The Buddhist Psychology of Awakening

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The Buddhist Psychology of Awakening: An In-Depth Guide to the Abhidharma, by Steven D. Goodman, is an introduction to the Abhidharma and Buddhist psychology intended for Western students. The text is based on the Indo-Tibetan textual tradition of the Abhidharma.

From the Publisher:

Professor Steven D. Goodman, who has honed his presentation of this system of psychology to a generation of students, presents the first practical, relatable, and direct overview of the Abhidharma. This guide outlines step-by-step methods for examining the source of our habitual tendencies and hang-ups, showing how we can liberate ourselves from cycles of emotional pain by becoming aware of our mental patterns on the subtlest levels. Goodman explains how the Abhidharma can be applied to meditation practice through exercises of observation and reflection, making this the go-to manual for anyone interested in understanding how the mind really works.[1]

Origin of the text

From the author:

Many years ago, at the newly established Nyingma Institute in Berkeley, California, the head Tibetan Buddhist teacher Tarthang Tulku urged me to begin an intensive study of what was then available of the Abhidharma literature in European languages. To that end, I prepared a rough translation from the French of the “Abdhidharma” section of Etienne Lamotte’s L’Histoire du Buddhisme Indien, which is now available in English translation. Then I delved into a study of Louis de la Vallée-Poussin’s French translation of Vasubandhu’s Kosha, entitled L’Abhidharmakosha, now also available in English translation by Pruden (1991). This background work was soon supplemented by a study of the Tibetan translations of Vasubandhu’s work, works written in Tibetan as commentaries on the Kosha, and works written by Indian commentators. Finally, I was led to study and translate key portions of Ju Mipham Rinpoche’s Gateway to Knowledge and the commentary on it by Kathog Khenpo Nuden. This text by Mipham is now also available in English in full, translated by Erik Pema Kunsang.
What I culled from these studies was a desire to present “key points of view” to eager graduate students at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, via its affiliation with the newly established Nyingma Institute. These students were bright and engaged and asked many questions about the diverse categories of dharmas and their arrangement into “conditioned” and “unconditioned.” They also asked what any of this had to do with the foundational teachings of the Buddhadharma, such as the four noble truths (suffering, the causes of suffering, the cessation of suffering, and the path leading to the cessation of suffering). From the very beginnings of teaching this material, we explored the possible implications for what emerged as what we might call a special kind of “Buddhist psychology” and how such study might inspire and provoke a new way forward into foundational and transformational practices.
Sometime after those initial presentations, I was invited to explore these approaches at the Naropa Institute (now Naropa University) in Boulder, Colorado, to a lively and engaged group of Buddhist students. In subsequent years, and through many refinements, this material was taught in courses at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco and at a summer study program at the Rigpa Shedra in Southern France.
Thus, what you have before you is a reworked and edited presentation of these lectures and teaching materials that are based on the Indo-Tibetan textual traditions of Abhidharma.[2]



  1. The Buddhist Psychology of Awakening, Shambhala Publications, Aug 2020
  2. Goodman 2020, Preface.