As the school year for many is just beginning, it's an appropriate time for an update regarding the Not School discussion groups for the month of September.
The Philosophy of Technology group will be reading selections from a book called What Technology Wants by Kevin Kelly, which appears to be a somewhat optimistic reflection on the development of "technology" as analyzed from an evolutionary perspective. The author seems to be arguing that the development of this "organism" will turn out to be a positive for humankind. Beginners are welcome to this group.
If you're more of a "things will get much worse before they get better" kind of thinker, then the brand new Marxism group might be for you! And there's no better place to begin than with the Manifesto itself. This is intended to be beginner friendly as well: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.
We also have a long running Fiction discussion group. This month: hanky panky! They'll be reading The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera. The Fiction group has always had a good number of participants and pretty lively discussion as well. Join in the discussion this month and feel better about having that Criterion Collection edition DVD on your shelf.
There is still time to get involved with these groups as the first week's forum topics are just being posted now.
A couple of groups that look likely to get startedthis month as well are: A new group on Zen Buddhism which should be starting out with The Lotus Sutra, and the long running Intro Readings in Philosophy group, which was considering William James's Psychology: The Briefer Course.
Aside from advertising the groups that will be active this month for PEL Citizens, the other goal of this post is to encourage proposals for more discussion groups. Any and all PEL Citizens are welcome to propose for discussion: books, chapters of books, papers, Netflix movies, etc. The discussions can be entirely forum based, or include live discussion over Skype or Google Hangout. It's all been done. And of the many live discussions that have been held, some have been recorded, edited to some degree, and posted for other PEL Citizens to experience for themselves. You may have heard excerpts from some of these conversations in the special episodes of Partially Examined Life that have been published publicly.
So don't feel left out this month just because you may not be heading back to school. Become a PEL Citizen and head instead to Not School!
lots of interesting questions arise from Kundera on kitsch, enjoy!
“A new group on Zen Buddhism which should be starting out with The Lotus Sutra”
I don’t know how much the zen group has read about zen, but the Lotus sutra would be a great text to understand the form of Buddhism known as Nichiren Buddhism or Hokkeshu which is a branch of Mahāyāna Buddhism based on the Lotus Sutra.
Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō “Devotion to the Mystic Law of the Lotus Sutra” or “Glory to the Sutra of the Lotus of the Supreme Law” is a mantra that is chanted as the central practice of all forms of Nichiren Buddhism Myōhō Renge Kyō being the Japanese title of the Lotus Sūtra.
Texts for Zen Buddhism would be first and foremost the Heart Sutra or The Heart of the Prajna Paramita Sutra.
This is a zen liturgy book of Hokori-JI, “A Speck of Dust” Temple. You can see that The Heart Sutra and the Sandokai are chanted.
Then other texts like the Diamond sutra, Song of Precious Mirror Samadhi, Platform Sutra, the Sandokai or Harmony of Difference and Sameness or Oneness of One and Many
Then the koans. The Hekiganroku or Blue Cliff Record and the Mumonkan or The Gateless Gate.
If you’re interested in Soto Zen then the text besides The heart Sutra and the Sandokai is the Shōbōgenzō “Treasury of the True Dharma Eye” of Dogen.
For Rinzai the main text after The Heart Sutra is The Zen Teaching of Rinzai [The Record of Rinzai].
But zen can’t be understood without the context it’s situated within which relates back to the episode on Nagarjuna and Madhyamaka and the episode with Owen Flanagan.
Pratitya samutpada (Sanskrit), often translated as “dependent arising,” is central Buddhist insight. Common to all schools of Buddhism, it states that phenomena arise together in a mutually interdependent web of cause and effect. It is variously rendered into English as “dependent origination”, “dependent co-arising”, “interdependent arising”, or “contingency”.
The enlightenment (or bodhi, a word that means “to awaken”) of the Buddha was simultaneously his liberation from suffering (dukkha) and his insight into the nature of the universe – particularly the nature of the lives of sentient beings (principally humans and animals). What the Buddha awakened to was the truth of dependent origination / interdependence.
This is the understanding that any phenomenon exists only because of the existence of other phenomena in an incredibly complex web of cause and effect covering time past, time present and time future. This concept of a web is symbolized by Indra’s net, a multidimensional spider’s web on which lies an infinite amount of dew drops or jewels, and in these are reflected the reflections of all the other drops of dew ad infinitum.
Stated in another way, everything depends on everything else. A human being’s existence in any given moment is dependent on the condition of everything else in the world at that moment, but in an equally significant way, the condition of everything in the world in that moment depends conversely on the character and condition of that human being. Everything in the universe is interconnected through the web of cause and effect such that the whole and the parts are mutually interdependent. The character and condition of entities at any given time are intimately connected with the character and condition of all other entities that superficially may appear to be unconnected or unrelated.
