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Self and Social Status

| February 24, 2015 | 0 Comments
Self and Social Status

When we introduce ourselves to someone new, they will ask us who we are. It’s a hard question to answer. In a nutshell it’s a question about self identity. There are various culturally formed habits we fall into when answering. I have family in Spain, where asking your name is is not entirely innocent. There they […]

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Early Roots of the Four Noble Truths?

| February 9, 2015 | 5 Comments
Early Roots of the Four Noble Truths?

The triad of gratification, danger, and escape is one of the Buddha’s most incisive contemplations for investigating everyday experience. In his book on the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta, Anālayo says that “each of these insights can be considered a particular aspect of [the Buddha’s] comprehensive realization” of the dhamma. (p. 106n57). The Buddha applies the formula quite literally […]

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Practice Circle: Energy and Information

| February 5, 2015 | 1 Comment
Practice Circle: Energy and Information

In his book Mindsight, Dr. Dan Siegel tells the story of when he began trying to understand the mind in a serious way. As he approached experts in various disciplines, he soon encountered a fundamental problem: there was no agreed-upon definition of what the mind is. As Siegel convened an interdepartmental working group at UCLA, […]

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Bāhiya’s Training on Mental Obsession

| February 3, 2015 | 26 Comments
Bāhiya’s Training on Mental Obsession

The Buddha’s succinct, cryptic teaching of the dhamma to the bark-cloth wearing ascetic Bāhiya is one of the most famous in the early Canon. Bāhiya, you should train yourself thus: In reference to the seen, there will be only the seen. In reference to the heard, only the heard. In reference to the sensed, only […]

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The Buddha and Blasphemy

| January 27, 2015 | 11 Comments
The Buddha and Blasphemy

With the recent tragedy at Charlie Hebdo blasphemous satire is in the news, and many ask if it should be allowed. There are many different degrees of “allow”, and most discussions on the matter, particularly the more virulent, trade off of these different degrees. First there is the plain issue of legality: should the state allow satire? […]

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Philip Kitcher on Secular Humanism

| January 19, 2015 | 3 Comments
Philip Kitcher on Secular Humanism

One criticism of ‘New Atheist’ books has been that they lack sophistication, that they attack only the most extreme forms of theistic belief without touching its more nuanced, liberal forms. So it comes as a welcome development to read Philip Kitcher’s new book, which takes a more nuanced look at religious belief and practice. As […]

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Impermanence and Emptiness: a Reversal in Perspective?

| January 12, 2015 | 22 Comments
Impermanence and Emptiness: a Reversal in Perspective?

The Buddhist notion of emptiness (suññatā/śunyatā) is famously difficult to get one’s head around. In a presentation this past Saturday Sharon Salzberg described it as a combination of impermanence (anicca) and interconnectedness. This is a good first go at understanding emptiness, although the simple concept “interconnectedness” doesn’t really do justice to the recondite complexity of dependent origination […]

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