NPJ Book Review: Zen Therapy – Transcending the Sorrows of the Human Mind by David Brazier

Zen Therapy – Transcending the Sorrows of the Human Mind by David Brazier (1995)


David Brazier,  self-described Buddhist priest, psychotherapist, social worker, and poet. begins his work addressing the idea that all our perceptions of self and the world…are as Buddha suggests, comes from the mind . All things that exist depend on the mind for existence and purpose.

 I have found this work very useful, at times profound and overall accessible. This is a book about healing. It’s an aid particularly, for the informed layperson, the counselor and  clinical psychologist or psychiatrist exploring Buddhist related psychology, spirituality  and philosophy. It helpful not to read straight through but in sections and for reflection and how one might apply the ideas from a Zen perspective. It’s not for everyone but for the seeker of a thought provoking philosophical and psychological perspective and the application of the values of Zen thinking and what that means.

The author takes the reader on a journey of reflection and inspiration. His thoughts on Zen and its therapeutic value are reflected in his words:  Our deepest Nature wants us to live in harmony with the universe because we are it and it is us. To act in an unethical way is to act against ourselves.  It’s a struggle, he continues…the Zen adept adopts the struggle, not in the spirit of self-restriction, but of self-discovery.

Living in harmony with each other and the universe is an ancient idea among primitive tribes throughout the world. That’s core to human being-ness. But the material gets in the way. In Zen Therapy the author elucidates how the mind accepts its own way but with the core value of harmony.

This work as suggested is not for everyone. If you cherish psychology and spiritual writings this is an astute multilayered and valuable meditation. It doesn’t pit one idea against the other, rather delineates Buddhist psychology and its approaches to human behavior.

In chapter 16, Dhyana and Path, the author writes: “Contrition shakes the ego’s grip. In Zen, we say: All the harm done by my body, speech and mind is caused by greed, hate and delusion, which have no beginning. I now face and confess it all from the bottom of my heart.”

In Chapter 18, Zen Therapy speaks to the rhythm of Great Love, which is non-possessive and unconditional. The kind of love which many prophets have pondered.

In summary, this is a work for those seeking an insightful reflection and inspiration in approaches to human suffering through Zen Buddhist psychology.