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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

AM23-PP24: Another Way - How Buddhism work with the unconscious

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Parallel Papers Session 5

Saturday 1 July 15.15pm-16.30 SAST - ONLINE
Paper Code: PP24

Another Way – How Buddhism work with the unconscious

Presenter: Pearl Tran


When we look for Buddhist teaching, we do not find theory lessons, only practice lessons. I believe that Buddhist teachers aim to teach practice to everyone in all walks of life: labourer, student, homemaker, intellectual.

My first educational experience was with my grandmother. Her teaching on being a good person is the same as being a good child of Buddha. While learning academic subjects at schools, I also learned to be a good person at home, when going with my grandmother to pagodas, being around and helping the monks and the nuns, attending talks by Buddhist masters. I never attended a theory lesson. I didn’t receive readings. In that way, I learned Buddhism as a way of life.

Does Buddhism have theories? How are they passed on from generation to generation for thousands of years? As student of system-psychodynamics, I share the curiosity on if and what Buddhism thinks about the unconscious.

I found reading materials, now available in English, promoted by Thich Nhat Hanh and the 14th Dalai Lama. But not until I had the chance to attend a teaching reserved for monks and nuns in the Plum Village Monastery that I had a glimpse of the theory, of the thought about the conscious and the unconscious.

Perhaps, I thought, it is a well-considered strategy not to teach theory to lay people but only to those who are trained to become teachers, who will teach Buddhist practice. It may aim to prevent immature leaners clinging to a fixed definition of words, it emphasises that intellectual learning, without practice, is not learning at all.

With new eyes, I am excited to see how Buddhist psychology is on one hand very similar, and on the other hand, different to western psychology. Both aim to cultivate non duality, to help overcome suffering and to find a better way to live. The latter bases on the premise that individuals exist as independent entity in isolation; they therefore tend to seek certainty in the turbulent world. The former views the universe-as-a-whole, where humans, animal, plants, minerals, past, present, and future inter-are and inter-connect; in this view uncertainty is a given.

I have engaged in a professional doctorate programme at Tavistock Portman with the wish to explore how the ways of thought from two origins can complement and perhaps open to another way.

In this paper session, I propose to share what I learned about the Buddhist view of the conscious and unconscious mind, the method of training the mind: mindfulness, and how mindfulness cultivates our spiritual authority: the power from within.

I invite the audience to ask questions of curiosity, to reflect, associate and offer fresh thoughts, all of which will be useful guide for me to further explore how a perspective of Buddhist teaching could be helpful for the system-psychodynamic study and practice in organisations.

Learning Objectives

Participants will be able to

  1. Recognise the similarity and the difference between Buddhism and System Psychodynamics
  2. Apply the Buddhist teaching to their own life and the life of their organisation if they wish to
  3. Identify Buddhist mindfulness

Biographical Summary

Pearl Tran works with Power dynamic, leading step-by-step consultation on cultivating Kind leaders and Kind Performance Teams, beyond high-performance. I combine my management experience, Buddhist wisdom and System-psychodynamic knowledge. She was first trained to be a diplomate in Hanoi, Vietnam; then re-trained in Business Administration (MBA at Henley) and spent 28 years in Asia as business development manager, managing director, brand creator, company founder. Pearl later acquired a Masters degree in Organisational Psychology at INSEAD, coached cross-cultured entrepreneurs and executives, and consulted for organisations at group and Board levels. Currently a Board Director at the International Society for the Psychoanalytic Study of Organisations (ISPSO) and pursuing a Doctorate at Tavistock & Portman.