Buddhist Philosophy

Buddhist Philosophy: A Historical Analysis

David J. Kalupahana
Foreword by G. P. Malalasekera
Copyright Date: 1976
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  • Book Info
    Buddhist Philosophy
    Book Description:

    This introduction to Buddhism examines its basic philosophical teachings and historical development, setting forth complex and significant ideas in a straightforward and simple style that is easily accessible to the student. The author's orientation is philosophical, rather than religious or sociological. This approach is both the uniqueness and the strength of the work.Part I outlines the historical background out of which Buddhism arose and emphasizes the teachings of early Buddhism. Part II examines developments in the history of Buddhist thought and the emergence of the various schools of Buddhism.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6171-1
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-x)
    G. P. Malalasekera

    I have much pleasure in writing a foreword to the present publication by Dr. D. J. Kalupahana, my friend and erstwhile student. Here we have a volume that fulfills admirably the purpose for which it was intended—to outline the development of Buddhist philosophy from the days of its origin down to the time of the development of Zen. Starting from the philosophical and religious ideas prevalent during the pre-Buddhist period, the author has extended his survey to the later schools of Buddhism.

    One whole chapter is devoted to the Buddhist theory of causality, which forms the basic teaching of...

  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xvi)
    David J. Kalupahana and D.J.K.
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  6. Abbreviations
    (pp. xix-xxii)
  7. Early Buddhism
    • Chapter One Historical Background
      (pp. 3-15)

      For a long time the consensus among Indologists was that Indian culture and civilization originated with the arrival of the Aryans from central Asia (circa 1750 B.C.). TheṚgveda,for the most part a collection of hymns extolling the forces of nature and believed to be the compositions of the Vedic poets, makes reference to the clash between the invading Aryans and the dark-skinned aborigines called Dasyus. The prejudices of the former against the latter, which later came to be reflected in the fourfold social stratification, were mainly responsible for the picture presented in theṚgvedaof the people who...

    • Chapter Two Epistemology
      (pp. 16-25)

      In his search for the truth about human existence motivated by a desire for release from the suffering inherent in it, Siddhattha Gotama is said to have visited teacher after teacher learning whatever he could from each. He became conversant with the various philosophies as well as the religious practices current at the time. The ascetic(samaṇa)culture was in its ascendency in the lower Ganges valley, and rather early in his life Gotama seems to have had some training in yogic meditation.¹ Moreover, the last two teachers under whom he had training in spiritual matters before he finally attained...

    • Chapter Three Causality
      (pp. 26-35)

      The Buddha claimed that his search for the nature of things led him to the discovery of the uniformity of the causal process(dhammaṭṭhitatā, dhammaniyāmatā,or simplydhammatā).It was the knowledge of the causal pattern that enabled him to put an end to all defiling tendencies and thereby attain freedom(vimutti).¹This claim of the Buddha has to be evaluated in the light of the background in which various metaphysical theories, such as that of eternal ‘soul’ or ‘self’(ātman),‘inherent nature’(svabhāva),or creator God(iśvara),were posited in order to explain the functioning of phenomena. One of...

    • Chapter Four The Three Characteristics of Existence
      (pp. 36-43)

      In chapter 3 it was pointed out that the Buddha’s discourse pertained to two aspects of reality, namely, causality and the causally conditioned phenomena. According to his teaching, there is nothing in this world that does not come within the realm of the causal law. Causality explains the arising and passing away of things. Hence, the direct corollaries of the theory of causality are that all things in this world are (1) impermanent(anicca,Sk.anitya),(2) unsatisfactory(dukkha,Sk.duḥkha),and (3) nonsubstantial(anatta,Sk.anātman).These three characteristics were emphasized because the Eternalist theory, which dominated the philosophical...

    • Chapter Five Karma and Rebirth
      (pp. 44-55)

      Karmaand rebirth are two aspects of life personally verified by the Buddha through extrasensory perception. Of one who has developed such powers, it is said: “With his clear paranormal clairvoyant vision he sees beings dying and being reborn, the low and the high, the fair and the ugly, the good and the evil each according to his karma.”¹ These claims on the part of the Buddha and his disciples are generally ignored by many scholars who have written on the Buddhist theories ofkarmaand rebirth. Hindu scholars writing on Buddhism made such statements as this: “Early Buddhism is...

