Encyclopedia of Psychology and Religion

2020 Edition
| Editors: David A. Leeming

Buddhism’s Mahāyāna: Meditation

  • John ThompsonEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-24348-7_9250

As in Theravāda Buddhism, so Mahāyāna includes meditation practices to transform rigid mental and emotional habits and turbulent states of mind – something that, broadly speaking, falls within the parameters of Western psychology, particularly in its more clinical and therapeutic aspects. For the most part, these Mahāyāna practices resemble Theravāda ones, but as Mahāyāna spread to countries such as China and Japan, new forms arose. Of these, the practices found in Pure Land and Chan/Zen schools in particular have had enormous appeal and thus warrant extended attention for their psychological implications.

Pure Land

Pure Land, a religion where the faithful rely on heavenly figures for salvation, has roots in Mahāyāna teachings. Its central figure is the bodhisattva Dharmākara, a prince who became the Buddha Amitābha (“Infinite Life,” or Amitāyus, “Infinite Light”). According to the sūtras, Dharmākara made 48 great vows, one of which established a paradise (located in the “West”) where...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Austin, J. H. (1999). Zen and the brain: Toward an understanding of meditation and consciousness. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  2. Ching, J. (1993). Chinese religions. Maryknoll: Orbis Books.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. de Bary, W. T., & Bloom, I. (Eds.). (1999). Sources of Chinese tradition (From earliest times to 1600 2nd ed., Vol. 1). New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Fields, R. (1998). Divided dharma: White Buddhists, ethnic Buddhists, and racism. In C. S. Prebish & K. K. Tanaka (Eds.), The faces of Buddhism in America (pp. 196–206). Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  5. Fromm, E., Suzuki, D. T., & De Martino, R. (1960). Zen Buddhism and psychoanalysis. New York: Harper and Row.Google Scholar
  6. Hershock, P. D. (2005). Chan Buddhism. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.Google Scholar
  7. Jones, C. B. (2004). Buddha one: A one-day Buddha-recitation retreat in contemporary Taiwan. In R. K. Payne & K. K. Tanaka (Eds.), Approaching the land of bliss: Religious praxis in the cult of Amitābha (pp. 264–280). Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.Google Scholar
  8. Linehan, M. M. (1993). Cognitive-behavioral treatment of borderline personality disorder. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  9. Nakasone, R. Y. (1990). Ethics of enlightenment: Essays and sermons in search of a Buddhist ethic. Fremont: Dharma Cloud.Google Scholar
  10. Suler, J. R. (1993). Contemporary psychoanalysis and Eastern thought. Albany: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  11. Williams, P. (2009). Mahāyāna Buddhism: The doctrinal foundations (2nd ed.). London: Routledge.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Christopher Newport UniversityNewport NewsUSA