The Psychology of Spiritual Awakening in Advaita Vedanta: From Bondage to Liberation

By Payton Tontz

Abstract

Advaita Vedanta, based on the Hindu Upaniṣads of India, is a spiritual teaching tradition that has gained attention in the West over the past century. The teachings address the fundamental spiritual question of the nature of reality by expounding on the nature of the individual, and the relationship between the individual, the creation, and God. This dissertation focuses on the psychology of the individual in Advaita Vedanta, aiming to identify and amplify the implicit psychology embedded in the traditional texts. The research contributes to developing scholarship between the East and West in the related fields of east- west psychology, contemplative psychology, and Western academic psychology by presenting the essential teachings of Advaita Vedanta in a language oriented toward a Western contemporary audience.

Advaita Vedanta claims that the true nature of the human individual is a non-dual Self, defined as limitless existent consciousness. This non-dual Self is shown to be one with Brahman, the Self of the entire cosmic creation. Thus, the teachings ultimately affirm a non-dual relationship between the individual and the creation as a whole as they are both seen as manifestations of one undivided Self. According to Vedanta, bondage (saṃsāra) is the human condition caused by inborn ignorance (avidyā) of this fact, and liberation (mokṣa) is what takes place when a person gains knowledge of this truth. This research utilizes a theoretical methodology to study the teachings on bondage and liberation presented in the primary and secondary texts of the Advaita Vedanta teachings. The dissertation presents an organized system of human psychology that is centered on answering two psychological questions: What is human identity? and What is the root cause for human suffering? In answering these questions, this study presents a theoretical model of human psychology based on the teachings of Advaita Vedanta.

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Payton Tontz Diss Final Draft

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About Payton Tontz

Payton Tontz, PhD, MFT received her MA in Integral Counseling Psychology and PhD in East-West Psychology from the California Institute of Integral Studies. Dr. Tontz looks forward to publishing her dissertation as an academic book in the near future and continuing to do research and writing building on the theoretical foundation established in her dissertation. Dr. Tontz is also a licensed psychotherapist with practices in San Francisco and San Rafael.  For more information visit www.eastwestpsychotherapy.com

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