The Principles of Buddhist Psychology (Suny Series in Buddhist Studies)

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Norman and Richard Gombrich, the Buddha extended his anatta critique to the Brahmanical belief expounded in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad that the Self Atman was indeed the whole world, or Brahman.


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He used the example of someone carrying off and burning grass and sticks from the Jeta grove and how a monk would not sense or consider themselves harmed by that action. In this example the Buddha is arguing that we do not have direct experience of the entire world, and hence the Self cannot be the whole world. Furthermore, the Buddha argues that the world can be observed to be a cause of suffering Brahman was held to be ultimately blissful and that since we cannot control the world as we wish, the world cannot be the Self.

The idea that "this cosmos is the self" is one of the views rejected by the Buddha [40] along with the related Monistic theory that held that "everything is a Oneness" SN The Buddha denied the authority of the Vedas, though like his contemporaries, he affirmed the soteriological importance of having a proper understanding of reality right view. The Buddha's epistemology has been compared to empiricism , in the sense that it was based on experience of the world through the senses.

Some suttas go further, stating that "the All", or everything that exists sabbam , are these six sense spheres SN The Buddha also stressed that experience is the only criterion for verification of the truth in this passage from the Majjhima Nikaya MN. Furthermore, the Buddha's standard for personal verification was a pragmatic and salvific one, for the Buddha a belief counts as truth only if it leads to successful Buddhist practice and hence, to the destruction of craving.

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Jayatilleke argues the Buddha's epistemology can also be taken to be a form of correspondence theory as per the 'Apannaka Sutta' with elements of Coherentism [53] and that for the Buddha, it is causally impossible for something which is false to lead to cessation of suffering and evil. The Buddha discouraged his followers from indulging in intellectual disputation for its own sake, which is fruitless, and distracts one from the goal of awakening.

Only philosophy and discussion which has pragmatic value for liberation from suffering is seen as important. According to the scriptures , during his lifetime the Buddha remained silent when asked several metaphysical questions which he regarded as the basis for "unwise reflection". The Buddha stated that thinking about these imponderable Acinteyya issues led to "a thicket of views, a wilderness of views, a contortion of views, a writhing of views, a fetter of views" Aggi-Vacchagotta Sutta. According to the Buddha, the Dharma is not an ultimate end in itself or an explanation of all metaphysical reality, but a pragmatic set of teachings.

The Buddha used two parables to clarify this point, the 'Parable of the raft' and the Parable of the Poisoned Arrow. It is also like medicine, in that, the particulars of how one was injured by a poisoned arrow i. In this sense the Buddha was often called 'the great physician' because his goal was to cure the human condition of suffering first and foremost, not to speculate about metaphysics.

Having said this, it is still clear that resisting even, refuting a false or slanted doctrine can be useful to extricate the interlocutor, or oneself, from error; hence, to advance in the way of liberation. Witness the Buddha's confutation of several doctrines by Nigantha Nataputta and other purported sages which sometimes had large followings e. This shows that a virtuous and appropriate use of dialectics can take place. By implication, reasoning and argument shouldn't be disparaged by buddhists.

After the Buddha's death, some Buddhists such as Dharmakirti went on to use the sayings of the Buddha as sound evidence equal to perception and inference. Another possible reason why the Buddha refused to engage in metaphysics is that he saw ultimate reality and nirvana as devoid of sensory mediation and conception and therefore language itself is a priori inadequate to explain it.

Rather, it indicates that he viewed the answers to these questions as not understandable by the unenlightened. The Buddha of the earliest Buddhists texts describes Dharma in the sense of "truth" as "beyond reasoning" or "transcending logic", in the sense that reasoning is a subjectively introduced aspect of the way unenlightened humans perceive things, and the conceptual framework which underpins their cognitive process, rather than a feature of things as they really are.

Going "beyond reasoning" means in this context penetrating the nature of reasoning from the inside, and removing the causes for experiencing any future stress as a result of it, rather than functioning outside the system as a whole. The Buddha's ethics are based on the soteriological need to eliminate suffering and on the premise of the law of karma.

