Buddhist philosophy  

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Buddhist philosophy deals extensively with problems in metaphysics, phenomenology, ethics, and epistemology.



From early times, Buddhism has employed philosophy as a means to understanding reality. Buddhism rejects certain orthodox philosophical concepts. The Buddha is said to have questioned all concepts of metaphysical being and non-being, and this critique is considered by some to be inextricable from the founding of Buddhism.Template:Fact

Particular points of Buddhist philosophy have often been the subject of disputes between different schools of Buddhism. Readers should note that theory for its own sake is not valued in Buddhism, but theory pursued in the interest of enlightenment is fully consistent with Buddhist values and ethics.

Some have asserted that Buddhism as a whole is a practical philosophy rather than a religion.Template:Fact It is "practical" in that it has specific methods of application of various sets of philosophical principles. Proponents of such a view may argue that (a) Buddhism is non-theistic (i.e., it has no special use for the existence or non-existence of a god or gods (see non-theism or atheistic)) and (b) religions necessarily involve some form of theism. Others might contest either part of such an argument. Other arguments for Buddhism "as" philosophy may claim that Buddhism does not have doctrines in the same sense as other religions.

Some views presented in early Buddhist tradition tend to support the notion that Buddhism is a practical philosophy rather than a religion, viz the following excerpt from the Sisupacala Sutta:

Sisupacala Sutta (SNV.8)

I don't approve of anyone's creed, friend."
"Under whom have you shaved your head?
You do appear to be a recluse,
Yet you don't approve of any creed,
So why wander as if bewildered?"
"Outside here the followers of creeds
Place their confidence in views.
I don't approve of their teachings;
They are not skilled in the Dhamma." [134]

A third perspective might take the position that Buddhism can be practiced either as a religion or as a philosophy. A similar distinction is often made with reference to Taoism.

Lama Anagorika Govinda expressed it as follows in the book 'A Living Buddhism for the West':

"Thus we could say that the Buddha's Dharma is,
as experience and as a way to practical realisation, a religion;
as the intellectual formulation of this experience, a philosophy;
and as a result of self-observation and analysis, a psychology.
Whoever treads this path acquires a norm of behavior that is not dictated from without, but is the result of an inner process of maturation and that we - regarding it from without - can call morality."

It should also be noted that in the South and East Asian cultures in which Buddhism achieved most of its development, the distinction between philosophy and religion is somewhat unclear and possibly quite spurious, so this may be a semantic problem arising in the West alone.

Comparison with other philosophies

  • Baruch Spinoza, though he argued for the existence of a permanent reality, asserts that all phenomenal existence is transitory. In his opinion sorrow is conquered "by finding an object of knowledge which is not transient, not ephemeral, but is immutable, permanent, everlasting." Buddhism teaches that such a quest is bound to fail.
  • David Hume, after a relentless analysis of the mind, concluded that consciousness consists of fleeting mental states. Hume's Bundle theory is a very similar concept to anatta.
  • Arthur Schopenhauer's philosophy was very similar to Buddhism.
  • Ludwig Wittgenstein's "word games" map closely to the warning of intellectual speculation as a red herring to understanding, such as the Parable of the Poison Arrow.
  • Friedrich Nietzsche, although himself dismissive of Buddhism as yet another nihilism, developed his philosophy of accepting life-as-it-exists and self-cultivation as extremely similar to Buddhism as better understood in the West
  • Heidegger's ideas on Being and nothingness have been held by some to be similar to Buddhism today.

See also

Some Buddhist philosophers

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