Similarly to psychotherapy counselling/consulting service, is there an equivalent form in Buddhism, in that the counselor is trained in Buddhism instead of clinical psychology? I haven't heard of such a professional service, but I guess this doesn't go against Buddhist teachings? There are short meditation courses, which can be seen as equivalent forms of short training courses in therapy I think. Or does Buddhism not advocate for this, because in its nature it doesn't advocate conceptualization?

I think if it exists, then the customers will have the mindset of psychotherapy service anyway, so it's just psychotherapy in Buddhism form. This is not a mean to be disrespectful – there are psychologists who have very solid knowledge in Buddhism, such as Jung. But I'm talking about those who once or still practice Buddhism as "professional" monks.

Related: Is there a kind of "pop Buddhism"?

5 Answers 5


First a bit of background or context -- just in case you didn't know.

So apparently, as well as the suttas, there's something called the vinaya i.e. the code of Monastic discipline. These are (or include) many of dozens of rules which the Buddha established for monks -- and "following the vinaya" is one of the things that a monk is supposed to do (and affects or defines whether someone is considered to be a monk).

The (codified) vinaya defines the letter-of-the-law of what monks must or mustn't do. I only know some details and vague outlines but I think it amounts to something including this (and more) ...

  • No handling money
  • No secular "job"
  • Maybe a limited acceptance of secular authorities (e.g. perhaps no secular "boss")
  • No selling the Dhamma (no secular "clients")
  • Limited interaction with lay-folk

... so "psychotherapy service" doesn't quite sound like what a monk should do -- e.g. I wouldn't expect to look up "psychotherapy" in the Yellow Pages and find a Buddhist monk advertising there.

People also have an ideal (perhaps idiosyncratic or judgemental) of what a monk should do, I think it's something like ...

  • If you're interested in Buddhism you go to a monastery for training
  • Monks teach Buddhism to novices (i.e. monk-candidates), to lay people who are taking "retreats", and the occasional Dhamma-talk (like an academic "lecture" on a subject) to a group of people when invited
  • Monks take their bowl e.g. to the local village or onto the public street once a day, where people may put food in the bowl, but that's a silent transaction (or not transactional)

... so limited opportunity for any one-on-one -- and, "providing a service" to lay-people isn't entirely what being a monk is about. To the contrary, it's lay people who should provide some service to the sangha, doing or providing things which monks may need but aren't allowed to do themselves (including storing food, buying any goods and services, and so on).

Incidentally some people observe that the present actuality isn't as ideal as the outline above, in many Buddhist countries -- e.g. that some monasteries (or temples) do collect money, that monks live luxuriously, that there are "superstitions" or "folk religions" mixed in, that monks seem to make a living by showing up at lay funerals, and so on.

But anyway the content of the Vinaya -- the letter of the law if not the spirit -- varies quite little I think, over the centuries and over continents. Monks are expected to memorise it and recite it regularly.

Still there are deviations, in particular I think it's difficult to practice ...

  • When there's no support or cooperation from lay society (e.g. where the lay society isn't Buddhist and isn't prepared to support a monastic society)
  • When there's hostility from the secular powers (e.g. when the emperor thinks that Buddhist monks have become a drain on the empire's or the provinces' ability to raise taxes and/or armies)

For these reasons the existence of the sangha is a bit precarious, and without the sangha i.e. without monks being able to live, Buddhism might not be viable. Other traditions develop e.g. monks work in the fields to help support themselves, etc.

There also "competition" from other religions -- Hinduism, Islam, Daoism, Folk religions (e.g. animism), not to mention Christianity (and, perhaps most recently, western Rationalism and/or Science) -- but that's not on-topic here.

Anyway I think that Japan -- Japanese Buddhism -- might be one of the more extreme examples of the Vinaya being modified by secular edict. So, for example, I think that Japanese senior abbots might even marry and so on. I can't comment on countries where Buddhism itself has become a secular power.

As a gross approximation I'd guess that the "ideal" I outlined above (e.g. keeping separate from lay society) is a "Theravada" (the "Way of the Elder monks") ideal, whereas mixing more with lay society might be more "Mahayana" (the "Great vehicle") -- though Andrei points out that in practice this is a great oversimplification (and perhaps or arguably not a genuine distinction at all).

Anyway, to get round to your question -- yes, I think there are: in some places.

You asked about "in Buddhism" -- and I'm not sure what that means ... e.g. "in traditional Buddhism", or "in modern Buddhism", "in what we know of original or early Buddhism".

But for example, there's Welcome to Kusala.org ...