Buddhist ethics have been termed eudaimonic with their goal being well-being and also compared to virtue ethics this approach began with Damien Keown. The Buddha outlined five precepts no killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, or drinking alcohol which were to be followed by his disciples, lay and monastic. There are various reasons the Buddha gave as to why someone should be ethical.

First, the universe is structured in such a way that if someone intentionally commits a misdeed, a bad karmic fruit will be the result and vice versa. Hence, from a pragmatic point of view, it is best to abstain from these negative actions which bring forth negative results. This idea leads into the second moral justification of the Buddha; intentionally performing negative actions reinforces and propagates mental defilements which keep persons bound to the cycle of rebirth and interfere with the process of liberation, and hence intentionally performing good karmic actions is participating in mental purification which leads to nirvana , the highest happiness.

This perspective sees immoral acts as unskillful akusala in our quest for happiness, and hence it is pragmatic to do good. The third meta-ethical consideration takes the view of not-self and our natural desire to end our suffering to its logical conclusion. Since there is no self, there is no reason to prefer our own welfare over that of others because there is no ultimate grounding for the differentiation of "my" suffering and someone else's.

Instead an enlightened person would just work to end suffering tout court , without thinking of the conventional concept of persons. The main Indian Buddhist philosophical schools practiced a form of analysis termed Abhidharma which sought to systematize the teachings of the early Buddhist discourses sutras.

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Abhidharma analysis broke down human experience into momentary phenomenal events or occurrences called " dharmas ". Dharmas are impermanent and dependent on other causal factors, they arise and pass as part of a web of other interconnected dharmas, and are never found alone. The Abhidharma schools held that the teachings of the Buddha in the sutras were merely conventional, while the Abhidharma analysis was ultimate truth paramattha sacca , the way things really are when seen by an enlightened being.

The Abhidharmic project has been likened as a form of phenomenology or process philosophy. This view has been termed " mereological reductionism" by Mark Siderits because it holds that only impartite entities are real, not wholes. The mainstream Abhidharmikas defended this view against their main Hindu rivals, the Nyaya school, who were substance theorists and posited the existence of universals.

After being brought to Sri Lanka in the first century BCE, the Theravada Pali language Abhidhamma tradition was heavily influenced by the works of Buddhaghosa th century AD , the most important philosopher and commentator of the Theravada school. The Theravada philosophical enterprise was mostly carried out in the genre of Atthakatha , commentaries as well as sub-commentaries on the Pali Abhidhamma, but also included short summaries and compendiums. This realism was based on a quality of dharmas, which was called svabhava or 'intrinsic existence'. According to Y Karunadasa :.

In the Pali tradition it is only for the sake of definition and description that each dhamma is postulated as if it were a separate entity; but in reality it is by no means a solitary phenomenon having an existence of its own If this Abhidhammic view of existence, as seen from its doctrine of dhammas, cannot be interpreted as a radical pluralism, neither can it be interpreted as an out-and-out monism.


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For what are called dhammas -- the component factors of the universe, both within us and outside us -- are not fractions of an absolute unity but a multiplicity of co-ordinate factors. They are not reducible to, nor do they emerge from, a single reality, the fundamental postulate of monistic metaphysics. If they are to be interpreted as phenomena, this should be done with the proviso that they are phenomena with no corresponding noumena , no hidden underlying ground. For they are not manifestations of some mysterious metaphysical substratum, but processes taking place due to the interplay of a multitude of conditions.

This theory held that dhammas only last for a minute moment ksana after they arise. All Abhidharma schools also developed complex theories of causation and conditionality to explain how dharmas interacted with each other. Another major philosophical project of the Abhidharma schools was the explanation of perception. Some schools such as the Sarvastivadins explained perception as a type of phenomenalist realism while others such as the Sautrantikas preferred representationalism and held that we only perceive objects indirectly.

One major philosophical view which was rejected by all the schools mentioned above was the view held by the Pudgalavadin or 'personalist' schools. They seemed to have held that there was a sort of 'personhood' in some ultimately real sense which was not reducible to the five aggregates. Buddhist philosophy thrived in large monastery-university complexes such as Nalanda and Vikramasila , which became centres of learning in North India. The Mahayana also promoted the Bodhisattva ideal, which included an attitude of compassion for all sentient beings. The Bodhisattva is someone who chooses to remain in samsara the cycle of birth and death to benefit all other beings who are suffering.

