Humanities
Week 6, Assignment - Who am I

Question Description

* Students will read carefully the referenced materials (provided powerpoints, links, listed below) in order to briefly answer 7 worksheet questions (listed below) and the “think piecesubstantively, demonstrating analytical skills, competency and depth of topic treatment. Justify, interact with, and explain the interrelatedness and relevancy of any and all direct quotes used, and ensure proper citation.

* Also, answer the THINK PIECE questions with a 1- 1 ½ page double spaced response.

Week 6 assignment.rtf- Main document and instructions

An Ox a Cart a Bundle and a Bottle (1)(1).pdf - Required reading to complete assignment,  3 pages long

Who am I sidebar from M Molloy fourth edition page 138.pdf - Required reading to complete the assignment, 2 pages long


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Buddhism Week 6 Assignment Self/Soul Worksheet and Think Piece    Students will read carefully the referenced materials (provided powerpoints, links, listed below) in order to answer worksheet questions and the “think piece” substantively, demonstrating analytical skills, competency and depth of topic treatment. Justify, interact with, and explain the interrelatedness and relevancy of any and all direct quotes used, and ensure proper citation. Also briefly answer the 7 questions listed below Lastly, answer the THINK PIECE questions with a 1- 1 ½ page double spaced response. Students will read carefully the referenced materials (provided powerpoints, links, resources) in order to answer worksheet questions and the “think piece” substantively, demonstrating analytical skills, competency and depth of topic treatment. Justify, interact with, and explain the interrelatedness and relevancy of any and all direct quotes used, and ensure proper citation. A critical thinker is also a clear and creative thinker. Strive to formulate and articulate original ideas. The viewpoints you present in your own writing must be clearly conceived and articulated or argued. A professor of religion noted this is particularly true in the humanities— “Interpretation of religious phenomena requires that you come to some meaningful relationship with your object of study.” 1. Brief, well written paragraphs will suffice for the worksheet questions. Respond with specificity, interacting appropriately with the content. Students are required to view the powerpoint (link listed below), and respond to a set of 7 related questions below. Read carefully, following instructions, interacting with content knowledgeably and answering substantively. 2. For the final, pulling-it-together “Who am I?” think piece, listed below: students will write a double-space 1-1/2 page response. Develop 2-3 main points and let those stand on their own merit. Enunciate ideas clearly and persuasively, with support and conviction. Empower your writing. Students are to organize writing coherently. Avoid submitting a page that is one solid paragraph. Reread work to ensure it flows clearly and logically with transitional sentences. Proofread drafts and correct before posting the assignment. Below are additional links and resources: (Resources for writing the paper) Powerpoint slide – 22 slides: (copy all link) https://www.dropbox.com/s/feqjfkk4a3g7b3m/who %20am%20I.pdf 1. What is self – PEARL 21 slides https://www.dropbox.com/s/vabe3k7n8d4exmt/Pearl %20What%20is%20Self%20revised%20Feb%202013.pdf 2. What is the Self? – 1 short web page http://buddhism.about.com/od/whatistheself/a/skandhasnoself.htm 3. Honk if you’re nothing – 13 slides https://www.dropbox.com/s/fcvcjw4jky47tkx/Honk%20if%20you%20are%20nothing.pdf 4. Two attached links – a. Title - “An ox, a cart, a bundle and a bottle” 3 pages long b. Title – “Buddhism: “Who am I” 2 pages long Thinking philosophically: Do you believe in an immortal soul? Though we might not realize it, a number of our fundamental ideas about self or soul reflect the influence of Plato and Augustine. Among other issues in this assignment, students are to consider the following Platonic (dualistic) concepts:    There is an immaterial reality that exists separate from the physical world; There is a radical distinction between an immaterial soul and physical body; There are immortal souls that find their ultimate fulfillment in union with the eternal, transcendent realm (e.g., for Augustine, this is God; for Hindus this is Brahman). Questions: 1. From the PowerPoint, briefly describe the variety of traditional, philosophical, and theological views of the self/“soul,” or how personhood is understood. At first blush, which viewpoint(s) most resonate with your views and why? 2. We come back to dualism and monism, explored briefly in Hinduism with George Harrison’s song, “Within you without you.” How do you understand “dualism” in terms of the self and in terms of “reality”? 3. A “tri-partite” view of the self is found in philosophy, psychology, and religious traditions like Hinduism. Explain briefly Plato’s and Freud’s view or construct of the self. 4. Examine Maslow’s model “the hierarchy of needs.” Does his pyramid with its pinnacle “self-actualization” presuppose a “higher self,” or even a soul? Explain. 