In a book geared toward the younger generation, the author explains techniques to sharpen alertness, quiet the mind, increase awareness, strengthen positive mental states and develop insight. Original.
The paper argues that empirical work on Buddhist meditation has an impact on Buddhist epistemology, in particular their account of unity of consciousness. I explain the Buddhist account of unity of consciousness and show how it relates to contemporary philosophical accounts of unity of consciousness. The contemporary accounts of unity of consciousness are closely integrated with the discussion of neural correlates of consciousness. The conclusion of the paper suggests a new direction in the search for neural correlates of state (...) consciousness or creature consciousness. (shrink)
This paper interprets Buddhist meditation from perspectives of Western psychology and explores the common grounds shared by the two disciplines. Cognitive operations in Buddhist meditation are mainly characterized by mindfulness and concentration in relation to attention. Mindfulness in particular plays a pivotal role in regulating attention. My study based on Buddhist literature corroborates significant correspondence between mindfulness and metacognition as propounded by some psychologists. In vipassan? meditation, mindfulness regulates attention in such a way that attention is directed (...) to monitor the ever-changing experiences from moment to moment so that the practitioner attains the ?metacognitive insight? into the nature of things. In samatha meditation, mindfulness picks an object as the focus of ?selective attention' and monitors whether attention is concentrated on the chosen object so as to attain the state of ?concentration?. Nimitta that appears in a deep state of concentration resembles ?imagery? in psychology. Mindfulness consists in the wholesome functioning of saññ?. A finding by psychologists supports my view that saññ? can act as perception on the one hand and, on the other hand, it can produce nimitta ?imagery? in deep meditation where perception is suspended. (shrink)
I first attempt a taxonomy of meditation in traditional Indian Buddhism. Based on the main psychological or somatic function at which the meditative effort is directed, the following classes can be distinguished: (1) emotion-centered meditation (coinciding with the traditional samatha approach); (2) consciousness-centered meditation (with two subclasses: consciousness reduction/elimination and ideation obliteration); (3) reflection-centered meditation (with two subtypes: morality-directed reflection and reality-directed observation, the latter corresponding to the vipassanā method); (4) visualization-centered meditation; and (5) (...) physiology-centered meditation. In the second part of the essay I tackle the problem of the epistemic validity and happiness-engendering value of Buddhist meditation. In my highly conjectural view, the claim that meditation represents an infallible tool for realizing the (Supreme) Truth as well as a universally valid method for attaining the highest forms of happiness is largely based on the crēdō effect, that is, a placebolike process. I do not deny that meditation may have some positive effects on mental and physical health or that its practice may bring changes to the mind. Meditation may be a valuable alternative approach in life and clinical treatment, but it is far from being a must or a panacea. (shrink)
These, and many other related questions have continued to rise in the minds of meditation practitioners of Chan, Sôn and Zen Buddhism since the earliest stages in the development of these traditions, and it is in response to such questions that the Sutra of Perfect Enlightenment (Chinese: Yuanjue jing ) was composed. In addition to detailed guidance on the undertaking of Chan contemplation, the sutra offers concise discussions of the fundamental philosophical grounds which underlie such practices, in (...) the form of question and answer sessions between the Buddha and twelve prominent bodhisattvas. While long a popular text throughout the East Asian meditative tradition, the Sutra of Perfect Enlightenment attained to a special canonical status in the Korean Chogye school where it was favored by such luminaries as Chinul, T'aego and Hyujông, and where it is used down to the present day as a basic text for monastic instruction. The.. (shrink)
This article is an exploration of the nature of consciousness. The author draws in depth from works of philosophy, psychology, literature, and meditation practice to examine a subject so subtle that we may overlook it. Consciousness, in the Buddhist tradition, cannot be held as merely another object of knowledge, a thing to be known, because it is not located in time or in space. Some modern philosophers seem to arrive at the same conclusion. Consciousness cannot be discovered through common (...) scientific strategies. Only presence-being conscious of being conscious of something-allows one to realize what consciousness is. And this can only be discovered by an exploration in the first person. Buddhist meditation offers a skillful means of investigation. (shrink)
