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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Authenticity and Freedom: A Comparison of the Ideas of Ajahn Chah and James F. T. Bugental
by Eschen, Elise Karima, Psy.D., California Institute of Integral Studies, 2020, 163; 28088931
Abstract (Summary)

Several schools of psychology draw from Buddhist thought and use meditation and mindfulness practices. However, meditation for stress reduction differs from meditation embedded in a project like enlightenment. These evidences led to the hypothesis that Buddhism and psychotherapy are not fully compatible. In order to narrow down the specificities, this dissertation compares Thai Theravādin Buddhist monk, Ajahn Chah, with U.S. existential-humanistic psychologist, James F. T. Bugental. Ajahn Chah taught the Buddhist Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path that leads to enlightenment. Bugental stressed the importance of subjective experiencing and elaborated on Rollo May’s definitions of existential and essential Freedoms. I used published materials from both Ajahn Chah and Bugental to investigate the following themes: presence, relationships, sense of self, practice, and goals. Ajahn Chah placed a heavy emphasis on renunciation and giving up comforts to face desire and other painful states. With the support of mindfulness and contemplation of the three marks of existence, Ajahn Chah instructed his disciples to observe and let perceptions be as they come and go. Bugental’s therapy is grounded in the subjective. Through the development of the inner search process, Bugental’s therapy helps broaden one’s capacity for essential freedom and revises the self-and-world construct. In conclusion, I compared my own life and experience as influenced by both Ajahn Chah and Bugental’s teachings. Despite the early hypothesis that Buddhism and psychotherapy are not fully compatible, it was found that both are healing modalities that essentially head in the same direction of authenticity and freedom. Bugental moves away from objective reality toward the subjective, discerning that we are self-creating and self-discovering beings. Ajahn Chah asks one to take things further, by looking beyond all self-processes and phenomena to something more authentic, an ultimate freedom.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Vakoch, Douglas
Commitee: Bradford, G. Kenneth
School: California Institute of Integral Studies
Department: Clinical Psychology
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 82/3(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Religion, Clinical psychology
Keywords: Authenticity, Buddhism, Enlightenment, Existentialism, Presence, Subjectivity
Publication Number: 28088931
ISBN: 9798672169743
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