Karuna Cayton, a psychotherapist and practicing Buddhist, has written an interesting book for non-Buddhists who are looking for ways to make their life more manageable. Based on the 2600 year-old principles of Buddhist psychology, it covers the general range of the Four Noble Truths and the eightfold path, but in a fashion that does not require extensive knowledge — any knowledge at all, really — of Buddhist teaching and principles.
“It is odd that we can describe our hands or our face but if we’re asked to describe our mind we can only offer vague, nebulous descriptions. That’s because, not examining the mind, we don’t know the mind. Knowing how our mind really functions is the first step to mental balance and health and, yes, greater happiness. We need to become explorers – curious about our idea of self, our mind, our emotions, how they function and how we can master them. As such, we’ll seek the knowledge, contemplation, and wisdom to become our own best therapist. Our discoveries become the pathway to solving our problems and revealing a happier and healthier way of being.”
The ideas covered in The Misleading Mind will not come as anything new to those who have even casually perused the Buddha’s teachings. However, in approaching them from the perspective of people with no knowledge at all of suffering and the causes of suffering as understood by Buddhists, Cayton has illuminated corners that may not have been examined even by long-term practitioners. These principles are presented in a way that is accessible to non-Buddhists, and at the same time can profitably be considered by experienced students.
Finally, unlike many writers, Cayton does not minimize the need for continuous, long-term work to effect the changes he promises. While reasonably gentle, he insists we understand that we are the “captains of our souls,” that we have to work for what we desire, and that the ultimate responsibility for our happiness rests upon — and just above — our own shoulders.