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  1. What Tibetan Buddhism Can Teach Us About Happiness | HuffPost Life
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  3. Essential Tibetan Buddhism

That, we've learned, is so important to our quality of life and our personal sense of meaning in life. The Tibetans have devised powerful ways of helping people learn how to become more compassionate that are now being used in the Western world. A Emory University study suggested that compassion training derived from ancient Tibetan practices may boost empathy, and other studies have shown that loving-kindness meditation could increase positive emotions and lead to more positive relationships over time.

The traditional "Three Jewels" of Buddhism consist of the Buddha the example , the Dharma the path and the Sangha the community. In this tradition, the community is just as important an element as any other in living a happy, purposeful life. Increasing your happiness and well-being is a difficult thing to do alone. It requires the support and love of others, and a sense of belonging to a community. We need to learn to connect with others with mindful openness and positivity, and to deal with the daily slings and arrows and work through those and maintain a sense of connection that's positive.

This is something we practice in spiritual communities. Strong social support networks have also been linked to a number of health benefits, including lower stress levels and increased longevity. In Western cultures, our attitude toward death is largely characterized by fear and denial -- and this can, consciously or unconsciously, cause a great deal of suffering throughout our lives. But a central aspect of the Tibetan Buddhist philosophy is the belief that death should be embraced, and the concept that dying can be the "crowing achievement" of a life well lived.

Although this attitude stems in part from a strong belief in reincarnation, you don't have to believe in an afterlife in order to better accept the impermanence of life in the here and now. The Tibetans believe that meditation can help us to come to terms with the nature of life and death.

When Loizzo is working with patients who are suffering from chronic or terminal illnesses, in addition to practicing meditation and loving-kindness, he goes through a traditionally Tibetan practice of asking some of life's big questions: What has been meaningful to you in your life?

How do you face the impermanence of your life and the inevitability of death? When a thinker comes up with a new distinction, argument, or practice it is likely to be attributed to an older, often Indian, source for various reasons including but by no means limited to modesty, authority, loyalty, or admiration. The italicized parenthetical terms are Tibetan unless otherwise noted and they are transliterated using the Wylie system. They are not meant to be essential for understanding the ideas of the article and are provided to avoid the confusion caused by different writers using different English glosses.

Though the spoken language of Tibetan in these areas is quite diverse and often mutually unintelligible , they share a common written heritage of literature, poetry, song, and philosophical texts. However, Tibetan philosophy is very much a living tradition with a variety of philosophical views and topical emphases. Buddhism has had a profound influence on Tibetan thought and culture. Today there are four main sects of Tibetan Buddhism. The difference between sects is not always purely philosophical but often involves which practices, lineage masters, and texts they emphasize and also which translations they use.

The four major sects are:. The Gelug, the sect of the Dalai Lamas, came to hold the majority of the political power from the seventeenth century onward. Since the late nineteenth century a non-sectarian movement ris med encouraged by the current Dalai Lama has become popular and fostered a more open approach between sects and a mixing of practices. The texts of Tibetan Buddhist Canon are divided into two sections.

Unlike Western Philosophy since the Enlightenment, there is no rigid separation between religion and philosophy in Tibetan thought. This does not mean that Tibetan philosophy is essentially non-rational or superstitious in nature and should not preclude philosophical interest; not anymore than references to Apollo in Plato or God in Descartes prevents philosophers from finding interesting philosophical theses in their works. However, this lack of separation between the religious and philosophical does mean that a modern reader must keep in mind that Tibetan thinkers are likely to have aims and motives outside those usually found in Western philosophy.

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Being overwhelmingly Buddhist in nature, Tibetan philosophy has a soteriological aim; one engages in philosophical investigation not only to gain an understanding of the world, but so that such an understanding can aid in eliminating suffering. For Buddhists, all human suffering arises from misunderstanding the nature of the world; through study and philosophical reflection one can come to have a better grasp of the nature of reality —particularly of suffering and its causes.

What Tibetan Buddhism Can Teach Us About Happiness | HuffPost Life

When one understands this, one can avoid much suffering by beginning to act and cultivate dispositions that are in accord with reality. Modern philosophical theorizing in the West is commonly thought to aim at discovering the nature of reality or of the best way to live. The distinctive form of Tibetan debate rtsod pa plays an important part of philosophical investigations in Tibetan intellectual communities. It is central in the Gelug sect, in particular those earning their kenpo mkhan po degrees, though it is also practiced in other sects to varying degrees.

