Humility and Belief Revision

774bdfc898db2100b01ea0fdeae9ba8bI am starting a project on Descartes’ Meditations. More than just in the title, Descartes’ work has a deep affinity with the tradition of meditations or spiritual exercises of his time. And beyond the traditions he was familiar with, there is the larger tradition of meditation via doubt especially among the Zen schools that resonates with Descartes’ writing and practice. Although I stumbled upon these connections after I brought my Buddhist practice together with my reading of the Meditations, I am in no way the first to think this; indeed, part of the joy so far has been to read about these connections from authors across various disciplines!

My first encounter with Descartes was at UCLA. It was my first college philosophy class. Professor Joseph Almog strolled in, rolled back his sleeves, and started right in on the Meditations. All we covered that quarter was the Meditations. In fact, I think we only covered various sections from the text primarily around the mind-body problem. And the professor taught it all without notes – just the chalkboard, his mind, our minds, the text somewhere in the background, and abstract philosophical analysis. It was breathtaking (for a naive freshman like myself)!

I took other classes where we covered the standard topics in the Meditations. I taught them in various classes and made sure students understood the role of skepticism, the reasons and arguments for foundationalism, the arguments for God’s existence and their obvious problems, and more. Students questioned me and I gave them my most definitive answers in return. Of course there were subtleties of interpretation, but this was how the Meditations were to be understood.

And from where I stand now, all of that was horribly superficial, and just wrong as a reading of Descartes.

So what happened? History and context and ideology happened. We all learn from someone, and they are informed by their context and history. And learning is constrained by the context of learning – its aims, its political and pedagogical agenda. And we are human and take stands, both intentionally and unintentionally, and that ideological formation impacts our teaching. All this is obvious once you immerse yourself in this way of thinking. And yet just today after reading an article it dawned on me how full of myself I was teaching Descartes as if I knew the work, the arguments, the problems, the answers!

The beauty of this process is belief revision: we can change what we believe. And this impacts action: we can change how we act. And this impacts speech: we can change what we say. And putting all this together requires humility: recognizing our limited or bounded understanding, and bending ourselves to change unboundedly, to unknowing mind, to not being full of ourselves, over and over again.

The inquiry continues. It must continue. Not just about Descartes. But about everything we believe and encounter in our daily lives. And I am left thinking about how to teach in the face of bounded understanding and unbounded change. What does it mean to be a teacher when all these constraints are salient? How can I empower students by guiding them, when I know their guide is positioned in this way? How can I be honest in my limited understanding, while still positioning myself as someone who has something to teach?

There are similar questions for students, whether students of philosophy, Buddhism, or any discipline at all. And there are not so simple answers to all of this. But for now – its on my mind and in my heart. Making amends for my previously limited understanding, moving forward while keeping in mind and heart the way I am formed and bound by history, context, ideology, and teachers, and reminding myself that unbounded change is the path of humility and awakening.

Readings V – Korean Buddhism

1599px-eca69dec8bacec82ac_eb8c80ec9b85eca084_2I recently put together a bibliography of readings that I studied during my seminary years and beyond. Since study is an important part of Buddhist practice – yes, even for Zen practitioners, and definitely for those of us that did not grow up in Buddhist cultures – I thought I would put that list up here.

This is the last in a series of posts on this topic. The list below is incomplete on many fronts. So if you happen to have extra reading suggestions, please add them in the comments!

General History

  • Buswell Jr, Robert E, “Buddhism in Korea,” from Buddhism and Asian History, eds. John Kitagawa and Mark Cummings, MacMillan, New York, 1987. (PDF; from Sunim)
  • Buswell Jr, Robert E, “Buddhism in Korea,” from Encyclopedia of Asian History, Vol. 1, Scribners, New York, 1998. (PDF; from Sunim)
  • The Korean Buddhist Research Institute, eds. The History and Culture of Buddhism in Korea. Seoul: Dongguk University Press, 1993.
  • Lee, Ki-baik. A New History of Korea. Translated by Edward W. Wagner with Edward J. Shultz. Seoul: Ilchokak Publishers, 1984.

Unified Silla Period

  • McBride, Richard D. Domesticating the Dharma: Buddhist cults and the Hwaŏm synthesis in Silla Korea. University of Hawaii Press, 2008.

Wonhyo

  • Muller, A Charles, ed. Wonhyo: Selected Works in The Collected Works of Korean Buddhism, Volume 1. The Compilation Committee of Korean Buddhist Thought and the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, 2012. Web Address: http://www.international.ucla.edu/buddhist/article/127536
  • Buswell Jr, Robert E. “The Hagiographies of the Korean Scholiast Wonhyo: The Dating and Provenance of the Vajrasamadhi.” In The Formation of Ch’an Ideology in China and Korea: The Vajrasamadhi-Sutra, A Buddhist Apocryphon. Princeton University Press, 1989, Chapter 2.
  • Buswell Jr, Robert E. Cultivating Original Enlightenment:Wonhyo’s Exposition of the Vajrasamadhi-Sutra. Collected Works of Wonhyo vol. 1. University of Hawaii Press: Honolulu. 2007.
  • Muller, A Charles, and Cuong Tu Nguyen, eds. Wonhyo’s Philosophy of Mind. The University of Hawaii Press, 2012.

