Philospy of Buddism

Buddhist Philosophy

That is why Buddhists do not preach and try to convert, only explain if an explanation is sought. Science is knowledge which can be made into a system, which depends upon seeing and testing facts and stating general natural laws. The core of Buddhism fit into this definition, because the Four Noble truths see below can be tested and proven by anyone in fact the Buddha himself asked his followers to test the teaching rather than accept his word as true.

Buddhism depends more on understanding than faith. The first truth is that life is suffering i. We also endure psychological suffering like loneliness frustration, fear, embarrassment, disappointment and anger. This is an irrefutable fact that cannot be denied. It is realistic rather than pessimistic because pessimism is expecting things to be bad.

The second truth is that suffering is caused by craving and aversion. We will suffer if we expect other people to conform to our expectation, if we want others to like us, if we do not get something we want,etc. In other words, getting what you want does not guarantee happiness.

The Origin and Teachings of Buddhism

Buddhist philosophy refers to the philosophical investigations and systems of inquiry that developed among various Buddhist schools in India following the. Introduction[edit]. The Buddha expressed his philosophy when he said: "I teach only two things, O disciples, the nature of suffering and the cessation of suffering.

Rather than constantly struggling to get what you want, try to modify your wanting. Wanting deprives us of contentment and happiness. A lifetime of wanting and craving and especially the craving to continue to exist, creates a powerful energy which causes the individual to be born. So craving leads to physical suffering because it causes us to be reborn. The third truth is that suffering can be overcome and happiness can be attained; that true happiness and contentment are possible.

We then have more time and energy to help others. The fourth truth is that the Noble 8-fold Path is the path which leads to the end of suffering. In summary, the Noble 8-fold Path is being moral through what we say, do and our livelihood , focussing the mind on being fully aware of our thoughts and actions, and developing wisdom by understanding the Four Noble Truths and by developing compassion for others.

Introduction to Philosophy/What is Buddhist Philosophy?

The moral code within Buddhism is the precepts, of which the main five are: Karma is the law that every cause has an effect, i. This simple law explains a number of things: Karma underlines the importance of all individuals being responsible for their past and present actions. How can we test the karmic effect of our actions? The answer is summed up by looking at 1 the intention behind the action, 2 effects of the action on oneself, and 3 the effects on others.

Buddhism teaches that wisdom should be developed with compassion.

  1. Götterdämmerung - Der Spionagethriller aus dem Zweiten Weltkrieg (German Edition);
  2. One of the Few, The Proud, The Marines.
  3. Buddha and Happiness.

At one extreme, you could be a good hearted fool and at the other extreme, you could attain knowledge without any emotion. Buddhism uses the middle path to develop both. The highest wisdom is seeing that in reality, all phenomena are incomplete, impermanent and do not constitute a fixed entity. True wisdom is not simply believing what we are told but instead experiencing and understanding truth and reality. On this view the teaching of non-self is not a bit of metaphysics, just some practical advice to the effect that we should avoid identifying with things that are transitory and so bound to yield dissatisfaction.

What both interpretations share is the assumption that it is possible to arrive at what the Buddha himself thought without relying on the understanding of his teachings developed in the subsequent Buddhist philosophical tradition. This assumption may be questioned. The first difficulty may not be as serious as it seems, given that the Buddha's discourses were probably rehearsed shortly after his death and preserved through oral transmission until the time they were committed to writing.

And the second need not be insuperable either. But the third is troubling, in that it suggests textual transmission involved processes of insertion and deletion in aid of one side or another in sectarian disputes. Our ancient sources attest to this: This suggests that our record of the Buddha's teaching may be colored by the philosophical elaboration of those teachings propounded by later thinkers in the Buddhist tradition.

Some scholars are more sanguine than others about the possibility of overcoming this difficulty, and thereby getting at what the Buddha himself had thought, as opposed to what later Buddhist philosophers thought he had thought. No position will be taken on this dispute here.

