C.W. Huntington and Francisca Cho: Emptiness and Fiction

C.W. Huntington

This episode of the Wisdom Podcast features Buddhist thinkers C.W. “Sandy” Huntington and Francisca Cho. Sandy is the author of Mayaa recent novel published by Wisdom. Francisca is an associate professor of Buddhist Studies at Georgetown University and the author/translator of the Wisdom book Everything Yearned For: Manhae’s Poems of Love and Longing.

Sandy begins by reflecting on how the conflation of reality and illusion is a central theme in his novel, and what draws him to this theme. Francisca responds by bringing in the theme of “real life” versus art, and questions the way these two are set in opposition. We then hear Sandy’s thoughts on how what we call reality resembles a story, and Francisca’s thoughts on how even science tells us stories and what this means for the dialog and conflicts between science and religion.

Sandy shares how his journey into Buddhism started with a curiosity about suffering, and Francisca tells us how she became interested in philosophy and fiction. She introduces the idea of how the experience of art is no different than a religious practice. She brings in daoism and how it emphasizes the importance of our everyday, “nothing special” actions as a lived philosophy.

Sandy then discusses his understanding of the Buddhist debate about whether things ultimately exist or not. He shares his thoughts on how philosophical arguments have an ultimately groundless or dreamlike quality, and the importance of keeping a sense of humor in academic discourse. Sandy also reflects on how people get attached to their own practice of Buddhism, and how fiction and dreaming can help us see the fictitious, dreamlike nature of everyday life.

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Maya: A Novel

It is 1975 and India is in turmoil. American Stanley Harrington arrives to study Sanskrit philosophy and escape his failing marriage. When he finds himself witness to a violent accident, he begins to question his grip on reality.

Maya introduces us to an entertaining cast of hippies, expats, and Indians of all walks of life. From a hermit hiding in the Himalayan jungle since the days of the British Raj, to an accountant at the Bank of India with a passion for Sanskrit poetry, to the last in a line of brahman scholars, Stanley’s path ultimately leads him to a Tibetan yogi, who enlists the American’s help in translating a mysterious ancient text.

Maya, literally “illusion,” is an extended meditation on the unraveling of identity. Filled with rich observations and arresting reflections, it mines the porous border between memory and imagination.

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C. W. Huntington Jr. translates and interprets classical Sanskrit and Tibetan texts and is a professor at Hartwick College in Oneonta, New York. He is the author The Emptiness of Emptiness.

 

Francisca Cho
Francisca Cho is an associate professor of Buddhist Studies at Georgetown University. She specializes in the expression of Buddhism through fiction, poetry, and film, particularly in East Asia. She is the author/translator of Everything Yearned For: Manhae’s Poems of Love and Longing (Wisdom Publications), and her book, Seeing Like the Buddha: Enlightenment Through Film will be published by SUNY Press in 2016. She has also recently published Religion and Science in the Mirror of Buddhism (Routledge Press, 2015).