The Diamond Sutra states that:. Are like a dream, an illusion, a bubble, a shadow, Like dew or a flash of lightning; Thus we shall perceive them. The Heart Sutra famously affirms the emptiness or voidness shunyata of phenomena:. AD — c. In this work, he covers topics such as causation, motion, and the sense faculties. Later philosophers of the Madhyamaka school built upon Nagarjuna's analysis and defended Madhyamaka against their opponents.

He quotes Nagarjuna's famous statement in the Vigrahavyavartani which says "I have no thesis" for his rejection of positive epistemic Madhyamaka statements. Yogacara thinkers like Vasubandhu argued against the existence of external objects by pointing out that we only ever have access to our own mental impressions, and hence our inference of the existence of external objects is based on faulty logic. This [world] is nothing but impressions, since it manifests itself as an unreal object, Just like the case of those with cataracts seeing unreal hairs in the moon and the like.

According to Vasubandhu then, all our experiences are like seeing hairs on the moon when we have cataracts, that is, we project our mental images into something "out there" when there are no such things.


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Vasubandhu then goes on to use the dream argument to argue that mental impressions do not require external objects to 1 seem to be spatio-temporally located, 2 to seem to have an inter-subjective quality, and 3 to seem to operate by causal laws. The soteriological importance of this theory is that by removing the concept of an external world, it also weakens the 'internal' sense of self as observer which is supposed to be separate from the external world.

To dissolve the dualism of inner and outer is also to dissolve the sense of self and other. The later Yogacara commentator Sthiramati explains this thus:. Where there is no thing to be grasped, the absence of a grasper also follows, there is not just the absence of the thing to be grasped. Thus there arises the extra-mundane non-conceptual cognition that is alike without object and without cognizer. Vasubandhu also attacked the realist theories of Buddhist atomism and the Abhidharma theory of svabhava.

He argued that atoms as conceived by the atomists un-divisible entities would not be able to come together to form larger aggregate entities, and hence that they were illogical concepts. This philosophical tradition is influential in Tibetan Buddhist thought. They marked a shift from a largely apophatic negative philosophical trend within Buddhism to a decidedly more cataphatic positive modus.

In these sutras the perfection of the wisdom of not-self is stated to be the true self; the ultimate goal of the path is then characterized using a range of positive language that had been used previously in Indian philosophy by essentialist philosophers, but which was now transmuted into a new Buddhist vocabulary to describe a being who has successfully completed the Buddhist path.

The word "self" atman is used in a way idiosyncratic to these sutras; the "true self" is described as the perfection of the wisdom of not-self in the Buddha-Nature Treatise , for example. In the Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra , the Buddha insists that while pondering upon Dharma is vital, one must then relinquish fixation on words and letters, as these are utterly divorced from liberation and the Buddha-nature. In the centuries following Dignaga's work, Sanskrit philosophers became much more focused on defending all of their propositions with fully developed theories of knowledge. Perception is a non-conceptual awareness of particulars which is bound by causality, while inference is reasonable, linguistic and conceptual.

They attacked Hindu theories of God Isvara , universals, the authority of the Vedas, and the existence of a permanent soul atman. The tradition associated with a group of texts known as the Buddhist Tantras , known as Vajrayana , developed by the eighth century in North India. While the view of the Vajrayana was based on Madhyamaka , Yogacara and Buddha-nature theories, [96] [97] it saw itself as being a faster vehicle to liberation containing many skillful methods upaya of tantric ritual.

The need for an explication and defense of the Tantras arose out of the unusual nature of the rituals associated with them, which included the use of secret mantras , alcohol, sexual yoga , complex visualizations of mandalas filled with wrathful deities and other practices and injunctions which were discordant with or at least novel in comparison to traditional Buddhist thought. The defense of these practices is based on the theory of transformation which states that negative mental factors and physical actions can be cultivated and transformed in a ritual setting, the Hevajra tantra states:.

