The role of therapist in the West closely corresponds
to the traditional role of guru in the East. The guru provides the same
kind of nurturing relationship that the therapist does, for the same reasons.
The guru accepts the disciple unconditionally, knowing that acceptance from
another is what the disciple needs to learn self-acceptance and to grow
as a human being. In the East, however, the role of guru is more comprehensive,
including not only psychology but philosophy, religion, and physical culture,
all addressing the question of spiritual growth.
This broadness of perspective does not in the least
render the psychological aspect shallow or unstudied. The Eastern understanding
of the mind has a history and tradition thousands of years old. The ancients
of the East were, indeed, master psychologists. Western psychological thought
is, for the most part, a few hundred years old and is still being formulated;
Eastern thought has been formulated and offers much to be learned.
to spirituality is critical
Psychology in the East has a built-in connection to
spirituality. In contrast, Western psychology is limited exactly because
it usually has no such link. Many psychologists are now coming to this realization
and are trying to establish a spiritual connection. For some, this may mean
turning to organized Western religion, which to me is like going one step
forward and two steps back. Certain religious institutions of the East also
may be considered dogmatic and outdated but, when we come to yoga or Buddhism,
we find a flexible and intelligent approach to both psychology and spirituality.
We are not going to discuss spirituality directly
in this book. The principles of psychology that we will discuss, however,
are related to developing the capacity for spiritual experience. The overwhelming
contribution of Eastern thought is that as we go within, we discover the
Infinite. Nothing more needs to be said about spirituality. Some Western
thinkers have come to a similar conclusion, notably Jung, but he was deeply
influenced by Eastern thought. Please note, then, that when I refer to “spirituality,”
I am referring to the inner meeting with the self, not to the trappings
of any organized religion, East or West.