New Book on Buddhaghosa

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New Book on Buddhaghosa

Postby Dhammanando » Wed Nov 06, 2013 8:49 am

Looks interesting.

Maria Heim, The Forerunner of All Things: Buddhaghosa on Mind, Intention, and Agency

http://www.amazon.com/The-Forerunner-All-Things-Buddhaghosa/dp/0199331049

Publisher's blurb...

    Scholars have long been intrigued by the Buddha's defining action (karma) as intention. This book explores systematically how intention and agency were interpreted in all genres of early Theravada thought. It offers a philosophical exploration of intention and motivation as they are investigated in Buddhist moral psychology. At stake is how we understand karma, the nature of moral experience, and the possibilities for freedom.

    In contrast to many studies that assimilate Buddhist moral thinking to Western theories of ethics, the book attends to distinctively Buddhist ways of systematizing and theorizing their own categories. Arguing that meaning is a product of the explanatory systems used to explore it, the book pays particular attention to genre and to the 5th-century commentator Buddhaghosa's guidance on how to read Buddhist texts. The book treats all branches of the Pali canon (the Tipitaka, that is, the Suttas, the Abhidhamma, and the Vinaya), as well as narrative sources (the Dhammapada and the Jataka commentaries). In this sense it offers a comprehensive treatment of intention in the canonical Theravada sources. But the book goes further than this by focusing explicitly on the body of commentarial thought represented by Buddhaghosa. His work is at the center of the book's investigations, both insofar as he offers interpretative strategies for reading canonical texts, but also as he advances particular understandings of agency and moral psychology. The book offers the first book-length study devoted to Buddhaghosa's thought on ethics.

From the reviews...

    "This book will be a major contribution to scholarship in Buddhist Studies, as well as to the discipline of moral psychology more generally. The scholarship is impeccable, the attention to canonical material and secondary literature in Buddhist Studies as well as to relevant work in Western philosophy and social theory is meticulous. The book is rich in hermeneutical and philosophical insight, carefully argued, and written with uncommon perspicuity, grace and even humor I would not be surprised if it were to be recognized as one of the most significant recent contributions to Buddhist philosophy."
    — Jay L. Garfield, Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple Professor of Humanities, Yale-NUS College

    "Throughout this original, humane, and often beautiful exploration of Buddhist moral thinking, Maria Heim allows herself to be taught and guided by the great Buddhist thinker Buddhaghosa about how to read Buddhist texts well and how to think reflectively about the nature of a moral person. The result is that we are introduced to a Buddhaghosa that we have not met before: an astute humanist always alert to the complexities of the moral life, and a contemporary with us, as it were, offering us fresh resources for our own efforts to make sense of ourselves as moral persons."
    — Charles Hallisey, Harvard Divinity School
    ...and this thought arose in the mind of the Blessed One:
    “Who lives without reverence lives miserably.”
    Uruvela Sutta, A.ii.20

    It were endless to dispute upon everything that is disputable.
    — William Penn Some Fruits of Solitude,
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Re: New Book on Buddhaghosa

Postby Anagarika » Wed Nov 06, 2013 1:38 pm

Ven. Dhammanando:

A quick question, if you don't mind. I am not that familiar with Buddhaghosa, and have not read Visuddhimagga. I struggle enough with the Suttas as a focus of study, and the occasional Dhammapada days. From some brief research, there is tremendous attention paid to Buddhaghosa's commentaries, yet some critics have suggested that he wove some neo-Mahayana influences into his commentaries on the Tipitaka. Is Visuddhimagga and other Buddhaghosa commentaries to be considered reliable primary text sources for Theravada study and Sutta interpretation, or he is more of a peripheral commentarial source?

Any comments on this are appreciated. Metta
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Re: New Book on Buddhaghosa

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Nov 06, 2013 6:26 pm

Thanks Venerable, that sounds very interesting. Clearly Buddhaghosa is a pivotal figure in Theravada history and understanding of Dhamma, and it will be interesting to see a detailed analysis of his work in it's own terms. The Amazon link includes quite a lot of preview material.