5. Plato is often associated with his view of the “world of the forms,” and the quest for eternal realities. In the Allegory of the Chariot in the Phaedrus Plato suggests that all souls had some glimpse or prior knowledge of perfection, but we have largely forgotten it. This amnesia could be due in part to the trauma of birth, or caused by some character flaw or moral failure. We might be preoccupied with wrongful pursuits instead of devotion to wisdom (philosophy). How might Plato’s view of the soul be similar to classic Hinduism? Next, briefly compare and contrast Plato’s chariot with two winged horses and the Hindu Upanishad “self-as-charioteer” model. 6. Explain Buddhism’s challenging (possibly counter intuitive?) concept of anatman / anatta or the “non self.” Choose any one of the additional materials provided in the Week 6 Blackboard folder. In two paragraphs, analyze / summarize your source of choice (e.g., web links, you tube, article, or PowerPoint) that focuses on how Buddhism conceptualizes the self. 7. Briefly connect how the Buddhist way of thinking resembles Hume’s understanding of the self. THINK PIECE (length: 1-1/2 page double space response) How would you define “soul”? a. Use any combination of the attached questions to help stimulate your thinking, and guide your reflecting as you formulate and articulate your views. Be sure to support your main points. b. Last, be sure to incorporate a personal response to the question, “Who am I?” drawing from your feelings, experiences, and aspirations. Here are but a few questions to stimulate thinking as you formulate and articulate your views. a. What are the qualities that differentiate you from all other selves? b. In what ways has your “self” changed during the course of your life? In what ways has it remained the same? c. How would you describe the relation of your “self” to your body? (Why might some tend to devalue / deny the body, while others might obsess over appearance and neglect “the soul,” or fail to cultivate “the higher self”? d. What do you think will happen to yourself after you die? AN OX, A CART, A BUNDLE, AND A BOTTLE In China and Japan, there is a series of drawings featuring a boy herding an ox in a field. Finally he manages to tame the ox, and this makes him happy indeed. In the last of the series of pictures, the ox is nowhere to be found. The ox is the symbol of the unenlightened mind; the ox also represents karma and the struggle with the ego. Think of the ox as the self; the ego. When all its constituent parts are there, we use the word “cart.” Likewise, where the “five heaps” exist, we talk in terms of a “living being.” (Samyutta Nikaya) A cart is a cart. But is a self a self? In Buddhism, it is concluded that we are not separate individual selves, but collections of elements temporarily brought together and bound to break apart because of impermanence. The cart is made of constituent parts. The Buddhist self, or more appropriately, the no-self, is a heap or a bundle consisting of five constituent parts. The term is skandha—aggregate or component. So the “five heaps” or or the bundle of five constituent parts are: form (physical shape); feelings; perceptions (the “picture” the mind forms out of data transmitted by the sense organs); inherent impulses (called karmic dispositions); and background consciousness.” Buddhists would argue that the “bundle” is often misunderstood as individuation. The Buddha rejected this reading of the data, according to the following: Suffering exists. But not the sufferer. The act is done. But there is no doer. Peace exists. But not the one who is at peace. There is a path. But no one walks it. (Buddhaghosa, Visuddhimagga) In a discussion with a wandering monk, Vaccha, the Buddha said, “The Tathagata has nothing to do with theories, but this is what he knows: the nature of form, how form arises, how form perishes; the nature of perception, how it arises and how it perishes (and the same with the other skandhas). Therefore I say that the Tathagata is emancipated because he has completely and entirely abandoned all imaginations, agitations and false notions about an ego and anything pertaining to an ego.” (page 58) What good is a bottle, a glass, a cup, a flask, or a vase or any kind of container without (negative) space? In Kevin O’Donnell’s Inside World Religions: An Illustrated Guide, empty space is treated to help us understand the important Buddhist concept of shunyata—the Buddhist absolute of emptiness. Negative spaces are vital ingredients in paintings, photographs, and in our own perception of reality. They act as frames for substance. The very lack allows something else to be, to take form and shape before our eyes. Buddhism uses the concept of emptiness in a similar manner. Emptiness is letting go; emptiness is non-discursive reasoning; emptiness is humility; emptiness is patience and waiting. Emptying the mind of harmful thoughts is not to create a blankness but a clean place where creativity and compassion can bubble up. Emptiness also