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On Being Buddha (The Classical Doctrine of Buddhahood)

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Item Code: NAE651
Author: Paul J. Griffiths
Publisher: Sri Satguru Publications
Language: English
Edition: 1995
ISBN: 8170304490
Pages: 264
Other Details 9.0 inch x 5.5 inch
Weight 400 gm
Book Description
About the Book

What is it like to be a Buddha? Is there only one Buddha or are there many? What can Buddhas do and what do they know? Is there anything they cannot do and cannot know? These and associated questions were much discussed by Buddhist thinkers in India, and a complex and subtle set of doctrinal positions was developed to deal with them. This is the first book in a western language to treat these doctrines about Buddha from a philosophical and thoroughly critical viewpoint.

The book shows that Buddhist thinkers were driven, when theorizing about Buddha, by a basic intuition that Buddha must be maximally perfect, and that pursuing the implications of this intuition led them into some conceptual dilemmas that show considerable similarity to some of those treated by western theists. The Indian Buddhist tradition of thought about these matters is presented here as thoroughly systematic, analytical, and doctrinal.

The book's analysis is based almost entirely upon original sources in their original languages. All extracts discussed are translated into English and the book is accessible to nonspecialists, while still treating material that has not been much discussed by western scholars.

"The book raises fundamental issues concerning not only Buddhist ways of conceptualizing divinity but human ways in general of doing so. It provides remarkable new insights in both of those domains. The book is of unquestion- able importance."

About the Author

Paul J. Griffiths is Associate Professor in the Divinity School and in the Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago. He has previously published books on Buddhist philosophy (On Being Mindless and The Realm of Awakening) and on cross-cultural philosophy and theology (An Apology for Apologetics).


In this study I am concerned at the level of theory with the nature of doctrine and its uses by religious communities, as well as with the heuristic value of the concept 'doctrine' for cross-cultural studies in the philosophy of religion.

In chapter one I state a formal definition of doctrine; this definition is intended to serve my substantive and exegetical interest in Buddhist doctrine. More precisely, I am concerned to lay bare the structure and meaning of classical Indian Buddhist doctrine about Buddha, and to do so by applying to it the theoretical framework given in chapter one. My goal here is to show that this framework may profitably be used in a particular case, and so also to suggest by example that the category 'doctrine' may have significant heuristic and analytical value for the cross-cultural study of one important aspect of the lives of religious communities.

In chapter two I consider in what ways and to what extent the category 'doctrine' can be applied to the texts of Indian Buddhism, and make some suggestions as to those terms in the technical discourse of Indian Buddhists that cover some of the semantic ground embraced by the English word 'doctrine.'

In chapter three I offer an overview of the particular doctrinal discourse developed by Indian Buddhists that is the central focus of this book. This is a discourse concerned with the properties of Buddha, with those qualities that must, ac- cording to the tradition, be predicated of every Buddha. It is a discourse analogous in important ways to that which Christians call 'christology.'


"Scholasticism" and "doctrine" would seem to be self-evidently central categories for any discipline devoted to the comparative philosophy of religion(s). Yet attempts to formulate, in a comparative context, theories of these two quintessentially religious and closely related phenomena have been very few and far be- tween. Serious studies of particular scholastic and doctrinal traditions, based on such theories and carried forward with theoretically sophisticated methods, have been virtually non-existent.

Jose Cabezón, in Volume VI of our Toward a Comparative Philosophy of Religions Series entitled Buddhism and Language: A Study of Indo-Tibetan Scholasticism has formulated the no- tion of "scholasticism" as a comparative category; and he has gone on to provide-as an illustrative example of its use-a superb study of Buddhist scholasticism in Tibet. Now, in Vol- ume VIII, Paul Griffiths takes up the closely associated task of developing the notion of "doctrine" as a comparative category; and he demonstrates the usefulness of the category by providing a fascinating study of a central Buddhist doctrine that was formulated in India during the period from the 3rd to the 9th centuries C.E.

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