Those things by which evil men are bound, others turn into means and gain thereby release from the bonds of existence. By passion the world is bound, by passion too it is released, but by heretical Buddhists this practice of reversals is not known. Another hermeneutic of Buddhist Tantric commentaries such as the Vimalaprabha of Pundarika a commentary on the Kalacakra Tantra is one of interpreting taboo or unethical statements in the Tantras as metaphorical statements about tantric practice. For example, in the Vimalaprabha, "killing living beings" refers to stopping the prana at the top of the head.

In the Tantric Candrakirti's Pradipoddyotana , a commentary to the Guhyasamaja Tantra, killing living beings is glossed as "making them void" by means of a "special samadhi " which according to Bus-ton is associated with completion stage tantric practice. Douglas Duckworth notes that Vajrayana philosophical outlook is one of embodiment, which sees the physical and cosmological body as already containing wisdom and divinity.

Liberation nirvana and Buddhahood is not seen as something outside or an event in the future, but as imminently present and accessible right now through unique tantric practices like deity yoga , and hence Vajrayana is also called the "resultant vehicle". In Tibet , philosophers such as Sakya Pandita — , Longchenpa — and Tsongkhapa — continued the tradition of Buddhist Tantric philosophy in Tibetan.

Other influences include Buddhist Tantras and the Buddha nature texts. The initial work of early Tibetan Buddhist philosophers was in translation of classical Indian philosophical treatises and the writing of commentaries, this initial period is from the 8th to the 10th century. Early Tibetan commentator philosophers were heavily influenced by the work of Dharmakirti and these include Ngok Lo-dza-wa and Cha-ba Their works are now lost. For Chandrakirti however, this is wrong, because meditation on emptiness cannot possibly involve any object.

Reason's role here is to negate any essence or essentialist views, and then eventually negate itself along with any Conceptual proliferation. There are various Tibetan Buddhist schools or monastic orders. According to Georges B. Dreyfus, within Tibetan thought, the Sakya school holds a mostly anti-realist philosophical position, while the Gelug school tends to defend a form of realism. The Kagyu and Nyingma schools also tend to follow Sakya anti-realism with some differences.

The 14th century saw increasing interest in the Buddha nature texts and doctrines. Dolpopa Dol-bo-ba , — , founder of the Jonang school, developed a view called shentong Wylie: gzhan stong other empty , which is closely tied to Yogacara and Buddha-nature theories. This view holds that the qualities of Buddhahood or Buddha nature are already present in the mind, and that it is empty of all conventional reality which occludes its own nature as Buddhahood or Dharmakaya.

According to Dolpopa all beings are said to have Buddha nature which is real, unchanging, permanent, non-conditioned, eternal, blissful and compassionate. In the late 17th century the Jonang order and its teachings came under attack by the 5th Dalai Lama , who converted the majority of their monasteries in Tibet to the Gelug order, although several survived in secret. Gelug philosophy is based upon study of Madhyamaka texts and Tsongkhapa's works as well as formal debate rtsod pa. Tsongkhapa defended Prasangika Madhyamaka as the highest view and critiqued the Svatantrika.

Tsongkhapa argued that because the Svatantrika conventionally establish things by their own characteristics, they fail to completely understand the emptiness of phenomena and hence do not achieve the same realization. Tsongkhapa identified two major flaws in interpretations of Madhyamika, under-negation of svabhava or own essence which could lead to Absolutism and over-negation which could lead to Nihilism. Tsongkhapa's solution to this dilemma was the promotion of the use of inferential reasoning only within the conventional realm of the two truths framework, allowing for the use of reason for ethics, conventional monastic rules and promoting a conventional epistemic realism [] while holding that from the view of ultimate truth paramarthika satya , all things including Buddha nature and Nirvana are empty of inherent existence svabhava and true enlightenment is this realization of emptiness.

