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Lions Roar : November 2012
SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2012 84 “This is an education of intellect and intuition, head and heart.” Ginger Brooks MDiv, 2004, Chaplain, Family Hospice, Boulder, Colorado From our Master of Divinity program, to Environmental Leadership, Religious Studies, Wilderness Therapy, Ecopsychology, or MFA in Writing & Poetics, and many other programs, Naropa’s graduate and undergraduate academic paths will reveal a new world of learning, listening, and leading. For more info, visit naropa.edu Study with people committed to your growth. Learn through direct experience. Explore where our students go. Transform Yourself. Transform the World. suffering for yourself and those around you. Often enough, per- ception simply offers a rationale for an emotion that has its real origin in the unexamined depths of the unconscious. In the Buddhist model, therefore, refining perception is not itself going to be transformative. If perception can help guide and mold our emotional responses, such as occurs when certain phrases are used to help develop loving-kindness for all beings (“May they be happy, safe, and healthy”), that’s a good thing. But it’s the emotion of kindness itself that is unraveling the bonds of suffering, with perception playing only an auxiliary role. Third-person scientific knowledge doesn’t get underneath what’s most important to modify human behavior. As Socrates says in the Phaedo, the philosopher’s explanation of how the bones and sinews bind his body together can never explain why he has chosen to drink the hemlock rather than flee to Megara. Or, as the Buddha says, knowing who shot the arrow or from what bird the feathers are made will not contribute to the urgent task of pulling the arrow out and healing the wound. Wisdom in Buddhist thought is not the forging of proper conceptual ideas as much as it is an unbinding of the mind from the clutches of desire. Insight into non-self is transformative not because it counters the mistaken ideas of self by providing a better conceptual model (though it does this too), but rather because it loosens the emotional bonds of clinging—clinging to sense desires, to views, to conventions, to self. This loosening will always be a first-person experience, accessed through the first- person technology of moral action, mental development, and direct insight. Listening to teachers will only take you so far; one must know for oneself what is harmful and then abandon it in order for such knowledge to be transformational. We know, for example, in increasing detail how our economic, political, and social systems are contributing to the dramatic degradation of the global environment. We don’t have a clue, however, how to help people disengage from the root instincts that are causing this: greed, hatred, and delusion. In short, we understand increasingly well the harm we are causing, but have very little understanding of how to keep ourselves from doing it. Perhaps Bruce Hood’s book can contribute to this larger, more important project. Dismantling the essential self is a good start, and The Self Illusion does much to help do this in terms that are not foreign to most readers. Just as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction was able to infiltrate the mainstream medical profes- sion to make meditation practices more accessible to all, perhaps a new wave of psychologists, neuroscientists, and philosophers can help penetrate the defenses of the inviolable autonomous self and allow greater access to the healing powers of Buddhist wisdom. This in turn might help loosen some of the bonds pre- venting the evolution of a more altruistic species. ♦