Philosophy and Schools

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Philosophy and Schools

Postby Vidyaraja » Wed Mar 06, 2013 4:53 am

Can someone either explain to me or point me in the direction of a source to understand more about the differences between the various philosophical traditions within Mahayana (say Yogacara vs Madhyamaka) and which schools they are associated with? For example, in my recent readings on Shingon I came to understand the influence of the Kegon or Hua-yen philosophy on Shingon, and from what I understand they emphasize this over Madhyamaka, which the Tibetans favor. As I understand it Zen is influenced more by Yogacara and Hua-yen to some degree as well. Perhaps this is a superficial or incorrect understanding of the matter, and if so for that I apologize.

What I would like to know, really, are the primary/basic differences between the major schools of Buddhist philosophy and with which schools/sutras (or groups of sutras) they may be associated with. I'd also be interested in understanding which schools of philosophy are most different from each other or whether there are any true incompatibilities that exist between any (or are they all Buddhist and therefore mostly equivalent?)

Thanks in advance
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Re: Philosophy and Schools

Postby Indrajala » Wed Mar 06, 2013 8:36 am

In East Asia there are two primary divisions of Buddhist philosophy: Yogācāra ("phenomenal characteristics" 法相) and Madhyamaka/Sanlun (the "emptiness nature" 空性). The latter is especially understood via Kumārajīva and Jizang.

There are plenty of works and papers on Yogācāra and Madhyamaka philosophies, though you might consider first reading basic Abhidharma texts like the first chapter of the Abhidharmasamuccaya by Asanga or the relevant parts of the Abhidharma-kośa by Vasubandhu. All latter schools draw on and perhaps refute Abhidharma ideas. I believe to really understand the latter philosophy you need to be thoroughly familiar with Abhidharma. That's why before you read on these subjects just read Vasubandhu and Asanga.
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Re: Philosophy and Schools

Postby Michael_Dorfman » Wed Mar 06, 2013 9:55 am

[quote="Vidyaraja"
What I would like to know, really, are the primary/basic differences between the major schools of Buddhist philosophy and with which schools/sutras (or groups of sutras) they may be associated with. I'd also be interested in understanding which schools of philosophy are most different from each other or whether there are any true incompatibilities that exist between any (or are they all Buddhist and therefore mostly equivalent?)

Thanks in advance[/quote]

If you're comfortable reading academic literature, I'd recommend Paul Williams's book Mahāyāna Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations, which offers a basic overview of the territory.
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Re: Philosophy and Schools

Postby Wayfarer » Wed Mar 06, 2013 10:25 am

I still think that T R V Murti's The Central Philosophy of Buddhism is a good book. It has been criticised by subsequent scholars but my Buddhist studies tutor last year still recommended it. Of course it is nothing like studying all the original sources but it does provide an outline of how the various historical developments unfolded. Have a look at the comments on Amazon.
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Re: Philosophy and Schools

Postby Karma Dondrup Tashi » Wed Mar 06, 2013 5:08 pm

Nice basic intro from POV of Tibetan practitioner:

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Re: Philosophy and Schools

Postby kirtu » Wed Mar 06, 2013 5:17 pm

Hua-yen has apparently survived in Japan (Kegon) and Korea. The Avatamsaka Sutra is the touchstone for the Hua-yen school.

I am surprised to see Huseng recommend study of the Abhidharma as a starting point on this topic. He has also made comments on the Hua-yen schools in the past. Perhaps some material is on his website.

While the Tibetan traditions also incorporate teachings from the Avatamsaka Sutra they do not seem to have admitted the view of the deep interpenetration of reality that is the hallmark of Hua-yen philosophy. Why this is so is not clear.

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