Recommended reading on Buddhist philosophy

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Recommended reading on Buddhist philosophy

Postby Nikolay » Sat Nov 10, 2012 8:20 pm

Hello,

I have been studying Western philosophy for some time, but gradually I lost most of my interest in the subject, especially since I discovered Buddhist philosophy. It really makes sense on a level I was unable to find in Western philosophy, maybe because it is so closely connected to practice. But I am afraid that my reading was, from an academic viewpoint, quite unsystematic and has a lot of blind spots.

So, my question for people who have been involved in academic studies of Buddhist philosophy: what books/articles would you consider to be mandatory reading if one wished to have a firm foundation in the subject as a scholar? I am mostly interested in Mahayana, both Tibetan and East Asian (especially Japanese).
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Re: Recommended reading on Buddhist philosophy

Postby futerko » Sat Nov 10, 2012 10:17 pm

I like "Journey to Certainty" by Anyen Rinpoche. It's a commentary on Mipham's Beacon of Certainty which attempts to systematise the various Tibetan traditions.
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Re: Recommended reading on Buddhist philosophy

Postby Indrajala » Sun Nov 11, 2012 2:13 am

mirage wrote:Hello,

I have been studying Western philosophy for some time, but gradually I lost most of my interest in the subject, especially since I discovered Buddhist philosophy. It really makes sense on a level I was unable to find in Western philosophy, maybe because it is so closely connected to practice. But I am afraid that my reading was, from an academic viewpoint, quite unsystematic and has a lot of blind spots.

So, my question for people who have been involved in academic studies of Buddhist philosophy: what books/articles would you consider to be mandatory reading if one wished to have a firm foundation in the subject as a scholar? I am mostly interested in Mahayana, both Tibetan and East Asian (especially Japanese).




Read the Abhidharma-kośa by Vasubandhu. English translations and plenty of supporting supplementary material are available. It was and still is a key text studied both in Tibetan and East Asian circles. It covers foundational epistemology, cosmology, karma theory and so on. Japanese scholars very early on were reading Paramartha and Xuanzang's translations, and writing plenty of commentary literature on it.


These three are essential:

Vasubandhu, Karmasiddhi Prakarana The Treatise on Action by Vasubandhu. Translated into French by Etienne Lamotte. English translation by Leo M. Pruden. Fremont, CA: Asian Humanities Press: 1987.

Vasubandhu, Abhidharma-kośa-bhāsya. Translated into French by Louis de La Vallee Poussin, English translation by Leo M. Pruden. Berkeley, CA: Asian Humanities Press, 1991.

Asanga, Abhidharmasamuccaya The Compendium of the Higher Teaching (Philosophy). Translated into French and annotated by Walpola Rahula, English translation by Sara Boin-Webb. Fremont, CA: Asian Humanities Press, 2001.


If you read these, take notes and digest them you'll understand core Buddhist philosophy, and everything else you ever read on the subject will make a lot more sense than if you didn't. These might be rather expensive to purchase, though pdfs are floating around online.

Also, as an introduction read the articles available here beforehand:

http://www.iep.utm.edu/category/traditions/indian/

The articles on heterodox schools of thought should be read as well given how Buddhist philosophy developed alongside them (particularly Sāṅkhya, Nyāya and most importantly Jainism).

Two recent works to read by Johannes Bronkhorst include

Greater Magadha: Studies in the Culture of Early India

http://books.google.com/books?id=4GNG5KuH73QC

Buddhism in the Shadow of Brahmanism

http://books.google.com.tw/books?id=BaX58-E5-3MC

If you read these two works you'll have an idea of the formative years of Buddhist thought and how the later Brahmin schools of thought affected things. This is important because it puts into perspective the later Brahmin influences and how at first Vedic thought wasn't so relevant to Buddhism in India.

As a brief and good narrative-style history of India, which is essential for understanding the context in which Buddhist philosophy existed and developed, I recommend the following:

India: the ancient past: a history of the Indian sub-continent from c. 7000 BC to AD 1200

http://books.google.com/books?id=Y1e2V_4Um10C

Beyond this there are later developments like Madhyamaka, Yogācāra and so on, all of which have ample material available to consult in numerous languages.

