Post your own alternate quiz questions, discussion questions, comments, & links... Tell us what you talked about on your last peripatetic stroll (and what it had to do with the subject du jour).
1. How are Revel and Ricard related, and what is their philosophical difference?
2. What's the ultimate goal of Tibetan Buddhism?
3. What does Ricard say is the cause of suffering?
4. Pain and suffering provide what opportunity in Buddhism?
5. Buddhism's metaphysical understanding of consciousness indicates what position regarding the nature of reality?
6. What caused Stephen Batchelor to leave Tibetan Buddhism?
7. What did the Holy Spirit produce in "respectable people," during the Great Awakening?
8. What "intense supernatural feeling" did George Whitefield implant in American Christianity?
9. Why, according to Alexander Hamilton, did the framers omit God from the Constitution?
10. What, according to Kant, is the motto of enlightenment?
11. Enlightenment thinkers were sure that what would win in the "marketplace of ideas?"
12. What kind of questions "burden" human thought, but cannot finally be answered?
- Do you have any significant philosophical differences with your parents? Do you discuss them? Do you want to?
- Does nirvana have to be the same for everyone? What would be your personal definition/experience of nirvana?
- Matthieu Ricard has been called the happiest man in the world. Do you think eastern philosophies focused on the alleviation of suffering are a more promising route to happiness than its "pursuit" in the western/Jeffersonian tradition of individualism and personal liberty?
- Is "Holy Spirit" something real and supernatural, or is it the name of a natural form of experience best studied and explicated by neuroscientists, and analyzed by philosophers?
- Have you been "born again," or encouraged by faith leaders or peers to seek spiritual rebirth? Is that something real, metaphorical, or delusional?
- Why did the founders omit reference to God in the Constitution, do you think?
- Do you think it takes courage to think for yourself and invoke reason against superstition, tradition, etc.?
- Beerbohm notes the "drawbacks" of London's environment that keep him from having to walk. What drawbacks exist in your environment and how do or might you overcome them?
- What usefulness, besides exercise, do you think walking has?
- What do you think about Beerbohm's attribution of walking to some lower human faculty ("soul")? Where does your "mind go" while walking?
"In western society, we tend to think that we’ll find happiness once we reach certain goals. However, Zen Buddhism says that happiness doesn’t come from any outside achievements. Instead, it believes that true inner peace comes from within.
The key, according to Zen, is to let go of attachments and embrace living fully in the present moment. It’s certainly an outlook on life that all could benefit from, no matter your religion or race..." http://hackspirit.com/25-quotes-zen-buddism-will-open-mind-wide-open/
Stephen Batchelor's books on secular/atheistic Buddhism... Does Buddhism Give Us Answers or Questions? (w/John Horgan)...
...In Buddhism Without Beliefs, Batchelor advocated a bare-bones Buddhism, one that "strips away, layer by layer, the views that conceal the mystery of being here" and leaves us in a state of acute existential awareness.
He emphasized that this state is not always pleasant. When we truly confront reality, we "tremble on that fine line between exhilaration and dread." In fact, there is no better way to confront the "enormity of having been born," he contended, than to ponder our own mortality. Batchelor advocated sitting in silence while dwelling upon the following question: "Since death alone is certain and the time of death uncertain, what should I do?" Ideally, this meditation will "jolt us awake to the sensuality of existence."
Batchelor described himself as an "agnostic Buddhist." Agnosticism is often denigrated as a passive worldview, the philosophical equivalent of a shrug. But true agnosticism, Batchelor contended, consists of "an intense perplexity that vibrates through the body and leaves the mind that seeks certainty nowhere to rest." (continues)Batchelor on On Being ("Stephen Batchelor’s secular Buddhism speaks to the mystery and vitality of spiritual life in every form. For him, secularism opens to doubt and questioning as a radical basis for spiritual life. Above all, he understands Buddhism without transcendent beliefs like karma or reincarnation to become something urgent to do, not to believe in.")
Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction... Tibetan Buddhism... Indian Philosophy... Confucianism... Some old posts on eastern philosophy... The Tao of Pooh
But The Tao of Pooh should be simple enough…
Owl of course is the opposite of Pooh, the Knowledge for the sake of Appearing Wise, the one who studies Knowledge for the sake of Knowledge, and who keeps what he learns to himself or to his own small group, rather than working for the enlightenment of others. That way, the scholars can appear Superior, and will not likely be suspected of Not Knowing Something. After all, from the scholarly point of view, it’s practically a crime not to know everything. But sometimes the knowledge of the scholar is a bit hard to understand because it doesn’t seem to match up with our own experience of things. Isn’t the knowledge that comes from experience more valuable than the knowledge that doesn’t?
