SCHOOL OF PRACTICAL PHILOSOPHY, CAPE TOWN
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The Philosophy classes put personal experience alongside the "words of the wise" - the philosophers, teachers, poets and mystics of both East and West.
Students are urged to keep an open mind and always to test out the ideas put forward in their own practical experience. Study and practice go together. The aim here is that each person discover what is true, not as a concept, but in their direct experience. Concepts can be useful as pointers, but what is real lies beyond that.
What sources do the courses draw on? The Platonic tradition and Judeo-Christian teachings have always been central. In the early years of the school, the ideas of the philosopher Gurdjieff and his follower Ouspensky were also studied.
Eventually the search led to the ancient concept of unity, which runs like a golden thread through many of the philosophies over the ages. This is the cornerstone of the School's philosophy and is summed up by the old Sanskrit word "advaita" which means "not two, not many". With this teaching, the aim is to discover and realise in life the unity that lies behind the creation and everything in it. In practical terms it recognises the brotherhood of all men, irrespective of sex, nationality, race, religion etc. This leads us back to the conclusion that all religions and philosophies reflect differing aspects of this one truth.
The School received highly practical guidance on this philosophical quest over a period of 30 years from one of India's recognised spiritual leaders, Sri Shantanand Saraswati, former Shankaracharya of the North. He has provided advice in the study and application of the Vedic philosophy, which in turn gives new vitality to the Western philosophical tradition.
For those students who wish to pursue their studies beyond the Foundation Courses (usually after a year or two), a simple system of meditation is offered. This practice has been found to promote inner peace and stillness of mind - necessary qualities for true understanding.
Out of the practical work of the School has come a flowering of talents among the students. Music, language, mathematics and the visual arts are studied by professionals and amateurs alike who have each enhanced their skills and explored their subjects in the light of philosophical principles. In some of the larger centres (e.g. London, New York, Dublin, Amsterdam, Johannesburg) an interest in education has led to the establishment of day schools for children which offer high standards of integrity and academic excellence. The approach to education is holistic and tries to address the full development of the child.
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