Śāntideva on self-interest and altruism

Authors: Amod Lele (Boston University), and Anna Lännström (Stonehill College)

 

Śāntideva is an eighth century Indian Buddhist philosopher from the Mahāyāna tradition. His most famous work is the short and largely accessible Bodhicaryāvatāra (Undertaking the way to awakening). The work had an important influence on the Tibetan Buddhist tradition.

The arguments for altruism (8.89 – 105) are perhaps the most famous parts of the work and can easily be excerpted. They occur in the context of the discussion of how to awaken the desire to become a bodhisattva (someone who wants to attain Buddhahood for the benefit of others). One of the steps he recommends for awakening that desire is meditating on the equality of oneself and others.

Continue reading “Śāntideva on self-interest and altruism”

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Śāntideva on anger

Authors: Amod Lele (Boston University), and Anna Lännström (Stonehill College)

 

Śāntideva (Shantideva) is an eighth century Indian Buddhist philosopher from the Mahāyāna tradition. His most famous work is the short and largely accessible Bodhicaryāvatāra (Undertaking the way to awakening or Guide to the Bodhisattva way of life). This work was an important influence on the Tibetan Buddhist tradition generally and on the current Dalai Lama in particular.

Śāntideva’s discussion of anger is in chapter 6, where, arguing against anger, he praises the virtue of patient endurance (kṣānti). He treats anger as equivalent to hatred and singles it out as the most troublesome of the three root poisons (hatred, delusion, and craving) because, more than the others, it prevents us from developing compassion.

Śāntideva makes a psychological argument against anger, pointing out that it disturbs our relationships and our peace of mind. It makes us suffer, preventing us from being happy.

Continue reading “Śāntideva on anger”

Rasa – Indian Aesthetic Theory

AuthorKathleen Higgins (University of Texas at Austin)

Rasa is a central concept in Indian aesthetic theory. The term has a variety of meanings (among them “flavor,” “taste,” “juice,” and “essence”), but in aesthetics it is understood to refer to a distinctive type of emotional experience that can be experienced in connection with an artwork. The concept is presented in the Nāṭyaśāstra (200-500 C.E.), traditionally attributed to Bharata, a work that amounts to a compendium of knowledge on dramatic performance (including music and dancing). That Nāṭyaśāstra itemizes eight rasas that can be aroused in audience members through skillful performances. These include the erotic (śṛṅgāra), the comic (hāsya), the pathetic or sorrowful (karuṇa), the furious (raudra), the heroic (vīra), the terrible (bhayānaka), the odious (bībhatsa), and the marvelous (adbhuta). Continue reading “Rasa – Indian Aesthetic Theory”

Nishida Kitaro’s Self-Contradictory Identity

Author: Nicole Bea (Independent researcher)

Nishida is the founder of the Kyoto School of Philosophy.  The school includes three generations of thinkers who all put nothingness, or emptiness, at the core of their philosophy. Though not well known in the West, Nishida is regarded as Japan’s first and greatest modern philosopher.  His philosophy is not simply non-Western in the sense that Confucius’ or Dogen’s philosophies could be said to be. Rather, he is a modern thinker who has reformulated Japanese Zen philosophy using the language of Western philosophy.

Born in 1870, as Japan was opening up to Western culture in the Meiji Era, Nishida Kitaro received an education blending East and West, combining early tutoring in the Chinese classics and a serious Zen practice with an interest in mathematics and logic and a passion for Western philosophy. He was convinced that it was possible to articulate the East Asian notion of nothingness as the ground of reality in the language of Western philosophy, even though that language had been developed to elucidate an understanding of ultimate reality as being.  As a starting point for his first book, An Inquiry into the Good, Nishida borrowed William James’s concept of “pure experience” to access reality behind the layer of concepts carved out by the mind to give it meaning, and he seems to have regarded pure experience as equivalent to the Zen state of no-mind.

Nishida Kitaro, Last Writings – Nothingness and the Religious Worldview. Translated by David A. Dilworth. University of Hawaii Press, 1987.  This is Nishida’s last book where he gives an overview of his life’s work and sums up his thought. Includes an introduction and a postscript by the translator.  Pages 48-54 and 64-69 could be used as texts to introduce self-contradictory identity.

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Secondary Sources – Online
Secondary Sources – Books and Articles
Compare/Contrast With

 
Secondary Sources – Online

Nishida Kitaro,”  Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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Secondary Sources – Books and Articles

Michiko Yusa, Zen & Philosophy, An Intellectual Biography of Nishida Kitaro.  University of Hawaii Press, 2002.  Outstanding biography blending life events and evolution of Nishida’s thought based on Nishida’s diaries. Includes short texts by Nishida.

Robert E. Carter, The Nothingness Beyond God.  Paragon House Publishers, 2nd Revised edition, 1998. Insightful study of Nishida’s thought.