For Mahāyāna thought, of course, you need to read Nāgārjuna, particular the Mūlamadhyamaka-kārikā (Fundamental Verses of the Middle Way). However, to really understand this you need to know Abhidharma, which is why reading Vasubandhu and Asanga's works as cited above are important. One must also understand the basics of the Prajñāpāramitā literature. Perhaps Ven. Huifeng can recommend some good works on Prajñāpāramitā studies as that is his expertise.

Beyond that, understanding the bodhisattva stages as outlined in the Daśabhūmika Sūtra, which is found as one of the sections in the Avataṃsaka Sūtra is important as well.


If you come to understand all this material you'll be well equipped to handle most of anything else. Fortunately there is much material available in English and it is growing.
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Re: Recommended reading on Buddhist philosophy

Postby JKhedrup » Sun Nov 11, 2012 8:43 am

Maps of the Profound, Jeffrey Hopkins´translation of Jamyang Shaypa´s Great Exposition of Tenents, is a massive volume but it it gives you a very complete picture of the classical Tibetan worldview, including the views of other religions. It does lean to the Gelug side of things but I still think that it gives an excellent overall picture.http://www.amazon.com/Maps-Profound-Exp ... 155939207X

I also like Indo-Tibetan Buddhism by David Snellgrove, it is in some ways dated but an excellent overview. Other posters may not like it because Snellgrove converted to Catholicism but this does not bother me.
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Re: Recommended reading on Buddhist philosophy

Postby tomamundsen » Sun Nov 11, 2012 10:21 am

I'll second the Abhidharmakosabhasyam, as recommended by Huseng. You can get an English version of it at Amazon. It costs $300, but I'd say it's worth it. There are PDFs floating around the internet, if one is inclined. :twisted:
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Re: Recommended reading on Buddhist philosophy

Postby Nikolay » Sun Nov 11, 2012 11:02 am

Thank you everyone for your advice. Guess it's finally time for me to get serious about Abhidharma. It's pretty clear for me what root texts I should begin with (Vasubandhu and Nagarjuna mostly). Could you please tell me what academic scholars are considered to be the leading authorities in the field? I'd like some modern academic texts to use as examples of research method, for references, etc.
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Re: Recommended reading on Buddhist philosophy

Postby Indrajala » Sun Nov 11, 2012 12:54 pm

mirage wrote:Thank you everyone for your advice. Guess it's finally time for me to get serious about Abhidharma. It's pretty clear for me what root texts I should begin with (Vasubandhu and Nagarjuna mostly). Could you please tell me what academic scholars are considered to be the leading authorities in the field? I'd like some modern academic texts to use as examples of research method, for references, etc.



Bhikkhu K.L. Dhammajoti is one scholar. See the following for download:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/106679207/Bhi ... Abhidharma

There are a number of Indian works (published in India, but available to order through http://www.abebooks.com and other sites which sell direct from India) which detail Abhidharma or a single specific work as it has been of interest to scholars over there. However, you probably don't need to pursue these unless you're doing very serious research into the subject.
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Re: Recommended reading on Buddhist philosophy

Postby Jnana » Sun Nov 11, 2012 1:10 pm

mirage wrote:I'd like some modern academic texts to use as examples of research method, for references, etc.

See this thread for links to texts and translations: Sarvāstivāda Abhidharma: Translations & Studies.
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Re: Recommended reading on Buddhist philosophy

Postby Astus » Sun Nov 11, 2012 3:40 pm

As for East Asian Buddhism, the Kuroda Institute has two series: Studies in East Asian Buddhism and Classics in East Asian Buddhism, they contain many good works. Orthodox Chinese Buddhism by Ven. Shengyan is a good introduction to general Chinese Buddhism. Specifically about Zen, Steven Heine and Dale S. Wright edited a series published by Oxford University Press. Works by John R. McRae, Jan Nattier, Robert H. Sharp, Bernard Faure, Albert Welter, Robert E. Buswell Jr., Charles A. Muller, Taigen Dan Leighton and others are also recommended.

