PHILOSOPHY & MEDITATION
Exploring ancient Indian contemplative practices, and more.
Open access resources about
meditative practices and contemplative skills
in daily life and in higher education.
Independent, non-sectarian, open-minded.
Three related works that explore aspects of ancient Buddhist thought and practice,
from a broad cross-cultural context to some fine details of the teachings.
These are still works-in-progress. Each one is designed as the basis for a related course.
(N O W P U B L I S H E D !!)
THE TRAGEDY OF THE SELF.
LECTURES ON GLOBAL HERMENEUTICS
Why do human beings interpret their overall experience in terms of selfhood? How was the notion and sense of self shaped at different times and in different cultures? What sort of problems or paradoxes did these constructions face? These lectures address these and related questions by sketching a roadmap of possible theoretical avenues for conceiving of the self, bringing to the foreground its soteriological implications, while also testing this theoretical outlook against insights offered by various disciplines (including philosophy, cognitive science, anthropology, archaeology, psychology, religious studies, intellectual history, and contemplative practices) and in specific historical cultures (ancient India and Greece, the modern West). The resulting journey is a way of practicing hermeneutics, the art of understanding and interpreting experience in its multifarious manifestations (which include different genres of written texts, oral traditions, social structures and practices, various sorts and domains of experience, ideas and ideals). This form of hermeneutics is best understood as ‘global hermeneutic’ both because of its temporal and geographical scope, and because of its interest on a phenomenon so broad and deeply rooted as selfhood. The purpose of the journey is not only descriptive, though. Exploring the cross-cultural spectrum of possible ways of conceiving of the self invites the more existential question of whether any of these possibilities might offer resources for dealing with the tragedies of today’s world, or maybe even saving it from some of them.
AN INTRODUCTION TO FRIENDLINESS (METTĀ).
EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE AND FREEDOM IN THE PĀLI DISCOURSES OF THE BUDDHA.
Friendliness (mettā in Pāli) is an emotional and intentional attitude of goodwill and non-aversion towards all sentient beings, including oneself. It is rooted in both feeling and understanding. In the Pāli discourses of the Buddha, friendliness is repeatedly stressed and encouraged for its numerous benefits. It supports and develops a form of emotional intelligence and provides an ideal pathway to explore deeper aspects of one’s experience and their philosophical implications. Friendliness is best understood not in isolation, but rather in the broader context of the Buddha’s teachings. In that context, it plays an essential role as a catalyst for the unfolding of the whole Buddhist path. Friendliness, then, can be a particularly interesting thread to follow in order to unpack the meaning and practical implications of the core teachings conveyed in the discourses. This introduction combines meditation practice, philosophy, and the reading of ancient texts in order to show how friendliness can function both as an entry point to explore the landscape of the discourses, and how that same landscape unfolds from the perspective disclosed by friendliness.
IN CONTEMPLATIVE INDIAN TRADITIONS
How do we experience consciousness? How can we manipulate this experience? And what does this tell us about the nature of consciousness itself? These and related questions have been explored since ancient antiquity by Indian contemplative traditions. This book reconstructs several salient turning points in this multimillennial history, by focusing in particular on how the seemingly innocuous act of concentrating on particular objects—or instead relinquishing all focus—can be used as a red thread to unravel the mysteries of consciousness. Starting from the early Buddhist empirical investigations, the book explores the later philosophical disputes (among later Buddhist schools and classical Samkhya-Yoga) about the nature of pure consciousness and its relation with the rest of the phenomenal world. It turns thus to nondual accounts of consciousness (both hinted at in the Gita, and later developed in nondual Shaiva tantrism) aimed at balancing and unifying together engagement and disengagement, object-full and object-less consciousness. These nondual perspectives had a remarkable impact on later developments, both in the Hata Yoga tradition and in the bhakti tradition inspired by the Bhagavata Purana—and both show different ways of embodying pure consciousness. Yet, the discussion also progressively reveals the role of philosophical reflection as something not just accidental or dispensable, but in fact crucial in order to balance the different dimensions of conscious experience.
Training and group workshops
Beginning 23 January 2023
This workshop aims to provide a basic introduction to some of the fundamental ingredients of meditation practice: the role of embodiment for the framing of experience, the way in which attention can be used, misused, or collected, and the importance of developing certain emotional attitudes such as friendliness. For the philosophically-inclined ones, these practices have the further advantage of providing a laboratory for exploring how one’s own experience is constructed, shaped, and how it can be transformed by the dynamics of attention and intentionality.
SANGHA MEDITATION WORKSHOP
Wednesdays, from Sept. 28 to Oct. 26, 19:00 to 20:15,
Sangha Café, Van Oldenbarneveltlaan 6
Groningen (studio 2)
This workshop aims to introduce the fundamentals of Buddhist meditation, understood as a very flexible and open approach, mainly aimed at cultivating positive qualities, training attention, understanding how we construct our experiences, and how we might do that better. The practice is presented in a non-sectarian way, suitable for everybody, from absolute beginners to more experienced meditators.
Each meeting will take approximately 1h15’. We begin with a short explanation of relevant aspects of meditation, and we then try to put them into practice in a guided 30’ session. The rest of the time will be left for conversations, exchanges, questions, and sharing.
The workshop is offered for free. No registration required.
Faculty of Philosophy, Oude Boteringestraat 52, Groningen, Room OMEGA. Each Friday, 5:00-6:00pm.