Topics for Paper III, REL 353 Dark Self
Due Tuesday, February 28, in class.
Topics (Select one of the following topics)
1. Discuss how Shinran's view of foolish being and boundless compassion are reflected in three episodes from Coffinman. Show how foolish being and boundless compassion are related to both the inner life of individuals as well as their social status (For example, how might social failure be related to spiritual failure where the latter actually makes possible spiritual awakening.)
2. Discuss two points of similarities and two points of differences between Kierkegaard's concept of sin as defined in Sickness Unto Death and Shinran's view of karmic evil. As part of this address how they define the process or act of self-realization (in SK, becoming the self; in Shinran, realizing oneself as the foolish being as well as the realization of Amida Buddha as the awakening of infinite light).
3. How would Shinran view the figure of Cook Ding from the Zhuangzi? Would Shinran see Cook Ding as following the same path as his Pure Land followers, or are there some important differences?
4. Discuss two points of similarities and two points of differences between Carter's view of spiritual awakening and Shinran's realization of foolish being/Boundless Compassion, in Pure Land Buddhism. As part of this address how they view any practices (formal or informal) that are involved in their spiritual awakening.
5. Select one episode from Frankl's account in Man's Search for Meaning, and discuss how Zhuangzi would analyze the relation between society and the individual in relation to the episode. How does this differ from Frankl's view?
6. Select one episode from Carter's account in Eye of the Hurricane, and discuss how Zhuangzi would analyze the relation between society and the individual in relation to the episode. How does this differ from Carter's view?
7. Both Shinran and Zhuangzi (as a character in his eponymous book) were married farmers with children. They both largely left behind the entanglements of hierarchical, highly scripted, ritual societies to live close to nature and to those regarded as menial or outcast by the rest of society. There is also a contemplative aspect to their work reflected in such simple forms as the nembutsu or saying of the Name, as in Shinran, and fasting the mind (Woodworker Ch'ing) as in Zhuangzi. Yet, for all their similarities, there are significant differences. Discuss two points of similarities and two points of differences between Shinran's view of the relation between society and religious practice on the one hand and Zhuangzi's view of society and the realization of the Dao on the other.
8. Relate what you wrote about in your first paper to one or two texts/thinkers we have read in the course so far, including at least one of the following: Zhuangzi, Shinran and the Tannisho, or Coffinman. Discuss how these texts/thinkers have changed or affected the views and/or experiences of the relationship between inner darkness and society. What are some points in these texts/thinkers that may be problematic or that trouble you?