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Lecture 16

PSYC 31A Lecture 16: Psyc 31A: Eastern Approaches to Personality

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Brandeis University
Wright Ellen

Introduction ● All personality approaches we have covered have philosophical bases ● Purpose: highlight the ancient contributions of collectivism and Eastern philosophy, and their influences on Western thinking ● Three religious/philosophical approaches ○ Zen and the Buddhist tradition ■ Mindful Self-Compassion ○ Yoga and the Hindu tradition ○ Sufism and the Islamic tradition Yoga and the Hindu Tradition ● Yoga – Sanskrit ‘to join’ or ‘to unite,’ method ● Goal – self-realization –consciousness is turned within and united within the Self ○ Immortal, unchangeable essence in each individual ● Embraces the goal of union and the variety of techniques to accomplish union ● Embraces all the systematic disciplines designed to promote self-realization by calming the mind and focusing consciousness on the Self Six Layers of the Self Yoga Way of Life ● Ascetic renunciation, including celibacy, poverty, and "giving up" the world to devote oneself completely to the disciplines of Yoga ● India – another ideal path ○ Balanced life of worldly service and responsibilities + the practice of spiritual discipline Yoga Consciousness and Subconscious Tendencies ● Consciousness (chitta) all thought processes ○ Complete focusing of attention on whatever object is contemplated (stop the constant chatter of mental activity) ● Subconscious Tendencies – samskaras ○ Patterns created by past actions and experiences from this life and past lives Shape mental activity ○ Karma – movement from subconscious tendencies → waves of consciousness → actions → subconscious tendencies ● Goal is complete reformation of consciousness so subconscious tendencies can’t actualize themselves Paths to Human Suffering ● Energy and consciousness of the Self flow outward → become distorted by a series of lenses, our subconscious tendencies, habits, personality and so on ● Subconscious tendencies (e.g. believing ourselves that we have stereotypes) bias our thoughts, which then affect our actions ● Action patterns become habits and habits in turn reinforce the distorting lenses ● Then the Self, which is pure joy, pure love and bliss, cannot be made manifest within our consciousness or in the world Obstacles to Growth ● The 5 major afflictions ○ Ignorance (the major obstacle) – cause of all the other afflictions (which are effects of ignorance) ■ Ignorance of our true identity ○ Egoism ■ Identification of the Self with the body and the thoughts ■ Identification with body →fear, desire, and a sense of limitation ■ Identification with thoughts → restlessness and emotionality ○ Desire, aversion, and fear ■ Desire is longing for pleasure ■ Aversion is recoiling from pain ■ Desire and aversion gradually bring about attachment to whatever increases pleasure or reduces pain ■ Nonattachment –enjoy whatever one receives, while being ready to give it up without a sense of loss or sorrow ○ Fear ■ Constant natural terror of death ■ Selfs from identification with the perishable body instead of imperishable ● Afflictions gradually weakened by Yoga disciplines, especially austerity and self-control, scriptural study, devotion ● Yogi gradually strengthens subconscious tendencies that oppose the afflictions, weakening their influences Paths to Health ● Will ○ Disciplining of mind and body; go beyond comfortable limits and overcomes tendencies of self-indulgence and restlessness ○ Fasting, motionless practice, meditation ● Emotions ○ Direct their energy to spiritual practices rather than outward ● Intellect ○ Intellectual development – attaining understanding through experience ● Teacher of subtle truths (Guru) Self-Actualization ● Form depends on the branch of Yoga ○ Karma-yogi – development of self-discipline, willpower, and selfless service ○ Bhakti-yogi –most closely related to an increase in devotion to an aspect of God ○ Jnana-yogi – development of powers of discrimination and self-analysis ○ Various other schools–growth brings the ability to meditate, to withdraw one's attention from the world and the senses, and to focus, with increasing concentration, on some aspect of Self or Spirit Sufism ● Mystical core of Islam – described as a path (both an origin and a destination) th ● Dates from the 7 century BCE Four Basic Principles of Sufism ● As many ways to reach truth (God) as there are individuals ● Living in harmony with others depends upon an inner sense of justice, and a reduction of our selfishness and arrogance ● Love is one of the underlying principles of morality ○ Springs from self-work and expresses itself in service to others ● Self-knowledge is the cardinal truth that ripens into knowledge of God Obstacles to Growth ● Heedlessness ○ Forgetfulness, inability to pay attention and remember what we know ● Lower self or nafs ○ Ego or lower personality – self-centered consciousness ○ Consists of impulses, or drives, to satisfy desires, that dominate reason or judgment and are defined as the forces in one’s nature that must be brought under control ○ Dynamic rather than static ● Goal of Sufism is to transform nafs into positive characteristics Stages of Nafs - Stages of Lower Ego Development ● Parallel to psychosexual development ● Commanding nafs – ○ Domineering self, or the that incites to evil, seeks to dominate us and to control our thoughts and action ○ Id (lust and aggression) ● Accusatory nafs ○ Still dominated by wants and desires but repents from time to time and tries to follow higher impulses ○ Parallels development of superego ○ Potentially excessive self-accusation, self-belittlement, defensiveness (in the form of excessive vanity), hypocrisy ○ Typical manifestations: insatiable hunger for praise, for recognition, or for control of others ○ Motives are distorted ● Inspired nafs ○ Genuine pleasure in spiritual activities ○ Motivated by ideals such as compassion, service and moral values ○ Power of desires and ego ↓ ○ Results in gentleness, compassion, creative acts, and moral action. ○ Danger –if the inspiration and energy of this stage feed the ego, the person can become inflated with pride and grandiosity ● Contented nafs ○ At peace, struggles of the earlier stages are basically over ○ Old desires and attachments are no longer binding ○ Ego-self begins to let go, allowing the individual to come closer to the Divin
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