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Lecture

Interpretive Paragraphs for Death

10 Pages
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Department
Sociology
Course Code
SOCY 1097
Professor
Elaine Tarutis

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Chapters 1-3 One of the central issues discussed within the first three chapters of Thich Nhat Hanh’s No Death, No Fear is the concept of finding of achieving nirvana. Nirvana is the most difficult concept of the three “Dharma Seals”(39) to grasp and even after reading about it, I still am a little confused. Hanh describes nirvana as “solidarity and freedom, freedom from all ideas and notions” (39) and in order to achieve nirvana, one must first achieve the other to Dharma concepts of no self and impermanence but then go “beyond them” (50). How does one go beyond these two fundamental concepts of no self and impermanence which to which Hanh dedicates the first sixty pages of his book? If one goes beyond all notions, “notions of birth and death, coming and going, the same and different, being and non-being” (53) and achieves nirvana, he/she also “attain[s] non-fear” (22). This makes me think of nirvana as some sort of experiential transcendence. Once a person reaches nirvana, he/she is no longer afraid of anything, including death because he/she understands that there is no such thing as death and no such thing as birth. Our notions “keep us from being happy” (53) so once we find nirvana we can be happy. 10/12/10 Chapters 7-9 Chapter seven, “Fear, Acceptance, and Forgiveness: The Practice of Touching the Earth,” explains what it means to follow the practice of “touching the Earth” (135) and how this practice allows us to touch our true natures of no-birth and no-death as well as touch both the “historical and ultimate dimensions”(136). Through the three cycles of Touching the Earth we come to accept ourselves and our ancestors, heal our fears of old age, ill health, and death, and forgive others who have done us harm. One philosophy of this idea of Touching the Earth that I disagreed with was the notion that we are part of all people so when a person rapes someone or kills someone “it is our fault”. According to Hanh, “We have to see that we are they and they are us…we can love them”(160). I got really angry when I read this because I have no love or sympathy for some horrible people in this world and do not want to equate them to myself. For example, take serial killers. Some serial killers like David Berkowitz, are legally sane, grew up in loving homes, and had nothing traumatizing happen to them to make them the way that they are. Am I supposed to be blamed for them turning out to be killers? Am I still supposed to find compassion for them, even if they still truly believe what they did wasn’t wrong? Also, Hanh suggests that these people who choose to do bad things, like become a “pirate” and rape girls, do so because of their situation. He says that if we were put into similar situations we might turn out similarly. Again, here I am going to use the example of a serial killer. Plenty of people are in worse situations and more violent and abusive homes then some serial killers out there and they did not resort to killing. 10/18/10 Chapters 4-8 Chapter Eight of The Bhagavad Gita explains, in short, how a person should die. Krsna tells Arjuna that when a person is near death he “should hold me in memory, and fight! Fix [his] mind and attention on me”(8.7). At the moment of death, one should be “disciplined with an unwavering mind”(8.10 and should call forth all he has learned from his devotion and yoga. In doing this, Krsna says that this person will be rewarded. He will go to Krsna and “never experience rebirth”(8.15). Buddhists believe that after one dies, if he is not one with the Brahman, he will be reborn again in a different body depending on whether or not his karma is good or bad. This never ending chain of rebirths is seen as bondage and misery to Buddhists. They strive to achieve this, moksha, or freedom from samsara (rebirth) that Krsna talks of when he describes to Arjuna how to die. In Bhagavad Gita, dying whilst achieving moksha is the best thing that can happen to a person while continued life is seen as one of the worst. People should be happy about death if it means they are not going to be reborn again. An interesting concept that was brought in while explaining this notion of how to die is the OM. It seems to me that every little kid’s typical stereotype for a meditating Buddhist monk is sitting cross-legged on the ground saying, “OM” in a monotonous, drawn out voice, but before reading this book I had never known the purpose of OM. According to Krsna, OM is the “one imperishable syllable that is Brahman” (8.13). Aperson should utter this syllable and think of Krsna as he nears death in order to achieve moksha, liberation from the bondage of rebirth. 10/24/10 Interpretive Paragraph for Dialogue with Death In Easwaran’s Dialogue with Death, Chapter twelve, “The Lesson of the Lilac,” discusses the purpose to our lives and how to overcome death. Easwaran reasons that the reason we must look for moksha (release from rebirth) is because life is too short. He says, “If we could only see how narrow life is, how petty, how quickly ended, we would concentrate all our effort on escaping from it once and for all. When I read this line, I immediately understood what he was trying to say (Note that this is not necessarily mean I agree with all his views). It is like our life is a song on a record. There are parts of the song that we love but the best and happiest part is at the end. However the record keeps skipping before it hits that part. This is how I believe Easwaran views our “too short” lives; our records keep skipping and starting over before we get to any good part in the song so we might as well put all our efforts into stopping the annoying skipping record and finally give ourselves peace. This is the whole goal of our lives according to Easwaran;”to pass beyond the reach of death”(202) and find moksha. In order to pass beyond death we must no longer identify ourselves with our bodies and know that we “do not die when the body dies” (211). Alot of Easwaran’s ideas come from the Bhagavad Gita, such as the idea of separation of self and reaching moksha. 10/29/10 Interpretive Paragraph for The Sufi Path of Love One of the concepts I found interesting in The Sufi Path of Love was that a person should welcome suffering. Rumi says that God makes us all suffer at points in our lives so that we will eventually “abandon attachment to [ourselves] and strive to attain Self” (237). Rumi even goes as far as saying, “Seek pain! Seek pain, pain, pain!”(237) because the more a man suffers, the more he wants to be free of what is causing his suffering, his self-existence. Honestly, I think if one truly believed this our suicide statistics would shoot through the roof. I mean really, what I interpret Rumi is saying is that one should make himself suffer so much that you want to die. This, to me, sounds like an awful way to live.After this idea, Rumi goes on later to say, “cruelty inflict
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