Following on from last week’s podcast about Buddhist psychology I’ve been asked if I would say a little bit more on the subject, and in particular if I would say a bit more about what Buddhist psychology says about relationship, about what happens when there is an encounter between two people, a conversation between two people, it might be a therapist and a client, it might be a teacher and disciple, it might just be two people in the sangha having a conversation with one another, or just two people who meet on the street.

In all of these cases the mind is being conditioned by what is happening. We’ve established that one of the fundamentals of Buddhist psychology is that the mind is conditioned, the mind is shaped by conditions; and some of these conditions are within the person and some are external.

So, when there is a conversation between two people - an interaction - we can say, broadly speaking, that there are two types of object for the mind: The mind is conditioned in many ways but one of the most powerful is by the object that the mind has. It matters what the diet of the mind is, it matters what we fill our minds with. This is the original meaning of mindfulness - What your mind is full of, - this makes a difference. Therefore, we try as much as possible to fill our mind with Buddha and Dharma so that our mind is conditioned in a good way.

In an interaction there are two types of object of mind:

One type of object of mind is the subject matter that the people are talking about. The Buddha encouraged people as much as possible to talk about the Dharma and to talk about things in a way that is related to the Dharma. This means that the content of the interaction is Dharmic, and therefore brings about or tends towards liberation.

But the other type of object of mind, when you’re having a conversation, of course, is the other person. The other person is an object of mind while you are interacting with them. So, the quality of the person matters. You are an object for the other person and the other person is an object for you. So, the two of you are busy conditioning each other, no matter what it is that you’re talking about.

The quality that one brings to an interaction matters; and how do we establish a good quality? Well, it might be said that you have to wait until you’re enlightened before you can do anything useful, because then, naturally, if you’re a Buddha, you will be a wholesome object and undoubtedly this is true. People who met the Buddha, the Buddha was a wholesome object for them, and their interaction with him was liberating – whatever he talked about. I’m sure, even if he just passed the time of day, it was liberating to be with such a person because of the quality of that person.

But we are “in the real world”, we are bombu beings, and we’re bombu beings meeting one another. So, how can I stop my bombu-ness just being the sort of object that makes the other person even more bombu than they were before?

This is a good kind of question to ask and, of course, there is an obvious answer which is that, if I can keep my mind as much as possible related to the objects of refuge (the Buddha, the Dharma and so on) these will take care of my mind and even though I am a bombu being, still I will be a wholesome object for my encounter partner because I have the Dharma in mind; and the Dharma will protect me and will protect the other person at the same time.

So, keeping the nembutsu close to our mind at all times ensures that we are wholesome objects. Even though we are bombu, we are wholesome objects for one another.

Namo Amida Bu
Thank you very much


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