Buddhism: A Philosophical Approach (book review) Cyrus Panjvani

090416 this is exactly what it says: philosophical. not so much explanation of Buddhist practice, ways, but from a 'western' philosophical perspective, therefore arguments, logical concepts, logical disputes, so this is not too religious or Buddhism as a faith...


this is well organized: sections broken into chapters, starting with some Indian context, some on the life of the Buddha, then chapters on each of the four noble truths, then on doctrines of no-self, on impermanence, on dependent origination, on the continuity but not identity of karma, on the Dharma and dharmas, on the ineffability of nirvana, on use of skillful means- basic knowledge such that this book need not be preceded by a lot of readings on Buddhism...


i might have some disputes with the premises of his arguments, particularly primacy of philosophical motifs/basics in ‘western’ thought, but it is good to have all these chapters, all this close inspection, as for a reader of philosophy in western tradition, and though it is Hume, Berkeley, who are employed here, empiricism, naturalism, materialism as epistemological strategy paralleled with Buddhist insight, with resulting in transcendental idealism say Kant, this work reminds me most of Schopenhauer, especially in compassion. the level of intense empirical scrutiny of the world, both physical and psychic, the world and the mind, is never more described elsewhere, and that this should lead from interdependence to emptiness is explained chapter after chapter...


i can certainly also see close relationship with all the phenomenology i have read, also arguing it is the perceived world and psychology of the aggregates, of the indivisible dharmas, that must be seen and understood- not the scientific description of the world. this defines however precise our physics becomes Buddhism will never be subsumed or dated, this is a different understanding of ultimate components, indivisible, essential, in all the dharmas rather than subatomistic in waves and particles... (this is just me wondering, after having read bergson and Buddhism: is not the correct way of looking at it, that particles are space and waves are time?)...and arguments, not just ‘western’ that focuses on the ideas of causality and karma and persistence versus transience, seem to me, after bergson, to be caught up in that human tendency of equating time with space, of time as moments rather than duration- which can obviously be real but also obviously transient...


this might be a great work to begin trying Buddhism. certainly it shows how rigorous and complex and essential what we 'westerners' think of as philosophical thinking, can be useful in this way. again this use of intellect and motivation of emotions is all directed to alleviating human suffering, not removing pain- which might be impossible to do, such as death- but essentially suffering, which seems to be all attitude from mistakenly craving and insisting on self-being, though this is not proto-existentialist... these aggregates, these skandhas, built of indivisible dharmas, are how this way of thought focuses on human life...


there are images previously familiar, such as the raft that bears you across a river but now must be left behind, the chariot which demonstrates interdependence and later emptiness, and then one unknown in the burning house defence of skillful means and the distinction of skillful means, the difference of conventional and ultimate truths, then some on the roles or paths an adept takes from arhat to bodhisattva, and overall a good introduction to Buddhism... yes there are so many books to read and so little time...

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if you like this review, i now have website: www.michaelkamakana.com 220611: this is probably the most academically accurate of the translations I have read of this book, but still prefer commentary o