A confluence of increasing interest in popular culture as a source for religious inspiration and the growing interest, both popular and scholarly, in zombie-fiction bring together several possibilities for scholarship in the context of religious studies. This paper will present one aspect of the zombie-craze in the light of Buddhist philosophy. The Buddha taught that the illusion of self-ish-ness, and resulting attachments, are the greatest hurdles to achieving nibbana. Through meditating on the decomposing corpse, Buddhists may come to realize the (...) Ten Impurities of the Body, and so come to grips with the impermanence of the self. I will illustrate how George Romero's Night of the Living Dead, recognized as the watershed film of the modern zombie sub-genre, unintentionally conveys the Buddhist teachings of dukkha (suffering by attachments), anatta (no-self), and anicca (impermanence). (shrink)
As scientists advance knowledge of the brain and develop technologies to measure, evaluate, and manipulate brain function, numerous questions arise for religious adherents. If neuroscientists can conclusively establish that there is a functional network between neural impulses and an individual’s capacity for moral evaluation of situations, this will naturally lead to questions about the relationship between such a network and constructions of moral value and ethical human behavior. For example, if cognitive neuroscience can show that there is a neurophysiological basis (...) for the moral appraisal of situations, it may be argued that the world’s religions, which have traditionally been the keepers and purveyors of ethical values, are rendered either spurious or irrelevant. The questions point up broader dilemmas in the interface between science and religion, and raise concerns about the ethics of neurological research and experimentation. Since human beings will still arbitrate what is “moral” or “ethical,” how can religious perspectives enrich the dialogue on neuroethical issues and how can neuroscience enrich dialogue on religion? Buddhist views on the nature of consciousness and methods of practice, especially meditation practice, may contribute to discussions on neuroscience and theories about the interrelationship between consciousness and ethical awareness by exploring the role that karma, intentionality, and compassion play in Buddhist understandings of the interrelationship between consciousness and ethics. (shrink)
This article announces the discovery of a Sinhalese version of the traditional meditation ( borān yogāvacara kammaṭṭhāna ) text in which the Consciousness or Mind, personified as a Princess living in a five-branched tree (the body), must understand the nature of death and seek the four gems that are the four noble truths. To do this she must overcome the cravings of the five senses, represented as five birds in the tree. Only in this way will she permanently avoid (...) the attentions of Death, Māra, and his three female servants, Birth, Sickness and Old Age. In this version of the text, when the Princess manages not to succumb to these three, Māra comes and snatches her from her tree and rapes her. The Buddha then appears to her to explain the path to liberation. The text provides a commentary, padārtha , which explains the details of the symbolism of the fruit in terms of rebirth and being born, the tree in terms of the body, etc. The text also offers interpretations of signs of impending death and prognostications regarding the next rebirth. Previously the existence of Khmer and Lānnā versions of this text have been recorded by Francois Bizot and Francois Lagirarde, the former publishing the text as Le Figuier a cinq branches (Le figuier à cinq branches, 1976). The Sinhalese version was redacted for one of the wives of King Kīrti Śrī Rājasiṅha of Kandy by the monk Varañāṇa Mahāthera of Ayutthayā. This confirms earlier speculation that this form of borān/dhammakāya meditation was brought to Sri Lanka with the introduction of the Siyam Nikāya in the mid-eighteenth century. It also shows that in Sri Lanka, as in Ayutthayā, this form of meditation—which in the modern period was to be rejected as ‘unorthodox’—was promoted at the highest levels of court and Saṅgha. (shrink)
The term “Contemplative sciences” refers to an interdisciplinary approach to mind that aims at a better understanding of alternative states of consciousness, like those obtained trough deep concentration and meditation, mindfulness and other “superior” or “spiritual” mental states. There is, however, a key discipline missing: artificial intelligence. AI has forgotten its original aims to create intelligent machines that could help us to understand better what intelligence is and is more worried about pragmatical stuff, so almost nobody in the field (...) seems to be interested to join this new effort of contemplative science. In this paper, I would like to accomplish the following: (1) To give a brief description of the field of “contemplative sciences;” (2) To argue why AI should actively join this new paradigm on the study of the mind; and (3) To set up a research program on artificial wisdom: that is to design computational systems that can model at least some relevant aspects of human wisdom. (shrink)
