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The Cloud of Unknowing

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The Cloud Of Unknowing: A classic of Christian mystical wisdom, now in modern English

Original editor Evelyn Underhill

Modern edit and narration Chirag Patel

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In the middle ages, Christianity shared much with Buddhism and other Eastern philosophies. Read on to learn how Christian mystics came to the same conclusions as those from very different faiths. This edition has been adapted from the 1923 version into modern English to make the ideas more accessible to today’s reader, the Cloud of Unknowing distills a complex mystical epistemology and discipline into engagingly readable prose.

The Cloud of Unknowing is a work of Christian mysticism written in Middle English in the latter half of the 14th century. It is a spiritual guide, which focuses on using contemplative prayer to know God by abandoning consideration of God’s particular activities and attributes, and having the courage to surrender your mind and ego to the realm of “unknowing”, at which point one may begin to glimpse the nature of God.

The book counsels the young student to seek God, not through knowledge and intellect, but through intense contemplation, motivated by love, and stripped of all thought. This is brought about by putting all thoughts and desires under a “cloud of forgetting,” and thereby piercing God’s cloud of unknowing with a “dart of longing love” from the heart.

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Xiaojiang | The Classic of Filial Piety

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Xiaojiang | The Classic of Filial Piety

The classic Confucian book for Children

Translated by Ivan Chen

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For over two thousand years, this books has been the foundation of Chinese family life.

Based on a series of conversations with Confucius, and supplemented by a series of story examples by an Emperor in the 11th Century, it is essential to understanding the nature and order of Chinese society. It speaks of how one should behave towards a senior such as one’s parents, elder brother or ruler, and the obligations that follow in the opposite direction. Written in 400BC, the Xiaojang is legendarily a dialogue between Confucius and Zeng Zi, a disciple who was well known for his filial piety.

Since that time, it has been an essential tool of Chinese civilisation, often being the first book that Chinese children are given when they are able to read it. For Confucius and his disciples, family life is the foundation and cornerstone of society, and recognising the value and impact of family harmony on both the local and greater environments is crucial to stability and prosperity.

SOME OPINIONS OF THE PRESS

  • The Athenaeum.–“We wish that there were more of them; they are dreamy, lifelike, and fascinating.”
  • Pall Mall Gazette.–“No translation of this important work has been made since the beginning of the eighteenth century.”
  • Manchester Courier.–“Worthy of close study by all who would penetrate to the depth of Eastern thought and feeling.”
  • The Scotsman.–” should not fail to please readers of the more studious sort.”
  • Southport Guardian.–“will find considerable favour with all Students of Eastern Literature and Eastern Philosophy.”
  • Bristol Mercury.–“We commend these little books to all who imagine that there is no knowledge worth having outside Europe and America.”

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The Sayings of Lao-Tzu

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The Sayings of Lao-Tzu

An accessible narrative prose translation of the Dao De Jing

by Lionel Giles

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A prose translation of the Tao that focuses on bringing out the subtlety and depth of the classic Way.

Most translations of the famous Way and Virtue (Dao De Jing/Tao Te Ching) focus on the poetics and depth of the original. In contrast, Giles’ translation focuses on telling stories with the text, drawing out the nuances in a way that is more familiar to Western audiences from philosophical and religious texts.

“Few can help being struck by the similarity of tone between the sayings of Lao Tzu and the Gospel enunciated six centuries later by the Prince of Peace. There are two famous utterances in particular which secure to Lao Tzu the glory of having anticipated the lofty morality of the Sermon on the Mount. The cavilers who would rank the Golden Rule of Confucius below that of Christ will find it hard to get over the fact that Lao Tzu said, “Requite injury with kindness,” and “To the not-good I would be good in order to make them good.” It was a hundred and fifty years later that Plato reached the same conclusion in the first book of the Republic.

It is interesting to observe certain points of contact between Lao Tzu and the early Greek philosophers. He may be compared both with Parmenides, who disparaged sense-knowledge and taught the existence of the One as opposed to the Many, and with Heraclitus, whose theory of the identity of contraries recalls some of our Sage’s paradoxes. But it is when we come to Plato that the most striking parallels occur. It has not escaped notice that something like the Platonic doctrine of ideas is discoverable in the “forms” which Lao Tzu conceives as residing in Tao. But, so far as I know, no one has yet pointed out what a close likeness Tao itself bears to that curious abstraction which Plato calls the Idea of the Good.”

Book Includes images of Wang Bi’s classic commentary to the Dao.

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Intuitions

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Intuitions

Philosophical journeys into faith, intuition, error and postmodernism

by Chirag Patel

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Contained in this book are ruminations on philosophy form the most basic (what is the value of religious intuition, or intuition in general?) to the most subtle and difficult (how does the constant and inevitable erroring translation affect our processes?). Many of the ideas deal with problems of mind, and of how we can think without the chilling effect of hard logic, while retaining the valuable effects of our deeper selves.

