This paper answers the question ‘what does Buddhism say about free will?’ I begin by investigating Charles Goodman’s influential answer, according to which Buddhists reject getting angry at wrongdoers because they believe that people are not morally responsible. Despite putative evidence to the contrary, Goodman’s interpretation of Buddhism is problematic on three counts: Buddhist texts do not actually support rejection of moral responsibility; Goodman’s argument has the unwanted upshot of undermining positive attitudes like compassion, which Buddhism unambiguously (...) endorses; and his argument overlooks crucial developments in current literature on moral responsibility. I propose instead to understand Buddhism as implicating a quality of will theory, on which agents can be morally responsible and their underlying motivation determines whether they are praiseworthy or blameworthy. (shrink)
Eviatar Shulman’s Rethinking the Buddha: Early Buddhist Philosophy as Meditative Perception offers an important reminder to take early Buddhist texts seriously as meaning what they say, with regard to the four noble truths, dependent origination, and selflessness. Shulman’s book ably makes this interpretive point, but is frustratingly unclear in its more general discussion of the relationship between philosophy and meditation. Shulman’s main thesis is that the four noble truths, as they are customarily taught today, are a...
The author of this paper aimed to understand the early Buddhism community in its entirety by examining the individual episodes in the "Mahavagga". There is a remarkable experience of the psychic power between the Buddha and the Brahmins. They are both aware of coming across of psychic forces that entered the way to the Buddhist Community. Using the brahmins mythology as a instrument for missionary work, the early Buddhism brings people close to Buddha's community. The (...) class='Hi'>Buddha visited Uruvela-Kassapa and took lodging for the night where the sacred fire was kept, in spite of Kassapa's warning that the spot was inhabited by a fierce Naga. The Buddha, by his magical powers, overcame, first this N ganad then another, both of whom vomited fire and smoke. Kassapabeing pleased with this exhibition of iddhi-power, undertook to provide the Buddha with his daily food. The Buddha spent the whole rainy season there, performing, in all, three thousand five hundred miracles of various kinds, reading the thoughts of kassapa, splitting firewood for the ascetic sacrifices, heating stoves for them to use after bathing in the cold weather, etc. Still Kassapa persisted in the thought, "The great ascetic is of great magic power, but he is not anarahant like me." Finally the Buddha decided to startle him by declaring that he was not an arahant, neither did the way he followed lead to arahantship. Thereon kassapa owned defeat and reverently asked for ordination. The Buddha asked him to consult with his pupils, and they cut off their hair and threw it with their sacrificial utensils into the river and were all ordained. Nadi Kassapa and Gaya Kassapa were ordained with their pupils. At Gay sisa the Buddha preached to them the Fire Sermon, and they all attained arahantship for the early Buddhist Community. The episode of Uruvela Kassaps in the Mahavagga text ultimately idealizes the power of psychic and the start of the community. It is probable, even at the time when the episode were written, that as a matter of fact every one, in ordinary daily life, spoke imply the vernaculars in a much more simple and natural state of society. It is the Mahavagga authors, when addressing a cultured public at a date when the vernaculars had become the paramount literary language. Another point is that though brahmins take part in the religious and philosophical conversations of those early tims, and in the accounts of them are always referred to with respect, and threaten with the same courtesythat they always themselves extended also to others, yet they hold no predominant position. The majority of the ascetic, and the most influential individuals among them, are not brahmins. That is only a matter of course will be the obvious subjection. The Mahavagga texts I quotes, if not the work of bitter opponents, were at least composed under India bramins influence, and are prejudiced against the brahmins. (shrink)
Recent controversies in Japanese Buddhist scholarship have focused upon the Mah y na notion of a “Buddha nature” within all sentient beings and whether or not the concept is compatible with traditional Buddhist teachings such as an tman. This controversy is not only relevant to Far Eastern Buddhism, for which the notion of a Buddha-nature is a central doctrinal theme, but also for the roots of this tradition in those Indian Mah y na s tras which utilised (...) the notion of tath gatagarbha. One of the earliest Buddhist texts to discuss this notion is the Queen r m l S tra, which appears to display a transitional and revisionist attitude towards traditional Mah y na doctrines such as emptiness and no-abiding-self. These and related issues are examined as they occur in the r m l S tra and as they might relate to the issue of the place of Buddha-nature thought within the Buddhist tradition. Finally some concluding remarks are made about the quest for “true” Buddhism. (shrink)
Comparisons betw western philosophies are uncommon and this, among other things, hinders global philosophical discourse. Thus, in this essay I want to compare the philosophies of the Buddha and Epicurus for similarities, particular in regard to what I call "negative happiness." Once I have establish this, I want to give a brief critique of negative happiness, which subsequently amounts to a selective critique of Buddhism and Epicureanism.
