Buddhism, Psychotherapists & Western Gurus

I used to say when giving lectures to Buddhist groups that if people became enlightened in following the practices of Buddhism that they should combine their study of it with the study of psychotherapy and psychology. Because the best livelihood in this society for someone who is a little enlightened is to be a healer and a psychotherapist. This way they can help people within a framework that is understood here. Otherwise they go back to do something that has nothing to do with sharing their enlightenment, or they try to become a professional guru—and that has terrible problems associated with it.

Being a “guru” is not really institutionalized in our society. It is something weird, and when people try to become professional gurus here they are tempted to play guru games and do all kinds of dumb things. They might go around thinking they are enlightened or pretending that they are, and it's very hard for them. I’ve often told gurus and lamas that while they are training their students for enlightenment, that they can be building toward a livelihood where that enlightenment can be wielded altruistically for others in a socially accepted and understandable way.

In a way, psychotherapists may wish to consider themselves the vanguard of a new kind of society—a society that truly does value its individuals, where one individual's development of psychological integration, compassion, emotional expansion, wisdom and insight to the nature of reality is the purpose of the whole shooting match.

by Robert Thurman

Read Full Interview on Tricycle: The Buddhist Review: http://www.tricycle.com/blog/interview-tibetan-buddhist-scholar-robert-thurman