There’s also a range of content which focuses on Postmodernism. First, there’s a set of articles on the philosophy of postmodernism – ways of using the approach that it suggests to unpick or sophisticate other thoughts. Secondly, there’s a series of case studies of specifically postmodern artefacts, from buildings and albums to films and literature.
Explorations in using philosophy to navigate the real world problems of mind, learning, making mistakes, and the minefield of abstraction that is postmodernism.
There are a few questions that have always kept me wondering. This book is my attempt to answer or at least understand some of them, including:
What is the value in being wrong?
What is intuition?
How can development of the mind and soul be improved in practical ways?
What is postmodernism, and what actual impact does it have? How can we use it to rethink the world?
What is religion, and why is it useful?

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The Niche for Lights

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Mishkât Al-Anwar (The Niche For Lights): The classic work of Sufi mystical thinking

By Al-Ghazzali

Audiobook by Chirag Patel

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The classic work of Sufi mystical thinking from 1100CE, available in audiobook for the first time. It is also known as A Niche of Lamps.

 In the middle ages, Sufi scholars reconciled rationality and faith, both of which were ascendant in the empires of the time. This is one of the great philosophical and theological works from that period, and shows another side to Islam than the doctrinaire version that is more commonly spoken of.

 Al-Ghazali is often called “the proof of Islam” (hujjat al-islam), because he tried to bridge inquiry, legislation and mystical practice. One could call al-Ghazali the prototype Muslim intellectual.

This translation was done in 1823 by WHT Gairdner, who also includes a commentary upon the ideas that Al-Ghazzali presents.

The Niche of Lights, written near the end of his life, is about the need for balance between the authority of the divine and reason, seeing both as essential to real spiritual development.

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Trick Kids into Learning Through Gardening

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Trick Kids into Learning Through Gardening:

A guide to home garden activities with everything from posters to curriculum advice.

by Chirag Patel, Marc Robson and Nicholas Molver

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A resource pack for teaching academic subjects using a home garden. Includes a complete 12 week plan to teach your children a wide range of topics through a garden.

Includes:
Posters
Teaching material
Companion planting guides
Simple activity guides and posters for teaching all the garden basics
Lists of useful plants and herbs to have in the garden
Environmental topics made digestible for small children
Maths, life orientation, natural science and language curriculum integration.

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Get your best grades

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Supercharge Your Schooling: Ace Exams, Survive Sports, Excel in Essays and Win Arguments (Unabridged)

by Chirag Patel

Previously published as Get your best grades

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Struggling at school? Having a crisis at college? Just want to be able to get it right, or win more of the time, or keep sane while playing sports?


This book collects three different works aimed at students from school through to university, and will bump up your confidence, marks and performance.

The Guide To Writing: Everything you ever wanted to know about exams and essays but were afraid to ask.

A simple, FAQ style guide covering all the most common reasons students lose marks. Read this and you’ll never get tripped up by something basic, or lose marks to simple errors. It covers essays, exams, research, and more. If you’ve ever had a questions that sounds stupid but worries you, this is the place you’ll find the answers.

The Art of Being Right: The perfect guide to spotting bullshit, avoiding cheap tricks and winning arguments

A classic text by Arthur Schopenhauer on how to win arguments, regardless of who’s right. Includes commentary on the usage and defence against each tactic, from Will Is More Effective Than Insight and Bewilder Your Opponent by Mere Bombast to Draw Conclusions Yourself and Postulate What Has To Be Proved.

Sports psychology advice for surviving school: Sports Psychology Advice for School Athletes, Their Coaches, and Parents.

A collection of articles about dealing with the troubles of team and individual sports, from how to recover from the winter to what to expect from spectators. There is a strong focus on maintaining a healthy and positive mental state, with good tips and tricks to help you along.

Available in ebook, paperback and audiobook with remastered audio for richer sound

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Arthashastra, or, The Playbook of Material Gain

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Arthashastra, or,

The Playbook of Material Gain

A 2,300-year-old guide on politics, statecraft and power.

By Chanakya Kautilya c. 300 BCE
Translated by R. Shamasastry, 1915
Introduction and commentary by Chirag Patel, 2019

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Truly radical “Machiavellianism”, in the popular sense of that word, is classically expressed in Indian literature in the Arthashastra of Kautilya (written long before the birth of Christ, ostensibly in the time of Chandragupta): compared to it, Machiavelli’s The Prince is harmless.

—Max Weber, Politics as a Vocation (1919)

Chanakya’s treatise, written while turning a farmhand into the emperor of the largest empire India had ever seen, focuses on how to manage an empire, covering everything from domestic policy and personal rights to assassination and the dirtier arts of politics. This is not, as with Plato’s Republic, a work of theory. Chanakya’s guidance is entirely practical, and is based on both his education and his experience building an empire. It lacks the philosophical ponderings and moralizing of its equivalent Western works (such as The Prince, The Republic or Leviathan) and instead focuses on how one deals with the messiness of the world in practice.People will occasionally refer to Chanakya as an Indian Machiavelli, but this does some discredit to Chanakya. The Prince is a satire, and focused around exposing the tactics and inhumanity of Cesare Borgia. Arthashastra is a manual for every aspect of statecraft, and while it deals in the unethical it does so only because that is, after all is said and done, one of the options available to a ruler.If you’re after a totally pragmatic analysis of leadership, stripped of moralising and focused on what works and how to deal with real-world issues, this is the book for you.

