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.

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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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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”

Gandhi on non-violence

Authors: Sonia Sikka (University of Ottawa), and Manvitha Singamsetty (University of Ottawa)

Non-violence or ahimsa is a principle at the heart of Gandhi’s moral and political philosophy. Most fundamentally, the principle involves a commitment to not harming others in one’s interactions with them, but it is especially connected with a variety of peaceful civil resistance. Gandhi drew on classical schools of wisdom such as Jainism, Buddhism and Vedic thought to presents an ideal of non-violence adapted to a contemporary social and political climate.  This ideal encompasses the virtues of freedom, truth, love, justice, courage, honesty and sacrifice. Its political methods include, among others, satyagraha (“holding to the truth”), civil-disobedience and non-cooperation. For Gandhi, the goals of non-violence are political justice, social stability and economic self-sufficiency

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Dalai Lama: “Redefining the Goal” from Ethics for the New Millennium

Author: Anna Lännström (Stonehill College)


In “Redefining the Goal,” the Dalai Lama contrasts transient and lasting happiness and argues that while other factors like friends, good health, liberty, and prosperity can contribute to our happiness, the most important component of happiness is inner peace and that, in turn, is largely about our own attitude. Without inner peace, these other factors can be a source of trouble (worry, frustration).

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Dalai Lama, Ethics for the New Millennium

Author: Anna Lännström (Stonehill College)


In Ethics for the New Millennium, the Dalai Lama argues that modern industrialized society tends to lead to excessive individualism and reduced dependence on others which in turn leads to isolation and neglect of our spiritual dimension, making us less happy despite our improved material situation.  He argues for a solution, a “spiritual revolution” which involves finding a way of caring for our inner dimension.  Crucial components of such care includes developing inner peace and a deeper compassion for other, and learning to focus less on ourselves.

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