Eastern Philosophy


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Eastern Philosophy
   1 Teach Yourself Eastern Philosophy   Mel Thompson  This PDF file has been created from the srcinal, unedited manuscript of Teach Yourself: Eastern Philosophy  published in 1999 by Teach Yourself Books , an imprint of Hodder Headline. Downloadable from www.philosophyandethics.com, it is available, free of charge, for your own personal use. PLEASE NOTE This is an srcinal, unedited manuscript, written in 1998. It was subsequently edited and published in 1999, revised and re-published in 2003. This srcinal text has not been checked for factual or grammatical errors. If you find that something is incorrect, I should be grateful to hear from you. For further information about this or other publications to be made available in this way,  please contact the author on: mel@mel-thompson.co.uk    © 2011, Mel Thompson Papermill eBooks   2 Contents Introduction 3 But is it philosophy? What does this book cover? Eastern and Western terms The geography of ideas Hindu Philosophies 7 Background Some key concepts Literature Philosophical Schools Life: goals and ethics Early Buddhism 31 Background: the Buddha Key concepts The self The Abhidharma Meditation Ethics Buddhism and philosophical speculation Jainism 54 Background Mahavira Basic concepts The self Reinterpretations of Hindu concepts Parallels with the Sankhya School of philosophy Parallels with Buddhist philosophy Ethics Mahayana Buddhism 67 Background: development of Buddhism The Bodhisattva ideal Madhyamaka philosophy Yogacara philosophy The Tathagatagarbha doctrine The Trikaya doctrine Cosmology Further developments of Mahayana Buddhism Confucianism 85 Background notes on Chinese thought K‟ung Fu -Tsu (551-479BCE) Developments of the Ru school   3  Neo-Confucianism The self and society Confucianism and the Chinese Republic Taoism 106 Background Lao Tzu Key concepts in Taoism Change and the Tao Chuang Tzu (369-286BCE) Living in harmony Religious Taoism Taoism and other philosophies Tantra 120 Background Rituals and meditation Shiva and Shakti Tantric sex Buddhist tantra Conclusion Zen 134 Introduction Origins and development Key features of Zen Rinzai Zen Soto Zen The Buddha nature Zen practice East meets West But is it philosophy? Postscript 150 Further Reading 151 Glossary 153 Index   4 Introduction Philosophy is the quest for knowledge and wisdom. It seeks to clarify the general principles that govern our understanding of the world and to examine the language we use to describe it. Sometimes it is speculative, moving out from our limited range of experiences to frame some overall view of reality. Sometimes it is analytical, examining the logic of statements that might otherwise be accepted uncritically, in order to clarify what is being said. At one level, Philosophy is an academic discipline, pursued in universities and presented in weighty tomes that may seem impenetrable to the outsider; at another, it is the natural activity of all thinking people. Everyone who has ever asked why the universe is as it is, or why we call one thing good or beautiful and another bad or ugly, or how society should be organised, is in fact engaging in Philosophy. This book on Eastern Philosophy is therefore concerned with the traditions of thought and wisdom that developed in the Indian sub-continent and the Far East: ã   From India, you have the wealth of ideas, mental disciplines, religious and social  practices that are collectively known as Hinduism, along with the Jain and Buddhist  philosophies that developed within Hindu culture but were critical of Hindu orthodoxy and therefore emerged as separate traditions. ã   From the Far East, you have the ancient traditions of Confucianism and Taoism, later  blending with Buddhism to form the rich mixture of Chinese thought. ã   Then there are two wisdom traditions that are very different in approach - Tantra and Zen - the one based on ritual action and the creative use of the imagination, the other with an intuition of reality that goes beyond concepts. Together, these traditions have a history that stretches back three thousand years, and they have contributed vastly, not just to the eastern cultures within which they have developed,  but globally. A book such as this can do no more than point to the central themes and issues that Eastern Philosophy has addressed, and to outline its main approaches and conclusions.  But is it philosophy? Those who are accustomed to modern western philosophy may be in for a shock as they move eastwards. In the West, both the content and the methods used in philosophy have  become carefully defined. Many areas that were once seen as branches of philosophy have  been divided off as separate subjects (e.g. natural philosophy has bec ome „science‟). As a result, philosophy has come to been seen as a discipline without a subject matter of its own, its task being limited to the application of rational thought to the presuppositions and arguments used in other subjects, analysing the language used and the arguments presented. In other words: In the West during the 20th century, particularly in Britain and the United States, philosophy  became less concerned about the nature of reality itself, but more with the possibility and validity of speaking about reality: not „What is true?‟ but „What does it mean to say that something is true?‟ Much western philosophy stopped playing the game, and merely analysed the rule-book. In the West one does not expect someone versed in the philosophy of mind to work in a  psychiatric unit, nor a philosopher of science to be undertaking fundamental research, nor a  philosopher of religion to be necessarily practising a particular religion or teaching meditation techniques. Philosophers stand back, look and comment - their quest is generally for truth in the sense of clarity, less often for truth in the form of experience or action.
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