The roles are quite different; the defender must assert a thesis and attempts to defend its truth. The challenger is not held responsible for the truth content of the questions; like someone raising an objection at a lecture, the challenger does not have to assert any thesis, but only aims to show that the defender is mistaken.

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This invocation is variously interpreted, but can be seen most generally as a reminder to the debaters that they are aiming at wisdom, at finding out the truth about the subject. The challenger then sets the topic of debate by asking a question to which the defender replies and reveals his thesis.


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During the debate, the challenger raises questions of a particular form; a complete question is one that contains a subject, predicate, and a reason. When an element is omitted or ambiguous, the defender is allowed to clarify, but upon receiving a complete question, the defender has three possible replies:. The general idea is that while what we perceive as reality might not have an intrinsic nature, the awareness that we have of the flow of such perceptions does have such a nature.

This school is sometimes compared with German Idealism in the West. To say that all phenomena are empty is to say that they are empty of a stable and unconditioned essence — tables have no intrinsic table-ness and selves have no intrinsic self-ness. Anything else, they contend, would give the impression that they accept the unconditioned essence of any of the topics under debate.

This method has been compared with that of Wittgenstein at least the Wittgenstein of the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus and the Skeptics of ancient Greece. Suppose one were to stumble upon a friend watching a Felix the Cat cartoon ask him what is happening. When pressed, both may well admit that the ultimate truth is quite different; in fact there is no Felix, simply a series of lines organized in a certain way so as to create drawings that bear a resemblance to a cat, which, when shown in rapid succession create the visual illusion of actions, events, and emotions.

This is the ultimate truth about what is really happening, but to reply in this way would be both impolite and pragmatically unhelpful. The view has some affinities with fictionalism in Western philosophy in that both acknowledge some value in claims that are metaphysically ungrounded. One issue of debate in Tibet has been the relationship between the Two Truths.

A radical view advocated in the fourteenth century by Dolpopa claims that the Two Truths are completely separate, advocating a doctrine called Emptiness of Other gzhan stong — the ideal that emptiness itself has a stable and unchanging nature. The prevailing view, advocated by Tsongkhapa and the Gelug tradition, proposes a deep unity between the two truths.

This view holds the distinction between the conventional and ultimate reality to be itself merely conventional, a doctrine called Emptiness of Self rang stong. On this view, the property of lacking an essential nature is nothing more than a conventional designation for more on this see Kapstein pp. The idea that emptiness itself is not an ultimately real property — the emptiness of emptiness — is taken to be paradoxical to varying degrees see Garfield pp.

The Two Truths are especially important when one keeps in mind the soteriological aim of Buddhist philosophy; it allows a place for teachings that are not strictly speaking true, but benefit the student. The former means simply a mental label for something, a conventional sign for communications, while the latter, kundzob, means something that obscures, hides, or fakes.

The distinction suggests two sorts of conventional truth; those that obscure the ultimate truth and those that do not. This finds support in common sense as some false speech is used to obscure reality, as in that of political spinsters, while other false speech is used to illuminate a truth about reality, such as telling a fictional story to teach a truth about human psychology.

This distinction is explained in greater detail at Garfield pp. There are also more meditative practices that allow the meditator to experience the emptiness of phenomena in a more direct way.

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These practices tend to emphasize first-hand experience and the relationship with a qualified teacher. The core of these practices involves close observation of the mind at rest and during the arising and passing of thoughts and emotions. These mediations are often described with language suggesting spontaneity, immediacy, and ineffability — a non-conceptual and non-dualistic awareness of reality, which is taken to be in some sense perfect as it is.

To many, these features evoke affinities with mysticism that put it outside the purview of modern Analytic philosophy, though epistemological issues like introspection , phenomenology , and the limits of language are relevant. The tales teach a moral by describing the selfless and virtuous actions of the Buddha-to-be and in these tales he is called a bodhisattva. Bodhisattvas, rather than becoming enlightened and escaping the sufferings of this world, choose to forgo their own enlightenment and remain in this world in order to relieve the suffering of others. Modern scholars disagree about the most accurate way to view Buddhist ethics in terms of the standard Western ethical categories.

Essential Tibetan Buddhism

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