Ninth International Summer School on Mind, Brain and Education

2014 July 31 - August 03

Body, Brain and
Personal Identity: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives

Directors: Antonio M. Battro, Kurt W. Fischer and Fernando Vidal
Program officer: María Lourdes Majdalani

Abstract: Shuenn-Der Yu
Institute of Ethnology, Academia Sinica, TAIWAN

Realizing Buddhist personhood: an ethnographic point of view
Buddhist teaching aims at letting one realize who he/she really is, not in terms of what a human person is or ought to be, but how one can realize the Buddha nature one actually possesses. This concept of person poses a sharp contrast to that of Christianity as the latter stresses that human persons have the capacity to “share in” God’s divine nature but cannot “possess” it, because there is only one Divine Intellect and Will. To comprehend this Buddhist world view, especially to learn that one is in fact a buddha and put it into practice in daily life, is not an easy task. This paper attempts to analyze how a practitioner may realize this Buddhist personhood through an ethnographic case study of the cultivation program of a Chan (or Zen) Buddhist group in Taiwan. I will argue that cultivation of both body and mind plays a key role in this realization and how one realizes this personhood, both in concept and in practice, has to be understood through in depth ethnographic studies.