2017 - 2018

  On Suffering: How it Emerges, Disperses, and is Unraveled According to Buddhism  
Michal Barnea-astrogGilman-humanities220 1200-1400 Sem  1
University credit hours:  2.0

Course description

One of the mind’s fundamental conditionings, according to both Buddhism and psychoanalysis, is the tendency to desire the pleasant and to reject the unpleasant. In this course we look into this conditioning and follow its various implications, for the intra-psychic domain as well as the interpersonal.

We will consider this through some of the rich psychoanalytic literature on projective mechanisms and through Buddhist ideas centering on the process of conditioned arising, and by reference to the following three axes. In the first of these, we will examine some of the characteristics of the subjective viewpoint, and how it brings together sensation, perception, and reaction which consolidate into habitual patterns that come to rule our lives. We will see how these patterns, when operating within us unimpeded, tend to feed into, and perpetuate, themselves. We will moreover see how, reproducing themselves across a variety of relationships and situations, they create our personal prisons.

With the second axis we move into the interpersonal field to deal with the ways in which suffering shifts outward from inside, and is passed from one person to the next. Here we look into the fluid and relative nature of the boundaries between one mind and another, and their interdependence, being conditioned and non-isolated phenomena. We will see how mental “materials” constantly pass through these permeable boundaries and how, through this motion, one mind constitutes another.

Arriving at the third axis, we investigate to what extent, according to Freudian psychoanalysis and object relation theories, and according to Pāli Canon Buddhist thought and its commentaries, it is possible to break through the endless process of creation and spread of suffering. We will discuss states of mind and mental positions that offer movement in this direction of release.

We will start getting acquainted with concepts like projection, projective identification, transference and countertransference, containment and reverie, through the works of Freud, Klein, Bion, Racker, Ogden, and others. Referring to the ideas presented in the Suttas of the Pāli Canon we will discuss the concepts of conditioned arising, kamma (karma), not-self, and the five aggregates of clinging. We will touch, through the light these two conceptual systems shed on mental activity, upon the existential paradox according to which the human being has no other tool for studying her or himself other than one’s mind riddled as it is with blind spots. And it is only by means of this very mind that one can subvert the subjective perspective that also taints it, and undo the conditionings which hold it captive.

accessibility declaration

tel aviv university