opens up the reality of nonpermanence… the ego is a stream of consciousness with no fixed point. Even the very atoms that a person can be reduced down to are seen to be in flux, impermanent, and changing. Buddhism deals in philosophy more than other faiths. It has few beliefs but many concepts. It often likes to tease. Apparently when Buddhism first reached China in the first century, CE the emperor asked a bhikhu: “What is the first principle of Buddhism?” The answer came, “Vast emptiness.” The emperor replied, “Who then am I speaking to?” “I have no idea,” said the bhikhu. The concept of the Void stands for the empty space that allows the universe to be. It is mystery, not-knowing (2007, 58-59). So are we just random images? Is there anything substantive? In Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, D. T. Suzuki answered, “True existence comes from emptiness. Our true existence comes from emptiness and goes back again into emptiness.” Zen Master, Dogen, echoes Suzuki, “Buddha-nature is vast emptiness, open, clear, and bright.” Francis Story on Buddhism: Much misunderstanding of the Buddhist doctrine of rebirth has been caused in the West by the use of the words “reincarnation,” “transmigration,” and “soul.” “…Soul is an ambiguous term that has never been clearly defined in Western religious thought; but it is generally taken to mean the sum total of an individual personality, an enduring ego-entity that exists more or less independently of the physical body and survives it after death. The “soul” is considered to be the personality-factor which distinguishes one individual from another, and is supposed to consist of the elements of consciousness, mind, character, and all that goes to make up the psychic, immaterial side of a human being…. The Buddha categorically denied the existence of a “soul” in the sense defined above. Buddhism recognizes the fact that all conditioned and compounded phenomena are impermanent, and this alone makes the existence of such “soul” impossible….http://www.budsas.org/ebud/ebdha179.htm See also “What Appeals to Me Most in Buddhism” by Francis Story. Non-Self Doctrine, from Religion and Globalization The concepts of anatman, “no-atman” or“ non-self,” is used to reject any notion of an essential, unchanging interior entity at the center of a person. The atman the Buddha rejected is the physically real and indestructible soul posited in the Upanishads and subsequent Hinduism (for example, the Bhagavad Gita II,20 holds to a “self”: It is not born, it does not die; having been, it will never not be; unborn, enduring, constant, and primordial; it is not killed when the body is killed; and in the Upanishad, Brihadaranyaka 4.5, When you hear about the Self, meditate upon the Self; finally realize the Self, and you will come to understand everything in life). In contrast, Buddhists argue that the law of impermanence, one of the three marks of existence, most certainly applies to human beings. As a result, they analyzed the human “being” as the continuously changing, interdependent relationship between the five aggregates (skandhas) or “five heaps.” Seeking to see all reality as process, the Buddhists begin with the person as really a collection of the five skandhas: the physical body (rupa) that is made of combinations of the four elements (earth, water, fire, air); feelings (vedana) that arise from sensory contact; perceptions (samjna) that attach the categories good, evil, neutral, to these sensory inputs; habitual mental dispositions (samskaras) that connect karmaproducing will to mental action; and the consciousness (vijnana) that arises when mind and body come in contact with the external world. The spiritual purpose of breaking down any apparently unchanging locus of individuality is to demonstrate that there is “no thing” to be attached to or to direct one’s desire toward. The anatman doctrine, however, presented exponents of Buddhism with the perpetual problem of explaining moral causality. How can the doctrine of karma with its emphasis on moral retribution operate without the mechanism of the soul (as in Hinduism or Christianity)? Early texts show that this question was clearly posed to Shakyamuni Buddha: if there is no soul, how can the karmic “fruits” of any good or evil act pass into the future of this life or into a later incarnation? The standard explanation given is that karma endures in habitual mental energies (samskaras) that are impressed in the fifth skandha—consciousness (vijnana). Although always evolving and so impermanent, vijnana endures in this life and passes over to be reincarnated in the next. While the no-self or no-soul doctrine was at the center of Buddhist thought for the philosophical elite, householders across Asia nonetheless typically conceived of themselves in terms of a body and a soul. In fact, the term for “soul” is common in most vernacular languages, as in the Burmese leikpya (“butterfly soul”), the Thai khwan (“spirit”), or the Chinese hun/p’o (“soul”). This contradiction may indicate how peripheral philosophers were to the mainstream of popular Buddhist understanding! (2008, 