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We will be treating the Buddha's thought as it was understood within the later philosophical tradition that he had inspired. The resulting interpretation may or may not be faithful to his intentions. It is at least logically possible that he believed there to be a transcendent self that can only be known by mystical intuition, or that the exercise of philosophical rationality leads only to sterile theorizing and away from real emancipation. What we can say with some assurance is that this is not how the Buddhist philosophical tradition understood him.

It is their understanding that will be the subject of this essay. But there are said to be different levels of appreciation of this truth, some quite subtle and difficult to attain; the highest of these is said to involve the realization that everything is of the nature of suffering. Perhaps it is sufficient for present purposes to point out that while this is not the implausible claim that all of life's states and events are necessarily experienced as unsatisfactory, still the realization that all oneself included is impermanent can undermine a precondition for real enjoyment of the events in a life: It is with the development and elaboration of 2 that substantive philosophical controversy begins.

Much then hangs on the correct identification of the causes of suffering. The answer is traditionally spelled out in a list consisting of twelve links in a causal chain that begins with ignorance and ends with suffering represented by the states of old age, disease and death. Modern scholarship has established that this list is a later compilation. For the texts that claim to convey the Buddha's own teachings give two slightly different formulations of this list, and shorter formulations containing only some of the twelve items are also found in the texts.

But it seems safe to say that the Buddha taught an analysis of the origins of suffering roughly along the following lines: This leads in turn to the formation of attachments, in the form of desire and aversion, and the strengthening of ignorance concerning the true nature of sentient existence. These ensure future rebirth, and thus future instances of old age, disease and death, in a potentially unending cycle. The key to escape from this cycle is said to lie in realization of the truth about sentient existence—that it is characterized by suffering, impermanence and non-self. But this realization is not easily achieved, since acts of appropriation have already made desire, aversion and ignorance deeply entrenched habits of mind.

Thus the measures specified in 4 include various forms of training designed to replace such habits with others that are more conducive to seeing things as they are. Training in meditation is also prescribed, as a way of enhancing one's observational abilities, especially with respect to one's own psychological states. Insight is cultivated through the use of these newly developed observational powers, as informed by knowledge acquired through the exercise of philosophical rationality.

There is a debate in the later tradition as to whether final release can be attained through theoretical insight alone, through meditation alone, or only by using both techniques. This disagreement begins with a dispute over how to interpret D I. The third option seems the most plausible, but the first is certainly of some interest given its suggestion that one can attain the ideal state for humans just by doing philosophy.

The Buddha seems to have held 2 to constitute the core of his discovery. The extremes are eternalism, the view that persons are eternal, and annihilationism, the view that persons go utterly out of existence usually understood to mean at death, though a term still shorter than one lifetime is not ruled out. It will be apparent that eternalism requires the existence of the sort of self that the Buddha denies.

What is not immediately evident is why the denial of such a self is not tantamount to the claim that the person is annihilated at death or even sooner, depending on just how impermanent one takes the psychophysical elements to be. This reductionist view of sentient beings was later articulated in terms of the distinction between two kinds of truth, conventional and ultimate. Each kind of truth has its own domain of objects, the things that are only conventionally real and the things that are ultimately real respectively.

Conventionally real entities are those things that are accepted as real by common sense, but that turn out on further analysis to be wholes compounded out of simpler entities and thus not strictly speaking real at all. The stock example of a conventionally real entity is the chariot, which we take to be real only because it is more convenient, given our interests and cognitive limitations, to have a single name for the parts when assembled in the right way.

Since our belief that there are chariots is thus due to our having a certain useful concept, the chariot is said to be a mere conceptual fiction. This does not, however, mean that all conceptualization is falsification; only concepts that allow of reductive analysis lead to this artificial inflation of our ontology, and thus to a kind of error. Ultimately real entities are those ultimate parts into which conceptual fictions are analyzable.

An ultimately true statement is one that correctly describes how certain ultimately real entities are arranged. A conventionally true statement is one that, given how the ultimately real entities are arranged, would correctly describe certain conceptual fictions if they also existed. The ultimate truth about sentient beings is just that there is a causal series of impermanent, impersonal psychophysical elements. Since these are all impermanent, and lack other properties that would be required of an essence of the person, none of them is a self.

