Buddhist Thought and Ritual

Buddhist Thought and Ritual

Buddhist Thought and Ritual

Buddhist Thought and Ritual

Excerpt

The essays published here have been selected from a larger collection presented at three Buddhist Inrareligious Conferences held in Chiang- mai, Thailand and in Colombo, Sri Lanka. These conferences were sponsored by the Council for the World Religions. The two conferences held in Chiang-mai dealt with general philosophical and cultural themes relating to the various Buddhist traditions, while the last one held in Colombo was on a more specific topic, namely, "Religious Harmony Through Rituals." The first eight papers are from the conferences held in Chiang-mai, and the last five from the Colombo conference. The first part of the present volume, therefore, deals with facets of Buddhist thought, both early and late, while the second part examines some of the more significant rituals in the Buddhist tradition.

The essay on The Buddhist Doctrine of Anatta by Y. Karunadasa, the well-known author of Buddhist Analysis of Matter (1967), is presented as the lead paper for obvious reasons. Anatta (no-self, nonsubstantiality,) as the author argues, is the most radical of the Buddha's doctrines, for it "sets Buddhism off from the two main currents of Indian thought and sets itself on a new path." It is a doctrine that has baffled many classical as well as modern writers on Buddhism. When it was presented by the Buddha as a way of clearing the philosophical background containing two fossilized theories, eternalism and nihilism, and as a foundation of the middle path represented by the principle of "dependent arising" (paṭicca-samuppāda, Sk.pratītyasamutpāda) most interpreters perceived it as a nihilistic doctrine. Karunadasa's paper provides a detailed treatment of this important doctrine indicating its epistemological, ethical, and social significance, as well as its relevance to the Buddha's conception of freedom.

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