Buddhist Philosophy: A Historical Analysis

Buddhist Philosophy: A Historical Analysis

Buddhist Philosophy: A Historical Analysis

Buddhist Philosophy: A Historical Analysis

Synopsis

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.

Excerpt

Buddhism is now more than two thousand five hundred years old. Conforming to the words of its founder, Siddhârtha Gautama, that "everything in this world is impermanent," his teachings underwent transformation while catering to the needs and religious aspirations of his followers, who represent a large segment of humanity spread out over a major part of the earth's surface. In this transformation, while Buddhism contributed much to the various religious and philosophical traditions with which it came into contact, it also assimilated many of these non-Buddhist doctrines. It is for this reason that a completely satisfactory outline of Buddhist philosophy becomes an impossibility. Realizing this fact, I have devoted the present work to an examination of the original form of Buddhism and a few later schools which I consider basic to all the different varieties of Buddhist thought.

The emphasis in this book is on the philosophical outlook of early Buddhism. Although there has been a long-drawn-out controversy over the primitive core of Buddhism, and in spite of the fact that attempts to establish it are now considered by many to be hopelessly futile, I think it is worthwhile to try. Previous attempts to determine the original form of Buddhism were based on the assumption that the early discourses attributed to the Buddha contain a lot of "monkish jargon" and, therefore, the original form can be known only after leaving out such elements. This led to disastrous results, as is evident from the later works of Mrs. C. A. F. Rhys Davids, for such decisions were based more on prejudice than on scientific attitude. Avoiding this assumption, I have undertaken the task of examining the entire content of the early discourses, eliminating nothing.

Doubts have been raised regarding the authenticity of the Pali Nikāyas, especially because they were preserved by the Theravāda sect of Buddhism and hence were taken to represent the ideas of that . . .

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