But given the right arrangement of such entities in a causal series, it is useful to think of them as making up one thing, a person. It is thus conventionally true that there are persons, things that endure for a lifetime and possibly if there is rebirth longer. This is conventionally true because generally speaking there is more overall happiness and less overall pain and suffering when one part of such a series identifies with other parts of the same series. For instance, when the present set of psychophysical elements identifies with future elements, it is less likely to engage in behavior such as smoking that results in present pleasure but far greater future pain.

The utility of this convention is, however, limited. Past a certain point—namely the point at which we take it too seriously, as more than just a useful fiction—it results in existential suffering. While the second part of this strategy only receives its full articulation in the later development of the theory of two truths, the first part can be found in the Buddha's own teachings, in the form of several philosophical arguments for non-self. Best known among these is the argument from impermanence S III. It is the fact that this argument does not contain a premise explicitly asserting that the five skandhas classes of psychophysical element are exhaustive of the constituents of persons, plus the fact that these are all said to be empirically observable, that leads some to claim that the Buddha did not intend to deny the existence of a self tout court.

There is, however, evidence that the Buddha was generally hostile toward attempts to establish the existence of unobservable entities. And in the Tevijja Sutta D I. This makes more plausible the assumption that the argument has as an implicit premise the claim that there is no more to the person than the five skandhas. Premise 1 appears to be based on the assumption that persons undergo rebirth, together with the thought that one function of a self would be to account for diachronic personal identity.

This is shown by the fact that the Buddha rules out the body as a self on the grounds that the body exists for just one lifetime. The mental entities that make up the remaining four types of psychophysical element might seem like more promising candidates, but these are ruled out on the grounds that these all originate in dependence on contact between sense faculty and object, and last no longer than a particular sense-object-contact event. That he listed five kinds of psychophysical element, and not just one, shows that the Buddha embraced a kind of dualism.

These events being impermanent, they too fail to account for diachronic personal identity in the way in which a self might be expected to. Another argument for non-self, which might be called the argument from control S III. Premise 1 is puzzling. It appears to presuppose that the self should have complete control over itself, so that it would effortlessly adjust its state to its desires. That the self should be thought of as the locus of control is certainly plausible. Those Indian self-theorists who claim that the self is a mere passive witness recognize that the burden of proof is on them to show that the self is not an agent.

But it seems implausibly demanding to require of the self that it have complete control over itself. We do not require that vision see itself if it is to see other things.

The case of vision suggests an alternative interpretation, however. We might hold that vision does not see itself for the reason that this would violate an irreflexivity principle, to the effect that an entity cannot operate on itself. Indian philosophers who accept this principle cite supportive instances such as the knife that cannot cut itself and the finger-tip that cannot touch itself.

If this principle is accepted, then if the self were the locus of control it would follow that it could never exercise this function on itself. A self that was the controller could never find itself in the position of seeking to change its state to one that it deemed more desirable. On this interpretation, the first premise seems to be true.

And there is ample evidence that 2 is true: Consequently, given the assumption that the person is wholly composed of the psychophysical elements, it appears to follow that a self of this description does not exist. These two arguments appear, then, to give good reason to deny a self that might ground diachronic personal identity and serve as locus of control, given the assumption that there is no more to the person than the empirically given psychophysical elements.

But it now becomes something of a puzzle how one is to explain diachronic personal identity and agency. To start with the latter, does the argument from control not suggest that control must be exercised by something other than the psychophysical elements? One of their arguments for the existence of a self was that it is possible to exercise control over all the empirically given constituents of the person; while they agree with the Buddha that a self is never observed, they take the phenomena of agency to be grounds for positing a self that transcends all possible experience.

This line of objection to the Buddha's teaching of non-self is more commonly formulated in response to the argument from impermanence, however. Perhaps its most dramatic form is aimed at the Buddha's acceptance of the doctrines of karma and rebirth. It is clear that the body ceases to exist at death. And given the Buddha's argument that mental states all originate in dependence on sense-object contact events, it seems no psychological constituent of the person can transmigrate either.