For the Abhidharmakosa, this is a useful blog: Abhidharmakosa Study Blog.
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Re: Recommended reading on Buddhist philosophy

Postby Michael_Dorfman » Sun Nov 11, 2012 3:58 pm

mirage wrote:Hello,

I have been studying Western philosophy for some time, but gradually I lost most of my interest in the subject, especially since I discovered Buddhist philosophy. It really makes sense on a level I was unable to find in Western philosophy, maybe because it is so closely connected to practice. But I am afraid that my reading was, from an academic viewpoint, quite unsystematic and has a lot of blind spots.

So, my question for people who have been involved in academic studies of Buddhist philosophy: what books/articles would you consider to be mandatory reading if one wished to have a firm foundation in the subject as a scholar? I am mostly interested in Mahayana, both Tibetan and East Asian (especially Japanese).


A good starting point is Mark Siderits's Buddhism as Philosophy: An Introduction, which gives a good general overview of the territory from a Western perspective. His monograph Personal Identity and Buddhist Philosophy: Empty Persons is excellent. Jay Garfield's translation (with commentary) of the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā (The Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way) is also aimed at an audience steeped in Western philosophy; the essays in Garfield's collection Empty Words: Buddhist Philosophy and Cross-Cultural Interpretation a bit less so. Garfield and William Edelglass have put together a reader entitled Buddhist Philosophy: Essential Readings which is quite good; there's a similar book from an Analytic perspective entitled Pointing at the Moon: Buddhism, Logic, Analytic Philosophy by Garfield, Tom Tillemanns, and Mario D'Amato. Finally, if you are interested in epistemological issues, Dan Arnold's Buddhists, Brahmins and Belief: Epistemology in South Asian Philosophy of Religion is excellent, and Dan Lusthaus's Buddhist Phenomenlogy is a wonderful, but difficult book on the Yogācāra of Xuanzang.
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Re: Recommended reading on Buddhist philosophy

Postby viniketa » Sun Nov 11, 2012 4:33 pm

From an academic perspective and looking at a broad understanding of the historical context of Buddhist philosophy and Indian philosophy, the following are good sources:

An introduction to Buddhist philosophy in India and Tibet, Zahiruddin Ahmad
http://books.google.com/books?id=eGYwAA ... ddin+Ahmad

The classic works on Indian Philosophy by Surendranath Dasgupta & Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan are good, but long. Some shorter works include:

Outlines Of Indian Philosophy, M. Hiriyanna
http://books.google.com/books?id=9xGyRA ... navlinks_s

Critical Survey Of Indian Philosophy, C. D. Sharma
http://books.google.com/books?id=Y3gQVd ... navlinks_s

Logic, Language, and Reality: Indian Philosophy and Contemporary Issues, Bimal Krishna Matilal
http://books.google.com/books?id=V8SLH7 ... navlinks_s

:namaste:
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Re: Recommended reading on Buddhist philosophy

Postby Nikolay » Mon Nov 12, 2012 5:11 am

Thank you everyone for your excellent suggestions.
Michael_Dorfman wrote:A good starting point is Mark Siderits's Buddhism as Philosophy: An Introduction, which gives a good general overview of the territory from a Western perspective. His monograph Personal Identity and Buddhist Philosophy: Empty Persons is excellent. Jay Garfield's translation (with commentary) of the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā (The Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way) is also aimed at an audience steeped in Western philosophy; the essays in Garfield's collection Empty Words: Buddhist Philosophy and Cross-Cultural Interpretation a bit less so. Garfield and William Edelglass have put together a reader entitled Buddhist Philosophy: Essential Readings which is quite good; there's a similar book from an Analytic perspective entitled Pointing at the Moon: Buddhism, Logic, Analytic Philosophy by Garfield, Tom Tillemanns, and Mario D'Amato. Finally, if you are interested in epistemological issues, Dan Arnold's Buddhists, Brahmins and Belief: Epistemology in South Asian Philosophy of Religion is excellent, and Dan Lusthaus's Buddhist Phenomenlogy is a wonderful, but difficult book on the Yogācāra of Xuanzang.