Buddhism originated and developed in an Indian cultural context that featured many first-person practices for producing and exploring states of consciousness through the systematic training of attention. In contrast, the dominant methods of investigating the mind in Western cognitive science have emphasized third-person observation of the brain and behavior. In this chapter, we explore how these two different projects might prove mutually beneficial. We lay the groundwork for a cross-cultural cognitive science by using one traditional Buddhist model of the (...) mind – that of the five aggregates – as a lens for examining contemporary cognitive science conceptions of consciousness. (shrink)
(1) Aristotle, Dignāga, Descartes, Arnauld, Locke, Brentano, Sartre and many others are right about the nature of conscious awareness: all such awareness comports—somehow carries within itself—awareness of itself . (2) This is a necessary condition of awareness being awareness at all: no ‘higher-order’ account of what makes conscious states conscious can be correct. (3) But (2) is very paradoxical: it seems to require that awareness be somehow already present, in such a way as to be available to itself as object (...) of awareness, in order to be constituted as awareness in the first place. (4) Can anything relate to itself in this way? Can there be a relation that is (i) necessarily one-term, (ii) reflexive, (iii) non-logical (non-trivial), (iv) concretely realizable, (v) dynamically real, (vi) such that its holding is a necessary condition of the existence of the thing it holds of? It helps to consider the thought this very thought is puzzling. (5) Many accept the reality of the kind of awareness of awareness posited in (1) and (2), and think it must be not only ‘pre-reflective’ and ‘non-positional’, but also irrelational or non-intentional. But perhaps such awareness of awareness can be fully relational and fully intentional, and can be legitimately said to be its own object or content, even while being pre-reflective and non-positional. (shrink)
According to Buddhist soteriology, fear is a direct cause of suffering and one of the main obstacles in the path to liberation. Pāli Suttas and Abhidhamma present a number of sophisticated strategies to deal with fear and to overcome it. Nevertheless, in the Nikāyas and in the Abhidhamma there are also consistent instructions about implementing fear in meditative practices and considering it as a valuable ally in the pursuit of nibbāna By means of a lexicographical study of selected passages and (...) especially of two compounds (bhayūparata and abhayūparata), this paper demonstrates that fear may have the crucial function of stimulating the meditator: through reiterated admonishments and reflections that evoke a feeling of dread, the meditator gets weary of unwholesome patterns and is prompted to put effort in his/her own practice. Evidence proves that this set of instructions is ultimately consistent with the several teachings that emphasize the importance of counteracting fear and fostering fearlessness, which is described as a quality of liberation as well as an attitude to be cultivated. In fact, a close analysis of the dynamics involved in bhaya (fear) and abhaya (fearlessness) as graphically depicted in the Nikāyas and in the Abhidhamma texts, reveals that stirring fear and letting go of fear are two essential steps of the same process. (shrink)
Zen Training is a comprehensive handbook for zazen , seated meditation practice, and an authoritative presentation of the Zen path. The book marked a turning point in Zen literature in its critical reevaluation of the enlightenment experience, which the author believes has often been emphasized at the expense of other important aspects of Zen training. In addition, Zen Training goes beyond the first flashes of enlightenment to explore how one lives as well as trains in Zen. The author also (...) draws many significant parallels between Zen and Western philosophy and psychology, comparing traditional Zen concepts with the theories of being and cognition of such thinkers as Heidegger and Husserl. (shrink)
