18 January 2023
If unity seems in short supply...
The world seems a pretty divided and inharmonious place right now! At times it seems common purpose, consensus, truth and trust have been abandoned altogether.
Or perhaps they are all still there, but hidden beneath the surface.
The great eighth century Indian philosopher and teacher Shankara is responsible for formulating what is called ‘Advaita’ philosophy. It’s the philosophy we are most interested in as a School.
The word ‘advaita’ literally means ‘not two’, or ‘one without a second’. It speaks of the unity underlying the world and mankind.
The aim of Advaita philosophy is to help us to connect with this underlying unity in all situations.
Although there are different peoples, races, religions, etc, this philosophy would say we are all members of a single human family. That is the unity which is common to us all.
Shankara taught that there are two levels of existence operating simultaneously. So at the empirical or worldly level there is the very apparent diversity of forms, which we experience all of the time.
However he also said that at a transcendental level there is a single, unified substance. This is not obvious to the senses but, with knowledge and understanding, it can be appreciated.
We explore this Unity in Diversity in week 9 of our introductory course. One of the quotes we look at is this one from Albert Einstein (people are always surprised to hear great philosophic wisdom from such a great scientist!)
A human being is a part of the whole that we call the universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest . . . a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. The illusion is a prison for us, restricting us to our personal closeness and affection for only the few people nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living beings and all of nature.
Einstein makes it clear that as human beings we have an actual responsibility, a duty, to break out of our ‘optical delusion’ and widen our circle of compassion.
Following the Advaita philosophy of unity is one very sure and effective way of doing just that.
4 August 2022
"Be the change you want to see in the world"
Are you someone who longs for a kinder, more compassionate society, but feels disillusioned at the ability of our politicians and leaders to bring about real change?
Maybe you’re inspired by the example of young people worldwide, taking to the streets to protest against climate change…but, deep down, not fully convinced anything is really going to change.
The consistent advice of the sages and philosophers over millennia is echoed in the words above, often attributed (mistakenly, as it turns out) to Gandhi: to effect change around us, we first have to look within and work on ourselves.
And so begins the journey of philosophy.
To face the big questions of life, most important of which is "who am I?"
You can take an intellectual, academic approach to questions like this, thinking deeply, applying logic and reason and debating with others. This is the path followed by most philosophers in the west in the last 300 years.
Or you can take a more practical approach, based on your own direct personal experience, observation and practice. The work starts on oneself – learning to live more mindfully, being more connected in the present and with those around us, less time lost in idle thoughts.
Then, as we discover insights from great philosophers of the past and test out their ideas in practice as we go about our daily life, our wisdom and understanding can really grow. We call this second approach practical philosophy.
Why not join us for our next Practical Philosophy introductory course? Details are on our Events page.
Supported by simple, practical exercises to develop things like presence, stillness, attention and awareness, the weekly class provides an opportunity for sharing experiences as well as learning new philosophical concepts.
Our aim is to provide all the support you need to get you started with arguably the most important work known to mankind: the work of knowing yourself.