Gorampa also critiqued Tsongkhapa's realism, arguing that the structures which allow an empty object to be presented as conventionally real eventually dissolve under analysis and are thus unstructured and non-conceptual spros bral. Tsongkhapa's students Gyel-tsap, Kay-drup, and Ge-dun-drup set forth an epistemological realism against the Sakya scholars' anti-realism. Sakya Pandita — was a 13th-century head of the Sakya school and ruler of Tibet. He was also one of the most important Buddhist philosophers in the Tibetan tradition, writing works on logic and epistemology and promoting Dharmakirti 's Pramanavarttika Commentary on Valid Cognition as central to scholastic study.

Sakya Pandita's 'Treasury of Logic on Valid Cognition' Tshad ma rigs pa'i gter set forth the classic Sakya epistemic anti-realist position, arguing that concepts such as universals are not known through valid cognition and hence are not real objects of knowledge. Later Sakyas such as Gorampa — and Sakya Chokden — would develop and defend Sakya anti-realism, and they are seen as the major interpreters and critics of Sakya Pandita's philosophy.

In his Definite ascertainment of the middle way , Chokden criticized Tsongkhapa's view as being too logo-centric and still caught up in conceptualization about the ultimate reality which is beyond language. Madhyamaka is seen by Chokden as removing the fault of taking the unreal as being real, and Yogacara removes the fault of the denial of Reality.

The Nyingma school is strongly influenced by the view of Dzogchen Great Perfection and the Dzogchen Tantric literature. Longchenpa — was a major philosopher of the Nyingma school and wrote an extensive number of works on the Tibetan practice of Dzogchen and on Buddhist Tantra. Longchenpa's works provide a philosophical understanding of Dzogchen, a defense of Dzogchen in light of the sutras, as well as practical instructions. For Longchenpa, the basis for Dzogchen and Tantric practice in Vajrayana is the "Ground" gzhi , the immanent Buddha nature, "the primordially luminous reality that is unconditioned and spontaneously present" which is "free from all elaborated extremes".

Mipham argued that the view of the middle way is Unity zung 'jug , meaning that from the ultimate perspective the duality of sentient beings and Buddhas is also dissolved. Mipham also affirmed the view of rangtong self emptiness. The main difference between them is their "object of negation"; shengtong states that inauthentic experience is empty, rangtong negates any conceptual reference and bdentong negates any true existence. The 14th Dalai Lama was also influenced by this eclectic approach. Having studied under teachers from all major Tibetan Buddhist schools, his philosophical position tends to be that the different perspectives on emptiness are complementary:.

There is a tradition of making a distinction between two different perspectives on the nature of emptiness: one is when emptiness is presented within a philosophical analysis of the ultimate reality of things, in which case it ought to be understood in terms of a non-affirming negative phenomena. On the other hand, when it is discussed from the point of view of experience, it should be understood more in terms of an affirming negation — 14th Dalai Lama []. The schools of Buddhism that had existed in China prior to the emergence of the Tiantai are generally believed to represent direct transplantations from India, with little modification to their basic doctrines and methods.

The Tiantai school, founded by Zhiyi — , [] was the first truly unique Chinese Buddhist philosophical school. The doctrine of Tiantai was based on the ekayana or "one vehicle" doctrine taught in the Lotus sutra and sought to bring together all Buddhist teachings and texts into a comprehensively inclusive hierarchical system, which placed the Lotus sutra at the top of this hierarchy. Tiantai's metaphysics is an immanent holism , which sees every phenomenon, moment or event as conditioned and manifested by the whole of reality.

Every instant of experience is a reflection of every other, and hence, suffering and nirvana, good and bad, Buddhahood and evildoing, are all "inherently entailed" within each other. This third truth is the Absolute and expressed by the claim that nothing is "Neither-Same-Nor-Different" than anything else, but rather each 'thing' is the absolute totality of all things manifesting as a particular, everything is mutually contained within each thing. This perspective allows the Tiantai school to state such seemingly paradoxical things as "evil is ineradicable from the highest good, Buddhahood.

Though Zhiyi did write "One thought contains three thousand worlds", this does not entail idealism. According to Zhiyi, "The objects of the [true] aspects of reality are not something produced by Buddhas, gods, or men. They exist inherently on their own and have no beginning" The Esoteric Meaning, This is then a form of realism, which sees the mind as real as the world, interconnected with and inseparable from it.