Uisang

Chinul / Jinul

  • Buswell Jr, Robert E. Tracing Back the Radiance: Chinul’s Korean Way of Zen. University of Hawaii Press: Honolulu. 1991.
  • Buswell Jr, Robert E, ed. Chinul: Selected Works in The Collected Works of Korean Buddhism, Volume 2. The Compilation Committee of Korean Buddhist Thought and the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, 2012. Web Address: http://www.international.ucla.edu/buddhist/article/127546

T’aego

  • Cleary, J C, tr.. A Buddha from Korea: The Zen Teachings of T’aego. Shambhala, 2001.

Hyujeong or So Sahn

  • Boep Joeng, tr. The Mirror of Zen: The Classic Guide to Buddhist Practice by Zen Master So Sahn. Shambhala Publications, 2006.
  • Jorgensen, John, tr. A Handbook of Korean Zen Practice: A Mirror on the Son School of Buddhism (Songa kwigam). University of Hawaii Press, 2015.
  • Jorgensen, John, ed. Hyujeong: Selected Works in The Collected Works of Korean Buddhism, Volume 3. The Compilation Committee of Korean Buddhist Thought and the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, 2012. Web Address: http://www.international.ucla.edu/buddhist/article/127549

Kusan Sunim

  • Kusan Sunim. The Way of Korean Zen. Tr. Martine Batchelor. Ed. Stephen Batchelor. Boston: Weatherhill, 2009.

Song-chol Sunim

  • Song-chol. Echoes from Mt. Kaya: Selections on Korean Buddhism. Lotus Lantern International Buddhist Center, 1988.

Modern Korean Buddhism

  • Park, Jin Y. Makers of Modern Korean Buddhism. SUNY Press, 2012.

The Collected Works of Korean Buddhism

Readings IV – Mahayana/Zen Studies

Sinheungsa Bronze Buddha
(Intro from Previous Post…)

I recently put together a bibliography of readings that I studied during my seminary years and beyond. Since study is an important part of Buddhist practice – yes, even for Zen practitioners, and definitely for those of us that did not grow up in Buddhist cultures – I thought I would put that list up here.

I will break the list down into various units and post separately. This list is incomplete on many fronts – more on that in a later post. If you have extra reading suggestions, please add them in the comments!

Diamond Sutra

  • Conze, Edward.  Buddhist Wisdom: The Diamond Sutra and the Heart Sutra.  New York: Vintage Books, 1958.
  • Mu Soeng.  The Diamond Sutra: Transforming the Way we Perceive the World.  Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2000.
  • Red Pine.  The Diamond Sutra: The Perfection of Wisdom, Texts and Commentaries Translated From Sanskrit and Chinese.  Berkeley: Counterpoint, 2001.

Platform Sutra

  • Bielefeldt, Carl and Lewis Lancaster. “T’an Ching (Platform Scripture).” Philosophy East and West Vol. 25, No. 2 (1975). Pages 197 – 212.
  • Red Pine. The Platform Sutra: The Zen Teaching of Hui-neng. Berkeley: Counterpoint, 2006.
  • Suzuki, Daisetz Teitaro. The Zen Doctrine of No-Mind: The Significance of the Sūtra of Hui-neng (Wei-lang). York Beach, Main: Samuel Weiser, Inc., 1972.
  • Yampolsky, Philip. The Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch: The Text of the Tun-huang Manuscript. New York: Columbia University Press, 1967.

The Awakening of Faith

  • Hakeda, Yoshito, tr. The Awakening of Faith. Columbia University Press, 1974.
  • Park, Sung-bae. Wonhyo’s Commentaries on The Awakening of Faith in Mahayana. Ph.D. Dissertation, University of California, Berkeley, 1979.
  • Suzuki, D T, tr. The Awakening of Faith: The Classic Exposition of Mahayana Buddhism. Dover Publications, 2003.

Zen / Ch’an / Seon Studies – Various Readings

  • Buswell Jr, Robert E. The Formation of Ch’an Ideology in China and Korea: The Vajrasamadhi-Sutra, A Buddhist Apocryphon. Princeton University Press, 1989.
  • Hu Shih. “Ch’an (Zen) Buddhism in China: Its History and Method.” Philosophy East and West Vol. 3, No. 1 (1953). Pages 3 – 24.
  • Suzuki, Daisetz Teitaro. “Zen: A Reply to Hu Shih.” Philosophy East and West Vol. 3, No. 1 (1953). Pages 25 – 46.
  • Suzuki, Daisetz Teitaro. “History of Zen Buddhism from Bodhidharma to Hui-neng (Yeno) (A.D. 520 – A.D. 713).” In Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki’s Essays in Zen Buddhism: First Series. New York: Grove Press, Inc., 1961. Pages 163 – 228.
  • Suzuki, Daisetz Teitaro. Essays in Zen Buddhism: First Series. New York: Grove Press, Inc., 1961.

