CONTENTS OF THE PROGRAM
The program consists in the 3 following different components, according to the 3 aims of the program (see above):
The program will provide an introduction in the following traditions of humanity:
1. Ch’an/Zen (with weight on its basics as expressed in early Ch’an in Tang and Sung China).
2. Taoism (early Taoism as in the Taoist classics, and middle philosophical Taoism).
3. General Buddhism (main principles and developments of Buddhism, as a form of mysticism rather than considering its extensive analytical philosophy; specially Indian and Chinese Buddhism, mainly through the study of the Prajnaparamita literature).
4. Indian mysticism (introduction into Vedanta and Bhakti; the same as for Buddhism applies here too).
5. Sufism, with weight on Eastern, Asian Sufism in the Persian tradition (Attar, Rumi, etc.), though early Sufism and later Arabic Sufism (Ibnul Arabi etc.) will be dealt with as well.
6. Apophatic (beyond language, negative) mystical thought in the Ancient World (Pagan and Christian) and the Neoplatonic and Pseudo-Dionysian traditions.
7. Western / Christian mysticism with weight on A) German mysticism in the tradition of Meister Eckhart until Angelus Silesius, B) beguine and heretic mysticism of the Middle Ages, and C) peripheral heretic movements suited for comparison with Asian traditions such as quietism.
8. Hasidism (Jewish mysticism).
9. Mystical expressions in primeval societies.
10. Modern and contemporary non-traditional expressions of mysticism, mysticism in new religious movements, mystical estates in children, in near-death experiences, the problem of drugs and mysticism, and mysticism in science, art and literature.
Logically it will be impossible to teach all these traditions in only a term. This will be fully achieved only over some levels. That means that in the first level some traditions will be taught while others will have to be excluded, but this will be decided 1. in accord with the participants prior to the start of the program, and 2. so that the resulting spectrum covers as much as possible of the real mystical and spiritual spectrum of humanity in all its unity and diversity, e.g. Ch’an (a form of Buddhism) or Indian Buddhism may be excluded but then the other one would have to be kept, and so on. However, the deciding point in this selection will be the pedagogical approach that makes one or another topic or tradition more suited for a start than other ones.
In addition, as it proves usually to be better to learn a few matters in deep rather than a lot superficially, each term a reduced set of very important texts will be chosen from all the core traditions under consideration during that term. A tradition will therefore often be illustrated through the in depth study, commentary and discussion of one or of a few concrete central texts. The exact texts will be made known before the start of the program to all the accepted participants, but any applicant or interested person may ask and get non-compulsory but approximate information about which texts will be dealt with long before. All texts will be read and used in translation.
It will be required that the participants become familiar with the ideas of these texts and of the traditions under study more than with their external, technical or cultural, or historical details (though a minimum of these must be studied, as well, so as to avoid serious confusions).
When the full program is working, a second level would provide in depth study of those traditions that could not in the first one be dealt with in such depth. This (a second level), however, will apply only from 2008 on.
This aspect of the program will be developed mainly through lectures or conferences.
Parallel to the introduction into the said traditions, during the seminars each week we will deal with the ideas these traditions teach us personally and collectively as such, independently from historical or technical dimensions, even from the fact that they belong to that or that tradition; trying to see what we can learn from them both in terms of knowledge and in terms of inner and of ethical development ““ what we should do according to them in order to become better to others, which should be first, and secondly, as for ourselves, to reach deeper levels in, and deeper views on, ourselves and the universe. Questions as the unity or diversity of the different teachings shall be discussed. Finally, we should try to extract consequences that may go beyond the small scope of our little group and build further upon what we understood the texts tell us, in a modest attempt to start the creation or exploration of new ways that may be of use for the human being as a whole, as he is today, progressing upon what we learn from these traditions of old.
This second component will be developed in free but progressive, ordered and tranquil discussions in seminars that will proceed gradually under the direction of the main lecturer.
As learning what the different traditions teach us or discussing what we can build or create starting from that are still just mere words and the most brilliant person at talking and even at understanding all this is still just nearly at the start of any possible way or change, it is expected that the students try to interiorize what they are learning (which of course will be different from case to case) and to make it active in their lives. As opposite to many traditions, it is the belief of LIRSIS that ultimately every one is his or her own way and no way belonging to one can be simply applied to other, though each can learn from the ways of others for his or her own way. Therefore no concrete plan exists regarding how every participant should act to interiorize these teachings and become better. There is no reason, either, to expect or to want wonders, as small steps are wonders in themselves even if we do not notice that. It will depend on each case, his or her life, psychology, interests, circumstances, approaches, capacities, etc. What is expected therefore, is that each student discusses privately with the lecturer about the possible influence what he or she is learning can have on his or her life, what he plans or thinks to do during the stay and later on to make it active in his life, and hearing the opinion of the lecturer, that should be understood as simple advice and subjected to error, formulates with him a concrete plan, that may be changed at any moment but must imply some activity and full sincerity in it, aiming at ameliorating himself, at becoming deeper and at helping others in whatever way. Further, more special expressions of active, explorative mysticism or of creativity will be welcome, as for instance arts or creative writing. Meditation or prayer are welcome for those whose way is that, though both things when done in regulated usual ways following established schemas closely, or in big groups and somehow exhibitionistically or as a way to feel a communal ambiance or just to make friends, are discouraged, and if prayer or meditation is chosen, it will be best done alone and in the individual way that suits the person best.
This component may not be taken slightly. While it is difficult to see how deep or how well one is progressing, it is easy to see if one is not doing any effort to progress at all, and this will lead to overall failure and may occasionally end in exclusion from the program, for example supposing cases such as somebody who simply spends his time in common trips or in bar life.