Oh, yes. Ask any pragmatist. Or ask Bob Solomon: For the Confucian, the personal is the social. For the Taoist, the personal is the relation to nature. For both, the goal is harmony in human life and a larger sense of the “person” than the mere individual. Experience preferred.
Or ask Simon Critchley, who reports this Socratic jab from Confucius (aka Kongzi): “You do not understand even life. How can you understand death?” His rival Lao Tzu thought he understood his body to be the source of all his suffering. That’s blaming the victim, if you ask me. Both are now asteroids, nominally at least. Presumably their suffering (and understanding) is no more. Same for Chuang Tzu (Zhuangzi), who– like Freddie the Leaf— saw death as “just like the progression of the four seasons.”
“We all fear what we don’t know, Freddie. It’s natural,” Daniel reassured him. “Yet, you were not afraid when Summer became Fall. They were natural changes. Why should you be afraid of the season of death?”
“Does the tree die, too?” Freddie asked.
“Someday. But there is something stronger than the tree. It is Life. That lasts forever and we are all a part of Life.”
“Where will we go when we die?”
“No one knows for sure. That’s the great mystery!”
“Will we return in the Spring?”
“We may not, but Life will.”
“Then what has been the reason for all of this?” Freddie continued to question. “Why were we here at all if we only have to fall and die?”
Daniel answered in his matter-of-fact way, “It’s been about the sun and the moon. It’s been about happy times together. It’s been about the shade and the old people and the children. It’s been about colors in Fall. It’s been about seasons. Isn’t that enough?“
The Japanese Zen monk haiku masters (like Mabutsu) would say it is, if they said anything propositional at all. You never know just when the bottom will fall out. So true.
It was enough for Walt Whitman, too, who sang of “the beautiful uncut hair of graves” and would not be “contain’d between my hat and boots.”
Pooh, for a bear of very little brain, has sure made his mark amongst academics and intellectuals. In Pooh and the Philosophers John Williams says Whitehead got it wrong: all those post-Platonists were really annotating our ursine hero. In Pooh Perplex and Postmodern Pooh, Frederick Crews discovers a humanist role-model and skewers the pretensions of literary critics in the process: two acts of public service we can all be grateful for.
The School of Life's YouTube channel
Why so Many Love the Philosophy of the East – and so Few That of the WestMiranda Kerr is pretty, successful and very rich. She’s been named the sexiest woman alive. She’s also deeply interested in developing her mind. That means she’s into yoga, chanting, meditation and Japanese Buddhism. She recites Nam Myoho Renge Kyo twice a day – invoking the mystic law of the lotus flower which asserts that Miranda and the cosmos are two sides of the same coin.
Kerr has had some real difficulties with loneliness and loss. Her first boyfriend died in a car crash. A later lover turned out to be a crook. She married Orlando Bloom but it all fell apart pretty quickly. Her needs are real. And she’s turned for comfort and help to the East.
She might have looked elsewhere. She might have found that Plato or Tolstoy had things to teach her. Maybe she could have been touch..ed by Bach or medieval architecture. It’s not as if the West doesn’t also have a deep and long engagement with the sorrows of life. But, like so many spiritually curious people, she didn’t end up engaging with its culture. Instead she joined the Soka Gakkai Buddhist movement.
Miranda is deeply sincere in her longing to be educated and instructed. She’s a tireless advocate of an analysed life.
So how has it happened that Western culture largely passed Miranda by? It’s not her fault. She needed something and the West wouldn’t give it to her. So she went elsewhere. And her decision tells us something hugely important about how the Western world handles – or more accurately, mishandles – its culture... (SoL, continues)
Six Ideas from Eastern Philosophy
Eastern Philosophy has always had a very similar goal to Western philosophy: that of making us wiser, less agitated, more thoughtful and readier to appreciate our lives. However, the way it has gone about this has been intriguingly different. In the East, Philosophy has taught its lessons via tea drinking ceremonies, walks in bamboo forests, contemplations of rivers and ritualised flower arranging sessions. Here are a few ideas to offer us the distinctive wisdom of a continent and enrich our notions of what philosophy might really be... (SoL, continues)
The Monk and the Philosopher by Jean-François Revel & Matthieu Ricard
Lachlan Dale explores some of the philosophical implications of Tibetan Buddhism.
