Sunday, March 29, 2009

Buddhist Personality Type

Take the what Buddhist personality type are you quiz from Tricycle: The Buddhist Review magazine. It is a fun way of looking at yourself that also provides a valuable perspective for mindfulness. The types/temperaments system is from the 1600+ years old Visuddhimagga, a work based on teachings from the Pali Canon. The article, Which Buddhist Personality Type Are You? summarizes:
The Visuddhimagga offers descriptions of six personality temperaments: three unwholesome types and three wholesome types. The text suggests that the unwholesome and wholesome types “parallel” each other. The modern-day application of the personality-type system focuses primarily on the three unwholesome types and pairs them with their positive attributes. The three types of Buddhist personalities, paired with their positive tendencies, are Greed/Faith, Aversive/Discerning Wisdom, and Deluded/Speculative. The Greed/Faith personality type is characterized by craving and optimism, the Aversive/Discerning type by criticism and clarity, and the Deluded/Speculative type by doubt and equanimity. Each type has its neurotic tendencies and its awakened tendencies, and the spiritual task is to learn how to strengthen the awakened aspects.
Rather than be a judgmental notion to defeat, each temperament pair is neutral, with equal parts obstacle and virtue. By thinking of each type as a likely temperament to exhibit, it helps us understand both our most likely challenge to overcome and the corresponding virtue. The upshot is that when we better understand our obstacles in this world, we have a clearer understanding of the path that we are on so that we can navigate it wisely. "Each type has a spiritual task to accomplish."

Take the quiz

I took it, and my types are:
  • Primary: Greed/Faith
  • Secondary: Aversive/Discerning Wisdom

This seems right on for me, and the article goes on to provide some mindfulness tips:
The spiritual task of the greedy type is to transform the desire for sense objects into a desire to know the Three Jewels: Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. Greedy types need to balance their optimism with an awareness of suffering. Practices that can help the greedy type include: contemplation of old age, sickness, death, and impermanence, meditation on the 32 parts of the body; generosity; renunciation; noticing the ending of experiences; putting oneself in uncomfortable, unpleasant situations (in order to become disenchanted with sense pleasures); slowing down; and taking the Three Refuges.
Curiously, if you know me well personally or follow along on my blog, you will see that these are the exact steps that I am taking. For instance, I having written about the meditation on the 32 aprts of the body in Libido Is In, Lust Is Out. I intentionally Lean Into Discomfort, which was shown in my exploration of Zen Master K. I discuss the benefits of a forced renunciation in Another Lens for the Flying Dutchman and Silver Lining on the Dark Cloud of the Recession (these make sense given the Faith part).

It is encouraging to see that I'm exploring the right path, though of course this is a difficult path for me which requires a lot of concentration to keep from straying. I believe that the current step for me is to explore Sangha (good deeds in and for the community) a lot more. Soon it may be time to take the vow of the Three Refuges. To me, the fact that I have been benefitting from these activities validates the benefits of this article. I encourage you to take the quiz and explore your spiritual task in fellowship with me and other readers.

There has been a terrific side benefit in my sharing. Taking this quiz has brought me a lot closer to an important person in my life. An ex-girlfriend and I are now able to understand each others' challenges quite a lot better. She has Deluded/Speculative primary and Aversive/Discerning Wisdom secondary, making it difficult for her to understand by Greed/Faith, and vice versa for me. We often had misunderstandings due to both having quite different challenges in our lives. This article and quiz gives us perspective to understand each others' challenges. Our renewed and strengthened friendship is a blessing.

I highly recommend this quiz to understand yourself better, to help others understand you better, and to provide guidance on how to handle suffering in your life.

I dedicate this to my sister Laura, who like me, loves such personality tests. I suspect she also has the same primary and secondary temperaments as me. It would be beneficial for me to have her help on these.

Request for comments
What results did you get on the quiz?


  1. Like you I'm primarily Greedy. Reflecting on the three types, I believe that my secondary type would be Deluded. While I tend towards catty comments externally, my inner tendency is towards acceptance of people, things, and events, so Aversive is last on the list.

  2. My primary type is Deluded. Hmmm...

  3. Primary: Aversive/Discerning
    Secondary: Greed/Faith

    Interesting quiz

  4. Your percentage scores:
    Discerning/Aversive: 0.1%

    Faithful/Greedy: 0.3%

    Speculative/Deluded: 99.6%