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Rationality and Mind in Early Buddhism

Rationality and Mind in Early Buddhism
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Item Code: NAT550
Author: Frank J. Hoffman
Publisher: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Pvt. Ltd.
Language: ENGLISH
Edition: 2002
ISBN: 9788120819276
Pages: 126
Other Details: 8.00 X 5.50 inch
weight of the book: 0.22 kg
About the Book

Here is a study of rationality and mind based on the earliest recorded stratum of Buddhism, the Pali Nikayas. The author makes a distinction between what can be said from within the context of ,,the Buddhist texts themselves and what can be spoken of from the point of view of contemporary philosophy of religion.

Insights from philosophy of religion are employed to elucidate the texts without any overall imposition of any foreign 'ism' onto Buddhism. An attempt to understand something of the nature of religion by paying attention to one particular religion marks the philosophical side of the work. Combined with attention to the Pali texts, the approach which emerges is contextual and critically philosophical. The author is at once sympathetic to Early Buddhism as a system of religious belief and attentive to its philosophical difficulties.

The volume is primarily addressed to students of Buddhism. Scholars and researchers in the field of philosophical and religious studies will also find it interesting.

About the Author

FRANK J. HOFFMAN, Ph.D. (London), is Associate Professor in the Dept. of Philosophy at West Chester University and Visiting Scholar in the Dept. of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at University of Pennsylvania. He is author of Rationality and Mind in Early Buddhism (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1987, 1992, 2002) and, with Bhikkhu Mahinda Deegallee, co-editor of Pali Buddhism (Richmond, Surrey: Curzoi, Press, 1996). Dr. Hoffman has lectured in Hawaii, England, Germany, Japan, India, and China. A frequent panelist at conferences, Prof. Hoffman's book chapters, articles and reviews appear in several notable publications. He is a Series Editor with Greenwood Press (CT), serves on the advisory Editorial Board of the British journal, Asian Philosophy, and is a Director of the Greater Philadelphia Philosophy Consortium. In 1999, he taughk Philosophy at the University of Madras in Chennai, India, on a Rotary Grant lb: University Teachers.


Dr Hoffman has at his disposal an unusual combination of talents and resources. There are few scholars of Buddhism who have a competence and training in Western philosophical techniques and there are even fewer whose primary background is in Western philosophy who can cope with, let alone discuss, texts in Pali. Frank Hoffman is one of that select band as this book demonstrates. The importanceof dialogue between East and West is unquestionable. What is more difficult to achieve is dialogue in depth and with sensitivity. This book achieves precisely that and I commend it warmly.


Early Buddhism' is understood in this work as 'the Buddhism of the five Nikc7yas'. Chapter 1 outlines a method of approach to the study of early Buddhism which is on the interface between Philosophy and Buddhology, but the use of philosophy is not seen as a wholesale imposition of a type of thought as a mold to be set on the Buddhist texts. Instead, attention to Pali language and to some problems of philosophical interest is regarded as jointly useful in making a conceptual map of part of the early Buddhist terrain, and in vigilance for applicable internal and external criticisms.

After arguing against considerations of methodological, logical, and emotive points (in Chapters 1, 2 and 3 respectively) which seek to eliminate inquiry by asserting that early Buddhism is unintelligible or perversely pessimistic, the next three chapters discuss mind. In Ch. 4 a discussion of the terms citta, 'nano, and viriiidua is given in section I, and in section II the problem of the compatibility of the 'no soul doctrine' and rebirth, and the problem of the reidentification of persons is discussed. The problem of reidentifying persons across lifetimes cannot be dispelled by appeal to the Buddhist empiricism thesis (Ch. 5). But in rejecting the Buddhist empiricism thesis it is not being suggested that parinibbana is a 'transcendent state', since (with light from Buddhist texts and contemporary philosophy of religion) parinibbiina may be understood as 'eternal life' rather than 'endless life' in a way which does not conflict with the 'no soul doctrine'.

The present work is a revised version of my Ph.D. dissertation in the University of London, King's College (1981). Without the Tutorial Studentship in Philosophy of Religion (1979-1981), the dissertation on which this book is based probably would never have been completed. I am therefore grateful to those who provided the award, especially to my supervisor, Professor Stewart R. Sutherland, then Chair of the Department of the History and Philosophy of Religion and now College Principal. One could not hope for a better blend of criticism and kindness in a dissertation supervisor. I would like also to thank my internal examiner in the University of London, Rev, Dr. Michael Simpson (Heythrop college), and my external examiner from the University of Oxford, Professor Richard; Gombrich (Balliol college), For their criticism and advice.

Doing so does not imply, however, that this three-man dissertation committee subscribes to the views presented herein, for which I alone am responsible. Several scholars of South Asia at the University of Hawaii deserve mention for the outstanding teaching which stimulated and maintained my interest as a graduate student there, especially Profs. Eliot Deutsch, David J. Kalupahana, Prithwish Neogy, Rama Nath Sharma and K.N. Upadhyaya. I must acknowledge the generous assistance of the Department of Philosophy and the Asian Studies Program for teaching assistantships and of the East-West Center for a grant, all of which enabled me to do preparatory studies prior to writing this work. Finally I would like to thank Mrs. Jean Klemenc for outstanding editorial assistance, and the Research and Special Projects Committee of the University of Montevallo, for a grant provided by the University.

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