On Being Mindless: Buddhist Meditation and the Mind-Body Problem

On Being Mindless: Buddhist Meditation and the Mind-Body Problem

On Being Mindless: Buddhist Meditation and the Mind-Body Problem

On Being Mindless: Buddhist Meditation and the Mind-Body Problem

Excerpt

This book is about the philosophical implications of meditative practice. More specifically, it is a case-study of certain intra-Buddhist controversies about the nature and implications of a particular, precisely defined altered state of consciousness, attained by way of an equally well defined set of meditational practices. It may seem at the outset as though this has rather little to do with philosophy as understood in the analytical traditions of the West: it may be suggested that we are instead dealing here, as Louis de La Vallée Poussin put it, with:

. . . Indian 'philosophumena' concocted by ascetics . . . men exhausted by a severe diet and often stupified by the practice of ecstacy. Indians do not make a clear distinction between facts and ideas, between ideas and words; they have never clearly recognized the principle of contradiction.

Poussin was one of the greatest historians of Indian Buddhism the West has yet produced, and while he was clearly correct in his view that the practice of meditation was and is of fundamental importance for Buddhism, he was equally clearly incorrect, as I hope to show, in thinking that this resulted in any lack of clarity in philosophical argumentation, much less in a failure to recognize the 'principle of contradiction'.

It is upon meditative practice that the religious life of the Buddhist virtuoso is based and from such practice that systematic Buddhist philosophical and soteriological theory begins. The experiences produced as a result of meditative practice have therefore historically been of great importance to Buddhist philosophical theory; it would hardly be an exaggeration to say that the whole of the magnificently complex edifice of Buddhist philosophy is a drawing out and systematization of the implications of such experience. The Buddha . . .

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