human condition
(as well as the non-human), and the focal  point  of Buddhist
"therapy".  The Zen Buddhist  thus  does  not masochistically
pursue suffering, but does undertake to deal with the fact of
its existence.
    If successful, self-transcendence follows from working
through the process from hyperreflection  to dereflection and
detachment.  One example concerns  a young man from Texas who
aspired  to every boy's  dream --  the life of a cowboy.  His
goal was within  his reach  when  in his late teens  a tragic
accident left him a quadriplegic.  Obviously, he could not be
a wheelchair cowboy.  After considerable  soul-searching  and
inspiration   derived  from  Logotherapy   his  serendipitous
enlightenment led to a personal transformation.  He concluded
that rather than being worst off after the accident he was in
fact blessed, for it forced him to reconsider  his options in
life.  He decided to continue  his education, which otherwise
would have ended after high school, in pursuit of a degree in
psychology, toward  the  end  of  counseling  those  who  has
undergone    similar    life-shattering    and    potentially
life-transforming  experiences.  Here he found the meaning of
his tragedy, making it an opportunity for self-transformation


    As testimony to Frankl's insights about the pervasiveness
of the Existential  Vacuum  in contemportary  society, we may
cite the trend toward crisis-inducing organizations. These may
take the form of intensive  group therapy sessions, isolation
tanks, or  wilderness  survival  courses.  Such  programs  as
"Outward   Bound"  are  particularly   designed   to  provide
rehabilitation  and  therapy  to  juvenile  delinquents.  The
intent is to instill  a realization  of inner resources  as a
means to building self-confidence and bolstering self-esteem,
such  that  the individual  becomes  a productive  member  of
society.  Herein  lies  the  problem, for  even  if they  are
successful,  such  experiences  serve  only  to  bolster  the
(illusory)  ego-self   and  reinforce   samsaaric   fixation.
Moreover,  the  artificiality   of  these  self-induced   and
other-directed  crisis situations  differs greatly from Zen's
recognition of the existing life crisis of Samsaara.  What is
lacking   in  the  Western   models  is  a  firmly   grounded
philosophical  basis and discipline, a set of guidelines  for
venturing into the very depths of the samsaaric Void.
   Extending Buddhism's broadened view of suffering as pervasive
of life experience, we can take a fresh look at Frankl's most
influential  and widely-known  work, Man's Search for Meaning.
Originally  entitled  A Psychologist  Experiences  the  Death
Camp, the text is divided  into two parts: the first  details
Frankl's experiences  as a prisoner in the Nazi concentration
camps,  while   the  second   outlines   his  logotherapeutic
principles.  It  is perhaps  not  inappropriate  to  see  the
concentration  camp as a metaphor for samsaaric existence  in
  The condition holds either directly (in the case of the
inmates) or indirectly  (as in case  of their  overseers, who
envision   themselves   as  inflicting,  rather   than  being
subjected to, suffering). The three stages experienced by the
prisoner in Frankl's account then are applicable to the broad
spectrum of humanity. The first of these stages--the delusion
of reprieve--aptly  characterizes the state of those who look
to some divine  force  to provide  salvation  from  the human
condition, usually  in the form of a paradisiacal  afterlife.
Western  science has discredited  this hope, as reflected  in
Freudian psychotherapy. Hence, there is a


move  toward   the  second  stage  of  Adjustment,  the  most
complicated  as well as the most long lasting phase.  For the
camp inmate this stage requires  a gradual acceptance  of the
abnormal   as   normal,  including   emotional   hibernation,
desensitization, and overall  apathy.  The  concerns  of life
take  on a primal  immediacy, eliciting  the  very  instincts
Freud  deems  to be the source  of human  energies.  The only
remaining  course,  as  Freud  counsels,  is  resignation  to
irrevocable, natural necessity.  Only Zen ventures beyond, to
offer the prospect of liberation, in the sense of escape from
Samsaara and realization of the co-existing  nirvaanic state.
In what Frankl  refers  to as a "rehumanization"  process, we
can conceive of the liberated  inmate's  re-establishment  of
contact  with Original  Nature, which  has been thwarted  and
obscured by samsaaric submergence.
    Thus, we see in Logotherapy a much more successful attempt
to deal with the human condition than Freudian theory -- much
more optimistic  about the inherent  powers  of human nature.
Nonetheless,  in  lacking   the  structural   basis  for  the
enlightenment    process,   for    cultivation    prior    to
enlightenment, and  its dependence  on the  unreliability  of
"serendipitous  enlightenment", it continues  to  lag  behind
Zen.  Unaware of the universality  of suffering, it therefore
relegates  the approach  needed  for nirvanic  liberation  to
extraordinary  circumstances.
Death  as the Sine  Qua Non of Meaning
     The final topic to be considered in the light of Logotherapy
is that of death and its relationship to life. As seen above,
Freud ultimately was moved to posit a Death Instinct in order
to bring  some  semblance  of rationality  to this  universal
human  phenomenon.  Death  proved  no  less  troublesome  for
Frankl, and in fact constitutes  the beginning  point  of his
therapeutic search.  He recounts his own precocious encounter
with  the mortality  at age four.(74) This catalyst  launched
his lifelong search for meaning.  Given the fact of death, he
queried, how could  life  hold  any  meaning? His answer  was
phrased  in terms  of the meaning  of death  itself, or, more
precisely, the fact that death imparts meaning to life. Thus,
in the context of Logotherapy, death becomes not a necessary
74) See Stephen Kalmar, "A Brief History of Logotherapy"
    in Analecta Frankliana p. XVI.


