The Original Buddhist Psychology
What the Abhidharma Tells Us About How We Think, Feel, and Experience Life
The Abhidharma, one of the three major text collections of the original Buddhist canon, frames the psychological system of Buddhism, explaining the workings of reality and the nature of the human mind. It is composed of detailed matrixes and lists that outline the interaction of consciousness and reality, the essence of perception and experience, and the reasons and methods behind mindfulness and meditation. Because of its complexity, the Abhidharma has traditionally been reserved only for academic or monastic study; now, for the first time, clinical psychologist Beth Jacobs brings this dynamic body of work to general readers, using practical explanation, personal stories, and vivid examples to gently untangle the technical aspects of the Abhidharma. Drawing on decades of experience as both a therapist and a Buddhist, Jacobs illuminates this classic area of Buddhist thought, highlighting the ways it can broaden and deepen our experience of the human psyche and offering profound insights into spiritual practice.
About the Author
BETH JACOBS, PhD, is a clinical psychologist in private practice and a former faculty member of the Feinberg School of Medicine of Northwestern University. A lay teacher in the Soto Zen tradition, Jacobs incorporates Buddhist studies and meditation into her work as both a psychologist and a writer. She is the author of Writing for Emotional Balance (2005) as well as an award-winning
column for the National Association for Poetry Therapy.
—Sojun Diane Martin, founding and guiding teacher, Udumbara Zen Center
"Jacobs' work here is unprecedented: for all of the popular literature on Buddhist thought and practice and its relationship to psychotherapy, no one has yet made the foundational Buddhist psychological sources—the Abhidharma—available to a non-academic audience. Jacobs is doing just that. The Abhidharma is notoriously difficult to understand, let alone master. But in weaving her personal experiences as a therapist and Zen student into her learned discussion of the Abhidharma psychology, Jacobs makes the Abhidharma come alive. Her examples are startlingly illustrative, her language is fresh and immediate, and her use of her personal story breathes life into what is often thought of as the driest of Buddhist texts."
—Joy Brennan, PhD, assistant professor of religious studies, Kenyon College
“Beth Jacobs not only reveals the essence of the complex and nuanced text of the Abhidharma but holds it lightly and turns it slowly so that we can see through it to a whole new view of ourselves and the world.”
—Polly Young-Eisendrath, PhD, author of The Present Heart: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Discovery
“A wonderfully unique, refreshing, and much-needed alternative to the seemingly dry, tedious, and endless lists that typify the vast Abhidharma literature. Beth Jacobs has given us a penetrating, thorough, and dynamically practical study, full of beautiful lived examples that clearly demonstrate everyday usefulness.”
—Seiso Paul Cooper, author of The Zen Impulse and the Psychoanalytic Encounter