Buddhist emptiness theory: implications for psychology

Van Gordon, W. ORCID: 0000-0002-5648-3043, Shonin, E. and Griffiths, M.D. ORCID: 0000-0001-8880-6524, 2017. Buddhist emptiness theory: implications for psychology. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 9 (4), pp. 309-318. ISSN 1941-1022

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In recent decades, there has been growing assimilation of ancient Buddhist practices and principles into Western research and applied psychological settings. One Buddhist principle that is currently receiving an increasing amount of scientific interest is emptiness. Emptiness asserts that all phenomena – including the "self" – are empty of intrinsic existence. This paper examines how logical inquiry and evidence from diverse psychological and scientific disciplines appear to be gradually adding credence to the notion of emptiness. The paper explicates how, if emptiness theory continues to be validated and accepted by Western psychologists, it will become necessary to re-examine some established beliefs in relation to the workings of both the psychological and physical world. Examples of how emptiness might develop and/or complement psychological and wider scientific understanding in this respect include coming to the acceptance that: (i) what is currently understood to be waking reality is effectively a shared dream, (ii) the "self" does not inherently exist, (iii) the underlying cause of mental illness is an individual’s belief that they inherently exist, and (iv) maladaptive psychosocial functioning and the absence of mental illness are not necessarily mutually exclusive occurrences. It is concluded that there is a clear need for greater research into the validity and applications of emptiness. However, if supportive empirical findings relating to emptiness continue to emerge, it is possible that some of the next important scientific “discoveries” concerning mind and matter will emerge at the intersection of ancient Eastern contemplative practice, empirically-grounded Western psychological insights, and quantum mechanics.

Item Type: Journal article
Alternative Title: Buddhist emptiness theory: implications for the self and psychology
Publication Title: Psychology of Religion and Spirituality
Creators: Van Gordon, W., Shonin, E. and Griffiths, M.D.
Publisher: American Psychological Association
Date: 2017
Volume: 9
Number: 4
ISSN: 1941-1022
Divisions: Schools > School of Social Sciences
Record created by: Linda Sullivan
Date Added: 22 Jun 2016 08:48
Last Modified: 04 Jul 2022 15:53
URI: https://irep.ntu.ac.uk/id/eprint/28000

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