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Re: [Sartre] Existentialism and Buddhism

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  • Tommy Beavitt
    Hello Ayden, ... realised as a result of the extinction of the self. Thanks for your interesting reply. This thing about instrumentality is very interesting to
    Message 1 of 7 , Jan 31, 2002
      Hello Ayden,

      At 9:00 pm -0800 30/1/02, ayden jackson wrote:
      >I would agree to
      >some extent that the instrumentality in human
      >relations could well be seen as a point of departure
      >between the two belief systems. From a Buddhist
      >Perspective, this objectifying of others is, indeed,
      >rooted in our own delusions and ignorance, which all
      >unenlightened human beings, no doubt, battle with, and
      >not an intrinsic condition of human nature. However, I
      >was interested to hear your point that we take on
      >other beings into our contents. This, indeed, from a
      >Buddhist point of view is very true. Buddhists reject
      >the idea of the "self"; basically on the premise that
      >nothing has any inherent existence, and clearly, who
      >we are and what we do, has an impact on everyone and
      >everything. Our interdependence with all things is a
      >key Buddhist concept. So Buddhist transcendence comes
      >as a result of recognising the unsatisfactory nature
      >of life as we know it, and ultimately achieving
      >nirvana, which by definition in the state of bliss
      realised as a result of the extinction of the self.

      Thanks for your interesting reply. This thing about instrumentality
      is very interesting to me just now. I don't think instrumentality in
      human relations can be dismissed as "delusions and ignorance": it is
      as much a part of how things are as, say, the facts of procreation
      and mortality.

      I don't say that it is not possible to transcend instrumentality - I
      am sure that it is - but to do so is to step outside the "normal"
      sphere of human striving which has been the source of many good
      things such as technological progress, great art and music, love
      stories, as well as those less savoury aspects such as economic
      exploitation and war.

      I am with you on the interdependence issue - even from a mutual
      instrumentality perspective it is obvious that advantages accrue to
      those who take this fact as read. There was an interesting article
      signed by a certain William Jefferson Clinton in last week's UK
      Saturday Guardian which called our attention to the interdependence
      aspect of our mutual instrumentality (aka global capitalism).

      I think that existentialists would disagree that "nothing has any
      inherent existence". That is idealism: the view that reality is an
      illusion caused by our perceptual apparatus. There are objects in the
      universe and this class includes those who are taken into our
      consciousness but does not exclude the existence of other objects
      which may not be taken into the contents of our consciousness. In
      fact this "nothingness" is itself one of the classes of contents of
      our consciousness.

      I don't think that existentialists would agree that the self is an
      illusion either. Compared to what? If, as you claim Buddhism says,
      *everything* is illusion, how can the phrase be meaningful? It is
      true to say that the self is not determined by any outside entity.
      This is the key aspect of existentialism: that the self is solely
      responsible for what it is. It is bad faith to pretent otherwise.

      The project of existentialism as I see it, is not to destroy Self, it
      is to know Other. It is only by knowing (in other words, by
      intelligently creating) Self that we can know Other. This is the
      transcendence of mutual instrumentality existentialism promises.

      Buddhism's project appears to be to destroy Self. While I have got
      nothing against this I don't see why we need Buddhism to achieve it
      when mortality does such a splendid job already. By setting out on
      the project of destroying self you are to a certain extent admitting
      that self exists in the first place. But as what? How can Buddhism
      describe the self it sets out to destroy?

      If happiness were the only aim in life then I would be a Buddhist. I
      agree with Buddhism that egotism is the source of all unhappiness and
      that only by destroying the egotistic conception of self can we ever
      achieve perfect happiness. But some other aims towards which life
      strives such as creativity, power, procreation are hampered by the
      destruction of the ego.

      As I have said earlier, there is plenty of time to destroy the self.
      It happens automatically over the duration of a lifetime. So why
      Buddhism now?

      I look forward to your reply

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