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Friday, June 11, 2021

Gautama Club - Topics to think about

 Several years back, I came across a book . It is a small pocket-diary size book, by William Zimmerman. It was a book with just one  question at the top of each page. The rest of that page and the next page were empty. It was meant to record our own thoughts and answers to those questions. “It is a “Journal of Thoughts” as the author intended it to be.

The book had interesting questions such as: “What is your most valuable treasure? And why is it so?”; “Were you ever lost? What happened?”; “What kind of person do you want to be? How, if at all, would you change?”; “What are your hopes in life?”. And so on. I answered all of them somewhere in the 1980’s. Then, a few years later, I revisited them to learn about myself. I added a few newer thoughts.

Later, during my career as a medical educator, I created a set of questions for physicians in training to answer. They were focused on medical career. It included questions such as: "Do you think you are a good listener? Do others think you are a good listener?" and “If a patient does not follow your advice what will you do?”. At least one student wrote to me to say that this was the most helpful “homework” she ever did. 

Fast forward almost 50 years to my post retirement years. I wanted to organize sessions with friends thinking about what I consider to be “important questions in life”, which will help us all grow. I even gave a name to that group – The Gautama Club, after Gautama Buddha. The idea never took off, although I tried more than twice. 

I had prepared a set of questions to discuss in Socratic style and in the style of our ancient Rishis. The idea is for each one to reflect on these questions and to share their thoughts. The idea was not necessarily to convince others of our way of thinking but to learn different ways of thinking about the same issues.

I believe that it is important to reflect on these questions for many other reasons. There is great deal of reliable, evidence-based information on the physical aspects of the universe, on life sciences, heredity, and genetics and on functions of the human brain. There are hundreds of volumes on philosophy, religion, morals, ethics and so on. In fact, we have too much information now. This is the age of Information overload.  

But we are also carrying outdated information from the past out of respect for traditions, out of habit, or because it is convenient to follow and are afraid of letting go.

We need to merge reason with faith. We need to let go of dogmas and think with an open mind. We need to realign old ideas and beliefs with current knowledge. We need to develop new ideas on dharma (Ethics and virtues) for the 21st century and new ideas on sacredness common to all of humanity. 

Instead of burying the questions I had prepared for these session, I have now decided to put them in these blogs, hoping someone else will find them useful to think about. There are questions for 4 sessions. The following is the first set. If any one is interested in starting such a discussion group,  I will be very glad to help and participate.

Session 1: Four sets of Four  Questions:

                First set:               What is life?  

                                            What is the meaning of life, in general? 

                                            What is the purpose in life, for me specifically?  

                                            Who am I?                                               

                Second set:         Am I sure? 

                                            Am I present here and now? 

                                            Am I just following my “habit energy”?  

                                            Who cares 100 years from now?      (from Rev. Thich Naht Hanh)                                                                                               

               Third set:             What are my nourishments? Are they wholesome, noble, helpful? 

                                            What are the nourishments For the body? What do I eat and drink? 

                                            For the mind? What kind of books do I read, TV and other visual things I                                                  see, music and talks I listen to, and things I think most about? 

                                            For personal aspirations and goals in life: What I do, how I do, what I                                                        support and what I oppose? 

                                            For the community: Am I  working for the common good with a sense of                                                cooperation and compassion?                      

                Fourth set:         If I am reflective, and spend time in meditation and “deep looking” without                                               justifying myself or tying myself into a knot? 

                                         Why am I meditating? 

                                        What is the goal: silence, curiosity, to know myself  better, to know the                                                     world around me better, for peace and harmony, to merge with the ONE?  

                                        What method am I using? Am I on my own? With a “guru” or a guide and a                                            coach? Is this the best for my personality and needs?  

                                        So what? What do you do with the insight?



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