Australian General Semantics Society Inc.




Seminar Summary - March 2017


"Buddhist General Semantics - Continued ..."

A New Approach to Buddhist Religion and its Philosophy.  We considered how this ancient religion (or “a-theism”) is still alive and growing, in light of Bruce Kodish’s book that we studied in April, the (hypothetical) visits by the Buddha himself, and Alfred Korzybski’s G.S. formulations. 
Led by Robert.



Our seminar
at "Cifftop View" Bonnet Bay in Sydney was hosted as usual by Pauline and Gavan - Thank you both!


It was a while since our last seminar, so there were some triumphs and tragedies to relate and yarns to swap.


GS Diary
In the spirit of "applying general semantics principles" to our lives, as opposed to dwelling in theory, we considered members' accounts of observations and applications relating to the principles and formulations of our discipline.

We've touched on Buddhism before, so this time we aimed to extend and deepen our consideration of the specifics of how GS and Buddhism overlap and differ.


A Few Reflections on General Semantics

In consideration of a "relatively new" participant to our group this month, we revised some basic GS concepts/formulations, and some of the Buddhist material that we previously covered.

1. Review of General Semantics:

  * History of GS and Alfred Korzybski's life and times,
  * "Manhood of Humanity"and "Science and Sanity",
  * The discipline of General Semantics and later writings,
  * The Institute, Australian General Semantics Society.
  * Laurie Cox's Keynote Address at the AGS Conference 2010.

2. Some of our encounters
 with the Buddha and his

  * Previous AGS seminars on Buddhism,
  * The remarkable(hyperthetical visit of Korzybski and Buddha last year!

4. Some Principles in Buddhism:

  * Mindah-Lee Kumar's video: "The Four Noble Truths" of Buddhism.
  * MindahBan Cerddorion's video "Eightfold Path - Right Speech"
     This was deemed a particularly strong link to GS, as we emphasise the great power of
     speech in influencing thought and action.  We considered a number of mis-usages of speech, eg:
    * False speech ("fake news", our "post-truth" age etc),
    * Slander, malicious speech,
    * Harsh speech (ellect on relatonships etc),
    * Gossip, spiteful, mean talk (harmful even if true).

We dwelt at some length on the "Four Noble Truths" and the "Eightfold Path", and their parallels in GS, keeping in mind the cultural and historical context of the origins of these two disciplines.

5. Some Well-Known Applications:

  * The Royal Society's motto "Nullius en verba" ("On the word of no-one"), ie "Scientific method requires direct observation, not reliance on doctrine, conventional wisdom or tradition.

  * Buddha: "Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agress with your own reason and your own common sense."

We considered this (alleged) quotation at some length, first because it is probably not accurate (eg the reference to "reading"), and also because belief of our written record of this statement would imply that we accept it as true ...

6. Khai Thien's book "Budhist General Semantics"

  * We've been reading this book for a while, but, as usual, found that it deserves
     quite a bit of re-reading!

Bruce Kodish's review was of interest, firstly because Bruce put quite some effort into critiquing Khai Thien's work, and secondly because we are always interested in Bruce's thoughts and opinions.

7.Samuel Bois's article "GS and Zen"

This long article contained far more content and references than we could expect to cover in the day, but we distributed a copy and discussed some on the main contentions.

8.Jessica Bridges's Article "Buddhism and GS"

Jessica's content and style were considered more accessible to us that that of Samuel's, so we were able to work through some of the details.  It illustrated some of the many overlapping features of GS and Buddhism, despite the great cultural and historical differences in their evolution.


Business Meeting

We reflected on the year past and planned for the year ahead, in our usual style.

Next Meeting:

Sat 8 April
"Introduction to GS for beginners"
The information gained will then be applied to the problem of living a healthy lifestyle, which includes getting down to a healthy weight.
Led by David Hewson

Disclaimer: This "summary" is a collection of notes derived from our discussion by a number of means.  It is by no means a scholarly dissertation on the subject as presented.  It does not purport to be the "policy of AGS".  Comment and criticism (constructive or otherwise) is welcome.  If anyone has been misquoted, copyrights infringed or confidences betrayed, please Contact us.

(partly reproduced from previous AGS seminar summaries)

A1. Some Foundations of Buddhism -
      The Four Noble Truths

      * All life knows suffering.
     Nobody gets (all of) what they want in life. 

The cause of suffering is ignorance and clinging.

           Wanting it is the problem.

      * There is a way to end suffering.
           By learning not to want it.

      * This is the way to end suffering:
           The Eightfold Path.

This list is obviously a gross simplification, but it is a start.  We discussed these issues at some length, in light of issues like the need to define “happiness” and “suffering”, and minimising expectations. 

Mindah-Lee Kumar explains the Four Noble truths in this video:
Buddhist Beliefs: The Four Noble Truths
- Duration: 19 minutes.  

A2. The Five Precepts 

The Five Precepts are the basis of Buddhist morality.

    * The first precept is to avoid killing or harming living beings.

    * The second is to avoid stealing,

    * The third is to avoid sexual misconduct,

    * The fourth is to avoid lying

    * The fifth is to avoid alcohol and other intoxicating drugs.

We thought that these were pretty acceptable, and quite in accord with the GS principles of time-binding etc.

A3. The Eight-Fold Path 

      * Right Understanding

          Learning the nature of reality and the truth about life.

* Right Aspiration
          Committing to live in such a way that our suffering can end.

* Right Effort
          Just do it - No Excuses!

* Right Speech
          Speaking the truth in a helpful and compassionate way.

* Right Conduct
          Living a life consistent with our values.

* Right Livelihood
          Earning a living in a way that doesn’t hurt others.

*. Right Mindfulness
          Recognising the value of the moment; living where we are.

* Right Concentration
          Expanding our consciousness through meditation.

And yes, there’s a nice video for this as well:  
Buddhist Teachings: The Noble Eightfold Path - Duration: 28 minutes.  

A4. The Royal Society and Buddha on "Not just believing":
This is surely an expression of our GS formulation that “The map (econventional wisdom) is not the territory.” 

And the Buddha is often quoted thus:
“Believe nothing,
  no matter where you read it,
  or who said it,
  no matter if I have said it,
  unless it agrees with your own
  and your own common sense.”


The Buddha’s reply is very full, but it’s clear he says that “reason” (logical conjecture, inference, analogies, agreement through pondering views) and “common sense” (probability) are not sufficient bases for determining what

A5: More reviews:

Another review of T
hien’s book can be found here: 

Bruce Kodish reviewed the book here, with some thoughtful comments.  

Zen Buddhism and General Semantics.”
by Jessica Bridges
This essay is quite an accessible piece of work – a good introduction to the subject. 

“General Semantics and Zen”By J. Samuel Bois. 
See this
long article by our familiar Bois. 



Updated by RJ 6 March 2017

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