Atheist engagement with Buddhism: denying (or redefining) awakening

I have long believed that positions, religious or otherwise, can be strengthened or (wisely) abandoned when met with careful argumentation. Do your claims to "X" hold up? If not, why not let them go?So I was pleased to read a post today on the Atheist Channel here at Patheos asking "Was the Buddha enlightened?"There, Eric Sotnak presents a well-reasoned case against the Buddha's enlightenment (or awakening) based on the doctrine's connection to rebirth and the lack of evidence for … [Read more...]

Humans and Bonobos: Violence and a Thyroid Hormone

Following on something I mentioned in my last post, that the American people (all societies, really) are growing in morality, there is a new study supporting this presupposition that is worth examining. There I pointed back to a 2012 post featuring the work of Steven Pinker, who has influenced me greatly in this matter. In the recent study, published in the journal Nature and reported by the AP: As a group, mammals average a lethal violence rate against their own of about three killings of t … [Read more...]

Greed and Delusion in Wells Fargo. Or “In Praise of the Ethical Man”

In this current political season, in which both major candidates have given rise to unprecedented levels of distrust - much deserved though some certainly not - it is all the more important to call to mind the fundamental goodness and growing morality of the American populous. Both of those - fundamental goodness and growing morality - are subject to debate, I know. But I am an optimist, and a fan of evidence. I know that my own situation is far from perfect (as an adjunct professor at a liberal … [Read more...]

“Our Buddhist University and the Role of Intellectualism in our Studies” a Call for Papers

The Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Universities (IABS), based in Bangkok, has issued a call for papers today examining the role of intellectualism in Buddhist studies. The key questions posed for the upcoming edition of the journal are: In your Buddhist University or Buddhist Studies Program, what is the role of intellectualism within your program? How is intellectualism promoted or prohibited? Some professors promote critical thinking skills within their studies, some … [Read more...]

Returning, or “5 meditations on the desert”

A little over a week ago, I packed my bags, spent a night in Missoula, MT, picked up 3 (and then 4) fellow travelers, and headed into the wilds of Utah where we met two more friends. I'm not a seasoned backpacker or hiker, having spent usually only a day or two in the "back country" and six days last year hiking 80+ miles of the Wind River National Wilderness Area with two good friends who are much more knowledgeable than I probably ever will be.However, I am a long-time meditator (over 15 … [Read more...]

Zen Buddhist teacher Dogen: “The Greatest Philosopher You’ve Never Heard Of”

Writing for NPR today, Adam Frank introduces us to Eihei Dōgen. Dōgen was a thirteenth century Japanese Buddhist thinker and founder of Sōtō Zen. And Frank is an astrophysicist teaching at the University of Rochester. Why would a 21st century astrophysicist be praising a long-dead Japanese guy as a "philosopher"?As Frank writes, "it doesn't do much good imagining that Europe cornered the market on creative thinking about being human." He, like me, my friend Amod Lele, and a lot of other fol … [Read more...]

Getting Buddhist Philosophy (and other non-Western thought) into the academy

Last Wednesday, Jay Garfield (who I wrote about in 2013) and Bryan Van Norden published an op-ed in the NYTimes calling for the renaming of university "Philosophy" departments to something like "Western or Anglo-American philosophy departments" so long as they refuse or fail to incorporate philosophy from outside of the Western world (or even a particularly circumscribed section of the Western world). They write: Given the importance of non-European traditions in both the history of world … [Read more...]

Buddhist Ethics has a good day: on Philosophy, East and West

Almost 3 years ago exactly, 3 AM Magazine interviewed Jay Garfield, one of the best-known Buddhist philosophers in academia today. I wrote about that interview and still look back fondly on the comments and conversations that ensued.So it was with great joy that I saw 3 AM Magazine's latest interview with a Buddhist philosopher: Nicolas Bommarito, who teaches at NYU and the University of Buffalo. It was a great reminder that great thought within the academy is still being devoted to Buddhist … [Read more...]