This lucid overview of the Buddhist path takes the perspective of the three "vehicles" of Tibetan Buddhism: the Hinayana, Mahayana, and Vajrayana. While these vehicles are usually presented as a historical development, they are here equated with the attitudes that individuals bring to their Buddhist practice. Basic to them all, however, is the need to understand our own immediate condition. The primary tool for achieving this is meditation, and The Essence of Buddhism serves as a handbook for (...) the various meditative approaches of Buddhist practice. Beginning with the Four Noble Truths, Traleg Rinpoche incorporates the expansive vision of the bodhisattva path and the transformative vision of Tantra. The final chapters present the transcendent view of Mahamudra. This view dispenses with all dualistic fixations and directly realizes the natural freedom of the mind itself. Along the way, the author provides vivid definitions of fundamental concepts such as compassion, emptiness, and Buddha-nature, and answers common questions: Why does Buddhism teach that there is "no self"? Are Buddhist teachings pessimistic? Does Buddhism encourage social passivity? What is the role of sex in Buddhist Tantra? Why is it said that "samsara is nirvana"? Does it take countless lifetimes to attain enlightenment, or can it be achieved in a moment? (shrink)
This compelling study of the Ri-me movement and of the major Buddhist lineages of Tibet is comprehensive and accessible. It includes an introduction to the history and philosophy of the Ri-me movement; a biography of the movement's leader, the meditation master and philosopher known as Jamgon Kongtrul the Great; helpful summaries of the eight lineages' practice-and-study systems, which point out the different emphases of the schools; an explanation of the most hotly disputed concepts; and an overview of the old (...) and new tantras. Jamgon Kongtrul the Great (1813-1899) is a giant in Tibetan history, renowned for his scholarly and meditative achievements, but also for his energetic yet evenhanded work to unify and strengthen the different lineages of Buddhism. The Ri-me movement, led by Kongtrul and several other leading scholars of the time, was a unifying effort to cut through interscholastic divisions and disputes that were occurring between the different lineages. These leaders sought appreciation of the differences and acknowledgment of the importance of variety in benefiting practitioners with different needs. The Ri-me teachers also took great care that the teachings and practices of the different schools and lineages, and their unique styles, did not become confused with one another. This lucid survey of the Ri-me movement will be of interest to serious scholars and practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism. (shrink)
This book is the first to engage Zen Buddhism philosophically on crucial issues from a perspective that is informed by the traditions of western philosophy and religion. It focuses on one renowned Zen master, Huang Po, whose recorded sayings exemplify the spirit of the 'golden age' of Zen in medieval China, and on the transmission of these writings to the West. The author makes a bold attempt to articulate a post-romantic understanding of Zen applicable to contemporary world culture. While (...) deeply sympathetic to the Zen tradition, he raises serious questions about the kinds of claims that can be made on its behalf. (shrink)
Teaching an eight-week calm abiding meditation course to staff in a Child and Youth Mental Health Service located in a regional Australian city presented a curious meeting of Buddhism with Western culture. This meeting highlighted both the potential benefits and challenges of teaching meditation in the workplace and the value of qualitative methods for contributing to the development of meditation research. The thematic analysis of weekly participant responses to emailed reflective questions and follow-up interviews indicated that (...) workplace meditation training can precipitate sustainable changes in attitudes and behaviour beyond the workplace. Participants reported being less reactive and better able to manage emotions, having heightened self-awareness, self-acceptance and acceptance of others and of circumstances; and, in the longer term, were better able to make healthier lifestyle choices. The analysis is contextualized by a rich description of the course and salient concerns and conditions evident in contemporary Buddhist teachings and studies of mindfulness meditation. (shrink)
This article explores the autobiographical writings of Western monks living in Thailand in the light of scholarship on modern and Western Buddhism to understand their constructions of Buddhism. I explore Western monks' understanding of Buddhism before leaving for Thailand, their experiences of integrating into Thai Buddhism, and their lives after returning to their home countries. Their constructions consist of Buddhism as a scientific, rational tradition focused on the practice of meditation. These constructions are challenged (...) during monastic life in Thailand and further problematized when reintegrating into their home countries. I find that they encounter challenges incorporating monasticism into Western countries and may choose lay life?reflecting the trend of laicization in Western Buddhism. I conclude that their constructions of Buddhism conceived in Western countries affect their experiences in Thailand and afterwards. (shrink)
