Thursday, January 11, 2007

Commenting post


After our discussion this morning, I kept thinking of Baruch Spinoza (one of my favorite philosophers), born in Holland of Jewish parents. He was to receive from his parents a "fine education," with a thorough grounding in such subjects as Latin and physics (further, he studied Descartes and Bruno). Later, he supported himself by grinding and polishing lenses, an occupation which eventually led to his early demise (glass dust in his lungs). Spinoza is a pantheist / monist. He believed that there is no difference between God and the universe. God moves and lives in nature; the whole of it, the entire universe is God. Nature (or God) is Its own cause and is self-sufficient (So, I guess this makes of Spinoza the first Eco-philosopher of the West). According to Spinoza, we have a need to anthropomorphize God, as if HE had a special interest in, and concern for us. The Spinozistic God does not love nor hate. (Note: Spinoza’s cosmogony may have been inspired by the Kabbalah [incidentally, Kabbalistic works propose a theodicy where evil is in an intimate relationship with God, not that far apart from the Hindu theodicy]).
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Although it's still too early in the course, I’ve sense your uneasiness (resistance?) with some of these concepts. Don't worry. The nice thing about philosophy is that we don’t have to argue over the literalness of some of these concepts. Let's play the game of seeing a paradox "with three eyes" (as in the old myth), in order to grasp deeper and subtler meanings. We need to enrich our understanding and multiply the world in different ways. There’s plenty to talk about: Monism, pantheism, samsara, bhakti, karma, OM… go ahead!

14 comments:

mariana said...

As I start to think about the different beliefs in the different religions, I start to realize how much they influence me. Even thought I don’t consider myself part of any organized religion, I do believe in “God” as most people call it, and I also have what people consider “rituals”. I was very happy to read about a pantheist philosopher, since this is the philosophy that I agree with the most and that fits my beliefs the best. I believe the universe itself, Nature, its what people call “God”. And just like what we talked about in class, when you start thinking about it, it does match with the Catholic belief that God is every where, because if he is everywhere, he is everything. I never realized this before until we talked about it in class. As we start exploring more Hinduism, I am noticing how familiar all this concepts sound, and how they form part of our society now, but we don’t even know their roots, or where they come from.
mariana.

d said...

Karma; sowing and reaping; cause and effect; whatever we choose to call it, it seems almost impossible to deny its presence. The compassion and mercy we show towards others will undoubtedly return to us in our time of need. My parents are an example of this. Throughout my life, they have given of themselves unreservedly to help others. They have given their time, money, and love to so many people. But nearly ten years ago, my parents were somewhat forced to leave the church that my dad had helped to start-up and had been leading for the past seven years. For the next two years, we were nomads, visiting different churches and prayer groups, and because of my dad’s legal situation, he couldn’t just go out and easily find a job to support our family. But throughout those two years, it seems as if that good “karma” that my parents had stored up came back to us, for we never lacked anything.
-daniel carvalho

adam febles said...

Om. Om? To Westerners this may just be a sound that this generation's yoga students seem to retiterate like zombies going with the fad, but it is the most sacred syllable in Hinduism, symbolizing the infinite Brahman and the entire universe. Being of Western culture myself, I found the sound to be funny, at first, and when others spoke of meditation I would just think, "Waste of time." But it grew on me after I tried my first and only yoga class. Somehow, after executing the physicalities of yoga, echoing Om seemed unexplainably natural and provided a sense of clarity and relaxed state I've never felt in my life. It was as if I was at peace with everything and one with everything and life didn't seem so complex. Because of that experience my eyes opened to the idea of Eastern philosophy and everything it could teach me.

Susana said...