evil  of Nature  to which  we must  resign  ourselves, but  a
guarantor  of the meaning  life, and hence  a focal point  of
    How does Frankl accomplish this transformation of death?
He begins  by delving  the etymology  of the word "finite", a
word of usually negative  connotations.  Western  culture has
evidenced an overwhelming  preference  for the infinitem, the
eternal, qualities  associated  with divinity.  Frankl argues
for an attitudinal  change in terms of our sense of the word,
which  thereby  entails  a  change  in  our  attitude  toward
death.(75) The word finite, says  Frankl, has a dual meaning,
derived from the Latin "finis", which signifies both a limit,
a boundary, or ending  point  and a goal.  If we conceive  of
death  in the  former  sense, as a limitation, as  is usually
done, then  it  becomes  a  barrier  for  us, something  that
represents the termination  of life.  If, however, we explore
the possibilities  inherent  in the second meaning of a goal,
death becomes integrated  as an intrinsic  part of the entire
life  process;  it is the finish  line  toward  which  we are
continually  striving, the time  limit  that  puts  all  that
precedes it into proper perspective.
    Frankl then asks us to consider the consequences of having
no such final goal.  Without the incentive (creative tension)
evoked  by impending  death, our lives would be characterized
by  interminable   postponement,  under  the  assumption   of
immortality. There would be no need to compete or even pursue
any project now, or to strive after professional  or personal
goals immediately, since we would literally have all the time
in  the  world  to  fulfill  any  and  all  of  them.   As  a
consequence, we would most likely accomplish  very little and
so suffer the overwhelming  effects of Existential Vacuum for
   Aldous Huxley offers a fictional account of just such a
terrifying immortality  in his novel After Many a Summer Dies
the Swan.  In the story an incredibly wealthy man devotes his
entire fortune  to finding the secret to life extension, only
to learn that there are inevitable negative accompaniments to
75) Frankl devotes  an entire section of  his text, The Doctor
    and the Soul: From Psychotherapy to Logotherapy, to "On
    the Meaning of Death" (New York: Vintage, 1973), pp. 63-92.
76) See Frankl,"On the Meaning of Death", The Doctor and the
    Soul, pp. 63-92.


this goal.  In living  far beyond  the human norm, he becomes
sunk in a Freudian-esque  oblivion  of primal  drives.  Death
under such circumstances  emerges not only as meaningful, but
moreover as a welcome relief.