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The Art of Being Right

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The Art of Being Right

by Chirag Patel

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A classic guide to tricks and tactics for winning arguments, with commentary on the use of and defence against each tactic.

The best summary of this book is ‘being right doesn’t mean you’re gonna win, and this is why’. It’s the ultimate guide to spotting the many different kinds of bullshit people pull in order to win over the crowd, rather than argue the point at hand. There’s very few of them that don’t immediately bring examples to mind, and having it laid out clearly like this is the perfect armour to stop people derailing you.

In the real world, people don’t win arguments based on what’s correct. They win because they win over the crowd, or change the subject, or bully their rival, or 35 other causes. This guide will walk you through the various strategies that people use, with notes on usage and defence for each point.

Arthur didn’t intend this work as a guide for winning fights. Much like Machiavelli’s The Prince, this is a satire – a guide on what to watch out for in others and yourself, not a toolkit. If you can’t win your argument on fair grounds, you need to reconsider your position; but that doesn’t mean you should let people steal the day by underhand means. This book will teach you how to spot and spike them before they get a head of steam.

Topics:

  • The Extension (Dana’s Law)
  • The Homonymy
  • Generalize Your Opponent’s Specific Statements
  • Conceal Your Game
  • False Propositions
  • Postulate What Has to Be Proved
  • Yield Admissions Through Questions
  • Make Your Opponent Angry
  • Questions in Detouring Order
  • Take Advantage of the Nay-Sayer
  • Generalize Admissions of Specific Cases
  • Choose Metaphors Favourable to Your Proposition
  • Agree to Reject the Counter-Proposition
  • Claim Victory Despite Defeat
  • Use Seemingly Absurd Propositions
  • Arguments Ad Hominem
  • Defense Through Subtle Distinction
  • Interrupt, Break, Divert the Dispute
  • Generalize the Matter, Then Argue Against it
  • Draw Conclusions Yourself
  • Meet Him With a Counter-Argument as Bad as His
  • Petitio principii
  • Make Him Exaggerate His Statement
  • State a False Syllogism
  • Find One Instance to the Contrary
  • Turn the Tables
  • Anger Indicates a Weak Point
  • Persuade the Audience, Not the Opponent
  • Diversion
  • Appeal to Authority Rather Than Reason
  • This Is Beyond Me
  • Put His Thesis into Some Odious Category
  • It Applies in Theory, but Not in Practice
  • Don’t Let Him Off the Hook
  • Will Is More Effective Than Insight
  • Bewilder Your opponent by Mere Bombast
  • A Faulty Proof Refutes His Whole Position
  • Become Personal, Insulting, Rude (argumentum ad personam)

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The Exam & Essay Cheat Sheet

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The Exam & Essay Cheat Sheet

Everything you ever wanted to knows about essays and exams but were afraid to ask

by Chirag Patel

Previously published as The Guide to Writing.

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For a few years, I ran a student support service at a university. Over that time, I discovered that most students were tripping up for easily avoidable reasons, and came in with the same problems each time. Contained herein are solutions for the most common student difficulties, being:
1. Preparation
1.1 How should I prepare to write my essay? How much time should I leave?
1.2 General tips

2. The Question
2.1 What am I being asked to do? Shouldn’t I Just read everything I can and then start?
2.2 What is the difference between a claim and an argument? What counts as evidence?
2.3 What does the question mean?
2.4 What does critically analyse mean?
2.5 What’s the difference between objective and subjective? Why does it matter?
2.6 What resources will I need?
2.7 Why is it important to define my terms, and how should I do it?

3. Structure
3.1 How do I structure my essay?
3.2 How long should paragraphs be?
3.3 What is a topic sentence?
3.4 What makes a good introduction?
3.5 How do I write my conclusion?
3.6 What does a completed essay structure look like?

4. Language & Style
4.1 How do I sound academic? Just using the words and phrases without understanding them is getting me in trouble…
4.2 How do I avoid using or showing my opinion?
4.3 What language can’t I use?
4.4 How do I make my writing formal and impersonal?
4.5 How do I link paragraphs together?

5. Reading
5.1 How should I read? I don’t understand what these people are saying…
5.2 Why shouldn’t I read every word?
5.3 What kinds of reading are there?
5.4 How and why should I take notes?

6. Referencing
6.1 Why can’t I use just anything I find on the internet? How do I know what’s okay?
6.2 Why do I keep losing marks for referencing?
6.3 How do I reference?
6.4 How do I avoid accidental plagiarism, or being accused of plagiarism?

7. Exams
7.1 How should I prepare before the exam?
7.2 How should I manage my time?
7.3 What do I do when my mind goes blank?
7.4 How do I prepare for lots of different topics, or questions I can’t anticipate?
7.5 How should I approach essay questions?
7.6 How do I answer multiple choice questions?
7.7 Why do I lose marks on multiple choice questions?

8. General advice
8.3 What to do if you have absolutely no idea what’s going on.
8.1 Points to remember in writing
8.2 What should I be checking while I’m writing?

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