IASS Potsdam Dialogue Series: Buddhist Psychology & Sustainability

Hendirk Stark


In June I visited IASS Potsdam with my colleague Torgeir from Oslo to share and discuss insights of and potential new questions regarding our common interest in what Buddhist psychology and its central theme, dependent origination, may contribute to our discourse on societal transformation towards sustainability. In particular, we wanted to discuss mind-sets that may inspire and allow such a transformation. We thought comparing what we know from behavioral theories in environmental psychology with dependent origination (the Buddhist approach to behavior) may be a helpful way.


Although I have studied this subject since many years, Torgeir and me spend a whole weekend 24h/d trying to find a narrative and meaningful ways points to compare. We went forth and back, trying to link old and new, east and west, theories and practice. Eventually, we had really interesting conversations and discussions during the workshop with a group of around 15 people, with the majority being psychologists. Definitely, there was a huge interest and curiosity from their side in how to look at mind and life from the Buddhist point of view. The interest in general topics such as emotions, for example anger, and their role in driving our behavior, and whether it’s helpful or not, was so big, that we struggled to get back to the central theme around the psychology of environmental behavior. In fact, this experience was quite an inspiration to us. It showed the importance of making alternative views, in this case Buddhist psychology, more accessible, even in science. When walking though it step by step, usually people come to see the relevance and potential this eastern contemplative psychology can have for our understanding of the mind in general and sustainability in particular.