Buddhist Philosophy

By Frank Simons

What is Buddhist philosophy? The most common word in the Indian tradition is darshana, which means “vision,” related to a form of meditation. The path to nirvana can be divided into three categories: moral conduct, mental concentration, and wisdom. Philosophy, like insight meditation, is one of the ways to cultivate wisdom. This means that philosophy is not just a theoretical activity. Buddhist philosophy is a form of Buddhist practice “seeking clarification.” Clarification of the mind is not just an intellectual game; it helps a person see through the appearances of things and see reality face to face. The goal is to experience the freedom of Buddha’s awakening. On these points the Buddhist philosophers agreed, but they differed in their approaches to the concept of emptiness. Out of these differences developed the schools of Mahayana philosophy.

Video Presentation
Buddhism. Part 13,
Buddhist Philosophy
Thu, Mar 10, 5:30pm
Meditation Center
Callejón Blanco 4
Free, donations accepted

The first major school was the Madyamika, or “Middle Way,” which emerged in the second century CE through the works of Nagarjuna. Transmitted to Tibet, it became the major tradition in Tibetan philosophy. Buddhists want to find a way to live in this world, respond to it emotionally, and take it seriously intellectually, but not be bound by any of it. This requires a delicate balance between the two intellectual poles of the Middle Path: not too much self and not too little self, but just enough to be effective and at the same time to be free.

The second major school is known as the Yogachara, or “Yoga Practice” school. It was founded in the fourth century CE. It was carried to China at the beginning of the seventh century. Instead of a doctrine of two truths to understand emptiness, the Yogachara developed a concept of three natures. The first is “dependent nature,” the ordinary experience of reality. Dependent nature can be compared to a stormy ocean. Imagined nature is like the separate waves on the ocean, and perfected nature is like the deep stillness of the ocean itself. Meditation is meant to still the waves so the pure, undifferentiated nature of the mind can become clear. The pure nature of the mind is often compared to a jewel hidden in a dung heap. Meditation is meant to help find the jewel and clean away the defilements.

The Madyamika insists that ultimately nothing is real, including emptiness itself. The Yogachara says that the mind is real: it is only the imaginary construction of the mind that is unreal.

This lecture will take the study of emptiness a step further by looking at two major Indian Buddhist schools that tried in different ways to pin down the meaning of emptiness.

The course of 24 lectures is presented by Professor Malcolm David Eckel, professor of religion and director of the core curriculum at Boston University. He is an expert on Buddhism, comparative religion, and Asian faiths.

There will be an opportunity for discussion following the video.

Presentations of the Center are offered without charge. Donations are gratefully accepted.

 

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