I recently learned that in order to polish a diamond, it needs to be cut. This procedure requires anywhere from several hours to several months to complete. Interestingly, a diamond loses on average half of its original weight during the process, but the final outcome is the hardest, the most imperishable and brilliant of all precious stones. My heart, like a diamond, became subjected to incredible events of violent “forces and pressures”, but at the same time, the final outcome was a life-changing and blissful experience.
I was born in Medellín, Colombia, a city where civilians suffer daily from murder, bombings, kidnappings, extortions and lawlessness. Unfortunately, I cannot recall many jolly adolescent moments in Medellín as they were few and far between. I grew up knowing that if I wasn’t wary, I could easily get killed, raped or abducted. The multiple experiences I faced in my country allowed me to reincarnate several times. I’ve realized these experiences were shaping the personality of a woman who was at heart courageous. The metamorphosis that these events forced on me helped me to experience a restorative effect. Little by little, I discovered my actual commitment to spiritual ideas.

rey said...

I would like to refresh my earlier statements that i had said in class earlier that day but with a little bit more in depth details. I begin to notice that within Hinduism and Christianity which is the religion I am devoting my life to their are some similarities. For example in Christianity we must love Jesus Christ for his sacrifices. In Hinduism thier is what is called Bhakti which is the same kind of love that we are suppose to give to Atman/Brahman. I also notice that there is a holy trinity in hinduism. You have Brahma (God as a Creator), Vishnu the preserver and Shiva the destroyer. Also both religions make us acknowledge the fact that we must care for others as we would be caring for ourselves. In Christianity we are all brothers and sisters. In Hinduism we are all one. Everything is connected so we must treat each other with respect. Another similarity is the idea of Maya which totally fascinates me. The fact that all of this is an illusion which we take for as a reality. That things aren't as they appear to be. Things may seem to be, but are not. In Christianity this is really not our world. This is a temporary state that we must pass through in order to see wether our souls are to enter in heaven or be sent to hell. Nothing that we have here really matters, because when we die it all stays and we go.

Alejandro said...

I have lived four different lives. I have been four different persons. These persons are similar. They are different. When I think back to the person that I was five years ago, it is difficult to believe that person is me. We have similar memories, we have the same genetic make up, but our minds are unalike. The way that we think, our values, and the principles by which we live our lives are completely distinct. When I try to comprehend why I did certain things in my past, I find that I cannot because the person who made those decisions is so far removed from the person who I am now. How then can I say that we are the same person? I am not trying to answer the question of personal identity, but I am looking for a name to describe what I have experienced. Without realizing it I have always categorized my past in terms of these distinct lives. I say I lived four lives, but perhaps I have lived many more for the self is transient and ever-changing. I have been aware of this phenomenon for a long time, but I now have a name for it: reincarnation.

Joey S. said...

In regards to "Bhakti," the concept of devotion, worship and love for a "God" differs greatly between Hinduism and the Judeo-Christian religions. This is primarily shown in how the Hindus do not conceive of a God that we should always live in fear of. In these contemporary Judeo-Christian religions, the idealistic lifestyle of endless worship of their "all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good" God has constantly and somewhat inevitably been masked by an attitude of always looking out for oneself. They are told and warned from the earliest of ages that they will be judged and punished by the God who sees and hears everything; and that thought in the back of their minds tends to turn into lifestyle of self-interest, and nothing more. The Hindus do not seem to follow this lifestyle of simply doing what it takes to avoid “sins” to get into heaven, as they see God as an entity that is somewhat indifferent about their choices and actions.

rovena said...

The idea of God being one and the same with the universe is certainly much more appealing to me than the traditional Judeo-Christian view of God. However, if God is indeed everything, it is fair to say that it is impossible to identify God as a separate identity, for nothing is different than God. And if it is impossible to identity God a separate independent identity, then nothing necessarily implies or points to the existence of a God in the first place, for there are no “non-divine” manifestations to contrast with divine ones. Therefore, in my opinion, the belief that God is not the creator of the universe, but rather the universe itself, could actually be perceived as atheist theory.

Rovena

anywherei90 said...