Yet the Buddha claims that persons who have not yet achieved enlightenment will be reborn as sentient beings of some sort after they die. If there is no constituent whatever that moves from one life to the next, how could the being in the next life be the same person as the being in this life? This question becomes all the more pointed when it is added that rebirth is governed by karma, something that functions as a kind of cosmic justice: Such a system of reward and punishment could be just only if the recipient of pleasant or unpleasant karmic fruit is the same person as the agent of the good or evil action.

And the opponent finds it incomprehensible how this could be so in the absence of a persisting self. It is not just classical Indian self-theorists who have found this objection persuasive. Some Buddhists have as well. Among these Buddhists, however, this has led to the rejection not of non-self but of rebirth. Historically this response was not unknown among East Asian Buddhists, and it is not rare among Western Buddhists today.

The evidence that the Buddha himself accepted rebirth and karma seems quite strong, however. The later tradition would distinguish between two types of discourse in the body of the Buddha's teachings: And it would be one thing if his use of the concepts of karma and rebirth were limited to the former.

The idea would be that householders who fail to comply with the most basic demands of morality are not likely for reasons to be discussed shortly to make significant progress toward the cessation of suffering, and the teaching of karma and rebirth, even if not strictly speaking true, does give those who accept it a prudential reason to be moral.

And what he taught is not the version of karma popular in certain circles today, according to which, for instance, an act done out of hatred makes the agent somewhat more disposed to perform similar actions out of similar motives in the future, which in turn makes negative experiences more likely for the agent.

What the Buddha teaches is instead the far stricter view that each action has its own specific consequence for the agent, the hedonic nature of which is determined in accordance with causal laws and in such a way as to require rebirth as long as action continues. So if there is a conflict between the doctrine of non-self and the teaching of karma and rebirth, it is not to be resolved by weakening the Buddha's commitment to the latter. This is the view that the Buddha appears to have accepted in its most straightforward form. Actions are said to be of three types: The Buddha insists, however, that by action is meant not the movement or change involved, but rather the volition or intention that brought about the change.

As Gombrich points out, the Buddha's insistence on this point reflects the transition from an earlier ritualistic view of action to a view that brings action within the purview of ethics. For it is when actions are seen as subject to moral assessment that intention becomes relevant. One does not, for instance, perform the morally blameworthy action of speaking insultingly to an elder just by making sounds that approximate to the pronunciation of profanities in the presence of an elder; parrots and prelinguistic children can do as much.

What matters for moral assessment is the mental state if any that produced the bodily, verbal or mental change. And it is the occurrence of these mental states that is said to cause the subsequent occurrence of hedonically good, bad and neutral experiences.

And we are told quite specifically A III. Some caution is required in understanding this claim about the defilements. The Buddha seems to be saying that it is possible to act not only without ignorance, but also in the absence of desire or aversion, yet it is difficult to see how there could be intentional action without some positive or negative motivation.

Presumably the enlightened person, while knowing the truth about these matters, can still engage in motivated action. Ignorance concerning these matters perpetuates rebirth, and thus further occasions for existential suffering, by facilitating a motivational structure that reinforces one's ignorance.

We can now see how compliance with common-sense morality could be seen as an initial step on the path to the cessation of suffering. While the presence of ignorance makes all action—even that deemed morally good—karmically potent, those actions commonly considered morally evil are especially powerful reinforcers of ignorance, in that they stem from the assumption that the agent's welfare is of paramount importance. This excursus into what the Buddha meant by karma may help us see how his middle path strategy could be used to reply to the objection to non-self from rebirth.

That objection was that the reward and punishment generated by karma across lives could never be deserved in the absence of a transmigrating self. The middle path strategy generally involves locating and rejecting an assumption shared by a pair of extreme views. In this case the views will be 1 that the person in the later life deserves the fruit generated by the action in the earlier life, and 2 that this person does not deserve the fruit.

One assumption shared by 1 and 2 is that persons deserve reward and punishment depending on the moral character of their actions, and one might deny this assumption. But that would be tantamount to moral nihilism, and a middle path is said to avoid nihilisms such as annihilationism. A more promising alternative might be to deny that there are ultimately such things as persons that could bear moral properties like desert.