The Monk and the Philosopher is an exploration of Tibetan Buddhist belief and practise, and an attempt to understand the religion’s growing popularity in the West. The book is in the form of a series of conversations between Jean-François Revel, a French intellectual known for his defense of liberalism and wariness of the totalitarian tendencies of religion, and his son Matthieu Ricard, who in the early 1970s abandoned a promising career in molecular genetics to study Tibetan Buddhism in Darjeeling. For Revel, his son’s decision to choose Eastern wisdom over the fruits of Western liberalism must have come as a shock. So on top of his desire to understand the appeal of Tibetan Buddhism in the West, Revel also wanted to better understand his son. Moreover, the disagreements between father and son roughly mirror the split between Eastern and Western forms of knowledge, making this book an excellent critique of Tibetan Buddhism for the philosophically-minded Westerner.
In recent decades Buddhism has enjoyed considerable growth in Western countries, in part due to a growing body of research confirming the effectiveness of mindfulness and meditation. These techniques have been demonstrated to reduce stress and anxiety, improve memory, and enhance cognitive flexibility. Psychologists also report an increased capacity for empathy and compassion, while neuroscientists note the increased density of grey matter in the hippocampus of long-term meditators. As a result, these techniques are often transplanted into a secular context. This troubles purists like Ricard, who believe the practises must remain rooted in a Buddhist program of spiritual development. When combined with visualisation, repetition of mantras, and the study of sacred texts, these techniques are said to allow an individual to directly grasp the fundamental nature of reality, including the unity of all phenomena, the transitory nature of existence, and the illusion of the self.
The ultimate goal of Tibetan Buddhism is not merely to reduce anxiety, but to reach nirvana. Ricard denies that this is an alternate metaphysical realm, instead understanding it as a state ‘beyond suffering’ in which one can directly contemplate absolute truth and “experience an unchangeable state of bliss and perceive the infinite purity of all phenomena” (p.150). He argues that Buddhists do not seek to flee this world, but merely to no longer be enslaved by it: “Dissolving the mind’s attachment to the reality of a self does go hand in hand with annihilation, but what’s annihilated is pride, vanity, obsession, touchiness, and acrimony. As that attachment dissolves, the field is left clear for goodness, humility, and altruism. By no longer cherishing and protecting the self, you acquire a much wider and deeper view of the world” (p.156). On the surface this seems a perfectly noble, secular, aspiration. However some aspects of Tibetan Buddhist doctrine prove more problematic to Western thinking... (continues at Philosophy Now)
Ricard on Buddhism & Western Philosophy (3" video)... Ricard at TED... Revel on How Democracies Perish (2" video)
“If you want the shortest version of my answer to the question of why Buddhism is true, it's this: Because we are animals created by natural selection. Natural selection built into our brains the tendencies that early Buddhist thinkers did a pretty amazing job of sizing up, given the meager scientific resources at their disposal.
“As for where the mind wanders to: well, lots of places, obviously, but studies have shown that these places are usually in the past or the future; you may ponder recent events or distant, strong memories; you may dread upcoming events or eagerly anticipate them; you may strategize about how to head off some looming crisis or fantasize about romancing the attractive person in the cubicle next to yours. What you’re generally not doing when your mind is wandering is directly experiencing the present moment.”
“Buddhist thought and modern psychology converge on this point: in human life as it’s ordinarily lived, there is no one self, no conscious CEO, that runs the show; rather, there seem to be a series of selves that take turns running the show—and, in a sense, seizing control of the show. If the way they seize control of the show is through feelings, it stands to reason that one way to change the show is to change the role feelings play in everyday life. I’m not aware of a better way to do that than mindfulness meditation.”
“There’s no doubt that meditation training has allowed some people to become essentially indifferent to what otherwise would have been unbearable pain.” g'reads
In order to have peace and joy, you must succeed in having peace within each of your steps. Your steps are the most important thing.
