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Reductio ad absurdum – An old school way of saying “take the flipside” or “take it to the limit”

Image via Wikipedia

Image via Wikipedia

Reductio ad absurdum [Latin: “reduce to the absurd”] is a method of argumentation said to

  • prove a statement to be true by demonstrating the contradiction, absurdity and therefore impossibility that would result if it were untrue

or

  • prove a statement to be false by taking its assertions and implications to their logical endpoint

Example for the first type of reductio ad absurdum

English: Queen Christina of Sweden (left) and ...

Queen Christina of Sweden (left) and René Descartes (right). Detail from René Descartes i samtal med Sveriges drottning, Kristina. Pierre Louis Dumesnil. Museo nacional de Versailles. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Consider the French philosopher René Descartes famous line, I think, therefore I am.

And its falsification: I think, therefore I am not.

Here one can ask: If a person thinks that she or he does not exist, who is doing the thinking?

By falsifying the original statement, the ensuing absurdity apparently proves the original statement to be true.

The depth psychologist Carl Jung uses a form of reductio ad absurdum to try to refute the Buddhist notion of no-self; that is, the Buddhist idea that individuality is an illusion. Jung asks: Who experiences the bliss of Nirvana if no self is present to experience it?

This might seem clever and amusing but Buddhists could reply that the center of consciousness merely shifts from illusory individualism to actual totality.¹

Example for the second type of reductio ad absurdum

Crime Time

Crime Time (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Consider the argument, sometimes heard today, that it’s okay to do crime because everyone is a sinner and the whole world is corrupt.

If one takes that to its logical conclusion we get:

It’s not okay to do crime because if the whole world didn’t resist sin, corruption and crime we’d have violent, lawless chaos.

¹ This stance is not accepted by those who believe that individual souls have a relationship with the godhead.

Related » Anatman, Theism

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Sanskrit – Does God have a special language?

Sanskrit blogging on the rise by Debashish Chakrabarty

Sanskrit (samskrta = cultured, perfected, in contrast to prakrta = uncultured, popular) is the sacred, ancient language of Hinduism.

One school of thought believes that an early form of Sanskrit originated with Aryan invaders and their Vedic hymns around 2,000 BCE.

Another view suggests that an early form of Sanskrit existed within the Indus valley. And the entire Aryan invader thesis has been questioned.

Regardless of its disputed origins, the speakers of Sanskrit believed, as do many Hindus today, that the correct pronunciation of this language may elevate individuals to higher planes of consciousness, leading to greater spiritual awareness.¹

In Hinduism the Vedas, Shastras, Puranas and Kavyas were composed in Sanskrit.

Although Pali is the primary language of Buddhist scripture, some Mahayana texts were composed in a hybrid Sanskrit.

Sanskrit has also found its way into Jain scripture.

The earliest surviving character of its unique Devanagari (language of the gods) script is dated at 150 CE.

Not unlike Latin in the Catholic Church, Sanskrit remains sacred and prestigious among teachers and students throughout India and beyond.²

¹ This kind of claim is not unique to Hinduism. Not a few adherents of different religions believe that their own special language is the key to higher consciousness, awareness or God. I personally think it’s a joke to assume that God would prefer one “special” language over another. In Catholicism, some speak of the Latin Mass as if it has some kind of special sanctity. But what these people forget is that Jesus and his message is for anyone who wants to hear it. That’s why I applaud Catholic Bibles translated in any language and see them as equally valid as ancient Greek (original language of the New Testament) or Hebrew (original language of the Jewish scriptures and the Christian Old Testament) manuscripts. Some contemporary religious scholars use the language-game-power-trip to try to raise themselves above and literally intimidate others. But again, that is contrary to the Christian message.

² See https://www.highly.co/hl/58014caafb56eb5a9b00007e


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Sankara – A Hindu who was no big fan of the Buddha

English: Statue of Adi Shankara at his Samadhi...

