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Similar ideas between Buddhism and Western psychology
Buddhism and Western science converge on a number of ideas.
- Modern psychologists attribute less power to the conscious self.
- Buddhism has significant insight on how to counter listless states of desire.
- Doubting the ego just might be good for the ego itself.
Many Western philosophers and scientists have for some time neglected Buddhist thought. As they saw it as either pure mysticism or couldn't wrap their heads around the seemingly contradictory nature of its teachings. Due to this incomprehension, much has been lost from ignoring this rich body of thought. On first glance, the teachings will sound quite counterintuitive to our usual logical mode of inquiry.
Take for example this quote from Nagarjuna, a second-century Buddhist philosopher who once said:
The nature of things is to have no nature; it is their non-nature that is their nature. For they have only one nature: no-nature.
Alan Watts, the philosopher-sage, knew very much about this marriage of opposites and their contradictory but often illuminating perspective on the nature of reality. In one of his many books, Psychotherapy East and West, Watts remarked about the similarity between the madman and the enlightened guru type.
One's life is an act with no actor, and thus it has always been recognized that the insane man that has lost his mind is a parody of the sage who has transcended his ego. If one is paranoid, the other is metanoid.While this division of the cultural thinking has produced drastically different ways of treating mental illness and approaching psychological matters; it would seem that on closer inspection that Buddhism and modern psychology and even science for that matter have a lot more in common than people realize.
On the pursuit of happiness and self-control
Robert Wright, journalist and professor of a class called Buddhism and Modern Psychology recently wrote a book titled Why Buddhism is True. He finds a number of parallels between modern psychology and Buddhism. Take for example, Dukkha or "suffering" which is our wish to desire pleasure and seek happiness, although we know it will never last we continually still search for it. Current studies in the field of neuroscience are trying to determine the exact region in the brain that stimulates this activity, the so called "chasing the rainbow effect."
Early results are showing that measured brain activity is proving that these effects of gratification eventually start to wane thin and that puts us in a lowered mood. Wright talks about how Buddhism already offers significant insight on how to counteract these negative but inevitable states of mind. Some of those remedies being in the realm of mindfulness and detachment.
On the subject of self control, Wright brings up an old dialogue from Buddha: A man named Aggivessana is goading Buddha into a debate about the nature of self and trying to discount Buddha's maxim that there is no self.
Buddha cross questions and asks:
"What do you think, Aggivessana? When you say, 'Form is my self,' do you wield power over that form: 'May my form be thus, may my form not be thus'?"
Eventually he admits that he doesn't have full control over his body or self.
Wright states in his book:
This is a matter of nearly unanimous agreement among psychologists: the conscious self is not some all-powerful executive authority. In fact, according to modern psychology, the conscious self has even less power than Aggivessana attributed to it after the Buddha clarified his thinking…
This then brings us to the subject of the ego.
Buddhism and psychology on the ego
Mark Epstein, writer of A Guide to Getting Over Yourself, believes that the ego is a necessity at a young age. He states:
"The ego is born out of fear and isolation. It comes into being when self-consciousness first starts to come, when you're two or three years old and you start to realize, 'Oh, there's a person in here,' and you're trying to make sense of everything: who you are, who are those parents there? The ego is a way of organizing one's self, and it comes from the intellect as the mind starts to click in."
Eventually though he believes this can become a negative state of mind. For example, when it comes to taking in too much negative feedback and fastening ourselves to states of negativity. The ego starts to reinforce and restrict itself and think that is the whole being even if its severely mistaken on what constitutes you as a whole person.
Alan Watts calls the ego an absolute hoax like many things we force ourselves to believe in,
Ego is a social institution with no physical reality. The ego is simply your symbol of yourself. Just as the word water is a noise that symbolizes a certain liquid without being it, so too the idea of ego symbolizes the role you play, who you are, but it is not the same as your living organism.
Epstein goes on to say that to bring Buddhism into therapy or to bridge over to a more skeptical Western audience, we need to start doubting the ego a little bit more. This is something psychotherapy and other psychiatric methods do by probing in at old fixed ideas we have operating inside of ourselves.
Sigmund Freud mistakenly believed that all Buddhism cared about was eradicating the ego. But both of these schools of thought were after something very similar, even if they didn't know it.
Sigmund Freud versus Siddhartha Gautama
Both Buddhism and psychotherapy to some degree are about reintegrating the self, and ego into harmony with the world surrounding them. We cannot completely eliminate an ego, as we utilize this notion of selfhood to navigate and control the world around us. These therapeutic practices are ways to build ourselves into better human beings.
What is human dignity? Here's a primer, told through 200 years of great essays, lectures, and novels.
- Human dignity means that each of our lives have an unimpeachable value simply because we are human, and therefore we are deserving of a baseline level of respect.
- That baseline requires more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose.
- We look at incredible writings from the last 200 years that illustrate the push for human dignity in regards to slavery, equality, communism, free speech and education.
