The Buddhist View of Knowledge and Reality

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Item Code: IDK388
Publisher: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd.
Author: Moti Lal Pandit
Language: English
Edition: 2008
ISBN: 9788121511964
Pages: 314
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 8.8" X 5.8"
Weight 540 gm
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Book Description

From the Jacket

Buddha, while synthesizing the competing religious ideologies of brahmanism and sramanism, envisioned such a religious goal which, both at the theoretical and practical levels, would follow the Middle Way, and in terms of which would be abandoned both philosophical and religious extremism. Thus, the Middle Way of the Buddha would avoid such philosophical and ethical extremism as is enshrined by such concepts as, for example, eternalism and nihilism, hedonism and asceticism. The purpose of this doctrine of the Middle Way was not to succumb to any extreme viewpoint. Whether philosophical or ethical. Even though Buddha may have claimed that he had established no school of thought, it cannot, however, be denied that he expressed certain philosophical views which, with the passage of time, attained such complexity as would give rise to both critical philosophy and to idealism.

Upon passing away of the Buddha, Buddhist thinkers, initially, interpreted the soteriological message in realistic terms, which, however, became quite complex with the emergence of Sarvastivada and Sautrantika schools of thought. The philosophical realism of early Buddhism was abandoned, upon the emergence of Mahayana, in favour of critical philosophy of Nagarjuna and idealistic philosophy of Asanga-Vasubandhu.

These and such-like questions had to be faced by the Buddhist thinkers-and the present study of these issues has been dealt with both at ontological and epistemological levels. Thus, the present study addresses itself to these questions in a manner as would lead to proper appreciation of Buddhist philosophical thought.

Moti Lal Pandit, trained as theologian and linguist, has for last thirty years been doing dialogic research as would terminate in the dissemination of such knowledge that would lead to proper understanding of people adhering to different religious faith. Such an untiring effort has ultimately resulted in such publications as, for example: Vedic Hinduism; Philosophy of the Upanisads; In Search of the Absolute; Samkara's Concept of Reality; Being as Becoming; Towards Transcendence; Transcendence and Negation; Disclosure of Being; Trika Saivism of Kashmir; An Introduction to the Philosophy of Trika Saivism; Sunyata: The Essence of Mahayana Spirituality; Buddhism: A Religion of Salvation; Encounter with Buddhism; and Did Marx Kill God.


The Gospel of salvation that the Buddha preached upon the attainment of enlightenment should not be construed as giving rise to a new philosophical school of thought. The intention of the Buddha was not so much to establish a new religious denomination or philosophical school of thought as much it was to point out the way that would free man from the bondage of suffering. This new message of freedom from suffering is purely spiritual and has nothing to do with a particular viewpoint. It is because of this redemptory concern that the message of the Buddha has been equated to Dharma – and Dharma is such a principle which always is and which, as the support of everything, holds everything together. Since the message of the Buddha is identical with Dharma, so it is a message whose purport is to free existents from the process of temporal fragmentation in terms of the attainment of such an existential state that is full of repose, free from contradictions, full, and perfect. As the message is universal in its range and scope, so everyone is asked to participate in the festival of redemptory banquet of enlightenment. The Buddha makes this intention concerning his gospel of salvation explicit when he declares :

Instead of propounding a new philosophical or theological school of thought, Buddha preached his Dharma in terms of what is commonly known as the Middle Way. The Middle Way doctrine of the Dharma of the Buddha, while having no standpoint of its own, tries to avoid both the philosophical and ethical extremism. This doctrine of the Middle Way avoids eternalism as well as nihilism in the same measure as it avoids asceticism and hedonism. If one were to subscribe to any of the "isms," then one would be shutting the door for other points of view, which would mean subjecting to such a form of dogmatism that has no respect for truth. Accordingly does the Buddha advise his disciples that, instead of depending on a particular philosophical or religious theory, they should engage in such an analysis (vibbhaja) so as to discover for themselves the merit and the demerit of every theory. Such an approach would save them from falling into the trap of dogmatic error. Moreover, a theory should have a practical value, and it is the norm of practicality that would validate as to whether a particular theory is truthful or contains a bundle of lies. And, for the Buddha, the practical value of a theory could be determined only if it would lead to the cessation of suffering. It is, thus, the practical value of a theory that would function for the Buddha as a kind of principle of verification.