“A human being is a part of a whole, called by us _universe_, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest… a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” Albert Einstein
Three Marks of Existence
Anitya – impermanence, this could also be understood as temporality, is one of the essential insights or Three Marks of Existence in Buddhism. The term expresses the Buddhist notion that every conditioned existence, without exception, is inconstant and in flux. According to the impermanence doctrine, human life embodies this flux in the aging process, and in any experience of loss. The doctrine further asserts that because things are impermanent/transient, attachment to them leads to suffering (Dukkha). Under the impermanence doctrine, all compounded and constructed things and states are impermanent.
Because all things are thus conditioned (pratitya samutpada) and transient (anitya), they have no real independent identity (anatman) and thus do not truly exist, though to ordinary minds this appears to be the case. All phenomena are therefore fundamentally insubstantial and empty (anatman/shunyata).
Anatman = no-self . Buddhism teaches that all empirical life is impermanent and in a constant state of flux, and that any entity that exists does so only in dependence on the conditions of its arising, which are non-eternal. Therefore, any Self-concept, any sense one might have of an abiding Self or a soul is regarded as a misapprehension; since the conceptualization of the Self or soul is just that.
Buddhism holds that the notion of an abiding self is one of the main causes of human conflict, and that by ceasing to reify our perceived selves, we can come to a state of perfect peace/well-being.
The Four Noble (in zen chanted as the Four Great Vows)
The application of pratityasamutpada to suffering is known as the Four Noble Truths:
1. Dukkha: There is suffering. Suffering is experienced as dissatisfaction, discontent, unhappiness, stress
2. There is a cause of suffering, (trishna)
“In attachment blossoms fall, and in aversion weeds grow” Dogen
“Our desires and aversions are mercurial rulers…Desire commands us to run off and get what we want. Aversion insists that we must avoid the things that repel us.” Epictetus
3. There is a way out of suffering, which is to eliminate attachment,aversion,and delusion/ignorance, to reach Nirvana = Well-being.
4. The path that leads out of suffering is called the Noble Eight fold Path.
right view /understanding, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration
Another way to explain this.
First we see “objective” reality as it is.
Pratitya samutpada “dependent origination”, “dependent co-arising”, “interdependent arising”, or “contingency”. Everything is interconnected in an interdependent web of cause and effect.
But we then see this is not only interconnected spatially, but also temporally.
“Evolve” means to unfold and to change over time. Which is redundant because there is no change over no time. Time is motion/change. Time is a chain of causes and effects temporally-over time = Anitya – impermanence or temporality.
Anatman = no-self or no-separate-self. Then we see that we ourselves are not separate from this universe of flux and flow, but are a part of it, we are it. To say that there is “self’ is a negative in Buddhism, it is to negate everything else. Buddhist shuanyata or “emptiness” is not nothingness it is everthingness.
The One and the Many.
Then phenomenologically or existentially we see how we experience this reality.
We experience reality as dukkha. This is often translated as “suffering” making Buddhism look quite pessimistic, but a better way to translated it is unsatisfactory. We seek permanent lasting happiness in the midst of an ever changing reality.
We want to stop it and just hold onto this person, this moment, this feeling, etc.. but we cannot.
Christians and Muslims, and others who want transcendence, want to leave here and go to a permanent place without suffering/change/time.
As Sam Harris said there is no satisfactory way to hold onto it, and there is no unsatisfactory way to hold onto it.
The existential cause of our suffering/unsatisfactoriness is trishna. We want these things, a new car, but we get it and it has the shiny toy effect, we’re happy with it for a while then we want something else. This drives consumerism.
We think if I can just get this or get rid of that, then, then I’ll be happy. Never being happy now.
Our aversions “in aversion weeds grow”. In psychology it is the practice to go into difficult problems and to works through them and come out the other side with a different relationship with the issue, but we want to push it away and not to go into it, which makes the weeds grow.
“In attachment blossoms fall” if attachment is the cause of suffering, people often think well then I’ll just be detached and not care/suffer the loss of my child.
There is zen story of a zen master whose elderly teacher passed away. At the funeral the zen master went beside the coffin and broke down crying. A student said why do you cry master all things are impermanent? He said because he’s dead and continued to cry.
In zen Buddhism the point is not to be detached but to be more fully in the moment of life. To live it and experience it more fully with all of it’s pains and sorrows and with all of it’s happiness and joys.
A kind of Nietzschean affirmation of life – Amore fati.
Which is why in zen it is said that Samsara is Nirvana.
Mysticism without transcendence: Reflections on liberation and emptiness
By Louis Nordstrom who is both a philosophy professor/tutor and a zen roshi.
WARNING WATCHING THIS MAY INDUCE BUDDHISM
Sam Harris – Death and the Present Moment
( over look his comments about “atheism” it’s really an aside to the point of his talk )
I apologize any summary of such huge subject such as Zen Buddhism is going to be lacking.