Sophia 57 (2):337-347 (2018)

Stephen E. Harris
Leiden University
This essay analyzes the provocative image of the bodhisattva, the saint of the Indian Mahayana Buddhist tradition, descending into the hell realms to work for the benefit of its denizens. Inspired in part by recent attempts to naturalize Buddhist ethics, I argue that taking this ‘mythological’ image seriously, as expressing philosophical insights, helps us better understand the shape of Mahayana value theory. In particular, it expresses a controversial philosophical thesis: the claim that no amount of physical pain can disrupt the flourishing of a fully virtuous person. I reconstruct two related elements of early Buddhist psychology that help us understand this Mahayana position: the distinction between hedonic sensation and virtuous or nonvirtous mental states ; and the claim that humans are massively deluded as to what constitutes well-being. Doing so also lets me emphasize the continuity between early Buddhist and Mahayana traditions in their views on well-being and flourishing.
Keywords Buddhism  Śāntideva  Buddhist Ethics  Mahayana Buddhism  nirvana  hell  well-being  flourishing  happiness  ethics
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DOI 10.1007/s11841-017-0619-4
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References found in this work BETA

The Morality of Happiness.Julia Annas - 1993 - Oxford University Press.
Nagarjuna and the Limits of Thought.Jay L. Garfield & Graham Priest - 2003 - Philosophy East and West 53 (1):1-21.

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