Lecture tag: Buddhism

What did Ramakantha contribute to the Buddhist-Brahmanical atman debate?

In attempting to refute the Buddhist doctrine of no-Self, Ramakantha absorbed many features of Buddhism. For example, he sided with Buddhism against Nyaya and Vaisesika in denying the existence of property-possessors (dharmins) over and above properties (dharmas), and in denying a Self as something that exists over and above cognition. For him the Self simply is cognition (jnana, prakasa, samvit) and so he has to prove that cognition is constant and unchanging. I will present those arguments of Ramakantha’s that strike me as his strongest and most original. I will spend at least the first 10 minutes of the talk introducing, and giving an overview of, the Buddhist-Brahmanical atman debate.


Graduate Seminars (Session One) (HT 14)

Mortality and Immortality in the Kaṭhopaniṣad

Thabiso Bustraan, Wolfson College, Oxford

My paper on the Katha Upanishad is a representation of philosophical discourse in which what can be called the four main/dominant ways of conceiving and reaching immortality are compared and contrasted to each other. Being one of the Upanishads it is hardly surprising that moksa ultimately triumphs over the rest yet still the seeming fairness in which they are compared and the reasons for leaving the others by the wayside are interesting regardless.

What is especially interesting is that while the first three of ‘putras’, ‘ayus’ and ‘svarga’ do follow each other in a logical progression and are interwoven the fourth option of moksa is a total break with all of these and turns them all on their head (which is actually a literal quote in the upanishad).

Apart from this I have also given some thought to the narrative style in which the text is written, something which could provide some speculative insights into the use and purpose of the text in ancient, daily life interactions involving flesh-and-blood human beings.

The Buddhist self as it appears in the Mahāyāna Mahābherī Sūtra

Chris Jones, Wolfson College, Oxford

My doctoral research concerns the Indian Buddhist tathāgatagarbha (‘Buddha embryo’) literature, from around the C3rd-5th, which presents sentient beings in saṃsāra as possessing an essential nature which is identical to that of a Buddha (the so-called buddha-dhātu). In the course of affirming this nature, several texts praising the tathāgatagarbha doctrine choose to designate it as ātman, i.e. a self, in apparent opposition to the well-attested doctrine of anātman that informs the vast majority of Buddhist sources.

One such tathāgatagarbha text is the Mahābherī (‘great drum’) Sūtra, which appears to have had little influence on later Buddhist literature, and has received very little scholarly attention. The text is very clear in affirming the existence of something that could be called a self, and presents a unique account of why such an entity is required in order not only for beings to attain awakening, but also, it seems, to make sense of transmigration in saṃsāra.

No Sanskrit text survives, and as such I am working on Chinese and Tibetan translations of the sūtra, and am concerned mostly with what we can learn of the Indian recensions of the text from these. In my presentation I shall discuss key passages of the text concerned with its account of the self (with reference to its place in the wider tathāgatagarbha corpus), and how this text holds its doctrine is to be reconciled with other expressions of the dharma.

Vedism and Brahmanism in Buddhist Literature: An Overview (MT 2014)

There is seen the tendency of Vedism and Brahmanism through out the Buddhist literature, right from the early Pāli canon through the Mahāyāna to the late Buddhist Tantric texts. In the Pāli canon, the terms such as veda, vijjā, tevijja, yañña and so on. These terms have basically Vedic connotations; however they have been used in a different, typically Buddhist sense. In the Mahāyāna scriptures, there are a number of Vedic concepts used to praise the Buddhas and the Bodhisattvas. In the Vajrayāna rituals, we find a growing tendency of Vedism and Brahmanism. While borrowing the Vedic and Brahmanical vocabulary, concepts and ritual practices, the Buddhist did not necessarily adhere directly to particular traditions or texts.  The proportion of the usage of such vocabulary and ritualistic practices has increased in the Mahāyāna and, more prominently, in late Buddhist Tantric tradition that involved the muttering of various mantras, offerings into fire and other practices, resembling the Vedic and Brahmanical sacrificial ritual.


The ‘Two Truths’ and the Nature of upāya in Nāgārjuna (HT15)

In the Mūlamādhyamaka-Kārikā, Nāgārjuna sustains that the Buddha’s teachings combine, in a unique manner, saṃvṛti-satya (‘conventional truth’) e paramārtha-satya (‘supreme truth’). This peculiar combination of the ‘two truths’, involving a re-orientation of the original meaning of saṃvṛti-satya meant to suit the requirements of the meta-conceptual level of paramārtha-satya,  is, precisely, what constitutes an upāya (‘skilfull means’), the fundamental rational tool of (mahāyāna) Buddhist soteriology.

Prof. Dilip Loundo is Coordinator of the Centre for the Study of Religions and Philosophies of India (NERFI). NERFI is an integral part of the Postgraduate Program of Religious Studies (PPCIR) of the Federal University of Juiz de Fora (UFJF), Minas Gerais, Brazil. Prof. Loundo is a Ph.D. in Indian Philosophy from Mumbai University, an M.A. and M.Phil. in Philosophy from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, and a Postgraduate Diploma in Sanskrit from Mumbai University. His recent publications include: Comments on Nāgārjuna’s Two Truth Doctrine (São Paulo, 2014); Buddhavacana e Śabda Pramāṇa in Mahāyāna Buddhism and Advaita Vedānta (Campinas, 2014); Ritual in Vedic Tradition: Openness, Plurality and Teleology (João Pessoa, 2012); What´s Philosophy After All? The Intertwined Destinies of Greek Philosophy and Indian Upaniṣadic Thinking (Barcelona, 2011); The Seashore of Endless Worlds: Rabindranath Tagore’s Encounters with Latin America (Belo Horizonte, 2011); The Apophatic Mystagogy of the Upaniṣads in Satchidanandendra Saraswati’s Advaita Vedānta (Juiz de Fora, 2011); Poetry and Soteriology in India: The Devotional Lyricism of Jayadeva’s Gītā-Govinda (Campinas: 2011); Bhartṛhari’s Nondual Linguistic Ontology and the Semantics of ātmanepada (Bangalore, 2010); An Anthology of Hindi Poetry (Rio de Janeiro, 2010); Tropical Dialogues: Brazil and India (Rio de Janeiro:2009). He is presently engaged in preparing the first direct translation into Portuguese of the main Sanskrit Upaniṣads.

Buddhist Sanskrit: Session 1 (HT18)

The course provides an introduction to Elementary Sanskrit with a focus on classical Buddhist texts written in Sanskrit (not BHS). We will read the Heart Sūtra (Prajñāpāramitāhṛdayasūtra) in its long version as well as passages from other texts (e.g. by Nāgārjuna).

Buddhist Sanskrit: Session 2 (HT18)

The course provides an introduction to Elementary Sanskrit with a focus on classical Buddhist texts written in Sanskrit (not BHS). We will read the Heart Sūtra (Prajñāpāramitāhṛdayasūtra) in its long version as well as passages from other texts (e.g. by Nāgārjuna).