This is a verse from Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass that I found to be quite appropriate for the topic of reincarnation. This poem is parallel to with what Prof. Triff was saying about how people are constantly reincarnating themselves…

O Living Always- Always Dying

O LIVING always- always dying!
O the burials of me, past and present!
O me, while I stride ahead, material, visible, imperious as ever!
O me, what I was for years, now dead, (I lament not- I am content;)
O to disengage myself from those corpses of me, which I turn and look at, where I cast them!
To pass on, (O living! Always living!) and leave the corpses behind!

This poem could be used as a metaphor for reincarnation or it could be taken literally when describing reincarnation… that is the beauty of it. It’s neither right nor wrong… Ultimately, the human experience becomes about developing oneself into a “better” person. No matter what belief system (if any) we choose to invest our faith into, we are always being taught basically the same principles and morals. The only differences are in what happens in the after life and how many chances you get at trying to become an enlightened, or at least better, soul. Religions are much more similar than we like to admit. But if we try to understand the similarities along with the differences, beginning just with the notion of reincarnation, then we might begin to see much less violence in the world.

Emily said...

I have always been a strong believer in the idea that the soul, comes back in another body or form or in simple terms the soul reincarnates, not so much in the spiritual sense, but more in the human sense. I beleive that humans reincarnate as they live life, through growth and their expiriances. I also believe in the existance of a higher being, which people know as "God" eventhough I was raised in the catholic church, as I gained knowledge of life I realized that their is no "true" organized religion, as long as you do believe in some sort of higher being.

Antonella said...

Religion has never really been something that attracted me very much .Although I was raised in a family that considers themselves Catholics, they are not "religious" and I cannot remember the last time we went to church.Growing up in a predominantly Jewish area gave me the other side of the spectrum as I grew up with all Jewish friends. It is so that I would attend temple, bar/bat mitzvahs and shabbat dinners. This is what made me realize that in my eyes there isn't much of a difference between the two, between their rites of passage, ceremonies with wine and bread and their prayers. Perhaps this is why Buddhism and the eastern philosophy attracted me so much when it was introduced to me in the 10th grade. As someone who knew a little about each of the other two, this seemed to be my middle ground, the fact that this "God" was in everything. That to me seems to be what hits closest to home. It is hard for me to imagine this world in a sense of hierarchy with positions in the religions of ultimate power. Instead, everything is each other and all has life, this seems to make the purpose of earth and its inhabitants more valid. I also agree with Adam on his sense of Om, as I too have had a similar experience and continue to use it and its mantras in Sanskrit in moments that I seek clarity and relaxation.

Josh said...

The concept of reincarnation has always fascinated me. I personally believe that our physical bodies pass our soul is judged and placed in a new fitting body. Last semester my music appreciation teacher was talking about a concept called the spiral of fifths which when visualized makes an upward spiral going on for infinity. He applied this to many things, (astronomy, geometry, nature, mythology, etc,) and one was philosophy. I feel that this fundamental concept is also the basis for reincarnation. That actions and adherence to our Dharma is calculated and our souls are moving along this spiral accordingly. I feel that this "infinity" is just a representation of Moksha. That in each life we try and gain a larger sense of Atman and try to become closer to achieving Moksha.

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Susana said...

Since we are moving towards Gandhi’s teachings, I looked up the Satyagraha. I wanted to share with you one of his thoughts that grabbed my attention:
“I have been even seriously told that I am distorting the meaning of the Gita, when I ascribe to that great poem the teaching of unadulterated nonviolence. Some of my Hindu friends tell me that killing is a duty enjoined by the Gita under certain circumstances. A very learned shastri only the other day scornfully rejected my interpretation of the Gita and said that there was no warrant for the opinion held by some commentators that the Gita represented the eternal duel between forces of evil and good, and inculcated the duty of eradicating evil within us without hesitation, without tenderness. I must be dismissed out of considerations. My religion is a matter solely between my Maker and myself. If I am a Hindu, I cannot cease to be one even though I may be disowned by the whole of the Hindu population. I do however suggest that nonviolence is the end of all religions.”