Seminar: Buddhism and The West, hosted by Richard Pope
Facilitator: David T
Reading assignment: The reading for this week is Thomas Metzinger’s essay, Spirituality and Intellectual Honesty: https://www.blogs.uni-mainz.de/fb05philosophie/files/2014/04/TheorPhil_Metzinger_SIR_2013_English.pdf
This is what I would call a manifesto that envisions secularism and spiritual practice as sharing the same ethical stance toward knowledge. This vision takes into account two contemporary challenges: ongoing collective failures at global warming response, and continuing adjustment of modern humans to a naturalized self-conception. Along the way he discusses meditation as an example of this stance and argues against the existence of enlightenment.
Here are a couple of preliminary questions to think about:
* How do social relationships play a role in this stance, or is it completely individualistic?
* Does this stance make avoiding self-deception into an ethical panacea? Shouldn’t there be some things of greater ethical importance that involve some self-deception?
What is Buddhist truth? How is Buddhism evolving as it takes root and grows in the United States and the west?
These are the two fundamental questions that this group seeks to answer. We’ll approach these questions from the perspective that there is something both timeless and transcendent about the truth Buddhism describes, but also that the practice and expression of Buddhism is both time-bound and culturally-dependent. Participants are encouraged to form their own answers to the above questions, which for the purpose of our discussion will be perpetually regarded as “open.”
The global moment is unique for Buddhism, which “encounters itself anew” as its major branches converge after 100s or even 1,000s of years of separation, while simultaneously being powerfully influenced by: western ideologies such as romanticism, nihilism, and postmodernism; scientific-materialism and its offshoots such as quantum physics and the brain sciences; popular culture and world-cultures; consumerism and spiritual-consumerism; and countless other forces both overt and subtle, which we shall spend no small amount of time attempting to elucidate during our discussions.
Our method is to meet each week to discuss a text. We’ll split our efforts between reading (1) primary texts from the three major Buddhist lineages (Theravada, Zen, and Tibetan Buddhism); (2) primary texts of western philosophers who’ve been influenced by Buddhism or who have ideas compatible with Buddhist philosophy; (3) secondary texts of recent scholarship that offer insights relevant to our endeavor; and (4) tertiary texts of a wide variety of related and not-so-related topics as the group sees fit and which align with our trajectory, wherever it may ultimately take us.
Readings will likely be between 20-50 pages per week, depending on the difficulty of the text and its “discussion potential.”
Upcoming readings / topics:
– Mulamadhyamakakarika, Nagarjuna
– Buddhist Romanticism, Thanissaro Bhikkhu
– The Scientific Buddha, Donald Lopez
Prior readings / topics:
– Investigating the Phenomenological Matrix of Mindfulness-related Practices from a Neurocognitive Perspective
– The Sattipatana Sutta: https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/nyanasatta/wheel019.html
and the Anapanasati Sutta:
– From Western Marxism to Western Buddhism, by Slajov Zizek – http://www.cabinetmagazine.org/issues/2/western.php
– Minimal Phenomenal Experience, by Thomas Metzinger – https://osf.io/jd78a
– Greek Buddha, by Christopher Beckwith
– The Debate of King Milinda (Milinda Panha) – http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/milinda.pdf