[Advayavada Study Plan – week 17 = week 4 of 13, second quarter] As explained, the concept of dukkha (Pali) or duhkha (Sanskrit) does not include, in Advayavada Buddhism, emotional grief nor physical pain. It refers solely to the existential suffering, angst and regret non-enlightened human beings are prone to, and is, therefore, considered as a remediable psychological affliction; the enlightened person accepts with understanding and compassion the sorrow and pain which are part and parcel of human existence. It is easy to see that human beings experience existential suffering mainly because they wrongly strive after and try to hold on to things, concepts and situations which they believe to be permanent and unchanging, but are not. Their mistaken view and understanding of things is most often the result of a thirst, craving or clinging (called tanha in Pali and trishna in Sanskrit) which is in turn caused by their not knowing (avijja or avidya) or not understanding or simply disbelieving the actual, i.e. impermanent, durational and finite, nature of individual existence, and this thirst, craving or clinging, which is the second of the four noble truths taught by the Buddha, can moreover easily take on a more unwholesome form: already as sensuous desire, ill-will (vyapada), laziness, impatience or distrust will it seriously hinder the individual’s efforts to better his or her circumstances, as well as affect the efforts of others to improve theirs.
[Advayavada Study Plan – week 16 = week 3 of 13, second quarter] As stated before, Advayavada Buddhism does not tell you what to do or believe, but invites us all to make the very best of our own lives by indeed attuning as best as possible with wondrous overall existence advancing over time now in its manifest direction. The 13-week Advayavada Study Plan (ASP) is repeated four times a year for this lofty purpose and the third preliminary subject is dukkha (Pali) or duhkha (Sanskrit), which means suffering, sorrow; dissatisfaction; frustration; stress; gnawing unease; existential distress, caused a.o. by distrust of life and fear of retribution. In Buddhism it is traditionally considered the third of the three (in Advayavada Buddhism, four) signs or marks or basic facts of being and it is also the first of the four noble truths taught by the Buddha. Importantly, in Advayavada Buddhism, dukkha or duhkha does not include emotional grief nor physical pain and is, above all, not seen as a permanent feature of reality: in the context of the four noble truths, it is essentially understood by us as the existential suffering in the sense of a basic frustration, even suffocation, caused by the unhealthy and socially infectious feeling that reality does not conform to the person’s desires and expectations; the unremitting persistency of human distress, alienation and conflict in the world is seen as being mainly due to the very many everywhere indeed not knowing or not understanding or simply disbelieving the actual, i.e. impermanent and finite, nature of individual existence.
The position of Advayavada Buddhism is that the objective of the Middle Way devoid of extremes propounded by the Buddha as the right existential attitude and way of life is to reconnect and reconcile us with overall existence. As we see it, overall existence, and not man’s abstract and conceptualized understanding of life, let alone his hubristic misrepresentations of reality, is the measure of things. We understand the Middle Way in its dynamic Eightfold Path form as an ongoing and open-ended reflexion at the level of our personal lives and in human terms of wondrous overall existence moving forwards over time in its manifest direction. By following this Path we seek to become a true part of the Whole.
How does a scholarly book get started? In the majority of cases it is bound with the author or editor’s passion and deep-rooted (and often inexplicable) connection with his or her subject matter. For me, Animals and humans: sensibility and representation, 1650-1820 began nearly ten years ago, when I read Kathryn Shevelow’s eminently readable book For the love of animals, about the growth of the animal welfare movement in the eighteenth century. Our relationship with animals never ceases to fascinate, as we see from the Wellcome Collection’s current exhibition ‘Making nature: how we see animals’, and animal studies has recently flourished in the academic mainstream. Like Shevelow’s book, it crosses the boundaries between specialised academic study and deeply felt human experience.
My own beginning with this subject, though, occurred almost in infancy. An innate attraction to animals, these others with whom we co-exist on this planet, is…
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[Advayavada Study Plan – week 15 = week 2 of 13, second quarter] As already asserted, Advayavada Buddhism does not tell you what to do or believe, but invites us all to make the very best of our own lives by indeed attuning as best as possible with wondrous overall existence advancing over time now in its manifest direction. The 13-week Advayavada Study Plan (ASP) is repeated four times a year for this lofty purpose, and the second preliminary subject is anatta (Pali) or anatman (Sanskrit), which means no-self and is traditionally considered the second of the three (in Advayavada Buddhism, four) signs or marks or basic facts of being; the Buddhist anatta or anatmata doctrine teaches that no soul, spirit or self exists in the person in the sense of a permanent, eternal, integral, and independent substance. In Mahayana Buddhism, the nissvabhava doctrine teaches further that as in fact all things without exception are produced by interdependent origination, every single thing is consequently empty (shunya) of self-nature (svabhava); svabhava-shunyata (lit. self-nature emptiness) is a central notion in Madhyamaka philosophy. In Advayavada Buddhism, the selflessness of all existents is one of the four signs or marks or basic facts of being, the other three being the impermanence or changeability of everything (see week 14), the ubiquity of existential suffering, and evolution or, in human terms, progress.
[Advayavada Study Plan – week 14 = week 1 of 13, second quarter] Advayavada Buddhism does not tell you what to do or believe, but invites us all to make the very best of our own lives by indeed attuning as best as possible with wondrous overall existence advancing over time now in its manifest direction. The 13-week Advayavada Study Plan (ASP) is repeated four times a year for this lofty purpose, and the first preliminary subject is anicca (Pali) or anitya (Sanskrit), which means impermanent, changeable, unstable, transitory, and is traditionally considered the first of the three (in Advayavada Buddhism, four) signs or marks or basic facts of being. The Buddhist aniccata or anityata doctrine teaches that impermanence or changeability is the most fundamental property of everything existing; it lies at the very heart of the interdependent origination and emptiness of all things (see next week), and evolution, progress and liberation would not be possible without it – karma is, in Advayavada Buddhism, this incessant universal process of interdependent origination of all things as it is undergone and experienced by sentient beings, our individual share of it being the everchanging knotlet of biopsychosocial (bps) events in which we are personally embedded.