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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

What we can learn from Buddhism

(CC) Linda Lane aka Wonderlane,
This Saturday, July 18, 2009, I will be speaking before the Humanists of Houston (HOH) on the topic, "What Humanists Can Learn from Buddhism". I will present an overview of Buddhist philosophy. Specific focus will be given to the Humanist perspective and what those with a naturalistic and scientific worldview can take from Buddhism, as well as how the Humanist movement can benefit. Buddhist conception of the world will be compared to modern scientific understandings. Buddhist ethics will be considered, and the operation of Buddhist practices will be addressed.

I became interested in Buddhism a few years ago, after readings in complex systems theory lead me simultaneously to the Taoist philosophy Chuang-Tsu and the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus. From there, I migrated to Buddhism and Stoicism respectively, and was suprised to see these two merge back together with complexity - hence my current fascination with all three.

[Explore further: Visit to a Buddhist Temple]

I commonly look for areas of overlap with Stoicism and other ideas. I want to know why two different systems (or more) can seem true in their own right - are they saying the same things in different ways? Where do the ideas overlap and where are they different. If they are different, are they really so or is it just a matter of emphasis? If not, which is correct? How can a thinking person simply interested in good ideas synthesize something consistent and useful from all of these?

[Explore further: The Nature of 'The Force']

Buddhism has so far held a special place for me. While it overlaps with Stoicism, it seems to address something more directly and fully than Stoicism does, and that thing is compassion. I have become convinced that compassion is a central component of 'the good life'. For this reason, I have been thinking and discussing recently with fellow Stoics just what 'Stoic compassion' would look like, framed in Stoic terms. This was also key to shifting the emphasis within Humanism in the 'Humanist Contemplative' concept I last wrote on here. It is thanks to the lessons of Buddhism that I now consider compassion to be the real foundational core to Humanism and begin all explanations of Humanism with that premise. In fact, absent the specific cultural influences, I consider a philosophic Buddhism to be nothing other than an Eastern version of Humanism.

I will explain why in greater detail this Saturday at the Bayland Community Center, 6400 Bissonnet St., 77074 at 1:00pm and you are invited to join us!

Namaste :)

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