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Magid to challenge the pursuit of happiness

Barry Magid

Is the pursuit of happiness actually a cause of suffering? Barry Magid, author of Ending the Pursuit of Happiness: A Zen Guide, will address this question on Tuesday, March 25 as part of the lead-up to the Dalai Lama’s visit in July.

The lecture by Magid, a Zen teacher, psychiatrist, and psychoanalyst practicing in New York City, is free and open to the public. He will speak at 4:10 p.m. Tuesday in Sinclair Auditorium.

“Dr. Magid has opened a provocative dialogue between psychoanalysis and Zen Buddhism,” says Lloyd Steffen, professor of religion studies and university chaplain. “As a practitioner of both psychoanalysis and Zen Buddhism, Dr. Magid reminds us that psychoanalysis focuses on questions about how we are to live, and how we are to balance social responsibility with personal happiness; it is not a hard science, nor is it interested in acquiring new facts as if knowledge will suffice to bring happiness.”

In his philosophy, which he draws from Zen Buddhist psychology, Magid directs attention to the contentment that is to be found in the way things are. He argues that the great problem in life is conflict, and that conflicts are not resolved by increased knowledge or more information.

“Buddhism in this sense is not a therapy,” Steffen says. “Zen Buddhism provokes questions that remind psychoanalysts that they are not in the ‘fix it’ business,” he says. “The caution here is that people in their spiritual journeys or their quests for healing and happiness should not enter into Buddhist practice just to reap some benefit. Zen Buddhism focuses in on the importance of leaving things where they are—seeing things as they are—and becoming aware of the ways in which we create conflicts by the categories and concepts we construct in our thinking,”

By inviting Magid to Lehigh, Steffen says the university will learn more about the complexity of Buddhism even as, in preparation for the Dalai Lama’s July 2008 visit, the community connects to matters that seem central to Buddhist thinking and practice, such as the focus on meditation, and the need to work through emotions such as fear and anxiety while not escaping the reality of everyday life.

“In Lehigh’s year of preparation, one of the things we want to learn about Buddhism is that it is a profound religion, but not only a religion,” Steffen says. “It is also a philosophy, an ethic, and a psychology. Barry Magid is a person who can provide us with the insight into the philosophical and psychological aspects of Buddhism, thereby broadening our understanding of the religion and moving us toward a greater appreciation for the Buddhism that has shaped the lives of so many people through the ages, including the Dalai Lama’s.”

Magid’s talk is the latest in a series of events designed to educate the campus community prior to His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama’s visit in July. His visit will include a series of teachings as well as a half-day public lecture on July 13. The five-and-a-half days of teachings, sponsored by the Tibetan Buddhist Learning Center in Washington, N.J., will take place July 10-15.

All of the events will take place in Stabler Arena on the Goodman Campus. Tickets to the public lecture are sold out, but there are still tickets available for the five-and-a-half days of teachings.

For the latest information on the Dalai Lama’s visit, check out Lehigh’s Dalai Lama Web site.

--Elizabeth Shimer Bowers

Posted on Friday, March 21, 2008

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