Statue of Adi Shankara at his Samadhi Mandir in Kedarnath, India. Photo taken by Priyanath. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sankara, Shankara or Adi Shankara (c. 700 – 750 CE) was a Hindu philosopher, mystic and theologian born in Kerala, India.

A towering figure in Indian philosophical history, Sankara advocated Advaita Vedanta. His commentaries on scripture like the Bhagavad-Gita and Brahma-sutras outline the Advaita philosophy, which teaches the non-duality and absolute identidy of atman and brahman

Sankara was highly critical of the Buddha and is often held responsible for driving Buddhism out of India. In his commentary on the Brahma-sutra, he writes

The Buddha exposed for the sake of instruction, three mutually contradictory doctrines, either having manifested thus his own incoherent garrulity or his enmity towards all living beings, having erroneously assumed that they would be confused.²

Srimad Guru Adi Shankaracharya

Srimad Guru Adi Shankaracharya (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In fact, Sankara and his followers regarded the Buddha as an evil avatar. Why evil? Because the Buddha, from Sankara’s perspective, tried to sway the masses away from the sacred Veda.

But some Hindu philosophers take a big picture approach and interpret the Buddha’s critique of Hinduism in an overall positive light. For them, the Buddha’s apparent deception restored balance to a Hindu priesthood that had become hypocritical and elitist.

Some see this as a strength of Hinduism. It can take almost anything and conceptually absorb it into its overall philosophy. However, others see this as problematic because, for them, Hinduism fails to appreciate different religions for what they really are, on their own terms.³

Related » Moksha, Ramanuja, Scholarship, Self, Visistadvaita

¹ The following reveals considerable ambiguity with regard to authorship: https://www.highly.co/hl/57fd669e9fc2077c0800002f

² http://www.lioncity.net/buddhism/lofiversion/index.php/ (Now a dead link; was active in 2009/05/12)

³ While a student in India doing my Masters, a professor whom I admired very much once said “Jesus was a messenger” and “all religions are the same.” As I grew into my – admittedly innovative – Catholic path, I really have questioned these assertions. For me, the Eucharistic love and warmth simply could not be found in my experience of Hinduism. The Eucharist helps me to experience a whole new vista that I didn’t even know existed prior to my reception of it.  So I would not agree that all religions are the same. As to the status of Jesus, this is something I think about a lot. But I would not be happy relegating him to the status of “messenger,” just like any other religious figure. Simply put, no other figure makes me feel the same way. Having said that, I also believe that all religions may work together. But imo that does not mean that they are all the same.


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Samsara – Round and round and round we go?

Samsara (Sanskrit: wandering, flowing, meandering, and cyclic change) is philosophical word that stems back conceptually to the Veda. But it is not really articulated until the Upanishads. Later, it is more fully detailed in Hindu, Buddhist and Jain commentaries.¹

Most commonly, samsara refers to an alleged round of rebirths through gross and subtle planes in the reincarnation theories of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.

According to the belief in reincarnation, when the soul (or as Buddhists would say, the illusion of one) is locked in ignorance and selfish craving for temporal pleasures, it has no choice but to reincarnate into an earthly, hellish or possibly a subtle, astral body.

The process is said to continue until the spiritual liberation of moksha (Hinduism and Jainism) or nirvana (Buddhism) is attained. Also, the process has been described in Buddhism as something without beginning nor end, whatever that means.²

My critique of this idea is pretty much in accord with what I’ve said here:

¹ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sa%E1%B9%83s%C4%81ra

² Ibid.

Related » Arhat, Jane Roberts, Visistadvaita

  • “An exploration of the ocean of suffering, with alan watts as tour guide.”


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Dhamma, Dharma and the lack of God

This was a spur of the moment thing. As mentioned in the audio, I was getting tired of writing and have been meaning to delve into sound. The original was over 8 minutes, full of anecdotes from my studies in India (1987-89), which I felt backed up my points. Realizing, however, that the stories were situation dependent and, not wanting to be guilty of generalizing, I made some edits. I also edited some minor verbal stumbling that detracted from the flow but left enough in to keep it “live.”