Readings III – Disciples of the Buddha

07 Kisagotami with her Dead Child, at the Nava Jetavana, Shravasti(Intro from Previous Post…)

I recently put together a bibliography of readings that I studied during my seminary years and beyond. Since study is an important part of Buddhist practice – yes, even for Zen practitioners, and definitely for those of us that did not grow up in Buddhist cultures – I thought I would put that list up here.

I will break the list down into various units and post separately. This list is incomplete on many fronts – more on that in a later post. If you have extra reading suggestions, please add them in the comments!

NOTE 1: This list is short because it is the only reference I have for reading about the Disciples of the Buddha. However, the collection of readings here is a must read for any serious student/practitioner of Buddhism.

Note 2: The collection does cover Bhikkhunis of the Buddha’s period, albeit not as thoroughly as the Bhikkhus. Some of this is a product of relevant source material; some of it is not. If you have references to Bhikkhunis living during the Buddha’s period, please post in the comments.

Note 3: The image above is of Kisagotami and her dead child as she approaches the Buddha for help. If you don’t know her story, please find it and read it deeply and mindfully.

Disciples of the Buddha

  • Bhikkhu Bodhi, ed., Great Disciples of the Buddha: Their Lives, Their Works, Their Legacy, Wisdom Publications, 2003

 

Readings II – Life of the Buddha

sermon_in_the_deer_park_depicted_at_wat_chedi_liem-kayess-1(Intro from Previous Post…)

I recently put together a bibliography of readings that I studied during my seminary years and beyond. Since study is an important part of Buddhist practice – yes, even for Zen practitioners, and definitely for those of us that did not grow up in Buddhist cultures – I thought I would put that list up here.

I will break the list down into various units and post separately. This list is incomplete on many fronts – more on that in a later post. If you have extra reading suggestions, please add them in the comments!

Life of the Buddha

  • Bhikkhu Nānamoli, The Life of the Buddha: According to the Pali Canon, Pariyatti Publishing, 2003
  • Nakamura, Hajime, Gotama Buddha: A Biography Based on the Most Reliable Texts Volume I, Kosei Publishing Company, 2001
  • Nakamura, Hajime, Gotama Buddha: A Biography Based on the Most Reliable Texts Volume 2, Kosei Publishing Company, 2005
  • Schumann, H. W., The Historical Buddha (tr. M. O’C. Walshe)

Readings I – General Buddhism

monk_examinations_bago_myanmarI recently put together a bibliography of readings that I studied during my seminary years and beyond. Since study is an important part of Buddhist practice – yes, even for Zen practitioners, and definitely for those of us that did not grow up in Buddhist cultures – I thought I would put that list up here.

I will break the list down into various units and post separately. This list is incomplete on many fronts – more on that in a later post. If you have extra reading suggestions, please add them in the comments!

For now:

Readings on General Buddhism

  • Bhikkhu Bodhi, ed., In the Buddha’s Words: An Anthology of Discourses from the Pāli Canon, Wisdom Publications, 2005
  • Thich Nhat Hanh. The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching: Transforming Suffering into Peace, Joy, and Liberation. Broadway Books, 1999.
  • Rahula, Walpola. What the Buddha Taught: Revised and Expanded Edition with Texts from Suttas and Dhammapada. Grove Press, 1974.

The Mindful Schools Two-Step: A Dangerous Path, but for Whom?

In a blog post for the Huffington Post’s Education section Candy Gunther Brown, PhD, suggests that secular mindfulness meditation practices in the public school system should be treated similarly to theistic prayer practices in the public schools. Insofar as those theistic practices are forbidden, so should the Buddhist practices, no matter the name by which you call them. I am deeply sympathetic to her suggestion, even though I myself am both a public school teacher and an ordained lay Dharma teacher. But Dr. Brown’s rhetoric around the matter is misleading, partly because the people promoting these secularized practices are themselves confused about what they are saying and doing.

To clear some of these muddy waters, let’s start with an analogy that we are all familiar with, whether we are Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Satanist, Secularist, or Nihilist: walking. Most of us walk, some of us more than others, and some of us not all that much. Some of us not at all because of disabilities or other features of our bodies that push us to move in other ways, and I do not mean to exclude you from this conversation, so please substitute your method of travel for walking in the following discussion. For those of us that walk, the following should sound familiar.

Continue reading “The Mindful Schools Two-Step: A Dangerous Path, but for Whom?”