    • Chapter Six Morality and Ethics
      (pp. 56-68)

      Buddhism, like any other Indian religion, does not divorce knowledge from conduct, theory from practice. Philosophy is meaningful only as it provides an understanding of reality on which to regulate one’s life. Understanding man and nature is not an end in itself; it is only a means to an end. The ultimate goal of knowledge or insight(paññã)is freedom(vimutti).Why is man searching for freedom? The American philosopher John Dewey began his workThe Quest for Certaintywith the remark:

      Man who lives in a world of hazards is compelled to seek for security. He has sought to...

    • Chapter Seven Nirvana
      (pp. 69-90)

      We are now in a position to examine the goal orsummum bonumof early Buddhism. Innumerable treatises have been written by scholars on the subject; one feels that the last word has been said. The latest addition to this vast storehouse of interpretative literature is Rune E. A. Johansson’sPsychology of Nirvana.¹

      Introducing his work, Johansson says: “It is a well known fact that nibbāna is the summum bonum of Buddhism and that a person who has attained this ultimate goal is calledarahant.But here the agreement ends.” The reason for this, according to him, is that “different...

  8. Later Buddhism
    • Chapter Eight Beginnings of Scholasticism and Mahāyāna
      (pp. 93-96)

      The “Discourse on the Great Decease”(Mahāparinibbāna-suttanta),¹ which relates the incidents connected with the last days of the Buddha, recounts two episodes which are of great significance for an understanding of the major developments that took place in the history of Buddhist thought during the two subsequent centuries.

      The first is the occasion when the Buddha, shortly before he passed away, advised Ānanda regarding the future of the Order. The Buddha is represented as saying:

      If, Ānanda, it occurs to you: “The doctrine is such that it is rendered teacherless; we are without a teacher,” you should not consider it...

    • Chapter Nine Scholasticism—Theravāda, Sarvâstivāda, and Sautrāntika
      (pp. 97-111)

      The doctrines elaborated in the Abhidharma literature belonging to both Theravāda¹ and Sarvâstivāda are too numerous to be treated in a short chapter. Hence, I shall attempt to pick out the most important philosophical trends in the Abhidharma literature and show their relationships to the teachings of early Buddhism, and also to examine the way in which they contribute to the development of Mahāyāna philosophy. All three schools examined in this chapter accept the basic teachings of the Buddha; the differences among them have arisen as a result of the differing interpretations given to these doctrines. No attempt will be...

    • Chapter Ten Development of Mahāyāna
      (pp. 112-128)

      While on the one hand, scholasticism gradually grew up and matured, giving rise to the three major philosophical schools mentioned above, on the other hand, certain aspects of popular religion developed and found expression in the basic teachings of Mahāyāna, bringing about radical changes in the religious life and aspirations of the followers.

      It was pointed out in chapter 8 that Mahāyāna is the culmination of the speculation concerning the nature of the Buddha. This speculation was prevalent even during the Buddha’s lifetime. In the Aṅguttara-nikāya, in answer to the question Who is a Buddha? the Buddha declared himself to...

    • Chapter Eleven Mādhyamika Transcendentalism
      (pp. 129-141)

      Mādhyamika is one of the most widely studied schools of Buddhism. Studies by Western, Indian, and Far Eastern scholars are too numerous to mention. One of the most authoritative and widely acclaimed analyses of Mādhyamika thought is T. R. V. Murti’sThe Central Philosophy of Buddhism,¹ where the author compares Mādhyamika thought with that of Immanuel Kant in Western philosophy. This study is largely based on Nāgârjuna’sMūlamadhyamakakārikāand Candrakīrti’s commentary on it, thePrasannapadā Mādhyamikavrtti.

      According to our analysis of early Buddhism and the subsequent development of Buddhist thought, the theory of an Absolute came into existence only after...

    • Chapter Twelve Yogâcāra Idealism
      (pp. 142-152)

      Just as the “critical philosophy” of Immanuel Kant paved the way for Hegelian Idealism, even so the critical philosophy of Nāgârjuna may be said to have contributed to the systematized form of absolute Idealism of Vasubandhu, although Idealism as such was not unknown earlier. Idealism developed gradually from the second century A.D., and reached its culmination with the writings of Asaṅga and Vasubandhu. TheSandhinirmocana-sūtraand theLaṅkâvatāra-sūtrarepresent the earlier unsystematic phase of Yogâcāra thought, while the more systematic form is found in Vasubandhu’sVijñaptimātratāsiddhi,which consists of two parts :(1)Viṃśatikā,‘Twenty Verses’, together with his own commentary,...

  9. Appendix I Metaphysics and the Buddha
    (pp. 153-162)
  10. Appendix 2 Reflections on the Relation between Early Buddhism and Zen
    (pp. 163-178)
  11. Index
    (pp. 179-188)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 189-190)