Philosophy

To be a philosopher is not merely to have subtle thoughts … but so to love wisdom as to live according to its dictates, a life of simplicity, independence, magnanimity and trust.
— Henry David Thoreau

The School’s courses assist students in realizing their full potential and are open to anyone curious about self-discovery, increased mindfulness, greater awareness and insight into their true nature.

The School’s philosophical teaching is underscored by the non-denominational, universal principle of Unity (Oneness) and an appreciation of stillness. The School’s course material is inspired by the wisdom of the ages, and draws upon the words of eminent philosophers — from Plato, Socrates and the Buddha, to Shakespeare, Emerson and Shantananada Saraswati.

The program is arranged in three levels, starting with the Introductory Course, followed by Foundation Courses and Continuing Philosophy.

The Introductory Course

The introductory course encourages students to gain access to inner happiness, wisdom and strength. The premise is that within each of us is an inexhaustible source of nourishment, well-being and understanding. The aim is to put students in touch with this inner resource. Classes include the presentation of key principles and discussion of students’ experience in putting these principles into practice.

Introductory Course

Life moves at a faster and faster pace. The newest phone that you obsessed over now won’t stop buzzing and making demands on your time. Your commute buries you in stress before you even arrive at the office. The incessant demands of family and friends leave you exhausted and dreading the weekends.

How can you find answers when there doesn’t even seem to be enough time to ask the questions?

The School of Practical Philosophy’s introductory course provides a framework to discover answers in a lively, interactive atmosphere. Over ten weekly sessions, explore proven wisdom from humanity’s greatest teachers to help uncover inner happiness, wisdom and strength. Discover practical exercises to set you free from the fears, anxieties and stresses that prevent you from appreciating daily life.

This course is not an academic endeavor: there are no tests or quizzes, grades or certificates. Instead, participants are asked to actively apply philosophical principles to their daily lives. Success can be determined by participants’ abilities to uncover an innate truth, stillness and wisdom that will enable them to meet the world with grace and equanimity.

This introductory course is being offered for free this term, with just a $10 administrative charge.

 

Explore the content covered below. Note: In the online format, the classes proceed at one hour per week and cover first five sessions in the Introductory Course and the next five sessions in the Philosophy 1B Course.

Session 1

The Wisdom Within

What is Philosophy? Why study Philosophy?

Introduction to two very practical exercises in awareness.

Session 2

Levels of Awareness

The wise live a life governed by principle.
How often and for how long are we awake?

Session 3

Being Awake

How can we live more consciously and with greater purpose?
Observation and the spirit of inquiry.

Session 4

The Power of Attention

How can we increase the power of attention and realize our full potential?
What you give your attention to grows.

Session 5

The Power of Listening

The difference between hearing and listening
Breaking habits of unnecessary speech.
Learning to listen.

Session 6

A New Way of Seeing

When awareness and attention are open, how far can we see?
Where is Beauty?  What is beauty itself?
A practical investigation based on Plato’s Symposium

Session 7

Who Me? A Remedy for Negative Feelings

Who is the center of attention?
What can be done about the negativity that limits our awareness and happiness
Introduction to a time-tested remedy for negative feelings.

Session 8

Self-Knowledge: Who Am I?

How can we wake up more often during the day?
Am I this body? Mind? Heart? Is there more?
Self-knowledge through observation: If you can see it, you can’t be it.

Session 9

Unity in Diversity

What is the ultimate aim of this study?
“Widening our circle of compassion”.
The philosophy of non-duality.

Session 10

The Desire for the Truth

What are the marks of truth?
Would we like to live more truthful lives?
The Good Impulse and the way forward.

Foundation Courses

Practical Philosophy continues after the Introductory Course with classes that advance and guide students to open their awareness more fully and connect more deeply within themselves.

Foundation Courses

Each of the Foundation Courses covers a single theme that builds on the material introduced in The Introductory Course. By considering the themes of Happiness, Love, Presence of Mind and Freedom, students can discover ways to find greater joy in everyday life and relationships. Through philosophic teachings, practical exercises and ongoing discussion, students begin to identify the limiting ideas that hold them back while exploring an expansive view of human nature. The cultivation of inner stillness provides the backdrop as students are prepared for the introduction of meditation in the fifth course.

Explore the content covered below.

Philosophy 2

Happiness

May all be happy.
May all be without disease.
May all creatures have well-being.
None should be in misery of any sort.
– Ancient Vedic Statement

What is true happiness?
Is happiness natural to a man or woman?
How is happiness experienced fully and how is it lost?
Is happiness found in the present moment?
What is the relationship between happiness and wisdom?

Philosophy 3

Love

‘You live that you may learn to love. You love that you may learn to live. No other lesson is required of Man.”
– Mikhail Naimy, The Book of Mirdad

What is love? Is love part of who we really are?
Does gratitude strengthen love?
How do the mind and heart affect our ability to love?
Is it possible to step free from hostility?
What is the relationship between love and knowledge?

Philosophy 4

Presence of mind

“A man is literally what he thinks, his character being the complete sum of all his thoughts.”
– James Allen, As a Man Thinketh

What are the powers and capabilities of the mind?
How may the mind be helped to a greater presence?
Is there an underlying and unchanging existence that can be experienced?
How do unnecessary thoughts, dreams and procrastination carry the mind away?
Who am I really?

Philosophy 5

Freedom

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
– Invictus, William Ernest Henley

What is true freedom?
Is it possible to live without feeling burdened?
Is there such a thing as emotional freedom?
In what ways do the concepts of ‘I,’ ‘Me’ and ‘Mine’ tyrannize people?
How is it possible to realize one’s full potential and live a noble life?
How can meditation make one steady, peaceful and capable?

Continuing Courses

Following the first 5 terms and the introduction to meditation, the School’s philosophy curriculum expands. Emphasis is placed on a variety of areas including the refinement of meditation. Students have the opportunity to meet one on one with another student who is well practiced in meditation to discuss questions or difficulties that the practice brings to light.

Continuing Courses

Once students have been introduced to the practice of meditation, they will continue their study and practice of Philosophy through courses meant to expand the ideas offered in the Introductory and the Foundation Courses. The emphasis of Continuing Philosophy is on the refinement of meditation, practicing presence of mind, realizing the true nature of the self and applying universal principles to life situations. Students may stay as long as they like: for a term, a year, or a lifetime.

Two additional, complementary activities are offered at this level: service — working with and for others for the sake of carrying out the activities of the School — and periodic weekend retreats at the School’s Upstate New York property.

Explore the content covered below.

Philosophy I-1

The Way of Action

How actions regulate our lives.

Good, bad and indifferent action.

Working with full attention.

Philosophy I-2

The Way of Devotion

Are we devoted to anything?

Do the objects of our devotion really matter?

How is love related to devotion?

What is the effect of giving full devotion in action?

Philosophy I-3

The Way of Knowledge

Different levels of knowledge.

The difference between knowledge and information.

The effect of knowledge on action.

Philosophy I-4

The Way of the Householder

Living in the modern world on the firm foundation of philosophy.

Physical, mental and spiritual energy as the essential capital for life.

Finding the best measure for the world instead of being overcome by the world.

Philosophy I-5

Dharma: Leading a Principled Life

Law governs all activity, regardless of its scale.

Ten essential dharmas.

Philosophy I-6

Decision

The relationship between the universal and the individual.

The limits under which we live and how they affect our freedom.

Common decisions and essential decisions.

For additional continuing courses beyond the above, please click here