January 19, 2001
Many classes at Tulane require various kinds of labs as part of the curriculum. Few require a weekly meditation session. The philosophy department's Buddhism class has just that. (Photo) Taught this semester by Hans Gruenig, graduate fellow and president of the Tulane meditation club, the class consists of two weekly lectures and one weekly meditation session, also known as a mindfulness practice.
The goals of the course involve more than just learning the history or the practices of Buddhists. While history and theory are taught in the class, Gruenig said, "Buddhism is not something that can be thoroughly understood from a purely discursive standpoint."
Because it cannot be fully learned from lectures alone, the focus of the class is on the practical and meditative aspects. Gruenig continued, "Philosophy 350 gives students the opportunity to bear witness to their own mental habits through meditation."
Through this meditation, students are supposed to see the true nature of self. Many students expressed interest in the non-Western aspect of the course. Senior Anthony Iannini said he's taking the course because "it's a non-Western culture and I'm interested in the meditation aspect and Buddhist psychology."
The meditation session, or mindfulness practice, is perhaps the most important and interesting component of the class. One of the points of Buddhism is freeing the self of afflictive emotions, such as suffering, and bringing about morality.
Gruenig said, "The mind is usually far too unruly for momentary reflection to yield this depth of insight, but sustained meditative practice can turn the raging river of thought into a calm reflecting pool. Only then can you see the true nature of self." Students can learn to apply the meditation practices throughout their lives, using them in the "pursuit of the good life."
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