Kusala Bhikshu - is a volunteer Buddhist chaplain for -- The UCLA Medical Center Spiritual Care Committee, the University Religious Conference at UCLA, and the Garden Grove Police Department. Rev. Kusala is active in the interreligious communities of both Los Angeles and Orange County. He lives/works at the IBMC teaching Buddhism and meditation.

Perhaps what you're looking for is a Buddhist "chaplain"?

If you're dying in hospital then the staff might ask you if you want a visit from a chaplain, and some people might want a Buddhist chaplain.

Another possibility is that what you're asking about is a "teacher" -- i.e. a teacher might talk with you one-on-one and so on.

Another possibility is that you are asking for a (e.g. clinical) psychotherapist, but a Buddhist one.

It's this which ties the first bit of this answer to the second, by the way:

Kusala Bhikshu

Ven. Kusala Bhikshu (Thich Tam-Thien) is an American born Bhikshu (monk) ordained in the Zen Tradition of Vietnam.

Another (more famous) example of Vietnamese Zen in the west is Plum Village and Thich Nhat Hanh (I don't know whether that has anything to do with psychotherapeutic consulting though).

I don't know much more -- this suggests that the Vietnamese Zen tradition might be inclusive rather than exclusive, maybe not very dogmatic.

Also I hope the first bit of this answer might help to explain, amplify or give some context to the answers from Samana Johann and user12901.

This, I don't know, might be another example, it's a publisher's blurb about an author:

Bhikkhu Basnagoda Rahula

Bhikkhu Basnagoda Rahula, PhD, was born in Sri Lanka and became a Buddhist monk in childhood. He holds a Master's Degree in literature, and a doctorate in English. He serves the congregation at the Houston Buddhist Vihara, and teaches English at the University of Houston. He lives in Texas.

I don't know what "serving the congregation" there might mean exactly, but that might include something of what you're asking about (see also that book).

I think I've also seen it argued or imp[lied, though, that a monk who serves the community which supports them is therefore not a true monk.

My personal opinion is that, broadly, lay people will want you to function well or to improve your functioning within samsara -- conversely Buddhism might be about stopping samsara altogether -- consequently there may be some disconnect between the aims of lay society and "Buddhism".

I also think that anyone who wants to "stop" might be seen as dysfunctional, by "puthujjanas" and so on (people who aren't disinterested in what you do for them).

Wanting to stop might therefore be stigmatised as some symptom of mental illness -- ironic that stopping, if it's meant as a cure or therapy, should be mistaken for the disease.

I can only hope that any psychotherapist worth their salt, Buddhist or not, might have some patience for their client's best interest, advocate for their client/patient rather than only for society.

People tend to be pushed, not just by their society but by their family, to perform. I happened to read an extreme example of that recently, here:

In my country if I will become a homeless guy who don't want any money even à cents who looking for illumination I will send to psychiatrict hospital.

Asking for food when you made de choice to live without money is ok in bouddhisme and Indian for yogi. Not in my country.

And the weather...

That's actually a bit contrary to my limited experience (or at least, "in my country") of homelessness and psychiatric hospitals, it might help[ to illustrate a dichotomy though (possibly a false dichotomy).


Well the people who are trained in the dhamma are called the asekhas, meaning the arhats. The people in training on the dhamma are called the sekhas and they are not puthujjanas, so the sotapannas and all that.

The people who are not trained in the dhamma are the puthujjanas and those people know nothing about the dhamma. Seeking advice from those people, about your life, your behavior, what to do and what not to do is always a bad idea. All those people do is create conditions for future dukkha (and they do not even know it, those people think that what they do is righteous and smart). When a puthujjana follows the advises from a puthujjana, the puthujjana seeking advise will only stay a puthujjana.

The sekhas have more important tasks to realize than advising puthujjanas. At best they can reply to a few questions from the puthujjanas.

The asekhas can talk about the dhamma, to anybody, but they are not here to tell puthujjanas what to do, especially about the worldly affairs of the puthujjanas. At best their generic answers for lay puthujjanas will be about respecting the 5 precepts and being mindful. Asekhas are here to tell the sekhas what to do and what not to do, that works well especially since the sekhas know the asekhas are better than them, and to the puthujjana bikkhus who may like or dislike what the asekhas say or do not say...

So for a puthujjana who seeks advises about worldly affairs, when there are no non-puthujjanas, especially no asekhas, it is going to be hard.


Some monks provide such a service of spiritual guidance to lay people, even if they are not required to do so. But expect the teacher to teach on his terms and not your's. He is not a commercial service-provider, and you are not his customer. If a monk provides such a service, it should be only out of compassion.

Of course, not all monks are equal, so some would be better than others, in terms of character, knowledge, insight, compassion and attainment.