It is a fact that not once in all my life have I gone out for a walk. I have been taken out for walks; but that is another matter. Even while I trotted prattling by my nurse’s side I regretted the good old days when I had, and wasn’t, a perambulator. When I grew up it seemed to me that the one advantage of living in London was that nobody ever wanted me to come out for a walk. London’s very drawbacks—its endless noise and bustle, its smoky air, the squalor ambushed everywhere in it—assured this one immunity. Whenever I was with friends in the country, I knew that at any moment, unless rain were actually falling, some man might suddenly say “Come out for a walk!” in that sharp imperative tone which he would not dream of using in any other connexion. People seem to think there is something inherently noble and virtuous in the desire to go for a walk. Any one thus desirous feels that he has a right to impose his will on whomever he sees comfortably settled in an arm-chair, reading. It is easy to say simply “No” to an old friend. In the case of a mere acquaintance one wants some excuse. “I wish I could, but”—nothing ever occurs to me except “I have some letters to write.” This formula is unsatisfactory in three ways. (1) It isn’t believed. (2) It compels you to rise from your chair, go to the writing-table, and sit improvising a letter to somebody until the walkmonger (just not daring to call you liar and hypocrite) shall have lumbered out of the room. (3) It won’t operate on Sunday mornings. “There’s no post out till this evening” clinches the matter; and you may as well go quietly.
Walking for walking’s sake may be as highly laudable and exemplary a thing as it is held to be by those who practise it. My objection to it is that it stops the brain. Many a man has professed to me that his brain never works so well as when he is swinging along the high road or over hill and dale. This boast is not confirmed by my memory of anybody who on a Sunday morning has forced me to partake of his adventure. The ideas that came so thick and fast to him in any room, where are they now? where that encyclopaedic knowledge which he bore so lightly? where the kindling fancy that played like summer lightning over any topic that was started? The man’s face that was so mobile is set now; gone is the light from his fine eyes. He says that A. (our host) is a thoroughly good fellow. Fifty yards further on, he adds that A. is one of the best fellows he has ever met. We tramp another furlong or so, and he says that Mrs. A. is a charming woman. Presently he adds that she is one of the most charming women he has ever known. We pass an inn. He reads vapidly aloud to me: “The King’s Arms. Licensed to sell Ales and Spirits.” I foresee that during the rest of the walk he will read aloud any inscription that occurs. We pass a milestone. He points at it with his stick, and says “Uxminster. 11 Miles.” We turn a sharp corner at the foot of a hill. He points at the wall, and says “Drive Slowly.” I see far ahead, on the other side of the hedge bordering the high road, a small notice-board. He sees it too. He keeps his eye on it. And in due course “Trespassers,” he says, “Will Be Prosecuted.” Poor man!—mentally a wreck.
Luncheon at the A.s, however, salves him and floats him in full sail. Behold him once more the life and soul of the party. Surely he will never, after the bitter lesson of this morning, go out for another walk. An hour later, I see him striding forth, with a new companion. I watch him out of sight. I know what he is saying. He is saying that I am rather a dull man to go a walk with. He will presently add that I am one of the dullest men he ever went a walk with. Then he will devote himself to reading out the inscriptions.
How comes it, this immediate deterioration in those who go walking for walking’s sake? Just what happens? I take it that not by his reasoning faculties is a man urged to this enterprise. He is urged, evidently, by something in him that transcends reason; by his soul, I presume. Yes, it must be the soul that raps out the “Quick march!” to the body. —“Halt! Stand at ease!” interposes the brain, and “To what destination,” it suavely asks the soul, “and on what errand, are you sending the body?” —“On no errand whatsoever,” the soul makes answer, “and to no destination at all. It is just like you to be always on the look-out for some subtle ulterior motive. The body is going out because the mere fact of its doing so is a sure indication of nobility, probity, and rugged grandeur of character.” —“Very well, Vagula, have your own wayula! But I,” says the brain, “flatly refuse to be mixed up in this tomfoolery. I shall go to sleep till it is over.” The brain then wraps itself up in its own convolutions, and falls into a dreamless slumber from which nothing can rouse it till the body has been safely deposited indoors again.
Even if you go to some definite place, for some definite purpose, the brain would rather you took a vehicle; but it does not make a point of this; it will serve you well enough unless you are going for a walk. It won’t, while your legs are vying with each other, do any deep thinking for you, nor even any close thinking; but it will do any number of small odd jobs for you willingly—provided that your legs, also, are making themselves useful, not merely bandying you about to gratify the pride of the soul. Such as it is, this essay was composed in the course of a walk, this morning. I am not one of those extremists who must have a vehicle to every destination. I never go out of my way, as it were, to avoid exercise. I take it as it comes, and take it in good part. That valetudinarians are always chattering about it, and indulging in it to excess, is no reason for despising it. I am inclined to think that in moderation it is rather good for one, physically. But, pending a time when no people wish me to go and see them, and I have no wish to go and see any one, and there is nothing whatever for me to do off my own premises, I never will go out for a walk.
|Phil Oliver (@OSOPHER)|
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