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Books on Buddhist Philosophy: Teachers, Texts and Traditions

The Buddha's central concern was ethical: how to free beings from all forms of suffering, and to this profound problem he gave an answer. Suffering comes about through the non-satisfaction of desire and the only way to be free of suffering is to be free of the desires which cause it. Desires are properties of the ego, and therefore the only way to be free of desires is to dissolve the ego. When the ego dissolves, what follows is enlightenment, and the condition of being free of self and desires is nirvana.

The Buddha did not speculate about the ultimate nature of reality, being concerned with the more urgent matter of the relief of suffering. It is the members of the Theravada school of Buddhism, who take up this matter somewhat. Even if disinclined to speculation in certain areas, the Theravada tradition nevertheless involves a complex philosophy of its own, exemplified in the work of Buddhaghosa.

However a system addressing issues ignored by the Buddha emerged with the second major school of Buddhism, the Mahayana, which had a major impact in Tibet, China and Japan. If enlightenment is direct awareness of reality, then it is difficult to resist the urge to say something about what this reality might be. Two leading points of view developed on this question, each associated with a great philosopher in the Indian Buddhist tradition. They are the Madhyamika tradition of Nagarjuna and the Yogacara tradition associated with Vasubandhu. For Nagarjuna, ultimate reality can be described only as a Void (Sanskrit: Sunyata, i.e. is not properly characterizable in conceptual terms), while for Vasubandhu it can be said to be mental in nature, and he gives a detailed account of different types of consciousness.


Q1. What is the main philosophy of Buddhism?

Four noble truths as preached by Buddha are that the life is full of suffering (Duhkha), that there is a cause of this suffering (Duhkha-samudaya), it is possible to stop suffering (Duhkha-nirodha), and there is a way to extinguish suffering (Duhkha-nirodha-marga). Eight-fold Path (astangika-marga) as advocated by Buddha as a way to extinguish the sufferings are right views, right resolve/aspiration, right speech, right action/conduct, right livelihood, right effort right mindfulness and right concentration.

Q2. Which book is related with philosophy of Buddhism?

The Dhammapada Translated by Gil Fronsdal. One of the earliest and most widely read Buddhist scriptures, The Dhammapada presents the philosophical and practical foundations of Buddhism by way of teaching verses. These verses examine key themes in contrasting pairs, such as grief and joy, as a means of discovering how choices lead to the desired outcome-or not.

Q3. What are the main features of Buddhist philosophy?

These are outlined in the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism: 1) suffering as a characteristic of existence, 2) the cause of suffering is craving and attachment, 3) the ceasing of suffering, called Nirvana, and 4) the path to Nirvana, made up of eight steps, sometimes called the Eightfold Path.

Q4. What is the main subject matter of philosophy of Buddha?

Buddhism is a religion that is based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama. The main principles of this belief system are karma, rebirth, and impermanence. Buddhists believe that life is full of suffering, but that suffering can be overcome by attaining enlightenment. Buddhism is not about worshipping certain God or Goddesses; it's all about obtaining inner peace and satisfaction. The main purpose of Buddha was simply to show mankind how to avoid chaos and live in harmony with all living creatures.