This past week I have been rereading parts of a book on spirituality that helped me when I was younger. The book, Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of a Buddha by Tara Brach, proposes what I think is a valuable approach to the frustrations and pains that we encounter in life. Rather than push your suffering away, Brach says, you should embrace and care for it. When something bad happens, and feelings of hostility, fear, and anxiety arise, don’t tense up or shut down. Instead, be willing to say “yes, this too” and sit with your pain. There were moments in graduate school, which was both a highly rewarding yet anxiety producing experience, when this message strongly resonated with me.
While there is still work to be done, it seems as though the discipline of philosophy and Buddhist practice have had a productive engagement with each other, in part because of the similar questions they ask. Both are interested in ways the self is built up or deconstructed, how rationality and affectivity relate, and the best practices for living a happy life. I find myself particularly intrigued by the way each emphasize the necessity of creating spaces for focused thought within society, whether that is an academic symposium, an office, a weekend retreat, or a temple. After rereading Brach’s book, I researched some of the more recent works on how philosophy and Buddhism relate. Here’s what I found:
- Jay L. Garfield, Engaging Buddhism: Why It Matters to Philosophy, Oxford University Press, 2015.
- Buddhisms and Deconstructions, ed. Jin Park, Motilal Banarsidass, 2011.
- Evan Thompson, Waking, Dreaming, Being: Self and Consciousness in Neuroscience, Meditation, and Philosophy, Columbia University Press, 2014.
- The “Author Meets Critics” section of Philosophy East and West, Volume 66, Number 3, July 2016. 5 people—Christian Coseru, John D. Dunne, Jay L. Garfield, Owen Flanagan, and Jennifer M. Windt—comment on Thompson’s above book.
- Steven Geisz, “Body Practice and Meditation as Philosophy: Teaching Qigong, Taijiquan, and Yoga in College Courses,” Teaching Philosophy, June 2016.
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