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Review of "What the Buddha Felt"

By Mark Epstein
Sounds True, 2001
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D. on Jun 11th 2002
What the Buddha Felt

Epstein discusses the rise of his interest in psychotherapy and Buddhism, combining ideas from both approaches to human life.  He explains how early in his life he felt psychologically empty and did not know who he was, and he found that while a psychologist told him he was suffering from the Oedipal Complex, Buddhist teachings, and his learning from Ram Dass and even the Dalai Lama, showed him that he is was alright to feel empty, and that he did not necessarily have to try to rid himself of that feeling.  He also emphasizes that Buddhism does not advocate that we should try to rid ourselves of emotions, and he says that many Buddhists he has known have been full of emotion.  Indeed, while western mental health seeks to eliminate bad feelings, such as unhappiness, grief, regret, and anxiety, Buddhism recommends accepting oneself as one is, and becoming free by giving up a striving to be different.  This is the central idea all through this audiobook, and Epstein uses a variety of stories about himself and other people he has encountered to explain it. He has been influenced by psychoanalysis, especially the work of DW Winnicott, as well as modern psychiatry and ancient and modern Buddhist thought, and this is a fascinating combination.

            As a speaker, Epstein is calm and straightforward on this audiobook.  Of course, the experience of listening is very different from that of reading, and probably most people would be able to get more detailed knowledge from a printed book.  Nevertheless, this is a useful introduction to the connections between Buddhism and psychotherapy.


© 2002 Christian Perring. First Serial Rights.

Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is editor of Metapsychology Online Review. His main research is on philosophical issues in psychiatry. He is especially interested in exploring how philosophers can play a greater role in public life, and he is keen to help foster communication between philosophers, mental health professionals, and the general public.