Dhamma and Philosophy – Introduction

1. One may ask the question: “What does Buddhism have to do with philosophy?”.

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines philosophy as:

  •  the study of ideas about knowledge, truth, the nature and meaning of life, etc.
  • a particular set of ideas about knowledge, truth, the nature and meaning of life, etc.
  • a set of ideas about how to do something or how to live

Other dictionaries and books define philosophy in a similar manner.

2. The origin of the word “philosophy” comes from the Greek words “phila” (meaning love) and “sophia” (meaning wisdom). Thus philosophy is “love of wisdom”. It is said that Pythagoras (570 BCE) coined the term, and that is the basically the time the Western philosophers started looking for “natural explanations” instead of accepting that a Creator needed to be invoked to explain phenomena that we see around us.

  • This method of “acquiring knowledge” was supposed to be based on reason, argument, and observation. But as we discuss at this website, any knowledge gained by that method is necessarily limited, because we have senses faculties that are very limited, and whatever deductions we make with unpurified minds are faulty and incomplete; see, “Dhamma and Science” section for an introduction. Science actually branched off from philosophy, first as “natural philosophy”.
  • Therefore, Buddha Dhamma has a lot to say about philosophy, even though there is no such thing as “Buddhist philosophy”; there is only “Buddha Dhamma” which describes the nature. The Buddha did not speculate on anything like philosophers. He said he experienced everything that he taught. One time a Brahmin asked the Buddha whether he believed devas and hell beings exist. The Buddha said he KNOWS they exist and could see those beings.
  • Buddha Dhamma can sort out the philosophical arguments that have gone back to the Buddha’s time (in the Western world); philosophical views have evolved over the intervening time, but Buddha Dhamma has not. Ironically, “the pure form of Dhamma” had been left out of the discussion mainly because “Mahayana forefathers” like Nagarjuna, Asanga, and Vasabandhu made up a “Buddhist philosophy”.

3. Since Buddha Dhamma is a complete set of nature laws only for its faithful followers, it is logical to present it as a philosophy to those who are not familiar with it or who have not seen enough evidence to believe that claim. In presenting Buddha Dhamma as a philosophy the second definition is a more valid one, because these are not evolving ideas; rather, they were laid down 2500 years ago, and have been documented in the Tipitaka, the Pali Canon.

  • It is a set of ideas about knowledge and truth not only about human existence, but ALL that exists in the seen and unseen parts of “this world”, which also encompasses not only the Solar system, but an infinite number of such planetary systems.
  • This may sound as an arrogant claim, but it is not. One could scan different sections of this site and see that there is a complete theory about the whole existence;  it may take another year or more to get even the “basics” of the Dhamma published. As of mid-2015, I have not yet been able to present even a fraction of the Abhidhamma material.

4. My basic incentive for creating this section is to make a request to the philosophy community: It is time to take a close look at Buddha’s world view, and see how it compares with existing philosophical arguments on various topics.  No one has done a serious study on the worldview of the Buddha.

  • It has been difficult to make a true assessment of what the “real Buddha Dhamma”is, because there are so many different versions out there.
  • I hope to make a logical presentation to convince the philosophy community. Please make any comments/requests, and I will try to address any serious request.

5. Perhaps as important, I want anyone reading the site to appreciate the significance of what the Buddha told us 2500 years ago. Compared to the pure Dhamma, all philosophical theories are at very early stages. Any interested reader can learn about the current philosophical arguments (and those going back to the early Greek philosophers) and then compare with Buddha Dhamma presented at this site.

6. Within the framework of the Buddha Dhamma all standard philosophical questions have been answered.

  • These include, “the relation between the brain and mind”, “the nature of death”, “whether we have free will”, etc. Thomas Nagel’s short book listed below gives an introduction to some of such topics.
  • Most existing literature on Buddhist philosophy says some of these questions are in the category of “questions that the Buddha refused to answer”, which itself is an incorrect statement; see, “Misconceptions on the Topics the Buddha “Refused to Answer“”. The Buddha refused to answer questions posed by a person who was not capable of comprehending the answers. But he has given the answers in other places.
  • We will discuss how Buddha Dhamma provides answers to these philosophical questions one by one, as sufficient background material is added to site.

REFERENCES

For those who are interested on the subject, here are some references (both for philosophy in general and also on “Buddhist philosophy”; not in any particular order). Among those on “Buddhist philosophy”, I have not read a single book that provides a true description of  the Buddha’s world view.

For those who are not familiar with the subject, I would recommend the first two introductory books on philosophy:

“What does it all mean?” by Thomas Nagel (1987) – Excellent introductory book and only 100 pages.

“The Making of a Philosopher”, by Colin McGill (2003) – Another excellent introductory book.

“Buddhist Philosophy – Essential Readings”, ed. by William Edelglass and Jay L. Garfield (2009).

“Mahayana Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations”, by Paul Williams (2009)

“Buddhism as Philosophy”, by Mark Siderits (2007).

“Buddhist Philosophy – A Historical Analysis”, by David J. Kalupahana (1976).

“Causality: The Central Philosophy of Buddhism”, by David J. Kalupahana (1975).

“A History of Buddhist Philosophy”, by David J. Kalupahana (1992).

“Nagarjuna – The Philosophy of the Middle way”, by David J. Kalupahana (1986).

“Causality and Chance in Modern Physics”, by David Bohm (1957).

“Conversations on Consciousness”, by Susan Blackmore (2006) – input from a number of philosophers.

“Mind – A Brief Introduction”, by John R. Searle (2004).

“The Character of Consciousness”, by David J. Chalmers (2010).

“Consciousness Explained”, by D. C. Dennett (1991).

“The Quest for Consciousness: A Neuroscientific Approach”, by C. Koch (2004).

“Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion” by Stephen Jay Gould  (2002).

“The Self and Its Brain”, by Karl R. Popper and John C. Eccles (1977).

Next, “Philosophy of the Mind“, ……….

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