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State University of New York Press
Mutual Causality in Buddhism and General Systems Theory: The Dharma of Natural Systems / Edition 1

Mutual Causality in Buddhism and General Systems Theory: The Dharma of Natural Systems / Edition 1

by Joanna Macy


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This book brings important new dimensions to the interface between contemporary Western science and ancient Eastern wisdom. Here for the first time the concepts and insights of general systems theory are presented in tandem with those of the Buddha. Remarkable convergences appear between core Buddhist teachings and the systems view of reality, arising in our century from biology and extending into the social and cognitive sciences. Giving a cogent introduction to both bodies of thought, and a fresh interpretation of the Buddha’s core teaching of dependent co-arising, this book shows how their common perspective on causality can inform our lives. The interdependence of all beings provides the context for clarifying both the role of meditative practice and guidelines for effective action on behalf of the common good.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780791406373
Publisher: State University of New York Press
Publication date: 07/03/1991
Series: SUNY Series in Buddhist Studies Series
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 254
Sales rank: 962,202
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.58(d)

About the Author

Joanna R. Macy is Adjunct Professor at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco and Starr King School for the Ministry in Berkeley. She is the author of Despair and Personal Power in the Nuclear Age; Dharma and Development; Thinking Like a Mountain: Toward a Council of All Beings (with John Seed, Pat Fleming, and Arne Naess); and World as Lover, World as Self.

Table of Contents



Part One: Background

1. Considering Causality

Like the Air We Breathe
The Linear Unidirectional Causal Paradigm
One-Way Causality in the West
One-Way Causality in Indian Thought
The Mutual Causal Paradigm in the West
The Buddhist Vision of Mutual Causality
The Reciprocal Hermeneutic of Buddhism and General Systems Theory

Part Two: Perceptions of Mutual Causality

2. The Buddhist Teaching of Dependent Co-Arising

The Central Role of the Causal Doctrine in the Dharma
Linear Causality in Pre-Buddhist India
Comparison with Western Linear Views
Scriptural Presentations of Paticca Samuppada

3. Dependent Co-Arising as Mutual Causality

From Substance to Relation
No First Cause
Syntax of Interdependence
Reciprocity of Causal Factors
Abhidharmist Interpretations
Paticca Samuppada as Interdependence

4. General Systems Theory

Science's Problems with the One-Way Causal Paradigm
The Perception of Systems in the Life Sciences
Cybernetics and the Concept of Feedback
Systemic Invariances and Hierarchies
Systems Theory in the Social Sciences
The Cognitive System
Systems and Value

5. Mutual Causality in General Systems Theory

The Transformation of Causes within the System
Feedback as Causal Loop
Negative Feedback Processes
Positive Feedback Processes
Seeing Causes

Part Three: Dimensions of Mutual Causality

6. Self as Process

Everything Changes
The Illusion of Separate Selfhood
No Clear Lines of Demarcation
The Lethal Mirage

7. The Co-Arising of Knower and Known

Perception as Convergence of Factors
Consciousness: Conditioned and Transitive
Information Circuits
Shaping the World through Projection
Learning as Self Reorganization
The Limits of Cognition
Objectless Knowing
Who is Knowing?

8. The Co-Arising of Body and Mind

Linear Views
"Like Two Sheaves of Reeds"
Two Sides of a Coin
The Internality of All Systems
The Ubiquity and Particularity of Mind
Beyond the Fear of Matter

9. The Co-Arising of Doer and Deed

Identity and Accountability
The Question of Rebirth
Kaya and Karma
Structure and Function
Past and Present
The Dharma and Determinism
The Determinacy of Choice
The Cognitive System as Decision Center

10. The Co-Arising of Self and Society

Participation and Particularity
The Interdependence of Person and Community
The Dharma of Social Systems

11. Mutual Morality

Concern for Other Beings
Tolerance and Iconoclasm
Political Engagement
Right Livelihood and Economic Sharing
Ends and Means

12. The Dialectics of Personal and Social Transformation

Free to Reconnect
The Tree and the Flame



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Mutual Causality in Buddhism and General Systems Theory: The Dharma of Natural Systems 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
MarcMarcMarc on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is an extremely important text. A remarkable accomplishment.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I still refer to this book when considering the Wisdom aspect of the Dharma. Perhaps it also helps that I've worked with computers for the past thirty years and have visceral experience of Systems Theory. The book has its quaintness. Most western published books on Dependence Arising and its related subject of Inherent Emptiness, are written from a Mahayana perspective (Garfield, Napper, Hopkins, et alia) commenting on the philosophy of Nagarjuna or Chandrakirti. Macy's book is based on her Sri Lankan co-operative experience and the language, when necessary, is Pali rather than Sanskrit. Nevertheless, this is the BEST introduction to Dependence Arising by far. It explains the philosophy well, and grounds it in practical experience as well as making connection with the Greek Pre-Socratics and Wittgenstein. This is not a chicky-horsey-ducky guide, but it does explain the Buddhist view of the world giving the reader the vocabulary to express a worldview other than the hierarchic, single-progenitor view so common in Christian America.