All posts tagged: Buddhism

Week 20 Questions for Know Thyself 2019: Fear

(This post is part of a weekly series for Know Thyself 2019, a 365 day journal project. Start here!) This week’s journal topic: Fear You’ve undoubtedly received all kinds of contradictory information about fear.  As a child, nauseous with nerves before stepping onstage in the school play, you probably heard your parents or teacher tell you that “there’s nothing to fear but fear itself” (FDR, former American president). If you’re a child of the 80’s or 90’s, you might remember the brand No Fear, whose edgy (at the time) T-shirts mocked fear. Fear: False Evidence Appearing Real These quotes tell us that fear is some kind of illusion; moreover, it’s an illusion that loses its power when we laugh at it and clearly see the illusion.  Fear is like a rubber snake dropped into your lap.  It’s impossible not to react, but when you see that it’s rubber, it’s funny. What is fear? Fear is really made up of two aspects: physiological and emotional.  In an environment in which our bodies perceive fear, the body reacts …

Week 17 Questions for Know Thyself 2019: Happiness

(This post is part of a weekly series for Know Thyself 2019, a 365 day journal project. Start here!) This Week’s Journal Topic: Happiness Do you want to be happy? For all humans, the answer is an unambiguous Yes.  To be human is to seek happiness, wouldn’t you agree? The desire for happiness simultaneously brings humanity together and tears us apart. Sure, we are all united in our desire to be happy. However, happiness means different things to different people and therefore, we’re divided in how we go about getting it! Concepts of Happiness Happiness as Pleasure: The Greek school for “happiness as pleasure” is called Hedonism.  Hedonism thought that pleasure was the ultimate human good. There were higher pleasures and lower pleasures.  A lower pleasure is a physical pleasure such as eating or sex. Higher pleasures were intellectual goods and virtues which had the effect on the possessor of increasing her other pleasures.  For example, the virtue of moderation allows a person to receive the most pleasure from her body – if you drink …

A Brief Analysis of Rousseau’s Ethics of Compassion in “Discourse on Inequality” and Relation to Buddhist Teachings

Last week, I read Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s “Discourse on Inequality.”  It’s a fascinating work of political philosophy written in 1754 by Rousseau as an entry for an essay contest that challenged authors to address the question: What is the origin of inequality among men, and is it authorized by natural law?  In order to thoroughly answer this question, Rousseau expounds a philosophy  of man, discussing who and what man is as an individual, what is freedom, what are man’s essential and accidental qualities, what is the effect of society on man and the ideal political situation.  As someone who is interested in Buddhism’s answers to these same questions, I was curious if there was any similarity between Rousseau’s answers and Buddhist views. I think there are at least two similarities.  The first similarity concerns Rousseau’s account of man’s natural morality of compassion; this corresponds with the Buddhist view of compassion as constitutive of morality.  The second similarity arises out of Rousseau’s lamenting about the detriments of rational thinking to man’s mental constitution; likewise, Buddhism teaches that …

Week 12 Questions for Know Thyself 2019: Nature

(This blog is part of a weekly series for Know Thyself 2019, a 365 day journal project. Start here!) This Week’s Journal Topic:  Nature Ever wonder why climate change and oil extraction/transport are such contentious topics?  Why do some people join eco-protests, while other worry about a healthy economy? Answer: moral attitudes, values and religious beliefs underlie these opinions about the treatment of the environment. Consider a breadth of attitudes towards nature: Science: Nature is something to be controlled.  Nature has power that we can and should get better at harnessing for our own purposes.  Nature is an indication of the “proper function” of organisms, except when it isn’t and when we prefer to do things another way.  In that case, we can and may alter nature’s course. Bible: God created all of nature; nature is evidence of God’s works.  Follow God’s laws and you will do right by the Earth. But humans should propagate and fill the Earth (Genesis 9:1), and man has “dominion over… every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth” (Genesis 1:26). …

Can you Be Present AND plan for the Future?

Pop-culture’s Enlightenment Error “Happiness is only achievable in the present moment.” “To be present you must put aside thoughts of the past and future.” “Just breathe, trust, let it go and see what happens.” Statements about being present are multiplying as quickly as smoothie shops.  Mindfulness websites, motivational wallpapers, and Instagram captions recycle and repurpose ancient wisdom into naïve platitudes that briefly catch our attention as we scroll our lives away.  Quotes paired with photos of smiling yogis, poised on mountain tops, implant into our minds the idea that happy, enlightened people spend life sitting cross-legged, ignoring responsibilities, and breathing – nary a thought of the future and certainly no planning necessary. Somehow they blissfully and serendipitously sashay through life, free of career goals, relationship goals, or worry about what to cook for the kids tonight. Undoubtedly, compared to neurotic fretting, this carefree notion of being present is helpful.  If you’ve totally lost control of your environment and your emotions – you really messed up big time – well then, jettisoning any thoughts of the past or future …

Should You Fear Death?: A reply to Chi-Tsung’s argument against fear

Not where the monk Chi-tsang lived.  Definitely one of my travel photos from Ngong-Ping, Hong Kong (2018) The Buddhist monk Chi-tsang (549-623) (吉藏 , Jizang; born Sanlun Zung) on his death bed said: Man cherishes birth and fears death as he does not understand the true aspect of birth and death.  Death originates from birth.  Therefore, man should fear birth instead of death.  If I were not born, then I would surely not die.  If birth, the beginning, is realized, then death, the end, will surely be known.  In this sense, man has to be sad about his birth and need not fear death. In other words, human fear of death springs from ignorance of metaphysical facts about existence. When we recognize that the necessity of death actually comes from the state of being born, then the result should be that we transfer our fear to birth (as the source of death) and fear birth instead. Reductio ad absurdum It’s difficult to recognize it at first, but in this quote Chi-tsung provides a reductio ad absurdum argument, …