From the life of Ajaan Fuang as written by his student Thanissaro Bhikkhu in "Awareness Itself":

§ One of Ajaan Fuang's students complained to him about all the problems she was facing at work. She wanted to quit and live quietly by herself, but circumstances wouldn't allow it, because she had to provide for her mother. Ajaan Fuang told her, "If you have to live with these things, then find out how to live in a way that rises above them. That's the only way you'll be able to survive."

§ Advice for a student who was letting the pressure at work get her down: "When you do a job, don't let the job do you."

§ Another one of Ajaan Fuang's students was having serious problems, both at home and in her work, so he appealed to her fighting spirit: "Anyone who's a real, live person will have to meet up with real, live problems in life."

§ If any of his students were bearing a grudge about something, he would tell them: "You can't even sacrifice something as minor as this? Think of it as making a gift. Remember how many valuable things the Buddha sacrificed during his life as Prince Vessantara, and then ask yourself, 'This anger of mine has no value at all. Why can't I sacrifice it, too?'"

§ One of Ajaan Fuang's students complained to him, "I look at other people, and they seem to have such an easy life. Why is life so hard on me?" His answer: "Your 'hard life' is ten, twenty times 'the good life' for a lot of people. Why don't you look at the people who have a harder time than you do?"

§ There seem to be more excuses for breaking the fifth precept than for any other. One evening another student was conversing with Ajaan Fuang at the same time that a group of people were sitting around them in meditation. "I can't observe the fifth precept," he said, "because I'm under a lot of group pressure. When we have social occasions at work, and everyone else in the group is drinking, I have to drink along with them."

Ajaan Fuang pointed to the people sitting around them and asked, "This group isn't asking you to drink. Why don't you give in to their group pressure instead?"

§ The seamstress saw her friends observing the eight precepts at Wat Dhammasathit, and so decided to try it herself. But in the middle of the afternoon, as she was walking through the monastery, she passed a guava tree. The guavas looked inviting, so she picked one and took a bite.

Ajaan Fuang happened to be standing not far away, and so he remarked, "Hey. I thought you were going to observe the eight precepts. What's that in your mouth?"

The seamstress realized in a jolt that she had broken her precepts, but Ajaan Fuang consoled her, "It's not all that necessary to observe the eight precepts, but make sure you observe the one precept, okay? Do you know what the one precept is?"

"No, Than Phaw. What is it?"

"Not doing any evil. I want you to hold onto this one for life."

§ A woman came to Wat Dhammasathit to observe the precepts and meditate for a week, but by the end of the second day she told Ajaan Fuang that she had to return home, because she was afraid her family couldn't get along without her. He taught her to cut through her worries by saying, "When you come here, tell yourself that you've died. One way or another, your family will have to learn to fend for themselves."

§ A Bangkok magazine once carried the serialized autobiography of a lay meditator who used his powers of concentration to treat diseases. One installment mentioned how he had visited Ajaan Fuang, who had certified that he (the layman) had attained jhana. This didn't sound like Ajaan Fuang's style, but soon after the magazine came out, unusual numbers of people came to the wat under the impression that Ajaan Fuang, like the author of the autobiography, could treat illnesses through meditation. One woman asked him if he treated kidney diseases, and he answered, "I treat only one kind of disease: diseases of the mind."


The Sangha is not meant as a social service. Althought 95% act as such and this corrupt way of livelihood is actually the only kind most of you will ever come in touch.

If one looks for such, there are institutions one can pay or be paying ones tax.

What one seeks for one get's. So nothing to worry aside of seeking the right.

Even most will not see any benefit to leave the state of being just a away-consumer of some merits in the past, not willing to give, here some words to understand the liberating economy of Dhamma: Better to Give than to Consume

Now one can start to think how much one has actually given since birth and how much simply consumed away for nothing but increasing of desires till today. And here one actually has already the answer why modern people suffer hardly in all ways of mind illness.

Take the most needed with you, close the door from outside and come here not much thinking on going out to simply return back where you came from. Only that resolve and act will heal much already.

A good answer by the way.


I have met some phycologists during meditation retreats and service, I wouldn't recommend Western psychology. Especially be committed to not taking medications, it wasn't that long ago that a spiritual being or someone talking about higher and lower realms etc. Might have gotten the electric chair and a labotomy. I have heard some people getting a lot of improvement and balance and noticed some good qualities from that type of work. That addresses the issues calmly and assertively, apologizes and quickly-ish admits mistakes. But drugs and some treatments repress and supress the madness causing more subconscious smoldering that will later erupt, and be a roaring fire.

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