:anjali:
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Re: New Book on Buddhaghosa

Postby Kare » Wed Nov 06, 2013 9:03 pm

Thanks Bhante, this looks interesting, indeed. I already have too many books standing in line for being read, but it still may happen that I buy this one, and that it sneaks past the line. I have often experienced that books have no shame whatsoever for jumping the line.
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Re: New Book on Buddhaghosa

Postby Dhammanando » Thu Nov 07, 2013 8:40 am

BuddhaSoup wrote:From some brief research, there is tremendous attention paid to Buddhaghosa's commentaries, yet some critics have suggested that he wove some neo-Mahayana influences into his commentaries on the Tipitaka.


I’m not so well-read in modern academic Buddhist scholarship and have only met with this suggestion in Kalupahana’s History of Buddhist Philosophy (chapter xxi). I didn’t think he made a very convincing case. He states:

kalupa.jpg
kalupa.jpg (244.93 KiB) Viewed 804 times

.

Yet what Kalupahana then goes on to classify as Mahāyāna-infected later developments I can readily locate (either directly or by inference) in the “Buddha, the compilers of the Abhidhamma literature, and Moggalīputtatissa.”

I haven’t heard of any other scholars suggesting any Mahāyāna influence upon Buddhaghosa, and I’m rather sceptical about such a thing happening. In his commentary to the Kathāvatthu we find the commentator fully endorsing Moggalīputtatissa’s critiques of all the Mahāyāna-like views that had come up for discussion at the Third Council.

Of somewhat greater plausibility, perhaps, is the claim that the exposition of the Bodhisatta path in the Paramatthadīpanī of Dhammapāla (another commentator and contemporary of Buddhaghosa) was influenced by the Yogācārabhūmiśāstra of Asaṅga, a Yogācārin thinker. Though even this is far from certain; as with the Visuddhimagga/Vimuttimagga relationship, it’s no less likely that both writers were simply drawing from the common stock of Buddhist ideas of their time.

Is Visuddhimagga and other Buddhaghosa commentaries to be considered reliable primary text sources for Theravada study and Sutta interpretation, or he is more of a peripheral commentarial source?


His works are the central and primary commentarial source, and especially so in the case of the Visuddhimagga. Many times in his commentaries to the Suttas Buddhaghosa will present a topic in summary form and then direct the reader to the Visuddhimagga for a more complete exposition.

As to whether Buddhaghosa’s works are considered reliable, obviously this depends on who is doing the considering. The mediaeval view within the Theravāda (so far as this can be ascertained from ṭīkās and other tertiary texts) might be summarised thus:

• The contents of his two Vinaya commentaries (Sāmantāpāsādikā and Kaṅkhāvitaraṇī) were a perennial subject of dissent and squabbling among Vinaya scholars.
• Some of the ideas in his Abhidhamma commentaries met with dissent from one quarter or another, though far less so than with the Vinaya commentaries.
• His Visuddhimagga and Nikāya commentaries appear to have been wholly uncontroversial.

As for the profusion of modern opinions on the commentaries’ value, I think there are already a number of threads where this has been discussed to death.
    ...and this thought arose in the mind of the Blessed One:
    “Who lives without reverence lives miserably.”
    Uruvela Sutta, A.ii.20

    It were endless to dispute upon everything that is disputable.
    — William Penn Some Fruits of Solitude,
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Re: New Book on Buddhaghosa

Postby gavesako » Thu Nov 07, 2013 9:35 am

Recently another scholarly book was published and the first chapter deals with the topic of Buddhaghosa:


How Theravada is Theravada?
Exploring Buddhist Identities


Edited by Peter Skilling, Jason A. Carbine, Claudio Cicuzza, and Santi Pakdeekham

ISBN 978-616-215-044-9
2012. 640 pp.

Introduction
Acknowledgements

1. Rupert Gethin:
Was Buddhaghosa a Theravadin? Buddhist Identity in the Pali Commentaries and Chronicles
Bhikkhu Gavesako
Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

ajahnchah.org - Teachings of Ajahn Chah in many languages
Dhammatube - Videos on Buddhist practice
Ancient Buddhist Texts - Translations and history of Pali texts
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Re: New Book on Buddhaghosa

Postby Anagarika » Thu Nov 07, 2013 1:05 pm

Dhammanando wrote:
BuddhaSoup wrote:From some brief research, there is tremendous attention paid to Buddhaghosa's commentaries, yet some critics have suggested that he wove some neo-Mahayana influences into his commentaries on the Tipitaka.


