Meditation in the context of a naturalized eudaimonic Buddhism

Authored by: Seth Zuihō Segall

Routledge Handbook on the Philosophy of Meditation

Print publication date:  May  2022
Online publication date:  May  2022

Print ISBN: 9780367647469
eBook ISBN: 9781003127253
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter proposes a revisionist interpretation of Buddhism that blends elements of traditional understandings of Buddhist enlightenment with compatible aspects of Aristotelian eudaimonia (well-being, flourishing). This naturalized interpretation views the endpoint of Buddhist practice as exceptional well-being within a single lifetime, but significantly preserves Mahāyāna Buddhism’s emphases on emptiness and nonduality. It is based on the premises that we cannot know reality-in-itself but only how reality discloses itself to us, which cannot be exhaustively described, and that we all desire happiness and to live subjectively good lives. Given these premises, this chapter explores ways of understanding Buddhist meditative experiences that vary from traditional Buddhist understandings, and critically examines three claims: that meditation puts one in direct contact with the “way things really are”; that meditative experience is primarily nonconceptual; and that meditative realizations of nonduality, emptiness, and non-self are “truer” than our default way of experiencing the world. If these claims cannot be substantiated, then what is meditative experience good for? This chapter enumerates ways in which meditative experience may both facilitate progress towards the Buddhist modernist goal of eudaimonic enlightenment, and serve to ameliorate problematic aspects of the modern Western mode of being-in-the-world.

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