Thursday, November 17, 2005

Class Two: Resources

Let's see.... Today we talked a bit about reconciling a Buddhist practice or way of life with Western culture; not easy stuff.

I'm really not the best to describe this, either, as I live in kind of my own world of philosophy, which is itself somewhat cut off from contemporary culture. If you have you're own reflections on trying to incorporate Buddhist ideals in life, please hit the 'comment' button and let us know.

One book that I found very interesting was James Coleman's "The New Buddhism: The Western Transformation of an Ancient Tradition". For one that focuses exclusively on Tibetan Buddhism, see Donald Lopez's "Prisoners of Shangri-la: Tibetan Buddhism and the West".

We also discussed this strange chart, ignoring most of the strange terminology, but focusing on the idea that there are two apparently contradictory models of how to move from Samsara to Nirvana. One of those is the 'sudden shift' model found in a lot of Zen and a tiny bit of Tibetan Buddhism (Dzogchen), and the other is the 'gradual path' found in most Tibetan Buddhism and Theravada.

We uncovered my hidden bias for the 'gradual path' model on certain levels as I tried to describe why I think it is better than the 'sudden shift' model. I'll work on that :)

We also discusse the assertion in the Huston Smith book, "The Illustrated World's Religions : A Guide to Our Wisdom Traditions" (which is available for sale at the store) that Buddhism is (let's see if I can remember all seven...)

1. Empirical (based in experience, not blind faith)
2. Scientific (based on laws of cause and effect)
3. Pragmatic (to be used for progress, not clung to dogmatically)
4. Psychological (not metaphysical - focuses on immediate issues, not speculation)
Egalitarian (gender equal and anti-caste)
7. Directed toward individuals (based in individual's needs, not just societal structure)

Ok, so 6 out of seven... For my own sketch of what Buddhism is, see here. It goes through many of the same categories and my thoughts on them.


Oh.. and next week I'll bring in some of the texts that I have that deal with:

1. Early Mahayana thought (Nagarjuna)
2. Yogacara (practice of yoga school) and their idea of mind-only
3. Buddhism in Tibet
4. Ch'an (China) and Zen (Japan)

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Class One: (and 2 sort of) Resources

Here is a good overview of Hinduism. See especially the Caste System.

Dr. Sponberg ususally teaches an intro course here at UM. You can see his lecture slides and links to other useful sites here.

Here are some images of the emaciated Buddha (depicting the hight of his asceticism) one, two.

Look at the links to the right to explore some of the traditions' websites. I'll be moving forward next week into the varying traditions. Feel free to 'comment' or email me with any questions. Best wishes and see you soon.