The scant notes for this were hastily prepared: Two or three dates, scribbled down on a piece of paper… quickly memorized before recording. The rest is from memory, so there is some imprecision. Here are a few clarifying points that you might want to look over while listening:

One of the things I’ve realized about talking is that you can’t get too complicated. What I’ve said here is both general and incomplete. I’d be happy to further discuss any of the points made here in the comments area. It’s easy to be a coward and insult people behind their backs. Much harder to engage them in a positive way and see if maybe there was a bit more to their thinking than initially presented. 🙂


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Puja – ritual devotion

English: Durga Puja, 1809 watercolour painting...

Durga Puja, 1809 watercolour painting in Patna Style. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A puja is a ritualized form of Hindu devotion, conducted either privately at home by oneself or publicly in group festivals (e.g. Durga Puja). Puja may be directed toward God or to honorable people or occasions. It also occurs in Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism.

I remember when I had returned home after being a student for a couple of years in India. An Indian person with whom I had corresponded wrote, “I hope by now you recognize the value of puja!”

It seemed the premise was that, as a Westerner, I was spiritually underdeveloped upon arriving in India. And after leaving, I had learned the basics of what makes Indian spirituality tick. This wasn’t totally wrong. But it could have implied an unwarranted simplification. Many Western people are incredibly spiritual. Yet this takes a different form, I think, that the obvious, in-your-face spirituality found throughout India.¹

It took me a while to see this. But now I believe there are many ways to be devotional, contemplative and reverential—not just the traditional ways.

¹ Walking by one classroom in India, I heard students being indoctrinated by a professor saying:

In India we are…

SPIRITUAL (the class replied in unison)

And the West is…

MATERIALISTIC (the class replied in unison)

Thankfully, they weren’t all like that. And some professors were exceptionally good.

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Purgatory – an old concept in need of an update?

Embed from Getty Images

Divine Comedy by Dante – illustration to Purgatory by A. Baruffi. 14th canto: ‘ ‘Io sono Aglauro che divenni sasso!’/ Ed allor, per istrignermi al poeta,/ Indietro feci e non innanzi il passo.’

In Catholicism, purgatory is an afterlife place or state in which souls undergo temporary punishments due to their venial and (forgiven) mortal sins. These punishments may be quite unpleasant but, according to the tradition, are not as frightful as the eternal torment of hell.

This shows The Virgin and The Child being pres...

This shows The Virgin and The Child being present while souls awaiting purification are brought out of Purgatory and into Heaven. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While enduring purgatory, the soul apparently goes through a process of purification in preparation for heaven and a Beatific Vision.

Catholics often uphold 2 Mac. 12:46 as scriptural support for Purgatory.

It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins.¹

Scholars suggest that the idea of purgatory has deep roots in world religions and mythologies.

The same practice appears in other traditions, such as the medieval Chinese Buddhist practice of making offerings on behalf of the dead, who are said to suffer numerous trials… [And] In Judaism, Gehenna is a place of purification where, according to some traditions, most sinners spend up to a year before release.²

El Purgatorio (1890). Óleo sobre tela 339 x 25...

El Purgatorio (1890). Óleo sobre tela 339 x 256 cm. GAN.Cararas – Venezuela. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To me, some of the standard beliefs about purgatory seem pretty rigid,  probably based more on what people suppose things should be instead of any kind of genuine interior perception.

It seems far more probable that departed souls would experience an alternation and intermingling³ of heaven and less-than-heaven, according to the condition of their souls and other exigencies.

Just as we undergo good and not-so-good days on Earth, it is likely similar in the afterlife, with these experiences occurring within a meaningful, multidimensional dynamic. Conservative Catholics probably wouldn’t approve of this model. It’s too free-flowing and doesn’t fit into preexisting categories stemming from ancient and medieval worldviews. But I think it’s probably more accurate.

¹ https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Maccabees+12%3A43-46&version=DRA

² https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Purgatory

³ Intermingling when trying to help earthbound souls through intercession.

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