Hakomi and Buddhism: Brief Overview

The aim of this overview is to summarize the points of similarity and interconnection between Hakomi and Buddhism. Such a study allows to enrich both Hakomi and Buddhist practice, providing the immediate applicability of Hakomi and philosophical depth of Buddhism.

Indeed Hakomi is one of the foremost therapies influenced by Buddhism, as described by Jim Lehrman in his article Buddhist Influences on Psychotherapy


The art and science of dialogue is developed in the West by system scientists (David Bohm, Peter Senge, etc.), and incorporated on many levels in Hakomi therapy, including the specific exercises like "The Truth-Telling Circle". Such a dialogue is focused on present moment and direct experience, and leads to the deep understanding and sense of interconnectedness.

Such a dialogue is also an inherent part of Buddha's teaching, since in his discourses he led people to experience themselves those phenomena which he talked about. In fact such a "gradual teaching" by personal experience led his listeners to improved understanding all the way to Enlightenment.

In later times an enlightening dialogue "van-da" was developed in Zen as a way to convey the meaning beyond content of the sentences.

The experiential dialogue as an "enlightenment practice" is being further developed by Kenji Oka in his Mindfulness Encounter Groups.


This concept in Hakomi stems partly from Taoist roots. Yet one of the basic Hakomi exercises on this topic, "Groundlessness", is a direct expression of the "open mind" in Zen, and particularly "Don't know" koan.

In Kalama Sutta, the Buddha's charter of free inquiry, he emphasized the priority of direct experience over knowledge derived from prevalent beliefs and traditions.

Furthermore, one of the highest meditative absorptions, "jhana", is specifically focused on the infinite space (see for example Mahanidana Sutta) and is used as context for contemplating phenomena.

In Mahayana Buddhism Shunyata is also sometimes understood as an infinite space, and also used for contemplating characteristics of phenomena.


In the "Body-Centered Psychotherapy: The Hakomi Method" Ron Kurtz several times quotes "The Power of Mindfulness" by Nyanaponika Thera and "The Miracle of Mindfulness" by Thich Nhat Hanh. In fact "bare awareness" approach of Nyanaponika Thera is a direct counterpart of "tracking" technique.

The concept of "sati" (mindfulness) in the Satipatthana Sutta and other suttas offer elaborate framework of using feedback from the four "frames of reference": body (including breath), feelings, mind and mental qualities.

Nourishment and Loving Presence

These principles of Hakomi have direct counterparts in Buddhist Brahma Vihara (Divine Abodes): lovingkindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and serene observation.

"Bodhicitta" (enlightened compassionate mind) is one of the key concepts of Mahayana Buddhism. Seeing the "Buddha seed" in everyone, practitioner strives for emancipation of all beings.


This Hakomi principle is also one of the basic Buddhist principles. Non-violence is to be observed in treating the mind as well as body.

Personality types and antidotes

In Hakomi there are eight types and the "probes" which are appropriate for them. In Buddhist works, for example Puggalapaññatti (part of Abhidhamma and the Samadhi-Niddesa chapter of Visuddhimagga, several types of personality are described, with appropriate practices to overcome their vices. For example, lust can be eliminated by contemplating absence of attractiveness, hatred by lovingkindness, etc.

Sensitivity cycle

In Hakomi the four basic factors of Clarity, Effectiveness, Satisfaction and Relaxation support each other in turn. Such description is widely used in Buddhism, where calm and insight, mindfulness and concentration, support each other. Several sets of mutually supporting factors have been summarized as the "Wings to Awakening".

Taking Over

This concept with Taoist roots of "going with the grain" has parallels in Buddhist practice. As described in Dhammapada-Atthakatha (stories 25, 31, 46, 170, 277-279, 285, 347), in working with his disciples Buddha discovered the theme on which they were concentrated, and enhanced it to facilitate further progress.

Higher Self

In the article "Core Material and the Higher Self" Ron Kurtz draws parallels between Hakomi approach and the concept of "Buddha seed". The growing interest to the so-called "essence" is also reflected in the "Lightbody Consciousness in Hakomi" article.

The concept of restoring full human-beingness (introduced by Chogyam Rimpoche) is also akin to Hakomi.

In Buddhism the concept of "Self" is studied in detail. Of special practical interest is Potthapada Sutta (Digha Nikaya 9) where it is described how the "Self" becomes more and more subtle with the ascension to the higher levels of meditative absorption (jhana). In Mahayana Buddhism three bodies of the Buddha are introduced: Dharmakaya, Sambhogakaya and Nirmanakaya, which also represent such ascension.

Those similarities have been a part of inspiration beyond the work of Richard Heckler from San-Francisco Hakomi Institute and John Eisman on the Re-Creation of the Self approach, aimed at "Organic Self".

Anatta (Not-Self)

In "By Itself" exercise, aimed at detached observation of one's unconscious actions, Ron Kurtz says that they happen by themselves, without any "Self" necessarily present. Such practice of dis-identification and detached observation is certainly an inherent part of Hakomi.

Ron Kurtz quotes Kalu Rimpoche in reference to changeability and illusory nature of the world.


The practice of probes is directly related to the analytical contemplation of so-called "Conditioned Arising", the heart of systemic approach in Buddhism. Yet this relationship awaits further study, since such Buddhist practice is partly forgotten and needs to be revived.

Please write your comments and suggestions on this topic to Dmytro Ivakhnenko at http://www.dhamma.ru/sadhu/ .

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