Buddha the Positive Psychologist

Simply translated ‘Buddha’ means ‘enlightened one’ or ‘Awakened One’. There have been thousands of Buddha’s but the one Westerners and most text refer to is Buddha Shakyamuni (Also known as Siddartha, meaning “He who achieves His Goal”).

Born in Nepal c2,500 years ago, this Buddha is most notorious because he not only became enlightened at the age of 35 he also called for his teachings to be transcribed. It’s mind-blowing to think that this guy seemed to discover things which scientists, such as psychologist and quantum physicists, are only now beginning to understand and confirm.

I am fascinated by the similarity between Dharma (‘Buddha’s teachings’) and modern day positive psychology. One such connection is the Dharma of the Four Great Efforts which are:

  1. The effort to prevent negative states from arising
  2. The effort to let go of negative states once they have arisen
  3. The effort to create and cultivate positive emotions
  4. The effort to sustain positive states once they have arisen

Positive Psychology is described as:

The scientific study of human flourishing, and an applied approach to optimal functioning. It has also been defined as the study of the strengths and virtues that enable individuals, communities and organisations to thrive (Gable & Haidt, 2005, Sheldon & King, 2001).

This relatively new field of scientific enquiry is primarily focused on the study of positive emotions such as happiness. Studies have confirmed that positive emotions seem to be the cornerstone for all aspects of wellbeing and success and this is attained by those who apply Buddha Shakyamuni’s Four Great Efforts.

“I’m a scientist, not a marketer. I choose my words very carefully. My claims are evidence-based. I have more than twenty years of on-the-job training in honing down my words t prevent overstatements. But from here, surveying the landscape of the latest scientific evidence for positive emotions, I say with confidence: positivity can change your life”

Barbara Fredrickson Kenan Distinguished Professor at the University of North Carolina. 


Interested in this stuff too?