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Saturday
Sep222012

RS70 - Graham Priest on Buddhism and Other Asian Philosophies

Release date: September 23, 2012


For all the time Massimo and Julia have spent discussing and debating philosophy on Rationally Speaking, so far, it's all been philosophy from Europe and North America. What about the philosophical traditions of, for example, Asia? In this episode, professor of philosophy Graham Priest offers a brief introduction to the philosophy of India, China, and Japan, and explains why he thinks it should be better known in the West.

Graham's pick: "The Tristan Chord: Wagner and Philosophy"

Reader Comments (8)

Greco-Buddhism, sometimes spelled Graeco-Buddhism, refers to the cultural syncretism between Hellenistic culture and Buddhism, which developed between the 4th century BCE and the 5th century CE Greco-Buddhism influenced the artistic, and perhaps the spiritual development of Buddhism, particularly Mahayana Buddhism, which represents one of the two main branches of Buddhism.
The Buddhist religious system was then adopted in Central and Northeastern Asia, from the 1st century CE, ultimately spreading to China, Korea and Japan ( as zen ).

Philosophical influences
The close association between Greeks and Buddhism probably led to exchanges on the philosophical plane as well. Many of the early Mahayana theories of reality and knowledge can be related to Greek philosophical schools of thought. Mahayana Buddhism has been described as the "form of Buddhism which (regardless of how Hinduized its later forms became) seems to have originated in the Greco-Buddhist communities of India, through a conflation of the Greek Democritean-Sophistic-Skeptical tradition with the rudimentary and unformalized empirical and skeptical elements already present in early Buddhism" (McEvilly, "The Shape of Ancient Thought", p503).

In the Prajnaparamita, the rejection of the reality of passing phenomena as "empty, false and fleeting" can also be found in Greek Pyrrhonism.
The perception of ultimate reality was, for the Cynics as well as for the Madhyamakas and Zen teachers after them, only accessible through a non-conceptual and non-verbal approach (Greek Phronesis), which alone allowed to get rid of ordinary conceptions.
The mental attitude of equanimity and dispassionate outlook in front of events was also characteristic of the Cynics and Stoics, who called it "Apatheia"
Nagarjuna's dialectic developed in the Madhyamaka can be paralleled to the Greek dialectical tradition.
Cynicism, Madhyamaka and Zen
Numerous parallels exist between the Greek philosophy of the Cynics and, several centuries later, the Buddhist philosophy of the Madhyamika and Zen. The Cynics denied the relevancy of human conventions and opinions (described as typhos, literally "smoke" or "mist", a metaphor for "illusion" or "error"), including verbal expressions, in favor of the raw experience of reality. They stressed the independence from externals to achieve happiness ("Happiness is not pleasure, for which we need external, but virtue, which is complete without external" 3rd epistole of Crates). Similarly the Prajnaparamita, precursor of the Madhyamika, explained that all things are like foam, or bubbles, "empty, false, and fleeting", and that "only the negation of all views can lead to enlightenment" (Nāgārjuna, MK XIII.8). In order to evade the world of illusion, the Cynics recommended the discipline and struggle ("askēsis kai machē") of philosophy, the practice of "autarkia" (self-rule), and a lifestyle exemplified by Diogenes, which, like Buddhist monks, renounced earthly possessions. These conceptions, in combination with the idea of "philanthropia" (universal loving kindness, of which Crates, the student of Diogenes, was the best proponent), are strikingly reminiscent of Buddhist Prajna (wisdom) and Karuṇā (compassion).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greco_Buddhism

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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 Exitance
Anitya - impermanence, is one of the essential insights or Three Marks of Exitance 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.
"Ceaselessly the river flows, and yet the water is never the same, while in the still pools the shifting foam gathers and is gone, never staying for a moment ... "Kamo no Chomei
(panta rhei) "everything is in a state of flux" Heraclitus
"On those stepping into rivers the same, other and other waters flow." Heraclitus
"We both step and do not step in the same rivers. We are and are not." Heraclitus
"All beings going and remaining not at all" Plato
"Whatever arises passes away" Buddha
"That which has become must also perish" Epictetus
"Nature which puts things together also will take them apart" Plato's Academy Skeptic Carneades

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/wellbing.

The Four Noble Truths
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)
-attachment,disire,craving,greed
-aversion,fear,anger,hatred
-ignorance,delusion

"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 = Wellbeing.
4. The path that leads out of suffering is called the Noble Eightfold 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
(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".
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 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 temporallly-over time.

Anitya - impermanence is one of the essential insights or Three Marks of Exitance 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."Ceaselessly the river flows, and yet the water is never the same, while in the still pools the shifting foam gathers and is gone, never staying for a moment ... "Kamo no Chomei
(panta rhei) "everything is in a state of flux" Heraclitus
"On those stepping into rivers the same, other and other waters flow." Heraclitus
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.
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.
Then phenomenologically or existentially we see how we experience this reality.
The Four Noble Truths
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)
-attachment,disire,craving,greed
-aversion,fear,anger,hatred
-ignorance,delusion
"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 = Wellbeing.
4. The path that leads out of suffering is called the Noble Eightfold Path.right view /understanding, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration
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 want to leave here and go to a permanent place without suffering. But there is no "outside".
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 ot 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 ti's happiness and joys.

4. The path that leads out of suffering is called the Noble Eightfold Path.
right view /understanding, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration
Is the "path" the ethics and practice.
_______________________________________

Sam Harris at AAI 07 pt1 of 2
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ok2oJgsGR6c

Meditation and the Brain with Daniel Siegel, MD (BSP 44)
http://www.brainsciencepodcast.com/bsp/tag/daniel-siegel
__________________________________________________________
Thomas McEvilley on 'The Shape of Ancient Thought'
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8HAiTfOSP_w

Greek Buddhism Pt. 1 of 4
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aAURSqQ8-Yc

Greek Buddhism Pt. 2 of 4
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3F1cR5FYnP8

Greek Buddhism Pt. 3 of 4
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jTz1KFkIDEw

Greek Buddhism Pt. 4 of 4
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HBHzcl0jc0Y

September 24, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterqapla'

WARNING WATCHING THIS MAY INDUCE BUDDHISM

Sam Harris - Death and the Present Moment

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ITTxTCz4Ums

September 25, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterqapla'

This was the first RS podcast I found disappointing. Neither the hosts nor their guest seemed prepared and the result was a slow, meandering show. Before discussing Buddhism again, read something by a Buddhist scholar on the order of Bernard Faure. His very short book Unmasking Buddhism is an excellent introduction to the topic, as it is critical, objective and clear.

September 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEurydice

I have to agree with the above post, this was the first show I found disappointing. The guest was seemingly unprepared evident by his inarticulate responses, e.g., he could never seem to find his words. I regret to say this episode put me to sleep.

October 5, 2012 | Unregistered Commentertaylor

This one was a waste of time. Excruciatingly boring .
It would be a great feat of meditation and will power to reach the end of this one. I couldn't make it.

October 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPaulo

As to the paradox per se, here's its simplest form: "This sentence is false." Is it true? If so, it's false. Is it false? If so, it's true.
My own solution: It's not necessary that it's either, especially if it's both. Because it's simply true that it's false. Or not so simply, it's not false that it's true.

November 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBaron Pike

Really one of the Awesome article i have read it. Thanks for the article. Also i have made a Blog on Good Friday 2015 & Good Friday Images 2015. Hey thanks and regards, Ayush Sharma

March 31, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterYatin
Listen to the Buddhist monk you might get about Karma and Rebirth. You may surprise!


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MF193PfSHoU
June 21, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRanjan Lekhy

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