I remember reading a bit of Siderits's work on ethics, which was also heavily influenced by Buddhist thought, and I remember having a not very positive impression (at that time it seemed to me that he, like many other in Western academy, misunderstood the concept of anatman and was falling into the nihilistic extreme). I'll just have to re-read his work, I guess. I also read some very unfavourable reviews of "Buddhist Phenomenology", and some favourable ones too - it seems to be a somewhat controversial book. The rest are unknown to me so far, so i'll have to check them out.

viniketa wrote:The classic works on Indian Philosophy by Surendranath Dasgupta & Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan are good, but long.

I own the book by Radhakrishnan, and found it very valuable as a source of information about non-Buddhist Indian schools of thought. But I am a bit wary about books by Indian authors about Buddhism itself. I have read (and noticed myself) that for many of them their interpretation of Buddhism is heavily influenced by Vedanta (the same way I often find Western books taking a too nihilistic stance). Not sure if my concerns are founded.
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Re: Recommended reading on Buddhist philosophy

Postby Michael_Dorfman » Mon Nov 12, 2012 1:54 pm

mirage wrote:I remember reading a bit of Siderits's work on ethics, which was also heavily influenced by Buddhist thought, and I remember having a not very positive impression (at that time it seemed to me that he, like many other in Western academy, misunderstood the concept of anatman and was falling into the nihilistic extreme). I'll just have to re-read his work, I guess.


I've never found Siderits to be nihilist, for what it's worth. I should also mention that he has a new collection out, which I have unread on my nightstand, entitled Self, No Self?: Perspectives from Analytical, Phenomenological, and Indian Traditions, edited by Siderits along with Evan Thompson and Dan Zahavi.
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Re: Recommended reading on Buddhist philosophy

Postby JKhedrup » Mon Nov 12, 2012 11:14 pm

An excellent anthology that contains texts from all the major Buddhist traditions, expertly translated by a variety of scholars:

Buddhism in Practice, ed. Donald S. Lopez from Princeton University Press

http://books.google.nl/books/about/Budd ... edir_esc=y
A foolish man proclaims his qualifications,
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A straw floats on the surface of water,
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Re: Recommended reading on Buddhist philosophy

Postby Tom » Tue Nov 13, 2012 3:31 am

Michael_Dorfman wrote:
mirage wrote:I remember reading a bit of Siderits's work on ethics, which was also heavily influenced by Buddhist thought, and I remember having a not very positive impression (at that time it seemed to me that he, like many other in Western academy, misunderstood the concept of anatman and was falling into the nihilistic extreme). I'll just have to re-read his work, I guess.


I've never found Siderits to be nihilist, for what it's worth. I should also mention that he has a new collection out, which I have unread on my nightstand, entitled Self, No Self?: Perspectives from Analytical, Phenomenological, and Indian Traditions, edited by Siderits along with Evan Thompson and Dan Zahavi.


Siderits did write a little on ethics and nihilism in responding to Paul Williams suggestion that Śāntideva needs to be read as denying the self completely for some of his ethical arguments to work. Siderits tried to resolve the issue however his arguments for a conventionally existent ethical agent rested on reading Śāntideva as upholding an abhidharmist ontology with regards to sensations - a little problematic for a mādhyamika.
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Re: Recommended reading on Buddhist philosophy

Postby viniketa » Tue Nov 13, 2012 5:32 pm

Just ran across this looking for something else. Looks like it may fit your interests:

A History of Indian Buddhism: From Sakyamuni to Early Mahayana
A History of Indian Buddhism, the summation of a lifetime of research on Indian Buddhism, is an exceptionally comprehensive discussion of Indian Buddhism, with detailed chapters on its history, doctrine and bibliography. The text also presents some of the debates on Indian Buddhism that have occurred in the Japanese academic community and emphasizes issues that have often been treated only in passing in India and the West. Hirakawa`s extensive use of Chinese translations of Indian Buddhist sources and his references to Japanese studies of these works are particularly noteworthy. Finally, the book includes an extensive bibliography of Western scholarship compiled by the translator.

http://books.google.com/books?id=XjjwjC7rcOYC&d

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