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Understanding Buddhism

Nolan Pliny Jacobson

Publication Year: 2010

Jacobson presents Buddhism unen­cumbered by Western categories and concepts, free from the cognitive bias, from the concept-oriented, definition-minded preoccupations inherited from the ancient Greeks. It is an interpreta­tion of the central ideas that have charac­terized all forms of Buddhism for 25 centuries.

Published by: Southern Illinois University Press

Copyright Page

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pp. ix-xii

The title, Understanding Buddhism, is to be construed in its verbal meaning, suggesting an ongoing endeavor to think about our experience from a Buddhist point of view. To borrow a metaphor from chemistry, the book is a catalytic agent designed to speed up a reaction that is spreading rapidly throughout the contemporary world. People everywhere are engaging ...

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pp. 1-2

Instead of riding in his chariot with military pomp and splendor along the Royal Highway; deferred to by those of the higher castes, while those of lower caste, the aged, the hungry, the crippled, the diseased, the beggars and the untouchables, were pushed to the rear or out of sight beyond concern-instead, he put on the humble person's simple garb-a single cotton sheet draped around his body-to seek out, face objectively; and share with fellow-feeling the bodily ills and pains of his fellow men. ...

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1. Introduction: New Personal Encounters

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pp. 3-17

Writings about Buddhism are everywhere in the contemporary world, leading anyone to wonder which of a menagerie of interpretations might be most faithful to its founder. It is presented as a personal and social therapy capable of serving as the physician of our culture; it is a monastic order, a refuge from the inverted world; it is mysticism pure and simple, with ...

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2. New Grounds for Understanding Buddhism

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pp. 19-35

Among all the surprising transformations of the contemporary world, none is stranger than the way the most fully industrialized nations of the West are ingesting with the air they breathe some of the oldest pespectives of the oldest systematic philosophy on the planet. The mythical visitor from another planet might conclude that these non technological notions were being received in the West in exchange for the latter's automated computerized techniques of production and high finance. ...

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3. The Reality of Experience

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pp. 37-45

The effort to create moments of awareness rich and vivid in the quality of individualized experience is what human life is all about. The spontaneous quality of the passing moment is the background, the point of departure, and the regulative principle of all distinctively human behavior. This is what it means to be free, free to celebrate the aesthetic richness which comes as a gift from beyond the claims of the self. ...

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4. The Interrelatedness of Existence

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pp. 47-58

What Kenneth Inada considers the most original discovery of the historical Buddha, amplified by logicians and metaphysicians for over two thousand years, takes its departure from the concreteness of experience, lithe heart of the matter" presented in the preceding chapter, and from the Buddha's persuasion that we must look to human experience to furnish the key to the mysteries of life. For twenty-five centuries Buddhism has sought to create moments of awareness as rich as possible in the flow of ...

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5. The Great Stumbling Block

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pp. 59-75

Life's deepest unconscious aim at the human level is to experience the spontaneous flow of quality in the fleeting now. The basic motivation is to be free from the forced striving of the self, that illusory fabricated custodian of awareness to which men and women cling as the center around which everything appears to revolve. ...

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6. Creativity and Sunyata

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pp. 77-88

The first response following a lecture on Buddhism in any of the large universities of the United States goes something like this: "The one thing I find strange and unacceptable about Buddhism is its commitment to Nothingness as an ultimate notion." In ways too subtle to be easily grasped, Western Civilization has infused its highest levels of academia and its most critical members with the fundamental concept of ...

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7. The First Western Access Road Into Buddhism

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pp. 89-98

The hegemony of European philosophy has slowly been coming to an end. The world is being freed from its self-assertive, self-justifying, self-deluding ways. Its leading figures, Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Spinoza, and Kant, have provided magnificent speculative systems, but they have proved unsuitable for the world of thousands of different languages and cultures. They have been unable to think from the feeling side of experience, from the ...

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8. Japan Through the Buddhist Looking Glass

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pp. 99-115

On a pine-clad knoll surrounded by heavily wooded bluffs, three Japanese are entombed who had devoted their lives to probing the deep Buddhist heart of Japan, the Buddhist universe of value underlying all institutional forms and sectarian divisions. It is a Japanese orientation which in a recent publication I have called "The Japan Way (nih on-do). II 1 ...

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9. The Confluence of Buddhist and American Thought

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pp. 117-132

The sudden reversal that has taken place since World War II between nations of East and West, particularly the shift in the deepest currents of the world's life from Europe to the Pacific Basin and the cultures most heavily impacted with Buddhism, is a critical turning point in the development of the human community at large. It constitutes a transformation as significant in its influence upon the species as the four pivotal events around ...

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10. Buddhist Meditation

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pp. 133-145

From time immemorial it has been said that Buddhism is neither a philosophy nor a religion-not, at any rate, as these terms are used in the West. "None of the Oriental languages has a word which in any way corresponds to our 'philosophy'."I "The idea of philosophy as a way of conduct has been so predominant in Buddhism," Guenther continues, "that even that which appears to be a merely intellectual procedure is only a means to further the paving of a way of life,"2

Appendix: Buddhism in the Development of Western Philosophy

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pp. 149-163


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pp. 165-181


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pp. 183-199

Index of Names

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pp. 201-204

Index of Subjects

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pp. 205-212

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Author Bio

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pp. 213

NOLAN PLINY JACOBSON holds the Ph.D. degree from the University of Chicago and has taught philosophy in the major state universities of Florida, North Carolina, Oregon, and Wisconsin. He has lectured at Tokyo University; Nihon University; International Christian University ...

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780809386093
E-ISBN-10: 0809386097
Print-ISBN-13: 9780809312245
Print-ISBN-10: 0809329859

Page Count: 228
Illustrations: 1 line drawing
Publication Year: 2010