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Consciousness in Oscillation

Worldviews and their Transcendence as Spiritual Practice


Sonja Lenk

The thesis addresses the question of human consciousness in its oscillation between conditioning and transcendence: the impact of cultural worldviews on the individual’s lifeworld and their gradual transcendence as a form of spiritual practice. At the centre of attention is a group of individuals and their unfolding life-stories as they move through a journey of transformation, seeking to explore and understand the complexity of their own consciousness. The emphasis is on the embodiment of belief systems and the individuals’ inherent existential power to transcend cultural precepts. Methodologically, the study is based in phenomenological anthropology. It thus employs the first-person perspective and includes subjective personal experience as primary data.


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Background The origin of this research is based on an encounter with Buddhist culture in Thailand and its particular understanding of the human potential embodied in the person of the Buddha. The very first encounter was in 1990, which aroused a strong curiosity and a wish to know more about this particular belief system. The Buddhist way of conceiving the human being and its potential was strik- ingly different to any Western European understanding I had ever come across, most certainly in terms of religious culture where the contrast between the sym- bol of Jesus being nailed to the cross and the Buddha sitting in the lotus position, serenely smiling was indeed perplexing. From this first encounter followed fre- quent journeys to South-East Asia, in particular Thailand and Laos, over the next twelve years, and an engagement with Buddhist scriptures. The story of the Buddha was that he had been a man, a human being, not a god, or son of a god, or any other kind of deity, who had by his own powers gained deep insight into the human condition and the inevitable nature of suffer- ing connected with it. The philosophy he developed from his insights is based on the so-called ‘Four Noble Truths’: 1) Life is suffering; 2) There are discernable causes for suffering, namely craving and attachment; 3) The cessation of suffer- ing is possible; 4) The actual cure for suffering: The Noble Eightfold Path, or Middle Way. The good news from the Buddha’s teaching...

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