Other key figures of Tiantai thought are Zhanran — and Siming Zhili — Zhanran developed the idea that non-sentient beings have Buddha nature , since they are also a reflection of the Absolute. In Japan, this school was known as Tendai and was first brought to the island by Saicho. Huayan holds that all phenomena Sanskrit: dharmas are deeply interconnected, mutually arising and that every phenomenon contains all other phenomena.

Various metaphors and images are used to illustrate this idea.

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The first is known as Indra's net. The net is set with jewels which have the extraordinary property that they reflect all of the other jewels, while the reflections also contain every other reflection, ad infinitum. The second image is that of the world text. This image portrays the world as consisting of an enormous text which is as large as the universe itself. The words of the text are composed of the phenomena that make up the world. However, every atom of the world contains the whole text within it. It is the work of a Buddha to let out the text so that beings can be liberated from suffering.

Fazang Fa-tsang, — , one of the most important Huayan thinkers, wrote 'Essay on the Golden Lion' and 'Treatise on the Five Teachings', which contain other metaphors for the interpenetration of reality. He also used the metaphor of a House of mirrors. Fazang introduced the distinction of "the Realm of Principle" and "the Realm of Things". This theory was further developed by Cheng-guan — into the major Huayan thesis of "the fourfold Dharmadhatu " dharma realm : the Realm of Principle, the Realm of Things, the Realm of the Noninterference between Principle and Things, and the Realm of the Noninterference of All Things.

The third truth was explained by the metaphor of a golden lion, the gold is the universal and the particular is the shape and features of the lion. While both Tiantai and Huayan hold to the interpenetration and interconnection of all things, their metaphysics have some differences. Huayan metaphysics is influenced by Yogacara thought and is closer to idealism.

The sutra states nothing has true reality, location, beginning and end, or substantial nature. The Avatamsaka also states that "The triple world is illusory — it is only made by one mind" and Fazang echoes this by writing "outside of mind there is not a single thing that can be apprehended. The true reality in Huayan, the noumenon, or "Principle" is likened to a mirror, while phenomena are compared to reflections in the mirror. It is also compared to the ocean, and phenomena to waves.

In Korea , this school was known as Hwaeom and is represented in the work of Wonhyo — , who also wrote about the idea of essence-function , a central theme in Korean Buddhist thought. An important issue in Chan is that of subitism or "sudden enlightenment", the idea that enlightenment happens all at once in a flash of insight. This view was promoted by Shenhui and is a central issue discussed in the Platform Sutra , a key Chan scripture composed in China. Huayan philosophy also had an influence on Chan.

The Kamakura Period — also saw another flurry of intellectual activity. During this period, the influential figure of Nichiren — made the practice and universal message of the Lotus Sutra more readily available to the population. He is of particular importance in the history of thought and religion as his teachings constitute a separate sect of Buddhism, one of the only major sects to have originated in Japan [] : xi.

Also during the Kamakura period, the founder of Soto Zen , Dogen — , wrote many works on the philosophy of Zen, and the Shobogenzo is his magnum opus. In Korea, Chinul was an important exponent of Seon Buddhism at around the same time. Tantric Buddhism arrived in China in the 7th century, during the Tang Dynasty. He wrote on a wide variety of topics such as public policy, language, the arts, literature, music and religion. Hosshin is embodied absolute reality and truth.

Hosshin is mostly ineffable but can be experienced through esoteric practices such as mudras and mantras. While Mahayana is taught by the historical Buddha nirmankaya , it does not have ultimate reality as its source or the practices to experience the esoteric truth. Buddhist Art in India. Buddhist Sects In India. Science of Mind and Behavior. Philosophical Essays on Mind and Psychology. Psychology: The Science of Mind and Behavior. Brainstorms: Philosophical Essays on Mind and Psychology. Mind design II. Philosophy, Psychology, Artificial Intelligence. Seven Pioneers of Psychology: Behaviour and Mind.

Sakra in Early Buddhist Art. Energy Psychology Innovations in Psychology. Recommend Documents. Mann, editor Encountering B Buddhist Teaching in India Studies in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism to provide a forum for publishing outstanding new contributions to scholars



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