What Is Our True Inheritance?

Inheritance

We contain all the beautiful qualities and actions of our ancestors, and also the painful qualities. Knowing this, we can try our best to continue what is good and beautiful in our ancestors, and we will practice to transform the violence and pain passed down to us from so many generations. We know that we practice peace not for ourselves, but for the benefit of all our ancestors and all our descendants.

…..Thich Nhat Hanh

Your True Home
Your True Home: Everyday Wisdom

Thich Nhat Hanh

Early Philosophy Around The World

World Philosophies

Beginning of Philosophy

Philosophy’s birth, between the 8th and 3rd centuries BCE, is described by the German philosopher Karl Jaspers as the Axial Age (in the sense of a “pivotal age”). It was a period of gradual transition from understanding the world in terms of myth to the more rational understanding of the world we have today. Rational understanding didn’t supplant early folk beliefs and myths so much as grow out of their values and tenets.

Early Philosophy Around the World 

  • The early Upanishads – the foundational texts of Indian philosophy, of unknown authorship – were written between the 8th and 6th centuries BCE.
  • China’s first great philosopher, Confucius, was born in 551 BCE.
  • In Greece the first notable pre-Socratic philosopher, Thales of Miletus, was born around 624 BCE.
  • The Buddha’s traditional birth date places him in the 6th century BCE (although scholars now believe he probably wasn’t born until around 480 BCE, about the same time as Socrates).

Development of Distinct Cultures

These early philosophies have had a profound impact on the development of distinctive cultures across the world. Their values and tenants have shaped the different ways people worship, live and think about the big questions that concern us all.

How the World Thinks
How the World Thinks: A Global History of Philosophy

Julian Baggini

How Do Thoughts Affect Our World?

Thoughts

Thoughts, Ideas & Feelings

The world we live in is not something that exists independently of our thoughts and ideas. Our world and our thoughts and ideas appear to us as a unified whole. Depending on what our thoughts and ideas are, our world may appear in completely different ways. These thoughts and feelings constitute our psychological condition. 

Changing Thoughts

When something breaks down inside us physically, our minds no longer remain clear. And, if our minds are not clear, then the eyes with which we see the world and our views of life become dark. Our lives and the whole world take on a gloomy appearance. When we feel healthy our minds brighten, and consequently our outlook on everything becomes brighter.

Opening the Hand of Thought
Opening the Hand of Thought: Foundations of Zen Buddhist Practice

Kosho Uchiyama

How Much Stuff Is Enough?

Buy More Stuff

Role of Consumption

In the last few hundred years, the acquisition, flow and use of things – in short, consumption – has become a defining feature of our lives. In the rich world (and increasingly in the developing world) identities, politics, economies, and the environment are crucially shaped by what and how we consume.

Advanced economies live or die by their ability to stimulate and maintain high levels of spending – with the help of advertising, branding, and consumer credit. Taste, appearance, and lifestyle define who we are (or want to be) and how others see us.


Our Relation to Things

Possessions in a pre-modern village of an indigenous tribe pale when placed next to the growing mountain of things in advanced societies. This change in accumulation involved an historic shift in humans’ relations with things.

In contrast to the pre-modern village, where most goods were passed on as gifts or part of a wedding collection, things in modern societies are mainly bought in the marketplace, and, they pass through our lives more quickly.


Stuff & More Stuff

  • A typical German owns 10,000 objects.
  • In Los Angeles, a middle-class garage often no longer houses a car, but hundreds of boxes of stuff.
  • In 2013, the United Kingdom was home to 6 billion items of clothing, roughly a hundred per adult – a quarter of these items never leave the wardrobe.

Empire of Things
Empire of Things: How We Became a World of Consumers, from the Fifteenth Century to the Twenty-First

Frank Trentmann

 

Zen & Written Language

Zen

Origin of Zen

Zen Buddhism originated in Japan in the 12th century as an indigenous version of the Chan school, which originated in 7th century China. The founding myth of Zen is that the Buddha silently held up a flower, twirled it and winked. Zen is the only major religious or philosophical tradition that didn’t begin with an utterance of some kind.

Use of Language

In Zen, language adds to reality in that it creates an extra layer on top of it, and this in turn subtracts from reality by obscuring its fullness. One of the purposes of some paradoxical koans – such as “What color is the wind?” or “When you can do nothing, what can you do?” – is to draw our attention to the inadequacy of words and how apparently perfectly well-formed sentences can be meaningless.

Written Records 

Despite their disavowal of language, Zen teachers have left a lot of written words. Many see this paradox as an imperfect compromise, explaining that if nothing was ever written down, then the ways of guiding people would be lost. Thus the Zen school has resigned itself to publishing the records of the ancients, though this is not what they would have wanted.

How the World Thinks
How the World Thinks: A Global History of Philosophy

Julian Baggini