In this article I share some of my experiences of practising Korean Zen meditation and how, without ever mentioning the word ?mindfulness,? this practice helps us to become mindful. This leads me to suggest that the main ingredients of Buddhist meditation are samatha (which I will translate here as ?concentration?) and vipassan? (which I will call ?experiential enquiry?). No matter which Buddhist tradition one follows, the practice of samatha and vipassan? will lead to the cultivation of mindfulness. I (...) also intend to show how the traditional doctrine of the ?four great efforts? is very close to therapeutic methods advocated in MBCT. I will also propose that the Buddha's five methods of dealing with difficult thoughts as presented in the Vitakkhasa h?na Sutta (Majjhima Nik?ya 20) are examples of an early Buddhist cognitive behavioural strategy. (shrink)
The article discusses the first attempt to establish an independent bhikkhu-sa?gha in England in 1956 and the reasons that this initial attempt failed. The account draws on testimony from George Blake, one of the monks ordained under this initiative. After a short contextualization of the situation in which Blake met with Buddhism in London, there follows a further discussion of two issues on which his evidence sheds fresh light: the falling out of the British monk Kapilava??ho with Luang Por (...) Sodh (Phra Mongkolthepmuni), the abbot of Wat Paknam in Bangkok; and the move away from the teaching of the so?asak?ya meditation at the English Sangha Trust in London. (shrink)
Abstract. Rudyard Kipling, the famous english author of « The Jungle Book », born in India, wrote one day these words: « Oh, East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet ». In my paper I show that Kipling was not completely right. I try to show the common ground between buddhist philosophy and quantum physics. There is a surprising parallelism between the philosophical concept of reality articulated by Nagarjuna and the physical concept of reality (...) implied by quantum physics. For neither is there a fundamental core to reality, rather reality consists of systems of interacting objects. Such concepts of reality cannot be reconciled with the substantial, subjective, holistic or instrumentalistic concepts of reality which underlie modern modes of thought. (shrink)
Introduction: Experiential deconstructive inquiry -- Foundational philosophies and spiritual methods -- Non-duality in Advaita Vedanta and Zen Buddhism -- Ontological differences and non-duality -- Meditative inquiry, questioning, and dialoguing as a means to spiritual insight -- The undoing or deconstruction of dualistic conceptions -- Advaita Vedanta : philosophical foundations and deconstructive strategies -- Sources of the tradition -- Upaniads that art thou (Tat Tvam Asi) -- Gauapda (c.7th century) : no bondage, no liberation -- Aakara (c.7th-8th century) : there (...) is no apprehender different from this apprehension to apprehend it -- Modern and contemporary masters -- Ramana Maharshi (1879-1950) : who am I? -- H.W.L Poonja (1910-1997) : you have to do nothing to be who you are! -- Gangaji (b. 1942) : you are that! -- Advaita Vedanta summary : nothing ever happens -- Zen Buddhism : philosophical foundations and deconstructive strategies -- Sources of the tradition -- The Lakvatra Sutra and the Vajracchedik Prajñpramit Sutra all things ... are not independent of each other and not two -- Ngrjuna (c.113-213) : Sasra is Nirva -- Eihei Dgen (1200-1253) : if I am already enlightened, why must I practice -- Contemporary masters -- Ekai Korematsu (b. 1948) : return to the spine -- Hgen Yamahata (b. 1935) : why not now -- Zen Buddhism summary : neither being nor non-being is to be taken hold of -- Deconstructive techniques and dynamics of experiential undoing -- Deconstructive techniques common to both traditions -- The teacher-student dynamic -- Key deconstructive techniques -- Unfindability analysis -- Bringing everything back to the here and now -- Paradoxical problems -- Negation -- Dynamics of experiential undoing -- Non-dual experiential space -- Experiential mapping : practitioners in the space -- Experiential undoing in Advaita Vedanta -- Experiential undoing in Zen Buddhism -- Conclusion: Deconstruction of reified awareness. (shrink)
Buddhism has captured the imagination of many in the modern (Western) world. Recently, scientists have seemed eager to discover whether claims about Buddhist meditation can be verified experimentally. Brain research is beginning to produce concrete evidence that mental discipline and meditative practice can change the workings of the brain and allow practitioners to achieve different levels of awareness, as measurable for instance in reaction times to stimuli. The goal of this section of articles in Zygon is to address (...) recent developments in this area. The contributions address a wide array of questions, although they certainly do not cover the whole ground of what one may consider “problems” of meditation. Yet, we believe that the issues addressed here have widespread implications and that they constitute a strong argument for the richness of the meditation domain. (shrink)
