A Comparative Study of the Teachings of Don Juan and Madhyamaka Buddhism (Knowledge and Transformation)

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Item Code: IDC168
Author: Mark Mac Dowell
Publisher: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Pvt. Ltd.
Language: English
Edition: 1991
ISBN: 8120801628
Pages: 131
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 8.8" X 5.8"
Weight 300 gm
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Book Description

About the Book:

The Publication of Carlos Castaneda's works on the teachings of Don Juan, a yaquti Indian seer, was a momentous event in the history of esoteric literature. At the time of their publication the author was engaged in the study of Indian philosophy, with special reference to the Madhyamaka Buddhism, as formulated and expounded by Nagarjuna. The author was struck by the profound similarities between the teachings of Don Juan and Nagarjuna - in particular concerning Samvrti and Paramartha of Madhyamaka and the Tonal and Nagual of Don Juan and the concept of categorical frameworks. This recognition on his part promoted him to compose the present work.

The author has chosen to write in a manner and style intelligible to the non-specialist and yet an inquiring reader.

The essential unity of human experience is clearly demonstrated by the fact that human beings widely separated in space, time, language and culture, discern, at their wisest, the same fundamental truths concerning man and the world.

About the Author:

Mark MacDowell received the B.S. degree in physics in 1971 from the University of Toledo, Toledo, Ohio, U.S. He subsequently undertook graduate studies in philosophy and received the M.A. degree from the University of Toledo in 1977. His areas of interest are philosophy of science, Indian philosophy and comparative philosophy.

He is an independent businessman and teaches Physics and Calculcus at Terra Technical College, Fremont, Ohio.



Ours is an age of much knowledge but of much very specialized knowledge. Even in recent years we have seen a significant trend from higher education in the traditional sense to a higher education in the form of technical schools larger trend. The larger trend is the same in nature as the more specific one that is technical knowledge has been placed at center stage in our technical world, the domain of this trend is out entire world society. No lover are just a handful of countries exposing small percentages of their population of these specific pursuits. The whole down to the smallest nation is immersed in a sea to technology a sea of specifics.

It is as a counterpoint to this cultural backdrop that the present work is being offered. Don Juan Nagarjuna and others to be mentioned represent islands in our seas. They embody the most fundamental and therefore most general knowledge of the nature of things and yet not so the exclusion of particular knowledge which is so important for our everyday world.

Technology and specialization are not herby being rejected quite the contrary they will be placed in a different perspective than the present day distorted and unhealthy views that dominate our world scene.



In western philosophy and thereby in Western life there has been separation namely that between the mind and the body the dichotomy is not a natural state of affairs but is produced by viewing the world through dualistic categories. One might ask how is this possible we shall answer this question in the sequel.

It is the purpose of this book to address this question in light of relatively new information of occurrences in our own western world. Until recently it has seems that to escape the philosophy of mind body dualism we have had to look to the east. Not that this is any sort of a western parallel work is to show that such a parallel is to be found in the four works of Carlos Castaneda.

Castaneda in the early and mid sixties was a graduate student in the field of sociology. His interest in certain social phenomena led him to Arizona and Mexico where he studied in a manner of speaking not just social Phenomena but phenomena in general. That is to say that Castaneda was introduced to a “man of Knowledge” of American Indian descent.

During the course of Castaneda’s apprenticeship he bore witness to fantastic events, impossible and indescribable by our ordinary categories, and only spoken of in terms of colorful metaphor. The culmination of these experiences is described in Tales of Power.

We are extremely fortunate that the teachings of Castaneda’s gurus (Don Juan and Don Genaro as he calls them) are related in a beautiful fashion by Castaneda. Some time in the course of Castaneda’s apprenticeship he brought to Don Juan a copy of Evans-Wenta’ book, The Tibetan Book of the Dead (Bardo Yhodol) lie queried Don Juan about it, wondering whether or not there were grounds of comparison between Don Juan’s teachings and those of the Bardo Thodol. Don Juan passed the question over lightly, probably because those teachings did not have an immediate bearing on Castaneda’s life as did his own. However, Don Juan did mention that the people espousing those teachings were capable of some of the same realizations of his way of lift. The matter was thereby dropped.

The main purpose of this book, then, is to explore the parallels between the teachings of Don Juan and those of non-Western philosophies—in particular Buddhism, as expounded by Nagarjuna in his Madhyamaka (Middle way) philosophy.

The Madhyamaka school was founded by Nagãrjuna around the second century A.o.,3 as a reaction to the controversy between Sarvastivadins and Mahasañghikas, concerning the onto- logical status of dharmas (ultimate constituents of reality), the former maintaining that dharmas have duration and the latter that dharmas are unequivocally governed by the instantaneous theory of being (doctrine of momentariness “ksanika-väda” ) .

Nagarjuna teaching is the Middle way not because he teaches some sort of mathematical average of these or any other extremes (such as eternalism and annihilationlism self and non self matter and spirit body and soul substance and process unity and plurality identify and difference) but because he espouses non clinging to any extreme there by steering clear of conflict and dogmatism which are the source of dukkha (suffering) during the course of this book we shall investigate the implications of this avoidance of extremes.




1 Prologue ix
I Introduction 1
II The Madhyamaka 8
III Consciousness Ordinary and Non ordinary modes 26
IV Language and reality in Don Juan 42
V The Metaphysics of Don Juan His Conception of Reality 55
VI Don Juan’s Conception of Man as warrior 68
VII Knowledge and power the Psychological teachings of Don Juan 85
VIII Freedom and soterilogy in Don Juan 101
  Bibliography 110
  Index 115

Sample Pages

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