The Purpose of Practical Philosophy
Philosophy means the love of wisdom*. Some courses in philosophy take a purely academic approach to the subject but in our school we study philosophy as a practical discipline which has a bearing on every aspect of human life. It aims to enable people to develop and deepen their experience of life and of oneself and to lead a happier and more fulfilling life.
So what prompts people to enquire into practical philosophy? Some feel that there must be more to life and look for meaning, purpose or direction, others are simply curious to know more about philosophy and what philosophers have said or done, and yet others may have profound questions like ‘Who am I? or ‘What am I?’ These are all good reasons for studying practical philosophy and through such an inquiry much can be discovered especially about our own self and our relationship to others and the universe. It awakens the student to the innate wisdom, consciousness and bliss that is within each of us. All that is needed is an open mind and a spirit of enquiry. No prior knowledge is required. Students are asked neither to accept nor reject what is presented but to test it out in practice in their own experience. We also encourage our students to actively question and enquire; good answers come from good questions.
Our Introductory course endeavours to give students a clear insight into the value of practical philosophy and living in the present. This is developed further in the Foundation group which explores essential themes of happiness, love, presence and freedom. From the second year onwards we focus on philosophy as a way of life and practical ways in which we might go about realising our true self. Our approach has been inspired by western philosophers such as Plato and most profoundly by Advaita philosophy, one of the most influential schools of Vedanta philosophy**. This universal philosophy teaches that the one light of the Self, or ultimate Reality, is in everybody and every particle in creation. The Self is everywhere the same, and one’s ultimate goal is to realise the Self. This same direction was famously stated by the ancient Greeks and inscribed above the entrance to the Temple of Apollo, home to the Oracle of Delphi - ‘Know Thyself’.
Practising philosophy and meditation leads towards this end and students learn to discriminate between the transitory and the eternal, between that which has form and that which does not, between words and consciousness or spirit, so that one can enjoy forms, words and also the real Being.
* From the Greek - Philo (love) - Sophia (of wisdom)
** Advaita: literally meaning ‘not two’, non-dual or Universal.