Recent years have seen a growing interest in Buddhist thought as a potential source of alternative conceptions of the nature of the mind and the relation between the mental and the physical. This article considers and assesses three different models of what contemporary philosophy of mind can learn from Buddhist thought. One model, advocated by Alan Wallace, holds that we can learn from Buddhist meditation that both individual consciousness and the physical world itself emerge from a deeper, “primordial” consciousness. (...) A second model, supported by Owen Flanagan, maintains that we should accept from Buddhist thought only what is compatible with physicalism, and thus draws from Buddhism only insights into moral psychology and spirituality. Evan Thompson has developed a third, phenomenological approach, which derives from Buddhism a non-dualistic account of the relation between the mental and the physical, dissolving the “explanatory gap” between them. I suggest that all of these models face significant challenges, and propose a different model derived from the Buddhist philosopher Nāgārjuna, which shows the potential to resolve some of the challenges facing contemporary theories of consciousness. (shrink)
: Contemporary Buddhist studies has been strongly affected by its origins in the Victorian era, when Western religious scholars sought to rationalize and historicize the study of religion. Modern Asian scholars, trained within the Western scholarly paradigm, share this prejudice in avor of the rational. The result is a skewed understanding of Buddhism, emphasizing its philosophical and theoretical aspects at the expense of seemingly "irrational" religious elements based on the direct experience of meditation practice.
In this article I criticize some traditional impartiality practices in Western philosophical ethics and argue in favor of Marilyn Friedman’s dialogical practice of eliminating bias. But, I argue, the dialogical approach depends on a more fundamental practice of equanimity. Drawing on the works of Tibetan Buddhist thinkers Patrul Rinpoche and Khenpo Ngawang Pelzang, I develop a Buddhist-feminist concept of equanimity and argue that, despite some differences with the Western impartiality practices, equanimity is an impartiality practice that is not only psychologically (...) feasible but also central to loving relationships. I conclude by suggesting ways that feminist dialogical practices for eliminating bias and meditative practices are mutually supportive. (shrink)
Zen philosophy of language is discussed by exploring the concepts of live and dead words, involvement with meaning and involvement with words, and the three mysterious gates as they are employed in Pojo Chinul's huatou meditation. A comparison is made between the Zen use of language and Merleau-Ponty's philosophy of visibility, Julia Kristeva's idea of the semiotic and the symbolic, and Kierkegaard's concept of anxiety, in an attempt to provide a paradigm to understand the Zen Buddhist vision.
Abstract This article seeks to determine if Buddhism can best be understood as primarily a functionalist tradition. In pursuing this, some analogies arise with various Western strands?particularly James? ?pragmatism?, Dewey's ?instrumentalism?, Braithwaite's ?empiricism?, Wittgenstein's ?language games?, and process thinkers like Hartshorne and Jacobson. Within the Buddhist setting, the traditional Therav?da framework of sila (ethics/precepts), sam?dhi (meditation) and pañña (wisdom) are examined, together with Therav?da rituals. Despite some ?correspondence? approaches with regard to truth claim statements, e.g. vipassan? ?insight? and (...) Abhidharma analysis, a more profound functionalism seems present. This is even more clear with the Mah?y?na. Apart from the basic and explicit Mah?y?na underpinning of up?ya, the M?dhyamika, Tantras and Ch'an (Zen) schools are clearly functionalist. Moreover, despite initially seeming more ?absolutist? in their positions, other strands like the Pure Land and Nichiren faith traditions, and Dharmakirti's Vijñ?nav?da epistemology can also be tied into this functionalist setting. (shrink)
We need to distinguish systematically what is culturally creative from the degenerative forces that now rule the world. Whitehead comes closest to defining the creative when he identifies it as freedom on the human side and peace on the divine. Buddhist meditation can go deeper to realize the zero-dimension of the communal life-as-such, which corresponds to Whiteheadean freedom-and-peace as the ultimate wellspring of cultural creativity.