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9.4: Study Questions on Similarities and Differences

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    The two methods of meditation, satiparrhana and hesychasm, have a number of remarkable similarities as well as several differences. Spend some time comparing the accounts. Keep in mind the danger of generalizing from these specific forms of meditative practice to all forms of meditative practice in either tradition. Also be mindful of how much may be involved implicitly in the actual practice of these specific forms that may be going unsaid in the two accounts just given. Consider the following questions.

    1. What similarities do you find? What similar functions or purposes do the specific features of the practice of each method seem to have (e.g., posture, manner of breathing, self-control, role of guidance, undistracted attentiveness, method of dealing with distractions, effort to enter wholly into the present moment, avoidance of imagination, the kind of overall goal or objective sought, etc.)?
    2. With respect to features they have in common, which of the two emphasizes that feature more than the other? (E.g., satipatthana emphasizes posture and setting more than hesychasm.)
    3. Assuming that both of these practices exemplify the same generic way of being religious in two distinct religious traditions, what if anything do the similarities identified in answer to the first question indicate that is essential to that way of being religious (which the framework identifies as mystical quest)?
      1. What, if anything, do these two practices have in common regarding their respective means of approach to ultimate realityo?
      2. What characteristic existential problems are each concerned with and seeking to address? What do the accounts presume to be motivating their respective readers?
      3. Is there anything that indicates the characteristic way each interprets its broader tradition's scripture and symbol system in a manner distinct from other traditional ways of taking them? What sorts of features of ultimate realityo? does each specifically highlight? That is, what kind of "face" does each envision ultimate realityo? to have?
      4. What sorts of social structures (social organization, group activity, roles and responsibilities, etc.) does each have or recommend?
      5. What specific virtues in the practice of its religious life does each appear to commend, whether explicitly or implicitly, and what specific vices in that practice does each appear to condemn? (Be careful here to distinguish criticisms each may apparently offer of the religious practices of others from critical expectations set for its own members.) That is, what ideal(s) of practice does each uphold? And what sorts of things would fall short of those ideals?
    4. What differences do you find (e.g., in respect to specific dos and don'ts, techniques of meditation, role of guidance, focus on theologicalo conviction, engagement with metaphysical realitieso, reliance upon divine assistance', etc.)? Is one more definite about what to expect when? Is one more open and dynamic, more open to surprising discovery? What specific goals or objectives is each setting out to accomplish?
    5. How specifically is the nature of the respective meditative experience (the experience of the meditative practice itself something different in each case?
    6. What among the differences identified in questions 4 and 5 seem to be due to what makes the one Buddhist (or specifically Theravada Buddhist) and the other Christian (or specifically Eastern Orthodox Christian)? (Again beware, here, of concluding that these practices represent all instances of the way of mystical quest in their respective traditions.)

    This page titled 9.4: Study Questions on Similarities and Differences is shared under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Dale Cannon (Independent) via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.

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