1. Kaitlin KeeganFinal ExamApril 28, 2011 For the first and probably most significant learning to me that I experienced in this classI’d like to talk about the idea of Brahman. Even if I learned absolutely nothing else in thiscourse, I’m glad I was exposed to the idea of Brahman. This is so important to me because thisthe idea that I have been wrestling with personally, put into the most articulate way possible. Inever have believed that a personal God that sits up on a cloud and judges our deeds could exist.But a God that is more a fact of existence, a God that is just a creator of life, but is still life itself,that is me, you and nature around us, for some reason that makes sense to me. Everything innature is circular, and as a hunter and a nature lover, I’ve always noticed this and thought thatthis idea was more applicable than the idea of the traditional Christian God. I’ve never thoughtof it in Hindu terms, and while I could never call myself a real Hindu believer, I feel that theirwhole system is the closest thing to what might be right, and as far as organized religions go,they are the closest. Another teaching that was important to me personally that I soaked up from this class isthe idea of Surveying from Sun Tzu. The whole point of Sun Tzu was one of my favorites, andafter talking with you I learned one of the most Western style beliefs of the ones we covered (tomy amusement and lack of surprise). Being the intellectual, logical, methodical person that I am,I really thought that surveying could be one of the most important tools that I could gain fromthis class. While I seem to follow this idea on my own to a degree, Sun Tzu showed me that this
2. idea of surveying is appropriate in almost all contexts, and can really help me to avoid harm andharbor successes. I feel that if everyone just took the time to think about things, and to reallyanalyze and observe, we would have less problems in the world today. The idea of tolerance in this class also had a huge impact on me. I felt like of all the toolsin Buddhism we talked about (patience, genuine humility, compassion, and tolerance) thattolerance took the most inner strength, which is a personal goal that I am working on. And whiletolerance may take a different kind of inner strength than the type that I am working on, Ithought that it was so applicable to regular life. Accepting a negative situation or a differentbelief than our own can be one of the hardest things we can try to do, but I think it can be one ofthe most rewarding. Having tolerance for others can save so much heart ache for the humanrace, that I wish that everyone could have the inner strength to want to try to practice it. Right Thinking was another important teaching that I had never really thought aboutbefore that we covered in class this semester. While I feel like the 8 fold path in general is awonderful idea, I think the only thing absolutely necessary to try to master from it is RightThinking. If we practice Right Thinking, the rest of the path falls into place without trying. Thiswas such an interesting concept to me, because our society is always worried about people’sactions, whether they are good or bad. But if we tried to solve problems at the root, which is thethinking and mentality of a person, chances are we would be much more successful, and couldprevent a lot of suffering. When I think of Right Thinking, I always think of the analogy that wetalk about in class: People don’t just wake up one day to shoot someone, they think about it, andharbor negative thoughts and emotions for a long time before they snap. If we as a society couldtarget these people, and try to solve their thinking, plenty of terrible things could be prevented.
3. The very last thing I learned about in this class is probably the learning that I would dowell to try to never lose sight of, and that is the value of intuition. At first I thought that Zenthinking was the most confusing, but that is as you’ve said, because it is the most simple.Intuition is something that I never really think about, but when I do, I can recall times where Ihave discredited it, and have regretted it. I think that people are supposed to be more connectedto the natural world and order of things than we normally allow ourselves to be, and I think thatintuition is one of the proofs that would should be. As a firm believer in science, I could nevernormally give credence to intuition. But this whole thing taught me that not everything can bedefined by science, and that we probably shouldn’t even try. We should let both of them flowtogether, the scientific explanations, and those that can’t be explained, and just accept that this isthe best possible grasp that we can have on life, and appreciate the beauty that is both scienceand what is called “Satori” by the Zen Buddhists. Eastern and Western philosophy both identify the same problem, and both come up withthe same final answer to the problem, but they go about it using very different solutions. Bothphilosophies agree that we as humans are naturally ignorant, and that we should overcome thisby becoming enlightened, but the east and west have established two different approaches. TheWest, the philosophy common to our thought process, uses reason and logic to becomeenlightened. The West sees feelings as secondary and rationalism as the first and best tool fortruth. The West distinctly separates these tools, creating many dualisms that we are familiarwith, such as mind/body/spirit and physical/metaphysical worlds. The West always usesintermediary teachings as well, abstracting things from reality. They do this by categorizing anddefining things, instead of just allowing things to “be”. The focus is on explaining,demonstrating, and describing.
4. Eastern thought however, takes an opposite approach. While Eastern thought does notexactly reject rationalism, it just goes beyond the limits of reason. It focuses on observing,seeing, and “pointing” to something, and indicating; it does not attempt to try to quantify what itobserves. There are no separations or dualisms in Eastern thought. There is only one world, andthe soul and body are not different. The east does not discredit emotions, but puts faith in them,and gives credence to what we call intuition, or “Satori”. Satori is an intuitive way to perceive the nature/essence of things. It is a deeper, fresherway to perceive things than straight reason. It is not logical or analytical; it is beyond explainingor discussing truth. A Satori moment can happen at any time, and it will change yourperspective on life. The west has been trained to discredit Satori. But when looks at the chiefcharacteristics of Satori, we realize that the west only does this because it is not possible toclearly “quantify”. The first characteristic of Satori is that is irrational. Satori will not make sense from arational standpoint, it goes beyond the intellectual, and it is inexplicable and uncommunicatable.If we experience Satori, it will change us in a deep, remarkable way. Satori is essentiallyintuitive insight; it is as William James, a Westerner, coined an “Aha!” experience. Satori isperceiving things differently than conventional knowledge. Satori is a unique personalexperience, in which a person experiences the universal knowledge in a special way. Satori is also authoritativeness in essence. Satori is final, there is no amount of logic thatcan refute it, and once experienced, there is no going back. Once you’ve experienced it, there isno way to prove it to others, while there is no way you can deny it for yourself. Satori is also
5. affirmative in the sense that it proves life. It is not a negative thing, but negative things cantrigger it. Satori is the critical acceptance of how things are. With Satori, there is a sense of “beyond” that goes with the experience. While a Satorimoment is personal, it is rooted in the foundation of the universe. We lose our ego and unitewith and realize the hugeness of something greater. It leaves us with a sense of relief, peace, andhomecoming. This is not a confirmation of God; it is simply uniting with the universe. Satori is also impersonal and highly intellectual; it is not romantic or extraordinary, it justsounds as if it would be in the terms in which it is described. Satori is connecting withsomething ordinary; it is just larger than ourselves, and hard to define. And while Satori isimpersonal, it does leave us with feeling of exultation. This is the doing away with the dualisms,and the unification. We feel well, and have self contentment and a feeling of “wholeness”. And lastly, Satori is momentary in its essence. It happens in such a random, momentaryexperience that is abrupt and almost fleeting. Satori is like finally opening that window that hasbeen locked shut, and you are exposed to a whole new beautiful vista, and a new way to perceivelife. Life is seeing something. It is perceiving, it is a swirl of different emotions, it is a neverending, intangible circle. Life is being completely and utterly lucky to be alive, and to not evenrealize it.