This is a comparative study of the discourses on the nature of sacred language found in Indian Abhidharma texts and their counterparts by seventh century Chinese Buddhist scholars who, unlike the Indian Buddhists, questioned "the essence of the Buddha's teaching," and developed intellectual dialogues through their texts. ;In the Indian Abhidharma texts, Sa ngitiparyaya, Jnanaprasthana, Mahavibhasa, Abhidharmakosa, and Nyayanusara, the nature of the Buddha's word was either "sound," the oral component of speech, or "name," the component of language (...) that conveys meaning, or both. I show that the Sautrantikas refused to accept the category of "name," which was abstract and hypothetical to them. However, the attitude of the opposing Sarvastivadins, attested in the Mahavibhasa, for whom "name" was approved in their ontological structure, was ambivalent. In the Abhidharmakosa, both positions were introduced without commentary. Sanghabhadra, an ardent Sarvastivadin, was the only one who explicitly claimed that "name" should be the nature of the Buddha's word. ;What was mainly a linguistic debate in India became transformed in China into a religious and metaphysical one. Chiao-t'i, "the essence of the Buddha's word," was used for the first time by Hsuan-tsang for buddhavacana, "the word of the Buddha" in Sanskrit. Adding the term "essence" altered the nature of the debate. Wonch'uk was the first to view the issue from the broad perspective of its history and provenance in the Indian Buddhist texts. K'uei-chi incorporated it into Yogacara: the Buddha's teaching is what is represented in sentient beings' minds. Fa-tsang defined the essence of the Buddha's teaching as the truth appearing in the mind of the Buddha, which he equated with the truth of the Hua-yen world, tathata. This gradual but candid process of dialogue on "the Buddha's word" preluded a transition to "Chinese" Buddhism. An inquiry no longer in the category of language or of epistemological investigation claims its own identity in the Chinese discussion querying the "essence" or "substance" of the Buddha's teaching, and even "Buddhism" itself, transcending the distinction between language and meaning. (shrink)
A cornerstone of Buddhist philosophy, the doctrine of the four noble truths maintains that life is replete with suffering, desire is the cause of suffering, nirvana is the end of suffering, and the way to nirvana is the eightfold noble path. Although the attribution of this seminal doctrine to the historical Buddha is ubiquitous, Rethinking the Buddha demonstrates through a careful examination of early Buddhist texts that he did not envision them in this way. Shulman traces the development (...) of what we now call the four noble truths, which in fact originated as observations to be cultivated during deep meditation. The early texts reveal that other central Buddhist doctrines, such as dependent-origination and selflessness, similarly derived from meditative observations. This book challenges the conventional view that the Buddha's teachings represent universal themes of human existence, allowing for a fresh, compelling explanation of the Buddhist theory of liberation. (shrink)
Buddhist philosophy asserts that human suffering is caused by ignorance regarding the true nature of reality. According to this, perceptions and thoughts are largely fabrications of our own minds, based on conditioned tendencies which often involve problematic fears, aversions, compulsions, etc. In Buddhist psychology, these tendencies reside in a portion of mind known as Store consciousness. Here, I suggest a correspondence between this Buddhist Store consciousness and the neuroscientific idea of stored synaptic weights. These weights are strong synaptic connections built (...) in through experience. Buddhist philosophy claims that humans can find relief from suffering through a process in which the Store consciousness is transformed. Here, I argue that this Buddhist 'transformation at the base' corresponds to a loosening of the learned synaptic connections. I will argue that Buddhist meditation practices create conditions in the brain which are optimal for diminishing the strength of our conditioned perceptual and behavioural tendencies. (shrink)
In the past decade or so there has been a surge of monographs on the nature of ‘Buddhist Ethics.’ For the most part, authors are concerned with developing and defending explications of Buddhism as a normative ethical theory with an apparent aim of putting Buddhist thought directly in dialogue with contemporary Western philosophical debates in ethics. Despite disagreement among Buddhist ethicists concerning which contemporary normative ethical theory a Buddhist ethic would most closely resemble (if any), 1 it is arguable (...) that all Buddhist ethicists (like all Buddhists) embrace and endorse the Four Noble Truths as a framing assumption. That is, a Buddhist ethic will (1) typically assume that we fallible .. (shrink)
A contribution to the sixth installment of the Common Knowledge symposium “Apology for Quietism,” this article proposes that, despite endless debates within Zen Buddhism between quietist tendencies (“sitting quietly, doing nothing”) and the instruction to act in the world (“go wash the dishes”), Zen has always held a nondualist approach that denies any contradiction between these seemingly distinct ways. Zen has never really seen them as distinct. The article does survey, however, several quietist sources for Zen in early Indian (...) and Daoist thought and practice, and it also surveys the debates between these and more activist tendencies. Raz goes on to show how these became unified in a nondualist approach in the writings and teachings of prominent Chinese and Japanese teachers from the beginning of Zen (Chan) in China down to the twentieth century. (shrink)
Buddhism's profound and longlasting impact on China's traditional culture has come to be increasingly acknowledged and understood. At the same time, the great impact that China's traditional culture has on the teachings of Buddhism has also come to be increasingly studied and emphasized by the circles of Buddhist teachers. Thus, the study of the relationship and interaction between Buddhism and Chinese culture has become a major component of the current study of culture.
This article provides a philosophical overview of some of the central Buddhist positions and argument regarding animal welfare. It introduces the Buddha's teaching of ahiṃsā or non-violence and rationally reconstructs five arguments from the context of early Indian Buddhism that aim to justify its extension to animals. These arguments appeal to the capacity and desire not to suffer, the virtue of compassion, as well as Buddhist views on the nature of self, karma, and reincarnation. This article also considers (...) how versions of these arguments have been applied to address a practical issue in Buddhist ethics; whether Buddhists should be vegetarian. (shrink)