Therapeutic Language and its Use in Dokusan and Practice Discussions

Sanchez, Danielle, Religious Studies - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Braun, Erik, Religious Studies, University of Virginia
Ochs, Vanessa, Religious Studies, University of Virginia

This paper explores the vocabulary used during dokusan and practice discussions with Buddhist teachers who either are psychotherapists or are not psychotherapists. The language of Sōtō Zen teachers is to “just sit” through whatever problem, issue, or trauma that arises. The language has changed to “look at it,” “turn towards it,” “use your hands,” and “work from there.” This language was explicitly used by psychotherapists and Zen Buddhist teachers. However, the teacher who was not a psychotherapist also used the language of “name it,” and “see it.” This paper demonstrates that the language used in dokusan and practice discussions are evolving to be therapeutic. Secondly, I show that these teachers do not use therapy during dokusan or practice discussions. They instead focus on the teaching of the dharma. Thirdly, I demonstrate that Zen Buddhist teachers with a psychotherapeutic background have a better rapport with their students than traditional Sōtō Zen Buddhist teachers.

MA (Master of Arts)
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