Topics for Paper III, REL 353 Dark Self

 Due Monday, February 28, 12:00 noon: Submit to Canvas.

TOPICS A (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 Jung's view of individuation 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. Discuss two points of similarities and two points of differences between the view of nature found in Zhuangzi and in Cheryl Strayed's Wild. What is the relation between the limits of ordinary human thinking (linear thought, limited view of self), the relation between mind and body, and the power of nature to liberate and/or heal?

7. Select two episodes from Cheryl Strayed's account in Wild, and discuss how Shinran would analyze the relation between what Shinran might identify as 'blind passions' in her journey and the realization of 'great compassion.' How might this differ from Chery Strayed's view of her own experience?

8. 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.

9. 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?

TOPIC B (In selecting this topic, you can build on your story throughout the course, adding new sections to your story each time.)

RELATE TO YOUR FIRST and SECOND PAPERS. You are not required but may use your first paper as inspiration. Do continue the story from your second paper.

You will continue the story of the character you wrote about/created in your Second Paper. This character is facing darkness on two fronts, externally and internally. For example, they may be facing externally: a natural disaster, illness, loss of relationship, violence or abuse; they may be facing internally: emotional turmoil, shame, guilt, anger, depression, loss of meaning, confusion. You will continue the story of this character in which you incorporate 2 or 3 of the ideas below:

1) Your character is/becomes a craftsperson or someone who works with his body like Woodworker Qing or
Cook Ding from the Zhuangzi, or your character encounters such a person who works with his body. This encounter affects or changes your character in some way.
2) Your character goes on a long hike that is physically grueling, and your story either incorporates ideas and insights from Cheryl Strayed's story in Wild or encounters someone like Cheryl Strayed on their journey.
3) You character encounters a teacher of Shin Buddhism who is like Shinran, the founder, as recounted in Mark Unno's essay, "The Orginal Buddhist Rebel" (CP14) and considers the ideas of 'blind passions' and 'boundless compassion'
4) Your character experiences failure or loss in career and/or personal/family relationships similar to Aoki in Coffinman, but this very failure or loss becomes part of a journey into greater self insight, life insight, or spiritual experience.
5) Your character suffers hallucinations, flashbacks, or a psychic experience of alternate realities similar to Jacob in the film Jacob's Ladder, and this leads to deeper problems but also some helpful insights or illumination.
6) Your character finds themselves in a predicament similar to Michael Morton in Getting Life (CP18), having been imprisoned for something they did not do. This leads to profound challenges but also new possibilities of inner and/or outer significance.

To show your understanding of the readings, you can incorporate direct quotations into your story and/or provide parenthetical page references in your story, or provide a bibliography at the end or provide a bibliography at the end with some quotations from the works you cite that correspond to the ideas in your story.