It is within the framework of practical value of a theory that the Buddha has formulated his doctrine of the Middle Way in such a manner as would lead to the cessation of suffering. It is the Meddle Way that, as it were, constitutes the heart and essence of the Dharma of the Buddha. Since the Middle Way fulfils the criterion of reasonableness, so it would mean that the Dharma that the Buddha has preached, is reasonable, and its reasonableness lies.

It is not a mere logical analysis of a particular statement that would terminate in the emergence of truth, nor would such an analysis culminate in the cessation of suffering. What the Buddha is saying is that one should engage in such a psychological analysis of a philosophical or religious statement as would help in discovering whether the statement is spiritually conducive or not. A philosophical or religious statement that looks, for example, at dispositions like lust, malice, and ignorance as the root-cause of suffering should be considered as being wholesome, because on the touchstone of practicality it stands the test. We know from our own experience that such negative dispositions do terminate in both physical and mental suffering. It is not only the psychological analysis that should be used in finding out the practical aspect of a statement, but we may also make use of this analysis for the purpose of meditation. The negative elements could be used in meditation in such a way as would facilitate the passage for the emergence of elements that are positive, and would function as an antidote against the disease-causing negative elements. The purpose of this inward-looking analysis is to establish that the introversive way alone has the power of pointing out as to what constitutes a right view-and the right view, in opposition to the erroneous one, is that that cures the disease of suffering. Since, according to the Buddha, the Dharma encapsulates the right view, it should, therefore, be cultivated for the good of oneself and for the good of all. As to whether the Dharma contains the right view should be examined and analysed introspectively by everyone.

As to how the analysis should be carried out, for example, of a dead body for the purpose of meditation is to find out what constitutes its nature. We know from our experience that the composition of the body is made of such elements that undergo change, which denotes its impermanence. As an impermanent object, it is subject to birth, growth, decay, disease, and death. Upon realizing the impermanent nature of the body, it is, thus, advised not to develop any kind of attachment for the body, because any kind attachment for an impermanent object give rise to suffering. As a consequence of this analysis, a meditator develops the disposition of deterioration and death. A mind that has reached the state of detachment, does not give rise to dispositions that are trouble-causing, and, therefore, painful. Such a psychological analysis accordingly transforms itself into an antidote against the disease that is caused by the object that is being analysed. The purpose of this analysis is to transform the adversary into an antidote against the disease from which we all, in one form or other, suffer.

Since the Dharma of the Buddha does not represent any particular school of thought, but asks us to analyse personally what is being preached, so this Dharma is being considered as the embodiment of the Middle Way. At the practical religious level, the Middle Way tells us to avoid all such practices that are either tortuous or indulgent. At the philosophical or theoretical level the Middle Way denotes the avoidance of such extreme philosophical standpoint as eternalism and nihilism. Later Buddhists, particularly Nagarjuna, made use of this doctrine in a such manner as to establish the unknowability of reality in terms of the doctrine of emptiness (sunyata).

What the later Buddhists, particularly the Mahayanists, made of this doctrine of he Middle Way, is not relevant to the discussion at this point. What is of concern to us at this point is the fact that the Buddha never preached the Middle Way doctrine, and thereby also Dharma, as a kind of philosophical theory. Whatever the Buddha preached was meant to have such a cathartic effect upon his audience as would be transformative. Having this practical perspective in view, Buddha accordingly made use of language heuristically, pedagogically and symbolically. As a pedagogue, the Buddha, instead of establishing his point view, desired to point out such elements that are constitutive of a wrong view. The views that are, according to the Buddha, wrong or erroneous, are rooted in a belief system that considers phenomenality, including human personality, as being permanent. Most of us are under the impression that there is a core centre within us that is permanent, free from all such changes that are the characteristic features of phenomenality. This core centre is usually called the self. It is this belief in a permanent self or substratum that underlies all change that is considered by the Buddha as the source of all human ill. A wrong view, thus, is said to be that that terminates in suffering. As to what constitutes a wrong view is made explicit in the Aggi-Vacchagottasutta:




The Religious Thought in Pre-Buddhist India
The Dharma of the Buddha
The Buddhist View of Karman
The Causal Theory of Co-production
The Theory of No-Self
The Possibility of Existence
The Possibility of Knowledge
Nirvana as the Ultimate

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