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Losing Yourself: How to be a Person Without a Self
Dates: Nov 30, 2020 - Dec 21, 2020
Online Course

Instructor(s): Jay L. Garfield

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As human beings, we are subject not only to perceptual, but to cognitive illusions. A central insight of Buddhist thought is that these illusions lie at the root of suffering, and that suffering can only be eliminated if these illusions are extirpated. Among the most pervasive and pernicious of these illusions is the sense that we are selves. But how do we come to see ourselves as selfless without falling into a nihilistic view that we don't exist at all, that we have no agency, or no responsibility? The answer is to come to see ourselves as persons. In these four evenings we will explore what it is to be a person, but to lack a self, and the understanding of human life and morality that this enables.

This course is offered freely. Donations will be shared between Jay L. Garfield and BCBS.

Online Course: Our intention is to build sangha and provide meaningful virtual interactions with each other and teachers in our online courses. When registering for an online course, please note that you should plan to commit to attending all scheduled sessions. The schedule of Zoom meetings for this course (shown in US Eastern Time) is as follows:

Meeting Schedule: Mondays, 7:30 – 8:50 pm between November 30 and December 21.

Please check the time of the group meetings in your timezone here. The presentations will be recorded and shared with participants within 24-36 hours.

  • Jay L. Garfield is the Doris Silbert Professor in the Humanities and Professor of Philosophy, Logic and Buddhist Studies at Smith College. He chairs the Philosophy department and directs Smith’s logic and Buddhist studies programs as well as the Five College Tibetan Studies in India program. He is also visiting professor of Buddhist philosophy at Harvard Divinity School, professor of philosophy at Melbourne University, and adjunct professor of philosophy at the Central University of Tibetan Studies. Garfield’s most recent books are Knowing Illusion: Bringing a Classical Tibetan Debate into Contemporary Discourse (with The Yakherds, forthcoming 2020), What Can’t be Said: Paradox and Contradiction in East Asian Philosophy (with Yasuo Deguchi, Graham Priest and Robert Sharf, forthcoming 2020), and The Essential Jewel of Holy Practice: Patrul Rinpoche’s Instructions for Practice (with Emily McRae, 2017).

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