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Philosophy Workshop: From Karma to Dharma — Finding Your Way through Indian Philosophy

December 7, 2019 @ 10:00 am - 12:30 pm MST


This 2½-hour workshop led by David Nowakowski will introduce key concepts and arguments from the Buddhist and Hindu philosophical traditions of India.  Our goals will be to dispel some common misconceptions about Indian philosophy and religion, to distinguish different Indian philosophical schools from one another, and to develop a deeper understanding of these rich and varied traditions.  Our central questions will include:

  • What does “karma” really mean?
  • What arguments do Indian philosophers give for reincarnation? What happens to the rest of their teachings if these arguments fail, or we don’t accept reincarnation?  And how is reincarnation supposed to work, anyway?
  • What do these philosophers have to say about the Hindu and Buddhist Gods? What is their relation to the world, to human life, and to the laws of karma?  Do Buddhists even believe in any Gods, or is Buddhism an “atheist religion”?  What about the idea that “everything is one”?
  • And finally, what can these descriptions of the world tell us about our ethical life or our individual and social duties (dharma)?

We will examine concepts that are shared across the various Hindu and Buddhist traditions, as well as those which are explained, defended, or justified quite differently in different philosophical and religious schools.  We will consider the major forms of South Asian Buddhism, the well-known Vedānta tradition of Hinduism, and the less well-known (but historically very influential!) Hindu schools of Nyāya and Mīmāṃsa philosophy.

You will leave the workshop with:

  • a deeper understanding of karmadharma, and other important concepts, as they were explained in their original context,
  • a “roadmap” for situating different (sometimes agreeing, sometimes conflicting) traditions and movements in Indian philosophy, and
  • suggestions for books and other media, to allow you to take the next steps in exploring any of the traditions we’ve discussed.

During the month of December, Merlin’s Philosophy Read-In Group will be exploring the Bhagavad Gītā, which is perhaps the most well-known philosophical and spiritual text of India.  The workshop and the Read-Ins will complement each other, but each will stand alone: you do not need to come to either one in order to attend the other.  But if you do choose to join us for both, you’ll come away with an even fuller and deeper appreciation for the arguments and traditions.

No background in philosophy is required to participate in this workshop. FREE. All ages welcome. $20 Suggested donation. Light snacks & hot tea provided. Space is limited.  Learn more about the workshop leader & reserve your spot here! 



Reeder’s Alley Interpretive & Convention Center
101 Reeder's Alley
Helena, MT 59601 United States
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Marisa Diaz-Waian
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