The inherent worth of all human beings<p>Human dignity is the inherent worth of each individual human being. Recognizing human dignity means respecting human beings' special value—value that sets us apart from other animals; value that is intrinsic and cannot be lost.</p> <p>Liberalism—the broad political philosophy that organizes society around liberty, justice, and equality—is rooted in the idea of human dignity. Liberalism assumes each of our lives, plans, and preferences have some unimpeachable value, not because of any objective evaluation or contribution to a greater good, but simply because they belong to a human being. We are human, and therefore deserving of a baseline level of respect. </p> <p>Because so many of us take human dignity for granted—just a fact of our humanness—it's usually only when someone's dignity is ignored or violated that we feel compelled to talk about it. </p> <p>But human dignity means more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose—a freedom that can be hampered by restrictive social institutions or the tyranny of the majority. The liberal ideal of the good society is not just peaceful but also pluralistic: It is a society in which we respect others' right to think and live differently than we do.</p>
From the 19th century to today<p>With <a href="https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?year_start=1800&year_end=2019&content=human+dignity&corpus=26&smoothing=3&direct_url=t1%3B%2Chuman%20dignity%3B%2Cc0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Google Books Ngram Viewer</a>, we can chart mentions of human dignity from 1800-2019.</p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0ODU0My9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTUwMzE4MX0.bu0D_0uQuyNLyJjfRESNhu7twkJ5nxu8pQtfa1w3hZs/img.png?width=980" id="7ef38" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9974c7bef3812fcb36858f325889e3c6" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
American novelist, writer, playwright, poet, essayist and civil rights activist James Baldwin at his home in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, southern France, on November 6, 1979.
Credit: Ralph Gatti/AFP via Getty Images
The future of dignity<p>Around the world, people are still working toward the full and equal recognition of human dignity. Every year, new speeches and writings help us understand what dignity is—not only what it looks like when dignity is violated but also what it looks like when dignity is honored. In his posthumous essay, Congressman Lewis wrote, "When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war."</p> <p>The more we talk about human dignity, the better we understand it. And the sooner we can make progress toward a shared vision of peace, freedom, and mutual respect for all. </p>
With just a few strategical tweaks, the Nazis could have won one of World War II's most decisive battles.
- The Battle of Britain is widely recognized as one of the most significant battles that occurred during World War II. It marked the first major victory of the Allied forces and shifted the tide of the war.
- Historians, however, have long debated the deciding factor in the British victory and German defeat.
- A new mathematical model took into account numerous alternative tactics that the German's could have made and found that just two tweaks stood between them and victory over Britain.
Two strategic blunders<p>Now, historians and mathematicians from York St. John University have collaborated to produce <a href="http://www-users.york.ac.uk/~nm15/bootstrapBoB%20AAMS.docx" target="_blank">a statistical model (docx download)</a> capable of calculating what the likely outcomes of the Battle of Britain would have been had the circumstances been different. </p><p>Would the German war effort have fared better had they not bombed Britain at all? What if Hitler had begun his bombing campaign earlier, even by just a few weeks? What if they had focused their targets on RAF airfields for the entire course of the battle? Using a statistical technique called weighted bootstrapping, the researchers studied these and other alternatives.</p><p>"The weighted bootstrap technique allowed us to model alternative campaigns in which the Luftwaffe prolongs or contracts the different phases of the battle and varies its targets," said co-author Dr. Jaime Wood in a <a href="https://www.york.ac.uk/news-and-events/news/2020/research/mathematicians-battle-britain-what-if-scenarios/" target="_blank">statement</a>. Based on the different strategic decisions that the German forces could have made, the researchers' model enabled them to predict the likelihood that the events of a given day of fighting would or would not occur.</p><p>"The Luftwaffe would only have been able to make the necessary bases in France available to launch an air attack on Britain in June at the earliest, so our alternative campaign brings forward the air campaign by three weeks," continued Wood. "We tested the impact of this and the other counterfactuals by varying the probabilities with which we choose individual days."</p><p>Ultimately, two strategic tweaks shifted the odds significantly towards the Germans' favor. Had the German forces started their campaign earlier in the year and had they consistently targeted RAF airfields, an Allied victory would have been extremely unlikely.</p><p>Say the odds of a British victory in the real-world Battle of Britain stood at 50-50 (there's no real way of knowing what the actual odds are, so we'll just have to select an arbitrary figure). If this were the case, changing the start date of the campaign and focusing only on airfields would have reduced British chances at victory to just 10 percent. Even if a British victory stood at 98 percent, these changes would have cut them down to just 34 percent.</p>
A tool for understanding history<p>This technique, said co-author Niall Mackay, "demonstrates just how finely-balanced the outcomes of some of the biggest moments of history were. Even when we use the actual days' events of the battle, make a small change of timing or emphasis to the arrangement of those days and things might have turned out very differently."</p><p>The researchers also claimed that their technique could be applied to other uncertain historical events. "Weighted bootstrapping can provide a natural and intuitive tool for historians to investigate unrealized possibilities, informing historical controversies and debates," said Mackay.</p><p>Using this technique, researchers can evaluate other what-ifs and gain insight into how differently influential events could have turned out if only the slightest things had changed. For now, at least, we can all be thankful that Hitler underestimated Britain's grit.</p>
A new study shows our planet is much closer to the supermassive black hole at the galaxy's center than previously estimated.
Arrows on this map show position and velocity data for the 224 objects utilized to model the Milky Way Galaxy. The solid black lines point to the positions of the spiral arms of the Galaxy. Colors reflect groups of objects that are part of the same arm, while the background is a simulation image.
Apple sold its first iPod in 2001, and six years later it introduced the iPhone, which ushered in a new era of personal technology.