385) Buddhism: Who Am I? Buddhist teachers often require their students to meditate on the question, “Who am I?” At first, the answer seems simple. I take for granted that I know who “I” am. After all, in English the word is just one letter and is even capitalized. Surely those facts must be a sign that the matter is clear. (But why don’t we capitalize “you”?) Yet the question of who I am becomes more difficult the more I think about it. I start by thinking that finding the answer will be like opening a peach or avocado and finding a pit—a core—at the center. But the question turns out to be more like peeling an onion and finding one layer after another. Who or what is this “I”? Is it my name? Is it my body? Is it my parents? Is it my tastes or talents? Is it my job? Is it my thoughts, my memories, or my hopes? Or could it just be my driver’s license or my Social Security number? What makes me me? The various religions and cultures answer the question of identity quite differently. A westerner will probably initially answer with his or her personal name (the fact that it is a first name is very significant.) This way of answering may be influenced by the emphasis in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam on the importance of the individual. Believers within these three religions also often speak of having an immortal soul that was created by God. Ultimately, they may say a person’s identity comes from having a unique soul. And this unique soul, while giving human dignity, also makes us feel separate from every other individual human being. Yet there are other ways of looking at identity. Someone from East Asia who has been influenced by Confucianism might answer the question of identity with his or her family name—which in East Asian cultures precedes the personal name. Or this person might give the name of a company or a school. A person with a background in Daoist thought might say, “I am a part of the natural world,” or “I 1 am a manifestation of the Dao.” A person with a Hindu background could say, “I am God.” The Buddhist view is rather unusual and uncompromising. It derives entirely from questioning one’s experience. Certainly each person has a sense of identity, but does it mean that there is a soul or permanent self as its cause? Is it possible that the sense of separate and permanent identity might be a fiction, something not ultimately real? Buddhism tells us to look inside carefully. If I examine my inner experience, Buddhism says, I see that my consciousness is not permanent, but is more like a string of little events—one moment of awareness after another. As a result of this kind of examination, Buddhist thought differs from many other religious traditions, for it teaches that one’s personal identity is constructed of changing parts and does not come from having a soul. As an example, think of a molecule. It is made of electrons, protons, and other particles of energy; but it is mostly empty space. Buddhist teaching tells us that the human self, like a molecule, is a buzzing blend of many elements moving in empty space. What are those elements? Let us think of a few that make up my sense of self, and then of their origins. The language that I speak and in which I think my thoughts comes from the people who raised me—but, since they didn’t invent the language, it must come from a long chain of earlier people, too. My body comes from my parents—but it also is made up of the food that I eat every day, which was grown, transported, and sold by many people. I breathe oxygen—but that comes from the ocean, trees, and sky. In other words, everything that I am comes from somewhere or someone else. And each day, because I receive new parts and lose old parts, my “I” is constantly changing. If I examine my identity closely, I will see that it is made of layers and parts, which stretch out into the past and future and even into other parts of the world. Buddhism teaches that whatever “I” am is ultimately not separate but is intimately connected to the rest of the universe. (Taken from Molloy fourth edition, page 138) 2 Buddhism Week 6 Assignment Self/Soul Worksheet and Think Piece   Students will read carefully the referenced materials (provided powerpoints, links, listed below) in order to briefly answer 7 worksheet questions (listed below) and the “think piece” substantively, demonstrating analytical skills, competency and depth of topic treatment. Justify, interact with, and explain the interrelatedness and relevancy of any and all direct quotes used, and ensure proper citation. Answer the THINK PIECE questions with a 1- 1 ½ page double spaced response. Students will read carefully the referenced materials (provided powerpoints, links, resources) in order to answer worksheet questions and the “think piece” substantively, demonstrating analytical skills, competency and depth of topic treatment. Justify, interact with, and explain the interrelatedness and relevancy of any and all direct quotes used, and ensure proper citation. 1. Brief, well written paragraphs will suffice fo ...
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