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Human Consciousness and Its Discontents: An Ecological Reading of The Awakening of Faith in the Mahāyāna

  • Feng-chu Cheng
Chapter

Abstract

From a point of view founded in ecocriticism, this paper focuses on the problem of human consciousness, its relationship with nature and the environment, and the Buddhist solution to this problem. In Western culture, there are three kinds of problematic human consciousness. The first is the anthropocentrism of Christianity. In the Bible, human beings are regarded as superior to other species, resulting in the alienation of human beings from other living creatures. Then in the Scientific Revolution of the seventeenth century and the eighteenth century, nature was treated as mechanical, controllable, and usable because people at that time attained unprecedented confidence in human knowledge. In fact, this attitude gives rise to nothing but the alienation of human beings from nature as a whole. The third problematic type of consciousness is a false perception of the reality of the self in the modern society. The effort to ground the self through material means only leads to a sense of lack. This lack causes the alienation of a person’s self from his or her true nature. The accumulation of these three kinds of mindsets is behind most of today’s environmental problems. Buddhism looks at human nature from a different perspective. In The Awakening of Faith in the Mahāyāna, the mind is understood to be the “Mind of the sentient beings.” The inclusive nature of the mind, which respects all and does not discriminate, is arguably one of the best solutions to today’s environmental problems. The short treatise further links this transcendental aspect of mind and phenomenal practices with the idea of faith. Everyone should have faith in his or her immanent “Mind of the sentient beings” and through practicing good behavior which benefits all beings, this faith will gradually be demonstrated and the Mind will show itself. When this time comes, all kinds of suffering, human or nonhuman, will be put to an end.

Keywords

Ecocriticism Western mindset Anthropocentrism The scientific revolution The mechanistic view of nature Capitalism The self Lack The Awakening of Faith in the Mahāyāna The mind of the sentient beings Five practices 

Key Authors

Peter Harvey David Loy Charles Taylor Donald Worster D. T. Suzuki 

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Feng-chu Cheng
    • 1
  1. 1.Independent ResearcherHsinchu CityTaiwan

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