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Dr. David Fiordalis: One or None? Self-transformation and Truth for Śaṅkara and Kamalaśīla

Monday, October 4, 2021 4:30pm to 5:50pm

Reed College, ETC 208

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The talk will look at the spiritual path philosophies of two influential 8th century Indian thinkers, Śaṅkara and Kamalaśīla. The former is perhaps the most influential philosopher/theologian of what we now call the Hindu tradition; the latter was an Indian Buddhist scholar-monk who had a significant influence on the development of Buddhism in Tibet. Both were institution builders as well as philosophers. The talk focuses on the place of the threefold scheme of learning, reasoning, and meditation in their respective philosophies while raising a set of questions about reality and truth: how do we know the truth about the nature of reality? What, if anything, does accessing the truth require from us? And if certain practices, like meditation, merely conform to the truths we gain from other practices, such as learning the scriptures or reasoning about them (or both), how do we know we are not fooling ourselves into believing that our meditation practice tells us the truth about reality? Śaṅkara and Kamalaśīla both engage such questions, and their respective answers highlight tensions that we still struggle to resolve today.

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