ELÍAS MANUEL CAPRILES ARIAS
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From 1993 to 2003 Elías-Manuel Capriles-Arias filled the Chair of Eastern Studies at the Faculty of Humanities and Education, University of The Andes, Mérida, Venezuela (originally ascribed to the Dean’s Office and then to the Department of Philosophy). Thereafter he has been ascribed to the Center of Studies on Africa and Asia, School of History, same Faculty and University, where he teaches Philosophy and elective subjects on the problems of globalization, Buddhism, Asian Religions and Eastern Arts.
Besides teaching at the University, Capriles is an instructor of Buddhism and Dzogchen certified by the Tibetan Master of these disciplines, Chögyal Namkhai Norbu; in this field, he has taught in Venezuela, Peru, Spain, Costa Rica and Chile.
His main work is the production of works on the transformation that must be implemented in all fields for our species to survive and enter a New Age of harmony, plenitude and ecological balance; political philosophy; ontology; philosophy of history; Tibetan Buddhism in general and Dzogchen in particular; aesthetics; psychology; epistemology; sociology; axiology and other disciplines, as well as poetry. In the same way, he has been an ecological activist in the city of Mérida, Venezuela. He also set up and managed “spiritual emergency refuges” (refuges for people undergoing psychosis or psychotomimetic experiences), in which disturbed minds were allowed to go through the natural process into which unwillingly they had initiated themselves.
Since an early age Elías Capriles became interested in the radical transformation of reality, psychological as well as social. When he was 12 years old he gave up the religion in which he was raised, becoming agnostic and democratic socialist, and undertaking an in-depth exploration of the philosophies and psychologies developed in the West. When he was 16, he read about Zen Buddhism, which according to the publication in question did not posit the existence of a god, a soul or any entity that was not perceptible through the senses, but the practice of which led to a condition of plenitude and harmony. This started a process that led him to embrace Buddhism, not as a cult, but as a method for the psychological transformation he wished to achieve in his own psyche. He also tried to develop a political project, but soon gave up activity on this field. In the field of psychology, he was influenced by R. D. Laing, D. Cooper, G. Bateson and other likely thinkers, and therefore when his mate underwent a psychotic crisis, rather than allowing her to receive psychiatric treatment, he took her out of the country, and after her swift recovery they worked together in Sweden, making money to travel to the Indian subcontinent.
In India and Nepal Capriles published his early works, in English. In the same way, he met Tibetan Dzogchen Masters, and after receiving the necessary transmissions or empowerments, he devoted himself to the practice of this discipline in caves and cabins on the higher Himalayas. After ten years in the Indian subcontinent, a series of circumstances forced him to return to Venezuela. In Caracas he went back to University, enrolling himself in the Central University of Venezuela, which published his book Qué somos y adónde vamos (What are We and Where are We Going) with the contents of the lectures he gave in 1984 and 1985 in the Auditorium of the Faculty of Humanities of that institution. Then he moved to the city of Mérida (Venezuela), where he carried on with the writing of his works, which he alternated with ecological activism, setting up the Ecological Umbrella Organization “Arturo Eichler,” which was intended to coordinate the activities of ecological groups in the region in order to curb the pollution of rivers and lands, stop deforestation, planting trees and so on—but also to attempt to lead the activities of ecologists beyond these important but limited projects, toward the radical transformation of the individual and society on which survival depends, and which would give rise to an egalitarian and frugal society in harmony with the rest of the ecosystem. Very soon, however, he devoted all of his time and energies to his writing, through which he intended to divulge his ample project of transformation of both the individual and society. In 1993, illustrious Argentine-born professor Ángel Cappelletti, aware of the importance of the work of Elías Capriles, applied pressure on the authorities of the Faculty of Humanities and Education of the University of The Andes in Mérida to set up a Chair of Eastern Studies. Capriles won the contest and filled the new Chair. Because of the conflictive character of the Department of Philosophy, in 2003 he moved into the Center of Studies on Africa and Asia, School of History, in the same Faculty and University, where he still works at the moment of updating this review (March 2007).
Professor Capriles has published many books, academic articles, book chapters and so on, on subjects that include ontology, philosophy of history, aesthetics, psychology, sociology, political philosophy, axiology, Buddhism and other disciplines, as well as poetry. These include thirteen books published in Venezuela, Spain and Nepal (see Bibliography in the section “Books”); thirty six academic articles in Venezuela, USA, Russia, France, India, Spain and El Salvador (see Bibliography in the section “Articles”); and ten book chapters, among which eight in Venezuela, one in Italy and one in India. Besides, he has edited the English translation of Gendün Chöphel’s work Clarifying the Core of Madhyamaka: Ornament of the Thought of Nagarjuna (published in Italy), for which he wrote a preliminary study and a great deal of notes. In the same way, he has edited four books with works by various authors in Venezuela (see Bibliography below). Capriles views Capriles (1989), Capriles (1994), Capriles (2000a), Capriles (2000b), Capriles (2003), Capriles (2004), Capriles (2007a [3 Vols.]) and the Introduction and Notes to Chöphel (2005), as the most important works of his published so far.
(UPDATED AUGUST 2010)
Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche, also called Chögyal Namkhai Norbu, is a Tibet-born Lama who was recognized as the emanation of some of the most important Dzogchen teachers of the past. The title, Chögyal, is given him because he was also recognized as the Tulku of the dharmaraja (Tibetan, chos rgyal) or “religious king” of Bhutan. This Master is the President and supreme guide of the International Dzogchen Community.