I’m not so well-read in modern academic Buddhist scholarship and have only met with this suggestion in Kalupahana’s History of Buddhist Philosophy (chapter xxi). I didn’t think he made a very convincing case. He states:

Yet what Kalupahana then goes on to classify as Mahāyāna-infected later developments I can readily locate (either directly or by inference) in the “Buddha, the compilers of the Abhidhamma literature, and Moggalīputtatissa.”

I haven’t heard of any other scholars suggesting any Mahāyāna influence upon Buddhaghosa, and I’m rather sceptical about such a thing happening. In his commentary to the Kathāvatthu we find the commentator fully endorsing Moggalīputtatissa’s critiques of all the Mahāyāna-like views that had come up for discussion at the Third Council.

Of somewhat greater plausibility, perhaps, is the claim that the exposition of the Bodhisatta path in the Paramatthadīpanī of Dhammapāla (another commentator and contemporary of Buddhaghosa) was influenced by the Yogācārabhūmiśāstra of Asaṅga, a Yogācārin thinker. Though even this is far from certain; as with the Visuddhimagga/Vimuttimagga relationship, it’s no less likely that both writers were simply drawing from the common stock of Buddhist ideas of their time.

Is Visuddhimagga and other Buddhaghosa commentaries to be considered reliable primary text sources for Theravada study and Sutta interpretation, or he is more of a peripheral commentarial source?


His works are the central and primary commentarial source, and especially so in the case of the Visuddhimagga. Many times in his commentaries to the Suttas Buddhaghosa will present a topic in summary form and then direct the reader to the Visuddhimagga for a more complete exposition.

As to whether Buddhaghosa’s works are considered reliable, obviously this depends on who is doing the considering. The mediaeval view within the Theravāda (so far as this can be ascertained from ṭīkās and other tertiary texts) might be summarised thus:

• The contents of his two Vinaya commentaries (Sāmantāpāsādikā and Kaṅkhāvitaraṇī) were a perennial subject of dissent and squabbling among Vinaya scholars.
• Some of the ideas in his Abhidhamma commentaries met with dissent from one quarter or another, though far less so than with the Vinaya commentaries.
• His Visuddhimagga and Nikāya commentaries appear to have been wholly uncontroversial.

As for the profusion of modern opinions on the commentaries’ value, I think there are already a number of threads where this has been discussed to death.


Excellent! Thank you for this, Bhante. Gives me motivation to dive in and do some Buddhaghosa Visuddhimagga reading over the upcoming holiday period. I'll also check out the Sāmantāpāsādikā and Kaṅkhāvitaraṇī to get a sense of the disputes that arose. Good stuff, and again, many thanks for responding with such detail. With Metta.

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Re: New Book on Buddhaghosa

Postby Dhammanando » Thu Nov 07, 2013 3:13 pm

BuddhaSoup wrote:I'll also check out the Sāmantāpāsādikā and Kaṅkhāvitaraṇī to get a sense of the disputes that arose. Good stuff, and again, many thanks for responding with such detail.


These haven't been translated into English. Ven. Thanissaro's Buddhist Monastic Code, available from ATI, will give you some idea of the vinayaic points of controversy in the mediaeval period.
    ...and this thought arose in the mind of the Blessed One:
    “Who lives without reverence lives miserably.”
    Uruvela Sutta, A.ii.20

    It were endless to dispute upon everything that is disputable.
    — William Penn Some Fruits of Solitude,
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Re: New Book on Buddhaghosa

Postby rohana » Thu Nov 07, 2013 3:31 pm

I haven't seen Buddhagōsha being accused of Mahāyāna influences; what he does seem to get accused of, it seems is bringing in momentariness(khaṇavāda) - though it probably wasn't seen as a controversial doctrine at the time.
"Delighting in existence, O monks, are gods and men; they are attached to existence, they revel in existence. When the Dhamma for the cessation of existence is being preached to them, their minds do not leap towards it, do not get pleased with it, do not get settled in it, do not find confidence in it. That is how, monks, some lag behind."
- It. p 43
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