James W. Heisig, Philosophers of Nothingness – An Essay on the Kyoto School University of Hawai’i Press, 1996.  Includes studies of Nishida Kitaro, Tanabe Hajime and Nishitani Keiji, the best known members of the Kyoto School, by the long-time director of the Nanzan Library of Asian Religion and Culture.

Gereon Kopf, Beyond Personal Identity: Dōgen, Nishida, and a Phenomenology of No-Self. Richmond: Curzon, 2001.

Robert Wilkinson,  Nishida and Western Philosophy. Farnham, England: Ashgate, 2009. 

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Compare/Contrast With

Tanabe Hajime, Nishitani Keiji, and the later Martin Heidegger.  Tanabe and Nishitani are Nishida’s best known successors in the Kyoto School.
With regard to Heidegger, though neither was influenced by the other, both might be seen as seeking a standpoint, or form of thinking, that goes beyond the subject-object distinction to grasp a more basic and encompassing level of reality.

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The Analects by Confucius (Kongzi)

Author: Nicholas Hudson (University of Hawaii) 

A foundational text of Confucianism, The Analects is a collection of dialogues, sayings, and observations involving Confucius (Kongzi) and his disciples. It is generally believed that Confucius’ disciples started to compose it shortly after his death in 479 B.C.E. and over the next two hundred or so years the text was added to and revised, perhaps becoming the received text around 150 B.C.E. Written during the Warring States Period, a time of great upheaval, much of the book can be seen as a response to violent social and political disorder. It opposes the use of force, advocating instead a government based on ritual and moral authority. Although Confucius describes himself as transmitter and not an innovator (Analects VII.1) and emphasizes the dao (way) of former kings, The Analects does not promote a simple return to the past. Rather, much of the text is concerned with reinterpretation; for example, the word jun, formerly referring to a martial nobleman, comes to mean a cultured noble man. Continue reading “The Analects by Confucius (Kongzi)”

Mencius (Mengzi) on morality and human nature

Author: Pamela Lee  (University of Ottawa)

Mencius (372-289 B.C.E.), a philosopher of the“Warring States” period of Chinese history, is the most influential Confucian to take up Confucius’theory of morality and humanist vision for a flourishing society. He developed a sophisticated moral psychology as an elaboration of Confucius’ ethic of benevolence (ren) and account of the virtuous sage. He is known for his argument that human nature is innately good because of the existence of moral sprouts (duan)—inborn moral preferences or inclinations. He argued that moral virtue or proficiency could be cultivated through the nurturing of these ‘sprouts’through moral reflection (si), a process of analogical ‘extension’ from paradigmatic moral situations to novel ones. Continue reading “Mencius (Mengzi) on morality and human nature”

The Bhagavad Gītā

Author: Amod Lele (Boston University)

The Bhagavad Gītā is an episode from the Mahābhārata (the long Indian epic poem) in which the god Krishna offers advice to the hero Arjuna, in response to Arjuna’s despair at the need to kill his cousins in battle. It is one of the most loved texts in Indian tradition – enough that some modern thinkers, including Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi have taken it to be the central text of Hindu tradition. When one wants to identify the ethical teachings of the great philosophers in the Vedānta tradition (such as Śaṅkara and Rāmānuja), those philosophers’ commentaries on the Gītā, while difficult for a novice reader, are often the clearest guide to their ideas.

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Śāntideva’s Bodhicaryāvatāra

Author: Amod Lele (Boston University)

The Bodhicaryāvatāra is an Indian Mahāyāna Buddhist text from approximately the eighth century CE, whose author is referred to as Śāntideva. It is very popular among Tibetan Buddhists; the present Dalai Lama has referred to it as his favourite book. It instructs its readers how to live up to the ideal of the bodhisattva, the Buddhist hero who swears to free all living beings from suffering.  Continue reading “Śāntideva’s Bodhicaryāvatāra”

Xunzi on Morality and Human Nature

Author: Sonia Sikka (University of Ottawa)

Xunzi is a Confucian philosopher who lived from 310-220 B.C.E., towards the end of the “Warring States” period in Chinese history. Against Mencius, he claims that human nature is intrinsically evil or bad, and requires reshaping to be made morally good or virtuous. The tool he recommends for that reshaping is “ritual practice,” consisting of study and learning, guided by teachers and models of exemplary individuals. Xunzi offers several arguments against Mencius’ apparently opposed thesis that human nature is intrinsically good. Continue reading “Xunzi on Morality and Human Nature”

Nagarjuna’s Anti-Substantialism

Authors:  Sonia Sikka (University of Ottawa), Melanie Coughlin (Carleton University)

Nagarjuna’s central work, the Fundamental Verses on the Middle Way (Mūlamadhyamakakārikā), is a classic of Indian Buddhist philosophy that has generated a wealth of commentarial literature. Likely composed in the 2nd or 3rd century CE, it offers a critique of the idea of svabhava, a Sanskrit term literally meaning “own-nature” and suggesting independent or substantial existence. Continue reading “Nagarjuna’s Anti-Substantialism”