Inspired by traditional Buddhist teachings, the Japanese Zen master Dōgen describes how the personal self and the phenomenal world are understood in the movement of time. According to Dōgen, time is not somehow “objective” and “outside of us.” And our own being, and other beings, are also not “objective” entities. Impermanence is not something that happens to us; the passing of time is our very being. For Dōgen, meditation practice is in part awakening to our true nature as time-being: ever unfolding, ever changing. These provocative thoughts were taken up by some Western philosophers in the 20th century. Most famously, Heidegger describes human beings not as entities, but as an awareness that is an opening, a clearing in which the world and meaning arise. And, as with Dōgen, Heidegger argues that time is the most basic category for understanding human being. To understand oneself and live as an entity, with a particular nature and function, in Heidegger’s account, is to be unfree. Freedom, for Heidegger and Dōgen, is made possible through affective and cognitive means of undermining our sense of ourselves as things in the world. We will begin by looking at the broader context of thinking about human being and time–in Buddhist and Western traditions. Then, we will study these ideas in Dōgen and Heidegger, how they were integrated by recent Japanese Zen thinkers in the Kyoto School, and explore the liberating possibilities of rethinking time, being, meditation, and philosophy as practice.
Note: This program is for graduates of the Nalanda program.