III. The Zen Transcendence

   Turning now to Zen proper, we see that the dualism of life
and death  has been left  behind, as mere  relics  of the now
transcended  Samsaara.  Hence  the therapeutic  goal  differs
enormously from the Freudian resignation to death.  The means
to this goal, while related  to logotherapeutic  methods, far
exceed the scope of the latter.  Rather than teaching  one to
cope with samsaaric existence--however that may be conceived
--  Zen radicalizes our very being.  The Zen practitioner  is
not  content  with  an occasional  glimmer  of  serendipitous
enlightenment, but actively engages in Zen practice  to evoke
that  experience.  Most fundamentally, the difference  can be
traced  to Zen's profound  grasp of the mechanism  underlying
Samsaara (conditioned  genesis), along with practical methods
of escaping its grasp (meditation, etc.).  Zen transforms our
way  of  seeing  the  world  by pulling  aside  the  veil  of
illusion.  In so doing  it reveals  our Original  Nature  and
exposes the delusive fallacy of self-development and progress
beyond an assumedly defective point of origin.
    The crucial difference between Zen and Western psychotherapy
in terms of attitudes  towards  death  may be expressed  as a
difference in eschatology.  The term itself, derived from the
Greek  "eschatos", denotes  what is "further"  or "ultimate".
Invariably  it has been used with reference  to death  as the
assumed   ultimate   for   human   beings.    Despite   their
disagreements on the details, this interpretation seems valid
for both Freud and Frankl.  Freud resignedly  perceives death
as a matter  of natural  necessity, while Frankl rationalizes
its necessity  in terms of imparting  meaning to the finitude
of life.
     In Buddhism there is no eschatology, strictly speaking.
(77) To imagine an ul-
77) Thus, Yoshinori observes "viewed in its authentic sense,
    the dharma of the Buddha is eternal and there should be
    no such thing as an eschatology in Buddhism"; p. 60.

P. 493

timate beyond   the  eternal   present,  an  end  point  in
a progression to perfection, is contrary to Buddhist thought.
Both progress and death alike belong to the samsaaric  realm.
Enlightenment  itself  involves  the  "Great  Death"  of  the
psyche, an experience  far surpassing  mere physical death in
significance and profundity.  Zen offers detachment from life
as  well  as death, without  denial  or  redefinition.  Every
moment   is   simultaneously    samsaaric    and   nirvaanic,
simultaeously  life and death --  and neither life nor death,
in terms  of the Original  Nature.  Zen's attraction  for the
Japanese  samurai  stems from this same insight, as expressed
in the following verse:

      Some think that striking is to strike:
      But striking is not to strike, nor is killing to kill,
      He who strikes and he who is struck--
      They are both no more than a dream that has no reality.

    The death scenes of great Buddhist figures bear out this
death-preparedness.  Sakyamuni  Buddha, for example, passed
from physical realm with an exhortation  to his disciples  to
apply  themselves  to their  enlightenment.  Prior  his death
Hui-neng   observed:  "It  is  only  natural,  death  is  the
inevitable outcome of birth.  Even the Buddhas as they appear
in the world must manifest an earthly death before they enter
Parinirvana.  There will be no exception with me; my physical
body must be laid down somewhere. Fallen leaves go
78) Quoted by Daisetz T. Suzuki in Zen and Japanese Culture
    (New  York: Princeton  University  Press, 1973), p.  123,
    Yamamoto Tsunetomo (Jocho) echoes this same sentiment: "I
    have   discovered   that  the  Way  of  the  samurai   is
    death....In   order  to  be  a  perfect  samurai,  it  is
    necessary  to  prepare  oneself  for  death  morning  and
    evening, day in and day  out...One  begins  each  day  in
    quiet  meditation, imagining  one's  final  hour  and the
    various  ways  of dying....When  a warrior  is constantly
    prepared  for  death, he has  mastered  the  Way  of  the
    Quoted by Stephen Addiss and G.  Cameron Hurst III in
    Samurai  Painters  (Tokyo: Kodansha  International Ltd.,
    1983), p. 45.

P. 494

back  to the place  where  the root  is."(79) Numerous  death
scenes of Ch'an Masters demonstrate their ability to maintain
equanimity  in  their  final  moments.(80) Master  Nan-ch'uan
P'u-yiian  even manages  to insert  a humorous  note when  he
tells an inquisitive  disciple  that after he dies he intends
to go "down the hill to be a water buffalo".(81)
    There is in Zen no sense of tragic loss, no need to vanquish
the "enemy" of death.  Conflict  and duality  are let behind,
and a new attitude ensues:

      In life one is not stayed by life; in death, one is not
      obstructed by death. Though within the clusters [skandhas]
      Of matter, sensation, perception, coordination, and
      consciousness, it is as if a door had opened, and one is
      not obstructed by these five clusters. One is free to go
      or to stay, going out or entering in without difficulty.
79) Hui-neng, p. 443.
80) See Philip Kapleau ed., "Dying: Of the Masters" in The
    Wheel of Death: A Collection of Writings from Zen Buddhist
    and Other Sources on Death-Rebirth-Dying (New York: Harper
    & Row, Publishers, 1974), pp. 63-75.
81) Original Ch'an Teaching of Buddhism: Selected from The
    Transmission of the Lamp, Chang Chung-yuan trans. (New
    York: Pantheon Books), p. 163.
82) Pai-Chang, p. 32

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